Release International reports, ‘With all eyes on Russia’s assault on Ukraine, we will be watching closely to see how Russia is treating Christians of faiths other than Russian Orthodox.’ The USCIRF has long criticised the Taliban for their extremist policies. Its 2022 report warns, ‘Afghans who do not adhere to the Taliban’s harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam and adherents of other faiths or beliefs are in grave danger. With the Taliban’s return to power, religious freedom conditions in Afghanistan, and the overall human rights situation, have significantly deteriorated. Christian converts (and other minorities) practise their faith in hiding due to fear of reprisal and threats from the Taliban.’ Also religious persecution in India has taken a significant turn for the worse. In Nigeria there is an anti-Christian dimension to much of the violence which the government is failing to control.
Health workers in Pakistan are marking children’s fingers as having had a polio vaccination, when in reality parents have refused the vaccine after believing conspiracy theories that they are harmful, blasphemous, or a plot to sterilise Muslims. This is the biggest challenge - to eradicate the crippling virus in one of its last haunts. Deteriorating security along the border is making the situation worse, as militants cross from Afghanistan - the only other country where polio is still circulating. After two years free of polio Pakistan has two poliovirus cases. They were also paralysed, raising further concerns that there may still be hundreds of cases in the region. On average, only one in 200 infections leads to paralysis. Bill Gates, who invests billions in the polio fight, said ‘it would be tragic if the disease made a comeback because it would spread back across the world and eventually you have what you had before 1988 - hundreds of thousands of paralysed children.’
Yessenia Mollinedo and Sheila Johana Garcia were shot on 9 May, raising the death toll of journalists this year to eleven. Mexico is the most dangerous country for media workers outside of war zones. Authorities are searching for a motive for their murder. Media rights group Reporters Without Borders are investigating the incident. Mexico’s federal government has been criticised for neither preventing the killing of journalists nor investigating them sufficiently. Although organised crime is often blamed for attacks on media workers, small-town officials and politicians with political or criminal motivations are often suspects in these crimes. Crimes against freedom of expression occur daily. It is not clear if Mollinedo or Garcia were enrolled in a federal protection programme for journalists and human rights defenders. Several of the journalists killed this year had made contact with the programme at some point. Although President Obrador promises a ‘zero impunity’ policy when investigating such slayings, he continues his regular verbal attacks against journalists critical of his administration.
In late April, North Korea confirmed its first Covid cases and suspended overland trade with China (which had been resumed in January) after a surge of Chinese cases. The reclusive nation has repeatedly shunned international offers of vaccines, and has been forced into two years of strict isolation to stop the pandemic from crippling the already weak healthcare system. But blocking commerce with China, their largest trade partner, has upset an economy damaged by decades of mismanagement and punishing international sanctions. A serious lack of rainfall in the second worst drought since records began is disrupting farming and food supplies. Despite alarm over Omicron spreading, Kim Jong-Un has ordered scheduled construction, agricultural development and other state projects to continue, decreeing that ‘single-minded public unity is the most powerful guarantee that can win in this anti-pandemic fight.’
Scott Morrison's government is criticised for its inaction on climate change. When Australia - long considered a climate policy laggard – holds an election on 21 May, the outcome could be significant for the planet's future. Still reliant on coal for most electricity, it is one of the dirtiest countries per capita, making up over 1% of global emissions with only 0.3% of the world's population. It is also a massive supplier of fossil fuels globally; when that is factored in, it accounts for 3.6% of the world's emissions. Australia is most at risk from climate change, having recently suffered severe drought, historic bushfires, successive years of record-breaking floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef. It is racing towards a future full of similar disasters. Climate policy played a role in toppling three prime ministers in a decade. Most voters want tougher climate action, but some coal towns in swing constituencies are key to winning elections.
Erdie Carter, senior pastor at Glasgow Baptist Church, said Evelyn faithfully attended church until the pandemic. Then she began watching the church’s services on a local TV broadcast with her husband, 93-year-old Bernice. During their 67-year marriage Evelyn had faithfully prayed for Bernice to receive Christ as his saviour. Members of the church visited their home to bring food as part of the church’s pandemic community outreach program. A few weeks ago, when Erdie visited them, Bernice said he was ready to make a decision for Christ. Erdie asked him if he would like to be baptised, and he said yes! Carter said seeing the transformation in Bernice deeply affected him and his congregation. ‘Pastors say it’s never too late - but seeing Bernice at 93 have a spiritual realisation and publicly profess his faith in Christ, was a joy,’ Erdie said.
Aisha was born to a strict Islamic family. Her father abused her verbally and religion gave her no peace. She felt constantly condemned by Islam and was desperate to be loved. She became pregnant at 17 and knew her father would kill her for dishonouring her family. Fearing for her life, she had an abortion, a shame she carried for many years. In Islam, ‘her sins were unforgivable,’ and she was ‘hated by Allah’. Suffering from depression, she cried out to Allah for mercy and heard an audible voice say ‘Jesus’. After hearing from heaven, Aisha turned her prayers to Jesus, asking him to reveal himself to her. ‘The first time I felt any peace was when I prayed to Jesus’, she explains. That one supernatural experience gave her an insatiable hunger for truth. Aisha finally discovered that Jesus is full of mercy and compassion for women, a stark contrast to Islam.
Fred Parry attributes twenty years of sobriety to a rehab clinic, saying recovering from alcoholism was the best thing that ever happened to him. He is now a cellist, a music teacher, a husband and father. When his son Adam began battling addiction, Fred sent him to the same clinic to recover. He did for a short time, but Fred could not afford further rehab. Adam didn’t present like an alcoholic; he was well-spoken, intelligent, often reading three books at a time. But he was tortured and couldn't find a way out. Addiction took over when he started studying chemistry at University. He dropped out and was hospitalised six times for alcohol-related seizures. Fred was told by a doctor, ‘There's nothing you can do for an alcoholic, just lock them up and throw the key away’ Adam died after another seizure. He was 32. Mr Parry wants the Scottish government to improve access to addiction treatment services, including residential rehab.