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INT'L DIGEST: Mexico City ponders 'temporary' marriages, Saudi women may not get to vote
Posted on Oct 14, 2011 | by Mark Kelly

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- If leaders of Mexico City's socialist democrat Party of the Democratic Revolution have their way, the city's 2009 law legalizing gay "marriage" will be followed this year with temporary marriage licenses.

The minimum marriage contract would be for two years and could be renewed if the couple is happy, the bill's co-author, Leonel Luna, told the Guardian newspaper. The licenses would include a pre-divorce agreement on the disposition of children and property if the couple decides to terminate the marriage.

"The proposal is, when the two-year period is up, if the relationship is not stable or harmonious, the contract simply ends," Luna told the Guardian. "You wouldn't have to go through the tortuous process of divorce."

CHRISTIAN NURSE BOLDLY REPORTS RAPE -- A Christian nurse in Lahore, Pakistan, told police she was raped by a Muslim colleague, even though the colleague threatened to release the tape unless she renounced her faith and agreed to marry him.

Shaista Samuel, a 27-year-old nurse at the Services Institute of Medical Sciences, filed the police report Sept. 3, accusing Ali Adnan, an assistant accounts officer at the hospital, and an armed accomplice of abducting her at gunpoint Aug. 21 and taking her to a house in Lahore where she was raped, according to the Compass Direct news service.

When Samuel refused Adnan's demand for marriage, he brought the video to her house and showed it to her parents, the report said.

"He then told my shocked family that they had no other option but to hand me over to him," Samuel said. "We had a very tough decision to make. We could have either conceded to his demand or be ready to face the shame and dishonor by reporting his crime, but we chose the latter. Adnan must be punished for ruining my life."

Christians have little legal or societal standing in Pakistan, and Muslim criminals tend to assume they will not be prosecuted if their victims are Christians, Compass reported. In Pakistan, a rape victim is generally considered too shamed to resume a normal life or pursue marriage.

The two suspects were granted bail and went into hiding, Samuel said.

"My father and brothers have been going to the police station every day to ask them to record the statements of the accused, but the investigating officer of the case is using delay tactics," Samuel said. "I've been asked ridiculous questions about the incident, but I will not be discouraged from seeking justice."

100 NIGERIAN CHRISTIANS DEAD IN ATTACKS -- A rash of attacks by armed Muslim extremists on villages in Nigeria's Plateau state in September left more than 100 Christians dead, including the elimination of entire families, Compass Direct News has reported.

In a Sept. 9 hit-and-run attack on the Christian community of Vwang Kogot, armed men killed 14 Christians, including a pregnant woman, Compass reported. One survivor of the attack, Vou Mallam, said she escaped death when she found a hiding place, but her husband, only son and grandchildren were killed.

Kogot told Compass she heard the assailants speaking Fulani, the language of Muslim nomads that militants apparently are enlisting to attack Christian communities due to their detailed familiarity with the terrain of rural communities. Survivors of the attack also told Compass the assailants were assisted by men in Nigerian military uniforms.

Local government official Emmanuel Dachollom Loman said he has repeatedly reported attacks to security agencies and the Nigerian government, but nothing has been done to protect his people. "This is becoming too much to bear," Loman told Compass. "The government should help us before Muslims come and wipe all of us out one day."

SAUDI DECREE MAY NOT GIVE WOMEN VOTE -- A vaguely worded decree by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in late September was widely reported as meaning women have been given the right to vote, but that is not what the declaration says, a human rights advocate has said.

The decree "did not use the word 'vote' and granted no explicit right to vote for women in his kingdom," wrote Nina Shea, a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. "The key operative phrase is 'participate in the nomination of candidates.' What this means exactly is unclear, but it certainly does not guarantee a right to vote."

What the decree does say is that women can nominate other candidates or be nominated themselves for municipal council elections during the 2015 election cycle, Shea wrote. It did not specifically state women could actually vote in the elections themselves. Women also can be appointed by the king to a consultative council that, like the municipal councils, has no policymaking authority.

"... Women's suffrage would be an important symbolic step in Saudi Arabia and resonates in the West, where recognizing women's voting rights was a critical step in obtaining legal equality," Shea wrote. "We'll just have to wait till 2015 and see whether the octogenarian King Abdullah interprets this decree as meaning women can vote. Or, for that matter, if he or his successor abides by the plain meaning of the decree, that women will be able to nominate themselves and others as candidates to the municipal councils. We can all agree, however, that this was a good public relations move during this endless Arab Spring."

BRAZIL CHURCH LEADERS CHARGED WITH EMBEZZLING -- Three leaders of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, one of Brazil's largest churches, have been accused of laundering millions in church donations and using worshippers' money for personal gain, according to the Guardian newspaper.

An amount equal to $232 million, obtained from mostly impoverished churchgoers by church leaders, was channeled out of the country via a network of offshore bank accounts and money changers, claimed federal prosecutors who announced the charges.

Edir Macedo, a televangelist who founded the church in 1977, and his financial director, Alba Maria Silva da Costa, were among those charged, according to the news report. The church, which claims a worldwide congregation of 8 million followers, promotes a "word-faith" version of prosperity theology, which promises that faith and donations can help followers achieve material wealth.

Past corruption scandals, including claims that donations were used to buy luxury goods and property, have earned the church many critics, the Guardian reported. A statement released by the church rejected the accusations.
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Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press.
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