A £1.6bn strategy to improve the lives and opportunities of disabled people was announced by the Government. It aims to tackle shortages of suitable housing, inaccessible public transport and barriers to education and work. Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said the government was listening and consulting. The shadow minister for disabled people said the consultation process failed to consult properly with disabled people or organisations; many critical areas were ignored. Disabled Tory peer Lord Shinkwin said the plans did not go far enough. He said the document was a ‘broken promise’ and he did not believe it would prevent disabled people from being shut out of society. ‘The Department of Work and Pensions, which has led on the development of this strategy, does benefits but it doesn't do equality. It shows this government doesn't understand the desire and potential of disabled people to be seen as more than just recipients. We are contributors, we are all people.’
Two people are dead, five are missing, 31 injured and five in intensive care after an explosion at a German chemical site. The blast in Leverkusen had been declared an ‘extreme threat’ after sending a large black cloud rising into the air. Emergency services took three hours to extinguish the fire at the Chempark site. Police asked nearby residents to remain in their homes and keep windows and doors shut. Playgrounds in nearby neighbourhoods were closed and residents told to rinse fruit and vegetables from their gardens before eating them. Chempark ‘s chief said, ‘Hopes of finding the missing alive are fading. Solvents were burned during the incident, and we do not know precisely what substances were released. We are examining this with authorities, taking samples.’ The explosion was at a rubbish incineration plant of the chemical park. The smoke cloud is moving toward the towns of Burscheid and Leichlingen.
Several areas north of Athens were evacuated on 27 July as an out-of-control wildfire swept through a hillside forest threatening homes near Athens. Winds have dropped now but on 29 July the battle against wildfires continued throughout the night. 180 firefighters, eight ground units, 48 tenders, 2 helicopters and 2 aircraft are fighting the fire. Local municipalities have also deployed water tankers and construction machinery. On the first day of the blaze, six houses were burnt down and residents in eleven villages were told to evacuate their homes for precautionary reasons. At the time of writing four out of 13 regions are at ‘very high risk’ of fire according to the wildfire hazard map.
Tatjana Schoenmaker set a new record in the women’s 200-metre breaststroke, and she is using her success to point others to God. After breaking another record in the preliminary rounds for the 100-metre breaststroke, she ended up claiming the silver medal. In all her competitions in Tokyo, Tatjana has worn under her green South Africa swim cap another cap proclaiming her faith with a blue Jesus fish and the phrase ‘Soli Deo Gloria,’ meaning ‘Glory to God alone,’ printed on the side of it. She has used her platform to discuss her Christian faith before the Olympics began in an Instagram post, ‘Father God, may Your will be done, may Your peace fill us up, may we praise You no matter what the outcome, may we be empowered by Your strength to give our all and may we forever be in awe of Your goodness!’ she wrote. ‘Thank You for bringing us to this very moment.’
A new wave of Christian persecution began after two Muslim men were arrested and charged under the new anti-conversion law. Hindu nationalists, including BJP members, claimed they had been involved in forceful conversion of 1,000 people. Using the arrests as an opportunity for political gain, BJP politicians publicly warned against illegal conversions of Hindus to non-Hindu faiths. Since then, International Christian Concern has documented at least thirty Christians in Uttar Pradesh being attacked by radical Hindu nationalists. In each of these incidents, perpetrators justified their attacks by falsely accusing their Christian victims of engaging in fraudulent conversions. ‘This is a grave situation for Christians in the state,’ a church leader, requesting anonymity, said. ‘There is zero response from the Yogi administration, which empowers the attackers to do more. The attacks are perpetrated by the hardcore Hindutva activists who are supported by politicians.’
Journalists and activists are under constant risk in too many parts of the world. Recently the extent and all-consuming nature of the threats was revealed when new technology was discovered. An Israeli company invented spyware that can do everything from extracting data to inconspicuously recording live audio and video. They insist their technology is intended for use against criminals and terrorists. But the Pegasus Project shows that it has been used by some governments to target journalists, activists, and political opponents. Journalist Khadija Ismayilova led the investigations which exposed Danske Bank moving suspicious cash to launder Azerbaijan’s international image. US$230 billion in dirty money was funnelled through the bank’s accounts in twelve years. Yet full accountability for the apparent anti-money laundering failures has been impossible to achieve – until this week. The European Commission has proposed an anti-money laundering agency, which could be a much-needed gamechanger.
Most of Jordan's population have not heard a good gospel message. Ways of changing this include literature, media ministry, friendship evangelism, development programmes, home meetings and camps. Pray for a sensitive witness to Muslims and protection of converts amid persecution. Pray also that the growing number of Muslim-background believers have the legal right to convert from Islam. Palestinians are a majority in Jordan. Many are second- or third- generation residents after leaving their traditional homeland. Some integrate into Jordanian life; others suffer from disillusionment, bitterness, and frustration which only the Man of Calvary can heal. Due to the Gulf Wars a million Iraqis also fled to Jordan. Years later, nearly half of these are unable or unwilling to return home. Christian work among them produces a good response. Jordanian churches have effective and widespread ministry to these refugees but need to be granted permission to educate them.
The UN reported the number of Afghan civilians killed or hurt has sharply increased since the Western coalition began pulling out of the country. A total of 1,659 civilians were killed and 3,254 injured in the first half of 2021, a 47% increase from the same period in 2020. The actual numbers may be even higher, considering that the UN only records casualties it is able to verify independently. Out of those killed or maimed, 46% were women and children. The Taliban and other militants were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties, while 25% were attributed to pro-government forces and 11% to ‘crossfire’ between warring parties. An alarming trend of growing death toll since May reveals the highest number since the UN began keeping records in 2009. If this violence is not stemmed, an unprecedented number of civilians will perish or be maimed this year.