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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Amanda Casanova

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

The Foreign Minister for Israel says rocket fire on Tuesday morning came from Iran, but was intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System.

“This incident is an Iranian operation against the State of Israel,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz told the Ynet news site. “The State of Israel will continue to act according to its policy. The policy was and remains to prevent Iran from establishing itself in the area.”

According to CBN News, four rockets were fired from Syria at Israel’s Golan Heights area on Tuesday morning.

The rocket firing comes just hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would reverse its policy on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The announcement reversed a 1978 State Department legal opinion that determined the settlements were “inconsistent with international law.”

Pompeo said the US government is "expressing no view on the legal status of any individual settlement" or "addressing or prejudging the ultimate status of the West Bank."

Under international law, the West Bank is seen as occupied territory, but Israel has long disputed that.

The European Union said in a statement that their settlement policy “is clear and remains unchanged,” saying that settlement in the area is illegal under international law.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, said he supported the U.S. policy change, Fox News reports.

“This policy reflects an historical truth - that the Jewish people are not foreign colonialists in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu’s office said. “Israel remains ready and willing to conduct peace negotiations with the Palestinians regarding all final status issues in an effort to achieve a durable peace, but will continue to reject all arguments regarding the illegality of the settlements.”

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, however, called the reversal “destructive behavior.”

“Allowing this agenda to prevail would ensure the demise of the international order and cause irreversible damage to the achievements of humanity over the past seven decades and threatens to plunge the world into chaos and violence,” he said.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay/Jim Black

November 182019 (Morning Star News) – A Christian in Iran convicted of conducting evangelistic activities began a mandated two years in exile this month in a remote area on the border with Pakistan, sources said.

As part of a larger prison sentence delivered in 2013, Ebrahim Firoozi, 33, was sentenced to two years in exile in Sarbaz, a frontier town on the Iranian-Pakistani border known for its isolation and prevalence of Islamic militant groups.

The sentence, which will expose the convert from Islam to extended periods of danger and isolation, was meant to keep him “from having a positive influence on people and to stop him from fellowshipping with the people in the Tehran area,” a source at advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) told Morning Star News.

Released from Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj on Oct. 26, he was ordered to report to Sarbaz following a brief period to order personal matters. Firoozi, whose mother died while he was in prison, arrived in Sarbaz on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

Having found housing in “a remote desert town out in the middle of nowhere,” he was said to be looking for work.

Firoozi n August 2013 was convicted of charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” “launching and directing evangelism” and “running a Christian website” He was sentenced to a year in prison and the term of exile.

While serving the prison sentence, Firoozi faced a second trial where he was sentenced to an additional five years for “crimes against national security,” “participating in illegal gatherings” and “colluding with foreign entities.” 

Court Hearing Delayed 

A hearing of an appeal by a group of Christians with prison sentences as long as 15 years was postponed without reason Wednesday (Nov. 13).

The delay was one of several in the appeal process for the Christians. In February a judge who was later unseated for corruption inexplicably combined a case involving a pastor’s wife with two longstanding appeal cases against other Christians. The three cases were delayed in September when the judge declined to show up.

Although delaying court cases is a common method to harass Christians charged with or convicted of crimes of belief, a researcher at MEC who requested anonymity said some of the delays surrounding the three cases could be due to court confusion about why the third case was combined with the earlier two. No date has been set for a new hearing.

The first case involves an Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet Tamraz, and two converts from Islam, Amin Nader Afshari and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi; all were arrested at a Christmas celebration in December 2014.

The second case also involves Afshari, as well as Hadi Asgari, from a 2016 arrest during what was essentially a picnic.

In the third case, Pastor Tamraz’s wife, Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh, was summoned by authorities in June 2017. Pastor Tamraz was sentenced the next month to 10 years in prison for “acting against national security.” Afshari, Agsari and Mohammadi received prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years on similar charges.

For charges of “acting against national security,” and “acting against the regime by organizing small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders and pastors to act as spies,” Shamiram was sentenced in January 2018 to five years in prison.

Iran was ranked ninth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. 

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved. 

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons/گیشتر/Creative Commons, resized and cropped to 1200x627.

 

 

 

An evangelical pro-life organization in Texas may be forced to pay a million and a half dollars in fines for violations.

According to Relevant Magazine, the Heidi Group, the pro-life organization contracted by the state to provide women’s health service resources, may have misused taxpayer funds.

The Heidi Group also overpaid subcontractors and operated without oversight, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Office of Inspector General said.

In 2016, the Heidi Group was awarded a $1.6 million contract with the state of Texas to provide women’s healthcare resources to low-income residents. The Heidi Group was tasked with building those health care resources after state laws forced the closure of women’s health clinics that violated Texas’ abortion law.

The Heidi Group said it would provide women’s health resources to about 51,000 low-income women in the state. A state audit, however, found that the work by the organization only helped about 2,300 women.

In a separate $5.1 million contract with the state, the Health and Human Services Commission said the organization only helped about 1,000 people. The contract was for the state’s Family Planning Program which was supposed to help some 18,000 people.

“The difference in the number of recipients served and the funds expended implies that the Heidi Group mismanaged grant funds under both contracts,” the HHSC report said. 

A report from the Houston Chronicle also found that the Heidi Group “ paid medical providers hundreds of thousands in excess fees, had overspent on payroll and fringe benefits, and had expensed thousands in unallowable costs like food, gift cards, clothing and retail membership fees.”

Heidi Group CEO Carol Everett, however, said the investigation is preliminary.

“Neither I as the CEO or any of my financial people has ever been interviewed [by HHSC Office of Inspector General],” she said. “This is a very preliminary report and we did everything as approved in our contract.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Stevan Ovicigor

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