Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:19:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Christians Taking Children to Camp in India Charged with Kidnapping, Forced Conversion http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christians-taking-children-camp-india-charged-kidnapping-forced-conversion/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christians-taking-children-camp-india-charged-kidnapping-forced-conversion/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 22:08:16 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6854 HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Six Christians taking children to a Vacation Bible School camp in Madhya Pradesh state, India, remain in custody after police detained them last month on charges of kidnapping and forcible conversion, sources said. Also detained was a 15-year-old boy who was held in a juvenile detention center for nearly a […]

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Ratlam railway station in Madhya Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News via Indiarailinfo.com)

Ratlam railway station in Madhya Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News via Indiarailinfo.com)

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Six Christians taking children to a Vacation Bible School camp in Madhya Pradesh state, India, remain in custody after police detained them last month on charges of kidnapping and forcible conversion, sources said.

Also detained was a 15-year-old boy who was held in a juvenile detention center for nearly a month before he was released on Tuesday (June 20).

“I missed my home so much – I cried every day, and prayed and prayed,” Akash Gundia told Morning Star News. “Finally, the Lord heard me. I am happy to be back home.”

Akash was one of 72 children preparing to board a train in Ratlam on May 21 for a Vacation Bible School (VBS) camp in Nagpur before Ratlam Railway Police detained them and the eight adults supervising them. The children were all Christians whose parents had granted permission for them to go to the program, sources said.

“I told the police I am a Christian by birth, and we are going to attend the VBS, but they did not listen to me and took us to the police station,” Akash said after his release from Ratlam Juvenile Detention Center. “Children as young as 6 also were in police custody, but when their parents came, the police handed them over to the parents. I was produced in court a day later, and from there was sent to a juvenile detention home.”

The children had arrived at the station from other villages, so it took two or three days before their parents learned of their detention and were able to get to Ratlam to retrieve them. From Jabua village, 60 Christian children along with adults had travelled by bus to Megh Nagar on May 21 to catch a train to Ratlam Railway Station. Another 12 Christian children accompanied by two adults from Alirajpur village churches had also arrived by train from Indore Railway Station to join them.

The combined groups were to catch a private bus arranged by a church in Ratlam to reach Nagpur.

Akash’s father, Hartesh Singh Gundia, told Morning Star News that he and other parents arrived at the Ratlam Police Station within two or three days and informed officers that they were already Christians and that there was no case of forcible or fraudulent conversion.

“But they refused to hand over my child to me,” Singh Gundia told Morning Star News. “Later, I got to know from the police station that police had not intended to file the case, but that there was pressure from RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu extremist umbrella group] and Bajrang Dal activists, because of whom my child spent 25 days in judicial custody.”

The parents customarily send their children to such camps every summer, he said.

Singh Gundia’s son was found innocent of any wrongdoing, but the Ratlam District Court and the state High Court denied bail to five adults volunteering to supervise the children. Asserting that police had yet to submit the charge sheet with the case diary, the High Court on June 12 denied bail to Ameya Jaal, 45; Alkesh Ganava, 27; Pandu Singh Vasuniya, 31; Nitin Mandod, 23; and Lalu Babore, 28, Singh Gundia said.

A sixth volunteer, 17-year-old Vijay Meda, was also denied bail and remains in custody. Determining that he was over 17 years old but less than 18, the Juvenile Justice Board rejected his bail application. On June 16 the counsel representing him filed an application to the Juvenile Justice Board to transfer his case to Ratlam Railway Court.

“We are making all efforts to get them bailed out,” Singh Gundia said.

Two women who were also supervising the children, Sharmila Damore and Savita Buria, were also detained on May 21. The Additional Sessions Court of Ratlam granted them bail on May 27.

Legal delays appear to be prolonging the case; prosecutors have told the court that the case diary is not available and therefore requested that the trial be put off. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday (June 28).

Eight Years in Prison

While police appear to be slow to submit the charge sheets to judicial authorities, they have charged the Christians under sections 3 and 4 of Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law, the so-called Freedom of Religion Act prohibiting forcible conversion, attorney Anand Nagarkar told Morning Star News.

The prison term for forcible conversion is one year, he said.

The VBC volunteers were also charged with Section 353 of Indian Penal Code prohibiting kidnapping, which calls for a prison term of seven years.

“The children were travelling with tickets accompanied by the adults, and we argued it before the court,” Nagarkar said. “The charges were framed based on malice and suspicion, and on this basis there can be no conviction, but the police have been taking it slow to file the challan [charge sheet]. They are under pressure by the Bajrang Dal and RSS activists.”

The parents of the 72 children have submitted an affidavit before the court that all the children were born to Christian parents, and that the adults were volunteers in Sunday schools of the respective churches, Nagarkar said.

“My daughters also were among the children; they were going to the VBS camp,” said Dhum Singh Gundia, pastor of a church in Jabua.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

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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© 2017 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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Pastor Jailed in Burma Falls Ill http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/pastor-jailed-burma-falls-ill/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/pastor-jailed-burma-falls-ill/#comments Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:51:17 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6842 YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – One of two assistant pastors arrested by the Burma army last Christmas Eve is suffering deteriorating health from malnutrition, sources said. Pastor Dom Dawng Nawng Latt, 65, has become weak, lacks energy and suffers from asthma and diarrhea, according to his wife and a lawyer for Nawng Latt and fellow […]

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Pastor Dom Dawng Nawng Latt. (Morning Star News via Burma military)

Pastor Dom Dawng Nawng Latt. (Morning Star News via Burma military)

YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – One of two assistant pastors arrested by the Burma army last Christmas Eve is suffering deteriorating health from malnutrition, sources said.

Pastor Dom Dawng Nawng Latt, 65, has become weak, lacks energy and suffers from asthma and diarrhea, according to his wife and a lawyer for Nawng Latt and fellow pastor La Jaw Gam Hseng, 35, who is on trial with him.

“He lacks nutrition,” attorney U Brang Di told Morning Star News. “As he is old, it makes it worse. He seems very weak.”

The two assistant pastors were arrested in Burma (Myanmar) for helping local journalists cover attacks on a Catholic church building in northern Shan state, in eastern Burma, in November 2016. On Dec. 24 they went to the Byuha Gon military base to negotiate the release of a civilian couple who had complained to army officials about the destruction of their house, but military officials released the couple and detained the clergymen, sources said.

Normally suspects can be held for only 28 days without trial under Burmese law, the attorney said. The two pastors finally appeared at a trial hearing in Lashio on May 3.

A Burma army prosecutor has charged the two pastors under the Unlawful Association Act with recruiting and spying for armed ethnic groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the second largest ethnic armed group in Burma. The two Kachin Baptist Convention pastors, along with other denominational leaders, deny the charge.

“The court questioned five Burma Army officials who are witnesses from the prosecutor side for testimony,” Brang Di said. “The court will also question another two other police for testimony.”

Khon Peng, wife of pastor Nawng Latt, said he is increasingly discouraged.

“He suffers from asthma,” she told Morning Star News. “Now he has diarrhea often. He has to share the room with 40 people in custody. So, it is very tough for him; he is getting disappointed. He suffers both mentally and physically.”

She said she has been able to visit her husband a few times, even though Pastor Nawng Latt was transferred from Mongko town in Muse Township to Lashio in April, and brings him food and medicine.

“As he was transferred to a prison in Lashio town, it is more difficult for us to travel and see him often,” Peng said. “We have to make two stops. The road is tough, and it costs us more.”

The Christian leaders could face as much as three years in prison under the Article 17/1 for allegedly making contributions to or assisting an “unlawful association,” and as much as five years under Article 17/2 for assisting in the management or promotion of one.

Human Rights Watch has decried the arrests as arbitrary and called on Burma to release the pastors immediately.

Sources said that the Burma army arrested the two pastors for taking three local journalists to take pictures of the damaged St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church building that was bombed by Burma army jets in November.

A Burma army prosecutor, Maj. Kyaw Zin Htun, filed the charges against them.

After news and pictures about the attack on the church building were published, the Burma army asked a journalist to delete photographs of the damaged structure.

Armed conflict between Burma and ethnic armed organizations erupted anew in northern Shan state in November 2016, forcing over 50,000 refugees in total to flee to other areas of the state and the border with China.

Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian. The government has recognized the special status of Buddhism in Burma.

Burma ranked 28th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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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© 2017 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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Christian Father of 2-Year-Old in Pakistan Jailed on Flimsy Blasphemy Charge, Brother Says http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-father-2-year-old-pakistan-jailed-flimsy-blasphemy-charge-brother-says/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-father-2-year-old-pakistan-jailed-flimsy-blasphemy-charge-brother-says/#comments Sun, 18 Jun 2017 15:14:52 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6831 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Amid a government campaign in Pakistan against “blasphemous” content online, a Christian was arrested on Friday (June 16) when a Muslim accused him of blasphemy after a dispute over a repair bill, sources said. After millions of Pakistanis last month began receiving text messages from the government warning them against […]

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First Information Report against Ishfaq Masih. (Morning Star News)

First Information Report against Ishfaq Masih. (Morning Star News)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Amid a government campaign in Pakistan against “blasphemous” content online, a Christian was arrested on Friday (June 16) when a Muslim accused him of blasphemy after a dispute over a repair bill, sources said.

After millions of Pakistanis last month began receiving text messages from the government warning them against sharing or uploading “blasphemous” content online – a move rights activists say encourages more vigilante attacks on people spuriously accused of blasphemy – the falsely accused father of a 2-year-old girl was jailed under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, his brother said.

Claiming that it was acting on a court order, the government-run Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) began sending text messages to all mobile phone users last month warning that “uploading & sharing of blasphemous content on Internet is a punishable offence under the law” and giving a government email address for reporting such content.

The PTA has reportedly received more than 3,000 complaints of blasphemous content on social media, with investigators determining 1,660 websites contained such content. Most of the websites have reportedly been blocked, and posts on social media such as Facebook and YouTube were under investigation.

Since the approval of Pakistan’s Cyber Crime Bill in March, the government has reportedly arrested four people accused of posting blasphemous content on websites.

Christian rights activist Napolean Qayyum told Morning Star News that anyone can invent a fake social media account and post blasphemous content in another’s name.

“All that needs to be done after that is registration of a case under the blasphemy law, and you will be in jail for a good number of years until the court decides your fate,” said Qayyum, adding that handing out death sentences in social media cases would only encourage more false cases.

The Pakistani government lacks the will to end misuse of blasphemy laws, he said.

“Rather than punishing people who misuse these laws, it is encouraging them to report such content,” he said. “Now no one is safe in Pakistan, not even Muslims.”

Nabeel Masih, a 16-year-old Christian, was arrested in Kasur District of Punjab Province last September for allegedly posting a sacrilegious photograph of the Ka’aba, the holiest Islamic site in the Saudi city of Mecca, on Facebook.

Masih’s lawyer, Advocate Riaz Anjum, claims that the charge against his client is “clearly fabricated, as he is an illiterate and does not know how to use social media.”

The charge against the 23-year-old father filed in Lahore last week was not a cyber case but was rooted in the same vindictive instinct that critics say the online crack-down threatens to unleash. A Muslim, Mohammad Irfan, on Thursday (June 15) refused to pay Ishfaq Masih for a repaired bicycle tire in the Green Town area of Lahore, Masih’s brother Mahmood Masih said.

Irfan told Ishfaq Masih that it was not right to demand money from a “Mirasi,” or genealogist and traditional singer, and an argument followed, Masih’s brother said.

“During the argument, Irfan said that he obeys only one master, Prophet Muhammad, to which Ishfaq said that he was a Christian and his faith ends at Christ,” Mahmood Masih said. “Upon hearing this, Irfan raised a clamor that Ishfaq had blasphemed against Muhammad. Soon a mob gathered at the spot, and someone called the police, who took Ishfaq into custody.”

Riaz Anjum, Masih’s attorney, said that Mohammad Ishfaq, the landlord of the building housing Ishfaq Masih’s repair shop, had filed a First Information Report (No. 797/17) under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law. Mohammad Ishfaq claimed that he and Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Naveed, Nadeem Gujjar and Mohammad Tahir had heard Ishfaq Masih say derogatory words against the Muslim prophet, Anjum told Morning Star News.

The attorney said the claim itself was contrary to facts because none of the men mentioned in the FIR except Mohammad Irfan were present at the scene when the alleged blasphemy took place.

“Irfan had gathered the other men, including the complainant Mohammad Ishfaq, and they then concocted the allegation against Ishfaq Masih and got him arrested,” Anjum said.

He said he was hopeful that his client would be released on bail because there was no mention of what exactly he had said, and no substantive reason was stated for his alleged outburst.

“The FIR is quite weak, as it does not contain any specific blasphemous words that my client may have allegedly said,” Anjum said. “It also shows that the police did not even bother to investigate the charge before registering a case against the poor man. This is the routine practice of the police in blasphemy cases, and it’s a shame that nothing is being done to stop it.”

He added that he would file a bail application as soon as police prepare a report and detailed statements of the purported witnesses.

Cyber ‘Crime’

Government concern over online blasphemy heated up in January, when five liberal activists known for their outspoken views against Islamist extremism and the powerful military disappeared, presumed to be abducted by state agencies.

Four of them returned to their families weeks later, but not before they were tarnished by a virulent campaign to paint them as enemies of Islam who deserved execution. One of them later reportedly said that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had held and tortured them and had conceived the anti-blasphemy campaign in order to silence critical voices. The agency has denied involvement.

On June 10, an anti-terrorism court in Bahawalpur in Punjab )rovince sentenced a Shia Muslim man to death for sharing blasphemous content about Islam on social media, the first such sentence in the country’s history. The accused had allegedly posted derogatory content about prominent religious figures and Muhammad and his wives on Facebook.

The sentence is the harshest among cyber-crime related sentences handed down so far in the country. Pakistan has never executed anyone convicted of blasphemy.

Rights activists believe that the cyber initiative will encourage more lynchings, such as the killing of a 23-year-old student known for his liberal views at the hands of hundreds of fellow students in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province early in April.

A mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan beat Mashal Khan to death after accusing him of blasphemy over social media. The incident caused outrage throughout the country, with calls for the blasphemy law to be amended. An investigation into Khan’s murder cleared him of all blasphemy accusations.

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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© 2017 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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Christian Families in India Forced into Hindu Ritual, Denied Water http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-families-india-forced-hindu-ritual-denied-water/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-families-india-forced-hindu-ritual-denied-water/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:41:51 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6823 HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Villagers in Uttar Pradesh state, India beat Christians, forced them to participate in Hindu rituals and have refused to provide them water, sources said. Four families who were attacked in Jalalabad village, Ghazipur District rely on the water to irrigate their fields, they said. “How will we survive if we […]

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Christians gather in Jalalabad village, Uttar Pradesh, before their numbers decreased after deprivation of water. (Morning Star News)

Christians gather in Jalalabad village, Uttar Pradesh, before their numbers decreased after deprivation of water. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Villagers in Uttar Pradesh state, India beat Christians, forced them to participate in Hindu rituals and have refused to provide them water, sources said.

Four families who were attacked in Jalalabad village, Ghazipur District rely on the water to irrigate their fields, they said.

“How will we survive if we don’t grow our crops?” Sasikala Kumari asked Morning Star News, noting that the village head and police have allowed the Hindus to cut off the Christians water supply. “They have all joined together and are conspiring against us.”

Hindu villagers on April 25 beat with sticks Manoj Kumar, his wife Pushpa Kumari and three other Christian couples, including Sasikala Kumari and her husband Ramkreet Ram – and accused them of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.

“The mob supported by the village president forced us to drink gangajal [water from the Ganges River, considered holy), eat tulsi [basil considered holy] leaves and declare that we deny Christ,” Pushpa Kumari told Morning Star News. “When we resisted, the men and women of the village beat us even more severely.”

The four couples along with four other Christians refused to participate in the ritual or deny Christ. A total of 13 other younger Christians felt compelled to participate in the Hindu ritual and deny Christ, they said.

“The youths were forced by the extremists to consume gangajal and tulsi leaves and deny Christ,” Pushpa Kumari told Morning Star News. “The village president instigates the mob to attack whoever converts to Christianity.”

When the Christians went to the Dullapur police station to file a complaint against the assailants, village President Santosh Kumar Gupta arrived also and accused them of forcible conversion.

Gupta denied that he and the other Hindus pressured the Christians to deny Christ and participate in the Hindu ritual, telling Morning Star News that the incident was a mere quibble between the two groups.

The matter went before police, he said.

Manoj Kumar, who leads prayers in his house on Sundays since the families do not have the means to travel into town for worship, said police listened to both sides.

“The villagers were against us, they made false allegations that we are forcibly converting the people,” Manoj Kumar said. “The police asked the villagers to let anyone follow their own Dharma [religious teaching] peacefully, and that nobody shall disturb the prayer services in the village’s house church.”

In the presence of the village head, the Hindu villagers said they would abide by the police request, and neither side filed a formal complaint. The agreement, however, made no mention of water service, and the villagers have refused to sell it to the Christians.

“As a result, we aren’t allowed our share of supply of water in the fields,” Manoj Kumar told Morning Star News. “We are ready to pay the hourly price, but the president and villagers have decided to not let us irrigate. Our field is going dry; it’s burned dead.”

Village President Gupta told Morning Star News he cannot prevent the Hindus from cutting off the Christians’ water.

“As far as the problem about the supply of water, it’s personal,” he said. “If nobody in the village wants to sell them water from the bore wells, it’s their personal choice.”

Asked if a basic commodity like water can be denied to a people on religious grounds in a secular country like India, Gupta said the families have not complained to him about it. Had they come, he said, he would have resolved it.

The families said the village president’s statement was untrue.

“We went to him twice now,” Pushpa Kumari said. “Gupta’s wife told us to bring the attackers to their house, and she will solve our problem. Why would the attackers come?”

The Christians approached the village head a third time on Wednesday (June 14), but they said he only told them, “You must get down from your high horse. Stop the worship services in the village. Stop following Christ, only then water will be supplied to your fields.”

Some of the attackers, identified only as Vijay, Hari, Rajender, Mukh Lal and Sonu, are part of a village committee that aids of the village president, Manoj Kumar said.

The sub-inspector of police of Dullapur in whose presence the matter was settled in the first week of May declined to comment, saying he had been transferred to another post.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

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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© 2017 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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Christian Teacher Killed, another Abducted along with Muslim in Northeastern Kenya http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-teacher-killed-another-abducted-along-muslim-northeastern-kenya/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-teacher-killed-another-abducted-along-muslim-northeastern-kenya/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 12:15:40 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6816 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Suspected Al Shabaab militants walked into an elementary school compound in northeastern Kenya on May 31 and shot a Christian teacher to death, sources said. Elly Oloo Ojiema was shot at Fafi Primary School in Fafi, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Garissa. “The suspected Al Shabaab militants entered the […]

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Kenya's North Eastern Province. (Wikipedia)

Kenya’s North Eastern Province. (Wikipedia)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Suspected Al Shabaab militants walked into an elementary school compound in northeastern Kenya on May 31 and shot a Christian teacher to death, sources said.

Elly Oloo Ojiema was shot at Fafi Primary School in Fafi, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Garissa.

“The suspected Al Shabaab militants entered the school compound and right away fired on the teacher who was teaching the pupils,” one of the sources said.

The suspected members of the Somali rebel group kidnapped another Christian teacher, Joseph Kamau, along with a Muslim teacher who tried to defend him, the sources said. Trying to shield the Kenyan Christian, the Muslim teacher of Somali descent told the assailants he would die with him, according to a Somali Muslim teacher who requested anonymity.

“The Al Shabaab got angry,” the teacher told Morning Star News, “and told the teacher, ‘We are going to teach you a lesson for protecting the infidels,’ and immediately the two were carried away to unknown destination.”

Ojiema was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Kamau belongs to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA).

Before escaping with Kamau, the militants beat Muslims of Somali descent at the school for housing Kenyan Christians.

“We are sounding a warning to you that we shall not take lightly you who are accommodating these infidels,” one of the attackers said, according to a local source.

The incident has increased fears among Christians in Garissa, already on edge after years of guerrilla assaults by Somali rebels fighting the government in Somalia. A pastors’ fellowship in Garissa met on June 2 and called on the Kenyan government to provide more security, the chairman of the fellowship told Morning Star News by phone. Officials promised to send security guards to protect worship services, he said.

Kenya Defense Forces personnel have been deployed in the area to defend against Al Shabaab attacks.

“We are living in a very fragile environment where Al Shabaab attacks can happen at any time,” he said.

Al Shabaab militants have ramped up attacks on Kenyan soil this month, targeting Kenyan workers from the interior and security personnel and increasingly planting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) along roadsides. IEDs reportedly claimed the lives of at least 10 people, most of them police officers, in a three-week period starting in late May.

The attacks have caused an education crisis in Garissa County, on the border with Somalia, as many teachers have fled the area. The county also lost many teachers after a massacre of 148 people at Garissa University College on April 2, 2015.

Rebels from Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaeda, have launched several attacks in northeast Kenya since Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in October 2011 in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.

Kenya ranked 18th  on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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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Young Christian Woman Said To Be Kidnapped Outside Cairo, Egypt http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/young-christian-woman-said-kidnapped-outside-cairo-egypt/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/young-christian-woman-said-kidnapped-outside-cairo-egypt/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 15:35:04 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6801 CAIRO (Morning Star News) – A young Coptic woman in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt remains missing after her disappearance last week from an area where Muslim attacks against Christians have surged, sources said. Suzan Ashraf Rawy, 22, left for work by foot from her home in Al Khosous on the morning of June 5 but […]

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Suzan Ashraf Rawy. (Morning Star News via Facebook)

Suzan Ashraf Rawy. (Morning Star News via Facebook)

CAIRO (Morning Star News) – A young Coptic woman in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt remains missing after her disappearance last week from an area where Muslim attacks against Christians have surged, sources said.

Suzan Ashraf Rawy, 22, left for work by foot from her home in Al Khosous on the morning of June 5 but never arrived at the Coptic Orthodox church where she is employed, they said. The Virgin and Pope Kyrillos Church is walking distance from her home.

“When she did not return home that evening, her mother called the church,” an area Christian leader said. “That is when she discovered Suzan did not arrive at the church in the morning. It is expected that she has been abducted.”

The abduction is the third kidnapping in the area of Al Khosous, a predominantly Christian town on the outskirts of Cairo, since the accidental shooting of a Muslim on May 30.

Two other young Coptic Christian women disappeared without a trace after the May 30 incident. The families of the other women suspected to have been kidnapped have received no communication from alleged kidnappers, the sources said. Rawy’s father reportedly said kidnappers have demanded a large sum of money or else she will be killed. The family is desperately seeking help from authorities.

Area Muslims have long disfigured Christian women for not wearing veils by throwing acid on them, but there has been a surge in such attacks in the past few weeks, sources said.

Rawy’s family informed police, and her picture has been posted on social media in search of any leads. Relatives and police have found no clues regarding her disappearance.

Fear has seized Coptic Christians in the area, with women afraid to leave their homes. One of the church women’s meetings, which Rawy attended, has been suspended until further notice out of fear for the safety of the participants.

“We need to pray for peace to prevail, and that the people behind the abductions and the attacks be stopped,” the area Christian leader said.

It was previously believed that the precipitating incident involved a fight over money. A Coptic Christian identified only as Bishoy drew a gun during the fight on May 30 and accidentally shot a Muslim bystander, killing him, sources said. Bishoy was taken into police custody, where he remains awaiting manslaughter charges.

“Since then, the Muslims started to wage revenge attacks on the Christian community living there, especially the women,” the Christian leader said.

Egypt is ranked 21st on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where is it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Societal hostility toward Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which is about 10 percent of the population, takes the form of such attacks along with difficulties in constructing church buildings.

At the same time, Islamic State (IS) extremists have increased violence against Christians in the past year. In a Feb. 19 video, IS promised to rid the country of “idolaters,” and a series of murders of Copts followed. On May 5 in the IS publication “Al Naba,” the terrorist group warned of more attacks in Egypt and urged faithful Muslims to stay away from places where Christians congregate.

On May 26 heavily armed Islamists in Minya Province ambushed a youth pilgrimage to a monastery, removing passengers identified as Christians and shooting them to death. With the recent death in a hospital of one of the wounded, the death toll now stands at 30. IS claimed responsibility for the massacre, though the assailants appear to have been local Muslim extremists.

On April 9, bombings at two Coptic churches, one in Tanta and another in Alexandria, claimed 49 lives, the overwhelming majority Christians. On Dec. 11, 2016, 29 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the Botroseya Chapel in Cairo. The chapel is next to the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which is held by many as the spiritual center of the Coptic Orthodox Church. IS claimed responsibility for the two bombings.

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 June 13)

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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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Christian Sanitation Worker in Pakistan Dies after Hospital Refuses to Treat Him, Family Says http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-sanitation-worker-pakistan-dies-hospital-refuses-treat-family-says/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christian-sanitation-worker-pakistan-dies-hospital-refuses-treat-family-says/#respond Mon, 05 Jun 2017 17:16:41 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6796 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Christian sanitation worker in Pakistan died on Thursday (June 1) after Muslim doctors refused to treat him for poisonous gas he was exposed to in a sewer, sources said. Doctors at Civil Hospital Medical refused to treat 28-year-old Irfan Masih of Umerkot City, Sindh Province, saying they did not […]

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Protestors with Irfan Masih’s body during demonstration. (Twitter)

Protestors with Irfan Masih’s body during demonstration. (Twitter)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A Christian sanitation worker in Pakistan died on Thursday (June 1) after Muslim doctors refused to treat him for poisonous gas he was exposed to in a sewer, sources said.

Doctors at Civil Hospital Medical refused to treat 28-year-old Irfan Masih of Umerkot City, Sindh Province, saying they did not want to touch the filth-covered worker during the Islamic month of Ramandan, Masih’s brother told Morning Star News.

Babar Masih said that his brother entered a deep manhole to clear a sewage line but smelled poisonous gas and called out for help.

“Irfan’s coworkers did not have the equipment to pull him out, so another worker, Yaqoob Masih, descended into the manhole to rescue him,” he said. “However, both men inhaled the fumes and fainted. Two other Christian sanitary workers, Faisal Masih and Shaukat Masih, went after them but they also fainted.”

Area passers-by managed to rescue the four men, who were taken to Umerkot Civil Hospital, he said. The doctors on duty, however, said they were fasting and would not touch the Christian, who was covered in sewage filth, he said.

“The doctors said they refused to treat him because they were fasting and said he was ‘napaak [unclean],’” Babar Masih said.

Family members cleaned Masih’s body, he added, after which the doctors sent for an oxygen cylinder.

“But the cylinder was empty” he said. “And, before they could arrange another cylinder, he died.”

The family then held a protest, carrying his body from the hospital to the Umerkot Press Club, where they demonstrated for about 10 hours, demanding the registration of a criminal case.

Based on a complaint by Irfan Masih’s father, Nazeer Masih, Umerkot Police registered a case on Friday (June 2) against Civil Hospital Medical Superintendent Jam Kunbhar, a medical officer identified only as Yusuf and duty doctor Allahdad Rathore, and three employees of the Umerkot Municipal Committee – Sanitation Inspector Behari Lal, Khalid Khoso and Sarwan Malhi. Kunbhar was reportedly arrested.

The doctors are accused of criminal negligence and manslaughter under sections 319 and 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, for allegedly refusing Irfan Masih treatment.

Health Director General Akhlaq Khan reportedly said that after his initial investigation, Irfan Masih’s death was not a result of the doctors’ negligence, but that they were at fault to some degree.

Officials from the Pakistan Medical Association later carried out a demonstration against the arrest of Kunbhar and case filed against the doctors, claiming that the accusations were fabricated. They threatened to boycott the Outdoor Patient Department and emergency services wards throughout the district if Kunbhar is not released.
Insisting that Masih was alive when he arrived at the hospital, the deceased’s family reportedly insisted that after Yusuf looked at him in the emergency room and then went outside.

At the same time, the municipal committee employees are accused of failing to provide him and the other Christian sanitary workers with the necessary safety kits and gear. Protesting workers alleged that Umerkot Municipal Committee officials had forced Irfan Masih and others to work in the manhole without safety gear.

Some 60 Christians are employed by the Umerkot Municipal Committee on daily wages.

“They always threaten us with consequences of losing our jobs if we don’t obey their directives,” Christian sanitation worker Ghafoor Masih told local media.

The municipal committee’s chairman and administrative officers were unavailable for comment.

Several sanitation workers have reportedly lost their lives due to toxic gases in manholes. Overall, hundreds of people have lost their lives working for the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), but their families do not receive benefits that other government employees get because the workers lack regular status despite working decades for the department.

Though Christians account for 90 percent of sewage workers and an even high percentage of sweepers, they make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World.

Christian sanitation workers face extremely dangerous work conditions. When sewer lines clog because they are too small, these workers are not provided any protective gear as they sometimes dive 30 to 50 feet below ground into manholes filled with toxic water.

A large proportion of the Christian minority in Pakistan became sanitation workers for historical reasons. Sweeping in pre-Partition India was a job reserved for the lower castes. A large segment of lower Indian castes converted to Christianity after 1850, under British rule, to improve their lives.

The British continued these caste differences in the interests of convenience, economy and efficiency, and the colonial legacy inherited by the government of Pakistan has remained. After partition, even greater numbers of Christians were drawn to this profession; several landless Christian agricultural laborers who migrated to Pakistan took up the task of sweeping and sanitation in large cities in order to survive.

“Christian sanitation workers are discriminated against both by Muslims and by fellow Christians engaged in other professions,” said rights activist Shakeel Naz. “Since their work is considered unclean, people tend to look down upon them. It would not be wrong to say that the Christian sanitation workers are treated like animals in Pakistan.”

Naz, who also runs a school for poor Christian children in Lahore’s Makkah Colony, said that people refuse to shake hands with sanitation workers and do not eat from the same plate as them.

“Even some of our Christian brethren look down on these workers,” he said.

Many poor workers, by virtue of being Christian, feel they are left with no choice but to work as sweepers and sanitary workers.

“In many cases, sanitation work is inherited inter-generationally, and Christians associated with this occupation refuse to take up other jobs,” he said. “Since a large number of Christian sanitary workers have been killed while cleaning gutters and manholes, the least that the government can do is to provide them with protective gear and proper healthcare facilities.”

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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© 2017 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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Christians Shot to Death in Attack on Marawi, Philippines http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christians-shot-death-attack-marawi-philippines/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/06/christians-shot-death-attack-marawi-philippines/#comments Thu, 01 Jun 2017 11:22:38 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6787 MINDANAO, Philippines (Morning Star News) – Among 19 civilians an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines killed after storming a city on May 23 were eight Christians shot for refusing to recite the Muslim creed, government investigators told local press. They were the first Christians slain in the ongoing battle for Marawi City, capital of Lanao […]

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The Rev. Teresito Suganob, in still from video released on May 30. (Screenshot)

The Rev. Teresito Suganob, in still from video released on May 30. (Screenshot)

MINDANAO, Philippines (Morning Star News) – Among 19 civilians an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines killed after storming a city on May 23 were eight Christians shot for refusing to recite the Muslim creed, government investigators told local press.

They were the first Christians slain in the ongoing battle for Marawi City, capital of Lanao del Sur Province on the island of Mindanao, where a kidnapped priest appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.

The Maute Group kidnapped the Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, Catholic vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, at St. Mary’s Cathedral along with 13 other parishioners. More than 100 people reportedly have been killed since the May 23 assault, including 89 of the Islamist militants, 21 security force personnel and 20 soldiers.

Government investigators said the eight slain Christian laborers had fled Marawi and were on their way to the neighboring city of Iligan when dozens of armed Maute militants stopped them. The Islamist militants tied their hands and shot them after the Christians refused to recite the Muslim conversion creed.

Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the ditch, and a signboard was placed beside them reading “Munafik,” which means traitor or liar.

The assailants also asked Police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar to recite the Muslim creed, and as a non-Muslim he too declined and was killed, his wife told investigators.

Along with the priest, the militants have reportedly taken more than 200 hostages. An estimated 200,000 people have fled the city.

The battle in Marawi broke out when police authorities and Philippine soldiers were trying to serve an arrest warrant to the militants’ leader, Isnilon Hapilon, but while raiding his hideout, the soldiers encountered a rain of bullets from militants guarding Hapilon, who escaped.

Teddy Sugpatan, a church elder with the Assembly of God, told Morning Star News that the battle is part of a spiritual warfare. Citing Ephesians 6:12-ff, he called on Christians to remain steadfast, as the struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”

Nearly 100,000 civilians have reportedly fled Marawi while 129 people, including 89 militants and 21 security forces have been killed. Marawi is predominantly Muslim.

Suganob, vicar general vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, appealed in the video for the government to meet the Maute Group’s demands and stop fighting. The IS-affiliated group has warned the officials that they would harm the priest if the government does not stop airstrikes. The video was circulated through social media.

“Mr. President [Rodrigo Duterte], we are in the midst of this war,” Suganob says. “We are asking for your help to please give what they are asking for, to withdraw forces away from Lanao del Sur and Marawi City, and to stop the air attacks, and to stop the cannons.”

The Philippines military and others dismissed the video as propaganda that the priest was evidently coerced to make.

The leader of a Christian ministry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said that since the IS ideology is already present in the southern Philippines, Christian workers have been praying day and night that it will not influence the children they are serving.

The ministry teaches Muslim children the importance of love.

Maute Terrorists

The Maute Group is one of the newest but most feared terror groups in the southern Philippines; it became better known in November last year when its members raided Butig town in Lanao del Sur and raised an IS-similar flag in the town hall. MG engaged government soldiers, and since then the administration has not taken the group lightly.

Based in Central Mindanao, MG, locally known as the Islamic State in Lanao (ISIL), was founded by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute and originally had an estimated 100 members. Intelligence reports indicate that they have joined forces with other terror groups operating in the southern Philippines.

A number of the MG militants are erstwhile members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic revolutionary group, which has entered into a peace talks with the government. The military is expected to face a complex challenge as MG members are married to relatives of MILF militants now finalizing a peace pact with the government.

Moreover, the Philippine military has also arrested suspected members of MG who were responsible for the September 2016 bombing of a Davao City night market that killed 14 people. Davao is the hometown of Duterte.

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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© 2017 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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Islamic Extremists in Egypt Slaughter Coptic Christians on Pilgrimage to Monastery http://morningstarnews.org/2017/05/islamic-extremists-egypt-slaughter-coptic-christians-pilgrimage-monastery/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/05/islamic-extremists-egypt-slaughter-coptic-christians-pilgrimage-monastery/#respond Fri, 26 May 2017 22:39:10 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6777 ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Heavily armed Islamists in Egypt ambushed a youth pilgrimage to a monastery this morning, shooting dozens of bus passengers to death and leaving more to succumb to their wounds on a desert road. The attack in Minya Province killed 30 people, following the recent death in a hospital of one […]

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St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery in Minya Province, Egypt. (Morning Star News courtesy of monastery)

St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery in Minya Province, Egypt. (Morning Star News courtesy of monastery)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Heavily armed Islamists in Egypt ambushed a youth pilgrimage to a monastery this morning, shooting dozens of bus passengers to death and leaving more to succumb to their wounds on a desert road.

The attack in Minya Province killed 30 people, following the recent death in a hospital of one of the 23 injured. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre.

Most of those killed or wounded were originally reported to be children, but those reports have not been confirmed. At this writing only two children, Marvy Hany Mourice, 4, and Mourisca Mina Samouel, 2, both of Al-Omranyia, Giza have been confirmed slain.

Those killed were all Christians, according to survivors. The median age of the victims was 25, according to a local human rights activist.

The ambush started on three vehicles in the pilgrimage – a van, a work truck and a bus for children and youths – at 10:30 a.m. Friday (May 26) on the desert road between Minya and St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery, just west of the town of Al-Idwa.

Local journalist and human rights activist Ezz Tawfik said 10 armed men dressed in camouflage and riding in three SUVs approached the bus and asked passengers their religion. When they said, “Christian,” the Islamic terrorists forced them out of the bus and opened fire.

Some of the militants attacked the van and truck, and some passengers jumped from their vehicles, only to be gunned down as they tried to sprint away. The dead and dying lay in the desert sand amid Islamic leaflets left by the assailants extoling the virtues of fasting during Ramadan and forgiveness granted to those who abstain from eating during the Islamic ritual.

Ramadan starts on Saturday night (May 27). It is often seen as the worst time for persecution of Christians who live in the Middle East.

On May 5 in the Islamic State (IS) publication “Al Naba,” the terrorist group warned of more attacks in Egypt and urged faithful Muslims to stay away from places where Christians congregate.

Egyptian forces have struck “terrorist training camps” in retaliation for the attack on Coptic Christians, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said today. State media reported six strikes hit the town of Derna in neighboring Libya.

On April 9, bombings at two Coptic churches, one in Tanta and another in Alexandria, claimed 49 lives, the overwhelming majority Christians. On Dec. 11, 2016, 29 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the Botroseya Chapel in Cairo. The chapel is next to the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which is held by many as the spiritual center of the Coptic Orthodox Church. IS claimed responsibility for the two bombings.

The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was at the service in Alexandria and had finished addressing the congregation before the blast.

The bombings followed a series of assaults on Christians in Egypt, who make up about 10 percent of the population. A series of murders of Coptic Christians followed, with IS issuing threats on a Feb. 19 video promising to rid the country of “idolaters.” Seven Copts were killed in one month.

On Feb. 23 militants reportedly stormed into the Al-Arish home of Kamel Youssef, then shot and killed him in front of his family. Two days earlier, the body of Saied Hakim, 65, was found Feb. 21 late at night in Al-Arish behind a state-run language school, where he was ambushed by masked gunmen. Hakim was shot in the head several times.

Medhat Saied, 45, Hakim’s son, was abducted and burned alive, his body found in the same place as his father’s, according to local media reports. No one has claimed responsibility for the three killings, but the consensus is that “Wilayat Sinai,” the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, killed the men in a quest to terrorize Christians and push them out of the region.

The Feb. 19 video features a recording of the suicide statement of jihadi Abu-Abdullah al-Masri, also known as Mahmoud Shafiq, 22, suspected in the December bombing of the Al Boutrosya Church. The IS speaker said the attack was “only the first.”

“There will be more operations in the near future, if God wills it, as you are our first target and our preferred target in our war,” he said. “You followers of the Cross, you traitors of all ties – know that warriors of the Islamic State are watching you, and our blessed invasion won’t be our last on you. Because what’s coming is worse and hotter than boiling oil, so wait and see, we will be victorious.”

Since Egypt’s 2013 coup, the military-run government has been involved in counter-insurgency operations in the Sinai against members of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups now fighting under the banner of the Islamic State. Military outposts in the Sinai have been the sites of repeated attacks by terrorist groups.

The Egyptian army has had little success making strategic counter attacks or effectively protecting members of the Coptic minority constantly under assault.

On Jan. 30, Wa’el Youssef, 35, was shot down at his small grocery store in downtown Al-Arish. The assailants reportedly shot Youssef in broad daylight in front of his wife and one of their two sons. On Feb. 12, masked militants ambushed another Copt, Bahgat Zakher, 40, as he was driving his car through the southern outskirts of Al-Arish. A group of armed jihadis stopped Zakher then shot him in the head, neck and stomach, killing him instantly, according to local media reports.

Another Copt to meet his death at the hands of suspected jihadists in Al-Arish was Adel Shawqy, 57, a day laborer, who was shot in the head on Feb. 13.

On Feb. 16, masked men shot Gamal Girgis, 45, a Coptic schoolteacher and shoe shop owner. They ambushed Girgis while he was tending his shop. He was shot in the head and chest and died instantly, according to local media reports. The attack happened no more than 200 meters (220 yards) from a heavily defended army post.

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 June 12, 2017)

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© 2017 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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Terrorists Linked with Islamic State Abduct Priest in Attack in Mindanao, Philippines http://morningstarnews.org/2017/05/terrorists-linked-islamic-state-abduct-priest-attack-mindanao-philippines/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/05/terrorists-linked-islamic-state-abduct-priest-attack-mindanao-philippines/#comments Wed, 24 May 2017 21:21:18 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6770 MINDANAO, Philippines (Morning Star News) – An ascendant terrorist group in the Philippines that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) yesterday wreaked violence on the island of Mindanao, kidnapping a catholic priest and 13 members of his parish. Soldiers engaged in firefights with the Maute Group (MG) in Marawi City as its militants reportedly […]

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Islamic extremist Mauti Group, allied with the Islamic State, wreaks violence on Marawi City, Mindanao. (WCN Twitter photo)

Islamic extremist Mauti Group, allied with the Islamic State, wreaks violence on Marawi City, Mindanao. (WCN Twitter photo)

MINDANAO, Philippines (Morning Star News) – An ascendant terrorist group in the Philippines that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) yesterday wreaked violence on the island of Mindanao, kidnapping a catholic priest and 13 members of his parish.

Soldiers engaged in firefights with the Maute Group (MG) in Marawi City as its militants reportedly beheaded a police chief, kidnapped the priest and others, burned their cathedral and other buildings and raised the black flag of IS. Marawi is predominantly Muslim.

Authorities identified the abducted priest as the Rev. Teresito “Chito” Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, who was at St. Mary’s Cathedral when a group of armed men barged in and abducted him and 13 other parishioners. Reports indicated 10 worshippers and three other church workers were abducted.

Suganob is well-known in Marawi, in Lanau Province, and parishioners appealed for prayers using social media.

Facebook user Maychal Gabonada wrote in the local dialect, “I pray for their safety, especially Father Chit. He is a kind parish priest who is very close to our family.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines appealed to the kidnappers in news reports, saying the priest “was not a combatant and was not bearing arms, so he was a threat to no one…His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict.”

Besides the cathedral, the assailants reportedly burned down three buildings of Dansalan College, which belongs to the Protestant United Church of Christ.

Prior to Tuesday’s violence, police backed by Philippine soldiers in Marawi raided the hideout of suspected Islamic terrorist leader Isnilon Hapilon. The Maute Group on Tuesday (May 23) subsequently killed at least two soldiers and beheaded a policeman they had stopped at a checkpoint. Hapilon, a commander of the Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf militant group, has a US$5 million reward offered by the U.S. State Department for information on his whereabouts.

“We are in a state of emergency,” President Rodrigo Duterte said today after flying back to Manila, having interrupted a trip to Moscow. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao, and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”

Duterte said the report of a police officer’s mutilated body strengthened his resolve to declare martial law for 60 days in Mindanao, expanding the military’s power to detain suspects without charge. He said he may declare martial law nationwide if authorities confirm that IS is involved.

The sounds of gunfire caused the public to panic, and thousands fled Marawi City towards Iligan City and Malabang Municipality. Khye Amerol, who fled to Malabang, said that even though the military claimed that calm has been restored to Marawi, he had to leave for fear of stray bullets, according to the International Business Times. The mass evacuation caused traffic congestion from late morning to evening.

Clergymen have often become hostage victims of local terrorist groups operating in the southern Philippines. Last week Islamic extremists threatened Muslim preachers about to participate in an anti-terror summit organized by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). An ARMM official received an email from a local terrorist group ordering her to discourage Muslim leaders from attending the summit. The summit ended peacefully on Friday (May 19).

Maute Group

The Maute Group is one of the newest but most feared terror groups in the southern Philippines; it became better known in November last year when members raided Butig town in Lanao del Sur and raised an IS-similar flag in the town hall. MG engaged government soldiers, and since then the administration has not taken the group lightly.

Based in Central Mindanao, MG, locally known as the Islamic State in Lanao (ISIL), was founded by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute and originally had an estimated 100 members. Intelligence reports indicate that they have joined forces with other terror groups operating in the southern Philippines.

A number of the MG militants are erstwhile members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Islamic revolutionary group, which has entered into a peace talks with the government. The military is expected to face a complex challenge as MG members are married to relatives of MILF militants now finalizing a peace pact with the government.

Moreover, the Philippine military has also arrested suspected members of MG who were responsible for the September 2016 bombing of a Davao City night market that killed 14 people. Davao is the hometown of Duterte.

Poverty in impoverished areas in the southern Philippines has contributed to ordinary civilians willing to fight the government. Feeling excluded, militant and revolutionary organizations in Mindanao would like to establish an autonomous government.

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