Gary Lane

CBN News Senior International Reporter

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Monday, July 28, 2014

No New Churches in Sudan

Just days before the government of Sudan allowed Christian mother Meriam Ibrahim to leave the country, it imposed a new ban on church construction.

Because many Sudanese Christians fled the north and moved to South Sudan once that nation gained independence in 2011, the government insists the few who remain in Sudan have enough existing churches to meet their needs.

But Christian reports that Sudanese Christians were angered by the government decision. It quotes Rev. Kori Elramla Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, who described the ban as shocking and misleading.

"We (Christians) have the right to have new plots of land and building of new churches," he said.

"We need the churches for the growing of Sudanese Christians."

Religious freedom groups say the church ban is a violation of the right of freedom of religion and worship.

Also, Tina Ramirez, executive director of Hardwired recently told CBN News, Sudan's apostasy law needs to be overturned if more cases like Meriam Ibrahim's are to be prevented.

The 27-year old mother of two was sentenced to death for marrying an American Christian, and for abandoning the Muslim faith. Ibrahim insisted she never practiced Islam, but instead embraced the Christian faith of her mother.

Meanwhile, as Sudan moves forward with its ban on church construction--its northern neighbor--Egypt is negotiating with Christian leaders to develop plans to facilitate new church construction. Under the Mubarak regime, Egyptian Christians were required to petition the government for permission to repair or build churches. Rarely were new church buildings allowed.

So far, church leaders are optimistic that changes in the Egyptian constitution allowing church construction will be honored by new President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

posted @ Monday, July 28, 2014 9:46 AM | Feedback (0)

Friday, July 25, 2014

#WeAreN: Christians Marked for Modern-Day Holocaust

My father--a World War II veteran--often told me that history has a strange way of repeating itself.

Seventy years after the Nazis forced Jews to wear Yellow Star of David patches on their clothing to mark them for persecution and extermination, another holocaust is under way.

This time, it's Middle East Christians instead of European Jews. But the evil tactics are much the same.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)--now known simply as The Islamic State (IS)--have marked Christians for dimmi status and extinction; their goal is to eliminate all Christian presence from their new caliphate.

As their predecessors did 1,400 years ago, Muslims in the IS have given Christians four options:

1. Convert to Islam.

2. Live as dimmis under sharia law and pay the jizya tax.

3. Forfeit their homes, possessions, and flee the IS.

4. Die.

Christian homes and businesses have been marked with the Arabic letter Nun. It stands for "Nazarene," or Christian. This symbol has now gone viral on social media and Christians around the globe are using it as a symbol of solidarity with the Christians of Mosul and Iraq.

They've also started the hashtag #WeAreN.

I too, have adopted the Nun symbol as my Facebook photo

But it will take more than just hastags and symbols to stop Caliph Ibrahim (Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi), his cohorts, and other Islamic extremists from committing atrocities in the Middle East.

Sir Edmund Burke said, "Evil prevails when good men do nothing."

Just ask survivors of the Jewish concentration camps.

Hashtags and symbols are excellent tools to raise awareness, but good men--and women--will need to do more to rescue these ancient Christian communities from this modern-day holocaust.

Watch this video of Islamic extremists blowing up the Mosul mosque that housed the tomb of the Biblical prophet, Jonah:

posted @ Friday, July 25, 2014 1:28 PM | Feedback (7)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coptic Pope Adviser: U.S. Still Supports Muslim Brotherhood

After my recent visit to Egypt, some people asked about Egyptian Christians. "How are they faring under President Al-Sisi?"

"They are doing better under their new president," I replied. "But they still need our support and prayers because Islamists are continuing to attack them, and life remains extremely difficult for them and other Egyptians."

I recently interviewed Father Anthony Hanna, a key adviser to Coptic Pope Tawadros who said a Christian kidnapping case is now reported almost every week in Minya Province.

Militant Muslims are abducting males and females--mostly from wealthy Christian families--demanding that a ransome be paid. In some villages, Islamists are demanding that Christian businessmen pay a jizya-like tax to keep their businesses safe from attack.

Father Hanna said several Christian homes were recently burned in Upper Egypt, and police foiled an attempted arson attack against a church in Sohag.

Are police and the government responding to help Christians when they come under attack by militants, or are they looking the other way?

Hanna said in many cases the police neither have the men, nor weaponry needed to combat heavily armed terrorists.

He also told me most Egyptians love Americans, but they are still upset and puzzled over continued U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood. He insists it is ongoing through American arm shipments via Turkey and Egyptian Christians are often the victims.

The new Egyptian government is "promising," said Hanna. But Egyptian Christians and their new government need our help if the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic extrmism are to be defeated.

Watch the full interview here:

posted @ Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:26 PM | Feedback (3)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sexual Assault Victory for Egyptian Women

A court verdict in Cairo this week is sending shockwaves through Egyptian society.

Seven men convicted of sexual assault during recent rallies in Tahrir Square were given life in prison for their crimes.

Some felt the sentence was too harsh, but others were encouraged by the government's unprecedented, tough stance to defend the country's women.

The court decision came following several brutal sexual attacks at political gatherings over the past three years. Cell phone videos captured frenzied mobs of men tearing clothing off of women--some even showed them being raped and beaten.

The brutal attacks led to a public outcry to protect women and even resulted in an unprecedented hospital visit from an Egyptian president.

One day after he was sworn in as president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi visited the hospital bedside of a female victim who was raped during his innaugural celebration at Tahrir Square.The newly elected president vowed to crackdown on those perpetrating sexual violence against Egyptian women, and one week later, 13 supects were placed on trial.

Wednesday's court verdict demonstrated the government is serious about enforcing the country's new sexual violence law.

Three of the convicted men received multiple life sentences for involvement in several assaults. Two others received 20-year prison sentences.

The court also ordered the defendents to pay restitution to their victims.

This is a big step forward for Egypt. President al-Sisi and the court deserve our praise.

But will they remain committed and respond in the same manner when militant Muslims rape, kidnap, and attack Egyptian Christian women?

Watch this video of the Egyptian convicts as they received their sentences in a Cairo courtroom on Wednesday:

posted @ Thursday, July 17, 2014 9:32 AM | Feedback (2)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ebola Spreading in West Africa

Photo Courtesy Operation  Blessing International

Chances are the Ebola outbreak that is now growing in West Africa is unlikely to spread to America or other western countries. Still, we need to be concerned.

The number of people that have contracted the deadly disease since late last winter is fast approaching 900. There is no known cure for the virus.

More doctors and nurse volunteers are needed, and humanitarian relief organizations like Operation Blessing, Samaritan's Purse, and Doctors Without Borders need our financial contributions if they are to do what they can to help prevent this disease from spreading.

Also, the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leon need our prayers!

Watch my interview with Dr. Lance Plyler, Medical Team Director for Samaritan's Purse to learn more about this fatal disease and why it is spreading.


posted @ Monday, July 14, 2014 11:39 AM | Feedback (0)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Iraqi Christians Find Help and Refuge

AL QOSH, Iraq -- Christians fleeing the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters are finding refuge in one of the last remaining Christian cities in Iraq.

Al Qosh is an exclusive Christian town, in northern Nineva Province, about 28-miles from Mosul. Only Christians are allowed to live here.

Three hundred Christians arrived in Al Qosh yesterday, fleeing ISIS’s attempted takeover of Qaraqosh, just southeast of Mosul. At least for now, Pashmerga (Kurdish) Army troops reportedly have held off their advance.

As he arrived in Al Qosh, 45-year-old Christian refugee Radi Yussef told me two Pashmerga soldiers were killed and maybe five or six civilians injured as the constant bombardment of rockets and mortar fire besieged Qaraqosh throughout Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning.

“There’s no electric or water,” he said.

Mid-evening last night, I met a family of five at the entrance to Al Qosh. Clutching her two-year-old son as he slept in her arms, tears ran down the cheeks of the frantic mother. She spoke English and told me that America was to blame for her family’s suffering.

I told her that I was an American and did not cause ISIS to lay siege to her town so she corrected herself and said, “Obama is to blame! He trained and supports the ISIS fighters!”

Distraught over her elderly father’s plight, she continued to sob uncontrollably.

“He is 78-years-old and suffers from pancreatic cancer," she explained. "We had to leave him behind because there is no medicine for him in Al Qosh!”

Then she asked, “Who will take care of him?”

Most of the internally displaced Christians are finding sanctuary and care in five school buildings. At one school I asked, “How can American Christians help you, what do you need right now?”

They expressed appreciation for the women of the local Chaldean church who have graciously served up daily meals. But the refugees told me they desperately needed mattresses so they wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. They also requested pillows and powdered milk for the children.

CBN Disaster Relief responded immediately to honor their request and bring much needed help. We’ll share more details as I update this blog.

In the meantime, view this short video clip of some of the Christian refugee woman and children receiving milk provided by CBN:

posted @ Friday, June 27, 2014 11:41 AM | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Iraqi Christians on the Run - Again

ERBIL, Iraq --  Christians who sought refuge in the northern Iraqi city of Qaraqosh because of fighting in Mosul are on the run once again.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces attempted to seize Qaraqosh Wednesday, but were turned back by Kurdish Peshmerga troops. The city is located southeast of Mosul.

I've learned that most of the fleeing Christians are destined for Erbil, the capital city of Kurdistan.

It isn't known at this time how many have fled Qaraqosh, but it is now clear, as ISIS advances and aligns itself with the al Nusra terrorists of Syria, Iraqi Christians will soon run out of safe havens. They urgently need our prayers!

Keep following The Global Lane for in-country updates.

posted @ Wednesday, June 25, 2014 4:19 PM | Feedback (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meriam Ibrahim Safe in Secret Location

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian mother of two sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for committing apostasy, has been freed from prison and is now in a secret location.

An appellate court ruled Monday that a lower court had erred when it sentenced her to death. Meriam’s lawyer disclosed that his client was released and reunited with her husband, Daniel.

I’ve learned that Meriam has been taken to an undisclosed, confidential location where she is safe from militant Islamists who may want to kill her. She and her family received numerous death threats during her imprisonment.

She was jailed for leaving Islam, but Meriam always maintained that she had never practiced the Islamic faith. Her father was a Muslim who left the family when she was young. Her Ethiopian mother raised Meriam as a Christian.

Though Meriam’s husband fought to retain custody of their 20 month old son Martin, the toddler was forced to remain with Meriam in prison because Sudanese authorities did not recognize the legitimacy of Meriam’s marriage to Daniel, who is a Christian. Meriam was also forced to give birth in prison to daughter, Maya.

Under Islamic law, a Muslim woman is prohibited from marrying a Christian man. Meriam was considered to be Muslim because her father was a Muslim. Thus, when she insisted she was a Christian, the Islamist government found her guilty of apostasy, a crime punishable by death.

And because she gave birth to Daniel’s son, she was considered an adulterer who was sentenced to receive 100 lashes as punishment.

But now her nightmare is over, thanks to political pressure and your prayers.

Thank God. And please continue to pray for Meriam, husband Daniel, their son Martin, and newborn daughter, Maya. Daniel is an American, and he’s trying to bring Meriam and the children to the United States.

Pray that the U.S. State Department will accept (if it hasn’t already) Meriam and the children as religious asylum seekers and then grant them visas. It was slow to help and even questioned Daniel's paternity of the children.

And pray that God will bring down these archaic apostasy and blasphemy laws. No one should ever be punished or executed for embracing Christianity, or any other faith.

posted @ Monday, June 23, 2014 11:58 AM | Feedback (1)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Refugees: More than Just Numbers

Syrian Refugee Children in Iraq

On this World Refugee Day, 2014 my thoughts turn to the many camps I have visited around the world during the past 30 years.

Among my first were Palestinian camps in the West Bank during the 1980s. In the 1990s, I visited Sudanese refugees in Kenya and Uganda, and Karen and Karenni refugees along the Thai/Burmese border. In 2001, the Afghanistan War began, along with several visits with precious Afghan children in Pakistan.

More recently, I've made several trips to Syrian refugees residing in tents and apartments in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. More than 10 percent of Syrians have now fled their country.

I've wept with them, and have endured many sleepless nights after hearing their tragic stories and witnessing their trauma and pain.

I've prayed for peace, but their suffering and numbers continue to grow.

Their faces appear different because of race and ethnicity, but the needs of the refugees are always the same: food, shelter, fresh water, healthcare, and education--necessities of life that many of us take for granted each day.

The United Nations has done a remarkable job helping to meet the needs, and so have humanitarian relief organizations like Operation Blessing, CRS, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and many others.

But much, much more needs to be done--especially for Syrian refugee children lacking teachers and schooling in their camps.

And this month another crisis-- fighting in Iraq has forced hundreds of thousands there to flee. The number of Iraqi refugees has doubled to more than 1 million.

The world refugee total now exceeds 51 million. That's more than the number of refugees following World War II.

The numbers overwhelm. Relief agencies and tiny host nations are nearing the brink. How much more can they handle?

Perhaps we need another massive world response like the Marshall Plan, the $13 billion post WWII European recovery program.

A program like that may prove difficult. Many Americans suffer from donor fatigue, so it becomes easier these days to breath out a heavy sigh over the astonishing numbers, and then click abruptly to another web page.

But we have a responsibility to respond.

Let's remember the faces of the precious Syrian refugee children in Iraq (shown above), and others we may see today as we browse the web. Many of us may decide to do nothing because the horrors, atrocities, and suffering are just too much for our conscience to bear.

Please pray, and then do what you can to help them. The sleepless nights are worth it, believe me. They need us.

posted @ Friday, June 20, 2014 10:59 AM | Feedback (1)

Monday, June 09, 2014

'Boys Will Be Boys' in Egypt's Tahrir

Egyptians held a big party in Cairo's Tahrir Square Sunday night to celebrate the swearing in of their new president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Things got a bit out of hand, leading one television commentator to remark that, "Boys will be boys!" The problem is, some of the boys (mostly men) enjoyed the festivities by brutally assaulting and raping a female celebrant.

Bloodied, beaten, and barely conscious, the 19-year-old college student was rescued and rushed to the hospital where she reportedly remained in critical condition. Seven males were arrested immediately after the Tahrir attacks. Their ages ranged between 15 and 49.

The mob assault against this woman was reportedly one of five that occured in the Square Sunday night. Watch the edited version of a cell phone video showing the crowd gather as security police and some good Samaritans rescue the brutalized woman and carry her to an awaiting ambulance:

This was not the first time Egyptian women (and at least one non-Egyptian reporter) have experienced rape, sexual assault, and/or sexual harrassment during large gatherings in the heart of Cairo. But it was reportedly the first time police responded so quickly to arrest alleged attackers.

Various women's and human rights groups say young Egyptian women are often victims of such attacks because sexual harrassment is endemic in Egyptian society. Often the prevailing cultural response is what the television commentator stated: "boys will be boys" when they become overly excited and "happy," treating women this way is expected.

It makes you wonder what happens when they become angry.

The Egyptian government is taking some positive steps in the post-Muslim Brotherhood era. Just before el-Sissi was sworn in as president last week, Interim President Adly Mansour enacted a law that criminalizes sexual harrassment in Egypt.

Violators of the law--if convicted--will receive at least a year in prison, and a maximum fine of 20,000 Egyptian pounds. That's the equivalent of about $3,000. The punishment is worse for authority figures.

Pray that the brutalized 19-year-old colllege student will recover. Also, pray that Egypt's new government will enforce the law and do its best to convince Egytians that their society will prosper only when it demonstrates true respect for all of it's citizens.

posted @ Monday, June 09, 2014 4:17 PM | Feedback (0)