Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:19:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sudan Deports South Sudanese Pastor for Evangelistic Activities, Sources Say http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-deports-south-sudanese-pastor-for-evangelistic-activities-sources-say/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-deports-south-sudanese-pastor-for-evangelistic-activities-sources-say/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 16:38:28 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6372 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Sudanese authorities ordered a South Sudanese pastor to leave the country last month for evangelizing and church activities, sources said. Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Dec. 6 ordered pastor Koat Akot of the Sudan Pentecostal Church to leave within 72 hours after an official told him […]

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Bahri (North) Khartoum in relation to Nile and capital area. (Wikipedia)

Bahri (North) Khartoum in relation to Nile and capital area. (Wikipedia)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Sudanese authorities ordered a South Sudanese pastor to leave the country last month for evangelizing and church activities, sources said.

Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) on Dec. 6 ordered pastor Koat Akot of the Sudan Pentecostal Church to leave within 72 hours after an official told him he was not wanted in the country because of his evangelistic and church activities, Pastor Akot and another South Sudanese source told Morning Star News.

“You must leave the country immediately,” the NISS official told the church leader, who has helped establish three churches in the Khartoum/Omdurman area – one with 500 members, one of about 160 and another of about 60. He left the country under pressure on Dec. 9.

Upset that he was leading worship services, NISS authorities had detained Pastor Akot on Nov. 18, the pastor said. After detaining and questioning him for a day, they required that he report to their offices daily for three weeks.

Accusing him of working for foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the NISS officials demanded that he reveal the sources of his financial support during interrogation, Pastor Akot said.

“I told them I was not working for foreign NGOS,” he said, adding that, in an attempt to bully him, NISS officials showed him a list of Christians and churches they were monitoring.

NISS officials also confiscated a laptop, digital camera and a smartphone from the church leader during the interrogation.

While not explicitly banning proselytizing, Sudan’s criminal code criminalizes acts that encourage Muslims to leave Islam, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2015 International Religious Freedom Report, the latest available.

At the same time, according to Sudan’s Interim National Constitution (INC), all rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights instruments ratified by Sudan are considered integral parts of the INC’s bill of rights, according to the report. Sudan has ratified (though it is not a signatory of) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for freedom to manifest one’s faith in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

Pastor Akot, who is now in a third country, said he had entered Sudan legally with a valid passport. South Sudanese are still allowed to live in Sudan following South Sudan’s secession in 2011. Along with many South Sudanese who remained in Sudan, others have returned following eruptions in South Sudan’s civil war in 2013 and 2016.

Non-Muslims are estimated to make up between 15 to 20 percent of Sudan’s population, according to the State Department report, citing religious advocacy groups. The Sudanese government estimates approximately 97 percent of the total population of 36.1 million is Muslim.

“It is unclear whether government estimates include long-term residents of Southern Sudanese origin (who are predominantly Christian or animist), whose status remains under review by the government,” the report states.

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.

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 2016 report.

Sudan ranks fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face 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 in Uganda Attacked after Sheikh Sent to Kill Him Becomes Christian http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/pastor-uganda-attacked-sheikh-sent-kill-becomes-christian/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/pastor-uganda-attacked-sheikh-sent-kill-becomes-christian/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 15:41:16 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6368 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists ambushed a church leader in eastern Uganda last week after a sheikh they had sent to assassinate him at a church service instead became a Christian, sources said. In Amuria, about 170 miles (280 kilometers) northeast of Kampala, Bishop George Edweu of the Pentecostal Upright Church had arrived […]

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Bishop George Edweu and former sheikh. (Morning Star News)

Bishop George Edweu and former sheikh. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists ambushed a church leader in eastern Uganda last week after a sheikh they had sent to assassinate him at a church service instead became a Christian, sources said.

In Amuria, about 170 miles (280 kilometers) northeast of Kampala, Bishop George Edweu of the Pentecostal Upright Church had arrived at his church building at 5 a.m. on Jan. 2 for a morning devotion when he saw a young man on the ground. He got out of his car to attend to him, he told Morning Star News.

When he reached the young man, six masked men appeared and took hold of him, demanding that he reveal the whereabouts of the sheikh (Islamic teacher) who had converted at his church service, a 24-year-old father of two whose name is withheld for security purposes. Some of the gang began slapping and kicking Bishop Edweu; others hit him with sticks.

“As I fell down, a vehicle with bright lights flashed, which scared them away, and they disappeared into the nearby bush,” Bishop Edweu said. “The vehicle arrived and took me into the church compound. Inside the church building we found a letter with a threatening message: ‘We are going to destroy your church unless you show us where [name withheld] is.’”

Sunni Muslim extremists had sent the sheikh, trained in Islamic proselytization, to the church’s worship service on Dec. 4 to kill Bishop Edweu, the pastor said.

As the bishop was preaching on hearing and understanding the voice of God, the sheikh was sitting among the congregation of 200 people when the power of the gospel convicted him of sin, Bishop Edweu said. The young man rushed up to the podium and fell at the preacher’s feet.

Bishop Edweu said he stopped preaching and questioned the young man. As tears rolled down the sheikh’s cheeks, he answered, “I was sent to come and attack, to kill the pastor and destroy the church,” according to the bishop.

He repented as the shaken congregation looked on, Bishop Edweu prayed for him, and the would-be assassin put his faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, the pastor said.

News of the former sheikh’s conversion hit the community like lightning, and the young man knew he had to go into hiding. He, his wife and two children, ages 2 and 4, took refuge at an undisclosed location.

Since then area Muslims have been announcing his conversion weekly as they gather for mosque prayers. A local Christian resident told Morning Star News that on Fridays he has heard over the mosque loudspeaker, “[Name withheld] needs to die for forsaking Islam.”

The bishop and his congregation fear more persecution could be imminent.

The incident was the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks in eastern Uganda. Muslim relatives of a young woman in eastern Uganda who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison at a New Year’s celebration, she said. Sandra Summaya, 24, of Bugayi village in Pallisa District, told Morning Star News that she converted to Christianity at a worship service on Christmas Day.

On Christmas Day Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.

On Dec. 8, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, were trying to gather cassava at 10 a.m. on the homestead he had been forced to abandon in Bufuja village, Butaleja District, after Muslim relatives threatened to kill him if he returned.

Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he publically confessed having embraced Christianity, managed to escape the fury of those who arrived at his farm on Dec. 8 while he and his mother were trying to harvest something to eat, he told Morning Star News.

Namutongi became a Christian after visiting her ostracized, injured son on Nov. 26 and listening to his faith journey, a local source said. He has continued to receive threatening messages, he said.

On Oct. 20, 2016, Muslims in Kobolwa village, Kibuku District gutted the home of a Christian family for housing two boys who had been threatened with violence for leaving Islam.

Stephen Muganzi, 41, told Morning Star News that the two teenaged boys sought refuge with him on Oct. 16 after their parents earlier in the month learned of their conversion, began questioning them and threatened to kill them. The two boys, ages 16 and 17, had secretly become Christians nearly seven months before.

On Sept. 18, 2016, a Muslim in Budaka District beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service, sources said. Hussein Kasolo had recently married Fatuma Baluka, 21-year-old daughter of an Islamic leader in a predominantly Muslim village, undisclosed for security reasons.

On Aug. 10, a Christian woman in eastern Uganda became ill after she was poisoned, she said.

Aisha Twanza, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, ingested an insecticide put into her food after family members upbraided her for becoming a Christian, she told Morning Star News. She and her husband, who live in Kakwangha village in Budaka District, put their faith in Christ in January 2016.

In Busalamu village, Luuka District, eight children from four families have taken refuge with Christians after their parents beat and disowned them for leaving Islam or animism, sources said. The new-found faith of the children, ages 9 to 16, angered their parents, who beat them in an effort to deter them from sneaking to worship services, and on June 29, 2016 the young ones took refuge at the church building, area sources said.

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

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 in Algeria Sentenced to Prison for Cartoons on Facebook http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-in-algeria-sentenced-to-prison-for-cartooon-on-facebook/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-in-algeria-sentenced-to-prison-for-cartooon-on-facebook/#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2017 18:58:34 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6357 TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – A judge in Algeria has reduced from five years to one year a prison sentence for a Christian convicted of offending Islam with cartoons on his Facebook page. Samir Chamek, a 33-year-old theater actor in Algeria’s northern area of Wilaya de Bouira, had been sentenced to five years and […]

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Samir Chamek, sentenced for blasphemy in Ageria. (courtesy of Chamek

Samir Chamek. (Courtesy of Chamek)

TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – A judge in Algeria has reduced from five years to one year a prison sentence for a Christian convicted of offending Islam with cartoons on his Facebook page.

Samir Chamek, a 33-year-old theater actor in Algeria’s northern area of Wilaya de Bouira, had been sentenced to five years and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars (US$900) last year under Article 144 of the country’s 2006 law outlawing any “writing, drawing, statement or any other means” that denigrates Muhammad or the precepts of Islam. Cartoons of the prophet of Islam published elsewhere had been shared on his Facebook page.

Chamek told Morning Star News that the judicial process was inadequate. After a five-hour interrogation by police about his Facebook account, he received a summons to appear before a judge, who asked him the same questions he had answered at the Wilaya de Bouira police station.

“I had just been tried without knowing it,” Chamek said. “The judge of the court, in agreement with the attorney general, condemned me in my absence to five years in prison and to pay a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars, accusing me of having infringed Islam and the person of the prophet.”

The married father of two children, a convert from Islam since 2005, said that previously, on July 3, 2016, a public prosecutor had initially requested he spend two years in prison and pay a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars (US$450); Chamek was sentenced only to a fine of $100,000 Algerian dinars (US$900).

He said he did not understand why the interrogation by security forces in Wilaya de Bouira was so intense.

“The atmosphere inside made me think of the interrogations that one sees on films,” he said. “Even though I had no reason to be afraid, I was afraid. Yes, the atmosphere curled my hair and turned my insides.”

After ordering him to open his Facebook account on a police computer, the interrogating agent printed the entire contents – photos, links on koranic verses and other subjects, he said. The interrogation centered on koranic verses and “various caricatures, some about the prophet Muhammad,” Chamek said.

“It terrified me to have these caricatures and share them on Facebook – this while I had not invented any of it,” he said. “These publications have existed for a long time, and they are constantly going around the world on the Net. I explained to them that I had no particular interest in them, and if they were there, it was merely mere artistic curiosity, for I love all that is connected with art.”

He left after signing a document in Arabic without knowing its contents, Chamek said. “Did I have a choice?” he said. “I do not know.”

After receiving the five-year sentence, Chamek secured an attorney in Bouira. The subsequent appeal resulted in the Jan. 8 verdict reducing the sentence to one year. Believing Chamek should not be punished in any way based on freedom of speech and religion, the attorney is planning to appeal to the Algeria’s Supreme Court in Algiers.

On July 31, 2016, Slimane Bouhafs was also arrested under Article 144, in his case for posting a message on Facebook that characterized Islam as a “lie.” Bouhafs, who converted to Christianity from Islam in 1997 and was baptized in 2006, was sentenced on Aug. 7 to five years in prison and fined 100,000 Algerian Dinars (US$900). In September the sentence was reduced on appeal to three years, and the fine was dropped.

Article 144 has been condemned by numerous human rights organizations as a violation of international law. In its report, “Policing Belief,” pro-democracy group Freedom House said the article was commonly used to persecute Christian and allowed “police officials and judges to impose their own religious perspectives on society, and to give at least one version of Islamic practice the force of law.”

Islam is the state religion in the 97-percent Muslim country. The country grants the right to practice one’s religion as long as “public order and regulations” are respected, but proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is illegal, the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report notes.

Algeria ranked 36th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 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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Concerns Mount that Clergymen in Burma Have Been Killed http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/concerns-mount-clergymen-burma-killed/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/concerns-mount-clergymen-burma-killed/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 20:34:54 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6346 YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – Villagers in Shan state, Burma (Myanmar) are increasingly concerned over indications that two assistant priests in Burma have been killed. Sources told Morning Star News that the Burma army arrested Dom Dawng Nawng and La Jaw Gam Hseng on Dec. 24 after the two assistant priests helped journalists report on […]

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Areas of conflict in Burma (Myanmar), and soldiers are suspected of killing assistant priests. (Wikimedia, CentreLeftRight, Aoetearoa)

Areas of conflict in Burma (Myanmar). (Wikimedia, CentreLeftRight, Aoetearoa)

YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – Villagers in Shan state, Burma (Myanmar) are increasingly concerned over indications that two assistant priests in Burma have been killed.

Sources told Morning Star News that the Burma army arrested Dom Dawng Nawng and La Jaw Gam Hseng on Dec. 24 after the two assistant priests helped journalists report on a bombed Catholic church building in Mong Ko. The clergymen were arrested after they went to the Byuha Gon military base to secure the release of a married couple who had complained to the Burma army about the destruction of their house, sources who requested anonymity said.

“They went to negotiate for the couple’s release,” one said. “The Burma army released the couple but detained the priests. I strongly believe that they got killed.”

Military officials were said to be upset that the clergymen had assisted reporters from Yangon-based news organizations who traveled to war-torn Mong Ko, where Burma forces reportedly bombed the Catholic church building in early December.

The two assistant priests were said to have taken journalists to visit a damaged school and a house in Mong Ko, along with the bombed church building.

As the Burma army normally questions and quickly releases arrested civilians, the failure of the clergymen to re-appear after more than two weeks is one indication that they have been killed, sources said, adding that military officials at the base have been known to kill those they have arrested who are not soon released and burn the bodies.

In addition, they said, the Burma army customarily responds to negative media reports with propaganda, but military officials have remained silent about the clergymen even after widespread local media coverage of their disappearance.

When media reported on the Burma jet bombing of the church building, for example, the state-run newspaper promptly published counter-reporting asserting that the army had rebuilt the damaged structure. The state-run newspaper, The Global New Light of Myanmar, has not published stories in response to reports of the missing assistant priests, the sources said.

A journalist who traveled with the two assistant priests while covering the conflict strongly suspects they have been killed. Reliable sources told the reporter that if the assistant priests were still alive, media coverage of their disappearance would have prompted their release by now. In several other cases of civilians arrested by the Burma military, they are either still missing or were later found dead, the journalist said.

“It is almost certain that they got killed,” the reporter said, adding that no evidence is likely to surface as civilians are not allowed on the military base, and area people are afraid to speak about any knowledge of the cases they might have.

Two corpses have been found in a septic tank in Mong Ko, and officials from the Kachin Baptist Convention said they suspect the bodies are those of the missing clergymen, Yangon-based newspaper recently The Irrawaddy reported. An investigation is underway.

Local administrative authorities are under pressure not to speak publically about the clergymen’s disappearance and the bombed church building, sources said, and Burma army troops are searching for anyone who may have spoken to journalists. Under pressure from army officials, the Mong Ko administrator has asked journalists not to publish photos of the damaged church building and has requested they delete published online photos, sources said.

There have been no further reports on the two bodies found in the septic tank, they said.

Both relatives and colleagues of the assistant priests filed missing person reports to police in Mong Ko on Thursday (Jan. 5).

Fighting between Burma armed force and ethnic separatist organizations broke out in the area in November, forcing over 50,000 refugees to flee to northern Shan state and the China border area.

The Burma army officials reportedly said they took control of Mong Ko in mid-December and urged displaced residents to return home.

After more than five years of intensified conflict since Burma violated a 17-year cease-fire in 2011, many Kachin face protracted displacement and are desperate to return home, according to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian. The government has recognized the special status of Buddhism in Burma and promoted it as a means to consolidate support.

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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Morning Star News’ Top 10 Persecution Stories of 2016 http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/morning-star-news-top-10-persecution-stories-2016/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/morning-star-news-top-10-persecution-stories-2016/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 14:08:54 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6330 (Morning Star News) – While war in the Middle East dominated international headlines, Islamic extremists in the shadows were taking jihad to Christian civilians in Africa with unprecedented intensity in 2016. In Nigeria, Muslim ethnic Fulanis looked less like nomadic herdsmen and more like well-armed, well-funded jihadist militants. Close Muslim relatives and Islamist village mobs […]

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Remains of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Mile One village, Kaduna state. (Morning Star News)

Remains of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Mile One village, Kaduna state. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – While war in the Middle East dominated international headlines, Islamic extremists in the shadows were taking jihad to Christian civilians in Africa with unprecedented intensity in 2016. In Nigeria, Muslim ethnic Fulanis looked less like nomadic herdsmen and more like well-armed, well-funded jihadist militants. Close Muslim relatives and Islamist village mobs attacked their Christian kin in Uganda, while Somalia’s Al Shabaab rebels intensified their campaign to drive Christians from northern Kenya. At the same time, courts in Turkey and Pakistan made history by finally providing some measure of justice in cases of slain Christian martyrs.

1 – Islamist Militant Massacres in Nigeria

Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacks on Christians in Nigeria increased in number and sophistication in 2016, as what the mainstream press has characterized only as land disputes increasingly took on the militant look of jihadist campaigns that have always featured prominently in the attacks. Organized, well-funded invasions of Christian villages, sophisticated arms and explosives, and suspected links with Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and Islamist mercenaries marked many assaults. Having retaken much of the territory that Boko Haram claimed in Nigeria’s northeast in 2014-2015, the Nigerian military has reportedly warned Fulani herdsmen that they will be targeted next, according to a Nigerian Defense spokesman. Nigerian senators believe defeated Boko Haram militants have joined Fulani herdsmen, who had already been characterized by the Institute for Economics and Peace as one of the five deadliest terrorist organizations in the world.

The massacre of an estimated 300 predominantly Christian farmers in Benue state’s Agatu area in central Nigeria from Feb. 22 to Feb. 29 preceded Muslim Fulani attacks the rest of the year in southern, middle and northern states. The militant character of the attacks was especially apparent in Kaduna state, where on Nov. 16 the Rev. Zachariah Gado, state chairman of the Evangelical Church Winning All, decried “a campaign of ethno-religious cleansing by Fulani herdsmen militia.”

 

2 – Untold Faith, Bravery Revealed in Hidden Pockets of Uganda

Two daughters, 22 and 17, mourn the death of their father, Yokannah Zirinkuma in Uganda. (Morning Star News)

Two daughters, 22 and 17, mourn the death of their father, Yokannah Zirinkuma. (Morning Star News)

In quiet villages in eastern Uganda far from the international spotlight, Christians continued to be beaten, thrown out of their homes, raped, arrested and killed for leaving Islam in 2016 with alarming regularity. Some had their homes or crops burned. In many of the cases, the victims received messages warning that leaving Islam would cost them their lives.

The constant stream of abuses otherwise stirred little attention as the primary culprits were non-state actors such as Muslim family members and village mobs that advocacy groups and government officials felt little power to influence. Aid agencies can be contacted about how these Christians or their families might be helped.

3 – Easter Bombing in Pakistan

Body of small Christian boy at Mayo Hospital morgue after Islamist suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. (Morning Star News)

Body of small Christian boy at morgue after bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. (Morning Star News)

A deadly suicide bombing at a public park in Lahore, Pakistan killed 75 people on Easter Sunday on March 27. The Islamic extremist group that took responsibility for the blast said it targeted Christians, but later reports showed only 14 of the dead were Christian and 61 Muslim. Most of those killed were women and children.

Another 362 people were injured in the deadliest attack in Pakistan since the December 2014 massacre of 134 schoolchildren at a military-run academy in Peshawar. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the banned Pakistani terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), took responsibility for the bombing. In a media statement, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said a suicide bomber deliberately targeted the Christian community.

 

4 – Killers in Malatya, Turkey Murders Finally Convicted

Susanne Geske, widow of martyr Tilmann Geske, after memorial ceremony for Uğur-Yüksel. (Morning-Star-News)

Susanne Geske, widow of martyr Tilmann Geske, after memorial ceremony for Uğur-Yüksel. (Morning-Star-News)

After a nine-year legal saga, a Turkish criminal court on Sept. 28 sentenced five men to life in prison for the torture and murder of three Christians in southeast Turkey in 2007. The court found Salih Gurler, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Hamit Ceker and Emre Gunaydin guilty on three counts each of premeditated murder and sentenced them all to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The number of hearings and the fact that the case took so long to prosecute was the source of a great deal of anguish for Turkey’s Christians. Judges and prosecutors were changed more than once, causing significant delays, and subpoenaed witnesses simply refused to show up in court to testify without legitimate reason and without being punished later for contempt of court. Most significant in delays was the attempt to explore links between the killings and a larger alleged attempt by the Turkish military to subvert the Justice and Development Party-led government.

On April 18, 2007, in the office of the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, the five Muslim, Turkish nationalists killed Ugur Yüksel, 32, and Necati Aydin, 36, both Turkish converts from Islam, and Tilmann Geske, 45, a German national. They bound the three men, interrogated them about their Christian activities, mutilated them and then slit their throats, according to court evidence and testimony.

 

5 – Defying Fierce Islamist Pressure, Courts in Pakistan Deliver Justice

Mumtaz Qadri. (Pakistan Today)

Mumtaz Qadri. (Pakistan Today)

Courts in Pakistan defied history in 2016, daring to deliver justice for minority Christians in the face of fierce Islamist pressure. Six Muslims were sentenced to death for three murders in 2016, with one convicted killer executed. Mumtaz Qadri was hung to death on Feb. 29. While Qadri’s victim, former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, was not a Christian, the official was killed for his defense of Aasiya Noreen (commonly known as Asia Bibi) and his attempt to reform the blasphemy laws that unfairly convicted the Christian mother of five and put her on death row.

On Nov. 25, a court in Lahore handed the death sentence to five Muslims for torturing and killing an impoverished Christian couple over allegations of burning the Koran. Eight others charged in the attack were sentenced to two years in prison. Hundreds of villagers in Kot Radha Kishan, incited by Muslim leaders calling for violence via mosque loudspeakers, were involved in the Nov. 4, 2014 assault in which 26-year-old Shahzad Masih and his five-months pregnant wife, Shama, 24, were thrown into a burning brick kiln.

Anti-Terrorism Court Judge Chaudhry Azam handed death sentences to Irfan Shakoor, Muhammad Hanif, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kamboh and Hafiz Ishtiaq, along with a fine of 200,000 rupees (US$1,900) to each for inciting violence against the Christian couple and throwing them into the kiln. The judge ordered the two-year prison terms for Noorul Hasan, Muhammad Arsalan, Muhammad Haris, Hussain, Muhammad Munir, Muhammad Ramzan, Irfan and Hafiz Shahid.

Masih and his wife worked as bonded laborers at the brick kiln when the throng descended on them after area Muslims accused them of committing blasphemy by burning Koranic pages.

The mob tore the clothes off them, struck them, broke their legs, dragged them behind a tractor and threw them into the burning furnace of a brick kiln – even though Shama was illiterate and could not have known even if koranic verses were among debris that she had burned. Under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes, intent must be shown for a conviction of desecrating the Koran.

 

6 – Al Shabaab Terrorizes Christians in Northern Kenya

Kenya's North Eastern Province, where persecution against Christians takes place. (Wikipedia)

Kenya’s North Eastern Province. (Wikipedia)

Islamic extremists from the Somali rebel Al Shabaab turned the Mandera area of northern Kenya into a cauldron of fear with bomb, gun and grenade attacks in a campaign to rid the area of Christians. On Oct. 25, Al Shabaab militants took responsibility for a pre-dawn attack in which the rebels shot 12 non-local Kenyans whom they presumed were Christians. On Oct. 6, suspected Al Shabaab militants targeted Christians in a grenade-and-gun attack in the early morning that killed six people.

The attacks targeted predominantly Christian migrant workers from Kenya’s interior. A spokesman for Al Shabaab said the Oct. 6 attack was designed to drive Christians from the area. At least one of the victims was reportedly a Muslim. The attack in Mandera, tucked in Kenya’s northeast corner near the Somali border, reportedly wounded several others. Among 27 people rescued were Christians who arrived at their church traumatized and in shock. “The loud grenade woke me up, and I heard one of the attackers saying the ‘infidels’ should leave the Muslim area of Mandera,” one survivor told Morning Star News. “There were loud cries for help as the attackers were shooting from all directions.”

In another pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area in coastal Kenya, Al Shabaab rebels on Jan. 31 killed at least four Christians, beheading one of them.

 

7 – Boys Sentenced to Prison in Egypt Escape to Switzerland

(From left) Moller Yasa, Klenton Faragalla, Bassem Younan and Albir Shehata at Istanbul Ataturk Airport before departure from Turkey. (Morning Star News)

(From left) Moller Yasa, Klenton Faragalla, Bassem Younan and Albir Shehata at Istanbul Ataturk Airport before departure. (Morning Star News)

Four Egyptian boys who appeared in a video that led to prison sentences for allegedly blaspheming Islam and that sparked a riot in Upper Egypt fled to Switzerland on Sept. 1. A judge on Feb. 25 had sentenced Albir Shehata, 17, Klenton Faragalla, 18, Moller Yasa, 17, and Bassem Younan, 17, all of Al-Nasriyah village in Upper Egypt, to five years in prison for defaming a revealed (or heavenly) religion in a mobile phone video. While taking refuge in Turkey, the boys said they made their video before the release of the Islamic State (IS) mass execution video they were said to be mocking, and that at the time they had never even heard of the group.

They said their defense attorney, in an effort to garner sympathy for them, had claimed they were making fun of IS terrorists in the video, following the release of IS’s video showing the beheading of 20 Coptic Christians in Libya. Because of their attorney’s statements, however, the fiction about IS being the subject of the boys’ scorn was widely reported in Egyptian and international media.

After a Muslim found the video on April 6, 2015, a group of Muslims complained to the police, and on April 8 a mob of enraged Muslims began tearing through Al-Nasriyah village, beating any Copt they could find. For three days the rioting raged as thousands of Muslims from adjacent villages came to Al-Nasriyah to join the looting. At least 15 stores were damaged or destroyed. Mobs roamed through Al-Nasriyah chanting Islamic slogans and demanded all Christians be pushed out of the village. During the rioting, the four boys were terrified for their lives.

 

8 – China Ramps Up Pressure on Churches, Rights Activists

Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, where persecution takes place. (YouTube)

Chongyi Church in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province. (YouTube)

After two years of removing 1,800 crosses, demolishing church buildings and arresting, beating and killing protesting Christians in Zhejiang Province, the Chinese government on Sept. 8 released a draft of new Regulations on Religious Affairs that gives it broader powers to crack down on Christianity.

Under the regulations, unregistered and unapproved “house churches” would no longer be tolerated, and registered churches would come under even stricter guidelines. All building would be tightly regulated. The clampdown comes on the heels of a July 1, 2015 National Security Law that paved the way for increased nationwide repression and persecution in the name of “national security.” Soon after it was passed, Chinese authorities arrested some 300 prominent human rights activists and lawyers, including several who were defending religious cases, in particular cases from Zhejiang. The law defines criticism of the government as a form of subversion.

 

9 – Indonesia Faces Test of Democratic Values, Rights

Jakarta Gov. Basuki Ahok Tjahaja Purnamat on recent broadcast in Indonesia. (screen grab)

Jakarta Gov. Basuki Ahok Tjahaja Purnamat on recent broadcast in Indonesia. (screen grab)

The world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy began a precedent-setting test pitting freedom of speech and religion against religious fanaticism when Jakarta Gov. Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama went on trial on Dec. 13 for defaming the Koran. Hundreds of people outside the courtroom chanted for the incumbent gubernatorial candidate to go to jail for a comment he made earlier in the year.

Ahok told city officials in a Sept. 27 speech, “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to vote for me because you’ve been lied to [or fooled] with Surat Almaidah 51 [Sura 5:51] and the like. That’s your right. If you feel you can’t vote for me because you fear you’ll go to hell, because you’ve been lied to [or fooled], no worries. That’s your personal right. These programs will go forward. So you don’t have to feel uncomfortable. Follow your conscience, you don’t have to vote for Ahok.”

Video footage of the speech went viral on YouTube, and Islamic extremists claimed Ahok had blasphemed against the Koran and Islamic clerics. Ahok on Oct. 10 apologized “to all Muslims and anyone who felt offended,” saying it was not his intention to slight Islam or the Koran. If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison.

 

10 – U.S.-Iranian Pastor Released from Prison in Iran

Saeed Abedini, released from prison in Iran after persecution. (ACLJ photo)

Saeed Abedini. (ACLJ photo)

Iran released U.S.-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini from prison on Jan. 16, more than three years after authorities arrested him on charges of “threatening national security” by planting churches. Abedini was released along with four other prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, in a prisoner swap, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. U.S. officials reportedly confirmed that the release was part of a prisoner swap involving seven Iranians held on charges of violating sanctions and came after more than a year of closely guarded talks.

On Jan. 27, 2013, an Iranian court sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison for allegedly threatening “national security” by planting house churches in early 2000. Seven months earlier, in July 2012, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had briefly arrested Abedini during his visit to set up an orphanage he was building. After interrogation, authorities placed him under house arrest and told him to wait for a court summons to face criminal charges for his Christian faith. Two months later, on Sept. 26, 2012, he was arrested at his parents’ home and taken to prison.

Abedini was tortured at various times throughout his imprisonment, and in 2015 prison officials further pressured him to recant his faith by threatening to hold him in prison indefinitely. In 2013, Abedini wrote of enduring torture, death threats and pressure to renounce his faith.

 

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/?   

###

© 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 Woman in Eastern Uganda Coerced into Taking Poison http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-woman-eastern-uganda-coerced-taking-poison/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-woman-eastern-uganda-coerced-taking-poison/#comments Thu, 05 Jan 2017 12:53:17 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6321 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslim relatives of a young woman in eastern Uganda who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison at a New Year’s celebration, she said. Sandra Summaya, 24, of Bugayi village in Pallisa District, told Morning Star News that she converted to Christianity at […]

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Sandra Summaya, coerced into taking poison by Muslim relatives. (Morning Star News)

Sandra Summaya, photo altered for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslim relatives of a young woman in eastern Uganda who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison at a New Year’s celebration, she said.

Sandra Summaya, 24, of Bugayi village in Pallisa District, told Morning Star News that she converted to Christianity at a worship service on Christmas Day.

“I had great peace when the pastor prayed for me to take Jesus as my savior,” she said. “I later shared my testimony with my brother, who outrightly accused me of being an infidel and an outcast from the family and the Muslim community. I felt great pain inside me because of the insults.”

On Sunday (Jan. 1) Summaya’s immediate family and a few other relatives gathered in the predominantly Muslim village in Kamuge County to celebrate the New Year with a meal. At the high point of the gathering, Summaya said, a paternal uncle read to her a Bible verse and suggested it meant God would protect her from harm, including illness from ingesting poison.

“He said, ‘Do you believe that Issa [Jesus] is able to protect your from poison as written in the Bible?’ and I answered ‘Yes,’” she said. “Immediately I was forced to take the poison to confirm my faith in the Bible, at around midnight. I could not deny the Bible, so I took the rat poison.”

Soon she became seriously ill.

“I started having severe stomach pains together with vomiting and cried for help,” she said. “I was taken away from the homestead to a nearby bush. I was tied with a rope to a tree and left to die.”

Her loud cries woke a Christian neighbor who rushed to the site.

“I found Summaya unconscious, and we rushed her to a Kamuge nursing home, where the doctor saved her life,” said the neighbor, whose name is withheld for security reasons.

Summaya remains at the hospital and her condition has stabilized, a nurse told Morning Star News.

“She will still be in the hospital for some few days as we monitor her situation,” said the nurse, who requested anonymity.

An area source requested prayer that Summaya be healed and protected, and that she not doubt God’s love and provision.

The incidents are the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks in eastern Uganda. On Christmas Day Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.

On Dec. 8, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, were trying to gather cassava at 10 a.m. on the homestead he had been forced to abandon in Bufuja village, Butaleja District, after Muslim relatives threatened to kill him if he returned.

Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he publically confessed having embraced Christianity, managed to escape the fury of those who arrived at his farm on Dec. 8 while he and his mother were trying to harvest something to eat, he told Morning Star News.

Namutongi became a Christian after visiting her ostracized, injured son on Nov. 26 and listening to his faith journey, a local source said. He has continued to receive threatening messages, he said.

On Oct. 20, Muslims in Kobolwa village, Kibuku District gutted the home of a Christian family for housing two boys who had been threatened with violence for leaving Islam.

Stephen Muganzi, 41, told Morning Star News that the two teenaged boys sought refuge with him on Oct. 16 after their parents earlier in the month learned of their conversion, began questioning them and threatened to kill them. The two boys, ages 16 and 17, had secretly become Christians nearly seven months before.

On Sept. 18, 2016, a Muslim in Budaka District beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service, sources said. Hussein Kasolo had recently married Fatuma Baluka, 21-year-old daughter of an Islamic leader in a predominantly Muslim village, undisclosed for security reasons.

On Aug. 10, a Christian woman in eastern Uganda became ill after she was poisoned, she said.

Aisha Twanza, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, ingested an insecticide put into her food after family members upbraided her for becoming a Christian, she told Morning Star News. She and her husband, who live in Kakwangha village in Budaka District, put their faith in Christ in January 2016.

In Busalamu village, Luuka District, eight children from four families have taken refuge with Christians after their parents beat and disowned them for leaving Islam or animism, sources said. The new-found faith of the children, ages 9 to 16, angered their parents, who beat them in an effort to deter them from sneaking to worship services, and on June 29, 2016 the young ones took refuge at the church building, area sources said.

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

 

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/?   

###

© 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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Deep Love of Jesus, Early Persecuted Church Examined in New Book http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/deep-love-of-jesus-early-persecuted-church-examined-in-new-book/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/deep-love-of-jesus-early-persecuted-church-examined-in-new-book/#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2017 07:00:34 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6066 In a world full of hate and violence, Christians are trying to impact the culture for good. But it seems we’re losing ground.  What are we missing? In his timely new book, Heirloom Love: Authentic Christianity for this Age of Persecution, Dominic Sputo compels us to take a deeper look into the legendary first-century Christian love […]

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Heirloom LoveIn a world full of hate and violence, Christians are trying to impact the culture for good.

But it seems we’re losing ground.  What are we missing?

In his timely new book, Heirloom Love: Authentic Christianity for this Age of Persecution, Dominic Sputo compels us to take a deeper look into the legendary first-century Christian love that changed the world.

This book will challenge your assumptions about love and bring a fresh perspective to many familiar New Testament teachings on the love that shines light into darkness.

Do you want to make a difference? Heirloom Love is about restoring the love that will change the world today.

For Morning Star News friends, the Heirloom Love e-book is now available for 50% off at only $4.99 (regularly $9.99).   And, the author has agreed to donate to Morning Star News the proceeds from your purchase.

Please click here to order Heirloom Love from Amazon so that Morning Star News will receive credit for your purchase.

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Christian in Pakistan Jailed under Vindictive Blasphemy Charge, Sources Say http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-pakistan-jailed-vindictive-blasphemy-charge-sources-say/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/christian-pakistan-jailed-vindictive-blasphemy-charge-sources-say/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 14:26:30 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6310 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Muslims in Pakistan have filed a blasphemy charge against a Christian in retaliation for refusing their demand that he and others cede church land to them, sources said.

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Babu Shahbaz, falsely accused under Pakistan blasphemy laws. (Morning Star News Courtesy of family)

Babu Shahbaz. (Morning Star News Courtesy of family)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Muslims in Pakistan have filed a blasphemy charge against a Christian in retaliation for refusing their demand that he and others cede church land to them, sources said.

In a First Information Report (FIR) at Nishtar Police Station in Lahore, Haji Nadeem on Friday (Dec. 30) accused Babu Shahbaz of Kamaha village of desecrating the pages of the Koran to “hurt the religious sentiments of the Islamic world.” Shahbaz was taken into custody the same day.

Nadeem stated that he and other Muslims were going to a mosque to offer early morning prayers last month when they saw Koranic pages strewn on the road.

“100 pages were completely desecrated, while 150 pages were partially destroyed,” Nadeem claimed in the FIR. “The name of Babu Shahbaz was written on all the pages in blue ink … We have strong suspicion that Babu Shahbaz and his unidentified accomplices are involved in this blasphemous act.”

Shahbaz’s brother, George Masih, told Morning Star News that the allegations were baseless and aimed at “teaching a lesson” to the local Christian community for refusing to allow a water treatment plant on church land some months ago.

“Local Muslims Rana Asif Rajpoot and Haji Nadeem have used the blasphemy law against my brother, as we had opposed their demand to vacate the church land eight or nine months ago,” said Masih, adding that the case reeked of vengeance as his 40-year-old brother is illiterate and cannot write his own name.

Masih said that Rajpoot, Nadeem and other Muslims wanted to seize the Nasiri Pentecostal Church built on Shamlat village land. The land is reserved for common-use purposes.

“They said that they wanted to set up a water treatment plant there, but we asked them to find an alternate place for the plant and even offered to share the cost of the land and the plant as a community,” Masih said.

Masih and his brother told them they would not allow the church to be displaced, as some 150 families are members of the Nasiri Pentecostal Church. Rajpoot and Nadeem continued issuing veiled threats to them over the months, but they paid them little attention, he said.

“On Dec. 11, they again tried to pick up a fight with us by playing loud music on the occasion of my niece’s wedding,” Masih said. “We requested them to turn down the volume as it was disturbing the wedding rituals, but they refused to comply. We avoided an altercation with them, as we did not want to disturb peace in the village.”

Masih said that on Thursday (Dec. 29), he was summoned to an electronics shop owned by local Muslim Malik Akram. Some 100 to 150 Muslims had gathered there.

“When I asked them why they had called for me, they showed me the desecrated pages of the Koran and said my brother Shahbaz’s name was written on all the pages,” he said. “I was shocked to see the pages and told the gathering that no Christian could even think of doing such a heinous crime. I also offered them the cooperation of the entire Christian community living in the village in finding out the persons responsible.”

Masih said that the Muslims told him to go home and ask his brother about the pages.

“I came home and told Shahbaz about the allegation being brought against him,” he said. “He denied having anything to do with the incident and said he was even willing to swear by the holy book to clear his name.”

Shahbaz’s family believes God has granted him the gift of healing prayer, and he receives enough pay from healing people, including Muslims and Christians, to provide for his wife and three children, Masih said. He added that, as a result, his brother has had to face false accusations of practicing black magic.

The Muslims had arranged another meeting on Friday evening (Dec. 30) to discuss the matter, but Shahbaz and his relatives were surprised when police raided their place early in the morning and arrested him for alleged blasphemy.

Masih said that Christians had been living peacefully alongside area Muslims for years, and that this was the first such conflict in the village.

“Several Muslims are helping us in resolving the matter,” he said. “Meetings are held every day between the village elders, elected representatives and police officials to find a solution to this problem. There is no evidence or witness against my brother, yet the police registered a blasphemy case without even investigating the matter properly. We don’t know yet where Shahbaz is being kept by the police, as we haven’t been allowed a meeting with him.”

The Nasiri Pentecostal Church senior pastor, identified only as Jaidoon, told Morning Star News that in serving there for 17 years, he has never seen any religious tension in the village.

“There are some other churches here as well, and the local Christian community has been living peacefully with the Muslims,” he said. “This is an unfortunate incident perpetrated by a few miscreants to drive a wedge between the two communities, but I’m sure God will help us in resolving the matter amicably, and Babu Shahbaz will be back with his family really soon.”

Senior police officials did not respond to repeated efforts to reach them for comment. A sub-inspector of police investigation, however, told Morning Star News on condition of anonymity that initial investigation showed the case against Shahbaz might be politically motivated as well.

“Some local sources have told us that Shahbaz and other Christians supported a certain Muslim group in the local government elections, while the rival group was backed by the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz [PML-N],” he said.

Shahbaz played a major role in garnering Christian support for the Malik Babar group, and this may be a reason some rivals may have wanted to target him, the official said.

Shaan Taseer Threatened

Shaan Taseer, son of Salman Taseer, threatened by Islamists in Pakistan. (Facebook)

Shaan Taseer. (Facebook)

Separately, a Christmas message calling for prayers for those charged under the blasphemy laws led to death threats against the son of former Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer, gunned down five years ago for criticizing the internationally condemned statutes.

Islamist extremists have also called for mass protests if police do not charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam, which in Pakistan is punishable by death.

Taseer’s father was gunned down by this bodyguard for championing the case of a Christian woman, Aasiya Noreen (commonly called Asia Bibi), who was sentenced to death under the blasphemy laws, which he the former Punjab governor said needed to be reformed.

In a video message posted on his Facebook page, Shaan Taseer, a Muslim, wishes a happy holiday to Christians and, in solidarity, asks for prayers for Noreen and others victimized by what he called “inhumane” blasphemy laws.

Taseer said that he had received “very credible death threats” from supporters of his father’s killer, bodyguard Mumtaz Qadri.

“They are sending me Mumtaz Qadri’s photos with messages that there are several Mumtaz Qadris waiting for me,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people attended Qadri’s funeral last March after he was put to death for killing the governor, as they considered him a hero – showing the potential for this case to become another flashpoint.

More than 200 people in Pakistan were charged under blasphemy laws in 2015 – many of them minorities such as Christians, who make up 1 percent of Pakistan’s population. The laws are often used to settle personal scores, and Islamist groups and lawyers advocating the harshest punishments often apply pressure for convictions on police and courts.

At least 65 people, including lawyers, defendants and judges, have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to figures from a Center for Research and Security Studies report and local media.

A spokesman for the hard-line Islamist movement Pakistan Sunni Tehreek said it was demanding police in Lahore charge Shaan Taseer with blasphemy against Islam.

Police declined to comment, and a copy of the police report on the complaint did not mention Shaan Taseer by name. The police report did reference the Christmas message and mentioned an investigation under Section 295-A, which bans hate speech against any religion.

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/? 

 

###

© 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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Sudan Acquits Pastor in Trial of Christians Charged with Capital Crimes http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-acquits-pastor-trial-christians-charged-capital-crimes/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-acquits-pastor-trial-christians-charged-capital-crimes/#respond Mon, 02 Jan 2017 19:47:02 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6304 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A court in Khartoum, Sudan today released a pastor from prison after acquitting him of charges punishable by the death penalty, sources said. The Rev. Kwa (also transliterated Kuwa) Shamaal, head of Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), was acquitted of charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred […]

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The Rev. Kwa Shamaal, arrested in Sudan by Islamist officials. (Morning Star News)

The Rev. Kwa Shamaal. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A court in Khartoum, Sudan today released a pastor from prison after acquitting him of charges punishable by the death penalty, sources said.

The Rev. Kwa (also transliterated Kuwa) Shamaal, head of Missions of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), was acquitted of charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred against the government. He had been arrested without charges from his home on Dec. 18, 2015.

“Yes, he was released today after the court found that he was not guilty of the charges brought against him,” said attorney Muhanad Nur, part of the team of lawyers defending Shamaal and three other Christians.

Relieved SCOC church leaders expressed their joy.

“Thank God for his release,” said one SCOC leader. “We were sure he was innocent.”

The court also charged Kwa’s colleague, the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, and two other Christians, Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfu, with crimes against the state that carry death penalty.

The charges include espionage, waging war against the state and gathering false news information, as well as inciting hatred between classes. Abdelrahim Tawor was also arrested from his home on Dec. 18, 2015.

After the two pastors’ arrest a year ago, Shamaal was released on Dec. 21, 2015 but was required to report daily to the offices of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16, 2016. He was re-arrested on May 25.

Shamaal and Abdelrahim Tawor were charged with trying to tarnish the image of Sudan’s government by collecting information on persecution of Christians and genocide in the Nuba Mountains. The charges included collecting information for “other parties hostile to Sudan.” They were accused of conducting intelligence activities and providing material support for Nuba rebels in South Kordofan under two charges that carry the death penalty – waging war against the state (Article 51 of the Sudanese Criminal Code) and spying (Article 53).

Similarly charged are Czech aid worker Jasek and Abdumawla, who initially said he was Muslim but later admitted he was Christian. He was arrested in December 2015 after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim Tawor, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Prosecutors have charged Jasek, also arrested in December 2015, with “tarnishing Sudan’s image” by documenting persecution. He is also charged with waging war against the state, reportedly based on an accusation that he gave money to “some individuals” in South Kordofan in 2012, allegedly including some rebel fighters.

At one hearing, NISS official Abbas el Tahir accused the defendants of conducting “hostile activities against the state that threaten the national and social security” in Sudan, according to Netherlands-based Radio Dabanga.

“Since 2012, we banned organizations or individuals working against Sudan,” El Tahir reportedly said. “However, these NGOs still work and plan to threaten the national security and harm the society’s interest.”

He accused aid organizations of publishing false reports against Sudan.

Attorney Nur said he is hopeful that the other defendants also will be released soon. The next court hearing is scheduled for Jan 9.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists have taken notice of the case since Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of two pastors in December 2015. Their arrest is seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir in connection with war crimes in Darfur. 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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face 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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Sudan Officials Ignore Order to Remove Government-Imposed Church Leaders http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-officials-ignore-order-remove-government-imposed-church-leaders/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/01/sudan-officials-ignore-order-remove-government-imposed-church-leaders/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 14:23:54 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6294 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – After more than three years, the leadership of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November that the appointments were illegal, sources said. Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment appointed a group to run the SPEC […]

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SPEC church building in Omdurman, Sudan, where Islamist government has persecuted Christians. (Morning Star News)

SPEC church building in Omdurman, Sudan. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – After more than three years, the leadership of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November that the appointments were illegal, sources said.

Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment appointed a group to run the SPEC offices on May 13, 2013, in what the prior church leaders called a bid to control church activities and rid the country of Christianity. The ministry issued another letter on Oct. 8, 2013 appointing outsiders to run church affairs, and the church offices soon closed.

A Nov. 29 ruling by Judge Mahmoud Ali Ibrahim of a High Court on administrative matters ruled the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments interfered with church matters and ordered the original leadership be re-installed. The court agreed with SPEC leaders that the appointments contravened the church’s bylaws, which call for election every three years of new leadership through a general assembly.

SPEC leaders on April 1 had written a letter of appeal to the National High Court questioning the legitimacy of the ministry’s decision to hand over the church offices in downtown Khartoum and neighboring Omdurman to government appointees. The Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, moderator of the SPEC’s Sudan Evangelical Synod, told Morning Star News that despite the court decision calling for the removal of the government appointed leaders and the re-opening of the church offices, no action has been taken.

“Officials from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment came to us saying they have implemented the court decision, but practically they have not done anything,” Nalu said.

Nalu said the Nov. 29 court ruling sent to the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment nullifies all former court decisions regarding the church leadership. He added that issue has become more political than legal.

In addition to handing over the SPEC offices to government appointees, the ministry has aided a Muslim businessman, Hisham Ahmed of Vision Education Company, to take over two evangelical schools in North Khartoum and Omdurman, Christian leaders said.

Officials from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment were not immediately available for comment.

The case is separate from an Aug. 31, 2015 ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal saying the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments interfered with SPEC’s Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church by imposing committees on the church in order to enable Muslim investors to take it over.

The church has been subject to arrests and demolition of its property as the congregation has objected to the attempted takeover. Two South Sudanese pastors were jailed since December 2014 and January 2015 respectively, charged with capital crimes, over their support for the congregation’s fight to prevent the take-over by Muslim investors.

The Rev. Yat Michael, 49, and the Rev. Peter Yein Reith, 36, could have been sentenced to death or whipping had they been convicted of the serious charges concocted against them by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). They were convicted of lesser charges on Aug. 5, 2015 and released on time served. They and their families have since relocated to a third country to protect them from Islamist retaliation.

The Aug. 31, 2015 ruling nullified three committees the Islamist government imposed on the church. The seven-page decision described the actions of the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment as illegal and mere interference in SPEC affairs.

Riot police had seized the property by force in February 2015, and on Nov. 17-18, 2014, a bulldozer accompanied by security personnel and police knocked down a wall of the church and houses in the church compound. Christians formed a human barrier to face down further demolition attempts on Nov. 19-20, 2014.

One of the homes destroyed in the compound belonged to Nile Theological College; a Christian doctor had rented it, and he lost all his belongings, sources said.

The bulldozer, accompanied by NISS personnel and police, carried out the demolitions based on a court order demanding that church leaders surrender the premises to Muslim investors. The church committee of members that the Sudanese government interposed made a secret agreement with the investors to sell the church property as part of Sudan’s campaign to do away with Christianity in the country, church leaders said.

Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2, 2014 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church 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 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.

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 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face 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/?   

 

###

© 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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