NICK EICHER, HOST: Next it’s time for World Tour with Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Egyptian referendum—We start today in northern Africa. Election officials in Egypt say voters have approved constitutional amendments that will bring big changes to the country.
AUDIO: [Sound Egyptian election officials at polling place]
The amendments could keep President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in power for another 11 years.
AUDIO: [Egyptian in favor of President]
This man said he voted in favor of the amendments because al-Sisi wants to improve the standard of living for Egypt’s many poor people.
The amendments extend the presidential term from four to six years. They keep the two-term limit in place. But a special article allows al-Sisi to run two more times after he finishes his current term in 2022.
The changes also grant the president broad authority over the country’s judiciary. Opposition parties say the amendments are an assault on democracy.
Al-Sisi came to power in 2014 after his army ousted former President Mohamed Morsi. Critics say his effort to change the constitution proves his unwillingness to leave office.
Cyclone Idai recovery continues—Next we go to southeastern Africa.
AUDIO: [Mozambique Christians singing “Hosanna!”]
Christians celebrated Easter last week despite continuing to suffer after Cyclone Idai. The storm hit Mozambique last month with the force of a Category 3 hurricane. It churned its way over Zimbabwe and Malawi as well.
More than 1,000 people died.
Survivors now face another crisis: disease. Health workers reported more than 5-thousand cases of cholera and 10-thousand cases of malaria in Mozambique alone.
Amid the desperate situation, people still came to church to celebrate the resurrection.
AUDIO: [Mozambique priest]
This Catholic priest in Mozambique’s Buzi district explained that people still cling to their faith despite what happened to them. He said they didn’t see Cyclone Idai as any reason to stop believing in God.
Earthquake in the Philippines—Next we go to the Philippines.
AUDIO: [Phillippine heavy equipment]
Rescuers there used heavy equipment to dig through the rubble of buildings that collapsed during a powerful earthquake Monday. It was the strongest quake in years to strike so close to the capital, Manilla. Workers there fled from swaying office towers.
At least 16 people died. Another 14 people remain missing. Most are trapped in the rubble of a collapsed supermarket.
Another powerful quake struck the central Philippines on Tuesday.
Attacks on churches in France—Next we go to France…
AUDIO: [French Choir singing]
Easter services there highlighted the work of Paris firefighters to save the Notre Dame Cathedral. Authorities ruled last week’s fire accidental. But it drew attention to several other deliberate attacks on churches across the country.
Investigators say arson and vandalism have damaged seven churches in at least 10 attacks this year. A fire at Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris marred the front doors and a stained glass window above them.
Vandals also smeared feces on the wall of Notre-Dame-des-Enfants church in southern France.
Last year, the French Interior Ministry recorded more than 1-thousand anti-Christian acts. Nearly 900 of those involved vandalism at churches.
Christians held in Laos freed—And finally, we end today in Laos. Officials there released three detained U.S. missionaries just in time for Easter.
All three worked for Wyoming-based Vision Beyond Borders. Police arrested them on April 8th for evangelizing.
The country’s communist government views Christians with suspicion. And rural communities that practice animism are often hostile to missionaries.
Officials did not offer any information on the arrests or the decision to release and deport the three Americans. A spokesman for Vision Beyond Borders said God answered prayers that they would be home by Easter.
That’s this week’s World Tour. I’m Onize Ohikere reporting from Abuja, Nigeria.