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China house Church leader in Linfen abducted, beaten and threatened with death (CA)

(ChinaAid) 22 Aug 2013 -China Aid has learned that Li Shuangping, leader of Linfen house church, was abducted and beaten by agents of the local government on the night of Aug. 13.

Li reported that he was driving home when a young man pretending to be intoxicated staggered into the path of his car, forcing Li to stop. Simultaneously, a black sedan drove up near Li’s vehicle. Three men exited the black sedan and, along with the man pretending to be intoxicated, grabbed Li’s hand, yanking him from his vehicle. Li was then forced into the black sedan where he was blindfolded and restrained with rope.

According to Li, while one of the men drove, the other three held him down in the backseat while they punched and kicked his head, neck and torso. Li said that as the beating occurred, one of the men verbally threatened Li, asking him how he would like to die as a result of leading a house church. Li reported that the man threated violent deaths ranging from being thrown into a river to drinking sulfuric acid. The man also threated to kidnap and kill Li’s family including his children.
Li reported that over the course of the ride, the car departed the main roads of the city for bumpy dirt roads. When the car stopped, Li was thrown in a cornfield.

Li was first reported to the local police station for being a house church leader in September 2009. Li believes that the events of Aug. 13 were secretly ordered by the local government in order to threaten Li and other house church leaders and suppress the house churches, effectively denying these citizens their right to freedom of religion.

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(CA)  http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/08/linfen-house-church-leader-li.html

Christian woman in India attacked and told to convert, or die (CP)

(CP) 21 August 2013 - The mother of a Pentecostal pastor in Jaipur, India, was told by four Hindu radicals she must convert to Hinduism or be killed while she was beaten and seriously injured by the group in search of her son and his wife, according to a local news report.

"If you do not convert to Hinduism we will kill you and cut you in pieces," a group of ultra-nationalist Hindus told an elderly Christian as they attacked her at her son's home in Jaipur (Rajasthan), reported AsiaNews. The men were looking for the Rev. Vishaal Behl, a Pentecostal clergyman, and his wife.

The attack came last week when she was alone in her son's house, "which doubles as a prayer room for the Fire of God Ministries, the Pentecostal community he leads," AsiaNews reported.

 

The woman was injured seriously to the head and arms, according to the news story accompanied by a photo of the injured woman.

The four men came to the door with "faces disguised by helmets." According to the Christian news source, when the intruders found out that Behl and his wife were not at home they broke in and began destroying furnitures.

The group demanded that the woman tell them where her son and daughter-in-law were and began to beat her when she told them she did not know. The Hindu radicals left after neighbors became aware of the activity inside the home.

 

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said the beating is symptomatic of "the increasing intolerance and hostility towards Christians, the silence of the authorities and the absence of convictions" for the guilty.

Parliamentary and state assembly elections in the next year portend an increase in attacks as Hindu extremists try to divide voters along religious lines, political researchers say.

 

"With an eye to the general election of 2014," George said, "Hindutva extremist forces think that fomenting tensions between different communities and inciting society against the Christian minority can help them get votes, even in Rajasthan, a state led by Congress," the country's largest secular party that is in power in the central government.

India's population is 74.3 percent Hindu, 14.2 percent Muslim, 1.9 percent Sikh, 0.82 percent Buddhist, and 5.8 percent Christian, according to Operation World.

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(CP)  http://www.christianpost.com/news/mother-of-pastor-in-india-beaten-told-she-must-convert-to-hinduism-or-be-killed-102597/cpf

Islamists in Egypt attack Christian school and rape two teachers (AsiaNews)

(AsiaNews) 20 Aug 2013 - In the past few days, amateur videos have appeared online showing various attacks and lynchings by members of the Muslim Brotherhood following the clearing of pro-Morsi camps in Cairo and in major Egyptian cities. Such videos show peaceful protesters but also armed men with machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, killing policemen, burning churches and humiliating nuns.

In one report, a small Egyptian television TV station put together a series ofincidents that began last Wednesday. In the video, one can see extremist militants at the Nadah Square camp shooting at police with automatic rifles. Some scenes were made by members of the Brotherhood, and include the execution of some army officers and the lynching of a driver, taken from his car and butchered to death. In one scene, a Christian religious building is set on fire on Wednesday afternoon. Over three days, 58 churches and 162 shops and homes were destroyed.

Evidence for Muslim Brotherhood violence is not only provided by videos but by eyewitness accounts published in Western media.

One of the most dramatic incidents occurred on Wednesday as well, at a school run by Franciscan nuns in Bani Suef (Upper Egypt), when hundreds of extremists stormed the facility where they raped two teachers. Three nuns were also paraded before an Islamist crowd as prisoners of war.

Yesterday Sister Manal, head of the school, gave an interview of over an hour to the Associated Press (AP) in which she described in detail the brutality of the Islamists.

The nun said that she and two others sisters, Abeer and Demiana, were only saved by the intervention of a young Muslim woman, who had taught at the school. With her husband, she convinced the members of the Muslim Brotherhood to let the three nuns go.

During the interview, Sister Manal also complained about the behaviour of the police, which did not show up despite numerous calls for help.

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(AsiaNews)  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Muslim-Brotherhood-violence-against-Christians-and-opponents-28774.html

Fresh attacks on Churches in Egypt (Guardian)

  (Guardian) 16 August 2013 -An Egyptian man clears the floor in the Prince Tadros Coptic church which was set alight in Minya

  An Egyptian man clears the floor of      charred objects in the Prince Tadros  Coptic church which was set alight in  Minya. Photograph: Giro Mais/EPA

 Egypt's Coptic Christians say fresh  attacks have been carried out against  churches in at least four parts of the    country and that tensions between  the majority Sunni Muslims and  minority Christian sects are higher  than for many decades.

 Christian leaders have  blamed supporters of the Muslim  Brotherhood for the attacks, which  are believed to have led to several  deaths, including that of a teenage  girl who was reportedly leaving Bible class in Cairo when she was shot dead. At least nine churches nationwide have been torched since early Wednesday. Community leaders say the number of arson attacks could be as high as 20. Three of the attacks are confirmed to have taken place in central Egypt.

The Coptic sect has largely remained staunchly behind the interim military-led government that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a senior Brotherhood figure, six weeks ago. Coptics had vehemently opposed the Brotherhood's troubled year in office, railing against many decisions the Morsi government made, which were deemed by many Christians to be in favour of hardline Islamists.

Tensions between the Brotherhood and Christians has steadily risen since the coup on 3 July. Brotherhood leaders have acknowledged a divide between the sects, but said it was rooted in politics rather than theology.

"I don't dislike them as a sect or as a people. To the contrary," a senior Brotherhood figure told the Guardian in Cairo earlier this month. "Our concern is that they have blindly backed a military and an old guard who has seized from us our legitimate rights. Were this to have happened to them, they would have been the loudest to complain."

Coptic voices in Egypt and across the large Egyptian disapora condemned the violence. In Cairo, the Maspero Youth Union rights group accused the Brotherhood movement of "waging a war of retaliation".

Christians in Egypt have long felt a deep sense of persecution, which was amplified during the brief period of Brotherhood rule. The spike in attacks is being viewed through the prism of ancient unresolved grievances, rather than recent reprisals.

Accounting for roughly 10% of Egypt's 84 million citizens, the Copts represent the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

Their fate has long been of interest to Europe and the US. On Friday, two United Nations special advisers expressed serious concern over violence against Christian churches and institutions.

Adama Dieng, the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, special adviser on the responsibility to protect, said they noted "with alarm that a number of Christian churches and institutions have been targeted, including in the provinces of Assiut, Fayoum, Minya and Sohag, reportedly in retaliation to the incidents in Cairo".

"We urge all Egyptians to act responsibly during these difficult moments and refrain from using violence to express their grievances, in particular by targeting religious minorities and institutions, or by using language and inciting behaviours that may escalate tensions. We call all political and social actors to abandon strategies of confrontation."

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(Guardian)  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/15/egypt-coptic-christians-attacks-churches

Christian missionary jailed in North Korea, Hospitalized (

(JakartaGlobe) 13 August 2013 - An American Christian missionary imprisoned in North Korea is in deteriorating health and has been moved from a prison work camp to a hospital within the past two weeks, his sister said at a vigil for her brother on Saturday.

Kenneth Bae was sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor after North Korea’s Supreme Court convicted him of state subversion. The court said Bae, 45, had used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.

Bae was detained in November as he led a tour group through the northern region of the country. His sentencing came amid acrimonious relations between Pyongyang and Washington over the reclusive state’s nuclear program.

Bae’s sister Terri Chung said that her brother had until recently been held at a prison for foreigners and put to work plowing and planting fields.

However, he is suffering from a range of health problems including an enlarged heart and chronic diabetes as well as back and leg pain, necessitating his transfer to a state hospital, she said.

Chung said she learned of her brother’s transfer from the Swedish ambassador to North Korea, who visited Bae on Friday. The ambassador, who has met with Bae a handful of times since his detention, has been his only foreign visitor, Chung said.

Chung’s comments came at a prayer vigil for Bae at a Seattle Church on Saturday evening attended by more than 100 friends, family and supporters. Chung also read from a letter sent by Bae to his supporters written on June 13, in which he encouraged them to push his case with American officials.

“The only way I can be free to return home is by obtaining amnesty,” Bae wrote. “In order for that to happen it will take more active efforts from the US government side.”

Internet petition

Two American journalists arrested in 2009 by North Korea and held until former President Bill Clinton traveled there to negotiate their release were organizing a satellite vigil in New York, one of the journalists, Euna Lee said.

North Korea has in the past used the release of high-profile American prisoners as a means of garnering a form of prestige or acceptance by portraying visiting dignitaries as paying homage to the country and its leader.

That pattern has complicated the response of US lawmakers and the State Department, which has called for Bae’s immediate release on “humanitarian grounds,” but resisted sending high-profile envoys to negotiate, as it has done in the past.

An Internet petition started by Bae’s son urging US President Barack Obama to secure a “Special Amnesty” for Bae has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures.

There have been other calls for his release, such as a Twitter message from former basketball player Dennis Rodman, who visited North Korea in February, but Chung said US officials have assured her they are pursuing quieter clemency efforts.

Reports last month that former US President Jimmy Carter was set to visit North Korea to negotiate for Bae were ultimately denied as false.

Bae, a naturalized US citizen born in South Korea who moved to the United States with his family in 1985, has spent much of the last seven years in China, where he started a business leading tour groups into the northern region of North Korea, Chung said.

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(JG)  http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/international/american-jailed-in-north-korea-hospitalized-sister-says/

Three Iranian-Azeri Christians arrested in Iran (MohabatNews) 

(MohabatNews) 12 Augusts 2013 - Following the increasing pressure on Iranian Christians from the Islamic regime of Iran, a number of Christian converts were arrested in Tabriz.

According to Mohabat News, as the Islamic regime of Iran increases its pressure on the Iranian Christian community, three Christian converts, Farshid Modares-Aval, Mohammad-Reza Pirri, and Yashar Farzin-No, were arrested on July 20 in a raid by security authorities.

After arresting them, authorities thoroughly searched their homes and seized a number of their personal belongings.

 


News sources reported that the three Christian men were transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence's detention center in Tabriz prison. Security and judicial authorities have not provided any reason for their arrest to their families as yet.

 

Lack of awareness of their health and situation caused their families to reach out to security and judicial centers for information, however, none of the authorities would provide a proper answer. In many cases when families of detainees go to the authorities regarding the situation of their loved ones, they just hear promises for their early release if they keep silent and do not publicize their case. After some time when the families see that authorities have not kept their promises, they decide to speak out and publicize their stories in the media.

According to reports received, the three Christian men have been beaten during interrogation. This was so brutal in the case of Mohammad-Reza Pirri that he had to be hospitalized in prison's hospital for four days.

Although the Islamic authorities of Iran have always tried to relate House-Churches to foreign governments and often describe them as political groups with intention to overthrow the Islamic regime, they have not succeeded in providing a single piece of evidence for their false claims.

The crackdown against Christians in Iran is mostly targeted towards what the Islamic regime describes as "evangelical and extremist" Christians and thus "a threat against the Islamic regime". However, in reality all these arrested Christians are members of small Christian groups who gather in their houses for worship and Christian celebrations, out of sight of the authorities who do not allow these gatherings. The sole reason for these gatherings is to worship God with no political intentions.

It might be interesting to know that a while ago, a website called "Ya Lasarat", affiliated with Ansar-e Hezbollah Islamic militant group, published an article against Christians and what they called "the threat of evangelical Christians and house churches", expressing concern over the growth of Christianity in Iran, especially in Tabriz. Following this, Majid Abhari, Counsel at the Social Committee of Islamic Parliament of Iran, expressed his concern over the growth of Christianity in Azeri-Speaking regions and emphasised that the growth of house churches must be stopped. He also mentioned the confiscation of 6,500 Bibles at a roadside checkpoint near one of the Azeri-speaking towns.

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(MN)  http://www.mohabatnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7316:three-iranian-azeri-christians-arrested-their-fate-unknown&catid=36:iranian-christians&Itemid=279

Assyrian Christian refugees under attack (ANS)

(ANS) 5 August 2013, AL THAWRAH, SYRIA- Syrian Rebels to Assyrian Christian refugees: 'If you want to come back, convert to Islam, or you will be killed'

According to the Assyrian International News Agency (http://www.aina.org/), Assyrian Christians who have fled from an area of Syria called al-Thawrah (also known as al-Tabqah), have been told by rebels, "If you want to come back, convert to Islam, or you will be killed."

An AINA story monitored by the ASSIST News Service (http://www.assistnews.net/), said, “Accounts by Assyrian refugees from reveal the real face of the Islamist undercurrent within the Syrian opposition. Furthermore, these accounts serve as a stark and chilling reminder of what has already been suffered by non-Muslim communities in Iraq since 2003.

“On February 11, rebel fighters from the al-Nusra Front took control of the city and its strategic dam, the largest of its kind in the country. They also seized control of the three quarters that housed dam workers - many of whom were Christian Assyrians.

“Whilst they allowed the dam's original staff to remain in the city in order to continue its operation, management and upkeep, those who were not Sunni Muslim were not afforded the same privilege.

One Assyrian refugee was reported as saying, “Everything is now in Jabhat al-Nusra's hands. All the Muslims stayed there, but if any Christians want to go back they have to become Muslim or else they will be killed.”

The story goes on to say that Christians report their property being stolen, their homes being confiscated, and their possessions being sold on the black market in order to buy weapons and ammunition. In many of these cases, those forcefully dispossessed were not even allowed the chance to take with them any of their personal belongings.

According to the jihadist Islamist ideology espoused by such forces as the al-Nusra Front, the properties and possessions of such “infidels” are halal (fair game), and it is not a sin to plunder them.

They also threatened Christians with death if they did not comply with strict Islamic laws. “They would call and text me on my cell phone, ordering me to do as they say, or else they would kill me! Can you imagine it?” said a Christian man from al-Thawrah, who had lost all he owned, and is now internally displaced with his family. “Even though I have left they still call me from there to bother me, so I keep my phone switched off unless I really need to use it.”

AINA then reported the “gruesome story” of an Assyrian man from al-Hasakah Governorate, allegedly shot by rebels in an execution-style murder just outside al-Thawrah in April 2013, which it said, “still sends shivers up the spines of those who knew him.”

He used to earn a living transporting people between al-Hasakah and al-Thawrah, until his car was confiscated by al-Nusra fighters. “They told him that he could buy it back from them, so he returned to his village to bring them the money,” one refugee related, “He should have stayed put and thanked God that they hadn't killed him then and there, but he didn't listen to reason and left with the money they’d requested. No one ever saw him alive again. How will his wife and four children support themselves now?”

“Whilst this case has been well-documented, many of the Christian refugees from al-Thawrah insisted that certain details be excluded from their testimonies since, being a small community, they were fearful of being identified and subsequently suffering the consequences. They are also too frightened to provide too much information over the phone or on the internet because they believe that these are being monitored by elements within Syria's opposition,” the report continued.

“For most of them, staying in Syria is no longer a viable option either. To leave for Turkey or Lebanon, on the other hand, is also fraught with its own perils.”

Another Assyrian refugee who refused to disclose his location said, “All the roads are full of rebel fighters.”

While the head of an Assyrian household displaced from al-Thawrah, added, “It's really dangerous. We have lost everything. There is nothing for us over there now, nothing to return to. We just need help to get out of here and settle in a country that’s safe.” 

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(ANS) http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13080018.htm 

Extremists attack Christian village in Pakistan (PCP)

(Pakistan Christian Post) 01 August 2013 -Muslim mob equipped with lethal arms attacked Christian Colony Shad Bagh in metropolitan area of Lahore on July 28, 2013, vandalizing a Catholic Church and homes of Christian injuring one Christian with bullet wound in broad day light, reports CLAAS, a non-governmental organization. 


According to CLAAS report issued here today, says “On Sunday July 28, 2013 at about 4:00 pm, a local resident Martian Javed Michel (Social Activists) informed CLAAS about the overwrought situation of Christians and Muslims in Shad Bagh Amir Road near Joseph Colony Lahore. It was also informed that infuriated mob of Muslims attacked on the houses of the local Christians and one Catholic Church with deadly weapons. CLAAS team including Mr. Sohail Habel (Finance Manager) Mr. Asher Sarfraz (Field Officer) and Saleem Gabriel, Samuel Paraya rushed to the occurrence place to help the Christians and find out the real facts” 

The Christian residents told CLAAS team that a Muslim Television Cable Operator named Faisal Butt who has a criminal background and has a worse attitude towards Christians. He used to take some extra fee charges of TV cable connection from Christians. About a month ago Faisal Butt and his companions had a dispute with a Christian woman/widow and beat up the woman and her children on the demand of extra fee of cable. Faisal Butt was using the place of Babu Younis (a Christian) for railing the boasters of cable connection in this area for last many years and he has about 3 helpers in his work.

On July 28, 2013 at 2:00 pm one of his helpers named Asad was collecting the cable fee in the Christian Colony Shad Bagh. He also came to Babu Younis house and asked for the fee. He informed Asad that they are using his house to fix the Cable Boaster to supply the connection, so why they pay the money. Asad forced to Babu Younis to pay the money as cable fee, then Babu said that it should be a free cable connection for him otherwise they will remove this boaster from his house. Asad became furious and started to beat him. Neighbor Christians gathered there to help and saved Babu Younis and the matter was resolved. 

After one an hour Faisal Butt came along with a group of 30-35 persons armed with deadly weapons to Christian Colony Shad Bhag. They began to open fires in the air and also started throwing stones and bricks on the Christians houses. They also attacked on the Catholic Church and break the glasses of the church windows. They were calling the names of Christians loudly and using a slang language for them. 

Riaz Masih s/o Babu Younis received a fire on his leg and get severely injured. Vejay Masih s/o Niamat Masih who was already a patient of cancer, he got injury by stroking butt of pistol in his forehead. There were few others who got injuries. They fired on Christian houses for one hour and later they left the place with the severe threats to Christians to burn their houses same like Joseph Colony if they take legal action against them. 

Local residents shared with CLAAS team that Chaudhry Shahbaz MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) Muslim League -N ruling party in Pakistan in supporting Faisal Butt in his criminal activities. Team went with Babu Younis to the concerned police station Shad Bagh Lahore to lodge a legal case FIR (First Information Report) against the Faisal Butt and his companions for this violent attack. On the same day Police arrested the main accused Faisal Butt while others were absconded. 

Please pray for the injured Christians that May the Lord our God cure the wounds of innocent victims of this violent attack. The above said information is based on the preliminary facts of the incident and the CLAAS will share its full and detailed report soon.

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(PCP)  http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/headlinenewsd.php?hnewsid=4412

Islamists call for death penalty for Christian who allegedly sent a blasphemous text message (CharismaNews)

(CharismaNews) 31 July 2013 -Tensions are high in the Punjabi city of Gojra after a court sentenced a Christian man, Sajjad Masih, to life imprisonment for blasphemy, only weeks before the fourth anniversary of an outbreak of extreme violence against Christians in the same city.

In August 2009, seven Christians from the same family were killed—six burned to death—and more than 100 Christian homes set alight by angry Muslims, again over an accusation of blasphemy.

Now, even as local Islamists demanded that Masih’s life imprisonment sentence be exchanged for the death penalty, a further blasphemy case was lodged on July 20; police arrested a Christian couple who were sent to jail the next day.

On July 13, the Gojra Additional Sessions Court convicted Masih of committing blasphemy under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code; for insulting Muhammad, which carries the death penalty.

Masih had been accused of sending blasphemous text messages in a case first lodged in December 2011. Despite an absence of evidence, the court sentenced Masih to life imprisonment (25 years in Pakistan).

The alleged text messages were sent from a SIM card registered in the name of Masih’s former fiancée, Roma. Neither the cell phone nor the SIM was recovered from Masih during police investigation. Nor was there any eyewitness or forensic evidence available.  

Analysts say lower court judges, who are provided little security in Pakistan, often concede to pressure from religious groups in blasphemy cases and convict the accused even if little evidence is available.

Some say this is the reason the judge awarded Masih life imprisonment (though not the death penalty) rather than acquitting him.

The day after the verdict, hard-line Islamists staged a sit-in on Mankanwala Crossing in Gojra and condemned the court’s decision.

The protestors demanded Masih’s death, chanting that nothing less than the death of a "blasphemer" was acceptable.

Banners were hung across the city which read, “Only one punishment for the blasphemer; sever his head from the body. ... Life imprisonment not acceptable, not acceptable and not acceptable.”

This slogan has been promoted in recent years by Lashkar-e-Taiba (currently known as Jammat-ud-Dawa after the US State Department branded Lashkar-e-Taiba a “foreign terrorist organisation” in 2001).

Inter-communal relations in Gojra are tense, especially with the approach of the fourth anniversary of the 2009 attacks. Christians told World Watch Monitor the area’s radical Muslims were again seeking a pretext to attack Christians.

Catholic couple Shafqat, 43, and Shaguftah, 40, Masih* have also been accused of texting blasphemous messages to Islamic clerics.

Complainant Muhammad Hussein says he was offering tarawih (special prayers offered in Ramadan after the breaking of the fast) on July 18 in Talabwali mosque at around 10pm when his cell phone vibrated. He states that after finishing prayer, he checked his cell phone and found blasphemous text messages insulting both Muhammad and the Qur’an.

Gojra City Police Station House Officer Muhammad Nisar told World Watch Monitor that Hussein’s call data revealed the messages were sent from Shaguftah’s cell phone number.

However, she told them that the cell phone had been lost for a month, and that she did not know who might have sent the alleged messages. Nevertheless, the Gojra City Police detained the couple, along with their four children, and pressured them to name someone who could have sent the messages.

Nisar told World Watch Monitor that a large number of Islamic clerics had been enraged when they heard of these text messages, and that they remained in the police station until the First Investigative Report (FIR) was lodged.

In what some say was an attempt to show that progress had been made, the police formally arrested the couple on July 20 and sent them to Toba Tek Singh District Jail the next day.

“Shafqat has admitted to the police he sent the blasphemous messages and gave this statement to the judicial magistrate,” Nisar said.

Riaz Anjum, who is representing the couple, said the police have lodged the case under Section 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which recommend life imprisonment and the death penalty, respectively, for blasphemy.

“The police have extracted a confession from Shafqat, which is illegal,” said Riaz Anjum, the couple's lawyer.

Anjum said the police had made stronger the case against the couple by recording Shafqat Masih’s judicial confession. “Investigation should have been done by the senior superintendent before lodging the case, but here the police have extracted a confession from Shafqat which is illegal,” he said.

He said the police have also charged the couple under 25-D of The Telegraph Act of 1985 which recommends a maximum of three years for intentionally “causing annoyance”.

Islamists again staged a sit-in on Mankanwala Crossing on July 23 and demanded death for the couple.

Shafqat Masih’s backbone was fractured in an accident in 2004. Since then he has been restricted to a wheelchair due to the paralysis of his lower body. He is also fitted with a catheter.

Since his accident, Shaguftah Masih has been the only breadwinner for the family’s four children, Ambrose, 13, Danish, 10, Sarah, 7, and Amir, 5.

Her brother Joseph told World Watch Monitor she is the eldest of six siblings.

At least three other cases have been registered previously against Christians based on blasphemous text messages.

In May 2006, Qamar David was accused of sending blasphemous text messages to various Islamic clerics  in the city of Karachi. He was convicted in February 2010 and died in prison on March 15, 2011.

In January 2009 Hector Aleem and Basharat Khokhar were accused of sending text messages that hurt Muslims’ religious sentiment. They were acquitted of the charge on May 31, 2011. 

Sixteen-year-old Ryan Stanton was charged with sending blasphemous text messages on October 10, 2012. He fled the country for refugee status in Sri Lanka.

Pastor Zafar Bhatti was accused of the same crime on November 11, 2012.

At least two Muslims, Abdul Sattar and Irfan Rafique, have also been charged for sending text messages.

Pakistani minorities and international bodies have long demanded an amendment or repeal of the blasphemy laws to avoid their misuse.

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(CharismaNews) http://www.charismanews.com/world/40429-islamists-demand-death-penalty-for-christian-s-blasphemous-text-message

House Churches raided in northwest China (ICC)

(ICC) 29 July 2013 - 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.

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(ICC)  http://www.persecution.org/2013/07/28/police-raid-multiple-house-churches-in-northwest-china/

Aceh, Indonesia - 17 churches closed over the past year (AsiaNews)

(AsiaNews) 22 July 2013 - The Islamist pressures against Christian communities in Aceh "have become intolerable. Within a year, with non-existent legal pretexts, 17 house churches have been closed: these also include Catholic chapels. The islamization of the province continues , just as promised by the governor Abdullah. " It is the sense of the Annual Report published by IndonesianChristian.org,  Protestant organization which monitors the situation of the Christian community in Indonesia.

The forced closure of places of worship and threats against Protestant congregations, says the text, "increase unabated. But this will only create tensions manipulated from the outside between the Christian and Islamic communities. The government must guarantee religious plurality and respect: or risk clashes and violence". Favor Bancin, of the Synod of the churches in Indonesia is of the same opinion, adding: "The behavior of local authorities is a potential threat to the tolerant atmosphere we see deteriorating over time."

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world and, while guaranteeing the constitutional principles of religious freedom, it is more and more often the scene of attacks and violence against minorities, whether they are Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or of other faiths. In the province of Aceh - the only one in the Archipelago - the Islamic law (sharia) applies and in many other areas the influence of the Muslim religion in the lives of citizens is becoming more radical and extreme. In addition, certain rules such as the building permit - the infamous IMB - are exploited to prevent the building or close Christian places of worship, as is the case for some time in Bogor regency, West Java, for the faithful of the Yasmin Church .

Behind this upsurge is the current governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, who has spent years in exile in Sweden for his activities within the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). During his election campaign, the Islamic politician stated several times that "he would not hesitate to apply the Koranic laws in the province." And a few months after his election his words have become reality.

For its part, the central government is seeking to curb this trend. Interior Minister Gamawan Fauzi has repeatedly warned that these activities "are not acceptable. Indonesia exercises a spirit of pluralism and must continue to do so. Tolerance must be guaranteed and the majority can not crush the minority violating their civil rights ".

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(AsiaNews)  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Aceh,-increasing-intolerance-against-Christians:-17-house-churches-closed-28502.html

Christian homes burned down in Egyptian village (CC)

(CatholicCulture) 19 July 2013 - Four Coptic Christians were murdered and 23 homes were looted and burned down in a recent Islamist attack on Christians in Dabaaya, a village in southern Egypt.

Police looked on as the incidents took place, according to witnesses.

“The screams of the women inside” the Coptic church “echo[ed] throughout the place,” according to a reporter for MidEast Christian News. “We entered to see the victims wearing black clothes and lying on the ground, some crying and others screaming, and some simply not moving, tired of the pain and suffering.”

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(CC)  http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=18491

Persecution of Christians continue in Sudan (WP)

(WashingtonPost) 18 July 2013 -Despite a promise by the Sudanese government to grant its minority Christian population religious freedom, church leaders there said they are beset by increased restrictions and hostility in the wake of the South Sudan’s independence.

In 2011, South Sudan, a mostly Christian region, split from the predominantly Muslim and Arab north, in a process strongly supported by the international community and churches in the West.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.

“The situation of Christians and the church is very difficult at the moment,” said Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of the Khartoum Archdiocese.

After the secession, President Omar al-Bashir promised a country governed by an Islamic constitution where Islam is the official religion.

On July 7, Bashir declared the constitution would serve as “a role model for all people who have aspirations to apply religion in all aspects of their lives.”

He also promised the participation of religious leaders in writing the laws. But church leaders say that is unlikely. Though the current constitution recognizes all religions, in practice the government has not been inclusive. More than 97 percent of Sudan’s 30 million residents are Muslim.

Recently, some government officials, politicians and Muslims leaders have issued statements that indicate the growing intolerance.

In April, Al-Fatih Taj El- Sir, the minister for guidance and social endowments, said the government would no longer license new churches because attendance had stagnated following the independence of South Sudan. In an address to parliament, El-Sir said abandoned church buildings had increased after most Christians had moved to the south.

And in May, Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Khartoum-based Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, rebuked his government for failing to take decisive action against Christians who were allegedly operating “boldly” in the country.

Adwok said he found the government statements disturbing.

“It is true some have moved to South Sudan, but there are many who are still here,” he said. “This statement (that all Christians have left) cannot be thrown around aimlessly. The numbers have decreased, but it does not mean there are no Christians here.”

More than 300,000 Christians live in Khartoum, according to the leaders, with many others living in the conflict-hit Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, regions in the country.

There, they have been subjected to aerial bombardment by the Sudanese air force, according to humanitarian agencies.

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.”

He said Sudanese churches had been denied many rights in the history of the country. The groups could only get building space on the periphery of cities such as Khartoum. Many Christians are not seen as citizens and often face forced conversion to Islam.

“Church freedom is so constrained (and) holding meetings in the open is a crime,” said the Rev. Barnaba Mathias of the Sudanese Church of Christ. “We have to seek permission from the authorities for such meetings, which is often denied. Our children are not taught Christian education in schools, so we have to gather them somewhere on Fridays to teach them,” he adds.

Mathias urges the international Christian community to act as the voice of the persecuted Sudanese church so that it can be granted its freedom. For now, its members can only pray in the churches — with Khartoum closely watching.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

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(WP)  http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/christians-in-sudan-face-increased-hostility/2013/07/16/7c9ad0a4-ee4b-11e2-bb32-725c8351a69e_story.html

American Christian imprisoned in North Korea appeals for help (CP)

(Christian Post) 17 July 2013 - American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, currently serving 15 years in North Korean for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, has appeared in a new video speaking of health difficulties and calling on the U.S. to help secure his freedom.

Bae, otherwise known as Pae Jun Ho, was prosecuted in April for hostile acts against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and began serving his sentence at a forced labor camp in May. He was initially arrested on Nov. 3, 2012, while leading a tour in North Korea's Rason City. It was revealed that in addition to visiting orphans during his visits to the oppressive communist country through his tour company, Bae apparently took part in evangelism activities. He shared during a 2009 sermon at a U.S. church that he hoped through prayer and worship to bring down North Korea's walls, in a project he called "Operation Jericho." The charges were detailed online by the state-led Korean Central News Agency.

 

During the interview conducted by pro-Pyongyang publication The Choson Sinbo, Bae apologized for the crimes and pleaded for help due to health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and a back problem, and expressed a desire to be reunited with his family, according to a copy of the video made available to CNN.

Seated on a chair in his room and dressed in stained uniform, prisoner 103, as indicated by a tag on his jacket, told of his activities in the labor camp.

 

"People here are very considerate, so I'm not working too hard. But my health is not in the best condition so there are some difficulties," Bae reportedly says in Korean in the video, noting at another point that he was being "patient and coping well."

"And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon," he adds.

 

"I know what I did is not easily forgivable, but I hope that things will work out so that I can be with my family again soon," Bae, 44, says at another point.

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(CP)  http://www.christianpost.com/news/kenneth-bae-us-christian-jailed-in-north-korea-pleas-for-freedom-in-new-video-99298/

Persecution of Christians continue in North Korea (CSW)

(CSW) 16 July 2013 - The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), otherwise known as North Korea, has undoubtedly one of the worst human rights records in the world. North Korea is regarded as the world’s most closed nation, ruled by a dictatorship that is both dynastic and deified. Violations of human rights, including public executions, widespread and systematic torture, forced labour, sexual violence, deprivation of food, incarceration of an estimated 200,000 people in prison camps known as kwan-li-so, and denial of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, among other severe human rights violations, may amount to crimes against humanity, according to international experts.

In addition to its total denial of respect for a wide range of other human rights, freedom of religion or belief in North Korea is non-existent, and the country is cited as one of the worst in the world for the persecution of Christians. With the exception of four official state-controlled churches in Pyongyang, Christians face the risk of detention in the prison camps, severe torture and, in some cases, execution for practising their religious beliefs. North Koreans suspected of having contact with South Korean or other foreign missionaries in China, and those caught in possession of a Bible, have been known to be executed.

Following the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011, the leadership of the country was inherited by his son Kim Jong Un. The transition period was marked by a significant crackdown on North Korea’s borders in an attempt to prevent defections. Kim Jong Un, the new leader, expressed his intention to “annihilate” up to three generations of the families of anyone who tried to leave North Korea during the 100-day mourning period. In March 2012, at least 41 North Korean refugees were forcibly repatriated by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the DPRK where there are fears they may well face long prison terms, severe torture and possible execution in line with the December decree by Kim Jong Un. In May 2013, nine North Korean refugees, all aged between 15 and 23 years old, were forcibly repatriated by Laos.3 Earlier in May, an American Christian, Kenneth Bae, was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour, accused of committing “hostile acts” against North Korea.4 In July, Kenneth Bae issued an appeal for help from within prison. In June, the North Korean regime threatened to kill human rights activists who were launching balloons with supplies and information from South Korea into the DPRK.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) believes the situation in North Korea is so severe that it requires a multi-track approach involving the full and committed engagement of international bodies led by the UN, along with regional bodies such as the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and national governments, utilising every tool available to address the grave violations of human rights in the country. CSW therefore advocates a combination of international pressure; measures to promote accountability and an end to impunity; initiatives to break the regime’s information blockade and encourage a flow of information into the country, through radio broadcasts and educational and cultural exchanges; and an increased effort to pursue critical engagement with the regime, placing human rights concerns on the agenda alongside security issues. In 2010, CSW accompanied the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on North Korea, Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Cox of Queensbury, to North Korea to engage with senior leaders in the regime on human rights. In 2011, the Speaker of the Supreme People’s Assembly in the DPRK, Choe Tae Bok, visited London at the invitation of Lord Alton and the APPG. CSW helped to brief parliamentarians in preparation for his visit. Since then, the APPG has held a number of public meetings assisted by CSW, and Lord Alton and Baroness Cox have held several meetings with the DPRK Ambassador in London.

CSW believes that there is a prima facie case of crimes against humanity committed by the DPRK regime. CSW’s report, North Korea: A Case to Answer, A Call to Act,7 written in association with REDRESS and published in 2007, presents a legal analysis and recommends that the UN establish a commission of inquiry to investigate these crimes against humanity - namely murder, extermination, enslavement/forced labour, forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearances of persons, other inhumane acts, and rape and sexual violence. The strict hierarchical nature of the regime in the DPRK, and information available about decision-making in the government, suggests that the senior political leadership, including the new leader Kim Jong Un, has responsibility for perpetrating such crimes. In September 2011 CSW helped establish the International Coalition to Stop Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK),8 drawing together over 40 human rights organisations from around the world including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), specifically to campaign for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry.9 In 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, called for the establishment of a commission of inquiry, and in January 2013 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, added her voice to calls for such an inquiry.10 The Governments of Japan, Australia, the European Union and the United States subsequently added their support, and in March 2013 the UN Human Rights Council voted by consensus to establish an inquiry. The inquiry will report to the Human Rights Council on its findings in March 2014.

The gravity of the human rights situation in North Korea has for too long been overlooked by the international community.12 The time to place North Korea’s human rights crisis on the international agenda, and to utilise every opportunity to address the issues, through
pressure and critical engagement, is long overdue, and the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry is a very welcome step in this direction.

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(CSW)  http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=report&id=176&search=

Christians in Egypt under attack after Morsi's ousting (NewsMax)

(NewsMax) 15 July 2013 - Coptic Christians in Egypt have come under harsh attack since the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi — with members of the community kidnapped, killed, and their houses of worship trashed amid charges they were behind this month’s coup, community leaders and activists say.


“Copts have always been subject to religious persecution, but what happened this past week was a negative reaction to the [General] al-Sisi statement ending Morsi’s term,” Ishaq Ibrahim, of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told The Financial Times.

“Muslim Brotherhood members were spreading rumors since then saying it is a Coptic conspiracy to exclude them from power,” he added.

At least nine Christians have been killed nationwide in recent weeks, including at least one priest, The FT reports. More than a dozen churches have been attacked or destroyed — and Coptic-owned businesses have been smeared with graffiti, while threatening fliers have been distributed.

Meanwhile, activists and community officials say the current round of violence has been inflamed by the rhetoric of Islamists irate over the toppling of Morsi.

And across Cairo on Friday, Morsi’s defenders and foes alike rallied supporters at competing demonstrations, one in Tahrir Square and the other around the Raba’a al-Adawiya mosque in eastern Cairo.

Some worry that the rivalry is becoming sectarian, the FT reports.

For instance, Mina Aboud Sharween, a priest, was killed by gunmen on July 6. And the body of Magdy Lamei, a Christian salesman, was found on Thursday, days after being kidnapped and held for a ransom of about $70,000.

Both killings took place in the Sinai Peninsula, where presumed Islamists have been attacking Egyptian security forces since June 30, the FT reports.

“I cannot accuse any faction for these crimes,” the Rev. Ayoub Youssef, a priest from the Sinai taking refuge in Cairo after his church was firebombed, told the FT. “It is the investigative reports that will determine that.

“But I am asking the new government to speed up these prosecutions,” he said.

According to Newsmax contributor James Walsh, Coptic Christians have resided in Egypt since the 1st century A.D., about 600 years before Muhammad began preaching and 630 years before he solidified Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. 

Muslims entered Egypt in the year 639 and by the 13th century, Islam had taken over. By the 20th century, Christians, who formed only 10 percent of the Egyptian population, had become victims of on-again-off-again violence by Muslim radicals.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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(NewsMax)  http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Coptic-Christians-Attack-Egypt/2013/07/13/id/514898

Gunmen open fire on Port Said church (EI)

(Egypt Independent) 11 July 2013 -Masked gunmen opened fire at Mar Mina Church in Port Said's al-Manakh early Tuesday and managed to get away, according to state-run news agency MENA. No casualties were reported.

Army and police squads arrived at the scene of the attack and efforts are being undertaken to identify the perpetrators.

This is the third such attack in 24 hours. Yesterday, unknown attackers assaulted Port Said's western seaport and the province's traffic police department.

A priest was killed Saturday in Masaeed in North Sinai.

The attacks come days after Egypt’s army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsy, yielding to mass protests demanding early elections. Morsy’s Islamist supporters have protested the army's decision.

Several Jiahdist leaders have been quoted in media reports as saying they vow to fight to defend Morsy’s legitimacy.

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(EI)  http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/masked-gunmen-open-fire-port-said-church

Fears rise as 4 Coptic Christians are killed in Egypt (MSN)

(MSN) 10 July 2013 - Following the shooting death of a priest in Northern Sinai, Christians in Upper Egypt and elsewhere are living in fear after four Coptic Christians were killed near Luxor in the wake of the deposing of Mohamed Morsi as president.

“I am too scared to leave – I haven’t been able to go outside my house for four days,” said Maria, a Coptic woman in her 30s who attends the Church of the Virgin Mary in Luxor, which Salafist mobs have attacked unsuccessfully several times since June 30. She requested her last name be withheld for security reasons.

A funeral service was held Sunday (July 7) for the four Christians killed in a village outside of Luxor. In Al Dabaya on Friday, Islamists attacked Coptic Christian Emil Naseem Saroufeem, 42; for reasons that remain unknown, they blamed Saroufeem for the death of Hassan Sayyed Segdy, a Muslim whose body had been found earlier that day, according to a human rights worker and other sources. Saroufeem was known to be a supporter of the Tamard or “Rebel” movement that began gathering in cities across Egypt on June 30 to demonstrate against Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party, created by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mourners at funeral for four Copts on Sunday (July 7). (Morning Star News photo)

Mourners at funeral for four Copts on Sunday (July 7). (Morning Star News photo)

A mob formed and began beating Saroufeem, who escaped briefly when two relatives, Mouhareb Noushy Habib, 38, and Romany Noushy, 33, hid him, according to Safwat Samaan, a director at human rights group Nation Without Limits. The rabble caught up with the three Christians in the apartment of Rasem Tawadrous Aqladios, 56. Saroufeem and Aqladios were bludgeoned to death. The other two, Habib and Noushy, died when they were beaten and repeatedly stabbed, Samaan and others told Morning Star News.

The assailants then turned their attention to other Coptic villagers, beating many of them, and then looting and burning down their homes. Three other Copts were seriously wounded, according to Samaan and others.

In all, roughly 20 homes were destroyed. The village is calm now, but most of the Christian residents have left and are homeless because they are too afraid to return or have no homes to return to.

Samaan said it was very difficult to pinpoint the cause of the attack, saying a mix of religious, political and possibly even criminal motives may all have been factors.

“The situation is calm there now,” he said, “but there are about 95 Christian families that are staying at the church of Mar Youhana because they are too scared to go back. Also, a lot of these people had their homes burned down, and if not that, a lot of them had their houses torn apart and looted. The church is trying to get them to return home, but a lot of them are refusing.”

In Qena and Luxor in Upper Egypt, scattered attempts to attack churches took place over the weekend with little success. At the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Church of the Archangel Michael, both in Luxor, soldiers pushed away several such Islamist attempts.

As Ramadan approaches, survivors of the attacks and other Copts were girding themselves for this year’s fasting season, historically a time of spikes in attacks on Christians in Egypt and the Middle East. Political tensions could exacerbate the usual increase.

“In general, I think the attacks on Christians will increase,” said Samaan, “as there have been more threats to attack churches. People from the Muslim Brotherhood are taking it upon themselves to wage jihad to defend Morsi and their religion.”

In all, dozens of homes and businesses were burned to the ground, a handful of churches were attacked, and one church guest-house was destroyed, human rights activists said, in attacks meant to punish Christians for their alleged part in a supposed conspiracy to unseat Morsi.

Corpses of the four slain Copts. (Morning Star News photo)

Corpses of the four slain Copts. (Morning Star News photo)

“Copts understand and know very well there is a price that has to be paid, and what the Muslim Brotherhood people are saying is stirring people up against the Copts, even though the Copts were just participating in democracy just like everyone else,” said Ishak Ibrahim, freedom of religion and belief officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

On Wednesday (July 3), Egypt’s military chief announced that then-President Morsi had been deposed. In the weeks leading up to the demonstrations against Morsi by millions, Islamists had issued threats against Christians, whom they held responsible for the movement.

Hours after the military made the announcement that Morsi had been deposed, the Islamists attacked. The last attack happened on Saturday (July 6) in the town of Arish in Northern Sinai, when masked gunmen shot and killed the Rev. Mina Aboud Sharubim in front of a church-owned building, according to the Coptic Watani Weekly. No reason has been given for the attack.

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(MSN)  http://morningstarnews.org/2013/07/christians-in-egypt-fearful-after-five-copts-killed/

Christians suffer at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (CP)

(ChristianPost) 09 July 2013 - The Tagammu Party in Egypt has strongly condemned renewed attacks on Christians in several cities and provinces of the country following President Morsi's ousting. The party has highlighted that the Muslim Brotherhood has made attempts, in vain, to seize power by carrying out violence against peaceful demonstrators, as well as brutally killing and intimidating Christians.

The party stressed though that the crimes carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood are now fewer than what would have occurred if the armed forces did not intervene to dismiss President Morsi.

"The Brotherhood is madly trying in vain to seize rule of the country though people do not want the rule of its guidance office," the party said in a statement on Monday.

 

"In the face of angry demonstrations against them, and instead of listening to the voice of reason, the Brotherhood used automatic rifles and swords against unarmed demonstrators and killed children and threw them from the top of buildings. Egypt has never seen this brutality and it has nothing to do with religion, nationality or morality."

"The brutal crimes have extended to kill Christians, our partners in the homeland, for no reason but to scare them. There was the criminal murder of a priest while he was standing in front of a church in Arish, a Christian engineer was kidnapped in Arish while he was leaving his house, five Christians were killed in Luxor and the homes of Copts were burned. In Delga village, Minya, Copts were terrorized and a Catholic church was torched over incitement of a Brotherhood pharmacist. Intimidation of Copts is occurring in several places," the statement added.

"If the army did not take action, how many children would die? How many Christians would fall? How many churches would be demolished? How many children would be massacred?" the party questioned.

 

"The Brotherhood criminals are fighting their last battle and the people's hate of them is increasing. The world will not accept this untamed terrorism from them. The rule of the Muslim Brotherhood will vanish for decades with other similar regimes, whether in Turkey or elsewhere. Egypt will remain a free, dignified and tolerant nation that protects the rights of all citizens, including forces of political Islam that do not use violence. Egypt will remain an umbrella for its entire people, all of them equally, women and men, Copts and Muslims, the poor and the rich," the statement continued.

 

Sporadic violent acts have occurred against Copts in a number of Egyptian governorates, especially in Upper Egypt, since the announcement by the armed forces on Wednesday to dismiss President Mohamed Morsi in response to the demands of millions of Egyptians who took to the streets calling for the overthrow of the president and the Muslim Brotherhood. In other provinces, churches were attacked and Copts were threatened.

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(CP)  http://global.christianpost.com/news/muslim-brotherhood-continue-to-kill-christians-and-children-after-morsi-is-outed-by-military-99604/cpf

Christians burned alive while Extremists attack school in Nigeria (examiner)

(examiner) 08 July 2013 - At least 29 students and a teacher are dead after armed Islamic extremists staged a pre-dawn attack on a boarding school in northeast Nigeria. Eyewitness reports indicate many of the young victims were burned alive in the attack.

The attack, staged Saturday, July 6, is beingattributed to the powerful Islamic sect Boko Haram, whose name means "Westerneducation is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north. The group is demanding strict Shariah law be adopted across the multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people.

While AP is reporting 30 deaths in the attack,AFP reports the attack claimed 42 lives.Wikipedia reports six students who escaped were found hiding in the bushes with gunshot wounds and taken to the hospital while more than 100 others were missing as of July 6.

The besieged government-run boarding school of 1,200 students is located in Mamudo village, Yobe State, Nigeria.

Last may, after a series of deadly attacks by Boko Haram, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states in the northeast section of the country.

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(examiner) http://www.examiner.com/article/islamic-extremists-attack-boarding-school-students-burned-alive

Police raid Chinese house Church (ChinaAid)

zuoqi  (CA) 26 June 2013 - On April 28, 2013, local officials from the    office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, Inner Mongolia raided the  Zhuoqi Gospel Church. Since then, the church members have  continued to endure pressure and intimidation from the United  Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. They have  not been able to meet for regular worship services. Entry into the  church’s original sanctuary is prohibited, nor is the pastor allowed  to even go back to the church.

 It was around 8 o’clock on the morning of the 28th when the  congregants were praying at a Sunday church service. Suddenly,  about 60 policemen led by many religious affairs officials stormed  into the building. Some of the policemen were fully armed as riot  police. They busted their way to the podium and took hold of the  worship leader, worship assistant, and even the pianist and  choir. Presenting no valid legal permit, the police used force to  rob the church members of their right to religious freedom.

 

During the police attack, some female believers were so scared and they fainted. Out of kindness, some reached out to hold the frightened women. But as a result, they were pushed to the floor, punched, and kicked. After witnessing this scary scene, a 70-year-old man fainted. When a 50-year-old woman was just about to hold the collapsed man, three police officers took hold of her and tied her arms behind her back. As she was struggling with the three police, two more walked up to her, punched, and kicked violently at her. After being severely beaten, the woman almost lost her consciousness.

 

The police also pepper-sprayed the church members. The choking smell quickly spread throughout the sanctuary as many sisters coughed so violently that they could hardly breathe. They could barely open their eyes. They also felt searing pain as their eyes were tearing up. A five-month pregnant woman had a severe reaction to the pepper-spray. After temporarily losing her consciousness, she threw up violently. She is still in bed and recovering today. Even some police were affected by the pepper-spray; they were able to go out to wash their face and breathe the fresh air though. The church members were all locked in the building.

 

The police also destroyed and confiscated some of the church’s properties, such as the offering box and a cross on the wall. They also robbed some church members of their personal bags. The police would open some of the bags and take away the things they deemed important, such as Bibles, hymns books, etc. They destroyed the church’s name signs on the wall and left them smashed on the floor.  The police shouted at the church members with anger, saying, “We should have used a bulldozer to demolish your building to the ground!”

 

Treated like criminals, some church ministers were thrown into the police cars. They were transported to a nearby police office in Bayanhaote ailute and forced to sign some documents. They were finally released after a quick interrogation. Meanwhile, the choir members and some congregants were taken to the neighborhood committee of Baoqiaoshetou. Bin Li, a staff from the United Front Work Department (UFWD) in Zhuoqi was asked to do some “ideological work” on the church members. He threatened them by saying, “If three or five people gather at home to read the Bible and worship, it is OK. But never again should you gather as a large group in the church sanctuary. If you want to worship in a big church building, go to a Three-Self church. If you disobey what I say, we will continue to oppress you.”

 

Chaogeda, a spokesperson from the office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, read a document to the believers stating that they were being convicted of an illegal gathering. As a house church, Zhuoqi Gospel Church was said to have violated Article 43 of the Regulation on Religious Affairs: “Unauthorized establishment of religious activity sites shall be banned by the department of the religious affairs.” Due to this violation, the police shut down the church. Since the morning of the raid, the deacon board of the church has submitted inquiries to the Gualameng and Zhuoqi governments. But the reply they received was another effort of the government to get them to join the local Three-Self church. The government’s reason – the Three-Self church has a bigger worship building; they can accommodate 500 people, and still have seats available. Currently, worship service at Zhuoqi Gospel Church is fully stopped.

 

Mr. Ao, secretary of UFWD, threatened the church members, saying, “We will hunt you down if we ever see you worshipping together. Maybe we won’t make a move during the day, but we will go into your home and get you at night.” The pastor has not been able to go back and minister at the house church. If he ever goes back again, he will be fired from his pastoral position with a local Three-Self church. Zhuoqi church’s building should never be used for worship service again. If used, the landlord will be fined until the property gets expropriated.

 

ChinaAid is closely following the unfolding of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church’s case. This is yet another case where the government is unlawfully depriving Chinese citizens of their right to freedom of religion. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution articulates: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to freedom of religion and worship.” In order to protect their right to religious freedom, brothers and sisters of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church tried to contact their local government. But the government refuses to budge, suggesting them to attend worship service in nearby Three-Self churches. 

 

ChinaAid holds the following viewpoints:

 

1. Human beings are endowed with alienable rights to freedom of religion and worship.

 

2. Belief in God and evangelism is the mission that God assigns to every true Christian.

 

3. Every Christian, domestic and abroad, has the right to worship God in whatever way they deem appropriate.

 

4. This right is not to be deprived of or imposed conditions upon.

 

5. We warn the Zhuoqi government that they do not have the right or legal authority to deprive people of or limit their right to freedom of religion.

 

6.We hope that the local government officials will rectify their mistakes and unlawful acts. They need to stop persecuting the church members and limiting their normal religious activities.

 

We call on the international society and human rights organizations to pay close attention to the ongoing “elimination of religion” propaganda that is currently taking place in China.

 

Rev. Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid urges international Christian communities to lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters of Zhuoqi Gospel Church in prayer. 

-----------------------

(ChinaAid) http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/06/zhuoqi-gospel-church-banned-by-local.html 

zuoqiOn April 28, 2013, local officials from the office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, Inner Mongolia raided the Zhuoqi Gospel Church. Since then, the church members have continued to endure pressure and intimidation from the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. They have not been able to meet for regular worship services. Entry into the church’s original sanctuary is prohibited, nor is the pastor allowed to even go back to the church.

 

It was around 8 o’clock on the morning of the 28th when the congregants were praying at a Sunday church service. Suddenly, about 60 policemen led by many religious affairs officials stormed into the building. Some of the policemen were fully armed as riot police. They busted their way to the podium and took hold of the worship leader, worship assistant, and even the pianist and choir. Presenting no valid legal permit, the police used force to rob the church members of their right to religious freedom.

 

During the police attack, some female believers were so scared and they fainted. Out of kindness, some reached out to hold the frightened women. But as a result, they were pushed to the floor, punched, and kicked. After witnessing this scary scene, a 70-year-old man fainted. When a 50-year-old woman was just about to hold the collapsed man, three police officers took hold of her and tied her arms behind her back. As she was struggling with the three police, two more walked up to her, punched, and kicked violently at her. After being severely beaten, the woman almost lost her consciousness.

 

The police also pepper-sprayed the church members. The choking smell quickly spread throughout the sanctuary as many sisters coughed so violently that they could hardly breathe. They could barely open their eyes. They also felt searing pain as their eyes were tearing up. A five-month pregnant woman had a severe reaction to the pepper-spray. After temporarily losing her consciousness, she threw up violently. She is still in bed and recovering today. Even some police were affected by the pepper-spray; they were able to go out to wash their face and breathe the fresh air though. The church members were all locked in the building.

 

The police also destroyed and confiscated some of the church’s properties, such as the offering box and a cross on the wall. They also robbed some church members of their personal bags. The police would open some of the bags and take away the things they deemed important, such as Bibles, hymns books, etc. They destroyed the church’s name signs on the wall and left them smashed on the floor.  The police shouted at the church members with anger, saying, “We should have used a bulldozer to demolish your building to the ground!”

 

Treated like criminals, some church ministers were thrown into the police cars. They were transported to a nearby police office in Bayanhaote ailute and forced to sign some documents. They were finally released after a quick interrogation. Meanwhile, the choir members and some congregants were taken to the neighborhood committee of Baoqiaoshetou. Bin Li, a staff from the United Front Work Department (UFWD) in Zhuoqi was asked to do some “ideological work” on the church members. He threatened them by saying, “If three or five people gather at home to read the Bible and worship, it is OK. But never again should you gather as a large group in the church sanctuary. If you want to worship in a big church building, go to a Three-Self church. If you disobey what I say, we will continue to oppress you.”

 

Chaogeda, a spokesperson from the office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, read a document to the believers stating that they were being convicted of an illegal gathering. As a house church, Zhuoqi Gospel Church was said to have violated Article 43 of the Regulation on Religious Affairs: “Unauthorized establishment of religious activity sites shall be banned by the department of the religious affairs.” Due to this violation, the police shut down the church. Since the morning of the raid, the deacon board of the church has submitted inquiries to the Gualameng and Zhuoqi governments. But the reply they received was another effort of the government to get them to join the local Three-Self church. The government’s reason – the Three-Self church has a bigger worship building; they can accommodate 500 people, and still have seats available. Currently, worship service at Zhuoqi Gospel Church is fully stopped.

 

Mr. Ao, secretary of UFWD, threatened the church members, saying, “We will hunt you down if we ever see you worshipping together. Maybe we won’t make a move during the day, but we will go into your home and get you at night.” The pastor has not been able to go back and minister at the house church. If he ever goes back again, he will be fired from his pastoral position with a local Three-Self church. Zhuoqi church’s building should never be used for worship service again. If used, the landlord will be fined until the property gets expropriated.

 

ChinaAid is closely following the unfolding of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church’s case. This is yet another case where the government is unlawfully depriving Chinese citizens of their right to freedom of religion. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution articulates: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to freedom of religion and worship.” In order to protect their right to religious freedom, brothers and sisters of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church tried to contact their local government. But the government refuses to budge, suggesting them to attend worship service in nearby Three-Self churches. 

 

ChinaAid holds the following viewpoints:

 

1. Human beings are endowed with alienable rights to freedom of religion and worship.

 

2. Belief in God and evangelism is the mission that God assigns to every true Christian.

 

3. Every Christian, domestic and abroad, has the right to worship God in whatever way they deem appropriate.

 

4. This right is not to be deprived of or imposed conditions upon.

 

5. We warn the Zhuoqi government that they do not have the right or legal authority to deprive people of or limit their right to freedom of religion.

 

6.We hope that the local government officials will rectify their mistakes and unlawful acts. They need to stop persecuting the church members and limiting their normal religious activities.

 

We call on the international society and human rights organizations to pay close attention to the ongoing “elimination of religion” propaganda that is currently taking place in China.

 

Rev. Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid urges international Christian communities to lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters of Zhuoqi Gospel Church in prayer.

zuoqiOn April 28, 2013, local officials from the office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, Inner Mongolia raided the Zhuoqi Gospel Church. Since then, the church members have continued to endure pressure and intimidation from the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee. They have not been able to meet for regular worship services. Entry into the church’s original sanctuary is prohibited, nor is the pastor allowed to even go back to the church.

 

It was around 8 o’clock on the morning of the 28th when the congregants were praying at a Sunday church service. Suddenly, about 60 policemen led by many religious affairs officials stormed into the building. Some of the policemen were fully armed as riot police. They busted their way to the podium and took hold of the worship leader, worship assistant, and even the pianist and choir. Presenting no valid legal permit, the police used force to rob the church members of their right to religious freedom.

 

During the police attack, some female believers were so scared and they fainted. Out of kindness, some reached out to hold the frightened women. But as a result, they were pushed to the floor, punched, and kicked. After witnessing this scary scene, a 70-year-old man fainted. When a 50-year-old woman was just about to hold the collapsed man, three police officers took hold of her and tied her arms behind her back. As she was struggling with the three police, two more walked up to her, punched, and kicked violently at her. After being severely beaten, the woman almost lost her consciousness.

 

The police also pepper-sprayed the church members. The choking smell quickly spread throughout the sanctuary as many sisters coughed so violently that they could hardly breathe. They could barely open their eyes. They also felt searing pain as their eyes were tearing up. A five-month pregnant woman had a severe reaction to the pepper-spray. After temporarily losing her consciousness, she threw up violently. She is still in bed and recovering today. Even some police were affected by the pepper-spray; they were able to go out to wash their face and breathe the fresh air though. The church members were all locked in the building.

 

The police also destroyed and confiscated some of the church’s properties, such as the offering box and a cross on the wall. They also robbed some church members of their personal bags. The police would open some of the bags and take away the things they deemed important, such as Bibles, hymns books, etc. They destroyed the church’s name signs on the wall and left them smashed on the floor.  The police shouted at the church members with anger, saying, “We should have used a bulldozer to demolish your building to the ground!”

 

Treated like criminals, some church ministers were thrown into the police cars. They were transported to a nearby police office in Bayanhaote ailute and forced to sign some documents. They were finally released after a quick interrogation. Meanwhile, the choir members and some congregants were taken to the neighborhood committee of Baoqiaoshetou. Bin Li, a staff from the United Front Work Department (UFWD) in Zhuoqi was asked to do some “ideological work” on the church members. He threatened them by saying, “If three or five people gather at home to read the Bible and worship, it is OK. But never again should you gather as a large group in the church sanctuary. If you want to worship in a big church building, go to a Three-Self church. If you disobey what I say, we will continue to oppress you.”

 

Chaogeda, a spokesperson from the office of religious affairs in Zhuoqi, read a document to the believers stating that they were being convicted of an illegal gathering. As a house church, Zhuoqi Gospel Church was said to have violated Article 43 of the Regulation on Religious Affairs: “Unauthorized establishment of religious activity sites shall be banned by the department of the religious affairs.” Due to this violation, the police shut down the church. Since the morning of the raid, the deacon board of the church has submitted inquiries to the Gualameng and Zhuoqi governments. But the reply they received was another effort of the government to get them to join the local Three-Self church. The government’s reason – the Three-Self church has a bigger worship building; they can accommodate 500 people, and still have seats available. Currently, worship service at Zhuoqi Gospel Church is fully stopped.

 

Mr. Ao, secretary of UFWD, threatened the church members, saying, “We will hunt you down if we ever see you worshipping together. Maybe we won’t make a move during the day, but we will go into your home and get you at night.” The pastor has not been able to go back and minister at the house church. If he ever goes back again, he will be fired from his pastoral position with a local Three-Self church. Zhuoqi church’s building should never be used for worship service again. If used, the landlord will be fined until the property gets expropriated.

 

ChinaAid is closely following the unfolding of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church’s case. This is yet another case where the government is unlawfully depriving Chinese citizens of their right to freedom of religion. Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution articulates: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to freedom of religion and worship.” In order to protect their right to religious freedom, brothers and sisters of the Zhuoqi Gospel Church tried to contact their local government. But the government refuses to budge, suggesting them to attend worship service in nearby Three-Self churches. 

 

ChinaAid holds the following viewpoints:

 

1. Human beings are endowed with alienable rights to freedom of religion and worship.

 

2. Belief in God and evangelism is the mission that God assigns to every true Christian.

 

3. Every Christian, domestic and abroad, has the right to worship God in whatever way they deem appropriate.

 

4. This right is not to be deprived of or imposed conditions upon.

 

5. We warn the Zhuoqi government that they do not have the right or legal authority to deprive people of or limit their right to freedom of religion.

 

6.We hope that the local government officials will rectify their mistakes and unlawful acts. They need to stop persecuting the church members and limiting their normal religious activities.

 

We call on the international society and human rights organizations to pay close attention to the ongoing “elimination of religion” propaganda that is currently taking place in China.

 

Rev. Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid urges international Christian communities to lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters of Zhuoqi Gospel Church in prayer.

Christians face expulsion from village in Laos (RI)

(ReleaseInternational) 17 June 2013 -Families in two villages in Laos have been asked to leave their homes and resettle elsewhere because they have turned to Christ.

Release contacts say that in Keang Khean in north-central Laos, the village chief has asked all Christians to leave immediately. Tensions in the village, which is in the Chomphet district of Luang Prabang province, are said to be running so high that our contacts are unable to visit the Christians in question.

Meanwhile, three families in a village called Sanam have been given official notice they should leave, after two years of persecution. The 18 members of the Ser, Taam and Thong families had their papers confiscated last year and still have not had them returned.

Our contacts have also requested prayer for a house church in the Hom district of Vientiane province. The four families who founded this church came to Christ after a woman was healed of a serious illness in 2005 when a pastor prayed for her.

The families had been attending a church which was a six-mile walk away, but decided to set up a church in their own village, a congregation that has since swelled to 16 families. However, they have faced stiff opposition in their village, including accusations that their worship creates disharmony. On one occasion, a police officer threatened them with violence unless they recanted their faith.

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(RI)  http://www.releaseinternational.org/laos-christian-families-face-expulsion-for-their-faith/

Christians forced to flee homes in Philippines (CFP) 

(CFP) 17 June 2013 -On June 1st, approximately 160 Christians were forced to flee their villages after they were attacked by Muslim extremists. The villages of Malipayon, Saban of Barnagay, Maybula and New Bunawan were attacked at about 9 a.m. that Saturday. An estimated 300 armed men fired more than five mortars in an attempt to cause harm to the unsuspecting residents of these communities.

 The Christians who fled the attacks are now in need of food, mosquito netsbed sheets, sleeping mats and medicine. Many have become ill because they weren’t able to take their bedding or medications with them while fleeing the attacks. These persecuted Christians are currently unable to return to their villages because they fear the militant Muslims will kill them and burn down their homes. VOM has provided these suffering believers basic necessities such as food, mosquito nets, blankets and medicine. For more information on the difficulties facing persecutedChristians in the Philippines, go to thePhilippines Country Report.

Please pray that our brothers and sisters in this part of the world will continue to place their hope in the Lord and will be able to forgive their persecutors. May He provide for all their needs and, in time, let them know when it’s safe to return to their homes. Pray that the perpetrators will come to know His love, forgiveness and blessing through the witness of these faithful Christians (Romans 1:16).

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(CFP)  http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/55899

Christians treated as animals in Pakistan (FIDES)

(FIDES) 12 June 2013 - Christians are "treated like animals", they are denied the dignity of human beings: is the complaint that reaches Fides from Kasur district, in the Punjab province, a district already known for the case of rape, still unpunished, regarding the Christian 15-year-old Fouzia Bibi (see Fides 04/06/2013). The non-governmental organization "Lead" (Legal Evangelical Association Development "), reported to Fides another episode in which the Christians of Kasur suffer abuse and ill-treatment by the Muslims.

In recent days, some local Muslims abused, mocked, hit and publicly humiliated Christian men and women, agricultural workers or pastors. As reported to Fides, to unleash the physical and psychological violence was a minor encroachment of some flocks of the Christian Shoukat Masih, in the lands of a few Muslims. The animals were seized and when the faithful went to claim them, the beating started. On June 2, some Muslim men broke into the home of a Christian family, hitting the three women Arshad Bibi, Sajida and Saruyia, stripping them and then forcing them to run naked through the streets, while they were ridiculed and harassed, under the eyes of all the inhabitants of the village, who did not intervene. The same humiliating treatment was reserved to two Christian elders, Shoukat Masih’s parents. When they expressed the willingness to report the matter, "some police officers also raided our house along with Muslims owners and threatened ì to get us involved in a criminal case," says Shoukat Masih.

The faithful turned to rev. Saleem Gill to seek legal assistance. It was thus possible to register a formal complaint ("First Information Report") on the incident. Other Christian family said they had suffered abuse and were ill-treated by Muslim landowners, who are their employers. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/06/2013)

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(FIDES)  http://www.fides.org/en/news/33792-ASIA_PAKISTAN_Christians_treated_like_animals_by_Muslims_in_Punjab#.UbfnQueyBRF

Coptic Christian sentenced to one year hard labor (WT)

(WT) 04 June 2013 - An Egyptian court has convicted a Coptic Christian lawyer in the southern province of Assiut on charges of blasphemy and sentenced him to one year in prison with hard labor.

The verdict against Roman Murad Saad was handed down on Saturday. It’s the latest in a surge of blasphemy cases following Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

 

Saad was sentenced in absentia. If he’s arrested or surrenders to authorities, he will be given a retrial and will have to pay 10,000 Egyptians pounds (around $1,400) in fines.

Court officials say Saad was found guilty of ridiculing Islam’s holy book, the Quran, at a lawyers’ union library. No further details were immediately available in the case.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

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(WT)  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/1/coptic-christian-convicted-insulting-islam-egypt-s/

Persecution at its highest level in Eritrea (EN)

(EN) 03 June 2013 - A Christian leader in Eritrea says that religious persecution in the northeast African country "is at its highest level ever and getting worse," World Watch Monitor (WWM), the news outlet of Open Doors, a Christian charity reports.

WWM reports the stories of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith.

The total number of Christians arrested in Eritrea this year has risen to 191 after the detention of 37 students from the College of Arts and Sciences Adi Kihe and five men from the Church of the Living God in Asmara, according to WWM.It indicated that the leader's name would not be used because of security reasons.

Up to 3,000 Christians are imprisoned because of their faith in Eritrea.

Open Doors ranks the country 10th on its World Watch List and gives it the designation of "extreme persecution" on its scale.

Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) say many prisoners are held in metal shipping containers without ventilation or toilet facilities.

Eritrea allowed religious freedom until 2002, when the government announced it would only recognize religious groups: Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church of Eritrea, and the Lutheran-affiliated Evangelical Church of Eritrea, said VOM.

Since then, it says the Eritrean government has jailed, tortured and jailed numerous Eritreans for political and religious reasons.

As a result, Eritrea has been called "the North Korea of Africa".

Selem Kidane, an Eritrean expatriate and director of Release Eritrea, a UK-based human rights organization, said that while persecution is not limited to Christians, it is the underground church which is suffering the most.

"Any religion that is not willing to come under the control of the government is being persecuted," she said."It's not just confined to Christians."

"But in terms of being completely banned, it's the minority churches that have suffered the most - the Pentecostal church, the Evangelical church - they are the ones who have been stigmatized and been accused of all sorts of things by their communities and other faith groups."

There are 2.5 million Christians in Eritrea, mostly Orthodox, according to World Watch List.

The human rights advocacy organization Amnesty International issued a report earlier in May that backed up the claims of the maltreatment of dissenters in Eritrea.

It said that there is "rampant repression" in the country 20 years after it split from Ethiopia and became independent.

"The government has systematically used arbitrary arrest and detention without charge to crush all opposition, to silence all dissent, and to punish anyone who refuses to comply with the repressive restrictions it places on people's lives," said Claire Beston, Amnesty International's Eritrea researcher.

The Amnesty International report, entitled "Twenty Years of Independence, but Still No Freedom", says that journalists, people practicing an unregistered religion, and people trying to flee the country are detained and held in unimaginably atrocious conditions.

A report by International Christian Concern (ICC) indicated that Christians who try to flee have been kidnapped by human traffickers.

The ICC report said that "these vulnerable Christians are attacked and kidnapped from refugee camps, then transported to the Sinai desert, where they are sold like commodities."

The victims are tortured and their agony relayed by phone to families back in Eritrea or Diaspora groups in order to elicit ransom. If the ransom is not paid, the victims or tortured to death, including by removing saleable organs, said ICC.

Even if the ransoms are paid, human traffickers may sell their victims to other criminal groups.

Amnesty International has appealed to Egypt and Sudan to stop the kidnappings of refugees in Sudan and their transport to Egypt. In addition, Eritrean opposition groups are demanding increased security at the camps.

The chairman of the Ethiopia-based Eritrean Democratic Alliance, Tewelde Gebresilase, said on the ICC website that human trafficking is being carried out by a highly organized network.

He said it is a highly lucrative business for Bedouins and for Egyptian, Sudanese and Eritrean officials, who take bribes to facilitate the trade and it is a major source of income for the Eritrean regime.

Despite reports and attempts at international intervention, the government claims no one is persecuted in Eritrea and rejected the Amnesty International report as "wild accusations" and "totally unsubstantiated."

VOM says on its website that a religious liberty report indicated that Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki wants to restrict the right to assembly.

He fears religious freedom because it may lead to evangelism by Christians, which he believes in turn will lead to social tensions that will assist outside groups in destabilizing the nation.

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(EN)  http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/minority-christians-in-eritrea-face-extreme-persecution-say-rights-groups-22240

Eight Vietnamese Christians sentenced to prison (RFA)

(Radia Free Asia)  May 2013 - 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. 


Vietnamese state media identified the eight convicted on Wednesday as Runh, Byuk, Jonh, Dinh Hron, and Dinh Lu from Gia Lai province and A Hyum, A Tach, and Y Gyin from Kon Tum province.

vietnam-gia-lai-map-400.jpgVietnam News Agency reported that according to the indictment, in 2002 Y Gyin had “spread rumors” that the Virgin Mary had appeared in Ha Mon, where authorities were planning to build a hydroelectricity plant. 

The others joined him in “enticing” thousands of people to protest against the plant in 2008, and the same year, A Hyum contacted an alleged exiled armed separatist organization—the Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Peoples, or FULRO—to ask for help, it said. 

FULRO, founded in the 1950s, was a resistance army that fought on the side of United States and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War before officially disbanding in the 1990s.  Vietnam has asserted that rights groups working on Central Highlands issues are part of an ongoing separatist movement linked to FULRO, but the groups reject the claims, saying they are working nonviolently for human rights. 

FULRO had instructed the eight men to “prepare to establish” a separate state in the Central Highlands, and they started several branches of the organization in the region, state media reported. 


According to previous Human Rights Watch reports, Runh, Jonh, and Byuk were taken into custody in May last year for being associated with the unregistered Ha Mon Catholic sect, which Y Gyin founded around 1999.  

The group said that authorities have painted the Ha Mon sect as a “false religion” that is being taken advantage of by FULRO to undermine national security. 

While Protestant Montagnards have faced religious repression for many years, Catholic Montagnards have more recently become a target for persecution by the government, according to the group. 

-----------------------------------

(RFA) http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/montagnards-05292013165006.html

Iran shuts down largest Pentecostal church (FOX)

(FOX) 30 May 2013 - Government agents shut down Iran’s largest Persian-language Pentecostal church Monday, just one week after one of its pastors was arrested and hauled away midway through a worship service.

The closing of Central Assemblies of God church in Tehran is the latest case of the Islamic Republic’s leadership cracking down on Christians ahead of the June 14 presidential election to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Leaders appear especially wary of groups deemed dangerous to their power base, including growing Christian churches, according to Iranian Christians and rights groups who spoke to BosNewsLife, a news agency that specializes in the plight of Christians in Middle Eastern nations.

"These incidents appear to be an attempt to stop worship services from being conducted in Farsi, the language of the majority of Iranians," George Wood, general superintendent of the AoG in the U.S., told the service. "Services are allowed in Armenian, a minority language that most Iranians do not speak or even understand."

 

 
"These incidents appear to be an attempt to stop worship services from being conducted in Farsi, the language of the majority of Iranians."

- George Wood, Assemblies of God, U.S.

 

On May 21, authorities grabbed Pastor Robert Asserian while services were under way. They have not told parishioners where he is being held.

"Before going to the church, authorities raided Pastor Asserian’s home, where they confiscated a computer and several books,” Wood said. “Then, they found Pastor Asserian at the church leading the prayer service, immediately arrested him and announced the church’s imminent closure."

Christian groups fear a further erosion of what little tolerance of religious diversity has existed in Iran. Some estimates place the number of Iranian Christians, many of them converts from Islam, at about 100,000, in a nation of 75 million.

 

Concerned Americans have been following the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini for several months. An evangelical Christian from Idaho, he traveled to his homeland last summer to help build a secular orphanage, but was arrested for allegedly evangelizing. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to eight years in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison.

In January, amid an international outcry, an Iranian court freed another Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani. Nadarkhani had served three years in prison and had been sentenced to death for apostasy – conversion away from Islam – and evangelizing. But a court downgraded the sentence and he was released.

Other pastors known to be detained in Iranian prisons include Behnam Irani, who is held in Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj City, one of the toughest jails in the country, some 12 miles west of the nation's capital, Tehran.

"He has been sentenced to five years in prison for his Christian activity," Jason DeMars, of advocacy group Present Truth Ministries, told BosNewsLife.

Iranian Christians fear a court verdict directing prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against Irani for apostasy, said Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the Church of Iran movement to which the pastor belongs.

He urged Christians around the world to sign a petition asking the White House "to take immediate steps to put pressure on the Iranian government to secure the release of Irani.
"Most of the focus of the American church, regarding persecution, has been [Abedini],” he said. "I’m very thankful that so much attention has been given to him [but there are also] others in prison serving a sentence for their Christian faith."



Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/28/new-christian-pastor-detained-church-closed-in-iran/#ixzz2UkFxV43o

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(FOX)http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/05/28/new-christian-pastor-detained-church-closed-in-iran/  

Chinese pastor imprisoned since 2001 suffers stroke (ASSIST)

(ASSIST) 29 May 2013 - Gong Shengliang, imprisoned in China since 2001 for his leadership of a large house church movement, lacks medical treatment after suffering a stroke.

 

 
  
 

House church movement leader
Gong Shengliang
According to a story by Morning Star News, in an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping published on the Websites of China Ministries International and China Aid Association, Gong Huali said her father suffered a “cerebral infarction” (ischemic stroke) late last year that has left him unable to walk or speak. 

  

“Because the complete absence of minimal medical care, his cerebral and cerebellum functions have been severely affected,” she wrote. “His life is in serious danger.” 

Morning Star News reported that the daughter of the former leader of the South China Church (SCC) movement, which reached 50,000 members before China banned it, wrote in the April 23 letter that she has asked officials in Hubei Province for him to be released on bail for urgent medical treatment. 

"But, again and again, our petitions were completely ignored, without any reasonable response," she wrote.

Morning Star News said she added, “It is very urgent for my father to have immediate medical treatment, otherwise he might die soon in the prison or remain disabled for life.”

Gong and 16 other Christians from the unregistered house church movement were arrested in August 2001, charged with leading an illegal “cult,” and sentenced to death.

Morning Star News said international protests led to withdrawal of the death sentences and a new trial in Oct. 2002. He was then sentenced to life for rape after police tortured female members of his church into testifying that he had raped them, according to the women's later testimony.

“My father was arrested because of his faith in Jesus Christ by the Hubei government in 2001, and was charged with rape,” Gong Huali wrote. 

Morning Star News said Pastor Gong was severely tortured after his arrest. In prison he was located in a damp area the first two years, where he suffered from rheumatism and gastroenteritis.

“Once his gastroenteritis caused him unable to eat for two weeks, and he found blood in stools and in urine,” Morning Star News said she wrote. “The prison officials were very cruel to him, never giving him any medical care for these last 10 years and more.”

Morning Star News said Chinese officials denied that Pastor Gong was tortured when Amnesty International issued an appeal for him in June 2003. That was after his family learned that he had been tortured so badly in Jingzhou prison that he was unable to leave his bed for two weeks.

China Ministries International is an international mission organization dedicated to proclaiming Christ among Chinese people and strengthening the country's church.

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(ASSIST)  http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13050131.htm

Fined for carrying a personal bible (Forum18)

(Forum18) 24 May 2013 - In the capital Tashkent, in the evening of 14 April, a group of 13 officials broke into a private home where Protestants were meeting. Two of the intruders were from Yunusabad District Police. The officials "twisted the arms of Nadezhda Li, and hit her back against the wall several times", witnesses told Forum 18. The other officials searched the home. Protestants told Forum 18 that Li is an unemployed reporter, and that she asked the officials for the reason for the unauthorised search without a search warrant.


Officials then confiscated various books, including a Russian-language Bible, drew up statements and left.

Yunusabad Police told Forum 18 on 17 May that the raid was led by the Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department, and referred Forum 18 to its Head, Mirfayoz Mirazimov. Asked for the reason of the raid Mirazimov said, "It's not a phone conversation." When Forum 18 asked again for the reason, and why his officers beat Li, he responded: "If they are unhappy they can file a complaint". Mirazimov then refused to talk further, asked Forum 18 to send questions in writing, and put the phone down.

Large fines

After the raid, Judge Shakhzoda Ashrapova of Tashkent's Yunusabad District Criminal Court on 22 April fined Nadezhda Li, Yelena Le, Anastasiya Tsai, Olesya Magay, Vladlena Magay and Galina Khegay each 7,959,000 Soms (about 22,200 Norwegian Kroner, 3,000 Euros, or 3,900 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate), or 100 times the minimum monthly salary.

All six were convicted under Administrative Code Article 240 ("Violation of the Religion Law") Part 1. This punishes: "Carrying out of unauthorised religious activity, evasion by leaders of religious organisations of registration of the charter of the organisation, the organisation and conduct of worship by religious ministers and of special children's and youth meetings, as well as vocational, literature and other study groups not relating to worship".

Fined for carrying personal Bible in bag

Also in Tashkent, on 10 April Natalya Akhmedova was walking to Anna Serina's home to go to a meeting for worship with her, when a police officer from Hamza Police Station saw Akhmedova. He asked her to show the contents of her bag. Seeing that she had a Bible and songbook, the policeman took her to the nearest police station. Both women belong to an unregistered Baptist church that meets without state permission.

Police confiscated the Bible and songbook, and questioned Akhmedova, Baptists told Forum 18 on 1 May. Police asked her who she is, where she is from, and what she was doing. Police then summoned Serina to the Police Station. There officials searched her bag and found a New Testament. "Both were taken to the District Police, where they were photographed and fingerprints taken", Baptists stated. Police then, after drawing up a report, released them.

Hamza District Police on 17 May referred Forum 18 to Aziz Khamzayev, Chief of the Struggle with Extremism and Terrorism Department. Asked why the police stopped Akhmedova on the street and confiscated her personal Bible, Khamzayev refused to comment. "I don't know you and I cannot discuss the issue over the phone." He then put the phone down.

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(Forum18)  http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1838

Christian village in Pakistan attacked - 250 families left without homes (ICN)

(ICN) 23 May 2013 - 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. Clashes followed and one man was shot and killed. At the news of the death, the crowd threatened a mass attack and set fire to the entire village. The Christian families had no choice but to flee immediately. In the clashes 20 Christians were arrested by the police. The two organizations - the HRCP and ODP reported everything to the police in Multan and have asked the intervention of the civil and religious authorities to restore peace between the two villages.

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(ICN)  http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=22594

American pastor sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea (HP)

(HuffPost) 23 May 2013 - A 44-year-old American citizen, jailed last year in North Korea accused of seeking to topple the government, said in 2009 thathe wished to "collapse" the "walls"separating North Korea from the rest of the world and that he had asked U.S. churches to send members to worship in the hermetic communist nation.

According to a recently unearthed video, Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor by a North Korean court in April, gave a sermon in 2009 at a Korean-American church in St. Louis, Mo.,during which he said he wanted to bring hundreds of Christians into North Korea to pray.

"We are going to send 300 people to pray in [the North Korean city of] Rason. ... I'm now touring churches in the U.S., asking them to send 10 people per church to worship for one week," Bae said, per a translation of the speech provided by NK News.

Bae also spoke of using prayer to "collapse" the walls of the notoriously reclusive nation.

"Just as God made people enter Jericho and collapse it without force, I hope the wall between [North Korea and the world] will collapse soon, through just our praying and worship in Rason," Bae preached, according to the NK News translation.

Bae also described an incident in North Korea where he got a crowd of 30 North Koreans to chant "God is Great" while he and his missionary team sang songs and played guitar.

Although North Korea claims to guarantee freedom of religion, the country has reportedly doled out harsh punishments to people accused of spreading religious beliefs.

According to The Washington Post, the North Korean government leveled three main charges against Bae after his arrest in early November: 1) smuggling a documentaryinto the reclusive country; 2) "infiltrating" 250 students into the city of Rason for subversive purposes, and 3) plotting a coup called "Operation Jericho," designed to bring the downfall of the government.

Bae was arrested while attempting to enter Rason with five other people. Pyongyang says Bae entered the country illegally, and according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, North Korean officials claim they found a computer disk that may have contained sensitive information.

According to the Associated Press, Bae's friends said the jailed American made frequent trips to North Korea both to lead tours and to feed orphans

While the other six Americans detained in North Korea since 2009 have been released before serving their full sentences, Pyongyang appears to be taking a tough stance with Bae: Earlier this month, North Korea's state-run news agency declared the regime had no plans to invite any American officials to Pyongyang to discuss Bae's release, saying he is "not a political bargaining chip" for negotiations with Washington.

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(HP)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/kenneth-bae-sermon_n_3312675.html?utm_hp_ref=world

Escalating violence against Christians in Bangladesh (BA) 

(BarnabasAid) 15 May 2013 -Barnabas Aid has received requests for prayer and practical help from Christian leaders in Bangladesh as the Church is endangered by a violent uprising by Islamists who are demanding that the country become an Islamic state.


Christian homes have been torched and churches threatened as increasingly volatile protests have rocked the country.

Scores of people have been killed in the clashes, which erupted in February. At least 37 died earlier this week as police tried to quash protests in the capital, Dhaka, where 70,000 Islamist demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday (5 May), calling for the introduction of an anti-blasphemy law.

This was the deadline that one Islamist group, Hefazat e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB), had given the government to implement its demands, which include sharia rule, virtual segregation of women and the death sentence for those who insult Islam or Muhammad.

An anti-blasphemy law would be disastrous for Christians in Bangladesh. Their counterparts in Pakistan suffer grievously as a result of the blasphemy laws there, under which they are vulnerable to malicious, false accusation. Devotion to Muhammad is a particular feature of South Asian Islam, and the Pakistani law specifies a death sentence for anyone who insults him.

Jama’at-e-Islami (JI), the largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh, has threatened to “kill all the Malauns [infidels]”. Muslims view Christians and other non-Muslims as "infidels".

In 2010, a constitutional amendment that had allowed religion-based politics was declared null and void, a move intended to underline the secular nature of the state. The government has, however, indicated, that the ban on religious parties will not be strictly enforced, giving groups like HIB and JI a platform ahead of the general election due early next year.

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(BA)  http://www.persecution.org/2013/05/14/violent-islamists-in-bangladesh-declare-kill-all-the-infidels/

Christians sent to jail for conversion (CT)

(CT) 14 May 2013 - An Iranian Assemblies of God (AOG) pastor, his wife and two church workers have been returned to jail after their one year sentences for converting to Christianity and “propagation against the Islamic regime through evangelism" were upheld by a High Court on 1 May.


Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh, his wife Shahnaz Jayzan and church workers Naser Zaman-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani were initially arrested in December 2011, after authorities in the southern town of Ahwaz raided their church’s Christmas celebrations and detained everyone in the building, including children attending Sunday School.

According to Iranian agency Mohabat News, all four were charged with “converting to Christianity and propagating against the Islamic Republic through evangelism”, and were each sentenced to one year in prison by the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz. They were temporarily released, but were summoned to court on 1 May 2013 and re-arrested. Mr Alijani was transferred to Ahwaz’s Karoon Prison to complete his sentence, while Pastor Sabokrooh, Shahnaz Jayzan and Mr Zaman-Dezfuli were taken to Sepidar Prison.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has also been informed that Mostafa Bordbar, a Christian arrested in Tehran in December 2012 and whose case details were obscure, is now confirmed to be detained in Ward 350 of Evin Prison, along with Church of Iran member Alireza Seyyedian and AOG Pastors Farshid Fathi and Saeed Abedini. Pastor Abedini, who had been placed in solitary confinement for taking part in a peaceful protest against prison conditions, has now been returned to Ward 350 after being taken to hospital this week following a further deterioration in his health.

Mohabat News reports that a Christian prisoner in Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz is in urgent need of medical attention. Vahid Hakkani, who was arrested in February 2012 along with eight others during a raid on a prayer meeting, is reported to be suffering from internal bleeding and has been informed by prison doctors that he needs surgery urgently, but so far this has not occurred.

CSW has also learned that in April 2013, Ebrahim Firoozi, who was arrested for a second time in March 2013 and charged with launching and administering a Christian missionary website, distributing Bibles, cooperating with student activists and involvement in actions against national security, was temporarily released from Ward 350 of Evin Prison after 53 days in jail, following a bail payment of approximately 20,000 USD.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “Pastor Sabokrooh and others have been jailed for exercising their right to change their religion and to manifest their new faith both privately and in communion with others. This right is protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which as a signatory, Iran is obliged uphold. We continue to call on Iran to fulfill its legal obligations by guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens. We also urge the authorities to ensure that as occurred in the case of Pastor Abdedini, every prisoner in urgent need of medical attention is given access to medical facilities and appropriate treatment.” 

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(CT)  http://au.christiantoday.com/article/iran-christians-returned-to-jail-after-high-court-upholds-sentence-for-conversion/15407.htm

China update (China Aid)

(ChinaAid) 13 May 2013 - Sichuan province: On April 26, Pastor Li Ming and 15 lay leaders of a house church in Langzhong were taken into custody when they were learning to play musical instruments. Ten were released the following day and six were administratively detained. Three who were held in administrative detention for three and five days respectively have already been released, and Li Ming, Wang Yuan and Li Chengxi who were in administrative detention for 15 days, were released on Thursday (May 9). Our earlier report is at: http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/04/news-flash-16-house-church-leaders-in.html

Henan province: On April 1, 2013, the People’s Court of Ye county convicted seven leaders of a house church in Ye County who had been administratively detained or arrested for almost a year of “using a cult organization to undermine law enforcement” and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three to 7-1/2 years. They have appealed, and a total of 12 Christian lawyers, including the well-known young lawyer Zhang Kai and Yang Xingquan, are headed to Ye county to provide their defense at the trial of the second instance. See our earlier reports at:http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/04/seven-christians-in-henan-province.html andhttp://www.chinaaid.org/2012/11/seven-house-church-christians-in-henan.html 


Shanxi province: In mid-December last year (2012), Pastor Ren Lacheng of a college students’ church in Taiyuan was taken into police custody. The court convened on Thursday (May 9) to hear the case, and attorney Zhang Kai was authorized to give the defense. After the hearing, Zhang Kai said, “Taiyuan Xiaodian Court convened to hear Ren Lacheng’s case. Although we don’t know the result, the court proceedings were was carried out properly and were orderly, the attorney’s right of defense was fully guaranteed, and the Prosecutor was mild and rational. They are to be complimented… In his final statement, my client said, 'Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.'" See our earlier report at: http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/03/online-government-report-in-shanxi.html

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(ChinaAid)  http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/05/latest-updates-on-cases-of-persecution.html

Christian girls forced into slavery and sex trafficking (ICC) 

(ICC) 06 May 2013 - More than 140 children have been rescued from Islamic training centers (madrassas) in the last nine months, with a majority of the children targeted because of their Christian faith.  The females, accounting for nearly half of those rescued, report that they were used for forced labor and sex slavery.


New information has come to light regarding the treatment of the young girls rescued from madrassas earlier this year.  “They were forcefully converted to Islam,” said Akash, a contact for International Christian Concern (ICC) whose name is changed for security reasons. “The girls were made to wear veils at all times. Some girls were also forced to work as slaves in the homes of Muslim families and were only fed one time a day.” 

The rescued girls were told they would study at a Christian school and receive training to become beauticians. However, after completing the grueling travel from their villages to the capitol city, Dhaka, they discovered it was all a lie. “Instead of training in the Beautifying Parlor, we were forcefully sent to hotels for the sex trade,” explained one of the girls.

Suspicions Lead to Rescue


Last year Akash was selling bus tickets for a transportation company in Bangladesh when he noticed that a man named Norbert Tripura frequently traveled to Dhaka with groups of children. When asked what he was doing, Norbert replied that he was taking the children to a Christian missionary school“where they can eat and live in comfort with a good education.” Hoping for his daughter to have the opportunity for a quality education, Akash asked Norbert to take her to the Christian missionary school, and became suspicious when he was refused. “Doubt was created in my mind when Norbert continued to avoid me,” said Akash.

Akash began to investigate the matter and soon discovered that countless families had sent their children with men, including Norbert, who were later discovered to be traffickers.  With the help of an ICC ministry partner, Akash arranged for the rescue of the first twelve children in July 2012. More were rescued in October 2012, followed by over 100 rescued since January 2013.

How Does This Happen


As Christians, these children and their families are a marginalized minority in a country that is over 90% Muslim. As minorities, Christians find it difficult to locate jobs and obtain quality education. They are sometimes even banned from using community wells in the villages. As a result, many Christians, specifically the Tripura people, are extremely poor and desperate for a better life for their children. This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to traffickers like Norbert.

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(ICC)  http://www.persecution.org/2013/05/05/young-christian-girls-trafficked-into-forced-labor-and-sex-slavery/

Syrian church asks world to pray with them (CNW)

(CNW) 06 May 2013 - Most churches in Syria will unite in prayer on Saturday, May 11, in many places around the war-torn nation. This will be an extraordinary show of unity of Christian denominations in Syria, where the on-going civil war has claimed over 70,000 lives.

Syrian Christians are asking their brothers and sisters around the world to pray and fast with them on the Day of Prayer for Syria on May 11.

"As Christians in Syria continue to suffer from the devastating effects of the two-year-old civil war including killings, kidnappings, homelessness, lack of food and shelter and closing of schools; they are also seeing that God's hand is at work as all denominations are joining in passionate prayer," says Open Doors USA interim President/CEO Steve Ridgway. "Christians in Syria know only Jesus can bring redemption and true peace.

"I urge you to take time on May 11 to pray with Syrian believers and for the country of Syria. Also encourage prayer in your churches on May 12. Let's stand together as one in Christ."

Open Doors received a letter from leaders coordinating The Day of Prayer for Syria. In part, it reads:

    "As you may know, the Christian church in Syria is experiencing a deep humanitarian crisis that is leading to the rapid loss of hope. In the face of violence and persecution, our brothers and sisters are striving to keep their eyes on the Lord and seeking His face in their country. Even in pain, suffering and death, God is using the church to accomplish His plan.

    "On Saturday, May 11, Christians from different denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant/Evangelical are joining together in prayer and fasting to plead before the Lord for His mercy on Syria and an end to the violence. Due to the dangers of traveling in combat zones, Christians will be limited to local meetings planned all across Syria during this day. These groups will be meeting in homes, arenas and churches. Christians across Syria have asked that you join them in prayer on May 11.

    "Thank you for standing in the gap on behalf of the Syrian people and reflecting the love of Christ in your acts of worship."

In Damascus, some of the churches will meet in an arena, but there will be prayer in several suburbs of the city. The entire Christian community in Aleppo and the surrounding area is gathering to pray.  "This is a huge undertaking as it (day of prayer with almost all denominations participating) has never happened in Syria before," said a Syrian church leader.

For more information, a list of specific prayer requests, and to make a pledge to pray for Syria, go towww.opendoorsusa.org/syria-pray.

A few prayer requests from churches inside Syria include:

  • The release of two Orthodox bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who were kidnapped April 23 in Aleppo, and other Christians who are missing.
     
  • Counseling for children who have been traumatized by violence.
     
  • For almost one-third of the Syrian population who are either refugees outside the country or homeless inside Syria.
     
  • Return of peace.

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(ChristianNewsWire) http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/5442571995.html 

Persecution in Sri Lanka (CC)

(CC) 02 May 2013 - Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of Galle (Sri Lanka) is seeking the prayers of the faithful worldwide as the nation’s Christians and Muslims suffer persecution from Bodu Bala Sana (BBS), the “Buddhist Taliban.”

The Fides news agency reported that Buddhist monks were involved in 50 attacks on Christians in 2012. One prelate, Bishop Rayyappu Joseph of Mannar, suffered slight injuries when stones were thrown at him in September.

More recently, a church was burned down on March 9, reportedly with police assistance, and several Protestant pastors say that they have been threatened with violence if they do not cease from their ministry.

The nation of 21.5 million is 69% Buddhist, 8% Muslim, 7% Hindu, and 7% Christian; almost all Christians are Catholic.

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(CC)  http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=17745

Kidnapped Syrian Bishops in good health (VI)

(VI) 30 April 2013 - The President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, has informed figures of the Syriac Orthodox Church that yesterday he had the chance to speak with Yuhanna Ibrahim, one of the two prelates who were recently kidnapped near Aleppo as they were apparently attempting to negotiate the release of two priests who had been in the hands of the rebels for some time. The news was communicated by the Syrian Orthodox bishop, Daniel Kourieh in Beirut. The Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Kakka Iwas, was told that the Turkish president had “spoken” to Yuhanna Ibrahim "directly".

 

Ibrahim was kidnapped alongside Bishop Boulos Yaziji, of the Greek Orthodox Church of Aleppo. Kourieh added that some in the Syriac Orthodoc Church are aware that President Gül is keeping a close eye on any development in the situation and is doing everything in his power to ensure the bishops’ release. It is believed the prelates are being held by an Islamic and fundamentalist rebel group.

 

As far as is known, the bishops are in good health and there has so far been no news of a ransom request or any demands for certain conditions to be met before their release can be guaranteed. It appears Gül did not speak to the Patriarch directly. This is according to a statement given to the Voice of Lebanon by the Syriac Orthodox Church’s spokesman, Efram. “Gül spoke to a Syriac Orthodox bishop in Turkey and informed him that Turkey is engaged in efforts to obtain the release of bishops Ibrahim and Yazihi.”

 

The bishops were kidnapped on 22 April in the village of Kafr Dael, about 10 km from Aleppo.  It is believed, though not confirmed, that the kidnappers are Chechen jihadists. Thanks to the support given by Turkey, Britain and especially the U.S., there has been an Islamic fundamentalist “foreign legion” operating in Syria for some time now. Its members come from all over the world, including Europe. They are still holding two priests captive: Fr. Michel Kayval, an Armenian Catholic and Fr. Maher Mahfouz, a Greek Orthodox priest, who were abducted last February.

 

In an interview with AsiaNews’ Simone Cantarini, the Greek Melkite archbishop of Aleppo, Jean Clement Jeanbart, stated that the over 1000 faithful that attend the afternoon prayer vigils for Mgr. Ibrahim and Mgr. Yahizi in the local cathedral, were shocked by the conflicting news that has been circulating in recent days about the alleged release of the clerics.  "For several months - he said - a dictatorship of" false information exists in Syria that creates confusion and false hopes."" The Western media - the prelate continued - have a great responsibility cannot play with the lives and consciences of the people. There are men and women here who risk their lives to affirm and tell the truth and who will not stoop to bartering with religious groups or rebels or the regime.”

 

The bishop said all Christians, particularly priests and bishops have “the duty to witness to and follow the path of truth in this land troubled not only by bombs, but also by hatred fomented through the lies.

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(VI) http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/vescovi-bishops-obispos-24342/

Christian village attacked in Pakistan (Salemnews)

(SN) 29 April 2013 - Another Christian community in Pakistan was attacked by an angry Muslim mob on 26th April 2013, it happened in a village near Khanewal, Multan (southern Punjab). A similar situation recently developed in Joseph Colony, Lahore, where Christian families were forced to evacuate their village after angry Muslims threatened to burn it down.

A third attack against Pakistani Christians was waged on March 9, 2013. Houses in the Joseph Colony were burned down and property was destroyed; on April 3, 2013, Christians of Francis Abad, Gujranwala were attacked in their village. It is another episode of the sort of sectarian violence eating away at the Pakistani state.

According to Joseph Francis, chief of CLAAS (The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement), Pakistani Christian villages have turned into battlefields where armed groups are seen exchanging gunfire with each other. The recent episode left one dead and two injured.

Personal rivalry turned to religious violence, when the angry Muslim mob attacked Christians houses, they exchanged gunfire. Injured were taken to the hospital and police reached the spot immediately to control the situation. CLAAS teams have begin their journey to the village, added CLASS's chief.

Lazarus Allah Rakha and Rana Adnan, representatives of World Vision in Progress, say the gunfire exchange started when Christians were attacked and one of them named Samuel was seriously injured and taken to the hospital.

Angry Christian families started firing back, which resulted in one death and one injury. A First Investigation Report (FIR) has been registered against the culprits in the local police station, Kacha Khooh, Khaniwal. Mohammad Yousaf died on the spot and a FIR is registered against Albert s/o Nathaniel, Samuel s/o Albert, Amir s/o David, and Asif s/o Emmanuel, added WVIP representatives. More than 20 people were arrested from both parties, Lazarus added.

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(SalemNews)  http://www.salem-news.com/articles/april272013/pakistani-christians-sm.php

Egyptian police allowing attacks on Christians (FOX)

(FOX) 29 April 2013 - Newly-emerged video appears to show Egyptian police standing idly by - and even helping attackers during a deadly assault earlier this month on a Coptic cathedral where Christians were mourning five men killed in an earlier clash with Muslims.

The video shot April 7 and first obtained by MidEast Christian News, shows a men shooting guns, wielding machetes and hurling stones and possibly Molotov cocktails as mourners carry caskets out of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District of Cairo as uniformed police watch, unmoving. At one point, a police officer appears to help a gunman take aim at a courtyard full of mourners who had spilled out of the church. The attack left two Copts dead and another 84 people injured, including 11 police officers.

 

"There is a general feeling among citizens about the absence of law and the prestige of the state."

 

- Report on religious vilence in Egypt

 

When it was over, the only arrests made were of four Copts. Christians, who were already outraged over a three-day attack that began April 4 attack in Khosous which saw the four men killed and homes, a nursery and a church burned, said the events show how elusive justice is for Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the nation's population.

 

"Two Copts were killed during the attack on the Cathedral; four more died in Khosous, yet not one of their attackers has been arrested," said Andrew Johnston, advocacy director for Christian Solidarity Worldwide. “These arrests come at a time when the Coptic community in Egypt is still coming to terms with an unprecedented attack on the headquarters of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the violence in Khosous. Such discrepancies in the discharge of justice contribute to impunity, and can only foster more sectarianism.”

 

Tensions between Egypt's Christians and the majority Sunni Muslims have grown dramatically since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 and replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohammed Morsi.

"There is a general feeling among citizens about the absence of law and the prestige of the state," said a report released Wednesday by the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights. "Such a feeling could push the citizens to the violence and sectarianism without fearing from any deterrence, " reads a passage from the report.

 

"The recent incident proved the shrinking of the role of the state to control the actions of the individuals especially those people who think that they talk on the behalf of God," the report continued. "There is a need for implementing the law strictly to treat such incidents.”


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(FOX)  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/04/28/new-video-shows-egyptian-police-allowing-attack-on-coptic-cathedral/

Islamist group Uamsho distributes list of Pastors that should be killed on Zanzibar Island (INC)

(INC) 25 April 2013 - Uamho (Awakening)(The Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation known as Jumiki or Jumuiya ya Uamsho na mihadhara ya kiislam in Swahili language.), an Islamic group on the Island of Zanzibar have distributed a list with the names of pastors on the island that should be killed, and their churches destroyed.

Zanzibar, an Island that forms part of Tanzania has come under renewed persecution as Christian churches continue to be burnt down and leaders attacked. As a result many believers have fled the island to Tanzania in seek of safety.

Please pray for those believers who have been named on the list.

Pray for their safety and the safety of their families.

Pray that they will remains strong in their faith as persecution against the church of God increases. 

Seven house church leaders in China sentenced to prison (ChinaAid)

(ChinaAid) 24 April 2013 - A well-known U.S. church leader, Dennis Balcombe, was being held by police under house arrest in Henan province following a Saturday raid on a house church revival meeting, and his current whereabouts are unknown, ChinaAid has learned. 

Also in Henan province, seven house church leaders in Pingdingshan have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 7-1/2 years in prison on cult charges. 

In Nanyang, the raid by police, Domestic Security Protection agents and officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau occurred on Saturday morning, just hours after the start of what had been planned as a three-day revival meeting, with attendees from the city of Wenzhou and the provinces of Hubei and Henan, as well as house church believers from some other places. 

According to one of the attendees, the house church that had organized the meeting specializes in prayer ministry and calls itself Mt. Prayer Church. He said it is believed to be part of the Fangcheng Fellowship, one of China's largest and oldest house church networks. 

Also at the meeting was Dennis Balcombe from Hong Kong Revival Chinese Ministries International and two of its woman employees. ChinaAid's source about the raid said that when he and the local church leaders left, Balcombe and his co-workers were still being held by police under house arrest. 


When the 70 revival meeting attendees gathered on Saturday morning, they all handed over their cell phones to a designated person from the organizing church. This was a security precaution to prevent the phones becoming tracking devices that would lead authorities to their meeting site. They then boarded a bus to the meeting venue at a retreat center in the Wolong district of the city of Nanyang. 

At about 10 a.m., not long after the meeting began, several dozen police, Domestic Security Protection agents and religious affair bureau officials swarmed into the room. Without showing any identification, they began filming and photographing the event. When one of the attendees tried to take videos of them with his digital camera, it was confiscated from him and had not been returned at the time of this report. 

The Domestic Protection Security agents said they needed to check on some things in the room, then proceeded to finger print and palm print each person at the meeting. Each person was also interrogated, while a written record of the questioning was taken, and each person also had to sign police documents. 

Also in Henan, seven house church leaders were sentenced on April 1 to prison sentences ranging from three to 7-1/2 years, according to the well-known Christian lawyer Li Baiguang. Their defense lawyers received the verdict and sentencing papers just last week. 

Those who were sentenced were: 

Han Hai, 7-1/2 year sentence, male, aged 60, previously administratively detained twice, was also sentenced to a labor camp for three years. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.  

Hu Linpo, seven year sentence, from Singapore, male, aged 49, the house church’s main preacher, was detained in 1989 for 30 days. Criminally detained on April 18 and is now held in the Ye County Detention Center.  

Yang Lianbing, three-year sentence, male, aged 23, working in Zhengzhou. Now held in the Ye County Detention Center.  

Zhang Mian, four-year sentence, female, aged 37, owner of the residence where the church meets. Criminally detained on April 20, now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.  

Cao Xia, 3-1/2-year sentence, female, in her 50s, owner of another residence where the church meets. Police seized from her home CDs of Hu Linpo preaching and a computer used to make copies of the sermon CDs. Police also confiscated a Chinese-made Liebao SUV parked outside Cao’s home that belonged to a Christian man who was there to listen to the preaching. Cao was criminally detained on April 20 and is now held in the Pingdingshan Detention Center.  

Wang En, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, said to have helped make copies of Preacher Hu’s sermon CDs. Held in the Ye County Detention Center.  

Li Dan, three-year sentence, female, in her 20s, taken from Cao Xia’s home, probably for copying CDs. Held in the Pindingshan Detention Center.  

See our earlier report on this case: http://www.chinaaid.org/2012/06/update-pingdingshan-hebei-province.html?m=1

 

"This latest wave of religious persecution shows that the situation for religious freedom in China continues to worsen," said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu.

"We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately release Pastor Dennis Balcombe and his two coworkers from Hongkong. The officers who abused their powers by raiding a peaceful prayer service should be held accountable." 

ChinaAid is shocked at this incident and will monitor developments in this case closely. 

Below is a brief introduction to Balcombe and his ministry: 

Dennis Balcombe has long been in Christian ministry in Hong Kong and he speaks fluent Chinese.  He is regarded as the main figure behind mainland China's early charismatic movement.  In the 1960s, he founded City Revival Church in Hong Kong and later he founded Revival Chinese Ministries International.  He not only has been involved with the China's house churches, he has also teamed up to do ministry work with the government Three-Self churches, for example preaching at Three-Self churches. 

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(ChinaAid)  http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/04/henan-house-church-revival-meeting.html

Two prominent Christian leaders kidnapped in Syria (Reuters)

(Reuters) 23 April 2013 - Two prominent Syrian bishops, who had warned of the threat to religious tolerance and diversity from the two-year conflict in their country, were kidnapped on Monday by armed rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said.

SANA news agency said the Syriac Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, were seized by "a terrorist group" in the village of Kfar Dael as they were "carrying out humanitarian work".

A Syriac member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the men had been kidnapped on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa crossing with Turkey.

Several prominent Muslim clerics have been killed in Syria's uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, but the two bishops are the most senior church leaders caught up in the conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people across Syria.

Christians make up less than 10 percent of the country's 23 million people and, like other religious minorities, many have been wary of the mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Fears for their future if the rebels were to end 40 years of Assad dynastic rule, which ensured religious freedom without political rights, have increased with the growing strength of Islamist rebels and a pledge of allegiance to al Qaeda by the hardline Nusra Front rebels two weeks ago.

Steifo said Ibrahim had gone to collect Yazigi from the rebel-held Bab al-Hawa crossing because he had crossed there several times before and was familiar with the route.

The two men were driving to Aleppo when they were kidnapped, he added. Asked who was behind their abduction, Steifo said: "All probabilities are open."

"CHRISTIANS SUFFERING"

Last September Ibrahim said that hundreds of Christian families had fled Aleppo as rebels and soldiers battled for control of the country's biggest city.

"In its modern history Aleppo has not seen such critical and painful times...Christians have been attacked and kidnapped in monstrous ways and their relatives have paid big sums for their release," he told Reuters.

In the central city of Homs, which saw the heaviest bloodshed earlier this year, he said several churches and Christian centers had been damaged in the fighting.

"Until a few months ago the idea of escaping had not crossed the minds of the Christians, but after the danger worsened it has become the main topic of conversation."

Neighboring Iraq, where sectarian violence after the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein forced half the Christians to flee, offers frightening parallels for Syrian Christians, while the revival of Islamists in the 2011 Arab uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt also fills Syria's Christians with foreboding.

Writing in January, Yazigi said was important that the uprisings known as the "Arab Spring" should not jeopardize centuries of religious diversity in the Middle East.

"What is the spring without the diversity and richness of colors in comparison with the haze...of winter? Diversity is richness while monochromatic uniformity is a ticking bomb that kills its owner," he said.

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(Reuters)  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/22/us-syria-crisis-bishops-idUSBRE93L13120130422

Trans World Radio takes Gospel to North Korea (CN)

(CN) 23 April 2013 - A Cary-based group is broadcasting messages of God’s love and peace to North Korea’s Christian population as threats of the nation’s nuclear firepower dominate headlines.

Trans World Radio, a Cary-based organization that broadcasts non-denominational Christian programming to more than 160 countries around the world, is increasing its programming in North Korea because its people need peace now more than ever, said Lauren Libby, chief executive officer for Trans World Radio.

“We’re talking to an individual person in a very difficult situation,” Libby said. “How do you come to personal peace when you’re living in a country like that? It’s a biblical standpoint to how a person would respond to persecution, how to respond to extreme pressure … the Bible addresses all of those issues.”

The transmitters to North Korea are based in Guam, because they would be illegal within the country. Trans World Radio, also called TWR, aims to set up partner organizations run by natives of the country they are located in, but that’s not yet a possibility in North Korea, Libby said.

The employees of the transmitters in Guam have been setting up contingency plans as threats of a possible missile strike loom, Libby said.

“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen, frankly,” Libby said. “We’re concerned, but we’re not uptight about it.”

TWR can’t track how many listeners it has in North Korea, but it does occasionally receive messages from listeners there, Libby said.

Fewer than 1 percent of the North Korean population is Christian, according to Hwansoo Kim, a professor of religion and Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University.

“Among all other religions, Christianity is considered the most dangerous to the North Korean ideology because Christianity is associated with Western imperialism,” Kim said. “Christians are singled out as the worst thing, over any other crime, and that’s the kind of rhetoric among the North Korean regime.”

But Libby said Jesus spoke of God’s love amid oppression, and North Korean Christians can learn from that.

“Most believers who are Christians in the country have to practice in private, or they get together in homes and they do it in an almost clandestine nature,” Libby said. “We have known of people who would meet in homes and listen to radio programs. It’s a resource not only to individuals but groups of Christians who get together in a very difficult circumstance.”

Scholars think there are many underground Christian leaders in North Korea, Kim said. Though it must be done secretly, Christian faith can be an advantage not just ideologically but socioeconomically, Kim said. Pastors in South Korea have been known to send food and money to Christians in North Korea to help them eventually flee the country.

“But (church meetings) are really dangerous,” Kim said. “Once they get caught, that’s the end to your life.”

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(CN) http://www.carynews.com/2013/04/20/73316/cary-based-group-broadcasts-to.html

Mounting violence in Egypt causing Christian to flee (CNS)

(CNS) 22 April 2013 - Mounting sectarian violence in Egypt is pushing tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians to look for security abroad, say Christian community members, church leaders and aid workers.


Some of the most serious sectarian violence occurred April 7 at Egypt's main Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo, when a crowd confronted angry Christian demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans as they were leaving the funeral of four Christians killed in a gunfight the previous day.

Police fired tear gas over the walls of St. Mark Orthodox Cathedral and reportedly stepped aside as the unknown assailants, armed with petrol bombs and other weapons, attacked those inside the cathedral grounds.

"The police not only didn't protect the cathedral, but they fired tear gas into the cathedral," said Alfred Raouf, an Egyptian opposition party member, describing the events to Catholic News Service.

Egyptian newspapers reported a Muslim who had been injured at the scene April 7 died of his injuries April 9.

The Cairo office of the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services reported in mid-March that "almost 11 incidents" of clashes between Muslims and Christians in Egypt had occurred over the past two years, and that as many as "100,000 Christian families" had already left the country over fears for their future.

Coptic Christians account for an estimated 10 percent of Egypt's nearly 90 million people. Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims.

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(CNS)  http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301621.htm

Vietnam Christian murdered while in custody (CSW)

(CSW) 19 April 2013 - Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has received new information concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of Vietnamese church leader Hoang Van Ngai (also known as Vam Ngaij Vaj), who died in police custody in Dak Glong District in Dak Nong Province on 17 March.

Police claims that Ngai died after putting his hand into an electric socket have been contested by his family members.

Reports by Ngai’s relatives state that his wife and sister-in-law were arrested on 14 March and were forcibly taken to the police station in Gia Nghia. Ngai and his elder brother Hoang Van Pa were arrested the following day and were detained in adjacent cells. The reason for the arrests was not clear; the police did not present or refer to any arrest warrant or temporary detention order.

At approximately 3pm on 17 March, Ngai’s brother heard the sound of violent beating coming from his brother’s cell. When the police took Ngai out of his cell, his brother saw that he was “completely limp as if he was dead, gone, purple marks on his throat.” Prison guards denied Pa’s request to go with his brother.

Ngai was an elder of Bui Tre Church, which belongs to a legally recognised denomination, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South). According to other members of the Hmong community, Ngai was a compassionate and courageous person who helped those in need and defended the church he helped to build. Ngai’s older brother believes he made enemies amongst government officials because he stood up against abuses of power and refused to pay bribes.

On 18 March, the police headquarters announced that Ngai was dead; however, his family felt that this announcement did not make clear the reason for his death. In addition, the family reject the suggestion made by Mr Dien, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Dak Nong Province that Ngai may have committed suicide. Ngai’s wife, brother and sister-in-law have submitted a letter of petition to the Chief of Police in Dak Nong Province requesting an investigation into the case and the indictment of the person(s) responsible for Ngai’s death and the arrest of his family members.

CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “As more information comes to light about the tragic circumstances of Hoang Van Ngai’s death, CSW again calls on the Vietnamese Government to fully investigate this case and the possibility that the victim was tortured while in police custody. We also urge the government to take measures to guarantee that the right to religious freedom is upheld across the country, in order to prevent further violations against believers.”

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(CSW)  http://dynamic.csw.org.uk/article.asp?t=press&id=1520

Christian convert tortured in Somalia (CT)

(CT) 18 April 2013 - Muslim militants still controlling part of the Lower Shebelle Region of Somalia have jailed and tortured a Christian for converting from Islam, sources said.

According to a story by Morning Star News, Al Shabaab rebels seized Hassan Gulled, 25, on March 23 in Bulo Marer near Qoryoley District, they said.

Gulled, who had fled to Kenya in 2007 in search of safety and a better life, had left Kenya on February 27 to visit family in Somalia, sources said.

Gulled is one of dozens of Somali refugees in Kenya facing dangers from Al Shabaab extremists as they return to Somalia following the establishment of a new government in Mogadishu and the weakening of Al Shabaab, which once held large portions of territory.

Morning Star News said as Gulled was only visiting family in Somalia, his wife remained in an undisclosed city in Kenya. Al Shabaab extremists in Kenya who knew of his Christian activities there apparently contacted members of the militant group in Somalia, who monitored his movement for three weeks before seizing him, sources said.

"Four masked, armed militia from Al Shabaab took Gulled into a Land Cruiser and then drove away as family watched him helplessly," Morning Star News reported one source said.

Another source said it was confirmed that Gulled has been jailed in Bulo Marer.

"The Al Shabaab have been torturing him to see whether he would deny his Christian faith," the source said. "Since last week, no information has surfaced concerning Gulled. There is a possibility that he could have been killed."

A militant Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda, Morning Star News said Al Shabaab has a base in Bulo Marer, about 50 miles from Mogadishu.

Last week, however, Somali government troops backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces had reportedly taken control of nearby Qoryoley.

Morning Star News said Al Shabaab has vowed to rid Somalia of Christians, who meet secretly due to persecution. Besides Al Shabaab, the government and many in Somali society also view leaving Islam as deserving of death.

Gulled became a Christian in Kenya in 2010. He married there in 2011 and has no children.

"Gulled's wife is very distressed and worried that she might not see her husband again," Morning Star News reported a source said.

Many Somali members of Christian fellowships in Kenya have returned to Somalia after formation of a Somali government on August 20, 2012, which replaced the Transitional Federal Government, said the source, who requested anonymity.

"Several Christian agencies are helping them settle," Morning Star News reported he said. "But we are worried that some of our members are being monitored closely by Islamic extremists."

Al Shabaab has lost control of several areas of Somalia since Kenyan military forces helped to dislodge them in the past year, but they are suspected in the shooting death of a Christian pharmacist on the outskirts of Kismayo in February.

Morning Star News said two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on February 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village.

On December 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles north of Mogadishu, gunmen killed a Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. Two unidentified, masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home, Muslim and Christian sources said.

Morning Star News said Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000 according to a source who used to worship with them, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. That was after Somalia's transitional federal government and African Union Mission in Somalia troops captured Beledweyne from Al Shabaab rebels.

Morning Star News said the area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels who have vowed to rid the country of Christianity, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, 12 miles away. Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

In the coastal city of Barawa on November 16, 2012, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said.

Morning Star News said Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in Somalia's Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia.

Kenya's population is nearly 83 per cent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 per cent Muslim.

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(Christian Today)  http://www.christiantoday.com/article/reports.of.christian.convert.tortured.in.somalia/32167.htm

Pastor fined in Azerbaijan (MNN)

(MNN) 12 April 2013Azerbaijan ― A court in Azerbaijan has fined a pastor and church worker, another blow to religious freedom in the country. Azerbaijan has restricted religious freedom over the last decade, refusing registration for evangelical churches and restricting churches from holding services.

Pastor Zaur Balaev was arrested and charged on trumped up changes in 2007. This appears to be another attempt to persecute him. This time Balaev and church worker, Hinayat Shabanova, were fined more than $1,900.

Spokesman for Slavic Gospel Association Joel Griffith says the fines are just another trial for Balaev. "His wife, Nunuka, developed pancreatic cancer, so he's been in the middle of trying to make sure she gets treated for her serious illness. Then, to have to face these legal difficulties is just doubly tragic."

Pastor Balaev's church has been seeking registration since 1994. Forum 18 reports that's the longest known period for any religious community in Azerbaijan. "Now, in light of them continuing to meet, obviously, and worship as a church--even though they've not been able to get legal registration, authorities have moved in now and decided to levy these very severe fines," says Griffith.

Griffith says Christians in the West need to be wise in their response to this. "We don't want to do anything that would cause any harm to come to any of our missionary pastors or any of the churches there. We've seen sometimes where western pressure has the opposite result, and they end up cracking down even harder."

Christians are being asked to pray on behalf of pastors in Central Asia. "We think of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan--so many of these Muslim-dominated regions where believers are having a very tough time. They need our intercessory prayer," Griffith says.

He continues, "Pray that the Lord would raise up resources to help in this situation. Certainly it's not just going to be Pastors Balaev and Shabanov; there are others that may need help."

The Azeri Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists is appealing the fines to a higher court. In the meantime, Griffith says, "Our sponsor church planters are going to be doing all we can to come alongside and support [them]."

Despite the fines and persecution, the churches are growing in these nations.

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http://mnnonline.org/article/18425 

Muslims Attack Christian Funeral in Egypt, 1 Killed, 23 Injured (ANS)

(ANS) 8 April 2013 - Cairo, Egypt Thousands of Copts attended the funeral service held today (Sunday, April 7, 2013) at St Mark Cathedral in Cairo for the Coptic victims killed by Muslims on April 4 and 5 in al-Khosous, Qaliubiya. The service was attended by Christians from all denominations as well as Muslims.

According to Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org), priests holding the service were unable to calm the Copts and at several times the service was interrupted by the wailing of the mothers of the victims, protests by angry Copts demanding retribution, and chants saying “no to the persecution and killing of Copts.” Political chants dominated the scene, demanding President Morsi to “Go Away,” and banners holding him responsible for the killing of Copts in al-Khosous were displayed.

After the funeral services ended, as coffins and attendants were leaving the cathedral, unidentified persons fired shots in front of the cathedral, she said. It was reported that clashes took place between Copts coming out of the Cathedral and Muslims in the area, and that Muslims were on roof tops of neighboring buildings firing at them (See video at: www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u4lUfrhoqQU#! )

Muslim activists who were present at the funeral, such as renowned activist Alaa Abdel Fatah, and the Maspero Coptic Youth Unions, among others, tried in vain to bring the Coptic youth inside the Cathedral to avoid a confrontation with the Muslim attackers.

“Fire broke out in one of the buildings inside the headquarters of the cathedral after Molotov cocktails were hurled at it. The fire was put out by the civil protection forces,” said Abdelmassih. “24 Copts were injured and were transported to nearby Demerdash Hospital. One of Copts, Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim, died from gun shots wounds to the head and neck after reaching the hospital. Eye-witnesses reported there were no security forces guarding the Cathedral.

“After fighting broke out, Security forces arrived late and blocked several roads leading to the Cathedral. Security fired tear gas at the Papal residence and the Cathedral, which was filled with hundreds of mourners. Several NGOs received calls from mourners inside the cathedral, saying they were in great danger of suffocation.”

The Free Egyptian Party condemned the attack on the coffins in front of the Cathedral as being “collusion.” Mohamad Abu Hamad, former MP, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of shooting cartridges towards the petrol station neighboring the Cathedral.

Video (www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5J7BY8gg880#!) shows street fighting and houses neighboring St. Mark Cathedral burning.

Street fighting as cathedral burns 

The Council of Churches of Egypt condemned the attack on the cathedral of St. Mark, and said in its statement that attacks on places of worship are unacceptable. The statement called on state agencies to immediately intervene. Pope Tawadros II called on the need for “calm and the realization of the mind to maintain the safety of the nation, the lives and national unity.”

Also father Dumas Fekry of St. Georges church in al-Khosous confirmed this morning that since yesterday evening there was gunfire near the church, without casualties.

“The Interior Ministry said in a statement issued this afternoon the funeral mourners were responsible for causing the clashes,” added Abdelmassih.

“Late yesterday evening the head of Forensics examined Coptic bodies and reported that the four Copts killed at al-Khosous were shot by snipers from high places, based on the angle of the passing bullets.” 

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Article by Dan Wooding

http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13040037.htm 

Christian family in India beaten for observing Holy Week (CNW)

(ChristianNewsWire) 31 March 2013 - On March 27 in the middle of the Christian observance of Holy Week, a band of Religious fanatics burst into the home of Indian Christians, beating all family members and maiming the mother. The family had just sat down to dinner in their home in an undisclosed area of Uttar Pradesh, India, when the attack began.

Photo: Prayer meetings in homes, like the once pictured here, are common in India. During Holy Week, one such home was targeted by religious fanatics. A Christian family of five was severely beaten, and the mother's hand was cut off.

Every member of the family suffered brutal injuries. Mrs. Survati, the mother, was severely maimed. Attackers severed her hand, cutting it into two pieces. Their 22-year-old daughter, Archana, was badly beaten and her hand fractured. The father, Ramnath, and daughter Antika were also beaten, and Arvind, their 20-year-old son, suffered injuries that rendered him unconscious.

Neighbors came to the aid of the family and admitted them to a hospital where they are all currently receiving medical aid.

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(CNW)  http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/5778071793.html

Sudan continues to bomb Christian villages (Assist)

(Assist) 28 March 2013 - Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org) is reporting that the Sudanese government’s bombing of predominantly Christian, ethnic Nuba civilians in South Kordofan state has taken more lives the first three months of this year – possibly including Muslims, sources said.

 

Thousands of Nuba Mountain civilians have taken refuge from government bombing in caves. 
(Diocese of El Obeid photo)

Two civilians were killed and 12 seriously wounded on March 19 when a Sudan government Antonov airplane dropped bombs on them in the Hadra area, local sources told Morning Star News. The identities and religion of those killed and wounded were not available, but there are some Muslim Nuba people in the area, they said.

 

“The government’s Russian-made Antonov airplanes dropped bombs that killed six Christians on Jan. 9 and destroyed a church building on March 11, sources said. Since South Sudan split from Sudan in a 2011 referendum, Nuba people in Sudan’s South Kordofan state believe the government’s goal of quashing Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) rebels is also meant to rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity.

“The March 11 bombing in the Angolo area reduced the Evangelical Church building to ashes, sources said. A store attached to the church building was also destroyed, but no injuries were reported,” said the Morning Star News Sudan Correspondent.

“The bombardment took place while believers were away from church that day,” a Christian leader from the area said by phone.

In Dabi, one of the Jan. 9 bombs hit as Christians were holding a worship service in a home, area sources said; three of those present were killed, but only one, Simon Juma, was identified. Another bomb from the same plane fell near the house of a member of the Sudanese Church of Christ, Krna Tutu, instantly killing a mother and her two sons, an area Christian leader said.

Online news portal Nuba Reports (www.nubareports.org), run by aid worker Ryan Boyette, who remained in South Kordofan after his Christian humanitarian organization was forced to evacuate after military conflict escalated in 2011, reported that Sudan dropped eight bombs on Dabi on Jan. 9, the town’s market day, killing 58-year-old Abdu Jadaih and wounding seven others, including a 68-year-old woman, Nadia Arna, whose leg was severed by shrapnel.

“These bombardments are major sources of fear among the people in South Kordofan,” a church leader who recently returned from the region told Morning Star News.

Bombings in February destroyed cattle and several homes and injured at least two people, and previously unknown attacks on Christmas Day have also come to light. A source who recently returned from the region said one bomb hit the home of Ayoub Kodi, an evangelist in the Koda area, injuring him. Also on Dec. 25, an Antonov bomber destroyed the house of Basama Kodi of the Episcopal Church of Sudan in the area.

“Since military conflict began in June 2011, the Sudanese military has bombed Nuba churches, schools and farms, with most civilian deaths taking place where witnesses reportedly told Human Rights Watch there was no evident military target or rebel soldier,” said the correspondent.

“Thousands of civilians have reportedly taken refuge in Nuba Mountain caves in South Kordofan, which borders South Sudan. The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern Sudan.”

 

SPLA-N fighters practice with a mortar as others watch near Jebel Kwo village in the rebel-held territory of the Nuba Mountains in 
South Kordofan, Sudan

The SPLA-N rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The SPLA’s political arm, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), now governs South Sudan, and a border conflict has kept the two Sudans on the verge of another full-scale war since June 2011. The growing rebel movement in the Nuba Mountains has sparked tensions, and Sudan reportedly bombed civilians in the South Sudan state of North Bahr El Ghazal on Nov. 20-22, killing seven.

 

“Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process,” added the correspondent.

“The disputed election of Ahmed Haroun as state governor – many in South Kordofan consider him a Khartoum appointment – helped trigger military conflict in 2011.

“Nuba Mountain Christians increasingly feel they are being driven into South Sudan, especially as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said post-secession Sudan will adhere more exclusively to Islam and Arabic culture.

“At the same time, near the capital city of Khartoum, a continuing wave of arrests of workers at Christian organizations has deeply unsettled the Christian community. A force composed of both police and National Intelligence and Security Services on Feb. 25 arrested five Christian from three Christian ministries in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city on the other side of the Nile River, sources said.

“The workers were released shortly after their arrests but must report regularly to the NISS office.”

A source told Morning Start News said, “The situation is tense for Christians. But thank God He hears the prayers of His children around the world.”

Note: Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation whose mission is to inform those in the free world and in countries violating religious freedom about Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith.

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(Assist)  http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13030133.htm

Christian leaders in Nigeria appeal to believers to forgive their persecutors (AA)

(AllAfrica) 28 March 2013 - Abuja — Ven. Shola Igbari, an Anglican cleric, has appealed to Christians to maintain peace with their neighbours during the Holy Week this came also as Rev. Fr. Henry Kwasu, another Abuja-based priest, advised Nigerians to cultivate the habit of forgiving and praying in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Igbari, on Sunday, in Abuja said that the holy week was a "time for prayer, penance, reflection and spiritual works".

The holy week, the last week of Lent in the orthodox Christian calendar, begins with the Palm Sunday celebration, culminating with Easter Eve or Holy Saturday.

Igbari enjoined Christians to pray fervently for peace and security in Nigeria following the recent wave of terrorist killings in some parts of the country.

On the significance of the Palm Sunday celebrations, the cleric said it marked "victory for the nation over our challenges.

"It is the triumph of good over evil, and a wake-up call for Christians to work together and ensure lasting peace in the country."

Igbari, who is the Vicar of St Matthew's Anglican Church at Maitama in Abuja, also appealed to Christians to use the holy week to offer help and assistance to the less-privileged.

Cleric urges Nigerians to cultivate habit of forgiveness, prayer

Rev. Fr. Henry Kwasu, an Abuja-based priest, has advised Nigerians to cultivate the habit of forgiving and praying in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Kwasu, who is of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Nyanya in Abuja, gave the advice on Sunday during the celebration of Palm Sunday at the church.

He said Nigerians should also endeavour to pray for their enemies.

"The betrayal by a relation or close friend is more painful, but we must learn to forgive them, no matter the pains this may cause. Forgiveness is the only thing we owe them.

"We should also pray for our enemies, and we should stop praying for them to die because Christ forgave the people that crucified him," the priest said.

Kwasu advised those passing through hard times to be patient as "the Lord will answer them in his time".

The priest cautioned Nigerians to "avoid doing bad things in order to make ends meet.

"For those who are undergoing suffering, calm down, the Lord will reward you in due time."

He said prayers and fasting should be part of people's lives as they make the person spiritually strong to overcome temptations.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.

During this, palm branches were placed on his path, before his arrest on Holy Thursday and his Crucifixion on Good Friday.

Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of lent when Christians celebrate the mystery of their salvation through Christ's death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.(NAN)

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(AllAfrica)  http://allafrica.com/stories/201303250317.html?viewall=1

4 Foreign Christians arrested in Libya to be released after spending more that  a month in prison (Bloomberg) 

(Bloomberg) 27 March 2013 - Libya is to free four foreign Christians arrested in the eastern city of Benghazi for proselytizing after more than a month in jail, an official said.

The foreigners, a South African woman, a man with joint American-Swedish nationality, an Egyptian and South Korean, will be deported after their release, said Abdul Salam Barghathi, commanding officer of the Office of Preventative Security, a department of the Defense Ministry, in an interview in Benghazi.

“To keep good diplomatic relations, they are going to be allowed to go back to their countries,” he said, declining to give a date. They were arrested because the distribution of Christian literature is a “threat to homeland security,” he said.

The Office of Preventative Security was created in April 2011 shortly after the revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi began, and says its mission is to safeguard Libya and its Islamic culture. Units patrol in jeeps with license-plates bearing the words Preventative Security in Arabic and English.

While the group has authority across the country, it is most active in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and home to the nation’s Islamist militias, which seek to enforce a strict interpretation of Sharia law in the region. Eastern Libya accounts for 85 percent of the country’s oil production, according to Abdeljalil Mayuf, a spokesman for Arabian Gulf Oil Co., a state oil producer.

Egyptians Arrested

Foreign Christians in Benghazi, many of whom are Egyptian guest workers, are from the Coptic church. Tripoli is home to Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Coptic and Anglican churches, frequented by diplomats and other foreign workers.

On March 1, the Office of Preventative Security announced the arrest of 48 Egyptians, who were accused of evangelism and one of whom died in custody, triggering protests by Christians in Cairo. Islamists have gone further, setting fire to the Egyptian Coptic church in Benghazi on March 14.

Speaking in his office, Barghathi said the four foreigners were arrested for distributing Christian literature from a warehouse, a crime under the statute inherited from the previous regime. “We still work under Qaddafi law,” he said.

Barghathi said a consignment of 55,000 Christian books and pamphlets were seized by his men, together with a photocopying machine, which he said is now being used by his staff.

‘Homeland Security’

“Some of these bibles were being given to children and the poor. This is a question of homeland security,” he said. “Libya is 100 percent Muslim, we don’t have Christians and Jews, and nobody will accept any other religions.” He advised Copts not to seek a new church in the city.

The burned-out church, close to the central gold market, was deserted this week, the front door open. Inside, charred timbers and furniture are scattered around together with rotting fruit from the kitchen.

Abdul Mohammed, who lives nearby, said local Muslims saved the priest after the raid by young Islamists, and that most Muslims disapproved of the arson.

“We always had good relations with the Christians, they are our friends,” he said.

Meged Labib, a 25-year-old Egyptian clothing seller in the market agreed. He said the Christian community is increasingly nervous as he pulled back his sleeve to reveal a small blue cross tattooed on his wrist, proof of his religion.

“Our priest has gone to Egypt,” he said. “Now, we hold services only in our homes.”

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(Bloomberg)  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-03-26/libya-says-four-foreign-christians-will-be-freed-jail

Radical Islamists threaten Holy week celebrations in Indonesia (AsiaNews)

(AsiaNews) 26 March 2013 - This Holy Week will be full of tensions for Catholics in West Jakarta, who put up with repeated threats over the weekend from hundreds of Islamic extremists, who tried to block access to Christ the Peace Catholic Church in Kepa Duri, an administrative area west of the Indonesian capital.

Last Saturday, on the eve of Palm Sunday, Islamist groups made serious threats against Catholics in Kepa Duri, telling the priest and the faithful to cancel scheduled weekend celebrations.

Their hatred was triggered by the fact that the place of worship is located inside a school, which, in their opinion, "should not be used" for religious services.

The extremists tried to attack the site when the priest and some members of the congregation started a prayer meeting. As a result, Fr Matthew Widyolestari turned to the Interfaith Forum in Jakarta, which met with the leaders of the extremist protest.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Fr Matthew said that Sunday services would be held "regularly, as scheduled," which is what happened. Yesterday in fact, the faithful were able to attend Mass, also thanks to the massive deployment of security forces sent to protect their life.

Now attention has turned on Holy Week services, with the maximum level of vigilance in force.

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(AsiaNews) http://www.asianews.it/news-en/West-Jakarta:-Islamist-threats-against-Holy-Week-celebrations-27488.html 

Beijing Shouwang Church Continues With Its Outdoor Worship Services despite Police Arrests and Harassment (ANS)

(ANS) 22 March 2013 - The extraordinary battle between the Chinese authorities and the Beijing Shouwang Church (shouwang means “to keep watch”, is continuing unabated with the embattled Chinese House Church, the biggest of about 3,000 of such congregations in the city, holding its latest outdoor worship service of 2013.

Members of the Shouwang Church during an outdoor worship service

This evangelical House Church group, were kicked out of their previous location, a restaurant, nearly two years ago, when the landlord of the venue was ordered by the authorities to cancel their lease.

In a posting on Facebook (www.facebook.com/prayforshouwang), a member of the beleaguered church, which has been forced to change headquarters more than 20 times, and was prevented from buying or renting a church building, shared about their latest “illegal” gathering.

The message said, “Dear brothers and sisters:

“Peace in the Lord! On this past Sunday, we held the eleventh outdoor worship service of 2013. It was a cloudy day with haze. As far as we know, two sisters were taken to be detained at a hotel separately on Friday and Saturday, and at least nineteen believers were taken away from locations near the platform or from their homes.

“Some of them were released soon after they were taken away, and the rest of them were detained at three police stations, including Zhongguancun Street police station. They all got released around noon on Sunday.

“We have held outdoor service for nearly two years now. Although we don’t know how much longer this journey will take, we believe that what we have experienced in this journey, with the permission of God, is not in vain.”

The message concluded with, “Peace be to the brothers,[a] and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.” (Ephesians 6:23-24)

The church was founded in 1993 by Jin Tianming, a chemical engineering graduate of Tsinghua University. Since then, the number of its members has increased from 10 to 1,000 as of June 2011.

To start with, the Shouwang Church's services are conducted at members' homes or in rented conference rooms; its other activities include 40 biblical reading groups, choir practice and catechism. Shouwang members typically belong to the middle and upper classes, and include professors, doctors, lawyers, students and even Party members.Like other house churches, the Shouwang Church has been subject to constant harassment by the Chinese authorities, who disapprove of religious groups that are not subject to state control.

The only state-sanctioned Protestant Church officially allowed in China is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement or TSPM, but the House Church Movement, including the Shouwang Church, refuses to register with what they consider an atheistic government and so are considered by the government to be illegal.

The House Churches claim that registration brings government restrictions on evangelism, Sunday School, baptizing teens and children and other activities. In addition, ChinaAid's founder and president, Bob Fu, says government-appointed leaders, many of whom are Communist Party members, are at the helm of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Because of their location in the capital city of China, the Shouwang Church appears to have been especially singled out by the authorities who have tried to shut them down, but despite constant arrests, they have so far failed.

Persecution of this particular church intensified in the context of the general 2011 crackdown on dissidents, following an announcement by church leaders that they would begin holding Sunday prayer meetings in public, if they were not allowed to acquire premises.

As of June 2011, several dozen Shouwang followers were detained every week and forced to sign a disavowal of their spiritual leader before being released, and six church leaders were placed under house arrest at that time.

According to the German weekly Die Zeit, on one occasion, Beijing police used around 4,500 officers to provide surveillance of Zhongguancun Square and of the homes of about 500 church members, to prevent the church from congregating, but despite this, they are still meeting and being arrested.

"The Chinese Communist Party is always afraid of any form of organization independent from the control of the central government," said Mark Shan, news analyst for ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom and has chronicled Shouwang Church's struggles.

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http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2013/s13030102.htm

Christians told, "protest again and you will die!" (DT)

(CT) 18 March 2013 HUNDREDS of Pakistani Christians became homeless in Badami Bagh, Lahore, on Saturday, March 9 after an attack by a mob of 3000 fanatics. Two hundred homes in the Joseph Colony were turned to ashes and poor Christians of the neighbourhood are now living in the streets, desperate for food and other needs. Their children cannot attend school or college due to the destruction and fear. Many residents have expressed great dismay and sorrow, and depression is seeping through the entire community. 


One Sajid Masih said, “I feel helpless and unable to do anything for myself and my family”, as he broke into tears. Christians around the country are incensed by the recurring theme of blasphemy allegation followed by attacks and burning down of their vulnerable communities. They have held protests across the country in a concerted effort to vent their disgust at the recent incident and to show solidarity with the victims. 

In Youhanabad and Kot Lakhpat, Lahore police used the opportunity to beat the innocent Christian protesters. They shot tear gas shells at them and beat them with sticks. Yet when the Muslim attack took place they stood back and watched till the town had been razed to the ground. There were protests in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Jhelum and Sahiwal, to name but a few.

Jhelum controversy: Muslims of Jhelum city have threatened to burn Christians home in response to the protests. Now the community is living in fear of reprisals for their simple act of condemning violence and the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. According to sources, on March 12, 2013, when Christians of Jhelum city went to protest against the violence in Joseph Colony, chanting slogans “Repeal Blasphemy Law” and “Blasphemy law is Black Law”, local imams called on Muslims from the mosque loudspeakers to gather and punish those Christians who were decrying the blasphemy law. Local radicals have pressured the area police station to lodge a First Investigation Report – FIR under 295-C PPC against Christians who chanted slogans against the blasphemy laws.

Basharat Khokhar, a human rights activist, told us that around 26 Christian families have been living among the large Muslim population of Machine 2 mohallah since Partition. The local Christians arranged a protest to show solidarity with Christians of Joseph Colony, and Mr George Masih led the protest rally. They obtained permission from the district police officer (DPO) who provided them with security. There were 250 people in the protest rally. The next day Muslims demanded the arrest of George Masih and called for the registration of an FIR against him. 

Sialkot: Pastor Naeem Bhadhar, a Presbyterian missionary living in a village Kalaswala, Pasroor Road, district Sialkot, 140 kilometres away from Lahore city, told me on telephone that he had arranged a protest rally in their city, but on March 14 when he was travelling back to his village a few radical Muslims from Jamaatud Dawa severely beat him with sticks and destroyed his motorcycle. He was severely injured and was taken to hospital where he got a number of stitches on his left arm. He has been warned by the extremist group that if any Christian organises further protests, he will be killed!

British Pakistani Christian Association Chairman Wilson Chowdhry has said, “The quality of life for Pakistani Christians has reached its nadir, this recent attack on Badami Bagh is unwarranted and a blight on the nation.” St Joseph’s community have been left destitute and homeless and when other Pakistani Christian communities decried this treatment, they have been savagely attacked by police authorities and threatened by local imams.

---------------------------------------------

 article by Shamim Masih

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C03%5C16%5Cstory_16-3-2013_pg7_15

Christian Villagers Beaten, Tormented in Eastern India (CP)

(CP) 15 March 2013Christians in the eastern region of India were tortured and beaten for hours in their village by local police officers last month, Barnabas Fund reported Tuesday.

Around 60 officers surrounded Phatachanchara village at 2:30am and forced their way into the homes of Christians on Feb 15.

The Ganjam district village in Orissa, India was in an uproar and a four-year-old boy received a fractured hand after an officer stepped on it, according to Barnabas Fund, an organization that supports persecuted and oppressed Christians.

One of the villagers apprehended by officers was tied to a tree and assaulted while crying out to God. "O God, O Jesus. Alleluia, Alleluia," they cried, causing the police officers to become more angry and violent, according to the U.K.-based organization.

The Christian Post attempted to contact Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Fund, for comments, but was unsuccessful.

Barnabas Fund reported that Pastor Jahaya Mandal was interrogated by police after comingforward to see what all of the commotion was about. While a church deacon, Korneil Roita, was then tied to a tree and severally beaten.

 

Mandal, Roita and six other Christian villagers were led out of the village, bound at the hands at 6:30am. Police forced them to walk on thorny, rocky ground for over two miles with bare feet. This caused great pain and bleeding in the tired feet of the villagers. They were then taken to another village over seven miles from their own.

Christian Indians are at risk of attack, typically by Hindu extremists, because they are the religious minority in the region. Police often do not intervene, but they rarely take part in the attacks. In a note on Persecution.org, International Christian Concern stated that police killed five Christians in the state that the villagers were tortured.

The note read, "Violent attacks against Christians in India, including assault, battery, rape and murder, have long gone ignored or under-investigated by local police officials. In the worst cases, local police officials have crossed the line from passive acquiescence to active participation in attacks on Christians. According to a report from India's eastern state of Orissa, five Christians were killed by local police after being mistaken for Maoists."

Odisha is home to over 36 million people and is primarily Hindu.

----------------------------

Article by Dayna Lovelady 

http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-villagers-beaten-tormented-in-eastern-india-91833/ 

Christian ethnic groups in Burma remain under attack (ICC)

(ICC) 13 March 2013 - Christians around the world who’ve been praying for Burma have been warned against ‘euphoria’ over reform, while Christian and Muslim minorities remain under attack by the military.

Sunday March 10 marked the 16th anniversary of the Global Day of Prayer for Burma, which celebrated some progress towards reform, but warned that grave issues remained, especially the continuing attacks against the Kachin and Rohingya ethnic and religious minorities.

The Day of Prayer followed a new report claiming government troops have destroyed 66 churches in Kachin State in the north of Burma, on the border with China and India. The report, by the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT), also claimed the military are using rape as a weapon of war. It said the Burma army had set fire to churches after the collapse of the ceasefire in Kachin State in 2011. A recent report by Amnesty International has condemned air-strikes against the mainly Christian Kachin.

Hkanhpa Sadan, the Joint Secretary of the Kachin National Organisation, told the prayer event in London that up to 100,000 Kachin have been driven from their homes. 75,000 had sought shelter in temporary camps along the China border. He criticised the UN for failing to bring in relief aid and said: ‘The people are living on rice and salt – that is the only nutrition they can get. The UN is not pushing hard enough to bring in humanitarian aid.’

He described the attacks as religious persecution: ‘When the Burma army come to the villages, they torch the churches but don’t touch the pagodas.’ He told World Watch Monitor: ‘They want us to be Burman, to be Buddhist, and to follow their orders.’ The mainly Christian Kachin are seeking autonomy within Burma, and say they are attacked for being both separatist and Christian.

Hkanhpa Sadan was sceptical about the claim that widespread reform is taking place in Burma. ‘We don’t see this as genuine. In Kachin State we haven’t seen reform at all. All the reforms seem to be centred on Rangoon and Mandalay, and aimed at the Burman [tribal] majority.’

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(ICC)  http://www.persecution.org/2013/03/12/christian-ethnic-group-remains-under-attack-in-burma/

Iranian Christian facing apostasy charges if deported from Sweden (MohabtNews)

(MohabatNews) 11 March 2013 - Asylum application of two Christian converts in Sweden has been rejected, while they had converted from Islam to Christianity about ten years ago. Converting from Islam to any religion in Iran is considered apostasy and is punishable by death. If these Christians are deported to Iran, there are concerns that they will be treated as apostates.

According to "Mohabat News", with the beginning of Islamic revolution in Iran and rise of Islamic theocracy, and establishment of Islamic Law (sharia), many non-Muslim Iranians and especially, those converted to Christianity were detained, imprisoned and even murdered. Five Iranian pastors killed brutally by the Revolutionary Guards. As a result, many decided to leave the country despite their own will.

Two Iranian Christian converts, Majid and Hamid Khosravi, currently living in Sweden, are at risk of being deported to Iran. They converted to Christianity approximately ten years ago in Iran. Due to many harassments and persecutions by the Islamic secret police, they decided to leave the country and seek asylum in Sweden. Currently one of the two is being held at the immigration detention center and the other is living secretly. Both are at the verge of being deported to Iran.

Additional Information about their activities in church services

Majid and Hamid Khosravi converted from Islam to Christianity as their savior in 2002 and 2003 in a church in Esfahan, Iran.

Two years ago their home-based church was spotted by the security forces and thus they continued their evangelical activities in secret in the house of their friends and families. When they were identified by the authorities, they decided to leave the country. This is while many of their converted Christian friends are now in custody by the Islamic security authorities.

They came to Sweden and sought asylum according to the Geneva Convention, and were denied their refugee rights unjustly by the Swedish Immigration Board. The board indicated they are not convinced about their true Christian faith and that their life will not be at risk if deported to Iran!

However, according to the senior pastor of the Iranian church of Stockholm, Hamid and Majid have been very active in the church activities and served faithfully in the worship group of the Persian-speaking church in Stockholm, as well as Iranian Christian TV networks and websites.

According to the reports by Mohabat News on situation of Christian converts in Iran, and considering the issues discussed above, we ask the Swedish Immigration Board to reconsider the case of Majid and Hamid Khosravi.

----------------------------

(MohabatNews)  http://www.mohabatnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6461:iranian-christians-on-the-verge-of-deportation-to-the-islamic-republic-of-iran&catid=36:iranian-christians&Itemid=279

Christians attacked by Hindu radicals (AsiaNews)

(AsiaNews) 11 March 2013 -  Dozens of Hindu fundamentalists have violently attacked a Pentecostal community of Karnataka as they prepared for a night vigil of prayer. Eight people, including a pastor, were injured and hospitalized. Thanks to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the police arrived on the spot quickly and arrested 16 attackers.


The incident occurred in the village of Moodubelle, near Udupi. Thirty activists from the Hindu nationalist movement Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal raided the house of Rev. Robert Lobo, pastor of World of Victory Ministries, where the vigil was being held. The fundamentalists accused them of practicing of forced conversions and beat the faithful present. Another pastor, Fr. Ramesh Poojari, suffered serious head injuries and was taken to Manipal Hospital in Udupi. Another seven people, five men - Ramesh, Prem, Suraj, Shantharam and Janardhan - and two women - Sujatha and Shakisala - have been admitted to the Ajarakadu State hospital.

GCIC contacted the police in Shirva who have assured justice to the Christian community. "This - Sajan George, president of the GCIC tells AsiaNews - is the sixth anti-Christian attack in Karnataka since the beginning of 2013 and does not bode well for freedom of worship in India. Hostility and religious intolerance continue to grow and are a cause of serious concern for the vulnerable Christian minority. These believers had gathered for a night vigil, an absolutely legal act. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right, but these extremists have political protection in Karnataka's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, ultra-nationalist Hindu party) and are encouraged to persecute the Christian community, particularly the Pentecostals. "

----------------------------

(AsiaNews)  http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Karnataka,-dozens-of-Hindu-fundamentalists-attack-a-Christian-community-27346.html

Christian leader appeals to Iraqi believers not to leave (ICN)

(ICN) 08 March 2013 - The new leader of the largest Church in Iraq has told his dwindling faithful to stop emigrating, warning them that Christianity in the Middle East risks becoming “a distant memory”.

Speaking yesterday, Wednesday, 6 March,  at his installation as Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Raphael I Sako said Christians in Iraq should overcome their fears and work together to build a new future.

Raphael I, whose election as head of the Eastern-rite Catholic Church was confirmed by Benedict XVI on 1 February, called for a dialogue “of peaceful coexistence” with Muslim leaders at a time of increasing concern about extremism and violence.

In his address, a copy of which he sent to Aid to the Church in Need, the Patriarch, 64, stressed the need to work for unity with Orthodox Christians in regions marked by ecumenical tensions in recent years.

In comments aimed specifically at Christians present at the service in Baghdad’s St Joseph’s Cathedral, the patriarch said: “Why are you so afraid today? Do not withdraw or emigrate in time of great pressure. This is your country and your land. If emigration continues God forbid, there will be no more Christians in the Middle East. The Church will be no more than a distant memory.”

The patriarch’s comments, given on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War and the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, come after a decade of massive emigration of Christians from the country. In 1987, Christians in Iraq totalled 1.4 million according to the last census, but now there could be fewer than 250,000, with the greatest decline in numbers taking place after 2003. Since that year, fundamentalism and a breakdown in law and order have shaken the Church to its foundations.

More than 700 Christians had been killed (including 17 priests) in religious and politically motivated attacks and 71 churches attacked – 44 in Baghdad and 19 in Mosul.

The biggest crisis of confidence for Christians came after the 31 October 2010 attack on Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Cathedral during Sunday evening Mass, when 45 people were killed (including two priests) and 100 were injured in a four-hour siege.

Asking Christians to draw a line under the past, Patriarch Raphael told them: “These past years have been full of events and dangers and still the shadow of fear, anxiety and death is hanging over our people.”

He told his faithful: “Change your view of yourselves and your identity. Look deeper into the reality we face today and understand the importance of your presence and witness. Live together and build a future for yourselves in your country.”

Patriarch Raphael, who was Archbishop of Kirkuk (2003-13) after being rector of St Peter’s Seminary, Baghdad, stressed the need for “renewal”.

He said: “… The world around us has changed and we must change. The Church should change. So we will renew our liturgy, our method of religious instruction and update our ecclesiastical structures with courage and clarity according to the Second Vatican Council. This renewal is aimed at helping the faithful’s understanding and participation in the Christian way of life and their attachment to Christ and his Church.”

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(ICN)  http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=22094

125 Christians arrested in Eritrea (WorthyNews)

(WorthyNews) 07 March 2013 - There was uncertainty Tuesday, March 5, about the situation of 125 Eritrean Christians who were "beaten and detained" in western Eritrea as part of a new government campaign against Christians worshiping outside the state-backed churches, rights investigators said.

At least 85 of them were arrested over the last week, said Open Doors, a major Christian advocacy and aid group. Among them are 45 men and women who were arrested February 27 for worshiping "outside the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches," the group said.

All of those detained since January are members of an evangelical denomination in the south-western town of Barentu, according to Open Doors investigators.

"Open Doors understands that police arrested these church members from homes and workplaces during broad
daylight and then marched them through town to the police station while beating them," the group said.

Eritrea's autocratic President Isaias Afewerki has denied wrongdoing.

 

At least an estimated 1,500 devoted Christians remain detained for their faith in prison facilities ranging from shipping containers, to military prison camps and other facilities, some for years.

Other sources say the figure may be over 2,000 Christians, though some have been released while several Christians are known to have died during their imprisonment.

The reported crackdown began in 2002 when all churches except those belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations were effectively banned Members of independent evangelical and charismatic churches are particularly singled out, according to local Christians and international rights groups.

However even within the established churches, leaders and devoted Christians have reported harassment.

Orthodox patriarch Abune Antonios, for instance, has been under house arrest since 2006 for resisting government interference in church affairs, and priests seen as sympathizing with him are reportedly detained and harassed.

 

President Afewerki has said the policies are aimed at religious groups who are "duped by foreigners", seeking to "distract from the unity of the Eritrean people and distort the true meaning of religion."

The African nation has come under international pressure to allow more religious freedom. In a recent report, the U.S. State Department noted that, "The government continued to harass and detain thousands of members of registered and unregistered religious groups and retained substantial control over the four registered religious groups."

The government also "failed to approve religious groups that fulfilled the registration requirements and arrested persons during religious gatherings," the State Department said.

Additionally, "The government subjected religious prisoners to harsh conditions and held them for long periods of time, without due process. There continued to be reports of forced renunciations of faith, torture, and deaths while in custody," it said.

Eritrean Christians join a long list of Christians suffering for their faith, according to advocacy groups. Open Doors says an estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ.

--------------------------------

(WorthyNews)  http://www.worthynews.com/12181-eritrea-jails-125-christians-in-campaign-against-illegal-worship

Christians tortured by Libyan Islamists (FoxNews) 

(FoxNews) 06 March 2013 - Libyan Islamists detained 48 Egyptian Christians in Benghazi last week, torturing them and using acid to burn off tattoos of the cross, according to family members.

The Christians, who are peddlers, were arrested by Islamist Salafists in Benghazi, who said they had Christian icons at their marketplace stalls, according to Mideast Christian News. The men were later reportedly freed and await deportation, but their family members back home told the Egyptian press they were abused while held, initially on charges of proselytizing.

“When the residents of the village told me that he was imprisoned, I embraced his sons and told them they would not see their father again,” Fardoos Salib, the mother of Coptic farmer Atif Kamel, told Egyptian newspaper al-Watan.  “I prayed in the church, until God responded and he was released, as God knows our conditions.”

Activists in Libya last week posted photographs on Facebook showing the Egyptian Copts under detention. A video later seized by police showed the Egyptian Christians locked in a small room and guarded by bearded Salafists. Many appeared to be cut and bruised, and all had had their heads shaved.

 

“Why do we respect foreigners in our country when they violate our dignity in their countries?"

- Khalaf Naguib Salib, Egyptian Copt

 

The detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, a source told Ahram Online.

Kamel told family members he was subjected to electric shocks and forced to clean toilets, as his jailers assaulted him and mocked his religion, according to his family. Kamel has a wife and two children in Egypt, but went to work in a Benghazi vegetable market in order to provide for them.

Benghazi residents have expressed outrage at the hardcore Salafists, who are believed to have been behind the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Repression of Christians living in Libya is on the rise, according to human rights watchers. In mid-February four foreigners -- an Egyptian, a South African, a South Korean and a Swede with a U.S. passport -- were arrested on charges of distributing Bibles and other religious material.

Several Catholic religious orders that have operated within Libya for decades, serving at hospitals and in elder care, have been driven from the country in the wake of its revolution. In January, the Franciscan Sisters of the Infant Jesus left Barce and the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus left Beida, both citing pressure from Islamists. In October, nuns from the Convent of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Derna were forced to leave Libya amid continuous threats from Islamic extremists.

Egyptian Copts living in Libya say diplomats from their homeland do little to help their cause. Kamel said that despite Copts facing persecution from armed authorities, the officials from Egypt’s embassy ignored them.

Kamel’s uncle, Khalaf Naguib Salib, said the Copts detained by Libya are mostly illiterate and don’t know the meaning of proselytizing.

“I say to Egypt’s president, his government and Foreign Ministry, that during Mubarak’s term we felt we were second-class citizens,” Salib said. “This has deteriorated even further under the Muslim Brotherhood. What is the position of Egypt’s president on the violations committed against the expatriate Egyptians? Where is the freedom and justice? Why do we respect foreigners in our country when they violate our dignity in their countries?"


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(FoxNews)  http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/03/04/egyptian-christians-allege-torture-at-hands-libyan-islamists/

Christian seminar raided in Beijing (ChinaAid)

(ChinaAid) 05 March 2013 - Leaders and believers of various house churches in Beijing held a joint seminar on Monday of this week so that they could give their opinions on the Cape Town Commitment achieved at the Third Lausanne Congress.  However, the seminar was harassed by the Public Security Bureau when a police officer booked by force the ID information of the attendants.  The seminar was forced to stop.  Besides this, Pastor Jin Tianming of Shouwang Church has been placed under house arrest for over two years and at this time he still does not have the freedom of movement.

Leaders and believers of various house churches in Beijing held a seminar on Cape Town Commitment achieved at the Third Lausanne Congress at a private residence in Wangjing Community in Chaoyang District.  There, they were harassed by a police officer from a local police station that got the wind of it.  Mr. Chu, one of the Christian organizers at the site, told this radio station that the police officer entered the room by force and booked the ID information of the attendants.  “The seminar started at 2 o’clock and at about 4:30, a police officer knocked on the door to check our IDs.  At first, we didn’t let him enter, so we continued.  He then again knocked on the door.  After he entered the residence, we asked him to go to another room.  He ordered to book our information (IDs).  Teacher Hu Shigen and I went to a room to negotiate with him.


Hu Shigen, another Christian at the scene on that day, described the situation at the scene: “At about 4:30 in the afternoon, our seminar was already half through, a police officer came with his police certificate.  He is an officer by the name of Chen from Nanhu Police Station of Chaoyang District of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.  He said he wanted to come in to book our information.  We didn’t let him enter.  Then, he broke through us and entered.  He booked the information of all of us and disturbed us continuously.  Finally, he booked everybody’s information and the seminar was thus dispersed.

According to the believers, since 2012, house churches in Beijing have held seminars on Cape  Town Commitment achieved at the Third Lausanne Congress.  The seminar held on Monday was the 6th seminar.  The previous five seminars were held peacefully.  People who attended the seminars notified each other on a small scale, so they didn’t catch much attention.

Entering the residence by force and book the information of the attendants.

According to Mr. Chu, over 10 people from various house churches of Beijing attended the seminar.  They called on Christian churches to follow the Lord, be humble, righteous and pious and do things according to some other Cape Town Commitments.  There are two parts to it, because we have already held six such seminars.

Reporter:  Was this activity organized by various churches or was it sponsored by Shouwang Church?

Answer:  It was organized by various churches.  We sent out invitations to various churches.  Whoever is interested in this seminar would attend it.

Hu Shigen criticized the Public Security for abusing its power: “When they want to enter a residence to book the information, a police officer’s certificate is not enough.  To enter a room, they must have a search warrant or a certificate of detention or an arrest warrant.  We think he doesn’t have this power.  He violated the safety of a citizen’s residence and his freedom of religion.”

Mr. Chu said that they would continue to have such seminars.  After they have discussed all the contents of Cape Town Call to Action, they will hold various type of seminars under the title “Lausanne Movement Forum.”

China Aid Association, a Christian human rights defense organization headquartered in Texas, USA, questions the conduct of Beijing police of harassing house churches.  It thinks entering a private residence without legal authorization and forcing citizens to book their personal information won’t help maintaining the stability of the society.

Shouwang Church continues to be under strict surveillance.

After the New Year’s Day of this year, there is a tendency that the Chinese authorities are increasingly interfering with the freedom of religion.  Since mid-April of 2011, believers of Shouwang Church of Beijing have been prohibited by the authorities to gather and worship outdoors.  Its pastor and other leaders are strictly placed at their homes and their freedom is restricted.  This radio station once reported that after Jin Tianming, the pastor of the church, led the believers in holding a prayer meeting a month ago, his right to go downstairs for a work-out has been canceled.  Five police officers are deployed at the hallways of his residence and they don’t let him go out of the building.

A believer told this reporter that at the eve of the Two Conferences (the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference), the situation of Jin Tianming has not improved: “It has always been like this.  There are always people guarding at his door and restricting his freedom.”

The above is an interview report by Qiao Long, a special reporter of Radio Free Asia.

http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/shehui/zj-02282013103633.html

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(ChinaAid)  http://www.chinaaid.org/2013/03/radio-free-asia-seminar-attended-by.html

Christians in India plead for protection (BNL)

(BosNewsLife) 04 March 2013 - Devoted Christians in India's central state of Chhattisgarh urged the government on Sunday, March 3, to provide protection to churches after Hindu militants broke up evangelical meetings and local police detained four pastors.


The incidents began February 21 when a Hindu mob reportedly barged into the home of a believer in the town of Aara in Balrampur District where pastors were having dinner.

Hindu "extremists" accused them of "forceful conversion" and soon alerted police, Christians said. Local police detained Pastors Albis Para, Akshay Kumar, Harendra and Angad Singh for "knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it was commanded to disperse," BosNewsLife learned.

Though the pastors were soon released on bail, the incident overshadowed a three-day gathering organized by the Calvary Gospel Mission group.

In a separate incident in Doeri village of Surguja District, evangelical Christians were forced to halt their February 19-21 meeting, attended by some 1,000 people, because "Hindu extremists disturbed them", organizers said.


The Hindus allegedly accused the gathering's organizers and pastors of "forceful conversion". Church leaders said they decided to end the meeting to avoid further tensions, but did not ask police to intervene.

"As concerned people, we need to write to the chief minister of Chhattisgarh appealing...to safeguard the rights of the minority communities," said Reverend Richard Howell, the general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

The EFI, which represents evangelical Christians across the country, also asks the government "to provide protection to churches against attacks and to take immediate action against the perpetrators of violence,” Howell told BosNewsLife Sunday, March 3.

He said evangelicals also "request prayers that the church would continue to serve the nation and faithfully share the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings about reconciliation with God and one another."


The incidents come amid ongoing reported attacks against devoted Christians in India, a heavily Hindu nation where hardline groups oppose the spread of Christianity.

Mission groups say those becoming Christians also include many Dalits, deemed the lowest caste in India's ancient system of Hinduism, as well as other impoverished people suffering discrimination.

Several states have also tightened laws on 'forced conversions' that critics claim effectively bans evangelism.

Evangelical groups strongly deny their involvement in forced conversions, saying the Bible makes clear that faith in Jesus Christ is based on a free personal choice for Him.

(With editing by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos)

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(BNL)  http://www.bosnewslife.com/26799-india-hindu-militants-crackdown-on-evangelical-meetings-pastors-detained

Five Christian Families Attacked in Vietnam (PERSECUTION.ORG)

(Persecution.org) 27 February 2013 -ICC Note: Five newly converted Christian families in the Central Highlands of Vietnam have faced days of harassment and physical violence by their neighbors after their decision to follow Christ aggravated fellow villagers. Communist government officials have not bothered to step in and stop the attacks despite calls for help. It is not uncommon in Vietnam for Communist authorities, who are already suspicious of certain ethnic groups and hostile towards Christianity, to encourage and even participate in attacking Christians. 

Newly converted Christians of the Sedang ethnic minority in Vietnam’s Central Highlands were terrorized last week – their homes and personal property badly damaged or destroyed in four consecutive night raids, and some of the faithful seriously injured from beatings in broad daylight, sources said.

Since becoming Christians in the past year, five families in mountainous Kontum Province have reported constant harassment from villagers upset that they are no longer contributing to communal sacrifices and other practices because of their new faith. The attacks from Monday (Feb. 18) to Friday (Feb. 22) constituted a third wave of sustained violence since their conversion, leaving their property severely damaged and their lives threatened.

Attacks on the new Christians – who belong to a Christian Mission Church (CMC) congregation in Ngoc La village, Mang Ri Commune, Tumorong District in northwestern Kontum Province – were primarily motivated by strong tensions within the ethnic group over the families leaving the “old ways.” Ideologically opposed to Christianity, local Communist officials freely permit and even encourage such conflicts, sources said.

At the same time, local Vietnamese officials commonly incite and employ area thugs to attack Christians, whose united faith is perceived as a threat to government ideology and sovereignty. Often officials themselves put on civilian clothes or otherwise disguise themselves, joining in the attacks, sources said.

The assailants last week attacked the Christians’ homes, pelting them with bricks and cement roof tiles and swinging wooden clubs. They then invaded their houses and destroyed their belongings.

The victims managed to take photos with their cell phones, and though taken mostly in darkness, the images are clear enough to show a destroyed fibro-cement roof; a motorcycle with parts bent, broken and missing; dishes and kitchen utensils smashed to pieces; food cast to the ground; badly damaged furniture; broken windows; wooden shutters, doors and frames ripped out of walls; and wooden clubs and bricks strewn about.

The gangs on Friday (Feb. 22) beat a number of the Christians in broad daylight, with some, including women, struck below the abdomen. Several were reported to be seriously injured. One family, threatened with death if they stayed in their home, fled into the forest, where they were forced to spend nights in the cold with inadequate clothing and no shelter.

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 http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/27/vietnam-five-christian-families-attacked-beaten-up-by-fellow-villagers/

More arrests in Libya after detention of foreign Christians (MSN)

(MSN) 25 February 2013 - Arrests continue of Christians accused of proselytizing in Libya, with a total of seven now known to be in custody including one reported to have been tortured, sources said.

Four expatriate Christians in the eastern coastal town of Benghazi were arrested on Feb. 10, accused of proselytizing. Libya’s Preventative Security Unit arrested the Egyptian, South African, Korean and dual Swedish-American Christians, who have yet to be officially charged.

On Feb. 13, Preventative Security officers picked up two more Egyptian Christians, and another Egyptian Christian was arrested by Feb. 16, sources said. All the detainees were being held in Benghazi. It was unclear what led to their arrests.

Preventative Security spokesman Hussein Bin Hmeid said in a statement to Reuters that the four Christians originally arrested were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity. He said the country is 100 percent Muslim and that proselytizing “affects our national security.”

Only one of the four arrested on Feb. 10, Sherif Ramses of Egypt, has been publicly identified. When Ramses was arrested, he allegedly had 30,000 Bibles in storage, a figure that Libyan police inflated to 45,000 in published statements, sources said. Ramses ran a small printing service in Benghazi and a bookstore that sold both Christian and secular books.

Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised. Several other sources independently told Morning Star News that Preventative Security was able to get the names of other Christians in Libya from Ramses, possibly by accessing information on his cell phone. It was unclear, however, if any Christians subsequently detained had any significant links to Ramses’ work.

Preventative Security is an internal police force formed during the Libyan Revolution by regional rebel leaders.

Rumors were circulating throughout Libya about unknown others thought to be arrested.

Another wave of arrests was said to have taken place on Sunday (Feb. 17) in Tripoli. Sources in Libya reported to contacts in Egypt that no one has been able to contact these detainees, learn their location or even get an estimate of the number of those said to be arrested.

“They say it was a large group,” a source in Cairo receiving updates from Libya said. “They were supposed to be released, but there has been no word.”

There has been no information about the possibility of Libyan nationals being picked up in any of the expatriate sweeps.

Those monitoring the situation said that they thought all the detainees would be released except for Ramses, who will likely stand trial. It was unclear what penalty a guilty verdict would bring for Ramses, as the proselytizing law is a hold-over from the previous regime deposed in October 2011, and Libya has yet to approve a new constitution. When arrested and asked why he thought he could hand out Bibles in Libya, Ramses reportedly told his captors, “They say Libya is supposed to be a free country.”

The arrests are the latest in a series of recent incidents in Libya against Christians or Christian symbols. In December, two Egyptian Christians were killed and two were wounded when suspected Islamic extremists threw a homemade bomb into a Coptic Orthodox Church building in Dafniya, in western Libya. Several communities of Catholic nuns left Cyrenaica Province after receiving credible death threats. In addition, on many occasions suspected Islamic militants have desecrated graves with crosses on them of Britain’s World War II dead.

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(MSN)  http://morningstarnews.org/2013/02/more-arrests-in-libya-after-detention-of-foreign-christians/

Christianity in Iraq - 10 years after Saddam (ACN)

(ACN) 25 February 2013 - ACN Interview: Wednesday 20th February 2013


Christians in Iraq ten years after the fall of Saddam Hussein

"Persecution strengthens faith"

An interview with Amel Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul

By Oliver Maksan


Q) Your Excellency, ten years after the American-led invasion of Iraq many Christians are saying: Saddam was definitely a dictator, but the situation under him was better than the chaos we have experienced since. Do you agree?

Archbishop Nona: "The present situation in Iraq is the result of what has been sown over the past forty years or more. So it isn't easy to explain what is happening in our country. In order to do this you would have to go back in history to know what the social, political and religious factors are that have shaped the personality of present-day Iraqis. You can't justify the situation of Iraq under Saddam simply in terms of security, however. Rather you have to know the whole situation he created to judge whether it was better or worse."


Q) Do you now believe that the situation of the Church is beginning to stabilise after years of chaos?

Archbishop Nona: "The situation of the Church depends to a large extent on the situation of Iraq as a whole. It is well known that the situation ten years after Saddam's fall is far from stable. Apart from this, all the persecution and pressure the Church has been subjected to over the years have ensured that there is still no clear vision for the future. All this, combined with the continuing emigration of Christians, prevents the Church in Iraq as a whole from finding normality and stability. This has been achieved in a number of dioceses and parishes in certain areas, but as a whole we still need time to stabilise."


Q) But do you believe there is a possibility of putting a stop to the Christian exodus?

Archbishop Nona: "The exodus of Iraqi Christians is a fact rooted in a variety of motives, and cannot be reduced to a single one. We therefore can't speak of only a single possibility for stemming the exodus. Rather we have to discuss different ways of stopping it. There are a wealth of problems here: the general situation in the country, the lack of security and the economic situation. Furthermore there are the changes in society, such as the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. None of this helps in stemming the Christian exodus."


Q) How many Christians have left the country?

Archbishop Nona: "It's difficult to say. I estimate about sixty per cent, if not more."


Q) Is the Iraqi government aware of the difficult situation facing Christians?

Archbishop Nona: "What one hears from those responsible in the Iraqi government about the Christians is always good, but there is no real solution to our problems."


Q) Could the West perhaps help here? For example by exerting diplomatic pressure?

Archbishop Nona: "I think the West can do a lot. But it's essential to define more precisely what one means by the West. If one means Western policy, then I don't think we can expect a lot. If by the West we mean the society there, then a lot can still be achieved, by helping the Christians in Iraq through projects in secure areas for example."


Q) You mentioned a growing Islamic fundamentalism. Where does this come from? Is it due to external influences?

Archbishop Nona: "Iraqi Islam was never fundamentalist. But after 2003 a radical and fundamentalist Islam arose throughout Iraq. And once there, it's very difficult, not to say impossible, to eradicate it again. But the problem is not fundamentalism, but the islamisation of society. Iraqi society has changed a lot. It has become more Islamist and more radical. This is the result of all these fundamentalist groups and a policy which exploits religion to achieve its objectives. Fear is a major element in the islamisation of society. The greater the fear, the stronger the fundamentalism."


Q) Perhaps in no other town have Christians suffered so much under Islamic fundamentalism as in Mosul, where you are Archbishop. What is the situation at present?

Archbishop Nona: Mosul still represents a danger for Christians, even though for two years now we have not had any further attacks aimed directly at the Christians. But fear persists because the situation in the city has not improved in general.


Q) In your view, has the faith of the Christians been strengthened by the persecution or has it suffered?

Archbishop Nona: "Persecution strengthens faith. And this has also happened here in Iraq. But I don't believe we can say that faith deepens today without the intervention of the Church. It is essential that we awaken the sense of faith and the importance of Christian witness today. Otherwise, when we have finally overcome the present situation, we will still have difficulties in convincing today's new generations of the importance of faith for life."


Q) The Year of Faith proclaimed by the Holy Father Benedict XVI serves precisely this purpose. Does it play a part in the pastoral work in Iraq?

Archbishop Nona: "In my estimation it is being well received. But it depends on the individual diocese. In ours we are doing a lot, both on the parish and diocese level, to deepen the faith of the believers."

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(ACN)  http://members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/msg/1361310234.html

Persecution of Christians continue in India (AN)

(AsiaNews) 22 February 2013 - Two more anti-Christian incidents in Madhya Pradesh illustrate the latest trend among Hindu fundamentalists. In addition to filing false charges over forced conversions, they are now attacking Christians in the privacy of their homes even though "praying in one's home is not a crime," Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) Sajan George said.

Pentecostal Christians were attacked in two separate incidents on 16 and 18 February. Last Monday, members of the Hindu ultranationalist Bajrang Dal stormed the home of a man, Hiralal, in the village of Roshni, where they beat up Rev Iliyas Buck who was leading Bible studies. After the attackers called police, the clergyman was taken into custody and charges of forced conversion were laid against him. He was eventually released a few hours later.

Last Saturday, Hindu nationalist from the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) broke up a prayer meeting in the village of Gulai. After beating up the clergyman conducting the service, Rev Isaac, they took him away later in the evening to Khalwa where they resumed their beating. Later, they handed him over to police who kept him in jail overnight.

Although the Indian constitution recognises freedom of worship, incidents of this kind have become more frequent across the country.

What happened in Madhya Pradesh "reflects a lack of political will to stop the perpetrators of the attacks," said Sajan George.

"We should investigate the activities of armed militant groups like the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) under the 1967 Unlawful Activities (prevention) Act," a law that is aimed at suppressing groups involved in illegal activities that threaten India's integrity and sovereignty.

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(AN) http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Madhya-Pradesh:-Hindu-fundamentalists-attack-Christians-even-in-the-privacy-of-their-homes-27204.html