Globe Trot: Taliban declares victory in Afghanistan amid U.S. exit
by Mindy Belz
Posted 12/29/14, 11:30 am
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban insurgents today declared the "defeat" of the United States and its allies in the 13-year-old war, a day after the American-led coalition officially marked the end of its combat mission. With insurgents on the move as all but 13,000 coalition forces head for the exit, makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul are swelling with Afghans fleeing Taliban takeover of remote areas.
INDONESIA: The disappearance of an AsianAir jet carrying 162 persons, believed to have crashed in the Java Sea, caps an astonishingly tragic year for air travel in southeast Asia, and for Malaysian-based air carriers. Three disasters have resulted in 699 fatalities from disappearances or crashes, including the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.
The three South Koreans on board AsianAir QZ8501 were Christian missionaries, a young couple and their 1-year-old daughter, sent to Indonesia by Yeosu First Presbyterian Church, and on their way to Singapore to renew their visas.
INDIA: Christians facing persecution around the world celebrated Christmas in spite of the dangers. In Indonesia and India, that included attacks for caroling and Christmas displays.
Hindu radicals who now control India’s parliament on Christmas Day announced plans to hold mass conversion ceremonies, pressuring minority Christians and Muslims to abandon their faith. And so far, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has remained silent about the coercion.
IRAQ: In Baghdad, Iraqi Christian pastors faced congregations decimated by ISIS violence and openly wondered if this would be their last Christmas, as churches in once prominent Christian neighborhoods empty.
RUSSIA: Gleb Yakunin, a Russian Orthodox priest who spent years in a Soviet gulag for his advocacy for religious freedom—and for challenging the Orthodox church for its support of the communist state—died on Christmas Day. His outspokenness continued into the Putin era, “where belonging to the [state] church has become a badge of loyalty to the state.”
“Father Gleb’s death, in addition to being a personal tragedy for us, marks the end of a beautiful era when there were still former prisoners in the church,” another dissident priest, Yakov Krotov, noted in a discussion of Yakunin’s life and death on Radio Liberty’s Russian service. “Now the church consists of people who only talk about how ‘we were persecuted’—even though they never were.”