London fights back
After rioters torched a 140-year-old family business in south London during the city's worst riots in 25 years, the stunned owner of the House of Reeves described what assailants took from the landmark store: "No one's stolen anything," said Graham Reeves. "They just burnt it down." London rioters offered no unified reason for their early August rampage that burned buildings, looted stores, smashed windows, and wreaked havoc across London and surrounding cities. Though the first riots erupted after police fatally shot a 29-year-old man in a low-income neighborhood, even the victim's fiancé doubted that Mark Duggan's death spurred the widespread riots. "It's not connected to this anymore," said Semone Wilson. "This is out of control."
British Prime Minister David Cameron labeled the cause of violence "mindless selfishness" and recalled Parliament from its summer break to confront the upheaval. By Aug. 10 authorities had arrested 750 in five days' rioting in London alone, and Cameron said, "There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick." News reports speculated that some rioters were protesting the government's recent austerity measures designed to make drastic spending cuts in a country with massive debt. But Twitter messages from rioters promoting the mayhem mostly described where to meet, not why. Meanwhile, another mob of citizens responded to a different kind of Twitter message: posts organizing local clean-up efforts. Hundreds of volunteers wielding brooms and rubber gloves cleared broken glass and dumped trash from London streets after finding clean-up locations next to hashtags like #riotcleanup and #prayforlondon.
Brad Phillips of the Persecution Project Foundation gave members of a U.S. House subcommittee a stark assessment of what's happening in the Sudanese border state of South Kordofan during a congressional hearing on Aug. 4: "The issue is genocide." The region that includes the Nuba Mountains lies just north of the disputed border between northern Sudan and the newly created Republic of South Sudan. (South Sudan formally gained its independence on July 9.)
Eyewitnesses and a UN report say that northern military forces are bombing and killing civilians suspected of loyalty to South Sudan. A leaked UN report in June described "aerial bombardments . . . significant loss of civilian lives, including of women, children, and the elderly; abductions; house-to-house searches; arbitrary arrests and detentions . . . summary execution . . . mass graves; systematic destruction of dwellings; and attacks on churches." The report described photos of "mangled and mutilated bodies of civilians, some cut into halves, including women and children."
Phillips, also project coordinator for Voice of the Martyrs in Sudan, said during a 12-day visit to the region in July, Nuba residents told him that Sudanese troops particularly targeted churches and pastors, believing all Christians were loyal to the south: "Anyone fitting this description was either killed on the spot or arrested and never seen again." The UN estimates the violence has displaced at least 73,000 civilians, but local officials estimate the number at 500,000. "Whatever the numbers involved," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., "we can be sure that the suffering of the people in Southern Kordofan, especially the Nuba people, has been catastrophic."
Dying for the Cause
In the growing crackdown against unregistered churches, Chinese authorities sentenced house church leader Shi Enhao to two years of "re-education through labor" in late July. Officials charged the pastor and deputy leader of China's Christian House Church Alliance with holding "illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings," according to the Texas-based ChinaAid. The high-profile detention came weeks after members of Shouwang Church-Beijing's largest unregistered church-began attempting to meet outdoors for worship. Authorities have blocked access to an indoor meeting space and arrested at least 400 churchgoers meeting outdoors. Zhang Mingxuan, president of the house church alliance, wrote to Chinese president Hu Jintao asking for Shi's release and calling for freedom of worship: "Even if you misunderstand me or even kill me or imprison me, I still have to tell you the truth," Zhang said in a letter translated by ChinaAid. "As long as Christians can freely worship God, I wouldn't mind dying for this cause."
More than 2.2 billion people-or nearly a third of the world's population-live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially between mid-2006 and mid-2009, according to a study released Aug. 9 by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Only about 1 percent of the world's population lives in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities declined. Government restrictions rose substantially in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Egypt.
Wisconsin Democrats and labor unions have very little political momentum going into the 2012 elections after they failed to capitalize on six attempted recalls of Republican state senators. Four of the senators survived, ensuring the Republican majority in the Senate, and of the two whom the Democrats knocked off, one was in a liberal district and another was under a cloud of marital scandal. Barack Obama won all six districts in 2008, showing that now, despite a flood of money from national labor unions and Democrats, as well as the prolonged fight over limits on public unions, those voters largely remain in the Republican camp. State Democrats said they still hope next year to recall Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican behind the bill that cut state employees' pensions and collective bargaining power. But Walker has already won a large political battle. On the day of the recall elections, he signed redistricting legislation that the Republican legislature passed in July, putting in place new maps that will likely make it tougher for Democrats in 2012. The maps are subject to court challenges.
Restart with Russia
Good news for children living in Russia's overcrowded and underfunded orphanages: A new adoption agreement with the United States could mean more orphans find permanent homes in the West. Leaders from the two nations signed an adoption accord last month that ends 15 months of tension between the two former superpowers: After a Tennessee woman returned her adopted Russian son alone on a Moscow-bound plane last year, Russian authorities threatened to halt U.S. adoptions but instead pressed for a formal agreement with more oversight.
The accord mandates Russian approval of U.S. agencies operating in the country and requires U.S. agency workers to track adopted Russian children until age 18. Tracking could include occasional home visits to monitor for signs of abuse or neglect. (U.S. State Department officials say the agreement doesn't give Russian officials direct authority over U.S. families after they finalize adoptions.) The accord requires Russian officials to provide more information on orphans' social and medical histories-a step designed to ensure that U.S. families have a better understanding of children's needs before they adopt. Adoption advocates hope the agreement will boost a slowed process: U.S. families adopted 5,800 Russian orphans in 2004 but only 1,092 in 2010. But the need hasn't diminished: An estimated quarter-million children live in Russian orphanages.
Iraq's continued toll
Deaths of Iraqi civilians have dropped-121 in July compared to 497 for July 2010-but insurgent attacks across the country continue to claim a daily toll: An Aug. 2 car bombing of a Catholic church in Kirkuk wounded 20 and nearly destroyed the building. With violence widespread, Washington and Baghdad are considering keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in the country beyond the year-end departure deadline. Five U.S. military personnel died in Iraq in July, compared with 15 in June, the highest number in two years.
Campus Crusade for Christ has changed its name to Cru. The ministry Bill and Vonette Bright founded in 1951 said its former name presented obstacles to the group's mission because the word campus does not represent all of its ministries and the word crusade now carries negative associations. "Our surveys show that, in the U.S., 20 percent of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name," the Cru website states. "We are changing the name for the sake of more effective ministry." Coral Ridge Ministries, the ministry D. James Kennedy founded in 1974, also announced it has changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries to reflect the organization's mission of "not just educating people on social issues and biblical worldview, but motivating and activating them to make a difference for the Kingdom."
Despite sectarian divisions between Shiite Iran and Sunni al-Qaeda, the U.S. government declared what many long suspected: The Iranian regime and the global terrorist network are working together. The U.S. Treasury Department reported in late July that Iranian officials are allowing al-Qaeda operatives to use the country as a base to transport money, arms, and fighters to operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Though the two groups maintain stark differences, they share a common goal: opposing U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Iranian officials denied the accusations, but the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned six al-Qaeda members it said run an Iran-based operation. Since the al-Qaeda members likely don't have assets in the United States, the move is largely symbolic. But Treasury undersecretary David Cohen said establishing the link is important: "By exposing Iran's secret deal with al-Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran's unmatched support for terrorism."
Perry's day of prayer
Thirty thousand people packed into a Houston stadium Aug. 6 for a day of prayer and worship organized and led by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who planned to announce his bid for the presidency soon after. The event organizers denied that the day of prayer, called "The Response," was political-Perry was introduced on the big screen without his governor's title. At the service, Perry said God's "agenda is not a political agenda. His agenda is a salvation agenda." He read from Bible passages in Joel 2, Ephesians 3, and Isaiah 40, and then closed with prayer: "As a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness." He also prayed for protection and wisdom for President Obama. This year Perry has held other days of prayer for rain since Texas is under one of the worst droughts in its history.
Another side of Syria
News of new sanctions on the embattled Assad regime weren't well received among one group of Syrians thought receptive to change: Christians, who make up about 6 percent of the population. Even as street violence in Syria entered its sixth month, amid reports of 2,000 civilians killed by security forces, most church leaders fear more a future without President Bashar Assad. What will come next, they fear, will be sectarian violence similar to Iraq 2004-2006, or a Sunni-led regime obliged to Saudi Arabia or Wahhabi militants. The Obama administration on Aug. 10 announced new sanctions against Syria's state-owned bank, limiting the country's ability to export oil. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Syria "would be better off without President Assad." But one Syrian church leader told WORLD there's less talk in Syria of a post-Assad era: "The West tries to pull Syria's legs into a war, which I think is too far."
Six months after mainly secular protesters filled Cairo's Tahrir Square and toppled the Egyptian government, tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists packed into the same Cairo square on July 30, calling for the government establishment of Islamic law. The gathering marked one of the largest Islamic demonstrations in Egypt's history, and a sea of signs and banners held blunt messages: "Islamic law is above the Constitution." Another: "Islam is the identity of Egypt, its past and its future."
The demonstration followed the military's decision to allow a panel of pro-democracy activists and moderate religious leaders to draft guidelines for forming a constitutional congress that will convene after November elections. Islamist groups protested and some, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, remain the most well-organized political organizations in Egypt. Secularist activists who led the February revolution have weakened under the pressures of internal battles and divisions.