Nigerian authorities pleaded for peace over the Easter holiday: News Roundup

In the news this week, Nigeria attacks leave more than 50 dead, Obama Easter Service Pastor, Luis León, criticized for remarks against religious right, and other stories. 

Attacks on villages surrounding a central Nigerian city at the heart of unrest between Christians and Muslims have killed more than 50 people this week, officials said Saturday, as authorities pleaded for peace over the Easter holiday.

The attacks around Jos, a city in Nigeria's fertile central belt, come as a string of unsolved killings continue to plague the region that has seen thousands killed in massacres in recent years. While a combined police and military presence still patrols Jos and other parts of Plateau state, many of the villages attacked sit in remote, rural corners of the area that sometimes have only a single police officer on duty.

The most recent killings happened Friday night in the Barkin Ladi area, said Lt. Jude Akpa, a military spokesman. Attackers raided a village called Bokkos and killed nine people, fleeing before soldiers arrived, Akpa said. Emmanuel Lohman, a government official there, said gunmen armed with assault rifles struck a village called Ratas and opened fire in the night while many there were sleeping. The Huffington Post

Under attack by some conservatives for speaking out against the "captains of the religious right" in his Easter sermon, the Rev. Luis León, pastor of the Episcopal church the Obama family attended for the holiday, told The Huffington Post on Monday that he stands by his words.

"It's in there. People will do what they want with it," said Leon, referring to the sermon in which he said it drives him "crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back … for blacks to be back in the back of the bus … for women to be back in the kitchen … for immigrants to be back on their side of the border."

The words, spoken as he instructed congregants to follow the advice of Jesus telling Mary Magdalene not to cling to him after he returned to life after death, came as Leon said Christians need to remember that "God address us in the now." In the sermon, he linked the story to what he described as conservatives grasping onto outdated views on race, gender roles and immigration. The Huffington Post

American Christians have a persecution complex. Whenever a public figure criticizes the Christian movement or offers believers in other faiths an equal voice in society, you can bet Christians will start howling. Claims about American persecution of Christians are a form of low comedy in a country where two-thirds of citizens claim to be Christians, where financial gifts to Christian churches are tax deductible, where Christian pastors can opt out of social security, and where no one is restricted from worshipping however, whenever, and wherever they wish.

But for many Christians, the “war on religion” is no laughing matter.

Let’s be clear: protecting religious freedom is a serious concern, and believers should speak up whenever they feel the free practice of any faith—not just their own—is threatened. But what is happening in America is not “persecution.” Using such a label is an insult to the faithful languishing in other parts of the world where persecution actually exists—places like the Middle East. Religion News Service

Torches flickered outside the church. Little girls wore their sparkly Easter best. Children bearing lanterns filed out through the heavy gilt doors, as worshipers carried an icon of Jesus and a cross covered with carnations.

But the Good Friday procession at St. Kyrillos Church here in Syria’s capital did not follow the route it had taken for generations. No drums or trumpets announced its presence. The marchers made a tight circle inside the iron-gated courtyard, then headed back into the church, a hedge against the mortar shells like the one that hit a hospital across the street recently. At pauses in their singing, gunfire rattled, not more than a few blocks away.

Easter weekend is usually the year’s most festive for Syria’s Christians, but this year, it is infused with grave uncertainty. Christians here say they primarily fear the general chaos enveloping the country as the war enters its third year. But like members of Syria’s other religious minorities, many Christians also fear what they see as the rise of extremists among the mainly Sunni Muslim rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times