1. Attacks Shows ISIS’ New Plan: Divide Egypt by Killing Christians. 

By Declan Walsh, The New York Times, April 11, 2017, Pg. A6

Grief and rage flowed through Egypt’s Christian community on Monday as tear-streaked mourners buried the victims of the coordinated Palm Sunday church bombings that killed 45 people in two cities. The cabinet declared that a state of emergency was in effect. A newspaper was pulled off newsstands after it criticized the government.

It was just the reaction the Islamic State wanted.

Routed from its stronghold on the coast of Libya, besieged in Iraq and wilting under intense pressure in Syria, the militant extremist group urgently needs to find a new battleground where it can start to proclaim victory again. The devastating suicide attacks on Sunday in the heart of the Middle East’s largest Christian community suggested it has found a solution: the cities of mainland Egypt.

Since December, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has signaled its intent to wage a sectarian war in Egypt by slaughtering Christians in their homes, businesses and places of worship.


2. Pope Francis leads church in supporting migrants: Many Catholic clerics oppose hard line taken by right-wing populists. 

By Anthony Faiola and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, April 11, 2017, Pg. A1

As politicians around the world including President Trump take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis.

Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds. 

The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump.

In the United States, individual bishops, especially those appointed by Francis, have sharply criticized Trump’s migrant policies since his election.

Speculation is building that Trump and Francis may meet during the U.S. president’s trip to Italy for a Group of Seven meeting in May. Since the November election, Francis has sidestepped direct criticism of Trump and other populist leaders like French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen — while at the same time forcefully condemning the dangers of populism.

Conservative elements in the church, already chafing at some of Francis’s other statements, also say that the pope is in danger of overpoliticizing his office.

Overall, U.S. Catholics tend to be generally supportive of migrants rights. But the November election revealed a strong political divide along racial and ethnic lines: Sixty percent of white Catholics supported Trump, while 67 percent of Hispanic Catholics backed Clinton, according to exit polls. Surveys also show a clear difference on immigration.


3. Arkansas’s state-sponsored killing spree: Mr. Hutchinson plans to execute 7 people in 11 days, to beat a drug’s expiration date.

By Editorial Board, The Washington Post, April 11, 2017, Pg. A16

IT HAS been nearly 12 years since Arkansas executed a prisoner, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to kill eight in a 11-day stretch starting next week. His rationale is as harebrained as it sounds: The state needs to hurry to beat the looming expiry date of one of the drugs in its cocktail of lethal injections.

Since 1977, when capital punishment resumed in the United States following a Supreme Court review, no state, not even Texas with its execution enthusiasts, has carried out so many death sentences in such a short span. In Arkansas’s case, capital punishment has been on hold since 2005 owing to court battles and, as in other death-penalty states, a shortage of drugs needed for lethal injections.

That the state is by now out of practice adds to concerns about whether it can competently carry out an execution, let alone seven, over the scheduled course of four days in an 11-day span. Botched executions, resulting in agonizing, drawn-out deaths, have taken place in several states in recent years. As it happens, some of those grisly mishaps arose from problems with the same sedative whose expiration date Mr. Hutchinson cites as the pretext for his planned state-sponsored killing spree.

Mr. Hutchinson’s plan is not just unseemly. It is a scenario for subhuman suffering. If the state goes forward, it will be a blot on Arkansas, and on America.


4. The growing persecution of Christians: Religious discrimination is the world’s most enduring crisis.

By Vernon Brewer, The Washington Times, April 11, 2017, Pg. B4, Opinion

Religious persecution is the world’s greatest and most enduring crisis. It’s followed us through millennia, from civilization to civilization, and has worsened through time. The ISIS suicide bombings of two Egyptian churches on Sundaythat killed 47 worshippers is just the most recent example of the deadly assault on people of faith. In fact, a report released this past January says 2016 was the “worst year yet” for Christians in the past quarter-century.

According to the report, persecution of Christians has risen worldwide for three years in a row. In Nigeria the killing of Christians increased by a shocking 62 percent, while in India, a country where Hindu nationalists have spread an anti-Christian sentiment, an average of 40 incidents of extreme violence are now reported each month.

In total, 215 million Christians live in countries where they are subject to hostilities ranging from social discrimination and harassment to physical violence, imprisonment and even death. Christians are now killed in more countries than ever before and are persecuted in more countries than any other religious group.

Vernon Brewer is the founder and president of World Help


5. Gorsuch to quickly make impact on court; religious liberty case looming. 

By Alex Swoyer, The Washington Times, April 11, 2017, Pg. A4

The Supreme Court still has 13 cases it will hear this term, including a significant religious liberty case looming next week. This gives newly minted Justice Neil Gorsuch a chance to make his mark.

The biggest case still looming involves Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri, which had sought money to renovate its playground from a state program designed to improve park safety for children.

The state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and later the federal courts, ruled that allowing the church to collect grant money would be in violation of the state’s constitution.

Trinity Lutheran has appealed, arguing that the money isn’t just helping the church but rather all members of the broader community who use the playground.

Hannah Smith, an attorney with the Becket Fund, told The Washington Times that the Trinity Lutheran case is significant because the last time the court considered a similar kind of question dealing with the Free Exercise Clause was more than 10 years ago.

“The court’s composition has changed significantly since then, so I think it will be interesting to see how the current court grapples with this question,” she said. “I think it will be a close case.”


6. Pope Visit to Egypt to Go Ahead Despite Blasts but Security Big Concern. 

By Reuters, April 10, 2017, 11:12 AM

Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt this month is expected to go ahead despite twin attacks on Christian churches that killed 44 people, Vatican officials said on Monday.

However, diplomats and Vatican sources cautioned that the trip could be put in jeopardy or parts of it changed if the security situation worsened.

The pope is due to spend about 27 hours in the Egyptian capital Cairo on April 28-29, meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, grand imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb and the country’s Coptic Pope Tawadros.