Displaying items by tag: Asia
We asked for your prayers last week; it took another five days, 17 in all, before 41 construction workers were rescued from from a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand state. The tunnel, part of a $1.5 million pilgrimage project, collapsed on 12 November, trapping low-wage workers from various Indian states in a 4.5km underground space. The rescue faced many challenges, including machine breakdowns and the tunnel's precarious geological location, both matters for considerable criticism. The breakthrough came on 29 November when a team of 'rat miners' managed to reach the trapped men. This method, which involves creating narrow tunnels by hand, has been controversial due to its hazards, and was officially banned in 2014. The rescued workers, who were in good health, were greeted by Uttarakhand’s chief minister with traditional marigold garlands, and celebrations ensued with sweets and firecrackers.
On 30 November Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute agreement to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day. Both sides agreed to extend the truce, with Hamas releasing more hostages and Israel receiving a list of those to be freed. So far, 97 hostages have been released by Hamas and 180 prisoners by Israel: however, there are reports that israel has been arresting more Palestinians. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/28/arrests Washington hoped the truce could be extended further to free more hostages and let more aid reach Gaza. The ceasefire has allowed 220 lorries a day to bring in humanitarian aid to the strip, but two-thirds of its residents are homeless and more than 15,000 have been killed during the Israeli campaign. The USA has urged Israel to specify safe zones for Palestinian civilians if and when its offensive resumes. Meanwhile, soon after the agreement three people have been killed and six injured by Hamas gunmen in Jerusalem: see
Tajikistan is a beautiful mountainous country; the Tajik language is related to Iranian. After gaining independence in the early 1990s, the country endured a tribal-based civil war that resulted in significant loss of life. Despite having untapped mineral and hydro-electric potential, the economy has never fully recovered from the conflict, poverty is widespread, and it is Central Asia’s poorest nation. Islamic influence has grown, with the construction of impressive mosques and changes in clothing styles. The Church experienced growth in the 1990s but has since stalled, and Christians represent only 0.1% of the population. Local leadership is emerging, and church leaders collaborate to address cultural issues and establish guidelines. Sadly, many church members and even some leaders have emigrated for work or in hopes of a better life. Nevertheless, we praise God for each Tajik believer. Previously dominated by Russian culture and language, the church is now taking steps towards establishing its own identity.
Israel and Hamas have struck a deal to exchange fifty hostages in Gaza for a four-day ceasefire. This agreement also includes the release of 150 Palestinian women and teenagers held in Israeli prisons and an increase in humanitarian aid for Gaza. The four-day pause came into effect on 24 November, with Israel offering to extend it even further if Hamas agreed to release more hostages. Joe Biden has welcomed the deal, hoping it will end the suffering of the hostages and alleviate the plight of innocent Palestinian families. Until the ceasefire, Israel continued the conflict, with at least 300 airstrikes within 24 hours: see Israel remains committed to its mission to eliminate Hamas and secure the release of over 200 hostages captured in October. Hamas sees this agreement as an opportunity for Palestinians to recover after enduring an intense Israeli military operation.
A rescue operation to free 41 Indian tunnel workers, trapped for twelve days in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkhand state, has reached its final stage. Rescuers are just metres away from the workers, and stretchers and ambulances are on standby. The tunnel collapsed during a landslide on 12 November. The trapped men, although free to move around and supplied with food and drink, have been suffering from various ailments, including headaches, nausea, anxiety, and depression. Psychiatrists have been monitoring their mental health and advising activities like yoga and conversations to maintain morale. The oldest worker, who has been in a similar situation before, has been encouraging the others to keep their confidence high. As the rescue nears completion, there are hopes that they will very soon be released from their ordeal. However, there has been anger about how long the rescue operation has taken.
In Gaza, a significant number of Muslim men have recently converted to Christianity after reportedly seeing visions of Jesus in their dreams, an event described as miraculous by underground Christian communities in the area. This phenomenon was first reported online by Michael Licona, a Christian apologist and professor at Houston Christian University. The report by the underground Christian ministries detailed their efforts to aid hundreds of fathers who had lost their children in the war. These men were moved to safety, fed, clothed, and introduced to the Bible, which led to over 200 of them experiencing visions of Jesus in their dreams. Licona, while expressing his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, highlighted the importance of this event for Christians worldwide. He noted the small Christian population in Gaza, which is less than 1% and potentially as low as 1,000 individuals.
On 15 November, after concluding a four-hour meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Joe Biden expressed optimism about improving US-China relations. Key agreements were reached on reducing fentanyl production and restoring military communication. Biden described the talks as constructive and productive. The primary aim was to stabilise US-China relationships and prevent conflict through open communication, especially in the military domain. Biden emphasised the importance of China's commitment to control precursor chemicals for fentanyl, which has been causing a drug crisis in the US. Agreement on military communication and addressing potential miscalculations was seen as a significant step forward, a need highlighted by incidents like the Chinese ‘spy balloon’ over the USA in January. The talks were part of Biden's effort to make the relationship with China rational and manageable, avoiding conflict. However, he still maintains his opinion of Xi as a dictator.
On 15 November, Pakistan reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the release of a $700 million tranche, part of a larger $3 billion bailout package agreed in July. This announcement constitutes a significant relief for the struggling economy, as Pakistan is facing a severe balance of payments crisis and dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The leader of the IMF team noted several causes for encouragement; he said that inflation is expected to decline over the coming months amid receding supply constraints and modest demand, together with aid from international partners, leading to improved economic confidence. However, he warned that Pakistan remains vulnerable to global risks like geopolitical tensions, commodity price fluctuations, and tightening global financial conditions. This agreement comes as Pakistan prepares for general elections in February 2024 and aims to stabilise its economy, which has been in free fall for years, leading to rampant inflation and widespread financial hardship.
Myanmar's military has acknowledged facing intense attacks from anti-coup forces, who claim to have seized several towns and military outposts in various states. The military is responding with drone bomb attacks and has evacuated some sites. The military mounted a coup d’etat in February 2021, overthrowing the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. This led to widespread protests and subsequent violent military crackdowns, resulting in civilian armed resistance. Over 4,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, and more than 200,000 displaced. The UN has expressed deep concern over the expanding conflict and Rohingya genocide. Although the generals claim to be the unifying force of the country, they have largely ignored ASEAN efforts for peace, and Myanmar is barred from ASEAN's top summits due to non-compliance with a previous agreement to end violence.
Israel will begin to implement four-hour ’humanitarian pauses’ in northern Gaza each day to allow people to flee, the White House has said. A spokesman called the move a step in the right direction, and said the USA wanted the pauses to continue as long as they are needed. Israel has committed to announcing each window at least three hours in advance. The US still does not support a ceasefire in Gaza at this time, but aims to see at least 150 humanitarian trucks entering the strip each day. Fierce fighting has continued, and the health ministry in Gaza (controlled by Hamas) says that the number of Palestinians killed is now more than 10,000. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad has released a video of two hostages, and offered to release them if certain conditions were met. The hostages criticised Benjamin Netanyahu; it was not certain if they were reading from a script. A humanitarian conference in Paris today called for a total ceasefire: see