Beirut ablaze again
As a local pastor trusts God to see his congregation through recovery efforts
LEBANON: A massive fire broke out Thursday at Beirut’s port near the site of an explosion last month that leveled a third of the city. About 100 firefighters are battling the blaze. The Lebanese army said it is tires and oil burning and sent helicopters to help douse the blaze. Beirut residents said they were instructed to close windows due to smoke, but they feared having them shut due to the possibility of an explosion.
At Church of God in Achrafieh, where I visited last month, a ceiling collapsed in the sanctuary one month after the Aug. 4 explosion, but no one was injured. Pastor Joy Mallouh told me the church and member’s houses are undergoing repairs, thanks to youth in the church on work crews and assistance from local non-governmental organization Heart for Lebanon and equipment from U.S.-based Samaritan’s Purse. “The present situation in the country doesn’t look promising from a human point of view,” he said in a letter sent by text, “but God has spoken to my heart in a very clear way assuring me of His call to serve Him in Lebanon, and to trust that He won’t leave us nor forsake us.”
SUDAN: Longtime rebel leader Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu brought his Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North back to the negotiating table with the transitional government after reaching an agreement that the state will not discriminate based on religion or establish a state religion. The breakthrough follows three decades of Islamic rule in Sudan that ended with last year’s military coup ousting President Omar al-Bashir. Three rebel groups signed on to the deal last week, potentially bringing to an end devastating wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile—wars that led to charges of genocide and war crimes against al-Bashir. Mediating the agreement was David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program and the former Republican governor of South Carolina, who supervised initial food deliveries to South Kordofan and Blue Nile earlier this year.
Record flooding of the Nile has left at least 102 people dead and forced residents in the normally arid Khartoum to use boats.
ERITREA: Authorities have released 27 Christian prisoners, most behind bars for more than 10 years, according to the BBC and several watchdog groups. Eritrea has long jailed hundreds of mostly evangelical believers in horrible conditions, releasing 22 in July and indicating it may release more.
MYANMAR: “Kill all you see,” was the command launching mass killings in Rohingya villages, according to two soldiers who confessed to the atrocity. The soldiers are the first from the Myanmar military to describe what happened in the 2017 to 2019 genocidal campaign that razed 200 villages, left more than 6,000 dead, and displaced about 1 million Rohingya. Governmental authorities in Myanmar (also known as Burma) have denied organizing the campaign, and the two soldiers this week arrived in The Hague, where an investigation is underway at the International Criminal Court.
FRANCE: New COVID-19 infections rose by more than 8,500 for the third time in six days on Wednesday, with the disease spreading at its fastest pace since it emerged in the country earlier this year. Hospitalizations and intensive care cases are also at their highest level since the end of June, as Europe sees a resurgence after successfully battling the disease in the spring.
GREECE: Fire on Tuesday destroyed the Moria refugee camp, a long overcrowded facility on the island of Lesbos, leaving 13,000 people without shelter. The camp has been a time bomb waiting to explode, an open-air facility designed for 2,000 people repeatedly stretched over five years to accommodate up to 19,000. In May, aid groups asked Greek authorities to evacuate the camp, as it had one water tap per 1,300 people heading into outbreaks of the coronavirus. Lesbos island took in most of the migrants making their way to Europe at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016, and Moria had a fire when I visited the camp in 2016.
BELARUS: Security agents are rounding up opposition leaders still in the country, forcing one of them, Maria Kolesnikova, into a van and threatening to remove her “alive or in bits.” The emerging leader for change and the ouster of President Alexander Lukashenko is Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, 37, who in exile said she has long seen herself as “a housewife,” not the president. At the same time, a Belarusian teen studying film in Poland is one of the other forces driving protests.
ISRAEL: By cultivating seeds found in archaeological digs dating back 2,000 years, scientists in the Negev last week harvested dates from trees with roots stretching back to the days of Jesus and the Maccabees. The Judean date, long extolled in Jewish and Christian scriptures, is now a miracle of modern science.
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