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Charges against Pastors in Sudan Could Lead to Death Penalty

Sudan-Kwa-Hassan

Rev. Kwa Shamaal and Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor photo: Middle East Concern

During a trial on August 22, 2016, prosecutors in Sudan accused two church leaders and two others of tarnishing the image of the country and crimes calling for the death penalty, sources said.

The trial had been postponed on Aug. 14 when authorities failed to transfer the pastors to court, a defense attorney told Morning Star News. The prosecutors presented investigators from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) in calling on the court in Khartoum to execute the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor and the Rev. Kwa Shamaal, both of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), for at least seven alleged crimes against the state, the defense attorney said.

He said the defense team is bracing for the charges concocted, which include the capital crimes of espionage and waging war against the state. In court, Abdelrahim denied all charges that NISS, said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists with broad powers to arrest people the government deems undesirable, brought against him, the attorney said.

“We are 100 percent ready to defend our clients,” the attorney said.

The pastors have also been charged with: complicity to execute a criminal agreement; calling for opposition of the public authority by violence or criminal force; exciting hatred between classes; propagation of false news article; and entry and photograph of military areas and equipment.

“There is no evidence against the two pastors,” a relative of one of the church leaders told Morning Star News.

Since the pastors’ transfer from a holding cell to Al-Huda Prison on Aug. 11, prison officials have denied them visitors, telling one family member, “Visits are not allowed.” Abdelrahim’s family has been concerned for his health as they have been unable to provide him with the medication he needs for stomach ulcers, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Also charged is Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur, a Muslim who was arrested in December after he began collecting money to help a friend, Ali Omer, who had needed treatment for burns suffered in a student demonstration. Abdumawla contacted Abdelrahim, who donated money for Omer’s treatment, which apparently raised the ire of Sudanese authorities, according to CSW.

Omer had been injured during a demonstration at Quran Karim University in Omdurman last year that left him with severe burns that require regular medical care, according to CSW. A senior member of the student wing of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) died when 150 NCP students attacked Darfuri students at a meeting at Sharg El Nil College in Khartoum in April 2015, CSW reported.

“Since that incident, Darfuri students have been increasingly targeted by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS),” CSW reported. “By May 2015, over 100 Darfuri students were detained by NISS in Khartoum and during 2016, NISS has violently suppressed peaceful student demonstrations against government repression.”

Shamaal, head of missions for the SCOC, was arrested on Dec.18, as was Abdelrahim. Shamaal was released on Dec. 21 but was required to report to NISS offices daily, a requirement that was removed on Jan. 16. Shamaal was re-arrested on May 25.

Many church members, mostly from the SCOC, gathered outside of the courtroom to show their solidarity with the two pastors, singing songs calling for their release.

The court appears to be trying to package the case of Omer and the two pastors together with that of a fourth defendant, 52-year-old Petr Jasek, a Christian from the Czech Republic whom NISS accuses of entering the country illegally in October of last year, espionage and tarnishing the country’s image with reports saying Christians in Sudan are being persecuted.

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

VOP Note: Please pray for these pastors and their families. The next hearing is expected to take place on tomorrow, August 29th.  Father, take their fear and give then hope through Your presence. May Your light shine from them as a witness for all to see. Give them joy unexpected in these dark days. Hold them up as they stand on the firm foundation of faith. In Jesus Holy name, Amen.

Please pray for all our brothers and sisters under constant threat in Sudan.

INDIA – Intolerance and violence against Pentecostal Christians

Indian Christians

(Agenzia Fides) – “There is growing intolerance and hostility toward small Pentecostal Christian communities, that are not allowed to do what is guaranteed by constitutional guarantees”: says to Agenzia Fides Sajan K. George, president of the global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), recalling the recent episodes of violence suffered by Protestant Pentecostal Pastors.

On August 20, Pastor Roy of the “Sharon Fellowship Church Town” was pelted with stones by extremists in Kodungallur, in the state of Kerala. Pastor Roy explained that, over the last five years, during the Sunday liturgies there have always been tension due to the presence of fanatical Hindus militants who want to stop the celebrations.

In another recent incident, in Bangalore, Karnataka, on August 18, a 26-year-old evangelist Christian leader of the Thadou Christian Fellowship Church was attacked and punched by five men, after paying a visit to his friend to lead a prayer meeting.
According to the Pentecostal communities, these attacks are on the rise. Speaking to Fides, Sajan K. George said: “Pastors are not doing anything illegal, or causing problems of public order or security. It is the militants who carry out gratuitous violence on innocent Christians. It is up to the state to give an institutional response, to stop the violence, ensure the rule of law”.

 

India: 8th anniversary of worst incidence of Anti-Christian violence, Christians still waiting for justice

christian-INDIA

On August 25, 2008, nearly 200 villages in Kandhamal were attacked and forced 30,000 people to flee the East-Indian state of Odisha. 300 churches and approx. 5,600 houses were looted and burned to the ground. 2,000 people were reportedly forced to renounce their Christian faith and more than 10,000 children had their education disrupted. The violence against the Christian community in Kandhamal led to the death of about 100 Christians, although the government figures put the figure at 39.

Though incident reports were filed, police investigations were not thorough, cases prematurely closed and offenders not prosecuted. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India said the state needed to re-investigate 315 cases of communal violence from 2008.

“The minorities are as much children of the soil as the majority and the approach has been to ensure that nothing should be done, as might deprive the minorities of a sense of belonging, of a feeling of security, of a consciousness of equality and of the awareness that the conservation of their religion, culture, language and script as also the protection of their educational institutions is a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution… it can, indeed, be said to be an index of the level of civilisation and catholicity of a nation as to how far their minorities feel secure and are not subject to any discrimination or suppression,” read that ruling.

Anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal is not uncommon and Christians in the district have been subject to hate campaigns by Hindu fundamentalists since the 1960s. The violence in 2008 was sparked by the killing of prominent Hindu and the media and police suggested a Maoist group could have been behind the death, however Hindu fundamentalists blamed the Christian community.

India’s Christian communities are tense as violence against them has been on the rise. Please pray for them.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Together with your generous help, 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. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDcare for His children and to 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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Convert explains journey to Christianity, and why he left Iran

 

 

World Watch Monitor

World Watch Monitor

In Iran, converting from Islam to Christianity can land you in prison or even get you killed. However, many Iranians – considered “Muslims” regardless of personal beliefs – still “convert”. World Watch Monitor spoke to one such “convert”, a 27-year-old now living in Europe, about the challenges he faced along the way, and why he left Iran.

(Mohabat News)  “[My family] were Muslims, but never very strict. We had a good life; my parents were both teachers and my father had some small businesses aside from that. My father was always busy finding ways to earn more and more money. He always followed Islam, except when it had to do with money; money was more important than religion.

“Like my dad, I also loved money. Money gives you friends, respect and fun. I just wanted to have fun growing up. Every night I spent time with my friends, going from place to place in the city; at the same time I genuinely tried to be a good Muslim. But it was hard. Sometimes I would try to say my prayers regularly, but I soon forgot about them or skipped them to sleep in, or have fun with friends. As a Muslim, I often had the feeling that I was failing on so many sides. Then I thought, ‘I’m lacking in so many ways. I will not go to heaven anyway. What is the point?’

“I was sent to a religious leader – trained especially to help Christian converts from a Muslim background return to Islam – by a friend who was worried about my sudden interest in Christianity.”

“I was surprised when one day I found myself having a strange thought: ‘Go and find out about Christianity’. I was startled. Why would I find out about Christianity? I didn’t know any Christians, and from what I’d heard, it was an old-fashioned religion and Christians were weird people. On top of that, it was dangerous. Why would I choose the chance of imprisonment and death above having fun?

“Time passed, but the thought didn’t go away. So one day I thought: ‘I’ll just do it. I will go and talk to some of those weird guys.’ So I took the bus to a church in a different part of the city. When I finally found the church, I asked the porter if I could ask him a question. ‘No,’ he replied curtly. I remember thinking all the way back to the bus: ‘Wow, what I’ve heard is right. These are seriously weird guys.’ It was only much later that I found out that the government had actually forbidden church members to answer any questions about Christianity to me or any other Muslim.

“I tried to go to other churches, but I got the same response there. I had already given up when one night the thought came back in a very intense way. I can’t find words to describe it. The thought reoccurred in my mind: ‘Go and find out about Christianity and learn how these people think about God.’ The feeling confused me. Did I drink too much alcohol? I had trouble sleeping that night because I was thinking how I could find out more.

“Then I remembered my friend. He worked for a security force investigating illegal ‘underground’ activities. His job was to track all underground activities, including ‘underground’ Christianity and illegal evangelism. Asking him was my last chance. I knew that my friend could get into a lot of trouble by helping me to contact with someone who could tell me more about Christianity, so I decided to bring up the issue playfully so he wouldn’t notice I was actually being serious. My plan worked. My friend gave me the address of a church that he knew was open to Muslims.
“I was so excited! I’d learned that Sunday was the day of the Christians, so the next Sunday I went to the address my friend gave me. When I got closer I saw that there was a worship service going on. At the time I knew nothing about Christianity, so I didn’t know exactly what they were doing. I didn’t know how long it would take. But I just decided to wait outside until someone came out.

“When the service ended a man came out. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ I asked him. He looked at his watch and replied, ‘Sorry, I am in a hurry now, but please come back next week and ask for me. I thought he might be acting out of politeness, but I decided to try anyhow.

“The week after, I stood by the door of the church again. I was looking for the man, but didn’t see him. I started to feel quite uncomfortable. Then someone came to me and asked: ‘Can I help you?’ I told him I was looking for the man who had told me to come back. He said: ‘Unfortunately, he is not here right now.’

“I was about to walk away, when he asked me a dangerous question: ‘Do you want to come in and enjoy the service?’ Now, I have to explain to you that this is something you just don’t do as a Muslim in Iran. So, my first thought was: ‘No, no, no!’ But at the same time I knew this was the moment. So I took a deep breath and said yes.

“My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they didn’t give me a lot of trouble. It was because of the people who discipled me that I eventually chose to leave the country. If the authorities would have found me, it would have led to those people, and they would have been in big trouble.”

“The man opened the door for me. I had seen many mosques from the inside. Big ones, small ones, old and modern. But the feeling I had when I entered the church was something I’ve never felt before. It wasn’t even the way it looked.

“I had seen churches on TV. So it wasn’t so much the sight that startled me, it was the way it felt. It felt so peaceful. Walking past the pews I felt like I was in an aquarium; it was like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. I sat there and felt overwhelmed. I stood up when everyone stood up and sat down when everyone else did. I don’t remember anything from the first sermon, I was too consumed with my feelings.

“After the service there was coffee and tea. A man asked me: ‘You’re here for the first time, right?’ I said yes. I asked him if I could ask him questions about God. He said: ‘Not here, but please come to my home’.

“So I went to his home. I came with a lot of questions. The answers were strange, but in a good way. It was, for instance, the way he talked about heaven. ‘A place in God’s absolute presence,’ he [called it]. ‘A place in which your spirit is at peace totally with your creator.’

“In Islam heaven is a place where you can have all sorts of things you can’t have on earth – different sorts of women for your satisfaction, wine, etc. I hadn’t heard about the Christian idea of heaven before, but somehow his words about heaven made complete sense to me.
“[He] also told me that God isn’t a far-away person but someone who created the earth and put us as humans in the centre. He made us in his image. He even gave us a piece of his very own Spirit. I compared him to Allah, who was far away and got angry about the little things. But with the Christian God I was welcome the way I was. He created me with my weaknesses, he even used my weaknesses to be more like Him. This was a big difference from Allah, who would punish me for any small thing. No, God was my Father, someone who knew me as a person.

“Still, my Muslim background was too strong to just let go. It took a lot of struggling. I told God: ‘If you really care, please show me the way.’

“The funny thing is that apart from that church member, one of the people who helped me understand Christianity during that period was someone who had exactly the opposite intention – a ‘mini-Ayatollah,’ as I call him. This religious leader was trained especially to help Christian converts from a Muslim background return to Islam. I was sent to him by a friend who was worried about my sudden interest in Christianity. But with everything the religious leader said about Islam, I found an alternative in the Bible that was much better.

“It wasn’t a specific moment, a lightning flash or a dream. It happened gradually that I became a Christian. It was like the curtains that had been hanging in front of the truth for a long time had been opened for me. What I saw was beautiful.

“I didn’t tell my family: ‘Surprise! I am a Christian now!’ They discovered gradually. I had always been a bad boy and I started behaving differently. For instance, I brought the [dramatized life of] “Jesus” DVD home and watched it with my little brother. They’d expected me to go on drugs, or get in trouble with the police. They didn’t expect me to become a Christian.

“My parents weren’t happy about my new faith, but they also didn’t give me a lot of trouble. It was because of the people who discipled me that I eventually chose to leave the country. If the authorities would have found me, it would have led to those who discipled me, and they would have been in big trouble.

“I was 18 when I left home. Now I am 27. I haven’t been back in Iran since. I haven’t seen my family in 10 years. It’s a big sacrifice. But despite everything, I am undoubtedly happy and thankful.”

VOP Note: It’s quite interesting how God used an unlikely source to help this young man find the Truth. Please remember Iranian Christians in your prayers.

  • Pray for Iranian Christian converts choosing Jesus despite the danger and reality of persecution.
  • For those seeking to find the life saving message in the Gospel.
  • Though unhappy about his conversion, the young man’s family didn’t put extreme pressure him. This is not the case for many others. Pray for discernment and wisdom. Pray families will see the light of Christ shining through their converted family members and be drawn to faith by the Lord.
  • Pray for the authorities. That their hearts will soften.
  • Pray for Christians being pressured to return to Islam to endure and not deny their Christian faith.
  • For those imprisoned for their faith to be released.
  • Pray for the move of the Holy Spirit over the land of Persia and the spread of Christianity now taking place—second only to China.
  • For God to have mercy on the people of Iran. That they will come to know Jesus and have a place in His Kingdom.

Write To Encourage Maryam Naghash Zargaran (Nasim) imprisoned in Iran for her Faith in Christ #FreeMaryamNaghashZargaran

Maryam Naghash Zargaran-Nasim

(Voice of the Persecuted) Maryam Naghash-Zargaran – Nasim was arrested and put into prison for practicing her right to believe in the religion of her choice. In this case it is Christianity.

She was sentenced to 4 years on July 15, 2013 in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Maryam is in ill health, and has suffered a heart attack while in prison.

Why is Maryam in prison?

When she was arrested, Maryam was involved with the establishment of an orphanage in Iran. Despite having no political agenda, an Iranian Revolutionary Court falsely declared Maryam’s Christian activities to be proof that she was ‘acting against the security of the Iranian nation’. Her imprisonment violates international law, to which Iran is a party, which guarantees freedom of religion and belief.

Maryam’s Health

In September 2013, Maryam was transferred to Modares hospital on Sunday to be treated for her heart disease. Having had heart surgery before, mental pressures in prison resulted in her heart attack, and as a result she was transferred to hospital. To date, there is still no detailed news about her condition.

Additionally, Maryam is suffering depression due to the effects of prison conditions.

Her friends, are determined to ensure that Maryam is not forgotten.

Like Maryam’s Facebook Page, and please mention Maryam on Twitter with the Hashtag #FreeMaryamNaghashZargaran

Postcards to Evin Prison

Please continue to send postcards to Maryam at Evin Prison.

Your words and letters to Maryam will not be wasted if you write. The postcards and letters you write will make a big difference to Maryam, letting her know that she has not been forgotten. Feel free to use scripture, but please do not write negative comments about the Iranian government. Messages will be read by the prison guards.

Write to:
Maryam Naghash-Zargaran – Nasim
Evin Prison
Saadat Abad
Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran

Please continue to Pray for our Iranian sister and for those who have the power release her. Write and send a postcard of support and let her know that she is not forgotten. If you have a Facebook account, you can stay updated on her situation and get a message to her by sharing it as a comment here. Stand United with our persecuted brothers and sisters. Thank you for praying, raising awareness and writing to those imprisoned for their faith! (Hebrews 13:3) One in the Body of Christ

God Bless you!

Watch and Hear The Gospel of Matthew!

Have you ever read the Gospel according the Matthew straight through in one sitting? … Do you ever spend hours watching television shows? In 1993, Christian filmmakers set out to make a Jesus film which would be Word-for-Word the Gospel. What emerged was a presentation of Jesus in exultant joy (Hebrews 1:9) and deep passion – a Man who was God on His knees in the sand, weeping over people’s pain, reaching His healing hand into their broken lives; a Man who restrained all the power of the universe and allowed His blood to fall to the ground…for you. The year is about 62 A.D., and the aging apostle Matthew recalls the remarkable events he witnessed as a young man. As his story unfolds, the centuries melt away and we are intimately involved in the life of Jesus. The mystery and the wonder of His birth—His baptism and temptation in the wilderness—The compassion and hope of the Sermon on the Mount. Walk with Jesus through Galilee as He calls His disciples, performs miracles, and begins teaching His world-changing message of love and redemption. This deeply moving presentation is a unique word-for-word presentation in the NIV.  The movie is over 4 hours long. Watch it in segments if your unable to view it all.

You probably don’t need to hear reasons that it’s important to read the Bible. You know it is. But you might need some motivation. We hope this will encourage you to open your Bible and take up reading it again. While watching, pause the movie and read the Gospel of Matthew in your Bible. Experience God’s Word afresh, and His promises for you anew. HE loves you!

Seven Christians Killed in North-Central Nigeria by Muslim Fulani Cattle Herders

Fulani herdsmen

Muslim Fulani herdsmen

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked a predominantly Christian village in north-central Nigeria on Saturday (Aug. 13), killing seven Christians, sources said.

Two weeks after herdsmen attacked a nearby area in Kaduna state, the assailants attacked Golkofa village in the same state’s Jema’a Local Government Area on Saturday night, they said.

“The Christians were killed in their homes,” Golkofa resident Sunday Saleh told Morning Star News. “Some of the victims were shot while others were cut with machetes.”

Saleh said the seven Christians killed were Thomas Maimasara, 40, and Sabo Boyi, 25, both cousins of his; Bobo Okocha, 18; Monday Hamza, 24; Waje Rubutu, 17; Linus, 20; and Julius, 19. The latter five Christians were members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Golkofa, he said.

Golkofa village is about five kilometers (three miles) from Gada Biyu village, where similar attacks killed 13 people Aug. 1-3.

Saleh said Nigerian police evacuated the corpses of Saturday’s attack at about noon on Sunday and took them to Kafanchan General Hospital. The victims were to be buried on Wednesday (Aug 17).

The Rev. Dr. Sunday Ibrahim, secretary of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), confirmed the killings in a phone interview with Morning Star News.

“These attacks on Christian communities are senseless and uncalled for,” he said. “Why carry out attacks on communities without provocation? The Nigerian government needs to stop these killings by these Muslim herdsmen.”

The chairman of the state chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, Dr. Haruna Usman, told The Daily Trust newspaper that he was unaware of the attack but noted that herdsmen injured an area farmer on June 26, and in revenge village youths burned down a Fulani settlement.

The Rt. Rev. Timothy Yahaya, Anglican bishop of Kaduna, told Morning Star News that Christians have been attacked incessantly in the state.

“The attacks by the herdsmen on Christian communities are not only condemnable but must be stopped by the Nigerian government,” he said. “We are tired of these bloody attacks on Christians, not only in Kaduna state, but also in other parts of the country.”

Kaduna and Plateau states have been plagued by such attacks for years, with Fulani leaders making unsubstantiated claims of cattle rustling by youths among the predominantly Christian farmers as the pretext for the killings. In recent years there are signs that Islamic extremist groups are arming and/or accompanying Muslim Fulani herdsmen and inciting them in their tribal and economic conflicts with Christian farmers. The assaults on unarmed Christians have reached central-eastern states such as Taraba and Benue, as well as more southern areas.

In Jalingo, Taraba state, Catholic Bishop Charles Hammawa told ChurchMilitant.com that Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, has helped arm Muslim herdsmen against Christian farmers and drive them out. He called it a new strategy Boko Haram is employing after losing substantial territory in the past year.

“It appears to be a strategy to deliberately populate areas with Muslims and, by the sheer weight of superior numbers, influence political decision-making in the region,” he said.

Church leaders say attacks on Christian communities by the herdsmen constitute a war “by Islam to eliminate Christianity” in Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north.

A new leader recently took power of Boko Haram, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who has reportedly promised to kill more Christians and burn down more churches.

A faction of Boko Haram remaining faithful to former leader Abubakar Shekau reportedly released a video via a journalist on Twitter purporting to show many of the 276 girls kidnapped from a high school in Chibok, Borno state in April 2014.

In a propaganda video apparently made in part to garner funding as the main Boko Haram group continues to receive foreign financing, one of the girls speaks of their suffering from aerial bombing as she begs “my people and our parents” to urge the Nigerian government to release Boko Haram prisoners so the girls can return to their families.

KAZAKHSTAN: Will Elderly Christians Face Punishment For Praying

Kazakhstan

KAZAKHSTAN: By Felix Corley, Forum 18—On 25 August, a Judge in East Kazakhstan Region will decide whether to fine seven members of a Baptist congregation for meeting for worship without state permission. Two of the seven are aged 79, a decade younger than another Baptist fined in 2016.

In hearings throughout the morning of 25 August, Judge Aigul Saduakasova in East Kazakhstan Region is set to decide whether or not to punish seven local Baptists for meeting for worship without state permission. Their small congregation was raided twice in early August. Two of those facing possible fines – Olga Berimets and Zoya Tobolina – are 79 years old.

If punished, the 79-year-old pensioners would not be the oldest known victims of such punishments for exercising the right to freedom of religion or belief. On 22 May, at the age of 89 and a half, former Soviet-era Baptist prisoner of conscience Yegor Prokopenko was again fined for leading a meeting for worship in Zyryanovsk in East Kazakhstan Region. A police officer fined him 100 Monthly Financial Indicators (MFIs), 212,100 Tenge. This represents about seven weeks’ average wages for those in work, but far more for pensioners like Prokopenko (see F18News 14 June 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2188).

Yakov Skornyakov – another Baptist and former Soviet-era freedom of religion or belief prisoner of conscience – was also 79 when he was given a massive fine for his religious activity in 2006, two years before his death (see F18News 13 April 2006http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=759).

Meanwhile, two Baptist Churches which belong to the Baptist Union in West Kazakhstan Region were raided by officials in early July as they held summer camps for local children. Officials and local journalists they brought along claim the churches were attracting young people, that children might have been present at a religious event without their parents’ consent and that foreigners were present as “missionaries” without having the required state permission. The raids left the children feeling “frightened”, the pastor complained (see forthcoming F18News article).

“Civil disobedience”

More than 25 individuals are known to have been fined in the first half of 2016 for exercising the right to freedom of religion and belief without state permission. The known victims were Muslims, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and commercial traders (see F18News 15 July 2016 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2199).

Council of Churches Baptists have adopted a policy of “civil disobedience”, refusing to pay fines for exercising their human rights without state permission. Prokopenko has refused to pay his latest fine, and – if punished – the seven Baptists in East Kazakhstan Region similarly seem likely to refuse to pay.

Many Baptists who refuse to pay such fines are then place on Kazakhstan’s exit blacklist, preventing them from leaving the country. Some have property confiscated, such as washing machines or cars. Others have restraining orders placed on property, such as homes, cars or calves, preventing them from selling or disposing of them (see F18News 13 May 2016http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2177).

Raids on meetings for worship

On 7 August, Police raided a small Baptist congregation as it met for Sunday worship in a home in the village of Kalbatau in Zharma District of East Kazakhstan Region, local Baptists complained to Forum 18 on 16 August. When the service was over and church members were leaving, officers began to question them about what had happened.

The home owner, Yakov Frizen, put the elderly church members in his car to take them to their homes. However, police officers ordered him to take them to the local police station. He refused, and took them to their homes. Officers followed in their car and, having summoned another vehicle, took all those who had been present to the police station. They ordered Frizen to follow their car also.

Police Investigator Erzhan Donenbayev ordered 83-year-old Andrei Berimets, 79-year-old Olga Berimets, and 79-year-old Zoya Tobolina, as well as home owner Frizen and another church member Natalya Kvach to write statements. Then, after returning their identity documents, allowed them to leave the police station.

Police officers then visited three other people in their homes, Yevgeny Seleznev, Nina Gurzhueva and Shezhana Bondarenko. Gurzhueva and Bondarenko are not church members but attend worship services. All three were forced to write statements, church members told Forum 18.

Several days later, eight of those present were summoned to the District Akimat (administration). At least seven of the eight were handed records of an offence under Administrative Code Article 490, Part 1.

Article 490, Part 1 punishes “Violation of the demands established in law for the conducting of religious rites, ceremonies and/or meetings; carrying out of charitable activity; the import, production, publication and/or distribution of religious literature and other materials of religious content (designation) and objects of religious significance; and building of places of worship and changing the designation of buildings into places of worship” with fines for individuals of 50 MFIs.

The church held a further meeting for worship at Frizen’s home on 11 August, with guests from Germany and Russia. During the worship meeting, several police cars full of officers waited outside. After the meeting was over, officers asked permission to come into the yard, then demanded the identity documents of the foreigners present. Officers videoed the foreigners’ passports.

As the foreign guests were leaving the village, police detained them. They ordered two of them to write statements. Police officers visited an elderly church member and again asked what had happened at the worship meeting.

“How can the police have raided a private home?”

The duty police officer at Kalbatau police station – who did not give his name – told Forum 18 on 17 August that Investigator Donenbayev is on holiday, as was Police Chief Rolan Orazgaliyev. Asked why his fellow officers had raided the Baptist congregation twice, the officer responded: “How can the police have raided a private home?” He refused to answer any further questions and put the phone down.

Meirambek Kameshev, who is in charge of supervising local religious communities at the District Akimat’s Internal Policy Department, said that he had prepared the records of an offence against seven church members. “If the Police get any more statements, they will hand them over,” he told Forum 18 on 17 August. “But I don’t think cases will be brought against any of the others.”

Asked why anyone should be punished for holding or attending a meeting for worship, Kameshev insisted that the law bans such meetings and those violating this should be punished. “We all have to submit to our laws,” he insisted to Forum 18.

Asked if the church members would have faced cases had they met to drink vodka, watch football on television or read Pushkin’s poetry, Kameshev responded: “Of course not. But there is a great difference between that and religious activity.” He declined to explain what the “great difference” is. “If they simply registered and then met for worship, the police would have no complaint.”

Told that the church – like other Council of Churches Baptist congregations – chooses not to seek legal status and that meeting without state permission is protected under Kazakhstan’s international human rights commitments, Kameshev disagreed. “I didn’t say that they’re causing any harm, but let them register and then pray.”

25 August court hearings

The seven administrative cases – against Bondarenko, Olga Berimets, Gurzhueva, Kvach, Seleznev, Tabolina and Frizen – were handed to Zharma District Court. On 17 August, Judge Aigul Saduakasova, who is due to hear the cases, set the hearings to take place at half-hourly intervals from 9.30 am on 25 August, according to court records seen by Forum 18.

The court chancellery confirmed to Forum 18 on 17 August that seven church members are facing cases brought by the District Internal Policy Department.

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