Online activists are calling for the Confederate flag that remains flying outside South Carolina's state house after nine parishioners were shot dead at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston to be removed on the grounds that it is "insulting" to the victims of the shooting. Gawker reports that, in fact, every flag at the state house is flying at half mast in honor of the slain—except the Confederate one! Apparently because the Stars-and-Bars is so revered that it requires an act of the state legislature to even lower it. So, the flag of slavery stays proudly at full mast in the wake of a massacre of Black folks at a church associated with the anti-slavery and civil rights struggles. The mind boggles.
An apparent arson attack damaged the revered Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha in northern Israel overnight, authorities said June 18. The Byzantine-era shrine, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, is where Christians believe Jesus fed the 5,000 in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. Father Matthias Karl, a member of the Benedictine Order which oversees the site, said an external atrium was "totally destroyed" in the blaze. "The church, thank God is in good condition," he told AFP. Graffiti in Hebrew was left on another building within the complex, reading, "The idols will be cast out"—a quote from the Aleinu prayer, pointing to the work of Jewish extremists. Wadie Abu Nasser, an adviser to the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, said the attack would reverberate throughout the Christian world. "Israel's global image will be harmed," he told Israeli public radio."When you put one and one together, between the graffiti and the arson, you can reach a conclusion regarding the potential suspects." Police said 16 settler youth from the "Samaria" region of the West Bank were detained and questioned in the attack, but later released. Tabgha was targeted in a previous attack in April 2014, in which church officials said a group of orthodox Jewish teenagers damaged crosses and attacked clergy. (Times of Israel, Times of Israel, AFP, AP, June 18)
A Bahraini court June 16 sentenced prominent Shi'ite leader Sheikh Ali Salman (official profile) to four years in prison for insulting the Interior Ministry, inciting others to break the law, and inciting hatred against Sunnis. Salman, secretary-general of al-Wefaq political opposition group, was arrested in late December for speeches made between 2012 and 2014. Salman was found not guilty of inciting violence and calling for the overthrow of the monarch. Had he been convicted for those offenses, Salman could have faced a life sentence in prison.
The Supreme Court of Bangladesh on June 16 upheld the death sentence of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed for war crimes committed during the 1971 War of Liberation against Pakistan. Mojaheed, the Secretary-General of Jamaat-e-Islami Party (JI) was originally sentenced by the International Crimes Tribunal Bangladesh (ICTB) on charges of kidnapping and murder during the war. Mojaheed could be hanged within months if he does not get presidential clemency or another court review.
Since Colombia's FARC guerillas called off their unilateral ceasefire following a military air-strike last month, peace talks with the government have resumed in Havana. As the new phase of talks opened May 25, FARC leaders appealed to the government to instate a bilateral ceasefire. (EFE, May 25) But the very next day, government forces carried out a mixed land and air assault on a camp of the FARC's 18th Front along the Río Chimirindó, in Riosucio municipality, in the Pacific coastal region of Chocó—leaving 41 guerillas dead. Among the dead was the 18th Front's commander, Román Ruiz, authorities said. (El Teimpo, May 26) The next day, Colombia's air force carried out new strikes, targeting the 4th Front of the FARC's Magdalena Medio Bloc at Alto la Cruz hamlet, Segovia municipality, Antioquia. Ten guerillas were killed in the strikes—which came as the climax of a three-day operation in the area that authorities said left 36 guerillas dead. (El Tiempo, May 27)
A controversial mega-project to build a transcontinental railway through the Amazon basin has caused outrage among indigenous people and advocacy groups. UK-based Survival International charges that the rail project, backed by the Chinese government, would cross through many indigenous territories and areas of high biodiversity across the rainforest in Peru and Brazil, opening them to industrial exploitation, illegal mining and logging, and peasant colonization. Survival warns that "uncontacted tribes" would face devastation from invasions into their lands, calling these peoples "the most vulnerable societies on the planet." Whole populations could be wiped out by violence from outsiders and by diseases like flu and measles to which they have no resistance.
Federal prosecutors in Brazil on June 16 called for authorities to halt the eviction of some 2,000 families living in an area of the Amazon rainforest where the huge Belo Monte dam is being built. Prosecutors with the Federal Public Ministry said the consortium building the dam has broken numerous agreements on the relocation of residents. The Norte Energia consortium is violating terms of a contract with guarantees that the indigenous people, peasant settlers and fishermen living in the area would be relocated and provided with alternative means of survival, prosecutors said. The statement especially urged the government to halt the work of a vessel, known as the "demolition boat," hired by the consortium. "It has been travelling along the Xingu River evicting the families who live by the river, in the area to be flooded by the Belo Monte dam," the prosecutors' statement charges.
UK-based advocacy group Survival International says it has received reports that violent conflict between Ethiopian soldiers and Hamar pastoralists left dozens dead last month. The Hamar are one of several tribal peoples of the Lower Omo Valley who are subject to the government's policy of "villagization." They are being forcibly relocated to government-created villages along new roads through the region, while their ancestral grazing lands are sold off to investors for commercial plantations. These land-grabs have already led to starvation in parts of the Lower Omo Valley. Tensions have been rising as a result of these evictions and, at the end of May, Hamar were reportedly attacked by soldiers with rifles and mortars. Survival says a "news blackout" imposed by the government makes it impossible to know the exact number of casualties, but one observer referred to what took place as a "massacre." The incident follows a pattern of abuses in the Lower Omo, including beatings, rape and arbitrary arrest. One displaced Hamar told Survival, "The government told us that if we don't give in to them we will be slaughtered in public like goats." (Survival International, June 5)