Commitment to Egypt’s New Constitution Questioned After ‘Blasphemy’ Charge
Egypt, June 06, 2014: Kerolos Shouky Attallah, is accused of violating Article 98F of the Egyptian Penal Code for “liking” a Facebook page of Christian converts known as the Knights of the Cross. On January 14 and 15 of this year, a referendum was passed on a new constitution in Egypt. According to supporters, it ensures the basic rights of free speech and belief for Egyptians, but the existence of a blasphemy law in Egypt, is a violation of Egypt’s new constitution, which was supposed to take effect on January 18.
- Pray Egypt will commit to its new constitution
- Pray all accusations and charges against Attallah are dismissed
- Pray our merciful God will continue guiding and protecting our brothers and sisters in Egypt.
Arkansas Congressman Introduces Bill to Grant Meriam Permanent Legal Status in the U.S.
United States, June 10, 2014: In the latest development on Capitol Hill regarding the case of Meriam Ibrahim, Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton has introduced a bill that would grant Meriam Ibrahim, as well as her two children, permanent resident status in the United States. Meriam was sentenced to death by hanging last month in Khartoum, Sudan, after refusing to give up her Christian faith. She is currently imprisoned with her 20-month-old son Martin and newborn daughter Maya in Khartoum. Cotton stated, “I am disappointed by the Obama administration’s inaction and urge them to grant Meriam permanent legal status.”
- Pray the Obama Administration will act on behalf of Meriam Ibrahim and her family
- Pray for the passage of legislation that would grant Meriam Ibrahim, as well as her two children, permanent resident status in the United States
- Pray for Meriam’s speedy and safe release
Boko Haram Abducts at Least 20 Women from Fulani Village Near Chibok
Nigeria, June 09, 2014: Suspected Boko Haram militants kidnapped at least 20 young women in Nigeria, near Chibok where more than 200 schoolgirls were taken two months ago, local officials said. The suspected militants came into the village in broad daylight on Saturday, heavily armed and wearing military uniforms. The location of the women is still unknown and the kidnappers have not made contact with their families.
- Pray all the kidnapped women and girls are safely returned to their families
- Pray those who persecute God’s children, seek salvation in Christ Jesus
- Pray for the victory of all our brothers and sisters in Christ
BJP Vice Chairman Calls on Nepal to Immediately and Completely Ban Religious Conversions
Nepal, June 09, 2014: According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), BJP vice chairman Bhagat Singh Koshiyari called for a legal ban on conversions during his visit to Nepal. The timing of the call is sensitive as Nepal’s Constituent Assembly is in the process of drafting a new constitution. “Mr Koshiyari’s comments are of concern. They appear to be an attempt to persuade Nepal not to include freedom of religion in the new constitution and laws of Nepal,” said CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas.
- Pray Nepal will disregard the request of Koshiyari and stand for their people
- Pray the new constitution will include freedom of religion and allow our brothers and sisters to worship and share God’s word
- Pray Nepal will receive the Word of our God and be saved in Christ’s name
North Korea Unleashes Crackdown on Christianity
North Korea continues to detain or repatriate its citizens with ties to the church in China. According to Daily NK, “personnel from a number of state organs, including the State Security Department, General Reconnaissance Bureau and diplomatic corps, have received additional orders on the matter.” One of the victims, South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook, is currently serving a life sentence for “anti-state crimes.”
- Pray the enemy of of our Almighty God will not be successful in bringing persecution and injustice to Christians in North Korea
- Pray for the release of all imprisoned Christians in North Korea
- Pray for the renewing of strength and comfort of our brothers and sisters in North Korea
Kyrgyzstan Pastor Kept From Brother’s Funeral By Local Imam
Kyrgyzstan, June 06, 2014: In the village of Zherge-Tal, Imam Arstan stopped Protestant pastor Kapar Yusup uuly Abdukayimov from participating in the burial procession of his deceased 51-year old brother Japar Abdukayimov. “Imam Arstan insulted me with all kinds of unrepeatable words, calling me a traitor, and told people at the procession this will happen to anyone who leaves Islam and accepts Christianity or other religions,” Pastor Yusup uuly told Forum 18. Numerous Kyrgyz Christians in recent years were not allowed to be buried in their local villages, and several were buried in other cemeteries used by Russian Orthodox.
- Pray that in future cases like these, Christians will be able to bury their loved ones in their own villages
- Pray for the comfort of our Lord to come upon Pastor Yusup and his family through these dark times
- Pray Imam Arstan will receive the true Word of God and be saved
Bihar, June 11, 2014: The IET founded by Dr. P.G. Vergis pioneered the Gospel work in a remote village called Kaliyanganj in Bihar in 2010 ably assisted by Laxmi Prasad Yadav, the IET worker in Bihar. Responding to the preaching of the good news within a short time the entire village accepted Christ and now they have also constructed a prayer hall there.
The problem started when one of the elders died in 2012 due to illness, and the members of his extended family demanded for the body so that they could cremate the body as per Hindu rites. But this family which had come to the Lord stood their ground and did not permit it.
Consequent to that an altercation followed between the two groups and the Christians were thrashed by the Hindus. As a result, almost all the other believers in the village backslided, but this particular family stood firm and continued to follow Christ and his teachings. Sadanandan
Singh is the head of this bold family. On 25th of May, 2014, Dr. P.G. Vergis, went there for a meeting and had a blessed time. But unfortunately after his visit, the anti-Christian forces in the village went after Sadanand Singh’s family and beat up all the members of the family. They also blocked the road to his house by putting bamboos in the middle of the road. Though they went and complained about the incident to the local Panchayat chairman and the members, they did not get any justice from them.
Again a couple of days ago they came and beat up the family – even the little children and the young girls, asking them all to give up Christianity. But Sadanandan Singh and his family are very strong in their in the Lord and nobody seems to be able to shake them in their faith.
Kaliyanganj is 180 km from Siliguri and this family is putting up a bold fight for the Lord in their village. Please pray for this bold Christian family.
June 11, 2014: The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has asked parliament to declare a state of emergency after hundreds of insurgents seized control of the seat of the provincial government in Mosul, historically a Christian heartland of Iraq, forcing out the Iraqi army and the police.
Up to 500,000 of the city’s inhabitants have fled, including virtually all of the city’s remaining Christian population after the attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who are also known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group).
“Ninety-nine percent of the Christians have left Mosul,” one Presbyterian pastor, Haitham Jazrawi, said.
Canon Andrew White, vicar of St George’s Anglican church in Baghdad, wrote today: “Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war.” ISIL “does not even see Al Qaeda as extreme enough,” he said, and has … “destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.”
He added: “The Christian centre of Iraq has been totally ransacked. The tanks are moving into the Christian villages destroying them and causing total carnage. The ISIS militants are now moving towards Kirkuk … to the oil fields that provide the lifeblood of Iraq. We are faced with total war that all the Iraqi military have now retreated from.”
A Dominican priest in Mosul wrote: “What we are living and what we have seen over the last two days is horrible and catastrophic.” Fr Najeeb Michaeel said the ancient priory of Mar Behnam and other churches fell into the hands of the rebels yesterday morning, the US-based charity International Christian Concern reported. “We are now surrounded and threatened with death … pray for us.”
World Watch Monitor, which monitors Christian persecution, reported that up to a thousand Christian families have fled for safer areas.
The militia group now controls considerable territory in eastern Syria and western and central Iraq.
Governor Athel Nujafi in a televised appeal urged the people of Mosul and the province to organise themselves into self-defence groups to resist the ISIL attackers.
The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Shamon Nona, and the other bishops of Mosul, launched an appeal to keep churches and mosques open to pray for peace, also inviting shopkeepers to ensure that people have access to food and basic foodstuffs. The west of the city, which is home to the city’s Chaldean cathedral, is now held by the insurgents.
Thousands of Mosul’s ancient Christian population have fled since 2003 because of the threat of violence. In 2008 Archbishop Nona’s predecessor, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped and murdered.
- the tablet
Kerala, May 20, 2014: The top body of Catholic bishops in India has congratulated National Democratic Alliance, led by BJP, on its thumping win in the general elections, hoping that the new government will uphold eternal values and secularism in making India a great nation.
“Let the new government led by BJP enable the India of Mahatma Gandhi stand tall among the world nations ensuring protection, security, welfare and sustained development of the people of all sections,” Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said in a statement.
He hoped that the new government will continue to uphold the eternal values, secularism and principles of democracy to lead the nation on the path of development.
Reaffirming the Catholic Church’s support to the government’s activities in the process of nation building, he said that the new Government has the responsibility to ensure the security of the minorities and to show special consideration towards the weaker sections of the country.
The Catholic body advised Congress party to learn from experience and perform as a creative force in the opposition knowing the pulse of the public.
- press statement
Panaji, April 02, 2014: The Goa Church is a significant player in Goa’s socio-political space with its Catholic population pegged at nearly 27 percent.
The Goa BJP is using Catholic legislators in the party as a “mask” to openly criticize the Church in Goa for hyping the secularism versus communalism debate ahead of general elections, the NCP Tuesday alleged.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) vice president Trajano D’Mello also told a press conference here that the drug mafia had shifted its allegiance to the present government, which was why a legislative committee report on drug trade in Goa was not being adopted by the BJP-led coalition government.
“Why are BJP’s Hindu MLAs not coming forward to criticise the Goa Church for starting a debate on secularism and communalism? Why are only Christian MLAs being used as a mask by the BJP?” D’Mello said, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to start in-fighting within the minority community in Goa.
Goa Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza of the BJP and other Catholic legislators, who are either members of the saffron party or are part of the ruling coalition, have been openly criticising the Church as well as the Roman Catholic priests in Goa for the last one week.
While D’Souza blamed the Church for trying to create a secularism versus communalism divide, Benaulim legislator Caitu Silva accused Catholic priests of supporting the Congress.
“I want to know why the priests do not tell the people two months in advance to support the Congress. Why do they tell us to support the Congress only on the eve of election,” Caitu told reporters Sunday.
The criticism of the Church and one of its social organisations by the ruling Catholic MLAs follows attempts by the former to kindle a secularism versus communalism debate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, much to the displeasure of the BJP, which has insisted on development as the agenda for the general elections.
A circular and a voters’ pledge issued by the Church and its satellite organisations was also obliquely critical of exclusionary and corrupt governance methods adopted by both BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The Goa Church is a significant player in Goa’s socio-political space with its Catholic population pegged at nearly 27 percent.
D’Mello also said the delay by the BJP-led Goa government to act on a crucial legislative committee report on the police-politician drug mafia in Goa, could mean that the drug mafia had switched loyalties to the incumbent government. The report, which was tabled last year, has not been adopted by the government yet.
“When was the report tabled? Why is the government not adopting it? BJP MLAs themselves are on record in the assembly as saying that minor children are slowly being addicted to drugs. Does the government want to encourage this?” D’Mello said.
Incidentally, D’Mello’s NCP is backing Congress candidate Ravi Naik for the North Goa parliamentary seat. Naik and his son Roy find themselves indicted in the very same report for their links to Goa’s drug mafia.
Uganda, April 01, 2014: A young woman in Uganda had to flee from her Muslim family when her father, a sheikh, tried to kill her after finding out about her conversion to Christianity.
Wenene Nuru (23) of Iki-Iki township in Pallisa district gave her life to Christ following a series of events that started with her listening to a Christian-Muslim radio debate about the Sonship of Jesus.
She subsequently had a dream in which she was praying in a church. Wenene then visited a Christian girl, who on 2 March took her to a birthday party, where a pastor spoke about Jesus being born in a person’s heart. “There and then I gave my life to Christ,” Wenene told Morning Star News.
Knowing that her father was likely to react angrily, she kept her new faith a secret. But the following day, a neighbour who had attended the same party told Wenene’s father about her conversion.
On the evening of 4 March, he attacked her. She recounted the ordeal:
My father began beating me with clubs and blows, and I started screaming in great pain. While I was down on the floor bleeding, my father went looking for a knife to kill me. A neighbour … helped me escape.
After receiving treatment in hospital for a week, Wenene was taken in by a church elder in Pallisa.
It can be extremely costly, even dangerous, for a Muslim to leave Islam (apostasy), in some contexts more than others. Tensions have been rising in Uganda over religious conversions.
On Christmas Eve 2011, Pastor Umar Mulinde, a convert from Islam, had acid thrown in his face by Islamic extremists. Doctors have since been able to save his sight and hearing, and he has undergone multiple facial reconstruction operations. Barnabas Fund has assisted with his medical costs.
Uganda is around 75% Christian, but Muslims form a majority in some areas, and Christians there live in a hostile context. Two church buildings, one in Budaka, the other in Butaleja, both predominantly Muslim districts, were burnt down by Islamic extremists in February. They also torched the home of Bishop James Kinyewa on 2 March. He said:
They were shouting “Allahu Akhbar” (“Allah is great”). Now the same militant group is hunting for my life. My family and I are now hiding ourselves, homeless and waiting for God’s intervention.
- morning star news
Lao, March 28, 2013: HRWLRF activists denounce that Christians were under considerable pressures to abandon their faith . For the authorities, they left the village of their “own free will”. Now they have rebuilt a small community in a new, safer area, with full freedom of worship.
Six Lao Christian families victims of constant pressure have had to leave their native Buddhist majority village in the south of the country; residents wanted to force them to abandon their religion and convert.
This is denounced by Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (Hrwlrf), an NGO based in the United States, according to which members of the minority were “threatened with eviction”, if the “did not renounce their faith”. However according to officials of the province of Savannakhet, the families left Natahall village, Phin district, of their “own free will” to “avoid confrontation” with the other inhabitants.
In early March (but the story only recently emerged) some Christian families fled the village of Natahall, building new housing in an area about ten kilometers distant. In the past, the group had converted to Christianity, and this choice, over time, created growing discontent and impatience between the Buddhist majority and the group, in particular, village elders and heads. This year was marked by a continuing escalation of tension, which resulted in the decision to flee.
According to the Hrwlrf report , members of the Christian minority were the victims of persecution and abuse. In December, the leaders of Natahall village, with the support of the police, issued an eviction order against them, but the group resisted and refused, at first, to flee or convert. The authorities “acted to ban the Christian faith from the village and expel the inhabitants who continued to profess Christianity”.
The last episode was on 11 March when, during a public meeting community leaders offended the Christians, calling them followers of a “foreign American religion” and forcing them to convert to Buddhism. The families decided to abandon their homes, starting a new life in a safer area .
Since the Communists came to power in 1975, and the resulting expulsion of foreign missionaries, the Christian minority in Laos has been under strict controls, its right to worship limited.
In a country of six million people, most people (67 per cent) are Buddhist. Christians make up about 2 per cent of the total, 0.7 per cent Catholic.
Protestant communities have suffered the most from religious persecution, a situation AsiaNews documented in the past. Cases include peasants deprived of food for their faith and clergymen arrested by the authorities.
Since April 2011, tighter controls have been imposed, following a violent crackdown against protests led by some groups within the country’s Hmong ethnic minority.
New Delhi, March 28, 2014: With general elections round the corner, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) has called upon the Christians to elect leaders supporting the concerns of the community, including Scheduled Caste status and equal rights for dalit Christians at par with those from the Hindu community.
The forum has requested all member churches to call up on political leaders at their respective constituencies to organize gatherings and make meaningful efforts towards this end.
The NUCF is a forum of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
In a statement, the forum said that anti-conversion laws, enforced in some states, are used to intimidate and harass religious minorities, particularly Christians and there should be religious freedom in the country.
It noted that religious minorities run educational institutions even in the remotest villages as their primary purpose is to educate the poor and the marginalised.
“Minority rights should be upheld in its spirit and the government should continue its support to minority private schools and colleges,” it said.
The forum said that in the process of development and industrialisation, the tribal communities undergo displacement, losing their culture, identity and their livelihood.
It said that policies should be evolved to stop the mass displacement of tribes and protection be given for their livelihoods.
The forum underlined the need to strengthen anti-corruption laws and passage of Prevention of Targeted Communal Violence Bill in the Parliament. It also asked for reservation of 33 per cent seats in Parliament for women.
Mumbai, March 21, 2014: The high number of prison inmates from socio-religious minorities “is due to the attitude of some states, which target the most vulnerable sections of society,” said Arun Ferreira, an activist for Christian Dalits and tribals, who spoke to AsiaNews following the release of the 2012 Prison Statistics report by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB).
According to the report, Muslims, who are 13.4 per cent of India’s population, represented 28.02 per cent of the prison population in 2012. Christians are in the same situation. Nationally, they are 2.3 per cent of the population but they constitute 6 per cent of the prison population.
For the activist, “We get these percentages because Dalits, Tribals, Muslims and Christians are often the victims of loopholes and sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Ferreira should know. He personally experience what it means to be behind bars. Accused of being a Naxalite (Maoist) guerrilla, he was arrested in May 2007 in Nagpur (Maharashtra) and indicted on 11 charges, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
During his detention, he was tortured and interrogated twice after being treated with a “truth serum,” a psychoactive drug that is now illegal. After four years and eight months in jail, he was released on bail.
“My experience in prison is that every state tends to target minorities, showing some of its specific features,” Ferreira told AsiaNews.
“In states where Hinduism is strong, like Orissa (where the effects of anti-Christian pogroms still linger), many innocent Christians have been arrested and thrown in prison, falsely accused of being Naxalites. However, the same thing happened in Gujarat after the 2002 riots.”
“In Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which are also under strong Hindu influence, the authorities have overtly attacked the Christian community, treating its members as the ‘criminal’ element in the Dalit and Tribal groups.”
All too often, Christians fall into the clutches of the justice system on false evidence because they back causes that embarrass the authorities.
“In Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, some tribal Christians were arrested on false accusations of terrorism,” Ferreira noted, “when in fact the problem was their struggle against large-scale mining projects that required huge tracts of land to be expropriated.”
The same is true for Tamil Nadu, where Christians have been charged with ‘subversion’ for opposing the construction of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.
“Sadly, neither the government nor the NCRB recognise political prisoners as a separate category, so there are no statistics about it.”