Afghanistan's ruling Taliban have shut down the Kabul office of Shelter Now International, an Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based Christian relief and development organization and arrested 24 workers. Reuters reports government officials have confirmed that those arrested are safe even though they are accusing them with propagating Christianity. Converting Muslims to Christianity is a crime punishable by death.
According to the Associated Press:
[The] office was sealed Sunday after a raid by enforcement officers of the Taliban's ministry for promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, witnesses said. The officers reportedly seized a Bible, two computers and Christian literature translated into the local Dari language, cassettes and musical instruments.
The office, in operation just a few months, was the aid group's first venture into Taliban-controlled territory, said Community Relations Director Joan Grawvunder in Oshkosh. "I think we'd be foolish not to be worried. We know God's in control, but it's still people we know and care about," she said.
Shelter Now has not posted any response online.
Muslim rebels seize 36 more hostages, attacked by army
On Aug. 2, Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas made their biggest attack in the Philippines since May 27 when the group attacked a southwestern beach resort, seizing 20 hostages—including New Tribes Mission workers Martin and Gracia Burnham.
In Thursday's raid, the group seized as many as 36 Filipino captives from the southern town of Lamitan, a frequent target of the Muslim rebels. Nine were released shortly following the attack but 10 have been found beheaded.
On Sunday morning, Philippine army soldiers engaged in a gun battle with the abductors and rescued 13 of the Lamitan victims. While most of those taken from Lamitan are accounted for by authorities now, reports estimate the groups still have approximately 21 hostages including the Burnhams.
Blessed are the Tilt-A-Whirls
As the Wisconsin State Fair celebrates its 150th birthday, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel looked at a unique side of the fair—the churching of carnival workers in America.
The focus is John Vakulskas Jr. of Larchwood, Iowa, a 57-year-old Roman Catholic priest who has been ministering to carnival workers for 32 years while also regularly blessing various fairgrounds and rides. The Journal-Sentinel reports:
It was in July 1969 that he got a phone call from the wife of a carnival owner who'd fallen ill while the carnival was in LeMars, Iowa. He answered the call and ministered to the man. The carnival owner ultimately survived, and he and his wife urged Vakulskas to minister to their workers.
In 1993, he was officially named the U.S. carnival chaplain by the Catholic Conference.
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