Bible balloons stopped as peace talks stall

South Korean police prevented a Christian ministry from its latest launch of balloons that would carry Bibles into North Korea, as ongoing discussions between the two countries grew tense and then stalled in June. Diplomatic experts have said North Korea’s dictator might be trying to manufacture a crisis to improve his negotiating position. South Korean officials, worried about provocations, have placed new restrictions on the Voice of the Martyrs Korea project. For more than a decade, the ministry has sent as many as 40,000 Bible balloons per year into North Korea, saying the Scriptures that fall out of the sky support underground Christians.

Curator: Art belongs in churches

The director of one of Italy’s most prominent museums is arguing religious artwork should be returned to churches. The Uffizi Gallery’s Eike Schmidt, a German who previously served as a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, said museums secularize art. Works are presented as aesthetic rather than spiritual. Schmidt also said the Italian government has been storing some religious objects since World War II with no plans to display them. A leading Catholic official called the idea provocative but unrealistic “for reasons that everyone will understand.”

Evangelicals appeal to United Nations

Evangelicals are asking the Human Rights Committee at the United Nations to pressure the Iraqi government for recognition. Since the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the General Society for Iraqi National Evangelical Churches has petitioned three successive governments without success. Without recognition, they cannot own property, open bank accounts, operate schools or health clinics, or publish anything. The new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has raised some hopes by saying Christians are an authentic part of Iraqi culture.

Pastor wins presidency

Lazarus Chakwera, an Assemblies of God pastor, has been elected president of Malawi. Chakwera led the country’s Pentecostal denomination for more than 20 years before turning to politics. He lost one presidential race in 2014 and another in 2019, but then a top court found widespread fraud and ordered a re-vote. This is only the second time an African court has canceled election results, and it is seen as a significant step for democracy. Chakwera won this election with 58 percent of the vote. He said God told him to pastor the nation.

Homeschool dad released from prison

A Cuban pastor has been released from prison one year into his two-year sentence for homeschooling his children. Ramón Rigal, an Iglesia de Dios pastor, enrolled his two children in a distance-learning program based in Mexico after his fourth-grade daughter was bullied in school. Rigal and his wife, Ayda Expósito, were convicted in 2019 of “acts contrary to the normal development of a minor.” The prosecutor said homeschooling was not allowed because of its “capitalist base” and because trained teachers are required to “inculcate” Cuba’s Communist values. Expósito was released in March. The Home School Legal Defense Association has argued that homeschoolers should be granted asylum in the US.

Religious freedom observers blocked

The Indian government has denied visas to United States observers seeking to report on religious freedom. Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which includes evangelicals Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer, and Johnnie Moore, is not impartial. He claims it does not understand the constitutional rights of Indian citizens and points out the commission is a foreign entity with no authority to pronounce judgment on India. The commission, an advisory body that makes recommendations to the government, has called for sanctions against India in response to a new citizenship law that disadvantages Muslim refugees.

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