Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Cyclone Aila Kills 191 in South Asia
New York Times reports that at least 191 people are dead after Cyclone Aila slammed parts of Bangladesh and India Wednesday. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers make their way to hundreds of thousands trapped or made homeless by the storm. Authorities blamed mudslides for some of the 78 deaths in eastern India. In southern Bangladesh, low-lying farm land and rice paddies were inundates with sea water, ruining potential harvests. One island, Nijuhm Dwip, was reportedly submerged. “We’re quite worried about this island, because reports are coming in that houses and fields have been totally washed away,” said Nick Southern, the Bangladesh country director for the aid agency Care. “We are trying to get there today by boat, but the cyclone has made travel almost impossible.”
North Korea Attacks Likely to Continue, Watchdog Says
Mission News Network reports that one watchdog organization expects North Korea's tense international relations will further endanger the country's Christians. "The average Christian now is under even more danger, if that's possible. There are spies everywhere. If they even see a Bible with a Christian, they are imprisoned," said Jerry Dykstra with Open Doors USA. "[North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il] feels that the fall of Eastern Europe, the fall of communism, was caused by Christians and that this could also happen in North Korea. That's why there's an increase in surveillance of house churches and Christians." Open Doors estimates that almost one-quarter of North Korea's 200,000 political prisoners are Christians.
Sri Lankan Refugees Need $1M Daily to Survive
Christian Post reports that the cost of providing supplies to survivors of Sri Lanka's civil war has reached $1 million per day. “Funding is becoming a huge concern for aid agencies. Most have already used up a large chunk of their existing relief budgets responding to the crisis,” said Suresh Bartlett, national director of World Vision Sri Lanka. About 288,000 people rely on humanitarian agencies in the country, as war has displaced hundreds of thousands and destroyed homeland. Agencies spend about $3.50 per day for food and water supplies for each person. That amount rises if they are provided shelter, medical care or education for the children, the Post reports. Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war officially ended May 17, when government forces defeated the last of Tamil Tiger rebels.
Pastors in Pakistan Arrested for Use of Loudspeakers
Compass Direct News reports that nine pastors in Pakistan could face prison time for using loudspeakers to broadcast prayers and sermons from their churches on Easter Sunday. The nine pastors who lead congregations in Martinpur and Youngsnabad, about 150 kilometers from Lahore, say that local Muslim security forces have twisted the law to solicit a bribe. On May 16, police arrested and detained Hafeez Gill, Fahim John, Maksud Ulkaq, and a catechist from the Catholic Church in Youngsnabad identified only as Saqab. While en route to the police station, the officers told them they would be released if they offered a bribe, according to the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement. The pastors refused and were detained, but following a public outcry from their parishioners they were released later that day. Reports indicate the arrest was premeditated.