Sunday, December 22, 2013

Muslim Leaders in Indonesia Warn Followers Not to Celebrate Christmas

And hopefully my Indonesian brethren ignore this warning.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Underground Believers in North Korea Pray for American Christians

ICC Note: Despite living in perhaps the darkest nation on earth and facing life imprisonment or death for their beliefs, North Korean Christians are reportedly praying actively for the church in the United States. The report below encourages Americans to join with their persecuted brothers and sisters in America to pray strength in the midst of hardship. 
10/30/2013 North Korea (MNN) - As people gather to pray this Sunday (November 3) during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), they should remember Christians in the world’s most persecuted country.
Rev. Eric Foley, CEO of Seoul USA, says instead of praying FOR members of the North Korean underground church, people should pray WITH them. “They don’t ask God to deliver them from persecution. They pray they’ll remain strong and faithful in the midst of their suffering.”
North Korea is the world's biggest Gospel opponent and persecutor of Christ-followers. It tops the Open Doors USA World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe.
Officials routinely put believers in modern-day concentration camps and worse. The government has tried repeatedly to extirpate Christianity from the country, but the underground Church has survived and has overcome severe suffering.
“The NK Christian’s example may help Americans better prepare for the persecution that may be coming soon to the USA," explains Foley. “Their experience reminds us that a commitment to the four pillars of worship is integral to the Christian life.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Discrimination Helps the Gospel Spread across Nepal


10/24/2013 Nepal (Asia News) - Reading of the Bible and Pope Francis' message on World Mission Sunday (20 October) provide a "strong impetus to fight social inequality and injustice" in Nepal.
The rising number of non-Catholics attending Sunday Mass is a token of that, local priests told AsiaNews. The same goes for the number of young people who undertake the catechumenate, drawn by the message of equality and human dignity announced by the Catholic Church.
Last Sunday, more than 500 people attended Mass in Kathmandu's Assumption Cathedral. The parish priest, Fr Robin Rai, read the Holy Father's message, asking everyone present, Catholics and non-Catholics, to proclaim the Word of God to the members of their communities.
Worshippers who attended the service found the pope's words for World Mission Sunday perfectly suited to the needs of Nepal, a country where many people suffer daily discrimination and oppression. Many of them also pledged to print and spread the papal message in their workplace.
"I converted to Catholicism eight years ago, because I found no discrimination in this religion," said Rita Adhikari, a member of Nepal's lowest caste. "All human beings are equal and should be treated in the same way, irrespective of caste, colour or social class," the mother of three told AsiaNews.
In view of the discrimination she had to endure, she opted to change his name. "My real name is Biswakarma," she explained. "For Nepali Hindus, it indicates the lowest caste. To them, we are 'untouchable'."

Monday, September 30, 2013

Christian Worship Thrives in Northern Nigeria, Despite Dangers


9/29/2013 Kano, Nigeria (Daily Trust/ - ...The truth is we still have a vibrant lively church--church as a body of Christ now in Kano State. The fact that we've gone through several persecutions, religious turbulences and provocations and deprivations has not quenched the light of the church. Solidly, we're there because you can destroy a church building but you can't destroy the church itself. You can kill people but you can't kill the church because in our own biblical injunction, the Lord said, "I built my church and the gates of hell can't prevail... "

We understand that the church will suffer a lot of attacks but we're still there. The church is thriving and we're making our inputs as much as possible in Kano State as much as possible. If you go to CAN Kano State or just call my name--google my name, you'll see our activities outlined--a lot of things we do in Kano. Almost every month, I speak in the papers. I shout when I need to shout. I talk, we can't be repressed.

The church in Kano is alive. Even though numbers have decreased tremendously... we have suffered a lot of persecutions, neglect by the government; we've suffered reduction in our membership, many have been killed, many have relocated because of fears. There's no doubt about that. Some churches have closed. When you lose a pastor, members killed, church burnt, the church closes down. But that does not mean we don't have church in Kano. We're still there(Source).

Sunday, September 29, 2013

“Protect Us Or Expel Us!” Christians of Pakistan Demand Security

Sadly this may be wishful thinking on the part of my brethren in Christ.

9/29/2013 Pakistan (Tribune) - Christian representatives have demanded army deployment at churches to prevent future terrorist attacks. Security arrangements for churches are ineffective as witnessed in the twin suicide blasts on September 22, said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) minority wing leader Nasir Masih Sahotra. Christians now want the army to protect their churches, he added.

“We believe inadequate security is the main reason behind the successful attack on All Saints’ Church near Kohati Gate. More steps should be taken to protect our places of worship,” maintained Sahotra. He further said the number of people who died in the September 22 attack is higher than the official figure released.

“We have prepared a list of 139 dead and 160 injured. Most people did not go to the hospital and were directly taken to their houses for burial,” Sahotra told The Express Tribune on Thursday. Relatives of the deceased are now getting death certificates issued from the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), he added.

Sahotra went on to blame the LRH for providing substandard medication to hospitalised victims and demanded better quality medicines be procured and provided to the injured to ensure proper recovery.
Meanwhile, at a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Thursday, Christian Action Committee (CAC) general secretary and National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony member Khalid Shahzad also urged for better security.

“Christians have been targeted in several incidents in the past.” Shahzad sought the deployment of Rangers and the Pakistan Army at all churches across the country. In line with previous demands by Christian representatives, the CAC member demanded arms licences be issued to members of church committees so they provide security as well. The government did not take previous incidents seriously, which lead to the tragedy in Peshawar, he said.

Flanked by committee members Javed Asim, Qazi Abdul Wahid and Tariq Siraj, the representative blamed the government for failing in its prime responsibility to protect the lives and property of its people, including adherents of other religions.

“We demand stern action be taken against police officials immediately, and the perpetrators of the heinous attack be brought to justice,” he said, adding: “Foolproof arrangements have to be made to protect all churches and Christian residential colonies under a comprehensive security plan(Source).”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Peru Urged to Investigate Mass Killing of Christians and Other Civilians


8/27/2013 Peru (BosNewsLife) - Christian rights activists have urged Peru to properly investigate the mass killings of Christians and other civilians, ahead of the 10th anniversary of a historic report by the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
On August 28, 2003, the government-backed TRC presented a report on two decades of internal violence to the government, accompanied by recommendations aimed at achieving some justice for victims and to prevent future violence.
Yet, advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it was "concerned at the lack of justice in cases involving crimes against humanity in Peru."
The TRC report found that Peru's conflict, which pitted left guerrilla groups the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) against government forces, left almost 70,000 people dead with the Shining Path responsible for the largest number of victims.
Most of them were civilians, while state forces were responsible for 37 percent of those killed, according to TRC investigators.
Following a country-wide victim registration project in the past ten years, the death toll was revised upwards to over 100,000 victims, including church leaders, CSW said.
"Unfortunately a large number of cases, especially those involving state forces, have stalled due to obstruction from government ministries and the military. In some instances, cases have been shelved altogether," the advocacy group complained.
As an example, CSW mentioned the case of Jorge Parraga Castillo, a protestant pastor who was forcibly disappeared, tortured and later killed on the Manta military base in 1989.
The case "was archived after the Ministry of Defense and the military refused to provide the names of those responsible," CSW added.
Additionally, "Prosecutions of those responsible for massacres, including the extra-judicial execution of six young men during a church service in 1984 in the hamlet of Callqui and the murder of 123 civilians including infants and the elderly in the community of Putis in the same year, have stalled in the courts due to lack of cooperation by the Ministry of Defense and the military," the group said.
Officials had no immediate comment, though they have made clear they take the massacres seriously(Source).

Secrets ft. J.R.

Many of our sisters in Christ get raped in countries where they are violently persecuted. Here is a song about the affects of rape on the rape victim and the cure which is ultimately the gospel.

Christian Mother Kidnapped and Sexually Abused by al-Shabaab in Somalia


8/30/2013 Somalia (Christian Today) - Suspected al-Shabaab militants in Somalia have kidnapped and sexually abused a young Christian mother and sent threatening messages to her husband because of their faith.

Shamsa Enow Hussein (28), who has two daughters, aged 5 and 3, was abducted outside her home in Bulo Marer by three masked men on 5 August.
Her husband, Mohamed Isse Osman (31), told Morning Star News that he heard his wife and children screaming as he approached the house.

His captured wife was able to send him a text message that night; it said: "Please leave immediately because of what we believe. They have abused me sexually saying I am an infidel."
Mohamed heeded her call, taking their two children to another town. He has received threatening text messages from Shamsa’s kidnappers, one of which said: "Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement and soon we shall come for you too."

Al-Shabaab reportedly has a base in Bulo Marer. The Islamist militant group is fighting against the Somali government; it did control much of the south of the country but lost control of several areas following military intervention by neighbouring Kenya and other African Union troops. Al-Shabaab’s battle against Somali Christians, however, shows no sign of weakening. They monitor those suspected of having converted from Islam and kill them(Source).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Persecuted Indonesian Pastor Faces False Criminal Charges by Radical Muslim

What else is new in the Muslim World?

8/26/2013 Indonesia (WWM) - An Indonesian pastor remains in a tortured psychological state as a legal case against him lingers on.
Palti Panjaitan, who runs the HKBP Filadelfia church in the village of Jejalen Jaya, east of Bekasi, was accused by an Islamic leader of assaulting him on Christmas Eve of last year.
The pastor has always maintained that he did not assault Abdul Aziz Bin Naimun and was in fact the subject of intimidation and death threats by his accuser.
However, some eight months after the incident, the case goes on and the pastor was deemed too psychologically fragile to attend his latest hearing last month.
The Asian Human Rights Commission wrote a letter to the Indonesian national police on August 22 imploring them to drop all charges against the pastor and questioning the logic of the local police.
The AHRC stated the case against Panjaitan was “fabricated” and “lacking evidence”.
“With no evidence to support the case against Rev. Panjaitan, we are questioning the legal and moral reasoning of your officers at Bekasi District Police in being so persistent in this case,” AHRC wrote.
The human rights group also claimed the pastor was “more a victim than a perpetrator of a crime”, referencing the hostility of many local residents against the pastor and his congregation.
This position was seconded by Panjaitan’s lawyer, Thomas Tampubolon, who said at a July 29 press conference that there was no case to answer.
Panjaitan, who was questioned twice by police, said he acted in self-defense and that his accuser was only trying to defame him.
“It is slander,” he said. “Abdul Aziz, with [other] Islamic hard-liners, tried to gang up on me. When he approached, I held him [with] both hands in order to protect myself and my wife. That's the truth.”
The pastor also said Aziz and others had prevented members of his congregation from reaching the church on Christmas Eve and had pelted them with rotten eggs, animal faeces and raw sewage.
A separate case has been filed against Aziz, who was accused of “committing unpleasant acts” – the very same accusation that Panjaitan faces. The crime carries a penalty of up to one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 Indonesian rupiahs, or US $30.
Aziz faced additional charges of hampering a religious service and making death threats, but these were later dropped. He admitted saying to the pastor: “I’m going to cut your throat.” However, he claimed he was not aware he acted illegally and the charges were dropped.
Both Panjaitan and the Asian Human Rights Commission have questioned whether the local police have bowed to popular pressure by refusing to close the case against the pastor(Source).

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Christianity in Sudan Faces Escalating Persecution


7/20/2013 Sudan (Acton Institute) - Religious intolerance is increasingly common around the world, and Sudan is one country where Christians are especially vulnerable. As a minority in a nation that is 97 percent Muslim, Christians there are worried that their right to practice their faith freely is more and more at risk. According to Fredrick Nzwili, a two-decade long civil war continues to fester.

The two regions had fought a two-decade long civil war that ended in 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The pact granted the South Sudanese a referendum after a six-year interim period and independence six months later. In the referendum, the people of South Sudan chose separation.

But while the separation is praised as good for political reasons, several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages.
Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out, according to the leaders.
Christian religious leaders say the situation is becoming more difficult, as Muslim leaders, both in and outside the government, continue to make statements that are construed as anti-Christian. Additionally, the government has declared that no new churches can be built, and one leading Muslim scholar scolded the government for allowing Christians to “boldly” practice their faith.
Many fear the government is trying to eliminate Christianity as it adopts Islamic law, said the Rev. James Par Tap, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan.

“Many people are being forced out and their property taken away,” Par Tap said. “Even the churches are being taken away. We have been trying to talk to the government, but it’s not easy(Read the rest of the article).”

Another Christian Convert Tried in Iran


7/20/2013 Iran (Mohabat News) - Another Christian convert, Mr. Ebrahim Firouzi was tried in the Revolutionary Court in Robat Karim, a town near Tehran. His charges were officially announced in the court session. According to Mohabat News, the trial of Mr. Ebrahim Firouzi, a Christian who had been arrested by security authorities, was held on July 6, 2013 in Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Robat Karim. The court session was chaired by Judge Babaei.

Ebrahim Firouzi, who is 28 years old, was arrested on March 7, 2013, when four plainclothes security officers raided his workplace. When arresting him, security authorities also confiscated his personal belongings, including his computer and books related to Christianity.

After spending 53 days in custody, Mr. Firouzi was temporarily released from Evin prison after posting a 30 million Tomans (Approx. 15,000 USD) bail in the form of the title deed of a property.
After being arrested, he was transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison and was subject to intense interrogations for ten days. He was then transferred to ward 350 of the prison where other Christian prisoners, Saeed Abedini, Farshid Fathi and Mostafa Bordbar were being held. According to the report, some agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence were also present during his trial.
During the trial his charges were officially announced to him. He was charged with attempting to launch a Christian website, contact with suspicious foreigners, running online church services and promoting Christian Zionism.

Rejecting these charges, Mr. Ebrahimi declared himself innocent of promoting Christian Zionism and said these allegations against him are made up by security authorities and interrogators. Considering his objection, the judge decided that the indictment against him was defective. Therefore he postponed issuing his verdict.

At the same time all Mr. Firouzi's identification documents were confiscated and he is effectively denied his normal social rights by not being able to have any kind of identification document(Source).…

Guards Raid Cells of Christians in Evin Prison

7/25/2013 Iran (Mohabat News) - Prison guards in Evin and Karaj raided cells of Christians being held there, damaging facilities and stealing personal belongings.

According to Mohabat News, early in the morning on July 18, 2013, one hundred and fifty prison guards in Evin prison raided ward 350, pulled prisoners from their cells, physically inspected them and began searching there. During their searching operation, the guards broke and stole prisoners' belongings. Ward 350 holds mainly political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
According to a message Mohabat News received from inside the prison, other than political prisoners' cells, cells of Christian prisoners were raided as well. Christian prisoners held in that ward include Farshid Fathi, Mostafa Bordbar, Alireza Seyyedian and the American-Iranian pastor, Saeed Abedini. In addition to their personal belongings, prison guards damaged facilities in their cells, including cooling systems, electric wires, etc.

To carry out the attack, prison authorities in Evin prison requested support from Ghezel-Hesar prison. The operation was led by Mr. Ghobadi, Chief of Security of Evin prison. The guards used handheld scanners and also physically inspected prisoners' bodies in a disrespectful fashion.
This sort of humiliating and aggressive attack is unheard of. The guards violated the prisoners' privacy and searched their personal belongings which resulted in the loss of several items belonged to the prisoners.

It is worth mentioning that Christian prisoners in ward 350 of Evin prison are imprisoned merely for their Christian faith and no other offense. Farshid Fathi and Alireza Seyyedian were sentenced to six years in prison and Pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment. All three of these Christian prisoners are serving their sentences. The other Christian prisoner, Mostafa Bordbar, is waiting for a verdict from his trial which was held earlier. He has been held in prison for eight months now(source).

365 Days in Detention for American Pastor in Iran


7/28/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) continues to call for the release of American-Iranian national Saeed Abedini. July 28th marks one year since Saeed was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. 365 days later Pastor Saeed remains in Tehran’s Evin prison serving a sentence of eight years for no reason other than his faith in Christ.

Since his arrest Saeed has endured abuse and harassment, including both physical and psychological torture. In a letter Saeed was able to send to his wife in March he wrote, “After weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator. […] I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not even recognize myself.” It was not until the past few days that Saeed received medical care for the injuries he has received while incarcerated.

Pastor Saeed, who was born in Iran and became a believer in 2000, had worked among the Iranian evangelical church in the early 2000s. He was detained while in Iran in 2009 and only released on the condition that he no longer worked with the house churches. He was encouraged by the government to engage in humanitarian work. Saeed had returned to Iran to work on a government approved project to build orphanages. It was while doing this work that he was detained on July 28, 2012 while at his parents’ house in Iran. Saeed had his passport confiscated, was placed under house arrest, and forbidden from leaving the country.

Saeed did not attempt to flee the country because, “he believed in obeying the law of the land as long it didn’t interfere with him sharing Christ,” Saeed’s wife Naghmeh said in a recent interview with ICC. He told the government that he would not do anything illegal, but would stay and stand up for his beliefs(Continue reading). 

India’s Pattern of Christian Persecution


7/30/2013 India (Christian Today) - In vast and diverse India, Christians often live freely. Yet India ranks among the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult, according to Open Doors International, a global ministry that serves Christians who are pressured because of their faith. The country is No. 31 on Open Doors' 2013 World Watch List, largely because of a streak of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, that envisions India as a purely Hindu state.

Each month, numerous reports surface of provincial Hindutva militants breaking up prayer meetings, intimidating pastors, assaulting worshippers, and chasing Christian families from their homes and villages. The dates, locations and names change, but many of the elements remain: Christians are accused of forcing Hindus to convert; Church buildings are damaged; area church leaders intervene; police often provide little protection. The incidents reported here, for May and June, contain more of the same.

Hindutva has a political base in India's right-wing, nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party, or BJP. It is the No. 2 party in the national assembly and holds or shares power in seven of India's 28 states, comprising about 15 percent of India's population. "This ideology ... has firm root and strong support in many government structures as in the police," the World Watch List says. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory body to the U.S. Congress, notes the Indian government has created programs intended to prevent religious intimidation. But it also says the country's overburdened courts, rife with "political corruption, and religious bias, particularly at the state and local levels," rarely punish Hindutva aggression.

The result, the commission says, is a "climate of impunity", especially in states with anti-conversion laws. Five Indian states, three of them BJP-controlled, have passed laws placing restrictions on religious conversions.

"While intended to reduce forced conversions and decrease communal violence, states with these laws have higher incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians, than states that do not," the commission's 2013 annual report claims.
Incidents in May and June, listed by state:

May 15: Hindu nationalists rally in Pakshirajapura, accusing Pastor Steven Suresh of forcefully converting members of the nomadic Hikki Pikki Adivasi tribe to Christianity and insulting Hindu gods. Police arrest Suresh and 11 other Christians. Pastor Shiibu of Indian Evangelical Church tells World Watch Monitor the new converts were forbidden to draw water from the town well, and denied government-subsidized staples such as rice and sugar.

June 26: In Narasipura, a crowd burns Zion Church, beats the pastor and five church members, following repeated calls to stop holding worship services, according to the pastor, named Annaiah. Three days later, the temporary shed built to replace the church also is burned. Police tell Hindus to stop disturbing the church, and tell Christians to stop holding meetings and to pray at home.

May 21: Hindutva extremists attack Kati Singh in Bhalukasai village after he refuses to contribute to the local Hindu festivals. Singh is injured and admitted to Nilgiri Government Hospital. According to the All India Christian Council, Singh files a complaint with police, who turn aside his petition and ask Singh to make a festival donation.

June 12: The third day of a three-day meeting of pastors and church leaders conducted by Independent Pentecostal Church in Canalpada is disrupted when a crowd barges in, accusing organizers of forceful conversion, according to one of the guest speakers, Rev. Suratmahat Samal. Some of the intruders use motorcycles to chase several meeting participants as they leave the session in an auto-rickshaw. The rickshaw overturns, injuring eight(Keep reading).

Christians Detained for Distributing the New Testament in Greece


07/30/2013 Greece (Assist News) -Some 57 people from various countries were detained by local police in Greece last Saturday, July 27, 2013. The reason? They were distributing New Testament scriptures to the local population.

This may seem bizarre, but a group of priests of the Orthodox Church in Greece have mounted a concerted effort to prevent the distribution of copies of God’s Word in Modern Greek to homes throughout northern Greece.

For the past week nearly 400 volunteers from 25 countries have gathered in a town near ancient Philippi. They are participating in a mass Bible distribution project called Operation Joshua 6(Source).

Open Persecution Season on U.S. Christians after Pro-Gay Rulings?

And the chances of us Christians being persecuted in the U.S.A. increase all the more.

7/29/2013 United States (Charisma) - Christians who speak out and stand up for traditional marriage are more likely than ever to be persecuted and even prosecuted for it. That's because of how the majority at the U.S. Supreme Court wrote their June 26 pro-gay marriage rulings. The high court majority attacked the motives of those who came up with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. DOMA enshrined traditional marriage in federal law and prevented federal benefits from going to same-sex couples.

"The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the United States v. Windsor ruling. "DOMA writes inequality into the entire United States Code," he added.

According to Ken Klukowski, director of the Center for Religious Liberty, the rationale for this ruling basically undermined the motive of those for traditional marriage only. "The court said that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is literally irrational, that it was just the fruit of bigotry and beknighted souls rather than the thoughtful actions of elected, national leaders," he said.

Rep. Gerald Nadler, D-N.Y., agreed with Justice Kennedy, summing up the majority's judgment of DOMA as being "motivated by animus."

"Animus means hatred and discrimination," the New York lawmaker said. "It says there was no conceivable legitimate purpose of the law." DOMA passed in Congress with huge majorities, but Klukowski said the high court has now decided "that 85 percent of Congress in passing it and Democratic President Bill Clinton signing it into law were not motivated by any sound reason, by any rational thought whatsoever, that they were motivated either by ignorance or by hostility."

Stage Set for Persecution?
Such talk by the nation's highest court will likely propel pro-homosexual rights groups and pro-gay government officials to go after backers of traditional marriage harder than ever.
"There's absolutely a growing threat under this administration and under this court," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told CBN News.

"I think what Justice Kennedy did in his opinion was basically assign a false motive to those who are opposed to the redefinition of natural marriage, acting as if they were a threat to people, therefore declaring open season," Perkins stated.

"And I think you will see open hostility, increasing open hostility," he predicted. "I mean, we've seen very recent gay pride events where there were Christians beaten because they took a stand for biblical morality."

Thomas Peters, communications director for the National Organization for Marriage, says up until now, action against traditional marriage backers has mostly come at the state level, and cases have been piling up in recent years.

Peters listed some.

"The Colorado baker who right now could spend a year in jail for refusing to give a wedding cake to a gay ceremony, or the town clerks in New York who had to resign their jobs because they simply asked that someone else in the office would sign the same-sex marriage licenses so that they wouldn't have to do it," he said. "Or the wedding photographer in New Mexico who's been fined thousands of dollars simply for saying she didn't want to photograph a gay ceremony," he continued(source).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

24 Killed in Bombing on Christian Neighborhood in Northern Nigeria


7/30/2013 Nigeria (USA Today) — Multiple explosions at a bar and entertainment area in a Christian quarter of Nigeria's northern and mainly Muslim city of Kano killed at least 24 people, a hospital official said Tuesday.

Lt. Ikedichi Iweha, a spokesman for the Military Joint Task Force, said earlier Tuesday that 12 people died at the scene and "a couple" of people were wounded in Monday night's attack, which he blamed on suspected members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram network.
But the spokesman for Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital said their mortuary had 24 bodies brought from the scene and from the city's Murtala Muhammad Specialists Hospital.

The teaching hospital also was treating nine people wounded in the blasts, said spokesman Aminu Inuwa. It was unclear how many others might be in treatment at other hospitals.
More than a hundred people gathered outside the hospital morgue, weeping and screaming in anguish Tuesday afternoon. Military officials would not allow them into the morgue, so many said they have no idea if missing loved ones are dead or alive.

Nigeria is fighting an Islamic uprising by extremists based mainly in the northeast, where the government has declared a state of emergency. Kano city and state are in the northwest and not part of that emergency. Boko Haram, which means "Western education is forbidden," wants to impose Islamic law in all of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of more than 160 million divided almost equally between Christians who live mainly in the south and Muslims who dominate the north(Source).

Police Raid Multiple House Churches in Northwest China

And the persecution of my Chinese brethren continues.

7/29/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Chinese police raided multiple house church gatherings last month in far Northwestern China in an apparent crackdown on “illegal” Christian gatherings. The leaders of the Christian gatherings were all detained for questioning and two were sentenced to several days of public security detention. Christians in China are required by law to attend government-sanctioned religious services, while those under the age of 18 are prohibited from attending religious services of any kind.

According to ChinaAid, worshippers present at one of the raids on June 9th said unidentified intruders stormed the home where a worship service was being conducted and shouted, “Yours is an illegal assembly and all of you must stay still!” Worshipers initially thought they were being robbed, as the police were dressed in plain clothes and refused to show identification. Police proceeded to question members of the church, located in the Shayibake District of Urumqi, for an hour and threatened to take younger members away for further questioning. Eventually Brother Tan Wen, believed to be the group’s leader, was detained, sentenced to 10 days of public security detention and fined 500 yuan, or about 80 U.S. dollars.

In a separate police raid last month, 60-year-old Zhu Jinfeng, who led a small Bible study with neighbors in Urumqi for more than ten years, was also detained and charged with conducting “illegal” Christian activities. Police fined Ms. Zhu 200 yuan, about 30 U.S. dollars, before releasing her. Despite feeling “shaken” by the raid, Ms. Zhu reportedly attempted to file an application for “administrative reconsideration” of her case with authorities but was turned down upon her initial attempt. Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Ms. Zhu said she feels “lost and desperate” and has stopped worshipping in her own home.

The raids took place in Urumqi, capital of the highly volatile Xinjiang Province. Tensions in the region have been high between the indigenous Uighur population and ethnic Han Chinese settlers. The latter moved in at the behest of the Chinese government which has sparked violent clashes between the people groups over the past several years. China maintains a heavy security presence in the area to clamp down on any perceived dissent.

Xinjiang Province is also home to Alimujiang Yimiti, a Uighur house church leader and father of two. He was detained in 2007 for “spreading Christianity” and secretly sentenced in 2009 to fifteen years of imprisonment. His case is widely believed to represent one of the most egregious sentences given to a Christian leader in China in recent years. Last week, International Christian Concern submitted a petition to Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai calling for Alimujiang’s immediate release(Source). 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thirty-Four Christians Hauled Away from Worship Service by Chinese Authorities

This can't be good.

7/24/2013 China (ChinaAid) - Peace in the Lord! On this past Sunday, we held the 29th outdoor worship service of 2013. It was a sunny day. As far as we know, except for one sister who was detained at a hotel, at least thirty-four believers were taken away from locations near the platform or from home. Some of them were released soon after they were taken away, and the rest of them were detained at Zhongguancun Street police station and got released around 11:40 am on Sunday.
Through this Sunday’s sermon, God reminded us that we should pray for city management officials, policemen, and auxiliary police in our country. They are following orders to do evil, engaging in crime while being a victim of sin. Let us pray that they won’t be like Pilate, who choose personal interests over truth, but will turn back to God and be freed from sin(source).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prayer at Michigan High School Football Games Attacked by ACLU

 The idea of freedom of religion has been thrown out of the window these days in America.

7/17/2013 United States (Charisma) - Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a Michigan school district a legal letter Friday after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) formally complained about prayers at the conclusion of football games that school officials found to be voluntary and student-led.

“There’s no legitimate basis for public school officials to shut down students’ private religious speech,” says litigation counsel Rory Gray. “Students who express their faith before, during or after the school day are exercising their constitutional freedoms. Atheist groups are attempting to browbeat schools into believing otherwise.”

After the ACLU sent Bloomfield Hills Schools a letter incorrectly suggesting that a Lahser High School football coach was leading students in prayer after the conclusion of games, the district cited a speech policy banning “prayer or references of any religious nature ... at school-sponsored events such as banquets, commencement, assemblies and programs” and attempted to prohibit the football team’s longstanding practice of voluntary, student-led prayer. The school district has since verbally agreed to allow students to voluntarily pray after football games but has taken no steps to revise its policies to comply with the First Amendment(Source).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Indonesian Teenager Locked up for Her Faith


7/18/2013 Indonesia (MNN) - 17-year-old Kasih* has been locked in her room for three months now.

Her crime? Claiming Jesus Christ as her Savior.

Kasih recently made a decision to follow the Lord, according to the International Mission Board (IMB). She knew what this decision would cost. When she shared her faith in Christ with her Hindu family, they inflicted persecution on her. Kasih managed to escape, but she was rediscovered by her family three months ago and locked away in her room.

Kasih and her family are Balinese living in Indonesia. The Balinese people group is a "least reached" people group as ranked by The Joshua Project. Less than 2% have accepted Christ. Furthermore, the Open Doors World Watch List labels Indonesia as a country with moderate persecution of believers.
Within her particular village, Kasih is the first believer. The IMB reports that her family thinks in time, she will forget Jesus if they cut off her contact with other believers.

The family keeps taking Kasih to a witchdoctor to convert her back to Hinduism. But she refuses to deny God and return to her family’s Hindu gods(source).

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Iraqi Christians Suffering Injustice and Marginalization


6/25/2013 Iraq (Christian Post) - Dr. Yousef Francis Matta Eklimis, a member of the National Assembly of Unified Christians List, has spoke out against the discrimination and injustice that Christians in Iraq are suffering.
"Iraqi Christians have suffered much injustice and marginalization. Even their rights are being ignored in the new constitution," Eklimis told Mideast Christian News.
"We aim to get our rights by initiating article 125 of the constitution, which is based on self-management of Christian areas," Eklimis explained.
Eklimis stated that his list seeks unity, maintenance of privacy and providing of services.
"We will seek to unite Christians in Iraq," he noted, "By maintaining communication with concerned authorities to complete the establishment of the University of Hamdania, as well as educating people on peaceful coexistence, particularly in Christian areas, while maintaining the privacy of these areas and halting any attempts to change the demographics of them. In addition to this, various projects for the development of Christian areas in Iraq, generally, and in Nineveh in particular will be carried out."
He also note the need for reducing the migration of Christians out of the country(source).

Secret Believers Share Faith under Fire

Secret Believers Share Faith under Fire

By George Thomas
06/26/2013 Kyrgyzstan (CBN)- One-hundred-thousand Christians are murdered because of their faith each year. In many cases, governments are to blame because they pass laws that restrict religious freedom.
Recently, CBN News gained exclusive access to a gathering of secret believers inside a former Soviet Republic to get a close-up look at what life is like for Christians who face daily persecution.
Secret Strategy
The setting in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan could not have been more ideal.
"This is a beautiful location," Vitaly, a secret believer, said. "Seventy percent of the country is mountainous. Locals call it the second Switzerland of Asia. Our goal was to find a safe place away from the city to not draw attention of the authorities."
For a few days Vitaly and a handful of Christians gathered in a secluded villa tucked away in the mountains about a two-hour drive outside the capital city Bishkek.
"We worship, pray, and strategize how to effectively share the love of Christ in our countries," Vitaly said.
CBN News cannot show you their faces or reveal their real names for security reasons, but in a room inside a secret getaway are underground believers from Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. All are former Soviet Republics in Central Asia experiencing a rising tide of hostilities against believers.
They are members of a Christian ministry that's reaching young people in the former Soviet Union.
"It's practically impossible to openly share about Jesus Christ. Doing so will get you beaten, arrested, or killed," Vitaly warned.
Youth Not Allowed
But that has not stopped Marat, a youth leader from Uzbekistan, who said last year was a difficult year for him.
"Fortunately I wasn't arrested," Marat said. "But I was repeatedly interrogated by secret police accused of gathering people in my house. They said what I am doing is illegal."
Marat runs an informal Christian school training Uzbek leaders. He told CBN News that "the pressure is unrelenting."
"You can't relax. You are constantly under stress," he said. "You cannot trust anyone because you don't know if they'll turn you in or accuse you of proselytizing(source)."

Pakistani Militants Threaten the Life of a Christian Lawyer


06/27/2013 Pakistan (Asia Human Rights Commission) - A Christian lawyer has been threatened with dire consequences if he continues to provide legal assistance to three Christian women who were stripped naked and paraded on the street by the henchmen of ruling party. Mr. Mushtaq Gill, the director of LEAD (Legal Evangelical Association Development) organization, is getting death threats from militants. He is raising his voice for the Christian minority as militants often violate their rights. According to the Pakistan Christian Post, three armed militants allegedly threatened Mr. Mushtaq Gill on Sunday 23, June 2013, at around 2:30 p.m., when he was on his way home.

He was on a motorbike with a friend when they were forcibly stopped at gunpoint on Multan road. These three people, who were unknown to him, started threatening to kill him and then shot into the air. On the day of the incident, he visited one of the victims' families from the aforementioned case. To summarize, three women from the Christian community were paraded nude in the street by militants, who are landlords of Sereser village, Chak 21. The militants are powerful and one political leader from Pakistan's ruling party, Mr. Rana Ishaq, is helping these landlords. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has sent letters to Pakistan's higher authorities, urging them to take action against this inhuman act.

An editorial in The Pakistan Christian Post points out that this type of incident is not new in Pakistan. Militants gun down people who raise their voices for the poor, especially for minorities, like in the cases of the two well-known political personalities Salman Taser and Shahbaz Bhatti. Salman Taseer (the former Governor of Punjab) was killed by his own bodyguard on 4 January 2011. He was gunned down because he was in opposition to the Blasphemy Law and called it a black law. Another brave politician, MNA Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, was getting death threats but he sacrificed his life for the sake of Christian people. He highly opposed the blasphemy laws and supported the Christian girl Ms. Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death by hanging in a blasphemy case. He was killed near his home on 4th March 2011 by militants who attacked his car. Militants called him a blasphemer because he was in opposition to this law.

In Pakistan, lives and properties of common citizens are not secure and citizens live in fear. Minorities are the most victimized by these violations. Christian people are facing many difficulties in Pakistan. Militants launch arson attacks against their communities. In the case of Badmi bagh, a Lahore case, a mob attacked, looted and burned the houses, shops and churches of Christian people. More than 100 shops, houses and churches were burned by the mob. Religious fanaticism is rampant in Pakistan and has reached at its peak point. These fanatics are spoiling peace, creating hatred among believers of different faiths(Source).

Girl in Tajikistan Publicly Beaten for Converting to Christianity

Keep on enduring for your Lord Nadia.

06/26/2013 Tajikistan (CIC)- Nadia, a recent Christian convert in Tajikistan, is experiencing severe persecution at the hands of her Muslim family members. Nadia converted from Islam to Christianity in 2011 and was then baptized.

After her mother found out, she beat Nadia, burned her Bible, and tore her clothing. Nadia tried to run away, but her brothers found her. They shaved her head, gave her a public beating, and then locked her in the house. When she ran away a second time, they unfortunately caught her again.

Nadia called a Voice of the Martyrs contact on June 9th, sobbing, saying that her family had beaten her again, this time for hours, and forced her to say the Muslim statement of faith. The VOM contact has since been unable to reach Nadia by phone as her family most likely had it disconnected(source).

Thirty-Three Christians in Mexico Captured and Tortured

Thirty-Three Christians in Mexico Captured and Tortured

06/28/2013 Mexico (CBN)- Thirty-three Mexican evangelicals are grateful to be alive after being captured and tortured by Catholic villagers in Chiapas, Mexico. Voice of the Martyrs Mexico reported the evangelicals were attempting to return to their homes near San Cristobal after three and a half years of forced exile.

Pastor Armando said he and others were hung by a rope and doused with gasoline. They barely escaped with their lives, with five having to be hospitalized. Village leaders also seized Pastor Esdras Alonso of the Eagles Wings Church. He's a long-time defender of freedom to worship in Chiapas.

The captives were released Wednesday after a state government commission paid a "fine" of 600,000 pesos ($49,000). Leftists and traditionalists have forced more than 35,000 evangelicals from their homes in Chiapas during the past 35 years(Source).

Saturday, June 29, 2013

American Christian Remains Imprisoned in North Korea

Let's pray that he is released soon.

6/20/2013 North Korea (CIC) - North Korea has found U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae guilty for "hostile acts" against the state, sentencing him to 15 years of hard labour. The verdict was handed down on April 30th. A press release from North Korea's "Korean Central News Agency" reported on May 15th that he has now begun serving his sentence within a "special prison."

Kenneth, described as a devout Christian, is the owner of a North Korea tour company. He was in the country with official permission when detained by North Korean authorities on November 3rd. Human rights activist Rev. Robert Park says one thing is certain. "Bae, a humanitarian who had compassion for North Korea's starving and abandoned orphans, is not indictable for any crime. Rather, he is a hostage being held to accommodate yet undetermined North Korean agenda."

The concerned activist further explains that this case is reminiscent of the still unresolved case of a Christian minister and humanitarian, Rev. Kim Dong-shik, who died in a North Korean prison. In 2000, North Korean agents crossed the border and hunted Kim down in China where he was operating several underground shelters for North Korean refugees. He was abducted and returned to North Korea where he was reportedly tortured and starved to death.

A 2011 report from the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea discovered that the country has abducted more than 180,000 people from 12 countries. Apart from North Korea's own citizens, Rev. Park said no nation and people have suffered more as a result of the savagery...than the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Apart from the abductions, murders and terrorist attacks, he believes North Korea continues to be the world's worst proliferator of nuclear weapons technology, also committing crimes against humanity and genocide against its own people(Source).

China Still Persecuting Christians, Just Better at Hiding It

So let's not be fool by any outward facades that this country  may be giving to the rest of the world.

6/24/2013 China (International Christian Concern) – Two weeks ago, the New York Times published details of a fascinating interview with Mr. Zhang, the claimed author of a note written in English and allegedly smuggled out of the Masanjia labor camp while he was imprisoned there. The letter was discovered by a woman in Oregon who found it stashed in a box of Halloween decorations that were packaged at the labor camp. The letter revealed that conditions in the camp were “a living hell” and that about half the camp’s occupants were either Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground house churches.

In late 2012, China Aid, a human rights organization dedicated to assisting Chinese Christians who face abuses of religious freedom, published a report citing an increase of 131.8 percent in the number of Christians imprisoned by the Chinese government over the course of 2012. The report was alarming and controversial, but recent research conducted on the ground by International Christian Concern (ICC) has confirmed that Christians still face arrest and imprisonment in large numbers despite the overall impression that China has curtailed repression of religious minorities in recent years.

One eyewitness sentenced to a re-education through labor camp in Shangqui, Henan Province, told ICC late last month that she estimates at least 50 to 60 Christians spent time in her camp over the course of her two-year sentence. She said many were arrested repeatedly for refusing to stop attending house churches which remain technically illegal in China. The only legal option for Protestants is to attend an officially registered “Three-Self church.” However, millions of Chinese Christians refuse to join these churches due to the high level of control exerted by the Communist

Party over everything – from what is preached to who is allowed to preach it.
Also alarming is the length to which Chinese officials are willing to go in order to keep the repression of religious groups confidential. Many Chinese religious leaders told ICC that the number of violent incidents, such as beatings or torture while under arrest, have decreased dramatically in recent years while at the same time the level of control exerted over these groups has increased exponentially. One pastor relayed how officials in his hometown “knew everything about him” and were constantly tracking meeting locations, times, and number of people in attendance. They would often invite him to “have tea” and apply subtle pressure for his congregation to join with the local Three-Self church.

This heightened level of observation should not be surprising. Starting in 2010, China began spending a greater share of its gross domestic product on internal security to police its own population than on its substantial military. One source cautioned an ICC representative that they should assume that all communications – cell phone, e-mail, and even web addresses visited – would be monitored and recorded while visiting China. If at any time the work of a foreigner becomes too prominent or threatened, they would be “deported without delay.” The requirement for users of hotel internet to input their passport number before being able to browse was the first indication to this author that China’s internal security apparatus remains alive and well(Keep Reading).

Vietnamese Police Attack Christian Couple for Refusal to Recant Faith

I thank my Lord and Savior for their bravery.

6/28/2013 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) has just learned that police officers attacked a Christian couple in Lào Cai province, Vietnam, on Monday after the couple refused to recant from their newly found Christian faith. Police repeatedly struck both the husband and wife until the wife began bleeding, at which point police halted the beating and released her.

The attack came after police from the Muong Khuong district of Lao Cai Province repeatedly summoned the heads of two recently converted Christian families, whose names are being withheld for their security, to the police station for questioning. The official police summons received by the families were vague, one of which stated only that they were to come in “for questioning.” However during the third interrogation sources in Vietnam report that the police began to “strongly pressure” the Christians to recant their faith, despite the fact that such pressure is illegal under Vietnamese law.
Two of the three police involved in the violent interrogation are reported to be Hàng Vềnh, the deputy chief of police of Ta Thang Commune and Vàng Tre, a ranking officer of Ta Thang Commune. It is unknown if the officers have yet faced any sort of disciplinary action for the incident on Monday.

The two families, who converted to Protestant Christianity in March, are members of the ethnic Hmong community and reside in the mountainous Lào Cai Province of Northern Vietnam. Christians among the Hmong communities both in Northwestern Vietnam and the Central Highlands regularly face pressure to recant their faith and return to more traditional animist belief systems.
The reported attack comes on the heels of an unusually positive development in Kontum Province, Vietnam, where federal authorities this month resettled four minority Christian families after their property was destroyed earlier in this year by local villagers.

The Vietnamese government maintains tight control of religious activities in the country. In its most recent annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) concluded that “the government of Vietnam continues to expand control over all religious activities, severely restrict independent religious practice, and repress individuals and religious groups it views as challenging its authority(Source).”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

China Still Persecuting Christians, Just Better at Hiding It


6/24/2013 China (International Christian Concern) – Two weeks ago, the New York Times published details of a fascinating interview with Mr. Zhang, the claimed author of a note written in English and allegedly smuggled out of the Masanjia labor camp while he was imprisoned there. The letter was discovered by a woman in Oregon who found it stashed in a box of Halloween decorations that were packaged at the labor camp. The letter revealed that conditions in the camp were “a living hell” and that about half the camp’s occupants were either Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground house churches.

In late 2012, China Aid, a human rights organization dedicated to assisting Chinese Christians who face abuses of religious freedom, published a report citing an increase of 131.8 percent in the number of Christians imprisoned by the Chinese government over the course of 2012. The report was alarming and controversial, but recent research conducted on the ground by International Christian Concern (ICC) has confirmed that Christians still face arrest and imprisonment in large numbers despite the overall impression that China has curtailed repression of religious minorities in recent years.

One eyewitness sentenced to a re-education through labor camp in Shangqui, Henan Province, told ICC late last month that she estimates at least 50 to 60 Christians spent time in her camp over the course of her two-year sentence. She said many were arrested repeatedly for refusing to stop attending house churches which remain technically illegal in China. The only legal option for Protestants is to attend an officially registered “Three-Self church.” However, millions of Chinese Christians refuse to join these churches due to the high level of control exerted by the Communist Party over everything – from what is preached to who is allowed to preach it.

Also alarming is the length to which Chinese officials are willing to go in order to keep the repression of religious groups confidential. Many Chinese religious leaders told ICC that the number of violent incidents, such as beatings or torture while under arrest, have decreased dramatically in recent years while at the same time the level of control exerted over these groups has increased exponentially. One pastor relayed how officials in his hometown “knew everything about him” and were constantly tracking meeting locations, times, and number of people in attendance. They would often invite him to “have tea” and apply subtle pressure for his congregation to join with the local Three-Self church.
This heightened level of observation should not be surprising. Starting in 2010, China began spending a greater share of its gross domestic product on internal security to police its own population than on its substantial military. One source cautioned an ICC representative that they should assume that all communications – cell phone, e-mail, and even web addresses visited – would be monitored and recorded while visiting China. If at any time the work of a foreigner becomes too prominent or threatened, they would be “deported without delay.” The requirement for users of hotel internet to input their passport number before being able to browse was the first indication to this author that China’s internal security apparatus remains alive and well.

The bright side to all of this is that it appears that international pressure has in some ways had a great effect on China’s overall treatment of religious minorities. Incidents that would spark an international outcry, such as handing down a long prison sentence to a major house church leader, are frowned upon by Beijing, even if publicly the country’s leaders deny any wrongdoing to the rest of the world. For the millions of Christians living in Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities, this is good news.
Unfortunately for the millions more living in more rural or suburban areas of China, there is little hope of assistance. Stifling restrictions placed on both the Chinese press and foreign journalists make it extremely difficult to collect first-hand reports of recent arrests on the basis of religious belief. The information we do have, though, suggests that it is far too soon to announce the dawn of anything like true religious freedom in the People’s Republic of China. For hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens, that day remains hidden in an uncertain and, if the Communist Party has its way, highly controlled future(source).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chinese Government Shuts Down Multiple House Churches


6/18/2013 China (MNN) - A recent report from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada office shows the Chinese government has ordered the closure of more than a dozen house churches in the southern province of Hainan.

Last month, while the Sanya Hosanna Church was holding a morning worship service, several people from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the neighborhood committee disrupted the service and served this notice: "Announcement by the Hongqi Street Community of the Voluntary Dissolution of Irregular and Illegal Religious Meeting Sites."

The committee warned the Christians that officials would take stricter measures if they met again the following week. They also put pressure on the landlord to stop renting the meeting site to the church, which was given 15 days' notice to move out.
It didn't stop there. According to China Aid, a ministry partnered with the Voice of the Martyrs, the leader of the church was also restricted from going to Hong Kong to attend a special conference. He was told his attendance might jeopardize national security and national interests.
On the same day, three other Sanya house churches (Elim Church, Bethel Church and XinjuChurch) faced the same kind of harassment. Days earlier, Sanya's Mengai Church, Hexing Church, and three other house churches were shut down. A church in Haikou has experienced similar treatment, and several other churches have been forcibly closed. In addition, some churches in the Baoting county have been shut down.
"Closing a dozen churches in Hainan is an alarming sign that little has changed with Xi Jinping as president," said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu. "The government is carrying out its plans to 'eradicate' the independent house church movement, a crackdown that would affect up to 100 million people. China must end this repression if it wants global respect as a rising power(Source)."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Christians the Greatest Victims of Bloodshed in Syria

Arab Spring betrayed, danger of Sharia, says bishop
ICC Note: The Arab Spring—at one time a commendable, idealistic dream—has now plummeted toward a grave reality: the only freedoms gained were those of Islamists that demand complete submission from Christians and other religious minorities. Many Christians in Syria fear the same will happen to them if President Bashar al-Assad is deposed. While many Christians have publicly denounced the brutality of President Assad and by no means support the regime, most Christians see little hope in an alternative government which, they fear, will be led by Islamists who will hinder or outright abolish the religious freedoms long experienced by Christian in Syria. "We do not have precise estimates on how many have been forced to flee Syria for Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey but once there were two million Christians in the country and 160 small Christian villages that are now completely empty,” said Archbishop Elias Chacour, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Israel.
By Nina Fabrizio
5/28/2013 Syria (ANSAmed) – Archbishop Elias Chacour, head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Israel, said Christians had suffered the greatest bloodshed since the Arab Spring which in his view had failed.
"Arab Spring is a mistaken definition. In Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and now in Syria we are witnessing a wave of bloodshed, and we will not see a garden grow from this socalled spring," he warned.
Across the Arab world and in the Middle East, he said "many are dying, but those who are losing the most are Christians".
He told journalists the hopes of the people who rose up against the regimes have been betrayed by the "danger" imposed by Sharia, Islamic law.
Head of the largest Christian community in Israel - 80,000 faithful out of a total 150,000 Christians - expressed his concern particularly for Christians being forced to flee the civil war in Syria.
Chacour compared the situation to Iraq after the US "invasion".
"We do not have precise estimates on how many have been forced to flee Syria for Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey but once there were two million Christians in the country and 160 small Christian villages that are now completely empty".

India Has Systems to Address Christian Persecution, But Doesn’t

ICC Note:
According to the U.S. State Department, the Indian democratic system, its independent judiciary, civil society and free press are the necessary systems the country needs to address the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities within its borders. So then why do incidents of Christian persecution still happen? According to State, 89 people have died and another 1,846 people have been injured due to religious persecution in India. In India's southern state of Karnataka, Christian pastors have been beaten, threated, arrested and imprisoned just for worshiping freely. Does this mean the India just doesn't want to enforce the rights of Christians?
6/1/2013 India (Zee News) - Indian democratic system, independent judiciary, civil society and a free press together provide the necessary mechanism to address reported violations of religious freedom in the country, the US said on Monday.
According to a report by the US State Department, 89 people died and another 1,846 were injured in 560 cases of communal violence in India in 2012.
"The country's democratic system, independent legal institutions, vibrant civil society, and free press provided mechanisms that helped to address violations of religious freedom when they occurred," it said in the annual religious freedom report as mandated by the Congress.
India has mechanism to address religious freedom violations: US The report designates eight nations -- Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan -- as 'countries of particular concern'.
Noting that there were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice in the year 2012, the report said US officials discussed with religious freedom issues, including reports of harassment of minority groups and missionaries, and redress for victims of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat.
"Between January and October, there reportedly were 560 cases of communal violence in India, which led to 89 deaths and 1,846 injuries," the State Department said.
During several incidents in Karnataka, local authorities either acted in coordination with or failed to stop members of a Hindu nationalist organisation from entering private residences to enforce a morality code based on their interpretation of Hindu traditions, including a desire to keep away Hindu and Muslim youths from fraternising, it said.
In India, some state governments enforced "anti-conversion" laws and authorities reportedly arrested people under these laws during the year, although there were no convictions, according to the report.
"Police reportedly arrested four Christians accused of proselytising in March in Cheechgaon, Madhya Pradesh. Authorities released the four on bail and did not file charges by year's end," it said.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Buddhists Protest the Spread of Christianity in Sri Lanka

The devil has always been opposed to the spread of the gospel as seen in this article.

5/29/2013 Sri Lanka (AsiaNews) - Buddhist monks, politicians, activists, and many ordinary citizens yesterday attended the cremation ceremony of Venerable Bowatte Indrarathana Thero, a Buddhist religious leader who took his own life on 24 May, the feast day of Vesak, to protest against "conversions and cattle slaughter." The funeral was held amidst tight security for fear of riots and violence.

The monk and his extreme act set off mixed reactions in government circles and civil society. Some said they understood his "sacrifice" on behalf of his cause; others slammed the deed, fearing it might set of copycats. Ven Thero Bowatte Indrarathana poured two litres of petrol on his body and then set himself on fire on 24 May, a night with a full moon, and the apex of the Buddhist festival of Vesak, in front of Sri Dalada Maligawa temple.

Before he died, he cried out that his act was not a suicide attempt, but a "sacrifice against cattle slaughter and conversions." In the past, the monk had appealed to Parliament to ban Buddhist conversions to other faiths, a sensitive issue in a country split by sectarian violence.
Several supporters of Sinhala Ravaya, a Buddhist Sinhalese extremist group, spoke about his "heroic act" in defence of the nation's values ​​. Udaya Gammanpila, a member of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, promised to "transform his demands into reality" through a law that would soon be "approved in parliament(Source)."

Unemployed among Christian in Egypt


5/28/2013 Egypt (World Watch Monitor) – It's harder than ever to find a job in Egypt, where the unemployment rate has risen to a record 13 percent. For young Egyptians, the jobless rate is much higher. For out-of-work Christians, finding a job can be especially tough. They are 10 to 12 percent of a country where Islam is the state religion. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party holds the highest offices in the government. When quarreling citizens arrive at legal loggerheads, the new constitution turns to Islamic law to resolve the impasse. In the streets, kidnappings for ransom are increasing and churches are often attacked and burned.

The International Monetary Fund, which is negotiating a multibillion-dollar loan to Egypt, put the situation in diplomatic language in April: "Prolonged political and policy uncertainty, social unrest, and security problems have taken a toll on confidence. As a result, real GDP growth has remained sluggish."

Along with measures to instill government fiscal discipline, the IMF says "The most immediate challenges are to . . . protect the most vulnerable segments of the population." Longer term, the report urges Egypt to enact "structural reform" that results in "more socially balanced growth."

At ground level, Egyptian Christians use a more personal language to describe their place in the economy. World Watch Monitor spoke with three Cairo Christians who are looking for work, and their comments are below. Each of them asked not to be photographed or identified in full. Publicly criticizing a system they view as favoring Muslims, they said, would only make the long odds against finding a job even longer(Source).

No Change in Case of Uzbekistan Christian Woman Sentenced to ‘Corrective Labor’


05/25/2013 Uzbekistan (CN)- Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from north-western Khorezm Region, has been given one and half years of corrective labor after being convicted under criminal charges of the “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature.” Fines have also been imposed on people for meeting in a private home and having Christian literature, as well as carrying their personal Bible and New Testament(Source).

Vietnamese Court Sentences Eight Christians up to 11-Year Prison Terms for Religious Expression and Association

This is injustice right here and it makes me angry.

05/30/2013 Vietnam (Radio Free Asia) - A court in Vietnam’s Central Highlands on Wednesday sentenced eight ethnic minority Montagnards affiliated with an unregistered Catholic church to between three and 11 years in prison for “undermining unity” in the authoritarian state. The Gia Lai provincial court said some of the eight had worked with a banned exile organization to establish an independent state for indigenous peoples in the Central Highlands, according to state media.

The others were accused of inciting thousands of protesters to demonstrate against their relocation from their village to make way for a power plant in 2008. All eight—who are between 32 and 73 years old—were convicted under Article 87 of the penal code, a national security provision that forbids “undermining the [national] unity policy” by “sowing division” or ethnic or religious hatred.
Vietnam’s Central Highlands are home to some 30 tribes of indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards or the Degar, who rights groups say suffer extreme persecution.

In the early 2000s, thousands in the region staged violent protests against the confiscation of their ancestral lands and religious controls, prompting a brutal crackdown by security forces that saw hundreds of Montagnards charged with national security crimes. Scott Johnson of the Montagnard Foundation, a U.S.-based rights group, said Vietnam’s jailing of members of the ethnic minority for national security crimes and linking them to alleged overseas separatist groups was unjustified.

“In reality all these ethnic people … want are indigenous land rights and basic human rights,” he said.
“They are not terrorists, they are not separatists, and they do not seek an independent state.”
“Basically the Vietnamese government is seeking to crush the independent underground house church movement [in the region],” he said(Source).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Iranian Pastor Arrested, Church Closed in Tehran


5/24/2013 Iran (Morning Star News) – Security forces this week arrested an Iranian pastor in Tehran and announced that his church was closed as a crackdown on Christians intensified ahead of June elections, sources said. Robert Asserian was arrested Tuesday (May 21) during a prayer meeting at his Central Assemblies of God Church after authorities entered his house and confiscated his computer, books, and other belongings, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) reported today that agents of the Revolutionary Guard arrived the following day and announced that the church was closed for the foreseeable future, although that was not independently confirmed.

A church leader has notified the congregation that services on Sunday have been cancelled, according to FCNN. Khataza Gondwe, Africa and Middle East director for CSW, told Morning Star News that the use of the Persian language (Farsi) in sermons at the church, which includes Iranians who have converted from Islam and Judaism, makes it a particular target for the government.

“The government’s main concern or fear is that Muslim Farsi speakers may attend and convert, hence the pressure to close Farsi services,” she said. There has been a heavy crackdown on Christianity in Iran in the past year. Analysts believe that authorities have been particularly heavy-handed in light of the upcoming presidential election.

“With the June 2013 presidential election approaching, the Iranian government will likely increase its efforts to crush any form of dissent and scapegoat religious minorities, as it has done in the past,” the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom notes in its annual report, released last month.
Asserian was held at an unknown location on unspecified charges.

The arrest comes after the congregation discussed on Sunday (May 19) whether the church would close. Leaders have complained of constant harassment from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry due to the church’s sermons being held in Farsi instead of the languages of Iran’s ethnic Christian minorities. Authorities have reportedly threatened church leaders with imprisonment, kidnapping and death(Source).

Christian Pastor Murdered as Nigeria Declares a State of Emergency


5/28/2013 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Nigeria continues to own the shameful title of being the deadliest place to be a Christian. In 2012, 70% of Christians murdered due to persecution were killed in Nigeria. This deadly fact is characterized by the brutal murder of Rev. Faye Pama Musa who was followed home by suspected Boko Haram militants and shot. News of the murder spread hours after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three of Nigeria’s northern states most affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Christian Leader in Northern Nigeria Gunned Down
After finishing his evening Bible study at his church on May 15 in Borno state’s capital, Maiduguri, Rev. Faye Pama, the Secretary of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), began traveling home for the night. According to Rev. Titus Dama Pona, the chairman of CAN’s Borno chapter, gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram militants followed the pastor home.
After the pastor entered his house, the gunmen climbed over the pastor’s fence and broke in. The gunmen then dragged the pastor out of his home and shot him outside. According to a report by Morning Star News, Rev. Faye Pama was executed in front of his daughter, who followed the assailants outside, begging for her father’s life.

Rev. Faye Pama was likely targeted by the militants attached to the Islamic extremist group because of his outspoken criticism of Boko Haram’s targeting of Christians and the discrimination against Christians in northern Nigeria. In a 2007 interview, the pastor said that he would not leave Borno state even though the state was a safe haven for extremists who posed a danger to both his life and his ministry. “Being [an officer in CAN] and being so vocal, he must have been a marked man,” Mark Lipdo, Director of the Stefanos Foundation, observed in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

At the age of 47, Rev. Faye Pama is survived by his wife and three children. Fearing further attacks, the pastor’s family is unsure what to do or where to go next. “I am right now with his family, and they are still consulting on what next to do,” Rev. Pona told Morning Star News.
Nigeria Declares a State of Emergency
Hours before Rev. Faye Pama was murdered, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three of Nigeria’s northern states, including the state where the pastor was killed. This declaration followed a gun battle between the military and Boko Haram in Borno state last month that some claim killed more than 100 civilians. Borno state governor Kassim Shettima reportedly told senators and military officials that Boko Haram was on the verge of seizing control in his state(Keep Reading).

Christian Student Killed in Pakistan Village


5/20/2013 Pakistan (Pakistan Christian Post) – A Christian village named Khushpur in sub-district Samundari of Faisalabad district came under attack of Muslims on May 19, 2013, killing one Christian student of 10th Grade and injuring many Christian by firing.

Father Felix, a European missionary who established a number of villages like Mariamabad in Shekhupura district, Francisabad in Shorkot, Jhang district in Pakistan. “Felix” is the Latin word for "happy". The village was thus given the name of "Khushpur" in Urdu, the "land of Fr Felix" or “land of Happiness”.

Many important Catholic public figures come from the village in government records shown as Chak Number 451/GB; people like Bishop John Joseph, Bishop Rufin Anthony, Ilama Paul Ernest, and Shahbaz Bhatti were born and raised in this remote village;

On informations of Muslims attack, contingents of police reached to village and prevented further killing by Muslims. Faisal Patras, a Christian student of class 10th of High School was killed by firing of Muslims while Danish Masih who is brother of Faisal Patras and Patras Masih father of deceased was seriously injured with bullet wounds when trying to safe Faisal Patras(Source).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Christian Village in Pakistan Attacked; 250 Families Driven From Their Homes

I pray for the brethren in Pakistan, especially families of those who went down in  the attacks by the Muslims.

5/22/2013 Pakistan (ICN) - More than 250 Christian families have been threatened and thrown out from their homes in the village Chak 31 in Khanewal district, in southern Punjab. A report drawn up by two human rights groups said: "What happened in South Punjab reflects the increase of violence and abuses against religious minorities in Pakistan" and "recalls the serious episode of the attack on Joseph Colony, a Christian area of Lahore, which happened two months ago".

In the aftermath of the recent elections, the 'Human Rights Commission of Pakistan' and 'Organization for Development and Peace' have launched an urgent appeal "to all parties: politics, political parties, civil society, religious organizations, in order to operate actively to mitigate religious intolerance and promote social cohesion."

The appeal was launched "in the interests of the country and not only for the protection of the rights of minorities."Each of the families put to flight by Islamic extremists had about six people, therefore at the moment the faithful without a home are more than 1,500. The escape was the solution chosen to avoid a massacre.

The episode started with a 'provocation'. About 15 days ago, some Muslims accused a Christian businessman, Asher Yaqoob, owner of a small grocery store, and his Christian customers of having disrespectful attitudes towards Islam, inciting the faithful of the nearby village, "Chak 30" , all Muslims. Christians called the police, but a police officer, instead of protecting them, became the leader of a crowd of 60 Muslims who began to beat anyone they encountered and started destroying homes and shops(Source).