Persecution Briefs from 'Compass Direct'
See also Persecution News and Preparing for Persecution
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Eritrea Jails 16 for Watching Home Video
U.S. Touts Diplomatic Progress on Religious Freedom Issues
Eritrea - map (March 18, 2005) -- Last Sunday evening, Eritrean security police arrested 16 Protestants for watching a Christian video together in the town of Adi-Kibe. The 16 members of Kale Hiwot Church were put under custody at the local police station. On Monday, two older women in the group were released after paying fines, but the other 14 remain jailed, although no official charges have been filed against them. The small nation in northeast Africa was added to the U.S. State Department’s list of “countries of particular concern” last September for its flagrant violations of religious freedom. Eritrean officials categorically deny ever-increasing reports of the harsh government crackdown underway against Protestant churches.
Chinese Christians React to New Religious Regulations
House church leaders are divided over registration
BEIJING (March 9) -- On March 1, China adopted the new Regulations on Religious Affairs, first announced by the government in December 2004. The government claims the new regulations are a step towards religious freedom. However, legal scholars say the law is vague, reinforces government control of religion and increases penalties for unregistered churches. The regulations have already sparked debate among house church Christians. Some younger house church leaders are optimistic and say they will register, while an older generation of leaders -- those who survived the Cultural Revolution -- maintain suspicion of the government and are less likely to register.
Indian Evangelist’s Battered Body Found in Karnataka
Christians suspect death linked to growing tide of religious violence
India (February 22) -- On February 11, the body of 25-year-old Christian evangelist Pastor Narayan was found in the small town of Channapatana in Karnataka state, India. Doctors who performed an autopsy said Narayan had been brutally murdered -- the corpse had broken ribs and teeth and injuries to the abdomen. However, “the official report of the autopsy suggested it was a case of suicide,” Sajan K. George ... suspects Hindu extremists were responsible for Narayan’s death and that their sympathizers are engaged in a cover-up. A fact-finding mission to the district revealed that attacks on minority Christians have been going on for years and several churches have been destroyed.
Eritrea Jails another 31 Christians
University professor, medical doctor are among new prisoners.
Eritrea - map (February 16, 2005) -- Another 31 Eritrean Christians have been jailed over the past 10 days, making a total of 187 arrests for “illegal” Christian activities since the beginning of the year. Fourteen members of the Kale Hiwot Church in Adi-Tekelzan were apprehended February 4 during a Bible study at the home of their pastor. The previous day, Professor Senere Zaid of the agriculture faculty at Eritrea University was put under arrest in Asmara. Compass also documented the arrest of a physician identified as Dr. Segid in Keren during the last week of January. Last Saturday, 15 Christian women were jailed at the police station in Keren. Local authorities reportedly described the evangelical believers as “a threat to national security.” However, “all the sisters exposed to imprisonment and insult by the authorities in Keren were gathered merely for the purpose of prayer, not any political purpose,” one of their colleagues confirmed.
Muslim Militants Target Expelled Christian Students
Two students are in hiding after their families are attacked
BAUCHI, Nigeria (2-3-05) -- Muslim militants pronounced a death sentence on five Christian students expelled from public schools in November for conducting an evangelistic outreach.
The families of two of the students, Miss Hanatu Haruna Alkali and Abraham Adamu Misal, were attacked on January 26 when militants went to their family homes intending to kill them. Alkali and Misal escaped harm but are now in hiding. The location of the other three students is unknown.
Muslim leaders in Bauchi claimed the student outreach was “meant to deliberately provoke the Muslims” and declared their support for the activities of the Muslim militants. They called on all Muslims to be prepared to defend their religion “and the person and good name of the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, at all times.”
SIXTY MORE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS JAILED
Eritrea (January 5, 2005 --see map Ethiopia/Eritrea) -- Sixty members of the Rema Charismatic Church in the Eritrean capital of Asmara have been arrested for holding a New Year’s Eve celebration in the home of one of their church leaders. ... They are reportedly being held in solitary confinement the Mai-Serwa military camp.
Independent Protestant churches have experienced heavy police surveillance since the U.S. State Department named Eritrea as a “country of particular concern” for its severe religious freedom violations. “There are cars parked outside our homes and offices, following us to the post office or wherever we go,” one Christian commented.
...the government seems to be “afraid that people who consider their highest allegiance to be [to] God, at some point may not be patriotic and follow the state’s instructions.”
Nigerian Student Murdered in Clash over Evangelism
Five other Christians expelled from two public schools.
by Obed Minchakpu
BAUCHI, Nigeria (December 20, 2004) -- Opposition to Christian evangelism in Nigeria has resulted in the murder of Sunday Nache Achi, a fourth-year architectural student at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in the northern city of Bauchi.
University representatives earlier expelled students Abraham Adamu Misal, Hannatu Haruna Alkali and Habakkuk Solomon for distributing a Christian leaflet that compared the teachings of Jesus with Islam. Muslims students at the nearby Bauchi Federal Polytechnic threatened two Christians with death before the pair was expelled from the school for similar evangelistic activities.
Abducted from his room by masked assailants dressed in jihad style, Achi was strangled to death sometime in the early morning hours of December 9 and his body abandoned next to a mosque. Bauchi state Governor Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu promised a full investigation; however, authorities have not yet arrested any suspects in the murder.
Egyptian Authorities Refuse to Charge Christian Prisoner
Jailed Copt’s ‘crime’ kept secret.
CAIRO (November 19) -- An Egyptian Christian jailed without charges for 19 months has become emotionally disturbed and lost vision in one eye from torture and lack of medical treatment, his widowed mother declared last week. Hany Samir Tawfik, 28, has been continuously jailed since March 2003. After being deported back to Egypt from Saudi Arabia on June 15, 2002, he was arrested at the Cairo international airport upon his return and detained for 52 days. Tawfik was then re-arrested by police seven months later because he refused their demands to spy on an evangelical Christian pastor, Tawfik’s family and church sources said. Despite direct appeals by Tawfik’s widowed mother to Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, authorities refuse to release him or make public his alleged “crimes.”
Tawfik’s mother told Compass that prison authorities had taken away his Bible and destroyed it in front of him. “He said they told him he was a ‘special’ case, so they had been told to give him extra suffering.”
Persecution continues for Mennonite house church Christians
HO CHI MINH CITY (November 2, 2004) -- Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang, prominent rights activist and general secretary of the Mennonite church in Vietnam, is scheduled to be tried on November 12. ... Irregularities and inconsistencies continue to surround the case. Mrs. Quang was denied the bi-weekly visit scheduled for October 15 and went daily after that to try to see her husband. She was finally told on October 22 that she would not be allowed to see him unless she agreed to try to convince him to admit to his “crime.”
Quang was arrested on June 8 on the charge of “inciting others to resist officers of the law doing their duty.” ... Unprecedented character attacks on Quang by Vietnam’s official media occurred shortly after his arrest. Authorities admitted to some of Quang’s colleagues early on that the real reason for his arrest was his Internet activity in which he carefully documented and published many religious liberty and human rights abuses. ...
Meanwhile, constant heavy pressure is being placed on Montagnard Mennonites in the Central Highlands. On October 22, Human Rights Watch released news of the September 24 destruction of a Mennonite church, office and home of Pastor Chinh.
Christians in China Appeal Labor Camp Punishment
Sentencing without trial contradicts China’s claim of religious freedom.
by Xu Mei
China (September 20) -- The relatives of three Christians being held in labor camps in mainland China have appealed to local authorities for an explanation of their crimes. A letter of appeal was also received by Christians in Hong Kong, detailing the arrests of the three men, who were sentenced to “re-education through labor” camps without trial.
Meanwhile China has rejected charges of religious repression published in last week’s report of the United States Commission on Religious Freedom. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan denied allegations of religious rights abuse and insisted that “Freedom of religious belief is protected by China’s constitution and other laws.”
OFFICIALS TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER CHRISTIANITY
China (August 25) -- Evidence is emerging of a renewed crackdown on 'illegal religious activities' in China and a tightening of controls on academic and media activities related to religion. Several government meetings held this year have encouraged provincial leaders to step up their efforts to control house church movements, leading to a wave of mass arrests in June, July and August. Even official church leaders have been targeted. Jin Da, a leader of the officially recognized Three Self Patriotic Movement, was arrested in mid July. A few weeks later, the government approved detailed new regulations for the administration of religious affairs in China. Partly in reaction to a controversial book and DVD documentary released earlier this year, the government has also downplayed the growth of the church in China.
Nigerian Officials Reinstate Christian Nurses
Islamic dress code prompted firing two years earlier by Obed Minchakpu
Nigeria (August 30) -- Nigerian officials have reinstated 11 Christian nurses at the Federal Medical Center in Azare, a town in the northern state of Bauchi, more than two years after they were fired for refusing to abide by an Islamic dress code. Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo, acting on behalf of the Nigerian government, recalled the 11 nurses on Monday, August 2. The nurses’ ordeal started when the medical director of the government hospital in Azare attempted to impose Islamic dress on female hospital personnel in January 2002. The nurses’ plight drew the attention of religious liberty organizations around the world.
Distress, Harassment Continue for Vietnam’s Montagnards
U.N. relief workers airlift 198 refugees to Cambodian capital.
HO CHI MINH CITY (August 16, 2004) -- Government authorities continue to apply unrelenting pressure on tribal Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The most recent phase of the long-standing conflict commenced in April 2004, when thousands of Montagnards joined protests against the confiscation of tribal lands and the severe repression of the Christian faith. The government subsequently sent a special “peace corps” to the poverty-stricken region. But the corps really serves as “spies and guards.”. . . After its arrival, eight men in Dak Lak province were arrested and severely beaten.
Church sources report that eight men were killed in Gia Lai province; four were shot and four were beaten to death. In July, 198 Montagnard refugees were airlifted from the Cambodian border province of Ratanakiri to Phnom Penh. One Vietnamese source told Compass that the rescue operation could encourage others to flee Vietnam. “It’s hard to describe the desperation people are feeling,” he said. “Vietnamese authorities tell everyone that the highlands are a place of peace, happiness and ethnic equality. But in reality they make it a hell for the Montagnards.”
Eritrean Pastors Still Jailed without ChargesTwo imprisoned Protestants escape from Military Center
Eritrea (see map Ethiopia/Eritrea) July 28 -- Nine weeks after Eritrean police arrested three prominent Protestant pastors, the Asmara government continues to detain them and refuses families and church members any direct access to the prisoners. ... No reason has been given for their imprisonment, nor have the three been charged with any legal offense. Meanwhile, evangelical pastor Mengse Tweldemedhane and popular Christian singer Yonas Haile managed to escape from the Sawa Military Center and flee together to Sudan in late June. Christian vocalist Helen Berhane remains under severe confinement in a shipping container at the Mai Serwa military camp just north of Asmara since her arrest on May 13.
Although the Eritrean Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all citizens, President Isaias Afewerki closed down the nation’s independent Protestant churches in May 2002, forbidding the 20,000 members of 12 banned denominations to worship even in their homes."
China Steps Up Attack on ‘Illegal’ Religious Activity
Detention of Samuel Lamb sparks wide concern
NANJING, China (July 19) -- Chinese authorities detained and interrogated well-known house church leader Samuel Lamb after worship services on Sunday, June 13. Ten of his co-workers were also detained and interrogated. This is the first time in 14 years that Chinese authorities have taken repressive steps against Pastor Lamb, who reportedly hosts 3,000 worshippers per week at his new meeting place in Guangzhou.
Sources in China say it is no coincidence that just two days earlier, authorities detained and later released 100 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship house church network in the central city of Wuhan. Prior to these incidents, members of a high-level Politburo meeting reportedly issued a secret directive calling for a crackdown on all “illegal” religious activities such as unregistered house church meetings. Chinese authorities may be over-reacting to high profile publicity concerning house churches and the “Back to Jerusalem Movement”...
Hindu Extremists Kidnap Pastor’s Wife
Police and local officials refuse to investigate, despite appeals
AHMEDABAD, India (July 9) -- Hindu extremists who kidnapped the wife of a Christian pastor in India six weeks ago are still holding her captive. Local police have refused to make any attempt to find Manulaben Dinana, 23. They have also refused to question the kidnappers who were identified by eyewitnesses as members of a local group of Hindu extremists.
Dinana is the wife of Pastor Dharmesh Ninama, who himself has been assaulted twice by the same group, once in 2002 and again in 2003. Despite ongoing appeals to the Director General of Police, the State Human Rights Commission and State Women’s Commission, officials have taken no action. Meanwhile, Dinana remains in captivity and her husband fears for her life.
Islamic Court Rejects Jordanian Orphan’s CaseJudge refuses to investigate alleged fraud by Muslim guardian.
Jordan (July 6) -- An Islamic court in Jordan has rejected a teenage Christian girl’s lawsuit to cancel her Muslim uncle’s legal guardianship. The June 20 ruling was a setback for Christian widow Siham Qandah, whose estranged brother Abdullah al-Muhtadi has been trying for six years to take custody of her daughter Rawan, 15, and son Fadi, 14, to raise as Muslims.
Amman’s Al-Abdali Sharia Court had ordered an investigation into allegations that al-Muhtadi had embezzled nearly $20,000 of the children’s U.N.-allocated trust fund, which they received after their father was killed while on a peacekeeping mission with the Jordanian army. Judge Mahmud Zghul said he ruled in favor of the Muslim guardian "because all withdrawals from the children’s trust account have been duly authorized by a judge, as required."
“This judge knows that if he rules against Siham’s brother, other judges will be in trouble,” a source in Amman told Compass. “Now Siham is in real trouble.” Qandah and her children have gone into several rounds of hiding while awaiting a judicial solution to the custody battle. The courts have blacklisted the children from leaving Jordan and international treaties prevent most nations from offering them visas.
Arrest in China of 100 House Church Leaders Confirms Trend
New crackdown in response to house church growth
China (June 28) -- Chinese police arrested 100 house church leaders on June 11 as they gathered for a retreat in the central city of Wuhan. Xing Jinfu, 39, who has already been arrested three times in the past for church related activities, was among those detained. The church leaders are being held at an unknown location, according to the China Aid Association. On the same day, Shen Xianfeng, a senior leader of the China Gospel Fellowship (CGF), was placed under house arrest. Reports of increasing arrests of house church leaders began to filter out of China in April, when the New York-based Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China reported that Xu Shuangfu of the controversial Three Grades Servants movement was kidnapped in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. The mass arrest of CGF leaders confirms the belief of many Christians that the Chinese Communist Party apparently has not changed its repressive religious policies under the leadership of President Hu Jintao.
Saudi Arabian Religious Police torture Indian believer for 'spreading Christianity'
Religious police tortured Indian believer for ‘spreading Christianity'
Saudi Arabia (June 9) -- An Indian national abducted and tortured by Saudi Arabia’s religious police for 'spreading Christianity' remains jailed without trial 10 weeks after his detention. Brian Savio O’Connor, 36, was accosted in the Mursalat district of Riyadh on the evening of March 25 by four agents of the muttawa (religious police). After seeing his Saudi identity card listing O’Connor as a Christian, they dragged him to a nearby muttawa office, chained his legs and hung him upside down for seven hours. The four intermittently beat him on the chest and ribs and whipped the soles of his feet with electrical wires."
In response to questions, O’Connor declared that he did preach the Bible, but denied converting Muslims to Christianity. At 2 a.m., the muttawa took O’Connor to the Olaya police station and ordered him put under arrest on charges of preaching Christianity, selling liquor and peddling drugs. [Trumped up charges against Christians are common]
Sri Lankan Parliament to Consider Anti-Conversion BillAttacks on churches continue as politicians campaign to “promote and preserve” Buddhism.
SRI LANKA (June 8) -- Members of the Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party will present a “Bill on the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion” to the Sri Lankan Parliament within the next two weeks. ... The Minister of Buddhist Sasana has also announced plans to introduce three new bills, with the goal of restricting religious conversions and establishing an independent Buddhist court system controlled by Buddhist monks. The bill proposed by the JHU will impose five- to seven-year prison sentences and fines of up to 500,000 rupees ($5,027) for anyone convicted of “forcible conversion.” Meanwhile, attacks on churches have resumed, with at least four incidents reported since the elections.
India Pastor Arrested, Charged Under ‘Freedom of Religion’ Act
DELHI (June 3) – Hindu villagers have accused Pastor Subas Samal and six other Christians from Kilipal village, in the state of Orissa, India, of “conversion by inducement” under the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act. Pastor Samal and his assistant Mr. Dhaneshwar Kandi were arrested on May 29. All seven defendants were due to appear in court today. Hindu villagers claimed the Christians had converted 25 Dalits in the village over a period of ten years, using financial enticement. Advocate Bibhu Prasad Tripathi said the claims were ridiculous.... Five of the accused Christians were victims of an earlier incident on February 10 where their heads were forcibly shaved by Hindu villagers.
Vietnam’s Atrocities Against Montagnards Confirmed
Facts surrounding Easter incident slowly emerge
HO CHI MINH CITY (May 21, 2004) -- In spite of efforts by Vietnam to minimize and cover up their brutal repression of demonstration attempts by the Montagnard ethnic minority this past Easter, consistent information is emerging that confirms atrocities. During Easter weekend, April 10 and 11, Montagnards in Vietnam’s Central Highlands sought to call attention to harsh injustices they suffer at the hands of communist authorities and ethnic Vietnamese settlers. However, Vietnamese security forces attacked the demonstrators, causing many deaths, injuries, arrests, and the flight of many more to unknown locations. One church leader reported to Compass, 'They [state officials] have promised to deliver to us great hardship and pain. They specifically promise us fear and revenge.”
Pakistani Pastor Escapes Islamist CaptorsBadly tortured cleric forced into hiding
PAKISTAN (May 19) -- A Protestant pastor kidnapped last Sunday morning escaped from his Islamist abductors overnight Monday, some 40 hours after he had disappeared on his way to church services in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. Pastor Wilson Fazal, 41, managed to jump out of the vehicle in which his kidnappers were driving him to Peshawar late on the night of May 17. “He himself said he could not believe he could escape, that he got free from those people,” a church source said. “It was a very big miracle.” Fazal re-appeared early yesterday morning at the official Islamabad lodgings of a Quetta parliamentarian. Fazal was severely beaten by his captors, who also subjected him to electric shocks, stabbed him through the tongue, shaved off his hair and mustache and taunted him with savage death threats if he refused to convert to Islam. Fazal’s wife Nasreen and six sons left Quetta yesterday to be reunited with Fazal at a protected safehouse in an undisclosed location.
Eight Pastors Killed in Central Nigeria
Religious violence destroys 173 churches, claims the lives of 1,500 Christians.
JOS, Nigeria (April 2) -- Religious violence that erupted in the Nigerian state of Plateau a few weeks ago has resulted in the deaths of eight pastors and 1,500 Christian believers, and the destruction of 173 churches. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) released the names of the martyred pastors who served Baptist, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God and the Evangelical Reformed congregations, as well as the Church of Christ in Nigeria and the Evangelical Church of West Africa.
Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency reported that religious violence in Plateau and Nasarawa states has resulted in the displacement of 25,000 people. Bauchi state official Alhaji Musa Lima told Compass, “About 50,000 displaced persons who managed to escape the hostility have temporarily relocated to some parts of this state,” placing enormous pressure on local resources. On March 28, Muslim-Christian violence broke out in the state of Nasarawa, reportedly claiming the lives of 15 Christians.
Angry Mob Destroys Church in Bolivian Andes
Animists blame evangelical Christians for severe storm.
Bolivian (March 8) -- An angry mob of Quechua-speaking Indians destroyed an evangelical church in a remote village in the Bolivian Andes on February 28 after beating a congregational elder unconscious.... Animist villagers observe the holiday with veneration of Christo-pagan icons, ritual dances and excessive drinking, customs designed to appease local deities. Families of the Church of God in Chucarasi declined to take part in Carnaval and spent the day of the festival tending their crops. Two days later, a severe hail storm struck, damaging fields and fueling animists’ fears that evil spirits were punishing the community for the evangelicals’ refusal to participate in Carnaval. The following night, ruffians attacked church elder Fortunato Bernal before completely dismantling the Church of God chapel."
FOCUS ON INDIA
Indian Newspaper Attributes ‘Evangelism Boom’ to U.S. Government
NEW DELHI, India (February 13, 2004) -- Tehelka, a weekly newspaper launched on January 30, accused the U.S. government of having a “conversion agenda” for India. The 11-page cover story in the inaugural issue portrayed Christian missionary work as a “sinister and disturbing phenomenon” that should “ring alarm bells within the intelligence agencies in India.”
A second report on February 7 claimed mission organizations were using the HIV/AIDS crisis as an opportunity for evangelism. Both Catholic and Christian leaders said the claims are ludicrous and planned to issue a joint press statement refuting the allegations....
Tehelka proudly admitted that two senior staff members had assumed false Christian identities for their investigation of several mission organizations. “Tehelka has carried an unfair representation of my views,” one Christian leader told Compass.
Meanwhile, many Christians fear the reports will fuel religious tensions throughout India.
Hindu Fundamentalists Take Aim at Roman Catholic Church in India
Attacks come after bishops speak out against misuse of anti-conversion laws.
BANGALORE, India (February 9) -- Hindu fundamentalists have launched an attack against the Catholic Church in India in the rural Catholic stronghold of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, and the more sophisticated region of Goa. The attacks are directly linked to conversion issues in both states. . . . Meanwhile in Jhabua, government officials claimed the January 13 murder of a nine-year-old girl, whose body was found in the grounds of a Catholic school, was a “well-planned conspiracy” against the Catholic community. Finally, Hindus claim a stone found recently in the Bishop’s Palace in Panaji, Goa, is an ancient Hindu relic. Catholic officials fear the stone may give grounds for “re-possession” of the Palace, which some Hindus claim was built on the ruins of an old Hindu temple. [See second item below for background information]
Displaced Christians Struggle to Survive in Nigeria
Thousands languish in refugee camps three years after religious violence
JOS, Nigeria (January 29, 2004) -- For the past three years, 15-year-old Helen James has been living in a refugee camp in central Nigeria following the death of her father, mother, two sisters and three brothers in religious violence that engulfed Christians in the state of Bauchi in June 2001. “I narrowly escaped death at the time,” Miss James said through her sobs. “Our house was burned down and now I do not have a place to go to.”
Over 10,000 people forced to flee their homes during three weeks of Muslim-Christian bloodshed languish in camps nearly three years later. Their numbers are being decimated daily by disease, hunger and poverty, but they do not want to return home for fear of being attacked again by Muslim militants. “Where do I go to?” asked refugee Peter Bulus. “They have vowed to wipe us out because we refused to be forced into Islam.” Bulus decried the indifferent attitude of government officials toward the displaced, saying that nothing has been done to alleviate their suffering.
Indian City in Uproar over Death of Nine-Year-Old Girl
Minister says murder in Jhabua [India] was a ‘well-planned’ conspiracy
DELHI (January 22) -- Citizens of Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh are enraged over the murder of a nine-year-old girl whose body was discovered in a mission school compound on January 14. Hindu protestors allege that Sujata, the daughter of a fruit-seller, was lured into the school compound and killed there. The day after the girl’s body was found, a mob gathered outside the school grounds demanding the arrest of mission school staff. Police later arrested Manoj Jadhav, who reportedly confessed to the crime of raping and killing Sujata before throwing her body into the mission compound. However, Khumsing Maharaj, local leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council), claimed Jadhav was not responsible for the crime and threatened to take drastic steps if the “real culprits” were not caught. Local government minister Kailash Vijayvargiya believes the violent clashes in Jhabua were the result of a “well-planned” conspiracy against the school. He has called for a judicial inquiry into the incident....
Throughout Jhabua, banners and pamphlets continue to accuse Christians of the murder. Many still believe the accusations, even though an investigative team led by minister of state Kailash Vijayvargiya returned from Jhabua convinced that school personnel are innocent.
CHURCHES DEMOLISHED AT REFUGEE CAMP
Bulldozers raze prayer centers as part of government ‘re-planning’ exercise.
DAKAR, Senegal (December 29) -- More than 10 Christian churches and a church-run vocational training center at the sprawling Wad el Bashier camp in West Omdurman, Sudan, have been demolished within the past two months. According to sources in Khartoum, authorities ordered the destruction of the makeshift worship centers erected by displaced Christians as part of an urban re-planning exercise. Demolition crews razed centers affiliated with the Anglican, African Inland and Roman Catholic churches, as well as the Sudan Church of Christ. Some mosques have also been destroyed, as well as latrines, shops and bakeries.
EVANGELICAL PASTOR ASSASINATED IN CHIAPAS, MEXICO
Indigenous Leader Dies in Ambush near San Juan Chamula
October 28 -- An evangelical Christian pastor on his way to a prayer service was assassinated last Friday near the town of San Juan Chamula in Mexico’s troubled southern state of Chiapas. Mariano Díaz Méndez, 38, a minister of the indigenous Tzotzil Evangelical Church, was traveling near the village of Botatulán around 3 p.m. on October 24 when heavily armed assailants stopped his automobile.
...it appeared that Diaz got out of the car and attempted to evade his attackers before they shot him to death.
"Diaz is the second evangelical pastor to die in the space of two weeks. ... Since the advent of evangelical Christianity in the Chiapas Highlands in the 1960s, caciques (powerful community chieftains) have used violent tactics to discourage its spread in indigenous regions. Scores of evangelicals have died and hundreds more have suffered injury. Veteran human rights attorney Esdras Alonso expressed fears that the caciques are stepping up attacks against evangelical Christians.
CHRISTIANS IN INDONESIA FLEE THEIR HOMES AS ATTACKS SPREAD
Police Reinforcements Fail to Curtail Panic in Sulawesi
October 21 — Villagers in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, are fleeing for their lives in reaction to recent attacks on four villages. Following the October 11 attack on the village of Old Beteleme, a further assault was launched in the early hours of October 12 on Saatu, Pantangolemba and Pinedapa, all villages with large Christian populations. Bands of masked raiders armed with automatic weapons sought out Christians for attack. Police reported nine people were killed and 11 were hospitalized. Even the deployment of extra armed forces to secure the area has had little effect upon the worried inhabitants.
“People are too scared to remain in their isolated villages,” said Mona Saroinsong, coordinator of the Crisis Center of the Protestant Church in North Sulawesi. “They have been walking through the jungle to the coast or making for Tentena.”
CHRISTIAN VILLAGE SUFFERS MIDNIGHT ATTACK IN INDONESIA
Violence Left Two Dead, Six Missing, and 38 Houses Destroyed
October 14 -- Indonesian Christians in Old Beteleme (Bethlehem), Central Sulawesi, suffered a night-time attack Friday that left two people dead, six missing and 38 homes destroyed. Shortly after midnight, villagers heard white-clad assailants cry, “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar!” as they attacked the quiet community. One resident, Wedlrina Mbae, a 55-year-old teacher, was killed by a hail of bullets when she answered a knock at her door. Oster Tarioko, 40, died on the way to the hospital after suffering gunshot wounds. A third, Mr. Deki Lingkua, 20, is critically ill with stab wounds, and several more Christian villagers are hospitalized. Others fled into the nearby jungle and watched helplessly as their homes were looted, set on fire and burned. An Assembly of God church was also razed.
INDONESIAN AUTHORITIES ILLEGALLY DETAIN CHRISTIAN LEADER
Christian’s Appeal of a Three-Year Prison Sentence is Pending
by Geoff Stamp - September 22
Christians in Indonesia have issued an urgent call for prayer for the release of the Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, whose prison detention in Palu, Central Sulawesi, should have come to an end on September 15. That day, Damanik’s extended detention order expired, but Palu prison authorities refused a release request from his lawyers until clearance comes from a higher authority. The High Court of Central Sulawesi has already extended Damanik’s imprisonment five times....
Sources in Indonesia say his trial and imprisonment are part of the Indonesian government’s attempt to blame the minority Christian community for the violence in Poso. Conflict between Muslims and Christians there has caused hundreds of deaths and injuries, and created tens of thousands of homeless people since December 1999.
INDIA PREPARES NATIONAL 'ANTI-CONVERSION RULE'
Government Aims to Stop Low-Caste Hindus from Embracing... Christianity and Buddhism by Joshua Newton
KOCHI, India (September 13) -- India’s coalition government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is about to introduce fresh rules to prevent religious conversion across the nation. Entitled “Change of Religion of the Members of SC/ST (Regulation and Approval) Rule,” the law will come into effect once published in the official gazette. Framed by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the rule has no approval from the Indian Parliament. The BJP is vigorously opposing conversion of backward Hindus [specifically "untouchables"] to Christianity and Buddhism. “This will effectively deny a large section of Indians their right to religious faith ensured by India’s Constitution,” said Oliver D’Souza of the All India Christian Council. “This judgment and the present rule can be questioned on the grounds of fundamental rights. We will make sure that religious rights of the minorities are protected.”
KHARTOUM THREATENS SOUTHERN SUDANESE CHURCHES
Juba’s Christian Leaders Refuse to Endorse Government’s Peace Stance
Sudan (September 4, 2003) -- Sudan’s Khartoum regime presented a threatening memorandum in early August to Christian leaders in Juba after the southern Sudanese church leaders refused to back the government’s position on peace negotiations now underway in Kenya. The conflict began on August 5, when local church leaders presented a three-page letter listing the church’s “points of concern” for peace to the Sudanese government delegation meeting in Juba city. The government council responded two days later with a terse memo ordering Juba’s church leaders to tackle religious issues without involving themselves in “political or security issues,” embrace “tolerance towards all religions,” and abstain from inciting public opinion against the government and its officials. In a written response dated August 28, Juba’s church leaders labeled the resolution “an official threat and intimidation to our mission.”
ERITREAN COMMANDERS INTENSIFY HARSH MEASURES (update)
Fifty-Seven Teenage Evangelicals Resist Torture, Five Recant
Eritrea, a tiny East Africa nation (August 27, 2003) - Fifty-seven teenage Eritrean Christians jailed last week under severe punishment for having Bibles at the Sawa Military Training Camp remain locked in metal shipping containers. Five of the 11th grade students were released a week after their arrest when they signed an agreement to deny their evangelical beliefs.... . Meanwhile, another 10 Protestants from several independent denominations were arrested in the Red Sea port city of Massawa by local police on August 24. The latest Sawa and Massawa arrests bring the total number of evangelical Christians in Eritrea known to be imprisoned for their faith to 218.
HINDU MILITANTS ATTACK BIBLE SCHOOL
India (July 31, 2003) - A group of about 250 Hindus attacked a church and Bible school in Dabwali, a small town in the Sirsa district, Haryana, India. Students at the Bible school sustained injuries; among them were five female students. A local Bharatiya Janata Party politician and ex-member of the legislative assembly led the group, which consisted mostly of members of the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad organization. Assailants shouted anti-Christian slogans and accused them of converting people in the area. They also expressed objections to the screening of a film depicting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Local police failed to protect the Christians from attack and even arrested six Bible school students. The students were later released.
TEENAGE CHRISTIANS JAILED AT ERITREAN MILITARY CAMP
Evangelical Students Locked in Metal Shipping Containers
Eritrea, a tiny East Africa nation (August 21, 2003) - More than 60 teenage Eritrean students caught with Bibles at a compulsory military training camp have been arrested and subjected to severe punishment during the past two days.
...military commanders at the Sawa Military Training Camp ordered a search of students’ personal effects. On August 19, they confiscated Bibles from 35 Protestant students, put them under arrest and subjected them to severe torture. The following day, another 27 teenage believers were incarcerated with them. The youths are reportedly locked in metal shipping containers with no light, high temperatures and a limited oxygen supply. This week’s arrests bring to 213 the known total of evangelical Christians currently jailed for their faith in Eritrea, due to a harsh government crackdown launched last February. The country’s independent Pentecostal and charismatic churches now have some 20,000 adherents, most of them emerging from a mushrooming renewal movement begun five years ago within the Orthodox Church.
THREE HOUSE CHURCH LEADERS ARRESTEDCHINA (July 13) - Police raided a house church in Xiaoshan City, China, at 4 a.m. while Christians were meeting for Sunday prayer and worship. At least three church leaders were arrested. Eighty-year-old Shen Shaocheng, who helped found the church more than 25 years ago, Xu Weimin and Gao Chongdao are being held at an unknown location, and their families are not allowed to visit.
A week earlier, some 300 Public Security Bureau officers raided an affiliated congregation in Hengpeng village during a Sunday service and demolished the church building. The congregations belong to the “Little Flock” church network, best known for its founder, Watchman Nee, whose writings are widely read by Christians all over the world. Nee was martyred in a labor camp in 1973 and his followers in China still suffer persecution.
BUDDHIST MOBS ATTACK FIVE CHURCHES IN SRI LANKA
Aggression Designed to Force Passage of Anti-Conversion Laws
by Sarah Page
SRI LANKA (August 5, 03) -- Mobs attacked five churches in southern Sri Lanka on August 2. Initial information from the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL) suggests the organized attack is part of the government’s plan to introduce anti-conversion legislation. Police thwarted an attempted attack on the Methodist church in Rathgama that a crowd of Buddhist monks and youth mounted on July 27.
However, the monks returned the following Saturday. They stoned the building, destroyed pews and benches, and beat two church workers so badly that they required hospital treatment. Other churches in the area were attacked on August 2, including the Assemblies of God in Thanamalwila and Lumugamvehera, and the Calvary church in Hikkaduwa. According to the EASL, attackers are attempting to incite Buddhists against the Christian community in order to create an environment of religious disharmony which, in turn, will allow the government to argue convincingly for the introduction of anti-conversion laws.
ANOTHER MONTH OF ARRESTS
(China) At least 53 members of unregistered house churches were arrested during the month of June in China. Twelve members of an unregistered house church movement were arrested on June 6... Voice of the Martyrs reported the arrest of 40 Christians in Lisoning in the third week of June. They were released after a warning to discontinue their “illegal gatherings.”
OFFICIAL BIBLE PRINTING REDUCED
(China) -- Official Bible production in China has quietly diminished by more than 20 percent over the past three years. The Amity Printing Company based in Nanjing, which prints an annual quota of Bibles, says that 519,493 copies were printed in the first quarter of 2003. This number is on track to reach the target of two million copies “approved for this year.” However, from 1994 to 1999, the average number of Bibles printed each year was 2.6 million, indicating a drop of about 23 percent. There is no apparent reason for this decrease other than government policy. The United Bible Societies reported five years ago that “as many as 40 percent of the Christians in China, mostly in remote areas, still do not have their own Bibles.”
NEW LAW WORRIES HONG KONG CHRISTIANS
(July, 2003) -- The imposition of harsh anti-subversion laws has serious implications for Hong Kong’s large Christian community. Many foreign mission organizations still operate freely in Hong Kong, while churches in the autonomous region continue their quiet support of Chinese believers on the mainland. All this could change if the new laws are strictly enforced.
200 POLICE HALT CHURCH CONSTRUCTION IN VIETNAM
Ho Chi Minh City
For the second time in three years, authorities in Thu Thiem district of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) halted the construction of a church building. This time, however, they did not destroy the initial construction, as Christians involved showed increased sophistication in their organizational skills. At 4 a.m. on June 9, Christian believers transported building materials to the construction site and, while one group gathered to pray, another constructed the temporary building’s frame.
At 7 a.m., an estimated 200 police arrived on the scene, but left after realizing they could not legally stop the building project. Police then sent a gang of trouble-makers to the site, but efforts to provoke the praying Christians failed.
The incident ended when authorities seized and hauled away all the building materials. Two weeks later, Catholic priests Peter Nguyen Huu Giai and Peter Phan Van Loi published an unprecedented “Letter of Solidarity with the Protestant Church in Vietnam” in which they expressed strong support for Christians involved in the Thu Thiem building project, as well persecuted Montagnard believers in the central highlands. [See the next story]
The Old Testament book by Nehemiah tells about similar battles fought by God's people. They were assaulted by authorities and taunted by troublemakers. But when (like these precious Christian Vietnamese), they followed these steps, they were able to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. See Nehemiah 4
‘GOD’S FLOCK’ ATTACKED
In mid March, a 55-year-old leader of the Mnong tribal church in Vietnam’s southern Dak Lak province issued a plaintive appeal to Christians worldwide. In a letter smuggled out of Vietnam and translated into English by missionaries, the long-time pastor alerts the international Christian community to “the sorts of hardships that we believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are facing.” The Mnong church in Vietnam, which numbers more than 45,000 Christians, has long been a victim of oppression. Persecution at the hands of local authorities has been particularly brutal and systematic during the past year."
SECRETIVE SURVEY ALARMS GUJURAT CHRISTIANS
The government of India’s Gujarat state has again started gathering community-based information in villages of the Patan district, heightening suspicions among local Christians that census information will be misused by fundamentalist Hindu organizations to stir up trouble in an area that suffered 443 major clashes between religious groups between 1970 and 2002.
According to media reports, a team of officers arrived at a Catholic retreat center in Dungripur -- after midnight and without a warrant -- to ask questions of the 69-year-old manager. He refused. The next morning, the team returned in civilian dress and asked about the background of students living at the center, the kind of food and facilities provided and whether any of the residents were converts from Hinduism. The officers also visited the homes of some 10 Christian families, asking them about their sources of income when they had embraced Christianity. Officials maintain that they were gathering information in order to ensure the security of the Christian community. In response to a petition from the All India Christian Council, the Gujarat High Court issued an order to halt the census.
ISTANBUL (June 4, 2003) -- After four and one-half years in prison for alleged blasphemy against Islam, Pakistani Christian Aslam Masih was acquitted today.... In his mid 50s and illiterate, Masih was arrested in November 1998 on charges that he had desecrated the Quran by hanging verses from the Muslim holy book in a charm around a dog’s neck. Although the prosecution only produced hearsay evidence against Masih, he was found guilty in May 2002 and sentenced to double life-sentences. ... Seven other Christians remain jailed in Pakistan on drawn-out charges of blasphemy. "
BANGLADESH: DEATH OF EVANGELIST HIGHLIGHTS GROWING TENSION
Recent Surge in Islamic Nationalism Signals Danger for Minority Christians
by Sarah Page (May 23, 2003)
"The murder of evangelist Hridoy Roy just after midnight on April 24 is one of many violent attacks against Christians in Bangladesh, as tensions have increased dramatically since the election of a fundamentalist Islamic government in October 2001. Some Christians have had their rice crops destroyed by Muslim militants, and Christian girls have been threatened with rape. The coalition government has consistently denied any alliance with Muslim extremists, but provincial officials of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have been linked to the harassment of Christians in the Natore district of northern Bangladesh. The rise of Islamic extremism can be traced in part to the 64,000 “madrassas,” or Muslim schools, established in recent years."
EVANGELICALS TRIED FOR ‘HATE CRIME’ VIOLATION
BRAZIL (May 16, 2003) -- Umbanda and Candomble spiritist groups in Brazil are pressing a lawsuit against Baptist pastor Joaquim de Andrade, 41, and Aldo dos Santos Menezes, 33, a deacon of the Anglican Church, in connection with an annual evangelistic outreach on the beaches of Sao Paulo state.
Spiritists accuse the two men of violating Brazil’s “hate crime” law by distributing evangelistic tracts that, they say, disparage the African goddess Iemanja. They charge Andrade and Menezes with “inciting evangelicals to commit acts contrary to the liberty of religious belief.”
At a hearing on April 16, a Sao Paulo judge found Andrade and Menezes guilty and fined them each 1,000 reais (about $300). The judge warned that if they did not stop proselytizing spiritists, they would face stiffer consequences next time.
“This is a precedent-setting case,” said former Brazilian resident Paul Carden, director of the Centers for Apologetics Research. “If Christians cannot freely share their faith with interested bystanders in a public place without the potential of some punishment under the pretext of having committed a hate crime, then this profoundly alters the spiritual equation in that country.”
JORDANIAN CHRISTIAN KILLED IN LEBANON ATTACK
European Missionary Family Targeted in Tripoli Bombing
by Barbara G. Baker (May 7, 2003)
ISTANBUL -- An Arab convert to Christianity was killed in a bomb blast last night outside his Tripoli apartment, adjacent to the home of a European missionary family thought to have been targeted in the attack. Jamil Ahmed al-Rifai, 28, died instantly when a 4.5-pound bomb exploded just before midnight in the Qubba suburb of Tripoli, Lebanon’s northern port city. The Jordanian Christian was an innocent victim of the attack which Dutch missionary Gerrit “Joep” Griffioen, who survived the attack, said was “almost 100 percent certain” to be religiously motivated. Griffioen told the Dutch Associated Press (ANP) today that he had been “repeatedly threatened” during his 20 years of ministry in Lebanon.
NIGERIA: PASTOR AND SIX FAMILY MEMBERS BURNED TO DEATH
Christian Leaders Suspect Muslim Fanatics of Fatal Arson Attack
by Obed Minchakpu (May 6, 2003)
KANO, Nigeria -- A zealous Christian preacher and six members of his family died in a house fire on April 22, which Christian leaders believe Muslim militants deliberately set. Sunday Madumere and his family were asleep when flames engulfed their home, located in an area of the northern Nigeria city of Kano known as no-man’s land. The pastor’s wife and three children died with him in the inferno, along with two men believed to relatives of Madumere. One son, Daniel, reportedly managed to escape and is presently in critical condition in a local hospital. Police say the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault, but observers reject that theory, pointing out that Pastor Madumere’s powerful preaching had led many Muslims to convert to the Christian faith, angering Muslim militants.
Praise! DUBAI JUDGE DISMISSES JAIL TERM FOR REV. ALCONGA
by Barbara G. Baker (April 30, 2003)
ISTANBUL, April 30 -- Five months after the Rev. Fernando Alconga was arrested for giving a Bible and Christian literature to an Arab Muslim at a Dubai shopping center, a criminal court in the United Arab Emirates has declared the Filipino pastor guilty of “abusing Islam” and conducting Christian missionary activity.
But in the verdict handed down on April 27, Chief Judge Mahmood Fahmi Sultan of the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance suspended Alconga’s punishment, including a one-year prison sentence followed by mandatory deportation.
According to an article in today’s Gulf News, “The leniency was shown because the court was of the opinion that the 54-year-old would not repeat his crime.”
At the close of Sunday’s hearing, Alconga was advised by the court clerk that his case was closed. However, under Emirati law, the court’s verdict only becomes final after 15 days, during which period the chief prosecutor is allowed to appeal the decision.
NEW MEASURES TO CONTROL RELIGION ANNOUNCED
The powerful Central Committee of Vietnam’s Communist Party announced at the conclusion of its Seventh Plenum on January 21, 2003, that it had passed a new resolution to better control religion. The issue arose two years ago when minority tribal groups in the Central Highlands protested confiscation of their lands and lack of religious freedom. ...
Authorities disbanded over 400 churches in Dak Lak province in late 2002, falsely accusing virtually all of the Montagnard Christians of involvement in a political plot to overthrow the regime. According to an official communiqué, the religion resolution calls for establishing cells of Communist Party members within the country’s six approved religious organizations. Protestant Christian leaders expressed alarm, reasoning that if “legal” religious organizations are subject to increased state management, then pressure will increase on the majority of Protestants whom the government considers illegal.
EVANGELICALS BLAMED FOR FATAL SHOOTINGS
Traditionalist caciques (village leaders) in Chiapas, Mexico, blamed Tzotzil-speaking evangelical Christians for the deaths of seven people -- three civilians and four policemen -- killed in two separate shooting incidents in the village of Tres Cruces during the last week of January. Caciques called upon President Vicente Fox to take swift action against the perpetrators. Otherwise, they warned, they would resort to “the law of talion,” eye-for-an-eye vengeance.
However, district attorney Mariano Herrán Salvatti said that none of suspects taken into custody for the crimes are evangelicals and attributed the killings to a local dispute over water wells.... Chiapas state governor Pablo Salazar told the Mexico City newspaper Reforma that “bands of organized criminals” were behind the Tres Cruces attacks. “The government of the state will not allow bands that operate as organized crime in Chamula to continue to disguise their activities under the pretense of religious conflict,” Salazar said.
CHRISTIAN WIDOW APPEALS TO KING (Jordan)
Christian widow Siham Qandah was informed January 31 that apart from direct intervention by Jordanian King Abdullah II, she will be jailed in early February for refusing to hand over her two minor children to be raised as Muslims. ... Qandah’s Christian husband died in 1994 while serving in the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. Later, an Islamic court informed her that he had converted to Islam several years earlier and under Jordanian law her daughter Rawan and son Fadi were automatically considered Muslims.
INSURGENTS ASSASSINATE PASTOR
On January 27, unidentified gunmen in Colombia assassinated Rev. Jose Juan Lozada Corteza, pastor of the Evangelical Christian Church of San Antonio. According to the Evangelical Council of Colombia (CEDECOL), uniformed men stopped the public bus in which Lozada was traveling and singled out the clergyman from the rest of the passengers. Forcing him off the vehicle, assailants shot Lozada in the head in full view of bystanders. The gunmen, members of an illegal armed group fighting the country’s protracted civil war, reportedly also killed a member of Rev. Lozada’s church who was traveling with him.
VERDICT POSTPONED ON EL-KOSHEH RETRIAL
An Egyptian court has postponed a retrial verdict due in late January against 96 people implicated in violent Muslim-Christian clashes three years ago.... The month delay was labeled a 'political decision' by Coptic Christian lawyer Mamdouh Nakhla, who noted that the 'tense, volatile situation in the Middle East' between Iraq and the United States might have made the judges reluctant to rule on the 'sensitive' case.
Coptic Christians considered the initial ruling to be 'so lenient that it practically encouraged Muslims to kill Copts.' Observers noted that the whitewashed verdict implied that police investigators were either incompetent or part of a deliberate cover-up. The millennium weekend violence in Sohag’s El-Kosheh village left 21 Christians dead and 260 of their homes and businesses destroyed or looted."
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER FACES TRIAL (Indonesia)
...Muslim militants have forced most of the Christians out of the city of Poso and totally destroyed villages near the lakeside town of Tentena. The armed forces in some cases have joined Muslim extremists to cleanse the area of Christians. Meanwhile, Ja’far Umar Thalib, the leader of the extremist group Laskar Jihad, was acquitted by the East Jakarta District Court of provoking violence and spreading hatred. Laskar Jihad, which was disbanded after the Bali bombing in September 2002, reportedly had ties to al Qaeda and had trained some 10,000 followers in martial arts and bomb making, according to intelligence sources.
CHURCH LEADERS ATTEMPT TO SAVE CHILDREN FROM WAR (Uganda)
Church and government leaders are desperately searching for a solution to northern Uganda’s intractable civil war. The so-called Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a cult-like rebel group that mixes Christianity with traditional beliefs, has abducted 26,000 children over the last 17 years and uses terror to prevent them from escaping. Escapees from the LRA describe its leader, Joseph Kony, as a religious paranoid seduced by occultism who kills because he enjoys it. He uses children -- 9 of 10 LRA fighters are minors -- because they can be brainwashed to kill like he does. ... “Officers are getting fat military allowances from the war zone, so it’s become a business,” said Ochola [ Baker, former Anglican Bishop]. “Meanwhile, Uganda is fighting its own children.”
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