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Couple Beaten, Congregation Member Missing in Persecution of Church in China

(Morning Star News) – Following the arrest of 44 worshipers from house church meetings in southwestern China in February, police in Chengdu this month arrested a married couple from the church and beat them during interrogation, the church reported.

The couple, identified as Liu and his wife Xing, of Early Rain Covenant Church, were visiting Christian friends when police from Chengdu Shuyuan Police Station on March 2 detained them and took them to Taisheng Road Police Station for interrogation, according to the church, whose pastor along with more than 100 others was arrested in a Dec. 9 raid.

“At 2 p.m., while being interrogated, they were personally humiliated, abused, and violently beaten by seven to eight police officers from the Chengdu Taisheng Road Police Station,” the church’s March 2 statement on Facebook reads. “They were detained for nearly eight hours. After being beaten by police officers from the Taisheng Road Police Station, sister Xing and her husband were escorted by an unidentified person back to their home.”

The unexplained violence was one of the latest instances of persecution of the church in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. After church pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, were incarcerated in the Dec. 9 raid, authorities on Feb. 24 detained 44 Early Rain members meeting for worship in several homes.

Some were released the next day, and seven others were released on Monday (March 11), the church reported. Pastor Wang and his wife were charged with “inciting to subvert state power” and are in secret detention. Ten others are also facing criminal charges, including four church elders, according to the statement.

Police have pressured landlords to evict some church members and compelled employers to fire others, and one church member has been missing since March 5. In a statement on March 8, the church reported that Pan Fei, who had lost his job because of his church activities, disappeared after his first day at a new job on March 4.

“He stopped going to work beginning on the following Tuesday morning,” the statement reads. “We have visited his apartment multiple times to look for him but to no effect. We have not been able to contact him.”

Police had arrested Pan Fei several times since May 2018 and had illegally searched his home, according to the church. After police compelled his landlord to evict him, community officers visited him at his new apartment and harassed him regularly, the statement reads.

“In the past, when brother Pan Fei would encounter harassment and persecution, he would ask his brothers and sisters to pray for him,” it reads. “But he has not sent any messages since disappearing four days ago. We are concerned that brother Pan Fei is being targeted for his faith.”

Yesterday (March 14) Early Rain member Zhang Ying and her daughters received a visit at their apartment in Chengdu from her landlord, accompanied by officers from the local police station, according to a church statement online.

“Six males and one female barged into her home,” the statement reads. “They insulted sister Zhang and her three children, threatened them, and derided them. Two of them were extremely aggressive and threatened to rape and beat sister Zhang. Community officers stood by the side and recorded their insults and verbal abuse with a video camera.”

Zhang has signed a two-year contract with her landlord for the apartment, but he falsely claimed that she had violated it without saying what she had done wrong, the statement reads.

“He was harassing her because community officers and police had pressured him to,” according to the church. “When the landlord and community officers left, they required sister Zhang to move out of her home by the end of March.”

One church member whose husband was arrested in the Feb. 24 raids said that a community police officer stopped her and her child during a visit to another Christian’s home, according to a March 1 posting. When she objected, she said, the officer called a police station director identified only as Ding.

Telling her that she was still in custody and needed permission to go anywhere, the police station director told the Christian woman, whose name was withheld, that she couldn’t take home the treat her friend had given her.

“He even grabbed my neck and told me to stomp on it,” she reported. “I firmly refused to stomp on it. He then said that if I didn’t stomp on it, he would throw it into the face of my child right in front of me. He also said that if I didn’t listen to them, he would put me in detention and send my child to a welfare institution. He said, ‘Your husband is still in detention. Do you think I won’t keep him there? I will send him to live with people with AIDS.’”

The official concluded by saying that if she didn’t “behave” that weekend, he would cause trouble for her. “I won’t be as nice to you as I was today,” he told her, according to the church posting. “If this happens again, you will be taken directly to the police station.”

Such threats have become commonplace for church members, according to the church.

“For the most part, there is no member of this church who has not suffered in some way,” the church reported in a Feb. 24 statement.

In the Feb. 24 arrests, plainclothes officers at the police station struck church member Tang Chunliang and his wife in the face, according to a church statement on Feb. 25. Surrounding several homes during worship and making arrests afterward, including all present in two homes, officers did not spare the elderly, 11 children and a pregnant woman, according to the church.

“Some were not released until 2 a.m.,” the statement reads. “Tired children slept on ice-cold tables and floors. Others were not released until 6 a.m.”

‘Subversion’

Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” punishable by up to five years in prison or 15 in extreme cases, as the Communist regime views religion as a threat to its ideological control, according to advocacy group China Aid. It notes that Christian groups have no intention of threatening government power.

Pastor Wang was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.

The raids on the Early Rain church are part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or “underground” churches that Beijing escalated since last year following amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that give lower-level officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for “unauthorized religious gatherings,” according to the SCMP.

Unofficial churches decline to become part of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, which would subject them to intrusive government controls. The Early Rain church on Tuesday (March 12) posted a video of Xu Xiaohong, head of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, telling the National People’s Congress the previous day that officials planned to “Sinicize” Christianity. This plan would rid Christianity of all “Western” influences and ensure that all Christian doctrine and worship conforms to the government ideology, the church stated, noting that Xu denounced churches gathering in “private meeting places” and “black sheep” who are “subverting state security.”

The U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 10 that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.

China ranked 27th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

URGENT: PRAY FOR BIBLE TRANSLATORS UNDER ATTACK

Special Report: Translators persecuted for translating the gospel


By Nena Podbury for American Bible Society—This week, we received heartbreaking news about an attack against Bible translators and we’re urging everyone to pray.

American Bible Society has been supporting a network of churches that are working on 25 Bible translation projects for unreached people groups in Central Asia and the Arabic Gulf region. Working in an undisclosed location in Northeast Africa, where the Christian church faces strong opposition, Christians risk their lives to translate God’s Word.

Last month, a terrorist group became aware of these translation efforts. Two weeks ago, this militant group burned the translation facility and killed five members of the lead translator’s family. The lead translator was also seriously injured. Another 49 translators were abducted and are still missing.

Despite this horrifying tragedy and the constant threat of extreme danger, this network of pastors plans to carry on its work.

They need our prayers. Let us cry out to God for these brave translators and for God’s Word to continue to shine light in the darkness.

Pray for:

  • The missing translators. Pray for the safe release of the 49 translators who are missing.
  • Translation work. Pray for these translation projects to be completed so that those 25 unreached people groups will have access to God’s Word in their native language. Pray for safety, wisdom, and courage for all translators.
  • The lead translator. Pray that God will bring healing and comfort to this translator who lost members of his family.

West African Court Faults Government of Nigeria for Failing to Stop Killings in Benue State

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – The government of Nigeria failed to protect people massacred by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in predominantly Christian areas of Benue state in 2016 and should prosecute those responsible, a West African court has ruled.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on Feb. 26 ordered the government to investigate the attacks that killed more than 300 Christians and destroyed property in the Agatu area, identify and prosecute the perpetrators and redress victims.

“The Nigerian government was in violation of its obligation to protect the human rights of these communities,” the three judges stated in their unanimous verdict.

The court also ordered Nigeria’s government to take urgent measures to protect Christians in the area by deployment of soldiers and police personnel to the affected communities. The suit states that in the past three years, Muslim Fulani attacks have killed 1,000 people and destroyed property in 15 counties, including the Agatu area.

The Rev. Solomon Mfa, a Catholic priest, along with 10 other Christian leaders in the area had filed suit against the Nigerian government at the court, which has jurisdiction over human rights issues for West Africa, as its companion courts, the European Court of Human Rights and the East African Court of Justice, do for their regions.

Based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the ECOWAS court heard the plaintiffs’ request that the president of Nigeria, the inspector general of police, the chief of army staff and the minister of Internal Affairs be held accountable for the violation of the fundamental human rights of area Christians. In the past three years, herdsmen have set ablaze homes, household items, farms, crops, vehicles, machinery, food and schools, the Christian leaders stated.

“Fulani herdsmen within the last three years carried out over 50 major attacks on Benue communities, the most prominent of them taking place in 15 out of 23 Local Government Areas of the state, namely Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi, and Konshisha,” their suit states. “The affected Christian communities have been completely overwhelmed and are now desolate and devastated as they have suffered wanton destruction of their churches, properties and lives.”

The plaintiffs charged that the failure of the government to constitute an investigation panel or take measures against further attacks amounted to negligence and was oppressive, arbitrary and capricious. They further held the government “responsible for injuring the dignity and pride of the applicants and for causing them great physical and psychological trauma.

In the lead judgment by Justice Dupe Atoki, the court ordered the government to provide adequate security by deploying more security personnel to the “area to protect the community and prevent further occurrences of that mayhem.”

Based on Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, to which Nigeria is a signatory, the court held that the government is obliged to protect the human rights of its citizens.

The 10 other Christian leaders who filed the suit were the Rev. Joseph Dooga, Dr. Sam Abah, Dr. David Iordaah, Hon. Ochepo Yakubu, Hon. Terse Tange, Favour Adah Paul, Samuel Msonter Ijoho, Iorbee Bajah, Ashi Bajah and Terseer Iorbee Bajah, along with the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO).

The judges said their decision was anchored in the need to identify the attackers, prosecute them and give justice to the Christian victims.

Government officials have yet to respond to the court’s ruling, but the government had argued that it could not be held responsible for any ethnic crime committed by unidentified and unknown persons not connected or known to the defendants or any of its agencies – a contention the court rejected.

At the same time, the court ruled that it could not award the 500 billion naira (US$1.38 billion) sought by the defendants as it had no record of victims’ names, gender, age or addresses, and destroyed properties had not been specifically identified nor their value estimated.

Solicitor General Dayo Apata, who represented the defendants, blamed the crisis on ethnic differences between the Agatu community and the Fulani community over farming and rearing of animals, “as has been established by various panels of enquiry set up at different times in a bid to proffer solution.”

He argued that the crisis between the Agatu and Fulani communities was not based on security lapses or the inability of the federal or state governments to protect the lives and properties of the people of state, as security agencies were deployed to the Agatu community to protect lives and property.

Justice Edward A. Asante, president of the court, presided over the case, alongside three other judges, including Justice Dupe Atoki, who read the judgment.

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 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.

Photo: Wikimedia-Commons

Report Shows 57 Percent Jump in Aggression against Christians in India

INDIA (Morning Star News) – Cases of hate and violence against Christians in India increased 57 percent the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year, an advocacy group reported.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC) documented 77 incidents of hate and targeted violence against Christians in January and February, up from 49 cases during the same period last year. The cases include the murders of one Christian in Odisha state and another in Chhattisgarh state, both in February.

“We have reasons to believe that both men, who were in their 40s, were killed because of their faith,” the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the EFI, told Morning Star News. “We have recorded cases where Christians have been facing social boycott and have been excommunicated from their villages, and in a few instances have had to flee to save their lives.”

Of the 77 incidents, 16 took place in Tamil Nadu state, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Maharashtra and five in Chhattisgarh, the report found. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and, surprisingly, Kerala each saw four cases, followed by other states, Lal said.

The 49 cases recorded in the first two months of 2018 followed the documenting of 50 cases during the same period the previous year.

In one of the incidents this year in Uttar Pradesh, female police officers on Jan. 13 disrupted a Sunday worship service and arrested four women and two men, including the female pastor leading worship. At the police station, a female police officer physically assaulted the woman pastor, Sindhu Bharti, who fell unconscious.

“Boiling tea was forcibly thrust in her mouth because the police thought that she was feigning her unconsciousness,” an eyewitness, Madhu Bharati, told Morning Star News. “When that did not work, they poured two jugs of cold water on her face, not caring that it was already severely cold due to winter.”

Those arrested were charged with intent to hurt religious feelings, defilement of a place of worship and rioting, among other charges. The intervention of Christian leaders resulted in police freeing the arrested female Christians, but the men were kept under judicial custody.

Pastor Bharti received medical treatment for her injuries.

In the murders, two Christians were killed by Maoists, known as Naxalites, after area tribal people influenced the rebels in Odisha and Chhattisgarh respectively.

“Munglu Ram Nureti from Kohkameta village in Chhattisgarh was killed because villagers who were opposed to his practicing the Christian faith falsely reported him as a police informer to the Maoists,” Lal said. “Anant Ram Gond, from Nabarangpur in Odisha was killed a day before Munglu Ram Nureti in a similar but more gruesome manner. He was already being persecuted for his faith for some time. It has been reported and verified by credible sources that he was reported to be a police informer by villagers [who were angry at him becoming Christian] to the Maoists, which led to his killing.”

Gond had been living outside the village for some time after facing social boycott because of his faith, Lal said.

“There have been occurrences where Christians have been taken to temples and made to chant Hindu verses and seek forgiveness for the ‘sin’ of conversion,” he told Morning Star News. “At least two instances have been recorded where public banners against Christians have been placed outside Navsari, Gujarat and in Alangulam village near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The Navsari banners prohibit the entry of Christians in the town, while those in Tamil Nadu, apparently put up by the Hindu Munnani, reportedly ask the Hindus to awake against religious preaching in the village.”

Alliance Defending Freedom-India, which provides legal advocacy for Christians, reported on Feb. 19 that 29 incidents against Christians took place in January.

2018

Throughout 2018, the EFIRLC documented 325 incidents against Christians in India. The previous year, it recorded 351 such cases, up from 230 in 2016.

Its 2018 annual report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India,” released on Feb. 22, took note of the “sudden spurt of violence in a few districts of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous province, and in Tamil Nadu in the extreme south of the subcontinent.”

The cases documented in the report are by no means exhaustive, as it was based on voluntary reporting and civil society investigations, it states. The EFIRLC said most cases go unreported, either because the victim and witnesses are terrified, or the police, especially in the northern states, turn a blind eye and refuse to record mandatory First Information Reports.

With general elections due in April-May, attempts at religious polarization were at an all-time high, the report noted. It added that the “small Christian community, 2.3 per cent of the 1.3 billion population, which seems to be targeted on issues of conversion, is also collateral victim of the hate crimes against the much larger Muslim community, which is about 15 percent.”

Over 40 percent, or 132, of the documented incidents in the 2018 report took place in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where Christians were targeted the most. This was followed by Tamil Nadu with 40 incidents, while Telangana came third with 24.

The increase of incidents in Uttar Pradesh can be attributed to the systematic campaign against Christians in the eastern part of the state, particularly Jaunpur District, where 45 incidents were documented, according to the report.

Churches in Jaunpur have been targeted through a systematic campaign involving Hindu extremist groups, media, local politicians and the state administration, according to the report. Arrests and detention of pastors and the stopping of church services have become commonplace.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India, home to almost 17 percent of the country’s population. Christians make up only 0.18 percent of the state’s population.

The state is currently led by Yogi Adityanath, who along with being the chief minister is also the high priest of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur. The chief minister is also founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindu youth militia that has been involved in communal violence and in targeting religious minorities.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. India was ranked at 31st in 2013 but has been ranked worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

“We are still collecting and verifying information almost on a daily basis,” Lal said.

Pastor Brunson case increased ‘hate speech’ against Turkey’s Protestants

Turkey’s high-profile criminal case against Protestant pastor Andrew Brunson has triggered a significant increase in public hate speech against the nation’s small Protestant community, creating what its church leaders last week called a ‘climate of insecurity’ for its congregations and individual members.

World Watch Monitor shared that according to the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches’ annual human rights report for 2018, the number of attacks designed to incite hatred of Protestants “purely due to their beliefs” in Turkey’s local, national and social media outlets had seriously increased during Brunson’s arrest, jailing and two-year trial.

The report said that the Protestants’ 150 congregations watched the US pastor’s case closely “with great sadness and concern”, disturbed by the media’s repeated practice of linking churches and individual Christians with terror organisations, without providing any substantiating evidence. Instead, the accusations by secret false witnesses against Brunson were “reported as if they were true,” and local and national publications refused to allow the slandered churches and individuals their constitutional right of reply or correction.

Although the government has enacted a Personal Data Protection Law, during the Brunson case the Turkish media published names, personal details, photographs and specific church activities openly in a negative context, the report said, targeting both Protestant churches and their members in direct news reports.

Open publication of the name and company of one Protestant church member, accused by a national newspaper of supporting a terrorist organisation after he visited a church in the eastern city of Van, led to the loss of a number of his business contracts.

Protestants in the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Izmir and Manisa attempted legal action against the “insidious propaganda” linked to the Brunson case that targeted their churches and leaders, the report said. But local authorities either declined to investigate or failed to punish the perpetrators.

Negative Malatya atmosphere recalled

The Protestant Association explained their particularly “serious concern and apprehension” over this recent surge in religious hate speech because of its similarity to widespread Turkish media coverage against Christian churches and activities 12 years ago, just before the 2007 torture and murder of three Christians. Two Turkish citizens and one German resident were stabbed to death by five young Turks in Malatya, in southeast Turkey.

The 2018 report reiterated a number of unresolved problems faced by the Turkish Protestant community over the past decade. They include the longstanding difficulty of establishing recognized places of worship, legal restrictions prohibiting seminaries or other formal religious education for non-Muslim faiths, and the absence of a legal path to obtain official identity as a religious congregation.


Malatya’s Kurtulus (Salvation) Church posted message after an attacker heaved a brick through the church’s display window on 11/24/2017: “’Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ Jesus Christ.” (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

The Turkish government persisted again this past year in failing to invite the Protestant community or any of its church representatives to meetings of religious groups organized by the government or official organisations. Local churches within the Protestant community are not linked with a hierarchical structure like the Orthodox and other ancient Christian traditions in Turkey. Accordingly, the government has yet to acknowledge the Association of Protestant Churches formed in 2009 as the religious group’s representative institutional body.

The report noted that an unspecified number of Protestant foreign church members residing in Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin and other cities were deported or denied re-entry back into Turkey during 2018, or told to leave Turkey within 10 days after renewal of their residence permits was refused.

On a positive note, for the first time since the year 2000, a Protestant church was approved during the past year to form a religious foundation; another Protestant church’s application for foundation status is currently pending.

The Protestant community currently consists of some 150 churches, mostly concentrated in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Only 10 congregations meet for worship in official church buildings, most of them historical buildings. Another 67 fellowships either rent or purchase facilities designated as legal “association” meeting places. A total of six Protestant foundations with five representative branches have been formed and registered. The remaining congregations, including some 25 house fellowships, have no legal entity status.

Photo 1: Pastor Andrew Brunson

After ISIS, Iraq’s Assyrians Now Face New Threat From Shabak Shiite Militias

Karamles, North Iraq (AINA) — There is no peace for Christians in northern Iraq. If, on the one hand, the memory of the violence perpetrated by Islamic State jihadists (SI, ex Isis) is still alive, in recent weeks another threat is shadowing the future of the community: the Shiite militias linked to the Shabak, who are in fact hindering Christians return to the Nineveh plain.

The epicenter of this new chapter of anti-Christian persecution is Bartella, increasingly drapped with banners depicting the militia battles against Isis as well as saints and sacred figures of the Shiite tradition.

“Bartella is a problem, a special case”, says Paolo Thabit Mekko, head of the Christian community in Karamles, speaking to AsiaNews. “In recent years – he continues – the presence of Shabak has increased dramatically and Christians are afraid to return. At least 600 families who have fled in the IS era are still in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, and have no prospect of return at the moment. There is a real demographic upheaval in the city, which began in 2003 after the US invasion and which has accelerated in the last period “.

The presence of local Shiite militias, adds Don Paolo, “creates unease and the prospects for the future arouse anger and concern”. The priest sees a behind-the-scenes attempt to “change the demographics of the area”, according to some a “design” orchestrated by the Shiite leadership and maneuvered from the outside, with the complicity of a part “of the Shabak politicians and exponents in Baghdad who support them “.

Until 30 years ago, the population of Bartella was entirely Christian. The demographic changes of the last decades have turned the composition upside down, ending up dividing it in half between Christians and Shabak, a largely Shiite Muslim ethnic group. When the Islamic State (SI, former Isis) conquered much of northern Iraq, including the Nineveh Plain, the entire population of Bartella left the area due to persecution by Sunni radicals.

Today, two years after the ousting of the “Caliphate” jihadists, less than a third of the original 3800 families that populated the town have returned. Most of them are still in exile and there is fear of returning due to persecution, threats and intimidation perpetrated by some members of the Shabak community, which presides over the Shiite militias that control the area.

Following the expulsion of Isis, confessional divisions, militias and armed groups are emerging with increasing strength, trying to get hold of growing sections of territory in northern Iraq, above all in the plain of Nineveh, which was once almost entirely Christian. Qusay Abbas, a member of the Shabaks in Parliament, said the attacks were the work of a small, unrepresentative minority.

But the stories (and complaints) from Bartella and other towns in the area tell another truth: That the Shiite militias are trying – most of the time by force – to eliminate the Christian component. In fact the cases of sexual attacks, thefts, threats and violence against private individuals is becoming more and more frequent. Recently, an ethnic Shabak man fired bullets in the air for over an hour in front of a church in the town.

“What is happening to Bartella – underlines Don Paolo – is repeated, albeit to a lesser extent, in other areas of the plain such as Karamles and Qaraqosh. We are facing a movement that seeks to expand “.

“A council of the sages of the Nineveh plain – he continues – which includes Christians, Arabs, shabaks has initiated dialogue and is trying to resolve the situation. Unfortunately there are no official agreements and there is no way to apply the rare agreements between the parties “.

In this context the Iraqi Church remains firm on the refusal to create a Christian armed militia and strengthens the initiatives of meeting and confrontation. “The situation remains delicate – concludes the priest – and Christians are afraid. One of the solutions that can be followed, and which we hope, is the establishment of an official, institutional police force, within which Christians can also contribute to enlisting the protection of law and order”.

Christian in Sri Lanka Arrested after Reporting Threat on His Life, Watchdog Group Reports

(Morning Star News) – Police in Sri Lanka arrested a Christian who reported a Buddhist mob’s threat on his life, according to an advocacy group in the island country.

In Nattandiya, in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province, six area Buddhists on Jan. 26 threatened to attack the Christian if he refused to stop inviting a pastor to lead Bible studies at his house, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) reported.

The next day (Jan. 27), the Christian (name withheld for security reasons) filed a complaint about the threat on his life at the Marawila police station, in Puttalam District. This upset the six Buddhists, and with others they formed a mob on Jan. 29 that headed toward his house with intent to assault him, the NCEASL reported.

Before they could get near his house, a friend notified the Christian of their approach and tried to stop them, resulting in a fight in which one of the Buddhists was injured and received hospital treatment, a source said.

“Exact details are not known, however, his injury was not very serious,” the source told Morning Star News.

The Christian was not present at the fight, but the injured Buddhist filed an assault complaint against him, the source said. Police arrested the Christian, who remained in custody at this writing.

Violence and Harassment

Violence and harassment against Christians have been persistent in Sri Lanka, where the population is about 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu, with attacks by Hindus on the upswing.

In Western Province’s Kalutara District, officers last month summoned a pastor of the New Covenant Life Centre at Millaniya to the Millaniya police station after a temple monk and several villagers complained that he was leading worship without official permission, according to the NCEASL.

The station chief ordered the pastor to stop religious activities until he received approval from the local divisional secretary, even though such approval is not required, a source said.

In the country’s Eastern Province, unidentified motorcyclists on Jan. 12 disrupted the worship service of Gethsemane Gospel Church in Kurumanveli, Batticaloa District, NCEASL reported.

Shouting obscenities, the mob called for the pastor to come out of the church building. He refused and later filed a police complaint at the Kalawanchikudi police station. Police investigated but told the pastor to settle the matter, and he reached an undisclosed agreement with the instigators.

Cases of intimidation, discrimination, threats, violence, false allegations, legal challenges, demands for church closures, police inaction and demonstrations persist in Sri Lanka but are rarely reported in mainstream media. The NCEASL recorded six cases against Christians since the beginning of January – three threats, two cases of discrimination and one false allegation. In January 2018, the alliance recorded eight cases, and five cases in January 2017.

In 2018, NCEASL reported a total of 86 cases of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka, compared with 93 incidents in 2017, 80 incidents in 2016 and 90 in 2015. The highest number of incidents recorded in 2018 came under the category of threats against Christians, with 20 cases, according to NCEASL figures.

This was followed by 19 incidents of violence; 14 of intimidation; 12 each of discrimination and demands for closure of worship places; three of false allegations; two each of police inaction and registration of cases against Christians; and one each in the categories of legal challenges and demonstrations.

Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.

Christian Mother from Somalia Beaten, Raped in Kenya

Kenya (Morning Star News) – Somali Muslims who beat and raped a Christian mother of four last month began sending threatening messages more than a year ago at a refugee camp in Kenya, she said.

The 41-year-old Somali woman was a Muslim living in Somalia with her husband when he sent her and their four children to Kenya’s Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Somali border, in February 2016. She put her faith in Christ a year later, though it remained a secret until Somali Muslims saw her coming from church worship at Dadaab International Worship Centre in February 2018.

“We have known that you are a Christian, and one of us saw you come out of a church on Sunday,” read one threat, sources said. “If you continue attending the church, then we shall come for your head soon.”

She stopped attending the church services and relocated nearby.

“But it looks like we had already being marked,” the woman (name withheld) told Morning Star News. “Soon four of my children converted to Christ, and I cut all links with my husband in Somalia.”

When she stopped attending the church, the pastor visited the family and began praying with them in their house, an area source told Morning Star News.

“I think the enemies of Christ might have being monitoring their movements,” the source said.

On Jan. 2, four Muslims from Somalia forced their way into her home.

“I was beaten and then raped by four men who threatened me, telling me not to say anything about the ordeal that I went through,” she told Morning Star News. “As they left the house at 1 a.m., one of them said, ‘We could have killed you for being a disgrace to Islam and joining Christianity, which is against our religion, but since you are a single mother, we have decided to spare your life with the condition that you should not mention our names.’”

The woman is in dire need of trauma counseling, the source said, adding, “We as the underground church in Dadaab need prayers and support for our persecuted believers in Christ.”

Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia(Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.

Somalia is ranked 3rd on the Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be  a Christian; Kenya is ranked 40th.

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