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. Major bombing attack at park in Lahore, Pakistan, on Easter Sunday kills 65 and wounds nearly 400. The attack specifically targeted Christians on Easter Sunday, according to the group that carried out the attack. That group, Jamaat-e-Ahrar, is a splinter group of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamist group waging an insurgency in Afghanistan. Most of us can be excused for not knowing that the attack in Pakistan targeted Christians, however, because most media outlets seemed reluctant to report on that fact.
2. New Canadian government to close its Office of Religious Freedom within the foreign ministry. Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett has faithfully served Canada and persecuted religious minorities around the world since he was appointed in 2013. In 2015, the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau took control of Canadian Parliament. The Liberals signaled early on that they would not renew the mandate of the Office for Religious Freedom, which was set to expire March 31 of this year. In response, Jewish, Sikh and Ahmadiyya Muslim organizations asked the Liberal government not to scrap the office. The Catholic Bishops and Robert George and Katrina Lantos Swett of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom have also weighed in, asking the new Canadian government to reconsider. So far, these calls have been ignored. Until yesterday, Canada was the only other country other than the United States to have an Ambassador for Religious Freedom. Ambassador David Saperstein now holds that distinction alone.
3. Myanmar swears in first civilian president in decades, ending military rule in the country. This election represents a major shift in the country, which has been under military rule for 50 years. The previous president instituted several reforms that paved the way for this election. While this election provides many signs of hope, Myanmar is not yet truly free of military rule. Several key security ministries are controlled by the military, and the military has veto power over any changes to the constitution. The NLD party won in a landslide, picking up 392 of the 492 available seats. Through Myanmar's 2008 constitution, the President is chosen indirectly, by the Parliament.Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD Party cannot become the President, however. The BBC explains: "Article 59F of the constitution states that if one of your "legitimate children . . . owes allegiance to a foreign power" you are disqualified. That covers both Ms Suu Kyi's sons Kim and Alexander, who have British passports."
4. Man hijacks EgyptAir plane to get attention from ex-wife, gets attention from police instead. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident. The hijacker, Seif al-Din Mustafa, claimed to be wearing a suicide bomb belt; the belt turned out to be a fake. The plane was diverted to Larnaca, Cyprus, where an hours-long standoff between police and Mustafa ensued. The hijacking ended without incident. It has been widely report that Mustafa, who police said was "unstable," hijacked the plane to get the attention of his ex-wife, who lives in Cyprus. But the hijacker also made other "incoherent demands," shedding doubt on his overall intentions. Newsweek has an exclusive interview with the copilot, who was alone with the hijacker before making a dramatic escape out of the cockpit.
5. “Sickening” allegations of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic emerge (warning: graphic story). As the UN Security Council's investigation commences in the Central African Republic, a new set of accusations regarding sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers has emerged alleging that more than 100 girls were abused by UN soldiers in one prefecture. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power declared, “These infernal abuses defy the very values the UN was created to uphold, taint the legitimacy of the institution, and undermine the effectiveness of those honorable peacekeepers who are attempting to protect civilians and promote peace.” It will be necessary to monitor the UN’s ability and will to legitimately govern itself in a region of the world so often famous for human rights atrocities yet so often overlooked.
Have suggestions for a top 5 article this week or think there’s an issue we should be covering? Email me at [email protected].