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November 2015
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One small voice cries out

Nigeria: Intelligence Reports warn Boko Haram planning attacks on churches, mosques, markets

nigeria-boko haram

Based on intelligence reports, the Department of State Services, DSS, alerted Abuja residents of plots by Boko Haram to attack churches, mosques and markets, using girls disguised aid workers as bombers.

In a memo addressed to the National Presidents of Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Christian Association of Nigeria by the Director of Security Services, Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Ibrahim, he urged religious bodies to put their members on the alert. It also asked residents to report suspicious elements around places of worship to the authorities.

The letter which was also sent to  the FCT Minister, the FCT Permanent Secretary and the acting Secretary, Area Councils Services Secretariat included,

“Intelligence reaching this office revealed that insurgents are planning to attack the Federal Capital Territory. Their main targets are worship centres and markets with the use of young girls as members of aid groups to carry out their planned attacks.

‘It is in view of the foregoing, I am directed to inform you to communicate the content of this letter to all mosques, churches and markets across the FCT for extra vigilance, particularly unknown persons dressing as aid workers loitering around the worship areas and markets’.

TURKEY: Will schools respect parents’ and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief?


(Forum 18)Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases concerning its compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), as they do not respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. In September 2014 the ECtHR stated that “Turkey had to remedy the situation without delay”, yet the only action so far has been the Education Ministry preparing an action plan involving wide consultation with civil society on the RCKE courses. This is awaiting government approval after the elections. Another systemic violation of freedom of religion or belief in the education system are optional lessons in Islam, which many have found are in reality “compulsory optional”. Fear of discrimination and harassment from teachers and other pupils, as well as the slowness of the legal system, are the main reasons many people have not taken legal action to protect their rights. Unless effective protection of freedom of religion or belief in education is implemented, the state will continue to lose such cases before the ECtHR.

Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, as the country’s education system fails to respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Yet Turkey has still not taken steps to prevent these and other human rights violations reoccurring. ECtHR judgments require such steps to be taken in order to prevent similar violations from happening, for example by changing laws and state practices, and this process is supervised by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

On 16 September 2014 the ECtHR found in the case of Mansur Yalcin and Others v. Turkey (Application no. 21163/11) that Turkey’s compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes, and its education system did not respect the convictions of parents by not being either objective or respectful of pluralism. The RCKE course includes, despite changes made by the Education Ministry, still compulsory religious instruction in Islam with only a very limited exemption system that is difficult to take advantage of (see F18News 23 August 2011

The ECtHR found that “no possibility for an appropriate choice had been envisaged for the children of parents who had a religious or philosophical conviction other than that of Sunni Islam, and the very limited exemption procedure was likely to subject those parents to a heavy burden and to the need to disclose their religious or philosophical convictions in order to have their children exempted from the religion lessons.” This requirement for parents and pupils to disclose their beliefs is not compatible with the European Convention for the Protection of compulsory religious instruction in Islam and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Read More

West Has Betrayed Middle East Christians — Syriac Patriarch


Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan

(AINA) It is “a big lie” to suggest Islamic State could be defeated with airstrikes, according to the head of the Syriac Catholic Church, who has accused Western governments of betraying Christians in the Middle East.

“All Eastern patriarchs, myself included, have spoken out clearly to the West from the very beginning,” Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan insisted, warning western governments: “Be careful, the situation in Syria is not like that of Egypt, Tunisia or Libya — it’s much more complex, and conflict here will create only chaos and civil war.”

Criticising how the cautioned governments maintained that the rebellion would be short and that Bashar al-Assad’s government would fall within months, he said, “As I predicted, that hasn’t happened, and five years later, innocent people, especially Christians, have no support. The West has betrayed us.”

While French and Russian airstrikes have increased since the Paris and Beirut bombings, the patriarch said these retaliations were ineffective as the well-financed leaders of the so-called Islamic State had infiltrated local populations.

“Western democracies have conspired against Syria and produced the destruction of the nation’s infrastructure, the demolition of houses, towns, villages, monuments and archaeological sites,” the Beirut-based patriarch said, castigating how Western politicians, especially in the U.S., Britain and France, appeared to favour “an endless conflict in Iraq and Syria”, while Western media had proved “silent, cowardly and complicit” by failing to “defend truth and justice”.

Although the Syriac Catholic leader praised the Pope for being “a defender of justice” and appealing for solidarity with Middle East Christians, he said threatened Catholic communities needed “not words but deeds”, lamenting that the West “has abandoned Christians to this situation”.

In the United States, meanwhile, Church leaders have challenged political attempts to block refugees from the Middle Eastern crisis from entering the country. Republicans in the House of Representatives won a 289-137 veto-proof majority on a bill blocking Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and governors of at least 30 states have called for an end to Syrian resettlement until security concerns can be addressed in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Cardinal O’Malley said “The barbaric attacks in Paris, which demand a strong response and require policies that as best possible prevent recurrence, should not be used to efface the memory of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa who are desperately in need of shelter, support and safety.”

Pray for our brothers and sisters feeling abandoned by the West.

Why Are We Abandoning the Christians?


In all the self-righteous talk we’ve been hearing about Muslim refugees from Syria, who’s talking about the Christians? Over the past several years, no religious group has been more persecuted throughout the Middle East than the Christians. And yet, hardly a peep.

Yes, the Jewish way is not either/or. We’re supposed to be inclusive. So, with all the beautiful, heartfelt sentiment so many American Jews are expressing for Muslim refugees, why are we not including oppressed Christians in our hearts?

For some reason, the notion of “suffering Muslims” seems to resonate more with liberal hearts than “suffering Christians.” Maybe Muslims are seen as more “exotic” or “misunderstood”; maybe it’s the fact that many liberals have contempt for fundamentalist Christians in America, with their anti-abortion and anti-gay positions.

Whatever it is, the poor Christians can’t seem to catch a break. A 2012 Pew study found that “Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group.”

Even the world’s two most prominent Christians—President Barack Obama and Pope Francis—have hardly said a word about the plight of Christian refugees in Syria.

The current refugee system overwhelmingly favors Muslim refugees. Even though Christians represent more than 10 percent of the Syrian population, of the 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far, only 53 are Christians while 2,098 are Muslims.

This low number is tragic, because Christians living in Muslim lands are in especially dire straits. “ISIS and other extremist movements across the region,” Eliza Griswold wrote in The New York Times last July, “are enslaving, killing and uprooting Christians, with no aid in sight.”

As author and Arab expert Raymond Ibrahim adds, “At the hands of the Islamic State, which supposedly precipitated the migrant crisis, Christians have been repeatedly forced to renounce Christ or die; they have been enslaved and raped; and they have had more than 400 of their churches desecrated and destroyed.”

This horrible situation, Ibrahim writes, was not always the case: “Christians and other religions minorities did not flee from Bashar Assad’s Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Muamar Gaddafi’s Libya. Their systematic persecution began only after the U.S. interfered in those nations in the name of ‘democracy’ but succeeding in only uncorking the jihadi terrorists that the dictators had long kept suppressed.”

Replacing evils with worse evils — that seems to be the nature of the beast in the Mideast jungle.

In any case, if we believe in the concept of triage—taking care of the most urgent cases first—the West ought to seriously wake up to the plight of the Christians of the Middle East, who have no “Christian country” in the area to escape to.

There are many Arab/Muslim countries who could take in Muslim refugees, but refuse. As reported recently in the Washington Times, Saudi Arabia has over 100,000 empty, air-conditioned tents that could house up to 3 million refugees, but has shut its doors to fellow Muslims in need. I guess oil-rich Arab countries figure the “compassionate West” can handle them.

The irony is that the very persecution of Christians makes it harder to rescue them. As Patrick Goodenough reports on, the U.S. federal government relies on the United Nations in the refugee application process – and since Syrian Christians are often afraid to register with the U.N., they and other non-Muslims are left out.

This means that refugees who are in most need of rescue are the hardest to reach. But isn’t that the real meaning of compassion — to go the extra mile for those in greatest need? Even if we put aside the charged issue of Muslim terrorists possibly infiltrating the refugees, and just look at basic human need, don’t we owe it to the Christians to pay more attention to their plight?

If the most powerful country on Earth can’t go the extra mile to rescue Christian refugees, who will?

If the most powerful man on Earth can’t stand up for the most oppressed, who will?

Who will speak up for the most persecuted religious group in the world?

Who will start the #IamChristian hashtag?

Raymond Ibrahim

Thanksgiving Table Setting to Remember the Persecuted Church, Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, along with 4 other Americans



“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” Hebrews 13:3

(Voice of the Persecuted) As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving and the blessings of God and family, again we ask for you to remember the millions of our brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted, brutalized and separated from their families.

Saeed Abedini, also an American citizen, will be spending a fourth Thanksgiving in a brutal and violent prison cell separated from his family. His crime? His Christian faith and for refusing to deny Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Four other Americans are also being held in Iranian prisons. see information here

It is critical that we remember the Persecuted Church and stand in solidarity with them. Therefore, will you leave a place setting on your holiday table in remembrance of Pastor Saeed along with the 4 other Americans imprisoned in Iran, and the Persecuted Church, our family in Christ?

The empty place setting at your Thanksgiving dinner table will serve as a reminder to pray for all those wrongfully imprisoned and being persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.

Ephesians 6:18-20 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. 

Please share a picture of the place setting at your table on this Facebook event page, to encourage the persecuted and show them they are not forgotten.

As we sit down to dinner let us remember to include our persecuted Church family in our prayers. And let us give thanks that we live in a nation with protected religious freedom and the right to worship our Lord without fear of being persecuted.

Happy Thanksgiving and God bless you!

The Voice of the Persecuted Team

Burma (Myanmar) Military Offensive Displaces Kachin Christians

Prayer for displaced ethnic Kachin at the Kachin Baptist Convention’s office in Myitkyina, Kachin state capital. (Kachin Baptist Convention)

Burma (Morning Star News) – Artillery and air strikes by Burma (Myanmar) government forces on rebel bases in Kachin state in the past week displaced hundreds of ethnic Kachin, a predominantly Christian people long targeted in part because they are not Buddhist.

The Rev. Lama Yaw of the Kachin Baptist Convention, who visited areas near Mohnyin where the offensive intensified on Nov. 15, told Morning Star News by phone that 200 civilians took shelter in area churches after attacks by a jet, helicopter gunships and artillery against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Another Christian leader in Mohnyin told The Irrawaddy newspaper that some 300 villagers had fled their homes on Thursday (Nov. 19) and were taking shelter in his church.

Pastor Yaw said area Christians were shaken by the attacks, which continued through the week, as they have long seen civilians and church buildings targeted by government weaponry and soldiers.

“They dare not go to sleep at home as they fear unexpected attacks, because the Burma Army has done these kinds of attacks and abuses before,” said Pastor Yaw. “Some nearby villagers have gone to sleep at churches in Mohnyin town, as they fear random attacks by the Burma Army.”

After the Burma Army broke a 17-year ceasefire in 2011, by early 2013 the military had destroyed 66 church buildings in Kachin state, according to a 2013 report by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT). After making Buddhism the state religion in 1961, the government has tacitly supported military atrocities against civilian Christians.

“I feel like they intentionally launched the attacks on the day when Christians held worship,” Pastor Yaw said, referring to the dramatic escalation on Nov. 15 of the offensive that began on a smaller scale the previous day. “Also in 2012, they launched intense attacks on Christmas Eve. They chose the day when ethnic Christians were supposed to enjoy Christmas celebrations with happiness.”

The Kachin are one of several ethnic groups vying for more autonomy, and advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that decades of conflict in the ethnic states have left hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced or as refugees in other countries.

“It is obvious that they oppress ethnic minorities who are Christian,” Pastor Yaw said.

The roots of conflicts with ethnic groups date back to the origins of the country. Before the formation of the Union of Burma in 1948, British rulers administered “Burma Proper” – where the Burman people lived – and “Frontier Areas,” where non-Burman ethnic groups lived separately. The Kachin leaders, however, agreed to join the Union based on the 1947 Panglong Agreement, which allowed great autonomy and the right to secede to the ethnic frontier states.

But with the assassination of Gen. Aung San, who was leading an interim government, and several of his cabinet members, the agreement was forgotten and continues to be violated.

Burma on Nov. 8 held its first general elections since the military junta quashed 1990 voting results, but CSW noted political reforms are still fragile.

“There are reasons for cautious optimism, but Burma continues to face many very significant human rights challenges, particularly in regard to freedom of religion or belief,” CSW notes on its website.

In the attacks near Mohnyin the past week, the KIA reported two of its soldiers were wounded and that it lost its Brigade 8 stronghold headquarters to the Burma Army. A government information minister reportedly said there are no plans to cease the offensive in Mohnyin, citing a need to “protect public security.”

The KIA has an estimated 10,000 troops and is the second largest armed, ethnic group. It was not among eight such groups that signed a ceasefire agreement with the government on Oct. 15. Other major ethnic group forces have declined to sign the agreement, including the Shan State Army-North, which has also been the target of recent Burma Army offensives.

Pastor Yaw said Christians in the state capital are praying for villagers living near Mohnyin.

“As soon as we heard civilians fled for safety, we held prayer and pray to God to protect them,” he said. “We are weak, and what we can do is keep praying and relying on God. We believe that God is capable to protect our people.”

7 Assyrian Refugees Drown While Crossing Aegean Sea


(AINA) — Over a dozen passengers drowned when a boat carrying refugees across the Aegean Sea to Greece capsized on November 17. Seven of the passengers were Assyrian refugees from Baghdede (Qaraqosh), Iraq. The Assyrians, 4 of them children, were members of two families. They have been identified as:

  • Stephen Marzena Marogeh
  • Silvana Sami Marogeh (wife)
  • Angie Marogeh (Daughter)
  • Mark Marogeh (son)
  • Samah Sami Marogeh (Silvana’s sister)
  • Haneen Salem Saman Shasha (Samah’s daughter)
  • Marvin Shasha (Samah’s son)

Baghdede, formerly the largest Assyrian town in Iraq with 50,000 residents, was captured by ISIS last year on August 7, causing all 50,000 Assyrians to flee (AINA 2014-08-07). They have not returned and are living in Ankawa, a suburb of Arbel, and Dohuk (Assyrian Noohadra). Many have left the country and most of the others have expressed a desire to leave.

China Detains Christian Attorney, Activist Fighting Harassment of Churches


Officials seek to silence, neutralize advocates for freedom of religion/speech.

(Morning Star News) A Christian activist writing against harassment of churches in China’s Zhejiang Province was temporarily detained and threatened this month, and an attorney representing some of the fellowships remains missing.

The detentions are the latest signs of a government crackdown on at least 230 human rights lawyers and activists since July.

China’s National Security Bureau on Nov. 3 raided the home of writer Zan Aizong, who had been blogging on violations of religious freedom and the destruction of crosses on church buildings in Zhejiang Province that officials have undertaken since last year, according to the South China Morning Post. Authorities accused Zan of inciting subversion of national security, and they threatened and intimidated him before he was released.

Zan said he was prohibited from speaking or posting online, and his computer and cell phone were confiscated among other items, SCMP reported.

“I would like to thank Jesus Christ for His grace and help,” Zan said, according to advocacy group China Aid Association.

At the same time, a Christian attorney for churches in Zhejiang, Zhang Kai, has not been seen since Aug. 25, according to Elizabeth Kendal of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB). Chinese security forces seized Zhang in Wenzhou on Aug. 25, along with assistant Liu Peng and several area pastors.

Zhang, 37, had taken up residence in a Wenzhou church building for a year in order to help the legal cases of area fellowships whose church buildings or crosses had been destroyed. Officials cited church violations of zoning rules, while pastors and advocates asserted that the government only sought to diminish the churches’ effectiveness.

Yang Xinquan, Zhang’s employer, told The New York Times that police and Christian sources indicated that Zhang could be held in secretive detention for six months, charged with threatening state security and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.” Yang said Zhang was advising a church in Wenzhou when police took him away, and that assistant Liu and another legal worker, Fang Xiangui, were also likely being held in secret in Wenzhou, according to the Times.

Zhang is one of an estimated 230 lawyers and activists that have been detained, with 26 still being held, according to Amnesty International. He was first detained in Wenzhou by state security police late at night on July 10, according to Hong Kong-based Initium Media. One of Initium’s correspondents reported Zhang telling him earlier that day, “Christianity teaches us to submit. But what we ought to submit to is the constitution and morality, not to illegal people and conduct.”

Following his release after a night of interrogation, Zhang later told the reporter in an interview that public security officials warned him to stop working on church cases and holding legal seminars

Advocates fear for Zhang’s health and safety. Prominent human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng was released on Aug. 7, 2014, after months of isolation and torture left him physically disabled and unable to speak coherently.

Zhang had represented Pastor Huang Yizi of Salvation Church in Wenzhou. Supporters put up resistance to a government attempt to remove the church’s cross last year that resulted in injuries, and Pastor Huang was ultimately sentenced to jail for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” Initium reported.

Identifying and documenting various procedural illegalities in the way the government harassed the Wenzhou churches, Zhang left government officials enraged and legally defeated, according to Initium. Authorities offered to free the then yet to be prosecuted Pastor Huang if Zhang would cease representing him, but when Zhang recused himself, officials reneged and sentenced the pastor to a year in prison, Initium reported.

Zhang organized a group of 30 attorneys from throughout China to take up church cases in Zhejiang Province. He also wrote a number of articles and Web posts.

Initium reported Zhang saying, “Lawyers can’t necessarily prevent the crosses being removed, but at least they can expose the illegal nature of the exercise. Even if they were constructed against regulations, there should be a reasonable and legal process to remove them. Otherwise, where’s the legality?”



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