News and Views

EzekielJan/Feb 2015

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Religious

The Communist Chinese government started closing a
nd demolishing Christian churches over the last summer. While officials within the government have come up with a wide variety of reasons for the closures, such as “illegal structures,” the intent is very clear: religion that is not state-approved is targeted. This crack down on the increasingly prevalent religion has stirred many people to anger and frustration with the government. Their apparent response has been to establish a new, state-approved version of the religion which will be unveiled at a later time. — World Religion News, 10/1/2014

Christians in Pakistan have been targets of what human rights activists call an unprecedented wave of violence against religious minorities, including Shiites, Ahmadis, Sikhs, and Hindus. Thousands of members of religious minority groups have been killed over the past five years. Christians’ dwindling burial space is an example of a less dramatic but more persistent battle they say takes place behind the bloody headlines: a daily struggle for what seem to be basic rights. — Washington Post, 10/18/2014

Of 400 people who have left Germany for Syria to join ISIS, about 10 percent are women. French officials estimate 1,000 departures, with 60 being women. Of 85 jihadis who left from Sweden, 15- 20 were women, said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Sweden’s National Defence College. “They want to marry martyrs,” he said. “There is almost an obsession with paradise and the afterlife, which makes it like a death cult. Death matters more than life.” “Women also become more revered. If you become a widow, you become a mentor to the younger women and you would get status,” added Ranstorp. — Reuters, 10/9/2014

A medical team based in the UK has spent the last four years seeking out cardiac arrest patients to analyze their experiences, and found that almost 40 per cent of survivors described having some form of “awareness” at a time when they were declared clinically dead. Of those who survived, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections, nine per cent had experiences compatible with traditional definitions of a near-death experience and two per cent exhibited full awareness with explicit recall of “seeing” and “hearing” events — or out-of-body experiences. — The Independent, 10/7/2014

Social

9,298 — reports of human trafficking in the USA between 2007 and 2012 according to a study by the Polaris Project, a non-profit. organization tracking the crime. — Bucks County Courier Timrd, 10/1/2014

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters thronged the streets of Hong Kong, calling for the ouster of the city’s chief executive, C.Y. Leung. The protests were triggered by Beijing’s recent decision to vet candidates for the chief executive position in 2017. China has given no sign of conceding to the demands of the protesters and has warned the U.S. not to get involved in its “internal affairs.” The protests have been dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution.” — Koenig International News, 10/4/2014

The spread of Ebola in West Africa leaves hundreds of orphans. A number of them are reportedly marginalized by some tribal communities due to fear of witchcraft. “There’s a strong belief in witchcraft that Ebola is contracted through a curse or in some cases that it is a white man’s fabrication,” said Jamie Bedson, charity Restless Development’s Sierra Leone country director. “There is a mistrust of foreigners, and in one place everyone threw away soap given out by the government because they thought it was poisoned.” The Liberian government, with the help of NGOs, has registered 310 orphans who were not infected. Another 600-700 remain in quarantine. — The Christian Post, 10/10/2014

Political

On a holiday meant to celebrate the birth of China’s communist republic, Hong Kong residents instead swarmed the streets to protest Beijing’s iron grip and demand democratic reforms. The massive crowds appeared to be the biggest yet amid a week of demonstrations that brought large parts of the city to a standstill. — Washington Post, 10/1/2014

The Obama administration will greatly increase the number of Syrian refugees approved for permanent resettlement in the United States next year. The State Department is reviewing more than 4,000 applications from Syrian refugees seeking permanent homes in the United States, up from dozens considered for resettlement this year and last, officials said. The White House has approved permanent resettlement for up to 70,000 refugees worldwide next year. — Washington Post, 9/30/2014

Moscow announced it intends to “deploy a full-scale and self-sufficient” military force on the Crimea peninsula, which Russia annexed in March. Russian state news outlets presented the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a U.S.-organized plot. Earlier this year, the Russian media portrayed the pro-Western protests in Kiev that toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, as a U.S.-sponsored plot. The majority of Russians get their news from state-controlled media. A senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said that Moscow has a responsibility to protect ethnic Russians “regardless of where they live.” More than 1 million ethnic Russians reside in the Baltic countries. — Koenig International News, 10/4/2014

Financial

Russia’s credit rating was cut to the second-lowest investment grade by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited sluggish growth prospects worsened by the crisis in Ukraine and international sanctions. Russia has spent $13 billion from its foreign reserves this month to bolster the ruble as tumbling oil prices add to the woes of an economy that’s teetering toward recession amid the sanctions by the U.S. and European Union. — Bloomberg News, 10/17/2014

The Hurun Report, a magazine in Shanghai about China’s wealthy elite, estimates that almost two-thirds of the country’s millionaires have emigrated to the United States or plan to do so. They’re scooping up homes from Seattle to New York, buying luxury goods on Fifth Avenue, and paying to send their kids to U.S. colleges. Chinese nationals hold roughly $660 billion in personal wealth offshore, according to Boston Consulting Group. The National Association of Realtors says $22 billion of that was spent last year acquiring U.S. homes. — Bloomberg, 10/18/2014

Israel

The Bnei Menashe, descendants of Manasseh, were exiled from Israel in 722 BC by the Assyrians. It appears that this “Lost Tribe” found their way to China, then migrated into northeast India over a period of 2500 years. In the 1890s, some of the Bnei Menashe converted to Christianity. As a number of them read the Tanakh, they discovered their Hebraic roots. Approximately 2900 of the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe returned to Israel; another 6500 await the opportunity. — Bridges for Peace, 10/15/2014

when, the land of Israel is supposed to lie fallow. Called a shemita year in Hebrew, the sabbatical is intended to allow the poor to reap whatever may still be growing on the land, “so that the poor of your people may eat” (Exodus 23:11). Modern Israel does not strictly keep Sabbath years, though Orthodox Jews make some concessions in their practices. — RNS, 9/30/2014

Nazareth Illit city gardeners, working in the city’s Har Yona industrial area, located near the Arab communities of Kfar Kana and Ein Mahil, discovered a bag containing 50 Islamic State group flags between some bushes. Police were called to the scene and so was the city’s mayor, Alex Gadalkin, who was disconcerted by the discovery. — Ynet news, 10/7/2014

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