Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Tue, 28 Feb 2017 15:11:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Christians in Al-Arish, Egypt Flee after Killings in Northern Sinai http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christians-al-arish-egypt-flee-killings-northern-sinai/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christians-al-arish-egypt-flee-killings-northern-sinai/#respond Tue, 28 Feb 2017 14:42:49 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6529 ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Hundreds of Christians continue to flood out of the Egyptian town of Al-Arish in northern Sinai after the third Copt in a week was gunned down on Thursday (Feb. 23), reportedly by Islamic State-linked militants. The mass exodus comes after three Coptic Christians were killed in what appears to be […]

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The Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. (Wikipedia, Kaidor)

The Sinai Peninsula, Egypt. (Wikipedia, Kaidor)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Hundreds of Christians continue to flood out of the Egyptian town of Al-Arish in northern Sinai after the third Copt in a week was gunned down on Thursday (Feb. 23), reportedly by Islamic State-linked militants.

The mass exodus comes after three Coptic Christians were killed in what appears to be the work of militants making good on Islamic State (IS) threats issued on a Feb. 19 video promising to rid the country of “idolaters.” The latest slaying was the seventh killing of a Copt in the Sinai in a month.

Reports differ on how Kamel Youssef was killed, but according to the Associated Press, militants stormed his Al-Arish home, then shot and killed him in front of his family. Two days earlier, the body of Saied Hakim, 65, was found Feb. 21 late at night in Al-Arish behind a state-run language school, where he was ambushed by masked gunmen. Hakim was shot in the head several times.

Medhat Saied, 45, Hakim’s son, was abducted and burned alive, his body found in the same place as his father’s, according to local media reports.

No one has claimed responsibility for the three killings, but the consensus is that “Wilayat Sinai,” the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, killed the men in a quest to terrorize Christians and push them out of the region.

In the 20-minute video released on Feb. 19, the IS branch vowed kill all Christians in the Sinai and to “liberate Cairo” from “idolaters.”

“The IS video appeared at a strange time, and the killings happened to confirm their threats,” Safwat Samaan, chairman of Luxor-based human rights group Nation Without Borders, told Morning Star News. “This raises a lot of questions, like who is behind the killing and who is benefiting.”

In the video, a masked speaker clad in camouflage makes his threats clear: “We will chase you. We will put an end to you. You won’t escape from us.”

The video features a recording of the suicide statement of jihadi Abu-Abdullah al-Masri, also known as Mahmoud Shafiq, 22, suspected in the December bombing of the Al-Botroseya Church in Cairo that killed at least 29 people. The IS speaker said the attack was “only the first.”

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

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

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

A total of six Copts have been killed in Al-Arish, a city of roughly 165,000 people, in less than a month. On Jan. 30, Wa’el Youssef, 35, was shot down at his small grocery store in downtown Al-Arish. The assailants reportedly shot Youssef in broad daylight in front of his wife and one of their two sons.

On Feb. 12, masked militants ambushed another Copt, Bahgat Zakher, 40, as he was driving his car through the southern outskirts of Al-Arish. A group of armed jihadis stopped Zakher then shot him in the head, neck and stomach, killing him instantly, according to local media reports.

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

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

The current exodus isn’t the only time Copts have been forced to flee Al-Arish in recent history. In July 2013, Coptic villagers fled Rafah, Sheikh Zuwayed and Al-Arish after a priest, Mina Aboud Sharubim, was gunned down, and a Christian businessman, Magdy Lamei, was abducted and killed. His decapitated body was dumped onto a street.

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 Releases Czech Aid Worker Imprisoned for ‘Espionage’ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/sudan-releases-czech-aid-worker-imprisoned-espionage/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/sudan-releases-czech-aid-worker-imprisoned-espionage/#respond Mon, 27 Feb 2017 15:30:09 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6523 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Sudan released Czech aid worker Petr Jasek on Saturday (Feb. 25), nearly one month after a court in Khartoum sentenced him to life in prison for espionage and other charges, according to reports. Jasek returned to the Czech Republic on Sunday with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralekj, who had […]

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Medical aid worker Petr Jasek. (The Voice of the Martyrs)

Medical aid worker Petr Jasek. (The Voice of the Martyrs)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Sudan released Czech aid worker Petr Jasek on Saturday (Feb. 25), nearly one month after a court in Khartoum sentenced him to life in prison for espionage and other charges, according to reports.

Jasek returned to the Czech Republic on Sunday with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralekj, who had arrived earlier to secure his release. Sudan President Omar al-Bashir reportedly ordered the court to release the aid worker based on Sudan’s Article 208, which gives the president powers to release anyone convicted of crimes that do not carry death penalty.

Christian leaders in Sudan confirmed the release of the Czech aid worker.

“Yes, he was released on Saturday,” a Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) leader said.

The Czech Foreign Ministry had reportedly stated that the Jan. 29 conviction and sentencing of Jasek was without basis, and that he was in Sudan only to help Christians.

“In early February the Czech and Sudanese governments agreed that the Czech foreign minister would visit Sudan on 26th February, and that Petr would then be released into his care and return to the Czech Republic with him,” according to Middle East Concern.

Along with the life sentence for espionage and waging war against the state, Jasek was also sentenced to six months in prison for spreading false rumors undermining the authority of the state (“spreading false news aimed at tarnishing the image of Sudan”) and a fine of 100,000 Sudanese pounds (US$16,000) for working for a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Sudan without a permit. He was also sentenced to one year in prison each for inciting strife between communities, entry in and photography of military areas and equipment and illegal entry into Sudan.

Two Sudanese Christians remain behind bars, though they were convicted of “aiding and abetting” Jasek’s alleged espionage and sentenced to 12 years in prison. It was not clear whether Sudan would consider releasing the two Church leaders. Their cases are awaiting appeal.

The court in Khartoum convicted the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur for assisting Jasek in the alleged espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, a defense attorney said. They received 10-year sentences for espionage-related charges, and two years of prison for “inciting hatred between sects” and “propagation of false news.” The sentences are to be served consecutively.

Pastor Tawor of the SCOC was arrested from his home on Dec. 18, 2015, as was the Rev. Kwa (also transliterated Kuwa) Shamaal, head of Missions of the SCOC. Pastor Shamaal was acquitted on Jan. 2 of charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred against the government.

Abdumawla 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 Pastor Tawor, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which reportedly raised the ire of Sudanese authorities.

Authorities also were said to have found Jasek also had given money for Omer’s medical costs, but prosecutors accused Jasek of donating it to rebel groups.

Prosecutors had charged Jasek, also arrested in December 2015, with “tarnishing Sudan’s image” by documenting persecution. At one hearing, an official with Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) accused the defendants of conducting “hostile activities against the state that threaten the national and social security” in Sudan.

Foreign diplomats and international rights activists took notice of the case after Morning Star News broke the story of the arrest of two pastors in December 2015. Their arrest was 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 Al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. 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 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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Christians in Sudan Arrested in Tussle over Evangelical School in Omdurman http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christians-sudan-arrested-tussle-evangelical-school-omdurman/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christians-sudan-arrested-tussle-evangelical-school-omdurman/#respond Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:30:20 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6519 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Police in Omdurman, Sudan arrested four Christians this week and accused them of destroying the sign board of a Muslim interest trying to take over their Christian school, sources said. Police arrived at the Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, on Monday (Feb. 20) […]

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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)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Police in Omdurman, Sudan arrested four Christians this week and accused them of destroying the sign board of a Muslim interest trying to take over their Christian school, sources said.

Police arrived at the Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum, on Monday (Feb. 20) at the behest of a Muslim businessman who recently claimed ownership of the school property at a complex of the beleaguered Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), church members said.

The Christians, including the Rev. Sidik Abdalla Anglo, a member of the SPEC Presbytery, spent the night in jail and were released on bail of 10,980 Sudanese Pounds (US$1,682) on Tuesday (Feb. 21).

“These accusations are false and baseless,” Anglo, a teacher of Christian education, told Morning Star News after his release. “We are glad that the accusations were false. Jesus said that those who follow him would face persecution.”

Amid a struggle by SPEC to remove government-imposed leadership of the beleaguered denomination, the arrests came after a Muslim identified only as Hassan approached school administrators and claimed that he was the new headmaster of the school, now to be called Education Vision.

On Saturday (Feb. 18), Muslims claiming ownership of the new school put up an Education Vision sign post. Hassan accused Anglo, elder Himeda Kandr, teacher Daud Musa and his colleague Majdi Juma, all members of SPEC, of destroying the sign post. They strongly denied it.

The sign post was said to be valued at 10,000 Sudanese pounds (US$1,530).

The leadership of the SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 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, 2016 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.

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.

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.

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 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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Christian Teenager Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan Waits in Jail http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-teenager-charged-blasphemy-pakistan-waits-jail/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-teenager-charged-blasphemy-pakistan-waits-jail/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 17:46:23 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6511 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A 16-year-old Christian in Pakistan is languishing in jail under a baseless blasphemy charge after a judge declined to grant him bail this month, his attorney said. The judge in Punjab Province’s Kasur District on Feb. 7 denied bail to Nabeel Masih, who has been jailed since Sept. 18, 2016 […]

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The Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, subject of blasphemy in Pakistan. (Zakaryaamr at Wikipedia)

The Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Zakaryaamr at Wikipedia)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A 16-year-old Christian in Pakistan is languishing in jail under a baseless blasphemy charge after a judge declined to grant him bail this month, his attorney said.

The judge in Punjab Province’s Kasur District on Feb. 7 denied bail to Nabeel Masih, who has been jailed since Sept. 18, 2016 after a Muslim friend accused him of “sharing” and “liking” on Facebook an allegedly blasphemous photo of the Kaaba, the holiest Islamic site in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Police are suspected of beating Nabeel until he confessed last year; he maintains his innocence.

Judge Muhammad Imran of the Pattoki lower courts claimed that “recovery of the used mobile phone and prints of relevant photographs are available on record which prima facie connect the accused with the alleged occurrence,” the boy’s defense attorney, Riaz Anjum, told Morning Star News.

“Moreover,” the judge wrote, “the statement of the witness also corroborates the prosecution story … the accused/petitioner is not entitled to concession of post-arrest bail.”

Anjum said he was surprised that the magistrate had mentioned a “witness” even though the First Information Report (FIR) makes no mention of any witnesses to the sighting of the alleged image at a village in Kasur District, 30 miles from Lahore.

“The case against Nabeel is clearly fabricated, as he is an illiterate and does not know how to use social media,” Anjum said. “The Facebook account in his name was made by his Muslim friends, and they used to post pictures on the timeline without his consent.”

In his application for bail, Anjum had submitted that the case against Nabeel had been registered with “malafide intention” and “ulterior motives.”

“I told the court that the case against the Christian teen had been lodged after two days of the alleged occurrence of the incident, which clearly showed that he was [accused only] after deliberation and consultation,” he said. “Moreover, there is no eyewitness of the alleged occurrence, and the case required thorough investigation.”

Citing a Supreme Court decision, Anjum said the apex court had observed that “if there is any element of doubt as to guilt of the accused, the benefits of doubt must be entitled to the accused.”

“Keeping in view the several lacunas in the case and its investigation, we had hoped that the honorable magistrate would admit our application and grant bail to the teen,” he said. “Unfortunately, the court chose otherwise, and the poor kid will now have to stay in prison until a higher court considers the case.”

Police registered the case against Nabeel when his Muslim friend, Akhtar Ali, claimed that his religious sentiments had been hurt by an image posted to Nabeel’s Facebook page that the accused allegedly “shared” and “liked.”

Pattoki police arrested Nabeel, who used to work in a local factory, and allegedly extracted a “confession” in their custody. Police removed the allegedly blasphemous image from Facebook soon after registering the FIR, complicating procedures to determine guilt or innocence. In the charges against Nabeel under Pakistan’s often abused blasphemy laws, intent must be shown for conviction.

The case attracted attention of local Islamists groups, and large mobs have gathered at court hearings. Aneeqa Maria, who previously represented Nabeel, earlier told Morning Star News that Islamist activists repeatedly intimidated her and other members of the defense team at hearings.

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 often advocate the harshest punishments and apply pressure for convictions on police and courts.

Pakistan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List, which lists the 50 countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

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

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

 

###

© 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 Orders Demolition of at Least 25 Church Buildings, Christian Leaders Say http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/sudan-orders-demolition-least-25-church-buildings-christian-leaders-say/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/sudan-orders-demolition-least-25-church-buildings-christian-leaders-say/#respond Mon, 20 Feb 2017 18:22:38 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6488 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – State officials in Sudan plan to demolish at least 25 church buildings in the Khartoum area, according to Christian leaders. A June 13, 2016 letter from the Executive Corporation for the Protection of Government Lands, Environment, Roads and Demolition of Irregularities of Khartoum State reveals the names and locations […]

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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) – State officials in Sudan plan to demolish at least 25 church buildings in the Khartoum area, according to Christian leaders.

A June 13, 2016 letter from the Executive Corporation for the Protection of Government Lands, Environment, Roads and Demolition of Irregularities of Khartoum State reveals the names and locations of 25 church buildings marked for demolition, most of them in the Sharq al Neel (East Nile area) locality of Khartoum North. The government reportedly claimed the churches were built on land zoned for other uses, but Christian leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity.

The Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, moderator of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church’s (SPEC) Sudan Evangelical Synod, told Morning Star News the subsequent order was part of a systematic attack on churches by the Islamist government.

“This is not an isolated act but should be taken with wider perspective,” he said.

The order targets a wide range of denominations, from Roman Catholic to Pentecostal.

The Sudan Council of Churches denounced the order at a Feb. 11 press conference, calling on the government to reconsider the decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. The Rev. Mubarak Hamad, chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, said at the conference in Khartoum that mosques located in the same area were spared from the demolition order.

Hamad said the order was aimed at 27 church buildings, including a Presbyterian Church of Sudan in Jebel Aulia, and one belonging to the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) in Soba al Aradi, both south of Khartoum.

The order by Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, general manager of Khartoum State’s land department in the Ministry of Physical Planning, urged that it be implemented immediately.

“I am hereby issuing the order of demolition of the churches that are attached to residential areas and public playgrounds in neighborhoods of East Nile locality,” Mohamad wrote in a cover letter dated June 20, 2016 to the Executive Corporation.

Among the 25 church buildings listed are three located on public playgrounds; the rest are located in residential areas, according to the order.

Last Sept. 29, officials from Khartoum state’s Ministry of Planning and Urban Development notified leaders of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan (PCOS) that they had 72 hours to vacate their property. The church building was one of five that officials at that time said were slated for demolition to make way for investor development.

“We were surprised as a church at such a move,” a member of the church told Morning Star News at that time. “The church building has been there since 1991We are still worshiping there but fearful of the demolition any time.”

The church, whose Sunday attendance ranges from 80 to 150 people, declined to vacate as they had no alternative site for worship, he said. The letter from state officials asserted the land on which the church building was situated was designated as private property for gardens.

Three Sudanese Church of Christ congregations, along with one belonging to the Episcopal Church of Sudan, also received demolition notices on Sept. 29.

Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings and harassed and expelled foreign Christians, usually on the claim that the buildings belonged to South Sudanese. 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.

The government’s decision to issue no new church building licenses came after South Sudan seceded from 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.

After bulldozing a Lutheran Church of Sudan (LCS) building on Oct. 21, 2015, authorities in the Karari area of Omdurman demolished an SCOC building on Oct. 27, 2015 without prior warning, church leaders said. Local authorities said the SCOC building was on government land, a claim church leaders adamantly denied.

Karari officials in Omdurman, across the Nile River from Khartoum, reportedly authorized the demolition of the church building claiming it was built on government land allocated for a field. In the demolishing of the LCS church on Oct. 21, the local authorities said it was built on land allocated for business, though a mosque stands nearby.

Ethnic Nuba have long suffered discrimination from the Arab population and authorities of Sudan. The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum, including neglect, persecution and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad.

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.

Sudanese authorities on Feb. 17, 2014 demolished another SCOC church building in Omdurman without prior notice. Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) destroyed the worship building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, sources said.

On Aug. 24, 2014, NISS agents padlocked the building of the 500-member Sudan Pentecostal Church (SPC) in Khartoum, which housed the Khartoum Christian Center (KCC).

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 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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Church Leader in Eastern Uganda Refutes News Story on Church Attack http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/church-leader-eastern-uganda-refutes-news-story-church-attack/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/church-leader-eastern-uganda-refutes-news-story-church-attack/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:02:23 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6482 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A regional church leader convened an emergency meeting of pastors in eastern Uganda on Friday (Feb. 10) to refute what he called a false news story aimed at covering up a Muslim assault on a prayer meeting. The Rev. Moses Mukenye, who oversees nine churches in the Bukedi diocese in […]

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Church leaders of Bukedi diocese, Uganda pray during Feb. 10 meeting in Katira. (Morning Star News)

Church leaders of Bukedi diocese, Uganda pray during Feb. 10 meeting in Katira. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A regional church leader convened an emergency meeting of pastors in eastern Uganda on Friday (Feb. 10) to refute what he called a false news story aimed at covering up a Muslim assault on a prayer meeting.

The Rev. Moses Mukenye, who oversees nine churches in the Bukedi diocese in eastern Uganda, told 45 pastors that a Jan. 19 news story by Kampala-based newspaper the Daily Monitor was “false and a fabrication.” A Morning Star News source attended the meeting.

Mukenye said that as a result of the Monitor’s false news, he had received calls from Kenya, the United Kingdom, the United States and Kampala, Uganda’s capital, questioning the facts of a Jan. 15, Islamist attack on a Katira Church of Uganda prayer meeting that led to the disappearance of a pastor and eight others.

Mukenye said a Jan. 29 Morning Star News report accurately detailed how a Muslim mob, upset by conversions to Christianity and armed with clubs and sticks, attacked the Katira Church of Uganda meeting, locked many congregation members in, beat them and raped 15 women.

The church is located in Budaka District, Iki-Iki Sub-County. When word of the Monitor story first reached Mukenye and other church leaders, they thought it may have referred to a separate incident, as there are three Church of Uganda congregations in the Katira area: Katira Church of Uganda, Kekerene Church of Uganda and Kadatumi Church of Uganda. Mukenye serves as pastor of the Iki-iki parish Church of Uganda and oversees eight other churches in Bukedi diocese.

Gradually church leaders came to realize the Monitor story was giving a false account of the Jan. 15 attack, Mukenye said. The story claimed that a throng of residents “from neighboring villages and sub-counties” had gathered after midnight to watch “born-again believers” at a Katira Church of Uganda event await the return of an unnamed prophet, and that they became violently angry at having waited so long in the cold when the alleged prophesy proved false.

“On realizing that they had been hoodwinked, the mammoth gathering turned rowdy and some people started pelting stones at the believers that destroyed windows and doors as well as the roof,” the Monitor reported, adding that Christian leaders were severely beaten. The story quoted a regional police official who asserted that the event “organizers have to take the blame for making false” prophesies.

Besides the regional police spokesman’s account in the Monitor story, the Uganda Police Force through its Twitter account asserted that the Morning Star News report was false in response to questions voiced on social media about the incident. Religious rights advocates say officials in areas of sectarian conflict commonly deny or downplay religiously motivated assaults in order to cool simmering tensions.

Such tensions did flare following the Jan. 15 attack, with Christians threatening to retaliate the following day. Mukenye, Muslims and local officials convened a meeting on Jan. 22 to quell passions, with the pastor persuading church members to forgive the assailants rather than retaliate.

An area police official attended the Jan. 22 meeting and did not dispute Mukenye’s account of the attack, but he has since been unavailable for comment. Mukenye said Morning Star News correctly reported that approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks. At least one assailant was overheard saying, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity.”

At Friday’s (Feb. 10) meeting, the 45 diocese church leaders refused to allow a Muslim journalist to attend, accusing him of misreporting the Jan. 15 attack and acting as a spy for Islamic extremists, Mukenye said.

Morning Star News attempts to reach Daily Monitor representatives for comment on Mukenye’s accusation of false news were unsuccessful.

Mukenye said that, of those missing since the attack, only one, Patrick Mbayo, has been found.

“I feared to return to my house after the attack, because I had been receiving threatening messages in my telephone accusing me of trying to win Muslims to Christianity,” Mbayo told the gathering of Christian leaders on Friday. “Hence I feared for my life, and after two days back in my house, someone dropped an anonymous letter threating to kill me.”

Mukenye said the threat against Mbayo had been reported to police. He told Morning Star News that Katira church members are still living in great fear and that their lives are in danger.

“During the night time, some unknown people are moving around with dangerous weapons like swords and metallic objects who are suspected to be the same people who attacked the Katira church,” Mukenye said.

At the meeting on Friday, Christian leaders agreed to continue praying for one another for courage and perseverance, and they prayed for God to heal those wounded in the attack and forgive the assailants. They also prayed for the safety of their brothers and sisters who are still missing.

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 India Dies after Tribal Villagers Immerse Him, Wife in Cold Pond, Son Says http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-india-dies-tribal-villagers-immerse-wife-cold-pond-son-says/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-india-dies-tribal-villagers-immerse-wife-cold-pond-son-says/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 19:42:41 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6469 NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian in Jharkhand state, India last month succumbed to illnesses incurred when villagers immersed him and his wife in frigid water because they refused to deny Christ, relatives said. Upset that his family had left their indigenous religion, tribal residents of Kubuaa village, Palamu District immersed Bartu Urawn and […]

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Members of the Christian community in Bartu Kubuaa village, Jharkhand state. (Global Christian News)

Members of the Christian community in Kubuaa village, Jharkhand state. (Global Christian News)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian in Jharkhand state, India last month succumbed to illnesses incurred when villagers immersed him and his wife in frigid water because they refused to deny Christ, relatives said.

Upset that his family had left their indigenous religion, tribal residents of Kubuaa village, Palamu District immersed Bartu Urawn and his wife up to their necks in a cold pond one night this winter, when temperatures can dip below freezing, from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning, according to their son, Beneswar Urawn.

After suffering illness and two bouts of paralysis due to nerve damage suffered in the 17-hour ordeal, his son said, Urawn died on Jan. 20. He was 50.

“All throughout the night, they were in the cold water shivering, and I along with 15-20 villagers were witness to the brutality,” Beneswar Urawn told Global Christian News. “The villagers kept asking my father if he is ready to forsake Christ and return to the Sarna fold. He reiterated every time, ‘I will not deny Christ … I will continue to believe till my last breath.’”

The torture came after three years of abuse of Urawn and his family at the hands of villagers who practice Sarna Dharam, or “Religion of the Holy Woods,” which requires blood sacrifices to a supreme god and ritual service to other gods.

Previous to the torture, villagers had forced Urawn to attend their worship, in which they sacrificed an animal, his son said. They forced a portion of the sacrifice down his throat and made him drink fermented liquor, he said.

Besides assaulting Urawn and his wife, the village mob attacked Beneswar Urawn, his wife and his younger brother, locking them inside their house for hours. They also polluted the family’s drinking water source, Beneswar Urawn said.

Urawn and his family had put their faith in Christ 10 years ago, and when the villagers realized he would not renounce Him after three years of being threatened, ostracized and assaulted, they told Urawn that demons would not let him live, his son said. They tied the hands of Urawn and his wife behind their backs and put them into the pond, he said.

After pulling them out the next morning, the villagers hit Urawn and his wife and again pressured them to renounce Christ, his son said. The couple fell seriously ill. In time Urawn’s wife recovered, while he became immobilized from paralysis.

After some measure of recovery, his body later became stiff again from a second attack of paralysis on Jan. 20, and he was unable to move his hands and legs before he died, his son said.

Initially villagers refused to allow Beneswar Urawn to bury his father, standing around the body with wooden sticks prepared to attack if he tried to recover it for burial, he added. The next day, he and four other Christians were able to carry the body 10 kilometers (six miles) to government land for a funeral service.

Upon their return, villagers demanded that the family prepare a meal for the village inhabitants in accordance with Sarna Dharam ritual, he said. Beneswar Urawn refused, saying they would hold a prayer meeting instead, and the villagers threatened to kill him as they had killed his father, he said.

Fleeing for their lives, the family found refuge in a village 35 kilometers (21 miles) away.

Relatives tried to inform police, but officers called it a “natural death,” Urawn’s son said.  They suggested villagers attend “peace talks” on Feb. 2 and cease attacks on the Christian family. The family has since returned to their home, where they live in fear.

Nine other families also had decided to follow Christ when the Urawns did so 10 years ago, but after the same daily ostracism, discrimination, threats and persecution, seven families returned to their ancestral religion.

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

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

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

###

© 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, 70, Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan as 106 Muslims Are Acquitted http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-70-charged-with-blasphemy-in-pakistan-as-106-muslims-are-acquitted/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-70-charged-with-blasphemy-in-pakistan-as-106-muslims-are-acquitted/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2017 16:12:51 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6459 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A 70-year-old Christian in Pakistan was jailed on blasphemy charges on the same day 106 Muslims accused in a 2013 attack on a Christian colony were acquitted. A mosque leader in the Lambanwali area north of Gujranwala, Punjab Province, on Jan. 28 accused Mukhtar Masih of writing two letters containing […]

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Muslim mobs attack a Christian area of Lahore in 2013 after blasphemy allegation. (Morning Star News, M. Ali)

Muslim mobs attack a Christian area of Lahore in 2013 after blasphemy allegation. (Morning Star News, M. Ali)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A 70-year-old Christian in Pakistan was jailed on blasphemy charges on the same day 106 Muslims accused in a 2013 attack on a Christian colony were acquitted.

A mosque leader in the Lambanwali area north of Gujranwala, Punjab Province, on Jan. 28 accused Mukhtar Masih of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, police records show. He was charged under Section 295-A, deliberate and malicious acts intending to outrage religious feelings, which carries a sentence of 10 years of prison and/or a fine, and under Section 298, derogatory remarks against “holy personages,” punishable by three years’ imprisonment and/or fine.

Police raided Masih’s house on Jan. 28 and took his entire family into custody, an area source told Morning Star News.

“The police took with them Masih, his son, daughter, and three children,” he said. “The family was later released on the intervention of rights outfits, but Masih was detained under blasphemy charges.”

The source said that the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property. Pakistan’s blasphemy 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.

Mosque leader Qari Shahbaz Hussain alleges in the First Information Report (FIR No. 49/17) that area residents on Jan. 26 brought to his notice two letters containing the alleged blasphemous comments. He stated that an investigation by a local committee he headed revealed the letters were written by Masih.

Hussain claimed in the FIR that the committee had found Masih guilty and sought his prosecution under blasphemy charges. Hussain and other accusers were unavailable for comment, and Masih’s relatives have gone into hiding and were also unavailable.

The investigating officer refused repeated requests for comment, citing orders from his superiors.

Also on Jan. 28, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore acquitted 106 Muslims accused of a massive attack on Joseph Colony, sparked by a blasphemy accusation in March 2013, after prosecution witnesses said they did not recognize any of the accused assailants.

More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack that destroyed more than 150 homes, said they did not recognize the accused. The 106 suspects, who were released on bail the day they were accused, appeared before judge Muhammad Azam.

On March 9, 2013, thousands of rioters armed with sticks, clubs and stones besieged Joseph Colony and torched the houses in the predominantly Christian neighborhood following allegations of blasphemy against a Christian, Sawan Masih.

The mob also torched three church buildings, several shops and a number of vehicles. Police later arrested both the rioters and the blasphemy suspect, who was charged under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for derogatory remarks about Muhammad, which mandates the death penalty.

Sawan Masih was sentenced to death on March 28, 2014. His appeal against the conviction is pending in the Lahore High Court.

Witnesses and police said the enraged mob ransacked and burned the entire locality a day after all Christian families left the area, as police apparently had alerted them about the possibility of an attack. The affected people, however, also accused police of doing nothing to stop the attack and plunder.

Blasphemy Suspect Released on Bail

Separately, a Christian facing the death penalty on blasphemy charges was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Wednesday (Feb 1) because of gaps in the investigation of his case, sources said.

Evangelist Adnan Prince had been in prison since Nov. 6, 2013, after he sought to correct misconceptions about Christianity in a Muslim book. He was charged with outraging religious feelings (Section 295-A), defiling the Koran (295-B) and derogatory remarks against Muhammad (295-C) of Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws. He denied having written anything against Islam or Muhammad when he scribbled in a Muslim book he found in a glassworks shop where his brother worked.

The accused’s lead counsel, Asma Jahangir, indicated that deficiencies in the case against Prince led to his release on bail. She told reporters that there were no direct eyewitnesses, and all forensic evidence failed to link the accused in the case against her client.

She added that the case should have been decided within two years. Prince was jailed on Nov. 9, 2013. Jahangir said the case was not decided within two years due to lawyers’ strikes and prosecution delay tactics. She added that legal formalities were not fulfilled when investigating the matter.

“According to guidelines passed by the Supreme Court, a police officer not below the rank of a superintendent should have conducted the probe,” she reportedly said.

Attorney Nadeem Anthony, another member of Prince’s defense team, said that on the court’s directions, Sections 295-A and 295-B have been dropped, and the evangelist is facing only 295-C, punishable by death.

Blasphemy suspects have long been targeted by Islamist vigilantes in Pakistan. 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 three-member bench headed by Justice Dost Muhammad Khan on Wednesday (Feb. 1) ordered Prince’s release on bail.

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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Pastor in India Assaulted by Hindu Extremists http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/pastor-india-assaulted-hindu-extremists/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/pastor-india-assaulted-hindu-extremists/#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:39:45 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6453 HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – A week after a pastor fell into a coma following harassment by hard-line Hindus in southern India, a gang of Hindu extremists in the same state beat another pastor after he prayed for healing at the home of an elderly church member, family members said. Police altered the statement of […]

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The Rev. Gandham Padma Rao in ICU at Medlife Hospital, Mancherial. (Morning Star News courtesy of family)

The Rev. Gandham Padma Rao in ICU at Medlife Hospital, Mancherial. (Morning Star News courtesy of family)

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – A week after a pastor fell into a coma following harassment by hard-line Hindus in southern India, a gang of Hindu extremists in the same state beat another pastor after he prayed for healing at the home of an elderly church member, family members said.

Police altered the statement of the Rev. Gandham Padma Rao, 49, so that the 10 young men who assaulted him on Jan. 27 in Medipally village, Telangana state, were described only as drunken youths, not members of a Hindu nationalist group as the pastor had stated, his son told Morning Star News.

Pastor Rao fulfilled church duties the two days after the assault before seeking medical help, and doctors told family members that his blood pressure was so high that he could have suffered a hemorrhage had he waited any longer. Another pastor, 47-year-old K.A. Swamy of Hyderabad, on Jan. 21 fell into a coma after suffering high blood pressure and a brain hemorrhage hours after Hindu extremists threatened him with highly offensive language and took him to police for distributing Bibles.

Pastor Rau’s son, Samuel Mark, told Morning Star News his father had left the home of the elderly church member, who had just been released from a hospital, at about 9:30 p.m. and was walking to his car when the young men blocked his way with their motorcycles.

When the pastor ignored them and began walking on the other side of the road, one of the assailants shouted, “Why are you coming to our village? Why are you praying here?” as four others began hitting him, knocking him to the ground, relatives said.

Pastor Rao and eyewitnesses said the youths were members of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Vahini.

“They spoke to me in vulgar language: ‘You must never come to our village to pray. You should never enter our village,’” Pastor Rao told Morning Star News.

Two of the assailants held him while the others punched and kicked him, he said.

“I could not balance myself and fell in a pit nearby,” he said. “They picked me up, threw me on the road and started battering me again. I tried hard to regain my strength and run, but they followed me quickly held my collar, pushed me off with their feet. When I fell down again, they began kicking and beating me again.”

One of the Hindu extremists tried to pick up a large stone and throw it at him, he said. Area residents heard his cries and came out of their homes, including a member of his church who came running and cried out for help.

The church member, identified only as Mariyamma, along with her relatives and other area residents said the assailants were members of the Vishwa Hindu Vahini. A First Information Report was filed in the NTPC Ramagundam police station, but police removed references to the Hindu nationalist group from Pastor Rao’s statement and described the assailants only as drunken wage workers, his son said.

Sub-Inspector P. Chandra Kumar told Morning Star News only that the suspects were young men in police custody.

“The investigation is not yet completed,” he said. “Yes, it is true that the pastor was beaten and the attackers were all youngsters in between ages 24 and 27.”

He declined to reveal the identity of the assailants, but sources said the primary suspect, Chandragiri Shiva Prasad, was in custody.

Pastor Rao drove back to his home in Ramakrishnapuram, where he conducted a baptism ceremony at his church the next day. The following day (Jan. 29), he took painkillers and carried out duties at his church’s Sunday service, but later that afternoon he felt light-headed and was taken to a hospital.

His blood pressure was 200 over 140 mmHg, Dr. D.B. Vamsi told Morning Star News, and the pastor was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at Medilife Hospital, Mancherial. A hypertensive crisis is said to begin when blood pressure reaches 180 over 110 mmHG.

“The patient complained of pain,” Vamsi said. “Immediately after we heard about the assault, we sent for more tests. His pains will last for a few weeks.”

The pastor’s family members told Morning Star News that the church’s cross was uprooted and broken two years ago. The church’s sound equipment was destroyed a year ago, and in December, while he joined in Christmas carols, the pastor’s car was punctured with nails, they said.

Family members and visiting pastors said the attack appeared to have been planned. They said the Hindu extremists knew how to strike him so that there would be no bleeding but multiple contusions.

The pastor’s son told Morning Star that his father has been unable to lie down since his back was severely bruised.

“My dad went to visit the families who had been attending our church over years now,” he said. “He had no business to do with the assailants. He didn’t bother anyone. He didn’t even respond to them when they shouted at him. All of a sudden, they began kicking him on the road. Don’t you see it was all planned?”

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 Jailed in Chiapas, Mexico Told to Leave Area in Exchange for Freedom http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-jailed-chiapas-mexico-told-to-leave-area-in-exchange-for-freedom/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/02/christian-jailed-chiapas-mexico-told-to-leave-area-in-exchange-for-freedom/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 21:20:33 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6445 (Morning Star News) – A Christian in Chiapas state, Mexico was summarily jailed for three days the evening of Jan. 7 for refusing to deny his faith and contribute to Traditionalist Catholic festivals, according to an advocacy group. Local authorities who practice the Traditionalist Catholic blend of indigenous pagan and Roman Catholic rituals also threatened […]

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Las Margaritas, Mexico, where Catholics persecute evangelical Christians. (Noticias de Chiapas)

Las Margaritas, Mexico. (Noticias de Chiapas)

(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Chiapas state, Mexico was summarily jailed for three days the evening of Jan. 7 for refusing to deny his faith and contribute to Traditionalist Catholic festivals, according to an advocacy group.

Local authorities who practice the Traditionalist Catholic blend of indigenous pagan and Roman Catholic rituals also threatened Juan Gabriel Lopez Perez, 28, that he would not be released unless he sold his house and left the area within 20 days, the Coordination of Christian Organizations (COC) said in a statement. When Lopez Perez fell ill two days into his 72-hour sentence and was temporarily released to obtain medical care, his wife was obliged to serve the time in jail in his place, according to the organization.

Authorities in Rancheria El Encanto, Municipality of Las Margaritas, had given Lopez Perez the option of paying a 5,000-peso (US$240) fine or 72 hours in jail. After refusing to pay the fine, he was sent to jail at 7 p.m. for declining to sign a document denying his evangelical faith and agreeing to contribute to the Traditionalist Catholic festivals, which frequently involve drunkenness.

“On Jan. 9, the health condition of the prisoner were getting worse from the climatic conditions, so that in spite of requests for medical attention, it was not possible until night, when it was proposed that another person go to jail in his place, as a doctor had diagnosed the onset of bronchitis,” the COC statement read. “His wife, Eduvina Lopez Santiz, went into the jail at that time.”

After returning from his medical visit, Lopez Perez was sent to another part of the jail complex more insulated from the cold, and his wife decided to remain with him in spite of being given the opportunity to return home, according to COC.

A government official, Jose Avenamar Peres Santiago, had arrived to try to persuade the family to pay the fine “to do away with the problem,” and he urged them to leave their Pentecostal church, according to the advocacy group. Peres Santiago also offered them funds to pay the fine, which they declined on grounds that accepting it would not guarantee that they would not face further persecution for belonging to the Pentecostal church, according to COC.

The incarceration came after area Christians had filed a complaint in December against Traditionalist Catholic authorities cutting their water supply and suspending government benefits and medical services, as well as denying their children the right to remain in school, according to COC.

The organization asserted that Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco Coello and his officials on Dec. 14, 2016 had been made aware of the harassment of the Christians in Rancheria El Encanto.

“The lack of attention, and the reluctance of the sub-secretary of Religious Affairs and local authorities to address this problem, resulted in the illegal deprivation of the designated people,” COC stated. “There is still no guarantee of freedom of religion as established in Article 24 of the constitution and as established in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Mexico ranks 41st on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

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