Thursday, January 31, 2013

Egyptian Court Sentences Nadia Mohamed Ali and Her Seven Children to Fifteen Years in Prison for Converting to Christianity

The 15-year prison sentence given to a woman and her seven children by an Egyptian court for converting to Christianity is a sign of things to come, according to alarmed human rights advocates who say the nation's Islamist government is bad news for Christians in the North African country.

A criminal court in the central Egyptian city of Beni Suef meted out the shocking sentence last week, according to the Arabic-language Egyptian paper Al-Masry Al-Youm. Nadia Mohamed Ali, who was raised a Christian, converted to Islam when she married Mohamed Abdel-Wahhab Mustafa, a Muslim, 23 years ago.

He later died, and his widow planned to convert her family back to Christianity in order to obtain an inheritance from her family. She sought the help of others in the registration office to process new identity cards between 2004 and 2006. When the conversion came to light under the new regime, Nadia, her children and even the clerks who processed the identity cards were all sentenced to prison.

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, said conversions like Nadia's have been common in the past, but said Egypt's new Sharia-based constitution "is a real disaster in terms of religion freedom.”

"The cases will increase in the future," Tadros said. "It will be much harder for people to return to Christianity."

President Mohamed Morsi, who was elected last June and succeeded the secular reign of Hosni Mubarak, who is now in prison, pushed the new constitution through last year.

Tadros said the constitution limits the practice of Christianity because “religious freedom has to be understood within the boundaries of Sharia.” He added that the constitution prescribes that the highest Sunni authority should be referred to as an interpreter of the religion clause contained in the constitution.

Opponents of the constitution, including Coptic Christians and secular and liberal groups, protested at the time against passage of the document because of the mix of Islamic-based Sharia law and politics. Roughly 10 percent of Egyptians are Coptic Christians(Source).




Uptick Seen in Sudan’s Purge of Foreign Christians

 



01/30/2013 Sudan (AN) –Three South Sudanese took an airline flight out of Sudan after authorities ordered them to leave the country because of their Christian activities - the latest in a rash of expulsions as the Islamic regime rids the nation of Christianity, sources said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, dozens of foreign Christians have been ordered to leave the country in the past two months, and many others have fled to Kenya as authorities have stepped up pressure by denying visa renewals and by other means, the sources said. The three Christians ordered to leave the country on Jan. 28 had been jailed earlier this month.

Sudan's Ministry of Interior, in conjunction with the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), ordered a South Sudanese couple, Anthony and Cecilia Jamu, and a pastor also from South Sudan, Ismail Bashir, to leave the country within 24 hours, sources said.

Morning Star News reported that accused of aiding Sudanese churches, Cecilia Jamu was arrested when she was linked with an associate from Germany, Jasmin Neuman, who was deported on Jan. 7.
For many years Neuman had cared for children in Omdurman (opposite Khartoum on the River Nile) who had taken refuge from conflict in Darfur.

After Cecilia Jamu's arrest, Morning Star News reported the sources said, her husband was also later jailed, leaving their children to be cared for by friends. The government incarcerated Pastor Bashir also on Jan. 7 for his involvement with a Christian radio station owned by Sudmedia, they said. The government suspected the radio station had ties with a Korean pastor, Kang Bomjin, who along with his wife Sune Kang had been deported on Dec. 10 because of their Christian activities.

Morning Star News said before his deportation, Bomjin owned a farm that Sudan's intelligence service confiscated, forcing him to sell his cows, sheep and other animals at throw-away prices, sources said. The pastor received no compensation for the land.

Another foreign Christian, Ronald Ssemuwemba of Uganda, had been living on Bomjin's land. Also accused of engaging in Christian activities, Sudanese authorities early this month arrested and beat Ssemuwemba after linking him with Christian organizations - confiscating his passport, laptop and cell phone before ordering him to leave the country, sources said.

According to Morning Star News, Ssemuwemba, who had lived in Sudan for five years on a student visa, went into hiding with friends until he was found and deported on Jan. 5.

"The Christian atmosphere in Sudan is alarming and frightening," said a Christian source in Khartoum. "This crackdown at the moment for foreigners who are suspected to be Christians in the country is alarming."

Morning Star News reported a Kenyan government source said that many foreign church workers, especially Western Caucasians, have been leaving Sudan on short notice at a high rate, with most of those going initially to Kenya.

Harassment, violence and arrests of Christians have reportedly intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

According to Morning Star News, South Sudanese have been ordered to leave the country following the new republic's secession, but thousands are reportedly stranded in the north due to loss of jobs, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan. South Sudanese Christians in Sudan have faced increased hostilities due to their ethnic origins - though thousands have little or no ties to South Sudan - and their faith(Source).

Beijing Believers Continue to Face Arrest on Weekly Basis

 

Beijing Shouwang Church Announcement on Outdoor Worship Service on January 27, 2013    

01/27/2013 Beijing (CA) -Dear brothers and sisters:
Peace in the Lord! On this past Sunday, we held the fourth outdoor worship service of 2013. It was a foggy day. As far as we know, including the sister who was taken to be detained at a hotel on Friday and a sister from Xinshu Church, at least twenty-one 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 two police stations, including Zhongguancun Street police station. Most of them got released around 11:00 am, and the last believer was released from Zhongguancun Street police station around 10:00 pm on Sunday.

Mob of 50 Beats Three Christian Women in India

 

01/31/2013 India (WWM) - The first attack came Dec. 30, when Adivasi tribal Christians living in the village of Tamsai gathered for a worship service at the Yehovah Nisih Prayer Church. About 20 people burst in, said church member Bharat Patel.

The intruders “shouted that there is no place for worship meeting in the village for Christians, and if we want to pray, we should all go to Mumbai. (They) tore bibles and broke musical instruments and stared to beat us up,” he said.

Patel said his left ear was injured, and that three other members suffered injuries, one of them a severe cut on the head. The hour-long assault ended when area Christian leaders intervened and took the victims to the police to report the incident.

On the same day, police arranged a meeting of the Christians and Hindus. The extremists agreed to stop their social boycott of the Christians, restoring their access to water and other community services.

For their part, “the Christians agreed to conduct prayer meetings in their homes even though the Christians said that they had the relevant land records for the prayer hall,” Joseph Dias, general secretary of Catholic Christian Secular Forum, told World Watch Monitor.
The truce lasted one day.

At about 2 p.m. on Jan. 14, three Christian women were washing clothes in a public well. Nearby, a 12-year-old held a mobile phone, which was playing a gospel song. Other villagers within earshot protested that “such songs should not be played within their hearing range,” Dias said. Later, about 50 people massed near the houses of the three women, summoned them from their homes and started beating them up, according to Patel.

The girl, whose mother was among those assaulted, rushed out to help and also was beaten, Patel said. One of the women suffered bruises and abrasions all over her body and her face was swollen. Two others received minor injuries, Patel said.

According to Dias, the Christians in Tamsai were attacked because the Hindu extremists did not like their worship, including healing services. Christians, he said, refused to partake in Hindu idol worship, while some Hindus were discovering Christ(source).

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Plan to Murder Pastor in Turkey Foiled

Plan to Murder Pastor in Turkey Foiled


01/24/2013 Turkey (CPI) - Two wolves who infiltrated a Turkish congregation were among more than a dozen suspects arrested as police foiled a plot to assassinate the pastor.

The plot to kill Pastor Emre Karaali of the Izmit Protestant Church was thwarted by Turkish counter-terrorism units that arrested 14 suspects who planned to attack Christians during a series of evangelical meetings in January, according to Barnabas Aid.

Two of those arrested had been attending Izmit for more than a year in order to become close to the pastor and his wife; maps of the Karaali home and his church were discovered in searches of the suspects' homes.

A Human Rights Violations Report by the Association of Protestant Churches listed at least ten incidents involving Christians last year; in one such incident, a pastor in Istanbul was beaten outside his church by a group of youths shouting: This is a Muslim neighborhood; no church is allowed(Source).

Christian Converts Criminalized for Faith in Iran

 


01/16/2013 Iran (IHR) -The Iranian authorities should immediately end their systematic persecution and prosecution of Protestants and Christian converts, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a new report released today.

The 73-page comprehensive report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, documents a pattern of rights violations that extends to all walks of life for Protestant converts in Iran: they face severe restrictions on religious practice and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions for practicing their faith, and violations of the right to life through state execution for apostasy and extrajudicial killings.

“The egregious violations of Christians’ rights, which include not only the inability to freely practice their religion, but also the threat of torture and death at the hands of state officials, go against all international law. The international community must let the Iranian government know this is unacceptable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director for the Campaign.

The report is based on interviews with 31 Christians throughout Iran from April 2011 to July 2012, drawing on extensive first-hand testimony by Iranian Christians, lawyers who have represented Christians in Iran, Christian rights advocates, and Iranian Christian journalists, as well as relevant Iranian court verdicts, religious edicts by Shi’a jurists and Iranian laws.

The report documents the systematic arbitrary arrest and detention of Christian converts. For example, Farshid Fathi, a 33-year-old Christian leader from Tehran was detained in December 2010 as part of a Christmas crackdown on Christians and subsequently charged with “acting against national security,” “contact with enemy foreign countries,” and “religious propaganda.” The Judiciary has sentenced him to six years in prison which he is currently serving.

Since 2005, authorities have arrested and prosecuted Protestants most often for security crimes against the state. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, noted in September 2012 that over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained throughout the country since 2010.

Christian detainees are often denied due process and basic rights. They are held in prolonged detention without formal charges, trials are held without access to counsel, or, if there is counsel, without access to court files, and ill treatment is common during detention.

Leading Iranian officials allege, without any substantiation, that Christian converts are part of a foreign inspired “soft war” against the state. Hojjat Al-Islam Abbas Kaebi, a member of the influential Assembly of Experts, in October 2010 claimed, “… the Zionists and Westerners have targeted [through Christian converts] our society’s identity and people’s religion(Source).”

Call for action to end Sudan ‘war of horror’

 


01/24/2013 Sudan (CT) -A Sudanese bishop has called upon African political leaders to end the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail was part of a panel of civic leaders calling upon African heads of state to work on a solution to the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Bishop Andudu, of Kadugli in South Kordofan, urged the AU not to miss the opportunity to address the conflict .
"This is a war of horror where children are dying every day," he said.
"There are no vaccinations, medicine, there is nothing(Source)."

City Officials “Hijack” Christmas Service in Kazakhstan: Worshipers “Bewildered”

 


01/25/2013 Kazakhstan (EN) -A caricature poking fun at Orthodox Christian priests and the powers that be has sparked an outcry in Kazakhstan, a country that markets itself as a bastion of religious tolerance. The offending cartoon appeared in the Russian-language Megapolis broadsheet on January 14, illustrating an article called “Christmas Surprise” that recounted how Astana city officials hijacked the Russian Orthodox Christmas service at the Church of the Holy Assumption in the capital. (Orthodox Christmas is marked on January 7.)

“Bewildered” worshippers were forced to line up along a red carpet to welcome officials from the office of Astana Mayor Imangali Tasmagambetov, while “church officials scurried about here and there and fussed around, waiting for the arrival of the important guests,” the article recounted.
After being given the red carpet treatment, the two bureaucrats were taken to the ambo, a special part of the church from which sermons are read (out of bounds to ordinary worshippers). From there, they read out a message from Tasmagambetov, a high-profile politician sometimes tipped as a future president.

“What was this? Some sort of political event, or still a church holiday?” one annoyed worshipper asked. To illustrate such sentiments, Megapolis published the cartoon showing a porky priest telling a meek-looking Jesus wearing a crown of thorns: “Citizen, free up the ambo or I’ll call the riot police!”
Church officials were quick to take offense. “The article and the caricature have had negative repercussions in the Orthodox community,” Bishop Gennadiy of Kaskelen (near Almaty) told a news conference on January 23(Source).

Two Christians Hospitalized in China After Protest Turns Violent

 


01/29/2013 China (UCAN) -A dispute over land revenue between parishioners in Leshan city and a local construction firm turned violent on Monday, with two parishioners hospitalized. About 100 protesters gathered on Monday afternoon and early Tuesday morning outside a construction site to demand that the Renshou Sanyou Company pay money owed to the diocese for land that was sold to build a residential complex.

Protesters said the company had ignored previous demands for payment and tried to disperse them by sending out a security guard, who allegedly threw bricks and assaulted several in the crowd.
Two parishioners are now in the hospital, with one – a woman in her 60s – in critical condition, according to protesters.

Father Joseph Tong Hengjiu, who supervised the land deal with Renshou Sanyou, told ucanews.com that the local government had given Leshan diocese more than 13,333 sq ms of land to build its new bishop’s house.

The diocese used a quarter of the allotted land and sold the remainder to Renshou Sanyou for 58 million yuan (US$9.3 million). The company agreed to pay the amount by August 2011 but postponed the due date until May last year following mediation by the city government.
Fr Tong said payment has still not been received, though the company has pressed ahead with its residential project, one building of which was due to be handed over to buyers on Tuesday.

“They will earn hundreds of millions of yuan, but they are unwilling to pay what they owe our diocese,” he said, adding that the diocese’s own construction plans had to be halted for lack of funds(Source).

Punjab: Christian Sentenced To Death For Blasphemy Acquitted On Appeal

 

Firstly I must say that I'm glad that this girl gave her life to Christ. Next I should say that I hope she doesn't get killed for such a trumped up charge.

01/30/2013 Pakistan (AN) - After the young girl Rimsha Masih, the Pakistani Christian community can celebrate the acquittal on appeal of a man sentenced to death - without evidence and on the basis of trumped-up charges - for blasphemy. The verdict may give new vigor and hope the other victims of the "black law", including the 46-year-old mother of five, Asia Bibi, still waiting for their appeal hearings to begin. Many, in fact, are calling for a "revision" of the law, which is often used to settle personal disputes and conflicts and which caused the brutal murders of Catholic Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011.

Barkat Masih, 56, was born to a Hindu family but converted to Christianity. A native of the city of Bahawalpur in Punjab province, he was involved (although innocent) in a case of blasphemy on October 1, 2011, and was sentence in the first instance to the death penalty.

Local sources said that the man, a security guard by profession, got caught up in a workers' dispute, who wanted to illegally occupy a portion of land. He prevented them from entering an office, where property documents were stored. At his refusal, two Muslim workers - Muhammad Saleem and Muhammad Shoaib - insulted and threatened him, and promised to "make him pay."

They reported him to police, who arrested him on charges of having insulted the Prophet Muhammad, a crime that can lead to the death penalty under Article 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, after spending 18 months in prison on 28 January, Judge Javed Ahmed of Bahawalpur High Court upheld the appeal and acquitted the accused because the crime does not exist(Source).

Kenya: Christians Rely On Prayer After Muslim Attack At Garissa

A proper way to respond to such a tragedy.

01/22/2013 Kenya (SP) -A Kenyan Anglican priest has appealed to Christians around the world to pray for the people of Garissa, a violence-stricken city in the North Eastern Province of Kenya.

The Revd. Canon Francis Omondi's plea comes after at least five people were killed and four others wounded by Somali Islamist group al-Shabab who opened fire on guests at one of the city’s local hotels, The Dunes on 16 January. Al-Shabab—a clan-based insurgent and terrorist group—has continued its violent insurgency in the area with Christians and security personnel being the main targets of the attacks.

Canon Omondi said, “The targeting of Christians and security personnel is a very worrying trend. Christians should pray for courage in the midst of these pressures.”

“The Muslim fundamentalists have no respect for denomination," he said. "They aim to rid Christians from here [along with] the security forces. As a result of this Christians who have not fled live in great fear”.

Canon Omondi reminded Christians around the world about their responsibility during such times of strife and violence. He said: “Christians around the world ought to pray for us urgently! We need God to change our situation(Source).”

Christians in Pakistan Held at Gunpoint and Threatened with Death

 

Lord Jesus, please keep my Pakistani brethren in Christ safe.
01/27/2013 Pakistan (PCP) -Mr. Patras is working as stitch operator in a Factory, on Eid-Ul-Muladul Nabi he was on holiday and he was at home with his family members. Some Muslims men, who are drug sellers, passing in front of his door at near about 5:30 PM evening .They opened fire at his door and when he came out from his house to see what happened. He was also fired at by them and he ran away from the site for saving his life.

Mr. Patras told this incident to other Christians. Some Christians thought that they should tell the other respectable Muslims and their parents so that they would stop them to doing such dangerous activities. Mr. Patras along with some other Christians went to some respectable Muslims, those Muslims again opened fire at all of them and made them forced to stand in a row. They also threatened that if any one of you would submit any application against them in police station, they will kill him. They also threatened by saying "you are Christians insects and have no power to do anything against us", and "you are slaves and trivial and tiny before us" and "we will burn your houses and church" told Mr. Patras.

Some other Christians told that they were under threats and pressure of such drug sellers. They also told that they always remained under pressure and fear that how their honor and belonging would be saved from such dangerous persons.

"There were already many criminal cases against them and they did not care about such cases and what will be benefit if I will submit an application in Police station against them" told Mr. Patras. He also added that he was worried about his new generation. Some Christians told that such incidences often happened with them and they had no way how to avoid from such things. They also told that they were not safe in Pakistan and their honors and belongings were also not safe(Source).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Amid Mali’s Upheaval, Christians Stand Firm

 


01/25/2013 Mali (BP) -Most IMB missionaries assigned to the West African nation of Mali have left the country due to the continuing conflict between Islamist rebels and Malian military supported by French forces.

"Right now we have our personnel spread over a variety of countries because of the situation," John Grayson*, an International Mission Board strategy leader in West Africa, said. "All but one family has left the country."

Islamist rebels early last year used widespread instability created by warring factions in the north to impose Shariah law in areas where they gained control. They reportedly destroyed church buildings and sought to eliminate any hint of Christianity.

"Our personnel are concerned for the Malians who are unable to evacuate," Grayson said, particularly "those who are stuck behind in areas controlled by the rebels." Anna Farmer*, a missionary to Mali who plans to return after a meeting in a neighboring country, said, "Believers are being targeted and persecuted."

World Watch Monitor reports that rebel groups controlled more than half of Mali from April last year until the recent intervention by France forces who have helped the Malian military push the rebels back north. According to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, about 230,000 Malians have been internally displaced and another 150,000 people left Mali seeking help in surrounding countries.

Grayson said IMB personnel are concerned for believers who have been forced to leave their homes and villages. IMB personnel are hoping and praying that these believers can do "as much as they can to reach out to their peoples in these surrounding countries where they have now been evacuated."
Despite the fighting, Farmer said, "Many believers are demonstrating their faith and care to their Muslim neighbors like never before.

"One of our Baptist churches [in Mali] held a prayer vigil at their church last weekend. This church usually runs 20 people. The prayer vigil had [more than] 100 people, including many non-believers. At the church service the next morning, there were at least 40 people(Source)."

United States: What Religious Freedom?

 


01/24/2013 United States (CP) -Today, while much of the nation is still celebrating this week's presidential inauguration, we want to call attention to another day the president has asked America to commemorate. President Obama recently proclaimed January 16 Religious Freedom Day. Let's be blunt: this proclamation has people familiar with the president's notably poor record on religious freedom scratching their heads. It almost seems like a bad joke.

The proclamation rightly commends founding fathers Jefferson and Madison for their defense of the rights of all men to "profess...their opinions in matters of religion." And it says, "[R]eligious liberty is not just an American right; it is a universal human right to be protected here at home and across the globe."

All tremendous words! So the disconnect with the president's actual record on religious freedom could not be more dramatic and disturbing. Here are just three of several examples:

A few weeks ago, the White House announced that Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio would offer the benediction at the upcoming inauguration. Giglio's laudable efforts in combating sexual trafficking had earned him the attention and praise of the president. However, when a blog broke the "news" that Giglio had preached the biblical message concerning the morality of sexual relations, he was pressured to step aside. Giglio learned that under the current administration, a pastor holding the positions set forth in the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and other faiths is disqualified from participating in one of the great ceremonies of our civic life.

In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Resources implemented a rule under Obamacare that forces employers to subsidize the cost of contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. With the narrowest of exceptions, all organizations are required to comply, regardless of any conflict with the mandates of conscience. This includes faith-based hospitals, charities, schools, small businesses and major corporations like arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby and Bible publisher Tyndale, which face huge fines for each day they fail to comply with the rule.

Finally, the Obama administration ordered the Justice Department to cease enforcement of the duly enacted Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by President Clinton, and ended the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. One not-so-unintended result of these actions is that American military chaplains are being pressured to accommodate and affirm same-sex sexual conduct and relationships despite their religious convictions(Source).

Pakistan Evangelist’s Daughter Hides Amid Death Threats

 


01/23/2013 Pakistan (BNL) -The young daughter of a Pakistani evangelist remained in hiding Wednesday, January 23, after Muslim extremists allegedly threatened to kill her.
"My 10-year-old daughter Shifa Gill is not going to school," said Reverend Kamran Gill, who survived an assassination attempt while evangelizing in Pakistan's Punjab province.
"She is hidden in a secure place right now," he added.

Gill, who lived in provincial capital Lahore before fleeing to the United States, told BosNewsLife that the troubles began in June last year when he attempted to preach among those suffering in some of Punjab's notorious brick kilns.

Gill, a 39-year-old widow, said he wanted to spread the hope he found in Jesus Christ among workers, youth and other "marginalized communities" in the region. Evangelist Gill wanted to spread hope in Pakistan's brick kilns where activists say workers suffer slavery.

Yet fearful of losing business, "Muslim extremists" oppose his Christian activities, which also include working for several aid and advocacy groups, he said.

"Muslim extremists threatened me and even tried to kill me when I tried to preach in a village," Gill explained. Accompanied by a fellow evangelist and his daughter, he was allegedly stopped by an angry crowd. "They insisted to stop us from coming in this village and preach." He said soon after, one or more Muslim hardliners "opened fire" at him, but missed.

Gill said he was forced to hide his daughter, after she initially remained at his home. "However I am very concerned about her," he said. "I fear she will be killed."

Gill's Christian daughter isn't the only child suffering for what militants call a "Western ideology". This month Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who survived an assassination attempt by Taliban militants, was discharged from a hospital in Britain. Gill, whose wife passed away in September 2011, is concerned about the future of his small family(Source).

Iran Dentences US Pastor To 8 Years In Prison

 

01/28/2013 Iran (AFP) - An American-Iranian pastor sentenced to eight years in jail by Iran for his role in underground churches in the Islamic republic has vowed to appeal against the verdict, the Shargh daily said Monday.

Saeed Abedini, a naturalised US citizen who converted to Christianity, was handed down the jail sentence on Sunday, according to the American Centre for Law and Justice, a Washington-based group supporting his case.Abedini's Iran-based lawyer Nasser Sarbazi confirmed the sentence and said that his client will file an appeal.

"On Sunday I was summoned to court where I was handed the sentence, and my client is also aware of it ... he has been given an eight-year jail term for setting up churches in homes, aimed at disrupting national security," Sarbazi was quoted as saying by Shargh.He said he will appeal against the verdict within the stipulated time, adding that he was still working on freeing his client on bail.

"The bail presented for my client's freedom has not been accepted, but I am still pursuing it," Sarbazi said. Abedini's supporters said that he led underground churches in the early 2000s when such activity was largely tolerated during the pro-reform presidency of Mohammad Khatami.

Having resettled in the United States, Abedini was detained on a return trip to Iran in 2009 and was let go following an agreement not to engage in underground religious activities, according to his family. Naghmeh Abedini said that her husband complied with the 2009 agreement and had returned to Iran as part of efforts to build an orphanage.

He was arrested in September last year and he has alleged in a recent letter that he was beaten in prison, Naghmeh and his US-based lawyer said last week. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Friday reiterated US concerns over the fairness of the trial(Source).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Malaysian Muslims Threaten to Hold Bible Burning Festival

01/24/2013 Malaysia (WWM) - A threat this week to burn Bibles in the Malay language is the latest in a series of attacks on the Christian faith in Malaysia.A note sent to a Christian priest in Butterworth on Tuesday, 22nd January 2013 said a Bible-burning pesta or festival would take place in the town’s public park on Sunday [27th January]. Butterworth is sited on the mainland across from the tourist island resort of Penang. The note, written in Malay, ends with a sinister warning in English: “Let’s teach ‘em a lesson.” The police have been informed of the threat.

Whether the threat will materialise is uncertain but it has had the desired effect of adding to the despair of Malaysian Christians. A fortnight ago the Sultan of the State of Selangor forbade Christians from using the word ‘Allah’, defying practice and convention in the country. The Arabic term for God, in usage in religious and cultural contexts before the dawn of Islam, has been used in Bibles in the Malay language and litany for more than 400 years.

The Christian Federation of Malaysia, an ecumenical umbrella body, in a press release described the latest Bible-burning threat as “abhorrent”. Bishop Ng Moon Hing, chairman of the organisation, which comprises the Council of Churches of Malaysia, the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, said: “We call on those who desire to foment hatred for political gain to cease and desist from such a vile act.” He hoped and prayed that “good sense would prevail”.

The threat to burn Bibles was first made last weekend by an extremist rightwing Malaysian Muslim group called Perkasa which has links to the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno). Perkasa’s leader is a Member of Parliament Datuk Ibrahim Ali.

At the root of the Allah tug-of-war is the official view that Muslims in Malaysia might be confused if Christians also use the word to describe God. The controversy first surfaced in 2009 when the Herald, a Malaysian Catholic weekly newspaper with a circulation of 14,000, mounted a legal challenge against the Government; it had been ordered to stop using the word Allah or risk losing its publishing licence.

In December 2009 the High Court ruled that Allah was not restricted to Muslims and the Catholic Church had the right to publish the word in the Malay language section of its weekly. (The Malaysia Chronicle reports that Perkasa was founded in the wake of this ruling and that the group staged protests at several mosques, as did Umno groups).

The verdict led to fire-bombings and vandalism targeted at churches and Christian-run schools. Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who has espoused a policy of "One Malaysia," visited affected sites and offered Government funding to repair the damage. The Government, nevertheless, appealed against the High Court ruling to appease Malays. The case is pending in the Appeals Court.

Malaysian Christians, who form only 9.2 per cent of a population of 28 million, say their anguish is profound as their faith is again under attack. They say that the threat to hold a Bible-burning festival flies in the face of the spirit of a once-famed harmonious multiracial and multi-religious country where the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

They say their plight leaves them feeling that they are yet again being trodden on: to quote the Malay proverb “When two elephants [or in this case political foes] fight, the grass gets trampled(source).”
 

Nigeria Militants Kill 23 For Disobeying Islamic Law; Christians Tense

 

1/24/13 Nigeria (BNL) -Minority Christians in northern Nigeria were on edge Thursday, January 24, after militants killed at least 23 people for disobeying Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, residents said. In the deadliest attack, suspected Islamic gunmen fired at a market in Borno state killing 18 people late Monday, January 21.

"Gunmen suspected to be members of [Islamic group Boko Haram] came to the town market and shot dead 13 local hunters on the spot while five others died from their injuries at the hospital," the official said in published remarks.

"They came to the market in a Volkswagen Golf car, carried out the operation and left."
Locals said the militants appeared to have targeted the local hunters over their choice to sell "bush meat" such as pork and monkeys, forbidden by local Muslims.

In a separate incident Tuesday, January 22, suspected Islamic militants riding on motorbikes shot dead five people playing an outdoor board game in the northern city of Kano, some 500 km (310 miles) west of Damboa, witnesses and hospital sources said. Two people were reportedly seriously wounded. Authorities believe both attacks were carried out by Boko Haram, which means 'Western Education is a Sin'.

Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state out of Nigeria, a country of 170 million people split roughly evenly between Christians and Muslims.
It has ordered Christians to leave the region and urged Muslims to move from southern areas to the north.

The latest attacks came after suspected Boko Haram fighters killed dozens of people, most of them Christians, since Christmas. On Christmas Eve, attackers raided two churches, killing 12 people in the northern Nigerian state of Yobe.

Six days later, suspected Boko Haram fighters killed at least 15 Christian worshipers, slitting some of their throats, in Musari, on the outskirts of Maiduguri, where the Islamic militants are based, according to Nigerian authorities(Source).

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Widow of a Martyr Murdered in front of Her Children

01/09/13 Columbia (WWM) -Four months after guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) sent a murdered evangelist's wife their first demand to abandon her home in northeast Colombia's volatile Arauca department, the militants made good on their threats, report sources close to Open Doors, a ministry to persecuted Christians.

On Monday, Jan 7th 2013, as the family's pastor finished an evening devotional in the home of widow Alicia Castilla, assassins entered the home and opened fire on her with pistols, killing her instantly in front of her three children and her father. An Open Doors worker who cannot be named for security reasons told World Watch Monitor that before leaving the home, the guerrillas told Castilla's son, 18-year-old HernĂ¡n, that the rest of the family had three days to leave the region. After that, the killers warned, they would return and one by one kill other family members.

Castilla's death follows the murder of her husband, lay evangelist Nelson Ramos, two years before, in January 2011, also at the hands of the ELN. The armed rebel group holds a virtual sway of terror over the area. Although local government authorities are mandated to remove murder victims from crime scenes, they refused to handle Castilla’s body, fearing reprisals from the ELN insurgents. Finally funeral home workers retrieved her body.

"The local authorities understand who the guerrillas consider their enemy, and they prefer not to visit certain places," the Open Doors worker said. Founded in 1964, the ELN is one of several illegal armed groups fighting for control of the rich petroleum resources in this area along Colombia's eastern-central border with Venezuela.

"The ELN believe that Christians are brainwashed with the Bible, and that they will never support their revolution," the Open Doors worker said. The militants are also suspicious that Christians are spies and informants for the government, and complain that they give funds to their churches and refuse to support rebel activities.

"They also notice that when Christians fast and pray, the guerrillas’ violent plans against them are oddly stopped(Source)!"

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Delhi Rape Helps Bring Christian Persecution to Light in India

I hope this causes people to do something about it.

1/4/2013 India (AsiaNews) - A "propensity to forget": John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christians Council (AICC), thus terms a trend of Indian society, made up of silence, under-reporting and "contempt for the human person." The New Delhi rape seems to have lifted a veil of this mentality, with civil society united in demanding a change in a loud voice: enough corruption, more safety on the streets, some justice for those who are guilty of a crime. Just today, the main national news released a video recorded in a village in Assam: a group of women ripping the clothes from and slapping Bikram Singh Brahma, the local Congress MP, accused of rape.

However, notes Dayal, in addition to daily episodes of rape that occur throughout the country, the government "forgets the victims of past mass violence": the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi (1984), the riots between Hindus and Muslims in Mumbai ( 1992-1993), the massacres of Gujarat (2002), the anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa (2008).

In 2012, the district of Kandhamal (Orissa) registered 33 cases of rape, 19 of which were against teenagers. A phenomenon that has grown over the years: in 2009 the victims were 24 and in 2010 there were 27. Just recently, three young Christian Dalits - of 14, 13 and 5 years of age - were raped. "Two of them - Fr. Ajaya Kumar Singh, Director for Social Action Forum Orissa Bhubaneshwar told AsiaNews - are victims of gang rape. One was strangled to death, the other was able to survive." However, their case was never investigated.

"The problem - said John Dayal - is that the police takes days to register a complaint for rape [when it is done, ed.] The investigations are carried out carelessly, and the magistrate refuses even to hear the version of the victim." "The Church and the community - he concludes - must act. This situation affects us all(Source)."

Ordinary Muslims in Indonesia Involved in Attacks Against Christians

So terrorist Muslims aren't the only ones persecuting my brethren in Christ? I hope that the Lord Jesus Christ will lead them to faith in Him.

01/04/2013 Indonesia (MSN) - Concerns are growing over at least 50 cases of religious freedom violations against Christians in Indonesia last year, as not only extremists but ordinary Muslims were responsible for many of the acts of intolerance and violence, according to a recent study.

“Cases of intolerance against Christians remained high in the country” in 2012, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Jakarta-based group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, told Morning Star News. Christians were targeted in at least 50 of 264 cases of religious freedom violations in 2012, more than any other group, Naipospos added. Setara recorded 54 such cases against Christians in 2011, following the especially volatile year of 2010, when there were 75 cases against Christians.

Setara’s Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in 2012 notes that the 264 cases of religious freedom violations overall last year include 371 “acts” against religious minorities, as one case often involves more than one attack or action. The Setara report came days before more than 200 local Muslims threw rotten eggs at Christians going to a worship service in Bekasi on Christmas Eve. A photographer from Agence France-Presse witnessed furious men and headscarf-clad women blocking the road and launching the eggs at members of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (locally known as the HKBP) on the outskirts of Jakarta.

The attack was the latest in a series of clashes between members of the HKBP and Muslim residents who oppose the existence of the church. The Bekasi administration closed the church’s building in 2009, and it remains sealed in defiance of a Supreme Court order in favor of the church.

“During the attack, Tambun Police Chief Comdr. Andri Ananta and North Tambun District head Suhartono did nothing,” the Rev. Palti Panjaitan, pastor of the church, complained at a press conference in Jakarta on Dec. 26.

A sign of growing intolerance could be seen days before Christmas when the Indonesia Ulema Council (the MUI, a confederation that represents all Muslim groups to the government) issued a fatwa forbidding all Muslims from extending Christmas greetings to Christians and asking President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to skip Christmas celebrations.

While Indonesia’s Muslim-majority population of 232.5 million is believed to be largely tolerant, a trend is emerging of ordinary local Muslims leading violent attacks, not just outside extremist groups, the report found.

Many violent attacks were carried out with impunity by local Sunni Muslims, indicating that “the virus of intolerance” has trickled down from extremists to ordinary residents, Naipospos said. On top of the list of non-state actors were “citizens,” responsible for 76 cases of religious freedom violations – as opposed to the extremist group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which was behind 24 cases, and the MUI, which was responsible for 25 cases, according to the report(Source).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christian Death Toll up to 22 in Nigeria

It's the New Year of 2013, and the number of my Nigerian brethren in Christ that. have been has gone up to 22 people. Lord Jesus Christ, keep my Nigerian brethren in Christ safer than they have ever been in the past in this New Year.

1/1/2013 Nigeria (CNN) - At least 22 people have been killed in three separate attacks in northeastern Nigeria since Friday, including 15 Christians shot Sunday inside a church, according to officials. The violence began early Friday when unidentified gunmen raided a village in Musari, in Borno state, killing five people, said Joint Task Force Lt. Col. Sagir Musa. JTF troops responded, and a gunbattle ensued. Three of the attackers were killed, and troops recovered weapons and ammunition. Musa declined to provide further details of the attack.

Also Friday, gunmen with suspected ties to the Islamist militant group Boko Haram killed two people and wounded another in an attack in Maiha, in Adamawa state, according to Godfrey Okeke, Adamawa state commissioner. The attackers freed 35 inmates from the Maiha prison and set government buildings on fire, Okeke said.

In Sunday's attack, gunmen entered a church in Chibok, also in Borno state, and killed at least 15 worshipers, said Mohammed Kana, a regional official for the National Emergency Management Agency.
"Some of the people had their throats slit," Kana said, citing NEMA staff who responded to the scene.
Sunday's violence comes six days after attackers raided two churches during Christmas Eve services, killing 12 people(Source).