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Prayer Call scheduled before Andrew Brunson’s next hearing in Turkish court

JOIN THE PRAYER CALL!

(Voice of the Persecuted) Andrew Brunson is an American citizen who lived in Turkey for over 20 years. He led a small church in Izmir and, along with his wife, had raised their three children there. The couple then decided to apply for permanent residency in this nation of people whom they greatly loved. On Oct. 7, they were called to a local police station with no worries beliving they were finally approved for residency. However, the Brunson’s were detained and his wife released shortly after. Andrew’s arrest followed the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. The Turkish government is using evidence based on the testimony of a “secret witness’ against Andrew who maintains his innocence. Now Andrew is facing the third hearing of his trial, next week. Some are calling the case a sham trial to force the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 failed coup by President Erdogan’s government. In March of this year, his daughter spoke on behalf of her father in front of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Many are warning of the recent changes taking place in Turkey. It has one of the lowest rankings in the world in terms of freedom of press. The regime continues to abuse the rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech, of association, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Those not belonging to Sunni Islam are under suspicion and Christians in Turkey, a small minority, have been under increasing pressure and victims of intolerance.

At the last hearing, Andrew repeatedly denied charges that he was involved with terrorism and espionage. Brunson said in his defense,

“I am helping Syrian refugees, they say that I am aiding the PKK. I am setting up a church, they say I got help from Gülen’s network.”

There is not one photograph or tape recording praising the PKK at the (Izmir) Resurrection Church. Our church had several Turkish followers. Our doors were open to everyone. I strived to prevent politics entering the church.”

“My service that I have spent my life on, has now turned upside down. I was never ashamed to be a server of Jesus, but these claims are shameful and disgusting.”

In an effort to be united in prayer before and when Andrew enters the courtroom, Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch is inviting Christians to join together on an 8 hour open prayer conference call that will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Tuesday, July 17th and continue to 3 a.m. EST on the 18th.

Andrew’s wife recently shared,

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for persevering in prayer with us. I pass on your comments to Andrew from time to time. YOU, the body of Christ, are truly amazing! Where else do people love and pray for others they’ve never met? What a testimony YOU have been. The summer heat means Andrew can’t sleep well as he is constantly drenched in sweat. He makes a point of offering that up as a sacrifice. He is not wanting to exaggerate the discomfort of heat – he knows that many have been in much worse conditions.
He has been calmer recently as is trying to see things through the lenses of demonstrating the value, the worth of Jesus – that those whom He loves and who love Him are willing to suffer for him. He often prays “Father, cause to burst into flame in me the love you have for Jesus, that I may be a fervent, ardent lover of Him, willing to undergo whatever is asked.”
Please remember the next hearing date – July 18.

When one hears about the persecuted, they may ask, “What can I do, I am only one person?” It’s simple, that person can pray. James reminds us that the prayer of a righteous person is very powerful and effective. (James 5:16).

Jesus says that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we can move mountains. For nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20).

Imagine one person who is righteous and has faith as small as a mustard seed. What can that person accomplish in their prayers? Then imagine hundreds, if not thousands, of intercessors with that same mustard seed faith. What can they accomplish in Christ through their prayers?I

In Hebrews 13:3 we’re asked, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” In this verse, those being described as in prison and being mistreated were Christians experiencing persecution for their faith. The verse also highlights the oneness we should feel as believers in the Body of Christ.

As the next court date draws near, let us not forget the importance of the call in Hebrews 13:3. Brothers and sisters, let us continue to remember, in our prayers, Andrew Brunson and the thousands of brothers and sisters imprisoned for their faith throughout the world.

Please join us on the 8 hour prayer conference call next Tuesday, as we come together praying for the release of our brother, Andrew, and the global persecuted church, believing God will act on their behalf.

“If only you would tear the heavens open and come down, so that mountains would quake at your presence—just as fire kindles brushwood, and fire boils water—to make your name known to your enemies, so that nations will tremble at your presence! When you did awesome works that we did not expect, you who came down, and the mountains quaked at your presence. From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him.”  Isaiah 64:1-4 (CSB) BELIEVE!

Many are sensing a rising level of expectancy that God will intervene in the imprisonment of Andrew Brunson. For those who would like to pray together for Andrew, before next Tuesday’s 8 hour call, we will host nightly 1-1 1/2 hour prayer calls starting at 9 p.m. EST (use the same call number and access code). Please join us, tonight, as we unite with other believers around the world to pray for God Sovereign purposes to be done in the nation of Turkey and in the life of our brother, Andrew Brunson, and all Christians living there. May the name of Jesus be glorified in our brother’s imprisonment. Call information is below.
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Just as a father hears and answers the cries of his child. Let us trust that God will do great things through our prayers, as he has many times in the past and still doing today.
The disciples of Jesus asked two things of him.  Lord teach us to pray and Lord increase our faith.  My goodness. In the things that we ask God for, are not prayer and faith two most important things. In the short video below, we’re reminded of our holy sovereign Father in heaven through this beautiful depiction of the Lord’s Prayer.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!

8 HOUR PRAYER CONFERENCE CALL

Location: Any location from your phone

When: Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Length of call: 8 Hours (Note: You’re not required to commit to 8 hours. Come on the call and pray as your time allows.)

Time of the Call:

7 p.m. Eastern time

6 p.m. Central time

5 p.m. Mountain time

4 p.m. Pacific time

Call number: 712.775.7035
Access code: 281207#
We believe prayer works. Stay on the call 5 minutes, 5 hours, or as long as you feel led. Your prayers make a huge difference in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Lord willing, I look forward to praying with you on the 8-hour call.

Your brother in Christ,

Blaine Scogin

pwprayercall@gmail.com

Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

PRINT PRAYER CALL FLYERView and download printable PDF flyer here

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier.Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

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(Note: If you will be using one of the call numbers below, you may experience issues in your country. If you are unable to connect, try using the VoIP dialer available at this link. Click on VoIP dialer, go to this number 712-775-7035 in the drop down menu—enter access code 281207 (do not add the # symbol)—enter your name and click on the ‘Place Call’ button.

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Sixteen Christians arrested for ‘forced conversions’ of tribals in Jharkhand

(AsiaNews) – Police in Jharkhand arrested 16 missionaries on Sunday on charges of converting tribal Adivasi by force to Christianity, the Press Trust of India reported.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that “In Jharkhand, extreme right-wing groups systematically persecute members of religious minorities, especially Christians.”

The arrests took place in the District of Dumka, after Ramesh Hembrom, village chief in Phoolpahari, filed a complaint.

Seven women were among those taken into custody. Police Superintendent Kishore Kaushal said that those arrested were part of a group of 25 “preachers” held hostage “by an angry mob of tribals living in the village”.

According to the policeman, the Christians were held for two days by residents in the Shikaripara area, who accused them of insulting a place of tribal worship.

The police did not disclose the names of the Christian missionaries involved in the case of alleged forced conversions. “We are verifying the allegations,” Kaushal said.

The officer noted that in his complaint, Hembrom claimed that the attempt to convert the tribals to Christianity had been going on for several months.

He said that he had seized several posters and copies of religious texts in the possession of the accused.

Manoj Kumar Thakur, head of the Shikaripara police station, told the Indian newspaper that his officers are trying to identify “the network behind the conversion attempts” that violate the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Act. Read more

International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria

VOP Note: For the past 5 years, Nigerian Christian leaders and rights activists have been trying warn the world that a genocide was taking place against the Christians in the North. The barbaric acts of jihadist groups, Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen, still continue unabated as more than 6000 Christians have been killed since the start of 2018. Where is the international concern and outcry? (Raymond Ibrahim) —In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a “pure genocide,” 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, “There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage.”

The statement condemned the recent attacks, “where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them.”

The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were “mostly children, women and the aged…  What is happening in … Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

The details of the murder of these thousands, though seldom reported, are often grisly: many were either hacked to death or beheaded with machetes; others were burned alive (including inside locked churches or homes); and women are often sexually assaulted or even raped before being slaughtered.

For long, both the Nigerian government and the U.S. government have sought to present this protracted jihad as territorial clashes between the haves (apparently always Christians) and haves-not (apparently always Muslims).

For instance, in 2012, Bill Clinton said that “inequality” and “poverty” are “what’s fueling all this stuff” (the “stuff” being a reference to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria).  Following the 2012 Easter Day bombing of a Nigerian church that left 39 worshippers dead, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said, “I want to take this opportunity to stress one key point and that is that religion is not driving extremist violence” in Nigeria.  Similarly, the Obama administration reportedly agreed to spend $600 million in a USAID initiative launched to ascertain the “true causes” of unrest and violence in Nigeria—which naturally lay in the socio-economic, never the religious, realm.

In its recent statement, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria denied these claims. After saying that those responsible for slaughtering Christians are always allowed to “go scot free” by the Nigerian government—which further portrays the attacks as “farmers/herdsmen clashes”—it inquired:

“How can it be a clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, [and] destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?”

On May 2, the National Christian Elders Forum — a wing of the Christian Association, the members of which average the age of 75 and come from Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones — met with the British High Commission in an effort to receive support. (Days before the meeting, around 30 Muslim herdsmen had stormed a church during early morning Mass and murdered nearly 20 parishioners and two clergymen.) The group’s executive summary of issues included:

It is clear to the Christian Elders that JIHAD has been launched in Nigeria by the Islamists of northern Nigeria led by the Fulani ethnic group [the “herdsmen”]. This Jihad is based on the Doctrine of Hate taught in Mosques and Islamic Madrasas in northern Nigeria as well as the supremacist ideology of the Fulani. Using both conventional (violent) Jihad, and stealth (civilization) Jihad, the Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation. The current 1999 Constitution is plagued with dual conflicting ideology of Democracy and Sharia. There are certain values which are non-negotiable in a pluralistic society and it seems the advocates of the Caliphate do not respect this. A dual-ideology-driven Nigeria cannot be the Nigeria of our dream. We want a Nigeria, where citizens are treated equally before the law at all levels…. Bearing in mind that Christians constitute over 50% of the Nigerian population, the goal of the Islamists is bound to create serious conflicts which if not checked is capable of escalating into another civil war. Already, the Islamists are murdering Christians with impunity and destroying vulnerable Christian places of worship and communities at an alarming and inhuman rate.

That 6,000 Christians, “mostly children, women and the aged,” have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.

It took three times as long (a year-and-a-half, between December 2013 to July 2015), for example, for the same Muslim herdsmen to slaughter a total of 1,484 Christians (532 men, 507 women, and 445 children), critically wound 2,388 Christians (1,069 men, 817 women, and 502 children), and burn or destroy 171 churches.

The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad. As a result, the death toll of Christians has only risen — and will likely continue to grow exponentially — until such time that this reality is not only acknowledged but addressed. Cross posted on Gatestone Institute

Calls for action

Sent to Voice of the Persecuted by one of our contacts,

“I am very far from Nigeria but the sad and bad news from Plateau State are not far from me. I hear that herdsmen are on the prowl again and there is bloodshed, murder of infants, youths, men and women in huge numbers in our beloved land of “peace and tourism”. The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction to homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians.

The  gruesome murders have robbed me of the enthusiasm, energy and pride with which I came to Canada and America. I came boasting to the various audiences I had – whether in Church prayer gatherings or discussion groups, at media interviews or during interactions with officials of Foreign Affairs  Ministry, about the huge potentials in Nigeria and how even in the midst of violence caused either by Boko Haram, militant herdsmen or the yet to be identified “foreign invaders”, peace is very possible as we are determined to sustain the culture of civilized conduct and peace. I declared emphatically that I am proud of being a Nigerian and cannot apologize for that conviction. I have talked to hundreds of people in Canada and the United States of America, assuring them that Nigerians are a hard working, religious, resilient and peaceful people. I told my friends who have been postponing their visit to Nigeria for ten years now due to security issues not to be afraid. I told them to “come and see”. Last year, I hosted visitors from 12 countries from South America, Asia and Europe and they all returned home safely after visiting Jos and even  Maiduguri.  I therefore renewed my invitation to my friends to come to Jos and they will experience that the people are a kind-hearted, loving and peaceful people and not what they read in exaggerated media reports.

While I am still here making frantic positive propaganda for my country Nigeria,  inhuman and diabolical killings have taken place in parts of Plateau State. What do I tell the friends I have convinced to come, the youths I interacted with telling them how beautiful Nigeria is? What of the messages of hope  about Nigeria that I gave  in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New York, Portsmouth, Milwaukee, etc, telling everyone about the goodness of my beloved country? Was I lying? Why should I be confronted with such embarrassing news while I am still on “active duty” here as an unrecognized and unappreciated ambassador for Nigeria – a duty I have performed selflessly in many parts of the world for over two decades now. Wherever I find myself I have tried to promote the positive image of our dear country, of course, not neglecting it’s dark sides.

While I am out here, people are still asking me questions about the Chibok girls, the Dapchi girls, especially of Leah. They ask me what they hear about the murderous terrorists called herdsmen who kill priests and lay faithful at worship or defenseless people on the farms. They join me in worrying that these murderous agents don’t seem to have in sight the end of their massive destruction to lives and property.

In the course of my journey I have also met with government officials and tried to put up strong arguments about why there is violence and destruction in our land, blaming  corruption, poverty and bad governance and begging them (officials abroad) to genuinely intervene to speed our socio-economic progress. Now, with this indescribable wickedness of killers in Plateau State and other parts of the Middle Belt where the poison of extreme violence is emitted intermittently from the wells of their evil hearts, meant to cause monumental loss to lives and property, is there still justification in telling the “good news” about Nigeria?

I have shared the story of multidimensional peace efforts in Nigeria, using our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos as an example. DREP is an initiative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos meant to offer a neutral place where reconciliation of aggrieved parties takes place and also the Interfaith Vocational Training Centre in Bokkos near Barkin Ladi, where Muslim youths and Christian youths are trained for two years in vocational skills and helped to appreciate the civilized culture of dialogue instead of hostile confrontation at the slightest feeling of provocation. I explained how shortly before I left Nigeria we were at meetings in DREP Centre in Jos with the Fulani and Irigwe ethnic groups to strategize on how to evert further killings. We even agreed to hold an interfaith prayer session in August.

Today, when I heard that the killings have resumed, I called His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong and my Vicar General Msgr. Cletus Gotan, who both kindly explained the pathetic situation to me,  and all of them felt so flabbergasted at the turn of events by the gruesome murders.
Could our President come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. I believe not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. Is it because of the so-called “hidden agenda” or  simply the absence of courage, determination,  patriotism  and political will? The Igbos who merely attempted secession were brutalized and suppressed. Who will suppress these raging evil killers? Quod erat demonstrandum.” —Bishop Ignatius Kaigama

“World watches in awe as 12 boys are being rescued from imminent death by floods in Thailand while Nigeria watches as hundreds die avoidably for cows.” —Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe

Nigeria’s bishops call again on president to save country from ‘avoidable chaos’ or resign

“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the statement said. “Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”

“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases.

“Once again,” the bishops said, “we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save this country from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom.” Should he not take action to promote peace, he should step down from his role, the statement said, as he would lose “the trust of the citizens.”  Read more

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. 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 care for His children and to further HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDHis 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!

Death Toll in Jos, Nigeria Attacks at 218, including Pastor, Wife and Son

Protestors on their way to Plateau state governor’s residence in Jos, Nigeria. (Morning Star News)

(Morning Star News) – An Assemblies of God Nigeria pastor, his wife and son were among at least 218 people killed in Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacks on predominantly Christian areas near Jos on June 23-25, a denominational leader said.

Two days after the general superintendent of the AG-Nigeria denomination, the Rev. Chidi Okoroafor, reported the deaths of the Rev. Musa Choji and family members in the Barkin Ladi area near Jos, the federal government on Thursday (June 28) ordered the arrest of a pastor who organized protests of the killings, Christian leaders said.

The Rev. Isa Nenman, a pastor in Jos, was arrested on Thursday after the protests reportedly resulted in property destruction when he led demonstrators to the Government House, the residence of the governor of Plateau state, on Wednesday (June 27). Nenman is northern zone chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Plateau state chapter.

“Following yesterday’s peaceful protest by CAN supported by youth groups, the CAN chairman, Northern Zone, is in police custody, and there is a directive from Abuja to make arrests,” Paul Dekete, one of the facilitators of the protest march, said in a press statement.

The protest saw thousands of Christians dressed in black marching to the Governor’s House to demonstrate against incessant attacks on Christians in the state by armed Fulani herdsmen. Prior to the protests, Christians in Plateau state had observed two days of fasting and prayer on Wednesday and Thursday (June 27-28).

The protestors carried a placard calling for the government to “Declare Fulani herdsmen as terrorist,” and another one that read, “Ransack Fulani settlements.” The protests started peacefully, but after the governor declined to receive them, protestors reportedly tried to storm the premises, threw stones at cars and offices and chased government officials.

Killing of Pastor

The AG-Nigeria’s Okoroafor said the herdsmen in the June 24 attacks burned down the worship auditorium where Pastor Choji served.

“We received with pains in our heart the brutal killing of our pastor, the Rev. Musa Choji, his wife, his son and many other Nigerians including women and children, and also the burning of our church,” Okoroafor said. “The leadership of the Assemblies of God Nigeria calls for serious prayers and asks the government to do her expected responsibility by fishing out perpetrators of this ungodly act.”

CAN national leaders last week reported that 218 Christians died in the June 23-25 attacks.

CAN President Samson Ayokunle said in a press statement that the Christians were killed in 44 villages across the local government areas of Barkin Ladi, Riyom, Bokkos, and Jos South, all in Plateau state.

“As the umbrella organization for all Christians in Nigeria, we are at pains at the tragedy that has befallen our members,” Ayokunle said. “We mourn the death of over 200 Christians slaughtered on the Plateau at the weekend, and we passionately appeal to the [Muhammadu] Buhari-led administration to rise up and put a stop to further killings of innocent people, including defenseless women and children.”

Ayokunle, also president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), said CAN obtained reliable information on the number of dead from June 23 to June 25 from local government areas around Jos.

“Apart from the total number of the deaths, there are still missing persons,” he said. “Many people also sustained various degrees of injuries.”

The Nigerian government should ensure that Christians are protected from further attacks, he said.

“CAN calls on all security agencies to wake up to their constitutional responsibilities of protecting lives and property,” Ayokunle said.

He urged them to be proactive, saying mobilizing troops and policemen after the havoc has been done does not make sense, and that a government that cannot protect its citizens is a failed government.

“CAN is, once again, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to replace all the security chiefs and the Inspector General of Police, because they have overstayed their welcome,” he said. “It is ridiculous and embarrassing that in the last three years, none of these criminals have been apprehended, detained, arraigned and convicted.”

This failure to prosecute is emboldening the herdsmen to kill the innocent with impunity, he said.

“We are approaching a state of anarchy faster than we can imagine,” he said. “Why are we following the footpath of Rwanda daily with these unprecedented killings and mass burials when we are not at war? ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

America ups the ante over Pastor Brunson’s detention

(World Watch Monitor) The American Charge d’Affaires in Ankara has said that Turkey’s continued detention of pastor Andrew Brunson on spying and terrorism-related charges is impeding US-Turkish relations.

Philip Kosnett said there is a “strong sense of unity in Congress between Republicans and Democrats” on the need for Brunson to be released and “a similar sense of unity between Congress and the administration that in order for the relationship between Turkey and the US to progress, we need to resolve that status not only for Brunson but also for other American citizens and local Turkish employees of US missions who we feel are detained unjustly under the state of emergency”.

According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Kosnett said that resolving those cases would improve “prospects for progress” in other areas of co-operation, such as security in northern Syria. He was speaking to reporters yesterday as it emerged that two senators travelled to Turkey last week to lobby Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the release of Pastor Brunson, whom they visited in prison.

Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen met President Erdoğan in Ankara last Friday (29 June) after visiting Pastor Brunson in prison in the Aliağa district of the western city of Izmir earlier that day, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.

Following their previously undisclosed trip, Shaheen told the New Hampshire Union Leader: “Pastor Brunson has been unjustly imprisoned and kept away from his family for well over one year. The opportunity to see him and his wife, Norine, and to appeal directly to President Erdogan, were my main objectives on this trip.

“Any time an American is wrongfully detained anywhere by a foreign government, it is our country’s duty to do everything we can to bring him or her home.”

Shaheen, the senior senator from New Hampshire, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees. She has been outspoken in calling for the US to sanction Turkey over the detention of Pastor Brunson, who has been behind bars for more than 20 months. Shaheen and Republican Senator Thom Tillis secured an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act that bars Turkey from buying F-35 fighter jets, because of its continued detention of Brunson.

“I am confident that the Turkish President understands this, and I appreciated the opportunity to raise my concerns. The US-Turkey relationship is of strategic importance to both countries,” Shaheen added.

The Turkish presidency did not issue a statement after the meeting.

The senators’ visit took place 10 days before Erdogan’s scheduled meeting with US President Donald Trump on the margins of a NATO summit in Brussels, Hurriyet noted.

Brunson’s third hearing is set for 18 July. Prosecutors have accused Brunson, pastor of the Izmir Resurrection Church, of having ties with supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric Turkey has demanded be extradited by the US in exchange for Brunson, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and are seeking a 35-year sentence. He denies all the charges.

Meanwhile, a leading Turkish commentator wrote that “many” diplomats in Ankara expect his imminent release and deportation. In a column for Hurriyet, Serkan Demirtas suggested that the political fall-out of Brunson’s continued detention in Turkey was proving too costly.

“Brunson, who has been in jail since late 2016, seems to be much too costly for Turkey, and his continued detention would further complicate the situation. That is why many diplomats in Ankara expect his potential release followed by his deportation, pending trial on the July 18 hearing,” he wrote.

“Of course, it is impossible to foresee what the court’s decision will be, but his release would sure help the ongoing reconciliation process between Turkey and the US.”

Nigeria: Massacre as US IRF Freedom Ambassador departs; hundreds feared dead

(Voice of the Persecuted) International human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe sent an urgent alert to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) addressing a 60 hour killing spree that began last weekend [where possibly] 200 Christians were slaughtered in Plateau State, even as the US Ambassador At Large for International Religious Freedom was departing Nigeria.
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Ambassador Brownback’s one week visit was pockmarked with 6 suicide bombings by Boko Haram in one day (the largest single day detonations), deadly Shiite clashes with the police, altercations between local Muslims and a community and continuing killings by Muslim Fulani Herdsmen.
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The grand finale of this perfect storm of violence was the triple digit massacre in Plateau State. See Viewpoint Nigeria’s report Despair as death toll of Barkin Ladi killings reaches 106– 31 corpses were recovered from Gindin Akwati (i.e, Ex-lands),
– 34 from Gana-Ropp,
– 8 from Shonong and the balance
– 33 from small villages (e..g, Razat, Ruku, Nghar, Tanabu, Tisan, Kakuruk etc) in the vicinity.
Vanguard News front page called it a bloodbath
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Overnight, I have been inundated with photos too gruesome to share here of horribly mutilated bodies of children brutally macheted to death and macheted still after death for maximal horror effect, charred corpses and bodies stacked in mass graves, Ogebe lamented.
Already the Fulani have justified this heinous crime against humanity The sad thing is this is not the first time nor the last. In 2012 when Fulanis massacred over 60 Christian villagers in Plateau State, an executive of the same cattle [rearing] group said the same thing. I wrote to the Attorney General and asked, “This man has admitted the crime. Why hasn’t he been picked up?” He is still free till today. After the New Year Massacre in Benue State, again they admitted it. No one has been arrested.
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Worse still, some of the communities attacked this weekend were attacked previously. In fact one of them was part of the notorious 2010 Dogo Na Hawa Massacre in which 500 Christians were killed. That massacre 8 years ago spurred me to launch the Justice For Jos project and that has evolved to covering Boko Haram atrocities. Ironically the Herdsmen atrocities have continued unabated while Boko Haram hogged the spotlight.
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Sadly all of this occurred while Nigeria’s President Buhari was busy holding a party convention in his bid for re-election. Early last week I got distress messages from of our local workers that he was trapped outside the orphanage because of an ongoing Herdsmen attack. However President Buhari deployed over 5000 policemen for his security at the party convention and the killings built up until the massacre despite the early warnings.
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We hear reports that mass burials are being ordered by the authorities to hide the true casualties.
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Victims of the latest killings.

At this point the Plateau massacre this weekend looks likely to be the third worst in the 8 years in which I have tracked Herdsmen attacks.

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1. Dogo Nahawa 500 killed March 2010 Plateau State
2. Agatu 300 killed
February 2016 Benue State
3. Barkin Ladi 200? Plateau State June 2018
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Mourners at a funeral were also killed, see report. Again not for the first time.
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It is disconcerting that a small Muslim minority can so terrorize Christian majorities in Benue and Plateau state because of their monopoly of violence. The great danger is if Christians choose not to take it anymore. Friends and family have been appealing for evacuation since last night as Muslims are amassing. However Plateau is where most Christians from the far north flee for safety so where does everyone one now go?
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One of my colleagues [informed] me that Rocket Propelled Grenades were used in these attacks. I am waiting on the evidence but if true, this is not the first time either.

RUSSIA: Protestants targeted in Nizhny Novgorod

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

By Victoria Arnold, www.forum18.org – Two African students from a Nizhny Novgorod Pentecostal Church were fined and ordered deported for appearing in videos of worship services. The FSB initiated the cases. The Church has also been fined. “The charges of illegal missionary activity are completely unlawful,” Pentecostal Union lawyer Vladimir Ozolin told Forum 18.

Law enforcement agencies are increasing pressure on Protestants in Nizhny Novgorod Region. They are using both the so-called “anti-missionary” amendment and immigration law to punish churches and their members for such activities as inviting students to parties and posting videos of worship on social media. Judges have fined and ordered the deportation from Russia of two African students at Nizhny Novgorod’s medical academy for appearing in or reposting videos on the VKontakte social network.

The two students’ Pentecostal church, Jesus Embassy, has received multiple fines under Administrative Code Article 5.26, Part 3 (“Implementation of activities by a religious organisation without indicating its official full name, including the issuing or distribution, within the framework of missionary activity, of literature and printed, audio, and video material without a label bearing this name, or with an incomplete or deliberately false label”) and Part 4 (“Russians conducting missionary activity”).

The FSB security service initiated the prosecutions of both Jesus Embassy Church members and the latest prosecution of the Church itself (see below).

The two deported students have been permitted to stay in the country to complete their final exams, but must leave by 30 June. “After spending 6 years in Russia, they would have become a connecting thread between our countries,” Pentecostal Bishop Konstantin Bendas, commented in “Novaya Gazeta” newspaper on 17 May. “Now this thread is broken.”

“The charges of illegal missionary activity are completely unlawful,” Pentecostal Union lawyer Vladimir Ozolin insisted to Forum 18. “I would like to hope that the cases were initiated by the stupidity of the siloviki, otherwise this greatly undermines the authority of Russia in the international arena.”

Many other Nizhny Novgorod prosecutions

Other Protestant churches in the Region have also faced prosecution many times since the adoption of the “anti-missionary” law in July 2016, court records show. Indeed, World Cup host city Nizhny Novgorod and its Region have one of the highest levels of prosecution under Administrative Code Article 5.26 (primarily under Part 3) in the whole of Russia, and several cases appear to rest on flimsy or fabricated evidence (see below).

Nizhny Novgorod is an “advanced region” for prosecutions under the “anti-missionary” amendment, Pentecostal Union lawyer Ozolin told Forum 18 from Moscow on 19 May. Seventh-day Adventist lawyer Vasily Nichik agreed, commenting to Forum 18 on 19 June that Nizhny Novgorod is “among the foremost in terms of persecution in the field of religious freedoms”. It is difficult to explain why, he added. “In these matters, very often everything depends on the personalities within the system”.

In the first year of the “anti-missionary” law (July 2016 to July 2017), cases under Administrative Code Article 5.26, Parts 3, 4, and 5 (“Foreigners conducting missionary activity”) reached court in 50 regions of the country. Nizhny Novgorod saw the highest number of separate investigations (eight) and the fourth highest number of individual prosecutions (eleven).

According to available court records, Nizhny Novgorod has experienced a particularly high level of prosecution under Article 5.26, Part 3, more than twice that of the next region.

Constitutional Court definition – any impact?

In general, the Religion Law’s vague definition of “missionary activity” (and lack of clarity over what constitutes “membership of” or “participation in” a religious association) has meant that law enforcement can understand virtually anything as “missionary activity”.

In March 2018, however, Russia’s Constitutional Court issued its own interpretation, which lawyers hoped would clarify the key concepts employed in cases under Article 5.26, Parts 4 and 5.

According to the Constitutional Court, “A defining feature [sistemoobrazuyushchy priznak] of missionary activity is the dissemination by citizens and their associations of information about a specific religious belief among persons who, not being its followers, are involved in their number, including as participants in specific religious associations”. Therefore, the distribution of information, for example, about services, ceremonies, or events “falls under the definition of missionary activity as such, only if it contains the said defining feature” (see F18News 16 May 2018 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2377).

Most of the “anti-missionary” prosecutions in the current law enforcement campaign in Nizhny Novgorod took place before the Constitutional Court issued its interpretation. Two, however, came to trial afterwards, but the Constitutional Court’s clarification of the legal norms appears to have had no effect on the outcome.

It should also be noted that the Constitutional Court’s definition of missionary activity has no bearing on prosecutions under Article 5.26, Part 3 (“Implementation of activities by a religious organisation without indicating its official full name, including the issuing or distribution, within the framework of missionary activity, of literature and printed, audio, and video material without a label bearing this name, or with an incomplete or deliberately false label”).

Who is being targeted and where is this coming from?

The Jesus Embassy Pentecostal Church, which has several communities in the Region, has borne the brunt of law enforcement attention, but other Protestant communities have also been affected. Jesus Embassy communities, which are led and primarily made up of Russians, are part of the Russian Pentecostal Union, which, according to Bishop Konstantin Bendas, has an agreement with several African embassies in Russia to work with students from their countries.

“The FSB is interested in Jesus Embassy itself and Protestants in general,” lawyer Aleksey Vetoshkin, who has been involved in several recent cases, told Forum 18 from Nizhny Novgorod on 17 May. “After this pressure, the number of African parishioners has fallen from 150 to 20”.

Nizhny Novgorod so far appears to be a particular hotspot for prosecutions related to “missionary activity”. While the focus on Protestant communities is not anomalous (they make up the clear majority of prosecutions across the country), the intensity of law enforcement activity in Nizhny Novgorod, particularly that aimed at foreign students, is unusual.

Foreigners elsewhere are sometimes fined or deported under immigration law for engaging in religious activity when this is not covered by their visas, but they are usually clergy or lay missionaries on brief visits to Russia. It is rare for students who have been at Russian universities for several years to be ordered to leave.

There does not appear to be a nationwide law enforcement campaign against African Protestants in Russia. Forum 18 is aware of only four other Africans who have been prosecuted under Administrative Code Article 5.26, Part 5 since July 2016 (three students, one pastor – all affiliated with various Protestant churches), in four different regions. Of these cases, one was returned to police for technical reasons and not resubmitted – the other three defendants were fined and one was ordered deported, but the deportation order was rescinded on appeal (see F18News 9 August 2017 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2306).

The law enforcement campaign in Nizhny Novgorod Region appears to be driven by the FSB security service. According to FSB documents seen by Forum 18 or cited in the Russian media, the FSB alerted the police immigration control department and local Justice Ministry branch to various alleged violations. Those agencies then initiated prosecutions. Court verdicts usually refer to (but do not quote) FSB information as evidence of a defendant’s guilt.

Forum 18 wrote to the Nizhny Novgorod FSB on 21 June, asking why it is targeting Protestants and in what way they can be considered a security risk, but had received no reply by the end of the working day on 25 June.

“I understand that behind the whole persecution of Protestants is someone from the leadership of law enforcement agencies. Who? It is difficult to answer this question unambiguously,” lawyer Vasily Nichik remarked to Forum 18 on 19 June. “If a highly intolerant person enters the power structure, then he sees enemies in everyone and begins to construct schemes to restrict freedoms and persecute [people] for dissent. Such a type has probably ended up in the leadership of law enforcement agencies in the Nizhny Novgorod Region.”

Kudzai Nyamarebvu prosecuted

Zimbabwean medical student Kudzai Nyamarebvu has faced prosecution three times in six months under both immigration and “anti-missionary” legislation for an increasingly bizarre series of alleged offences involving videos on social media. She has been ordered to leave Russia by 30 June. The church she attends in Nizhny Novgorod, “Jesus Embassy”, and the regional Pentecostal association to which it belongs, have also received fines.

– Prosecution No. 1 – Article 18.8, Part 2

Nizhny Novgorod’s Sormovo District Court found Nyamarebvu guilty on 25 January 2018 of an offence under Administrative Code Article 18.8, Part 2 (“Violation by a foreign citizen or stateless person of the rules of entry into the Russian Federation or the regime of residence in the Russian Federation, expressed in the inconsistency of the declared goal of entry with the activity or occupation actually carried out during his/her stay”). She had appeared in a video her Church had posted on its VKontakte page,

Judge Vasily Korytov fined Nyamarebvu 5,000 Roubles (five days’ average local wages) and ordered her to be deported (“monitored independent departure”, meaning that she would not be detained in the interim). At the time, she was half way through her sixth and final year at the Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy (since renamed Privolzhsky Medical Research University), and deportation would have meant that she would have been unable to sit her final exams and receive her degree.

Although the case against Nyamarebvu was lodged by the police immigration control department, it was based on information from the FSB, according to the court verdict seen by Forum 18.

The video which triggered the prosecution had been posted in November 2016, and showed Nyamarebvu inviting fellow African students to a “welcome party” at the church. The Nizhny Novgorod police immigration control department and Judge Korytov decided that this constituted “missionary activity” on behalf of Jesus Embassy, thus violating the terms of Nyamarebvu’s visa, which granted her entry to Russia for the purpose of education only.

As church lawyer Vladimir Malinin argued, the video had no religious content and the planned party was not a religious event. Bishop Bendas also points out in his 17 May article in “Novaya Gazeta” that most Africans who come to study in Russia are Protestants anyway. Nyamarebvu was also speaking English, Pentecostal Union lawyer Ozolin noted to Forum 18. It is therefore unclear how this could be deemed “missionary activity”.

Under the Russian Constitution and international law, foreign citizens also have equal rights with Russian citizens to freedom of religion and belief.

Nyamrebvu’s appeal on 7 February at Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court was unsuccessful, but Judge Vyacheslav Kudrya set her date of departure from Russia as 30 June 2018, to allow her to complete her medical studies.

– Prosecution No. 2 – Article 5.26, Part 5

Police later charged Nyamarebvu under Article 5.26, Part 5 (“Foreigners conducting missionary activity”) for reposting, on her own VKontakte page, a video which showed another African student talking about how she believed God had helped her recover from illness. Nyamarebvu had deleted this video in late January, but police nevertheless lodged a case against her in April at Nizhny Novgorod’s Prioksky District Court.

Judge Olga Vorotnikova sent the case back on 23 April because officers had not specified in their report the location of the alleged offence, according to the written verdict, seen by Forum 18. On 4 May, the police sent Nyamarebvu a letter telling her that the case had been dropped because the time limit for prosecution had passed.

– Prosecution No. 3 – Article 5.26, Part 5

On 8 June, the police summoned Nyamarebvu and informed her that she was being charged again under Article 5.26, Part 5 because of an interview she had given about her earlier prosecutions, which had been published on the Pentecostal Union’s website.

Officers interpreted this interview as “unlawful missionary activity”. Judge Mariya Astafyeva of Prioksky District Court fined Nyamarebvu 30,000 Roubles (one month’s average local wages) on 9 June. Nyamarebvu was due to sit her final exam the next day.

Jesus Embassy pastor Pavel Ryndich attended the court hearing. “The accusation disintegrated like a sandcastle under the simplest questioning,” he wrote on his Facebook page on 10 June.

Nevertheless, the judge decided that Nyamarebvu was guilty of “hidden missionary activity, not expressed in either words or gestures”.

Prosecutions of Jesus Embassy

– For party invitation

Before Nyamarebvu herself became subject to law enforcement attention, her church – Jesus Embassy – had already been fined three times for the single video in which she had appeared.

Both the local religious organisation – Jesus Embassy Bible Centre, Nizhny Novgorod – and the centralised religious organisation – Jesus Embassy Union of Evangelical Churches in Nizhny Novgorod – were prosecuted under Article 5.26, Part 3 (“Implementation of activities by a religious organisation without indicating its official full name, including the issuing or distribution, within the framework of missionary activity, of literature and printed, audio, and video material without a label bearing this name, or with an incomplete or deliberately false label”).

Judge Yelena Kutuzova of Moscow District Magistrate’s Court No. 6 found both guilty in separate hearings (on 8 June and 6 June 2017 respectively) and fined them 30,000 Roubles (one month’s average local wages) each for distributing video material on VKontake and YouTube which did not bear the organisations’ full official names.

The local church made an unsuccessful appeal on 11 July 2017 at Moscow District Court, and an unsuccessful supervisory appeal on 28 September 2017 at Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court. The centralised church also unsuccessfully challenged its conviction at Moscow District Court on 20 July 2017, but lodged no supervisory appeal.

The centralised Jesus Embassy organisation was also prosecuted under Article 5.26, Part 4 for the same video – for allowing Nyamarebvu to perform the alleged “missionary activity” without the necessary documentation authorising her to do so.

Judge Kutuzova fined the organisation 50,000 Roubles on 9 June 2017. Although the judge noted that the centralised organisation was the entity obliged to fulfil the requirements of the law and thus the one to bear responsibility for the alleged offence, this appears to have had no bearing on the prosecution of the local church.

The centralised organisation appealed unsuccessfully against its Part 4 conviction on 11 July 2017 at Moscow District Court. An unsuccessful supervisory appeal took place on 28 September 2017 at Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court.

– For video about “Encounter” event

Another video from 2016 served as grounds for prosecuting the centralised Jesus Embassy organisation again under both Article 5.26, Part 3 (“Implementation of activities by a religious organisation without indicating its official full name, including the issuing or distribution, within the framework of missionary activity, of literature and printed, audio, and video material without a label bearing this name, or with an incomplete or deliberately false label”) and Article 5.26, Part 4 (“Russians conducting missionary activity”).

This video, also posted on the church’s social media pages, showed four other students (from Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, and Côte d’Ivoire) talking (in English, French, and Portuguese) about their experiences at “encounter” events at the church – “This is a time when we discuss such topics as love, faith, and dreams, based on the Bible”, church press secretary Yuliya Yermoshina told Dozhd TV on 27 April.

On 28 April 2018, Judge Yelena Kutuzova of Nizhny Novgorod’s Moscow District Magistrate’s Court No. 6 again found Jesus Embassy guilty both of permitting the students to perform “missionary activity” without the necessary documentation (Part 4) and of failing to display its full official name in the video (Part 3). She issued fines of 30,000 Roubles (one month’s average local wages) under Part 3 and 100,000 Roubles under Part 4. Moscow District Court rejected both appeals on 8 June 2018.

One of the people in the video, medical student Chileshe Maurin, had already graduated and returned to Zambia in 2017, before the church was charged. The others – Debora Mangenge and Mzengereza Tingawena from the (then) Nizhny Novgorod State Medical Academy, and Kpata Evilafo Adel Olivia Romuald from Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University – do not appear to have been charged either under immigration law or the “anti-missionary” amendment.

Given the length of time which elapsed between the multiple prosecutions of Jesus Embassy for the “welcome party” video and the prosecution of Kudzai Nyamarebvu, however, the three remaining Africans might still face charges.

The Justice Ministry of Nizhny Novgorod Region lodged the case at the Magistrate’s Court, but on the basis of information from the FSB, which wrote to the Justice Ministry on 20 February 2018, alerting it to the video. The FSB document states that the four Africans had entered the country on student visas but had carried out “missionary activity on behalf of a religious organisation” without written authorisation, according to the Dozhd TV report of 27 April.

Nosise Vusiwe Shiba prosecuted

The FSB security service also initiated at least one prosecution of another member of Jesus Embassy, Nosise Vusiwe Shiba from Swaziland. She too has been ordered to leave Russia.

Shiba, also in her final year of medical school, first received a fine of 5,000 Roubles (five days’ average local wages) under Administrative Code Article 18.8, Part 2 on 28 February 2018 for participating in a “missionary conference” (“To the ends of the earth”) held by the Russian Pentecostal Union in Penza in May 2017. On 16 May 2018, she appeared in court for a second time, charged under Article 18.8, Part 4 (“An offence under Parts 1 or 2 repeated within one year”) with having sung at another “missionary conference” (“Save one more!”) in Nizhny Novgorod.

Judge Vasily Korytov of Nizhny Novgorod’s Sormovo District Court interpreted both acts as performing “missionary activity” while on an educational visa, as “by means of participating in a public event with the performance of religious songs, she disseminated information about her beliefs to an unlimited number of people”. For the second alleged offence, Shiba was fined 7,000 Roubles and ordered deported, but permitted to remain until 30 June to complete her degree.

The FSB security service noted in a letter to the police immigration control department on 18 April 2018 that Shiba appears singing in two videos which Jesus Embassy uploaded to YouTube in April and June 2017. The first video showed an Easter service; the second, the “Save one more!” conference. The FSB found the videos in October 2017.

According to the FSB letter, seen by Forum 18, these videos indicate that Shiba “participates in the activity of the so-called “worship group” [musicians] of [the centralised regional Jesus Embassy Church] and actively participates in preaching by P. Ryndich, pastor of this organisation”. Such “unlawful religious activity” constitutes “a violation .. of the rules of residence on the territory of the Russian Federation, in the form of non-conformity with the declared purpose of entry”.

“[Shiba] will finish her studies, a person’s life has not been broken”, her lawyer Aleksey Vetoshkin wrote on Facebook on 19 May. “However, the court has set a dangerous precedent – singing beautifully on the stage of a Protestant church is missionary activity. In my opinion, this is nonsense, but in the opinion of the court, this act creates public danger”.

Neither Shiba nor Jesus Embassy (local or centralised bodies) yet appears to have been charged under Administrative Code Article 5.26 in relation to these alleged offences.

Other Nizhny Novgorod churches targeted?

Law enforcement agencies in Nizhny Novgorod Region appear to be targeting Protestants using the “anti-missionary” amendment, rather than foreigners in particular. Foreign members of only the Jesus Embassy church appear to have been prosecuted so far, under either Administrative Code Article 5.26, Part 5 or immigration law.

Out of a total of eighteen prosecutions under Article 5.26, Part 3 in Nizhny Novgorod region (all dating from 2017 and 2018), sixteen were of Protestant communities – 6 Pentecostal, 5 Seventh-day Adventist, 3 independent Protestant, and 2 Baptist Union. There was also one case against a Hare Krishna community and one against Jehovah’s Witnesses (from before their nationwide ban).

Seventh-day Adventists in Nizhny Novgorod region have mainly been prosecuted under Article 5.26, Parts 3 and 4, lawyer Vasily Nichik told Forum 18 on 19 June. Their foreign members have kept a low profile and have experienced no problems. Adventist communities have, however, been subject to significant law enforcement attention, much of it, they claim, on spurious grounds.

Nichik described one “shameful case”, in which an unknown person removed a church sign showing the religious organisation’s full official name and replaced it with one bearing an incomplete name. This was not simple vandalism: “It’s very interesting that whoever did this knew the legal consequences of incorrect signage very well,” Nichik observed to Forum 18. “They didn’t just rip off the sign and throw it away, but made another and hung it in place of the first. Another interesting coincidence is that immediately after this, in the morning, a group of police officers arrived.”

Nichik added: “We can’t say who did this, but the available facts force one to draw conclusions about who is behind it. As a result, a small community of mostly pensioners was fined 30,000 Roubles [one month’s average local wages] under Article 5.26 Part 3.”

In his 17 May “Novaya Gazeta” article of, Pentecostal Bishop Bendas also notes the law enforcement focus on Seventh-day Adventists as well as his own church, outlining how police and FSB security service officers interrupted services in the towns of Shakhunya and Zavolzhye in Nizhny Novgorod Region.

“This means that [law enforcement officers] arrive during a service and begin interrogating parishioners and clergy, meaning that worship cannot proceed further,” lawyer Nichik explained to Forum 18 on 21 June. “Usually, they come with the service side-arms which they always carry, not with automatic weapons.”

In Shakhunya, the church was fined despite the fact that a sign with its full name was attached to the front door, which officers mysteriously “did not see at point blank range”. In Zavolzhye, the community was explicitly accused of not having a sign on its fence (for which there is no legal requirement). In this instance, the judge closed the case “in the absence of an administrative offence”. (END)

Egypt Tries to ‘Reconcile’ Coptic Churches to Non-Existence

By  — From attacks by Muslim mobs to closures by Muslim authorities, the lamentable plight of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt always follows a pattern, one that is unwaveringly only too typical.

Thus, last April 14, a Muslim mob—predictably riled by the previous day’s Friday mosque sermons—attacked the church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos in Beni Meinin, Beni Suef.   According to Watani, as with 3,500 other Egyptian churches, after patently waiting for decades to receive a permit, the church “had been used for worship for some 10 years now…  [T]he building authority committee had recently [earlier that day] visited the church in preparation for legalising its status, and the attack was waged in retaliation.”

Local authorities’ response was even more typical: Twenty people were arrested after the attack—eleven Muslims (attackers) and nine Copts (defenders).  At least five of the arrested Christians, whose “crime” was to try to put out fires Muslims started, were illegally incarcerated for over a month.  One lost his job due to this prolonged absence (police refused to admit holding him to his employer).

Thereafter, on May 22, followed the usual “reconciliation” meeting between local Christian and Muslim elders, whereby victims forego their legal rights in an out of court settlement.  In order to release their innocents the Copts had to agree to close the church—no more mass, wedding or funeral services on grounds that it is a “security risk”—and agree that the eleven Muslims who led the violent attack also be acquitted.

Just four days after that, the whole process was repeated again: on May 26, another Muslim mob attacked a church in the village of al-Shuqaf in the province of Beheira.  “The mob,” notes the report, “also pelted the Coptic villagers’ houses with stones, damaged the priest’s car, and set on fire a motorbike that was parked in front of the church. Seven Copts suffered slight injuries. The police was called and caught 11 Muslims and nine Copts.”

As with the previous church incident, according to Watani, this church had also

been in use for worship for over three years now, and is known as the church of St Mark…  a few months ago, construction work started on building a mosque close to the church. On Saturday afternoon [May 26], the Muslim worshippers began shouting slogans against the church and the Copts, and used the mosque microphones to call upon the villagers to attack the church. Many villagers gathered and waged the attack.

The Coptic villagers claim that the nine Copts who were arrested had been caught randomly in what has now become common practice by the police in order to pressure the Copts into ‘[re]conciliation,’ so that no legal action would be taken against the Muslim culprits in exchange for setting free the Coptic detainees and ensuring a swift end to hostilities.

Such is the unvarying “boilerplate” plight of Egypt’s Christians and their churches. To become acquainted with the persecution of one Coptic church is to become acquainted with all.  For instance, nearly two years ago I offered the following detailed look at the “reconciliation” process—one that, as these two recent incidences show, remains perfectly applicable to and well entrenched in Egypt:

Christians trying to build a church … are typical violations that prompt large, armed Muslim mobs to attack all the Christians in that village (and their church if one exists) as a form of collective punishment, which is also Islamic….

After the uprising has fizzled out, authorities arrive.  Instead of looking for and arresting the culprits or mob ringleaders—or, as often is the case, the local imam who incites the Muslim mob against the “uppity infidels” who need to be reminded of “their place”—authorities gather the leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities together in what are termed “reconciliation meetings.”  During these meetings, Christians are asked to make further concessions to angry Muslims.

Authorities tell Christian leaders things like, “Yes, we understand the situation and your innocence, but the only way to create calm in the village is for X [the offending Christian and extended family, all of whom may have been beat] to leave the village—just for now, until things calm down.” Or, “Yes, we understand you need a church, but as you can see, the situation is volatile right now, so, for the time being, maybe you can walk to the church in the next town six miles away—you know, until things die down.”…

[Should Christians] rebuff the authorities’ offer and demand their rights as citizens against the culprits, the authorities smile and say “okay.”  Then they go through the village making arrests—except that most of those whom they arrest are Christian youths.  Then they tell the Christian leaders, “Well, we’ve made the arrests. But, just as you say so-and-so [Muslim] was involved, there are even more witnesses [Muslims] who insist your own [Christian] youths were the ones who began the violence.  So, we can either arrest and prosecute them, or you can rethink our offer about having a reconciliation meeting.”

Under the circumstances, dejected Christians generally agree to the further mockery.  What alternative do they have?  They know if they don’t their youth will certainly go to prison and be tortured.   In one recent incident, wounded Christians who dared fight against Muslim attackers were arrested and, despite serious injuries, held for seven hours and prevented from receiving medical attention….

[N]ot only are the victims denied any justice, but the aggressors are further emboldened to attack again.

Indeed, as seen by recent events—including one month where four churches were attacked and then closed—this modus operandi and culture of emboldened impunity is now more entrenched in Egypt than before.

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