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Egypt's Christians Under Attack: Interactive Map

Since the July 3 ousting of former president Mohammed Morsi, Christians in Egypt have faced a shocking spike in violent attacks. Human rights groups in the country claim that to date, Egyptian authorities have not prevented the persecution. 

Christians make up nearly one-tenth of Egypt's population of 80 million. While Egypt's Coptic Christians have faced longstanding persecution, many are reporting that tensions between Sunni Muslims and minority Christians are the highest they have been for decades. USA Today reports:

Churches, houses, monasteries, orphanages, schools and businesses belonging to Copts were attacked in nine provinces "causing panic, losses and destruction for no reason and no crimes they committed except being Christians," the Maspero Youth Union, a Coptic activist group, said Thursday.

Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of the Christian weekly Watani, said the recent attacks are painful and vicious but it be worse if they are allowed to divide the two faiths.

USA Today has created an interactive map with real-time updates on attacks on Christian institutions, stretching from Alexandria to Qena. View the map here.

Read more of USA Today's story here.

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Former Archbishop Williams: Western Christians Complaining About Persecution Need to 'Grow Up'

Former Archbishop Rowan Williams told Christians in the West who complain of mistreatment to "grow up" in a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today. After years of meeting with others around the world who face "murderous hostility" for their religious beliefs, Lord Williams said complaints of persecution among Christians in the U.K. and the U.S. make him him "very uneasy." The Telegraph reports

"When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word persecuted very chastely," he said.

"I think (Christians in the West) are made to feel uncomfortable at times. ...Don't confuse it with the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day.

"That is different, it's real. It's not quite what we're facing in Western society. (That) level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of — I mean for goodness sake, grow up. You have to earn respect if you want to be taken seriously in society."

Read more here.

Image: Former Archbishop Rowan Williams, Mark William Penny / Shutterstock.com

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ELCA Elects First Female Presiding Bishop

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected the denomination's first female presiding bishop today. In a vote of 600 to 287, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, will take over from current Presiding Bishop Rev. Mark Hanson. Religion News Service reports:

“When I stood before you 12 years, I told you this is not an election won, this is a call received. And now this call has been extended to Bishop Eaton,” Hanson said at the assembly. “This is a humble and a holy privilege to serve the gospel as the pastor of this whole church.”

Read more here.

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This Week, a Major Shift on Crime

On Monday, a federal judge in New York found the state's stop-and-frisk policies to be unconsitutional racial profiling. The same day, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that federal prosecutors would no longer invoke mandatory minimum sentencing laws for low-level drug offenses. 

Together, the two decisions sent strong signals that the country is moving away from the tough-on-crime policies of the last generation. The New York Times reports:

A generation ago, amid a crack epidemic, state and federal lawmakers enacted a wave of tough-on-crime measures that resulted in an 800 percent increase in the number of prisoners in the United States, even as the population grew by only a third. The spike in prisoners centered on an increase in the number of African-American and Hispanic men convicted of drug crimes; blacks are about six times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.

“There was the thought that if we stop, frisk, arrest and incarcerate huge numbers of people, that will reduce crime,” Rudovsky said. “But while that may have had some effect on crime, the negative parts outweighed the positive parts.”

Read more here.

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Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church Announce Support for Bill to End Sex Trafficking in U.S.

Days after a cross-country FBI operation arrested 152 sex traffickers across the US, Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, announced his support for a bill in the House of Representatives aimed at eliminating human trafficking rings. The Christian Post reports:

The bill, which is supported by both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, is intended to help eliminate human trafficking rings by "targeting the criminals who purchase sexual acts from these organizations and ensuring that they are prosecuted as human traffickers."

"The suffering associated with human trafficking resonates strongly within the Christian community, and we know of many churches, like our own, whose compassion for its victims has moved them to act," said Joel and Victoria Osteen in a statement.

Read more here.

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Afghanistan's Children of War

The United Nations issued a report on Wednesday stating that the number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan rose by 23 percent in the first six months of 2013, with women and children faring the worst — killed by roadside bombs almost every day. An earlier UN report noted that

"Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child."

Over a third of Afghans are living in abject poverty, violence is escalating as NATO forces withdraw, and years of international aid has done little to decrease the abuse of women and children.

Click here to see the Atlantic's photos series on Afghan children.

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Bradley Manning Acquitted of 'Aiding the Enemy'

A military judge ruled Tuesday that Pfc. Bradley Manning was not guilty of aiding the enemy. In 2010, he was arrested for allegedly passing classified materials to the website WikiLeaks. If Manning had been found guilty of aiding the enemy, he could have been sentenced to life in prison. The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Wednesday.

The New York Times reports:

Private Manning had already confessed to being WikiLeaks’ source for a huge cache of government documents, which included videos of airstrikes in which civilians were killed, hundreds of thousands of front-line incident reports from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, dossiers on men being held without trial at the Guantánamo Bay prison, and about 250,000 diplomatic cables.

But while Private Manning had pleaded guilty to a lesser version of the charges he was facing, which could expose him to up to 20 years in prison, the government decided to press forward with a trial on a more serious version of the charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which could result in a life sentence.

Read more

Image: Bradley Manning photo hangs on lightpost, photo by savebradley / Flickr.com

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New EPA Leader to Tackle Climate Change

Climate change is expected to take a turn for the better following the Senate's approval of Gina McCarthy to serve as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy won over the Senate on July 18 in a 59-to-40 vote. The New York Times reports:

The president told Ms. McCarthy that his environmental and presidential legacy would be incomplete without a serious effort to address climate change.

Read more here.

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Pope Francis Says He Won’t Judge Gay Priests

Pope Francis announced Monday in an airborne news conference that he’s ‘not one to judge’ the sexual orientation of Catholic priests. On his journey home from Brazil, Pope Francis declared open-mindedness by sharing his support on behalf of the gay community. The Washington Post reports:

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked.

Read more here.

 

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DRONE WATCH: U.S. Reduces Strikes in Pakistan

In response to criticism, the U.S. has drastically reduced the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and is limiting them to “high-value targets.” The Associated Press reports:

The CIA has been instructed to be more cautious with its attacks, limiting them to high-value targets and dropping the practice of so-called "signature strikes" - hitting larger groups of suspected militants based purely on their behavior, such as being armed and meeting with known militants, said a current U.S. intelligence official and a former intelligence official briefed on the drone program. …

Two other senior American officials said the U.S. scaled back the number of attacks and tightened up its targeting criteria as a concession to the Pakistani army, considered the most powerful institution in the country and the final arbiter on the future of the drone program.

Read more here.

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