Globe Trot: Lebanese bombings reportedly target Assad critic

by Mindy Belz
Posted 8/23/13, 11:10 am

Twin bombings in Tripoli, the largest city in northern Lebanon, have left at least 27 dead and more than 350 wounded this morning. The blasts went off near mosques in the city center during Friday prayers, when they would be packed. Many believe the bombs may have targeted Sheikh Salem al Rafei, a Sunni cleric and outspoken critic of Syria’s Assad regime, who was leading prayers at one of the mosques. Rafei is reportedly safe. But the bombings are another ominous sign of spreading violence and mayhem in the Middle East.

At the Pentagon, officers are weighing options for a military strike on Syria, as reports seem to indicate President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a chemical weapons attack that has killed about 1,300 Syrian civilians. Today even Russia is calling for UN investigators to have access to the area.

Egypt’s Virgin Mary Church, built in the fourth or fifth century, has been a monument to Christian survivaluntil it was destroyed by pro-Muslim Brotherhood mobs last week.

Twenty-three other ancient churches once sat next to it, all connected through secret passages. Only Virgin Mary Church remained. Decline and survival, loss and endurance, the twin faces of the story of the Copts who built it.

According to Hudson Institute expert Sam Tadros and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, last week’s pro-Morsi mobs attacked a total of 47 churches, of which 25 were burned, seven looted and destroyed, five partly damaged, and 10 attacked without sustaining heavy damage.

In June I wrote about Deborah Wakai Peter, a 16-year-old Nigerian victim of terrorism denied a visa to visit the United States for a trauma counseling camp with other teenagers in her predicament. After two denials and pressure from Congress, the U.S. Embassy in Abuja granted the visa, and Deborah has just completed her U.S. sojourn. Here are some insights from her visit.

In a new report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is acknowledging what most in the U.S. government have been content to ignore:

“Boko Haram has become the primary perpetrator of religiously-related violence and gross religious freedom violations in Nigeria. Boko Haram’s targets include churches, individual Christians, Muslim critics, and persons engaged in behavior deemed 'un- Islamic.’”

The report gives an official tally (that experts say is accurate) of church attacks and calls on the United States “to recognize the sectarian aspects of the ongoing violence and the religious elements in Boko Haram’s ideology” and “do more to encourage and support” Nigerian efforts to provide security to the Christian minority in northern Nigeria.

From Afghan news outlets, a popular story hanging on at the Mehr News homepage is the story of the Jewish roots of Kate Middleton—and the British royal family.

“ … in the wedding ceremony it was pretended that Kate Middleton is Christian but this lady’s family roots show that she is considered a Sephardic Jew from her mother’s side.”

The story shows what a vast gulf lies between the Muslim and Western views of religion (and free will).

In China, the trial of Bo Xilai grows more melodramatic by the day. The former communist party chief, accused of bribery, corruption, and abuse of power, yesterday dismissed his wife’s testimony against him, saying she “became crazy and lies all the time.” Bo’s wife Gu Kailai is in jail for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. She claimed Heywood threatened her son, who now lives in the United States. The case is one of the biggest political shakeups in China in decades, and Chinese officials, who regularly deny journalists access to courtroom proceedings, are publishing a microblog of the proceedings.

I’m reading: The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill (continuing) and Motherland Lost: the Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity by Samuel Tadros.

Here’s a special offer from WORLD … a free, three-month trial subscription to the magazine that’s truly free, no credit card info required. Link here and type in “world.”

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.

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