In a press conference on Tuesday, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said they would support nationwide anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people — so long as those laws also respected religious liberty.
A small Congressional body is gearing up to address the needs of the Middle East’s Christians and other religious minorities, who continue to suffer at the hands of ISIS and other persecutors. Thousands have left their homes and are struggling to survive the winter in flimsy tents, and many in Congress are pushing for America to do more.
Pope Francis said Thursday that “one cannot kill in the name of God,” but freedom of expression has “limits,” answering questions about the French magazine Charlie Hebdo during a flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines.
Saudi Arabia will begin punishing Raif Badawi Friday, a blogger and activist convicted of “insulting Islam.” His punishment includes 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a million-riyal fine, equivalent to over $250,000.
As a harsh winter approaches in Iraq, several Christian groups have announced projects to assist the millions displaced by ISIS, which includes tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities fleeing for their lives.
Three years ago or so I received a Facebook message from a thoughtful young friend-of-a-friend. After studying Christian history, she concluded that she knew too little about the Orthodox Church, so I answered her questions as best I could.
I also admonished her to discover the Church through its liturgical and communal life, not the abundant resources available about Orthodoxy online. In North America, where Orthodoxy is a tiny minority, it is often easier to learn about the faith through the Internet than from the nearest Orthodox priest, who may be a long drive away, speak poor English, or be baffled by the very existence of a “regular American” interested in the Church.
October was not a month of especial cooperation in the global Eastern Orthodox communion. Protesting the appointment in March of an archbishop for Qatar by the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of Antioch withdrew its participation from “all the Assemblies of Canonical Orthodox Bishops abroad.” The Antiochian Patriarchate claims sole authority over the small Gulf state though at present it has no parishes of its own there. The assemblies affected by this decision include the canonical episcopal council in North America, which counts several Antiochian bishops among its officers.
US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook is expected to resign this week. There’s been a lot of speculation about who her successor may be, and how recent changes in the human-rights world and the DC bureaucracy may impact the future of her job. But first, a bit of background
There is a popular idea among Orthodox Christians that the Church benefits from special recognition by the state. This follows from the assumptions that godly emperors ruled Byzantium and Russia before being overthrown by interlopers and that the Church lost its power and influence thereafter. American Orthodox Christians, who are forced to inhabit a scattered and irregular ecclesial reality, often find this narrative especially appealing. A state that recognizes a united Orthodox populace would seem to be a sign of strength and vitality. Surely, the idea goes, Greeks and Russians were holier, purer, and freer from sin before the encroachment of Muslims and Communists.
But in the Arab world, where Christians have been a minority for centuries, the Church tells different stories about itself.
Last weekend was marked by unexpected incidents of public and religiously motivated violence around the world. A posh shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya was besieged by Islamists in a dramatic standoff with government forces that has killed dozens of Kenyans and foreigners so far. A funeral procession in Baghdad was bombed, killing at least 65 bystanders. And in the largest anti-Christian attack in Pakistan’s history, 80 people died when Taliban affiliates bombed a church in Peshawar after Sunday services.