LISTEN: Urban Christian News Weekend Report #122

1. According to the Associated Press, Grieving Christians prayed, sang and clapped hands at an Easter Sunday service at a church in Garissa, a Kenyan town where Islamic extremists killed 148 people in an attack on a school. Security forces patrolled the perimeter of Our Lady of Consolation Church, which was attacked by militants several years ago. Sunday’s ceremony was laden with emotion for the several hundred members of Garissa’s Christian minority, which is fearful following the attack by al-Shabab, a Somalia-based Islamic extremist group. The gunmen who attacked Garissa University College on Thursday singled out Christians for killing.

2. According to AFP, Pope Francis condemned indifference and “complicit silence” to jihadist attacks on Christians as he presided over Easter ceremonies in the wake of a massacre of nearly 150 people at a Kenyan university by al-Shebab Islamists. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics brought up the extremist persecution of Christians as the holiest ceremonies of the Church calendar reached a climax on Sunday, when believers celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. After the traditional Way of the Cross procession through Rome, Pope Francis said, “Today we see our brothers persecuted, decapitated, crucified for their faith in Christ, under our eyes and often with our complicit silence.”

3. According to Reuters, Russia and the Red Cross appealed on Saturday for a military pause in Yemen to allow urgent humanitarian aid deliveries and evacuation of civilians after 10 days of Saudi-led air strikes and fighting in which hundreds of people have died. Russia distributed a draft resolution at the United Nations pressing for suspensions of the air strikes to allow evacuation of foreign civilians and diplomats, and demanding rapid and unhindered humanitarian access. The International Committee of the Red Cross called for an immediate pause in hostilities to deliver life-saving medical aid, saying three of its shipments remained blocked.

4. According to CBS News, Shifts in the world’s major religions will see Islam growing faster than any other faith, with the number of Muslims nearly equaling that of Christians by 2050. A new Pew Research Center study finds that with the exception of Buddhists, the world’s major religions will all see an increase in numbers by 2050, although some will make up a smaller percentage from today. Muslims are the only major religious group projected to increase faster than the world’s population as a whole. Over the coming four decades, Christianity will remain the world’s largest religious affiliation, but Islam will see a major increase that will make the two religions nearly equal in numbers by 2050.

5. According to Israel National News, Arab news sources have reported that an unidentified jet believed to be from Israel destroyed warehouses in southern Libya that held weapons bought by Iran for Hamas. According to the reports in Al Watan and other news outlets, the warehouses were completely destroyed. The weapons that were inside them had allegedly been purchased by Iran, by means of weapons dealers in Sudan and Chad, and were supposed to be smuggled to Hamas through Egypt, by means of the smuggling tunnels between Sinai and Gaza.

6. According to the Pew Research Center, for years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this trend, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is expected to fall, according to the Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religion. To be clear, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.

7. According to Reuters, local official news agency are reporting that four people were killed and more than 20 were wounded by a suicide bomb attack on a security checkpoint east of the Libyan city of Misrata.

8. According to The Times of Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel without preconditions, in a marked departure from comments made last month ruling out the possibility of negotiating a two-state solution while Prime Minister Netanyahu was in power. In an interview with the pan-Arab media outlet al-Arab from Ramallah, Abbas expressed his support for a two-state solution and peace with Israel. He said, “I tell the Israeli people: our hands are outstretched to exist in two states. I hope that you do not cut down the outstretched hand of peace, because the alternative will be devastating for everyone.”

9. According to The Times of Israel, After threatening to send the country to “Israhell” last summer, anti-Israel hackers are promising an “electronic Holocaust” this month. An electronic voiceover claiming to be from the amorphous hacking group Anonymous warned in a video released this week that hackers “will punish the foolish Zionist entity” for its “bombing, killing and kidnapping of the Palestinian people.” The cyberattack will supposedly take place on April 7. And the group says, “As we did many times, we will take down your servers, government web sites, Israeli military web sites and Israeli institutions. We will erase you from cyberspace in our electronic Holocaust.”

10. According to Fox News, This Easter and Passover weekend, television viewers will have a plethora of Bible based shows to choose from, giving them ample opportunity to get in touch with their faith. In fact, between last Palm Sunday and this Easter Sunday there have been and are, no less than 13 Bible-themed offerings. Some are dramatizations like NatGeo’s “Killing Jesus,” based on the bestselling book by Bill O’Reilly, and CBS’s the “Dovekeepers” about the siege of Masada based on a novel by Alice Hoffman. But there are also Bible documentaries like the Science Channel’s “Biblical Conspiracies” and American Heroes’ “Secrets of the Bible.” One that has been much-anticipated is from NBC called “A.D. The Bible Continues,” produced by Mark Burnett and wife Roma Downey who also produced The History Channel’s “The Bible” mini-series.

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