Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:03:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Police Complicit in Attack on Christians in West Delhi, India, Sources Say http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/police-complicit-in-attack-on-christians-in-west-delhi-india-sources-say/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/police-complicit-in-attack-on-christians-in-west-delhi-india-sources-say/#respond Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:03:41 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4662 Pastor Rajan Gill. (Morning Star News)

Pastor Rajan Gill. (Morning Star News)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – After watching idly as a mob of Hindu extremists dragged Christians from a prayer meeting in West Delhi and beat them, police questioned those who were attacked as if they were guilty of fraudulent conversion, sources said.

A mob said to be members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) stormed the prayer meeting in Nangloi, Nihal Vihar on July 18 and beat them, leaving one Christian with a damaged eardrum, they said. Police watched without intervening, and initially officers refused to register a case against the assailants, Christian leaders said.

Three pastors had gathered at the home of Ayaid Prasad to pray for his sick daughter when about 15 Hindu extremists accused them of forceful conversion as they barged in with clubs at about 4 p.m. They shouted at the Christians to stop the meeting and beat pastor Harchand Singh and two guest pastors from Kerala, Pastor Singh said.

West Delhi is an administrative district of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Also present at the prayer meeting were 13 other Christians.

“They pulled us out from the house to the road and beat us up where another 50 extremists were waiting,” Pastor Singh of Shalom Mission told Morning Star News.

The owner of the house tried to tell the Hindu extremists that the pastors had come at his invitation, and that they had witnessed improvement in his daughter’s health after prayer, but the assailants continued to kick, punch, slap and beat the church leaders with clubs, Pastor Singh said.

The attackers claimed that Prasad’s family had been forcefully converted to Christianity, said A.C. Michael, former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission.

“The extremists claimed that Prasad now put up the picture of Jesus in his house, and they angrily demanded to know why he took off the picture of Hindu god Hanuman from his house,” Michael told Morning Star News.

Police took Pastor Singh and the two other pastors to the police station, the pastor said.

“The police asked us uncomfortable questions, like how much money we offered to people to convert them to Christianity,” Pastor Singh said.

Police released the pastors at about 9 p.m., claiming that they had kept them in custody for their own protection, attorney Pramod Singh of the Christian Legal Association (CLA) said.

When another pastor, Rajan Gill, led a group of Christians to the police station to help the pastors in custody, the Hindu extremists beat them there, Pastor Gill said.

“Hurling verbal abused against us, about 15 extremists rushed towards me and started to push, kick and slap me, and they tore my shirt and beat me up,” he said. “When one church member, Ranjinder Masih, came to defend me, he was mercilessly beaten up.”

They beat Masih, 36, for about 15 minutes before police intervened, he said.

“The police simply told the crowd that they have beaten us enough, and that they will take us inside the police station now,” Pastor Gill said. “I asked one police officer why they did not intervene when the mob beat us up right in front of the police station. He replied that it was not his duty to intervene outside the police station.”

Pastor Gill sustained bruises and abrasions on his body. Masih suffered a serious eardrum injury as well as wounds on his face and neck, Pastor Gill said.

After about 400 Christians staged a protest in front of the police station against police inaction the next day, police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the assailants.

“The police on duty seem to have a soft side for the attackers, and it was only when we approached the Additional Commissioner of Police that a case was registered against the attackers of Pastor Harchand Singh,” attorney Singh of CLA told Morning Star News.

The Station House Officer of Nihal Vihar, Sharad Chandra, refused to comment on the case to Morning Star News.

Michael said the Delhi Minorities Commission is submitting a memorandum to the lieutenant governor of Delhi demanding justice and prompt police action.

“One police inspector from the special branch did not talk like a police officer, but like that of an RSS member, and we were deeply saddened that the police were mute spectators of the beating and the utterance of their duty not pertaining outside,” Michael said.

Attacks in the Area

The same anti-Christian elements in the area have been harassing pastor Praveen Kumar of New Life Fellowship since March of last year.

In March 2014, church members from New Life Fellowship were on a bus to attend an evangelistic convention when local leaders Vinod Singh, Sanjay Sharma and Om Pal led RSS members in stopping them and slapping some of them, Kumar said.

A police complaint was filed, but no action was taken, he said.

“I have been to the police station at least four times, but police did not take any action,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News. “They made the excuse of not being able to identify the culprits. However, I told them many times that I can help them in identifying the people who troubled us, and I have even mentioned the names of the attackers, but they refused to comply.”

Singh of the CLA said the police investigation has been inadequate.

“It is sad that the police did not take corrective actions, and that there was no proper investigation into the matter,” he said. ‘The police inaction has emboldened the behavior of the extremists in the area.”

Every Sunday from mid-August to September last year, RSS members using loud speakers held meetings opposite the school hall where New Life Fellowship worshipped, sources said.

“The RSS clad in their uniforms stopped some church members on their way to the church and chased them back to their homes,” Pastor Kumar said. “They teased and uttered vulgar words to the ladies from our church and deliberately offered prasad [food offered to idols] when the congregation came out from the church.”

Christians submitted police complaints nearly every Sunday, but no action was taken, he said.

“The Station House Officer at that time was B.R. Sangla, and every time we asked for his help, he said that we were the ones creating trouble, and he threatened to lock us up,” Pastor Kumar said. “Finally, one member of the National Minority Commission, Abraham M. Patiani, helped us out by addressing our issue to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, who told the anti-Christian people not to bother us again.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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Attorneys for South Sudanese Pastors Facing Execution Make Final Appeal for Justice http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/attorneys-for-south-sudanese-pastors-facing-execution-make-final-appeal-for-justice/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/attorneys-for-south-sudanese-pastors-facing-execution-make-final-appeal-for-justice/#respond Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:03:49 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4654 The Rev. David Yein Reith. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

The Rev. David Yein Reith. (Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Attorneys for two South Sudanese pastors facing the death penalty made their closing arguments on Thursday (July 23) before a judge who appears to favor the prosecution, sources said.

Defense lawyers concluded their case at Khartoum Bahri Court with the assertion that agents from the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) illegally arrested the Rev. Yat Michael on Dec. 14, 2014 and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith on Jan. 11.

“Justice requires that you don’t judge [arrest] simply because you doubt [suspect] them without any concrete evidence,” one lawyer said.

Michael, 49, was arrested after delivering a message of encouragement to a North Khartoum church in the face of a government-aided take-over of the congregation’s property. The 36-year-old Reith was arrested after submitting a letter from leaders of their denomination, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC), inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.

During their trial a NISS official accused the pastors of collecting information for a human rights group. The charges, including espionage and promoting hatred among or against sects, were formed months after authorities arrested them.

“The judge in the last hearing seemed to be supporting the prosecution,” said a source who requested anonymity. “The whole issue is politically motivated, and the two pastors are innocent, but the lawyers asked the judge to respect laws and the constitution and not aid NISS in violation of the constitution.”

The charge of spying (Article 53 of the Sudanese Penal Code) is punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property. The charge of promoting hatred among or against sects (Article 64) is punishable by up to two years in prison.

The pastors are also charged with undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; disturbance of the public peace (Article 69), punishable by six months of prison, or a fine or no more than 20 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).

NISS has presented as evidence maps and other easily accessible documents taken from their confiscated laptops, as well as a NISS study guide that the pastors say was not on their computers when they were arrested. During their trial, the defense presented an IT expert who testified about how easy it would be for others to plant the documents on their computers without their knowledge, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).

A retired general also testified that the documents used as evidence against the pastors are in the public domain and are not related to military or other state secrets as the prosecution has alleged, according to MEC.

The defense attorney on Thursday told the judge that Michael did not violate Sudanese law – specifically, “insulting religious creeds” – while preaching at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, as he was just carrying out his duty as a pastor.

“To urge believers to be zealous for their church is not an insult against God,” the attorney said.

The defense team asserted that the two pastors were illegally detained for a long period without trial.

“This is illegal and against the Bill of Rights called for in Sudan’s constitution,” they stated in a filing with the court.

The lawyers called on the court to respect the constitution rather than excessive powers granted to NISS to arrest and detain any person at length without trial. NISS is manned by hard-line Islamists who are given broad powers to arrest Christians, black Africans, South Sudanese and other people lowly regarded in the country that President Omar al-Bashir has pledged will be fully Arabic and Islamic.

The defense stated that the court should drop charges against the two church leaders due to a critical lack of physical evidence.

“These charges are built on sand,” they concluded in their filing.

A verdict is expected at a hearing on Aug. 5.

The Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church that Michael had encouraged in December was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors tried to take it over. Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church that Michael encouraged and fined most of them. They were released later that night.

On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.

Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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© 2015 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 Family Awaits Word on Copt Kidnapped in Libya by Islamic State Affiliate http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/christian-family-awaits-word-on-copt-kidnapped-in-libya-by-islamic-state-affiliate/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/christian-family-awaits-word-on-copt-kidnapped-in-libya-by-islamic-state-affiliate/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2015 23:12:25 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4644 Passport photo of kidnapped Egyptian Bakhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid. (Morning Star News)

Passport photo of kidnapped Egyptian Bakhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid. (Morning Star News)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – As unconfirmed reports and rumors about the status of three Christians kidnapped in Libya by the Islamic State (IS) continue to spread in Egyptian media, a Coptic family waits in fear over the fate of their loved one.

On Friday (July 17), an IS affiliate in Libya known as Islamic State, Barqa Province, announced that it had kidnapped three men, all of them Christians. As evidence of their claims, they released photographs of the three men and photographs of their passport cover pages.

Bakhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid, 21, was traveling on July 10 in a 14-seat van from Alexandria, Egypt to Tripoli with a group of men, most of them Muslims from his hometown of Kom Badar, when IS militants stopped them in Sirte, Libya, according to Ezz Tawfik, a Coptic activist and journalist in Upper Egypt. Two other Christians, Adeola Ibrahim from Nigeria and Sekyere Kofi Frimpong from Ghana, were also in the van.

“ISIS soldiers were there to search their car and check their passports,” said Tawfik, who is in close contact with the victim’s family. “They took all their passports, and saw his, and asked if he was a Christian, and he said ‘Yes.’ So they asked him to stand aside and released the Muslims who were in the same van.”

The other two Christians were also taken captive.

Later that day, some of those who were released called members of Ebeid’s family, who live in Tripoli, and reported the kidnapping.

“His relatives didn’t know what to do, especially because his mother is sick, and such news might kill her, so they didn’t tell his family in Egypt,” Tawfik said.

After IS announced the kidnapping, the family in Egypt became aware of the truth.

Relatives decided to call Ebeid’s cell phone, but to their horror, an IS militant told them that they had beheaded the “infidel.” But in a subsequent call, the militants changed their story and told the family that Ebeid had to pay the Jizya tax on non-Muslims as ransom, or convert to Islam or be killed.

When his family said they would pay the Jizya and asked how much it would be, they were told an amount was being decided, and then the phone connection went dead, according to family members.

Despite several attempts, all subsequent efforts to contact the militants though the cell phone and determine a ransom amount were unsuccessful, according to Romany Nageh, Ebeid’s brother.

“His phone is still working, but we were told [by authorities] not to call much because that might hurt him,” Nageh said. “But our relatives who live in Tripoli call the phone, and every time somebody answers they make fun of them and hang up.”

The last time the family heard from Ebeid was on July 10, just before he crossed into Libya.

“He did call his family on that day, when he was on his way to Libya and told his family that he was on his way, and that he is going with a group and it would be safe,” Tawfik said.

No information has been publically available about the other two Christians taken captive.

Untrue and often contradictory reporting in Egyptian media about Ebeid’s condition has exacerbated the family’s dread, Tawfik said. Several times in the past few days, some news outlets reported that a ransom amount had been set for Ebeid’s release, while others simultaneously stated that he had been killed.

Family members said they have now turned to God, hoping that somehow against the multitude of conflicting reports, Ebeid is still alive and will survive the ordeal.

“We put the whole situation in front of God, and after Him the authorities, the ministry of foreign affairs, and those who are in power,” Ebeid’s brother said.

In addition to its sheer brutality, IS has become known for kidnapping Christians and then killing them in graphic videos. In February, an IS group in Libya released a video in which they beheaded 20 Egyptian Christians and one Christian from Ghana. All the men had been kidnapped at gunpoint in Sirte a little more than a month prior to the release of the video.

Two months later, in April, IS released another video in which they killed approximately 30 Christians, all of them thought to be from Ethiopia. All were thought to be migrant workers.

Keeping this in mind, Tawfik said, going to Libya for work might seem to be a quest for the insane. But for many people in Egypt and in Ebeid’s village, crushed by unrelenting poverty, the pull of any job is just too strong. For Ebeid – impoverished, uneducated, unemployed and engaged to be married for more than a year – there were three choices, his family said: Go to Libya, starve or become a thief. He took a chance trying to get to the relatively safer environs of Tripoli for better job opportunities.

“His father said if it wasn’t for their extremely poor condition, his son wouldn’t have risked his life and gone. He wouldn’t have risked his life to travel,” Tawfik said.

Before he visited Ebeid’s home, Tawfik said, he couldn’t understand why he would take the risk to leave.

“I kept asking myself, why did he do that and go?” he said. “But when I went into their home, I thought, ‘If I were him, I would do the same to put food on the family table.’ He is working hard to support and prepare himself to marry his fiancée, and at the same time support his elderly parents. It is like those people who get on the boats to Italy, knowing that there is a big chance that they will die, but because they have nothing in their country, risk it anyway.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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© 2015 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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Supreme Court of Pakistan Agrees to Hear Appeal of Christian Mother on Death Row http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/supreme-court-of-pakistan-agrees-to-hear-appeal-of-christian-mother-on-death-row/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/supreme-court-of-pakistan-agrees-to-hear-appeal-of-christian-mother-on-death-row/#respond Wed, 22 Jul 2015 22:01:05 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4631 Muslims in Pakistan clamor for Asia Bibi's death sentence to be upheld in 2010. (Pakistan Today)

Muslims in Pakistan clamor for Asia Bibi’s death sentence to be upheld in 2010. (Pakistan Today)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court today agreed to review the case of a Christian mother sentenced to death on a blasphemy charge, temporarily suspending her execution.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, is the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan. The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court at the Lahore Registry admitted for hearing her petition challenging the sentence.

Attorney Saif-ul-Malook told Morning Star News that he had a strong case for demanding Noreen’s acquittal.

“Asia Bibi has claimed that she had not made any blasphemous remarks, and that rather her fellow villagers had leveled the allegation against her based on a personal feud,” said Malook. “The FIR [First Information Report] against my client was registered five days after the alleged incident had taken place. The mala fide intent is quite visible as the prolonged delay in lodging the case implies that the complainants had plenty of time to cook up the allegations against Asia Bibi.”

Malook said that in a previous blasphemy case, Ayub Masih v. State in 2002, judges had thrown out the death sentence against Masih due to a three-hour delay in the registration of the FIR. Attorney Naeem Shakir made the same contention before the Lahore High Court in October last year – that the main complainant, local Muslim cleric Mohammad Salaam, had not heard Noreen blaspheme, and that his original FIR had been filed five days after the women’s quarrel.

Shakir had argued in his appeal that during the trial the only reason given for this delay was “deliberation and consultation,” and said that cleric Salaam had acknowledged this in court.

Salaam, the main accuser, had told the high court that the FIR got delayed because he had investigated the charges himself first, Malook said. Salaam has said on record that his religious obligation to defend the dignity of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was the basis for his decision to be a court witness. He said that he had only heard Noreen allegedly confess to blasphemy when she had been brought before a Panchayat (local village council) several days after the quarrel.

Noreen’s other main accuser, the owner of the field where she worked, Muhammad Imran, was not present at the time of the quarrel either; he was away from the village at the time.

Arrested in June 2009 after Muslim co-workers in a berry field 60 miles west of Lahore beat her when she refused to convert to Islam following a quarrel, her death sentence was announced in November 2010. The Lahore High Court on Oct. 16, 2014 upheld the death sentence for the mother of two children and stepmother to three others.

Noreen was convicted under Section 295-C of the defamation statutes for alleged derogatory comments about Muhammad, which is punishable by death.

The Supreme Court judges today said they would fix a date in due course to review the substance of the appeal.

Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, lawyer for the complainant against Noreen, opposed the petition on grounds that it had been filed too late. But Justice Saqib Nisar, head of the three-judge bench, said the court would hear the case.

Islamic Law

Malook, who is representing Noreen before the high court, said her chances for acquittal were good.

“I believe that Asia Bibi’s case was not handled properly, but even now she has a good chance of being freed from her ordeal on the basis of inadmissible evidence,” Malook said. “We have a good case, and I’m sure the Supreme Court will consider the shoddy trial Asia Bibi has been subjected to and deliver justice to her.”

He said the trial and prior appeal judges had not taken into account the Islamic principle of Tazkiya al Shahood, which requires accusers to meet strict standards of Islamic piety. The lawyer referred to a 1992 decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled that “[what] the expression Tazkiya al Shahood signifies and connotes is to require elaborate enquiry into the piety, uprightness and integrity of the witness from the men of the same virtues.”

“The high court kept silent over the fact that the trial judge had not applied the Tazkia al Shahood test then to determine whether the accuser fulfilled the Islamic criteria for leveling such allegation,” Malook said.

The two-member High Court bench comprising Justice Muhammad Anwaarul Haq and Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi, however, said in their verdict in November 2014 that they had upheld Noreen’s death sentence because defense lawyers were unable to competently cross-examine prosecution witnesses.

Brushing aside the 1992 Supreme Court guidance on Tazkiya al Shahood, the appeals judges observed that the accused in that case had been acquitted on the merits of the evidence even without the benefit of the stricter standards, presumably leaving open the question of whether those standards ought to be employed generally.

In Noreen’s case, however, the High Court suggested that the trial court could have made that determination if it had been equipped with guidelines for applying the Islamic legal test – throwing the ball in the government’s court to make the necessary changes in the laws.

“In the absence of any corresponding amendment in procedural law for testing credibility of a witness at such a higher standard, the principle of Tazkiyah al Shahood cannot be applied in other cases,” the ruling said. It expressed the “utmost necessity for necessary corresponding amendments in procedural law for the proof of an offence where the only sentence provided is death.”

The judges ordered that the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights should forward the court’s observation to the federal government. Government movement in that regard is unknown.

The Federal Shariat Court, which determines whether Pakistan’s laws comply with the principles of Islam, had declared in 1990 that insulting Muhammad qualifies as Hadd – a category of crimes and punishments prescribed in the Quran and the tradition of the Muhammad. Accordingly, the only acceptable penalty is death, the Shariat Court had ruled.

Regarding media reports asserting Noreen was suffering severe health problems, Malook said that his client was generally well.

“Such rumors are usually spread by so-called rights outfits to gather foreign funds in Asia Bibi’s name,” he said. “My client is in good health; seasonal flu or diarrhea does not count as severe sickness.”

Noreen, 50, was accused of making derogatory comments about Muhammad after a Muslim woman told her she as a Christian had defiled a bowl of water she had touched in Nankana Sahib district in 2009. The Muslim woman and her sister were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defense failed to convince the judges that their evidence lacked credibility.

Following her lawyers’ unsuccessful appeal in Lahore’s High Court in October 2014, the current appeal is now the last chance of a ruling that her conviction was wrong in the absence of credible evidence.

Responses

Her husband, Ashiq Masih, told International Christian Concern (ICC) that the decision to review her appeal was a “big relief.”

“The whole family is thankful to God for listening to our prayers,” Masih told ICC. “We hope justice will be done, and Asia will finally be proved innocent.”

Masih recently visited the Vatican with two daughters to meet the Pope regarding his wife’s case.

Christian rights activist Napolean Qayyum of The Voice Society told Morning Star News that the Supreme Court’s decision to accept the case for hearing was good news for Pakistani Christians.

“Asia’s case will surely have a positive effect on similar cases where people have been wrongly accused of blasphemy to settle personal scores and convicted by trial courts on the basis of fear,” he said, adding that the entire Christian community would be praying for wisdom for the judges when they decide her case.

Noreen’s case focused international attention on how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have become a weapon against religious minorities. Her death sentence led to international protests, and the possibility of overturning it provoked outrage within Pakistan. Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was slain by his bodyguard on Jan. 4, 2011 because of his support for Bibi and his criticism of the blasphemy law; the bodyguard believed Taseer, a Muslim, had blasphemed by criticizing the law.

Meeting with Noreen after her sentencing in 2010, Taseer had told her he believed the charges against her were fabricated and promised to recommend a presidential pardon. He called Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes “a black law” and called for their repeal.

Former Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, the first Christian, cabinet-level minister, was shot and killed on March 2, 2011 for calling for reforms to blasphemy laws following Bibi’s trial.

Death sentences have not been carried out in blasphemy cases, but that is in part because such allegations have frequently led to deadly vigilante attacks on the accused or their lawyers.

Pakistan is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World, and religiously charged court cases commonly involve clamoring crowds of Muslims and other pressures coming to bear on lawyers and judges. Christians make up 2.45 percent of the population.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has stated that Christians and Ahmadis, a minority sect within Islam, are vulnerable to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law, according to The New York Times. More than 20 men have been sentenced to death under the blasphemy law, most of them Christians, though none have been executed, human rights groups say.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been routinely misused to settle personal scores with false accusations. Police have found most blasphemy accusations to be false during investigation, but accusers can make innocent victims suffer months in jail with quick and easy registration of such cases.

Of 5,000 cases registered between 1984 and 2004, only 964 people were charged with blasphemy, according to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. A recent study by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) found that from 1953 to July 2012, there were 434 people blasphemy “offenders” in Pakistan, including 258 Muslims, 114 Christians, 57 Ahmadis and four Hindus.

Those acquitted of blasphemy charges also face threats from homicidal vigilantes. Of 52 people extra-judicially murdered after being charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, 25 were Muslims, 15 were Christians, five were Ahmadis, one was Buddhist and one was Hindu, according to the CRSS report.

Most blasphemy case acquittals take place at the appellate level, after courts have denied bail so often that the accused spend years in jail, as lower courts tend to decide based on fear of violence by Islamist groups rather than on merit.

Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes makes willful desecration of the Koran or a use of its extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Section 295-A of the defamation law prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and “acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens.” It is punishable by life imprisonment, which in Pakistan is 25 years.

Blasphemy charges against Rimsha Masih, a girl whose mental age was determined to be less than 14 years old, were dismissed on Nov. 20, 2012 after a judge ruled that they were baseless (see Morning Star News, Nov. 20, 2012). She has since been relocated to Canada.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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Two Young Christian Women in Sudan Fined for ‘Indecent’ Dress http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/two-young-christian-women-in-sudan-fined-for-indecent-dress/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/two-young-christian-women-in-sudan-fined-for-indecent-dress/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:23:19 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4625 Ferdoos Eltoum, 19, charged wtih indecent dress by islamist police. (Morning Star News)

Ferdoos Eltoum, 19. (Morning Star News)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Two of 10 young Christian women charged with wearing indecent clothing in North Khartoum, Sudan were fined 500 Sudanese pounds (US$85) on Wednesday (July 15), a Christian leader said.

Ferdoos Eltoum, 19, and 18-year-old Rehab Omer Kalkom were arrested on June 25 along with 10 other women; two of the 12 were released without charges the next day. The remaining eight young women, released on bail after spending a night in custody, remain charged.

The 12 women arrested, some of whom may have been minors, were forced to remove their clothing for Sudan’s notorious Public Order Police to “inspect” the clothes, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The women were all wearing standard blouses with either skirts or pants, the source told Morning Star News.

“They have targeted these girls because of their faith and their race,” the Christian leader said.

Police in the Arab-majority country arrested the 12 black women as they were on their way home from a service at El Izba Baptist church in North Khartoum. They were taken to El Sababi Police Station, where they spent the night in police custody, the source said. Two of them were released at dawn, and the other 10 were later released on bail.

At the police station the women were charged with indecent dress under Article 152 of Sudan Penal Code, a law that human rights groups have criticized as vague. Public Order Police can decide what is indecent or immoral in a wide range of shifting standards under the law.

Article 152 calls for flogging with at least 40 lashes, a fine or both. It prohibits dressing or behaving inappropriately in public place. The young women could also face other, yet unknown charges. 

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.

Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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Three Christians in Egypt Arrested for Allegedly Showing Contempt for Islam http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/three-christians-in-egypt-arrested-for-allegedly-showing-contempt-for-islam/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/three-christians-in-egypt-arrested-for-allegedly-showing-contempt-for-islam/#respond Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:36:47 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4618 Scripture passage and dates taken as evidence in blasphemy arrest. (Morning Star News)

Scripture passage and dates taken as evidence in blasphemy arrest. (Morning Star News)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Three Christians in Egypt have been accused of showing disdain or contempt for Islam after an evangelism outreach to Muslims over the weekend in the port city of Alexandria, sources said.

The three Christians were arrested on Saturday (July 11) after at least one was stopped for handing out small bags of dried dates and copies of the Sermon on the Mount, according to human rights activists. In addition to the dates, a snack Muslims commonly eat when breaking the Ramadan day-time fast, the bags contained a statement about God’s love and His omniscient nature.

“The Lord knows all that occurs, for He is the mighty knower,” the message read. “He can carry on His shoulders all that is oppressive and exhausting and bring comfort and joy, for He loves you very much.”

The bags also carried the name of an Arabic-language website about Jesus and the Christian faith.

The outreach offended a Muslim who forcibly detained one of the three Christians and took him to a police station, according to a church leader in Alexandria who knows those who were arrested. The Muslim man told the Christian that if police didn’t punish him severely enough, he would seek his own “justice” against him, the church leader said.

The arrests were illegal, said the church leader, who requested anonymity.

“They were just giving out dates during the iftar [fast-breaking evening meal] hour and little booklets with the Sermon on the Mount on them,” he said. “In Egypt there is no such crime as evangelism, and if we look at this as a blasphemy case, there was no blasphemy either. The boys did nothing insulting whatsoever.”

All three were released on a 10,000 Egyptian pound (US$1,280) bond on Monday (July 13), awaiting further investigation by the attorney general’s office or a judge’s decision to either pursue or drop the case. The church leader said the consensus in the Christian community was that the case would be dropped.

Contrary to several media reports, the leader said the three were not beaten in jail. Still, the ordeal was difficult, one of those arrested said on his Facebook account, before the account was removed.

“If someone had been caught with hashish or was drinking alcohol on the street, it would have been easier for them than everything we’ve gone through,” the Christian said.

The names and ages of the three Christians have not been confirmed. One was identified as Stephen Boutros Fayed, and the full names of the other two, said to be Fady and Shady, were not immediately known. They were said to be in their late teens or early 20s, with one possibly being a minor.

After police arrested the Christian distributing literature and dates, he was allowed to call one of his friends. The friend went to the police station on Sunday (July 12) with a third Christian to offer assistance, and the two were promptly arrested and charged with blasphemy as well, sources said.

It was unclear if the two other Christians were involved in the evangelism outreach.

Egypt’s 2014 Constitution guarantees both religious freedom and freedom of expression, but the Constitution is often trumped by the penal code and aggressive, often unfair enforcement of Article 98F. While not strictly a blasphemy statute, Article 98F prohibits acts that show disdain or contempt for “any of the heavenly religions or the sects belonging thereto.” A violation is punishable by detention for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years, or paying a fine of not less than 500 Egyptian pounds and not exceeding 1,000 Egyptian pounds.

Ishak Ibrahim, freedom of religion and belief officer for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the outreach was legal and that the arrest was just another example of the government’s abuse of the law to persecute religious minorities.

“In Egyptian criminal law, there is no crime called ‘evangelism’ or any punishment for it,” Ibrahim said. “But there is a section that considers blasphemy against a ‘heavenly religion’ to be a crime in cases where it threatens the unity of a nation. But in this case, they are being accused of blasphemy. It’s not that they really did blaspheme; it’s a misuse of the law.”

Blasphemy cases have been on the rise since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn into office in 2014. There have been 15 blasphemy cases since January, according to EIPR. The blasphemy cases disproportionately target Christians, but other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims and Baha’i, have also been charged with actions against a “heavenly religion.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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Two Explosive Devices Planted at Church in Jos, Nigeria http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/two-explosive-devices-planted-at-church-in-jos-nigeria/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/two-explosive-devices-planted-at-church-in-jos-nigeria/#respond Wed, 15 Jul 2015 20:52:55 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4612 ECWA Gospel 1 Church in Jos, where bombs were planted. (Morning Star News)

ECWA Gospel 1 Church in Jos, where bombs were planted. (Morning Star News)

JOS, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A congregation in this central Nigerian city continued worshiping on Sunday (July 12) after a security man found and tossed over a fence a bomb before it exploded, the pastor said.

Authorities later discovered a second bomb on the church premises and disposed of it, said the Rev. Ezekiel Omidiji, senior pastor of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Gospel 1 in the Tudun Wada area of Jos, Plateau state.

“It was around quarter to nine when we heard this bomb blast,” Pastor Omidiji told Morning Star News. “Members were scared, but we were able to control them not to rush out into danger again.”

In some attacks on churches in Nigeria, assailants have sprayed Christians with bullets as they rushed out of worship buildings that had been bombed.

The church’s chief security officer said he had gone to the restroom and heard a mechanical apparatus vibrating.

“When he looked at it, he opened it and saw it was still vibrating,” Pastor Omidiji said. “So he summoned the courage and took it, went out of the bathroom and threw it over the fence of the church to a soccer field. It was at that point that the bomb exploded.”

The pastor immediately called military and police agencies, which rushed to the site and found another bomb “waiting to explode,” he said.

“After we calmed the members of our church, we sent for the STF [Special Task Force],” he said. “They were prompt in response, including policemen, the Anti-bomb Squad. They went around with their gadgets and discovered another bomb in a nearby kiosk by the field, and they immediately detonated it.”

He credited the security chief for risking his life to grab the bomb and dispose of it, and he thanked God for intervening and averting what would have been a deadly attack on his church.

“The church service went on in spite of the incident, as we did not allow the explosion to disrupt the church service,” Pastor Omidiji said. “The worship service ended well, without any other incident. We give thanks to God for His mercy and his protection.”

Jos, in north-central Nigeria’s Plateau state, is part of the country’s “Middle Belt” where Muslim/Christian conflict has accelerated in recent years. Some analysts believe primarily Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been influenced in both tactics and ideology by rebels from the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria. Fulani weapons have become more sophisticated, and at times the herdsmen have been reported to be working in concert with Islamic extremist mercenaries from neighboring countries.

Insurgents from Boko Haram, based in Borno state, have reportedly joined ethnic Fulani herdsmen in attacks on Christians in Taraba and other states. While ethnic Fulanis have had longstanding property disputes with Christian farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.

Boko Haram was suspected of planting the two bombs at the ECWA site, though the church has been targeted by other Islamic extremists since its inception 30 years ago. During the period since Pastor Omidiji began pastoring in Tudun Wada three years ago, the congregation has had cordial relations with neighboring Muslims, he said, especially as the church has helped alleviate acute water shortages for the community during dry seasons.

“As part of our good relationship with the Muslims around the church, we drilled a borehole here, and the Muslim community has been benefiting from it,” he said. “I believe that on our own side as a church, we have been relating well with the Muslim community here, and not only the Muslims but also other communities around here. In fact we had to lay water pipes from the borehole to supply water to these other communities around here, too.”

Pastor Omidiji said the bomb attempt will not deter the church and its members from showing love to area Muslims, as Christians must show love to those who hate them.

“When I came on board, I heard from members that this church has been a target to be burned down by wicked people,” he said. “But we strongly believe that the Lord has been our strength, shield and rock.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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 © 2015 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 Instigate Tribal People against Christians in Jharkhand, India http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/hindu-extremists-instigate-tribal-people-against-christians-in-jharkhand-india/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/hindu-extremists-instigate-tribal-people-against-christians-in-jharkhand-india/#respond Sat, 11 Jul 2015 13:45:13 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4606 RSS drill in Nagpur during a national camp in May 2011. (Ganesh Dhamodkar Wikimedia Commons)

RSS drill in Nagpur during a national camp in May 2011. (Ganesh Dhamodkar Wikimedia Commons)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Christian families driven from their village in India’s Jharkhand state have returned home with police help, but tribal people instigated by Hindu extremists are still bent on expelling them, sources said.

Hindu extremists last month mobilized tribal groups to banish the Christian families from Kullu village in Chanho Block, Ranchi District, about 30 miles from the state capital, Ranchi, an area pastor said.

“The Christians in the village have been discriminated and threatened for a long time, but the banishment started in the first week of June, when five Christian families were threatened and banished from the village,” said pastor Moosa Minj, who also was forced to flee. “The tribal families that have been banished have been Christians for more than 20 years.”

Minj fled the village on June 10 after receiving death threats, he said. Villagers threw his belongings out of his house. Also fleeing were the families of Gossner Ekka, Vardhan Kujur, Premchand Kujur, Masihcharan Kujur and Premchand Ekka, he said.

“They threatened me with dire consequences and misbehaved with me as they did with the others,” Pastor Minj said.

The expelled Christian families on June 13 approached the local police station at Narkopi, only to be initially turned away, the pastor said.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India told Morning Star News that when Christian groups in Delhi made inquiries to the police station in Narkopi, officers there said that no Christians had come to the station until June 15.

“The local police want to portray this as a family feud, which it is not,” Lal said. “Rev. Moosa Minj gave a report and asked for protection for the Christians in the village. His appeal for protection was accepted, but his First Information Report was not filed.”

Members of Hindu extremist groups have provoked the tribal Adivasis, who practice the indigenous Sarna religion, against the Christians, Pastor Minj said.

“Marwari Uraon, the village head of Kullu, is guided by Gangotri Kujur, who is a member of the Legislative Assembly from the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP],” he said. “The Hindu groups are behind the trouble and discrimination that we are facing.”

The Sarnas do not consider themselves Hindus, although the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other Hindu nationalist organizations have attempted to define them as Hindus, Lal said.

Harassment of Christians in the area is not new, Pastor Minj said.

“On March 27, many new believers from our church were beaten up,” he said. “One Christian lady by the name of Suganti Kacchap was beaten up very badly. She was dragged for about one kilometer, and all the while they were beating her. She had severe head injuries that still give her pain. Suganti and her family have left our village for good.”

Christians were beaten and threatened in September 2013 as well, he said.

The tribal Christian families of Kullu were brought back to their village with the help of police on June 22, but the next day a mob surrounded their homes and pelted their houses with stones. Police intervened again and restored peace, but tensions remain as the village Hindus are determined that the Christians leave.

Pastor Minj said the affected Christians have been summoned to speak with authorities on Monday (July 13) at Ranchi. Police have been more helpful since Christian leaders from Delhi intervened with district authorities, but the Hindu villagers remain firm in their opposition.

Dr. John Dayal of the United Christian Forum said the RSS and its affiliates started activities against Christian missionaries in the region decades ago, intensifying them since the late 1990s.

“The harassment of the Christian tribals, many of whom have been Christians for generations, is increasing because of the divisive politics in the area being played out by the right-wing forces led by the RSS and its affiliates,” Dayal said. “The latest incident of the banishment of the Christian families is proof of the same.”

Service Attacked in Kerala

In Kerala state, RSS and BJP members attacked a Christian prayer service organized by the Reaching World with Love Ministry at Attingal on June 14, Christian leaders said.

About 50 Hindu extremists at about 12:30 p.m. marched to the Attingal Municipal Library Hall where the service was underway, shouting anti-Christian slogans, Lal said. They accused the Christians of “organizing a conversion drive and targeting those belonging to the Hindu faith.”

“The attack took place without any provocation,” Lal. “The attackers targeted not only the 200 worshippers but also the pastor present. Shouting anti-Christian slogans, they broke the furniture, musical instruments, fans and scattered the lunch kept for the church members.”

One woman sustained a broken finger in the attack, he said.

“The attackers even misbehaved with a physically challenged man who was seated on a chair during the attack,” he said. “They pushed him and asked him to get up and go away. Many Christians were manhandled during this attack on religious freedom. Even the police acknowledge this.”

Officers reached the site later and registered an FIR against 20 persons, five of whom have been arrested, Lal said. Those arrested were identified as T.R. Anoop, 38; Anoop, 30; Abhijit, 22; Vimal, 30; and Deepu, 20, and all natives of Attingal.

Dayal of the United Christian Forum lamented that the attack happened in Kerala at a time when the Congress party, more amenable to Christians than the BJP, is still in power. The BJP is making a concerted and aggressive effort to make its presence felt at the state level, Dayal said.

“Also, for all its well-earned reputation of being a place of co-existence of various religions, the RSS and the BJP have made a serious efforts the last 25 years to penetrate Kerala and poison its communal harmony,” he said. “The RSS continues to try to polarize people whichever the government in the state and this attack is a direct result of the polarization.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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© 2015 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 Uganda Try to Kill Former Sheikh Who Survived Poisoning http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/islamic-extremists-in-uganda-try-to-kill-former-muslim-sheikh-who-survived-poisoning/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/islamic-extremists-in-uganda-try-to-kill-former-muslim-sheikh-who-survived-poisoning/#respond Thu, 09 Jul 2015 14:16:16 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4598 Kabuna County record of apology for death threat against Hassan Muwanguzi in eastern Uganda. (Morning Star News)

Kabuna County record of apology for death threat against Hassan Muwanguzi in eastern Uganda. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Twice in the past two weeks, Muslim extremists in eastern Uganda have tried to kill a former sheikh known throughout the region for his Christian activities, the former Islamic teacher told Morning Star News.

Hassan Muwanguzi, an evangelist in Budaka District whose conversion and ministry success led hard-line Muslims to poison him and kill his 12-year-old daughter last year, said he received a phone call in late June from a Pallisa District resident, 40-year-old Naaya Edward. The caller said he had been given a message to deliver to Muwanguzi.

“He wanted to meet me alone early in the morning at an isolated place,” Muwanguzi told Morning Star News by phone. “I suspected meeting him might not be in good faith, and, more so, I did not know him, so I requested to be accompanied by two village elders from Kabuna.”

When they met Edward on June 29, he appeared very nervous, he said.

“Straight away we took him to the local county representative, where, after a lengthy interrogation, he confessed that he had been hired to kill me, with a gang in hiding planning to ambush me,” Muwanguzi said. “The man was not willing to name his accomplices.”

The village elders released the man after securing written notice that he had apologized to Muwanguzi for threatening to kill him. Morning Star News has obtained a copy of the notice.

A second attempt on his life took place three days later, he said. On July 2 a group of Muslims broke into Muwanguzi’s house at 10 p.m. and stole hundreds of dollars’ worth of personal belongings while he and his family were away at a prayer meeting. Neighbors who tried to intervene said the intruders were armed with knives and clubs and threatened to kill the evangelist.

“The attackers shouted, saying that they wanted the head of Hassan because Hassan had become an enemy of Islam,” said a neighbor who wished to remain unnamed. “We got scared to face them, and we decided to get back to our homes.”

The intruders took Muwanguzi’s computer, television and a radio.

“My neighbors tried to secure my belongings, but they were scared when they saw the armed gang,” Muwanguzi said. “I think these radical Muslims were out to finish me and my entire family. I suspect the raiders are part of the radical Muslims here in Budaka and Pallisa who are claiming that I should be killed because I left Islam and joined Christianity.”

He has reported the incident to Budaka police, who are investigating.

“I have been battling with the challenges of Muslim threats. They have planned to kill me, but I thank God for his protection,” Muwanguzi said. “I do request the prayers of brothers and sisters, as my family is living in great fear.”

On June 16, 2014, four Muslims who sought to kill him and were unable instead strangled his 12-year-old daughter, Grace Baruka at their home then in Katira, outside Mbale in eastern Uganda. At the end of March last year, Muslim relatives allegedly poisoned Muwanguzi by putting insecticide in his tea at a family gathering in Kadimukoli village, Budaka District.

Uganda’s population is 85 percent Christian and 11 percent Muslim. 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.

Muwanguzi has faced violence since he put his faith in Christ in his early 20s in 2003. His family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him, he said. His wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher at Nankodo Islamic School, near Pallisa.

He opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, at Kajoko, Kibuku District, 27 kilometers (16 miles) from Mbale; the area’s population of 5,000 people is predominantly Muslim. Incensed by his boldness, an Islamic teacher, sheikh Hassan Abdalla, in 2011 filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his daughter, a minor. Abdalla and other hard-line Muslims filed a case at the chief magistrate’s court in Pallisa-Kalaki, and a warrant for Muwanguzi’s arrest was issued on April 1, 2011.

Muwanguzi was arrested and released on bail after nearly a month. He said the Muslims filed the false charges because he had opened the Christian school against the wishes of the Muslim majority. More than a quarter of the school’s 235 children came from Muslim homes, with the consent of their Muslim parents, he said.

Area Muslims resorted to witchcraft to try to get him to close down the school, and when that didn’t work, they tried to discourage parents from bringing their children to the school, accusing it of converting Muslim children to Christianity by teaching Christian Religious Education, he said.

When his accuser failed to appear in court on multiple occasions, the judge finally found the accusations were false and dropped the case in May 2012, he said.

A few weeks after he was acquitted, the owner of the land denied having sold it to Muwanguzi, and he received a court order to close down the school. In June 2012, he said, Muslim sheikhs, imams and relatives burned down his house for having converted to Christianity.

Since his wife left him for embracing Christianity, Muwanguzi has remarried and has three surviving children.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that 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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© 2015 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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Al Shabaab Mounts another Attack on Non-Muslims near Mandera, Kenya http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/al-shabaab-mounts-another-attack-on-non-muslims-near-mandera-kenya/ http://morningstarnews.org/2015/07/al-shabaab-mounts-another-attack-on-non-muslims-near-mandera-kenya/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:22:30 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=4590 Al Shabaab militants in Somalia. (Wikipedia)

Al Shabaab militants in Somalia. (Wikipedia)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists with Somalia-based Al Shabaab killed 17 quarry workers in northern Kenya early Tuesday morning (July 7), including several Christians, sources said.

The attack in Soko Mbuzi, near Mandera, took place at about 1 a.m. as the workers slept in tents outside two houses their employer rented for them, an area Christian leader told Morning Star News. As in previous attacks, the Islamic insurgents targeted migrant workers from the Kenyan interior who were non-Muslims, he said.

At least one of the 17 dead belonged to the East Africa Pentecostal Church (EAPC), and five others were Catholics, he said. Among 11 people injured, at least two were EAPC members.

“I visited one of the EAPC members at Mandera General Hospital, and he suffered multiple injuries – fractured hands and legs, with a stomach injury,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “He needs specialized treatment for him to survive.”

Al Shabaab took responsibility for the attack, in which the assailants planted an explosive near the houses. After it exploded, the assailants then set the tents on fire and shot at workers rushing out.

“Those who survived were found by police in a pool of blood,” the source said.

The source said most of the 17 people slain were from Nyeri County in central Kenya and were between 25 and 45 years old. One Catholic family in Nyeri lost five of their grown children, including two identified as Samuel Kinywa and Zacharia Wambugu. A Catholic bishop identified only as Ibrahim in one of the villages in Nyeri said relatives were wailing in mourning after receiving the bodies of those killed.

Some of those killed were inside the houses near the tents, the area source said.

“Given the way the attackers entered the area where they mounted the attack, it is clear that the attackers knew the area very well,” he said. “Hence we cannot rule out that among the attackers are local Kenyans who have been radicalized into the militant terrorist group.”

The assailants fled after security units arrived at the compound where about 150 workers were sleeping.

In December of last year Al-Shabaab militants shot dead 36 non-Muslim quarry workers at the Koromey quarry in the same area, following a November attack that killed 28. In those attacks, they separated out Kenyan Christians from Somali Muslims.

Al Shabaab, which has ties to Al Qaeda, has cited retaliation for Kenyan military involvement in displacing the Islamic extremist militants from Somalia as one reason for prior attacks. In 2011 Kenya joined African Union forces battling the Al Shabaab insurgents after a series of Somali attacks on tourists and other targets in northern Kenya, and since then Al Shabaab or their sympathizers have carried out several retaliatory attacks on Kenyan soil.

After the December 2014 attack near Mandera, the Kenyan government came under intense pressure to increase security in the area.

“Despite the heavy Kenya Defense Force presence in this region, this Al Shabaab knows how and where to find the non-locals,” the source said. “I thought the quarry workers were safe, only for them to meet their death in such a brutal manner. We need prayers and God’s protection for our churches in this volatile area bordering Somalia, where selective attacks have been taking place.”

Schools have been closed down, and fear has again gripped the people of Mandera, he said, adding, “especially non-locals are very shaken.”

The population of Kenya is 83 percent Christian, though only 7 percent are active in churches, according to Operation World. Only about 8 percent of Kenya’s population is Muslim.

Al Shabaab took responsibility for the assault on the Westgate Shopping Mall on Sept. 21, 2013, which killed at least 67 people with dozens still unaccounted for. The assailants killed those they could identify as non-Muslims.

Al Shabaab rebels attacked a predominantly Christian town on Kenya’s coast on June 15, 2014, selecting out Christian males as they killed more than 57 people. The estimated 50 Al Shabaab militants attacked two hotels, a police station and other buildings in Mpeketoni, in Lamu County, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Somali border, in a five-hour assault with guns and grenades.

Sources told Morning Star News the assailants were chanting “Allahu Akbar [God is Greater]” and killing whoever could not recite verses from the Koran. Al Shabaab took responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia and the killing of Muslims.

On March 23, 2014, gunmen entered a Sunday morning worship service in Mombasa County and sprayed the congregation with bullets, killing at least seven Christians and leaving several others in critical condition. Two heavily-armed men wounded more than a dozen of the 200-member Joy in Jesus Church in the Likoni area of Mombasa, where a mosque said to have ties with Al Shabaab has caused tensions.

No one has taken responsibility for the attack, which reportedly involved a third gunman outside the church building shooting at Christians fleeing the attack. Church leaders suspected Islamic extremists had carried it out in reprisal for a raid by armed police on the Masjid Musa Mosque (now Masjid Shuhada, or “Martyrs Mosque”) on Feb. 2, 2014, in which more than 100 Muslims were arrested and at least two were killed; most of those detained have been released.

Suspected Islamic extremists likely killed Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge, 59, an assistant pastor at Glory of God Ministries Church, in the Majengo area of Mombasa on Feb. 2, 2014, for sharing his faith near the Musa mosque and alerting authorities to security threats, sources said. Some youths reportedly raised the black flag of Al Shabaab at the mosque that day, when the raid by authorities touched off riots.

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