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).