Rome – When you say that Palestine is the Holy Land, “you cannot talk about the Holy land without Christians”, and Palestinian Authorites consider Palestinian Christians as an “integral, essential and solid part of the Palestinian people, it doesn ‘t matter what the percentage of Christians is in Palestine”, emphasizes Riyad al Maliki, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, enumerating in this regard also some institutional measures ordered by the Palestinian Authority with the aim of countering the progressive numerical erosion of the Christian component of Palestinian society. “We” – Minister al Maliki explains in an exclusive interview to Agenzia Fides “don’t see Christians as a different community. They were in Palestine before the Muslims. Therefore if we talk about seniority, they have priority over Muslims in Palestine”. The representative of the Palestinian government also traces the decision to increase the minimum quota of seats reserved for Christian citizens in the future Parliament of Palestine from 5 to 7 (out of a total of 132): “Christians”, Al Maliki explains, “are a solid part of the Palestinian People. Even if they represent less than 7%, they should get minimum 7% in order to show that we want Christians who emigrated back. This is why it was decided that they should be over-represented in the parliamentary assembly”.
When you say that Palestine is the holy land, you cannot talk about the Holy land without Christians”. In fact, in Palestinian society there have also recently been signs of intolerance towards Christians. In December the Palestinian Islamist Party Hamas had instructed Muslims to limit their “interaction” with Christian Christmas celebrations, in the Gaza Strip. “This kind of approach” remarked categorically Minister al Maliki, “is something we do not accept because it is not part of our culture, tradition, our history … and this is why so many religious and non-religious leaders have expressed dissent from that pronouncement in other parts of Palestine, and Hamas eventually withdrew it… What is important to us” adds the Minister “is what President Mahmud Abbas does. He is personally attends the Christmas midnight mass, he is a Muslim. What the President does, should reflect what Palestine should do. Our message is brotherhood, coexistence, we are the same family, one is Muslim and one is Christian. One cannot play with the composition of the Palestinian society. For us” continues the Palestinian Government Representative “Christianity is an essential component. That’s why we have a presidential decree that the mayor of Bethlehem has to be always Christian …. the mayor of Ramallah has to be always Christian, and the same is for Beit Sahour, and Beit Jala … it doesn’t matter what the percentage of Christians in such cities, we want them to stay as Christians”.
Minister al Maliki was able to speak on Thursday, May 6 with Archbishop Gallagher on the condition of Christians in Palestine and throughout the Middle East, during a meeting with him at the Vatican. “With the Holy See” the Minister tells Fides “we want to stress the importance of our bilateral relations, to tell them about about the situation in Jerusalem, where there is an increased tendency to attack mosques and churches and to prevent both Muslims and Christians from having access to their holy places and participate in mass and prayers”. He also touched other issues with Archbishop Gallagher al Maliki, including “this phenomena of evangelism spreading all over the world”, a phenomena that “really should worry the Catholic Church but it worries us as Palestinians, because the evangelists are having anti- Palestinian tendency”. Al Maliki’s visit to Rome took place in the context of a European tour carried out by the Palestinian Minister to meet, among others, the Russian foreign Minister Serghei Laveov and the Italian foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. The intent was to verify what European institutions and countries can do “in order to push Israel to allow us to hold elections in Jerusalem, not only in west bank and Gaza but also in Jerusalem.
The Palestinian Authority were forced to postpone the elections because Israel did not respond to their request to do it in Jerusalem. The foreign Ministers of the European Union are having a meeting on Monday “and we also want the countries to raise the issue in the meeting in order to collectively pressure Israel so it allows us to hold elections in Jerusalem”. There have been no elections for 15 years, and some observers say Palestinian Authorities could find an alternative solution. “Jerusalem” Minister Maliki responds to these comment “is located in Jerusalem, it is not in Ramallah … voting there means voting there. It is not a technical issue, it is connected with the issue of the status of Jerusalem, as a part of the occupied Palestinian territory. I have heard: why don’t you hold elections in consulates, or in embassies or in UN offices … or even in churches or mosques… but this” continues the Minister “is not acceptable. The whole issue of elections is about Jerusalem. To go towards elections without Jerusalem, it is like accepting what Trump said. Jerusalem is an eternal and undivided Capital of Israel. It’s a political issue. It’s not technical. We have postponed the elections for 15 years, we can do that more for 1, 2, 3 months but you can’t give up on the Jerusalem issue”. In the previous elections, the Minister recalls, Palestinian polling stations were also opened in East Jerusalem, because “there is an agreement signed in 1995 in Washington, and in that agreement Israel accepts that Palestinian carry out elections on all Palestinian territory including Jerusalem. Then, the Israelites heard what Trump told them, and now they say that if they allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem they are giving up that part of east Jerusalem to the Palestinians. The name is elections, but in reality the real issue is about Jerusalem”.
North Korea is facing a severe food shortage
Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”.
He said the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain targets due to typhoons last year, which caused flooding.
There are reports that food prices have spiked, with NK News reporting that a kilogram of bananas costs $45 (£32).
North Korea has closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Trade with China has plummeted as a result. North Korea relies on China for food, fertiliser and fuel.
North Korea is also struggling under international sanctions, imposed because of its nuclear programmes.
The authoritarian leader of the single-party state talked about the food situation at the ruling Workers’ Party central committee which started this week in the capital Pyongyang.
During the meeting, Mr Kim said that national industrial output had grown by a quarter compared to the same period last year.
Officials were expected to discuss relations with the US and South Korea during the event but no details have been released yet.
In April, Mr Kim made a a rare admission of looming hardship, calling on officials to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little”.
The Arduous March is a term used by North Korea officials to refer to the country’s struggle during the 1990s famine, when the fall of the Soviet Union left North Korea without crucial aid.
The total number of North Koreans who starved to death at the time is not known, but estimates range up to three million.
It is highly unusual for Kim Jong-un to publicly acknowledge a food shortage. But this is a North Korean leader who has already admitted that his economic plan has failed.
The problem for Mr Kim is that when he took over from his father, he promised his people a more prosperous future. He said they would have meat on their tables and access to electricity. This has not happened. Now he’s having to prime the population for more hard work.
He is trying to tie this into the global pandemic, and state media reported that he pointed out to party officials that the situation across the world is getting “worse and worse”. With so little access to outside information, he can paint a picture of things being bad everywhere – not just in sealed off North Korea. He also described efforts to beat Covid-19 as a “protracted war”. That signals that border closures are not easing any time soon.
That is the concern of many aid organisations. The sealed border has prevented some food and medicine getting through. Most NGOs have had to leave the country, unable to get staff and supplies in or out.
Pyongyang has always called for “self-reliance”. It has closed itself off, just as it may need assistance and it is unlikely to ask for help. If it continues to push away all offers of international assistance, as ever, it may be the people who pay the price.
Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’
A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims by sharing the Gospel.
The accused, identified as Imam Uthman Olingha, told police he killed Bishop Francis Obo, senior pastor of Mpingire Pentecostal Revival Church Ministries International in Odapako village Mpingire Sub-County, on June 11, Morning Star News reported.
Olingha was one of the Muslim extremists dressed in Islamic attire who stopped Pastor Obo and his wife on their way home from a market at about 8:30 p.m., his wife, Christine Obo, said.
“Olingha openly confessed to police that he can’t regret that he killed the bishop because he did it in the cause of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims. He added that Allah will be with him in jail, but the kafiri (infidel) deserved the killing.”
One of the attackers told the pastor, who oversaw 17 churches across the region and had been sharing Christ with Muslims, that he was an “infidel” who caused Muslims to leave Islam and “blasphemes the words of Allah,” and that, “Today Allah has judged you.”
A week before the murder, the couple had invited a former Islamic teacher to testify on how he became a Christian at their church, Christine Obo recalled. Area Muslims were also upset with the church because it offered the former Islamic teacher a pig as part of a micro-enterprise livestock project that helped raise funds for the church, she added.
Describing the incident, she said, “As I moved a few meters in a hurry trying to save my life, I heard a little noise and wailing from my husband and realized that his life was in danger.”
When she reached home, she was trembling and unable to speak, she said, and her children took her to a hospital. When she regained consciousness the following morning, she told her oldest son and his siblings to go to the site.
“Reaching there, they were shocked and fearful as they found a big number of Christians and relatives gathered around the dead body mourning their bishop after being murdered by Muslims,” Obo was quoted as saying.
According to World Watch Monitor, a homegrown Islamist rebel movement organizing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has emboldened Ugandan radicals to persecute Christians.
Voice of the Martyrs earlier noted that Uganda’s history has made it vulnerable to the influence of Islam as “Arab countries also continue to invest significant resources into furthering Muslim interests in the country.”
In Uganda, persecution is mainly seen in the form of local Islamists persecuting Christians, mostly in areas where “radicals have been steadily encroaching.”
“Radical Islam’s influence has grown steadily, and many Christians within the majority-Muslim border regions are facing severe persecution, especially those who convert from Islam,” a Voice of the Martyrs factsheet explains. “Despite the risks, evangelical churches in Uganda have responded by reaching out to their neighbors; many churches are training leaders how to share the Gospel with Muslims and care for those who are persecuted after they become Christians.”
Last December, a mob of Muslim extremists in Uganda reportedly killed 41-year-old former imam Yusuf Kintu a week after he converted to Christianity.
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North Korea is facing a severe food shortage
Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”. He said the...
Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’
A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of...
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