Morningstar News http://morningstarnews.org First Light Before the Dawn Wed, 26 Apr 2017 14:43:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Police, Mob Attack Synod Guard’s Quarters, Arrest His Family in Omdurman, Sudan http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/police-mob-attack-synod-guards-quarters-arrest-family-omdurman-sudan/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/police-mob-attack-synod-guards-quarters-arrest-family-omdurman-sudan/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 13:56:30 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6681 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Three weeks after an elder was killed in an attack on church property in Omdurman, Sudan, a mob with police on Monday (April 24) ransacked the living quarters of the compound guard and arrested his family, sources said. Police accompanied by a mob demolished part of the room where […]

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Synod guard's wife and her three children in jail in Omdurman, Sudan. (Morning Star News)

Synod guard’s wife and their three children in jail in Omdurman, Sudan. (Morning Star News)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Three weeks after an elder was killed in an attack on church property in Omdurman, Sudan, a mob with police on Monday (April 24) ransacked the living quarters of the compound guard and arrested his family, sources said.

Police accompanied by a mob demolished part of the room where the family lived after first destroying its padlock at the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), sources said. Officers took 27-year-old Mona Matta, wife of guard Azhari Tambra, 28, and their children ages 6, 4 and 2 from their room at the SPEC synod offices and detained them until 10 p.m. at the Northern Division Police Station in Omdurman, they said.

Tambra was not home at the time of the attack. When Matta and her three children, including one who is disabled, were taken away in a police van, they were accused of opposing authorities, lacking ownership papers and betrayal of the country. They were released, however, with no charges filed against them, said a source who requested anonymity.

When the family arrived home after the release of Tambra’s wife and children, they found all their belongings destroyed, and officers prevented them from entering their living quarters, sources said.

“It is very inhumane,” the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.

The guard and his family, members of an evangelical church in Omdurman, were unsure where they would take shelter after their home was ruined, sources said.

A committee that the government illegally appointed to run the SPEC in 2013 is occupying the synod offices with help from police. Committee members were reported to have been present in the mob that damaged the guard’s living quarters.

On April 3 about 20 men with knives and other weapons, including members of the government-appointed committee, arrived at the Evangelical School of Sudan on the synod property and began to beat several women after police had arrested the men at the school. Christians from nearby Bahri Evangelical Church rushed to the school to try and protect the women, and two church members were stabbed.

Church elder Younan Abdullah later died in a hospital from wounds sustained while he and others were defending the school. Supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman trying to take over the school, including members of the government-imposed committee, participated in the attack after police along with a group supported by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments arrived at the school first and arrested all men.

Abdullah is survived by his wife and two young children.

The illegally imposed committee has been selling church properties to businessmen aligned with the government, sources said. SPEC leaders are appealing to the Sudan government to stop interfering with SPEC affairs and cease support of the government-appointed committee.

After the arrest of the guard’s family, Elia Aromi Kuku, a prominent Christian writer from the Nuba Mountains area, on Monday (April 24) published an open letter on the Nuba Times website to Sudan’s first vice president, minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments and Sudan’s chief of justice urging them to respect the rights of Sudanese Christians.

“It is the role of the Sudanese government to protect the rights of its Christian citizens and their rights to religious co-existence, as well as respecting their beliefs and their places of worship,” he wrote.

Police in Omdurman, across from Khartoum on the Nile River, on March 27 had arrested 12 staff members of the Christian school and the next day prevented others from leaving the campus, they said.

They were taken to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station and released at about 8 p.m., accused of obstructing the work of Education Vision, which is trying to take over the school. The institution was still functioning as a Christian school, but representatives of Education Vision were regularly disrupting classes, school personnel said.

On March 16 about 20 policemen aboard a truck forcefully entered the school compound, arrested three Christian teachers including the headmaster, Daud Musa, and took them to Omdurman’s Central Division Police Station, sources said. Also arrested were Christian teachers Yahya Elias and the late elder Abdullah, all of the SPEC.

They were released on bail after eight hours, charged with obstructing the work of those attempting to take over the school.

The arrests came nearly a month after authorities arrested and held overnight four educators from the same school, including Musa, before releasing them on bail. They were accused of destroying a sign belonging to Education Vision. The Christians strongly denied the accusation.

The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.

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. That 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.

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.  

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

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Muslim Extremists Destroy Pastor’s Farm, Church Building in Eastern Uganda http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/muslim-extremists-destroy-pastors-farm-church-building-eastern-uganda/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/muslim-extremists-destroy-pastors-farm-church-building-eastern-uganda/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:36:10 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6674 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern Uganda is without his home, farm and church building after Muslim extremists armed with swords and clubs rampaged through his property on March 27, he said. The band of nine Muslims, who also carried blunt metal objects, were shouting the jihadist slogan “Allah Akbar [God is […]

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Court case filed by pastor Christopher James Kalaja against Muslim extremists in Uganda. (Morning Star News)

Court case filed by pastor Christopher James Kalaja. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern Uganda is without his home, farm and church building after Muslim extremists armed with swords and clubs rampaged through his property on March 27, he said.

The band of nine Muslims, who also carried blunt metal objects, were shouting the jihadist slogan “Allah Akbar [God is greater]” as they invaded pastor Christopher James Kalaja’s land in Nakabale village, Kaderuna Sub-County, he told Morning Star News.

“As they were approaching, they were shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ and immediately started cutting down the trees on my farm, and thereafter pulled down the church building,” the married father of six children said. “I then took off for the sake of my life.”

Pastor Kalaja, of Agape Sanctuary International Church, reported the case to Kaderuna police, but officers initially took no action, he said. Unable to elicit any police help, the pastor on March 28 filed suit in Budaka District court, in which he listed the gang leaders as Dongo Patrick and Subairi Kasabu.

The legal action prompted police to visit the site, and they then summoned the suspects, filing a case on March 28, he said.

“Since then, I have been receiving threats that they will come for my life, that they will soon destroy me completely,” Pastor Kalaja told Morning Star News.

Police have not arrested any suspects, he said. The first hearing in the court case was postponed on April 13 until later this month. Pastor Kalaja said that except for a cousin among the assailants, he does not personally know anyone in the gang that drove him from his home.

Residents of the predominantly Muslim area opposed a church building under construction on his farm, but he said they have persecuted him for decades.

“My outreach to Muslims has led to all these fights that I have been receiving from the Muslims,” he said. “These people have been hunting for me since the early ’80s. And as a result, they even managed to kill my mother by poisoning, and after the death of my mother, they went ahead and killed my livestock. They are provoking me to leave the area.”

Though forced to file a court case due to police inaction, Pastor Kalaja is not able to cover the costs of an attorney, he said. He and his family have taken refuge in the thatched hut of a friend.

Police were unavailable for comment.

Pastor Kalaja has been leading his congregation of 86 members for 10 years. He said a similar attack took place in 2008. At that time the suspects were summoned to the sub-county headquarters of Kaderuna, and the Muslim leaders apologized for trespassing.

“Things normalized, but this time round they are out to kill me,” he said.

The destruction last month was the latest of many attacks by non-state figures on Christians in eastern Uganda. Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

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

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

 

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

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Police, Local Officials Complicit in Buddhist Attacks in Sri Lanka, Report Indicates http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/police-local-officials-complicit-buddhist-attacks-sri-lanka-report-indicates/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/police-local-officials-complicit-buddhist-attacks-sri-lanka-report-indicates/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 14:40:00 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6669 (Morning Star News) – Police and local officials in Sri Lanka declined to recognize Buddhist aggression against churches and in some cases encouraged persecution of Christians in the first four months of the year, a report indicates. Police initially refused to register a case when a mob led by Buddhist monks assaulted the pastor of […]

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Police in Ingiriya, Sri Lanka. (Wikipedia)

Police in Ingiriya, Sri Lanka. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – Police and local officials in Sri Lanka declined to recognize Buddhist aggression against churches and in some cases encouraged persecution of Christians in the first four months of the year, a report indicates.

Police initially refused to register a case when a mob led by Buddhist monks assaulted the pastor of Kings Revival Church and three other church members on March 26 after a Sunday worship service in Ingiriya, Kalutara District, the National Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NEASL) reported.

The attack occurred after the pastor, whose identity is withheld, had dispersed the congregation and was hurrying home following a telephone call he had received from a church member alerting him that a van full of armed Buddhist monks were waiting for him at the top of a road, according to the alliance.

The previous day at about 10 a.m., an unidentified person and two Buddhist monks had visited the pastor and questioned him about the legality of religious worship on his premises. During the discussion, one Buddhist monk called the Village Officer (Grama Sevaka) and summoned him to the pastor’s premises. After questioning the pastor, the Village Officer called a Provincial Council member to further interrogate him, NEASL reported. The council member arrived and demanded that he furnish all church legal documents, threatening to take him to the area police station if he failed to do so.

“Government officials took pictures of the pastor, a copy of his national identity card, and hurled threats at his family in derogatory language,” the alliance reported.

After the next day’s assault, the pastor received credible information that the Village Officer was part of the mob, NEASL reported.

Following legal advice, the pastor on March 27 went to the police station to file a complaint.

“The police, though, kept giving excuses and refused to lodge the complaint,” NEASL reported. “However, following pressure exerted by the pastor’s lawyers, the police subsequently recorded the complaint. The pastor continues to receive threats from the Buddhist monks and was in hiding, fearing physical assault.”

Also in Ingiriya in western Sri Lanka, police told the leader of the Christian Fellowship International Ministry on March 25 to stop holding worship services after a congregation member called police to report a Buddhist mob’s disruption of a worship service.

The mob of around 50 people led by three Buddhist monks forcibly entered the fellowship’s worship service and demanded that it cease, NEASL reported.

“The mob then proceeded to ask the names of the Christians present and question them on why they had attended the worship service,” according to the alliance.

After a Christian called an emergency police hotline, two drunken police officers arrived, reproached worshippers for breaching the peace and ordered the pastor to the station for questioning. Accompanied by a lawyer, the pastor went to the police station on two occasions but was not granted a meeting with the Officer-in-Charge (OIC), NEASL reported.

The pastor was summoned again on April 2, but when he arrived at the police station, he found a mob of some 200 people led by about 20 Buddhist monks. The OIC asked the pastor whether he had obtained permission from authorities to conduct religious worship activities, and he responded that he was unaware of such a requirement in the law.

The OIC asserted that he should immediately discontinue all religious worship, warning him that he would face severe consequences in the event he failed to comply, NEASL reported. When the pastor declined, officers took further statements from him regarding his refusal.

Police said they would file a case against the pastor of breaching the peace, and afterward the mob began to shout threats at him and blocked him from leaving the station.

“The mob then deflated the tires of the pastor’s motorbike and put raw eggs into his helmet,” NEASL reported. “When the pastor finally arrived at his home, he found that stones had been pelted at his premises, causing damage to the property. Moreover, villagers then gathered around the house, shouting threats at the pastor.”

At one point the pastor came out of his house, and an unidentified person attempted to attack him with a pole, NEASL reported. Responding to a complaint by another pastor, four police officers arrived and ordered the pastor and his wife to temporarily vacate their home for their own safety.

The pastor, who has conducted worship activities in the area for 17 years, and his wife sought shelter at a Christian’s residence.

In 2002, a mob had destroyed the church’s previous building, according to the alliance.

The Division Secretary sent a letter to the pastor dated March 31 stating that his worship services were not registered, and that he had to register in accordance with a circular issued by the Ministry of Buddha Sasana and Religious Affairs in 2008.

The circular, which required all new construction of religious places of worship to be registered with the ministry, has no basis in Sri Lankan law, NEASL reported.

“There is no legal requirement to register places of worship with the State,” it stated.

On Saturday (April 15) at about 11:30 p.m., a group of people pelted the pastor’s premises with stones for about an hour, damaging the property, the alliance reported. The pastor filed a police complaint. His house was stoned again on Monday (April 17), and he filed another complaint with police.

Church Building Destroyed

Buddhism is granted the “foremost place,” in Sri Lanka’s constitution, which along with some laws commits the government to protect it, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report.

While Sri Lanka’s constitution grants the right to manifest one’s religion or belief “in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, both in public and private,” there are instances where local officials appear to act in concert with nationalist Buddhist organizations, the religious freedom report states.

In the northwest part of the island country south of India, police declined to prosecute when a Buddhist mob destroyed the building of the Kithu Sevana (House of Christ) church on Jan. 5, NEASL reported.

About 10 villagers and the Buddhist monk from the village temple in Karuwalagaswewa, Puttalam District, had on Jan. 1 threatened the pastor and 12 other Christians with violence and said they would not allow them to return to the village. The Christians immediately filed a complaint with local police, NEASL reported, and on Jan. 4 the pastor and his lawyer visited the Officer-in-Charge.

The OIC said he would investigate, and the next day the pastor and five congregation members went to the police station for questioning. With the village monk and some 10 other villagers also present, the pastor asked that they be left in peace to worship. The Buddhist monk insisted that they leave the village.

The OIC then referred the matter to the courts, NEASL reported, but that evening at about 7 p.m., a mob of about 100 villagers, including two monks, attacked and destroyed the Christians’ church building.

“A congregant of the church and his daughter who live in close proximity to the church were scolded in threatening and offensive language and ordered to participate in the destruction of the church,” NEASL reported. “They, however, refused. The church was completely destroyed.”

Official Encourages Harassment

In southwest Sri Lanka, a local official encouraged residents of Balangoda, Ratnapura District, to harass Christians and drive them out of the village, NEASL reported.

 Four villagers on Jan. 22 informed the pastor of Shalom Christian Centre that a discussion had taken place at the local Divisional Secretariat regarding his church’s worship activities. Residents had circulated a petition stating that the pastor and his congregants should not be allowed to continue to worship since it was a predominantly Buddhist village, NEASL reported.

The Divisional Secretary had stated that, although he could not take any legal action against the pastor, he encouraged villagers to create problems for the pastor and his church and attempt to drive them out of the village, according to the alliance.

“Following this incident, the pastor reduced the number of prayer gatherings held at his place of worship,” it reported.

Local officials pad previously filed a case against the pastor concerning his worship services, but the Supreme Court had dismissed it, stating that the officials had no legal grounds for the charges.

Order to Stop Worship

In Gampaha District north of Colombo, the capital, about 40 villagers led by seven Buddhist monks on Jan. 15 broke into the worship premises of Christ Freedom Church in Minuwangoda and demanded a halt to services, NEASL reported.

“They went on to claim that the village was a Buddhist village, and demanded that the pastor discontinue his worship activities with immediate effect,” it reported. “The pastor responded by reiterating his fundamental right to religious freedom.”

Earlier the pastor had called the police emergency hotline at 8:45 a.m. when church members informed him of a number of villagers lurking nearby. Police did not arrive until 11:15 a.m., took a statement from the pastor and advised him to file a complaint. When the pastor arrived at the police station, however, he was informed that a villager had already filed a complaint against him.

Shortly before midnight that night, the pastor and his wife awoke to the sound stones striking their house. They were unable to identify the assailants. He called the police emergency hotline, and officers arrived at 12:10 a.m. and advised him to leave the village for the sake of his family, the alliance reported.

The following day, the pastor filed another complaint with police. Officers referred the matter to the village’s mediation board, and on Jan. 28 the pastor, his wife, and two congregation members arrived for an inquiry by the board. The board sided with the 15 other villagers present, demanding that a stop to worship services.

“The pastor refused to stop conducting religious worship practices, but agreed to settle the matter regarding the stoning of his home,” NEASL reported. “A few days later, on the 18th of February, the pastor and his wife met with the mediation board once again. The board presented him with a petition signed by the villagers and some Buddhist monks, demanding that he stop his religious worship activities and leave the village. The pastor then stated that he would take legal action.”

There was no further report on the case at this writing.

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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Quashing of Childcare Facility Application in Algeria Rooted in Religious Discrimination http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/quashing-childcare-facility-application-algeria-rooted-religious-discrimination/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/quashing-childcare-facility-application-algeria-rooted-religious-discrimination/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 15:03:06 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6665 TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – The social services agency of Tizi-Ouzou Province, Algeria, has denied a permit to a childcare facility without explanation, but almost certainly because of the owner’s Christian faith, sources said. The owner met all the conditions required by law for opening an early childhood care facility in the city of Tizi-Ouzou […]

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Eva’s Nursery in Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria stands idle. (Morning Star News)

Eva’s Nursery in Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria stands idle. (Morning Star News)

TIZI-OUZOU, Algeria (Morning Star News) – The social services agency of Tizi-Ouzou Province, Algeria, has denied a permit to a childcare facility without explanation, but almost certainly because of the owner’s Christian faith, sources said.

The owner met all the conditions required by law for opening an early childhood care facility in the city of Tizi-Ouzou when she applied for the permit nearly a year ago. The denial by the province’s Directorate of Social Action (DAS), however, refers only to a decision by Algeria’s security service refusing permission on grounds that it won’t reveal.

The denial is thus cloaked in secrecy, but sources believe the government in 97-percent Muslim Algeria rejected the application because the owner (name withheld for security reasons) is Christian.

The attorney for the owner said one of the conditions for approval is that a nursery operator must not have been the subject of a judicial investigation, and the owner has been investigated for evangelizing as director of a previous childcare facility, after a woman who was caught stealing took revenge by falsely accusing her of proselytization. The outcome of that investigation is also cloaked in secrecy, perhaps still pending, but if it was the premise for denying the permit for the new nursery, then anti-Christian hostility remains at the root of the rejection, sources said.

The new childcare facility, Eva’s Nursey, was not described as a Christian nursery in its application, but in any case there is no law against such an institution in Algeria, according to the attorney.

Eva’s Nursery has filed legal complaints with DAS, the governor of Tizi-Ouzou Province and the Minister of Solidarity and Social Action, seeking $20,000 in losses incurred since attempting to obtain the license. The nursery’s attorney accuses the government of denying the accreditation based on discrimination, complaining to the Council of State in January that she was refused “because she is of Christian confession.”

The complaints assert that religious belief cannot be grounds for refusal.

“All citizens are equal before the law, and there can be no segregation based on race, religion or sex,” the complaint notes. “Our attempts to reach the Directorate of Social Action (DAS) of the province of Tizi-Ouzou to have its version of the facts have remained unsuccessful.”

A September 2008 Executive Decree laying down the procedures for the establishment, organization, operation and control of early childhood care establishments, according to the complaint, prohibits permission only for a person who “has no Algerian nationality, neither the diplomas and qualifications required, does not enjoy his civil and civil rights and has been the subject of an infamous punishment.”

Those characteristics do not apply to the manager of this child care center. Nearly a year after permission was denied, a response from the Minister of Solidarity and Social Action remains without answer. The owner’s legal action seeks the cancellation of the DAS denial and demands restitution of our losses, including the lease of a building.

The owner welcomes prayers for the nursery, Algeria and her children.

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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Muslims in Zanzibar, Tanzania Jail Pastor in Child Abuse Allegation Scheme, Group Says http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/muslims-zanzibar-tanzania-jail-pastor-child-abuse-allegation-scheme-group-says/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/muslims-zanzibar-tanzania-jail-pastor-child-abuse-allegation-scheme-group-says/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 16:02:48 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6651 NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslims in Zanzibar have re-opened a child abuse case dismissed more than two years ago as a pretext for jailing a pastor on the semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania, church leaders said. Police in November 2014 had closed the case against pastor Yohana Madai of the Free Pentecostal […]

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Case filed anew against pastor Yohana Madai of Tomondo, Zanzibar, Tanzania. (Morning Star News)

Case filed anew against pastor Yohana Madai of Tomondo, Zanzibar, Tanzania. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslims in Zanzibar have re-opened a child abuse case dismissed more than two years ago as a pretext for jailing a pastor on the semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania, church leaders said.

Police in November 2014 had closed the case against pastor Yohana Madai of the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania in Tomondo village, near Zanzibar Town, due to lack of evidence and witnesses, according to the Pastors Alliance of Zanzibar.

The case stemmed from an incident on Nov. 10, 2014, when Salha Hamad Ali, a 9-year-old girl on the predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar, pounded on the door of Pastor Madai’s church building one evening with the aim of disrupting the worship within, according to the alliance.

“The pastor saw her through the window, so he came out of the church building quickly and caught hold of her and took her to local government leaders, in order to give a warning,” said an alliance leader who requested anonymity.

Village leaders met with the pastor and the girl’s mother, Gladness Mohamed Ngaa, and resolved the issue, the alliance leader said. The following day, however, Ngaa went to police to file a charge of child abuse, saying the pastor had touched Salha’s breast and removed her veil, he said. A conviction could carry a sentence of 30 years.

Police summoned Pastor Madai for a statement, but when he arrived, the officer in charge jailed him without taking a statement or listening to anything he said, according to the alliance. The next day leaders from his church registered a complaint about his incarceration, and he was released on the condition that he report back to the police station.

When Pastor Madai reported back to the station a few days later, according to the alliance, the officer in charge told him that investigations had turned up no evidence of wrongdoing and no witnesses, and that the case was closed.

When that officer was transferred to the Tanzania mainland earlier this year, however, the mother – now accompanied by a sheikh (Islamic teacher) and other Muslims – filed the charges against him again in Zanzibar, the alliance leader said.

The pastor was summoned for a court hearing in Mwanakwerekwe, on the outskirts of Zanzibar Town, on the child abuse charges in early March, but again the accuser was unable to produce any evidence or witnesses, he said. Two other hearings with the same outcome took place, and the judge dismissed the charges at the third hearing on Thursday (April 6).

The pastor was ordered set free, but when the case was dismissed, one of the Muslims accompanying Ngaa rushed out to meet with his associates and police officers waiting outside the courtroom, the alliance leader said. As Pastor Madai left the courtroom, they promptly arrested him on unspecified charges.

“This was something that had been planned,” the alliance leader said. “We are questioning the manner in which the pastor was hurriedly arrested.”

His case has been transferred from the first court of law to a district court, according to the alliance. The pastor remains in jail in Kilimani, outside Zanzibar Town.

“The leaders of the Pastors Alliance of Zanzibar went there on Friday [April 7] to question officials and struggled much to help Pastor Madai be released, but we found that it was a religious matter with the purpose of persecuting the Christians,” the leader said. “We were not given a hearing. Those handling the case are all Muslims.”

Christians find it difficult to receive a fair court hearing in Zanzibar, where several land cases are pending, he added. Pastor Amos Lukanula of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God has been battling area Muslims in court since 2007, when they issued a court-ordered stop to his church erecting a building despite having met all legal requirements to do so.

“The church is spending $100 dollars every month for the hearing of the case,” the alliance leader said. “The Muslims are waiting for the time when we shall fail to attend the court hearing, implying losing the case and subsequently paying a large, substantial amount of money.”

The alliance requests financial and legal assistance, as well as prayers, for pastor Madai, who leads a 70-member church, he said.

“They have started with Pastor Madai, and tomorrow they will arrest another,” he said. “So we ask brothers and sisters in Christ for financial support in order to engage a lawyer who can stand with the pastor, because if the case is manipulated, pastor Madai will be sentenced to not less the 30 years in jail according to Tanzania and Zanzibar laws.”

The Zanzibar archipelago is more than 97 percent Muslim, while Tanzania’s population is 34.2 percent Muslim and 54 percent Christian, according to Operation World.

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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Bombings at Two Churches in Egypt Turn Palm Sunday into Scenes of Carnage http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/bombings-two-churches-egypt-turn-palm-sunday-scenes-carnage/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/bombings-two-churches-egypt-turn-palm-sunday-scenes-carnage/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 19:13:19 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6646 (Morning Star News) – Bomb attacks on two Coptic churches holding Palm Sunday services in Egypt today killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100 others, according to reports. The first bomb exploded in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, at St. George’s Church about 60 miles north of Cairo, killing at least […]

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Tanta, Egypt, in the Nile Delta. (Wikipedia)

Tanta, Egypt, in the Nile Delta. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – Bomb attacks on two Coptic churches holding Palm Sunday services in Egypt today killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100 others, according to reports.

The first bomb exploded in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, at St. George’s Church about 60 miles north of Cairo, killing at least 27 people and wounding 78 others, according to wire reports. Hours later, a suicide bomber was stopped at the door of St. Mark’s Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, where he detonated explosives that reportedly killed at least 17 people and injured 48 others. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was at the service in Alexandria and had finished addressing the congregation before the blast, according to reports. He was unhurt. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt this month.

“These acts will not harm the unity and cohesion of the people,” Pope Tawadros later said through state media.

Security forces reportedly also dismantled two explosive devices at Sidi Abdel Rahim Mosque in Tanta.

The bombings were the latest in a series of assaults on Christians in Egypt, who make up about 10 percent of the population. A bombing in the suburbs of Cairo at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, also known as the Al Boutrosya Chapel, on Dec. 11 killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 49. The chapel is next to the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which is held by many as the spiritual center of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The bombing was followed by a series of murders of Coptic Christians, with IS issuing threats on a Feb. 19 video promising to rid the country of “idolaters.” Seven Copts were killed in one month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Two Pastors in Burma Detained More than Three Months Without Trial  http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/two-pastors-burma-detained-three-months-without-trial/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/two-pastors-burma-detained-three-months-without-trial/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 17:20:09 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6641 YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – Two assistant pastors arrested by the Burma army have been jailed without trial for more than three months, sources said. Pastors Dom Dawng Nawng Latt, 65, and 35-year-old La Jaw Gam Hseng were arrested on Dec. 24 after helping local journalists cover military conflict in northern Shan state, eastern Burma […]

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Pastors Dom Dawng Nawng Latt (L) and La Jaw Gam Hseng. (Courtesy of Burma military)

Pastors Dom Dawng Nawng Latt (L) and La Jaw Gam Hseng. (Courtesy of Burma military)

YANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – Two assistant pastors arrested by the Burma army have been jailed without trial for more than three months, sources said.

Pastors Dom Dawng Nawng Latt, 65, and 35-year-old La Jaw Gam Hseng were arrested on Dec. 24 after helping local journalists cover military conflict in northern Shan state, eastern Burma (Myanmar), where a Catholic Church building was bombed by Burma army jets in November. They are charged with unlawful association with an armed ethnic group, an accusation the Kachin Baptist Convention church leaders deny.

U Brang Di, attorney for the two pastors, told Morning Star News that normally suspects can be held for only 28 days without trial under Burmese law.

The prosecutor, Maj. Kyaw Zin Htun, has filed charges accusing the pastors of recruiting and spying for armed ethnic groups such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Under Burma’s Unlawful Association Act, the Christian leaders could face as much as three years in prison under Article 17/1 for making contributions to or assisting an “unlawful association,” and as much as five years under Article 17/2 for assisting in the management or promotion of one.

Brang Di said the case has been slowed by prosecution absences and the army’s effort to transfer the accused to a court in Lashio, in northeastern Shan state. Citing ongoing fighting between rebel and government forces in Shan state, the prosecutor sometimes has been unable to show up at court hearings, Brang Di said.

“The pastors can’t be detained for such a long time without trial, according to the law,” Brang Di said, adding that he was only stating the law, not complaining, as such delays are common in cases involving the army. “I will try my best to make them free in accordance with the law.”

The pastors on Dec. 24 went to the Byuha Gon military base to negotiate the release of a civilian couple who had complained to army officials about the destruction of their house, sources said. Military officials released the couple and detained the clergymen, they said, adding that the arrest was linked to the pastors helping journalists cover the bombing of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church building on Nov. 23-24.

The Unlawful Association Act, often invoked during Burma’s decades of rule by military junta to arrest suspected rebel sympathizers, is still used to stop Kachin state residents from making contact with KIA rebels, according to Radio Free Asia. Burmese and international rights groups have called on the government to amend or rescind the law so that Non-Governmental Organizations are not targeted under the act.

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

Zau Rau of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Muse Town, where the pastors are detained, said the KBC wants the trial completed as soon as possible.

“There is no development,” Rau said. “It seems they make the process long. We want the trial to begin soon.”

Also slowing the proceedings, he said, was the prosecutor adding charges to the case, most recently charging Pastor Latt with damaging the reputation of the army by allegedly telling media that soldiers burned rice stores belonging to civilians.

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

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. The Burma army launched major offensives against the KIA for several months last year and took over several strategic military bases.

The KBC has provided aid to internally displaced people fleeing fighting between the government army and ethnic militias in both Kachin and Shan states, according to Radio Free Asia.

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.

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

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

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

 

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© 2017 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.  

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

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Mob Kills Christian Elder at Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/mob-kills-christian-elder-evangelical-school-sudan-omdurman/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/mob-kills-christian-elder-evangelical-school-sudan-omdurman/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 20:35:48 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6634 JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A church elder on Monday (April 3) died from injuries sustained in a raid on an embattled Christian school by supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman, Sudan, sources said. Younan Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and […]

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Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman. (Morning Star News)

Evangelical School of Sudan in Omdurman. (Morning Star News)

JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A church elder on Monday (April 3) died from injuries sustained in a raid on an embattled Christian school by supporters of a Muslim business interest in Omdurman, Sudan, sources said.

Younan Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and others were defending women at the Evangelical School of Sudan, Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) sources told Morning Star News.

Christians had staged a protest against the attempted seizure of the school by a Muslim businessman, they said. Police from the Omdurman Central Division along with a group supported by Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment arrived at the school first and arrested all the men in an attempt to hand it over to the businessman, they said.

Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) confirmed that after the arrests, about 20 men, including members of a committee the government has illegally imposed on the SPEC, arrived at the school with knives and other weapons and began to beat the women.

“Several men from the nearby Bahri Evangelical Church rushed to the church to try and protect the women,” MEC leaders said in a statement. “The armed men attacked them, and two church members were stabbed.”

Elder Abdullah later died of his injuries, and a second church member, Ayoub Kumama, was treated at a nearby hospital and has been released, according to MEC.

Abdullah is survived by his wife and two young children.

Since 2013, the illegally imposed committee has been selling church properties to businessmen aligned with the government, the advocacy group stated.

Police were present during the attack on the school but failed to intervene, according to MEC.

“They also failed to help Younan after he was stabbed,” MEC leaders said in the statement. “Following Younan’s death, the police arrested Mr. Shamshoun Hamoud, a member of the illegal committee who was identified by eyewitnesses as the person who stabbed Younan. None of the other attackers have been arrested.”

Christians held a funeral service for Abdullah yesterday (April 4) at the school, which had declared three days of mourning. The U.S. Ambassador to Sudan and the Second Secretary of the British Embassy were present, according to MEC.

Police in Omdurman, across from Khartoum on the Nile River, on March 27 had arrested 12 staff members of the Christian school and the next day prevented others from leaving the campus, they said.

They were taken to Omdurman’s central division police station and released at about 8 p.m., accused of obstructing the work of Education Vision, which is trying to take over the school. The institution is still functioning as a Christian school, but representatives of Education Vision are regularly disrupting classes, school personnel said.

On March 16 about 20 policemen aboard a truck forcefully entered the school compound, arrested three Christian teachers including the headmaster, Daud Musa, and took them to Omdurman’s central division police station, sources said. Also arrested were Christian teachers Yahya Elias and elder Abdullah, all of the SPEC.

They were released on bail after eight hours, charged with obstructing the work of those attempting to take over the school.

The arrests came nearly a month after authorities arrested and held overnight four educators from the same school, including Musa, before releasing them on bail. They were accused of destroying a sign belonging to Education Vision. The Christians strongly denied the accusation.

The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.

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. That 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.

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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Christians Accused in Killings in Pakistan Tortured, Pressured to Recant Faith http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/christians-accused-killings-pakistan-tortured-pressured-recant-faith/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/04/christians-accused-killings-pakistan-tortured-pressured-recant-faith/#respond Mon, 03 Apr 2017 19:57:06 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6624 LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Relatives of jailed Christians in Pakistan said police who tortured the prisoners offered freedom if the detainees converted to Islam, and that a public prosecutor made the same offer in exchange for bail. The accusations come days after the government of Pakistan decried forced conversions of people of minority faiths. […]

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One of two church buildings targeted on March 15, 2015 in the Youhanabad area of Lahore, Pakistan. (CLAAS)

One of two church buildings targeted on March 15, 2015 in the Youhanabad area of Lahore, Pakistan. (CLAAS)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Relatives of jailed Christians in Pakistan said police who tortured the prisoners offered freedom if the detainees converted to Islam, and that a public prosecutor made the same offer in exchange for bail.

The accusations come days after the government of Pakistan decried forced conversions of people of minority faiths.

The 42 Christians are accused in the lynching of two Muslims suspected of involvement in the twin suicide attacks on churches in Lahore’s Christian neighborhood of Youhanabad on March 15, 2015. At least 17 people, including two policemen, died in the suicide attacks, which targeted Christ Church Youhanabad and St. John’s Catholic Church during Sunday Mass.

Deputy District Public Prosecutor (DDPP) Syed Anees Shah repeatedly pressured the Christians to convert to Islam in return for their freedom, according to family members and a lawyer of the Christian prisoners. The attorney, who is representing some of the accused, said the public prosecutor made the offer to the detainees whenever they appeared in court.

“None of the under-trial prisoners have been attracted to the counsel’s offer of clemency in exchange of renouncing their faith,” he said, adding that the DDPP’s coercion of the accused indicated that the prosecution did not have a strong case against them.

The father of one of the accused told Morning Star News that all the Christian prisoners had rejected the prosecutor’s offer.

“Almost all the accused Christians told the prosecutor that they would prefer to die than renounce their faith in Christ,” he said.

Requesting anonymity for security reasons, he said that police officers made similar offers of freedom for conversion to Islam as they tortured the Christians detained in private cells soon after the lynching. All of the accused assert that police have falsely implicated them in the case.

Prosecutor Shah declined to return phone calls by Morning Star News seeking comment.

Punjab Province spokesman Ahmed Ali Khan said that the government had taken “serious notice” of the issue and had taken Shah off the case.

“Muhammad Azar has replaced Anees Shah at the anti-terrorism court, and he will not be allowed prosecution of any case in the future,” Khan told Morning Star News. “Shah has been asked to report to the office of the Punjab Prosecutor General till further orders.”

He said the accusations embarrassed the government as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a few days ago condemned forced conversions of minorities and vowed stern punishment for perpetrators.

“The DDPP’s actions have put a question mark on the judicial process as well,” Khan said. “He should have dealt with the case on merit rather than blackmailing the accused. This is a shameful act, and the government condemns it strongly.”

Informed that police interrogators had tried to force the accused Christians to recant their faith, the spokesman said that he was not privy to this information as no Christian leader or organization had brought it to the government’s attention.

“Forced conversion is a very serious matter, and we do not condone any such action by government officials,” he said.

Khan declined to comment on the guilt or innocence of the accused as the trial is still underway. He denied suggestions that the Punjab government was biased against Christians.

Shunila Ruth, a Christian provincial lawmaker from the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), has submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly against the DDPP’s attempt to forcibly convert the Christians on trial.

Ruth said the prosecutor’s actions signaled charges would be dropped against those who changed their religion, and that being a Muslim meant one was above the law.

“Discrimination against the Christians should be stopped immediately,” she said.

The 2015 suicide attacks outside two church buildings in Youhanabad triggered violent protests in which the two Muslims were burned to death after a mob suspected them as accomplices. They were identified as Babar Noman, a garment worker, and Hafiz Naeem, a glass cutter, of the same locality.

An anti-terrorism court on Jan. 10, 2016, indicted 42 suspects for the lynching. The suspects pleaded not guilty. So far no one has been arrested for carrying out or facilitating the blasts at Youhanabad. The accused Christians, however, have been in prison for the last two years. Ten of a total 92 witnesses have recorded their statements in the case.

Tortured

Asserting that all the Christians accused in the killing were victims of the Punjab government’s bias against the minority community, the father of one of the Christian suspects said that all of those detained were innocent.

“My son used to make a living as a rickshaw driver,” he said. “On the day of the incident, he had just returned to Youhanabad after dropping a passenger when his vehicle was stopped by a mob protesting against the suicide bombings at the churches. He barely stayed at the scene for a few minutes to see what was going on and somehow managed to bring his three-wheeler home. The police took him two nights later, claiming that he was involved in the lynching.”

He said police showed no arrest warrant to the family as plain-clothes police whisked his son away.

“My son was taken to a private torture cell of the Crimes Investigation Agency (CIA) in Kahna, where a large number of Christian men and boys from Youhanabad were already detained,” he said. “The detainees were brutally tortured there and forced to ‘confess’ their involvement in the lynching.”

The detainees’ formal arrests were announced many days after they were picked up, and most of them could barely stand due to the inhumane torture they had suffered, he said.

“It is then my son and the other detainees revealed that during their ‘interrogation’ at the CIA torture cell, an unidentified senior police officer had offered to set them free if they converted to Islam, but all of them stood their ground and refused to renounce their faith in Christ,” he said.

He added that the case against them reeked of the government’s mala fide toward Christians.

“I could not believe my eyes when I read in the supplementary FIR of the case that the police have accused my son of killing the two Muslims with a sanitary pipe made of plastic,” he said. “If this charge doesn’t prove the government’s mala fide, I don’t know what else will? Forty two Christian families are suffering for the last two years for a crime they haven’t committed.”

Relatives’ repeated appeals for a fair investigation have fallen on deaf ears, he said.

“The government is already anti-Christian, and we don’t expect any sympathy from it, but the attitude of Christian lawmakers from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is more heart-wrenching,” he said. “All of them know that the 42 people behind bars are innocent, but they haven’t done anything to help us. I don’t know what will happen to my son in this court, but I have faith that the Lord will surely judge those behind our plight fairly.”

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 Imprisoned in Iran Pine under Biased Justice System, Advocates Say http://morningstarnews.org/2017/03/christians-imprisoned-iran-pine-biased-justice-system-advocates-say/ http://morningstarnews.org/2017/03/christians-imprisoned-iran-pine-biased-justice-system-advocates-say/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:59:11 +0000 http://morningstarnews.org/?p=6621 ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Convert from Islam Ebrahim Firoozi learned only in the past week that an Iranian appeals court in December upheld his five-year prison sentence for crimes related to practicing his faith, advocates reported. At the same time, the appeal of three men sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking Communion wine has […]

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Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (Wikipedia, Ehsan Iran)

Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (Wikipedia, Ehsan Iran)

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Morning Star News) – Convert from Islam Ebrahim Firoozi learned only in the past week that an Iranian appeals court in December upheld his five-year prison sentence for crimes related to practicing his faith, advocates reported.

At the same time, the appeal of three men sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking Communion wine has been further delayed, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

An appeals court ruled on Firoozi’s case on Dec. 11, 2016.  In April 2015, a judge found him guilty of “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities” – all standard charges leveled against converts to Christianity in Iran – and sentenced him to five years in jail.

In January 2011, security officials arrested Firoozi and held him for more than 150 days. He escaped being charged but endured intense interrogation about his beliefs, how he came to faith and the leadership structure of church bodies in the country.

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

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

Prior to being ordered to report to prison, Firoozi on Aug. 21, 2013 was arrested in Karaj along with two other Christians, and then in October of the next year transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. He served his sentence and should have been freed from prison in January 2015, but authorities refused to release him, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).

Human rights activists say it is common for imprisoned Christians who refuse to sign an agreement promising to refrain from all Christian activities to be charged with other crimes in order to keep them incarcerated.

On March 5, 2015, Iranian authorities tried Firoozi with the crimes for which he is now confined. He was sentenced the next month. On July 13, 2015, he was beaten for refusing to attend an appeal hearing; he had thought his lawyer could attend alone.

As disappointing as the appeal decision was to Firoozi, three other Christians –  Mohammadreza Omidi, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie – have entered their sixth month in limbo waiting for the results of their appeal. On Sept. 10, 2016, after a trial that lasted 10 minutes, all were sentenced to receive 80 lashes for drinking wine during a Communion service.

Authorities in Rasht have referred charges against them of “acting against national security” to Tehran, resulting in further delay in this case, according to CSW.

On Oct. 25, 2016, attorneys for the three men filed an appeal to have their case overturned on grounds that still have not been released to the public. It was the second time Fadaie and Omidi have been sentenced to flogging for taking Communion. Although Christians are allowed to consume alcohol in Iran, Muslims are not. The three men are converts from Islam and by law are still considered Muslim, as conversions away from the Islamic religion are not recognized in Iran.

A week prior to filing the appeal, on Oct. 15, 2016, the three men and a fourth convert, pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, were tried on charges of “acting against national security,” a catch-all charge often used by the government to punish different types of religious and political dissent. The government often uses it against converts instead of the charge of apostasy, according to freedom of religion advocates.

Hearings regarding the charges followed on Dec. 14 and on Feb. 9, with no verdict issued, according to MEC.

As part of a larger crack-down on house churches in Iran in 2016, the country’s internal security apparatus, VEVAK, conducted a series of raids against at least 10 Christian-owned homes on May 13, 2016. Officials temporarily detained Nadarkhani and his wife, Fatemeh Pasandideh, but then released them both. Authorities took Mossayebzadeh, who was also at one of the houses, into custody.

VEVAK agents later summoned Omidi and Fadaie to their office by phone and then arrested them in connection with the raids, according to CSW. Weeks later, Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie were released each on the equivalent of a $33,000 bond, Mossayebzadeh on May 28, 2016 and Fadaie on May 29, 2016. Omidi remained in detention until officials released him June 7, 2016, also on a $33,000 bond.

Court officials on July 24 summoned Nadarkhani to court, charged him with crimes against national security, ordered him to produce a bond of $33,000 and released him.

In 2010, the Iranian government charged Nadarkhani with apostasy and sentenced him to death. His Christian faith had been discovered after he went to his children’s school to question the compulsory Islamic religious education requirement. Eventually court officials acquitted him of the charges, and in September 2012, he was released from prison. He was found guilty of evangelizing, however, and three months later ordered back to prison on Dec. 25, 2012, and released Jan. 7, 2013.

Maryam Zargaran

The health of a convert imprisoned for her faith has taken a dramatic downturn over the past few weeks, causing her family to speak out to the news media, advocates reported.

After an ongoing battle with heart disease, the effects of at least two hunger strikes and continued poor medical treatment, Maryam Naghash Zargaran’s weight has dropped to dangerously low levels, according to Mohabat News.

The news service reported that she is in urgent need of medical care from cardiologists, which has been denied by Iranian authorities, either on the national level or from Evin Prison where she is jailed. Previously the prosecutor in her case denied a temporary release for medical treatment.

Zargaran suffers from a serious congenital heart condition known as an atrial septal defect, commonly referred to as “a hole in the heart,” and also has severe headaches accompanied by ear pain, tremors, chronic joint and spine pain and numbness in her hands and legs. In June 2016, she was allowed to leave the prison temporarily and go to a hospital for treatment.

Iranian officials arrested Zargaran in January 2013 for her activities in the Iranian house-church movement and her association with Saeed Abedini, a U.S.-Iranian Christian pastor imprisoned on fabricated charges related to his house-church work. Zargaran was found guilty of “threatening national security” and sentenced to four years in prison, which she began serving on July 13, 2013. An appeal for retrial was denied.

Abedini was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to eight years in prison, but he was released in January 2016 after serving more than three years of his sentence as part of negotiations over a nuclear non-proliferation agreement with the United States and other aligned nations.

Mother, Son Arrested

Two Christian converts, a mother and son, are still missing after intelligence agents from the Revolutionary Guard arrested them on Feb. 20 in Urmia.

Anousheh Reza Bakhsh and her son Soheil Zagarzadeh Sani, a university student, both converts to Catholicism from Islam, were arrested in their home in northwestern Iran.

The agents raided their home and confiscated Bibles and religious books, according to Mohabat News. It is believed that those arrested in Urmia for faith-related charges are normally detained in the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence building.

The arrests are said to illustrate the hypocrisy within the government’s approach to religious minorities. A prominent Iranian cleric, Alavi Boroujerdi, recently claimed that religious minorities have absolute freedom in Iran. During his campaign, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed equal rights for religious minorities. But advocates cite an increased crack-down on religious dissent since Rouhani came to power.

In Christian support organization Open Doors’ list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Iran had a score of 85 out of 100 in the 2017 World Watch List, up from 83 the previous year, raising Iran’s place in the overall ranking of countries from ninth to eighth.

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

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