It has been nearly two years since Farshid Fathi was arrested (December 26, 2010). He was one of at least twenty-two Christians arrested in Tehran, Iran, the day after Christmas in 2010. Ten of the individuals were released after questioning and signing an agreement to refrain from Christian activities, and eleven others were released after being held for several months. One, however, remains in custody — Farshid Fathi. This despite the fact that his family paid an enormous bail on his behalf.
Farshid converted to Christianity from Islam and charged with “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country.” He was sentenced to a six-year term on March 5, 2012, and his appeal was rejected in June. The remainder of his sentence is to be fulfilled in Evin Prison. Please pray not only for Farshid, but also his wife, Leila, and their two children, Rosana and Bardia.
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
(Philippians 1:12-20 ESV)
Christian students from Louisiana State University, who are ardent football fans, paint their upper bodies during games. Known as “The Painted Posse,” the group was formed in 2003 and has become a fixture at LSU home games, appearing on national television broadcasts, ESPN and in Sports Illustrated. Members of The Posse had their picture taken at the LSU – South Carolina game. Officials sent out the photo of the students in a Geaux-Mail newsletter to the student body, but removed the crosses painted on The Posse’s bodies with digital technology. The students were dismayed when they viewed the photo, which appeared to be otherwise unedited. Cameron Cooke, one of the students, told CampusReform.org, “I was a bit surprised, because our pictures get used so frequently, and the cross had never been edited before. The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower.” Herb Vincent, an LSU spokesman noted that the school altered the image to prevent other students from being offended. “We don’t want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out, Only one of the students, who didn’t appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we’ll just choose a different photo.” LSU plans to steer clear of any photos with religious overtones when it sends out athletic promotional materials.
In a land where freedom of religious expression and freedom of speech are touted as rights, political correctness has found a way around the Constitution. Whenever people of faith express their views, they are simply ignored by those who “wish to remain neutral.” Such neutrality negates expression, implicitly conveying the idea that there is absolutely no room to discuss “private matters” (e.g., religion, politics, ethics) in a “public forum.” The more society at large embraces such an outlook, the greater individual liberties erode. It is important for people to politely, intelligently and firmly exercise their freedoms, or else those liberties will soon be gone.
The Lower Chamber of Tajikistan’s Parliament approved a controversial new bill, as well as amendments to the Criminal Code, on June 15. The Parental Responsibility Law stipulates that the only religious activities in which children under 18 may participate, apart from funerals, are those at state-approved religious education institutions. The amendments specifically extend penalties on unapproved religious meetings and impose harsh prison terms for advocating “religious extremist” teachings. The amendments fail to define “religious extremist,” and could easily extend to any religious teaching without state approval. To become law, the bill must also be approved by the Upper Chamber and signed by President Emomali Rahmon. The Parental Responsibility Law is the initiative of President Rahmon. Many expect the Upper Chamber to approve the legislation next month. The proposed legal changes arrive as police continue their suppression of non-sanctioned religious teaching. Local religious communities, independent legal experts, and human rights defenders have all condemned the law.
ALGERIA – Last month the governor of Bejaia Province sent a written notice to seven Christian congregations informing them they would be closed for operating “illegally.” The congregations are considered illegal because they have not registered with the government, required under Ordinance 06-03 of the nation’s legal code. The measure was introduced in 2006 to regulate non-Islamic religious practices. Christians report, however, that the government refuses to either respond or grant applications for registration. Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant Church of Algeria, stated, “The churches of Bejaia have submitted the documentation the law requires and the government’s unwillingness to give official permission for the churches to operate is a matter for officials, not churches, to resolve.” He added that believers in Algeria have mobilized for prayer, asking for God’s intervention in the matter. Please join our brothers and sisters in prayer.
UZBEKISTAN – Recent reports from Uzbekistan indicate that Christians are facing increased persecution. Police assaulted a Christian woman in her home while her parents were away, being interrogated at the local police station in regard to religious activity. The woman was kicked and hit on the head, resulting in a severe concussion. Police officers in Tashkent threatened to kill a Christian if he persisted in challenging a fine levied upon him for religious activity. A police investigator, also in Tashkent, threatened to “beat” the son of a Baptist church member and “put him in prison for three months” if the member did not sign statements accusing the congregation’s pastor and bookkeeper of illegal activity. Please pray for followers of Christ Jesus in Uzbekistan to remain steadfast in the faith, and for persecutors to experience the life-changing grace of God.
According to MSNBC, an unidentified Iraqi police official stated that seven individuals were wounded by a roadside bomb placed six meters from the entrance of the Sacred Heart Church in Baghdad’s Karradah neighborhood. Shrapnel from the blast struck the outside of the building and wounded seven bystanders, including three civilians and four police officers. The officers were posted outside the church building because all Iraqi security forces were on high alert for Islamists targeting Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community on Easter Sunday.
Chinese police confined over 500 worshipers to house arrest on Easter Sunday, preventing them from attending Easter Sunday services at one of the nation’s largest independent house churches – Shouwang Church – in northwest Beijing. Over 36 Christians were taken into custody for attempting to attend religious services. The senior pastor of the church, Jin Tiaming, is also currently under house arrest. Police on the scene informed CNN reporters they were there for “security reasons.” Police officers in plain clothes filmed those who passed near the area.
Hundreds of Christians normally gather at this unofficial (i.e., “illegal”) church location for worship. The 1,000 members of the Shouwang Church were forced outdoors in November after government officials blocked the rental of its previous office space. Since then, the congregation has been unable to obtain a new location. Bob Fu, a former independent church pastor and founder of the non-governmental organization, ChinaAid, stated, “This is the worst time in terms of religious freedom across the board in two decades.” He added, “[Worshippers] are not a threat to stability, not a threat to society, and not a threat to China’s harmonious society. By cracking down on these hundreds of thousands of worshippers, it will only create the opposite effect. To the churches, I would encourage them to stand firm.”
During the past month, prior to Easter Sunday, over 200 Shouwang church members were arrested and detained. Church leaders, in addition to senior pastor Tiaming, remain under house arrest amid a wider government suppression on religious dissidents over the past three months. In regard to the Easter services, Pastor Tiaming warned members that police would likely detain those gathered at the meeting site, but that it was vital for Christians to stand up for their faith. He declared, “Each believer may act in accordance to his or her own faith, whether to be taken away quietly (by police) or to meet in a nearby location.”
In regard to the Easter service prohibition, Bob Fu declared, “By doing this, the Chinese government again demonstrates its total disregard for Chinese citizens’ basic religious freedom and freedom of assembly. We continue to call upon the free world to stand firm in solidarity with the persecuted faithful in China.” Chinese authorities have overtly suppressed dissidents, activists and human rights lawyers since calls over the internet emerged in February for regular “Jasmine” protests. Ai Weiwei, a prominent artist, was arrested approximately three weeks ago. An annual human rights dialogue between U.S. and Chinese diplomats is scheduled later this week in Beijing.
HT: CNN / MSNBC / China Aid
Said Musa has been freed after serving more than nine months in an Afghan prison on apostasy charges. Just over a week ago, three government officials visited him and told him he would be released within 24 hours if he stated in writing that his conversion to Christianity was regrettable. He replied, “I can’t deny my Savior’s name.” Afterward, he was transferred back to his cell. Nonetheless, he reportedly left the country this past Monday (February 21). Details surrounding his release have been kept confidential in order to protect his wife and children, who are still in danger.
Please continue to pray for Said and his family.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, operated an abortion clinic from 1979-2010 which has been described as a “filthy, foul-smelling ‘house of horrors’” which regulators overlooked for years. He was charged today (Jan. 19, 2011) with eight counts of murder, infanticide, conspiracy, and abortion at 24 or more weeks (which is prohibited by Pennsylvania law, except to save the life of the mother or to avoid serious risk to her). Dr. Gosnell has been accused of delivering seven babies alive and then killing them with scissors, and with responsibility for a woman who died from an overdose of painkillers. Nine of Gosnell’s employees, including his wife, have also been charged.
Prosecutors called the gruesome case a “complete regulatory collapse.” State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell, including 46 lawsuits against him, and made just five annual inspections since the clinic first opened. The inspections generally characterized the clinic as “satisfactory.” Inspections ceased altogether in 1993 because, according to prosecutors, a “pro-abortion rights attitude” set in after Democratic Governor Robert Casey left office. Casey was an advocate for the pro-life position. Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney, accused state Health Department officials of “utter disregard” for the safety of women undergoing abortions, and declared the testimony of officials “enraged” the grand jury. Nonetheless, he noted he could find criminal offenses with which they could be charged. According to the report, “These officials were far more protective of themselves when they testified before the grand jury. Even (Health Department) lawyers, including the chief counsel, brought private attorneys with them — presumably at government expense.” The state was reluctant to investigate Gosnell, according to Williams, because of the “sensitivity of the abortion debate.”
The clinic reeked of cat urine because the animals were permitted to roam the facility freely. Instruments used by Gosnell were not sterilized properly, and disposable medical supplies were reused constantly. Late-term abortions, in which babies are dismembered in the uterus and then removed in pieces, is more common than partial-birth abortions, in which babies are extracted partially before being put to death. Prosecutors insist Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.” Hundreds of babies were murdered in the squalid clinic in this fashion according to Williams. These murders will not be prosecuted because Gosnell destroyed many of his files. Prosecutors also noted that Gosnell falsified ultrasound examinations, which determine how far along pregnancies are, by teaching staff members to hold the probe in such a manner that the unborn babies would look smaller. Four clinic employees were also charged with murder, and five more, including Pearl Gosnell, Pearl, with conspiracy, drug and other crimes. All are in custody.
Gosnell earned his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and is board certified in family practice. He started, but did not finish, a residency in obstetrics-gynecology, according to authorities. “He does not know how to do an abortion. Once he got them there, he saw dollar signs and did abortions that other people wouldn’t do,” stated Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore. Gosnell insisted previously he is innocent of any crimes, and predicted he would be acquitted if charged.
Compass Direct News compiled and listed its top 10 stories regarding the persecution of Christians over this past year. They are as follows:
10) China Releases Gao Zhisheng –then Seizes Him Again
Human rights attorney and Christian, Gao Zhisheng, was arrested by Chinese officials on February 4, 2009 and finally released on April 6, 2010, only to be re-arrested on April 20th. Bob Fu, who works extensively for religious liberty in China, said he believes international pressure forced authorities to allow Gao to appear publicly, thereby providing he was alive, prior to seizing him again and preventing information about his experiences while imprisoned to be released. During a previous detention, Gao was tortured brutally and threatened with death. He first gained the attention of authorities when he investigated the persecution of house church Christians and Falun Gong members. In 2005, Gao wrote a series of open letters to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao which accused officials of torturing Falun Gong members. His law license was revoked after the letters appeared, and his firm was closed. Gao received a suspended three-year prison sentence in December 2006 following a confession, which Gao later claimed was given under extreme duress – having been tortured and receiving threats against his wife and children. Gao’s apartment was under constant surveillance, and he was forbidden to leave his house, use his computer or phone, or communicate with anyone outside of China in any manner whatsoever. Prior to writing the 2005 letters, Gao was a member of the Communist Party who was recognized by the Ministry of Justice as one of the mainland’s top ten attorneys for his pro bono work on human rights cases.
9) Persecution Slams Christians in India’s Karnataka State
Christians faced over 1,000 attacks beginning on September 14, 2008. On that date, at least a dozen congregations were attacked in Karnataka’s Mangalore city, in Dakshina Kannada district. In January 2010 the number of attacks reached 1,000. Justice Michael Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka High Court, stated, “On January 26 – the day we celebrated India’s Republic Day – Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took place in Mysore city.” The number of attacks was based upon reports from faith-based organizations. Saldanha blamed the state government for the attacks, declaring the ruling Hindu national Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had “outdone Orissa.” Karnataka’s Home Minister, V. S. Acharya, denied the results of the inquiry, claiming, the region is “the most peaceful state in India, and the people are law-abiding.” Nonetheless, the wave of violence against Christians continued throughout the year. 468 Christians also faced charges of fraudulent or forced conversions since September 2008. Saldanha noted, “I have been to many police stations where complaints of [forced] conversions have been lodged against Christians, and when I asked the police why they were acting on frivolous complaints, most of them told me that they had orders from above.” He added that Christians “are dragged to the police station under false allegations, immediately locked up, beaten up and denied bail by the lower judiciary, which functions as the loyal partner of the police department and refuses bail on the grounds that ‘the police have objected.’” There are just over 1 million Christians in Karnataka, where the total population numbers more than 52 million.
8 ) Christians Expelled from Morocco
Between March and June, authorities expelled 128 foreign Christians from Morocco in an effort to purge the nation of any foreign Christian influences. In April, nearly 7,000 Islamic religious leaders supported the deportations by signing a document describing the work of Christians in the nation as “moral rape” and “religious terrorism.” The document came amid a nationwide propaganda campaign which vilified Christians for “proselytism,” perceived widely as bribing individuals to leave the Islamic faith. During this period, Moroccan authorities applied pressure on converts to Christianity through interrogations, searches, and arrests. The government’s portrayal of foreign Christians created an atmosphere in which national Christians suffered increased harassment and discrimination. By the end of the year, over 150 foreign Christians were deported.
7) Laotian Christian Villagers Expelled
Officials led the residents of Katin, a village in Ta Oih district, Saravan Province, in destroying rice paddies farmed by 11 Christian families. According to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom, residents drained water from the paddies, burned fences which protected the crops from animals, and stomped on new seedlings to ensure rice would not grow. The destruction of the rice paddies took place on December 26, just three days after seven other Christian families were expelled from the village at gunpoint. The village chief and other village authorities entered the Christian homes and warned the residents to abandon their faith. When the Christians refused, they were marched out of the village and commanded not to return. A year ago, in January, 11 Christian families (48 individuals) were also expelled under threat when they refused to abdicate their religious convictions. Village officials destroyed their houses, confiscated their livestock and essential registration documents, and denied their children access to the village school.
6) Hostilities Erupt in Egypt
2010 began with a drive-by shooting on January 6 (Coptic Christmas observance), in which six individuals were murdered. Hostilities from Egypt’s Islamic majority only increased against the Coptic Christian minority as the year progressed. Tensions amplified after the wife of a Coptic priest, Camilia Zakher, disappeared in July. Copts claimed she was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam. In August, Egyptian media reported erroneously that state security intelligence seized a ship from Israel which was transporting explosives to the son of a Coptic Orthodox Church official. Rumors began circulating that Copts were stockpiling weapons in church basements in preparation for overthrowing the Muslim majority. The Front of Religious Scholars then called for a complete boycott of Christians in Egypt, labeling Christians as “immoral,” and as “terrorists.” The group declared Muslims should not patronize any Christian business, or even greet Christian individuals. On October 31, Islamists charged into a Baghdad, Iraq, church, spraying the sanctuary with gunfire. They declared Christians in Egypt would be targeted if their demands were not met. The threats caused a great deal of commotion in Egyptian congregations.
5) Mass Attacks in Nigeria
Large-scale attacks on Christians – interspersed with smaller, isolated assaults – were predominant in Nigeria throughout 2010. On March 7, approximately 500 Christians were killed and about 75 houses were burned down in three farming villages (Dogo Nahawa, Zot, Rastat) near the capital city of Jos by ethnic Fulani Muslims who constantly screamed, “Allah Akbar!” The mostly ethnic Berom victims included many women and children who were murdered with machetes. Though authorities had been alerted of a possible attack, they refused to take any preemptive actions. Christian leaders in the nation, including Bishop Andersen Bok and Musa Pam, described the events as yet another “jihad and provocation of Christians.” The Fulani Muslims unleashed more horrific violence against two Christian villages in Plateau state on March 17, killing 13 people, including a pregnant woman and children. 20 Christian homes were burned down in the villages of Byei and Baten, about 45 kilometers (29 miles) from the capital. Attacks from another quarter came late in the year, when the Islamic sect Boko Haram detonated several bombs in the Christian areas of Jos on Christmas Eve, murdering scores of people. The group also murdered a Baptist pastor – the Rev. Bulus Marwa – and five other Christians during Christmas Eve in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, in northern Nigeria.
4) Somali Teen Martyred for Christ
Nurta Mohamed Farah, a 17-year-old girl, fled her village of Bardher, Gedo Region, moving in with relatives in the Galgadud Region, after her parents were tortured for converting from Islam to Christianity. Farah, also a convert, was murdered on November 25th in an apparent “honor killing.” It is highly suspected the two Islamists who shot Farah in the chest and head acted on the behest of Muslim relatives.
3) Afghan Accused of ‘Apostasy’ and Faces Execution
45-year-old Said Musa (aka Sayed Mossa) was still without legal representation at the end of the year while facing “apostasy” charges in Afghanistan. Those found guilty of “apostasy” – converting to another religion from Islam – face capital punishment. Images of Christians during worship were submitted to the nation’s most popular broadcaster, Noorin TV, and the images were broadcast in May. The airing of the images set events in motion resulting in Musa’s arrest. In early June, the deputy secretary of the Afghan Parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, demanded the execution of “apostates”. After several court hearings were postponed, Musa appeared before a judge on November 27th, but the judge sent Musa’s case file to the attorney general’s office for corrections.
2) Increased Targeting in Iraq
Political tensions in Iraq surrounding parliamentary elections on March 7th resulted in the deaths of at least eight Chaldean Christians. Hundreds of families fled Mosul after the attacks. A month earlier, on February 23rd, Eshoee Marokee and his two sons were murdered in their home while other family members watched helplessly. The attack was part of a string of murders triggering a mass exodus of families out of Mosul. In May, three buses which were filled with Christian students traveling to the University of Mosul for classes were bombed. Three students were left dead and 180 were injured. In October, approximately eight members of the Islamic State of Iraq assaulted 100 Christians who were worshiping in a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad on the 31st. The Islamists stormed into the church sanctuary and sprayed it with gunfire after detonating bombs in the neighborhood, gunning down a pair of police officers across the street, and blowing up their own vehicle. The attack resulted in 58 deaths. By the end of the year it was estimated that only 334,000 Christians remained in Iraq, less than half the number existing in 1991.
1) Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws led to the murder of at least two men and a death penalty sentence for a mother of five in 2010. The Rev. Rashid Emmanuel, 32, and his 30-year-old brother, Sajid Emmanuel, were shot to death in Faisalabad, Pakistan, on July 19th after being accused of blasphemy. Five days earlier, handwriting experts notified authorities that signatures on papers denigrating AMuhammad did not match those of the accused. Expecting exoneration, the Emmanuel brothers were being led in handcuffs back to jail when they were murdered. Advocacy group representatives said their bodies bore cuts and other signs of torture, indicating abuse while the two were in custody. Large demonstrations calling for the death of the brothers were staged by Muslims during their custody period. Asia Bibi (aka Aaysa Bibi, Asia Noreen) was the first woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad and defaming Islam. Bibi inquired during an interview with Compass Direct News, “How can an innocent person be accused, have a case in court after a false FIR [First Information Report], and then be given the death sentence, without even once taking into consideration what he or she has to say?” Arrested on June 19, she has not once been asked for a statement in court by either an attorney or a judge. Despite the atrocities committed against non-Islamic minorities in nations such as Pakistan under the guise of blasphemy laws, the United Nations General Assembly approved a “Defamation of Religions” resolution on December 21st which lends legitimacy to such edicts.