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A sword of conquest at Hagia Sophia

Erdogan officially reopens the ancient church as a mosque

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center) takes part in Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Associated Press/Turkish Presidency (pool)

A sword of conquest at Hagia Sophia

TURKEY: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited prayers on Friday from Hagia Sophia, officially opening again as a mosque the 900-year-old church that authorities a century ago had turned into a museum. As tens of thousands of Muslims gathered inside and outside, the country’s head of religious affairs, Ali Erbas, ascended the pulpit with a sword in hand, a traditional Ottoman-era gesture of conquest. The United States, Russia, and 27 European Union nations have condemned the move—as Erdogan’s belligerent rhetoric threatens religious minorities and political dissidents.

CHINA: Record rains along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River are affecting more than 45 million people and soon will test the massive Three Gorges Dam—which is currently halfway between a warning level and its maximum capacity.

In a world distracted by pandemic, China’s Communist government is aggressively consolidating dominance over its tens of millions of Christians—an important overview by Hudson Institute scholar Nina Shea.

Authorities also are destroying folk religion temples in rural communities.

VIETNAM mobilized domestic airlines to evacuate about 80,000 local tourists from Da Nang as the country—after going 99 days without any cases of the coronavirus—on Saturday reported its first new case: a 57-year-old man now in critical condition. That’s led to at least 11 additional cases.

INDIA is the third country, behind the United States at 4.2 million and Brazil at 2.4 million, to register more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. But undercounting likely means that at least one-fourth of New Delhi’s residents have been infected.

SPAIN: Authorities ordered localized closures that appear to be bringing results after a resurgence of coronavirus cases last week. But travelers caught in sudden quarantines are balking.

UNITED STATES: National security adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for COVID-19, the most senior White House official known to get the virus. The number of daily new U.S. cases hit an all-time high of more than 78,000 on Friday, with the positive test rate holding at above 8 percent. The case fatality rate has averaged 3.5 percent, but with advances in intensive care, mortality rates for COVID-19 patients are declining.

CANADA: Gospel for Asia, facing a $170 million class-action lawsuit brought by former donors in Nova Scotia, has filed for creditor protection, arguing that the coronavirus and millions of claims against the charity require relief. Last year in the United States, Gospel for Asia settled a $37 million case over misuse of funds, and the organization was booted from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability in 2015 following a review of its accounting procedures.

FRANCE: The volunteer worker at the Catholic cathedral in Nantes, a Rwandan refugee questioned by police then released after the July 18 fire, has admitted to the arson attack that badly damaged the 15th-century Gothic structure.

CORRECTION: Voice of the Martyrs in Korea and its director, Eric Foley, are under investigation, but Foley told me authorities have not issued an arrest warrant for him, as reported in Friday’s Globe Trot. More information here.

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Mindy Belz

Mindy is a former senior editor for WORLD Magazine and wrote the publication’s first cover story in 1986. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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