Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pakistani Christian gets death in blasphemy case

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A court convicted a Pakistani Christian man and sentenced him to death Thursday in a blasphemy case that sparked a riot last year in the eastern city of Lahore, according to his lawyer.
Naeem Shakir, the lawyer for Sawan Masih, said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held out of fears that Masih might be attacked on his way to court. Shakir said he would appeal.
Although Pakistan has never executed anybody under the law, crowds angered over blasphemy accusations have been known to take the law into their own hands and kill those they suspect of violating it. Once an accusation is made it is extremely difficult to reverse, in part because law enforcement personnel do not want to appear to be going easy on suspects.
Such vigilantism has created a climate of fear, forcing frightened judges into holding court sessions inside jails and keeping witnesses from coming to the defense of those on trial.
Many human rights activists say the blasphemy law, which allows for punishment of life in prison or death, is misused as a way to target people for personal gain or revenge.
The incident that led to Thursday's conviction began March 7 last year when a young Muslim man accused Masih of maligning the Prophet Muhammad. Police arrested Masih, but the next day a mob ransacked the neighborhood where he and other Christians live, setting fire to homes and destroying household possessions.
Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight ahead of the riots. Many in the neighborhood have since moved back, and their homes have been rebuilt.
The police arrested 83 suspects following the rampage, including the man who brought the complaint against Masih, said a Lahore police official, Rana Taseer Riaz. But so far none of the suspects have been convicted and all were released on bail, he said.
Amnesty International condemned Masih's conviction and sentencing. The organization said there were serious concerns about the fairness of his trial and called for his immediate release. The organization also called on Pakistan to bring to trial the people responsible for attacking the Christian homes.
"Failure to do so will effectively send the message that anyone can commit outrageous abuses and excuse them as defense of religious sentiments," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
Pakistan's blasphemy law has existed since even before the country's 1947 founding. During the 1980s, the U.S.-backed military dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, amended it to add the death penalty and single out Islam as the religion that may not be insulted, among other changes(Source).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Two Christian Kindergarten Teachers Detained in China

Their souls should be in our prayers.

2/20/2014 China (ChinaAid) - Two Christian women were taken into custody on Tuesday from the Christian kindergarten in China’s southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region where they both work full-time.

Cheng Jie and Mo Xiliu were placed under criminal detention on Wednesday and charged with “engaging in illegal business operation” according to detention notices issued by the Yufeng (corrected Feb. 21) branch of the Liuzhou Public Security Bureau. Translations of the document will be published shortly.

These detentions appear to be related to the Christian teaching materials used in the school. “The Guangxi authorities are obviously trying to use the business-related, trumped up charges in order to cover up its religious persecution,” Bob Fu, ChinaAid founder and president, said.

“We urge the Guangxi authorities to immediately release these two innocent Christians,” Fu said.
Cheng’s husband, Pastor Du Hongbo, is a house church pastor and missionary. The couple has two small children, aged 3 (corrected on Feb. 20) and 1-1/2 years old (Source).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Chinese Gov’t Continues to Pressure House Churches

Let's hope our brethren continue to persevere even in the midst of this trial.

1/25/2014 China (ChinaAid) - A house church in Guangzhou, the provincial capital of China’s southern Guangdong has been pressured by local police six times since the beginning of the month; meanwhile, Christians in Neihuang County, in central Henan fear to attend church meetings because of persecution from several local government departments. Police have disrupted church gathering twice a week since the beginning of January to warn the church to cease their meetings, “Mark,” a missionary at Guangfu House Church in Guangzhou, said.

“They come to our place twice a week. This past Sunday… I went to the local police station and talked with them about our belief and what we do. They gave me the phone number of a deputy director of the police station; I also saw him. He asked me whether we just read the Bible and pray. I said yes and didn’t say anything more than that,” Mark said.

“I thought this thing was over so we went on with the gatherings. Then, they came again, and they even told the landlord, who is a brother among us, not to gather together.”

On one occasion, the church members tried unsuccessfully to obtain information about those persecuting them. “We asked the officer from the local police station to leave his phone number, but he wouldn’t do so. When we asked him to give us his name, he only said his last name, which is Yao. When we asked for his first name, he wouldn’t tell us,” Mark said.

“When I said I wanted to see his identification papers, he said I didn’t need to look at them. He just said he is from Pingguwu Police Station, and that I can find him there, and that the director of the police station told him to come to our place. When I asked him what the director’s last name was, he didn’t say.”

This isn’t the first time Guangfu House Church has experienced persecution. Last May, three Christians from the church were summoned by the Baiyun District Public Security Bureau and were accused of preaching the Gospel to passersby.

On that occasion, the believers were told that their gatherings were illegal. As a result, the landlord of the building where the church met was pressured to the point of cancelling the church’s lease.
In addition, the water and electricity in a home that Mark had purchased to host meetings in were cut for almost a year.

Mark also said that Guangfu House Church has heard of another local house church have received warnings from police.
Neihuang County, Henan

In addition to persecution in Guangdong, believers in Neihuang County in China’s central Henan told ChinaAid that the Neihuang County Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau and other government agencies have pressured believers so much that many are afraid to participate in church services.

“They dare not come to the gatherings,” one believer said. “When people from the Religious Affairs Bureau come, many of the believers dare not come out. Some people in the town risk their lives to come to the gatherings(Source).”

Bloodshed Continues in Nigeria as Boko Haram Attacks Christians


1/29/2014 Nigeria (Morning Star News) - Authorities suspected Islamic extremist group Boko Haram was responsible for an attack on a Catholic church service in Adamawa state on Sunday (Jan. 26) that reportedly left 45 people dead.

Sources told Morning Star News that 22 bodies were recovered from the church building in Waga Chakawa village, other church members were killed while trying to escape and still more were slain later in nearby bushes after being taken hostage. Of the 45 people reportedly killed, two were policemen. The total number of those killed who were taking part in the church service was unknown.

One of the survivors, 42-year-old Matthew Apogu, told Morning Star News that Boko Haram Islamists used improvised bombs and guns on the church.
“The gunmen used explosive devices to attack us as the worship service was on, and many of our Christian brethren lost their lives,” he said. “I saw 22 corpses, but some of my relatives who also escaped from the church told me that they saw 25 dead bodies.”
Apogu said the Islamist extremists took some Christians away as hostages.

“We were all scattered by the attackers, and as we escaped those that were not able to escape were taken hostage, especially, women, children, and the elderly,” he said.
The gunmen also burned homes, Apogu said.

The Rev. Raymond Danboyi, a Catholic priest with the Diocese of Yola, told Morning Star News by phone that only 22 deaths of church members had been confirmed.
“Twenty-two of our parishioners died in the attack carried out by gunmen we believe are Boko Haram members,” Danboyi said.
Maina Ularamu, chairman of the Madagali Local Government Council, reportedly said 45 people had been killed, but he later told Morning Star News that the council had yet to determine the total casualty figure.

The attack came as leaders of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) reported that 262 of its members were killed by Boko Haram, and another 12 were kidnapped, last year. Boko Haram gunmen bombed 36 Brethren Churches and burned down 854 houses, they said in an email.
The attacks on its members and churches, the Brethren leaders said, occurred in the states of Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna, and Yobe, all in northern Nigeria.
Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, was also suspected in a bombing attack on a market in Kawuri village, Borno state on Sunday evening (Jan. 26). At least 52 people died and all 300 homes in the village were reportedly burned down. The group also reportedly attacked the village of Wala on Friday (Jan. 24).

Boko Haram, the name residents of Maiduguri, Borno state originally gave the group that calls itself, “The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad” (from the Arabic, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,), has killed thousands of civilians, including hundreds of Christians(Source).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Report: 9 out of 10 Top Christian Persecution Countries Due to Islamic Extremism

It's a New Year. Let's begin it right by praying for our persecuted brethren.

WASHINGTON – Nine out of the ten countries ranked the most oppressive for Christians to live in were due to Islamic extremism, according to Open Doors' annual World Watch List, which was released Wednesday.

With the exception of North Korea – ranked No. 1 for the 12th year in a row – every other country on the top 10 list had as its source of persecution, Islamic extremism. North Korea's persecution of Christians was due to communist oppression and dictatorial paranoia, explained Open Doors in its 2014 World Watch List. According to the report, the countries with the most extreme persecution besides North Korea are: Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen, respectively.

Open Doors announced the rankings for its 2014 World Watch List, which documented the 50 nations least tolerant of their Christian population, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Christian persecution watchdog group's methodology involved measuring the level of Christian freedom found in five spheres of life: private, family, community, national, and church. A sixth sphere regarding degree of violence also factors in to the rankings.

Dr. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors; Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, head of Strategy and Research for Open Doors International; and Dr. Paul Marshall, author and senior fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, were among those who gave remarks at the press conference(Source).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Muslim Leaders in Indonesia Warn Followers Not to Celebrate Christmas

And hopefully my Indonesian brethren ignore this warning.

12/18/2013 Indonesia (AsiaNews) - The Ulema Advisory Council of Banda Aceh (MPU), the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh, the only one where Sharia law is enforced, has called on the Muslim community not to "celebrate" Christmas and New Year.
A few days before the holidays, the movement's leaders issued a statement saying that the two events do not belong to the Islamic tradition, and for this reason should not be celebrated.
The same occurred in 2003, when Muslim leaders in the province addressed their community, telling Muslims not to take part in the two festivities, which are typical of "Western and Roman culture."
At the time, President Abdurrahman 'Gus Dur' Wahid personally spoke on the issue. An iconic figure across the nation for his defence of human rights and minorities, he told his compatriots to "feel free" to celebrate these festivities.
Indeed, Indonesians have celebrated the New Year for quite some time with dancing, drums, motorcycle racing in city streets and fireworks.
However, "The nature of the celebrations for the New Year does not belong to the spirit of Islam," said MPU chief Tengku HAS Karih Syeikh.
In a statement to fellow Muslims, the leaders of the Islamist movement said that they should not send "greetings" and "best wishes" to Christians because "Christmas is not an integral part of the Islamic tradition."
"The law is clear," they explain. "It is haram (forbidden, according to the sharia)" and for this reason Muslims must refrain from going to parties, celebrations or festivities planned for the coming days.
Ulema in Aceh have also warned the Christian minority to "respect" the province's Islamic rules and obligations. Any planned Christian ceremonies, they said, "must not disturb or create problems."
This obligation also applies to local hotels and other accommodation facilities, which are already required not to hold celebrations or balls.
Finally, the ulema want the authorities to be strict in enforcing Islamic law and severely punish anyone who violates it.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Increasingly however, it has become the scene of attacks or episodes of intolerance against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or belong to other faiths

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seven-Year-Old Christian Boy Tortured and Murdered for Christian Faith in India

There seems to be something especially nasty and cruel about killing a child, than there is about killing a teen or an adult.

11/27/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a seven-year-old boy in northern India was brutally tortured and murdered because of his family’s Christian faith. This inhumane murder represents just one particularly brutal incident of Christian persecution as anti-Christian sentiments in India continues to grow.

On November 17, Anmol left his home to attend Sunday School at a Believers Church in northern India and never returned. His father, Harish, initially believed that his son had decided to play with friends, but became concerned when Anmol did not return later that night.
he next day, November 18, Harish and his wife filed a missing persons report with the local police. Later that day, police were contacted about a body found floating in a pond, which was later identified at a local hospital by Harish as his son.
It was very clear he was brutally murdered,” reported a field correspondent for Gospel for Asia. “[The murderer] had tortured the child in such an inhuman way. . .

According to the autopsy, Anmol’s face was burned, his hands were slashed and then also burned, his mouth was tied shut, his abdomen burned when hot coals were likely stacked on his bare skin and his toes were broken. The most disturbing fact discovered in the autopsy was that Anmol’s final cause of death was not the torture he endured, but was death by drowning.

It's unthinkable that this would happen to a little child like this,” K.P. Yohannan, founder and international director of Gospel for Asia, said in a persecution report. “Persecution against Christians is an ongoing matter that we see happening every week. In fact, it’s increased by 400 percent in the last several years, but the killing of a little child like this is unheard of.

Many believe that Anmol was targeted because of his family’s Christians faith. According to Gospel for Asia, Anmol’s father, Harish, converted to Christianity in 2003 and later became a successful evangelist bringing many people in his area to the Christian faith. Local Hindu radicals had threatened Harish on many occasions, but he could have never imagined the brutality that would be unleashed on his son for his evangelical work(Source).