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. ISIS releases 25 Assyrian Christians in Syria, but dozens remain in ISIS hands. Last week, ISIS released 25 Christians that had been held in captivity for nine months. It is unclear whether any ransoms were paid, although a church leader involved with the release indicated fundraising efforts had been ongoing in several countries. The fate of the dozens of remaining hostages is unknown, as efforts to secure their release continue.
2. Under Caesar’s Sword Rome Conference unveils research of 100+ Christian communities facing persecution around the world. Over the weekend, a conference of over 200 academics, clergy, and religious liberty advocates convened in Rome to discuss the situation of Christians and other religious minority communities around the world. The conference unveiled nearly two years of work by 14 researchers that fanned out across the globe to conduct on-the-ground interviews and and reporting. In the coming weeks and months, formal academic papers will be released, and the Under Caesar’s Sword website has detailed country-by-country reporting today.
3. Story to watch: NY Times reports cover up of Navy SEAL abuse of detainees in Afghanistan. The Times reports that the Afghan police brought a group of Afgan men to an American outpost. The Afgan police – who were being trained by SEAL Team 2 – were beating and abusing the detainees. Instead of stopping the violence, the SEALs allegedly joined in, jump-kicking one, stomping on another, and dropping heavy rocks on their chests. One of the detainees died as a result of the incident. The Times interviewed Geoffrey Corn, a former military lawyer and expert on the law of war. Of the incident, Corn said: “What’s the message for the 10,000 guys that were in the same moment and said, ‘No, we’re not crossing this line’? . . . It diminishes the immense courage it takes to maintain that line between legitimate and illegitimate violence.” This will be a story to watch, as it goes to the heart of American legitimacy abroad.
4. Iran test-fires a medium-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. The rocket test is a violation of a UN Security Council resolution unrelated to the Iran nuclear deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This will present a major challenge to the Obama Administration as the Iranian regime presses against the boundaries placed upon it by the rest of the world. The Obama Administration has hinted that it may press for new sanctions, but analysts predict that China and Russia would block any additional sanctions at the Security Council.
5. Two-day-old ceasefire in Yemen on the brink of collapse. The Saudi-led alliance and Yemen’s Houthi rebels had agreed to a seven-day ceasefire set to start this Tuesday. According to Reuters, “The truce was intended to last seven days and coincide with the peace talks to try to end a nine-month-old civil war between the Houthis based in Yemen's north and Saudi-backed southern and eastern fighters loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.” Both sides are now accusing the other of breaking the terms of the truce, and it is unclear what hope remains for the negotiations to resolve an issue that has distracted the Saudis from other pressing threats in the region (read: the Islamic State).
Bonus longread: Profile of the Tunisian government worker that started the Arab Spring by confiscating the vegetable stand run by Mohammed Bouazizi. In despair and protest, Bousazizi set himself on fire, sparking a revolution in Tunisia and across North Africa and the Middle East.
Have suggestions for a top five article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected].