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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: 10 million child deaths a year preventable, charity says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Nearly 10 million children die each year from treatable illnesses like diarrhea and pneumonia — the vast majority of them in the developing world, according to the U.S.-based charity Save the Children. Child death rates are worst in Laos, Yemen, Chad, Somalia and Ethiopia, and eight of the 10 worst-ranked countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Simple health initiatives such as oral rehydration to combat diarrhea can dramatically improve the chances of survival for children, David Oot, Save the Children’s associate vice president, told the Associated Press. The Philippines has cut its child death rate almost in half since 1990 with such techniques. Such strategies placed the Philippines, Peru, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkmenistan at the top of 55 developing countries in terms of child survival.

More than 200 million children worldwide under age 5 do not get basic health care that would save lives, such as prenatal care, skilled birthing assistance, immunizations and treatments for diarrhea and pneumonia. Low-cost techniques — inexpensive antibiotics and oral rehydration solutions — could save more than 6 million children a year from preventable or curable causes, the report said. The top killer of children under 5 is pneumonia, while diarrhea ranks second.

NIGERIAN MUSLIMS RIOT AGAINST CHRISTIANS — Hundreds of Muslims went on a rampage April 20 in northern Nigeria’s Kano state, burning Christian shops and vehicles and trapping thousands of Christians in churches until police dispersed the mobs. The violence reportedly was triggered by rumors that a Christian had blasphemed the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

“There has been tension in Kano, and across northern Nigeria between Muslims and Christians,” Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs told Compass Direct News. “Just hearsay that Mohammed had been blasphemed against was enough to stir people to violence.”

The Christian who was accused of blaspheming Muhammad was taken into custody by police when he was attacked by Muslims at a market in Kano city, Nettleton said. A mob formed at the police station, threatening to burn it down unless the Christian was released to be stoned to death in keeping with Islamic law. Police were able to persuade the mob to disperse.

Christians in northern Nigeria are in danger, particularly if they are involved in outreach, Nettleton said. Hundreds of Christians have gone to police stations and military bases asking for protection from additional violence they believe will come.

ISRAEL DIVESTMENT PROPOSALS WITHDRAWN — Five proposals aimed at pulling United Methodist investments from countries that do business with Israel have been withdrawn.

The petitions would have asked the United Methodist General Conference to divest from Caterpillar Inc. because Israel uses that company’s heavy equipment to raze Palestinian properties believed to be connected to terrorist activities.

“We are heartened by the rejection of all five divestment petitions,” Mark Tooley, executive director of UM Action, said in an April 28 press statement. “Portraying Israel as the Western oppressor and the Palestinians as a Third World victim is not helpful in advocating justice and peace for all.

“The decisions to withdraw an anti-Caterpillar resolution and the defeat of one-sided anti-Israel divestment resolutions in committee are decisive steps towards adopting a more equitable stance on the Middle East,” Tooley said.

SOMALI CHRISTIANS MURDERED — Islamic extremists shot and killed a Muslim-background Christian on April 22 in Baidawa, a town in southern Somalia 149 miles from the capital, Mogadishu.

David Abdulwahab Mohamed Ali, 29, reportedly was approached by members of the Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab, one of whom was his cousin, and asked whether he was a Muslim or an infidel, according to a report from the human rights group International Christian Concern. When he replied he was neither but was a follower of “the Messiah,” the three men shot him to death. In Somalia’s strict Muslim society, conversion to Christianity brings shame to one’s family and the convert often is killed to avenge family honor.

Ali decided to follow Christ in 1995 when he was a refugee living in Yemen. Authorities there sentenced him to death for becoming a Christian and he had to flee to Ethiopia for fear of his life. Ali had traveled to Somalia to visit family.

Ali was the fourth Christian killed in the past six months by al-Shabab, which is a militant group linked to al-Qaeda, according to ICC. Al-Shabab wants to establish an Islamic state in Somalia and is on the United States’ list of terrorist organizations.

NEPAL’S COMMUNISTS WIN ELECTIONS — Communist rebels who fought for years to bring a Maoist revolution in Nepal are poised to play a major role in a democratically elected assembly that is expected to end a 239-year-old dynasty.

The Maoists had been widely expected to place behind the two established political parties in early April balloting, but the former rebel group claimed 108 of the 196 districts counted by April 14, according to the Associated Press. By contrast, the centrist Nepali Congress claimed 31 seats and the Communist Party of Nepal took 27.

The group gave up their decade-long insurgency as part of a 2006 peace deal negotiated after Nepal’s King Gyanendra seized total power, causing widespread unrest in the country. The Maoists controlled about a third of the Himalayan country during their rebellion, even imposing a weeklong blockade on the capital, Katmandu, in 2004. They were listed as a terrorist group by the United States after they were found to be murdering their critics and forcing young men and women to join their fight.

The group appealed to voters by saying they would bring prosperity to Nepal’s poor through capitalism, the Associated Press reported.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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