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Victory: Ground Zero Cross Can Remain in September 11 Museum

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In a decision that represents a ringing affirmation of the presence of faith in the life of our nation, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the American Atheists’ challenge to including the famed “Ground Zero Cross” in the National September 11 Museum.

While the entire opinion is worth reading, two excerpts were particularly important. First, the court unequivocally rejected the most dangerous aspect of American Atheists’ challenge – the argument that acknowledging the historical importance of faith constitutes improper “religious promotion.” To the contrary, the “accurate account of human history” often “requires reference to religion:”

American Atheists point to no precedent holding that when a religious symbol or artifact with genuine historical significance is included in a public historical display, the actual purpose is necessarily religious promotion. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has long recognized that an accurate account of human history frequently requires reference to religion: “The history of man is inseparable from the history of religion.” Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 434 (1962). Indeed, as Justice Jackson observed in Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J., concurring), “it is a proper, if not an indispensable, part of preparation for a worldly life to know the roles that religion and religions have played in the tragic story of mankind. The fact is that, for good or for ill, nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything that gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences,” id.

Next, once the display is constitutionally appropriate, it is up to the museum to determine which artifacts to display. It is not up to offended observers to determine how a museum tells the story of our shared history. Here, the court relied on our ACLJ Supreme Court case, Pleasant Grove City v. Summum:

As American Atheists acknowledge, appellees’ choice as to which artifacts to display in recounting the history of the September 11 attacks is a form of government speech. Individuals will generally not be heard to complain that government speech favors one viewpoint over another unless, in the context of a religious discrimination claim, the challenged speech violates the Establishment Clause. See Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U.S. 460, 467–68 (2009) (collecting cases recognizing that “[i]t is the very business of government to favor and disfavor points of view,” and that a government entity is “entitled to say what it wishes . . . and to select the views it wants to express” as long as its speech “comport[s] with the Establishment Clause”

The ACLJ filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the more than 230,000 members of our Committee to Protect the Ground Zero Cross, a brief that heavily relied on our previous victory in Summum.

The American Atheists will likely appeal this decision, so the case is not yet over, but the Second Circuit’s opinion represents a profound defeat for those who wish to drive faith not just out of the public square, but out of public memory.

We are thankful for this victory for the Constitution, our national heritage, and for common sense.

ACLJ

2014 Prayer Vigil for Pastor Saeed Abedini

For more information or how you can coordinate a vigil in your area please visit, 2nd Annual Global Prayer Vigil for Saeed Abedini Planned for September 26th

How to Pray for Christians in Iraq (4 Ways)

Modern Exodus-Iraq

Christians forced to flee – Exodus out of Mosul

Thank you all so much for your willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many of you have been using the Arabic “N” symbol below on your Facebook or Twitter profile to show your concern for Christians being targeted for extortion and/or extinction by soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  God bless you for identifying with our brothers and sisters under attack.

Others are understandably cynical about simply changing a profile pic as a reminder to pray. You think it’s too small of a gesture—that we must do more. And of course you are right! We all share some of that same attitude, I think.  Our American “can-do” mentality begs for a place to direct our anguish. We want to “do” something about the situation.  I spoke with a zealous young man today who graciously—yet excitedly—challenged me to “do something.” “We have to do something. Tell me what to do!” He cried.

My first response was to embrace his angst wholeheartedly. We really must do something. Our Christian brothers and sisters have been marked for death.  Their wages have been stolen.  Their homes and their homeland is now instantly closed to them. If they stay, they will be killed. If they leave, they will lose everything they once relied upon—houses, cars, money, jobs, friends. The situation is brutal.  Surely we can do more than pray!

And yet, upon further reflection, I reminded my young friend that prayer is no small thing. We ought not too quickly dismiss its potential for saving our fellow saints.  As James reminds us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).  James uses the example of Elijah whose prayers both caused and cured a drought in Israel which lasted 3 ½ years.  Imagine—a man with a nature like ours altering meteorological phenomena for more than 1,000 days in a row!  (Talk about man-made global warming!) James could have chosen many other examples such as the prayers by Israel which brought about her Exodus from Egypt and Egypt’s destruction:

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” Ex 2:23-25 (ESV).

God knew! Are we to wonder whether God—now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been more clearly revealed—is still near and dear to His people? May it never be! Jesus Himself swore that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Hbrws 13:5) and that He would be with them even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).  And so the all-powerful, all-knowing God of infinite love remains faithfully concerned for His people and capable of accomplishing great things on their behalf. With that in mind, we can (and must?) pray in at least these four ways:

Fervently from the heart.  Our prayers must be urgent, zealous, fearful, yet fully-fired with faith. Think of it this way: What would you do if you came home from work this evening only to discover that a gang had captured your sister and informed her that she had 24 hours to pay a ransom or die?  Would that not be a fiery trial that would cause you to cry out to God on her behalf? Would you not shriek with horror and beg for mercy? Fiery trials no doubt beget fiery prayers. There is a sword at the throat of our family. Pray!

Second, Despairingly—from a position of weakness. This may sound odd, but I take my cue from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Notice how Paul admitted being excessively burdened—beyond any human strength. Is that not the burden our brothers and sisters are under now in Iraq?  What earthly power is (a) willing to save them and (b) able to save them?  Some (like the U.S. Military) seem able but not willing.  Others perhaps are willing but not really able.  So, where are Christians to turn?  As we pray for our brothers and sisters, we should pray from the position of complete and utter despair of human deliverance.  In that position, Paul says, we find our sure hope of trusting not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead!

Third, Victoriously—as though Christ has truly been raised from the dead. Who could ever have imagined that eternal life would spring from the humiliating execution of a stricken, smitten Jewish carpenter?  And yet, our Christ has been raised from the dead!  The Apostle Paul took courage and believed in his own deliverance from the mouth of death because of the Resurrection life of Christ.  Pray for our brothers and sisters to move from thedespair of their current situation to the victory of Christ’s

Resurrection.  God is no less able to deliver today than he was when Paul was preaching the gospel in Asia (and the Middle East). So pray to God that he would raise the dead to new life in Mosul, Iraq. Pray for the current loss to be made gain.  After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7), the early church was scattered on account of the increasing persecution. Nevertheless, the gospel went forth with power everywhere the Christians fled.  Even so, God’s gospel will triumph somehow. Pray for His people in Iraq to trust God’s purposes by faith.

Fourth, Effectively—as though you expect your prayers to affect much. The prayers of saints saved Paul’s life. Why not now? Why not the lives of those in Mosul, Iraq?  If, as we see in 2 Cor 1:11, the churches were able to secure Paul’s release from certain death, then why would not be possible today for our prayers to be the very means God uses to deliver Iraqi Christians from what appears a certain death? Is our God no longer able to deliver? Surely, God is no less powerful now than He was on the day He delivered Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

My friend and I talked about how we would love to help others learn to pray for the persecuted church. We will continue thinking about our prayers for the persecuted, and we hope to be providing much more helps in the future, Lord willing. So, stay tuned…

Gregory Cochran

About Greg Cochran

Gregory C. CochranA pastor, professor, and advocate for the persecuted church, I want to encourage us to love Christ’s church as He does and give ourselves for her.  My official title is Director of the Bachelor of Applied Theology program in the School of Christian Ministries at California Baptist University. However, my heart beats as a pastor. Genuine biblical shepherds are my heroes. Together, we can encourage both shepherds and the sheep.

 

Pakistan Government Accused Of Tolerating Persecution Of Minorities

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Pakistani Christian girl prays

According to an international news agency the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif’s government goes on with committing and tolerate the persecution of Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Shiites. They assert that the government’s imposition of the oppressive blasphemy laws has privileged the religious fanatics.

The news agency claims that under these blasphemy laws 40 Pakistanis are currently jailed — predominantly anti-Ahmadi laws also seriously animate dangers to the religious-freedom abuses while providing opportunities to the religious extremists. They continue to criticize the Pakistani Government of giving a free hand to the murderer Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian and former Pakistani minister for interfaith harmony whereas the government has failed to bring his killers to justice.

They went on to say that the United States should go on to raise concerns about these killing of the religious minorities. The administration should also follow recommendations provided in the House-passed fiscal-year 2015 budget to prioritize any necessary foreign-aid reductions to target those countries that abuse religious freedoms.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – an independent government organization that supervises religious freedom abroad. USCIRF and members of the House of Representatives have recommended that all three of these countries — China, Iran, and Pakistan — be listed by the U.S. State Department as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom because of these and other atrocities.

The State Department has answered our calls on China and Iran in the past; it is time that Secretary John Kerry does the same regarding Pakistan. Secretary Kerry must press for Pakistani government leaders to protect religious freedom to stem its frightening spiral toward extremist violence and instability. USCIRF has recommended this designation, and congressional leaders have requested it. The Obama administration must improve and make protection religious freedom a pillar of its foreign policy. As the United States turns a blind eye, so too does the world. We must open our eyes now, act accordingly and show these governments and the world that these acts will not stand.

Source

WOLF SPEAKS OUT AGAIN ABOUT FATE OF CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ

Rep Frank WolfWashington, D.C. (July 24, 2014) – For the second time this week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) took to the House floor to alert his colleagues – and the world – of the genocide he believes is taking place in Iraq.

“Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out,” Wolf said.

Wolf began today’s speech by reading the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial from earlier in the week: “Mr. Speaker: Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims. Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution. Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.

“Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city. Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.”

Wolf then read parts of an e-mail he received form someone on the ground in Iraq who painted a very dire situation: “All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS. There are around 30. The cross has been removed from all of them. Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted. Many others are being used as ISIS centers. The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul. This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.”

Wolf then asked: “Where is the West? Where is the Obama Administration? Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.”

Wolf ended his remarks by quoting William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who, in making the case against slavery in 1789, told his colleagues, “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:

“‘Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims. Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution. Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.

“Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city. Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.’

“These are not my words. They are the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial published earlier this week.

“Now I want to read parts of an e-mail I received yesterday from someone in the ground in Iraq: ‘All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS. There are around 30. The cross has been removed from all of them. Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted. Many others are being used as ISIS centers. The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul. This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.’

“It has been widely reported that ISIS soldiers have painted ‘N’ on the doors of Christians to signify that they are ‘Nasara,’ the word for Christian. Shiite homes were painted with the letter ‘R’ for “Rawafidh,’ meaning rejectors or protestants.

“Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out.

“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.

“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide. I also believe it is a crime against humanity.

“Where is the West? Where is the Obama Administration? Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.

“The West, particularly the church, needs to speak out.

“The Obama Administration needs to make protecting this ancient community a priority. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry need to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.

“The Congress needs to hold this administration accountable for its failure to act.

“The United Nations has a role, too. It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.

“I will close today by reading the final two paragraphs of The Wall Street Journal editorial I began my statement with: ‘Today’s religious extremism is almost entirely Islamic. While ISIS’s purge may be the most brutal, Islamists in Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they’ve occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. This does not mean that all Muslims are extremists, but it does mean that all Muslims have an obligation to denounce and resist the extremists who murder or subjugate in the name of Allah. Too few imams living in the tolerant West will speak up against it.

“As for the post-Christian West, most elites may now be nonbelievers. But a culture that fails to protect believers may eventually find that it lacks the self-belief to protect itself.’

“As William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian and abolitionist, famously told his colleagues, ‘Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’”

Thank you, Rep. Wolf for being a VOICE!

VICTORY! Christian woman Meriam Ibrahim stuck in Sudan Is FREE!

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Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag (L) and her children are photographed after landing at Ciampino Airport (EPA)

Please take this moment to PRAISE GOD!

At a Congressional hearing held yesterday, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said “a warning should be sounded across America” over the Obama administration’s “virtual silence” toward the Sudanese government’s persecution of Meriam Ibrahim, who was imprisoned in Sudan for being a Christian.

Shortly after Perkins testified Wednesday before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, Ibrahim and her family – two young children and her American husband – were allowed to leave the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, where they took refuge on June 27.

Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman who was spared a death sentence for apostasy and then barred from leaving Sudan, met Pope Francis on Thursday after arriving in Rome to jubilant scenes following intense international efforts to free her.

aniel Wani, husband of Meriam, is helped into the airport after arriving in Italy (EPA)

aniel Wani, husband of Meriam, is helped into the airport after arriving in Italy (EPA)

Ms Ibrahim and her husband Daniel Wani thanked the pontiff for his support and he in turn thanked her for staying true to her Christian faith despite the threat of execution if she did not recant.

She was released after intense diplomatic negotiations from the Italian government and the Vatican ended an ordeal that lasted almost a year.

“Today we are happy, this is a day of celebration,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said as he greeted Ms Ibrahim and her family with his wife Agnese.

“This gesture by Sudan is testimony to the friendship between our country and Italy’s choice to be a protagonist in this event,” said Mr Pistelli.

Mr Pistelli first met Ms Ibrahim two weeks ago at the US Embassy in Khartoum where she and her family had sought refuge after a failed attempt to go to the US.

He said her passport was only returned to her at the embassy on Wednesday afternoon and she was informed she could leave with her children.

Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, a UK NGO that campaigns against genocide and systematic human rights violations in Sudan, said millions of Sudanese Christians faced daily brutality and ethnic cleansing by the Sudanese regime.

“Three years ago President Bashir made it plain there would be no room for non-Muslims in his Islamist Sudan. He has been good to his word, crushing dissent and systematically killing ethnic and religious minorities. Regular aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces destroys communities and Christian hospitals, forcing people to flee from their fields to hide in the Nuba mountains,” she said.

“It is shocking that Bashir’s ideology of elimination provokes nothing more than the occasional words of regret from the international community, when we should be applying targeted smart sanctions on the architects of these atrocities.”

 

WOLF: Genocide Taking Place in Iraq

Iraq

Washington, D.C. (July 22, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), long regarded as one of the leading human rights champions in Congress, today said genocide is taking place in Iraq.

Speaking on the House floor, Wolf said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.

For months, Wolf has been trying shine a bright light on what has been taking place in Iraq, as thousands of religious minorities have been forced to flee the lands they have inhabited for more than 2,000 years.  Not until ISIS last Thursday told the few remaining Christians in Mosul to leave or be killed did the world focus on what has been unfolding.

Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks:

“Mr. Speaker, the international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Article II of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
“It says ‘genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
“Last Thursday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria  – more commonly referred to as ISIS – gave the few remaining Christians in Mosul until Saturday to leave or be killed.
“This from yesterday New York Times: ‘Some went on foot, their car having been confiscated; others rode bicycles or motor scooters; few were able to take anything of value, as militants seized their money and jewelry.  Some – just a few, and because they were not healthy enough to flee – submitted to the demands that they convert to Islam to avoid being killed.’
“ISIS is systematically targeting Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq for extinction.
“I want to submit for the Record the complete article from The New York Times and an editorial from today’s Wall Street Journal for history to see what is happening.
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.   The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons (the 12 tribes of Israel) were born in northwest Iraq.  A remarkable spiritual revival as told in the book of Jonah occurred in Nineveh.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Iraq Attack Michigan Rally

“Monday’s New York Times piece also quotes a Muslim woman at a prayer service at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad on Sunday whispering to a Christian woman sitting in the pew next to her:  ‘You are the true original people here, we are so sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’
“On June 16, for the first time in 1,600 years, there was no Mass in Mosul.
“Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern about what has unfolded in Mosul and other parts of the Middle East, noting that these communities, since the beginning of Christianity, have ‘co-existed there alongside their fellow citizens, making a significant contribution to the good of society.   Today they are persecuted.  Our brothers are persecuted, they are cast out, they are forced to leave their homes without having the chance to take anything with them.’
“The United Nations released a statement attributed to Ban Ki-moon that, in part, said:  ‘The Secretary-General reiterates that any systematic attack on the civilian population or segments of the civilian population, because of their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable.’

“Where is the Obama Administration?
“In June, 55 Members of Congress – Republican and Democrats – urged the Obama Administration to actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for especially vulnerable populations, notably Iraq’s ancient Christian community and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected communities.
“I want to read the last line from our letter:
‘Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they’ve inhabited for centuries.’
“It is happening.  They are almost all gone – just as we predicted.
“The Obama Administration has to make protecting this ancient community a priority.
“It needs to encourage the Kurds to do what they can protect those fleeing ISIS and provide safe refuge.
“It needs to ensure that of the resources going to the region, a portion be guaranteed to help the Christian community.
“It needs to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
“The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“The time to act is now.”

India: Streak Of Violence Christians Face Hindu Ire

No Entry For ‘Non-Hindu Missionaries’ A village council meeting Photo: DEV SHARAN TIWARI

No Entry For ‘Non-Hindu Missionaries’ A village council meeting Photo: DEV SHARAN TIWARI

Village bans non-Hindu activities

Chhattisgarh doesn’t have religious minorities to speak of—they are a mere two per cent of its population. That should make it an oasis of communal harmony. Right? Well, not quite, as several admittedly small but significant incidents this year expose how fragile the social fabric really is in parts of the state, notably in Bastar and Surguja.

If it was a church that was destroyed this March by people, allegedly with the help of the police, the next month it was a funeral service that was attacked and the grave filled up. In June, Christians at Sirisguda were refused rations from the pds outlets after they refused to give donations for a Hindu temple. This month, when a food inspector arrived to register complaints, the complainants were attacked and beaten up. Nine of them had to be hospitalised.

Things are no better in the adjacent areas of Madhya Pradesh, where according to Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), mobs searched the belongings of passengers and those found in possession of the Bible were beaten up.

There’s more. As many as 50 village councils in Bastar are said to have adopted resolutions banning the entry of “non-Hindu missionaries”. Bastar district magistrate Ankit Anand admits to only three villages adopting such resolutions, which he says are unconstitutional and illegal. But that is of small consolation to church leaders, who complain of increasing instances of persecution by the majority community. “Unless legal and deterrent action is taken against the mischief-makers, there is no guarantee that such incidents will not recur,” says a parish priest at Raipur.

The sporadic violence has surprised observers, who say that the state has long been a bastion of the VHP-RSS, and with 98 per cent of the population being Hindu, there really is no reason for the majority community to feel threatened. Not even in Bastar, where Christians constitute barely 0.7 per cent of the population, and the tribal population remains a robust 30.63 per cent. READ MORE

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Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George said that India is a “secular state” and is party to the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified.

Hence, on behalf of the members of GCIC, the Christian activist called for urgent action against discriminatory rules in order to ensure respect for the constitution and guarantee everyone’s right “to the free practice of religion.”

For several years, the State of Chhattisgarh has had a so-called ‘anti-conversion law‘ (Chhattisgarh Religion Freedom Act of 2006).

Under its terms, would-be converts are required to inform a district magistrate a month in advance of their decision to change religion. The latter in turn has the power to give or withhold permission to convert.

U.S. Condemns Religious Persecution by ISIL

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

We are outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. We have also seen photos of reportedly Christian houses in Mosul marked with pejorative terms for Christians, as well as reports that Shia and Shabak houses have been similarly marked. ISIL also continues to target Sunni clerics and tribal sheikhs who disagree with its dark vision for Iraq.

Christian homes marked by ISIL (ISIS) in Mosul, Iraq

Christian homes marked by ISIL (ISIS) in Mosul, Iraq

These abominable actions only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq and contradict Islam’s spirit of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region. This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and to take all possible steps to isolate these militant groups from the broader population.

We encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take every possible effort to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in a manner consistent with the rule of law. The United States stands with all the Iraqi people against the threat from ISIL.

Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 18, 2014

 

Soldier Shoots Civilian Christian in Sudan following Bombing of Church Building

Most of the shooting victim’s church had fled to mountain caves after the Sudanese military destroyed their building. (Morning Star News via Diocese of El Obeid)

Most of the shooting victim’s church had fled to mountain caves after the Sudanese military destroyed their building. (Morning Star News via Diocese of El Obeid)

 

A Sudanese government soldier on Saturday (July 12) shot a Christian near his farm in South Kordofan state, seriously wounding him, church sources said.

Akhnouk Jamal, 27, a member of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS), sustained wounds on his back and upper part of his stomach when a soldier opened fire on him as he picked wild fruit near his land in Losher, west of Al Atmor, a church source told Morning Star News.

“He was rushed to a health center, where he is now under treatment,” the source said. “But thank God he is recovering from his wounds.”

The Christian has no connections to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) rebels fighting government forces in the area east of the state capital of Kadugli, sources said. Government forces reportedly took control of the rebel stronghold of Al Atmor, in Um Dorain County, on June 7, though fighting continued throughout the month.

Jamal remained in the area even as most of the congregation fled to mountain caves after Sudanese Armed Forces supported by the Sudanese Air Force destroyed the ECS church building in Al Atmor in a bombing on July 6, sources said.

Jamal, single, is an ethnic Nuba and member of Al Atmor ECS church along with his mother. The attack destroyed the church building along with its chairs, pulpit and Bibles and prayer books, a source who requested anonymity said. The 180-member congregation has deserted the area, the source said.

“Christians live in great fear, but God is there,” said one area Christian.

The Rev. Yousif Ismail was nearly killed in a bombing when he returned from his mountain hiding place to gather items from his ECS church in Karkaria Kain village, outside Al Atmor, on July 2, according to a local source. His church also had fled to the mountain caves when government forces began shelling the village after taking Al Atmor.

Since South Sudan split from Sudan in a 2011 referendum, Nuba people in Sudan’s South Kordofan state believe the government’s goal of quashing rebels is also meant to rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said post-secession Sudan will adhere more exclusively to Islam and Arabic culture.

Thousands of civilians have taken refuge in Nuba Mountain caves in South Kordofan, which borders South Sudan. The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern Sudan.

The rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process.

Sudan’s bombing of civilian targets in the country’s Nuba Mountains May and June killed at least 10 Christians, sources told Morning Star News. Four children and an elderly woman were among the victims of bombings in South Kordofan state as part of the regime’s plan to rid the country of Christians, mostly black ethnic Nuba, in an effort to render it solely Arabic and Islamic, Sudanese Christians say.

Church leaders and aid workers told Morning Star News that Sudan’s bombings of civilian areas in its war with the SPLA-N killed 14-year-old Abdo al Nour and Abdel Rahman Hassan, 15, in the village of Um Serdiba on June 13. In the same area on May 20, according to the sources who requested anonymity, a Sudanese Air Force bombing killed 30-year-old Kimmia Calals of the Sudanese Church of Christ, leaving her nursing child motherless.

On June 17 in Tabalo village, a Sudanese bomb from a Russian-made Antonov plane killed Yasin Salah, 16, and another minor, Ado al Sawaq, the sources said. On June 11 in the same village in Um Dorain County, 80-year-old Amira Ballula was killed when a plane dropped a bomb on her house in the village of Tabalo, they said.

The bombing of civilian targets in South Kordofan state in May targeted the region’s only hospital and damaged an orphanage school and a relief agency, sources said. In Um Serdiba on May 18, Sife El Deen Ibrahim, 40, was killed immediately when a bomb from an Antonov jet hit the Christian’s house, an area church member requesting anonymity told Morning Star News.

Ibrahim left a widow and four children, ages 12, 15, 17 and 20, who were dependent on him for their livelihood, she said.

In Kauda, Antonov planes dropped bombs on the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization (NRRDO), the only humanitarian organization in South Kordofan, in late May, sources said. On May 29, bombing destroyed an orphanage school in Kauda, they said.

Morning Star News

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