Sunday, January 12, 2014

The 3 - January 12, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes more disturbing news out of the nation of Nigeria, where dozens of Christians lost their lives recently.   Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has placed a judge's ruling against Utah's marriage amendment on hold.  And, the top story - an advocacy group for persecuted Christians has released its latest list of the nations where Christians suffer the most persecution.

3 - Dozens slain in attack on Christians in Nigerian village

Some parts of the African nation of Nigeria cannot be considered safe places.  According to a report on the website, this past Monday, over 30 people were brutally murdered in an attack on Shonong, a Christian village in central Nigeria.  ASSIST News Service reports that the death toll is 33.

Islamic gunmen, believed to be from the Fulani ethnic group, opened fire on residents of Shonong village located in Nigeria's Plateau State, killing those unfortunate enough to be in the village at the time of the attack.

According to survivors, "hundreds of attackers" poured into the Christian village with automatic weapons, killing Christians they discovered still in the village proper. On top of the killings, 20 Christian homes were set ablaze and other private properties owned by Christians were either destroyed or stolen by the attackers.

Although this attack on Shonong village was devastating, many believe the death toll could have been much higher if not for the swift intervention of the police and Nigerian military.

Christian leaders in Nigeria suspect the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is inciting the Fulani Muslims to attack Christians living in Nigeria's middle belt region. "From all indications, the terrorism being witnessed in the country is purely in pursuit of Jihad," Rev. Yiman Orkwar, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Makurdi in Benue State, told Morning Star News

And, ASSIST News reports that survivors of the Jan. 6 slaughter said Special Task Force (STF) soldiers stationed to protect them turned their weapons on those fleeing the attack.

According to a story by Morning Star News, speaking from her hospital bed with bullet wounds in her legs, Antele Alamba, 25, told the news agency that hundreds of Muslim Fulani herdsmen armed with guns and machetes attacked Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area. They did so unprovoked, burning homes and butchering women and children.

2 - Utah halts gay marriages after U.S. Supreme Court puts lower court ruling on hold

This past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that places on hold a ruling by a lower Federal court judge concerning gay marriage.  According to a report on the website, the judge had ruled on December 20 that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage violates gay and lesbian couples' constitutional rights. 

The state filed an emergency appeal, and the case went to the high court, which ruled that gay marriages cannot take place during the appeals process.  

Utah will not recognize the nearly 1,000 gay marriages performed in the state.

On Wednesday, the governor instructed state agencies to freeze all actions regarding same-sex marriages until a federal appeals court rules on the issue.

The Supreme Court's ruling will remain in effect until it decides whether to uphold the federal judge's decision. The court's order will not affect same-sex marriages already performed.

In an interesting twist, on Friday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Federal government would recognize the marriage licenses of same-sex couples in the state of Utah, even though the state said it would not.   Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation says in a piece on The Foundry blog on the Heritage website that Holder's announcement, "highlights the need for the federal government to respect state marriage laws. Just yesterday, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives that does just that."

He writes:
That legislation, the “State Marriage Defense Act of 2014,” HR 3829, requires the federal government to respect state laws on marriage. The Act requires the federal government to look to the laws of the state where citizens reside to determine the definition of “marriage.” It states that the term “marriage” shall “not include any relationship which that State, territory, or possession does not recognize as a marriage, and the term ‘spouse’ shall not include an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that State, territory, or possession.”
1 - Open Doors releases World Watch List; North Korea remains top persecutor of Christians

This week, the organization Open Doors, which advocates for the persecuted church worldwide, released its World Watch List, consisting of the 50 countries where Christians face the greatest amount of persecution. And, for the 12th straight year, the country of North Korea remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity, according to a press release from Open Doors USA.

Dr. David Curry, Open Doors USA President/CEO is quoted as saying, “The 2014 WWL is the most comprehensive study of the systematic persecution of Christians ever done. Often completely unaddressed in the West is the fact that Christians are the largest persecuted minority in the world...Countries on the WWL, such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East and North Africa are targeting Christians; imprisoning, punishing, and even in some cases murdering people who choose to express privately or publicly their Christian faith. The 2014 WWL is a wake up call to Americans to become more aware of these atrocities and restrictions on religious freedom.”

Here are the top 10 nations on the List:
1) North Korea
2) Somalia
3) Syria
4) Iraq
5) Afghanistan
6) Saudi Arabia
7) Maldives
8) Pakistan
9) Iran
10) Yemen.
The List also shows a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities in states that are commonly regarded as “failed.” A failed country is defined “as a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control.” The World Watch List Top 10 contains six failed states: Somalia (#2), Syria (#3), Iraq (#4), Afghanistan (#5), Pakistan (#8) and Yemen (#10). Another newly failed, war-torn state – the Central African Republic (CAR) – made the list for the first time at #16. Libya (#13) and Nigeria (#14) remain very high.

And, the country of North Korea has been in the news this week, as the result of former NBA player Dennis Rodman's visit to the isolated country.  He seems to have struck up a friendship with the country's leader, and he enlisted the assistance of some other former pro basketball players to travel with him to the nation.   In an interview with CNN, Chris Cuomo asked Rodman about the plight of Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, who is in the prison in North Korea.  Rodman responded harshly, for which he later apologized.

According to, Rodman issued an apology surrounding his behavior, stating that alcohol and stress contributed to his outburst.

Bae's sister Terri Chung released a statement, saying:
“As Rodman has stated, being drunk and stressed is not an excuse for what he said, but we acknowledge he is human and we all do make mistakes...Our greatest concern remains the health and freedom of my brother Kenneth. We hope and pray that Rodman’s comments and ongoing antics have not further endangered my brother. Kenneth’s health and freedom are precarious.”
Bae operates a tourist company in Washington state and was arrested not far from the city of Yanji in November 2012, where some Christian groups provide aid to North Korean refugees. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, and has been reportedly struggling with his health over the past year as his family has made several pleas for his release.

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