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

Taiwan left off religious freedom alliance

International | The United States offers observer status instead to the crucial Asian ally
by Mindy Belz
Posted 2/17/20, 03:54 pm

TAIWAN: The U.S. State Department blocked Taiwan from joining 27 other nations in a U.S.-led International Religious Freedom Alliance. But according to Taiwanese officials, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback did issue an invitation for the nation to join as an observer. Brownback’s office hasn’t responded to queries on why Taiwan has been blocked from the highly touted initiative. Taiwan is America’s 11th-largest trading partner and a crucial Asian ally, but since 1979 has held non-state status. Donald Trump as president-elect in 2016 appeared ready to change that, stirring controversy in a first overseas call to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

BURKINA FASO: At least 24 people were killed and 18 injured when gunmen attacked a Protestant church on Sunday during a weekly service in the village of Pansi in Yagha near the border with Niger. Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State are targeting Christians, with multiple attacks starting last year and five people executed earlier this month in the home of a pastor—all part of a larger effort to destabilize the country.

JAPAN: More than 450 people aboard the Diamond Princess have tested positive for coronavirus, including 14 Americans evacuated to the United States Monday morning. Hundreds of Americans aboard the cruise ship survived fear and boredom since its quarantine off the coast of Japan began Feb. 5, and they now face two weeks’ quarantine at U.S. bases in California and Texas. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I could die from this cruise,” said Gay Courter, a 75-year-old American novelist confined to a cabin with her husband.

SYRIA: Russian military personnel are confronting U.S. forces in northeast Syria, as Syrian army units—with backing from Russia and Iran—penetrate areas once controlled by U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces. Last week, a U.S. clash with pro-government units left at least one Syrian killed.

IRAQ: The Iraqi government may be building a new camp to house ISIS families, currently detained at al-Hol Camp in Syria, located in Nineveh, the province where ISIS in 2014 destroyed Yazidi and Christian communities.

PAKISTAN’s continuing plague of locusts is forcing the country to import grain and other food supplies, sparking shortages and rising prices. The infestation since last year has destroyed 40 percent of Pakistan’s crops.

POLAND: In the Bieszczady Mountains, Polish mushers are running well.

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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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