Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Algerian Christian Sentenced Beyond Prosecutor’s Request

The good news about this is that there people converting to Christ in Algeria. I pray that the numbers grow.

5/30/2011 Algeria (Compass Direct News) – Convicting a Christian convert for insulting the prophet of Islam, a judge in Algeria last week stunned the Christian community by sentencing him beyond what a prosecutor recommended. In Oran, 470 kilometers (292 miles) west of Algiers, a criminal court in the city’s Djamel district on Wednesday (May 25) sentenced Siaghi Krimo to a prison term of five years for giving a CD about Christianity to a neighbor who subsequently claimed he had insulted Muhammad. Krimo was also fined 200,000 Algerian dinars (US$2,760), according to Algerian news reports.

The prosecutor had reportedly requested the judge sentence him to a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US$690). The court tried Krimo based solely on the complaint filed by his neighbor, who accused him of attempting to convert him to Christianity.  “He gave a CD to a neighbor, and for that he has to spend five years in prison,” said the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), Mustapha Krim, trying to contain his disbelief. “The hearing went well, and the lawyer defended well, yet in the end the judge gave him the maximum punishment.”

Authorities arrested Krimo on April 14 and held him in jail for three days. On May 4 he appeared before the court in Djamel, where the prosecutor requested the two-year sentence in the absence of the neighbor who had accused him – the only witness – and any evidence.  The punishment the prosecutor requested is the minimum for Algerians found guilty of insulting Muhammad or “the messengers of God,” or anyone who “denigrates the dogma or precepts of Islam, be it via writings, drawings, statements or any other means,” according to Article 144 of the Algerian Penal Code.

Krim said that if the courts start interpreting the law as it did in Krimo’s case, then the future of Algeria’s Christians is grim.  “If they start applying the law like that, it means there is no respect for Christianity,” Krim said, “and pretty soon all the Christians of Algeria will find themselves in prison. If the simple fact of giving a CD to your neighbor costs five years in prison, this is catastrophic.”

Defense lawyer Mohamed Ben Belkacem told Compass that the judge’s verdict was unexpected and heavy, indicating the legal system’s prejudice against Christians.  “We did not expect this verdict at all,” Ben Belkacem said. “It was a heavy sentence. The judge punished the ‘Christian,’ not the ‘accused.’ There was no proof, and despite that, the court granted him no extenuating circumstances.”

The lawyer said he plans to appeal the case. Krimo is not required to serve his prison sentence until the court hears his appeal and upholds the conviction.  “My client denied having insulted the prophet, and there is no material proof that supports this accusation,” Ben Belkacem told Compass before the May 25 hearing, “but these types of cases are full of unexpected, last-minute developments, so it is difficult for me to envision the outcome.”

At the time of his arrest, authorities detained another Christian convert along with Krimo but released him the same day. Authorities first took Krimo to his house, which they ransaked, confiscating his Bible, CDs, computer and flash discs, according to sources. His wife was able to retrieve the items the next day.

Krimo had “good contact” with his neighbors and sometimes answered questions about Christianity, according to sources. Krimo and his wife have a baby daughter.  The court delivered its verdict the same week that the governor of the province of Bejaia ordered the closing of seven Protestant churches. Asked if he thought the court had instructions from higher officials to hand down such heavy punishment to Krimo, Krim responded with no hesitation: “It’s certain!” (Source)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Persecution of Christians in America

Yesterday we saw that our British brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing persecution, although not to the same degree as our brethren are facing in countries like Egypt and China. However, if we Christians in America are nurturing the illusion that persecution could never happen to us in our country, think again:

The type of stuff that our brother in Christ says he is going through, is happening in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn is a city with highest number of muslims in America. Last year, four of our brothers and sisters in Christ were arrested and thrown in prison (unjustly I should say) for having a public dialogue with Muslims at the Arab Festival in Dearborn last year:

As for the video above this one, I feel like a series of posts are coming on concerning the religion of Islam.

Pakistani’s Tired of Bad Reputation: Some Seeking Christianity to Help Change it

Pakistan was formed in 1947as the Muslim section in the partition of British India. This explains why it's a majority Muslim country and in 1998, Sharia law was adopted and it has been used to oppose our Pakistani brothers and sisters in Christ ever since then. Lately, many of our so-called brethren have been converting to Islam out of fear for their families and lots of persecution being heaped on them. It seems bleak for our brethren there. Fortunately, there seems to be a ray of hope for our Pakistani brethren:

05/29/2011 Pakistan (MNN) ? Pakistan’s most recent press in the West has surrounded flooding, Osama bin Laden, blasphemy laws, and terrorism. The country’s reputation makes it easy to despise. Katie Jaye, a producer for International Mission Board, says there’s more happening in Pakistan than most of the international community realizes.

“What many people outside of the country are seeing are these negative things and these scary things that are happening in the country…. There’s so much more that’s going on in that country than what we see in the media.” One of the biggest surprises about the country may be the strength of the church. Jaye says even though Christians only make up what seems like a small percentage of the nation (2%), there are still many believers. And many of them are passionate to reach their country.

“A lot of the people around them–people they work with, live next to, and see every day–just really haven’t even heard or have had the opportunity to know and understand the Gospel,” explains Jaye. “So there’s a real heart for that.” Jaye and others call the Christian population in Pakistan the “sleeping giant.”

“Two percent: it’s very small, but it’s a big number that if everyone who claims to be Christian acts on what they’re called to do, then, as one of the Christians we talked to said, the map of Pakistan would change,” says Jaye. “The minority would become the majority.” This is indeed beginning to happen. A recent IMB article explored the fact that Pakistanis are getting more and more discontent with the country’s bad reputation. Many are so desperate for alternative ways of living that they’re willing even to look into Christianity.

And Christians are responding. Although believers who are actively evangelizing are at a much higher risk of being accused of blasphemy or facing severe persecution, many refuse to let fear consume them. As believers elsewhere are called to reach those around them, “In Pakistan, that’s the same call–except that it looks so different for them.” Many are working hard, but the reality is that the church could grow more if others got involved.

The One True God is the only One capable of transforming the Mideast nation. Pray for the “sleeping giant” to wake up, that even more believers might jump on board. Pray that fear would be lifted as Christians recognize that the Lord is in control. (Source)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Politician Warns U.K. Christians are Being Persecuted.

(Words in bold, excluding the date and the name of the country at the top, are mine.)
This blog has so far shown us the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus in countries like Egypt, Pakistan, China, Iran, Algeria and other places. However, if we Christians over here in the West believe that we would never face persecution, we couldn't be more wrong:

05/30/2011 United Kingdom(ChristianPost) British Christian M.P. David Simpson has raised his concern over the treatment of Christians in the United Kingdom and around the world in a debate in the House of Commons this week. The DUP politician told ministers that if they wanted to see instances of Christian persecution they need not go to other countries but “simply look to our own back door”.

“In the United Kingdom, the policy seems to be that people can do whatever they like against Christianity – criticize it or blaspheme the name of Christ – as long as they do not insult Islam,” he said. “It is sad because this country is based on civil and religious liberty for all. When Queen Victoria was on the throne, the secret behind England’s greatness was its open scriptures and open Bible.

Why are the British forbidden from insulting Islam? Many Muslims have emigrated from Middle Eastern/South Asian countries to come to Western Countries, Britain being one of them. As the number of Muslims rose there came increasing calls for Sharia (Muslim) law in Britain. In 2008, Britain established Sharia courts in its country. And it seems like another element of Sharia law has entered the U.K.: People are forbidden from criticizing Islam.

“Today, that policy is being hammered into the ground, and that concerns me greatly for the years and months that lie ahead.” The Commons debate follows the case of a Christian driver who was told to remove a small cross from the dashboard of his company van over concerns that it would offend people of other faiths, even though the company, Wakefield District Housing, allows a Muslim employee to display a verse from the Koran in her company car.

WDH launched an investigation into Colin Atkinson after he refused to remove the cross but backed down after media reports prompted outcry against the action. Simpson spoke of his concern over the proliferation of violent attacks on Christians in other parts of the world. He pointed particularly to “wave upon wave” of violent attacks against Christians in Nigeria, where hundreds have been killed in post-election violence, and Pakistan, where the blasphemy laws continue to be used by Muslims to justify attacks against Christians.

Simpson warned of the “inherent dangers” accompanying the Arab Spring, as groups seek to exploit the recent uprisings and establish a purist society “in which the plight of religious groups will be made worse”.
He echoed concerns that democracy will fail in the Arab world unless the G8 provides adequate financial support to democratic players. He said Britain had a responsibility to use its influence to help establish democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia.

“We, as a Parliament and a nation, should not be like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan and simply pass by on the other side.” As important trading partners and recipients of British aid, Simpson said the Government should not respond to the human rights situation in many Arab nations with “silence”.

“As one of the great economies of the world and one of the beacons of democratic freedom, we have a duty to use all of our influence to help those who suffer injustice around the world. “There is a rising tide of affliction that is swelling around Christians across the world. “This nation and this Parliament should be more to the fore in the campaign against that and for civil and religious liberty. I urge the Government and all hon. Members to rise to that challenge.”

“Pakistan will soon be the largest recipient of U.K. bilateral development aid, which legitimately gives us some leverage in our dealings with it. We should continue to make representations in the strongest and most forceful way about the impact that its blasphemy law is having on its people,” he said.Baldry is due to meet Christians in Cairo, Egypt in the coming days, where the Christian community is still reeling from deadly attacks by Muslims in recent weeks. “It is not only Egypt that is affected,” he said. “The tragedy is that Christianity in the Middle East is on the slide. “Indeed, it is not just sliding into obscurity; it is almost in danger of being extinguished in many countries, such as Iran and Iraq.

“Now, for various reasons, it is extremely difficult for Christians to profess their faith in many Middle East countries.” Jim Shannon, also of the DUP, said there was a tendency to become “de-sensitized” to the plight of others but urged people to remember victims of persecution and help them practically and prayerfully. (Source)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Religious Freedom a Far hope for Pakistani Christians

In spite of all the persecution going on to my brothers and sisters in Christ in Pakistan, it's good to know that there are a few brave brethren willing to stand up for the Risen Savior, like Asia Bibi and Shahbaz Bhatti.

05/27/2011 PAKISTAN (ANS) — The wave of terrorism that has hit Pakistan following the killing of Osama Bin Laden’s has left many around the world wondering what will come next.

It has not only cast a bad spell over US-Pakistani relations, but has also managed to sideline what was once considered to be 2010’s defining issues and 2011’s tragic and bitter realities: The status of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.Caught up in the world of espionage, the media and the authorities seem to have forgotten that a 45-year-old Pakistani woman is still being held in custody under a controversial blasphemy laws.

Apparently we have also forgotten about the savage murders of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, and the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was the first Christian to serve in the Pakistani cabinet. Collective silence over these slayings have shown the government’s incompetence to tackle these issues and it also exhibits their intolerance and inability to understand fully and recognized the importance of freedom of speech, moral values and the deprivation of basic human rights, which has led the common people to compromise even with the moderate opinions.
The Governor’s self-confesssed murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, his so-called bodyguard, shot him 26 times with a submachine gun at Kohsar Market, near his home in Islamabad. He was formally indicted on February 15, 2011, but nothing has been done to curb the sentiments that caused him to act out in the first place. The Pakistan government is silent, failing to acknowledge that anyone suggesting amendments to the blasphemy laws has been threatened into submission. Self-professed “activists,” prominent media persons and the exalted judiciary, too, seem to be focusing on “less controversial” issues.

Salman Taseer’s daughter is now being threatened and told by extremists not to speak out against the blasphemy laws. Shahbaz Bhatti, another high-profile voice who paid the ultimate price for opposing the blasphemy laws, was silenced in Islamabad on March 2, 2011, when he was gunned down by unknown gunmen. He had previously been threatened by Muslim militants for urging reform of the harsh blasphemy laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam, and for also standing up for Asia Bibi. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination of the long-time minority’s activist.

Bhatti, 42, was leaving his home in the morning when an unknown gunman bombarded his vehicle with bullets in broad daylight. He was dead when he arrived at Shifa Hospital in Islamabad. Bhatti is usually accompanied by security guards, but he had told them on that day not to travel with him. The probe still continues into Bhatti’s murder without any solid breakthrough. The brazen assassination of this courageous man has not only shocked the Pakistani nation, but also the whole world. In one of his last interactions with the media, he seemed ready and reconciled to his fate.

Both leaders had been very vocal in their opposition to the the blasphemy laws and they had been actively campaining for the release of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Politician Sherry Rehman had spoken up against the blasphemy laws and she was threatened. Who would be the next on the list? Dr. Paul Bhatti, the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, has now been appointed as the adviser to the Prime Minister for Minority Affairs, and enjoys the status of a federal minister.
For those who don't know, Asia Bibi is a sister in Christ who was put in prison for saying that Jesus Christ is alive and Muhammad is dead to a couple of Muslims in 2009.

The recent coalition between the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (PMLQ) has resulted in giving the portfolio for the Minister for Minority affairs to a member of PML Q and so Akram Masih Gill was appointed as the State Minister, a move that has created an uncertainty on the status of the adviser to the PM.In an address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, Pope Benedict XVI urged religious tolerance, and in particular the repeal of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.

In another move, some 736 Parliamentarians from the European Union have signed a petition demanding that Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, use his constitutional powers and amend the blasphemy laws which many believe has been misused to settle personal vendettas. Catherine Margaret Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) has also endorsed the petition.

Mr. Haroon Barkat Masih, chairman of the Masihi Foundation, a human rights organization that is leading the way in the Asia Bibi case said, “Asia Bibi is awaiting in her cell. She is weak and vulnerable but is regularly fasting and praying for the Christians and the current situation in Pakistan. Despite the current situation, she is hopeful, she is firm and unshakable in her faith.

There are great security concerns for Ms. Bibi due to post Bin Laden circumstances and the bounty announced by Imam Yusef Qureshi of Peshawar who has promised 500,000 rupees (around $5,837.03 USD) to anyone who kills Asia Bibi. Noting that this is contrary to the laws of Pakistan, the number of extra judicial killings in Punjab are the highest compared to any other province in Pakistan.

Asia Bibi had been physically sick for a while, as she remains in solitary confinement and gets raw material to cook and eat. Ashiq Masih visits her regularly and said that Bibi starts her day by reading from the Bible and praying. “Her family anxiously awaits for her to come back home,” said Mr. Masih.” Mr. Masih further stated, “The extremists are killing all the sane, rational elements in our society. Justice, charity, love for all and the acceptance for others, has totally vanished. People have developed a habit of seeing only a single dimension.

“We need to consider everyone’s opinions and views to promote a tolerant society which guarantees equal rights for all, regardless of their gender, color, creed, religion, race and age. We would encourage people to fight injustice and create harmony among diverse communities and also develop a sense of responsibility as well as working towards the eradication of poverty, a basic education for all, and freedom of practicing their own religion without a fear.” It is time to embrace change here in Pakistani because it has become fashionable to condemn others who are not practicing the same faith or belief. I am afraid that a worst type of extremism is also developing not just here, but across the globe.

If we expect tolerance from people who have different beliefs, we have to also show tolerance towards them as well. When you allow religion to mix with the affairs of the state, this kind of barbarity is the result. Religion has no place in the matters of the state. It is a private thing for every individual. The laws and policies of the state cannot be allowed to be taken over by religion; otherwise that nation will collapse into a sectarian disaster. (Source)

Friday, May 27, 2011

N. Korea Says It Will Free Detained American

Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!!! He has allowed a victory in releasing a brother in Christ. I hope there will be more good news to come.

05/27/2011 North Korea (Time) – North Korea said Friday it will free an American detained for reportedly proselytizing after a visiting U.S. official expressed regret.

Eddie Jun was arrested in November and accused of committing a serious crime against North Korea, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said. Pyongyang didn’t provide details about the alleged crime, but South Korean press reports say Jun, a Korean-American with business interests in North Korea, was accused of spreading Christianity.

Robert King, the U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights who is visiting the country this week, “expressed regret at the incident on behalf of the U.S. government and assured that it would make all its efforts to prevent the recurrence of similar incident,” North Korea’s news agency said.

King is leading an American delegation trying to verify food supply surveys by the United Nations and U.S.-based charities and see if there are ways to monitor aid distribution. Officials at the U.S. embassies in Seoul and Beijing declined to comment.

Former President Jimmy Carter also asked for Jun’s pardon during a recent visit, the North said.
North Korea gave Jun medical treatment and allowed him to make regular contact with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which represents U.S. interests in the country, and to talk by phone with his family, the North Korean news agency said. The United States, which fought on South Korea’s side during the 1950-53 Korean War, doesn’t have diplomatic staff based inside North Korea.

Several Americans have been detained in North Korea in recent years, and they were often freed only after high-profile negotiations. During another visit in August, Carter brought home a man sentenced to eight years’ hard labor for crossing into the country from China. Korean-American missionary Robert Park walked into North Korea on Christmas Day 2009 to draw attention to the North’s alleged human rights abuses and to call for the resignation of leader Kim Jong Il.

Americans Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in 2009 for alleged trespassing. North Korea released them after Former President Bill Clinton made a trip to Pyongyang to ask for their freedom.

North Korea officially guarantees freedom of religion, but authorities often crack down on Christians, who are seen as a Western-influenced threat to the government. The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labor camp or execution, defectors from the country have said. (Source)

Provincial Official in Algeria Orders Churches to Close

I  pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, will keep my Algerian brethren safe during this time of testing. I also pray that the number of Christians will grow in Algeria.

5/25/2011 Algeria (Compass Direct News) – Seven Algerian churches face closure this week after the governor of their province sent them written notice that they were operating “illegally.”

The notice on Sunday (May 22) from Police Chief Ben Salma, citing a May 8 decree from the Bejaia Province governor, also states that all churches “in all parts of the country” will be closed for lack of compliance with registration regulations, but Christian leaders dismissed this assertion as the provincial official does not have nationwide authority.

“All buildings permanently designated for or in the process of being designated for the practice of religious worship other than Muslim will be permanently closed down in all parts of the country, as well as those not having received the conformity authorization from the National Commission,” Salma stated in the notice.

On Sunday (May 22) the governor of Bejaia sent a statement to the president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) informing him that all churches in the province were illegal because they were unregistered. Registration is required under controversial Ordinance 06-03, but Christians report the government refuses to respond to or grant their applications for registration.

The controversial law was introduced in 2006 to regulate non-Muslim worship. In 2008 the government applied measures in accordance with Ordinance 06-03 to limit the activities of non-Muslim groups, ordering the closure of 26 churches in the Kabylie region because they were not registered. No churches had been closed down since then.

EPA members argue, however, that the law is impossible to implement as officials refuse to register their churches despite efforts to comply. They said the authorities apply the law when they want to harass churches.

“It’s always the same thing,” Mustapha Krim, president of the EPA, told Compass. “They use this law when they want to pester us.”

On Monday (May 23) members of the EPA were scheduled to visit the Minister of Religious Affairs. Instead, however, they were received by one of his deputies, who told them the ministry was not aware of the decision of the Bejaia governor. The meeting was not constructive, according to Krim.

Krim, a resident of Bejaia, sounded relaxed and pragmatic on the phone, but he was adamant that the EPA members had no intention of closing their churches. The letter from the governor did not include a closure date, nor did it give any further reasons local authorities made this decision.

The governor of Bejaia is not particularly religious, according to Krim, making his order to close the churches of his province even more bemusing, he said.

The churches of Bejaia have submitted the documentation the controversial law requires, and the government’s unwillingness to give official permission for the churches to operate is a matter for officials, not churches, to resolve, asserted Krim.

“There are no precise reasons given [for the order to close],” Krim said. “They said we have to be in conformity to the law. We’ve always tried to do this and have submitted all that they requested. Now it’s up to them to give us the authorization and do what they need to do.”

According to the governor’s statement, if the churches do not comply, authorities may use force. The leaders of the churches in Bejaia have decided to conduct church services this weekend as scheduled and “see what happens,” said Krim, who also expects police to show up.

There are more than 99,000 Christians in Algeria, less than 0.3 percent of the total population of 35.4 million people, according to Operation World. Muslims make up more than 97 percent of the population.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Libya war pushes Christian presence to the brink

I pray that the Christian community in Libya doesn't completely disappear. If it does, there will be no one to witness to the muslims there.
         (Reuters) – The Christian church in eastern Libya, which traces its roots back two millennia to the era of Christ, is fighting for survival because war has forced nearly all its worshippers to flee.

But Muslims in Libya’s rebel-held east are keen to show that Christians are still welcome, drawing a contrast with the Christian community’s turbulent history under Muammar Gaddafi, whose rule in the east was ended by mass protests in February.

Gaddafi has repeatedly predicted the triumph of Islam over Christianity in the world and likens NATO states launching air strikes against his military armour to “colonialist crusaders”. At the Coptic church in Libya’s second city of Benghazi, the main rebel stronghold, bearded and robed

Father Polla Eshak swings an incense burner among mostly empty pews for the worshippers who have not fled the fighting. Many Christians in Libya are Copts, an Egyptian sect, and the number going to Eshak’s church has shrunk to about 40 from over 1,000 before the revolt began. Eshak says it is fear of war, not persecution, that caused the exodus of Christians, nearly all of whom are foreign farmers, builders, nurses and other workers vital to Libya’s economy.

Najib Makhlouf, another local keeping an eye on the church, lamented the fate of the area’s Jewish inhabitants and said any sectarian violence today would undermine the rebel cause.

Clashes between Christians and Muslims in neighouring Egypt have become more common in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in February after 30 years in power.

There are also fears that al Qaeda could infiltrate Libya. Al Qaeda-linked groups conducted several high-profile attacks on Iraq’s Christian minority after the 2003 Iraq war. (Status)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Afghan Christian Refugees under Threat

Washington, D.C. May 24 (ICC) – In May 2010, an Afghan television network broadcast footage of baptisms involving Afghan Muslim converts to Christianity. When a member of parliament called for the execution of the apostates, President Hamid Karzai should have supported the right of Christians to choose their own religion. Instead, the Karzai administration called for an investigation into how aid organizations were promoting Christianity in the region. The investigation resulted in the arrest of an Afghan Christian named Said Musa, who was charged with apostasy and issued the death sentence in court.

After an exhaustive nine month effort by the international community to engage Afghanistan’s government, Musa was finally released from prison and able to leave the country. Although Said Musa’s ordeal is now over, a decision made by the United Nations in New Delhi to deport a number of Afghan converts may drive that small Christian community to a similar fate.  After Musa’s arrest, many Afghan Christians fled Kabul for safety – some went into hiding, isolating themselves in obscure villages until the situation calmed, while others went to India or Pakistan.

Obviously, Said Musa isn't the first person to go through huge trials to prevent his death for leaving Islam and turning to Christ. For those who don't know, Islam teaches that whoever ceases to be a Muslim (apostatizes) is to be killed:

Sahih al-Bukhari 6922—Allah’s Messenger said, “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Among them was Aman Ali with his wife and their four children, who arrived in India in June 2010. Aman had converted to Christianity from Islam in 1999 and worked for a foreign aid organization in Kabul. Eventually, Aman’s conversion was exposed, making it no longer safe for him and his family to stay in Afghanistan.  “In March 2010, someone had reported my activities to the secret police of Afghanistan and they were looking for evidence to arrest me, but I was so careful and had to stop my work,” Aman told ICC. “After the television showed pictures from a baptism ceremony, the Afghan government started arresting believers from different parts of Kabul.

[President] Karzai ordered the chief of intelligence to follow up the process of conversion from Islam into Christianity. Most Afghan believers were scared by this declaration and left the country. So did me and my family.”  On April 12, Aman attended a meeting with the Deputy Chief of Mission at the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi and was told that he would be granted refugee status; however, a letter issued on May 6 stated otherwise.

Aman had been denied status based on his failure to meet the criteria set forth in Article 6B of the UNHCR Statute which states that to receive refugee status, one must have a “well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion and is unable or, because of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the government of the country of his nationality.” It was clear to Aman that the UN did not take the threats on his life seriously.

Nonetheless, Aman was not alone. Ratimullah, another Afghan convert from Mazar-i-Sharif, fled at the same time as Aman and for the same reasons. Like Aman, Ratimullah’s application for refugee status was also rejected along with seven other applicants and their families. The applicants are now in hiding, fearful that if they are caught by the Indian police they will be deported back to Afghanistan. “I cannot return to my country because I will be arrested and executed by the Afghan Government,” Ratimullah wrote in an appeal to the UNHCR. “A definite death is waiting for me in my homeland; there is no chance of returning for me. There is no identity for me in Afghanistan to live as an Afghan Christian. An Afghan national has to be a Muslim. Conversion is illegal and is considered as a crime according to the law of the country.”

An Afghan Christian leader in New Delhi who goes by the name Obaid S. Christ reiterated Ratimullah’s fears. “The UNHCR office brutally closed and rejected some refugee applications of our community. This is happening after all our efforts to inform and convince the UNHCR office that it is impossible to live as an Afghan Christian in Afghanistan if your Christian identity is revealed to the public and to the Afghan Islamic Republic. Apostasy is considered as a crime, an illegal action and a sin which is punishable by death by the Islamic Sharia Law that is the base of the Afghan Constitution.”  While Afghanistan’s Constitution addresses religious freedom, it does not mention converting from one religion to another.

In Said Musa’s case, the judge did not base his decision on the penal codes of Afghanistan’s constitution, but on Islamic law. “According to Afghanistan’s constitution, if there is no clear verdict as to whether an act is criminal or not in the penal code of the Afghan Constitution, then it would be referred to Sharia law where the judge has an open hand in reaching a verdict,” Qamaruddin Shenwari, director of the Kabul courts’ north zone, told CNN.  Despite the UN’s apparent trust in Afghan court officials to follow constitutional procedures and protect the freedoms listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Afghanistan is a signatory to, recent occurrences indicate the opposite – that Christians will be arrested and possibly executed for apostasy.

If the UN refuses to reconsider their decision to deport eight Afghan Christian refugees and their families, the international community may need to start preparing for another long and arduous ordeal that could be necessary to free more imprisoned apostates from Afghanistan’s iron grip. (Source)

For those who want a full treatment on the topic of apostasy, here's a video from my brother-in-Christ, David Wood concerning apostasy in Islam. This was done when a sister-in-Christ named Rifqa Bary, was being held in custody and people were wondering whether to send her back home to her parents (so they can kill her) or back to her home country Sri Lanka (where she and her family are from) or keep her in custody till her eighteenth birthday (which was last year on August 18, 2010):
I should let you know that they did let her stay in custody till her eighteenth birthday, and right now in the year 2011, I have no clue where she is. I know she is at a place under a different name (so that Muslims don't catch her). The words in italics are mine

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A True Resurrection in Iraq

5/17/2011 Iraq (Guardian) – The savage attack on Christians worshipping at Our Lady of Salvation Chaldean Catholic church in Baghdad drew the world’s attention to the violence against Christians and other minorities, such as the Mandaeans and the Yazidis, which has become almost routine in Iraq since the “troubles” began. Priests and bishops have been kidnapped and brutally murdered; Christian schools, businesses and homes have been targeted; hundreds have been killed or injured; and hundreds of thousands have fled to Syria, Jordan, Turkey and – the lucky ones – to the west.

Other religious minorities have not fared any better.  Everyone in Iraq seems to live in deadly danger, but religious minorities are much more exposed as they do not have militias of their own to protect them. At the moment, however, there is a lull in the violence and this must, therefore, be a time to take stock and think about the future.  It would not be true to say that there is no fear, but the Christian community has not given up on its commitment to serve all the people of Iraq in the name of the gospel it professes. Just two examples will show what I mean: a few years ago St George’s Anglican church in the heart of Baghdad was derelict, abandoned because it lay in a dangerous area. That was until Andrew White (“the vicar of Baghdad”) arrived.

At Coventry cathedral he had become involved in the work of relief and reconciliation in the Middle East and now he set about not only rehabilitating St George’s, but making it a premier location for the delivery of essential services to Iraqis – regardless of religion. 

Every day of the week St George’s hums with activity: the clinic is full to capacity with patients receiving primary medical care that the hard-pressed state hospitals are unable to provide. Most are Muslim, and most of the staff are Christian but it seems not to matter a whit. Unemployed and disabled people can collect a weekly ration that just about enables them to survive. There is a small school for children, and, in the desert of war, a bookshop. Most of all, there are people to listen, to give advice, to help with food, clothing and shelter. 

It should not surprise us that this work is rooted in prayer, sacrifice and service. So many of those who need help are women, and the strong mothers’ union works all hours of the day to minister to the needs of these women, many of whom have lost their menfolk in the conflict.  …  Across the Tigris, and with strong links to St George’s, is another example of resurrection in Iraq. It is the House of Love, run by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity. The sisters are from India and Bangladesh, and they have rescued, sometimes from the streets, severely disabled children who have been abandoned by their parents.

They are a vivid reminder of Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against his own people. Many of the disabilities have undoubtedly been caused by the dictator’s use of chemical and other prohibited weapons against dissidents and minorities. It is most moving to see how the sisters and their helpers (some from the mothers’ union at St George’s) care for these young ones, many without arms and legs, and how the children respond to the love and friendship.

One of the things I would most like them to have is a computer that can be operated with the voice. It would transform their lives.  The Ba’ath party claimed to be the party of “national resurrection” but it brought only repression, fear and death. The Iraqi people deserve a more authentic resurrection. St George’s and the Sisters of Charity show us how it can be done. (Source) 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thirteen Attackers of Christians Sentenced to Five Years in Prison in India

5/20/2011 India- Thirteen people were Monday sentenced to five years imprisonment for their role in the 2008 Kandhamal violence. A fast track court in Phulbani, Orissa convicted the 13 for their involvement in rioting, arson and torching of houses in Sartaguda village under Tikabali police station in September 2008.

Fast Track judge Shobhan Das handed each of the accused five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2000. In a related case, another fast track court acquitted 12 people for lack of evidence.

All the 12 had been arrested by Phiringia police on charges of unlawful assembly with weapons in Sripalla village on December 30, 2007. The judgement has come a week after the same court acquitted 21 of 25 accused in a case of arson. Church leaders have expressed deep concern at the high rate of acquittals in the fast track courts.

Kandhamal witnessed widespread violence after the murder of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008. More than 50,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs.

Meanwhile, a senior Maoist leader, believed to be one of two masterminds behind the 2008 killing of Saraswati reportedly surrendered before the Andhra Pradesh DGP on Wednesday. (Source)

US Evangelist Beaten Up in North Korea

5/19/11 North Korea- An American detained in North Korea for apparent missionary work was severely beaten as part of investigations into underground Christian churches there, an acquaintance said on Thursday. Eddie Jun Yong-Su, an ethnic Korean US citizen, had been engaged in "aggressive" missionary activities in the hardline communist state, said Lim Chang-Ho, a professor at a South Korean theological college.

Lim said Jun and two ethnic Koreans with Chinese passports were arrested at the same time last November. "The two others were badly beaten but they were allowed to return home as they were Chinese nationals," Lim said. "According to them, Jun was beaten up so severely that he could hardly walk without help," he said. It was not possible to confirm the alleged mistreatment. The North announced last month that Jun would be charged with unspecified crimes against the nation.

Carter appeals for release

The Swedish embassy, which represents US interests in Pyongyang, has been given access to him, and the US State Department said this month the detainee had been allowed to speak to his family by phone.

Former US president Jimmy Carter appealed for Jun's release when he visited the North last month. But the nominal head of state Kim Yong-Nam told Carter the detainee would not be freed.

Jun is an agricultural machinery salesman who attends a church in California's Orange County and makes frequent trips to the North. His family pleaded last month for his release, saying he was in uncertain health after several months' detention and may not survive a trial.

Lim said Jun belongs to a South Korean missionary group which has been supporting underground Christian churches in the North with cash donations and publications.

He said North Korean authorities had warned Jun about his activities but he continued with them.

"He was arrested on the spot as he was establishing contacts with underground Christians," said Lim, who teaches at Koshin University in the southern city of Busan.

"North Korea apparently considers this case as a chance to track down and eradicate underground churches at one blow," he said, adding Pyongyang regards such Christians as a threat to its regime.

Lim said underground churches in North Korea have about 10 000 followers while 30 000 other Christians are behind bars.

The North's constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief. In practice, "genuine religious freedom did not exist", according to the US State Department's latest human rights report. (Source)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pakistani Christians Oppose Appointment of a Muslim Minister

 Well there might be some hope for my brethren in Pakistan. I pray that hope comes to that country soon.

05/19/2011 Pakistan (OneNewsNow)-Christians in Pakistan are asking the government to reconsider its appointment of a Muslim to fill a minister position that was previously held by a Christian who was eventually killed by Islamic radicals.

Pakistani leaders appointed Riaaz Hussain Pirzada as the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs after the death of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was murdered by Muslims on March 2 of this year for opposing the country's blasphemy laws.

Christians say appointing a Muslim to the position would further cut down the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern states: "It sends a very wrong message for people who were hoping to see the Pakistani government take the side of religious minorities and the side of truth and justice in this case."

Punishment for breaking Pakistan's blasphemy laws often will result in the death or severe punishment of the lawbreaker. Racho explains that by appointing a Muslim to the post, the government is actually supporting the goals of the radical Muslims.

"I believe that this post should be filled with someone who truly understands what it means to be a minority in Pakistan. We want someone who could boldly work to defend the rights of minorities in Pakistan," says Racho. (Source)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Iraq: young Christian abducted, tortured and beheaded

"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown." 
-Jesus Christ, Revelation 2:10
5/16/2011 Iraq (AsiaNews) – An Iraqi Christian man was abducted, tortured and then beheaded. The victim was from Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Police found his body this morning. He had been kidnapped three days ago and the family had received a ransom request. However, negotiations for his release did not work out and so he was brutally murdered. For the archbishop of Kirkuk, his death is an “inhuman act” because it goes “against every human and religious principle”. Iraqi Christians have been living in a state of high tension since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, fearing possible revenge by local Muslim extremists.
Ashur Yacob Issa was 29 years old and had three children, a source in Kirkuk told AsiaNews. He was abducted three days ago for ransom. His kidnappers wanted US$ 100,000 to release him. However, negotiations with his family “did not work out”, a local Christian said. The incident came to a terrible end this morning, when police found the young man’s body, by the side of a bridge. The body showed “horrific marks of torture”, the source said. The head had been cut off and the eyes gauged out of their socket.

The crime sent a shockwave through the city, especially in its Christian community. although the victim was kidnapped in order to get a large sum of money, the death of Osama Bin Laden by the US on 2 May has raised the tension level in the Christian community. Since then in fact, it has been living in fear of possible reprisals by Muslim extremists. Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, condemned the murder of the young man, calling it an “inhuman act” that goes against “every human and religious principle”. 

“No man who believes in God and respects life can commit such acts,” the prelate said. (Source)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chinese Christians Rally Around Underground Church

5/15/2011 China(NYTimes)- More than a dozen Christian Leaders in China have thrown their support behind an embattled underground church, calling for the government to end its persecution and for broader religious freedoms as well.

Their petition, a rare public gesture for religious figures, who are often wary of wading into politics, raises the stakes in a standoff that has drawn concern from Christian groups outside China and prompted a separate petition campaign in the United States and Canada. Nineteen pastors signed the petition, delivered Wednesday to the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, and posted on the Internet. It calls for legal protections for so-called house churches, which operate illicitly outside the government-run religious system.

The petition also calls on the legislature to investigate the crackdown on one such church, Shouwang, an evangelical Protestant congregation whose leaders have been under house arrest for more than a month.
The church and its 1,000 members became homeless in early April after the landlord, under pressure from the authorities, canceled its lease. Since then, the parishioners have tried to pray outdoors each Sunday, prompting a predictable cat-and-mouse game with the police, who prevent some members from leaving their homes and round up those who manage to reach the predetermined place of worship.

Carsten Vala, an expert on Chinese Christianity at Loyola University Maryland, said the petition ratcheted up pressure on the ruling Communist Party at a time when it was increasingly nervous about perceived challenges to its authority. “This shows there is national attention to what’s happening to Shouwang and that there is connection among urban house churches across the country,” he said. The petition blames an “outdated system of religion management” for a crisis that is stirring up the tens of millions of Chinese believers who have come to place more faith in Christianity than in the atheist Communist Party. It also suggests that such policies will invariably lead to more social strife, the very thing Chinese leaders are so eager to avoid.

“We hope that by setting up a special investigation commission, the government will be able to handle the Shouwang incident in a rational and wise manner on basis of the principles of ‘putting people first and ruling the country by law’ and in the gracious spirit of serving the citizens, so as to avoid the escalation of the conflict between state and church,” the petition says, quoting a common slogan of the current leadership. The document was written by Xie Moshan and Li Tianen, patriarchs of the house church movement, who have each spent more than a decade in Chinese prisons.

The persecution of Shouwang and a number of other unregistered churches coincides with a wider clampdown in China, fueled by unrest in the Arab world, which has led to the detention of scores of dissidents, rights lawyers and other perceived critics. (Source)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Villagers in Bangladesh beat Christians for defending girls

Well there maybe some hope in the world. I pray that that the Lord Jesus protects my brethren and give them the boldness to continue what they are doing.

5/14/2011 Bangladesh (ChristianToday) – Muslim villagers beat a 22-year-old Christian man last month for defending Christian girls against routine harassment and bullying, sources said. Sipon Mondol was beaten on April 20 while returning to his native village of Nittanandapur from Gangni, Meherpur district, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital city of Dhaka, his father said.

On April 15, at a cultural event to celebrate the Bengali New Year, Poresh Mondol said his son had defended Christian girls against the slurs of a group of young Muslim men in an exchange that led to a gang fight. “They were making some suggestive remarks to our girls at the program,” Mondol said. “Some Christian boys, including my son, protested against it. A brawl between Muslim boys and the Christian boys followed the protest. They tried to drag my son to their village by getting hold of his shirt collar.”

The Mondol family informed the young Muslim men’s parents, and village elders assured the Christians that they would resolve the long-standing problem, telling them that such harassment would not happen again, he said. “After the complaint, though, those Muslim boys became more predatory,” he said. “They beat my son on his way home from Gangni town on the evening of April 20. He was severely beaten. He was treated in the hospital for one day and released on April 21.”

The father of the young man told Compass that Christians were regularly shocked by the coarse language of their young Muslim neighbors at religious and cultural programs. “To tease our girls, they use such filthy words in their speech that it leaves us feeling absolutely shattered,” the elder Mondol said. “We suffer shame in front of our family members.”

A case was filed against seven young Muslim men at nearby Titla village, asserting that they constantly harass Christian girls at Christian programs. Lok Mondol, general secretary of the Church of Bangladesh in Meherpur district, told Compass that harassment of Christian girls at social and religious gatherings was a perennial problem.

“Previously we took several initiatives with the neighboring Muslim villagers to resolve this problem, but to no avail,” he said. “This time, we resorted to the law by filing a case, because the problem was becoming more unbearable each day; we got our backs against the wall.” Mikha Mollick, a Christian belonging to a local Church of Bangladesh congregation, told Compass that continuous bullying of the Christian girls was an effort to gradually weaken Christians’ social standing. (Source)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

China House Churches Want Parliament Investigation Into Crackdown

And the Government war against my Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ continues. I pray that God will keep them in this time of trial and that they won't renounce their faith.

5/12/2011 China (BosNewsLife)  Pastors of “house” churches in China urged the country’s parliament Wednesday, May 11, to investigate a police crackdown on one of Beijing’s largest underground churches while Chinese Christian leaders in the United States and Canada launched a global signature campaign to support the embattled Shouwang Church, supporters said.

Wednesday’s petition to China’s ‘National People’s Congress’ is the first such action by Chinese house churches, also known as the underground church, in 60 years of Communist rule of China, explained advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA). “It represents a further emboldening of the house church movement, which for decades was active only in the countryside, meeting in small groups in private homes and careful to maintain a low profile to avoid attracting government attention to the illegal gatherings,” added CAA, which is supporting the iniative.
Besides asking for a special commission to look into the Shouwang Church events, the petition also demands a review “of the constitutionality of China’s current rules governing religious affairs,” CAA explained.
The action follows the detention of over a dozen Shouwang Christians Sunday, May 8, in the fifth week of tensions with authorities over church attempts to hold outdoor worship services, Christians said. Earlier, hundreds of Christians were detained or put under arrest to prevent them from leaving their houses or apartments including on Easter weekend, according to church members.
Chinese authorities have also driven people out of their houses or apartments, a church member told BosNewsLife. In one of the latest reported incidents, at least one family was forced to leave their home Sunday, May 8, before the worship service was about to begin. Shouwang Church has defended its decision to hold open air services saying authorities effectively banned its indoor gatherings. China’s authorities have denied wrongdoing saying Christians are free to gather in the official, state-backed, churches.
Advocacy groups say however that many of China’s up to 130 million Christians prefer to worship outside Communist government control including “house” churches, named this way as they are often organized in homes of individual believers. (Source)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

5th week: China arrests more Christians

Satan is clearly using the Communist party to attack the Christians in China. Let's pray that the Lord Jesus Christ keeps them safe.

5/10/2011 China (BP) – At least 13 members of a Beijing church were arrested Sunday, May 8, in the fifth straight week of its defiance of the Chinese government, which continued to force people out of their homes in an effort to pressure the congregation. One family learned they were being kicked out of their home at 6:40 Sunday morning, before the service even began.

The high-profile clash between the government and Shouwang Church — one of the largest unregistered illegal churches in Beijing — has led to hundreds of house arrests or detentions. More than 500 church members were placed under arrest on Easter weekend alone, prevented from leaving their houses or apartments. ChinaAid, a U.S.-based organization that monitors religious freedom in the country, said the government, as in previous weeks, continued “rendering church members homeless by pressuring their landlords to evict them.”

Shouwang Church itself is homeless, having lost its meeting space when the government pressured the owners of a restaurant — its last home — to kick out the church. The church also has tried to rent space, only to see various landlords pressured not to cooperate. Each week during the past month, the church has tried to worship at a public site in Zhongguancun in northwest Beijing.

Churches in China are legal only if they register with the government and join what is known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. But ChinaAid founder Bob Fu, in an interview with Baptist Press, said churches have a solid, biblical reason for refusing to register with the government.

“Fundamentally,” Fu said, “the number one reason is focused on who is the head of the church? Is it the Communist Party, the Chinese government or Jesus Christ alone? The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is nothing but a political organization with a religious uniform. All the leaders are appointed by the Communist Party, the United Front Work Department and the State Administration for Religious Affairs, and they are salaried. And many of the leaders are also Communist Party members.

“Secondly, once you join the government-sanctioned church, you lose pretty much all the freedom of evangelism. There are lots of limitations and rules that will forbid you to do any evangelism outside of the four walls of the church building. You can’t baptize anybody under 18 years old, you’re forbidden to have a Sunday School. There are fundamental differences.” (Source)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hindu Radicals’ Terrorist Attacks Against Christians

Let's keep our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ in our prayers.

05/07/2011 India (The Milli Gazette)-The media reports of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) getting worried about Hindutva Terror investigations leading to some of the high-profile names in the RSS like Indresh Kumar and the damage it might cause to its image, is nothing more than a PR exercise. It does not probably realize that the public is too well aware of its ideological moorings, its admiration for Hitler and Mussolini and anti-minority bashing as part of its regular diet.

However much the RSS might try to project an image of itself as a “cultural” organization, the lathi-wielding morning shakas in various public parks are enough proof of the organization’s intent. Is the RSS now afraid that their plans hatched secretly for Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka and other BJP-ruled states will become public as the Police investigations in blasts after blasts are establishing links with its followers?

Reports of the involvement of Hindu groups in Orissa and Karnatka blasts on Christian targets have started appearing in the media. This, despite the fact that the one-man Somashekara Commission appointed by the BJP-ruled Karnataka government to look into the attacks on Christians in 2008, gave a clean chit to all Hindu groups saying none of them were involved in the attacks. Christians have been at the receiving end not only by the Sangh Parivar but also at the hands of the government and occasionally at the hands of the media, who sometimes ignore highlighting the atrocities committed on Christians.

So far the focus of the so-called ‘Hindu’ or ‘saffron’ terror has been only mosques and the Samjhauta Express where bomb blasts took place. Little, if ever, has been written or spoken to connect the attacks on Christians with this brand of terror. Now that reports have started appearing in some of the print media, hopefully a little more attention will be paid to the role of Abhinav Bharat’s Lieutenant Colonel Purohit’s and other persons from Hindu outfits, role in several attacks in the country on the Christian community as confirmed by military investigator’s report.

For the Christian Community itself, these revelations are nothing new. It is only that their voice is often ignored by the Police or by the powers that be. For instance, let us take the case of Swami Aseemanand’s confession before the magistrate after his ‘conversion’ in the prison because of the good behaviour of a fellow Muslim (for the Sangh Parivar that would be a contradiction in terms, ‘good behaviour and Muslims’).

With more revelations made by Swami Aseemanand about his terror links with various Muslim targets such as Malegaon, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Dargah (not much is being spoken of the blast in Modasa, Gujarat) and the Samjhauta Express blasts, including the surfacing of the RSS activist’s name Indresh Kumar and others, it would be quite illuminating to look into his and others’ role in some other attacks. Of course, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and others tried to brush aside these reports by saying that it was all a political conspiracy to malign the name of the RSS and a technique used by the Congress to divert public attention from the scams.

In the past few years, the number of attacks on the Christian community, monitored meticulously by the Evangelical Fellowship of India has recorded more than 1000 attacks every year. On a petition by the spokesperson of Madhya Pradesh Fr. Anand Muttungal, the MP High Court asked the government of MP to explain as to how in one year there had been more than 180 attacks on the Christian community. No prizes for guessing as to which states have higher numbers of attacks.

Swami Aseemanand had taken upon himself to target Christian missionaries working in the Dangs district of Gujarat ever since he arrived there in the end of 1995. Under his leadership, the VHP and Bajarang Dal organized a rally on Christmas Day in 1998 in Subir to prevent Christians from celebrating Christmas. A person allegedly planted by the troublemakers in the Christian crowd that traditionally gathered to celebrate Christmas, threw a stone at the so-called “Hindu gathering”, which had anyway gathered to ‘terrorize’ and attack Christians on the Christmas Day. The carnage, started on Christmas day, lasted well over twelve days. The panicked Christian community just did not know where to turn, for it was the BJP government in Gujarat and the NDA at the centre.

NDA being new to power then and Mr. Vajpayee under pressure from the secular allies of the NDA, decided to make a trip to the Dangs before the smoke from the burnt churches and schools could stop spewing. In his typical style, rather than condemning the series of attack on the Christian community and offering solace to the victims, he only added insult to injury by declaring that there should be a debate on conversion in the country. The then Archbishop of Delhi and the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Archbishop Allan de Lastic, lost no time in calling for a press conference, welcoming the debate, while at the same time reminding everyone about the lengthy discussion in the Constituent Assembly on the subject. Taken aback by the Christian leader’s response and the resignation of Fali S Nariman, the then counsel for Gujarat in the Narmada dam dispute case in the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister backed down on the issue of the said debate.

But the Aseemanands and the Laxmanand Sarswatis of the world had got the message of support for their terrorist activities and felt emboldened to continue their attacks on Christians. Before Assemanand got involved in planning ‘bombs for bombs’, he was busy converting Christians to Hinduism. In 2006 he organized a huge Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs district where the slogan adopted was “Every single person converted to Christianity adds one more enemy to the country”.

The most disheartening part of the story is that the Christian community’s pain and despair does not seem to concern anyone, as the buzz heard in political circles always is, “Not to worry, they anyway do not make for a votebank”. Nor are the Police interested in following up the complaints of Christians terrorized by the right wing groups.

The pattern followed by Swami Aseemanand in the Dangs was replicated in Kandhmal by Swami Laxmananand Sarswati who along with his men on 23 December 2007 objected to the Christian community making preparations for Christmas following which attacks continued against the Christian community for a whole week. Eight months later, when the Swami was hacked to death by Maoists and despite the Maoists and police stating that the Maoists had killed the Swami, the BJP workers, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP persisted with the bloodshed against the Christian community for 42 days, killing nearly 100 people, burning 147 churches and Christian institutions and leaving nearly 48,000 people homeless, not to mention the most shameful act of raping a consecrated nun.

While Christians do understand that the media and the investigating agencies go after the bomb blasters, the community also asks as to why attacks on them in such huge numbers by the very same terrorists is not considered as terrorist attacks? They do not expect much from the political parties, as sadly the community is not perceived as a votebank, except maybe in some pockets of Kerala, Goa and the North East but they certainly expect the conscientious media to speak up for their cause too. (Source)

Nigeria: Deadly attack on a northern village

BBC- Police said late on Friday that unidentified assailants had also burnt a number of houses in the village in Bauchi state, near Tafawa Balewa.
Bauchi is in Nigeria's middle belt, where the predominantly Muslim north meets the mainly Christian south.

There are long-standing tensions in the area rooted in power struggles and land disputes, correspondents say.
This has caused violence in the past between indigenous Christian or animist groups, and Muslim settlers from the North.

Hundreds have died in clashes in Nigeria following national elections last month in which Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Christian, won the presidential poll against a Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari.

The worst of the violence was in Bauchi and Kaduna states. (Source)

Islamists torch church in Cairo – 10 dead, hundreds injured

Notice that we see the same pattern across the Muslim world.
STEP ONE: Someone doesn't like Christians.

STEP TWO: The person starts a rumor, e.g. "That Christian burned a Qur'an!" "That Christian blasphemed Muhammad!" "That church is keeping a convert to Islam in chains!"

STEP THREE: Instead of carefully assessing the evidence, Muslims instead form a mob and start burning churches and killing Christians.

STEP FOUR: The media portrays the senseless violence as "community conflict."

STEP FIVE: Everyone insists that the conflict has nothing to do with Islam (or the Qur'an's commands to subjugate non-Muslims, etc.).

Cairo- At least 10 people are dead and 185 are injured, some seriously, after Islamists burned down two churches in a Cairo suburb overnight in a bloody rampage against Coptic Christians. It was the second assault on Egyptian Christians in less than a month. Hundreds of Salafist radicals massed outside the Saint Mina Church on Saturday night firing guns, and throwing Molotov cocktails, bottles and rocks amid rumours swirling through the country’s Muslim community that a Coptic Christian’s wife had converted secretly to Islam and was being held in the church against her will.

The woman in question has appeared on television to deny the rumours but Salafists and their supporters refuse to believe her. Police and soldiers intervened at the scene but the mob then moved on to another church, Saint Mary’s, and torched it too.

The Egyptian cabinet met in emergency session on Sunday to address the matter. On March 9, another church was burned down on the same pretext, leaving 13 dead. Christians represent around 10 percent of Egypt’s population and complain of systematic discrimination by the Muslim majority.

The country is also gripped by mass anti-Semitism. A 2006 survey by Pew showed 97 percent of Egyptians admitting to having an unfavourable opinion of Jews, 82 percent describing their views as “very unfavourable”. (Source)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Nero in Beijing — The Communist Party Declares War on Christians

Good News: Christians outnumber the Communist Party badly.

Bad News: Because of this the Communist Party is stepping up the persecution of our brethren.

My Western brethren we need to pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ as they are about to go through a rough storm. Pray that they come out stronger in their faith for Christ.

4/28/2011 China (AlbertMohler) – The news out of China grows worse as reports of the arrest, detention, harassment, and beatings of Christians come from across China. The most publicized case thus far is the repeated oppression against a Beijing congregation that has led to numerous arrests and a crackdown within China’s capital.

In a very important editorial statement, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board set the record straight. “Religious persecution is always abhorrent, but in this case it’s also a political blunder,” the paper stated.

Further: The incident is a microcosm of the wider problems caused by China’s crackdown. Beijing insists it wants to promote a harmonious and stable society. Yet by arresting prominent activists for no apparent reason, the security forces are doing the opposite: Those who were once content to live quietly with the Party’s restrictions on free expression are now compelled to speak out.

Observers warn that China is sending the signal that it will not allow the eruption of protests like those that have spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

There is more to it, of course. Central to this crackdown is the paranoia of the Communist Party. One of the hallmarks of democratic societies is the existence of thriving “mediating institutions” between the individual and the brute power of the state. In the United States, these mediating institutions include everything from the PTA to your local church and the neighborhood reading club.

One dimension of the Communist Party’s idolatry is that it allows no mediating institutions between its power and the individual. It greatly fears these organizations, especially the church. One reason — Christians in China now outnumber members of the Communist Party.

Vietnam Intesifies Repression of Indigenous Minority Christians

4/14/11 Vietnam (PersecutionTimes) — The Vietnamese government has intensified repression of indigenous minority Christians from the country’s Central Highland provinces who are pressing for religious freedom and land rights, Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org) has said in a just released report. The 46-page report, “Montagnard Christians in Vietnam: A Case Study in Religious Repression,” details the latest government crackdowns on these indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards. The report documents police sweeps to root out Montagnards in hiding. It details how the authorities have dissolved house church gatherings, orchestrated coerced renunciations of faith, and sealed off the border to prevent asylum seekers from fleeing to Cambodia.

Human Rights Watch found that special “political security” (PA43) units conduct operations with provincial police to capture, detain, and interrogate people they identify as political activists or leaders of unregistered house churches. More than 70 Montagnards have been detained or arrested in 2010 alone, and more than 250 are known to be imprisoned on national security charges.

“Montagnards face harsh persecution in Vietnam, particularly those who worship in independent house churches, because the authorities don’t tolerate religious activity outside their sight or control,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “The Vietnamese government has been steadily tightening the screws on independent Montagnards religious groups, claiming they are using religion to incite unrest.”

Human Rights Watch documented the abuses in the Central Highlands, which is off-limits to independent, international rights groups, through interviews with Montagnards who have fled Vietnam and reports in Vietnam’s government-controlled media. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, one Montagnard described his treatment at T-20, the provincial prison in Gia Lai, after he was arrested for participating in a protest calling for religious freedom and land rights:

He said, “They questioned me at any time, even midnight. The police would get drunk, wake me up, and question me and beat me. They put me in handcuffs when they took me out for questioning. The handcuffs were like wire – very tight. They used electric shock on me every time they interrogated me. They would shock me on my knees, saying, ‘You used these legs to walk to the demonstration.’” Sentenced to five years in prison for “violating national solidarity,” he remains partially deaf from repeatedly being boxed on both ears:

“They would stand facing me and shout: ‘One, two, three!’ and then use both hands to box both of my ears at the same time. They would do this three times, the last time putting strong pressure on the ears,” he went on to say. “Blood came out of my ears and my nose. I went crazy from this. It was so painful, and also the build-up made me very afraid and tense.”

Using official Vietnamese media sources, Human Rights Watch documented the controversial practice of forced recantations of faith. Government officials have forced hundreds of Montagnard Catholics and Protestants to renounce their religion in public criticism sessions, violating internationally protected rights to freedom of religion and conscience. Those who resist and insist on their right to independent worship facing beatings, arrest, and imprisonment.

Provincial courts often hold “mobile trials” of people charged with national security crimes before hundreds of people, reinforcing the message not to follow unsanctioned religious groups. “Freedom of religion does not mean freedom for state-sanctioned religions only,” Robertson said. “Vietnam should immediately recognize independent religious groups and let them practice their beliefs.” (Source)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bin Laden’s Death Inspires Mixed Responses in Iraq

5/3/2011 Iraq (The Wall Street Journal) – The killing of Osama bin Laden was greeted with a mixture of emotions in Iraq, a country which paid a heavy price in the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks.

There was relief, indifference and worries about retaliation. Iraq was invaded in 2003 by a U.S.-led coalition looking for weapons of mass destruction that were never found. Quickly, the conflict became a magnet for jihadists fighting foreign troops and all those seen by them as apostates or infidels including the country’s newly-empowered Shiite majority and the minority Christian community.

Kidnappings, beheadings and bombings of Shiite mosques and shrines and Christian churches became the hallmarks of al Qaeda’s affiliates in Iraq in attacks that killed thousands and pushed the country to the brink of civil war. Although al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened by the death and capture of several of its top leaders over the years, it remains a potent threat as Iraqis grapple with major challenges to their fragile democracy and hopes for a better future.

The Iraqi government, which has long blamed security failings on an alliance between al Qaeda elements and loyalists to former leader Saddam Hussein, welcomed the news hoping it would serve as a blow to extremism across the region.

Jasim al-Halbousi, the head of the provincial council in Anbar said bin Laden had played a role in “the devastation that plagued” the western Iraqi province which until a few years ago served as a safe haven for al Qaeda-linked militants embracing a fanatical Sunni Muslim ideology.

In Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, home to one of several revered Shiite shrines around the country that were targets of numerous bloody attacks by al Qaeda-tied extremists since 2004, the news of bin Laden’s demise was greeted with relief.

“For sure I am happy, he killed innocent people and Muslims, I hope his death will weaken and finish off al Qaeda,” said Mohammed Abdel-Razaq, a pastry shop owner.

“Al Qaeda in Iraq may try to carry out one or two operations in the name of revenge for bin Laden,” said Hussein Kamal, who heads the Interior Ministry’s intelligence unit. (Source)

Rare Rally Tests Vietnam’s Religious Tolerance

5/6/2011 Vietnam (Reuters) – Vietnam has deployed troops to contain a rare mass protest by ethnic Hmong people that is testing the government’s tolerance of minority Christians, just weeks after human rights activists accused leaders of persecuting another hill tribe.

As many as 7,000 Hmong people began to gather several days ago in the far-flung mountains of Dien Bien Province, near the northwestern border with Laos and China, apparently for religious reasons although some were advocating an independent kingdom, according to diplomatic, government and other sources. The unrest was unlikely to pose a threat to the government but the demonstration is the biggest involving ethnic minorities since unrest in the Central Highlands region in 2001 and 2004.

Details were scant from the hard-to-access region but a Catholic priest close to the area cited followers as saying troops had been deployed and the protesters had detained at least one government official sent to negotiate. (Source)

Nigeria Christians Seek Protection After the Killing of bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden's death is causing much more chaos all over the world.
05/06/11 Nigeria (OneNewsNow)-An advocacy group that works to protect the persecuted church globally says the death of Osama bin Laden may trigger violence against Christians.

Upon learning about the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, Christians in northern Nigeria fled to police and military barracks, begging officials for protection. The believers fear radicals in Muslim-dominated cities may attack them following the death of an Islamic icon. Jonathan Racho of International Christian Concern (ICC) says such strikes are possible.

“The fact is that when Muslim radicals are enraged by the actions of the Western countries, they always take revenge actions against Christians because [they see] Christians as the agents of the West,” Racho explains. “It has happened in the past; they always attack the Christians.”

Officials in Nigeria, a country populated almost evenly by Christians and Muslims, spoke with the Christians for hours to convince them it was safe enough for them to return home. “I’m glad nothing has happened so far, and we hope and pray that there will not be any backlash,” Racho notes. (Source)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Iran: Stop Persecution of Protestant Church

While the only type of persecution my Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ will face in Iran is discrimination, my Protestant brethren face much more severe persecution. I pray that such persecution will end sooner or later.

5/4/2011 Iran (International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran) – Iranian authorities should end the judicial persecution of members of the evangelical protestant Church of Iran and other churches, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
Specifically, the Campaign appeals to Iran’s Judiciary to overturn criminal sentences of church members including a death sentence for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and prison term for Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani.
“Iranian authorities must stop targeting religious groups and practices they find threatening, acts which violate international and Iranian law,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.
“It is deeply hypocritical to criticize European countries for discriminatory policies against Muslims while the Iranian government throws Christians and members of other minority religions into prison and sentences some to death,” Rhodes added.
During the 16th special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in April 2011, the Iranian government criticized the EU and US for discrimination against religious minorities. On 12 April 2011, Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini said, “We expect European countries to guarantee the individual and social freedoms of Muslims,” according to the state-controlled PressTV.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, dozens of members of the nationwide protestant group, the Church of Iran, have been criminally prosecuted and punished merely for their religious beliefs and practices. On 1 May 2011, the Revolutionary Court in the northern city of Bandar Anzali tried eleven church members, including Pastor Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad, and Zainab Bahremend, the 62-year-old grandmother of two other defendants, on charges of “acting against national security.”
The Court is scheduled to issue its verdict on 11 May. Authorities have also charged church members in Bandar Anzali with consumption of alcohol and inappropriate hejab (Islamic headscarf). These charges are reportedly based on their participation in church services in private homes, where some attendees drink wine as part of ritual communion, and women do not observe hejab.
Christianity is a recognized religion under the Iranian Constitution and despite some discrimination, the Islamic Republic has afforded Iran’s historic and ethnic Orthodox Christian communities with a modicum of space to practice their faith. However, Protestant leaders have told the Campaign that, especially within the last six years, the Iranian government has increasingly targeted Protestant groups.
Protestant groups in Iran are comprised primarily of converts and often engage in proselytizing. Moreover, Iranian courts and officials have begun to view these groups in political terms, trying Protestant believers and leaders in Revolutionary Courts, which are reserved for political and national security offenses.
On 5 April 2011, the First Branch of the Revolutionary Court in the southern city of Shiraz sentenced Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani of the Church of Iran, and five other church members, Parviz Khalaj‪, Amin Afshar Manesh‪, Mehdi Forutan‪, Mohammad Baliad‪, and Nazli Makarian, with a year in prison for “propaganda against the regime.” Authorities, however, acquitted the Christians on the count of “acting against national security.” Sadegh-Khanjani and his fellow Church members have appealed the court’s decision.
Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani, brother of Behrouz and member of the Church of Iran’s National Council, told the Campaign, “So now [authorities] are elevating being Christian to a political crime. Basically they are saying if you’re Christian, then you must be against the regime. This might sound laughable but this is the view they are moving forward with.”
Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani told the Campaign that his church attempted to avoid being seen by authorities as a clandestine political organization. “For ten years our church has been reporting to the Ministry of Intelligence, letting them know about all our activities. So we are not an underground organization. My brother doesn’t even travel from one city to another without letting them know first,” he said.
Authorities also dropped the apostasy charges against Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani and five other Church members. However, all six Christians still face a charge of “insulting Islamic sanctities” (i.e. blasphemy) in Shiraz’s Criminal Court.
Mohammad Taravatrooy, lawyer for the Christians, told the Campaign, “Neither they, nor I as their lawyer, accept such charges, because they did not commit any actions which could be construed as insulting the sanctities, or could appear as propaganda…. I think that the state mostly intends to use such cases to serve as means to prevent religious proselytizing.”
On 22 September 2010, the 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the northern province of Gilan upheld the death sentence and conviction of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani for apostasy. Apostasy, the act of renouncing one’s religion, is not a crime under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code. Instead, the presiding judge in Nadarkhani’s case rested his opinion on texts by Iranian religious scholars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rioting Muslims Damage Church, Properties in Pakistan

Muslim protestors broke windows of Christian-owned elementary school in Gujranwala, Pakistan on Saturday (April 30). (Photo: Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan)
Muslim protestors broke windows of Christian-owned elementary school in Gujranwala, Pakistan on Saturday (April 30).

Hundreds of Muslims in Gujranwala on Saturday (April 30) attacked Christians’ homes, a school and a Presbyterian church building after learning that police had released two Christians accused of “blasphemy” – amid reports of another alleged desecration of the Quran.

Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq were released on Friday afternoon (April 29) after a handwriting expert hired by police determined that the latter had not written a threatening note accompanying burned pages of the Quran, police sources said. The two Christians, who had been taken into protective custody on April 15, were relocated along with family members to an undisclosed location soon after their release.

At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning (April 30), however, as news of their release spread, a Muslim claimed that pages of the Quran had been burned anew in Gujranwala’s Aziz Colony cemetery in Punjab Province, according to retired Maj. Timothy Nasir, head of Faith Theological Seminary in Gujranwala. He said announcements over area mosque loudspeakers began blaring, and Muslim residents and members of extremist groups began gathering.

A mob started rioting and hurling rocks at the Christians’ homes and at an elementary school owned by a Christian, Eric Isaac, who was among eight Christians police took into custody for questioning, police said. The mob also pelted the Aziz Colony Presbyterian Church building, they said. Armed with clubs and batons, the protestors clashed with police who arrived to provide security to the besieged Christians.

At least 18 people – 15 Muslim protestors and three policemen – were injured and had to be hospitalized after officers used tear gas and batons to disperse the mob, police sources said. There were no reports of injured Christians.

The protesting Muslims then moved towards government offices and set tires on fire on the main Gujranwala-Sialkot road, blocking traffic for hours. They also tried to attack the Gujranwala Range regional police office, but officers thwarted their plans, police sources said.

Around 150 protestors were arrested, with two cases registered against them for attacking Christian property and “creating a law and order situation,” police said. The remaining protestors dispersed after senior police officials assured them that they would find “the real perpetrators” of the first alleged Quran burning within three days.

Nasir told Compass by telephone that the riots compelled a large number of Christian families to flee, as they feared the kind of large-scale violence that occurred in Gojra on Aug. 1, 2009, when at least seven Christians were burned alive by Muslim mobs after the spread of a rumor of blasphemy.

“There are about 3,000 Christian families living in the area comprising Aziz Colony, Gulzar Colony, Islam Colony and Khokharki,” Nasir said. “We have been living peacefully with the Muslims for more than 125 years, but the circumstances arising out of the false allegations against Mushtaq and his son Farrukh have changed the situation altogether.”

He added that most Christians living in the area had sought refuge with their relatives in other cities.

“Even I have sent my family to Lahore [about 100 kilometers or 62 miles from Gujranwala],” he said. “It seems that these people just want blood…no person in their right frame of mind would even think of desecrating the Quran or blaspheming Islam’s prophet. It would be just like signing your own death warrant, but still they don’t understand.”

Nasir said the mob had also tried to besiege the Gujranwala Theological Seminary, just a few hundred meters from his seminary, but “the police effectively stopped them from causing any damage there.”

He said local Christians had told police authorities that they would not come outside their premises to fight, but that they had a right to self-defense if the protesting Muslims tried to force their way into their homes and church buildings.

“We told them [police] that defending us was their responsibility, and they responded positively,” he said, adding that this was perhaps the first incident in which police did not bow to intense pressure from religious and political parties amid blasphemy accusations.

The Rev. Emanuel Mani of the Saint Anthony’s Catholic Cathedral in Lahore, who served in Gujranwala for more than 24 years before moving to Lahore some years ago, said he was actively involved in cooling tensions. On his way back from Gujranwala on Saturday, Mani told Compass that he had been in constant contact with area Muslim leaders and the district administration, and that they were highly cooperative in the effort to keep Christians safe.

“Such cooperation is exemplary and should be exercised in all such situations,” Mani said. “The Muslim leaders have been discouraging miscreants within their ranks from damaging Christians’ property or harming any one.”

Adding that Christians’ fears were natural, he said he hoped the situation would be resolved peacefully, and that families that have left the area would soon return.

He confirmed reports that someone had been accused of desecrating the Quran in the area on Saturday (April 30), saying that some elements were trying to fuel religious tensions in the city.

A member of Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan who visited Aziz Colony and nearby areas told Compass that he had witnessed locks on most Christians’ houses, while some Muslim residents displayed placards depicting their religious affiliation to save themselves from rioters. He said his team was stopped at least three times by Muslim youths patrolling the area and questioned about the purpose of their visit.

Gujranwala Police Chief Ghulam Muhammad Dogar told Compass by phone that the protestors would not be allowed to target and harass the Christians. (Source)