An Islamic terror campaign against Christians in Egypt should be headline-grabbing news. Not so. Few media outlets are focusing on the story behind the story in Egypt — a calculated assault against Egypt’s ancient Christian community.
In recent weeks, the violence in Egypt –fueled by hate-filled radical Muslims — has resulted in the murder of Coptic Christians and the destruction of dozens of churches. Radical Islamists have even paraded Christian nuns through the streets like prisoners of war.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an anti-American, anti-Israel terrorist group, put red paint on Christian homes and businesses — marking them as targets.
The attacks are so unrelenting that even one Egyptian church, which has been open for 1,600 years, had to close its doors — cancelling services for the first time ever — because of the violence.
The assault on Christians is not confined to Egypt. We see it in our work in Pakistan, where Christians are also singled out and face grave dangers because of their faith.
And, just this week, an American citizen experienced religious persecution first-hand when a court in Iran rejected his appeal. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini faces eight years in prison. He’s been imprisoned now for nearly one year, subjected to beatings and torture, simply because of his Christian faith.
The disturbing decision by Iran’s judiciary violates the universally-respected principles of protecting human rights and religious freedom. And, the decision seems to indicate that it is business as usual Iran — even under the new President Hassan Rohani.
In fact, one of the judges who rejected the appeal, Judge Ahmad Zargar, was sanctioned by the European Union for issuing long-term sentences and the death penalty against peaceful protestors.
At the American Center for Law and Justice we represent Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two young children. The family lives here in the United States.
The latest news out of Iran is devastating for Saeed family and raises two even more important questions: Why is the Obama administration largely silent on this topic? Why isn’t President Obama forcefully speaking out, condemning this assault on Christians?
Let’s go back to Egypt for a moment. As the anti-Christian violence there escalates, President Obama has said very little about the slaughter.
Here’s what he said just days ago: “We believe that … the rights of … religious minorities should be respected . . . .”
Where’s the outrage? Where’s the condemnation?
According to Mohabat News, the regime-backed Sharq website reported that the Public Relations section of the “Sarcheshmeh” (Martyrs of Islamic Revolution) Cultural Center announced that the first in a series of meetings called “Free thinking and critical speech” was held to discuss “conversion from Islam” and analyze why Iranian youth tend to convert to Christianity.
The report indicates there were several special guests in the first meeting as well. The guests were Dr. Christian Bruno and Dr. Yassin from France and another guest from Italy. The guests spoke about Christianity and a few reasons why some young people tend to convert to it.
The announcement states that religious minorities and Iranian Christians are free to take part with no admission costs. It also indicates that due to the sensitivity of issue and limited seats, those interested need to sign up in advance.
The meeting dedicated to investigating the reasons for conversion of Iranian youth to Christianity will be held on September 6, 2013, in the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Center.
Christianity is spreading in Iran rapidly and has reached its peak especially in recent years. However, the increasing growth of house-churches in the country and the tendency of Iranian youth and their families to convert from Islam has turned into a major concern for the security organizations, especially Shi’ite Islamic clerics.
It seems great crackdowns on churches and extraordinary waves of arrest of Iranian pastors and Christian converts have not been effective. This time the Islamic regime intends to use all means available to hold anti-Christian meetings in order to distort public opinion about Christianity in order to stop the rapid growth of Christianity among Iranians. Despite all the pressures, threats, and oppression against Iranian Christians, especially Christian converts, Iranian youth become more interested in knowing about Christianity every day and more of them decide to convert.
The incredible tendency of Iranians, especially younger ones, towards Christianity in recent years, has created a major concern in the minds of Iranian Islamic rulers. Now the question is, do these expensive meetings, with especially hand-picked foreign guests, help the Islamic regime to interrupt the work that God has started among Iranians and dissuade Iranians from giving their hearts to Jesus Christ?
In the middle of Lake Galilee, the disciples suddenly saw Jesus. He was like a ghost emerging out of the gloom and spray. It was unbelievable – He was walking, treading the waves under his feet like snarling animals.He came right across to the boat and got in. Then, another inexplicable experience, for “immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” (John 6,21) It was all real but… seemed unreal. The disciples never forgot it, could never fathom it, but took it as normal when Jesus was around.It goes without saying that the God who created the universe should know how to handle all things in a storm – who else? Well, Jesus showed He did. So, who is He? Need we ask? The answer is in John 1:1-2: “In the beginning was the Word. All things were made by Him and nothing without Him”.Getting a boat across to shore in a moment of time should be no problem to the one called ‘the Word’. It only takes Him to reposition the locality of a few atoms. Our God specializes in things impossible… Trust Him. God bless you. REINHARD BONNKE
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has asked Hamilton County Schools to end monthly after-school prayer services at Hardy Elementary School.
A Times Free Press story earlier this month highlighted a prayer walk at the school, where teachers, administrators, parents and students walked the halls to pray with members of Love Baptist Church. In a letter to the school system’s attorney, the national Freedom from Religion Foundation says those actions raise constitutional concerns by offering an endorsement of a particular religion.
Hardy Principal Annette Ferguson could not be reached for comment on Friday. But she earlier told the Times Free Press that the prayer walk was optional. Though she said there were children of many faiths at Hardy, Ferguson said the prayer service only happened after school, so people could choose whether to participate.
The foundation, which has consistently sought to keep prayer and other religious activities out of public schools and other government settings, says Ferguson’s comments were troublesome.
“When she and other administrators participate in these prayer walks in such an official capacity, it makes it clear that they approve of these Christian events, and exhibits favoritism to Christianity over all other religions,” staff attorney Rebecca Markert wrote to the school system.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation has been involved in several local church-state separation issues. Last year, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga banned public prayer before football games after receiving a letter from the group. And the foundation challenged prayer and church-sponsored meals for Ridgeland High School football players last year.
Hamilton County Schools attorney Scott Bennett said he is looking into the matter. But, generally speaking, he said the school system does not treat any religious group more or less favorably than other groups. The school system remains neutral on religion. And while employees may exercise their own religious liberties, he said they may not do so in an official capacity.
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press
O GOD OUR CREATOR,
from your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome-for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us.
May this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Father, we also pray for those who are lost. That they may come to know you and your enduring love for them.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Coptic Christians in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya are managing to restrain their anger despite a wave of devastating attacks on their churches and institutions by enraged Islamists.
Tensions are still running high more than two weeks after the attacks in the city some 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Cairo but there have been no calls for vengeance, nor any fiery rhetoric.
“I say to the Islamists who attacked us that we are not afraid of their violence and their desire to exterminate the Copts,” said Botros Fahim Awad Hanna, the archbishop of Minya.
“If we are not hitting back, it is not because we are afraid, but because we are sensible,” he said.
Enraged by a bloody crackdown mid-August on protests in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, Islamists lashed out at Coptic Christians in Minya, accusing them of backing the military that toppled the head of state.
The Copts, who account for some 10 million out of Egypt’s population of 80 million, had already suffered persecution in recent years.
But they say they have never such a systematic campaign as this.
“We were expecting a violent reaction but not on this scale, which suggests it was well prepared,” the archbishop said.
In the greater Minya province, where Christians account for about one-fifth of the five million population, Christians say they have suffered systematic and coordinated violence since mid-August.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 40 churches have been attacked in Egypt since August 14, when the security forces launched a bloody crackdown against demonstrations demanding the return of Morsi, who was toppled by the military on July 3.
The attacks have been concentrated in Minya and Assiut, in central Egypt, where attackers torched 11 and eight churches respectively, the US-based rights group said.
Islamists accused Egypt’s Copts of throwing their weight behind the military coup that removed from power the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
The perception was fuelled by the fact that Coptic Pope Tawadros II appeared with army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he spoke on television to announce Morsi’s removal from office.
At the ruins of Saint Moses’ church in Minya, Bassam Youssef, a Copt, despairs at the sight of the rounded building with its clock tower, now ravaged by fire.
“Some 500 extremists attacked the building and set it on fire,” Youssef recalled.
“We did not expect such violence,” he added, showing pictures of the church before its destruction.
Nuri Kino is a Sweden-based independent investigative reporter, filmmaker, author, Middle East and human-rights analyst. His report, titled ”The Camp,” which examined the construction of a massive refugee camp for Syrian Christians inside Turkey, appeared May 5 at World Watch Monitor.
Early this morning I received a phone call from Mary, a friend in Sweden who was born in Syria. She wanted me to check my Facebook account. A young Syrian woman, Nour, wanted to become friends with me. I accepted the request. A minute later, Nour wrote me her first message. She had pictures from Tabqa, a town that was totally emptied of Christian Assyrians. Nour also had the contact information of victims of fundamentalist Islam. They, the victims, want the world to know what has happened to them. A group of non-Syrian Mujahedeen drove them out of their homes.The message from the perpetrators was ”convert to Islam or leave”. I called one of the victims, and heard horrifying stories about religious and ethnic cleansing.
Christians in Syria are a vulnerable group. They comprise approximately 8 percent of the population. Tabqa used to be a modern city with cinemas, hairdressers, fashion boutiques and restaurants. Now it is driven by men in beards who no longer allow any of that.
An hour after my interview with that refugee, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared ”there must be accountability” on behalf of the victims of a chemical weapon attack. Considering all the evidence emerging from witnesses, from images, from human-rights groups and from medical information provided by Doctors Without Borders, Kerry said ”these all strongly indicate” that ”chemical weapsons were used in Syria,” and that they were fired by the Syrian government.
Doctors Without Borders didnt’ appreciate its medical reports being used as a justification for possible military action. It issued a statement stressing that only ”an independent investigation” can determine whether the hundreds of bodies arriving at hospitals Aug. 21 were killed by chemical weapons, and that the organization has not placed blame anywhere.
While I tuned in to YouTube to listen to Kerry’s speech again, an Assyrian refugee who has taken shelter in Lebanon called me. Ninos wanted to know whether I thought NATO will bomb Syria. His family remains in Syria. They fled from rebel-controlled Homs to regime-controlled suburbs. They feel safer in areas where the regime can protect them, where al-Nusra or other fundamentalist Islamists can’t persecute them. Ninos said he’s afraid that, if the U.S. and its allies enter the war, Christians will be suffer doubly, and that they will be bombed along with Alawites, a Muslim sect that 15 percent of Syrians, including President Bashar al-Assad, belong to.
At the end of his speech, Kerry declared the US must protect the most vulnerable. I wondered if he, and the American allies currently expressing outrage, have thought about Christians like Ninos, his family, and Nour. They have not killed a single soul. They definitely have not gassed anyone. And they are the most vulnerable Syrians of all.
Jonathan, a young Christian living in Huntsville Alabama, sent us a video that brings to light the persecution of our brothers and sisters through out the world. It also asks us to pray. Thank you for being a Voice, brother!
In line with details, Phillip Anwar, a Christian man residing in Islamabad has sent a desperate message for help to Pakistan Christian Post; urging immediate help to save him and his family from constant threats from his rival Rana Muhammad Fahim; forcing him to give up his Christian faith and embrace Islam followed by stealing his savings and tearing down his business.
In 2009, Phillip Anwar leased a shop for business from Rana Muhammad Fahim Ahmad without confirmation of real ownership of the property. He regularly paid rent to Rana Muhammad Fahim every month until the discovery that Rana Muhmmad Fahim is not the real owner of the property. Till that point of time he had already lavishly spent money on this shop turning it into a gents saloon. His shop located in an exclusive market of Islamabad earned him handsome amounts with many employees working for him.
Later in 2012, discovered that his rented shop was actually owned by Taj Muhammad; subsequently, started paying Taj Muhammad monthly rent, instead of Rana Muhammad Fahim. Seeing this, Rana Muhammad Fahim became infuriated threatening Phillip of dire consequences.
It was on September, 13, 2012 at about 9:30 PM that Rana Muhammad Fahim along with his co-conspirators burst into Phillips shop. They were carrying lethal weapons and immediately started damaging the shop property, bashing the workers of Phillip Anwar with the intention to take possession of the shop.
During this episode of blatant vandalism, Rana Muhammad Fahim pointed his pistol at me and brought me on street hitting with arms. The attackers on my saloon broke out my shop sign boards and put up their own locks,” says Phillip Anwar.
Phillip called for emergency police help who took them to the police station, instead of lodging a report against Rana Muhammad Fahim and his accomplice. They then detained Phillip Anwar and his brother. Later on Phillip Anwar got an FIR registered against Rana Muhammad Fahim as a result of the frantic run to the local courts and police officials.
Copy of Phillip Anwar’s letter:
“This is Philip from Pakistan and religiously a Christian. My religious affinity has become not only the enemy of myself, but my family also. Last time, I had contracted for a shop with a Muslim friend who betrayed me and breached the contract which cost me lot of money, what I’m still not able to make up.
I’ve a family of five members including myself. Three daughters and my wife are not only depending on me, but are also finding their future in my future. I am being life-threatened and harassed and my family is suffering due to that. My financial status has weakened so much I’m not able to pay the school fee of my children for the last three months.
My opponents are rich and resourceful and they are unleashing their anger on me through different means like police and fake cases etc. The people here and their designs forced me even to convert my religious affinity through various means the proof of which is attached in the following e-mail. It is not evidently mentioned in the evidences due to fear of a severe religious backlash. This would seem a common situation for religious minorities here, but my case is more particular and pathetic as well. I would be highly grateful to you if you consider my problems on urgent and humanitarian basis.”