Sunday, April 19, 2015

The 3 - April 19, 2015

Three more stories of relevance to the Christian community in this edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature:  A story emerged this week regarding an American court's order to pay multiple millions to the family of a missionary who lost his life in prison there.  Also, word has spread about Christians being thrown overboard from a rubber boat full of migrants on the Mediterranean Sea. Plus, another blow to the opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which grants special rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

3 - Court orders North Korea to pay millions to family of missionary

After a ruling on April 9, news spread this past week about a ruling by a Federal district court in Washington, DC, ordering North Korea to pay $330 million in damages to the family of a Presbyterian pastor kidnapped by agents 15 years ago, who died in prison camp. has reported the story.  Kim Dong Shik was a naturalized US citizen and father of seven, who was kidnapped by North Korean spies while working with refugees in the Chinese border town of Yungi. At the time, he ran shelters and “The School of Love” for handicapped and refugee children whose families had escaped North Korea.

The story said court documents stated that, “The North Korean security service learned of Reverend Kim’s activities on behalf of the defectors and refugees and decided to kidnap him and bring him to North Korea to thwart his work on behalf of those who have escaped."

According to the story, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat Hadin, the Israeli group that represented Kim’s family, told the Jerusalem Post that the decision is a blow against “state sponsored terrorism.”

The family sued under the “terrorism exception” to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Asher Perlin, a lawyer for the Kims, reportedly told the Washington Post that the family will likely try to collect money from North Korean assets that are frozen in the United States.  In the future, North Korea may have to pay up.

2 - Religious conflict at sea: Christians thrown overboard

The news came over the weekend that perhaps as many as 700 migrants who were being smuggled to Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, according to a report on website, which said that the accident happened after the migrants saw a merchant ship in the distance and scrambled to attract its attention, over-balancing the fishing boat in which they were travelling.

This incident occurred just days after 400 others drowned last week in a similar incident.

The website reported that the deaths have prompted fresh calls for Europe to reinstate full-scale search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean.  Last October, the EU opted not to replace the Italian-run operation Mare Nostrum, which saved about 100,000 lives last year, amid fears that it was encouraging smugglers and migrants to organize more trips to Europe.

And, in the midst of this overall situation of people migrating from Libya to Europe has come a report that, according to, 15 Muslim migrants have been arrested on charges that they threw a dozen Christians off a boat to drown in the Mediterranean Sea.  All 12 are feared dead.

Last Tuesday, 105 passengers boarded a rubber boat to travel from Libya to Italy, where they were seeking asylum as refugees. During the journey, Muslims aboard became agitated when they learned that some passengers professed the Christian faith. They had threatened to abandon the Christians and later began seizing the Christian passengers and throwing them into the water.

The story on the website gives some background:
According to reports, there has been an enormous influx of refugees in recent weeks as thousands from the Middle East and Africa have been flocking to Italy in an attempt to escape war and poverty, as well as Islamic terror from groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Just over the past week, an estimated 10,000 people—Christians and Muslims alike—have arrived in Italy from Libya.
On Thursday, Italian officials requested help from the European Union with rescuing those who are risking their lives to make the journey to the country.

1 - Houston HERO referendum petition drive falls short, judge says

Last year, the City Council in Houston, Texas passed what is known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, creating special rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.   Concerned citizens moved to try to gather signatures on a petition in order to hold a referendum on the ordinance.  Even though opponents of the ordinance thought they had exceeded the required number of signatures, city officials had ruled that the petition drive fell short.  That determination was challenged in court, and the presiding judge has issued a ruling.

According to a WORLD Magazine story, Judge Robert Schaffer had dismissed some of the findings of the jury in the case, which had ruled in favor of the city.  Schaffer established new criteria for determining which voter signatures the court would accept, beginning two months of wrangling over legibility, residency, and the identities of the petition circulators.

In his final ruling, Schaffer found plaintiffs had 16,648 applicable signatures, 585 below the requisite 17,269 but 65 more than the defense allowed in its final judgment.

Andy Taylor, the lone attorney for the Houston Area Pastors' Council, said that the judge's judgment set a dangerous precedent requiring legible signatures on each page of the petition from the people circulating it, a subjective standard with the judge as the final arbiter.  WORLD reports that if the circulator signature on a petition page was not legible, than all voter signatures on that page were disqualified. After Schaffer affirmed that standard in a post-trial ruling, the city’s number of invalid signatures due to circulator illegibility rose to 8,500, Taylor said.  The plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision.

The outcome was different in Springfield, MO, where a seemingly similar ordinance, passed by the City Council, was reversed by the voters by a narrow margin on April 7, according to a piece on the website.

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