After being slapped with a $2.4-million bill by the Beijing tax bureau, Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei (left) could be charged with illegal fundraising. Ai disclosed to the public his hefty tax bill only last week, and since then nearly 20,000 people have donated more than 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) to help the artist pay an enormous sum of back taxes and fines.
According to American intelligence sources, senior Israeli ministers who once opposed a military strike against Iran are now indicating support for such an endeavor. Those sources indicate that Israeli officials have been swayed by updates on the progress Iran has made toward building a nuclear program, believing that the next round of sanctions will not be tough enough. Israeli President Shimon Peres has warned that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly imminent, prompting U.S. officials to voice concerns that Israel may attack Iran without any warning for the United States.
After initially claiming it would not execute a minister for converting from Islam to Christianity, the Iranian government is — in the words of one analyst — engaging in a “variety of tactics in an effort to neutralize a situation that has called into question its flaunted commitment to religious freedom.”
Afghan “President” Hamid Karzai, who rose to power with massive U.S. assistance, promised that the regime ruling Afghanistan would support the Pakistani government if a war broke out between America and Pakistan.
The Vatican on October 19 sent a message to Hindu leaders asking them to resist “hateful propaganda” against Christians and allowing Christians to practice their faith in peace. A principal cause of conflict is the conversion to Christianity of Dalits or “untouchables.” The aggression against Christians stretches across much of India, from the eastern state of Orissa to the southwest state of Kerala.
A historic and highly controversial prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has Middle East observers predicting a fresh wave of violence and attacks against the Jewish nation. On October 18, Israel freed 477 Palestinians it had captured over the past 30 years in the ongoing conflict over land claimed by Israel since the famed 1967 Six-Day War. Its reported prize in return for the prisoners — along with the promised release of several hundred more over the next year — was one lone Israeli soldier, 25-year-old Gilad Shalit (pictured at left), who had been held by Hamas since his capture more than five years ago.
For Zubaida Bibi, a Christian woman working in a garment factory in the Korangi Industrial Area of Karachi, Pakistan, the workday on October 12 at Crescent Enterprises probably began like most. Her job as a custodian helped make it possible for her to care for her children. But before her shift was over, a Muslim worker at the factory attempted to rape her, and then slit her throat, leaving four orphans without a mother to care for them. And the case of Zubaida Bibi is far from unique: In Pakistan, the phenomena of Islamic men raping Christian women is becoming more common.
There has been a series of varying reports on the latest news concerning 32-year-old Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (pictured at left), who had been condemned to death by an Iranian court for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. According to Baptist Press News, Reuters News Service had reported on October 11 that Iran’s Supreme Court had sent the case back to the original court that had tried him, ruling that there had been insufficient investigation into the charges against the pastor. “The court will issue a new verdict,” Reuters reported, citing the Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) as its source.
American Christians may not see eye-to-eye on the justness or wisdom of their government’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but one thing on which they should be able to agree — because the facts are indisputable — is that the wars have been devastating for their coreligionists in those countries. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, including members of one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, have either fled from or been killed in Iraq since 2003. Now, according to the U.S. State Department, the situation for Christians in Afghanistan has become so dire that not a single church remains in that country.
After months of threatening the execution of Youcef Nadarkhani (left), the Iranian government is backing away from putting the Christian pastor to death, and is claiming that news stories of the plan to execute him were “unsubstantiated.”