Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Sat, 30 Apr 2016 13:14:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Woman in Uganda Says Muslims Beat, Raped Her for Accusing Imam of Killing Her Father http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/woman-in-uganda-says-muslims-beat-raped-her-for-accusing-imam-of-killing-her-father/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/woman-in-uganda-says-muslims-beat-raped-her-for-accusing-imam-of-killing-her-father/#respond Sat, 30 Apr 2016 12:50:20 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5521 Imam (in white shirt) and two others suspected in killing of Samson Mukama in eastern Uganda. (Morning Star News)

Imam (in white shirt) and two others suspected in killing of Samson Mukama in eastern Uganda. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslims in eastern Uganda beat and raped a young Christian woman for testifying that a mosque leader killed her father because of his faith, sources said.

The imam at a mosque in Kanyumu village, Pallisa District, Sheikh Musana Ibrahim, and two other Muslims killed Samson Mukama on Jan. 28, according to his daughter.

The 22-year-old woman, whose name is withheld, said she was beaten and raped on April 19 for telling a court what she had witnessed. She was found unconscious in a pool of blood, with several cuts on her body, after the attack on her that evening at the home in which she had taken refuge in Kanginima village, Pallisa District.

She told Morning Star News that one of the three Muslims who assaulted her told her, “We shall kill you today because you are the one who made our sheikh to be imprisoned.”

Present at her family’s house in Kashebai, Pallisa District, when the imam and two other Muslims allegedly attacked her 40-year-old father, she had testified in court that the mosque leader had killed him.

“I was able to identify the sheikh because we are neighbors, and my father had been questioning him about the Islamic faith not leading one to salvation with God,” she said from her hospital bed. “The sheikh had said to him, ‘You have no respect of our religion, and we have come for your life today.’ They started strangling my father as well as hitting him on the head with a big stick. When my father fell down, I managed to escape through the window.”

Police arrested Ibrahim and the other two suspects on Jan. 29, but she was unable to identify the two others, and they were released after being held in a cell in Kalaki, Pallisa District. Ibrahim was transferred to a cell in Kamuge, where he is awaiting the court outcome. Pallisa Police Officer Otwai Francis is carrying out the investigation.

An autopsy by a clinic in Mbale affirmed signs consistent with a homicide, a source said.

An elder at an undisclosed church is caring for the young woman, whose mother died five years ago and who has no siblings. She is still in serious condition and taking medication, and she has weekly follow-up visits with a doctor for the next three months that cost 120,000 shillings (US$35) each.

Lay Leader Beaten

In eastern Uganda’s Mayuge District, unidentified Muslims beat a church lay leader a week after his pigs were slaughtered and his church building demolished, an area source said.

Samuel Kijali’s wrist was broken in the April 18 assault in Nalugondo village, an area source said. An unsigned note near the remains of the building of his 450-member Nalugondo Church of Uganda, which an Islamist mob demolished on April 12, read, “We are monitoring your movement and will soon come for your life.”

Kijali was beaten for raising pigs and for his evangelistic outreach to Muslims, an area church leader told Morning Star News by phone. He said Kijali was attacked at 8 p.m. while on his way home to his village near Bugade, Mayuge District, 93 miles east of Kampala.

On April 10, a group of Muslims shouting “Allah only is to be worshipped, and Muhammad is his prophet,” had slaughtered his pigs, a key source of income. A few weeks before the slaughter, Kijali had received text messages on his phone saying that church members must stop raising pigs.

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Muslim Fulani Herdsmen Massacres Reach Southern Nigeria http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslim-fulani-herdsmen-massacres-reach-southern-nigeria/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslim-fulani-herdsmen-massacres-reach-southern-nigeria/#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2016 20:34:57 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5514 The Rt. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, Anglican archbishop of Enugu. (File photo)

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, Anglican archbishop of Enugu. (File photo)

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani attacks on Christians have advanced beyond Nigeria’s central zone into a southern state, with a church leader saying the aggression could cast Nigeria into civil war as a massacre this week took at least 27 lives.

Following the February massacre in Agatu, in the central-eastern state of Benue, and the attack on Monday (April 25) on three predominantly Christian villages in the south-eastern state of Enugu, church and rights figures began to describe Muslim Fulani aggression as posing a threat of civil war. Enugu shares a border with Benue. While a secessionist group called for Enugu natives to defend against further Fulani attacks, the archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, said Muslim Fulani killings, kidnappings, destruction of farmland and rape have become a regular occurrence in central and southern parts of Nigeria.

“What happened in Agatu is again being spread to other areas, and this is breeding serious civil war that is very much in breach of peace in this country,” the Rt. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma said in a press statement. “We don’t want war, but the way things are happening, if care is not taken, there is going to be another war which nobody can avert. It is either Nigeria must be one, or we disintegrate and go our ways.”

The archbishop said he had received numerous calls from throughout the world about unprovoked killing of Christians in Enugu state this week.  “It has therefore become necessary for me to call on the federal government of Nigeria to declare an emergency against the menace of the Fulani herdsmen and put an end to the senseless killing of innocent Nigerians,” he said. “We cannot continue this way, because this is Boko Haram acting in collaboration with Muslim Fulani herdsmen, and we cannot accept this.” 

Muslim Fulani herdsmen launched attacks in Enugu state last year, and an assault in February reportedly killed two people and left 19 missing. The attacks come after years of similar killing sprees in north-central states such as Kaduna and Plateau and, more recently, assaults in central- eastern states such as Taraba and Benue, amid suspicions that Islamic extremist groups are arming the herdsmen and in some cases accompanying them.

After Monday’s pre-dawn attacks in Enugu state on three Christian villages in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area – Odozi-Obodo, Onu-Eke and Nimbo – the Imo state-based secessionist Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) issued a statement calling on area tribal “youths to wake up and let us unite and face our enemies.” With the aim of reviving the defunct state of Biafra, MASSOB declares itself non-violent, while the government accuses it of violence and has included it on a list of armed rebel groups.

“We wish to remind Ndigbo and Biafrans that this killing and destruction of property of our people by Fulani herdsmen is getting out of hand,” MASSOB spokesman Comrd. Edeson Samuel said in a press statement. “The fact that MASSOB believes in non-violence does not mean that we cannot defend ourselves. There is a limit to human endurance.”

Samuel and others faulted security forces for failing to stop the attack even after reports had surfaced that it was imminent. Archbishop Chukwuma said Christians were wondering what the government was doing to address the “Fulani herdsmen menace” throughout the country.

“The killing of these Christians of Nimbo in Uzo-Uwani is a big shock in the sense that the security operatives were not alert to avert it even when some of them were aware,” he said. “The herdsmen came around 4 a.m. and started firing and killing the villagers, and over 27 people were killed … The federal government must speak and do something, or else this is calling and breeding civil war against the Fulanis.”

Reports from area church leaders indicated that buildings belonging to Catholic and Christ Holy Church congregations, along with 11 houses, were burned after more than 100 armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded the communities. Unconfirmed reports prior to the attack suggested up to 500 assailants were being recruited to launch the assault.

Ebere Amaraizu, Enugu state police spokesman, confirmed the attack on the Christian villages. He told Morning Star News by phone interview that 21 bodies had been recovered and taken to a morgue at Bishop Shanahan Hospital in Nsukka town. He said the death toll would rise as the search for missing people continued.

“Our officers, together with a detachment of military personnel, are in the area to restore law and order,” he said. “Efforts are also being made to recover corpses of those killed, while the injured have been taken to some close-by hospitals.”

Rapes, murders and destruction of farmlands of Christian villagers by herdsmen have been reported in the recent past in the same communities, church leaders told Morning Star News, but security agencies have made no serious effort to halt the destructive activities.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) also stated that attacks by Fulani herdsmen could cause civil war if not checked. The pro-democracy group said in a press statement that Nigeria may be near civil war due to “the seeming conspiratorial silence and clear case of orchestrated ineptitude and inaction” of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Enugu Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi declared two days of fasting and prayers in all churches in the state in memory of those killed and called for God’s intervention to stop the carnage by the herdsmen.

“On Sunday, we were in the church for Nigeria Prays, with Gen. Yakubu Gowon,” Ugwuanyi told reporters. “I got a call from the council chairman, and immediately I summoned a security council meeting. Prior to that we had met with the Fulani leaders, and it was indeed yesterday [Monday, April 25] that we would have inaugurated a joint committee of the Fulani and the Enugu government.”

He said the state government would provide 5 million naira (US$25,000) in aid to community leaders.

“May I therefore call on the entire people of Enugu state to please fast for two days and put this into the hands of God,” he said. “Enugu is in the hands of God.”

While receiving the governor, John Ako, a Christian community leader in the area, reportedly said the attacks were unprovoked.

“We had a black Monday yesterday; no week passes by without our women being raped and our men killed by the herdsmen,” he said. “We appeal for military and police presence. They [herdsmen] come to the farm, point guns at the farmer, ask him to go away, and say the cattle will feed on the farm; we don’t go to farm again.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

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© 2016 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News. http://morningstarnews.org 

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Muslims in Uganda Kill Christians’ Livestock, Demolish Church Building http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslims-in-uganda-kill-christians-livestock-demolish-church-building/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslims-in-uganda-kill-christians-livestock-demolish-church-building/#respond Thu, 21 Apr 2016 15:20:15 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5508 Workers sift through rubble of demolished church building in Nalugondo, Uganda. (Morning Star News)

Workers sift through rubble of demolished church building in Nalugondo, Uganda. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslims in a village in eastern Uganda last week killed Christians’ pigs and tore down their church building, sources said.

A Muslim mob demolished the building of the 450-member Nalugondo Church of Uganda building at about midnight on April 12, shouting, “We cannot live together with neighbors who are infidels. We have to fight for the cause of Allah,” according to area sources. Nalugondo village is near Bugade, Mayuge District, 93 miles east of Kampala.

Two days earlier, sources said, a group of Muslims slaughtered a church lay leader’s pigs, a key source of income. Singing praises to Allah and shouting, “Allah only is to be worshipped, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the group led by area Muslim Kambo Daudo killed Samuel Kijali’s pigs at 4 p.m. on April 10, as Kijali’s wife watched helplessly.

A few weeks before the slaughter, Kijali had received text messages on his phone saying that church members must stop raising pigs.

“Let this be known to your church members that pigs are extremely unholy and an abomination before Allah, very outrageous and shameful,” one text read. “They are haram [forbidden] and unlawful as our holy Quran does prohibit them.”

Muslims also sent a text message to church member Kamaala Yokosani – “We are soon coming for the heads of your pigs” – before killing eight of his pigs on April 5, sources said. Yokosani was elected chairman of the Bugade zone in May 2015, and then later he began raising pigs.

A Christian witness said a Muslim neighbour of Yokosani, 60-year-old Kupoota Amisi, went to his home with about 15 other Muslims.

“I saw Amisi with a group of people enter Kamaala’s farm with knives, only to hear the following day that his pigs had been killed,” the witness said.

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. Muslims have come to outnumber Christians in Nalugondo village.

“It is quite difficult to resist these militant Muslims, because they have outnumbered us the Christians and are accusing us that we are defiling their faith,” Kijali said.

The church’s 450 members are now without shelter as the rainy season descends, sources said. Musical instruments, more than 500 plastic chairs and other property weredestroyed, a church leader said.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Woman in China Killed after Demolition Crew Buries Her and Husband Alive http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/woman-in-china-killed-after-demolition-crew-buries-her-and-husband-alive/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/woman-in-china-killed-after-demolition-crew-buries-her-and-husband-alive/#respond Tue, 19 Apr 2016 14:29:07 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5504 The body of Ding Cuimei. (China Aid)

The body of Ding Cuimei. (China Aid)

(Morning Star News) – A government-backed demolition team in Henan Province, China last week buried a Christian couple alive as they tried to protect their church building, killing the wife, according to China Aid.

Ding Cuimei and her husband, Li Jiangong, on Thursday (April 14) stepped in front of a bulldozer the demolition company had sent to destroy Beitou Church in Zhumadian in order for an area business interest to take over the property, according to China Aid.

“Though the church leader managed to escape, the wife had suffocated to death by the time she was freed,” China Aid’s Bob Fu said in a press statement.

Fu said one member of the two-member crew was heard to say, “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives,” and then the bulldozer sent Ding and Li into a pit and covered them over with soil. Li was able to dig his way free, while Ding suffocated.

Local police said the two crew members had been detained while a criminal investigation team from the public security bureau looked into the incident, according to China Aid.

“Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” Fu said. “This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church’s members.”

Area Christians told China Aid that various area government departments declined to oversee the demolition, and that Li said police were uncommonly slow to arrive after a report of the murder was filed.

Government personnel are pressuring Li to suppress facts of the incident, according to China Aid.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

 

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© 2016 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.  

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Detained U.S. Evangelist in Turkey Released, Ordered To Be Deported http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/u-s-evangelist-in-turkey-detained-ordered-to-be-deported/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/u-s-evangelist-in-turkey-detained-ordered-to-be-deported/#respond Fri, 15 Apr 2016 14:20:11 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5474 David Byle proclaiming Christ in Istanbul, Turkey. (Facebook)

David Byle proclaiming Christ in Istanbul, Turkey. (Facebook)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Turkish authorities have released a U.S. evangelist who was detained last week and ordered to be deported, sources said.

Declaring David Byle “a danger to public order,” authorities in Turkey took him into custody on April 6 after asking him to report to the immigration office in Istanbul regarding his application for a residency permit.

Byle, 46, was released on Thursday (April 14) after a judge oveturned the order ot detain him for 30 days.

Praise God, I was released from the deportation center this afternoon, and just arrived home,” Byle wrote on Facebook. “Thanks to all who prayed and did advocacy for me, also to my tireless lawyer and most of all to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Byle had been told his application for a residency permit had been denied; he was immediately taken into custody and then transferred to the Fatih police station in Istanbul. Police held him for two days before transferring him on April 8 to a holding center for foreigners awaiting deportation, the sources said.

Byle’s wife, Ulrike, said he was told when he arrived at the immigration center that there was no deportation order against him. Normally the center would have no authority to imprison someone without a deportation order, but because Byle was taken there under police custody, immigration officials had the authority to hold him for 48 hours.

The next day, Byle’s attorney informed him that the immigration department had filed a deportation order against him upon direct recommendation from the Ministry of the Interior, which had claimed in a report to the department that Byle was a “danger to public order” and a flight risk. There was no indication of what the “danger to public order” accusation was based on, Byle’s wife said.

Byle was also informed that the government had filed a “no-reentry order” forbidding him from coming back into the country once deported. It is unclear when the order was filed or the length of time the order is valid. Finally, and of particular concern to Byle and his family, authorities claimed that because of the alleged potential danger he posed to Turkey, the government had the “right to supervise” him for 30 days – meaning they could hold him for a month without filing charges against him.

Ulrike Byle said the thought of her husband being a flight risk or a danger to the country was laughably absurd.

“I feel it’s funny,” she said.

Byle is known for being mild-mannered, polite and calm. He has no criminal record, and Urlike Byle said she thought he had been detained because of his evangelistic activities.

The arrest took place days before Byle was set to teach a class to a group of Turks on how to tell people about the gospel, though there was no public indication of a link between the arrest and the scheduled training.

Byle is part of a small number of Christians in Turkey, and an even smaller number of expatriate Christians, who openly evangelize in the country. A ministry leader at U.S.-based International Christian Response (ICR), which provides aid to persecuted Christians, said Byle lives in a sacrificial way totally immersed in his mission.

“He’s a very bold person, and I look up to him,” said the leader, who requested anonymity. “I wish there were more people like him.”

The organization Byle co-founded, the Holy Book Information Association, also known as the Bible Correspondence Course in Turkey (BCC-Turkey), normally focuses on educating the Turkish public about the Bible. This alone is controversial in Turkey, and Byle also conducts “street evangelism” outreaches. These outreaches have garnered the most attention from the government, which at times has identified Christian missionary activity as a security threat.

Police first arrested Byle for street evangelism on April 25, 2007, in the Beyoglu District of Istanbul after officers said people complained about aggressive evangelism, especially on the part of a South Korean missionary worker. Byle said police charged him with “forceful missionary activity” and disturbing the peace.

Authorities kept Byle in custody for two nights. Before releasing him, they made him sign a document stating that if he wanted to continue doing public outreach, he would need to have some sort of work permit or else be deported. The demand for a work permit was perplexing, since it appeared they were requiring him to obtain one from a Turkish sponsor for an activity they told him was illegal.

A prosecutor dropped the first charge on May 8, 2007, because Byle’s literature did not insult other religions and because “missionary activity” is not a crime in Turkey. On Nov. 1, 2007, a judge threw out the final charge of disturbing the peace. After the final charge was dismissed, Byle wrote a letter to the Ministry of the Interior inquiring about the document he was forced to sign. He never received an answer.

Police detained Byle a second time on Nov. 18, 2009 in the Pendik District of Istanbul, along with several members of a BCC street evangelism team. While in custody, Byle was made to give a written statement about what he was doing, and then he was released. In February 2010, police told Byle his upcoming application for residency would require further investigation, and less than a month later, on March 9 at 10:30 p.m., two plainclothes police officers arrived unannounced at his door and took him into custody for deportation. Officials in the Pendik District had filed a report of charges into a confidential record system but never through the court system for prosecution.

Byle retained a lawyer, who was able to temporarily block the deportation order until an Ankara court granted a decision in April 2011. It found that because he had never been found guilty of committing any crime, and because he was conducting activities in accordance with the constitution of BCC, which the government approved, the Ministry of the Interior had tried to deport Byle in violation of the law. It ordered the deportation order be cancelled.

Since his first arrest, Byle has been plagued by problems with Turkish authorities, including a five-year court battle for residency that ended, seemingly, in January 2015, when a court ruled that the government had not shown significant evidence that he was “a threat to national security and public morals” or that he had ever even committed a crime.

Upcoming Challenges

If a court grants a temporary injunction against the deportation order, Byle will be thrown into a legal battle on three fronts, his attorney said. The first battle will be against the deportation. The second battle, over the detention order, has been won for now. The last will be against the reentry ban. If the court refuses to grant the injunction, and if the reentry ban remains, Byle will be forced to leave Turkey, and his wife and five children will eventually be forced to follow.

According to Ulrike Byle, her husband was not mistreated in jail. After guards at the detention center became aware of potential safety issues that Byle might face from suspected Islamic State (IS) members held in the detention center, he was moved to another floor.

Byle has been jailed or detained several other times by Turkish authorities and he dealt with this term of incarceration by preaching to other detainees and finding ways to get donations from others of much needed clothing for those held with him. He also planned to start teaching Turkish and English to other detainees.

The arrest came at an awkward time for the Turkish government. Four days before the arrest, the government opened the Diyanet Center of America, a sprawling 15-acre site complete with a 20,236-square-foot mosque, fellowship hall and Turkish bath, all paid for with state money, which touts itself as the biggest Islamic campus “in the Western Hemisphere.”

The ministry leader at ICR said the opening of the center and Byle’s detention indicated religious freedom in Turkey is a “one-way street.” Turkish President Recep Erdoğan presided over the opening, telling a crowd of Muslims, “We should struggle against hate and prejudice, which are our common enemies, in cooperation with U.S. citizens of different beliefs. Together with the U.S. people, we should demonstrate to whole international community the true face of Islam.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

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© 2016 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.  

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Hindu Extremists on Motorcycles Chase Down Pastor in Northern India http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/hindu-extremists-on-motorcycles-chase-down-pastor-in-northern-india/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/hindu-extremists-on-motorcycles-chase-down-pastor-in-northern-india/#respond Thu, 14 Apr 2016 18:54:44 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5485 Pastor Ram Prakash has faced two attacks by Hindu extremists in Uttar Pradesh state. (Morning Star News)

Pastor Ram Prakash has faced two attacks by Hindu extremists in Uttar Pradesh state. (Morning Star News)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Late one morning in northern India last month, pastor Ram Prakash, 42, was riding his motorcycle home when he noticed men on three motorcycles shouting obscenities as they followed him.

The pastor had just visited four Christian families that day, March 24, praying with them at their homes in Karoate village, Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh state. Having had Hindu extremists set his home on fire two weeks earlier, he could easily guess that those following him were radical Hindus.

The men gave chase, and one of them hit the back of his motorcycle, sending Pastor Prakash to the ground and severely injuring his leg. Yelling at him to stop telling people about Jesus, the radical Hindus got off their bikes and began to kick and beat him.

“I tried to get up, but I could not because of the throbbing pain in my right leg,” he told Morning Star News. “The Hindu extremists surrounded me, yelled at me, and they told me never to set foot again in their village and accused me of making people believe in Jesus and telling them not to eat food offered to the idols but rather to eat beef.”

As Pastor Prakash writhed with broken bones in his lower right leg, the assailants phoned local Hindu extremist leaders, and another eight men arrived who helped mock, push, slap and kick him, with one saying, “So finally, we are able to get hold of the Christian man who has been roaming around converting people to Christianity.”

When a passer-by asked the assailants what the matter was, they told him that Pastor Prakash had had an accident, he said. As onlookers began to gather, Pastor Prakash said, one recognized him and called his brother, who soon arrived with seven other Christians.

Police arrived 30 minutes later and took Pastor Prakash in for questioning and then to a local hospital. The severity of his injuries required that he be transferred to the district hospital. Besides the broken bones in his leg, he sustained cuts on his head and hand as well as abrasions over all his body, he said.

“The police are under the pressure of the Hindu extremist group, and they are reluctant to register a case against the attackers,” said the pastor’s brother, whose name is withheld for security reasons.

The assailants submitted a complaint to police, accusing Pastor Prakash of luring people to convert to Christianity by offering to pay them to erect a church building.

“The accusation they levied against the pastor is completely untrue,” area Christian leader Santosh Kumar told Morning Star News. “People decided to follow Christ under their own free will.”

Previously, on the night of March 9, about 25 Hindu extremists armed with clubs had turned up at his hut and told him to leave his village, the pastor said. They said they would no longer allow him to hold worship services or talk about Jesus, and they threatened to seize his land if he continued to do so.

Pastor Prakash, who has been ministering in the area for 15 years, and his brother told the Hindu extremists they could not carry out such threats, and the Hindu extremists began to beat them, leaving his brother with a severe cut on his head and his wife with minor cuts.

The assailants then set the pastor’s hut on fire, destroying its roof and items inside, including beds and chairs, he said.

Police arrived, took the pastor’s brother to the hospital for treatment and registered a First Information Report against the attackers.

“Because of the constant persecution that we are facing here and in the surrounding areas, many are hesitant to come to the church now,” Pastor Prakash said.

Family Locked In

In West Bengal state in eastern India, a new convert to Christianity showed deep faith after he and his family faced opposition from his parents, the rest of the village and Hindu extremists.

Bahadur Chand Sarel, a church leader in Paschim Medinipur District, said the entire village of Gurudpal turned against Kisna Sarel, 37, after he recently put his faith in Christ. On March 6, Hindu extremists locked Sarel and his family inside their home for more than 12 hours.

After locking Sarel, his 5-year-old and 7-year-old children and his wife in their home from 1 p.m. to after 1 a.m., the Hindu extremists took Sarel out and kicked, punched and beat him with sticks in the wee hours, he said.

“They blocked the village entry and harassed the Christian family,” Chand Sarel told Morning Star News. “They told him never to go to the church again but to perform all the Hindu poojahs [offerings to gods] and rituals, and then beat him up.”

A villager phoned Chand Sarel, who informed police, and officers rescued the Christians, he said. Kisna Sarel’s head, chest and other areas of his body were injured, and he received hospital treatment.

“I am not worried about anything,” the new convert told Morning Star News. “I have Jesus, and even if they take my life, I will still follow Jesus.”

Kisna Sarel and his family go to another village about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from their home for worship.

“However, the villagers are closely watching Kisna Sarel’s movement and threatened to harm him if he and his family ever go to church again,” Chand Sarel said.

After the village head submitted a letter to police explaining his regret and giving assurances that it would not happen again, police decided not to register a complaint. Entry into the village for any outsider, however, is still strictly prohibited.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/? 

(Updated April 15 to correct age of Pastor Ram Prakash)

(c) 2016 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.  

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Muslim in Uganda Attacks, Threatens to Kill Wife for Becoming Christian http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslim-in-uganda-attacks-threatens-to-kill-wife-for-becoming-christian/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/muslim-in-uganda-attacks-threatens-to-kill-wife-for-becoming-christian/#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 19:22:51 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5467 Ntende Hawa and two of her children, photo altered for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

Ntende Hawa and two of her children, photo altered for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A Muslim in eastern Uganda who last week attacked his wife for becoming a Christian had told a judge that Islam allows him to kill any apostate, sources said.

Having moved to another village with their four children following an attack last year, Ntende Hawa, 38, said she was visiting her estranged husband to discuss child support on April 4. Her husband, Dapharah Mumpi, was living at the couple’s home with his younger brother in Kachomo village in Budaka District, about 130 miles northeast of Kampala.

After they had discussed help for their children and Mumpi’s brother had gone to bed at about 9 p.m., he began to question his wife about her faith as he had when he attacked her last year, Hawa said.

“Again I answered him that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and he took a panga [machete 16 to 18 inches long], but I managed to get hold of him before he could hit me, so the panga dropped, and he started strangling me,” she said. “His younger brother woke up and rescued me. I then managed to escape.”

Hawa began her journey to Christ after a Christian friend invited her to an evangelistic event in August 2014. Without her husband’s knowledge, she managed to attend two days of the three-day event. A week later, she visited her friend, whose name is withheld for security reasons, and decided to follow Jesus.

Her husband became suspicious last year and asked her if she had become a Christian. Hawa said she could not deny it.

“My husband shouted, ‘Allah Akbar [God is greater],’ then he took a blunt object and hit me on my left hand,” she said. “I cried for help, and neighbors arrived and saved my life. I then slept at a neighbor’s house with my four children that very night.”

Hawa reported the assault to police at the Kaderuna police station on May 6, 2015, and Mumpi was summoned for questioning. Appearing later before a judge, he showed no remorse, Hawa said, as he told the magistrate, “I cannot live with the kafir [infidel] in my house, unless she returns back to my religion. If not, I will not stop hunting for her life, because our Holy Koran allows us to kill any apostate from Islam.”

Upon hearing Mumpi’s statement, the judge on May 20, 2015 sent him to jail for 14 days. Appearing before the court for a later hearing, Mumpi spoke the same message and was taken back to jail, a source said.

“Later it was alleged that his relatives came and bribed the court, and he was set free,” the source said.

Islamic scholars say death for apostates from Islam is not explicitly stated in the Koran (as it is for “infidels”), but, based on the Hadith (early writings of the words and deeds of Muhammad), traditionally Islamic law has prescribed the death penalty for Muslims who commit apostasy.

Hawa had visited Mumpi last week after in-laws indicated that he was willing to talk about helping to support their children, ages 2, 4, 6 and 10. During her talk with her husband, he indicated a willingness to help with school fees and other child-rearing costs before asking about her faith.

“My marriage with him is now over,” she said. “I cannot go back to Islam. The burden to raise up the children is on my shoulders. I need prayers at this difficult moment.”

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Other Christians in eastern Uganda have had serious problems with Muslim relatives and radical Islamists. Threats from hard-line Muslims and the rape of her 13-year-old daughter forced a Christian mother of five children to flee their village in eastern Uganda last month, sources said. Amina Napiya, a 42-year-old widow, fled her home in Nakajete village, Budaka Town Council, on March 16.

Napiya and her five children fled after receiving a text message that the family would be killed for leaving Islam, she said. Napiya’s daughter was raped on Feb. 25 while fetching firewood a kilometer from their home at about 4:30 p.m., the widow said. Napiya believes relatives may have hired Taika Suleiman, arrested in connection with the alleged rape, to assault her daughter because of their faith, as her daughter told her that the rapist said, “This is the second warning to your mother for disgracing the faith of the Muslims.”

On Jan. 10, relatives of Abdu Nsera, a recent high school graduate in Katende village near Busede, Jinja District, beat him after finding out he had left Islam to become a Christian. They burned down a house they had built for him and have been searching for him after he fled.

On Jan. 27 in Numuseru village, Naboa Sub-County in Budaka District, the body of Laurence Maiso was found at his house, his head in a pool of blood. Four days earlier, Imam Kamulali Hussein had met him and his wife on a local road and told him, “Allah is about to send to you the Angel of Death in your house. Please prepare to meet him at any time.”

On Dec. 23, 2015, a pastor in eastern Uganda was hacked to death as he and other church members resisted an effort by Muslims to take over their land in Nansololo village near Mazuba, in Namutumba District, area church leaders said. Pastor Bongo Martin is survived by a widow and two children.

In another area of eastern Uganda, five underground Christians in a predominantly Muslim village, including a pregnant mother, died from a pesticide put into their food after a Bible study on Dec. 18, area sources said. The Bible study took place in Kachomo village, Kachomo Sub-County, Budaka District at the home of Hajii Suleiman Sajjabi, a convert from Islam who had begun the study with eight family members who had come to faith in Christ under his influence.

Four of Sajjabi’s relatives have died, as did a pregnant neighbor, according to area sources. A doctor at Mbale Regional Hospital said a postmortem test showed a substance known as Malathion, a low-toxicity pesticide, in those who had died. Though low-level toxic, Malathion when ingested quickly metabolizes into highly toxic Tomalaoxon.

Islamic extremists in eastern Uganda on Dec. 8 set a deadly trap for a Christian policeman who had left Islam, and the next day other hard-line Muslims kidnapped three children from another convert in a nearby village. More than 20 Muslim extremists in the Komodo area of Kadama Sub-County, Kibuku District, killed officer Ismail Kuloba at about 4 p.m. after he responded to an urgent call to intervene in a supposed land dispute between warring parties, an area Christian told Morning Star News. Kuloba was 43.

One of the assailants, Mudangha Kasimu, threw a stone that hit Kuloba in the forehead. Kasimu then shot him twice in the head, and he died as other Muslims were shouting, ‘Allah Akbar [God is greater],’” sources said.

About 12 miles east in Kabuna, near Budaka in Kaderuna District, a group of Muslim men from Palissa on Dec. 9 kidnapped three children of Madengho Badir, a Christian convert from Islam, sources said. Badir, 42, arrived at his home in Kabuna Sub-County, Kabuna parish, at 10 p.m. to find 5-year-old Nabukwasi Shakira, 7-year-old Gessa Amuza and 10-year-old Wagti Musitafa missing.

An area source said a 14-year-old boy from Kabuna, Karami Hassan, was with Badir’s three children when they were abducted near their home. The boy said a group of Muslims from Palissa were looking for Badir, and the boy led them to Badir’s children.

Outside of Kabeshai, near Palissa, a Christian father of five who supported 10 children whose families had disowned them for leaving Islam was killed on Dec. 2. One of three men who attacked Patrick Ojangole reproached him for failing to heed a warning to cease his Christian activities before the Christian was killed, said a witness who was with Ojangole and escaped. Ojangole was 43.

On Nov. 12, the father of a young Muslim woman in east Uganda tried to beat her to death after she became a Christian, but community leaders intervened and limited him to disowning her, sources said. Kibida Muyemba learned that his 21-year-old daughter, Namusisi Birye, had put her faith in Christ at an evangelistic campaign held that day in Nandere village, Kadama Sub-County, Kibuku District, 41 kilometers (25 miles) west of Mbale, church leaders told Morning Star News. Birye and a man in the traditional dress of an imam confessed openly to receiving Christ, they said, and angry Muslims cut the event short.

On Oct. 19, 2015, Muslims in Kalampete village, Kibuku District who were angry at a Christian for leaving Islam killed his wife, a month after his brother was killed for the same reason.

Mamwikomba Mwanika, mother of three adult children and five others ranging in age from 17 to 9, died en route to a hospital after Muslims unknown to her dragged her from her home at about 9 p.m. and assaulted her, survivors said.

Her husband’s brother, Samson Nfunyeku, was killed in the village on Sept. 23 after flaring tempers cut short a religious debate he’d had with Islamic scholars.

In Nsinze village, Namutumba District, a Muslim beat and left for dead his wife and 18-year-old son on Aug. 11 after learning they had converted to Christianity, area sources said. Issa Kasoono beat and strangled his wife, Jafalan Kadondi, but she survived, said a source who requested anonymity. He said other relatives joined Kasoono in beating her and their two sons, Ibrahim Kasoono, 18, and Ismael Feruza, 16, though the younger son managed to escape with only bruises on his arm.

The wife of a former sheikh was poisoned to death on June 17, 2015 after she and her husband put their faith in Christ in Nabuli village, Kibuku District. Namumbeiza Swabura was the mother of 11 children, including a 5-month-old baby.

In Kiryolo, Kaderuna Sub-County, Budaka District on March 28, 2015, five Muslims gang-raped the 17-year-old daughter of a pastor because the church leader ignored their warnings that he stop worship services, she said.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Family, Church Buildings Lost in Predominantly Christian E. African Countries http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/family-church-buildings-lost-in-predominantly-christian-east-african-countries/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/family-church-buildings-lost-in-predominantly-christian-east-african-countries/#respond Tue, 05 Apr 2016 11:22:15 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5452 Moyale, on border of Ethiopia and Kenya. (U.S. State Department)

Moyale, on border of Ethiopia and Kenya. (www.state.gov)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A Muslim in Kenya who put his faith in Christ last November has lost his wife and children, and now he fears for his life.

When his wife was hospitalized last October, Abdu Godana, 35, could not have guessed that the healing she received after an evangelist’s prayer would lead to losing her, his 7-year-old son and his 5-year-old daughter.

On the Kenyan side of Moyale, a town that shares a border with Ethiopia, Godana’s wife had received treatment for an unspecified illness for three weeks at Moyale District Hospital without any improvement when he took her home. Soon thereafter they received a visit from an evangelist with the Evangelical Christian Church of Africa (ECCA), who prayed for her.

His wife was not completely healed, but she was able to go about most of her daily activities, and a week later the couple invited the evangelist and two other church leaders to their home. The couple decided to become followers of Jesus after talking and giving thanks with the church leaders, and they began meeting at their home for Bible study and prayer, Godana said.

Early this year, Muslim neighbors reported to Godana’s relatives and those of his wife that the couple had embraced the Christian faith.

Godana’s in-laws began sending him threatening text messages: “You had a Muslim marriage, so it is against Islam to change your faith,” one read. “If you continue in the Christian faith, we shall come and take our daughter.”

In early February, Godana’s in-laws took his wife, he said. His Muslim parents distanced themselves from him, not only because they believed he had disgraced the family by leaving Islam, but because in losing his wife he had lost the dowry for her that they had provided.

Two weeks later, his in-laws returned and took away his children, he said.

His own family members are now threatening him. “Your life is at stake if you still hold on to the Christian faith,” one relative told him.

Godana has become depressed under a continuing barrage of text messages from his in-laws, including demands for payment for medical follow-up care, he said. One text read, “We have continued treating our daughter, and now we demand that you pay us the money that we have used for her treatment.”

“I am spending sleepless nights as the pressure from my wife’s family is being directed toward me,” he said. “I am also fearing for my life.”

Church Buildings Razed in Ethiopia

Across the border in Siraro District of Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, in East Shewa Zone about 150 miles south of Addis Ababa, Feb. 15 rioting by predominantly Muslim Oromo Arsi destroyed 14 church buildings, Christian leaders said.

More than 2,000 Christians have been left without worship venues after throngs of Oromo Arsi, protesting that the government was marginalizing them and that Christians were converting Muslims, burned 10 Kale Heywet Church (KHC, Word of Life) buildings and four others.

The KHC buildings burned were in Sabate with 110 church members, Loke Kecha with 70 members, Kate with 90 members, Bilitu with 350 members, Siraro, Chaticha with 200 members, Subuka with the 420 members, Shashamane with 30 members, Kenva with 150 members and Torban-Anshwa with 50 members.

Also torched were the buildings of Sabate Catholic Church with 250 members, Sabate Full Gospel Church with 330 members, Loke Kecha Orthodox Church with 100 members and Bilitu Orthodox Church with 500 members, according to Christian leaders, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

“We have been worshipping outside and sitting on the bare ground bearing the hot sun,” said a KHC leader. “We appeal to our brothers elsewhere to come and assist us. The attackers poured petrol and were chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is greater]” before setting the church building on fire.”

A month before the attacks in predominantly Muslim Siraro District, anonymous leaflets warned churches to stop converting Muslims to Christianity, said another area church leader. As demonstrations were taking place in Siraro town on Feb. 15 with anti-government and anti-Christian chants, Muslims in several villages began burning the 14 church buildings throughout Siraro District, church leaders said.

A cemetery belonging to Sabate Catholic Church was also damaged.

Police have arrested several suspects.

Ethiopia’s population is 60 percent Christian and 34 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Kenya’s population is nearly 83 percent Christian and 8 percent Muslim, although nominalism among the Christian population is considered widespread.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

 If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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One Kidnapped Pastor in Nigeria Dead, Two Others Released http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/one-kidnapped-pastor-in-nigeria-dead-two-others-released/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/one-kidnapped-pastor-in-nigeria-dead-two-others-released/#comments Sun, 03 Apr 2016 00:04:47 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5441 The late Rev. Iliya Anto. (Morning Star News)

The late Rev. Iliya Anto. (Morning Star News)

KADUNA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Two of three pastors kidnapped in north-central Nigeria on March 21 have been released, while the third died after being left in the wild, sources said.

The Rev. Iliya Anto, initially said to have been released by the kidnappers because of ill health, was found dead in the bush 10 days after the abduction, said the Rev. Jibrailu Wobiya, general secretary of United Church of Christ in Nigeria (HEKAN). Details of his death remained unclear, but he was reportedly said to have died after the kidnappers left him in the wild. Anto was a pastor and vice president of the HEKAN in Kaduna city.

The other two pastors, the Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Dziggau, president of the church, and the Rev. Yakubu Dzarma, a retired church leader, were released on Wednesday night (March 30), Wobiya said.

Unidentified assailants kidnapped the three pastors along the Kaduna-Abuja Road as the Christian leaders were supervising work at the church’s prayer camp ground.

“I can now confirm the release of the two, Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau, the president of our church, and the Rev. Yakubu Dzarma, a retired pastor of our church,” Wobiya told Morning Star News. “Unfortunately, the third pastor, the Rev. Iliya Anto, died during the incident.”

The Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau (left), HEKAN president, and the Rev. Yakubu Dzarma. (Morning Star News)

The Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau, HEKAN president, and the Rev. Yakubu Dzarma. (Morning Star News)

Wobiya declined to say whether his church paid the 100 million naira (US$500,000) the kidnappers had demanded for the release of the pastors. He said the time was not right to discuss it as the traumatized church mourned the death of Anto.

“We are saddened by this incident, and we are traumatized by it,” he said. “We are at the moment mourning the death of the Rev. Anto and are preparing for his funeral. I do not have much to say on this at the moment, because I am not in the right frame of mind to discuss this issue.”

The assailants had kidnapped the three church leaders at gunpoint after storming the church prayer camp site in Kaduna, where the clergymen were supervising work in preparation for an Easter retreat for their church. Wobiya, who escaped with other church members from the site, said the assailants disrupted a service and dragged the three pastors into their vehicle as church members fled, he said.

The Rev. Moses Ebuga, general secretary of the Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Nigeria (TEKAN), told media on March 22 that the kidnappers used Anto’s mobile phone to call and demand payment.

A relative of Dziggau reportedly said the kidnappers had lowered their ransom demand to 20 million naira (US$99,000) and suspected the kidnapping was motivated by politics within the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) amid selection of a successor as president of the association.

After meeting in Abuja on March 24, leaders of the CAN had called on the government to take urgent measures to rescue the pastors.

Well-armed cattle rustlers in Kaduna state who have long raped and pillaged have recently turned to kidnapping, according to published reports. Police officials in northern Kaduna reportedly said they have set up a special task force to tackle the “change of tactics by the bandits.”

Anto was from Randa in Kaduna state, a town where one of the earliest Christian missions station in northern Nigeria was established. Missionaries of the Sudan United Mission (SUM) established a mission station there in 1920.

It was also in Randa that the TEKAN was birthed in 1955. The fellowship unites 13 evangelical church denominations in Nigeria.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

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© 2016 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.  

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 34281 Doheny Park Rd., # 7022, Capistrano Beach, CA 92624, USA.

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Amid Crackdown, Prisoner in Iran Encourages Faithful to Stand Strong http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/amid-crackdown-prisoner-in-iran-encourages-faithful-to-stand-strong/ http://morningstarnews.org/2016/04/amid-crackdown-prisoner-in-iran-encourages-faithful-to-stand-strong/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2016 17:49:57 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=5434 Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj, outside Tehran. (Wikipedia)

Rajai-Shahr Prison in Karaj, outside Tehran. (Wikipedia)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – In the face of a crackdown that has crippled Iran’s house-church leadership, an imprisoned convert from Islam has managed to sneak a message of encouragement to Iran’s Christians.

With Iran’s house churches mushrooming even as the government has imprisoned or harassed most pastors into exile, a Christian held in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj last week exhorted Iranian Christians to expect persecution but to continue proclaiming Christ.

“If you are courageous in God’s way, God’s grace will be with you,” 31-year-old Ebrahim Firouzi stated. “Do not fear what you are doing, and raise the banner of Jesus in the name of God.”

Paraphrasing encouragements by New Testament writers, Firouzi asked, “If you want to do good to others, who can harm you? … Keep your conscience clean so that people will be ashamed if they cause you harm. If it is God’s will that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing good.”

The message comes at a particularly dark time for Christians in Iran, where the government has left only a few if any Farsi-language churches open, according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC), which confirmed the authenticity of the message. Christians have no other option but to hold meetings in homes, which are illegal and heavily persecuted.

“Now that the ‘official’ [government-allowed] churches have been closed, there is nowhere they can go to that they can freely worship the Lord, and this is something that has affected a lot of people,” said Rob Duncan, MEC’s region manager for Iran. “[The Persian speakers] are being forced into house churches; they have no practical alternative.”

Firouzi, who is serving a five-year sentence handed down in April 2015 after being convicted of crimes commonly leveled at Christians – “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities” – encouraged prayer for the shuttered churches.

“I ask you to pray for the reopening of the churches in Iran that the government has closed by force, so that the sound of worship and the praise can be heard in the buildings again,” he stated.

In the year since Firouzi’s sentencing, Duncan said the leadership of the house church movement has been gutted. Many of the leaders have been imprisoned, and increasingly Iran has been forcing pastors into a form of self-enforced exile by harassing and pressuring them to leave.

“One of the big problems is most of the mature leaders have been forced out of the country,” Duncan said. “There is a very big gap of people who are really mature in their faith, and people are being called to pastor their house church when they are really new in the faith. Just three or four months after accepting Christ, they are finding themselves in a position where they have to lead.”

The arrival of the supposedly moderate Hassan Rouhani as president in 2013 notwithstanding, Iran continues to score high in religious persecution. In Open Doors’ list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Iran had a score of 83 out of 100 in the 2016 World Watch List, up from 80 the previous year, though Iran’s place in the overall ranking of countries bumped back from seventh to ninth.

Various aid and rights groups affirm that the underground church is growing in Iran in spite of the crackdown. As many as 450,000 Iranians are worshipping Christ within Iran’s borders, according to Open Doors, and other organizations believe the figure could be as high as 1 million in the country of 80.3 million.

A surge of moderates in parliamentary elections in February has raised hope among some that the new majority could help draw down persecution, with United Kingdom-based aid group Release International’s chief executive Paul Robinson telling Premier magazine that the vote could serve as a catalyst for change.

“With Iran now voting for reform, now is the time to end the crackdown on the church and set free prisoners who are behind bars for their religious beliefs,” Robinson told Premier.

Among those prisoners, Firouzi’s case reflects the government hostility toward Christians. He first faced problems with authorities in January 2011, when security officials arrested him and held him for more than 150 days; he endured intense interrogation about his beliefs, how he came to faith and the leadership structure of church bodies.

Authorities later released Firouzi, but on March 7, 2013, four plain-clothes security agents came to his office, seized his computer and religious books and took him into custody. Officials told his family he was arrested in connection with an illegal Christmas gathering in which 50 Christians were briefly arrested.

Eventually authorities claimed that Firouzi was involved in setting up and running a website about Christianity, disseminating Bibles and acting against national security. A little more than a month later, he was released on bail of approximately $20,000. On July 15, 2013, a court convicted Firouzi on charges related to Internet activities and sentenced him to one year in prison, followed by two years of internal “exile” in the border town of Sarbaz.

On Aug. 21, 2013, prior to being ordered to report to prison, Firouzi was arrested in Karaj along with two other Christians, and then in October of the next year transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj.

Firouzi should have been freed from prison in January 2015, but authorities refused. On March 5, 2015 they charged him with “acting against national security, gathering, and collusion,” all of which authorities said happened even though Firouzi was in prison on previous charges. Human rights activists say it is common for imprisoned Christians who refuse to sign an agreement to refrain from all Christian activities to be charged with other crimes at random to keep them incarcerated. Firouzi was sentenced in April 2015.

In his message to Iran’s Christians, Firouzi said he wants his freedom but asked for prayer to be a strong example of Christ while in prison.

“We are trying to preach the gospel, and Jesus is our example; the Savior who came among us to be crucified and save us,” he stated. “We sometimes have to sacrifice our freedom to live in God’s love, so I can’t only think about myself when there are so many believers and churches suffering persecution.”

He said pursuit of his freedom must not be his only purpose.

“We need to think especially about the suffering of new believers,” he stated. “If my being in prison stirs the international community to work to prevent such future persecution of new believers, then my choice is to remain in prison.”

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