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).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Court Again Cancels Hearing of Falsely Accused Christians in Orissa

The lack of justice here sickens me. I pray that justice will be properly executed in the future

05/19/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – After being falsely imprisoned for four and a half years in the murder case of a Hindu nationalist leader in eastern Orissa state, the hearing of seven Christian men has been delayed again, raising doubts over the authorities’ apathetic and indifferent attitude towards the minority in the region.

In 2008, the murder of Swami Laxmanananda triggered off violent pogroms against Christians in Orissa, during which more than 600 villages were ransacked, 5,600 houses in 415 villages were looted and set on fire, 54,000 people were left homeless and at least 38 people were murdered.

Underground militant Maoists openly took responsibility for the crime, but not before seven Indian Christians were falsely accused and thrown in jail as lambs to appease the angry Hindu majority.

Cancellation of Hearings
On April 1 this year, the prisoners and their families were due to be heard in a fast-track court that was established to speed up the judicial process following the countless crimes committed during the pogroms. Convinced that the day had come to embrace their husbands, six of the seven wives, along with their children, went to the pastoral center Konjamendi, which provides assistance and support to Christian prisoners and their families. But they were only to be disappointed.

Following the constant and frustrating pattern of four years of delays and cancelations, once again the judge announced that his court was closed and that the case had been passed into the hands of a regular Session Court.

Since the discovery of their innocence, court dates have been delayed and judges have repeatedly failed to show up for hearings. In 2012, seven hearings were canceled in the space of 60 days, at a time when 267 cases in ‘fast-track courts’ were still waiting to go to trial. Now that the case has been sent to a regular Session Court, the possibility for delayed justice has only multiplied, confirming the suspicions of many that the accused are in prison simply for being Christian(Keep Reading).

American Christian Tour Operator Languishes in North Korean Prison

My prayers are with my brother in Christ.

05/18/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – After the recent sentencing of an American Christian to 15 years’ hard labor, North Korea shows no signs of releasing the U.S. tour operator, solidifying its reputation as the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. In November 2012, Kenneth Bae (Pae Jun-ho), a 44-year-old Korean American tour operator was arrested by authorities in North Korea while leading a trip with five Europeans into the Rason Special Economic Zone, a pilot region on the border of China and Russia which is open to foreign companies.

Bae, who lived in China, ran a travel agency called Nation Tours and had visited North Korea several times before without incident, according to Do Hee-youn, who heads the Citizens Coalition for the Human Rights of North Korean Refugees, based in Seoul. He is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009.

Since his sudden arrest on unclear charges, there was almost no news of him, until May 6, when the government-run Korean Central News Agency reported that he was charged with “committing crimes aimed at toppling the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with hostility towards it,” according to The Independent.

Reasons for Arrest
On May 10, after mounting pressure on North Korea to provide justification for his arrest and sentencing, the government released a detailed report with a long list of allegations against him. According to the report, Bae gave anti-Pyongyang lectures in China and “infiltrated” about 250 students into the city of Rason.

North Korea said that Bae “set up plot-breeding bases in different places of China for the purpose of toppling the government from 2006 to October 2012 out of distrust and enmity. He committed such hostile acts as egging citizens of (North Korea) overseas and foreigners on to perpetrate hostile acts to bring down its government while conducting a malignant smear campaign against it. He was caught red handed,” The Guardian reported.

Speculation surrounds the reason for his arrest in the first place, with reasons including his compassion for orphans, possible links with a missionary organization and his potential for being used by North Korea as bait for political maneuvering.

Bae is known to have “feelings for orphans and has done some ministry work feeding orphans,” according to David Ross of Antioch World Ministries Inc. in Monroe, Washington. Ross and Bae reportedly met four years ago through church affiliations in Hawaii and have been “casual acquaintances” since, according to UCA News. It’s possible that he was arrested while taking pictures of orphans in the markets of Rason, something in keeping with his known concern for children, which was taken to be anti-North Korean propaganda. However that remains speculative, at best.

“I don’t know the specifics about that. I think he could have because of who he is and he’s generous in giving, maybe he could have delivered bread to orphanages once or twice, but I really don’t know if that is the reason,” his sister, Terri Chung, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

According to the Telegraph, Bae’s Facebook page links to an organization in Ohio called the Joseph Connection, which describes itself as “a Christ centered, humanitarian outreach to the Least of the Least world-wide.” It organizes short-term trips into closed or restricted countries “to touch the average person.” If discovered, the missionary link could have prompted his arrest. North Korea has a history of violent and extreme persecution of Christians. For 11 consecutive years, Open Doors has ranked the country as the leading persecutor of Christians, a view supported by the Pew Research Center(Source).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Saudi Arabia Sentences Men to Prison, Lashings for Role in Woman’s Conversion to Christianity


5/14/2013 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) -International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two men accused of helping a young woman flee Saudi Arabia after her conversion to Christianity were sentenced to prison terms and lashes with a whip by a Saudi court on Sunday. The case comes weeks after an independent U.S. government advisory body listed Saudi Arabia among the top violators of religious freedom.

A Lebanese Christian man was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes and a Saudi man was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes by a court in Khobar, a city in eastern Saudi Arabia, for their involvement in a Saudi woman's conversion to Christianity and her escape abroad, Reuters reported. The men, who worked with the young woman known as Maryam at an insurance company, were arrested last July after a complaint was filed by her father. Maryam fled to Sweden several months ago and is reportedly applying for asylum.

The case began when Maryam appeared on a YouTube video last July announcing her conversion to Christianity, which "created a stir in the Kingdom," the Saudi Gazette reported. Maryam said she was "raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity," the English-language daily reported in July. Maryam embraced Christianity after hearing God tell her in a dream that Jesus is His son, according to the Gazette.

Abandoning Islam, also known as apostasy, and proselytizing are illegal under Saudi law. Judges have authority to determine the offender's punishment in accordance to their interpretation of the Kingdom's Sharia code of Islamic law, which permits the death penalty for apostates. Hmood al-Khalidi, the lawyer representing Maryam's family, expressed satisfaction with the men's severe verdict(Keep Reading).