US religious leaders appeal to admit refugees
In rare agreement across faith and ideological lines, leaders of major American religious groups have condemned proposed bans on Syrian refugees, contending a legitimate debate over security has been overtaken by irrational fear and prejudice.
Top organizations representing evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Jews and liberal Protestants say close vetting of asylum seekers is a critical part of forming policy on refugees. But these religious leaders say such concerns, heightened after the Paris attacks a week ago, do not warrant blocking those fleeing violence in the Middle East.
About 70 percent of all refugees admitted to the U.S. are resettled by faith groups, according to the U.S. State Department office for refugees. The bulk of the work is done by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Church World Service, representing Protestant and Orthodox groups, are each responsible for about 10 percent. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Episcopal Migrant Ministries also handle several thousand cases.
The Rev. Russell Moore, head of the public policy agency for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant group, said screening is crucial and “we should insist on it,” but he said evangelicals should not “demagogue the issue as many politicians are doing right now.”
“Evangelicals should be the ones calling the rest of the world to remember human dignity and the image of God, especially for those fleeing murderous Islamic radical jihadis,” Moore said. AP
Up to 70 killed, 100 missing in Burma landslide
Up to 70 people were killed and more than 100 were missing following a landslide at a jade mine in northern Burma, according to reports Sunday. The disaster happened Saturday in the state of Kachin, which produces some of the world’s highest quality jade.
Businessman Brang Seng told the Associated Press that most of the dead were villagers who had been sifting through a mountain of rubble and waste. He said rows of bodies were pulled from the debris. “There were more than 70,” he said. “This is awfully bad.” Another witness told the BBC at least 50 people were dead. Dozens of huts were buried, the broadcaster reported. Lamai Gum Ja, a community leader who has interests in the mining business, told the AP that more than 100 people were missing.
Local authorities, servicemembers and residents are carrying out a rescue operation, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, as Burma is also known, reported. Jade mining brings in billions of dollars a year, but researchers say most of money goes to people and companies linked to the country’s former military rulers. USA Today
Putin seeks global anti-terrorism fight
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he wanted global cooperation to combat terrorism after Islamist militants killed 19 people, including six Russians, in an attack on a luxury hotel in Mali
Friday’s assault came a week after militants killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State, and three weeks after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt by what Moscow and Western governments say was a bomb, killing all 224 people aboard.
The bloodshed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali, a former French colony, evoked the problems French troops and U.N. peacekeepers face in restoring security and order in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its weakly-governed desert north for years.
Jihadist groups Al Mourabitoun and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, which ended when Malian commandos stormed the building and rescued 170 people, many of them foreigners.
Putin and French President Francois Hollande also spoke by phone on Tuesday and agreed to boost coordination of their military actions in fighting jihadist militants in Syria. Reuters
Bangladesh hangs opposition leaders for war crimes
Bangladesh Sunday hanged two top opposition leaders for war crimes during the independence conflict with Pakistan and strengthened security nationwide over fears the executions could spark fresh unrest. Thousands of extra police and border guards were deployed in Dhaka and other major cities and towns on the eve of a general strike on Monday called to protest against the executions.
Supporters of the ruling Awami League meanwhile greeted the executions of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury by holding street parties and doling out sweets to children. Bangladesh has been roiled by violence for much of the last three years since a domestic tribunal began delivering its verdicts on opposition figures accused of orchestrating massacres during the 1971 war.
Islamabad on Sunday branded the tribunal’s trials flawed, and called for reconciliation over the nine-month war which pitted Pakistani forces and allied militias against Bangladeshi freedom fighters. AFP
ASEAN for single market
Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday symbolically declared the establishment by year-end of an EU-style regional economic bloc, but diplomats admitted it will be years before the vision of a single market can be realized.
At the group’s annual summit, held this year in Kuala Lumpur, the heads of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a declaration that the bloc hailed as “a milestone in the integration process”.
The 10 leaders then put an aural exclamation mark on the agreement by banging once in unison on a traditional drum from each of their nations.
However, diplomats have admitted Sunday’s declaration has no practical effect, and was largely meant to avoid having ASEAN — regularly criticised for its lack of concrete achievements — miss its own deadline of 2015. AFP
Trump, Carson under fire for Muslim database comments
Republican presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Ben Carson each tried to adjust their suggestions Friday that the U.S. should have a database to track people as a precaution against attacks from the Islamic State and other extremist groups.
Trump said he meant to track Syrian refugees only, not all Muslims. Meanwhile, Carson said a database should be used for “everybody” in the country and looking to enter, not just Muslims. Both party outsiders are taking a harder stance than their competitors in the refugee screening debate. CBS News, The Star-Ledger via The Week
Singapore Megachurch Pastor Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison
A megachurch pastor in Singapore has been sentenced to eight years in prison for misappropriating church donations to support his wife’s singing career.
ABC News reports that Kong Hee, founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore, was found guilty of using over $35 million in church donations to fund his wife, popstar HO Yeow Sun’s, career.
Prosecutors said that Kong, along with five other church leaders, placed 24 million Singapore dollars ($17 million) into sham bond investments so that the money could actually be used for Ho’s career. Kong and the other church leaders also used another 26 million Singapore dollars ($18 million) to cover up the first embezzlement from auditors.
Kong and other City Harvest supporters have argued that the church was supporting Ho’s career in order to draw more people to the church, but Judge See Kee Onn dismissed this claim. “This trial did not concern mere lapses of corporate governance,” the judge made clear “They were effectively putting (church) funds into their own hands, to be used as they needed.” Christian Headlines
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