RELIGION BRIEFING

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Iraq Dangerous for Some Groups, Report Finds

Iraq is one of the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities, a U.S. government commission said this week, accusing Iraq's leaders of tolerating attacks on Christians and others.

The very existence of these groups in mainly Muslim Iraq is now threatened, said a new report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a body appointed by Congress and the president.

The report comes after 1,500 Christian families fled attacks and intimidation in the northern city of Mosul in October. The city's Christian archbishop was kidnapped and murdered this year. U.S. military commanders have blamed Sunni Islamist militants for the violence.

The bipartisan commission recommended that Iraq be designated a "country of particular concern" as a consequence of what it called the Iraqi government's tolerance of severe abuses of religious freedom.

-- Reuters

CHRISTMAS CAROL BANNED

Bethlehem's Reality Belied by Song, Vicar Says

An Anglican vicar has banned his parish in Britain from singing the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" after his visit to the strife-torn city. The Rev. Stephen Coulter told parishioners that the carol's sentimental words, "how still we see thee lie," belies the 21st century reality of the West Bank city.

The rector of Bryanston, Durweston, Stourpaine and Pimperne in southwest England said he was saddened to find on a recent pilgrimage that the Arab-Israeli conflict had wrecked the population, economy and tourism of Bethlehem.

Instead of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, Coulter said, Bethlehem's citizens these days are watched over round-the-clock by police and security guards.

-- Religion News Service


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