Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christian School Reopens in Sudan Amidst Growing Persecution

10/30/2012 Sudan (MorningStarNews) – Amid threats of further losses, classes resumed this month at a Khartoum Bible school and church compound that Muslim extremists set ablaze in April, an area Christian source said.

Students and administrators at Gerif West Bible School in Sudan have yet to fully recover their losses from the April 21 attack, but the source said classes resumed on Oct. 15 even as area Muslims vie to take school land and anti-Christian messages emanate from a nearby mosque loudspeaker on most Fridays.
Muslim leaders have been asserting through the mosque loudspeaker that Christian institutions should not be permitted in Sudan, as the country should be a “purely Islamic state” since the secession of South Sudan on July 9, 2011, he said.
“We are expecting the level of persecution to rise in Sudan in the coming days,” a pastor who works at the Bible school told Morning Star News by phone, adding that hostilities against churches and Christians were intensifying.
Islamist assailants shouting threats against Christians and “Allahu Akbar [God is greater]”  on April 21 broke down the Christian compound wall with a bulldozer and set fire to the school and a Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) building. Also damaged were a clinic, a home for the elderly and living quarters.
The hard-line Muslim sheikh who led the attack, Muhammad Abdelkrim, on Sept. 21 urged Muslims to tolerate no Christian presence and to have no dealings with them because they were “infidels,” the source said.
“We will never forgive Christians” for not being Muslims, the imam declared during a mosque service on Sept. 21 through amplified loudspeakers, besides asserting that Christian institutions  have no place in Sudan.
The attack ruined four halls used by three churches and burned the belongings of students at a dormitory. School library books, including 50 cartons of Bibles, were also destroyed. The assailants destroyed school furniture and broke into a safe and stole college funds.
Police stood by watching the destruction, according to a statement from SPEC.
The attacks followed an effort by area Muslims to take control of at least part of the land, and another attempt has since emerged.
The first attempt to seize the land came after the attacking Islamists obtained an approval from the Commissioner of Khartoum to take part of the property in April; with the intent of taking all of the property, according to SPEC, the mob showed up with a bulldozer on April 9 and threatened to demolish the Bible school.
“The church was not informed [of the commissioner’s decision],” said a SPEC statement at the time. “It is not the mandate of the Commissioner of Khartoum to allocate a private property to others.”
SPEC leaders held the documents showing proof of the church’s ownership of the land, and police were able to persuade the mob to withdraw. But with the support of “Public Committees,” Islamist bodies supported by the government that monitor Christian activities in Sudan, the Islamic extremists continue to lay claim to the land as a justification for their threats to take it by force (Keep Reading)

Four Christians Arrested in Iran

10/31/2012 Iran (Committee of Human Rights Reporters) - Several days ago 4 citizens who converted to Christianity were detained in Tehran. According to obtained reports, Shahab Samimi, his wife Fariba Karim Khani, Farshad Rahimdel and Yaser Mirza Zanjani were arrested on Friday and Sunday of the past week.
Per these reports on Friday October 26th, security agents raided the home of Mr. Samimi.

During the raid they detained him, his wife Fariba Karim Khani and Mr. Farshad Rahimdel who was a guest at their house at the time. The agents conducted a search of the home and confiscated personal items such as computers, books, publications, CD’s, and their satellite receiver.

On Sunday October 28th, security agents raided the home of Yaser Mirza Zanjani, confiscated his personal and family belongings, and detained this Christian convert. There is no news of the whereabouts or condition of these 4 Christian citizens. During the past several weeks, security agents arrested another 7 members of the Christian community in Fars province, cities of Shiraz and Kovar(Source).

Crackdown on Christians in Central Asia

10/24/2012 Kazakhstan/Turkmenistan (BosNewsLife)- Authorities in three Central Asian nations have launched a crackdown on evangelical Protestant churches and several believers are reportedly mistreated, fined and detained, BosNewsLife learned Wednesday, October 24. In Kazakhstan, security forces raided Astana's Grace Church after a mother of a church member claimed the congregation harmed her daughter's health, Christians and rights activists said.

Masked police searched the Church and seized computers, valuables and religious books they insisted were "extremist", explained advocacy group Forum 18, which investigates reported religious rights abuses.
Police requested church members to give blood specimens to see if the Church uses "hallucinogenic" substances for Communion, Christians said. Also this month, the evangelical New Life Church in the city of Uralsk was reportedly raided over similar allegations.
Authorities denied allegations they threatened church members. "We did not threaten anyone, we just made a search," Senior Investigator Vyacheslav Glazkov said in published remarks. Local Christians of both churches fear authorities will use the case to end their operations after Thursday, October 25, by preventing them gaining the compulsory re-registration for religious communities.

The news follows reports that in neighboring Turkmenistan security forces violently raided a Baptist house church in Dashoguz city beating an elderly woman and fining 11 Baptists each $260, about two months' average wages for a worker.

The September 21 raid interrupted the worship meeting of Path of Faith Church in Dashoguz at the home of the Shirmedov family, Forum 18 reported. Officials also seized all Christian literature they could find and dragged Begjan Shirmedov, a 77-year-old Baptist leader and the father of the family, out of the house by his collar, Christians said.
When Shirmedov's 68-year-old wife Kerime (Klara) Ataeva complained, officials allegedly swore at her and beat her hands until they bled. Authorities hauled away about 15 church members for questioning, fingerprinting Begjan Shirmedov and his son Shohrat, Christians said.

Later, on October 1, the 11 church members, including a , including a teenage schoolboy, were summoned to a police station where they each faced a 15-minute hearing with a judge and a police officer before being fined, Forum 18 reported.

Rights activists also observed exit blacklists that prevent some Christian believers from leaving Turkmenistan, including Baptist leader Shagildy Atakov and his wife, children and brother. Authorities also target evangelical Christians in nearby Uzbekistan where police reportedly raided the home of a 74-year-old disabled Protestant Nina Chashina in Almalyk, Tashkent Region, while a neighbor was beaten.

Forum 18 said seven officials, three of whom were in police uniforms, broke into her flat and confiscated her Christian books, including seven Bibles, three New Testaments and three Bible commentary books, 100 brochures, 25 DVD disks as well as 20 audio-cassette tapes. The September 4 raid was no isolated incident.

In Khorezm Region, for instance, a court ordered a Bible and New Testament destroyed after an "expert analysis" by an official of the local Muslim Board, even though the government's Religious Affairs Committee is the only body authorized to conduct such analysis, Forum 18 said. Locals also say other Christians have been mistreated and fined for unauthorized worship as high as 40 times the official minimum monthly wage of roughly 300 dollars, though most people earn less(Source).

Musician Accused of “Insulting Islam” for Singing Christian Lyrics in Malaysia


10/28/2012 Malaysia (Malaysian Insider) – Perkasa insists Muslims nationwide must blackball popular singer Jaclyn Victor for singing “Harapan Bangsa”, a Malay-language Christian song that the hardline Malay rights group claims is an insult to Islam in the latest interfaith storm to erupt in multireligious Malaysia.
Its secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali also accused Senator Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon of being an “irresponsible” minister in refraining from taking a clear stand on the issue.
The minister in charge of national unity and integration has refused to weigh in on the issue, saying yesterday: “I don’t want to comment on that. They (Perkasa) can boycott as they like. It’s a free country.”
“But when Tsu Koon said it’s the right of Perkasa to boycott singer Jaclyn Victor because this country is free for anyone to voice out, that is a most irresponsible statement ever heard from a minister. Is that the best answer from a Unity Minister?” Syed Hassan told The Malaysian Insider in a text message when contacted yesterday.
“Can a singer sing any song even if (it) hurts the feelings of others? Is that the right to voice out?” he asked.
As a singer whose albums are mostly in the Malay language and who has a large Muslim fan base, Victor should not have sung the song, Syed Hassan said.
“The song’s lyrics cannot be said to be for Christians because its lyrics mentioned, among others ‘semua kaum, semua bangsa dlm negara ini mengharapkan engkau Yesus.’ (all races in this country hope in you, Jesus).
“Malays, who are Muslims, do not put their hope in Jesus!” he said.
Perkasa deputy president Datuk Abdul Rahman Abu Bakar has also backed Syed Hassan’s call to boycott the former Malaysian Idol winner who has been nominated in six categories for the upcoming Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) awards this November 17 here.

Victor, a Christian, is the latest person to have been caught in an interreligious firestorm that appears to be driving a wedge between Muslims and those of other faith. Islamic hardliners have alleged Christian Malaysians of conspiring with certain opposition political groups to install a Christian prime minister and create a Christian state without substantiating their claims.
The 33-year-old singer had last week said the “Harapan Bangsa” song is not for commercial purposes and is meant for Christians, pointing out that it was recorded many years ago.
“I recorded that song around 2007 specially for the Christians in Sabah and Sarawak and for the churches. It was composed by a pastor with the message of Malaysia’s peace. As a Christian, I don’t think there’s any wrong if I as a Christian sing the song,” she told Malay daily Berita Harian in a report published last Thursday.
“I am aware, maybe because the song was sung in the Malay language,
(it) caused many to view this as insensitive and think that I am trying to spread Christian teachings. I sung in the Malay language because many Christians in Sabah and Sarawak speak in the Malay language.”
Jaclyn also said the song should not be an issue in Malaysia, where freedom of religion is practised.
Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population, with many of them in east Malaysia using the Malay language and the word “Allah” to refer to their God.

Indonesia – Supreme Court ‘pro’ ruling ignored by City authority, so church resists

10/30/2012 Indonesia (Compass Direct News)- Bogor City, 60 kilometres south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is reported to be one of the world’s most densely populated areas. And, although not an Islamic state, Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, with 86.1% of Indonesians being Muslim, according to the 2000 census.

In April 2010, Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) was closed by order of the Mayor and city government. In December that year, the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the church's constitutional right to freedom of worship; however the Mayor refused to reopen the church. The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its later 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit.

But now, in the latest twist in the long-running saga, Indonesia’s Interior Minister, along with the Bogor City authorities, decided at a meeting in September that the church would not reopen, but instead should relocate about 7 kilometres away. In addition to the Mayor and Interior Minister, representatives of the Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami) – a hard-line religious group known for its stance against GKI Yasmin – attended the meeting.

Understandably, the church is refusing to comply with this order. "No matter where, no matter how beautiful or how expensive the new location, we will not accept," said the GKI Yasmin spokesman, Bona Sigalingging.

He said if the church was evicted it would mean that the rule of law in Indonesia has collapsed. "There will be a separation and segregation based on racial intolerance. It means betraying Bhinneka Tunggal Ika." (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, the motto of Indonesia, means 'Unity in Diversity').

In May this year, in an attempt to break the deadlock, the President’s Advisory Council and the National Defence Council (Wantannas) brokered a month-long negotiation between the church and the Bogor administration to build a mosque adjacent to the church. The church agreed with this suggestion, but it wasn't enough for the hardliners, who want to see the church gone from the area.

Vice Chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace (an Indonesian NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights) Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said the meeting had shown that the government tended to solve problems involving minority groups by ruling them out rather than accommodating them.

“Relocation without listening to the voice of victims would violate human rights. Relocation means eviction and law violations. GKI Yasmin objects to being relocated anywhere at anytime,” he said.
“The government keeps suggesting relocations as solutions for the Ahmadis, Shiites and GKI Yasmin’s case. This will only lead to further segregation,” he said.

He also questioned the motive behind the decision. Bonar suspects that the location of the church – near to hospitals, supermarkets and shops – means that the land will be valuable real estate.

GKI Yasmin is one of several examples of the lack of protection for Indonesia’s minority groups. The church was sealed and padlocked in April, 2010 on the orders of the Mayor of Bogor. He claimed that the church brought trouble with the local Muslim neighbours. Later he said that the church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name. Its congregation resorted to conducting services on the pavement in front of the church for more than two years. During services outside the church, they constantly faced harassment from groups of protesters – including from Forkami.

Fearing further aggravation from hard-liners, members of the Protestant church now hold clandestine services at the houses of congregation members. They have also conducted Sunday services in front of the State Palace, to further their case with the government(Source).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Christians persecuted throughout the world

Imagine the unspeakable fury that would erupt across the Islamic world if a Christian-led government in Khartoum had been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese Muslims over the past 30 years. Or if Christian gunmen were firebombing mosques in Iraq during Friday prayers. Or if Muslim girls in Indonesia had been abducted and beheaded on their way to school, because of their faith.
Such horrors are barely thinkable, of course. But they have all occurred in reverse, with Christians falling victim to Islamist aggression. Only two days ago, a suicide bomber crashed a jeep laden with explosives into a packed Catholic church in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 100. The tragedy bore the imprint of numerous similar attacks by Boko Haram (which roughly translates as “Western education is sinful”), an exceptionally bloodthirsty militant group.

Other notable trouble spots include Egypt, where 600,000 Copts – more than the entire population of Manchester – have emigrated since the 1980s in the face of harassment or outright oppression.
Why is such a huge scourge chronically under-reported in the West? One result of this oversight is that the often inflated sense of victimhood felt by many Muslims has festered unchallenged. Take the fallout of last month’s protests around the world against the American film about the Prophet Mohammed. While most of the debate centred on the rule of law and the limits of free speech, almost nothing was said about how much more routinely Islamists insult Christians, almost always getting away with their provocations scot-free.

Innocence of Muslims, the production that spurred all the outrage, has been rightly dismissed as contemptible trash. What, though, of a website such as “Guardians of the Faith”, run by Salafist extremists in Cairo? Among many posts, it has carried an article entitled “Why Muslims are superior to Copts”. “Being a Muslim girl whose role models are the wives of the Prophet, who were required to wear the hijab, is better than being a Christian girl, whose role models are whores,” it declares. “Being a Muslim who fights to defend his honour and his faith is better than being a Christian who steals, rapes, and kills children.” Hateful messages breed hateful acts. Is it any surprise that mobs have set fire to one church after another across Egypt in recent years(Source)?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Prayer update: Christians Suffering in Burma

10/12/2012 Burma (Barnabas Aid) – Despite the praise that Burma (Myanmar) has attracted this year for its recent reforms, the Christian minority there continues to be persecuted. A new report has shown that the government is still pursuing its agenda to assimilate the mainly Christian Chin ethnic group into a Buddhist national identity. Lift up to the Lord Christians in Burma, and ask that He will protect them from this on-going campaign, and that they will be able to stand strong in their faith.

The report documents more than 40 separate incidents of ill-treatment or torture, and 24 official complaints of religious freedom violations and other human rights abuses. These include the intimidation and harassment of pastors and other Christian workers, sexual violence, forced labour, closure of churches and disruption of worship services. Pray that the Lord will comfort those who have been the victims of this persecution, and ask that the Holy Spirit would enable them to forgive and love their persecutors.

Pray also for Christian schoolchildren in Burma, who are particularly at risk. Those who attend the free government schools for minorities endure frequent official coercion to convert to Buddhism. The schools try to entice the Chin children, who come from very poor families, with free food, education and government jobs when they graduate. Children at the schools are prevented from practising their Christian faith, and instead are forced to wear monastic robes and shave their heads. They may be beaten for refusing to recite Buddhist scriptures, and the threat of military conscription is used to force them to comply. Pray for Christian children in Burma, that the Lord will be a shield around them so that they will grow up firm in their faith(Source).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Christians Fleeing Persecution in Mali

10/27/2012 Mali (VaticanToday) - "In the north of Mali, all Christians were forced to flee" a complaint expressed in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Fr. Laurent Balas, a missionary of the White Fathers, who spent six years in Gao in northern Mali before being appointed pastor of the Church of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda in Bamako.

"My Gao successors were forced to flee," said Fr. Balas describing the conquest of the north of the Country in the spring of this year on behalf of the Islamic militias.

Christians fleeing from the north are welcomed by the families in the south under very precarious conditions, after having left all their belongings. "There are no refugee camps in the Country, but there are in neighboring Countries. The displaced have been 'absorbed' by the people. It is very difficult to say how many there are, " says the missionary.

In the north Islamist groups have imposed their radical interpretation of the Sharia even reaching the point of breaking into homes in search of unveiled women. In this case the unfortunate’s ear is cut off.
"Faced with this situation, the Muslims themselves are fleeing en masse, except that now, in the south, these families who flee put extra weight on other families who are already devasted(Source).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Iran Detains Seven Christians in Church Raid

10/14/2012 Iran (Christian Post)- Authorities in Iran's Fars Province arrested seven Christians in a church raid on Friday, even as five other Christian converts who were detained eight months ago from the same province will face trial on Monday. Over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained over the last two years.

Security personnel on Friday evening raided a house church belonging to the Church of Iran denomination in the city of Shiraz, and detained seven Christians, U.K.-based charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported.

The seven, identified as Mohammad (Vahid) Roghangir, Suroush Saraie, Roxana Forughi, Eskandar Rezaie, Bijan Haghighi, Mehdi Ameruni and Shahin Lahooti, were being held in Plaque 100, the Intelligence Ministry's notorious detention center.

Security men threatened older people at the prayer gathering, and then allowed them to leave while detaining the others. CSW said the latest detentions were part of a "marked upsurge in a campaign of harassment of Christians of all denominations, with reports of a significant increase in arrests during recent weeks."

"There appears to be an increasing tendency by the Iranian authorities to characterize legitimate religious activities as crimes against the state," CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said. "In reality, people are being harassed merely on account of their faith."

Meanwhile, five Christian converts arrested eight months ago from Shiraz officially received a trial date through a lawyer for Monday, Mohabat News, an Iranian Christian news agency, reported.
The trial will be held in Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz.

The accused were identified as Mojtaba Hosseini, Mohammad-Reza Partoei (Kourosh), Vahid Hakkani, Homayoun Shokouhi and his wife Mrs. Fariba Nazemian. The charges against them include "creating illegal groups," "participating in house church service," "propagation against the Islamic regime," and "defaming Islamic holy figures through Christian evangelizing."

Since their arrest, the five Christians are being held in separate wards with dangerous criminals in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz.

Thomas from CSW said the ongoing harassment and imprisonment of Christians, Baha'is and other religious minorities "contravenes international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of religion."
Reuters last month quoted Ahmed Shaheed, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, as saying that he estimated that "over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained throughout the country since June 2010."

"Scores of other Christians appear to remain in detention for freely practicing their religion," Shaheed said. "Churches continue to report undue pressure to report membership, in what appears to be an effort to pressure and sometimes even detain converts(Source)."

Indonesian Pays Steep Price for Converting to Christ

The founder of Islam said that apostates should be killed:
Sahih al-Bukhari 6922—Allah’s Messenger [said], “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”

Therefore stories like those below shouldn't surprise us:

10/12/2012 Indonesia (CBN News)- In the world's largest Muslim nation, changing your faith can bring lots of trouble. One man Christian World News spoke with lost his home and his job. In fact, he almost lost his identity. But he still says turning to Christ was worth it all. Andi was raised as a Muslim and he considered himself to be a devout believer of Islam.

"I was diligent in practicing the Muslim faith. I encouraged friends to pray and to build the mosque. I was faithful to Islam and didn't have any intentions of befriending Christians," he said.

"My goal in life was to get rich. And I was also involved in witchcraft. People came to me for healing and they paid me," he said. "I had a big house and lots of money to spend but I felt empty."

According to Andi, all this changed when a Christian came to his house and spoke to him about Jesus.
"He kept on coming to our house but I avoided him," he said. "Then one day I became ill and my whole family was sick with high fever. This Christian guy brought us to the hospital. He and his friends took care of us."

The Christians also gave him a Bible and encouraged him to read it.
"I did not want to read the Bible, but when I got healed, I felt an urge to read the Bible," Andi said. "And when I read it, I wanted to know more about Jesus."

Since then, Andi's Christian friends regularly met at his home for bible study. When his Muslim neighbors heard them singing Christian songs, Muslim leaders came to his house to persuade him to return to Islam.
Andi refused to recant and preached the gospel to them instead. This agitated his Muslim neighbors. More than 30 of them threw rocks at his house.

He was even brought before a mob at the local public hall. They questioned his new religious identity and confiscated his residence card. The card holds important personal information, including a person's religion. without the card, a person can't get a passport, obtain most licenses, or conduct many transactions. Andi met a lot of opposition before he could change his religious affiliation on his residence card from being Muslim to being a Christian. Now he is boldly paying the price even if it meant having to live in a remote place.

Open Doors, a Christian organization, provided a lawyer for Andi.
"The lawyer presented a letter to the village leader that stated the laws in Indonesia that included Andi's right to choose his religion," Boas Panggabean, Open Doors coordinator, said. "The village chief then returned Andi's residence card that showed his new identity in Christ."

But because it was not safe anymore for his family, Andi, together with his wife and five children, left their village. He lost his home and his job. He is grateful that Open Doors helped him to start a new business. He now sells small household appliances in his new community(Source).

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pastor and 12-Year-Old Daughter Beaten by Radicals in India

 08/07/2012 India (MNN) - While believers were gathered at his home singing worship songs, a mob of Hindu extremists brutally attacked Raju*, a church leader trained by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India. Mission India's Dave Stravers said about 20 men broke into Raju's home wielding clubs. Radicals destroyed things in the home and then turned their rage to Raju. When his 12-year old daughter asked the extremists why they were attacking her father, they began to beat her too.

"Persecution is a growing reality in India," said Stravers. After violently attacking Raju and his family, extremists proceeded to drag the believer and his wife to a nearby Hindu temple.

"They smeared vermillion, which is like a finger-paint, on their foreheads and pushed their heads down…and forced them to worship the idols in the temple," Stravers explained. "This is a pretty typical thing; it happens quite often in India."

Last month, the Evangelical Fellowship of India observed weekly attacks on Christians. Hindu extremists throughout India threatened and beat believers, often accusing them of 'forcible conversions'. Could this escalating violence lead to another Orissa?

"That possibility is always there, yes," Stravers admitted. "It's impossible to predict when that might happen or where, but it's always a possibility.

"In the meantime, you have these local acts of aggression that happen every week, and many cases every day. This is happening all over India."

One of Mission India's partners believes that a non-Christian relative may have told the attackers about Raju's worship group. Raju and his family are currently in hiding. Stravers said a similar pattern takes place in India whenever believers face persecution - they lie low for a few weeks until the chaos dies down, and then resume their work quietly(Source).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Children Attacked at Sunday School in Kenya

10/1/2012 Kenya (CBNNews) - Kenyan police are investigating a deadly attack on a church in the capital city of Nairobi.   An explosive device was set off in a Sunday school class full of children. One child was killed and at least three seriously wounded.   Jackson Mwangi was worshipping in the church when the blast occurred.

"We heard a blast from outside on the side of the nursery school and people started stampeding and scampering all over," he recalled. "The kids who were injured...the congregation started taking them to the hospital."

Police believe the Somali Muslim militant group al-Shabab is behind the attack. They have been targeting Kenyan churches ever since Kenyan forces moved into Somalia to fight al-Shabab last year(Source).