Todd Starnes shares that the U.S. Military has blocked access to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website on an unknown number of military bases because it contains “hostile content” — just weeks after an Army briefing labeled Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics as examples of religious extremism, Fox News has learned.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination known for its support of the pro-life movement and its strong belief in traditional marriage.
Southern Baptist chaplains reported that SBC.net had been blocked at military installations around the nation. An Air Force officer told Fox News that when he tried to log on to the website he received a message that his Internet usage was being logged and monitored for trying to access a blocked site. The censorship was made public after an Army officer tried to log onto the denomination’s website and instead — received a warning message.
“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content,” the message read.
Team CONUS protects the computer network of the Dept. of Defense. The SBC’s website was not blocked at the Pentagon. It’s unclear what the “hostile content” might have been. The SBC is pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage.
“So the Southern Baptist Convention is now considered hostile to the U.S. Army,” the officer wrote in an email to the American Family Association.
Sing Oldham, spokesman for the SBC, told Fox News he had been in touch with the Dept. of Defense and had serious concerns.
“This is deeply disturbing,” he told Fox News. “While the Deputy Chief of Operation of the US Army has assured us this is a random event with no malicious intent, the Army must run this to the ground to assure that this is the case.”
However, Fox News has received reports from across the country of Southern Baptist chaplains unable to access the website.
“If the government blocked any portion of the SBC.net Web site for any purpose, that would be an unconscionable breach of trust with the American public,” Oldham said. “The First Amendment exists to protect the church from governmental censorship of or infringement upon religious speech and the free exercise of religion.”
The Dept. of Defense confirmed to Fox News late Wednesday that the SBC website had been blocked — but not intentionally.
“The Department of Defense is not intentionally blocking access to this site, said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart. “We are working diligently to investigate what might be causing access issues for some of our service members and to correct the situation as quickly as possible.”
The AFA sent out an action alert urging its members to contact the Pentagon and ask them to “stop the military’s alarming trend of hostility towards faith and religious freedom in our military.”
“Most disturbing to him (the Army officer) was the fact that the military labeled his personal religious faith as ‘hostile’ to the U.S. Army,” AFA spokesman Randy Sharp told Fox News.
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told Fox News that Southern Baptist chaplains on military bases around the nation have been unable to access the website.
“It’s a concern for the Dept. of Defense to block the website of one of the major evangelical denominations in the country,” Crews told Fox News. “The Southern Baptist Convention has the largest number of chaplains in the military representing Southern Baptist soldiers and churches. Those chaplains need access to their denomination’s website.”
An Army Reservist contacted Fox News and said he tried to log onto the site and an “Access Denied” message appeared on the screen.
“Your request was categorized by Blue Coat Web Filter as ‘Religion,’” the message read.
Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission denounced the censorship and demanded that Southern Baptist soldiers be provided access to the site.
“This is outrageous,” Land told Fox News. “Southern Baptists make up a higher percentage of the all-volunteer military than in the general population. It’s outrageous that our website would be blocked for Southern Baptists serving in the military and defending the freedom to access websites.”
Land said the military censorship was part of a “disturbing trend.”
“They need to unblock the website and find out who is responsible,” he said. “That person needs to be fired.”
Pickart told Fox News the Dept. of Defense “strongly supports the rights of service members, to include their ability to access religious websites like that of the SBC.”
“With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security,” he said.
Religious liberty groups were outraged by the block and called for an immediate investigation.
“This is another example of the growing hostility toward evangelical Christians in the armed forces,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council told Fox News. “Ironically, the very people who are sworn to support and defend the rights provided in the U.S. Constitution are being denied the right to exercise those rights individually.”
The American Family Association feared it was further evidence of what they called religious hostility within the Pentagon.
“This is one more example of the Defense Department leadership allowing hostility towards faith and religious freedom in our military,” Sharp told Fox News. “The growing list of offenses is overwhelming and Secretary Chuck Hagel should no longer ignore it.”
In recent days, the Army has come under fire after an officer sent an email to subordinates labeling the AFA and the Family Research Council as “domestic hate groups.”
In another incident a group of Army Reservists were told that Evangelical Christians and Catholics are examples of religious extremists.
The Army categorized the incidents as isolated and not condoned by the Dept. of the Army. They said the presentation to the reservists was not produced by the Army nor did it reflect their policy or doctrine.
Last week, soldiers at Fort Wainwright in Alaska were told to scrape off a Bible verse reference on their weapon scopes. That verse had been inscribed by the maker of the scopes.
Among other incidents:
- A War Games scenario at Fort Leavenworth that identified Christian groups and Evangelical groups as being potential threats;
- A 2009 Dept. of Homeland Security memorandum that identified future threats to national security coming from Evangelicals and pro-life groups;
- A West Point study released by the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center that linked pro-lifers to terrorism;
- Evangelical leader Franklin Graham was uninvited from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer service because of his comments about Islam;
- Christian prayers were banned at the funeral services for veterans at Houston’s National Cemetery;
- Bibles were banned at Walter Reed Army Medical Center – a decision that was later rescinded;
- Christian crosses and a steeple were removed from a chapel in Afghanistan because the military said the icons disrespected other religions;
- Catholic chaplains were told not to read a letter to parishioners from their archbishop related to Obamacare mandates. The Secretary of the Army feared the letter could be viewed as a call for civil disobedience.
“All of these things make one concerned about the attitude in the military toward evangelicals, Roman Catholics and other people of faith,” Crews said. “He are hoping the military makes every necessary step to correct this.”
The incidents led more than 40 members of Congress to write the Secretary of the Army earlier this month demanding an explanation and an apology.
“This is astonishing and offensive,” read a written by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). “We call on you to rescind this briefing and apologize for its content and set the record straight on the Army’s view on these faith groups by providing a balanced briefing on religious extremism.”
Muslim Fulani herdsmen suspected in another deadly assault in area.
Nigeria, April 24, 2013 (Morning Star News) – Hosea Mashaf was resting in his village of Chirang Mangor, Nigeria, when area Christian youths told him that armed, Muslim Fulani herdsmen were attacking the Christian village of Mile Bakwai.
The 45-year-old farmer and other Christians rushed to Mile Bakwai, three kilometers away in the Bokkos Local Council Area of Plateau State, the night of March 27 to see how they might aid the Christians there, he told Morning Star News.
“When we got there, the gunmen had already retreated,” Mashaf said. “I saw dead bodies scattered all over the village. I counted the dead bodies we recovered, and in all we had 18 Christians who were killed by the Muslim attackers.”
They found five of those bodies in a minibus, he said.
“They were travelling in a bus back to our village when they ran into the attack going on at Mile Bakwai village,” Mashaf said. “They were killed by the attackers when they shot at the bus, which crashed into a building, but the attackers went to the place where the bus was and shot the occupants. Five of them were killed, while two others were injured.”
Dead were Geofrey Mafuyai, 35; Mahana Jamok, 50; Arandon Yusuf, 18; Dung Dalyop, 38; and, Mbata Machif, 36. Maju Mahana, 25, and Nanle Enoch, 18 were wounded and received treatment at the ECWA Evangel Hospital in Jos, he said.
The 18 slain were members of Nigerian Baptist Convention, Christ Apostolic Church and Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregations, sources said. The Rev. James Danladi Mahwash of the Bishara Baptist Church in Mile Bakwai village said five of his church members were killed, including the financial secretary of the Men’s Missionary Union of his church, 25-year-old Jamle Benjamin Sunday.
“At about 8 p.m. the attackers, all Muslim Fulani herdsmen, came into this village in two separate groups, attacking us from two different directions, and shooting down anyone they saw,” he said. “They came from the northwestern end of the village, and then separated into two groups with one of the groups attacking from the western end, while the second group attacked from the eastern end.”
Besides Sunday, Mahwash said, among those killed were Kokiwo Malo, 65; Maren Galadima, 18; Gambo Geofrey Mafuyai, 45; Adamu Maren, 55; Zoron Adamu, 10; Maren Garba, 20; Danladi Mangar, 20; Joel Peter, 20; Boaz Masara, 20; Oge Emeka, 5; and one identified only as Jang from the neighboring village of Kunet.
The assailants also burned the houses of three Christians – Malo Kabu, Marion Bitrus and Mapu Daniel – in Mile Bakwai, “Seventh Mile” in the Hausa language as it is about seven miles from the main mining camp at Tenti village. Mile Bakwai is a former mining camp in the rocky hills of the Jos Plateau, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Jos.
In several previous attacks, the herdsmen robbed the 150-member church of about 211,000 naira (US$1315), Mahwash added.
“We believe that our attackers are Muslim Fulani herdsmen,” he said. “We know they have been attacking Christian communities in rural areas across central Nigerian states. We are not happy about this and feel that the Nigerian government has to do something urgently to curtail these attacks in order to save lives and restore peace in the northern part of this country.”
More Than 100 Slain
Ethnic Fulani Muslims are believed to have the backing of Islamic extremist groups in attacks on Christian areas in central and northern Nigeria. The Rev. Barnabas Kebang, chairman of the Bokkos Regional Church Council of COCIN, said the attack on Mile Bakwai was one of numerous assaults against Christians in the area.
“Since the year 2011, over 100 Christians have been killed here,” he said.
Christian communities attacked include those in the villages of Mushu, Tsohon Mushu, Marish, Ruboi, Wumat, Magi, Gada Biyu, Batish, Butura Gida, Pyakmalu, Mper, Ruwi, Chenget, Njukkudel and Washen, Kebang said.
Kebang, who as chair of the regional church council over 46 COCIN pastors oversees about 11,000 church members, was blunt about the identity of the culprits.
“Muslim Fulani herdsmen are responsible for these attacks,” he said.
After attacking Christian communities, Fulani herders “usually go out there to dish out false information to the world through their Islamic backers in the Middle East, using the Western press,” Kebang said. As result, he said, international press tend to misrepresent Muslim aggression as “sectarian conflict,” especially when Christians try to defend themselves.
Security agencies reported arresting six of the dozens of Muslims who attacked Mile Bakwai, but said five of those were killed during gun-battle during between the assailants and law enforcement forces, Kebang said. Reports he received from the Special Task Force created to stem violence indicated one of the Muslim attackers said 46 attackers participated in the assault on Mile Bakwai.
Kebang said the attack displaced nearly 500 Christians.
“We have about 140 of our church members displaced in this particular attack, and you can see them right here in the church premises,” Kebang said from his office in Bokkos in mid-April. “About 300 other Christians displaced in the attack are right now at the St. Thomas Catholic Church here in Bokkos, and another group of about 13 are camped at the Christ Apostolic Church also here in Bokkos town.”
Besides hit-and-run attacks by Fulani Muslims, the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group has targeted Christians in Nigeria in its effort to destabilize the government and impose sharia (Islamic law) nationwide. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar II, considered the leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, has called for a halt to attacks on Christians, but Kebang said area Muslims either deny or don’t know of the directive.
“In different forums where we have met to dialogue with Muslim leaders here in Plateau state, we have heard Muslim and Fulani leaders saying bluntly that they will not listen to anyone or act in a peaceful manner until the Sultan of Sokoto directs,” he said.
Sokoto is the base of the Caliphate, a Fulani oligarchy established centuries ago.
The sultan also recently called on the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to Boko Haram, but the Islamic extremist sect’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, has rejected the idea, claiming the group has not committed any crime warranting amnesty.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and reside primarily in the north, according to Operation World.
4.24.2013- Christian lawyer and human rights defender Nguyen Van Dai has spoken out about being barred from meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Dan Baer on April 13, 2013, when he visited Vietnam for the 17th U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer was able to meet with a number of human rights defenders during his visit, including lawyers, bloggers and advocates. He was also able to meet with some religious leaders. In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said, “While Mr. Baer was able to meet well-known activist Father Nguyen Van Ly in prison, we were troubled that authorities prevented a private meeting with activists Nguyen Van Dai and Dr. Pham Hong Son as planned.”
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi sent Mr. Dai an invitation to meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer, but Mr. Dai says that on Fri., April 12, a security officer phoned him and told him not to go to the Metropol Hotel for the meeting. Mr. Dai then relayed this order to the Embassy, who confirmed that the deputy minister of the Vietnamese Public Security Ministry had agreed that Mr. Baer could meet any Vietnamese citizen.
On April 13, the Embassy told Mr. Dai that the Vietnamese authorities had allowed him to go to the meeting. However, on the same day over 20 security officers and police came and blocked the way to Mr. Dai’s home. When a political officer from the Embassy tried to pick Mr. Dai up from his house that afternoon, security officers instructed 10 elderly women to block the officer’s car. Unable to reach Mr. Dai’s home, the officer had no option but to leave. According to Mr. Dai, approximately 10 of his supporters were arrested by security officers when they came to see what was happening. They were detained and questioned for five hours.
Andrew Johnston, Advocacy Director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said, “CSW is encouraged by Vietnam’s stated commitment to an ongoing conversation on human rights both inside and outside Vietnam-U.S. human rights dialogue, and by the broad range of Vietnamese activists who were able to meet with the US delegation. However, we are concerned that religious freedom advocate Nguyen Van Dai and businessman and activist Dr. Pham Hong Son were prevented from meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer. Constructive dialogue depends on mutual trust. When the authorities say delegates are free to meet any Vietnamese citizen, they should follow through with that assurance.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today urged the European Union (EU) to ensure that continuing grave violations of human rights, including religious freedom, in Burma remain a priority, despite the decision on April 22 to lift all EU sanctions on Burma apart from the arms embargo.
The EU suspended sanctions on Burma a year ago, setting out four specific benchmarks for progress, which would provide the conditions for complete lifting of sanctions. In the Council of the European Union conclusions on Myanmar/Burma, April 23, 2012, announcing the suspension last year, the EU said that it “still expects the unconditional release of remaining political prisoners and the removal of all restrictions placed on those already released. It looks forward to the end of conflict and to substantially improved access for humanitarian assistance, in particular for those affected by conflict in Kachin State and along the Eastern border, as well as to addressing the status and improving the welfare of the Rohingyas.”
In the past year, the conflict in Kachin State has escalated, with the Burma Army launching air strikes against civilians in December. Over 100,000 Kachin civilians are internally displaced, and cases of rape, torture, forced labor and killing of civilians have been documented. Access for humanitarian assistance to Kachin State has not improved significantly. The plight of the Rohingyas has deteriorated dramatically, with mass violence erupting in Rakhine State in June and again in October last year, displacing over 130,000. Within the past few days, fresh evidence has come to light of mass atrocities in Rakhine State and of the security forces’ inaction in the face of shocking anti-Muslim violence. Several hundred political prisoners remain in jail, and many of those who have been released are subject to conditions. On a recent visit to the country, CSW saw a burned-out madrassah and a desecrated mosque near the capital, Naypyidaw, and heard accounts of appalling human rights violations in Kachin State.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “It is right to welcome the positive changes that are taking place in Burma, including increased space for civil society, media and democratic political actors, improvements in freedom of expression, the release of the majority of political prisoners, and the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy in the parliamentary process. It is right to recognize and encourage the efforts of reformers. However, very grave human rights violations continue, and none of the EU’s own benchmarks have been fully met, so we regard the decision to lift all sanctions, without condition, as premature. Burma is just at the very beginning of fragile change, and until there are significant improvements in human rights, and an end to mass atrocities and the culture of impunity, pressure should be maintained. Given its decision to lift sanctions, we urge the EU to spell out new ways in which it will prioritize, protect and promote human rights in Burma. We urge the EU to use all human rights tools at its disposal, including its forthcoming Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, as part of its Burma policy, and to send a strong message to the Government of Burma that although sanctions have been lifted, the EU is not turning a blind eye to the continuing widespread violations of human rights.”
Democracy is a good thing, but the persecution of Christians that can result from democracy is not.
On Holy Thursday, the National Geographic Channel aired a three-part series about the rise of Christianity entitled “Jesus: Rise to Power.” For those of us who are familiar with the history of the period, it was a mixed bag. After all, how can you tell the story of Christianity’s “rise” without once using the word “resurrection”?
Still, one of the talking heads made a point well worth noting: many more Christians have died for the faith during our lifetimes than died for the faith between the first Easter and the AD 313 Edict of Milan, which ended Roman persecution of Christians.
A very sad example of this pattern took place this past week in Egypt. Coptic Christians protesting the killing of four Christians were attacked by a mob as they left a funeral at St. Mark’s Cathedral.
The mob “pelted them with rocks and firebombs and fired bird shot, forcing them back inside the complex.”
The police response, much like the Western media’s, was to treat the event as an example of “sectarian violence.” Thus, they “fired tear gas, and the gas canisters landing inside church grounds caused a panic among the women and children,” to the delight of the assailants outside the church.
Labeling this event and other attacks on Coptic Christians as “sectarian violence” is the worst kind of moral equivalence. Violence against Christian minorities in the Islamic world is endemic, from Nigeria to Pakistan. And this violence goes largely uncommented on, except on those rare occasions when Christians tire of turning the other cheek. Then, the tired cliché “sectarian violence” gets trotted out.
What’s being labeled “sectarian violence” is actually an attempt by some Muslims in Egypt to make life so miserable for Christians that they’ll either convert or leave the country. For groups such as the Salafis, who are aligned politically with Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood, the very presence of Christians in Egypt is an affront.
Thus, while countries like Egypt may be notionally committed to religious tolerance, if not actual religious freedom, their ability and arguably, their willingness to enforce this tolerance is doubtful at best.
A statement from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said that he regarded an attack on the cathedral as an attack on himself. But this leaves the lack of security at the cathedral and the firing of tear gas into the cathedral an even bigger mystery.
So is Morsi being disingenuous, or is Egypt, as presently governed, incapable of extending even the most rudimentary religious freedom to a population whose presence there long predates Islam?
A point made by “Jesus: Rise to Power” was that most of the persecution of the early Church was local in nature. With a few infamous exceptions such as Nero’s persecution and the Diocletian persecution of the early fourth century, Christians suffered at the hands of local officials and mobs. Little has changed in seventeen centuries.
A great deal of the ambivalence toward the so-called “Arab Spring” and the events in Syria comes from the concern over what will happen to the Christians in these countries. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein was followed, in very short order, by open war on Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The ouster of Hosni Mubarak has accelerated the attacks on the Copts. Who knows what might happen to Christians in post-Assad Syria?
While we may not want to prop up autocrats, we should have an ongoing concern not to make things worse for our already-suffering Christian brothers and sisters. And we must pray and speak out on their behalf. And that includes for Pastor Saeed, who has been wrongly imprisoned and physically abused in Iran for months. His wife Naghmeh joins me for an update on her husband on BreakPoint This Week. To listen, go to BreakPoint.org and click on the “This Week” tab.
Somali Christian convert jailed and tortured by al-Shabaab militants
Source Militants from the rebel Islamist group al-Shabaab have seized, imprisoned and tortured a Christian convert from Islam in Somalia. Hassan Gulled was taken by the rebels, who still control parts of central southern Somalia, on 23 March in Bulo Marer, near Qoryoley District. Hassan (25), who had been living in Christian-majority Kenya since 2007, returned to Somalia in late February to visit his family. His wife is still in Kenya. Hassan became a Christian in 2010 and married in 2011. His Christian activities were noticed by al-Shabaab extremists in Kenya, who contacted their counterparts in Somalia. His movements there were monitored by the group, which has a base in Bulo Marer, for three weeks before he was jailed.
Christian victims tell People’s Tribunal about arrests on false charges by highly communalized Karnataka police
Benguluru, April 19, 2013 More than 70 Christian Pastors told a People’s Tribunal in Bengaluru city today how a highly communalized Karnataka police arrested many of them and kept them confined in police stations or jails on false charges in league with hoodlums of the Sangh Parivar. Women too were also not spared. The Women victims broke down as they narrated the violence against them. The victims remained in confinement from overnight to several days, the distinguished jury consisting of eminent social activists heard in the Tribunal organized by the All India Christian Council to assess the victimization and persecution of Christian pastors and attacks on churches in the state. It was quite clear from the narrations that Uttara Canara was the foci of the anti-Christian violence, but incidents of persecution were reported from every one of the 30 districts of the state during 2012 and in the first three months of 2013. The “People’s Hearing on Persecution of Christians in Karnataka” was held at the Institute of Agriculture Technologists in the city. The Jury consisted of Mrs Brinda Adige, the celebrated Founder member of Global Concerns India, Advocate Omkar KB, and Mr K L Ashok, general secretary of Komu Souhardha Vedhike [Communal Harmony Front].and Mr. Mohamed Rafi Ahmed,General Secretay Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity. Continue Reading
ACLJ Joins Global Coalition to Highlight Plight of Christians in Syria
This week, the ACLJ joined members of a global coalition named the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP) expressing our concern and support for Syrian Christians and other ethnic and religious refugees facing persecution and displacement because of the conflicts in Syria. Last month, the ACLJ joined the members of RLP, which represents religious organizations from twenty different countries, to discuss the most critical issues of international religious freedom. Each year at its global consultation the RLP issues a statement regarding a pressing concern in the area of religious freedom. The ACLJ is proud to stand with this global coalition to highlight the crisis in Syria and ask the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria to pay particular attention to the “vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities.” Along with the call for action by the United Nations, the statement calls everyone to a time of prayer for stability in the war-torn country of Syria. The sheer number of Syrian Christians fleeing their country without access to adequate legal aid and subjected to ongoing violence deserves attention. To see the Istanbul Statement on Syria, you can click this link. The ACLJ and the global coalition express concern over the constant violence aimed at Syrian Christians and the lack of support and protection for refugees. In response, we collectively call on the international community to uphold international humanitarian standards and provide for the well-being of Syrians of all religious affiliations. Religious minorities in Syria have been denied a voice in the recent political and diplomatic efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. Accordingly, we join this global coalition and call for international support for a solution that will recognize every Syrian’s right to contribute to a peaceful solution, regardless of their religious affiliation. As an organization deeply committed to defending the fundamental human right to religious liberty, the ACLJ stands in solidarity with the Syrian Christian church. We are committed to raise awareness about the current situation in Syria and the plight of the Christian Syrian minority.
Kazakhstan Court Rules Against Destruction Bibles; Christians Fined
ASTANA/BUDAPEST (BosNewslife)– An appeals court in autocratically-ruled Kazakhstan has overturned a ruling that 121 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles, that were seized from a street evangelist be destroyed, BosNewsLife learned Monday, April 22.
“Thank God they didn’t destroy my books,” said evangelist Vyacheslav Cherkasov, who lives in the north-central city of Shchuchinsk, in a statement.
Christians claimed international publicity as well as outrage among believers and rights activists influenced the court decision.
Cherkasov said he will still have to pay a fine of $572 in local currency, more than the average monthly wage, for “violating” the country’s harsh rules regarding importing, publishing and distribution of religious literature. He had appealed against the destruction of literature and the fine saying it was his “constitutional right” to distribute Christian books and other publications. Continue Reading
Pregnant Mother in Tanzania Forced Out of Home for Putting Faith in Christ
NAIROBI, Kenya, April 20 (Morning Star News) – By the time Lukia Khalid, mother of three and nearly seven months pregnant, was baptized on March 30, her Muslim husband had already forced her out of their home in western Tanzania for becoming a Christian. That was a week after the 38-year-old Khalid and her husband, Kassim Khalid, received a visit to their home from an evangelist (name withheld) who told them about eternal life and the remission of sin for those who put their trust in the death and resurrection of Christ. On that day in Ujiji, near Kigoma, March 23, Khalid put her faith in Christ for salvation; her husband did not. After the evangelist left, Khalid’s husband threatened to kill her if she did not recant her newfound faith, she said. She took the threat seriously.
“My husband asked me whether I had left Islam, to which I said ‘Yes,’” she said. “He threatened to kill me if I was to stay with him. I then decided to escape that night with my three children to a neighbor’s house.”
Jamila Khalid, 13, Mjibu Khalid, 6, and 3-year-old Madua Khalid followed their mother out the door.
“We left only with the clothes that we were wearing,” Khalid said. “The command was so urgent that we could not wait any longer. We had to leave immediately.”
Ujiji is a predominantly Muslim area in the otherwise Christian-majority country. With a population that is 34.2 percent Muslim, Tanzania is 54 percent Christian; most of the rest of religious adherents hold ethnic tribal beliefs, according to Operation World. Continue Reading
The Siege of Egypt’s St. Mark Cathedral- An Insider’s Account
by Raymond Ibrahim • April 22, 2013 at 4:00 am
“Was Egypt’s entire state security unable to stop a mere 30-40 youths form vandalizing the nation’s cathedral?” — Amir Ramzi, eyewitness to the Egyptian security forces joining the mob that attacked the cathedral.
What really happened on Sunday, April 7, 2013, during the St. Mark Cathedral attack in Cairo, where two Christians were killed and dozens wounded by Egyptian forces? As usual, different reports gave different versions, but now that the smoke has settled, the facts as first asserted during the attack by Coptic activists have been confirmed. Back during the conflict, when the military was actually besieging the St. Mark cathedral—the most sacred building for millions of Coptic Christians and the only apostolic see in the entire continent of Africa—Amir Ramzi, a Copt who managed to escape the compound where hundreds of other Christians were trapped all night, was interviewed by phone on the popular Egyptian show, Cairo Today. Continue Reading
Egyptian Ministry of Interior of Involvement in Attacks on Cathedral
In light of the attacks on St. Mark’s Cathedral, a fact-finding committee demanded the dismissal of Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim, Minister of Interior, insisting that charges be brought against him for failing to carry out his role and preserve public security.
The committee also demanded a restructuring of the entire ministry, and for an investigation to be conducted into the actions of other high-ranking police officials involved in the investigation of the attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral. In its report, the committee blamed the Ministry of the Interior for the attacks on the cathedral in Abasseya after the funeral service for the victims of Khosos. Under the leadership of judge Mohamed el-Fawaz, chairman of the Civil Alliance for Human Rights, the committee stated that failure to ensure the security of the mourners was considered “direct involvement.” “The sight of police forces allowing assailants to attack the cathedral and the Papal residence, and idly watching them, is considered a direct involvement in this sinful act, which was enough to incite anger amongst people, affecting national unity,” Fawaz wrote. “The events that took place at the cathedral are not a result of a sectarian strife, but rather a hostage and terrorism situation,” Fawaz added. Continue Reading
President Morsi Denies Sectarian Incidents in Egypt. Statement called a lie!
Said Abdel Hafez, head of the Dialogue Forum for Development and Human Rights, recently stated that comments made by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi indicating there are no sectarian incidents in Egypt is a “lie” because he knows the essence of civil and political rights is the right to freedom of belief and worship. Abdel Hafez told Mideast Christian News that President Morsi definitely knows the incidents committed against Egyptian Copts- their right to freedom of faith and worship was violated and their churches and houses were demolished and burned- were sectarian in nature. Hafez noted that other Copts were killed because of their religious identity and some were forcibly displaced from their villages and homes because of the ongoing clashes between Copts and Muslims. “I think there is no reason which would make the president lie in the media and allege that there are no sectarian incidents, and that he sees what is happening as simple skirmishes and believes they do not constitute a phenomenon,” Hafez told MCN Continue Reading
UK Government report plays down growing Christian persecution
A government report on human rights violations has been attacked by the UK head of an international Catholic charity for not taking the growing problem of Christian persecution seriously. The Foreign and Commonwealth office have been criticized for glossing over the persecution of Christians.
The National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK), Neville Kyrke-Smith, also criticised the FCO 2012 Report on human Rights and Democracy, saying that it “Downplays the scale of Christian persecution.” Although he commended the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for considering issues related to religious freedom in its report, he criticised it for its lack of coverage regarding the intolerance towards Christians.
Neville Kyrke-Smith made reference to the many Christians that have fled the Middle East because of persecution, notably Iraq and stated that the report failed to cover these problems adequately. He went on to say that: “While the report describes attacks on members of the Iraq’s LGBT community and Emos, it is virtually silent about the various attacks on Christians.” Continue Reading
Boston Bombing Victim Was Involved With Christian Student Ministry
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an inter-denominational student ministry that builds communities across campuses in the U.S., revealed that one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing was involved with their organization.
Chinese national Lingzi Lu, 23, was one of the three people who lost their lives in last week’s twin blasts that rocked the Boston Marathon, which also injured more than 170 others.
“(Lu) was involved with the international student ministry we have at Boston University. She attended a retreat that we sponsored last fall. She was friends with people in the InterVarsity International Student ministry with the graduate and faculty side of our work,” said InterVarsity National Field Director Greg Jao, according to Mission Network News.
Jao revealed that over 500,000 international students come to U.S. colleges each year.
“Most of them represent the promise of that country’s future. The State Department has estimated that 25% of all of the world’s future leaders are studying in the United States right now,” the field director added. “It’s in the mutuality of relationship that you begin to share life together. You begin to share stories together. You have opportunities to share the Gospel together. And all it takes is a simple invitation: ‘Would you come and have a meal with me? Would you have coffee at my home?'”
The family of Lu back in China shared in a statement with Boston University that the young student’s dream was to come to America to study, and that she had “fallen in love with Boston and its people.”
“We are grieving and at a loss for words to describe the pain and sadness we are experiencing following the sudden passing of our dear daughter, Lingzi. She was the joy of our lives. She was a bright and wonderful child. We were thrilled to watch her grow into an intelligent and beautiful young woman. She was a positive role model for many others,” the family added.
Boston police and the rest of America are waiting to find out what pushed 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev to commit the crime. While Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police Thursday night, Dzhokhar is in custody. The teen is currently recovering in the hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot to the throat, and may face charges of federal terrorism and state murder.
Sudan’s minister of guidance and endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, announced Wednesday that no new licenses for building churches will be issued. The Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments oversees religious affairs in the country.
The minister explained this decision by claiming that no new churches had been established since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, due to a lack of worshippers, and claimed a growth in the number of abandoned church buildings. He added there was therefore no need for new churches but said the freedom to worship is guaranteed in Sudan.
This decision was announced against the backdrop of a campaign of repression against Christians in northern Sudan that began in December and has continued into 2013. Days before this announcement, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported a senior South Sudanese Catholic priest, Father Maurino, and two expatriate missionaries had been deported on April 12.
The two missionaries, one from France and the other from Egypt, worked with children in Khartoum. According to Fr. Maurino, no reason was given for the deportations. He added that Christians were in trouble in Sudan, since the government sought to Islamize the country and eliminate the Christian presence.
In a briefing published this month, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) states that since December, the organization “has noted an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians and of those suspected of having links to them, particularly in Khartoum and Omodorum, Sudan’s largest cities. There has also been a systematic targeting of members of African ethnic groups, particularly the Nuba, lending apparent credence to the notion of the resurgence of an official agenda of Islamisation and Arabisation.
“The campaign of repression continued into 2013, with foreign Christians being arrested and deported at short notice and those from Sudan facing arrest, detention and questioning by the security services, as well as the confiscation of property such as mobile phones, identity cards and laptops. In addition to the arrests and deportations, local reports cite a media campaign warning against ‘Christianisation.’”
In February, at least 55 Christians linked to the evangelical church in Khartoum were detained without charge. On Feb. 18, the cultural center of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services. Three people were arrested at the premises, and several items were confiscated, including books and media equipment. The three arrested were all from South Sudan; one was released days after the initial arrest.
CSW’s advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, says,
“The recent spike in religious repression in Sudan is deeply worrying. The minister’s claims of guaranteeing freedom to worship are at odds with regular reports of Christians being harassed, arrested and, in some cases, expelled from the country at short notice. We urge the Sudanese government to end its campaign of harassment against the Christian community and respect the right of all of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory.”
Sudan uses Shari’a against its own Christians
KHARTOUM, SUDAN (Worthy News)– After the South seceded in 2011, President Al-Bashir promised to make what remained of Sudan “100 percent” Islamic; to that end, the Sudanese government has enhanced its enforcement of Shari’a against any Christians who remain under Al-Bashir’s rule.
Although the Sudanese government has deported hundreds of Christian foreigners, ethnic South Sudanese — who make up the majority of Christians in Sudan — have been officially classified as aliens since the 2011 split. As strangers in their own land, they must obtain new permits for existing churches, but since the Sudanese government has been unwilling to grant them, it began closing, or even destroying churches it now claims were illegally built.
Yet despite this tactic, the Sudanese government vehemently denies discriminating against Christians.
“All religions can practice their faith in total freedom,” a senior official of Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party informed International Christian Concern. “There are no restrictions at all”.
Related News Stories:
- Christians in Sudan, South Sudan Facing Death and Detention
- Sudan Forces Its Christians Out
- Danforth appointment marks positive step on Sudan
- Sudan Detains Dozens Of Christians; Violence Kills 60
- Police persecute Christians in Sudan
- Thousands Of Trapped Christians Rescued In Sudan
- Sudan Police Flog Christian Girls for Wearing Pants, report