News Roundup

As Iran celebrates 40 years of Islamic revolution, persecution of Christians continues unabated

Christians today are persecuted in Iran on a larger scale now more than ever in the past 40 years, according to Article18, a Christian human rights organization focussed on Iran. The claim was made as the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic revolution was feted in Ireland and around the world.

“For 40 years, the Iranian government has harbored an intolerant view towards Christianity,” said Mansour Borji, advocacy director at Article18, a Christian human rights organization focused on Iran.

“Administrations have changed and the methods have varied, but the objective remains the same: to restrict Christians’ influence on all spheres of Iranian life,” he added.

An in-depth report on violations against Iranian Christians in 2018 was jointly released last month by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Article18. The report stated that according to public records, 29 Christians were held in detention in 2018 for terms of 6 months to 10 years (if formally sentenced at all). Eight were released.

The report emphasized that many more detentions of Christians remained undocumented.

The joint report states that most violations occur against converts from Islam. If arrested, they are pressured to recant; if they don’t, they may be charged with evangelism, illegal house church activity, or endangering national security.

Open Doors lists Iran as No. 9 among the world’s most dangerous places to be a Christian, and stated the Iranian government views converts as a Western attempt to undermine Islam and the Islamic Republic.


Medical Council begins online consultation to revise ethics of abortion

People’s reactions to proposed ethical guidelines that should govern doctors in light of the new abortion regime are being canvassed in an online poll. The Medical Council have set up the survey as the final part of a consultation process. It is open to all the public. One of the biggest proposed changes is to amend the article that prohibits the deliberate killing of a patient, and replace it with a prohibition on the “unlawful” killing of a patient.

Members of the Medico-Legal Alliance said the proposal to equate the term “ethical” with “legal” would “rob the guidelines of any moral force”.

The Life Institute called the proposed changes “deeply disturbing“.

Spokeswoman Niamh Uí Bhriain said: ” It’s very clear that they understand killing is involved, but they want to reflect that some killing – that of innocent, tiny babies – is to be permitted. It’s appalling, but it does reveal the reality of this cruel abortion legislation, and what the government is trying to force doctors to do.”


Police investigate repellent desecration of French church

Prosecutor’s have opened an investigation into the desecration of a church in Nîmes, France. The church of Notre-Dame des Enfants was attacked last week and a cross was drawn on a wall with excrement on which pieces of consecrated hosts were stuck. The tabernacle was broken and other consecrated hosts were destroyed.

The Bishop of Nîmes, Robert Wattebled, issued a statement that aid the desecration shocked the whole diocesan community and the church would have to close until a purification could be effected. “The sign of the cross and the Blessed Sacrament have been the subject of serious injurious actions. This act of profanation hurts us all in our deepest convictions. Under these conditions, worship can no longer be celebrated in this building until the profanation has been repaired by a penitential rite whose date is not yet fixed” he said.

He added: “Already, the Carmelites, Cistercians and Poor Clares of the Diocese have agreed to observe a day of fasting and worship, as compensation for acts of vandalism. In their own way, all the Catholic communities will be able to associate themselves with this prayer, in the way that will seem appropriate to them.”


Hungary offers lifetime tax exemption for mothers of four children

Hungarian women with four children or more will be exempted for life from paying income tax, the prime minister has said, unveiling plans designed to boost the number of babies being born.

As part of the measures, the Government also announced a low-interest loan of €31 500 for women under the age of 40 marrying for the first time. A third of the debt will be forgiven if two children are born to the couple and the entire loan waived after a third child.

A loan program for families with at least two children to help them buy homes will be expanded.

For families struggling with housing, the government will give €3,150 towards a mortgage after the birth of a second child, and €12,580, after a third child, with an additional €3,150 for every subsequent child. Grand-parents could be eligible for “GYED” – a type of paid maternity leave until their grandchildren reach the age of three. The Hungarian nursery system will be expanded with 21,000 new places by 2022.

A subsidy of almost €8,000 will be offered toward the purchase a seven-seat vehicle for families with three or more children. The government also plan to spend an extra €2bn on the country’s healthcare system.

State Secretary for Families Katalin Novak told the BBC the government’s new package is based on the number of babies couples would actually like to have, and then to encourage them with financial help. The aim is to increase the fertility rate from 1.45 to 2.1 by 2030.

Hungary’s population is falling by 32,000 a year as women are having fewer children even than the EU average.

According to Mr Orban, it was also a way of ensuring Hungary’s future without depending on immigration.


Child is returned to its mother’s womb after spine surgery

In a remarkable advance in foetal medicine, a baby in the UK was removed from its mother’s womb for an operation and then put safely back in afterwards so it could continue with its nine-month gestation.

The child had been diagnosed with spina bifida after a routine 20 week scan and its mother, Bethan Simpson, chose the innovative surgery to repair the problem after refusing an abortion.

Spina bifida should not be not a death sentence, she told reporters, adding that the child has the same potential as every one of us.

In the UK, up to 80% of children diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted.

The case also raises serious jurisprudential issues regarding the status of the unborn child. In some countries, legal rights are not conferred upon the child until it is born: but what then of a child that is taken from its womb and then put back?


Crime of killing unborn child disappears for man charged with murder of pregnant woman

A charge of criminal abortion has been dropped from the indictment against a man who murdered a pregnant woman as New York state no longer recognises it as a crime according to its new, extreme abortion law.

Prosecutors initially included a charge of abortion as well as murder against a man arrested Friday in his pregnant girlfriend’s killing — but rescinded it when they realised it the charge had been repealed by the legislature.

In the brutal murder, captured on CCTV, the man dragged the woman from her apartment and stabbed her in the stomach. “He’s got a knife! He’s going to kill the baby!” shouted five-months-pregnant Jennifer Irigoyen around 1 a.m. as her attacker pulled her from her third-floor Ridgewood walk-up and down the stairs to the building’s entranceway, horrified witness Maurice Roman Zereoue told The New York Post.

A neighbour said she heard a man and a woman arguing loudly and then the victim “yelling … about wanting to protect her baby.’’

Her boyfriend was subsequently arrested and charged with the killing of both mother and unborn child, but that charge has now been reduced simply to the killing of the mother.


American University caught discriminating against religious student groups

A US federal court ruled that the University of Iowa illegally targeted student religious groups in denying them official recognition. The University had objected to the groups having an ethos requirement whereby their leaders had to be selected from those who followed their faith.

While the case concerned one Christian group in particular, during the course of discovery, it was revealed that the University had put 31 groups on probationary status and every one of them was religious in character.

The University funded many other groups which explicitly restrict or control access to leadership or membership based on categories like race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and U.S. military service. Nonetheless, the University had operated a policy that said “religious registered student organizations are not permitted to require their leaders to agree with and live by the organization’s religious beliefs.”

Ironically, the University claimed they were acting on an anti-discriminatory impulse, but the Court found them to be engaged in discrimination.


Christian printers fined for refusing to print same-sex ceremony invitations

A county Louth print and design company has been ordered to pay €2,500 to a gay man for refusing to print invitations for a same-sex, civil partnership ceremony. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found that Beulah Print and Design discriminated against Jonathon Brennan on the grounds of sexual orientation under Section 3 of the Equal Status Act.

Beulah told the WRC that the refusal of this service was not due to Mr Brennan’s sexual orientation but was rather due to the subject matter which was contrary to their religious beliefs. They were not refusing the person, just the particular order.

They had turned down requests to print material depicting nudity before based on the same convictions. Beulah stated that they would have refused the same request if it had been made by someone with a heterosexual orientation. They had also served Mr Brennan happily for four years and would continue to do so in the future in respect of other material.

The WRC rejected their argument despite the Supreme Court in the USA and in the UK accepting the same argument in high profile cases in the last few months.

In a statement on the WRC’s finding, Beulah said that it rejected the ruling as it “simply acted in accordance with the light of our own consciences as followers of Christ”.

“For us, designing and printing invitations to such events would be the lending of our approval and even the promotion of the content and is therefore something we could never do.”


Women petitioning for divorce drops significantly in UK over last 25 years

The number of women divorcing their husbands has dropped to its lowest level in a generation, new figures reveal. There were a total of 62,712 women who filed for divorce in the UK in 2017, compared with 118,401 in 1993. The number of divorces initiated by husbands fell by 15% to 38,957 over the same period, according to Office for National Statistics figures.

Overall divorce rates in Britain are at their lowest since 1973, some four years after the present law was introduced. The UK has a fault-based divorce system so that, unless a spouse can prove their marriage has broken down due to adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to obtain a divorce without a spouse’s consent is to live apart for five years.

Joanne Edwards, head of family at Forsters, a London law firm, has analysed the grounds cited for divorce. She has found a “sea change in the sharing of childcare responsibilities within the home and fathers who are ever more hands-on” and this has reduced what had been a common complaint of wives, who in the past sought a divorce on the grounds of bad behaviour.

Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court judge and founder of the Marriage Foundation, said it was time to challenge the stereotype of men behaving badly. “When I was engaged in the justice system, wives were almost always the initiators of divorce,” he said. “That is becoming less and less true year by year. Why? The only sensible explanation is that men are behaving better and more responsibly when it comes to marriage.”


Review group recommends more State control over religious hospitals

Public interest directors could be appointed to religious-owned hospitals if the Government accepts the recommendations of a review group. According to a report in the Times, Ireland edition, the review group shied away from recommending the State take over the health services of voluntary hospitals, but they did advise that changes be made to how they are funded and governed.

The group has proposed state representation on the boards of all voluntary organisations that get more than €20m a year from the exchequer, when this amounts to more than half their income.

If the proposal is adopted, it will mean public interest directors being appointed by the Health Minister to large non-HSE hospitals such as St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, the Mater hospital group, and the Mercy University Hospital in Cork.

Simon Harris, the Health Minister, is expected to seek approval for the appointments when he brings the report to cabinet in a fortnight.

The group says the state should allocate money for specific services rather than providing block grants, and recommends all faith-based voluntary organisations publicly state their services are available to everyone.