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Iraqi Christian: ‘IS made me spit on a Cross and convert to Islam’

Zarefa was forced to convert to Islam and spit on a Cross. World Watch Monitor

Zarefa was forced
to convert to Islam and spit on a Cross.
World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) One of the major themes explored in Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence, is the question of how to respond when faced with a choice between denying one’s faith or facing death.

Christians in 17th century Japan were given this choice, and it’s the same for Christians in many parts of the world today.

Throughout the film, the audience is shown Christians being told to step on – or, in one case, spit on – an image of Jesus or Mary. Some do; others can’t.

This same choice was given to Zarefa, an elderly Iraqi Christian woman, when the Islamic State captured her town in 2014. During a raid on the house where she was staying, IS fighters found a few crucifixes and other Christian images – strictly illegal under IS rule.

“They forced me to spit on the Cross,” Zarefa recalls. “I told them that it was not appropriate, that it was a sin. He said that I must spit. ‘Don’t you see that I have a gun?’ he asked me. I said to myself,

“Oh, the Cross! I am weak, I will spit on you. But Lord, I ask you to take revenge for me. I cannot escape from this.”

The shame is still visible on Zarefa’s face when she recounts the memory; her town, Qaraqosh, is liberated now, but she is still recovering from the traumatic two years that are only just behind her.

Zarefa’s husband died shortly after Qaraqosh was captured. She remembers the warning signs in the days beforehand, when a group of teenagers on motorbikes chastised her for speaking in Syriac – a language closely related to the Aramaic that Jesus spoke.

“Speak our language!” they shouted, in Arabic, the language of Islam.

By that time, many families had already left Qaraqosh, after IS had overpowered and completely overrun the Iraqi army, leaving the Christians unprotected.

For Zarefa, running was no option. Her husband was dying and she had no enemies in the town; she thought the two of them would be left in peace.

But Zarefa soon found out there is no such thing as living in peace under IS rule.

She shared how, soon after IS came, her husband passed away, leaving her a widow and more vulnerable than ever.

She moved in with neighbours, but IS fighters repeatedly harassed them and robbed all of the valuables they could get their hands on. And not just valuables.

“One day, the man whose house I was a guest in never came home. Some people said he was killed and buried in an open area. Others said that he fell in a hole. Another one said that only God knows what happened to him. The fact is that we have not seen him since,” Zarefa recalls.

From then on it was just the two elderly, single women left. As soon as IS found out about them, they told the women to move to nearby Mosul.

“We told them that we don’t want to leave; that we belong here,” Zarefa says. “That this is our home; we want to stay here. But they made us leave against our will. In the night, they took us from our house, they put bags over our heads and asked us if we had converted to Islam.”

Frightened, Zarefa says she “quickly told them that I had”.

A few hours later, when their hoods were lifted, the two women found themselves in an IS women’s prison full of mostly divorced women. (In the eyes of IS, it’s a crime for a woman to divorce.)

After a few days, Zarefa and her friend managed to return to Qaraqosh as “Muslim” women, but when they arrived, they found three IS soldiers waiting to question them.

Zarefa said she   begged IS not to make her convert to Islam. World Watch Monitor

Zarefa said she
begged IS not to make her convert to Islam.
World Watch Monitor

“They requested that we openly profess adherence to Islam,” Zarefa says. “I begged them and asked them why we must do such a thing. ‘We will not add anything to your case by converting to Islam,’ we told them. ‘Let us choose our own way and religion.’”

The leader of the group got angry, drew a gun, pointed it at Zarefa’s heart, and threatened to kill her if she didn’t convert to Islam.

“What would you do if you were in our position?” she asks. “He said something, asked us to repeat it, and then asked if we were Muslims. ‘Yes,’ we said. ‘Yes, we are.’ And then they left.”

But that was not enough; the harassment continued.

Zarefa says different IS fighters continually came to their home and demanded money and valuables at gunpoint. When they had taken nearly everything and she was left almost bankrupt, she hid her last savings – the equivalent of 250 dollars – in her bra.

But even that was discovered.

“They forced me to take it off, and then they took my money,” Zarefa recalls, embarrassed by the memory. “Then that man pushed me down on the couch, put his gun on my chest, and threatened me because he was convinced there was more to rob. He shouted at me: ‘We will be cruel to you until you obey.’”

Christians ‘eager’ to return home

Today, 18 January, the Iraqi army has announced that it has recaptured “vast swathes” of Mosul east of the Tigris River, which runs through the city. The army says it’s now preparing to fight to retake the area of Mosul west of the Tigris.

Despite ordeals such as Zarefa’s, Iraqi Christians who fled outlying towns like Qaraqosh (east of Mosul) when IS came in 2014 are “eager” to return home, according to one young Christian in Karamles.

“We are eager to return to our liberated areas,” Valentine told Al-Monitor.

Fr. Thabet Habib, who pastors a church in the town, added: “The time has come for Christians to return to the liberated areas in Nineveh Valley, now that the military operations have ended.” Though he admitted the return will be “gradual”.

World Watch Monitor reported in December that the conflict with IS had left thousands of homes uninhabitable.

“It seems they wanted to make sure nothing of value would remain,” Fr. Habib told World Watch Monitor. “The effect is a mounting feeling of hopelessness among the Christians when they discover the damage. They will really need time to recover from this news, to adjust to the new perspective of living in displacement longer than they might have expected.”

The devastation in Karamles has created a 'mounting feeling of hopelessness', according to Fr. Habib. World Watch Monitor

The devastation in Karamles has created a ‘mounting feeling of hopelessness’, according to Fr. Habib.
World Watch Monitor

Fr. Habib said as much as 80% of the infrastructure in the Hamdaniya district, where Karamles is located, had been destroyed.

But one resident, Sara Bahnam, told Al-Monitor she is desperate to return home.

“We are sick and tired of being displaced and paying rent in recent years. I will be the first to return to Hamdaniya and to my house, whatever the obstacles,” she said.

Meanwhile, a US bishop has said that the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Mosul told him he is against the construction of a “safe corridor” for religious minorities in Iraq.

Bishop Oscar Cantu told the Catholic News Service that Archbishop Yohanna Moshe told him: “We don’t want to live in a ghetto. That is counterproductive. That makes us a target for our enemies. We have to live in a secure but integrated community where Chaldean Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Sunni Muslims, etc., have relationships with each other.

“We need an integrated reality, rather than a ‘Gaza’ where there’s a wall and someone is guarding people going in and out.”

Christian Governor accused of blasphemy regaining support ahead of elections

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Indonesia: Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, is gaining support from undecided voters, following a debate held last week ahead of a gubernatorial election in Indonesia’s capital next month.

Support for the Christian governor, popularly known as “Ahok” dropped significantly after he was accused of blasphemy in October and went on trial in December.

The trial is expected to last for months, which enables Ahok to stand in the election scheduled to take place on Feb. 15.

According to pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, the Jan. 13 debate has convinced many undecided voters to vote for Ahok as they believe he is the best choice to manage Jakarta and its problems. Voters believe the other candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, do not have much to offer.

Yohanes Handoyo Budhisedjati, chairman of Vox Point Indonesia, a Catholic political organization, said the debate has helped people see how good Ahok’s political will is.

“People can see what he has done and I believe he will get more votes, despite the blasphemy accusations,” Budhisedjati told ucanews.com on Jan. 16.

In the debate Ahok vowed to continue successful policies undertaken during his first term that included providing better housing for former slum dwellers and tackling corruption.

Ermelinda Tara from St. James Parish in North Jakarta, said the debate proved Ahok was the better candidate. “I believe Ahok will finish what he has started if he is given the chance,” said Tara who added that her home has been flood free since Ahok took office in November 2014.

“The debate strengthened my decision to vote for Ahok,” said Asamanduru, a member of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia. “The blasphemy case will not affect it,” he said.

A second debate will be held on Jan. 27 and the third on Feb. 10, five days before around 7 million voters go to the polls. (source: UCAN)

Muslim encourages Catholics to vote in Indonesia polls

A prominent Muslim intellectual is urging Indonesian Catholics to put prejudices aside and vote in regional elections next month for leaders who can make society a better place for all citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds.

“We have to vote for a brave leader who can make changes in this capital,” Mohammad Qodari,  executive director of Indo Barometer, an independent research and survey institute, told hundreds of Catholics at a gathering at Sacred Heart Church in Central Java, on Jan. 15.  At the gathering Qodari, who appeared to back Ahok for his reforms, said that Catholics are not only good citizens but also good nation-builders.

Father Guido Suprapto, executive secretary of Indonesian Bishops’ Commission for the Laity, said the bishops’ conference issued a pastoral letter in November last year, encouraging Catholics to participate in the election and even monitor the entire process. Catholics can change society by voting for leaders who understand religious values, take the side of poor people and who love peace and care for the environment, he said.  (Source: VR)

Previously considered secular and tolerant, hardliners and persecution against Christians has increased throughout Indonesia, Please pray for our brothers and sisters in the nation.

The Return of Islam’s Child-Soldiers

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-22-13-57-960x513-960x513
The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well—in this case, countless, nameless children

Past and present, Muslim militants continue relying on the same inhumane tactics to terrorize “infidels.”  The devastating effects of one of these occurred last August in Turkey: a child “recruited” by the Islamic State blew himself up in a suicide attack that left at least 51 people—mostly fellow children—dead.

This child was one of countless, nameless, faceless children seized, beat, and indoctrinated in Islam, until they become willing “martyrs” and executioners.   Known as the “cubs of the caliphate,” they are graduates from “schools [established by ISIS] to prepare hundreds of children and teenagers to conduct suicide attacks.”  The Islamic State is fond of showcasing these abducted children turned criminals.

A few days ago, it posted a video of these “cubs,” most who appear to be about 10 years of age, walking around an abandoned amusement park, where they savagely execute hostages tied to rides.  One child, reportedly only four years old, shoots five rounds into a tied up victim while screaming “Allahu Akbar!”  (see image above).  Another little boy slits the throat of his victim next to a kiddie train before planting the knife in his back.  Last November ISIS posted another video of four children—one Russian, one Uzbek, and two Iraqis—executing civilians.

One Christian clergyman explained the Islamic State’s strategy: “They dislocate the families, they take the newborn babies, and they put them in Islamist families,” where they are indoctrinated in jihad, or what is called in the West, “terrorist activities.”

Children who’ve managed to escape ISIS say they were repeatedly beat and fed “endless propaganda,” including that they must kill their non-Muslim parents: “We weren’t allowed to cry but I would think about my mother, think about her worrying about me and I’d try and cry quietly,” one little boy said.

Seizing and indoctrinating children for the jihad is hardly limited to ISIS.  Over the last three years, Boko Haram, the Islamic jihadi group terrorizing Nigeria, has kidnapped, enslaved, beat and indoctrinated more than 10,000 boys—some as young as 5 years of age, and many from Christian backgrounds—into becoming jihadis/terrorists.

“They told us, ‘It’s all right for you to kill and slaughter even your parents,’” said a former captive who witnessed a beheading on the day he was enslaved. Other boys held down the victim and explained: “This is what you have to do to get to heaven.”

Girls were kept in a separate camp and raped, often by captive boys, as a way to show the latter the boons of becoming warriors for Allah (the deity that permits his slaves to enslave and rape “infidel” women). An escaped girl, Rachel, now 13 and pregnant by rape, told of how dozens of boys from her village tied up a kidnapped man and beheaded him.  They told the younger children watching not to “have feelings about it.” “If you go there [Boko Haram training camps], you can see 12-year-olds talking about burning down a village,” said another escaped girl, adding “They have converted.”

A boy, now 10, served as babysitter for infants and toddlers kidnapped or conceived by rape: “The children, none older than 4, watched jihadist propaganda videos and rehearsed a game called ‘suicide bomber’ where they ripped open sacks of sand strapped to their torsos.”

These Nigerian children, some as young as 6, have been used to terrorize neighboring Cameroon, a Christian majority nation.  During a jihadi raid, more than 100 screaming boys suddenly appeared—barefoot, unarmed, or swinging only machetes—and ran toward a military unit which gunned them down.  As Col. Didier Badjeck explained, “It’s better to kill a boy than have 1,000 victims.  It’s causing us problems with international organizations, but they’re not on the front lines. We are.”

Another report, published just days ago, tells of more experiences from abducted boys and girls, and how Boko Haram showed the former to “have fun” with the latter, including by “learning to subdue a struggling victim during sexual assault.”  One escaped 16-year-old girl said, “I was raped almost on a daily basis by different men.  When they became fed-up with me, they asked the little boy, who has often watched them do it, to take over.”

But it’s not just ISIS and Boko Haram who seize, enslave, beat and indoctrinate boys for jihad (and girls to “make it up” to the boys).  This practice is also taking place in Yemen, Somalia and even “moderate” Mali.  Indeed, a cursory Internet search reveals the extent of this phenomenon.

In 2012, 300 Christian children were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam in Bangladesh.  After convincing impoverished Christian families in Bangladesh to spend what little money they had to send their children to study at supposed “mission hostels,” Muslim conmen would “pocket the money” and “sell the children to Islamic schools elsewhere in the country ‘where imams force them to abjure Christianity.’”  The children are then instructed in Islam and beaten. After being fully indoctrinated, the once Christian children are asked if they are “ready to give their lives for Islam,” presumably by becoming jihadi suicide-bombers.

Why are Islamic jihad groups resorting to this tactic of enslaving and indoctrinating children into becoming jihadis?  Most Western analysts believe this is a reflection of weakened, desperate groups: “The growing trend for ISIS to use child soldiers as suicide bombers, particularly in Iraq, has been suggested as a sign of how stretched their resources are in the region,” noted one report.

Or it could suggest that ISIS, Boko Haram, etc., are simply following another page of the jihadi playbook.  For over a millennium, Muslim caliphates specialized in seizing and enslaving tens if not hundreds of thousands of young non-Muslim boys, converting them to Islam, and then beating, indoctrinating, and training them into becoming jihadis extraordinaire.

The most famous of these were the Ottoman Empire’s janissaries—Christian boys who were seized from their homes, converted to and indoctrinated in Islam and jihad, and then unleashed on their former families.  As the author of Balkan Wars explains, “Despite their Christian upbringing, they became fanatical Muslims and earnestly maintained their faith as warriors of Islam.  This cruel practice of what today can be defined as the ‘brain cleansing’ of the Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire is perhaps the most inhuman Turkish legacy.”

That Turkey is now suffering from the effects of this system—such as when a child suicide bomber killed 51 people in the name of jihad—may be called “ironic.”

Western analysts would not be oblivious to this “new” jihadi tactic—optimistically portraying the reliance on children as proof that jihadi groups have “stretched their resources”—if they had Islamic studies departments that actually disseminated facts instead of pro-Islamic myths and propaganda.   As with all unsavory aspects of Islamic history, the institution of child slave soldiers has been thoroughly whitewashed.  Although young, terrified boys were seized from the clutches of their devastated parents, the academic narrative is that poor Christian families were somewhat happy to see their boys taken to the caliphate where they would have a “bright future” as “soldiers and statesmen.”

The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well—in this case, countless, nameless children.   As Mausi Segun, a human rights activist discussing the plight of Boko Haram’s child jihadis put it: “There’s almost an entire generation of boys missing.  My guess is that a large majority of them will die [as forced jihadis] in the conflict.” And they will die completely unknown in the West—just another victim group to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, lest Islam’s reputation be besmirched.

By Raymond Ibrahim

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in places such as Nigeria and Thailand aiding Christians fleeing violence, languishing in refugee (IDP) camps or seeking asylum from persecution. 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.

Donations are always desperately needed.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and

Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; a CBN News contributor; a Media Fellow, Hoover Institution (2013); and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum . Ibrahim’s dual-background — born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East — has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.

Nigeria: 11 Killed in Multiple Bomb Blasts in Madagali

NIGERIA road sign

Kaduna (Nigeria) Two people were killed and 15 others injured in northeastern Nigeria, during a suicide attack that the government has blamed on the Boko Haram.

Around 9:00 am on Friday, three explosions rocked Madagali, a former base of the terrorist in Adamawa state. The blasts occurred near a military checkpoint at the entrance of the town. Many people had gathered to be screened before entering Madagali on the weekly market day.

Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar told AFP the blasts were carried out by female suicide bombers. “Two people were confirmed dead and 15 others injured. Four female suicide bombers exploded and died.  “The fourth bomber was shot by soldiers and exploded while heading towards her target,” he added.

Some reports claim one of the suicide bombers had a baby strapped to her back, but this information has not yet been confirmed at the time of this report.

Sambisa Forest is across the border in neighboring Borno state, the well-known Boko Haram training ground and hideout, has seen fiercest battles in the conflict with the militants since 2009.

The Nigerian military said last month it had retaken control of the forest. It is “strongly” believed Boko Haram fighters who were pushed out of their strongholds in the Sambisa Forest were behind Friday’s explosions.

Boko Haram fighters are also known to have been holed up near Madagali in the Mandara mountains, which separate northeast Nigeria and Cameroon.

Madagali has repeatedly been a target of the Islamic group. Vanguard news reported,

it was the third successive bomb blast in the last two months in a town that suffered so much loss during the peak of the insurgency. The incident has caused anxiety among residents. They maintained that more attacks could happen if the authorities remained beclouded in the euphoria of the acclaimed victory over the sect.

On January 5, three teenage girls were shot dead at a checkpoint in the remote town on suspicion of planning a suicide attack.

On December 9, at least 45 people were killed in two suicide bombings at the busy markets in Madagali, a year after a similar strike killed 17.

Suicide attacks, particularly by young women and girls, have been a regular feature of the conflict since mid-2014, even when Boko Haram held swathes of territory in the northeast.

Checkpoints, bus stations, mosques, churches, schools and markets have been targeted repeatedly since the start of the insurgency in 2009 to inflict maximum civilian casualties.

Much of the international media reports have been sharing the claim of the Nigerian government that the Boko Haram has been defeated. But those living in the crisis invite journalists from around the globe to come to Nigeria and report from their communities. One of VOP‘s sources said, “Maybe then the headlines will finally reveal the truth of our ongoing suffering. Maybe then the world will take notice.”

Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency  has killed over 20,000 people, displaced more than 2 1/2 million from their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis. The U.N. says 5.1 million people in Nigeria are facing starvation.

Please keep our Nigerian brothers and sisters at the forefront of your prayers. Please continue to pray for there protection, emotional distress and peace that will allow them to go home.

Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our Christian brothers and sisters experiencing brutal persecution.

We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. They will not be forgotten!

We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on orphan-306x4601them. They have been so encouraged and thank God for each one of you who have joined this mission through prayer and your support.

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.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed

You believe, but do you trust in Him?

psalm-31-14-16

Psalm 31

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning, my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends—those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lordfor I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lordfor he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear brothers and sisters, be encouraged. Our times are in His hands. You can fully trust our Almighty God to be faithful.

For further encouragement click here

Christian Woman in Eastern Uganda Coerced into Taking Poison

Sandra Summaya, photo altered for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

Sandra Summaya, photo altered for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

One week after she receives Christ, Muslim relatives leave her to die.

(Morning Star News) – Muslim relatives of a young woman in eastern Uganda who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison at a New Year’s celebration, she said.

Sandra Summaya, 24, of Bugayi village in Pallisa District, told Morning Star News that she converted to Christianity at a worship service on Christmas Day.

“I had great peace when the pastor prayed for me to take Jesus as my savior,” she said. “I later shared my testimony with my brother, who outrightly accused me of being an infidel and an outcast from the family and the Muslim community. I felt great pain inside me because of the insults.”

On Sunday (Jan. 1) Summaya’s immediate family and a few other relatives gathered in the predominantly Muslim village in Kamuge County to celebrate the New Year with a meal. At the high point of the gathering, Summaya said, a paternal uncle read to her a Bible verse and suggested it meant God would protect her from harm, including illness from ingesting poison.

“He said, ‘Do you believe that Issa [Jesus] is able to protect your from poison as written in the Bible?’ and I answered ‘Yes,’” she said. “Immediately I was forced to take the poison to confirm my faith in the Bible, at around midnight. I could not deny the Bible, so I took the rat poison.”

Soon she became seriously ill.

“I started having severe stomach pains together with vomiting and cried for help,” she said. “I was taken away from the homestead to a nearby bush. I was tied with a rope to a tree and left to die.”

Her loud cries woke a Christian neighbor who rushed to the site.

“I found Summaya unconscious, and we rushed her to a Kamuge nursing home, where the doctor saved her life,” said the neighbor, whose name is withheld for security reasons.

Summaya remains at the hospital and her condition has stabilized, a nurse told Morning Star News.

“She will still be in the hospital for some few days as we monitor her situation,” said the nurse, who requested anonymity.

An area source requested prayer that Summaya be healed and protected, and that she not doubt God’s love and provision.

The incidents are the latest in a series of anti-Christian attacks in eastern Uganda. On Christmas Day Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.

On Dec. 8, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, were trying to gather cassava at 10 a.m. on the homestead he had been forced to abandon in Bufuja village, Butaleja District, after Muslim relatives threatened to kill him if he returned.

Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he publically confessed having embraced Christianity, managed to escape the fury of those who arrived at his farm on Dec. 8 while he and his mother were trying to harvest something to eat, he told Morning Star News.

Namutongi became a Christian after visiting her ostracized, injured son on Nov. 26 and listening to his faith journey, a local source said. He has continued to receive threatening messages, he said.

On Oct. 20, Muslims in Kobolwa village, Kibuku District gutted the home of a Christian family for housing two boys who had been threatened with violence for leaving Islam.

Stephen Muganzi, 41, told Morning Star News that the two teenaged boys sought refuge with him on Oct. 16 after their parents earlier in the month learned of their conversion, began questioning them and threatened to kill them. The two boys, ages 16 and 17, had secretly become Christians nearly seven months before.

On Sept. 18, 2016, a Muslim in Budaka District beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service, sources said. Hussein Kasolo had recently married Fatuma Baluka, 21-year-old daughter of an Islamic leader in a predominantly Muslim village, undisclosed for security reasons.

On Aug. 10, a Christian woman in eastern Uganda became ill after she was poisoned, she said.

Aisha Twanza, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, ingested an insecticide put into her food after family members upbraided her for becoming a Christian, she told Morning Star News. She and her husband, who live in Kakwangha village in Budaka District, put their faith in Christ in January 2016.

In Busalamu village, Luuka District, eight children from four families have taken refuge with Christians after their parents beat and disowned them for leaving Islam or animism, sources said. The new-found faith of the children, ages 9 to 16, angered their parents, who beat them in an effort to deter them from sneaking to worship services, and on June 29, 2016 the young ones took refuge at the church building, area sources said.

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another, but Christians in eastern Uganda are suffering continual attacks by non-state figures.

IRAQ – Christian neighborhood of Mosul freed. Chaldean priest: not all refugees will return

STR/EPA/Landov

STR/EPA/Landov

Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday, January 8 the Iraqi regular army regained control of al Sukkar, an area in eastern Mosul once inhabited mostly by Christian families. This is what local sources reported to online magazine ankawa. The area comprises at least 700 homes belonging to Christian owners, some of whom had been occupied by foreign militants of the Islamic State (Daesh).

Many of the homes in the neighborhood had been marked with the Arabic letter “Nun”, the initial of the word Nasara, which means Christian, to indicate that those houses could be expropriated and were available to supporters of Daesh. The houses had been abandoned by Christians since, June 9, 2014, when Mosul had fallen into the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State. According to reports from local sources, most of the buildings and also the pediatric hospital located in the neighborhood, were destroyed or damaged.

“News from Mosul need our attention”, says to Agenzia Fides father Thabit Mekko, Chaldean priest of the north-Iraqi town, currently displaced in Erbil together with his faithful, “but the situation is still dangerous, there are snipers in roads and it is too early to think about a return of Christians who have fled from their homes. Such a case will be considered only when security is assured. Many families have not yet decided what they will do. Not all those who left Mosul in front of the advance of Daesh will return”.

Meanwhile, Sunday, January 8 was marred by yet another bombing in the district of Jamila in Baghdad. A car bomb in a crowded wholesale market, claimed by Daesh, caused at least 12 dead and 50 wounded.

Pray for our brothers and sisters suffering in Iraq.

PAKISTAN – A Christian arrested for alleged blasphemy

4hh-552-pak

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – Babu Shahbaz, a Christian from the village of Kamahan, near Lahore, was arrested by the police for alleged blasphemy. As Fides learns, on December 30 a formal complaint was filed to the police against Babu Shahbaz, under Article 295 b of the Penal Code of Pakistan. The complaint came after the Muslim, Haji Nadeem accused the Christian of having torn and thrown pages of the Koran in the street. Shahbaz is illiterate and cannot write.

Babu Shahbaz, 41, lives in the village of Kamahan, is married and has three children. An evangelical Christian who in the past 15 years has organized prayer meetings at his house, and many Christians and Muslims participate in the small home meetings, asking blessings and healing prayer. The local Muslims have shown impatience towards the growing popularity of Shahbaz and therefore have accused him of a false case of blasphemy.

After the complaint, the police stopped the Christian and his family, sending several officers to the village to monitor the situation and prevent possible mass reactions against Christians.

Shahbaz’ family have asked for assistance to the NGO Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) who spoke with the police and ascertained the situation, providing legal assistance to the family.

“The abuse of the blasphemy law continues to attack Christians and other religious minorities”, says CLAAS to Fides. “We hope the story is clarified as soon as possible, otherwise the fate of Shahbaz will be the same as Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih, Zaffar Bhatti and many others who, innocent, have been in prison for years. It is urgent to amend the blasphemy law to prevent abuses. If the government does not change this law, false cases of blasphemy against religious minorities will continue. The blasphemy law violates international human rights treaties ratified by the government of Pakistan”.

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