Muhammad Ali, the boxing legend, has died in a hospital in the US state of Arizona.
The 74-year-old former heavyweight world champion had been hospitalised on Thursday with respiratory problems.
US media reported that the problems were complicated by his Parkinson's disease.
Ali was known globally not only for his ring career but also for his civil rights activism.
He had been hospitalised multiple times in recent years. Ali spent time in hospital in 2014 after suffering a mild case of pneumonia and again in 2015 for a urinary tract infection.
His Parkinson's, thought to be linked to the punches he took during his career that spanned three decades, had limited his public speaking for years.
However, he had continued to make appearances and offer opinions through his family members and spokespersons.
Sudanese authorities deported at least 442 Eritreans, including six registered refugees, in May of 2016, a Human Rights Watch report said Monday.
"Sudan is arresting and forcing Eritreans back into the hands of a repressive government without allowing refugees to seek protection," said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch. "Sudan should be working with the UN refugee agency to protect these people, not send them back to face abuse."
International law says asylum seekers must be granted the right to apply for asylum and have their cases considered before deportation. It also forbids countries from deporting asylum seekers to anywhere where they face a real threat of torture, ill-treatment, or risk to their life
The United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been repeatedly denied access to groups of asylum seekers in Sudan facing deportation.
"UNHCR considers the punishment so severe and disproportionate that it constitutes persecution and a basis on which to grant refugee status," the report said.
The EU has begun working with Sudan and other African nations to better secure their borders and prevent migrant smuggling. Though Sudan has said it welcomes the effort, Human Rights Watch is skeptical that it will respect refugee rights.
Islam is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, where the legal system is based on Sharia law. Courts regularly impose severe physical punishments, including the death penalty, for apostasy, and non-Muslim places of worship are prohibited.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Saudi Arabia "remains uniquely repressive in the extent to which it restricts the public expression of any religion other than Islam".
The government prosecutes, imprisons and flogs individuals for dissent, apostasy, blasphemy and sorcery, and imposes "systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom".
It's not only religious people who are targeted. A law enacted in 2014 equates atheism with terrorism. The legislation bans "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of Islamic religion."
There are, however, some 1.4 million Christians living in the country. According to a study earlier this year, 4.4 per cent of Saudi Arabia's population identifies as Christian – up from less than 0.1. per cent (50 people) just over 100 years ago in 1910.
The majority of these Christians are expatriates or migrant workers, but according to persecution charity Open Doors, Saudi natives are also turning to Christianity.
The charity is supporting Mohammed (name changed), a secret believer who converted after learning about Christianity through an online discipleship course. He made contact with Christians in another Middle Eastern country, and then spent a week there – going to church for the first time, and attending Bible studies.
After a few days he was asked who Jesus was. "He is my Saviour, my God", was Mohammed's reply, and he was baptised, returning to Saudi Arabia with a Bible.
He knows no other Christians in his home country, but receives continued support online.
Saudi Arabia ranks 14th on Open Doors' list of countries where Christians are most persecuted. According to the USCIRF, the government has made "improvements in policies and practices related to freedom of religion or belief", but "it persists in restricting most forms of public religious expression inconsistent with its particular interpretation of Sunni Islam".
Human rights groups have heavily criticised the relationship the US and UK each hold with Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International last week called for an investigation after evidence emerged that illegal British-made cluster bombs had been used in Yemen by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
An Islamic State spokesman is calling on Muslims to wage jihad ("holy" war) in Europe and the United States during Ramadan if they are unable to join the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
"Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad," the spokesman says in the 30-minute video. "Get prepared, be ready…to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the nonbelievers…especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America."
"The tiniest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us," the spokesman continues. "If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic State, we wish we were in your place to punish the crusaders day and night."
The narrator also encourages so-called "lone wolf" attacks during Islam's holy month of Ramadan, which begins Sunday, June 5.
Mohabat News _ Albert Babajan, the pastor who conducted the mass baptism, said that the converts were dissatisfied with Islam and were looking for something more. “The motive for the change of faith is the same for many: they are disappointed with Islam.”
Shima, one Christian convert who was recently baptized, shared about her conversion:
“I’ve been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it,” she said. “To be a Christian means happiness to me.”
Another convert, Somaz, said: “In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. However, Christ is a God of love.”
Babajan conducted the baptism ceremony in Hamburg city park.
Many refugees have converted to Christianity since coming to Germany. Babajan says he is aware that some refugees will convert not out of true conviction, but because Christian converts are generally given added protection since they would face death should they return to their home countries.
In order to determine who the true converts are, Babajan says he asks them how Christ has changed their lives.
“Because the Christian faith changed the way of thinking, the world view. If someone told me that at night he can sleep again or an old enemy could forgive, then I know that in his heart he is a Christian.”
“There are maybe 20 or 30 per cent who really want to hear the gospel. For those who want to have a license, I must face the door… It is very easy, whoever does not believe will not be baptised,” he added./christian headlines
WASHINGTON- Earlier this year more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, scholars, and heads of state gathered in Morocco to release the Marrakesh Declaration, a landmark document calling upon predominately Muslim countries to defend religious minorities against persecution.
The document is meant to encourage Muslim leaders to fight extremism in their own countries in response to the brutal persecution of religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis by ISIS.
Experts gathered at the National Press Club to discuss the significance of the declaration and what it hopes to accomplish.
"It is a very active market of ideas, use your head, see what looks more humanistic, what is more consistent with the Quran and the Hadid," says University of Richmond Law Professor Azizah al-Hibri. "The more we talk about it, the more people know. I'm not trying to imply that our people all over the world are ignorant of the basics of Islam, many of them do know, but some might not, and that is why it is our duty to teach."
"We cannot sit home and act like nothing is happening," continued Professor al-Hibri, who founded KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights.
The Marrakesh Declaration draws verses from the Quran that support religious liberty and explicitly say no one should be coerced into religion.
"The Quran says very clearly no coercion in religion," says Professor al-Hibri. "There is no compulsion in religion, no coercion in religion stated very clearly."
Skeptics of the declaration argue that although it's a step in the right direction, it still does not grant religious freedom protection to non-Muslims against blasphemy or apostasy, crimes that notoriously lead to death penalties and imprisonment for Christians.
Christian aid workers have urged prayers after up to 200 Christians were reportedly killed in sustained bombardments of Syria's northern city of Aleppo, as the country's civil war entered its sixth year.
"Lift up in prayer the Christian community of Aleppo and all innocent civilians in the city following a sustained period of bombardment, which mainly targeted the Christian area," explained aid group Barnabas Fund in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
The group said between April 22 and April 30 some 1,350 rockets hit the Christian area, killing 132 people, half of them women and children. A further 65 were killed last week, May 3, with hundreds more injured, according to aid workers.
"Of the 65 killed on May 3, an estimated 35 died when Dabbit Hospital, which treated only women and children, was destroyed by a rocket explosion," Barnabas Fund said. "Two patients died whilst on the operating table. Another hospital in the government area was damaged in part and has now been closed down."
After the destruction of these two hospitals, only 16 of the 134 hospitals in the Aleppo area still function, said Christians familiar with the situation.
Many of the strikes have been carried out in the opposition-held area in east Aleppo by Syrian state or Russian forces. However Barnabas Fund also linked Islamic Rebel groups to attacks. They had reportedly issued a direct threat against Aleppo’s large community of Armenian Christians on 22 April, warning, “We will show the Armenians and the Christians who we are...We have been ordered not to leave any Armenians in the area.”
Barnabas Fund quoted one Christian eyewitness as saying that “Mortars and rockets are like rain.”
Reporters said Aleppo, Syria's largest city and former commercial center, has been devastated. Its ancient souks and the famed Umayyad Mosque complex have been trashed, its 11th century minaret toppled. Homs city, Syria's third largest, lies in ruins, entire blocks reduced to rubble or uninhabitable husks of housing.
Rebel-held towns around the capital Damascus such as Jobar, Douma and Harasta are now comprised of collapsed buildings and rubble. A preliminary World Bank-led assessment in six cities in Syria -- Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, Homs, Idlib, and Latakia -- released in January showed an estimated $3.6 billion to $4.5 billion in damage as of the end of 2014.
Yet amid the hardship, Barnabas Fund said a major prayer gathering took place by all denominations, several government representatives and Middle East Christian media outlets. "People across the world joined with Aleppo’s Christians for this time of prayer."
Additionally, a growing number of residents from a Muslim background are turning to faith in Jesus Christ, according to church representatives and aid groups. Aid and advocacy group Open Doors quoted a former Muslim from Aleppo as saying: "What attracted me is the loving environment of the church."
A Syrian pastor, whose name was not identified amid security concerns, said in published remarks that Muslims who are "coming to faith are ready to die for their new beliefs."
The pastor called this "a different kind of Christianity" adding that "We're in a big harvest, God is waking up a sleeping church." Open Doors said it distributed 29,000 Bibles and 34,500 Children's Bibles in Syria last year, "many of which went to new believers to help them grow in their new faith."
One church that Open Doors partners with, the Alliance Church in Damascus, reportedly even planted a new church close to troubled city of Homs in February.
In February this year a new church-backed furniture factory was opened in Homs with support from Open Doors. The business is providing work for 30 people, and already has international orders, the group said. In another city, Open Doors was able to provide the finances to open a new pharmacy, which
enables people to buy medicines at reasonable prices, and provides discounts for elderly people of 50 percent or more.
Open Doors says it also works with churches to provide 10,000 needy families, some 50,000 people, with food, medicines, rent subsidies, and medical help.
"There are surprising signs of hope amongst the stories of sorrow and pain; some small businesses have opened, a new church has been planted, and more people are coming to Christ than ever before," Open Doors said.
Barnabas Fund agrees but said it was crucial to "pray that all those affected by the attacks will know with full assurance"that the “Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit”, a reference to Bible verse Psalm 34:18. "Pray that the peace process will bring a permanent end to the fighting in Syria and the restoration of peace," it added in a statement.
Fighting began in 2011 after initial protests for increased political liberty and economic reforms. People were also discontented with a failing economy and government corruption. However, experts say, it soon became a sectarian conflict between the Sunni Muslim majority and President Bashar al-Assad and his government, who are Shia Muslims from the Alawite sect.
"This religious element has been further heightened by the rise of extremist Islamic militants, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, and, latterly, Islamic State (IS). These have increasingly ‘Islamised’ the conflict: more and more, the civil war has taken the form of a jihad against the Syrian government," said Open Doors in an assessment.
MASSIVE DEATH TOLL
The United Nations says over 250,000 people have been killed and well over a million wounded, though this figure has not been updated in months.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition group that monitors the war, puts the death toll at more than 270,000, while a recent report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, an independent think tank, said 470,000 deaths have been caused by the conflict, either directly or indirectly.
Nearly half of Syria's prewar population of 23 million has been displaced by the war, including Christians. The United Nations refugee agency says there are about 6.5 million displaced within Syria and 4.8 million refugees outside Syria.
Much of the remaining population is in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The refugees have mostly fled to neighboring countries — Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq — and many flooded Europe, where most arrive after a treacherous sea journey from Turkey.
Thousands of refugees continue to arrive in Europe, including even in countries such as Hungary, which has been building fences to halt them back.
Buses across the country are to carry a slogan praising Allah – just months after cinemas banned an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.
Hundreds of buses will carry posters bearing the words 'Subhan Allah', which means 'Glory be to God' in Arabic, for an ad campaign paid for by the charity Islamic Relief.
The posters will appear in London, Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham and Bradford, which have large Muslim communities
It has been timed to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan in June, when Muslims traditionally fast and give to charity.
But last night, Christian groups asked why the Islamic adverts had been approved when a one-minute film by the Church of England was banned by Britain's biggest cinema chains at Christmas.
Odeon, Cineworld and Vue refused to show an advert featuring the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the public reciting the Lord's Prayer. They banned the advertisement – which was due to be screened before the new Star Wars film in December – fearing it could offend movie-goers.
Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, said he hoped the Allah advert 'signals the beginning of a new era of greater expressions of the Christian faith, which seems to have become persona non grata'.
He added: 'People were surprised by the cinema advertising agenda to ban the Lord's Prayer – something we all grew up with.
'Audiences are capable of hearing expressions of Christian faith without running away screaming in horror.'
Former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe said: 'If other religions are allowed to put their religious banners up, then so should Christians.'
Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said the decision to allow the Allah advert whilst banning Christian ones highlighted the power of political correctness.
She added: 'Britain is a Christian country and we Christians need to find our voice.
'If we are allowing these adverts for Islam, then we need to give the Christians far more freedom to express themselves.'
Islamic Relief said the posters would help to raise funds for victims of war and disasters in countries such as Syria, and portray Islam in a positive light.
Director Imran Madden said: 'There is a lot of negativity around Muslims. We want to change the perception of Islam. The campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions.'
The slogans are most likely to resonate in London where about half of Britain's estimated three million Muslims live.
Labour's Sadiq Khan, the son of a bus driver, was elected as London Mayor on Thursday - the first person to hold the position and be a Muslim.
Mr Khan is now responsible for managing London's transport infrastructure.
Transport for London (TfL) can ban adverts on the buses it runs if it is linked to a 'political party or political cause'. However, there are no rules against religious advertising.
Back in 2012, then London mayor Boris Johnson intervened after adverts by a Christian charity linked to homophobia wanted to start a campaign on buses.
England cricketer Moeen Ali is supporting the initiative. He wants the adverts to encourage debate and increase understanding.
The adverts will start running in the capital from May 23.
Islamic Relief has helped more than 100 million people across the world since it was established in Birmingham in 1984.
More than £140 million has been sent in aid to Syria - supporting around 6.5 million people.
The charity works with 33 countries and supports people of all faiths and backgrounds.