By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
People in Asia and the Pacific region were among the first to usher in 2022 as the international date line sits in their area.
Devoted Christians in areas impacted by super typhoon Rai in the Philippines that killed hundreds prayed and watched fireworks as they hoped for blessings in the New Year.
In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, evangelical Christians gathered in homes to pray for a better New Year after a year of illness and several deadly earthquakes and bursting volcanoes. “I have just opened my home for teenagers; we want to share with them the hops of the Gospel,” said a church worker whose name is known to Worthy News.
“It is so difficult as authorities use the pandemic to close churches this Christmas and New Year season,” added the church worker.
Indonesia has seen several sometimes deadly attacks against Christians this year, though the government says it is cracking down on Islamic extremism.
In many other places, New Year’s Eve celebrations were muted or canceled for the second straight year due to what authorities called a surge of coronavirus infections. This time the infection rate was driven by the “highly contagious” Omicron variant, officials said.
Authorities say, however, that the Omicron surge didn’t result in the same levels of hospitalizations and deaths as previous outbreaks, offering a glimmer of hope for 2022.
Thousands of fireworks lit up the sky over Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and Opera House at midnight in a spectacular display in a nation where many were faced with Corona-lockdowns imposed with military precision.
Hours before the celebrations began, Australian health authorities reported a record 32,000 new virus cases, many of them in Sydney.
Because of the surge, crowds were far smaller than in pre-pandemic years, when as many as 1 million revelers would crowd inner Sydney, witnesses said.
Further away in Europe, people began preparing for the New Year amid concerns that more than 100,000 Russian troops may enter Ukraine as early as next year.
In neighboring Hungary, which reported one of the world’s highest COVID-19 death tolls topping 40,000 on a population of nearly 10 million, authorities kept facilities open
Fireworks could be heard in Hungary’s capital hours before the strike of midnight. Later as the New Year celebrations moved towards New York, millions more people were saying their wishes for what promises to be another challenging year.
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