Latest attack on Coptic Christians highlights religious violence in Egypt

Crux Staff Oct 16, 2020


Latest attack on Coptic Christians highlights religious violence in Egypt

In a file photo, an Egyptian army soldier stands guard outside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cairo as worshippers attend New Year’s Eve Mass, Dec. 31, 2017. (Credit: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters via CNS.)

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – On October 5, 2020, a mob of Islamic extremists attacked the homes of Coptic Christians in the Egyptian village of Dabous, located in the Upper Egypt region of Minya.

According to International Christian Concern, two young Muslim adults beat up a ten-year old Coptic Christian child. Some Christian adults retaliated, triggering the attack the next day.

Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 100 million people, making the country home to the largest Christian population in the Arab world.

The vast majority of Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Church in the Oriental Orthodox communion – However there are about 350,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians, 300,000 Protestants, and just under 200,000 Catholics.

Christians suffer discrimination from the Muslim majority, and often find it hard to find jobs, get a good education, and participate in the social life of the country. In addition, the community is often the target of Islamist violence.

The ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, Claire Evans, says the Egyptian authorities “seek to guarantee silence, not safety.”

“The government under [President Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi has institutionalized a culture of silence by punishing anyone who speaks freely about the challenges they face. The government has expended so much energy demonstrating to the West how they are promoting religious freedom, but they have not taken concrete steps to protect religious freedom,” she told Crux.

Evans said it was necessary for Christians to speak up and speak out.

“Being silent about these issues re-victimizes the victims. In the face of an assault, such as what occurred in Dabous, we need to name it for what it is. And we need to process what that means. It is only by looking directly at religious freedom violations that religious freedom can be protected,” she said.

Following are excerpts of Evans’s interview with Crux.

Crux: What does this latest attack on Coptic Christians tell you about the safety of Christians in Egypt?

Evans: The Egyptian authorities seek to guarantee silence, not safety. Unfortunately, it is this dynamic which is all too evident in this recent incident in Dabous. Nothing except challenges are guaranteed to Christians, and by the authorities arresting the victims as a way of compelling them to reconcile with their attackers, the authorities are promoting a culture of silence that ultimately encourages more religious freedom abuses.

This attack in Dabous also shows us that even the most vulnerable, the children, are subjected to the harsh realities of persecution.

What is the state of religious freedom in Egypt?

The authorities will say that such attacks and other types of religious freedom abuses are less frequent, but in reality, reporting is less frequent. The government under al-Sisi has institutionalized a culture of silence by punishing anyone who speaks freely about the challenges they face. The government has expended so much energy demonstrating to the West how they are promoting religious freedom, but they have not taken concrete steps to protect religious freedom. We cannot confuse promoting and protecting, especially when human lives are at stake.

Christians in Egypt lead very difficult lives. They are discriminated against, harassed, intimidated, and threatened. Sometimes, those issues lead to violence, such as what we saw in Dabous. Until those core issues are addressed, until Egypt takes active steps to protect the victims of religious persecution and encourages people to speak out and name those abuses, then unfortunately religious freedom will not exist in Egypt.

Does the government do enough to hold extremists accountable?

The government’s response to extremists is a difficult question to address. On the one hand, the government frequently makes the announcement that they have raided an extremist location. It is strange that during these raids, most people usually end up dead, and thus never see trial. That’s neither justice nor due process. Sometimes the authorities will make a highly public court case against an extremist, but so often the extremist has membership in an organization – such as the Muslim Brotherhood – whom the ruling government views as a political threat. Motive is then questioned.

Most of the extremists who endanger the lives of Christians do not fit into these categories. It is the extremist who also lives a very normal life. It is a neighbor, a coworker, or a local leader. In these cases, the authorities do nothing. Mob attacks against Christians are where this issue becomes most abundantly clear. Why is it that the local authorities always arrest more victims than perpetrators? If you were to ask local Christians, they often say that it is because there are too many people who sympathize more with the perpetrators, and the authorities do not want to risk confrontation by holding them accountable. This is a serious problem.

In the face of such assault, what should be the attitude of Christians?

Christians should recognize that violence at its core, in whatever context, disconnects human relationships. It takes courage to name violence for what it is, but it is through this process that the ability to grasp the truth of what happened grows. Being silent about these issues re-victimizes the victims. In the face of an assault, such as what occurred in Dabous, we need to name it for what it is. And we need to process what that means. It is only by looking directly at religious freedom violations that religious freedom can be protected.


Euthanasia no sign of progress, Spain’s Bioethics Committee says

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock.
Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock.

.- The Bioethics Committee of Spain has unanimously rejected the underlying principles behind the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill that is making its way through the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the legislature.

The 12-member CBE, which is responsible for issuing reports on matters with relevant bioethical implications, unanimously reached the decision to advise the government that the proposed euthanasia law is not valid from an ethical point of view.

“There are solid health, ethical, legal, economic and social reasons to reject the transformation of euthanasia into a subjective right and a public benefit,” the Oct. 6 CBE report states.

The bill is invalid not only because it decriminalizes euthanasia as an exception to the general rule requiring life to be protected, but also because it recognizes death as a right that can be incorporated into the list of public health benefits, the committee noted.

The CBE pointed out that “a person’s desire for a third party or the state itself to end his life, directly or indirectly, in those cases of great physical and/or mental suffering, must always be viewed with compassion and met with effective compassionate action leading to the prevention of pain and a peaceful death.”

“Legalizing euthanasia and/or assisted suicide entails setting out on a path toward the devaluation of the protection of human life whose boundaries are very difficult to foresee, as the experience of our circumstances shows us.”

The committee stressed that “euthanasia and/or assisted suicide are not signs of progress but rather a regression of civilization, since in a context in which the value of human life is often conditioned by criteria of social utility, economic interests, family responsibilities and the burden to the public or public spending, the legalization of early death would add a new set of problems.”

The CBE called for “the comprehensive and compassionate protection of life, creating protocols, in the context of good medical practice, with the use of palliative sedation in the face of specific cases of unremitting existential suffering … along with making effective palliative care universally available.”

That, the committee underscored, should be the “path to take immediately, and not to proclaim a right to end one’s life through a public benefit,” especially after the coronavirus pandemic in which “thousands of our elderly have died in circumstances far removed from what is not only a decent life, but also a minimally dignified death.”

“Responding with euthanasia to the ‘debt’ that our society has contracted with our elderly after such events does not seem like the authentic path we are called to by an ethic of care, responsibility and intergenerational reciprocity and solidarity,” the CBE stressed.

The bill was introduced by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, and in February the Congress of Deputies approved it for consideration. Debate began Sept. 10.

The conservative People’s Party and the far-right party Vox presented two amendments to the bill proposing the regulation of palliative care, but both were defeated.

Commenting on the bill, Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves of Toledo explained in a recent pastoral letter that palliative care “is intended to make suffering more bearable in the final phase of the illness” as well as to provide appropriate care for the patient.

“The only alternative for a terminally ill person and their dignity is palliative care, not euthanasia, which from the perspective of legality and false compassion, totally destroys the dignity of the patient and places medical personnel and caregivers in the difficult situation of having to betray their most genuine vocation, which is to heal and provide care,” the archbishop stressed.

Archbishop Cerro also questioned the intentions of the political class seeking to legalize euthanasia, since “the legalization of any immoral action” inevitably leads to more and more situations where it is allowed.

The archbishop pointed to other European countries where euthanasia began with “terminally ill patients who requested it” but expanded to euthanizing “patients against their will, even children against the will of their parents.”


WEA calls on Sweden to better protect religious freedom of asylum seekers

A view of Stockholm, in Sweden. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="">PeterIvey </a>,

A view of Stockholm, in Sweden. / Photo: PeterIvey

Sweden was one of the countries reviewed in the 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC).

Throughout its “cycles”, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) gives a chance to countries and NGOs to present recommendations to all member states.

During the September 2020 session, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which holds a NGO status, gave a statement on Sweden. Previoulsy, they had also spoken about Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Turkey.


Christian converts face risks of persecution in country of origin

“We call on Sweden to take more effective measures to protect the rights of asylum-seekers to leave their current religion or to change their religion for another, and who run from the significant risks of persecution in their countries of origin”, said Michael Mutzner, one of the WEA spokespersons at the UN HRC in Geneva (Switzerland).

“Studies have shown that Christian converts had faced politicized and arbitrary procedures in Sweden and that the personnel of the Migration Agency lacks the necessary expertise and does not sufficiently collaborate with civil society when it verifies the genuineness of a conversion claim”, he said.

The WEA also underlined the lack of freedoms for refugees already living in the Nordic country. They called on “Sweden to extend its National Plan against racism and hate crimes to include specific measures to combat all categories of hate crimes, including specific affirmative measures to combat harassment of Christian refugees in asylum centres”.

Abortion and conscientious objection

In its statement, the WEA also spoke about the lack of freedoms of health personnel in ethical issues. The evangelical body said it “regrets that Sweden is one of the rare countries where the right to conscientious objection for medical personnel unable to participate in abortions due to their convictions, is not respected”.

“No one should be discriminated against because of a refusal to participate in an abortion procedure, and reasonable accommodation should be discussed in order to find compromises that respond both to the imperative of a person’s conscience and to the requirement of public health services”.

WEA calls on Sweden to better protect religious freedom of asylum seekersMichael Mutzner, Wissam Al-saliby and Albert Hengelaar, World Evangelical Alliance representatives at the United Nations Human Rights Council. / WEA

The WEA added that it is “unfortunate” that Sweden “takes a hard line” in this matter when there would be alternatives to have “a more pragmatic approach that would respect the freedom of conscience of its medical personnel”.

Mutzner closed the WEA statement by calling on Sweden “to renounce its proposed legislative ban on faith-based private schools”.


Summit speakers discuss ongoing efforts to combat religious persecution

Summit speakers discuss ongoing efforts to combat religious persecution

Displaced women and children wearing protective masks wait in the medical center of a camp in Dahuk, Iraq, March 7, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: CNS photo/Ari Jalal, Reuters.)

WASHINGTON — A digital summit sponsored by In Defense of Christians, “Combating Global Christian Persecution,” showed that the fight against all forms of religious persecution continues with a renewing cast of political leaders.

Rep. French Hill, R-Arkansas, last year’s winner of the group’s Congressional Champion award for his support of Coptic Christians in Egypt, pointed out in his remarks that while “religious freedom is part of American foreign policy,” attacks on Coptic Christians continue.

A House resolution introduced by Hill last year called for the Egyptian government to abolish its “culture of impunity” and to hold local officials responsible.

This year’s Congressional Champion, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL, was recognized for advocating for the preservation of Christians in the Middle East. The event was held Sept. 23.

“I saw this lack of freedom in my first three deployments” in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, seeing “firsthand the history of a country run by extremists.”

He called the Islamic State “evil incarnate” and “the consequences of seeing a world as we wished it were rather than as it really is.”

The American government allowed that to emerge because “we stopped believing in advancing the ideology of freedom. Evil like the Islamic State can only exist when American refuses the chance to lead.”

The work of In Defense of Christians gained the endorsement of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

When he travels to parts of the world where Christians are known to be threatened with slaughter, he said in a recorded statement, “they constantly say to me, ‘We feel forgotten. We don’t hear anyone speaking up for us. We feel like we’re orphans. And we need your love, we need your support.’ And I tell them, you got it.”

Other issues include the formal U.S. condemnation — passed by Congress, but not yet signed by President Donald Trump — of the Armenian genocide of 1915; the ongoing Christian genocide in Nigeria; and anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws used to stifle dissent in the Middle East and Asia.

“We’re not going to be bullied or bribed into silence,” said Richard Ghazal, an Air Force judge advocate who acts as a senior adviser to In Defense of Christians.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, has co-sponsored a Senate resolution calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws, which, he observed, affect Muslims as well as members of other faiths and those who express no faith at all.

He pointed to the example of an American, Tahir Naseem, who on July 20 was shot and killed inside a Pakistani courtroom, where he’d been charged with blasphemy against Islam.

Saudi Arabia, Lankford said, promotes religious intolerance on social media, and in Russia in 2017, a blogger, Ruslan Sokolovsky, received a suspended prison sentence for blasphemy simply for playing a video game, Pokemon Go in a cathedral. The incident was widely condemned as an abuse of the legal system.

“One of the most important drivers of intolerance” in the Middle East “is education,” said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina. Official textbooks approved in Saudi Arabia teach that Christians and Jews are “enemies of Islam and its people.” Those textbooks became “materials of choice for ISIS.”

Last year, Wilson and Rep. William Keating, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the Saudi Educational Transparency and Reform Act, intended to require the U.S. State Department to review Saudi textbooks for religious bigotry.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, explained the need for the House resolution he introduced last year to “make the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws a priority in bilateral relationships between the United States and countries that have such laws” and further, to ” oppose efforts by the United Nations to implement an international anti-blasphemy norm.”

“Any religious adherent can be a victim,” he said, and the oppressor can be “whoever has the power of the state behind them.”

Raskin reminded the gathering of “a basic principle of humanity: That people have got to be safe to worship as they please, or not worship at all.”

Former Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia pointed to a recent Pew Research Institute survey showing that “80% of the world’s population … at this very moment lives in a repressive religious environment.”

“The cries of the persecuted are met by the sound of silence by many in the faith community and many in the West,” he said. “In the pulpits of many Western churches, we have really heard the sounds of silence.”

The Washington-based In Defense of Christians focuses most of its advocacy on the Middle East. In addition to gaining, in 2019, congressional condemnation of the Armenian genocide, the organization also backed the 2018 Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act, signed into law by Trump. This provides direct aid for Christians who survived persecution by the Islamic State.


Pastor warned by police not to share Bible’s position on homosexuality

A pastor in Cornwall has been advised by the police not to offend LGBT people after he celebrated the cancellation of a gay pride event on Facebook.When Cornwall Pride announced its annual march would not go ahead this year following concerns about social distancing, Pastor Josh Williamson of Newquay Baptist Church called it “Wonderful news”.

When challenged, he said it was because he did not like to see sin celebrated, and quoted from the Bible to support his position.


Posting on his own Facebook account the pastor also wrote: “Hallelujah!! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be cancelled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organisers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered.”

Cornwall Pride responded by sharing this with its supporters, as well as negative comments about Pride made by people who do not appear to be connected to the church, leading to threats against Williamson and his wife.

Christian Concern, which is supporting Williamson, said that LGBT activists threatened to protest his Sunday services, and to get the pastor deported to his native Australia.

It said Cornwall Pride also encouraged its supporters to report Williamson to the police for a ‘hate crime’.

Avoid offence

Following this, the pastor was invited to meet with members of Cornwall Pride to talk about his views. Williamson attended and handed out copies of a tract debunking arguments commonly used to argue for LGBT affirmation in the church.

This was shared widely online and culminated in activists threatening to burn the church or hold orgies in it.

When Williamson reported the threats to Devon and Cornwall Police, he was told the situation was “complex” and that they did not think the threats were serious.

Instead it told him that in future he should avoid offending anyone in the LGBT community to ensure he did not break the law, and instead keep his views in a “safe environment”.

Anti-Christian abuse

Pastor Williamson said: “My family and I, and our church community, have been very concerned by the level of anti-Christian abuse and threats of violence that we have been targeted with over the past few weeks.

The Bible proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ

“The police have not formally spoken to me about any hate crime or sought a witness statement to look at the various online comments which have included threats to burn down our church.

“As Christians we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services. The Bible, however, proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ.”

‘God loves sinners’

He added: “It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God’s Word says in relation to human sin, including all forms of sexual sin. We therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin, but that God loves sinners and Jesus can forgive all our sins.

“Newquay Baptist Church is made up of sinners who have been forgiven by a wonderful Saviour; since this is the case, we would invite all people, including the LGBT community, to come to our services. Our desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus.”




Father Richard John Neuhaus put two Big Ideas into play in American public life. The first was that the pro-life movement (of which Neuhaus was an intellectual leader) was the natural heir to the moral convictions that had animated the classic civil rights movement (in which Neuhaus was also deeply involved). The second was that the First Amendment to the Constitution did not contain two “religions clauses” but one religion clause, in which “no establishment” (i.e., no official, state-sanctioned Church) was intended to serve the “free exercise” of religion. Neither of those Big Ideas is welcome in today’s Democratic Party, in which Neuhaus (then a Lutheran pastor) was once a congressional candidate, and of which he remained a registered member until his death in January 2009.Those who point out that the 2020 Democratic platform has the most radical pro-abortion plank in American history, and that the same platform promises to hollow out religious freedom in service to lifestyle libertinism, risk being labeled “culture warriors.” Well, so be it. “Culture warrior” is snark masquerading as thought. Facts are facts. And one of the sad facts of this unhappy political moment is that Neuhaus’s effort to rescue the Democratic Party through two Big Ideas was frustrated because those two ideas got linked—and then rejected, thanks to the corruption of rights-talk that preceded, made possible, and was then accelerated by Roe v. Wade and its abortion license.While Neuhaus’s interpretation of the First Amendment on religion has gained some traction in the federal courts (including, it seems, the Supreme Court), it hasn’t dislodged the alternative view in much of the academic legal establishment or the media. That alternative was baldly stated by Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe in his constitutional law textbook. In the First Amendment, Tribe wrote, there is a “zone which the free exercise clause carves out of the establishment clause for permissible accommodation of religious interests. This carved-out area might be characterized as the zone of permissible accommodation.”

Ironically, Tribe agrees with Neuhaus on one point: There is one “religion clause” (even though the professor uses the conventional rhetoric of two such clauses). But in Tribe’s view, which has now been replicated in the 2020 Democratic Party platform, there is really just one “religion clause”—that which prohibits the state’s “establishment” of religion. Being tolerant to some degree, good liberals like Professor Tribe will try to find some wiggle room to “accommodate” religious “interests”—much like the liberally tolerant would “accommodate” the “interests” of Flat Earthers. But only up to a point.

That point was drawn close to the bone by the 2020 Democratic Party platform, which rejects what it called “broad religious exemptions” that “allow businesses, medical practices, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.” What that means in plain English is that, under a Democratic administration allied to Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Little Sisters of the Poor will be compelled to provide contraceptives, some of which are abortifacients, to their employees. That, and nothing other than that, is what the Democratic platform promises. That is also the policy the Democratic candidate for president has said he would support. Does anyone doubt that his running mate (who seems to think the Knights of Columbus are a hate group because they espouse the understanding of marriage espoused by Barack Obama in 2008) disagrees?

This is Tribe’s First Amendment theory, turbocharged: The “religious interests” of the Little Sisters of the Poor (and evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Mormons, and all others who have religiously-informed, conscience-based objections to contraception, abortion, the redefinition of marriage, and the full LGBTQ agenda) do not fit within that “zone of permissible accommodation” that “the free exercise clause carves out of the establishment clause.” So those parties are out of luck—and out of legal protection, unless the Supreme Court comes to their rescue.

In this context, appeals to personal piety, rosary-carrying, and so forth ring hollow, however sincerely felt that piety may be.

It is fatuous to dismiss concerns over the rinsing-out of religious freedom as the overwrought fretting of culture warriors. The commitments in the Democratic platform are plain, and there can be no reasonable doubt that those commitments will be given legislative and regulatory effect by a Democratic administration in league with a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratically-controlled Senate. Those are the facts. They are not the only facts to weigh. But those facts should certainly bear on conscientious Catholic voting for all federal offices in 2020.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons. Image cropped.


Sex-selective abortions in India could lead to the abortion of 5 million girls over the next decade

The lives of almost 5 million baby girls in India will be lost over the next decade  due to the prevalent use of sex-selective abortions, according to new research.

Academics at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia estimate the average annual number of “missing female births” will be 469,000 from 2017 to 2025 and 519,000 from 2026 to 2030, resulting in around 6.8 million lives lost.

Over the next decade, between 2020 and 2030, this would mean the lives of 4,890,000 baby girls would be lost to abortion – an average of more than 1,338 every day.

Anuradha Saxena, a member of the women’s empowerment division for Sikar district, in Rajasthan, told the Guardian that the figures came as no surprise to her.

“It will take time to remove deep-rooted custom and belief. Progress is slow and incremental but we are working on making girls valued and cherished instead of being seen as a liability who needs a huge dowry to be married off,” she said.

Fengqing Chao and her team modelled the sex ratio at birth across 98% of India’s population, along with fertility rates and national survey data on people’s preferences to have a son or daughter.

The model predicted that there would be 6.8 million “missing female births” across India between 2017 and 2030. The prediction started with 2017 as this is the year after the most recent birth data was published.

India’s missing female births over the next 10 years could have a significant impact on the global sex ratio, since the UN predicts that India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous country in that time period.

‘No girl born in three months’

Despite outlawing sex-selective abortion and pre-natal sex detection in 1994, sex-selective abortion and infanticide remain common practice due to the cultural preference for male children.

A recent report from India’s Government also found an estimated 63 million women were “missing” from the country’s population.

Census data from 2011 showed there were 919 girls to every 1,000 boys for children up to the age of six. In some northern states that ratio was as low as 830, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The World Health Organization says the natural sex ratio at birth is about 105 boys to every 100 girls.

Last year, it was revealed out of 216 births across dozens of villages in northern India, over a 3 month period, not a single girl was born.

Social worker Kalpana Thakur said at the time that the authorities were not doing enough.

“No girl child was born for three months in these villages. It cannot be just a coincidence. This clearly indicates female foeticide is taking place in the district. The government and the administration are not doing anything.”

Sex-selective abortion: A worldwide problem

Sex-selective abortion is a well-documented problem in countries around the world, resulting in highly skewed sex ratios.

Since amending its abortion law in 1998, sex-selective abortions have become a major issue in Canada.

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes how “easy access to abortion and advances in prenatal sex determination have combined to make Canada a haven for parents who would terminate female fetuses in favour of having sons…”.

Similarly, evidence of sex-selective abortions has been found in the Australian territory of Victoria, which introduced abortion on request in 2008.

Following the law change in Victoria, Dr Mark Hobart was investigated by the Medical Board of Victoria for failing to refer a woman for a sex-selective abortion. Additionally, an investigation by Australian broadcaster SBS found higher numbers of boys than girls being born in some ethnic communities in Australia.

A recent study from La Trobe University, analysing more than a million births in Victoria, suggests some parents could be aborting unborn female babies in order to have a son.

In the UK, shadow Minister Naz Shah has previously called for the Government to stop the misuse of Non-invasive Prenatal Test (NiPT) after evidence emerged they were being used to abort pregnancies based on gender.

The Labour MP said: “The government needs to look into this exploitative practice and enforce appropriate restrictions.”

However, Ms Shah is presumably okay with disability-selective abortions as she also said: “NIPT screenings should be used for their intended purpose, to screen for serious conditions and Down’s syndrome.”

Polling, conducted by Savanta ComRes, showed 89% of the general population and 91% of women agree that gender-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.


Only 18 babies with Down syndrome born in Denmark in 2019

Credit: Tatiana Dyuvbanova/Shutterstock.
Credit: Tatiana Dyuvbanova/Shutterstock.

.- Only 18 children with Down syndrome were born in Denmark in 2019, the lowest number on record in the Scandinavian country, according to a new report from the Danish Central Cytogenetic Registry (DCCR).

The DCCR, whose statistics date back to 1970, is a national registry of people who have undergone prenatal or postnatal chromosomal tests, molecular genetic tests, or biochemical tests.

The 18 babies born with Down syndrome in Denmark last year represent 0.029% of total births. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 700  (0.14%) children in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, or about 6,000 babies annually.

In Denmark, “the low number is probably an expression of a random fluctuation in numbers that are already quite small. But it should be followed by an important debate on society’s approach to children with disabilities,” said Olav Bjørn Petersen, chief physician and professor of fetal medicine at Rigshospitalet and the University of Copenhagen

Denmark was the first country in the world to implement national free prenatal Down syndrome screening for all pregnant women.

With the introduction of free prenatal screening in 2004, the number of children born with Down syndrome decreased significantly, but subsequently stabilized at 23 to 35 live births per year.

In 2018, 22 babies were born with Down syndrome, but in 2019 number plummeted even further.

According to the Danish National Board of Health, “95% of pregnant women whose fetus is found to have a chromosomal abnormality opt for an abortion.”

In Iceland, “nearly 100 percent” of pregnancies that tested positive for Down syndrome were aborted, according to a 2017 CBS News report.

Denmark allows abortion on demand within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After that period, abortion is only allowed if a medical council considers there to be a physical and mental risk to the health of the mother or risk of birth defects in the unborn child. Minors under 18 need parental consent to get an abortion.


Finnish MP interrogated by police again over Christian views on sexuality

Päivi Räsänen (c) is the subject of a criminal investigation over her views on sexuality(Photo: ADF International)

A Christian MP has been interrogated by the police for the third time over her traditional views on family and marriage.

Päivi Räsänen, Finland’s former Minister of the Interior, faced questioning again on 25 August over comments she made on a Finnish radio talk show last year.

During her appearance on the YiePuhe programme, Räsänen shared a conservative perspective on sexuality.

The interrogations have been conducted by the police as part of a pre-trial investigation ordered by the Finnish Prosecutor General into Räsänen’s comments.

She stands accused of “ethnic agitation”, which is punishable by up to two years in prison. 

In a Facebook post, she defended her right to publicly express her Christian beliefs and said she would not be intimidated into silence.

“I will not back down from my views,” she said.

“These police investigations have to do with whether it is legal to publicly confess and teach Bible-based views on man’s relationship with God.

“I will defend my right to confess my faith, so that no one else would be deprived of their right to freedom of religion and speech.

“I hold on to the view that my expressions are legal and they should not be censored. I will not back down from my views.I will not be intimidated into hiding my faith.”

Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International, which is supporting Räsänen’s legal defence, said hate speech laws were creating a climate of censorship.

“In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship,” he said.

“This is the foundation of every free and democratic society. Criminalizing speech through so-called ‘hate-speech’ laws shuts down important public debates and poses a grave threat to our democracies.

“These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming all too common throughout Europe.”


Six hundred attacks on religious buildings and places of worship in Northern Ireland in last five years

According to police figures, 601 incidents of criminal damage to religious buildings, churchyards or cemeteries have occurred since 2014/15.

The number of attacks during each year has remained fairly consistent, though it has been ever so slightly decreasing year on year.

There were 136 instances in 2014/15; 128 in 2015/16; 118 in 2016/17; 115 in 2017/18 and 104 in 2018/19.

The majority of these attacks took place in Belfast (173), followed by Lisburn and Castlereagh (60), Newry, Mourne and Down (58) and Ards and North Down (57).

The figures were uncovered by Christian Action Research & Education (Care NI) following a Freedom of Information request, according to Belfast Live.

Details of the attacks range between anything from window vandalism, to paint bombing and incidents of arson.

Synagogues and Islamic centres have also been subject to attacks, most notably in the Northern Irish capital.

Care NI policy officer Mark Baillie said churches are being attacked with “alarming regularity”, adding that it makes sense to consider introducing a security fund.

“More than 600 attacks in the last five years is a reminder that places of worship, which should be safe spaces for worshippers and congregants, are all too often targeted by vandalism and violence,” he said.

“The gradual easing of lockdown will surely only increase the opportunity and risk of further attacks and therefore it’s important MLAs take action.”

The door of a Roman Catholic Church suffers scorch damage from petrol bombs and paint during a sectarian attack in Northern Ireland

Care NI has called on the Stormont Executive to consider policies to ensure that places of worship are properly protected.

It has previously called for a Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding Scheme to be set up, mirroring a similar scheme available in England and Wales.

Recently, Scotland has adopted a similar scheme following a number of attacks in 2019, leaving Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK without any such set up.

“Last year, following Care NI’s previous research into this issue, we wrote to the party leaders asking for a manifesto commitment to create a security fund,” Baillie continued.

“We had positive engagement with a number of political parties and we are today calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to take this up.

“The scheme in England and Wales is a practical step we could introduce here to equip places of worship to invest in adequate security to prevent criminal damage.

“In a free and democratic society, no-one should be afraid of gathering together with those who share their faith in a place of worship.”