(WNS)–Chinese officials this week demolished the well-known Golden Lampstand Church in the northern province of Shanxi amid a continued crackdown on unregistered congregations. Chinese military police on Tuesday detonated explosives placed inside the church’s underground worship halls and demolished the rest of the building above ground, according to U.S.-based China Aid. Photos from the scene show the church’s steeple lying on the ground amid the rubble. Yang Rongli, a relative of the church’s founders, told China Aid that police and patrol wagons surrounded the church. “The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church,” Yang said. Christians at the Golden Lampstand Church contributed nearly $3 million to build the church, which drew more than 50,000 worshippers. In 2009, hundreds of police officials and hired thugs razed the church and courts sentenced church leaders to prison for one to seven years. China recently resumed its crackdown on the increasing number of unregistered churches, viewing them as a threat to the Communist regime. On Dec. 27, officials in the same province also demolished a Catholic church.
Church closures spur fear of crackdown in Algeria
(WNS)–Algerian Christians fear government officials may be coordinating intensified persecution against them following arrests, inspections, and church closures in recent months. Middle East Concern and World Watch Monitor reported that police arrested three people on Dec. 19 in a cafe in Chlef after finding they had Christian literature. A newspaper hostile to Christians called it a “foiled evangelism attempt.” Although released, the three Christians could face criminal charges of proselytizing. Punishment can include fines up to 1 million dinars and five years’ imprisonment, according to the U.S. State Department. That same week, intelligence, police, religious affairs, and fire brigade authorities showed up and inspected two Protestant churches in Bejaia, a northern province, for safety compliance. The buildings host eight congregations.
Myanmar set to bring home Rohingya Muslims
(WNS)–Myanmar will begin resettling next week some of the Rohingya Muslims and Hindu refugees who fled into Bangladesh, officials said. More than 650,000 Rohingya left Myanmar’s Rakhine state after the military launched clearance operations that the United Nations has since termed “ethnic cleansing.” Bangladesh and Myanmar, also known as Burma, in November signed a repatriation deal set to begin Jan. 23. The state-run Myanmar News Agency reported the 124-acre Hla Po Khaung camp will house about 30,000 people in its 625 buildings. Soe Aung, permanent secretary of the social welfare ministry, said the returnees will spend “at least one or two months” at the camps before the government rebuilds their homes. But it remains uncertain whether the Rohingya would return willingly to Burma after the wide-scale abuse.
Israel moves to strengthen control of Jerusalem
(WNS)–The Israeli parliament recently passed a law that will require a supermajority vote to cede control over any part of Jerusalem. The move is Israel’s latest attempt to exert full control over Jerusalem since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized it as the Israeli capital. The new law shows how far away peace between Israel and Palestine remains. The amendment to the Jerusalem Law requires approval from at least 80 of the 120 members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to relinquish Israel’s control over any part of the city. The law also allows the government to remove Palestinian territories from Jerusalem and turn them instead into separate municipalities under Israeli control.
Will Iranian protests cause lasting change?
(WNS)–Iranian security forces killed nine protesters on Jan. 1, bringing the death toll from recent unrest to at least 21. The rallies began Dec. 28 over the country’s weak economy and rising food prices. But experts remain uncertain whether the demonstrations—Iran’s biggest since 2009—will bring lasting change. Protesters in the capital city of Tehran and elsewhere have called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down amid overall criticism of the country’s Islamic leadership. Authorities have arrested more than 400 protesters, and the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court warned they could face the death penalty. But as the protests turn from economic to political and continue without any defined leadership, analysts question whether they will have a significant lasting effect. “The system prefers political protests over economic because they’re easier to control,” Tehran-based political analyst Mojtaba Mousavi told Agence France-Presse. “People protesting economic issues will give up when it turns political because unrest can only worsen the economic situation of the country.”