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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Trapped in Gaza, Palestinian Christians question future; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As Hamas imposes a harsh Taliban-style Islam on residents of the Gaza Strip, Christians around the world are concerned about the welfare of believers there.

Although weeks of violence had ended for the time being, border crossings were sealed and the trickle of humanitarian aid finding its way into Gaza doesn’t begin to meet the needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents -– 80 percent of whom live under the poverty line, said Carl Moeller of Open Doors, a ministry that focuses on the needs of Christians living under the threat of persecution. (The United Nations places the poverty line at $1 a day.)

Evangelical believers trapped in Gaza have no supplies and are unable to leave, yet they are determined to share the hope of Christ, Moeller told Mission Network News. “They’re caught between radical Islam on the one side and Israel on the other, and they’re trying to follow the Lord’s admonition to be peacemakers in the middle of that violent place,” he said.

Christians who come from a Muslim background are afraid they will be discovered by militants and executed, Moeller said. Most are afraid to contact other believers.

HINDU MOB BEATS, HUMILIATES PASTOR — A mob of Hindu extremists beat a pastor and tried to set him on fire before parading him naked in the suburbs of Bangalore, India, on June 8. Laxmi Narayan Gowda was beaten in his home, in front of his wife and two small children, by men allegedly associated with the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the extremist World Hindu Council.

One of the assailants threw kerosene on the pastor and others vandalized the house and burned Bibles, Sam Joseph of the All India Christian Council told Compass Direct News. One attacker tossed a burning Bible onto Pastor Gowda -– but he did not catch fire.

The group then stripped the pastor naked, hung a sign around his neck that said, “I am the one who was converting people,” and paraded him through the streets as an estimated 1,000 people mocked and beat him.

Police arrived on the scene about an hour later. Officials said a case had not been filed against the attackers because the pastor, who was recovering in the hospital, had told them he did not want to file a complaint. The attackers reportedly included some of Gowda’s neighbors.

Gowda reportedly was himself a member of a Hindu extremist group before coming to Christ 15 years ago. One observer speculated that he was singled out for the attack to punish him for becoming a Christian.

‘MISSION FIELDS’ NOW MISSIONARY SENDERS — After a century or more of receiving missionaries, Christians in many countries now are becoming missionary senders themselves, according to the leader of an organization that helps Christians use their professional skills in missions ministries in Asia and the Arab world.

Wherever churches are growing because of missions outreach, God is raising up new generations of missionaries to bless other peoples the way missionaries blessed them, said Doug VanBronkhorst of Interserve USA.

“Christians from the global south and Christians from these new churches … need discipling and they need training, but they have all the zeal in the world,” Bronkhorst told Mission Network News. New workers are being sent out not only from traditional “mission fields” like Brazil and China, but also from places like India, Pakistan and the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.

South Korea is the second-largest sending country in the world, close behind the U.S., he said.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS BODY ADOPTS ‘REFORMS’ — A new United Nations human rights watchdog -– formed to replace the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission -– has adopted a package of “reforms” that places its own credibility in question.

The agreement terminated investigations of alleged human rights abuses in Cuba and Belarus but maintained scrutiny of Israel, a move which drew immediate criticism from the United States, Canada, some European countries and several non-governmental organizations.

Members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council –- of which the United States is not a voting member -– had been negotiating for a year on ground rules on launching investigations, according to the Associated Press. Last-minute demands from China that would require a two-thirds vote threatened to deadlock the group. Compromise language calling for “the broadest possible support” eventually was adopted.

“To its shame, the U.N. Human Rights Council celebrated its first birthday by giving gifts to Fidel Castro, the authoritarian regime in Belarus and the enemies of the democratic state of Israel,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Cuban-American. U.S. Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor said the actions “raise serious questions about the institutional priorities of the Human Rights Council.”

Nine other human rights investigations, including Haiti, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, North Korea and the Palestinian territories, will continue.

MALAYSIA MOVES TOWARD ISLAMIC LAW — A three-judge panel in Malaysia’s Federal Court ruled May 30 that a Muslim woman who accepted Christ will officially remain a Muslim until an Islamic court approved her conversion. The decision formally recognizes Islamic Sharia law as superior in authority to the country’s constitution, which guarantees religious liberty.

The court ruled that Lina Joy, a Malay who had applied to have her identity card read “Christian” instead of “Muslim,” will be obliged to observe Islamic law until an Islamic court approves the change. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Richard Malanjum –- the only non-Muslim on the panel -– said it was “illegal” and “unreasonable” to expect the woman to apply for help to the Sharia court, which regards “apostasy” as a crime, punishable by fines and imprisonment.

“The ruling strips all Malays … of their fundamental and constitutional right to religious freedom,” said Elizabeth Kendal of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission. “The ruling has also emboldened Malaysia’s main Islamic party to propose that apostasy be made a criminal offence in every state and punishments should be more severe.”

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  • Mark Kelly