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In the Press

  • At least 15 people have been killed after two female suicide bombers, one said to be aged as young as 11, blew themselves up at a busy mobile phone market in north-east Nigeria, a day after more than 30 were killed in a bomb blast.
    Two explosions ripped through the Farm Centre market in northern Nigeria’s biggest city, Kano, shortly after 4pm on Wednesday. One of the bombers was said to be aged just 11 and the other 18.
    The Islamist terror group Boko Haram has previously used young girls as human bombs in its six-year insurgency in north-east Nigeria, which has left at least 17,000 dead and made more than 2.6 million homeless.
  • A Jewish history teacher has been stabbed on a street in the southern French city of Marseille by three men who professed their support for ISIS.
    The men, who were riding on two scooters, with one wearing an ISIS T-shirt, approached the teacher, named tonight as Tziyon Saadon.
    The 57-year-old victim, who was wearing a kippa, was attacked outside his home, a short distance from the school and synagogue complex, a source close to the investigation said.
    They showed him a picture on their mobile phones of Mohamed Merah, a homegrown Islamist militant who killed seven people in a series of attacks in southern France in 2012, including three schoolchildren.
    Mr Saadon, named by the Jerusalem Post, was then stabbed in the arm and leg but his condition is not said to be life threatening.
  • Inspectors have failed 500 schools in the past year because they are poorly run by their governing bodies, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has disclosed.
    Failings include governors who try to alter the character of a school to fit in with their own ideology - as in the case of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” schools where they tried to enforce a hard-line Islamist ethos - and boards that have agreed “wildly excessive” remuneration packages for headteachers.
    Sir Michael, chief executive of education standards watchdog, wants ministers to consider paying heads of governing bodies and to insist that all governors should receive mandatory training.
    He said the role of governors was far more important nowadays with free schools and academies running their own affairs.
    Often, the worst examples of weak leadership are in “standalone” academies who do not have the support a multi-academy trust to help them run their schools.
  • Christian refugees are being unintentionally discriminated against by the US government's refugee scheme, new figures suggest.
    New statistics reveal that only 2 per cent of Syrian refugees accepted by the US since the conflict broke out in 2011 are Christian. By contrast, over 96 per cent are Muslim, according to US state department statistics.
    The US government rely on United Nations refugee camps and application processes to decide which refugees to accept. The majority of refugees considered for resettlement in the US and in the UK are referred by the UNHCR.
    However sources in Syria and Iraq say that Christians fleeing persecution deliberately avoid UNHCR refugee camps because they are afraid they will be targeted there. Instead they are housed in local churches and Christian houses and are therefore not processed through the UNHCR scheme.
    Only 53 Syrian Christians have been accepted by the US since the conflict broke out in 2011. This is compared to 2,250 Muslims out of a total of 2,216. The Syrian population is made up of more Muslims than Christians – 87 per cent and 10 per cent respectively – but the figures still represent a significant disparity.
  • The Church of England's education chief has countered warnings that struggling faith schools risk being taken over by  the government and turned into academies.
    Rev Nigel Genders, the Church's chief education officer, said: "Our schools are about far more than the land or the buildings we own, they are about the education we provide for the whole child. We are a big player and any reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. We look forward to continuing discussions with Government."
    Columnist Laura McInerney wrote in The Guardian that the Education and Adoption Bill currently going through Parliament will require the government "to grab land from the churches" under measures that compel the education secretary to force a takeover of schools rated by inspectors as inadequate.
    "No discretion will be allowed. If the school is not yet an academy, it will be pushed into becoming one," she wrote.
    There are currently more than 4,500 Church of England, more than 2,000 Catholic, more than 30 Jewish and more than 11 Muslim state maintained schools, a third of the total. There are also few Hindu, Sikh and other faith schools. The Roman Catholic Church ruled out opening any new Catholic academies because of a cap on faith-based admissions. The faiths own the land and the buildings of these schools.
  • A secretive conference to examine the future of Christianity in China is due to take place in Beijing this week amid rapid growth of the religion, which many believe has more Chinese adherents than the 87-million member Communist party.
    An official at the government-controlled Institute of World Religions, which is helping to organise the conclave, declined to provide details of its agenda.
    But Yang Fenggang, director of Purdue University’s centre on religion and Chinese society, said many Chinese Christians believed the conference was part of a government push to create a more “submissive” church. “It is clear that the top leaders feel unease with Christianity,” he said.
    One underground pastor said officials would consider ways to “strengthen management” of what is a tightly controlled church. “I don’t believe the government will close the church but I do believe they want to manage it,” said the pastor, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think they will control the doctrine. The government has no interest in what you preach. They are just worried about if you are against the party.”
    The conference, The Sinicisation of Christianity, is expected to be attended by religious affairs officials, academics and members of China’s official church.
  • Judges are becoming distressed by a rise in sex crimes as they are exposed to “horrific” pornography and depravity, the country’s most senior judge has said.
    Lord Thomas, the Lord chief justice, said that the numbers of sex offence trials was on the rise, and that could be a “problem” for judges unless their workload was varied. One in four crown court trials now involves a sex crime.
    Commenting after a trial judge broke down in tears last week as he sentenced the killers of Becky Watts, Lord Thomas said: “Few people have any idea of the sheer depravity to which people can sink and the judge often has material in front of him which cannot but distress people.
  • In the desert dust of Sinjar, in north west Iraq, a walking stick lies on the ground.
    Strewn casually alongside it are a couple of pairs of scissors, some household keys and a shoe. Bank notes flutter in the dirt.
    But, if you look a little closer, the scene becomes a horror show. Clumps of hair and fragments of bone poke grotesquely out of the ditch. It is estimated that almost 80 women are buried in this mass grave, aged between 40 and 80-years-old. The bodies are of Yazidi women, murdered by Islamic State butchers.
    As the world prayed for Paris, more than three thousand miles east another atrocity was being uncovered.

    Last week Kurdish forces – backed by British and American air strikes – liberated Sinjar from Islamic State militants, along with 28 other villages.
    They discovered two graves. The first – containing the corpses of older women – was found west of the city’s centre, near the Sinjar Technical Institute. The second was ten miles west, and is believed to contain men, women and children. It is rigged with explosives and deliberately difficult to access.
  • A surge in activity from Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency Boko Haram – now the world’s deadliest terrorist group – and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has driven an 80% increase in the number of people killed by terrorists in 2014, this year’s Global Terrorism Index showed. In total, 32,658 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 67 countries last year, according to the index, released on Tuesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
    The world is reeling from the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday, which killed at least 129 people. But the index showed that 80% of last year’s terrorist killings were carried out in just five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
    “We can see the trauma [terrorist attacks] create in the west, but think how much trauma they create in all these other countries in the world,” said Steve Killelea, executive chairman of the IEP.
  • Two teachers from a school linked to the 'Trojan horse' scandal could be banned for life after a hearing found that they 'fed pupils a diet of Islam' which 'stifled their development'.
    Inamulhaq Anwar and Akeel Ahmed exercised 'undue religious influence' on children at Park View Academy in Birmingham, a disciplinary panel ruled yesterday.
    Pupils were never taught sex or relationship education, according to officials, and were 'immersed in orthodox Islamic doctrine' - which could leave them vulnerable to being groomed by extremists.
    Anwar, 34, and Ahmed, 41, were 'generals' in the campaign to enforce Islamic discipline in the school, according to the Birmingham-based panel.
    They were found to have implemented 'an undue amount of religious influence in pupils' education', and could now face being the first British teachers to be banned from the classroom permanently.


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