Only Iran Still Executes Children

Iran is the world's last remaining country that executes children, according to a new assessment from the world's most prominent human rights watchdog. In a new report issued on June 27th, Amnesty International accused the Iranian regime of executing no fewer than 24 "child offenders" since 1990, and of carrying out the sentences of 11 of them before they reached the age of majority. Currently, Amnesty says, there are 71 others facing the death penalty inside the Islamic Republic, making Iran the world's sole judicial executioner of children.

Iran Democracy Monitor

Underground Lake Could Save Darfur

BBC News has reported that a huge underground lake has been found in Sudan's Darfur region, which scientists say they believe could help end the conflict in the arid region. Some 1,000 wells will be drilled in the region, with the agreement of Sudan's government, researchers from Boston University said. Analysts say competition for resources between Darfur's Arab nomads and black African farmers is behind the conflict. More than 200,000 Darfuris have died and 2 million fled their homes since 2003.

"Much of the unrest in Darfur and the misery is due to water shortages," said geologist Farouk El-Baz, director of the university's Center for Remote Sensing, according to the Associated Press.

"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, will help the peace process, and provides the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur," he said. The team used radar data to find the ancient lake, which is the size of Lake Erie in North America-the 10th largest lake in the world. A similar discovery was made in neighboring Egypt where wells have been used to irrigate 150,000 acres of farmland, the researchers say.

BBC News via MissionNet

Opposition to Gay Marriages Climbs in Latest Poll

Opposition to both gay marriage and same-sex civil unions is on the increase, according to a new Pew Research poll. The survey of 1,010 adults shows that 57% of U.S residents are against allowing homosexual couples to marry. The last time opposition was this high was in December, 2004, when 61% of Americans said they opposed gay marriage. Back-to-back Pew polls in July, 2005, and March, 2006, showed opposition to such marriages at only 53 and 51% respectively. But since then, opposition in four new polls has stood at 55, 56, 55 and now 57%. In the current poll, 38% "strongly" oppose gay marriage, while only 12 percent "strongly" favor it. The poll was conducted in February and March and released July 1.

Evangelical News, Baptist Press via MissionNet

Persecution Chokes Church Growth in Northern Nigeria

Reports emerging from northwestern Nigeria's Kebbi State indicate that strong persecution against Christians there is choking the church. Pastor Nuhu Mamman, a Muslim convert to Christ who leads a church of more than 2,000, reports that converts to Christianity continue to face humiliation and stigma. "We are always being forced to transfer former Muslims who have become Christians to other parts of this country in order to shield them from persecution," he said. In 2003 when a Muslim named Ibrahim Jega from the town of Jega converted to Christianity "his family members and other Muslims threatened to kill him," Mamman said. "We were forced to take him to a distant town for safety."

Equally difficult is obtaining places for converts from Islam to worship. "Even if we succeed in getting land to provide such converts with places of worship, Muslims who are in government will not allow us build such churches," he explained. "Whenever we go to renew our land documents or even pay land rent for our church lands, Muslim government officials usually refuse to accept such payments. But then, this is deliberate, as after a period of time they usually declare our church buildings as illegal structures, just to find reasons to demolish our places of worship."

Compass Direct News via MissionNet

Anthropology Prof: Tribal Killing of Disabled Babies OK

A Brazilian university professor claimed that the practice of infanticide by indigenous tribes should be respected as a cultural practice, the Telegraphreports.
Dr. Erwin Frank, an anthropology professor at the Federal University of Roraima, Brazil, is quoted in the Telegraph as having defended the violent practice, saying, "This is their way of life and we should not judge them on the basis of our values. The difference between the cultures should be respected. Certain tribes believe that some babies are "cursed" and therefore do not have souls. Such children include those with physical disabilities, females (or any children of an undesired gender), babies born to unwed mothers, twins or triplets. These "cursed" children are sometimes smothered by leaves, poisoned, buried alive by parents, or simply left to die of exposure.

"Right-to-Die-ers" Broaden Categories

A new article in a leading bioethics journal demonstrates proponents of physician-assisted suicide increasingly are advocating extending the practice beyond the terminally ill to the chronically depressed, a pro-life spokesman says. Jacob Appel, who teaches at Brown University in Providence, R.I., wrote in the May-June issue of the Hastings Center Report that the arguments used to defend assisted suicide for the terminally ill can be applied "in many cases of purely psychological disease," including "repeated bouts of severe depression. Our goal should be to maximize the options available to the mentally ill."

In Appel's article, "we finally have a clearer picture of where the right-to-die crowd wishes to take America," said bioethics specialist Wesley Smith. "The natural trajectory of assisted suicide advocacy" leads to increasingly wider categories: "from the terminally ill, to the disabled and chronically ill, to the tired of life' elderly, and eventually to the mentally ill," Smith said.

Baptist Press

200 Million Christians At Risk of Persecution

The British Secret Service, MI6, has published a report in Sunday Expressmagazine revealing that some 200 million Christians in 60 countries around the world are at risk of suffering persecution, according to a report carried by the Catholic News Agency (CNA) The report reveals that in Sudan, for example, "thousands of Christians have been massacred and the fundamentalist government has done little to protect them." In Iraq "Christians do not have their own militia to defend them, and Sunni and Shiite factions accuse them of collaborating with the American crusaders.'" The study also reveals that during the last year, at least 70 Christians were killed in Pakistan. In the Central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Muslim preachers "under the influence of al-Qaeda" present Christians as followers of a religion closely associated with Western colonialism, and they call for their expulsion. The report also mentions North Korea, China, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda as other countries where Christians are persecuted. "North Korea has sent some 50,000 Christians to concentration camps while in China some 40,000 have suffered the same fate," the report stated.

Assist news Service via MissionNet

Teen Births at Record Low but Still Too High

In a culture replete with dismal statistics, one positive report is that the number of teenage mothers is at a record low, continuing a 14-year downward trend. Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the nonprofit Child Trends research center reported in June that the 2005 birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 was 40.4 births for every 1,000 female teens, which is 35 percent lower than the peak of 61.8 percent in 1991.

Though birth rates varied across racial and ethnic groups, numbers were down across the board, Child Trends said. For white teen females, 26 out of every 1,000 gave birth in 2005. The same year, the birth rate for non-Hispanic black teen females was 60.9, and for Hispanics it was 81.5.

"The trend lines on teen births are generally moving in the right direction, and we should pause and savor that fact," Jennifer Manlove, who helped prepare the report, said in a news release. "But it is far too early to declare this problem solved since the U.S. teen birth rate is still higher than that of any other developed nation."

Data from the report also shows that 83% of teen births are to unwed mothers.

"Despite the progress made over the past decade, much work remains to be done," said Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits. "The United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births in the industrialized world, resulting in severe economic and social costs, not to mention the personal pain early sexual activity places upon teenagers and their families."

Baptist Press

China Expels 100 Foreign Missionaries

China has secretly expelled more than 100 foreign missionaries in the largest expulsion campaign of Christian workers in over half a century. The China Aid Association (CAA) reported July 10 that the government-backed operation, codenamed "Typhoon No. 5," was aimed at preventing foreign Christians from "engaging in mission activities" in advance of the Olympic Games in Beijing next summer. Since February Chinese security forces have been targeting citizens from six countries, including the U.S., South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia, and Israel. Most were active in Beijing, the region of Xinjiang and Tibet. Chinese officials have not commented on the allegations. CAA quoted one American who had been working in Xinjiang for 10 years, saying that more than 60 foreign religious workers were expelled from this city alone. The American, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said some workers had been serving locals for up to 18 years before being forced to leave. "At least 15 Christian couples from the U.S. and other countries were expelled from Beijing in the month of May," reported the CAA. They included two American English teachers, sent by the English Language Institute/China (ELIC), who were expelled from Tibet.

China Aid Association, BosNewsLife via MissionNet

Pro-Life Rally in Ireland Beyond Organizers' Hopes

The Irish pro-life rally "Celebrate Life" which was held July 7 on Dublin's main street, grabbed the attention of thousands of Dublin shoppers. "The turnout was far beyond expectations, we were thrilled with the day," said an ecstatic Eoghan De Faoite, chairman of the organizing rally committee and leader of the pro-life group Youth Defense. Before the event, organizers described the pro-life rally as Ireland's largest pro-life event in 15 years. Abortion remains illegal in Ireland despite the legal quandary left by a 1992 court case known as the "X case" which ruled that abortion was allowed in the case of suicide. "Though this rally has given a huge boost to the pro-life cause in Ireland, we cannot become complacent. We need to continue to pray and act to make sure Ireland remains abortion free," concluded De Faoite.

Standard Newswire, Christian Newswire via MissionNet

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