(WNS)–The United Nations migration agency will send home an additional 15,000 migrants from detention camps in Libya before the year ends, the agency announced Dec. 1. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, though it estimates the total number ranges between 700,000 and 1 million. The group’s voluntary repatriation program already returned more than 14,000 migrants to their homes this year. The voluntary program includes migrants from Nigeria, Guinea, and Gambia, among other countries. Increasing reports of migrant abuse prompted the extra repatriation efforts. CNN in November released a video from a property outside Libya’s capital city, Tripoli, where a salesman auctioned off a dozen people in six minutes for about $400 each. Several migrants who started off with plans to arrive in Europe narrated how smugglers sold them off for daily labor and how they were beaten and held in deplorable conditions.
Our parent, who art in Heaven …
(WNS)–The Church of Sweden in November told its clergy to avoid referring to God as male. The guidance, announced at the end of an eight-day meeting with church leadership, urged members to refrain from unnecessarily using terms like “the Lord,” “Father,” and “Son” in favor of more gender-neutral terms such as “God” and “the Holy Trinity.” More than six in 10 Swedes are a part of the Church of Sweden, which has 6.1 million baptized members. Archbishop Antje Jackelen—the first female archbishop of the church—explained the shift in a TV interview, saying that because God is not human, he is “beyond our gender determinations.” The official changes will go into effect in May 2018.
Replacing Jesus with Xi Jinping
(WNS)–Chinese officials asked Christians in southeast China’s Yugan county to replace their religious icons with portraits of President Xi Jinping—the Communist Party’s latest attempt to “transform believers in religion into believers in the party.” The officials said the Christians voluntarily removed 624 religious images, including pictures of Jesus and of the cross, and reposted 453 portraits of Xi. The process is aimed to convert Christians to the party through poverty alleviation and other schemes to assist the poor, the officials said. More than 11 percent of Yugan county’s residents live below the poverty line, and nearly 10 percent of the population claims Christianity. Liu, a resident of one of the county’s townships, said the villagers did not voluntarily take down the images. “If they don’t agree to do so, they won’t be given their quota from the poverty-relief fund,” he said.
Boys sometimes allowed
(WNS)–Girlguiding, the UK’s version of the Girl Scouts, announced last week that boys who identify as girls will be allowed in girls-only tents, restrooms, and showers. The change was announced as part of the Girlguiding “Supporting Trans Members” policy. The policy also says it is not a requirement, or even best practice, for leaders to tell parents that a transgender member will attend a residential or overnight event with their daughters. These changes follow another controversial decision: In January, the group announced that men who identify as a woman can be Girlguiding leaders without notifying troop parents.
Herdsmen attack kills more than 100 people in Nigeria
(WNS)–Witnesses and responders said they counted more than 100 casualties after reprisal clashes in early December between Fulani herdsmen and a predominantly Christian community in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state. The attack razed several villages in the southern part of the state, and a military jet bombed a Lutheran church and other targets, witnesses said. Ahmed Sajoh, the state commissioner for information, earlier said the government deployed military aircraft in response to the attack. “We are also aware that the Nigerian Air Force commander has mobilized fighter jets, and got all the necessary approvals to give air support to the ground troops,” he said. Some people suspect the jets were deployed in collaboration with the terrorists because their bombs hit villagers.
EU rebukes Poland over pro-life laws
(WNS)–The European Union has chastised Poland for its opposition to abortion, warning the predominantly Catholic nation it could be in violation of the union’s human rights laws. The resolution, adopted last month, claims “universal access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and the associated rights, is a fundamental human right.” It also urged the Polish government to provide free access to contraception and make emergency contraception, like the so-called “morning-after pill,” available without a prescription. Polish President Andrzej Duda recently signed a bill banning over-the-counter sales of such drugs. Last month’s resolution triggers an investigation that could result in revoking Poland’s EU voting rights. The resolution primarily focuses on other political issues in Poland, but according to the pro-life Population Research Institute, the inclusion of comments on abortion marks the first time the EU has ever condemned a member nation over pro-life legislation.
A multiplied threat
(WNS)–The number of women and girls in South Sudan who face sexual and physical violence is double the global average, the International Rescue Committee said in a joint report with George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute. Up to 65 percent of women interviewed reported experiencing either sexual or physical violence, and most of the violence occurred within the home. The report said women living in UN civilian protection sites in the capital city of Juba are most vulnerable to attacks. South Sudan’s civil war, which began in 2013, has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced another 4 million. The breakdown of the rule of law in South Sudan means perpetrators usually go unpunished. “If there is ever going to be long-term peace in South Sudan, violence against women and girls must be addressed, and women must have a seat at the table in finding solutions,” said Mary Ellsberg, director of the Global Women’s Institute.