Monday, December 31, 2012

Christians in Tanzania Call for an End to Religious Violence

12/30/2012 Tanzania (AllAfrica) - As the world celebrated Christmas, the day of the birth of Jesus Christ, religious leaders have agitated for greater peace and harmony. They have called on the government to contain religious conflicts. The Catholic Church went a mile farther, challenging the government to take its role in providing security to churches and other places of worship against sabotages by gangs of criminals.

The Archbishop of the Dar es Salaam Catholic Archdiocese, Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, told the press that the government was sorely responsible for enabling the worshipers undertake their religious activities peacefully short of which chaos may erupt.

He said that although the government does not have direct affiliation in any religious sect, it recognizes the presence of religions, denominations and their activities and was therefore obliged to take immediate action whenever trouble occurs. "The government must ensure peace and security at places of worship be it at mosques, temples or churches. It has to make sure these places are respected," he stressed(Source).

Muslim mob attacks Christian worshipers on Christmas Day in Pakistan

12/29/2012 Pakistan (Pakistan Christian Post) – When President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari and Chairman ruling Pakistan Peoples Party PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were cutting Christmas cake presented by National Harmony Minister a Pakistani Catholic Dr. Paul Bhatti and photo session was being enjoyed by Archbishop of Karachi Bishop Joseph Coutts and Karachi Diocese Bishop of Church of Pakistan Sadiq Daniel in Karachi on December 25, 2012, a Muslim mob equipped with lethal weapons was firing at innocent Christian worshipers who were coming out of different Churches in Iqbal Town of capital city of Pakistan Islamabad.

It was 12:00 noon, in Iqbal Town in Islamabad, on December 25, 2012, when Christian worshipers were coming out of different Churches after performing Christmas prayers, more than one hundred Muslim extremists equipped with automatic rifles, pistols and sticks attacked the Christian women, children and men.
Ashraf Masih, when running to save his life was hit with bullet in his leg, Iqbal Masih received bullet injuries in his leg and arm, Shahzad Masih was injured fell on ground and was beaten with sticks mercilessly by mob, Yousaf Masih was seriously injured while more than one dozen Christian women, men and children received injuries.

The area police of Shahzad Town Police Station arrived on scene to maintain law and order and arrested only two Muslims named Mohammad Khalid and Mohammad Riasat Satti and sent injured Christians for medico-legal in hospital(Source).

Nigeria’s President Claims Christians Were Safe Over Christmas Holiday

It wouldn't be surprised if people said that he was wrong about saying my Nigerian brethren in Christ were safe over the Christmas holidays.

12/31/2012 Nigeria (TheSun) - President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said that, but for the security measures to check Boko Haram, this year’s Christmas celebration would have been the bloodiest, going by the Islamist sect’s plans. This is even as a church disclosed that it lost 109 members and 50 branches to the group. Jonathan spoke of plans by Boko Haram to push the nation backwards and stop the government from providing the dividends of democracy.

“They would not succeed because 2013 will be a good year for Nigerians and Nigeria,”he said. The President noted that Christianity and Islam are religions of peace and tolerance which forbid killings and blood-letting. The President disclosed this at the Ekklisiyar Yaruwa a Nigeria, EYN, (Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), Utako, Abuja, where he attended Sunday service. While re-assuring that his administration was working round-the-clock to address insecurity, Jonathan said that government will contain insecurity posed by the sect.

The President said that government will ensure that the activities of the Boko Haram did not push the nation backward as the strategic security plans put in place were already yielding positive results. According to him, the sect had intended to unleash deadly attacks on Christmas day, but the plans were aborted because of the effective strategic operations of the various security agencies. “The Boko Haram planned to carry out a lot of attacks on Christmas day, but we suppressed their plans during the Christmas, because the extent of their plans was not executed as a result of the strategies by the security agencies.

“Although, we still recorded some incidences, but the extent of attacks which they planned, was not allowed to be executed. Boko Haram will not push us backwards. If their plan is to stop government from providing the dividends of democracy, they would not succeed because 2013 will be a good year for Nigerians and Nigeria. With your persistent prayer, we shall defeat them,” he said. Jonathan noted that it was strange how terrorism and suicide bombings which were alien to the culture of any section of the country had crept in. He thanked the EYN nationwide for keeping faith and remaining calm even in the face of provocation.

Earlier, Senior Pastor of the church, Rev. Daniel Mbaya, said that about 50 of their churches had been burnt and 109 members killed in the North by Boko Haram. He said that EYN, predominantly in the North- East, was worse hit by the Boko Haram insurgence(Source).

Priests Imprisoned in Sudan for Baptizing

12/31/2012 Sudan (WND) - Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir has tossed two priests into prison for baptizing a woman convert to Christianity. Agence France Presse reports from say Sudan the convert was a woman of Arab origin and that the government leaped into action when Muslims threatened violence.
“A little-known group calling itself al-Qaida in the Nilien States sent a statement to Sudanese journalists on Tuesday threatening violence against Copts unless the woman who converted and was kidnapped by the Christians is returned,” reports said.

Christian Solidarity International USA President John Eibner says that the decision to jail the priest may be the result of party rivalries.

“What we do know, however, is that the various Islamist forces, including Bashir’s party are competing with each other to show that they adhere to Shariah norms,” he said. Eibner adds that in Sudan, Islam rules.
“It is still Islam that bestows political legitimacy in Khartoum,” Eibner said.

American Enterprise Institute Middle East analyst Michael Rubin says it’s no surprise that Sudan would imprison a pair of priests. “It’s entirely plausible. It’s open season on Christians in the Middle East now,” he said. Rubin adds that Sudan will rise to be one of the leading persecutors.

“No place will be as bad as Egypt, but Sudan will come close, especially as they tighten their embrace of Iran,” Rubin said. WND previously reported that Sudanese dictator al-Bashir was launching airstrikes against Christian enclaves.

At the time, Eibner said, “Khartoum has habitually responded to rebellion, especially in peripheral black African and non-Muslim regions, with attacks intended to disrupt civilian communities to prevent them from hosting rebel armed forces.” He said the tactic in the Nuba Mountains was consistent with how al-Bashir acted towards South Sudan and in Darfur.

“This was done in South Sudan during the late war there. It was done in response to the rebellion in Darfur, and is now being done in the Nuba Mountains in South Khordofan,” Eibner said. International Christian Concern’s Africa analyst William Stark confirmed the attacks and airstrikes.

“There have been repeated airstrikes there since the separation of the north and south. Many of the people living in the Nuba Mountains are Christian, but there is also a rebel group active there, so there are many reasons the Nuba Mountains are being bombed,” Stark said(Source).

Fifty Christians Temporarily Arrested

12/30/2012 Iran (Mohabat News) – While many Christians around the world rejoice and celebrate Christmas in their churches, the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the advent of the birthday of Jesus Christ, begins its annual campaign of terror and fear through its security forces.

According to reports received by Mohabat News, on Thursday December 27th, while approximately 50 newly converted Christians had gathered at a residential home in the Northern district of Tehran to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the occasion of Christmas, the government security forces began a coordinated and pre-planned raid that resulted in the immediate on the spot arrest and several hours of interrogation of all individuals present.

This incident resulted in the arrest and detention of Rev. Vruir Avanessian, an officially ordained pastor of Armenian descent, whose whereabouts and condition remains unknown at this time. Sources have reported that approximately 15 plain clothes police and security officers, in a well-orchestrated and coordinated plan, being fully aware and informed of this celebration by our Christian citizens entered the home of the host of this special gathering, claiming to be acting on a complaint by neighbors regarding the noise level, began to arrest all the guests. Once in the house, the security officers, who were fully aware of the nature of this gathering, ordered everyone to be quiet and cooperate with the officers and no one was allowed to leave the house.

- All Attendees Interrogated Using Previously Prepared Forms
Once the security forces realized how many people were assembled there and that it would not be feasible to transport everyone to a facility nearby, they began distributing specially prepared interrogation forms and required everyone to answer every question completely including their full name, home address, and other contact information. Also, they were asked to provide their email, Facebook, and other social media ID and passwords.

It has been reported that these forms contained questions regarding the manner in which they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, their connection to house-churches, their recent travels to other countries for the purpose of visiting and fellowshipping with other Christians, their core beliefs and why they had abandoned Islam, and their personal and political views about the Islamic Republic of Iran and the foreign policies of the regime.

It must be mentioned that the security forces were acting with some degree of respect and calm demeanor while insisting that everyone should be completely honest in answering all the questions on the form. Finally, some of the officers began to collect all cellphones and reminded everyone that once their investigation was complete they would be summoned to the security branch of the area to get their cellphones back and be dealt with individually(Source).

American Christian Remains Detained in North Korea

12/30/2012 North Korea (CIC) - An American, who has been linked to a Protestant group spreading Christianity, was expected to spend New Year behind bars in North Korea on charges of "hostile acts against the republic". The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said that Bae Jun-ho had entered the country on November 3 through the far northeastern city of Rajin as part of a tour.

Rajin is part of a special economic zone not far from Yanji, China, that has sought to draw foreign investors and tourists over the past year. Yanji, home to many ethnic Korean Chinese, also serves as a base for Christian groups that shelter North Korean defectors.

"In the process of investigation, evidence proving that he committed a crime against (North Korea) was revealed. He admitted his crime," the KCNA dispatch said. The North said the crimes were "proven through evidence" but did not elaborate.

Human rights activists in South Korea said they believed Bae to be Kenneth Bae, 44, who was born in South Korea and later moved to the United States where he received American citizenship. Bae was reportedly acting as a travel agent specializing in taking tourists and investors around North Korea, while in reality he may have been a Christian missionary, said Cindy Ryu, Democrat representative of Bea's home state of Washington.

“Many of us are third- and fourth-generation Christians and many of our pastors are originally from North Korea,” she explained in published remarks. “We want to visit our home country, but in North Korea you cannot say you are a missionary.” The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the case, but declined to provide more details(Source).

Syrian rebels beheaded Christian, fed his body to dogs

The treatment my brethren are getting is Inhumane.

12/31/2012 Syria (Al Arabiya) – A nun sounded the alarm that the Syrian conflict was becoming sectarian when she said that a Christian man was beheaded by Syrian rebels in the northern town of Ras al-Ayn on the Turkish border, and his body was fed to dogs, a British newspaper reported Monday.

Sister Agnes-Mariam de la Croix speaking from her sanctuary in Lebanon said the newlywed taxi driver, Andrei Arbashe, was kidnapped after his brother was heard complaining that the rebels fighting against beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad were behaving like bandits, The Daily Mail reported.

The 38-year-old Arbashe, who was soon to be a father, was found headless by the side of the road, surrounded by hungry dogs, Sister Agnes-Miriam, who is mother superior of the Monastery of St James the Mutilated, added.

Christians in Syria, who many of them still support Assad regime, were previously given concessions by the Syrian regime to appease them. The Christians, a minority, also skeptical over regime change in the country as they fear the rise of Islamists(Source).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Iranian Christian Marks Two Years Behind Bars

12/28/2012 Iran (Mohabat News) – As Christians all around the world prepare for New Year celebrations, many families, especially families of Christian converts , experience nothing but worries and suffering at this time of year. Particularly, those families whose loved ones are in prison for their faith, will have a worrisome time rather than a time of togetherness and joy.

Mohabat News -- After Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader gave a speech in Qom in mid-2010 ordering a crackdown on the spread of Christianity and house churches, confirmed reports indicated that 70 Christian converts were arrested in various parts of Iran and put behind bars.

Farshid Fathi, born on 1979, was arrested by security authorities on December 26, 2010, in Tehran. While being kept in the horrible 350 ward of Evin prison, his trial was postponed numerous times, due to various excuses, until it was eventually held in January 2012, after 15 months. There, in the Revolutionary Court, Judge Salavati sentenced him to six years in prison. The judge issued this verdict, although Fathi's attorney did not receive full access to his file until a few days before the trial was held.

Mr. Fathi's offenses were announced as, "being chief-director of foreign organizations in Iran and gathering funds for these organizations". Despite his appeal of the verdict, the High Court confirmed his six year sentence. When the court's verdict was approved, it's news was spread over the internet. The six year imprisonment for Pastor Fathi for faith-related offenses was condemned by churches and Christian's Rights organizations. This is the second anniversary of Mr. Fathi's arrest and he has been in prison since then without being given a leave permit even once and he has been totally denied the "basic right" of having a leave permit(Source).

Fifteen Christians Have Throats Slit by Boko Haram Extremists in Northern Nigeria

My Heart goes out to my Nigerian brethren in Christ as they endure this persecution.

12/30/2012 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that at least fifteen Christians were killed by suspected Boko Haram militants in northern Nigeria. The militants snuck into Musari, a neighborhood located on the outskirts of Maiduguri, early on Friday morning and slit the throats of fifteen Christians in their own homes.

The militants specifically targeted Christians because they broke into only Christian homes located in an area of Musari that is predominantly Christian. “The attackers came in and silently went into homes whose residents were all Christians and slit the throats of their victims. They killed fifteen people,” a resident told the press. According to Nigerian military officials, the death toll only stands at five. Residents of Musari and other relief organizations put the number at fifteen. The Nigerian authorities often under-report the casualties in Boko Haram attacks.

A relief official told AFP “the victims were selected because they were all Christians, some of whom
had moved into the neighborhood from other parts of [Maiduguri] hit by Boko Haram attacks.” According to residents, many Christians have moved into the Musari neighborhood because of the many bombings and shootings perpetrated by Boko Haram in other parts of Maiduguri.

Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group that is currently fighting the Nigerian government for control of northern Nigeria. Boko Haram desires to establish a separate Islamic state in Nigeria’s northern states where it can enact an ultra conservative interpretation of Sharia law. Since beginning its armed insurgency in 2009, Boko Haram has killed over 3,000 people in Nigeria. Christian have often been the victims of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. In early 2012, Boko Haram leaders demanded all Christians to leave northern Nigeria so that the group could begin establishing its purely Islamic society.
Since then, Boko Haram has been responsible for a series of church bombings, drive-by shootings and Christian pogroms across northern Nigeria.

This most recent attack comes on the heels of two very similar attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram on Christmas Eve. In the Christmas Eve attacks, twelve Christians in separate cities were killed by gunmen suspected to be connected with Boko Haram and two churches were burned down. Although this Christmas season has been less violent that 2011, the Christians of northern Nigeria continue to live in a constant state of fear(Source).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rotten Egg Attack Mars Indonesia Christmas Celebration

12/25/2012 Indonesia (Jakarta Globe) - More than 200 Indonesian Muslims threw rotten eggs at Christians wanting to hold a Christmas mass near land outside Jakarta where they plan to build a church, police and a witness said. Some 100 Christian worshippers intended to hold a mass near empty land where they hope to build a church, about 30-kilometers east of the capital, in a project barred by district government and community members in 2009.

Since then, worshippers from the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant have held Sunday services under scorching sun outside the property. On Tuesday, however, local community members blocked the road near the land, Andri Ananta, a local police chief on Jakarta's outskirts, told AFP.

An AFP photographer witnessed furious locals — men and women wearing Muslim headscarf, with small children in tow — physically blocking the road and throwing rotten eggs at the gathering worshippers.
Ananta said police managed to convince the Christians to drop their plan and return home.

"We tried our best to avoid any clash and the Christians agreed to leave," he said, adding 380 police and military personnel including an anti-riot squad were deployed to the area. Church leader Reverend Palti Panjaitan said the incident came after a Christmas Eve attack on Monday evening when "intolerant people" threw not only rotten eggs but plastic bags filled with urine and cow dung at them. "Everything had happened while police were there. They were just watching without doing anything to stop them from harming us," he told AFP(Source).

Church in Indonesia Reports Christmas Eve Service Attack

Lord Jesus, help my Indonesian brethren in Christ to respond rightly to this nasty persecution they are facing during this Christmas season.

12/28/2012 Indonesia (The Jakarta Globe) - Members of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church were intimidated by a mob on Christmas Eve near the church’s confiscated land in Bekasi, representatives of the church said. The representatives reported the incident to the National Commission on Human Rights.
The intimidation occurred while the congregation was conducting a Christmas procession prior to holding a Christmas Eve service, the HKBP Filadelfia representatives told Natalius Pigai, head of the monitoring and investigative division for the commission, which is known as Komnas HAM.

Parsaoran, one of the church representatives, said that a mob pelted the congregation with eggs and other items and tried to hinder the procession from heading to the front of the church’s property, which has been sealed off by the local authorities.

Natalius said that he believed the root of the problem lay in the complex and dragged-out process of government permit issuance for churches and added that this was causing conflicts in communities.
He said that the government’s inconsistency in protecting religious freedom was giving rise to intolerant groups that “are much more dangerous than atheist groups(Source).”

Northern Nigeria Remains Unsafe for Christians

12/29/2012 Nigeria (ChristianToday) - Christmas Eve attacks by suspected Islamic extremists in northern Nigeria's Borno state - already reeling from the slaughter of at least 10 Christians earlier this month - took the lives of six people at a Baptist church, as gunmen killed six others in Yobe state the same night.
According to Morning Star News, in Borno state, where Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is based, six Christians were slain at First Baptist Church in Maiduguri on Christmas Eve.

About 160 kilometers (100 miles) away in Kupwal village in Chibok Local Government Area, suspected jihadists shouting "Allahu Akbar [God is greater]" on December 1 slit the throats of at least 10 people in carefully selected Christian homes, according to reports from survivors.

In Yobe state on Christmas Eve, gunmen believed to be members of Boko Haram reportedly entered the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Peri, near Potiskum, and killed six Christians including a pastor before setting the church building ablaze. Several others were reported seriously wounded.

"No group has claimed responsibility for the Christmas Eve attacks, but Boko Haram mounted Christmas assaults on Christians last year and in 2010," said the Morning Star News Nigeria correspondent.
Boko Haram has expressed its intention to eradicate Christians from northern Nigeria and impose a strict version of Sharia law. Attacks on Christians in Yobe state have forced thousands of Christians to flee to others parts of Nigeria, while others have become refugees in Cameroon, the newspaper reports.

It adds that in Jaji, in northern Nigeria's Kaduna state, 11 Christians were killed in a suicide attack on a church on November 25. The Reverend Titus Sambo and Israel Olaleye, students at Baptist Theological Seminary in Kaduna, died in the dual bomb blasts at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, a military barracks church serving military personnel, their families and civilians in Jaji, about 25 miles from Kaduna City. At least 30 people were reported injured(Source).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christians are Deliberately Sidelined in Pakistan

I'm glad my Pakistani brethren-in-Christ are remembering the reason for the season, even in the midst of their persecution.

12/27/2012 Pakistan (Salem News) – With the advent of December, Christians all over the world kicked off their preparations to celebrate the most important festival of the year ‘Christmas’ across the world including Pakistan.

With every passing day till the eve of Christmas, Pakistani Christians prepare to celebrate the festivity with zeal and enthusiasm, feeling the echo of church bells for the mid night services on Christmas eve that announce the birth of Jesus.

While preparing for Christmas, the Christians living in Pakistan renew their spirit of celebrating Christmas which continues throughout the month. The programs and celebrations leading to Christmas include Christmas dinners, carol singing and other get together that have an element of sharing the joys of Christmas with the less fortunate(Source).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Korean Pastor Threatened with Expulsion from China after Arrest

 12/27/2012 China (ChinaAid) - A Korean pastor is being threatened with expulsion after the house church worship service at which he was preaching on Sunday was raided by Shanghai police, ChinaAid has learned. The Korean pastor surnamed Hu was right in the midst of his sermon at 2 p.m. on Dec. 23 to the Zhenguang (True Light) House Church, in the Xiangshan (Fragrant Hills) New Housing Development, in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, when the officials from the Public Security Bureau, Religious Affairs Bureau and local police station grabbed him and took him into custody and dispersed the meeting. Hu was held for two hours and not released until 4 p.m. He was told he would be expelled from China(Source).

Muslim Extremists Continue to Grow Violent Towards Christians in Indonesia

I thank the Lord Jesus Christ that He gives his followers the strength to tell others about Him even when they are threatened with bad things happening to them as seen in this article.

12/26/2012 Indonesia (MNN) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights recently raised concerns over the plight of religious minorities in Indonesia. Many are Christians who have been noting the rise of violent attacks and forced displacement. This, in addition to other forms of discrimination, such as being denied identification cards. Sources from Open Doors and the Voice of the Martyrs say there have been reports of forced church closures, even where the churches have secured legal permission.

International Christian Concern reported Jakarta police finally taking security measures to protect Christians as they gathered to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. More than 12,000 police were deployed to roughly 2,000 churches throughout Central Java. Muslim extremist groups in Indonesia, with suspected ties to al Qaeda, continue to grow more violent towards Christians, with little resistance from authorities.
Voice of the Martyrs noted one incident with a girl named Ribur who was jailed for 60 days for talking about her faith in Jesus. According to the VOM report, she chose to be part of an agricultural mission project in Aceh on the island of Sumatra. Teaching about how to raise crops and livestock often gave the team opportunities to answer questions about their faith.

ICC says Ribur eventually began a community Bible study. She and another teammate had developed a relationship with a local woman, who eventually gave her life to Christ. That’s where Ribur ran into trouble.
Shortly after this, a mob attacked Ribur and the other Christian worker. The beating continued for 45 minutes, eventually ending when the police came and arrested the pair for blaspheming Islam. When officials asked her why she shared about Jesus, Ribur said, "Jesus wants everyone to know about Him." Eventually, the pair was released. However, Franz Magnis-Suseno of the Driyarkara School of Philosophy says, "The religious situation in Indonesia is marked by a rising number of social conflicts between neighborhoods and villages; conflicts on ethnic and, increasingly, on religious lines."

Christians of South Sudan Thankful for New Nation

12/27/2012 South Sudan (SudanTribune) - Christians of the new born South Sudan are urged to pray for the leadership of the country as they celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ for the second time in an independent nation. Over ten thousand and two hundred Christians turned up on Tuesday morning of December 25 in the compound of the Presbytery Church in Juba to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ whom they believe is the God’s Messiah.

The event also provided an opportunity to deliver thanksgiving messages to God for freeing the people of South Sudan after decades of war with the present Sudan and to encourage the leadership to lead the nation to internal peace and prosperity.

Addressing the faithful on Tuesday the pastor in charge of the Nuer speaking congregation, Reverend Paul Ruot Khor, urged the Christians across the new country to pray for the leadership so that under God’s guidance they can continue to lead the country to prosperity with justice and honesty.

Reverend Ruot further reminded the biggest Presbytery Church congregation in the capital that there was need for the country to gain more than the political independence it just attained and should work towards achieving peace and prosperity in freedom.

He urged the leaders to emulate the good teachings of Christ and avoid practices which can invite unwanted setbacks in the country. The minister of Justice, John Luk Jok, who also represented the government during the occasion appealed for consolidation of peace and unity among the people and avoid tribalism and injustices(Source).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pakistan’s loneliest church celebrates Christmas in Taliban country

12/24/2012 Pakistan (Reuters) - This Christmas, pastor Nazir Alam will stoke up a fire, lay a fresh cloth on the altar and welcome parishioners as they arrive at his church in Waziristan, a Pakistani tribal area known as an al-Qaeda haven.
"The lights are all up, and the choir boys are ready. The church is looking its best," said 60-year-old Alam, a former missionary who has celebrated his last ten Christmases there. "There's not much left to do but to pray and rejoice."
Outsiders might see little cause for joy. Pakistan is the sixth most dangerous country in the world for minorities, says London-based watchdog Minority Rights Group International. Christians, Shiite Muslims and Ahmadis are victims of a rising tide of deadly attacks.
But Alam's church, and the homes of most of his 200 parishioners, are nestled inside a Pakistani army base in South Waziristan, a mountainous region that was a hotbed of militancy until a military offensive in 2009.
"When the U.S. went into Kabul, things became bad for everyone. But we are safe here. The army protects us," says Shaan Masih, who helps clean the church and likes to play the drums and sing carols.
For two decades, the church was little more than a room and the tiny community worshipped there under light protection. In 2009, the army set up a base in South Waziristan as part of the offensive against the insurgency and invited the church inside.
"It was a longstanding demand of the community to be given a proper space," Col. Atif Ali, a military officer, told Reuters during a rare trip to the region arranged by the military.
Many of the Christians work for the army in clerical or domestic positions. So far, they have been sheltered from the bombings, raids and drone strikes, violence that rocks the region on an almost daily basis.
Less than a 100 miles away lies North Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan and one of the last areas controlled by the Pakistani Taliban.
The United States has repeatedly urged Pakistan to launch an operation against militants sheltered there including remnants of al Qaeda and Pakistani groups targeting the nation's minorities.
Pakistan says it is doing everything it can to fight the militancy and needs to consolidate the campaign in South Waziristan before opening a new front(Source).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christians in Iraq celebrate Christmas in Kurdistan

12/25/2012 Iraq (RFI) – Iraq’s Kurdistan Region is home to one of the world's oldest Christian communities. In the last decade it has also welcomed Christians from the rest of Iraq who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. Christmas in Kurdistan takes on a special meaning for Christians knowing that not all their fellow citizens are free to celebrate the holiday.

You might think that one place you could avoid Christmas music in mid-December would be Iraq. But driving through Erbil, capital of the country’s Kurdistan Region, on a wet December afternoon, the local Babylon FM radio station has a full festive play list. That’s because Kurdistan is very different from the rest of the country as many Iraqi Christian refugees have discovered in recent years.

Since the 2003 Iraq war, the Kurdistan Region has offered a safe haven to Christians fleeing religious persecution in Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and other Southern Iraqi cities. The small suburb of Ainkawa lies on the edge of the region’s capital Erbil and about 90% of its 40,000 strong population is Christian, most of them Assyrians or Chaldeon Catholics.

Ninos Mishu is a priest at the Assyrian Church of the East, St John Baptism Church, in Ainkawa, Erbil.
“We have [on] 24th, Monday, we have a prayer beginning at 7.30 for celebration for  coming of Jesus. And at morning 7.30, Tuesday, 25 December, we have a holy mass.”

“We are free here in Kurdistan to use our church here to pray, to make a holy mass. We are so safe here. We are always celebrating our prayers or holy mass. And there is no problems recorded until now. Thanks for God, and for our government that love the Christian people. And our neighbors, the Muslims, they are always giving their greetings for us, in Christmas or Easter(Source).”

Black Christmas faces Syria Christians

12/23/2012 Syria (Agence France-Presse) – Festive spirit is a distant memory for Syria's Christian minority as it faces a second Christmas in the grip of fear of daily violence and the spectre of rising Islamism.
"We're in no mood to celebrate Christmas this year. Everyone around is me is so sad, and the situation is terrible," said George, a 38-year-old accountant from Damascus, who, like many in Syria after 21 months of bloodshed, asked not to give his full name.

"How am I going to celebrate now that many of my relatives have fled, and we have lost our loved ones? This Christmas doesn't look anything like a celebration." Syria's 1.8 million Christians make up some five percent of the population.

Many have tried to remain neutral in the country's spiralling conflict. Others have taken President Bashar al-Assad's side, for fear of the Islamists in rebel ranks.

"Foreign fighters are coming to Syria to impose their religious and political views in our country," said Maryam, who lives in central Damascus.

"These armed terrorists might force me to wear the veil, stop working and stay home," she said. It was similar fears of daily violence and hardline Islamism that prompted a huge exodus of Christians from neighbouring Iraq in the years after the US-led invasion of 2003 and Syrian church leaders have appealed to their flocks not to take the road of emigration(Source).

Christmas in Indonesia a Matter of Faith and Security

I hope (or I hoped) my Indonesian brethren in Christ remember the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of their persecution during this Christmas season

12/23/2012 Indonesia (Jakarta Globe) - At Jakarta’s biggest shopping centers, lights twinkle on plastic firs and displays are buried under yards of cotton-wool snow. People of all religions can be seen having their photographs taken with a heavily costumed Santa Claus and his helpers. It is hard to tell from these open festivities that Christmas is in fact a minority celebration in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Christians make up less than 10 percent of the population of 240 million. Protestantism and Catholicism count for two of the six officially recognized religions. But despite Christianity’s official status it still faces opposition in Indonesia from terrorist groups, community leaders and even government officials.
Churches in Indonesia are subject to closure from public pressure, face denial of permits to build in the first place and even experience episodes of violence.

In 2000, the nation was rocked by a series of bombings that targeted churches on Christmas Eve. Eighteen people were killed in the blasts that hit churches from North Sumatra through to West Nusa Tenggara.
This Christmas, almost 38,500 churches across the country will be guarded by police. Special attention will be paid to areas believed to be prime targets for terrorist attacks, including East and Central Java, North Sumatra, Central Sulawesi, Bali, Maluku and the Jakarta region.

“There are several regional police jurisdictions that have received special attention,” Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, the National Police’s assistant head of operations, said last week. “We have specifically identified the cities that are indicated as potential targets for terrorist activities.”

In Jakarta alone, 6,000 police personnel will be stationed to keep the peace, as part of an annual strategy known as “Operation Candle.” For Indonesia’s Christians, it remains to be seen whether the peaceful celebrations held in commercial spaces can be repeated in churches across the country this Christmas(Source).

A dark Christmas for Pakistani Christians

Another reason why we as Western Christians should pray for persecuted brethren during this time of year.

12/25/2012 Pakistan (Deutsche Welle) – Christians celebrate Christmas amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The year 2012 was one of the worst years for them in the country. In many parts of the world, Christmas means a time of celebration. But for Christians in Pakistan, who live under constant fear of persecution by the state and majority Sunni Muslims, there is not much to celebrate.

Christians make up about two percent of the 180 million people living in Pakistan. Rights organizations say that like any other religious minority, they face legal and cultural discrimination in the Islamic Republic.
Pakistan's non-government human rights commission, HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan), reported that the year 2012 was one of the worst years for Pakistani Christians; a number of them were charged with blasphemy, their churches were burnt and houses looted in many parts of the country.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Controversial blasphemy laws introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s make life for Christians more difficult. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas; they say the Christians are thereby often victimized.

Living under blasphemy laws
On August 16, Rimsha Masih - a Christian girl aged between 10 and 14 - was accused of committing a blasphemous act by a religious cleric in her town. The cleric said she had burnt pages upon which were inscribed verses from the Koran. Masih was promptly taken into police custody.

Pakistani officials claimed the girl suffered from Down's Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing major learning disabilities. Western governments expressed serious concern over her arrest. After numerous protests by rights organizations and Western governments, a Pakistani court ordered her release from custody. But Asia Bibi has not had such luck. In 2010, Bibi, an impoverished farmer, was sentenced to death after her neighbors accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. She is still languishing in prison. The liberal Pakistanis who chose to support Bibi were also not spared by Islamists.

A few months after Bibi's conviction, former governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. Qadri said he killed Taseer for speaking out against the blasphemy laws and in support of Bibi. In March 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's former minister for minority affairs, was assassinated by a religious fanatic for the same reason(Source).

Pastor to spend Christmas in Iranian prison, jailed for his faith

It saddens me that this man had to spend Christmas in prison. I hope he remembers that Jesus Christ is the reason for season while he is behind bars.
12/24/2012 Iran (Washington Post) – As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, a time of joy, hope, and peace on earth, we are reminded that in this world not everyone is free to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Last year, we told you about the death sentence against a Christian pastor in Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani. His only “crime” was his faith in Jesus Christ, convicted of apostasy (converting from Islam to Christianity). Hundreds of thousands of people around the world demanded his freedom. After an immense international campaign for his release, working closely with his brave Muslim attorney in Iran and world leaders, Iran relented, releasing him and dropping his apostasy charges in September.

Nadarkhani was not the only imprisoned pastor in the world, but he did become the face of Christian persecution. Today, another Christian pastor languishes in one of Iran’s most notoriously abusive prisons – this time an American citizen. Saeed Abedini, a 32-year-old Iranian-born American citizen, was arrested because of his faith while visiting his family in Iran.

After converting from Islam to Christianity, Abedini helped lead underground churches in Iran and began humanitarian efforts to establish an orphanage for the children of Iran.

In September, when traveling back to Iran to visit his parents and continue his humanitarian work, Abedini was stopped by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. He has now been illegally imprisoned in Iran since September.
We at the ACLJ have been working on his case for a number of months, representing his wife, Naghmeh, and family here in America. Abedini’s wife explained, “When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country. His passion was to reach the people of Iran. . . . He comes from a very close-knit family, and he loved evangelizing and passing out Bibles on the streets of Tehran. This was his passion(Source).”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christians in Nigeria Remain Unhelped by the International Community

We as Christians should be active in helping our persecuted brethren in Christ.

12/19/2012 Nigeria (FRC) - The term “Boko Haram” has a distinctly non-English sound to it.  Rightly so, as it is the name of an Islamic terrorist group in Northern Nigeria. Literally meaning “Western/book learning is evil,” this radical Muslim sect is committed to creating an Islamic, Sharia law-based society in Nigeria.  To that end, the Boko Haram have bombed and burned hundreds of churches over the past decade; they are truly ecumenical, as their targets are both Catholic and Protestant.

Since its inception in 2001, the British Broadcasting Company reports that Boko Haram has murdered as many as 10,000 people, men, women, and children.  Anyone professing Christianity is ripe for death in the twisted minds of Boko Haram’s members.  As with their unconcern with denominations, they are equal-opportunity killers of all ages.

Despite their unvarnished record fanatical brutality, the U.S. State Department has not been willing to declare Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organization.”  Although State has designated several Boko Haram leaders as terrorists, its view of the movement itself seems more benign.  Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, testifying before FRC’s great friend U.S. Rep. Chris Smith’s House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, sought to draw distinctions within Boko Haram – even though, after doing so, he called the group a “terrorist organization.”

Why is this important?  In the words of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Benjamin Bull, “Such a designation triggers a variety of legal sanctions against the terrorist organization including freezing bank accounts, outlawing transfer of funds to support the group, expelling or arresting its members or associates in the U.S, and imposing sanctions on countries that provide support for the group(Source).”

Christians in Somalia Gunned Down by Suspected Al-Shabaab Militant

12/20/2012 Somalia (MorningStarNews) – Gunmen in central Somalia on Saturday, Dec. 8, killed an underground Christians who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam, area sources said.
Two unidentified masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu, for leaving Islam, Muslim and Christian sources told Morning Star News. The assailants fled immediately after the murder.

Siad’s oldest daughter (name withheld), 15, said her father was killed “because he failed to attend the mosque for prayers and used to pray at home. He used to share with us about Jesus.” She said that he had received messages on his mobile phone stating, “We know what you are doing, and you must stop, otherwise you risk your life.”

Siad’s 42-year-old wife (name withheld), three daughters and two sons have fled the area, fearing for their lives. A Christian source in Mogadishu confirmed the killing, and a Muslim resident of the Beledweyne area also said Siad was killed for leaving Islam.

“Siad deserved to die because he was not committed to the Islamic religion,” the resident said. Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000 according to a source who used to worship with them, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months ago, after Somalia’s transitional federal government and African Union Mission in Somalia troops captured Beledweyne from Al Shabaab rebels. Siad had taken a job with a local Non-Governmental Organization.

“Since we arrived from Doolow, my parents have not been attending the worship at the mosque, but they have been allowing us to worship at the nearby mosque,” his daughter said. As the gunmen were masked, she was unable to say whether the assailants were local(Source).

Nigeria Government Prepares to Protect Christians Over Christmas

12/23/2012 Nigeria (PMNews) - Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, MD Abubakar, has directed all Zonal AIGs and State Command Commissioners of Police to take all necessary measures to ensure the provision of adequate security across the country before, during and after the Christmas.

“CPs are to personally, ensure that key and vulnerable points including: shopping malls, motor parks, financial houses, places of worship, recreation centres and other public places are adequately and effectively protected, to enable holiday makers, worshippers and the general public enjoy maximum fulfillment”, Abubakar said in a statement signed Force PRO, CSP Frank Mba.

In a similar vein, Abubakar directed Zonal AIGs and CPs to ensure the provision of 24hrs security around all government installations, strategic facilities and other key targets. According to the statement by Mba, Commanders of Police Highway Patrol Teams have been ordered to ensure that motorized patrols on our highways targeted at crime and accident prevention, are intensified to ensure a safe, secure and peaceful celebration. Police men deployed on our highways have also been directed to render necessary assistance to travelers and road users, especially accident victims and those who may suffer vehicular break down(Source).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Al-Shabaab Continues to Spread its Persecution of Christians

All this persecution that my brethren are facing during this Christmas season make me very thankful that I can celebrate Christmas without wondering if I will be able to see the December 25th. I pray that God will give my brethren in Christ that strength to their persecution and celebrate Christmas despite their persecution.

12/22/2012 Somalia (WorldMag) - Mursal Isse Siad became one of the latest victims of Islamist violence in Somalia when two masked men shot and killed the 55-year-old on Dec. 8. The assailants fled after gunning him down in Beledweyne, his hometown 200 miles north of Mogadishu, the capital.

Siad received death threats on his cell phone for leaving Islam, local sources told Morning Star News: “He failed to attend the mosque for prayers and used to pray at home. He used to share with us about Jesus,” explained his 15-year-old daughter. A Muslim resident in Beledweyne said he “deserved to die” because he was no longer committed to Islam.

A UN-backed government in Somalia—supported by an 18,000-strong African Union force—has made important gains in recent months against al Shabaab, the terrorist movement fighting for control in Somalia. Al Shabaab has lost key cities, including the port city of Kismayo, which fell to AU forces in October, but it still controls large parts of central Somalia. There the militants have banned radio stations from playing music and outlawed bell ringing to signal the end of classes “because they sound like church bells.”

Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, moved to Beledweyne in central Somalia after the government and AU forces captured the town from al Shabaab last year. Siad had taken a job with a local nongovernmental organization but was known to have left Islam. His death is a reminder that targeted violence against Christians in Somalia hasn’t diminished, and al Shabaab, even on the losing end of war, has promised to rid the country of Christians, who are mostly converts from Islam.

Of mounting concern to Somalia’s neighbors is that as the Islamic insurgency movement gets squeezed in Somalia, it is finding new life in nearby countries, particularly Kenya. From Somalia across Africa, alarm is spreading about the rise of Islamic extremists, some with ties to Pakistan-based al-Qaeda. U.S. Defense Department officials plan to seek new authorization from Congress in the new year to go after such groups after one al-Qaeda offshoot took over territory in Mali last year and is fighting its government. The U.S. administration has called the Mali situation a “powder keg,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“The conditions today are vastly different than they were previously,” Gen. Carter Ham, the head of U.S. Africa command, told the Journal. “There are now non-al Qaeda-associated groups that present significant threats to the United States.” He said a debate over new authorization is a “worthy discussion.”
In East Africa, cross-border attacks from Somalia against Kenyan churches are on the rise, with all the markings of al Shabaab violence. Somalis have taken refuge from their country’s violence not only in sprawling camps near the border but for years in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. Not all are destitute: New luxury condominiums and other real estate boons are the result of bounty offloaded by Somali pirates, locals say.

But Kenya is also experiencing a dramatic rise in terrorist violence, particularly in Eastleigh, a clogged suburb east of Nairobi’s central business district also known as “Little Mogadishu.” Kenya’s Christians make up 85 percent of the country’s population, but entering Eastleigh is like arriving at an Islamic, even Arab, enclave. Women dress in full-length black head coverings, and calls to prayer blare from megaphones mounted over shopping malls.

With the changes have come rising violence directed at Kenyans, and particularly Christians in Eastleigh. Last November a grenade attack killed seven residents, and authorities say they traced it to al Shabaab. In December militants killed 14 people in three separate attacks in Eastleigh, the worst killing at least 10 people when a bomb exploded on a minibus full of passengers. And on Dec. 16 another grenade explosion injured one resident(Keep Reading).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Well Known Chinese Preacher Detained for Second Time after Preaching in Park

I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will give him the boldness and the strength to endure this persecution that he is facing.

12/21/2012 China (ChinaAid) - A well-known preacher was detained for the second time this month, along with eight other house church Christians, when they were evangelizing in a park in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, and the preacher is now being held for 13 days under administrative detention.

Cao Nan, from the Shenzhen house church, was evangelizing and witnessing for Christ in Lychee Park on Dec. 15 when he was taken into custody by a police officer and his assistant on the grounds of engaging in Qigong activities.

Later, more than 20 police officers arrived in two sweeps and hauled seven other Christians to the police station. At the police station, all eight of them cooperated with the police through the booking process. They were not released until 11 p.m. However, Cao was transferred to the city's detention center, where he will be held for 13 days of administrative detention for engaging in Qigong activities. He is due for release on Dec. 28. This is the second time this month that Cao has been detained for evangelizing(Source).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Indonesian Woman Beaten, Jailed for Sharing Jesus

Praie the Lord Jesus for her boldness.

12/19/2012 Indonesia (Charisma) - Ribur was beaten and locked in jail for 60 days because she talked about Jesus. Ribur grew up in a Christian family in Indonesia, and during high school she became interested in mission work. After studying for five years in a Bible school, she joined a community-development group that was teaching agricultural methods to villagers in Aceh, located in the far north of Indonesia’s most western island, Sumatra. Teaching agricultural methods, such as organic farming and livestock breeding, gave the team an opportunity to hear about people’s lives and share their Christian faith if asked.

Ribur soon started a small Bible study in a nearby village, meeting weekly with a family of believers and reaching out to the Muslim community as well. She and a friend from the development group, Roy, began speaking with a woman in the community named Maria. They visited her on a Monday and returned to see her the next day. Maria was ill, but they spent a little time sharing about Christ. Maria then appeared to pray and ask Christ into her life.

On the third day, Ribur and Roy went back to check on Maria. A young man waiting outside talked to Roy while Ribur went inside the house to find Maria. As soon as Ribur arrived, Maria excused herself and said she had to go somewhere. Suddenly, the young man speaking with Roy punched him, and a crowd of neighbors gathered.

Someone grabbed Ribur by her headscarf and hair, and the crowd began beating her. The crowd then forced the two Christians to walk to the village leader, lashing them with a cattle whip as they walked. When they arrived, an official accused them, saying, “Why did you bring Jesus to Aceh?” As Ribur began to answer, she was struck again(Source).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Four Hmong Christians Sentenced to Vietnamese Prison After One-Day Trial

This sort of injustice sickens me.

12/13/2012 Vietnam (UCA News) - Vietnam has jailed four people from the mainly Christian Hmong ethnic group for their roles in an alleged separatist plot to overthrow the communist government, state media reports today. The men, aged between 27 and 38, were given sentences of between three and seven years at a one-day trial on Wednesday at a court in the northwestern province of Lai Chau, the Communist Party mouthpiece Nhan Dan said.

One of the men, Trang A Cho, had been sought by police since July 2011 for carrying out "propaganda against the State" and seeking to establish a "Hmong Kingdom" to "replace the State of Vietnam," the report said. The four join eight other Hmong men already jailed for "disturbing security" at a mysterious religious gathering last year, which Vietnamese authorities described as an attempted separatist uprising.

In May 2011 thousands of Hmong convened in the remote northwest, apparently awaiting the arrival of a "messiah". Authorities broke up the gathering in circumstances that remain unclear.At the time, unconfirmed reports said dozens of Hmong were killed or wounded by troops but Vietnamese officials have not confirmed any military involvement.

A local government leader later claimed that the Hmong were armed. Other officials said the Hmong were lured by unidentified "individuals with ill-intentions" who spread rumors that a "king" would arrive and lead them to a promised land.

According to Britain-based religious freedom group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Hmong have "a mythical belief in their culture that a 'messiah' figure will appear and found a Hmong kingdom"(Source).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christians in North Korea Continue to Suffer

12/6/2012 North Korea (ChristianToday) - Christians in North Korea are reporting that their situation has not changed under the leadership of Kim Jong-un. North Korea has topped the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians for 10 years in a row. Open Doors USA says that although the communist country's new leader has experimented with light agricultural reform and is a fan of Mickey Mouse, he has not made "any essential changes" in the first year since his father Kim Jong-il's death.

The organisation, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, said Kim Jong-un had increased the number of spies in China searching for Christians and organisations that help North Korean refugees. Border patrols have been taken over by North Korea's National Security Agency, which has put pressure on captured smugglers to disclose information about Christians helping defectors. Open Doors reports that some arrested Christians were tortured and then released in order to betray their brothers and sisters or to serve as bait.

"This is extremely tragic," says a Open Doors co-worker involved in ministry among North Koreans.
"It's so dangerous to help Christians who have been released by the government. Some have been tortured so severely they cannot walk anymore.

"Often we cannot help them because that would bring too much risk to us.
"We can pray for them. We know that Jesus will not leave them, nor forsake them."
North Korean authorities are also tightly controlling television, radio and mobile phones.
Open Doors said North Korean Christians were reporting that they felt just as isolated from the outside world as they had done under Kim Jong-il.
The organisation said there were no signs that Kim Jong-un would improve freedom of religion in the country, as Christians contacts there continue to report that there have been no change in their circumstances(Source).