PODCAST: Pakistani court overturns death sentence of Christian couple (UCNN 06.04.21)

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According to Reuters, A Pakistani court on Thursday overturned the death sentence of a Christian couple in a blasphemy case, acquitting them for lack of evidence after they had spent seven years on death row, lawyers said. A lower court had sentenced Shafqat Emmanuel, a watchman at a factory, and his wife, Shagufta Kausar, to death in 2014 for allegedly sending derogatory remarks about the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in a text message to another man, Khalid Maqsood. The couple’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, told Reuters the Lahore High Court had acquitted the couple in the case in the central town of Toba Tek Singh. A detailed order from the court was expected in the next two days, he said. Prosecution lawyer Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry told Reuters that the prosecution would employ all available remedies against the decision. Insulting the Prophet carries a mandatory death penalty in the predominantly Muslim country. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have long been criticised by global rights groups. “Today’s decision puts an end to the seven-year long ordeal of a couple who should not have been convicted nor faced a death sentence in the first place,” Amnesty International’s South Asia Deputy Director Dinushika Dissanayake said in a statement, calling on authorities to provide security to the couple and their lawyer.

According to the Associated Press, A 12-year-old boy accused of joining a 14-year-old girl in a shootout with an assault weapon and shotgun against Florida deputies from a home they had broken into earlier this week will be held for 21 days at a secure detention facility pending a hearing. During a virtual hearing, Judge Michael Orfinger told the boy that he was facing charges of attempted first degree murder of a law enforcement officer and armed burglary of a dwelling. The judge appointed a public defender for the boy, who remained silent and looked slightly dazed in a navy shirt during the seven-minute hearing. The State Attorney’s Office said in a statement that prosecutors and investigators were conducting a “thorough” review of the case and would reach a final decision on the charges for the pair when the review was completed. The 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy left the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home near Deltona on Tuesday and broke into a house where they found guns and ammunition. They began firing on Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies who were searching for them. Deputies finally shot and wounded the girl, who was reported to be in critical but stable condition after surgery, said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood. Deputies had received almost 300 calls for service last year, as well as made 89 visits so far this year to the juvenile home, and in March a security guard at the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home died days after he was punched in the head repeatedly by a teenage boy staying at the home. Chitwood said the recent events were emblematic of a larger problem that lawmakers and officials at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice needed to address.

According to Black Enterprise, A Mississippi high school was blasted on social media after word got out on the two sets of students claiming the valedictorian and salutatorian titles. On May 24, Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were named the valedictorian and salutatorian of West Point Consolidated School District, according to BNC TV. However, shortly after the two Black female students were set to be awarded for their academic achievements, the school decided to change its ranking and recognize both with the highest Quality Point Average and Grade Point Average. While Washington and Temple have the two highest QPAs in the graduating class, two other White students had the highest GPAs, resulting in four students being recognized by the school as valedictorian and salutatorian. But after one Black alumna took the issue to Twitter, the school went viral for what many are deeming as a race-filled decision. The alumna wrote, “So my high school had a [B]lack valedictorian and Salutatorian AND THEY WERE FEMALES !! and now since a [W]hite person was mad about it. They decide to call the girls back and let them know that it will now be two valedictorians and salutatorians. This is wrong!” The school responded to the backlash in a statement to WCBI News on May 27 in which it cited page 10 of its handbook. It went on to accept “full responsibility for this misunderstanding” while apologizing for “any confusion and problems this has caused.”

According to Reuters, Gunmen abducted 136 students from an Islamic school in the north-central Nigerian state of Niger on Sunday, a state official said on Wednesday, lower than the estimate of 200 previously offered by the federal government. An armed gang on motorcycles attacked the town of Tegina in the state on Sunday. State government officials in the following days said they were contacting parents to ascertain the exact number of missing children. Nigeria’s president, in a statement issued late on Monday, said security agents were searching for around 200 students. Niger state’s deputy governor, Ahmed Mohammed Ketso, told reporters the number of missing children had been established. “We can now confirm that a total of 136 students were abducted,” Ketso said at a news conference in the state capital, Minna. Criminal gangs carrying out kidnapping for ransom are blamed for a series of raids on schools and universities in northern Nigeria in recent months in which more than 800 students have been abducted since December. Ketso told reporters Niger state would not pay any form of ransom.

According to Good Morning America, Robbins, Illinois, has a new mayor, and he’s making statewide history. Darren Bryant, 29, was sworn in as the mayor of Robbins, located just outside Chicago, on May 11, making him not only the youngest African American mayor to hold office in the Cook County village, but the entire state of Illinois. “It’s a surreal moment,” Bryant said. “This is the people’s victory more so than mine and I think ‘humbling’ is the best word to describe how I feel right now.” Known for being one of the oldest incorporated African American communities in the country and the childhood homes to celebrities such as Dwyane Wade and Keke Palmer, Robbins is rich in history and a popular village among Black residents. With parents on local school and trustee boards, Bryant grew up around elected officials and has actively been involved in public service since a young age. He said, “I got exposed to government at an early age and understood what it meant to serve and dedicate my personal time to others.” After serving as student body president before graduating from Kentucky State University in 2014, he went on to become Park District commissioner at 23, then a village trustee at 25, before taking the seat as mayor. Robbins has a 42% poverty rate, 51.8% rate of homeownership and only 12% of residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Bryant is ready to enact change. “I’d like to see an increase in home ownership, residential development, economically viable businesses and a village filled with residents living in a town where their quality of life has improved,” Bryant said during a recent interview with Color Coded Voices, a platform that highlights positive news and outstanding stories from communities of color. Bryant also hopes to have a major impact on the next generation of leaders. When he’s not fulfilling his duties as mayor, he can be found at his alma mater, Eisenhower High School, serving as one of the few Black male educators in the school district.

According to ABC News, Around 10,000 of the 80,000 volunteers who signed up to help at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have quit, according to public broadcaster NHK on Wednesday. The report comes amid increasing public calls to cancel the games. Shigeru Omi, Japan’s most senior medical adviser, said Wednesday that hosting the games during a pandemic was “not normal.” Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun published a May 2021 survey conducted by telephone in Japan that found 83% of respondents said the Tokyo Olympic Games should be postponed or canceled. More specifically, 43% said the games should be called off and 40% said they should be “postponed again.” Only 14% said the Tokyo Olympics should be held this summer, according to the survey. The 2020 Tokyo Games, which were postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, are slated to start on July 23.

According to Business Insider, Google announced on Wednesday that it was removing its global lead for diversity strategy and research, Kamau Bobb, after a 2007 blog post in which he’d made anti-Semitic comments surfaced. The company said Bobb would be reassigned to a STEM research role. The Washington Free Beacon this week uncovered a blog post by Bobb titled “If I Were a Jew.” The report, published Tuesday, included excerpts from the post. The post, which has since been deleted, said, “If I were a Jew I would be concerned about my insatiable appetite for war and killing in defense of myself. If I were a Jew today, my sensibilities would be tormented. I would find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the long cycles of oppression that Jewish people have endured and the insatiable appetite for vengeful violence that Israel, my homeland, has now acquired.” The post appeared to have been written following an outbreak of violence between Lebanon and Israel in late 2007. Several leading Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Stop Antisemitism, tweeted that Bobb should be fired. In a statement on Wednesday evening, Google said it condemned “the past writings by a member of our diversity team that are causing deep offense and pain to members of our Jewish community and our LGBTQ+ community. These writings are unquestionably hurtful. The author acknowledges this and has apologized. He will no longer be part of our diversity team going forward and will focus on his STEM work.” Bobb had been Google’s diversity chief for nearly three years, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!

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