Every Friday, we bring to you the top five international stories of the week, with a particular emphasis on religious liberty, justice issues, and geopolitical issues that impact liberty and justice.
1. Obama Administration issues declaration that ISIS campaign against religious minorities, including Christians, is genocide. The ERLC worked with other organizations for months, through both public letters and dozens of private meetings and conversations to keep this issue on the State Department's agenda. Russell Moore, ERLC President, said, "Millions, including many of our Christian brothers and sisters, have experienced the most brutal forms of persecution, and entire cultures are now on the brink of extinction." The ERLC welcomes this announcement and commend Secretary Kerry for moving forward with the declaration in opposition to advice by close aides and advisors.
2. Progress made during Syria peace talks in Geneva this week. One major sticking point is the release of a number of rebel leaders detained by the Assad regime; progress was not made on this issue. Secretary Kerry will travel to Russia next week to discuss the progress made this week. Most remain skeptical of Russia's involvement and concerned about Russian interest and involvement in the Assad regime and the peace process. But a New York Times op-ed tells us that we need not be afraid of the Russians. We shall see.
3. In major surprise, Russia withdraws a portion of its troops from Syria. Moscow is still maintaining troops and planes in Syria, but the announcement does signal a significant troop and warplane drawdown. Putin indicated that the reason for the troop withdrawal was that Russia has achieved most of the objectives it set prior to intervening in the conflict. Although we should be careful to not interpret Putin's declaration of "mission accomplished" to mean that the war is now over. But Russia has succeeded in stabilizing the Assad regime's military presence in Syria and in establishing itself as a key voice through the remainder of the peace process and civil war.
4. North Korea sentences 21-year-old American college student to 15 years of prison and hard labor. The North Korean government has sentenced 21-year-old American college student, Otto Warmbier, to 15 years of prison and hard labor. Warmbier had entered N. Korea as part of a tour group and was arrested prior to flying out of the country when it was discovered that he was attempting to steal a propaganda banner in support of the communist regime. Hours late, the US Government imposed a set of sanctions on N. Korea that are the result of a UN Security Council resolution from two weeks prior. This harsh conviction marks a similar pattern in oppressive governance by the N. Korean dictatorship and is a reminder of the need for continuing and urgent prayer, gospel work, and legal reform north of the 38th Parallel. Also this week, US officials say North Korea fired ballistic missiles into the ocean in apparent test launch.
5. EU deal with Turkey on migrants continues to move forward. As Ankara scrutinizes the draft deal, both parties continue to move toward a final agreement. However, a final deal is far but certain. The government of Cyprus has expressed concerns about the deal, which could accelerate Turkey's accession to the EU. Cyprus remains divided between independent southern Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a country recognized only by Turkey.
Have suggestions for a top 5 article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected].
Matthew Mihelic contributed to this post.