Hundreds Jailed for Sectarian Violence, Turkish Leaders Smooth Way for Christians, & More News
Churchgoing no longer an admissions plus
UNITED KINGDOM The Church of England will no longer allow its schools to rank potential students for admission based on church participation. The church also told schools to admit more ethnic minorities and immigrants from non-Christian backgrounds. The church's old system awarded points based on family worship attendance and church involvement. Critics said it favored middle-class families, arguing that some parents became more religious in order to ensure school spots for their children.
Turkish leaders smooth way for Christians
TURKEY The recently reelected Muslim prime minister of Turkey is making the country more comfortable for its Christian minority. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has granted Turkish citizenship to a number of young Eastern Orthodox bishops around the world. This makes the bishops eligible for leadership in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, currently run by 71-year-old Patriarch Bartholomew and an aging cohort. Erdogan's government has also allowed Christians to reclaim land they had lost illegally, restored old churches, and criticized ultranationalists responsible for recent violence against Christians.
Minority religious groups legalized
GEORGIA The Georgian Orthodox Church criticized a new law that legalizes minority religious groups, saying it "contradicts the interests of the church and of the country." Eighty-four percent of the country's population is Orthodox Christian. Roman Catholic, Baptist, Apostolic, Muslim, and Jewish groups are now legally recognized.
Prayers for sick require authorization
KAZAKHSTAN The government is prosecuting a pastor for harming a man's health by hypnotizing him. Church members said pastor Yerzhan Ushanov just prayed for Aleksandr Kereyev, who alleges he became ill after Ushanov's so-called hypnosis session. Ushanov faces fines and jail time. Another pastor was fined the equivalent of eight years' salary for praying for a sick woman. The case was eventually overturned, but the pastor has not been reimbursed. Government officials have told pastors they need to apply for Health Ministry authorization before praying for the sick.
State: Secular yet religious
BANGLADESH A new amendment to the Bangladeshi constitution restores secularism as a fundamental principle of the state. At the same time, it allows religion-based politics and reaffirms Islam as the state religion. It also says that the state should protect and develop the cultures of minority races, sects, and communities. Religious parties were allowed for about 30 years in Bangladesh but made illegal in early 2010.
Pastor faces execution
IRAN A house-church pastor could face execution this fall if he does not recant Christianity for Islam. A lower court had sentenced 33-year-old Youcef Nadarkhani to death for apostasy, but the Supreme Court partially retracted that sentence. Instead, it sent Nadarkhani's case back to a lower court to examine what faith he was raised in. His lawyer has been sentenced to nine years in prison for acting against the Muslim regime. This execution would be Iran's first for apostasy since 1990.