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Burkina Faso: Gunmen kill six in attack on Catholic church

Burkina faso

Six people were killed during mass at a Catholic Church in Dablo, north-central Burkina Faso, on Sunday 12 May.

Gunmen on motorcycles stormed the church on Sunday morning, killing six men, including the priest, before setting fire to the church and buildings in the area, the Burkina Information Agency reported.

“Towards 9:00am, during mass, armed individuals burst into the Catholic Church”, the mayor of Dablo, Ousmane Zongo, told AFP.

“They started firing as the congregation tried to flee”.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by a “group of some twenty to thirty armed men”, according to a security source.

“They burned down the church, then shops and a small restaurant before going to the health centre where they searched the premises and set fire to the head nurse’s vehicle”, Mr. Zongo said.

“The city is filled with panic. People are holed up at home. Shops and stores are closed. It’s practically a ghost town”.

The government of Burkina Faso said it was a “barbaric and cowardly attack”.

They called “to make the fight against terrorism both a collective and personal battle”.

After “failing to pit communities against each other with targeted killings of traditional chiefs and community leaders, terrorist groups are now attacking religion in an evil plot to divide us”, it said in a statement.

Burkina Faso has experienced an increase in violent activities linked to Islamist groups in recent months. According to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, violent incidents in the country linked to the local affiliates of al Qaeda and Daesh rose from 24 in 2017 to 136 in 2018. The attack comes two days after the release of four hostages in northern Burkina Faso by French special forces.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Sunday’s attack and offered condolences as he cited “the sanctity of all places of worship”, according to a UN spokesman.

Guterres “urges all citizens of Burkina Faso to stand firmly with one another across communities and not to succumb to efforts to sow discord and breed further violence”.

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, sent his condolences and added: “The genocide of Christians around the world must stop”.



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Asia Bibi blasphemy acquittal upheld by Pakistan court

Asia Bibi

Pakistan’s top court has rejected a challenge to the acquittal of a Christian woman on blasphemy charges.

The Supreme Court upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s conviction and death sentence.

She was originally convicted in 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a row with her neighbours.

Asia Bibi has always maintained her innocence in a case that has polarised Pakistan.

The original ruling set off violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws.

Asia Bibi spent eight years on death row before the Supreme Court quashed her sentence last October.

Hardliners had petitioned to overturn this ruling.

“Based on merit, this petition is dismissed,” Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosar said in court on Tuesday.

Hardline protesters hold banners demanding death for blasphemers in Karachi, Pakistan (12 Oct 2018)



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Christian woman awarded $21.5 million after lawsuit claims she was fired for skipping Sunday shifts to go to church

Christian woman

A devout Christian who put God before her job has won a $21.5 million verdict after her employer, Conrad Miami hotel, fired her for not showing up for six Sunday shifts, NBC’s Miami affiliate reports.

Marie Jean Pierre, who worked as a dishwasher at the hotel for a decade, instead spent her Sundays at her church. According to Pierre, her employer was aware that she could not work on Sundays at the time of her hiring, but her schedule began to change in 2015. The Miami Herald reports that kitchen manager George Colon began scheduling her on Sundays. While she was initially able to switch shifts with co-workers, Pierre balked when Colon finally demanded that she herself report for work on Sundays. Her refusal resulted in her termination in March 2016.

“I love God,” she told NBC 6 Miami. “No work on Sunday, because Sunday I honor God.”

Charging that her firing was a violation of her civil rights and religious beliefs, Pierre took legal action, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accusing the Hilton-owned hotel of “creating a hostile work environment.” She filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in May 2017.

“They accommodated her for seven years, and they easily could have accommodated her, but instead of doing that, they set her up for absenteeism and threw her out,” her attorney, Marc Brumer, told NBC 6. “She’s a soldier of Christ. She was doing this for all the other workers who are being discriminated against.”

While a jury agreed, the substantial sum they awarded her — $21 million in damages, plus $35,000 in back wages and $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish — is mostly symbolic. Due to caps on punitive damages in federal court, Pierre will only receive around $500,000. Still, she and her attorney both insist that her case was about religious freedom, not money.

“This was not about money,” Bruner told NBC 6. “This was about sending a message to other corporations whether big or small. Whatever size you are, if you’re going to take the blood and sweat of your workers, you better accommodate them or let them at least believe in their religious beliefs. Not a preference but a belief.”

Hilton, meanwhile, plans to appeal the decision.

“We were very disappointed by the jury’s verdict, and don’t believe that it is supported by the facts of this case or the law,” a statement from the hotel chain reads. “During Ms. Pierre’s 10 years with the hotel, multiple concessions were made to accommodate her personal and religious commitments. We intend to appeal, and demonstrate that the Conrad Miami was and remains a welcoming place for all guests and employees.”


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