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)
A grenade exploded outside the St. Polycarp Anglican Church in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 30th (2012). John Ian Maina, a nine-year-old child who was waiting with other children for Sunday School to begin, was killed. Several other children were injured and rushed to area hospitals. A warning was issued the previous day by police in regard to al-Shabaab. The group threatened retaliation throughout Kenya following the capture of Kismayo Port by the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) in southern Somalia. It is suspected that the Islamists have targeted several congregations in various areas of Kenya since the KDF entered Somalia.
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.
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.
INDIA – A major Hindu rally, the Narmada Samajik Kumbh, drew nearly 2 million adherents to the banks of the Narmada River prior to its conclusion on February 13th. During the gathering, incendiary rhetoric aimed against Christians in Madhya Pradesh has resulted in Christian leaders requesting government protection. A great deal of the anti-Christian speech was leveled against missionaries. The last speaker of the event reportedly claimed, “Christians are like bed bugs, who hide under the guise of so-called missionary work, and drink the blood of the innocent vulnerable people and bed bugs should be killed or else they will continue drinking blood.”
Please pray for Christians residing in India, particularly those in Madhya Pradesh.
INDONESIA – A mob of a thousand Islamists in Java burned two church buildings and damaged another in addition to attacking police officers on February 8th to “protest” the “lenient” sentence given to a Christian convicted of blaspheming Islam. Antonius Bawengan, 58, received the maximum sentence possible, five years’ imprisonment, for distributing literature which allegedly denounced Islam. The mob screamed that Bawengan should have been put to death. Ambassador Scot Marciel posted a statement on the U. S. Embassy websate, remarking that the U.S. agrees with the “vast majority of Indonesians” who deplore the violence which took place. The ambassador also encouraged the Indonesian government to continue fostering tolerance among all communities and protecting their rights.
Please pray for the Christians in Indonesia in general, and for Antonius Bawengan in particular.
EGYPT – As demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the government erupted in Egypt, Islamists in the southern part of the nation broke into two Coptic Christian homes on January 30th, murdering men, women, and children. A total of 11 people were butchered by the cowardly assailants, and four others were wounded seriously. The survivors reported that the assailants were assisted by Muslim neighbors. Fear is escalating among Christians in Egypt, particularly Coptic Christians, regarding who will be in charge of the government. Many believe it will fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Please pray for Christians in Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations where persecution is growing due to Islamic radicalization.
SOMALIA – A wife and mother of four, Asha Mberwa was murdered on January 7th near Mogadishu by Islamists for simply being a Christian. According to a relative, Asha was arrested on the 6th by members of al-Shabaab. The following day, her throat was slit in front of villagers who gathered as witnesses of the event. The relative stated Asha’s husband fled to an unknown location after she began receiving threatening messages, and that a “good Samaritan” in Mogadishu was caring for the children (ages 12, 8, 6, 4).
Please pray for the Mberwa children and the rest of Asha’s family. Please pray as well for the Christians in Somalia who al-Shabaab has determined to exterminate.
A Twitter campaign has been launched by Christian leaders in order to preserve the life of Said Musa, 45, an Afghan and former Red Cross worker, who has been sentenced to execution for simply converting to Christianity from Islam. The Daily Mail reported on February 7 th that a judge handed down the sentence and informed Musa he would be hanged within days unless he returned to Islam. The campaign on Twitter began with Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College, appealing to Mr. Obama to “persuade the Afghan govt. not to execute our brother Said Musa.” Shortly after that, John Piper tweeted a similar message, “Mr. President, speak wisely and boldly, in private if necessary, for Said Musa, imprisoned in Kabul.” Matt Chandler was among over one hundred who re-tweeted a message from Christian Hip Hop artist Shai Linn requesting prayer for Musa. David Platt tweeted, “Let us not be quiet. Pray/Plead for Said Musa…& unknown others who face death for confessing Christ.” Ed Stetzer, in a re-tweeted message, stated, “No man should die b/c he wants to change religion.” Stetzer put in a hash tag for “barackobama” and asked others to re-tweet.
Rick Warren, named one of the Top 20 Twitter celebrities by Forbes, put the spotlight on Musa’s plight and how the secular media has underreported this story. He wrote, “Media CLAIM to champion free speech but if they really did, they’d report these stories everyday.” Saddleback’s pastor also linked a National Review Online article, “America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa.” The article questions why Mr. Obama was so vocal regarding Terry Jones’ threat to burn the Qu’ran, but has been absolutely silent regarding Said Musa’s impending execution. Paul Marshall stated, “If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.”
Musa reported that during his incarceration he has been sexually assaulted, beaten, and spit upon for being a Christian. Despite the threat of death, he refused to renounce Christ Jesus. He told a Sunday Times reporter, “My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.” His wife and six children have fled Afghanistan in fear for their lives.
HT: Christian Post
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.
Nurta Mohamed Farah, 17, fled from her home village of Bardher in the Gedo Region, Somalia, to live with relatives in the Galgaduud Region after her parents were shackled to a tree and tortured for converting to Christianity from Islam. Though she fled to escape persecution because she also converted, a pair of Islamic men shot her to death on November 25th (2010). She was just 200 meters from her new home when she was murdered. It is suspected that the Islamists who shot her in the chest and head were relatives acting on behalf of her family.
Please pray for Christians in Somalia who face beatings and the loss of life for their faith in Christ Jesus.
PAKISTAN – An Islamic imam, Maulana Yousef Qureshi, offered 500,000 rupees ($5,800 USD) on December 3, 2010, to anyone who murdered Asia Bibi if the court fails to implement capital punishment against her. Asia Bibi was found guilty of “insulting” Muhammad and sentenced to death by hanging under a blasphemy law which is utilized frequently in Pakistan to persecute non-Muslims. Two days later, Nawa-i-Waqt, a major Pakistani newspaper, issued a call for Muslims to decapitate the wife and mother of five if she is not hanged to death. The newspaper declared, “The punishment handed down to Asia Bibi will be carried out in one manner or the other.” Prior to these calls for murder, Bibi’s appeal drew demonstrations all over Pakistan.
Islamists in the Lahore high court blocked an offer of pardon by President Zardari. The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who called publicly for a pardon, was gunned down this past week by a police guard in Islamabad. The Moaviya, an Islamist group, has declared its intention to mount a suicide attack on the Sheikhupura district jail where the 45-year-0ld Bibi is being held. An intelligence report issued last week has corroborated the threat.
There are currently 131 individuals being imprisoned across Punjab on blasphemy charges. 11 have been sentenced to death, including Bibi, the first woman to be given the death penalty. Though no one has been executed officially by the government following a conviction under the controversial law, since 1990, 35 individuals accused of blasphemy or defending those charged with blasphemy, have either been victims of extra-judicial killing or found dead in prison under suspicious circumstances.
A bombing of a New Year’s Eve service at the Church of the Two Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, left 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians dead. Riots erupted following the bombing, with frustrated Copts attacking Muslims in a nearby mosque. The Copts have complained bitterly that the government permits attacks against the nation’s historic Christian community by Islamists who desire Egypt’s absolute submission to Islam. Fifty-two anti-Christian incidents occurred the last two years without a single perpetrator being prosecuted.
The U.S. State Department’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, released this past November, revealed the Egyptian government restricts religious freedom in favor of Islam – the official state religion – despite its constitution guaranteeing freedom of religious belief and practice. According to the report, Christians are discriminated individually and collectively, particularly in government employment. The government often arrests, detains and harasses converts from Islam to Christianity, and often refuses to provide them with new identity documents indicating their chosen faith. The government’s refusal to prosecute crimes against Christians contributes to a climate of impunity, encouraging additional assaults by Islamists. In 2009, the government destroyed a quarter of a million pigs, devastating the livelihood of a large community of Christians in Cairo, claiming the action would prevent swine flu.
Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent bipartisan government panel, stated the Egyptian government has failed to take sufficient action to halt the repression and discrimination against Christians, or to punish individuals responsible for severe violations of religious freedom. Regarding the New Year’s bombing, Leo declared, “This attack all too clearly demonstrates the ongoing problem of unchecked violence against Christians in Egypt. At present, there is no real deterrent for those who target Egyptian citizens because of their religious identity. Until there is justice and accountability, the Christian minority, and other minorities in Egypt, will remain vulnerable to extremists and terrorists.”
Islamists are promoting anti-Christian sentiment among ordinary Egyptian citizens according to Youssef Sidhom, the editor of a Coptic newspaper. Sidhom noted, “The infiltration of political Islam into our education, our schools, into the hearts and minds of school teachers and into our school books and is extremely dangerous because it produces innocent children who are infected by the version of Islam that does not accept the other and preaches non-acceptance of Christians.”
Christians in Iraq have called off Christmas festivities as al-Qaeda insurgents threatened more attacks against Christians. Christians are still terrified after Islamists sieged a Baghdad church two months ago and murdered 68 people. Just days after the siege, insurgents targeted Christian homes and neighborhoods across the capital with a series of bombs. A council representing Christian denominations across the nation advised its members to cancel public Christmas celebrations out of concern for new terror attacks, and also to mourn for the victims of the church siege and other violence. Church officials in some cities went so far as to encourage Christians to refrain from decorating their own homes. This past Tuesday, the Islamic State of Iraq renewed its threats against Christians, and demanded the release of two women it claims are being held captive by Egypt’s Coptic Church. Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako commented, “Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians. We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak.” It is believed only 400-600 thousand Christians remain in Iraq, as compared to the 1.4 million who lived in the nation prior to the war.
Islamists in Great Britain launched a nationwide campaign denouncing Christmas as evil. Thousands of placards were posted around the UK claiming the historic season of goodwill is responsible for sexually transmitted diseases, debt, rape, teenage pregnancies, abortion, paganism, domestic violence, homelessness, vandalism, alcohol and drugs. One of the other offenses of Christmas – “claiming God has a son.” The hope for Great Britain? The poster declares, “In Islam we are protected from all of these evils. We have marriage, family, honour, dignity, security, rights for man, woman and child.”
What the posters don’t reveal is that Islamic nations lead the world in the persecution of religious minorities and human rights violations. Nonetheless, organizers hope the campaign will “destroy Christmas” and lead British citizens to convert to Islam. Abu Rumaysah, who has called for Sharia Law in Great Britain, led the organization of the campaign. The 27-year-old Islamist declared he was unconcerned about offending Christians, stating, “Christmas is a lie and as Muslims it is our duty to attack it. But our main attack is on the fruits of Christmas, things like alcohol abuse and promiscuity that increase during Christmas and all the other evils these lead to such as abortion, domestic violence, and crime. We hope that our campaign will make people realize that Islam is the only way to avoid this and convert.”
Christine Frost, founder of the East London Neighbours in Poplar charity – a volunteer group which distributes food and presents to pensioners and the lonely at Christmas – remarked, “The more posters I saw, the more angry I got. Someone is stirring hatred which leaves the road open to revenge attacks or petrol bombs through letter-boxes. I told the Mayor we are all scared. If we said such things about Muslims, we’d all be hanging from lamp-posts.” With one in three British Muslim students believing that murder is justified on behalf of Islam, and 40% wanting Sharia Law enforced in the nation, her fears are not unfounded.
The Communist central government of Vietnam locked out hundreds of Protestant Christians from a Christmas celebration which was scheduled for this past Sunday. The multitudes arriving to the National Convention Center in the Tu Kiem district of Hanoi were greeted icily by locked doors and police officers who told them to leave. Some of the Christians began singing and praying in the square in front of the center, only to be attacked by the police with fists, clubs and electric cattle prods. At least six individuals, including the Rev. Nguyen Huu Bao – the scheduled event speaker – were arrested. Similar incidents occurred the same day in at least four other places throughout the nation, as well as on December 19 in the city of Danang, and in the provinces of Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, and Quang Nam.
In Thanh Hoa province, Christians from several house church groups planned a joint celebration in a Dong Phu commune. Pastor Ho Van Thom arrived to the location finding Christians who had been beaten and wounded by police intent on preventing Christmas worship. The Rev. Ho Tan Khoa, superintendent of the unregistered United Presbyterian Church of Vietnam, was invited to speak at a house church Christmas celebration in Danang. Prior to his arrival, authorities removed the pulpit, sound system, and chairs from the meeting place despite not having a warrant. They also ripped down Christmas decorations adorning the facility.
House churches received permission for a public Christmas celebration to be held on December 26 from central government authorities in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Nonetheless, venue owners who are under threat refuse to rent facilities to them. It is believed authorities were alarmed last year following the size and attraction of the Christmas events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Those twin events attracted over 50,000 people. As Christmas Day approaches, it appears the 400,000 Protestants belonging to unregistered house churches will be denied group Christmas celebrations.
Christians in Orissa, India, are still living in a state of insecurity two years after persecution was unleashed against them two years ago. Christians in Kandhamai are still facing discrimination, being denied government food supplies and other goods which are distributed to the poor. The children of Christian parents are not permitted access to government schools in particular villages. Archbishop Raphael Cheenath stated, “There is no violence, but there is no peace.” He noted approximately 16,000 Christian families have no homes, and that they have not been permitted to return to their villages unless they convert to Hinduism. In many of the villages in Kandhamai, Christians face humiliating mistreatment on a daily basis. They are prevented from gathering water at village wells, kept from collecting firewood, and are refused service at grocery shops. Authorities have been silent regarding the abuse even when complaints have been lodged.
Please continue to pray for believers in Orissa who are displaced or otherwise suffering mistreatment in the aftermath of the 2008 riots. Winter is upon them, and relief is needed. Please pray and work for their relief, and pray for the authorities to take appropriate action.
NBC has recently picked up the story regarding Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of five who has been sentenced to death by hanging under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. The death sentence has received condemnation across the globe and placed pressure upon the Pakistani government to overturn the verdict, but Islamic groups have threatened civil war if the government pardons Bibi or attempts to amend the law.
Ashiq Masih, Bibi’s husband, has gone into hiding with their children because Islamists are out to kill the family. He continues to insist Asia was the victim of old score-settling in their village of Ittan Walli, where his family was just one of a pair of Christian families. In an interview with NBC News, Qari Muhammed Salem, the local Islamic cleric in Ittan Walli, accused Masih of lying and insisted Bibi is guilty. He claims she confessed her crime before the entire village and begged for forgiveness.
Bibi’s attorney has filed an appeal with the High Court in Lahore. If the appeals process is protracted, Pakistani President Asif Zardari could consider a pardon. Shahbaz Bhatti, the nation’s Minister for Minority Affairs, submitted a report to Zardari which concluded the charges were baseless. Other acquittals in similar cases have resulted in the assassination of both judges and accused persons. The accused have often been murdered inside prisons or outside courtrooms just after being released. Bhatti promised, “We will protect Asia and her entire family. No harm will come to them.” Nonetheless, Islamic groups have held demonstrations across Pakistan with reports of a possible pardon for Bibi, and Zardari has been warned that a violent backlash will be unleashed if the death sentence is commuted. At one such rally, organized by the “Movement for the Protection of the Prophet’s Honor,” protesters chanted, “We are ready to sacrifice our life for the prophet.”
Please continue to pray for Asia, Ashiq, and their children, and for the nation of Pakistan.
Prem Singh Gurugn, a 40-year-old ethnic Nepalese citizen from south Bhutan, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on October 6th for “attempting to promote civil unrest” by showing films on Christianity. He was also charged with violation of the Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act of 2006. Sections 105(1) and 110 of this law require that authorities examine all films before public screening. He was arrested four months ago when local residents complained he was showing the films in Gonggaon and Simkharkha. This past July, the government of Bhutan proposed an amendment to the penal code which would punish “proselytizing” that “uses coercion or other forms of inducement.”
Sunni terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda attacked an Assyrian Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 31st. Fifty-nine worshipers were murdered, including two priests, along with five police officers. Over 80 others were injured. The terrorists were all killed in the attack, either with the explosives they detonated or by the Iraqi police. The terrorists at first held the worshipers hostage, demanding the release of two Egyptian Christian women who they insisted were being held against their will and tortured by Coptic Christians.
Christians continue to fear for their safety as false allegations, violent threats, and mass demonstrations escalate against them in Egypt. Islamic rage was ignited when unfounded accusations were made on Al-Jazeera television that Christians aligned with Israel and have been stockpiling weapons in preparation for war against Muslims. The rights of Christians in the nation have been threatened by the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a government body, which confirmed Egypt as an Islamic state where “the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic identity of the State.” Thousands of Islamists with the Front of Islamic Egypt have promised a Christian “bloodbath” in massive demonstrations.
Mark Ebeid, a Coptic activist, stated, “Sheikhs in Egypt decided to spread unfounded allegations and convince thousands of Muslims of their fabrications. Besides, the Coptic Church would have never delivered two of its children, who sought refuge within its walls, to the fundamentalists.”
Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani, a leader in the Full Gospel “Church of Iran” network, was sentenced to death for “apostasy” by the 11th Chamber of the Assize Court of the Province of Gilan in Iran. He was arrested in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring his son to study the Quran. His wife was also imprisoned, but released eventually. Pastor Nardarkhani was transferred to Lakan prison, which is supervised by the Political Police of the Islamic Republic. If he is executed, it would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades.