14 April 2016, The Tablet

News Briefing: global

Christians murdered
In Syria, so-called Islamic State (IS) killed at least 21 Christians and kidnapped dozens more in the town of al-Qaryatain, according to a BBC report. The story quoted the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II describing IS atrocities against Christians when the Islamists seized control of the town last August. Around 300 Christians remained in the town after the IS invasion.  

The patriarch said some died trying to escape while others were murdered for breaking the terms of their “dhimmi contracts”, which require them to submit to the rule of Islam. Details of the crimes emerged after Russian-backed Syrian forces retook the town last week. They found the town destroyed including a 1,500-year-old Catholic monastery.

Threat to Church resisted  
A Catholic aid official has urged the Government of Burundi not to threaten the Church, which, he says, plays “an important role in peace building in Burundi”.

Patrick Nicholson, communications director of Caritas Internationalis, told us that the Church’s “calls for dialogue between all sides of the conflict are aimed at bringing an end to a political and economic crisis that is causing suffering and increasing poverty in Burundi”. He added that “leaders must step away from the abyss, and the only way to do that is through a negotiated settlement”.

The Catholic Church “gives crucial support to agriculture, schooling, and multiple social services, including health care”, he said, warning that “people would face great hardships if the Church’s work was discontinued”. Last month, Pascal Nyabenda, president of the National Assembly, accused the Church of playing a “purely political, not spiritual role”, and said the Government would not talk to “sponsors of terrorism”.

Displays will continue
Fireworks will still be used in church ceremonies in Kerala after last weekend’s accident during a display at a Hindu temple in the southern Indian province. More than a hundred people died and over 300 people were injured when a firework ignited a store of firecrackers leading to the temple’s collapse.

Fr Varghese Vallikkat, deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, which cares for a third of the 17 million Catholics in India, told us that the Kerala Church had issued strict guidance on the use of fireworks.


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