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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sudan Arrests Pastor During Sermon, Threatens Him

Photo: Sudanese authorities left a Presbyterian Church of Sudan building in ruins in January 2013. (Morning Star News)

Photo: Sudanese authorities left a Presbyterian Church of Sudan building in ruins in January 2013. (Morning Star News)

Authorities try to intimidate preacher into resigning.

February 28, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Sudanese authorities arrested a pastor in Omdurman as he was preaching on Sunday (Feb. 23) and threatened that he would “face justice” unless he resigned his position, sources said.

Personnel from the Criminal Investigation Department entered the compound of Omdurman Evangelical Church and arrested the Rev. Yahya Abdelrahim Nalu as part of a government plan to take over properties of the church’s denomination, the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), the sources said. Omdurman is opposite Khartoum on the River Nile.

The Federal Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments seeks to replace Nalu, senior leader at the church and moderator of the SPEC Synod, with a government-appointed committee that favors turning SPEC properties over to the government, they said.

Authorities held him at the Central Khartoum Police Station for two days, until midnight Monday night (Feb. 24). Though the government attempt to seize church property is a civil matter, officials sent the criminal investigators to take Nalu into custody and treated the pastor as if he were a criminal, sources said.

“They arrested me in a very shameful way and threw me in the car,” Nalu, a native of South Kordofan State’s Nuba Mountains, told Morning Star News.

Authorities told him that if he did not relinquish his position to the government-appointed committee, he would “face justice” in court, sources said; it was unclear if the threat of legal action to obtain church properties included concocting a criminal charge against the pastor.

The director of church affairs in the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments declined to answer calls from Morning Star News.

SPEC owns properties in strategic places in central Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman. Through the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, the government seeks full control of SPEC assets by imposing a church leadership loyal to their policies, the sources said.

“They have arrested our pastor without due respect to us as a congregation,” one source said.

On June 25, 2013, plain-clothes police officials raided the offices of the SPEC in Omdurman in what church leaders called a bid to take over the property. Without permission from government authorities, the officers entered the church compound and chased SPEC pastors and others out of the offices, a Christian leader said.

In apparent interference in church affairs, the officers said they had sided with some church officials in an administrative dispute and therefore were ordering church leaders to leave the premises or face arrest, said the Christian leader, who requested anonymity. The government is trying to divide the leadership by becoming involved with administrative disputes within SPEC so that it can take control of the property, he said.

A government official had denied the government was trying to divide the leadership, saying the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments was not favoring one side or the other in the disputes, but admitted the government had inserted itself into church affairs.

Since April 2012, a SPEC compound in Khartoum has been subject to attempted takeovers and attacks by Islamic extremists.

Following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese, and on Feb. 17 it demolished another. Bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from the National Intelligence and Security Services destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman without prior notice, sources said.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since secession, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News, July 12, 2013).

South Sudan’s secession has also served as a pretext for Bashir’s regime to deport Christians based on their ethnicity, sources said. In a report issued in April 2013, Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians, including many of South Sudanese origin, since December 2012. The organization also reported that systematic targeting of Nuba and other ethnic groups suggests the resurgence of an official policy of “Islamization and Arabization.”

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and in April 2013, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended the country remain on the list.

USCIRF noted the crackdown in a statement last year.

“With the independence of South Sudan, senior Sudanese government officials have called for a more comprehensive and rigid application of Sharia law in Sudan, where southerners who are Christian have been subject to a range of religious freedom violations,” USCIRF stated. “In particular, there have been credible reports of the destruction of churches, refusal to permit construction of new churches and other forms of intimidation and harassment.”

South Sudanese lost citizenship in Sudan and were ordered to leave by March 1, 2012, but thousands have been stranded in the north due to job loss, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan. South Sudanese Christians in Sudan have faced increased hostilities due to their ethnic origins – though thousands have little or no ties to South Sudan – as well as their faith.

By MSN Sudan Correspondent

Morning Star News

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The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham’s dhimmi pact for the Christians of Raqqa province

Regime flag recently put up in Raqqa city.

Regime flag recently put up in Raqqa city.

In an excellent article by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi on joshualandis.com, he gives a good description of the oppression imposed on Christians living in Islamic nations. Below is a portion of the article, along with the preliminary translation of the relevant excerpts of the first formal dhimmi pact. We ask, “If the same was imposed on those who follow Islam in Western nations, would not a loud cry be heard of discrimination and accusations of Islamaphobia?”

“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

Traditionally, a ‘dhimmi’ in Islam is a Jew or Christian who agrees to live under the authority of an Islamic state, agreeing to pay a ‘jizya’ (poll tax) and enduring a number of discriminatory conditions in return for ‘protection’ from the state. The Qur’anic basis for this arrangement is 9:29. In practice of course, the dhimmi pact, far from being a model of historical multiculturalism and tolerance as hailed by Western Islamic apologists such as Karen Armstrong, is actually equivalent to Mafia racketeering, as failure to pay ‘jizya’, whose financial burdens often proved heavy historically, leads to a loss of ‘protection’ by the state.

For the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS), which has the backing of broad elements of classical Islamic theology in this regard, such a development comes as no surprise, as the group’s predecessors- Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and al-Qa’ida in Iraq- similarly imposed jizya on Christians both in the Baghdad area (al-Dura neighborhood) and the north of the country. In Syria, the group has already imposed dhimmi terms in practice on Christians in Raqqa province, such as in Tel Abyad, where supposed violation of the dhimmi pact was the pretext for ISIS’ desecration of the Armenian church in the fall of last year.

One should also note that this pact has been imposed by ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and bears his signature as the amir al-mu’mineen (“Commander of the Faithful”- the traditional title of a Caliph, illustrating how ISIS is aiming to build the Caliphate and is projecting its leader as the future Caliph). It would thus indicate that Baghdadi is likely to be in Raqqa province at the moment.

Here is my preliminary translation of the relevant excerpts of the first formal dhimmi pact:

“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

Text of the pact of security the Islamic State has given to the Christians of Raqqa with their embracing the rulings of dhimma.

Fight those who believe not in God, nor the Last Day, nor in what God and His messenger have forbidden, nor adopt the true religion [Islam], [even if they be] from the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay jizya with the hand, and feel themselves subdued- Qur’an 9:29.

We bear witness that there is no deity but God alone. He has fulfilled his promise. He has given victory to His servant. He has made mighty His soldiers. He has defeated the parties on His own: there is no deity but God whom we worship, having purified religion for Him even if the kuffar hate it.

And we bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger- may God’s peace and blessings be upon him…and we bear witness that Jesus the son of Mary is God’s servant and His messenger…the Almighty has said: ‘Never would the Messiah disdain to be God’s servant, and nor would the Angels who are near, and whosoever disdains to worship Him and is haughty- He will gather them to Himself together’- Qur’an 4:172.

[…]

And for what follows: This is what the servant of God- Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Commander of the Faithful [NB: this is the title of a Caliph] has given to the Christians concerning the pact of protection. He has given them security for themselves, their wealth, their churches and the rest of their property in the province of Raqqa: their churches should not be attacked, nor should anything be taken [by force] from them, nor from their domain, nor anything from their wealth, and there should be no compulsion against them in religion, and none of them should be harmed.

He has imposed these conditions on them:

1. That they must not build in their town or the periphery a monastery, church or monk’s hermitage, and must not rebuild what has fallen into disrepair.

2. That they must not show the cross or any of their scriptures in any of the roads or markets of the Muslims and they must not use any means to amplify their voices during their calls to prayers or similarly for the rest of their acts of worship.

3. That they must not make Muslims hear recital of their scriptures or the sounds of their bells, even if they strike them within their churches.

4. That they must not engage in any acts of hostility against the Islamic State, like giving housing to spies and those wanted for a reason by the Islamic State, or whosoever’s brigandery is proven from among the Christians or others, they must not aid such persons in concealing or moving them or other such things. If they know of a conspiracy againt the Muslims, they must inform them about it.

5. That they must not engage in any displays of worship outside the churches.

6. That they must not stop any of the Christians from embracing Islam if he so wishes.

7. That they must respect Islam and Muslims, and not disparage their religion in any way.

8. The Christians must embrace payment of the jizya- on every adult male: its value is 4 dinars of gold…on the Ahl al-Ghina [the wealthy], and half that value on those of middle income, and half that on the poor among them, on condition that they do not conceal anything from us regarding their state of affairs. And they are to make two payments per year.

9. They are not allowed to bear arms.

10. They are not to deal in selling pork and wine with Muslims or in their markets; and they are not to consume it [wine] publicly- that is, in any public places.

11. They should have their own tombs, as is custom.

12. That they must accept the precepts imposed by the Islamic State like modesty of dress, selling, buying and other things.

[…]

So for them is nearness to God and the dhimma of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God- may God’s peace and blessings be upon him- even as God brings his command: what they have embraced in the conditions outlined in this document.

But if they disagree with anything in this pact, then they have no dhimma, and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham will deal with them as it deals with the people of war and stubborn enmity.”

Read Full Article Here

 

Why Has Boko-Haram’s Attacks Continued Unchecked?

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As you know  we have dared to ask many questions that the media won’t ask when researching the violence in Africa and the Middle East.  There have been very disturbing reports coming not only from Syria, Central African Republic, but also Nigeria.  In the most recent attack, Boko Haram entered a village and attacked a boarding school, burning it to the ground with students and others still inside.  It was reported that they separated the girls from the boys.  Telling the girls to run away and get married, just as their brand of sharia law calls for.  Women are not allowed any other life except marriage. The very name Boko Haram means ‘Western Education is Sinful.‘  It was also reported that they separated Christians from Muslims, but these stories of religious separation are not widely reported.

Today in the Christian Science Monitor they asked the question, ‘Where was the Nigerian Army’?  That’s a question that we all want answered.  It was reported that the security forces didn’t arrive for at least 2 hours.  Reports claim they ‘slaughtered some like rams.’  (More)  As the Government struggles for answers, they’re coming under fire.  Where was the army?  In the CAR they are struggling with the same questions.  This article from the Fides agency sheds a little light on what they would like to do with the army in Nigeria.

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) – Nigeria is still shocked after the killing of more than 40 students in a dormitory of the government run Buni-Yadi college in the north eastern state of Yobe, during the night of 25 February. The assailants, probably members of the Islamic sect Boko Haram, spared the girls but set fire to the dormitory where the boys were sleeping. Those trying to escape were killed in cold blood.
Attempting to give a sign of commitment to the general public, the Nigerian Senate has ordered army chief of staff Major General Kenneth Minimah, to move his office temporarily to Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, one of the three states with Yobe and Adamawa where a state of emergency was imposed in May 2013 to facilitate the task of the armed forces to hunt down Boko Haram.
The Nigerian Senate has also charged Major General Minimah to tighten security measures in schools in areas of Boko Haram violence, which has caused thousands to flee to neighbouring Niger, where the situation is very precarious. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 27/2/2014

It’s hard to understand why the UN has not demanded more forces sent to Nigeria, and the CAR.  In Nigeria, the Boko Haram, a ruthless band of rebels with ties to Al-queda brandishing their own vicious brand of murderous religous law.  And in the CAR the army has been rendered virtually helpless in controlling the violence.  French troops and African Union troops are helping there, but still the weapons smuggling and kidnapping trades run rampant along side fleeing refugees.  There are worries that if they don’t get a handle on things soon, other groups like Boko Haram will enter through their porous borders.  It’s an established fact that the Lord’s Resistance Army has operated in this area.  And a weapons shipment was intercepted recently on the Camaroon border on the way to the Boko Haram in Nigeria.

There are those in Nigeria who are trying to help and are ministering to the victims and their families.  But they are under constant danger.  The public is fearful, and are growing weary from the violence.  Why these groups want to constantly attack defenseless children, we will never understand.  But the attacks continue and grow in frequency.  Pray for the leaders of these regions, pray for peace, pray for calm, and pray for protection, comfort and strength for the weak, innocent and our Brothers and Sisters.

nigeriaschoolattack

Related:

Boko Haram Islamists in Nigeria accused of killing sleeping children(The Guardian)

Credit to Wikimedia Commons for Map : Nigerian states by population density, english version of map from german wikipedia [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild:Bev%C3%B6lkerungsdichte_Nigerischer_Bundesstaaten.png]

By VOP Advocates L.Kanalos/C.Refsland

Mainstream Media Mum on Atrocities Against Christians

Silence

Can the press be complicit in crimes against humanity?  Or is it obstruction of justice?  How else to account for their failure to report the ongoing bloodshed and carnage inflicted upon Christians in the Middle East and North Africa?

Regardless of whether the mainstream media’s culpability is a sin of commission or omission – malevolence or malpractice – the result remains the same.  Christians are being massacred and the world is oblivious.

Earlier this month, a representative from the Vatican appeared on Capitol Hill before a House subcommittee to discuss the “flagrant and widespread persecution” of Christians in the Middle East. One of seven speakers, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, noting that this growing threat targets all those who practice Christianity, Arab or not, explained that Christian communities in Syria are being decimated and worshippers kidnapped, shot or beheaded if they refuse to convert to Islam.

Capture.-JPGAs January came to a close, a delegation of Christian leaders from Syria came to the United States to make their case about the plight of Christians in their country. Dr. Riad Jarjour, a Presbyterian clergyman, told a crowd at the Heritage Foundation, “If things continue the way [they are], there will come a time [when] there will be no more Christians in Syria.”

Echoing Dr. Jarjour’s fears was world-renowned authority on jihadist ideology and Islamic persecution of Christian minorities Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, Director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity.  Dr. Sookhdeo illustrated the point with an historical reference to the  1915 genocide of Christian minorities as their communities in Armenia and Syria were destroyed. At that time the West “stood by and watched.” As a witness to the current atrocities in Syria, Dr. Sookhdeo stood before the Heritage audience in supplication:  “We would plead for your media to break the silence.”

Ultimately the question is:  Why is the media silent about the horrors committed against Christians?

With all the turmoil engulfing the Middle East and surrounding areas, there is no shortage of reporters or news bureaus in that part of the world. Yet, the massacre of Christians doesn’t make the pages of the New York Times or warrant a spot on the NBC Nightly News.

On Tuesday, mainstream media outlets reported the massacre of 29 students in Nigeria by the Islamist group Boko Haram. However, these reports fail to mention this group’s history of attacking Christian churches and villages as well as their message of “convert or die” to Christian women.

Since August 2011, the not-for-profit international policy council and think tank Gatestone Institute has been providing a monthly report tracking the “persecution of Christians in the Islamic world.” They specifically state that one of their objectives for this ongoing series is “to document that which the mainstream media often seems to fail to report.”

It’s hard to argue that traditional news outlets are not consciously avoiding the story. In November, one of the world’s most media covered individuals, Pope Francis, addressed the atrocities being committed against Christians in the Middle East when he declared, after meeting patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Iran, “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians.”

Strong words from the head of the Catholic Church.  But newsworthy?  Apparently not!

Do the mainstream media simply disdain Christians? I doubt it. Are they afraid of offending Islam? A safe bet. The fact is that nobody can truly tell what is in another’s heart. But what we do know about the current journalism profession is that the mainstream media outlets have a soft spot for the Obama administration. If President Barack Obama doesn’t acknowledge a situation as a crisis, then it isn’t one.

And that may be the underlying problem.

President Obama has avoided using his office to acknowledge the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.

The family of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been held in Iran for over a year, was devastated to learn that the administration didn’t even attempt to secure his release when they entered into nuclear talks and eventual agreement this past November.

At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, the president pontificated, “We believe that each of us is ‘wonderfully made’ in the image of God. We therefore believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion…”

“Wonderful” words from the leader of the free world. Unfortunately Obama’s homiletics and Washington’s social events don’t have very much impact on beheadings in Syria and the burning of churches in Nigeria. A diligent press, on the other hand – a press that doesn’t cherry-pick the atrocities it chooses to report, a press that keeps governments accountable – can indeed save lives and safeguard the dignity consecrated by President Obama’s rhetoric.

Paul Miller is an op-ed contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new media and political consulting firm. Follow Paul on Twitter @Pauliespoint.

Arutz Sheva 7

Islamist Militia Group in Libya Suspected in Killing of Seven Coptic Christians

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CAIRO, Egypt (Morning Star News) – An Islamist militia behind prior attacks in Libya is thought to be responsible for the execution-style shootings of seven Egyptian Christians found yesterday east of Benghazi.

The militia, Ansar al-Sharia, has offered a reward to Benghazi residents who help them round up the rest of the Libyan capital’s Christians, according to rights groups.

Security officials on Monday (Feb. 24), found the bodies of seven Coptic Christians east of Benghazi. The seven men had been shot in the head “execution style,” according to local security officials. Neighbors said that gunmen had come to the men’s apartment building in Garoutha, a suburb in Benghazi, the night before (Feb. 23) and asked who was Christian, according to Egyptian human rights groups.

The gunmen then abducted them at gunpoint, forced the Coptic Christians into a car and drove off, according to rights groups. The men were not seen alive again.

According to Nations Without Borders, an Egyptian human rights and development group, the militia members also spray-painted a message on the Christians’ apartment building and other buildings in the area, promising 10,000 Libyan Dinars (US$7,880) for anyone who turns a Christian over to the militants.

Found slain were Talaat Seddiq Bebawi, Hani Girgis Habib, Nadhi Girgis Habib, Fawzi Fathi Seddiq, Edward Nashed Boulos, Ayoub Sabry Tawfiq and Sameh Romany, according to a press statement by the Coptic Orthodox Church. All were from El-Maragha in Sohag Province.

An Egyptian Christian who suffered persecution in Libya before he left the country said the Copts were clearly killed over their faith.

“It obvious that the attack was because of their faith, because they only picked the Christians there,” he said. “There are other Egyptian Muslims in the same building, but they only went after the Christians.”

The Christian, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said persecution against Christians especially in eastern Libya got much worse after Islamic militant groups came to power after the fall of dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Now militants are scattered throughout the area and actively harass Christians. He said militants offering money for people to hurt Christians didn’t surprise him.

This week’s incident is the latest in a string of attacks against Christians in eastern Libya. There have been several attacks against Egyptian Christians since 2012, including several on church buildings and priests. In February 2013 the persecution spiked after militiamen arrested seven expatriate Christians, including four Egyptians. At least two of the Egyptian Christians were tortured, including one who died while in custody.

On Sept. 25, 2013, on a rural road in Derna District in northeastern Libya, Muslims robbed two Egyptian Christians living in Libya, then tied up and shot them to death after the two Copts refused their demand to convert to Islam, relatives said. After the Muslims surrounded Waleed Saad Shaker, 25, and Nash’at Shenouda Ishaq, 27, and robbed and beat them, they demanded that Shaker and Ishaq recite the shahada, the declaration of conversion to Islam. When the two Orthodox Coptic Christians refused, the Muslims tied them up and shot them, relatives said.

Later the same month, militia members rounded up roughly 50 Coptic Orthodox Christians, accused them of preaching to Muslims and detained them in a camp for about a week. The captors shaved the heads of many of those they detained and forced some into hard labor. On Feb. 28, 2013, a priest and his assistant in a Coptic Orthodox church in Benghazi were attacked. Both suffered minor injuries.

The violent attacks in Benghazi haven’t been limited to Egyptian Christians. In December, Islamist gunmen killed Ronnie Smith, an expatriate Christian chemistry teacher at a private international school. Originally, it was thought that the militants targeted Smith because he was an American, but according to several religious freedom advocates who agreed to speak to Morning Star News about the case without attribution, most now think Smith was shot because militants viewed him as a self-supporting missionary.

Comments by Egyptian officials about violence in Libya have only served to incense Copts about the attacks and the Egyptian government’s seeming lack of ability or desire to stop attacks against Christians. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel Ati claimed that the killings in Libya were not over religious but rather financial issues. He also said those killed were in Libya as undocumented immigrants.

The statement brought widespread condemnation from human rights activists in Egypt and was reminiscent of the reaction to a statement by the Egyptian government after the death of one of the Christians who was abducted in February 2013 and accused of “proselytizing.” Ezzat Hakim Atallah, 45, died March 10, 2013 in a Tripoli jail while in the custody of an Islamist militia called the Preventative Security Unit.

He had been tortured repeatedly, including electroshock sessions, those close to him said. The torture and stress dramatically worsened a heart condition that he suffered from, leading to his death. The Egyptian government said he died of “natural causes.”

Mina Thabet of the Maspero Youth Union said the Egyptian government seems indifferent toward anti-Christian violence at best.

“In the midst of all this, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stands disabled and completely weak,” he said. “It cannot take clear action about the targeting of its people inside or outside the country.”

Libya was ranked No. 13 on Christian support organization Open Doors’ World Watch List last year, up from No. 17 the previous year.

The source who suffered persecution in Libya said that if someone in the country is a Christian, “They should expect persecution.”

“What has happened now is what was talked about in John 16, where it says, ‘The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.’”

Religious Leaders In CAR Calling For Calm : “Churches and mosques must be rid of armed infiltrators”

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Bangui (Agenzia Fides) – It is necessary to disarm “infiltrators” in churches and mosques in order to counteract gangs of militia and looters presently terrorising the country. This appeal has been launched by Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Oumar Kobine Layama, respectively Catholic Archbishop and Imam of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, according to information given to Fides News Agency. “May all the brothers carrying weapons hand over their arms. The military must disarm everyone, in churches and in mosques. Too many Central Africans carry weapons, Muslims and Christians. Arms take no sides” said Archbishop Nzapalainga.
“Armed men have moved into places of worship, even into mosques” the Imam agreed, calling for support for disarmament operations on the part of international forces sent to the Central African Republic to help local authorities stem the violence.
After the toppling from power of the Seleka Rebel group, the so-called Anti Balaka militia (composed of various groups, including bandits and criminals) has unleashed a man-hunt for Muslims, accused of being accomplices of the Seleka.
Looting has reduced the country to the limit . During a meeting with a councillor at the Embassy to the Order of Malta, Fr. Elkana Ndawatchi, representative of the archdiocese of Bangui, cited a report issued last May 2013 by the World Health Organization, which found that out of 117 health centres visited in the areas most affected by armed conflict, 49 hospitals and health centres had been destroyed and 80% of the medical staff had been forced to evacuate the central areas of country.
“In Bangui – the priest added – of 24 healthcare existing centres only 17 are able to function and 9 of these are Catholic medical centres. While out of 4 hospitals at the secondary an tertiary levels only 3 still offer some assistance.” The representative of the Order of Malta gave the local Church 5 million CFA Francs to support affected Catholic health centres and said that more aid in the form of medical drugs is presently held at up at the port of Douala (Cameroon) because roads between the two countries are insecure. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 24/2/2014)

What we know about recent events in Africa:

  • We know from recent reports that the borders in and around the Central African Republic are very porous allowing refugees to flee, but with those refugees are also rebels in hiding, posing security threats in the far north, from those fleeing CAR, chad, Nigeria and Sudan.
  • We know these threats include kidnapping and concealed militants.
  • We also have reports of arms smuggling and shipments traveling the region, in fact a recent shipment was intercepted from a man attempting to smuggle 655 guns into Nigeria.
  • We also know that the Boko Haram are operating and causing destruction, murder and chaos in Nigeria.  So are the arms from the rebel factions in CAR like the Seleka, and the Anti-Balaka being transported to Boko Haram and vice versa?  It’s almost impossible to tell.

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  • It’s being reported that observers are quick to point out that the Boko Haram in Nigeria is a major force driving the weapons trade.
  • And, it’s also reported that  the government in CAR has not evaluated or determined where millions of arms that were reported looted from their armories have gone.
  • According to several  reports , David Mekong (Political Analyst)  is quoted as saying that the Boko Haram in Nigeria have escalated their war, and this does seem to offer explanations as the reports of arms smuggling and trafficking through other war zones, such as Sudan, CAR, Liby and DRC.  He is also credited with this quote:   “After wars, firearms are sold at relatively low prices, a real business opportunity for traffickers. As disarmament and demobilization is taking place in CAR, arms from the conflict can easily reach Boko Haram and others crisis zones.”

This entire area is becoming a hot bed of illegal arms trading, human trafficking, smuggling, and kidnapping.  Children are most vulnerable.  While they concentrate on who is doing what and who is who in CAR, rebels and weapons are making their way into other volatile regions.  And still the question of who is training and organizing the militant group known as ‘Anti-balaka’ goes unanswered.  I heard a interview on Al-Jazeera, a biased but growing media outlet.   The announcer asked this question, of who was training and arming the Anti-balaka,  and the expert avoided it all together.  No answer except they are a Christian Militia.   Here is a screen shot from that video:

carhornsWhile most admit that the cycle of violence is traced to the Seleka,  nothing has been done to find out who these militants are.  This killing of Christians and Muslims alike has got to cease.

Still unanswered questions, that lead to still more questions.   While the violence escalates, pray for the people in these regions.  Pray for peace, pray for protection, and comfort.  Pray for swift travel for those providing aid.

 

Sources:  The Nigerian Tribune, The Fides Agency, The IRIN

WRITE TO ENCOURAGE Pastor Behnam Irani imprisoned in Iran

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Pastor Behnam Irani with his family

Behnam Irani, is a pastor from Karaj, Iran, convicted of crimes against national security in January 2011 and sentenced to one year in prison.

Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) raided Irani’s house church on April 14, 2010, and assaulted him before taking him into custody. Although he was released on bail two months after his arrest, he later received the one-year prison sentence.

When Irani voluntarily began serving his sentence in May 2011, he was prepared to spend one year in prison. But he received a letter in October stating that he must now serve five years from his previous sentence.

Irani was first arrested in December 2006 and tried for crimes against national security. He was released in January 2007 but was soon re-arrested, tried and sentenced to five years in prison. Irani was never called to serve the sentence that is now being held against him.

For the first few months of his sentence, Behnam Irani was held in solitary confinement in a very small cell. Afterward, he was moved to another small cell with other prisoners. The room was so full, the prisoners were not able to lie down to sleep, so they had to sit all day and night. The room also got very hot. Prison authorities had beaten him regularly. All his hair has turned white.

Irani became a pastor in 2002, 10 years after becoming a Christian.

Now imprisoned for 18 months, Pastor Behnam Irani needs our encouragement and our prayers. Though his body is sick, (is still facing intestinal bleeding. His family is very concerned because his brother died from intestinal cancer.) his faith remains strong and is full of the joy of the Lord. He is definitely not weak and discouraged there in prison. Pray for his healing and doors will be opened for the surgery that is needed. Pray that God would strengthen and encourage his faith. And pray for Pastor Irani’s wife and family as they are forced to endure hardships while living without him.

Pastor Irani with his wife

Pastor Irani with his wife

INSTRUCTIONS BELOW MUST BE FOLLOWED TO PROTECT PASTOR IRANI

When writing your letters, please do not state anything negative about the Iranian government. Do not mention any foreign organization, or church that is supporting the efforts to free Christian prisoners. While it is safe for prisoners to receive encouraging letters, naming an organization or church, or criticizing the Iranian government could potentially place Pastor Irani in more harm. Please do not do anything to make matters any worse for him. Including Bible verses in your letter is encouraged.

Send your letters to:

Behnam Irani Ghezelhesar
road – opposite Shahid
Chamran barracks
Penitentiary Prison in Karaj-Section 2
Hall 7
Postal code: 3187694111
Hesarek
Karaj/Iran
Thank you for your love and concern for our persecuted family in Christ!
UPDATE: Pastor Irani Beaten in Prison and Taken to Unknown Location 

 

Filmmakers address plight of Middle East Christians

abandoned

(CNA/EWTN News).- Christians in the West must take seriously their duty to support those suffering in the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, said a team of filmmakers working on a documentary about the subject.

“Christianity began in the East, and Christians in the West seem to have forgotten that fact,” said Drew Bowling, a Washington, D.C.-based writer working on the documentary project.

“It’s tragic to see Christianity in the East under threat, and see Christians in the West who are not under such threats ignore it or fail to do what they can,” he told CNA in a Feb. 4 interview, noting that many in the West simply do not realize the challenges being faced elsewhere.

Bowling is working alongside writer Andrew Doran and filmmaker Jordan Allott to create a documentary about the violence and discrimination facing Christians in the Middle East.

Allott said he wants to bring attention to the matter and to put “pressure” on lawmakers in the West “to stand up for Christians.” He hopes viewers of the documentary will “feel a connection with the subjects,” and want “to help them in a time of need.”

“Our faith is what it is here because of what their ancestors did there,” Allott said, stressing the link between Christianity in the West and its roots in the Middle East.

The filmmakers hope to demonstrate the charity, resilience and determination of Christians in the region. Allott pointed to one man they met in Beirut, Lebanon, named George Maalouly. An Orthodox Christian, Maalouly was actively engaged in the Christian community, praying the Rosary and hosting prayer groups in his house.

Maalouly also helped those in need, regardless of faith, Allott said. He housed two Muslim Syrian refugees in a van, giving them electricity and food, and he “even came by with Christmas presents for the children.”

This example is not isolated, Bowling said, pointing to the charity of the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, who work to shelter and feed Syrian refugees.

Many of the refugee camps have become sites for increasing extremism, due to radical rebels, lack of resources and dire situations; however, these sisters and other Christians caring for largely Muslim refugee populations “provide filters for radicalization” and an example of interreligious cooperation.

“Despite the fact that they are the ones marginalized, they are the ones serving Muslims” who are injured or displaced by conflicts in the region, Doran said. “They are bridges to peace for their own communities and for the outside world.”

Bowling said that he was particularly struck by the resilience of a 12-year-old boy named Elias, who he met at the Turkey-Syria border. While walking to school one day, Elias was “seized from behind, blindfolded and gagged” by al-Qaida affiliates. While he was later rescued, the kidnapping, combined with the loss of other family members in the Syrian civil war, compelled his family to flee the country.

Elias and his family are “now living in this Turkish refugee camp, completely impoverished, with no money to go anywhere,” Bowling said. But “in spite of all these hardships, they remain hopeful they can one day return to their homeland in Syria.”

“Elias and his family want to remain in the Middle East because they believe that is the homeland of Christians,” he said, adding that many Christians he talked to in the region “did not want to emigrate.”

“They have a history,” with a multi-generational attachment to the land, he explained. “The idea of them disappearing entirely is heart wrenching.”

But after years of violence and political unrest, Christians who choose to remain in the region face mounting difficulties. Bowling recalled that the day he arrived in Lebanon, al-Qaida affiliates “burned to the ground the most ancient Orthodox library in Tripoli.”

“They talked about the flames coming from that library as being symbolic of the fate of all the Christians in that country,” saying that the Christians would face damnation and hellfire for their beliefs, he said.

Doran described an encounter with an Armenian Syrian woman named Sita that has been “seared” into his memory. Now living after her husband was shot by snipers in the streets of Aleppo, Sita looked at Doran with a “face seized with anguish,” pleading, “Help me.”

“That just stayed with me,” he said, explaining his “feeling of frustration, anger and helplessness” at being unable to aid the suffering woman.

Doran hopes Christians in the West will push their lawmakers to enact policies that help to protect their brethren in the Middle East.

“Christians in that part of the world and moderate Muslims are baffled that our government has taken the policies it has,” he said, suggesting that Western policies supporting some revolutions and political groups have tended “to have predictable and negative consequences for Christians and moderate Muslims.”

U.S. foreign policy “tends to blunder to the benefit of extremist groups” toward supporting governments and institutions that “contribute to the gradual erosion” of a Christian presence in the Middle East, he said. “On a basic human rights level we should not be giving money to governments essentially enforcing apartheid” against Christian populations, he added.

Doran encouraged Western Christians not only to get involved in foreign policy concerns, but to reach out the Christians in the Middle East, particularly through their churches. While safety is important, he added, traveling to the Middle East is an opportunity for great witness on the behalf of Christians in the region – especially for clergy members.

“This is a part of the world that still respects men of the cloth, even if they’re of a different faith,” he said, encouraging clergy members to speak about persecution.

Observing a silver lining amid the violence confronting Middle East Christians, Doran said that the oppression has created a “growing sense of a single identity” that transcends old theological and historical disputes between different Christian denominations. He also said that he had witnessed “moderate Muslims identifying with Christians” in the region.

Despite the current turmoil and persecution, Doran predicted that “there will never be a Middle East without Christians.” He believes the Christian communities in the region will “absolutely survive” the violence and oppression they are currently facing.

“The only question that remains is how much suffering are they going to endure in the next 25 years.”

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