Globe Trot A summary of international news compiled by senior editor Mindy Belz

Church victories over politics

International | The Ukrainian church breaks away from Russia while churches in Bulgaria gain protection
by Mindy Belz
Posted 1/07/19, 01:20 pm

UKRAINE: The leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians worldwide recognized the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The four-hour ceremony in Istanbul on Sunday formalized a split with the Russian Orthodox church—which stands to lose up to 40 percent of its members (and income)—and marks a political blow for the Moscow state church’s patron, President Vladimir Putin.

BULGARIA: Following seven weeks of protest and prayer vigils from the country’s non-Orthodox churchgoers, the Bulgarian Parliament on Dec. 21 voted to amend its religious law without proposed restrictions that could have led to the closure of more than 100 Baptist and other churches. “God has granted us a remarkable blessing, by allowing us to see the will of the political powers changed,” said Elijah Brown, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.

SYRIA: Kurdish forces that fought alongside the United States against ISIS have withdrawn from the town of Manbij near the base where U.S. forces are expected to begin pulling out in coming days. Despite efforts by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton to slow-walk President Donald Trump’s announcement last month of an “immediate” U.S. withdrawal, Trump’s statements are forcing change on the ground. Syrian Democratic Forces have turned to Russia and the Assad government, which is moving its own army into the area as a shield against an attack by Turkey.

  • More than 100,000 Christians living in northeastern Syria fear annihilation should the U.S.-led coalition permit Turkey to replace U.S. forces—my WORLD Magazine column on the loss of faith for the region and U.S. relations.
  • “A safe zone should not be manned by Turkey. We should be able to sustain the model we have, where we have religious freedom … which we cannot have under the Turks,” said Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council.

EGYPT: CBS ran a 60 Minutes interview with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday despite a request from the Egyptian ambassador to the United States not to air it. Sisi appeared to respond bluntly to questions on Egypt’s cooperation with Israel over fighting ISIS militants in Sinai and on his human rights record.

Sisi on Sunday inaugurated the opening of the largest Coptic cathedral, along with a new mosque, in the Nasr City suburb of Cairo—a day after a policeman died trying to diffuse an explosive device discovered on the church’s rooftop.

JAPAN: Not rocket science, but billionaire Yusaku Maezawa set a new record for retweets—after posting a tweet promising … free cash.

2019: A rise in forgotten diseases like diphtheria, war fueling migration, and re-migration—a good overview of crises to watch in the new year.

To have Globe Trot delivered to your email inbox, email Mindy at

Mindy Belz

Mindy is senior editor of WORLD Magazine and the author of They Say We Are Infidels. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

Read more from this writer