INT'L DIGEST: Chavez facing major opposition
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A former Venezuelan baseball executive is organizing opposition groups to mount a broad-based, coordinated challenge to President Hugo Chavez in 2012.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo helped opposition candidates in 2010 congressional elections, and those parties made major gains, the Associated Press reported. Now Aveledo has persuaded a diverse array of parties to enter the presidential primary Feb. 12.
In his role as secretary general of the anti-Chavez coalition -- the Democratic Unity Table -- Aveledo has helped leaders and candidates from about 20 parties find common ground on subjects like health care, education, economic policy and international affairs, the AP reported. They have come up with plans to combat gun violence, build housing and boost food production.
"The Table isn't so much about what we reject as it is about what we favor," Aveledo told the Associated Press. "It's more of a project than something aimed solely at getting rid of the current government."
Organizing a single, more cohesive opposition to Chavez means being able to "to generate confidence and credibility, for the people to see there's an alternative in this country," he added.
EGYPTIAN STUDENT KILLED FOR WEARING CROSS -- A 17-year-old Coptic Christian student in Mallawi, Egypt, died of injuries sustained when his teacher and classmates brutally beat him at school for wearing a cross.
Like many other Coptic Christians, Ayman Nabil Labib had a cross tattooed on his wrist, as well as another cross he wore under his clothes, according to Religion Today news service. When his teacher told Labib to cover up his tattoo, the student refused and pulled out the cross under his clothing.
The teacher and several students began beating Labib and chased him into a restroom, where the attack continued. A school supervisor eventually rescued Labib and called an ambulance, but the boy died about an hour later at the hospital.
The Egyptian media at first reported the incident as an altercation between students that got out of control, Religion Today reported, but eyewitnesses eventually spoke out, confirming Labib was murdered because of his faith.
Two Muslim students have been arrested, and investigations are pending, according to Religion Today. Following Labib's funeral, more than 5,000 Christians marched in the streets of Mallawi, denouncing the repeated killings of Copts in Egypt.
SWEDEN TRIES TO END HOMESCHOOL PARENTS' RIGHTS -- Swedish officials are seeking to terminate the parental rights of a couple whose 9-year-old son was placed in foster care two years ago for being homeschooled.
Domenic Johansson was taken by Swedish police in June 2009 and his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, have been denied virtually any contact with him, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Alliance Defense Fund.
"The government shouldn't abduct and imprison children simply because it doesn't like homeschooling," ADF legal counsel Roger Kiska said. "That's bad enough. But now the state is going even further by attempting to get the parents out of the way altogether. This simply cannot stand."
CHINESE WOMAN DIES DURING FORCED ABORTION -- A Chinese woman, arrested by authorities for violating the country's one-child policy, died during a forced abortion in her sixth month of pregnancy.
Family members of Jihong Ma said officials from the Chinese Family Planning Bureau forcibly induced labor, then left her to die in the operating room, the Religion Today news service reported.
"China's cruel and barbaric forced abortion policy causes more violence toward women and girls than any other official policy on earth, Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said. "Women are forcibly aborted up to the ninth month of pregnancy. Forced abortion is not a choice. It is official government rape."
RADICAL MUSLIM SECT GROWS MORE DANGEROUS -- A violent movement among Muslims in Nigeria is gaining prominence in Africa's most populous nation, despite military and police efforts to stop it.
Boko Haram has killed more than 240 people in attacks this year, including a Nov. 4 suicide bombing of a military base in Maiduguri, conducted while explosives were blown up in other locations around the city, according to the Associated Press.
The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, tells his followers that jihad -- holy war -- is the only way Muslims will be able to establish Islamic rule in Nigeria. "Whomever we kill, we kill because Allah says we should kill and we kill for a reason," Shekau said in a recording of a sermon obtained by the Associated Press.
A crackdown on Boko Haram, which reportedly killed innocent civilians, could be winning sympathy and more support for the group, the AP reported. The most radical of the group's three factions wants to implement Islamic shariah law across Nigeria, which is predominantly Christian in the south and Muslim in the north.
Security agencies thought they had destroyed the group in July 2009, but the group re-surfaced in 2010 with a campaign of assassinations, the AP reported. The group frequently kills government officials, police officers, soldiers and clerics who speak out against them.
The plight of Nigeria's poor makes them easy recruits to the Boko Haram cause, said Khalifa Dikwa, a professor at the University of Maiduguri. Although wealthy people can afford to avoid legal problems, "somebody who was incarcerated for stealing just a chicken will be behind bars for six years without trial," Dikwa told the AP. "Again, it boils down to injustice, alienation, arm-twisting of the law, corrupting the entire system."
Unemployment runs as high as 70 percent in some areas of Nigeria and uneducated young people have few opportunities, the AP noted. Some Nigerian leaders believe community development projects can turn young people away from Boko Haram.
Mark Kelly is senior writer and an assistant editor for Baptist Press.
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