A man in an Afghan police uniform killed two U.S. Special Operations soldiers, bringing to 55 the number of coalition troops killed in such “insider” attacks this year. The man escaped after killing the soldiers. This year Afghan soldiers and policemen have shot more coalition troops than the Taliban has directly, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban has specifically called for the insider attacks to frustrate U.S. efforts to build relationships with locals and develop Afghan security. A wedge is opening between the two sides: In the wake of attacks last month American military leadership limited U.S. joint patrols with Afghan forces. U.S. troops will hand the country’s security over to Afghan forces when they leave in 2014.
Over before it started
Hope flickered for Syrians trapped in the country’s civil war when the government announced a four-day ceasefire on Oct. 25 ahead of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. It was the first truce adopted in the 19-month-old conflict, and signaled a potential breakthrough by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi—receiving, unlike other UN Security Council resolutions concerning Syria, support from Russia and China, key allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
But the optimism proved momentary, and reports of stepped-up fighting, particularly in the embattled northern city of Aleppo, never ceased. Rebels used a potential government pullback to move into neighborhoods of Aleppo’s old city that are predominantly Christian, and had to that point been somewhat protected from the worst fighting. By nightfall on Oct. 26, with reports of a car bomb, shelling, and gun battles, the daily toll stood at 70 deaths (down from the average of 150, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).
Christians report being increasingly caught in the conflict. In a rare interview with Western outlets, Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim said rebels had taken control of his complex, housing a church and school. He said, “Syria is not Iraq, is not Egypt, is not Libya. … The coming constitution should mention all the rights of the religions. It should contain an opportunity to act in a positive way for all society.”
But targeted attacks continue: A Greek Orthodox priest was found slain on Oct. 28 after he was kidnapped a week before near Damascus. Eyewitnesses said Fadi Jamal Haddad of St. Elias Church in Qatana had been “horribly tortured.”
Another pastor in Damascus said he is receiving threats also, most recently a dead bird left in his backyard, its head cut off and laying beside the bird along with a knife. Another Christian leaving Damascus said in an email, “Please encourage your readers to pray for the Christians in Syria. They are being slaughtered.”
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked Indiana’s law defunding Planned Parenthood Oct. 23, continuing an injunction that has been in place since the law passed in 2011. The appeals court ruled that the state couldn’t block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood because the organization provides medical services that aren’t abortions. But according to a LifeNews’ analysis of Planned Parenthood’s own 2009 numbers, Planned Parenthood provided abortions to 97.6 percent of pregnant clients, while less than 2.4 percent of pregnant women received non-abortion services including adoption and prenatal care. Planned Parenthood of Indiana receives about $3 million in federal funds every year. The ruling came from a three-judge panel so the state can either appeal the decision to the full court or go straight to the Supreme Court. At least a dozen states have tried to block federal funding to Planned Parenthood in the last two years, according to the Susan B. Anthony List.
A Sunday morning Mass at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in northern Nigeria on Oct. 28 ended with a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle through a church wall and detonating its payload. The explosion ripped a hole in the wall and roof of the church and killed at least seven people, injuring about 100. The attack in the city of Kaduna bore the marks of similar massacres by Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist organization that has demanded Christians living in the predominantly Muslim north convert to Islam or face death. The group is responsible for at least 690 deaths this year, often during attacks on worship services.
Nigerians living in the United States have called for the U.S. government to bring more attention to the escalating violence. The Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) asked the U.S. State Department to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization. CANAN chairman James Fadele said the terrorist designation would send a serious message to political leaders and financial backers of Boko Haram. Fadele spoke at a Washington press conference on Oct. 23—three days after Nigerian authorities arrested a senior member of Boko Haram at the home of a Nigerian senator. The arrest deepened suspicions of official involvement with the terrorist group.
All in the family
A New York Times exposé of possible corruption surrounding China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, proved embarrassing to the country’s Communist Party. Though “Grandpa Wen” has crafted himself a reputation as a populist and spoken of his impoverished childhood, Times reporter David Barboza uncovered a partially disguised network of investments indicating Wen’s family members—including his wife, son, brother, and 90-year-old mother—have controlled assets worth $2.7 billion or more. Much of the family wealth accumulated after Wen became vice prime minister in 1998, suggesting family members used clout to land lucrative business deals. (Lawyers for the family called the report “untrue” and denied Wen influenced any deals.)
Wen has previously condemned the abuse of government power by officials’ family members, and Communist Party officials are trying to cultivate a reputation for rooting out corruption. Government censors tried to stop the report from reaching Chinese citizens: Only hours after the Times posted the story, they blocked the paper’s English and Chinese-language websites.
Save the date(s)
Many Christians pray for persecuted believers year-round, but advocacy groups mark particular days each year for focused prayer. The World Evangelical Alliance, a N.Y.-based group, encouraged Christians to observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 4 (See “Not forsaken,” Nov. 3, 2012). Other advocacy groups—like Open Doors USA—designated Nov. 11 as a day for American churches to observe the day of prayer, while still others used Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day. Said D.C.-based International Christian Concern: “What matters is that you take the time to educate your congregation about the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters.”