PERSECUTION CONFERENCE, AUGUST 29 2015 KINGSPORT TENNESSEE

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One small voice cries out

Nigeria: Muslim Herdsmen Helping Jihadists

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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – The killing of Christians by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s middle belt has become part of a jihadist movement to both steal the region’s natural resources and displace its Christian population.

According to Morning Star News, Muslim herdsmen working with jihadists groups have attacked and killed more than 1,500 Christians last year in the middle belt states of Kaduna, Taraba, Benue and Nasarawa. These attacks were not only in pursuit of resources, but were inspired by Islamist ideology, i.e., Fulani Muslims are using the conflict to kill Christians and intimidate any survivors into recanting Christianity in favor of Islam.

The overwhelming number of victims in land and other disputes between Christians and Muslims have always been Christians. In Taraba state, 70 percent of the victims of non-Boko Haram violence were Christians and seven percent Muslims; in Benue state, 88 percent of the victims were Christians and two percent Muslims and in Nasarawa state, 75 percent were Christians and 15 percent Muslims, according to a report subtitled “Non-Boko Haram violence against Christians in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria” .

John Danfulani, a Christian leader from southern Kaduna state, said that since 2011 Muslim Fulani attacks had killed 614 Christians, wounded about 1,200 others and destroyed 1,000 Christian-owned homes.

Danfulani said Christians in southern Kaduna were being killed by Muslims with impunity and that Christian casualties increased with each new Muslim attack.

“Everything points to the fact that our people are being used as sacrificial lambs.”

Christian in Pakistan Killed, Wife Shot by Muslim Relatives, Attorney Says

Nadia Masih. (The Voice Society)

Nadia Masih. (The Voice Society)

LAHORE, Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Islamist groups are threatening the family and attorney of a young Christian man shot dead by Muslim in-laws who also wounded his wife over her decision to marry him and leave Islam, the attorney said.

Aleem Masih, 28, married Nadia, 23, last year after she put her faith in Christ.

“The couple fled to Narang Mandi, some 60 kilometers [37 miles] away from Lahore, as Nadia’s Muslim family launched a manhunt for them to avenge the shame their daughter had brought upon them by recanting Islam and marrying a Christian,” attorney Aneeqa Maria of The Voice Society told Morning Star News.

Maria said that the Christian couple had filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking police protection due to threats against them by Nadia’s family, who were also threatening Masih’s relatives.

On July 30, Nadia’s family received a tip that the couple would visit a doctor in Khaliqnagar, in the Youhanabad area, that evening, Maria said. Eyewitnesses said Nadia’s father, Muhammad Din Meo, along with her brothers, seized the driver of a three-wheeled rickshaw in which the couple were riding and abducted the couple, the attorney said. They took the couple to a nearby farm.

“The Muslim men first brutally tortured the couple with fists and kicks and then thrice shot Aleem Masih – one bullet hit him in his ankle, the second in the ribs while the third targeted his face,” the attorney said. “Nadia was shot in the abdomen.”

Maria said that the Muslim relatives left believing they had killed the couple.

“The attackers returned to their village and publicly proclaimed that they had avenged their humiliation and restored the pride of the Muslims by killing the couple in cold blood,” she said. “Nadia’s brother, Azhar, then presented himself before the police and confessed to having killed his sister and her Christian husband.”

Police, however, found Nadia still breathing when they arrived at the farm.

“She was shifted to the General Hospital in Lahore, where she is fighting for her life after a major operation in which two bullets were removed from her abdomen,” said the lawyer.

Maria said that when she and her team visited the hospital, a large number of Muslims were gathered there.

“The mob, some of them armed with weapons, was shouting furious anti-Christian slogans,” she said. “They were also praising Azhar for restoring the pride of the Muslim Ummah [community] and saying that he had earned his place in paradise for killing an ‘infidel.’”

She found a similar display at the local police station, where a large number of Muslims had gathered to pressure police.

The next day officers registered a case against Azhar and others, including Nadia’s father, but police have not taken them into custody as they have been granted pre-arrest bail, she said.

Maria said the Muslim family and Islamist groups were now threatening her, demanding that she and the slain Christian’s family drop the case.

“We are pursuing the case nonetheless,” she said. “Murder in the name of religion and honor must not be allowed, and the perpetrators should be held accountable for this brutal act.”

The investigating officer in the case could not be reached for comment.

Blasphemy Charge

In Gujrat District of Punjab Province, three Christians including a pastor have been charged with blasphemy and terrorism for using the word “Rasool” (apostle) on posters referring to the pastor’s deceased father.

Pastor Aftab Gill and two other Christians were taken into custody in Nai Abadi, Gujrat, after police spotted posters that referred to clergyman Fazal Masih as Rasool in marking the 20th anniversary of his death.

Rasool in Pakistan is commonly used to refer to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The word is also used several times in the Urdu Bible as a translation of “apostle” and “disciple,” and it is used frequently in church sermons and in Christian writings.

“We have arrested three men, including the son of the priest, because they used the word Rasoolfor the late Fazal Masih,” said area police official Shahid Tanveer.

He said that officers had summoned local Muslim clerics and elders of the Christian community to the police station to consult them on the matter.

“The Christians organizing the event apologized and asked forgiveness, saying they had used the word to celebrate Masih’s services to Christianity, but the Muslim clerics refused to accept the apology,” Tanveer said. “A case under anti-terrorism law and blasphemy has been registered against the organizers, and three men have been arrested, while 11 others are at large.”

He did not explain why police filed terrorism charges, though the charge is often used in sensitive and high profile cases as it gives access to a fast-track trial.

The pastor’s brother, Unitan Gill, said that their father had established the local Biblical Church of God in Nai Abadi several years ago. His brother, Pastor Gill, runs a grocery shop in the area besides operating a small English teaching institute.

“My brother’s business was flourishing, and this caused anguish in the local Muslim community,” he said, asserting that area Muslims Rukhsar Butt, Umer Butt, Iftikhar Butt, Faisal Munir and others had instigated police to arrest the Christians “even though the matter did not warrant such harsh action.”

“The mala fide against us is evident, because a local policeman named Mukhtar Ahmed has been made complainant in the case,” Unitan Gill said.

Area residents said police prevented massive destruction by Muslims by arresting the Christians, as Muslims wanted to burn the Christians alive and set their houses and the Biblical Church of God building on fire over blasphemy accusations. There are about 100-120 Christian families in the neighborhood.

Christians, who make up around 2 percent of Pakistan’s population, have been increasingly targeted in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy. The Supreme Court agreed last month to hear an appeal by a Christian mother against her death sentence in a blasphemy case that has drawn criticism from rights campaigners.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, is a mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 after she was accused of insulting Muhammad during a quarrel with Muslim women.

Morning Star News

We have received many requests, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.

pakistan christian prays

Prayers for the Children of Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini

Drawn by their daughter, Rebekka in  2014. It represents our family and Love of God surrounding them. Picture includes Saeed...

Drawn by their daughter, Rebekka in 2014. It represents our family and Love of God surrounding them. Picture includes Saeed…

Requesting prayers for her children, below you will find a heartbreaking update that Naghmeh Abedini recently shared. Being without their father for so long, has been very hard on the children—an emotional roller coaster for the whole family. Please press in and lift these little one up to the Lord.

Dear friends,

I would appreciate your prayers for the kids. Specially for Rebekka. Her birthday is coming up in September and I have noticed over the last few weeks that it has become too painful for her to hope that Saeed might be out for her birthday, she has just decided to cope with it by accepting that our family is just me and them. I looked at drawings she used to do a few years ago when Saeed was first arrested and they were filled with hope and faith. I noticed over the last few weeks that her pictures of our family include just me and them.

Recently Jacob heard me making travel plans to New York and he begged me to come (his dream is to go to the sewers of New York where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live!). I told him that this was for efforts for daddy and I would be so busy it would not be fun for him. I told him that we will go for vacation to New York when daddy gets out of prison. He cried and marched off as he said that “daddy is never coming home!”

I tell them to hope and pray and trust Jesus. It is so hard for them to pray for so long and not see the results. Please pray that God would give me the wisdom to guide them in their walk with Christ.

Rebekka's recent drawings of her family are missing her daddy. Please keep her in prayer.

Rebekka’s recent drawings of her family are missing daddy. Keep her in prayer.

Interview with Naghmeh Abedini: Free From All Fear

free from fear-naghmeh abedini

Naghmeh Abedini and her children suffer greatly in persecution as her husband serves an 8 year prison sentence in Iran for his faith in Jesus Christ. Nobody enjoys suffering, but Naghmeh says suffering has brought her closer to Jesus.

Any bad news or any suffering, or anything that seems to be negative, actually I’ve found it as a way for God to redirect my heart back to Him.”

Today, Nancy Leigh DeMoss  on Revive Our Hearts interviewed Naghmeh as she tells her amazing story of coming to faith in Jesus in a Muslim household. The interview also includes a sound bite, recorded a few years ago, from Pastor Saeed giving his own testimony of coming out of radical Islam to the feet of Christ.

I have personally heard Naghmeh share her incredible testimony. I highly recommend this interview—be encouraged!

LISTEN NOW

A love letter to humanity: Do you know how much I love you?

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Are you committed to reading the Bible, truly learning who God is? What will happen on Earth in the end times? Does God really want a personal relationship with each one of us? What are His plans for the world, for you? You can find all these answers in the Scriptures! We have added great resources to help you on your journey of learning the TRUTH and receiving the life saving message, authored by our Creator. Click here to delve into the most read book of all time—the BIBLE. God’s love letter to you!

Where do you read God’s word? We’d love to hear how you fit in your reading plan!

UK City Councilman Seeking Crackdown on Street Preachers: It Is ‘Improper’ to ‘Talk About Morality’

UK: Manchester Councillor Pat Karney in the U.K. is seeking to crack down on street preachers, buskers and those who engage in commerce in the public streets says that preachers are wrong to talk about morality in the open air and to make their hearers feel “insecure” with their preaching.

When asked him to clarify whether the city council plans to place restrictions on street preachers as part of his goal to reduce public “nuisances.”

The Christian Institute sent a warning to the council and plan to support the street preachers’ right to address people in public spaces.

The letter says: “The Christian Institute has long supported the rights of street preachers and has funded several legal cases where local authorities or police have unlawfully interfered with those rights.”

Karney intends to silence ‘noisy’ street preachers or those who may provoke members of the public.

And said they would target street preachers who authorities feel project their voice too much or discuss issues that some members of the public may find offensive.

“Preachers do have a right to be out on the streets, but I do not think it right if they are talking about morality,” he stated. “Some talk about race or sexual orientation and that is not proper at all.”

“They’re perfectly entitled to talk about Jesus and the word of God, but not to make anyone feel insecure or threatened,” Karney stated.

While the Christian Institute has not received a written response to its correspondence, and concerned by Karney’s press statement.

“We are still no clearer about whether restrictions will be applied to street preachers in Manchester and remain concerned about potential police action,” it said in a statement. “Councillor Karney has not provided any legal grounds for this crackdown, and runs the risk of legal action being taken if the free speech rights of street preachers are interfered with.”

The article reports several street preachers have been arrested in the UK in recent years over the content of their speech. Read full report

An Answer From God

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(Voice of the Persecuted)  Much time is spent communicating and praying with suffering persecuted Christians. Our hearts are heavy, their burdens weighing beyond measure.  This morning, I asked God how am I to help when so few seem to care? The problem is so large, what can I, a lowly servant do? I was discouraged.  Then the word came ringing in my ear…… Take your burdens to the cross.

Jesus will meet us there.  Today, please join us at the foot of the cross of our precious Savior.  Our burdens will be met by Jesus, and our faith and strength renewed.

C. Refsland, VOP Advocate

 

Attacking Your Neighbor Not The Teaching of Christ

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(Voice of the Persecuted) We are deeply disturbed by the recent news of vandalistic attacks on places of worship.  In the latest news of the Islamic State’s quest to stomp out Christianity, the terrorist group posted images and video footage portraying militants razing the nearly 1,600-year-old Syriac Catholic Mar Elian Monastery. The location is believed to be where Saint Elian was killed by his father, a Roman officer, for refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus. During the destruction, it is claimed they dug up and desecrated the bones of the martyred Christian saint.

Earlier this month, the jihadist captured the town of al-Qaryatain in the Homs province kidnapping more than 230 Syriac Christians.  Purported as ISIS’ biggest military advance since it took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in May, it’s suspected that some of the kidnapped Christians were taken from the town’s ancient monastery. The site is also the location where a priest and church volunteer was abducted in May.

Christians are being slaughtered, cleansed of their lands across the world, as a genocide is taking place. We regularly condemn and demand that governments, particularly Islamic governments, put an end to discrimination and these horrific attacks against Christians. We’ve called on western nations and the international community to stop all ties with nations who continue to promote and condone violence by inaction.  We have asked Muslims to stand up and raise their voices against the violence and those wishing to harm their Christian neighbors.

So how can we call this behavior evil and silently witness abusive acts taking place in the West against people of other faiths?   It’s hypocrisy to not speak out. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He taught us to turn the other cheek.  He gave us the great commission to spread the Gospel in patience and love, but no where in scripture does it tell us to kill, commit acts of violence or desecrate another’s faith.  We are warned to stay away from such religions and doctrines of demons, but no where did Jesus, nor the Apostles attack the Roman government or pagan religions in the manner in which was seen before and today.

In no comparison to what is happening to Christians in strict Islamic nations, evidence of discrimination is happening in the U.S. that should be concerning to Christians, true followers of Christ.

For example, twice in one week, an air conditioning unit was vandalized during prayers at a Virginia mosque, in July.

In a report shared in April, pieces of bacon were left in the parking lot and at the entrance of the Islamic Society of Edmond’s mosque. Police said bacon strips were wrapped around door handles at the mosque in Oklahoma. On April 12th, another mosque was targeted when several windows were shot out by vandals with a bb gun near the campus of Oklahoma State University.

Members of both mosques were concerned about drawing negative attention to their house of worship saying they didn’t want to draw more crazy people to their institutions.

Muslims believe pork is an unclean meat unfit for consumption, so Muslims are to refrain from eating pork. A Muslim commented that the vandals use of bacon was meant to be offensive, but pork is not like Kryptonite and would not stop them from going to worship.

Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the shining light on a hill.  In today’s world, as we approach the end of time, we should be about our Father’s business spreading love and the Gospel.  Not wrapping bacon around the doorposts of mosques or synagogues.  This type of behavior covers the light in darkness.  It’s exactly what the spirit of evil wants, and is mostly likely behind it.  Satan wants to discredit God’s people.  Jew and Christian alike. Understand this, the world is watching us right now. It doesn’t need an excuse to ban Jesus from the public square.  Yet we enable it’s realization, when  Western Nation’s that pride themselves in freedom of worship with the right to choose, exhibit the very behaviors we call evil.

So much death and destruction has wrought callousness in western society, including some in the Church.  To the people experiencing the affects of the chaos, it’s brought much suffering, pain and sorrow you can’t even imagine.  The world is failing miserably as a community to care for those facing persecution and fleeing death.  If you have followed our reports, there’s no need for charts and graphs of statistics to be aware of this.  So much blood, innocent blood has been shed.  So much suffering and pain,  a practical Christian genocide taking place…yet the world never misses a beat to condemn Christianity.

Take the Central African Republic for example.  It’s been called ‘the forgotten crises’.  Lately, much attention has been given to the Daesh and the Mid East and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, but few care to hear about the CAR and the atrocities there.  We have covered this extensively in the past, but it’s back in the news with the worldly blasting Christian militia’s are beheading and slaughtering.  Yet not a mention from the Western media that they are not followers of Christ. Not Christian doctrine or behavior, but behavior of an evil anti-christ spirit that has manifested in Militia’s like the Lord’s Resistance Army.  They’re still very active in this region, even the UN admits their presence and has set up roadblocks and networks to trap them. But due to their cameleon abilities to morph into other groups like the Anti-Balaka to invade, capture and spread their evil doctrine much like the Daesh.

This spirit is not new to the world.  But again, not the doctrine taught by Jesus.  This spirit of evil manifested many times in Biblical history and now in modern times.  Bible history tells us of this evil spirit manifested in ‘Antiochus lV’ that is easily without a stretch, fits today’s events.

He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion.

Again throughout history, evil has existed and present day barbarity is staggering. We, as a Body and the world have are failing. It’s time to show the light and love of Christ to the world instead of selfishness, hatred and revenge.  Stand up, be counted and stand firm or the darkness will overtake you.

Instead of harboring negative feelings towards those of other faiths, open your eyes and see that God is bringing the nations to us! Opening the door for them to hear His Gospel! Share it in love, then let them choose. Let them see His love and light through you. It is God who draws those near to Him, not us. 

If you don’t submit yourself to the Holy Spirit and do God’s will, even if it hurts or goes against the flesh or the carnal, you won’t come out of this crisis. Let our focus be on our Father’s business.

Credit to:

Bible History On Line

Serving those most affected by the crisis, we ask for your help. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope to persecuted Christians.

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Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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Saudi Arabia: The World’s Greatest Hypocrite

Photo: raymondibrahim.com

Photo: raymondibrahim.com

Saudi Arabia recently preached to the international community about the need to confront “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations.”

If this sounds surreal, consider the following excerpts from a July 26 report in the Saudi Gazette(emphasis added):

Saudi Arabia has reiterated its call on the international community to criminalize any actvilifying religious beliefs and symbols of faith as well as all kinds of discrimination based on religion.

 

Saudi Arabia wants Western cartoonists, comedians, and others—people who represent only their individual selves—to stop mocking the religious beliefs and symbols of Islam, even as the Arabian kingdom’s owninstitutionalized policy is to vilify and discriminate against the religious beliefs and symbols of all other faiths.

Not a single non-Muslim worship building is allowed there; the highest Islamic authority decreed that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”  Whenever Christians are suspected of meeting in a house for worship—or as one Saudi official once complained, “plotting to celebrate Christmas”—they arearrested and punished.

Any cross or other non-Muslim symbol found is confiscated and destroyed. Anyone caught trying to smuggle Bibles or any other “publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam” can be executed.

In 2011, a Colombian soccer-player “was arrested by the Saudi moral police after customers in a Riyadh shopping mall expressed outrage over the sports player’s religious tattoos, which included the face of Jesus of Nazareth on his arm.”  In 2010 a Romanian player kissed the tattoo of a cross he had on his arm after scoring a goal, causing public outrage.

And yet, Saudi Arabia has the unmitigated gall to ask the West—where Islam is freely practiced, where mosques and Korans proliferate, and where Muslims are granted full equality—to cease “discrimination based on religion.”

Continues the Saudi Gazette:

Addressing an international symposium on media coverage of religious symbols based on international law, which started in this French city on Saturday, a senior Saudi official said the Kingdom emphasized years ago that the international community must act urgently to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance, which has become widespread in all communities and peoples of the world.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, few countries exhibit as much “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” as does the Arabian kingdom.  Along with the aforementioned discrimination and intolerance against all other religions, Saudi Arabia is notoriously clannish and racist.

Ten percent of the population is denied equal rights because of their race; black men are barred from holding many government positions; black women are often put on trial for “witchcraft”; castrated African slaves are sold on Facebook in the birthplace of Islam, and its princes are known to beat their black slaves to death. Human Rights Watch has described conditions for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia as resembling slavery.

Worse of all is if you’re black and Christian.  After 35 Christian Ethiopians were arrested and abused in prison for almost a year, simply for holding a private house prayer, one of them said after being released: “They [Saudis] are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”

This is unsurprising considering that the Saudi education system makes it a point to indoctrinate Muslim children with hatred, teaching that “the Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians.”

According to Saudi novelist Hani Naqshabandi, “Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought….  They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam.  So we said, ‘Allah’s curse on them.’”

Again, bear in mind that all this is official Saudi policy—not the “free expressions” of individuals, which the Saudis are condemning as creating “ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance” around the world.

The Saudi Gazette goes on to quote one Abdulmajeed Al-Omari, “a senior Saudi official.” Speaking at the recent international symposium in France which hosted representatives from 16 European nations, he said that Western “freedom of expression without limits or restrictions” are “abuses [that] bred intolerance, extremism and human rights violations…”

Again, it bears reemphasizing that in the West individuals are free to express themselves.  And it’s just that—expression, not action (as in murder, terrorism, rape, enslavement, church bombings, or the slaughter of “apostates”).

As for Western governments, thanks to political correctness, not only do they discourage freedom of expression but honest, objective talk concerning Islam is suppressed (hence every Western leader maintains that ISIS “has nothing to do with Islam,” AKA, “the religion of peace”).

Meanwhile, it is precisely Islamic teachings that breed “intolerance, extremism and human rights violations,” and not just in Saudi Arabia but all throughout the Muslim world.  And it is precisely these teachings that prompt Western peoples to criticize Islam, including through cartoons.

None of this is enough to embarrass the Saudis from their farce:

Al-Omari said the Saudi participation in the symposium falls in line with its efforts to support the principles of justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance in the world as well as to emphasize the importance of respecting religions and religious symbols.

Actually, because of Saudi Arabia’s absolute lack of “justice, humanity, promotion of values and the principles of tolerance,” even the U.S. State Department lists the home of Islam and Muhammad as one of eight “Countries of Particular Concern.”

Thus in ultra-hypocritical manner, Saudi Arabia asks the international community to stop exercising freedom of expression—even as it openly and unapologetically persecutes non-Muslims, discriminates against non-Saudis, and violates the most basic of human rights on a daily basis.

It still remains to determine which is more surreal, more unbelievable: that Saudi Arabia, which tops the charts of state-enforced religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination, is calling on the West “to confront ethnic, religious and cultural intolerance,” or that the West deigns to participate in such disgracefully hypocritical forums.

By Raymond Ibrahim cross-posted FrontPageMag

Freed Pastors Arrive Home from Sudan after Ordeal of False Charges, Travel Ban

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(Morning Star News) – Two South Sudanese pastors arrived home in Juba from Khartoum, Sudan today after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment, fabricated charges of capital crimes and a ban on leaving the country.

The Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had ordered the travel ban when they were initially detained – Michael on Dec. 14 and Reith on Jan. 11 – and gave the orders to the airport personnel.

Attorneys for the two pastors have been working for their release since then, but it was not immediately clear how they were able to leave the country today. Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a church in Hai Jebel in Juba, where they attended a thanksgiving service.

“Thank God for their arrival home,” the wife of Michael told Morning Star News after the service.

South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014 broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.

“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.

Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted under Article 65 of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted under Article 69 of “disturbing public peace.”

The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying (Article 53), punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property; undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).

Agents from NISS, said to be manned by hard-line Islamists, arrested the pastors.

Michael, 49, was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested on Jan. 11 after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.

Police in North Khartoum on Dec. 2 beat and arrested 38 Christians from the church that Michael encouraged and fined most of them. They were released later that night.

On Oct. 5, 2013, Sudan’s police and security forces broke through the church fence, beat and arrested Christians in the compound and asserted parts of the property belonged to a Muslim investor accompanying them. As Muslims nearby shouted, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” plainclothes police and personnel from NISS broke onto the property aboard a truck and two Land Cruisers. After beating several Christians who were in the compound, they arrested some of them; they were all released later that day.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.

Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.

Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution, moving up from 11th place the previous year.

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