Iraq passed bill criminalizing relations with Israel, punishable with death sentence

Matt 24:10,11 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Important Takeaways:

  • The legislation says that violation of the law is punishable with the death sentence or life imprisonment.
  • It was unclear how the law will be implemented as Iraq has not recognized Israel since the country’s formation in 1948
  • The legislation also entails risks for companies working in Iraq and found to be in violation of the bill.

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San Marino abortion debate heats up ahead of historic referendum

By Angelo Amante and Emily Roe

SAN MARINO (Reuters) – One of Europe’s staunchest opponents to legal abortion could fall on Sunday when San Marino, a tiny and deeply Catholic republic landlocked in Italy, holds a referendum to overturn a law dating back to 1865.

A “Yes” vote will bring some relief for pro-choice supporters further afield who have been dismayed as authorities in countries like Poland and in the U.S. state of Texas have tightened laws.

In the mountainous enclave of 33,000 people, women who end their pregnancies risk three years’ imprisonment. The term is twice as long for anyone who carries out their abortion.

As the campaign enters its final week emotions are running high between traditionalists and the referendum’s promoters, with hard-hitting posters on the medieval streets.

Vanessa Muratori, a member of the San Marino Women’s Union, believes the Sept. 26 plebiscite will crown a personal 18-year battle to give San Marino women the same rights as in Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1978.

“I care about my country and I want it to be civilized,” she says. “I feel like a link in a chain of women’s emancipation that goes beyond San Marino.”

Elsewhere in Europe, the Mediterranean island of Malta, and the micro-states of Andorra and the Vatican City, another Italian enclave, still ban abortion altogether.

Muratori set up a feminist association in 1994 and presented a bill to legalize abortion to San Marino’s legislative council in 2003. It received just two votes in favor and 16 against.

The experience brought home to her the extent of the religion-based resistance to change, and convinced her that a well prepared campaign was needed to win over her compatriots’ hearts and minds.

Success on Sunday will allow abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter only in the case of the mother’s life being in danger or of grave malformation of the fetus.


In Europe’s last referendum on abortion, the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar voted in June to ease what remain extremely strict curbs.

Ireland legalized abortion in a far higher-profile referendum in 2018, while this month the state of Texas went in the other direction, introducing a law that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Social progress has always been slow in San Marino.

Women did not get the right to vote until 1960, 14 years after surrounding Italy, and have only been allowed to hold political office since 1974. Divorce was legalized in 1986, some 16 years after Italy.

Nonetheless, Muratori’s Women’s Union, campaigning from a gazebo in a children’s playground near the Italian border, has made inroads into the conservative mentality, and gathered 3,000 signatures to launch the vote, three times more than required.

“From my point of view this referendum shouldn’t even be necessary, choosing whether to have a baby or not should be part of a woman’s human freedom,” said Anita Alvarez, a 20-year-old student.

The ‘No’ campaign is equally determined. Using the slogan “one of us,” its core message is that the unborn child should have the same rights as all San Marino citizens.

Marina Corsi, a pharmacist active with the ‘NO’ committee, said this principle should not be compromised even in cases of rape or the certainty of severe disability for the unborn baby.

“It is not the baby who is guilty in rape cases, it is the rapist who should be punished, not the child,” she said.

As things stand, San Marino women wanting an abortion normally go to Italy, where they can only get one privately, at a cost of around 1,500 euros ($1,766).

“Women are forced to seek healthcare …as criminals because they are rejected by their own state,” said Karen Pruccoli, a businesswoman who is a member of the ‘YES’ committee backing the referendum.

(Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Canadian diplomats visit pastor imprisoned in North Korea

South Korean-Canadian Pastor Imprisoned by North Korea

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Diplomats from Canada this week paid a rare visit to North Korea and were able to see a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence for subversion, a foreign ministry official said on Thursday.

Hyeon Soo Lim, who served at one of the largest churches in Canada, was sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 for what North Korea says was an attempt to overthrow the regime. He is the only Western citizen known to be held currently in North Korea.

Chantal Gagnon, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, confirmed a report by North Korea’s KCNA news agency that said the diplomats visited the country from Tuesday until Thursday and saw Lim.

“We are still very concerned about his health, well-being and continued detention and are ‎working actively to secure his release,” she said.

“This case is absolutely a priority for us,” she added, declining to give details of Lim’s health.

In a statement, Lim’s Toronto-area church said “we are hopeful that this is a positive sign that we will see Reverend Lim released and home soon.”

Canada established diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 2001 but froze them in 2010. Ottawa now says it will only talk to North Korea about regional security, human rights and consular cases.

The church has said Lim visited North Korea more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home.

In January, Lim told CNN he spends eight hours a day digging holes at a labor camp where he has not seen any other prisoners.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Andrea Hopkins; Editing by James Dalgleish and Andrew Hay)

Husband Claims Bounty Placed On Imprisoned Christian Asia Bibi

The husband of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman imprisoned on false charges of blasphemy, says that a bounty has been placed upon her head by Muslims who want her killed.

Ashiq Masih, who has been fighting for his wife’s freedom, told MailOnline that Muslim clerics have put a bounty on her head in case she is freed after a hearing later this month.

“The Maulvis [clerics] want her dead,” he told the MailOnline. “They have announced a prize of [98 to $4,915] for anyone who kills Asia. They have even declared that if the court acquits her they will ensure the death sentence stands.”

The family has been also the subject of threats of violence by Muslim groups.  They have been forced to move 15 times since Asia’s death sentence in 2010.  They only go out at night and cover their faces so they cannot be identified.

Ashiq said he misses his wife and wants her home.

“I really love her and miss her presence,’ he said. ‘I cannot sleep at night as I miss her. I miss her smile; I miss everything about her. She is my soul mate. I cannot see her in prison. It breaks my heart. Life has been non-existent without her.”

Groups worldwide have been calling for Bibi’s release from the false charges.

Iranian Pastor Acquitted Of Crimes

Three Iranian pastors who were facing six years in prison for committing “action against national security” by sharing Christ have been acquitted of their crimes.

Behman Irani, the leader of the 300 member Church of Iran, had been facing 18 new charges along with two other pastors in the church, Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad and Reza Rabbani.

The charges included “spreading corruption on Earth” which carries a death penalty.

An appeals court overturned the convictions of the three men on December 9th.  Irani is still being held in prison because of a conviction on another charge that has him in jail for another two years.

“It is encouraging to see the Iranian judicial system rule on the merits of the case, rather than simply exploiting the system as a means of persecuting religious minorities, as is regularly the case,” International Christian Concern Regional Manager Todd Daniels remarked in a statement. “It is a fundamental aspect of religious freedom to be able to meet together with others who share your beliefs. For too long, the Iranian regime has treated such meetings as a threat to national security.”

Christian Groups Call For End To Pakistan Funding

While the leaders of Pakistan were using a blasphemy law to persecute Christians and keep a Christian mother jailed on false charges, the United States was giving the Pakistani government over $7.5 billion.

The American Center for Law and Justice is now calling for the United States to end financial aid to countries that persecute religious minorities.

“We must stop sending billions of our taxpayer dollars to nations that persecute Christians. It’s that simple. Not one more dime for persecution. Cut off American foreign aid to any country that persecutes Christians,” a petition started by the ACLJ reads.  “As a wave of persecution sweeps across the Middle East — and Christians flee for their lives — it’s time for the money to stop.  Already there is growing support for basic human rights and basic common sense on Capitol Hill.”

The focus of the petition is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy by Muslims who were upset she took a drink of water from a bowl they wanted to use to drink.

Bibi’s death sentence for blasphemy is now in the hands of the country’s supreme court.

United Nations Panel Slams Iran Over Abedini

A United Nations panel has slammed Iran for their continued imprisonment of Pastor Saeed Abedini for his Christian faith.

The Iranians have been firm in refusing to free the pastor before the end of an eight-year prison term for being a Christian.

United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says that the 34-year-old Abedini “has been deprived of his liberty for peacefully exercising the rights to freedom of religion, belief, and association.”

The report detailed all the issues surrounding the imprisonment of Abedini and called for his immediate release.

Saeed’s wife Naghmeh has been pleading with the White House and lawmakers to do something to free her husband from his wrongful imprisonment.  She hopes that the U.N. report will be a large step toward her husband’s release.

“There are times where your cause feels forgotten — but today is not one of those days,” Naghmeh told Fox News. “From the depths of my heart, I urge the member countries of the UN to act on the recommendations of this report. As these countries sit face-to-face with Iran during the upcoming UN General Assembly, I plead with them to ask for my husband’s release. It is time for our family to be re-united. My children need their father and I need my husband.”

The administration has been criticized for negotiating the release of potential traitor Bowe Bergdahl while doing virtually nothing to gain the release of Abedini from Iran.