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The Palestinian president has signed an order guaranteeing Christians parliamentary seats

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Amman: Mahmoud Abbas signed a presidential decree Sunday guaranteeing a minimum of seven parliamentary seats to Palestinians of the Christian faith. Palestinians in the occupied territories are expected to choose 132 legislators based on proportional representation.

Former Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun told Arab News that the new legislative council needs to mirror Palestinian society’s diversity so as to include a plurality of Palestinians, saying: “The upcoming elected council needs to reflect the widest national experience and representation of all of our society including women and Palestinian Christians.”

Ramzi Khoury, head of the Presidential Higher Committee for Churches Affairs, welcomed the decision, saying this is the first time the quota is open-ended.

“The fact that the decree calls for a minimum of seven members are welcomed because it gives opportunities for Palestinians of all walks of life to compete with the opportunity of more individuals being elected than the minimum quota,” he told Arab News.

Jerusalem’s Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia Atallah Hanna told Arab News that Palestinians welcome this decision.

“We wish generally for the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council to bring in new blood and we hope that they are chosen based on qualifications and abilities.”

Nashat Filmon, director of the Palestinian Bible Society, said it is good to have a guaranteed representation that reflects the Palestinian Christian presence in the cradle of Christianity.

“I would like the representatives to the Palestinian Legislative Council to focus on the living stones, the Christians of Palestine, and not just the physical stones that represent the history of Christianity in Palestine,” he told Arab News.

Ibrahim Daebes, a former Christian school principal and a leading columnist for Al Quds daily, told Arab News that it is imperative that the new representatives act to curtail hate speech.

“Palestinian Christians are facing personal and religious persecution from all corners and it is important for the newly-elected council to draft legislation that can put a stop to radical elements within our society who spew hate speech and religious bigotry at fellow Palestinians,” he said.

Bernard Sabella, former member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, welcomed the decision of the President. “This is an excellent decision because our experience is that the Palestinian electorate votes on the basis of geography, not nationality,” he said.

Sabella added that previous experience which was not successful “requires us to have a new vision and a holistic plan that addresses our needs. We need our representatives to represent their nation and not a religion.”

He added: “We are at a political crossroads and we can’t live with the mindset of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. While I respect ideologies, we need to revive international support for the Palestinian cause and to stop the rhetoric that fails to face the local and international realities. What we need instead is to look to improve our steadfastness on the ground and to work for a state that will help us in this effort to stay put on our land.”

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Governor Kemp Rolls Out “Faith Protection Act” Legislation

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Atlanta– Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced his administration’s introduction of the “Faith Protection Act,” which would ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia are not used to “specifically limit the practice of any religion.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, people of all faiths across America were told by state governments how, where, when, or even if they could worship at all. Not in Georgia. We chose to work alongside congregations across our state to ensure they practiced their faith safely and in accordance with public health guidance,” said Governor Kemp.

“The Faith Protection Act will ensure the emergency powers of any governor of Georgia in the years to come are not used to limit the God-given right to worship. In Georgia, we never shuttered churches, synagogues, or other places of worship because we value faith, family, and freedom. With the Faith Protection Act signed into law, Georgia will be a sanctuary state for people of faith.”

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Pakistan: Christian college student abducted at gunpoint

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Gujranwala – The Pakistani police have registered a complaint about the kidnapping of another Christian student from Lahore in order to force her into an Islamic marriage. Mehwish Bibi, a student at the Women’s College in the city of Gujranwala, left her home at 8.10 am on February 18, to go to college but she never returned home. The family suspects kidnappings with the aim of forced marriage. Patras Masih, the young woman’s father, wrote down the following in the investigation report: “We looked for our daughter and started asking people about her. Two Christians, Masih and Akram Masih, informed us that they saw a Muslim, Muhammad Sabir, who with the help of two accomplices kidnapped her and pointed a gun at her. According to the witnesses, they forced my daughter into a white pickup truck. We ask the police to rescue my daughter as soon as possible. We demand justice and severe punishment for the perpetrators”.

Khalid Shahzad, human rights and religious minorities activist comments to Fides: “It is sad that we have to take note of yet another episode of the kidnapping of a Christian girl. Cases of kidnapping of young women belonging to religious minorities are increasing in Punjab Province. It is tragic that no one tried to stop the kidnappers from kidnapping a Christian girl. Every day Christian families live in worry and fear that their daughters will be victims of kidnappings”.

Christian communities have long urged the government to stop the phenomenon of the forcible kidnapping and conversion of Christian minors, complaining that impunity promotes such crimes. Impunity, they note, encourages such crimes. According to data confirmed to Agenzia Fides by the National Commission for “Justice and Peace” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, there are around 1,000 cases of kidnapping of young Christian and Hindu women who are abducted from their families for the purpose of marriage and forced conversion to Islam every year.

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