VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lao Christians Charged with Murder after Praying for Sick Villager

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(Morning Star News) – Eager to stop the spread of Christianity, authorities in a village in Laos have charged a pastor and four church members with murder after they prayed for a sick woman who later died, area sources said.

The deceased, a mother of eight grown children in Savannakhet Province identified only by her surname of Chan, had been ill for two years jwith an unknown condition. Various kinds of healers and doctors in Saisomboon village, Atsaphangthong District, had treated her without success, area residents told a representative of Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

“Mrs. Chan came – in April – to Kaithong, the leader of the Saisomboon village church, to be prayed for, and she apparently became well for a short time,” the HRWLRF representative, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Morning Star News. “She then embraced the Christian faith. Then, she suddenly passed away on June 21. The police authorities charged Kaithong as well as the other four Christians/leaders who were present at the funeral of murder because she passed away.”

Her eight sons and daughters, four of whom are married, also began to embrace Christianity, he said, and four other families in the village had already put their trust in Christ.

“I believe that authorities are trying to find every way they possibly can in order to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area,” the HRWLRF representative said.

The pastor, a woman identified only as Kaithong, and the four others were arrested on Tuesday evening (June 24) and were being held in handcuffs with their feet in stocks, he said. Along with the pastor, four church members identified only as Puphet, Muk, Hasadee and Tiang were detained at Bouthong sub-district police station, directed by Atsaphangthong District police.

Initially they were arrested only over a burial dispute. On the day Chan died, her sons and daughters secured permission from the Saisomboon village chief to organize a Christian burial ceremony and to bury her on their own personal property, as Christians are denied burial rights in the Saisomboon village cemetery. When the time came to gather for mourning on Sunday evening (June 22), however, the village chief, along with the village’s Communist party secretary, reversed the decision.

The officials banned the mourning gathering as well as the burial ceremony unless her children signed an affidavit to recant their Christian faith; they refused and maintained their intention to carry out a Christian funeral.

On Sunday evening (June 22), Christians came from Donpalai, Huey and Bungthalay and other nearby villages to attend the mourning service, but authorities forbade it. The next day, the leader of Saisomboon village church, Kaithong, filed an appeal of the prohibition with the Atsaphangthong District chief. The Christians from nearby villages continued to provide support for Chan’s sons and daughters and to await the outcome of the appeal.

By Tuesday (June 24), the body of the deceased had begun to decompose. At around 2 p.m. that day, village police and military personnel went to the deceased person’s house, where a gathering was underway, and arrested Kaithong along with Puphet, leader of the Donpalai village church.

About 20 minutes later, authorities returned to the gathering and arrested Muk, leader of Huey village church, Hasadee, leader of Bungthalay village church in Palansai District, and Tiang.

A half later, the village chief led Buddhist monks and relatives of Chan into her house and conducted a Buddhist funeral ceremony, before taking her body to the village cemetery, the HRWLRF representative said. Christians at the gathering left Chan’s house, he said, and went home.

Buddhists make up more than 57 percent of the population of the Communist country, according toOperation World. About 35 percent of the population adheres to indigenous religions, and only 3.4 percent of the population is Christian.

The five accused Christians have been transferred to Atsaphangthong District’s prison.

The incident in Saisomboon village follows a May 20 declaration by the chief of Saisomboon village that three female students had forfeited their right to an education because they had become Christians. The girls, identified only as Nut, 14, and 15-year-olds Noi and Net, were told that they would not be permitted to take exams. Kaithong appealed that case with the Atsaphangthong District education chief, who was negotiating with the Liansai School director seeking permission for the three students to take their exams, according to HRWLRF.

HRWLRF urged the Lao government to respect religious freedom as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Laos in 2009, upholding the right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18). Any form of coercion impairing freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the ICCPR, the HRWLRF representative said.

The rights organization also urged the Lao government “to punish the village Saisomboon village chief and other officials who acted illegally in obstructing the funeral service according to Mrs. Chan’s religious affiliation, and in arresting Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee, and Tiang.”

HRWLRF demanded the immediate release of the incarcerated Christians.

New Attacks against Christians in Nigeria

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Nigeria: Suspected Boko Haram insurgents have carried out fresh attacks against Christians in 3 villages. Suspected Islamists sprayed gunfire at worshipers and torched churches on Sunday. Though the death toll differs, some are claiming the gunmen killed no less the 51 people, mostly Christians in  Chibok and Biu local government areas of Borno State, Nigeria. This is also in the same area where the 276 female students of Government Girls Secondary School had been abducted.

Two weeks ago, the Boko Haram had sent written messages warning of further attacks against the communities.

In Kwada village, about 10 kilometres from Chibok, churches were burnt down when the gunmen  ambush on them during church service.

One of the residents told Vanguard, “the attackers killed and burnt houses after attacking worshippers in five churches in Kwada, before moving to Kautikari less than 8 kilometres to Chibok town, killing and burning down people’s houses and property. The security operatives were not on ground to defend us. In fact, those who ran into the bush were pursued and killed by the murderers.”

It is also being reported that the people living in Chibok town have fled their homes. And that others who hailed from the area could not hold back their tears upon hearing the news.

One witness recalled the terrorists came in pick up vehicles and motorcycles and opened fire on the people before setting houses, and other property ablaze. He said after killing one person, the terrorists carted away food and motorcycles before fleeing into the bush.

“The military and other security agencies should do more by not only deploying more personnel, but cooperating fully with members of the Local Vigilante Group in fighting terrorism and insurgency in this part of the state. They know the terrains of Sambisa Forest and can track insurgents in their hideouts. (vigilante groups are encouraged to help ward off the insurgents)

“The two should work as a team to end this Boko Haram insurgency that will clock five years by July 29, 2014”, said Sen. Mohammed Ali Ndume, representing Borno South Senatorial District

“The human mind cannot understand what is happening. There is no reason for what they are doing, but they continue to do it”, said Mgr. Doeme to Fr. Patrick. Fr. Patrick adds he managed to escape the attack of June 25, which hit a shopping center in Abuja, causing dozens of deaths: “I remember that on that day at that time I had an appointment in the mall’s square, where I usually park my car and where the bomb exploded. I thank God that the appointment was cancelled. Providence saved me”,  the priest told Fides.

 

 

‘Mystical Bees’ and ‘Mysterious Snakes’ Attack Boko Harm Insurgents

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On Wednesday, reports began circulating of bees and snakes attacking the Boko Haram militants in the Sambisa Forests. It seems the insurgents began fleeing the dreaded forest, two weeks ago as a result of some mysterious snakes that had been “haunting” them there. The forest provided a safe haven for the terrorists until the sect members began dying from poisonous bites from the ‘so-called’ spiritual snakes. Insurgents believe the ghosts of their victims are coming back to murder them in the form of killer bees and snakes.

Two members of the Boko Haram sect were arrested on Wednesday near the University of Maiduguri by members of the vigilante group, Civilian JTF, to whom they confessed that they were being forced to flee Sambisa forest because of mystical bees and some mysterious snake bites that had killed many of their fellow insurgents.

The captured militants claimed they were “mystical bees” and “mysterious snakes” . One of the arrested insurgents revealed that they were being attacked by strange snakes.

“Most of us are fleeing because there are too many snakes now in the forest and once they bite, they disappear and the victims do not survive 24 hours. We were told that the people of Chibok local government are the ones turning into snakes and attacking us in the forest”, he said.

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Syrian Catholic Archbishop Moshe’s appeal to the international community: Save us!

Yohanna-Petros-Mouche-GEO

Qaraqosh (Agenzia Fides) – Qaraqosh [The city is known by three names: Baghdede in Assyrian, Hamdaniya in Arabic and Qaraqosh in Turkish.] is almost a ghost town. More than ninety percent of the more than 40 thousand inhabitants, nearly all Christians of the Syrian Catholic Church, have fled in the past two days due to the offensive of the Sunni insurgents led by the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that subject the urban area to launch rockets and grenades. The Archbishop of Mosul of the Syrians, Yohanna Petros Moshe, some priests and some young people of his church, are among the few left in the city.

The town in the last two days has seen the arrival of weapons and new contingents to strengthen the Kurdish Peshmerga militias that oppose the advance of the Sunni insurgents. The impression is that the ground is being prepared for a head-on collision.

Yesterday, Archbishop Moshe attempted to mediate between the opposing forces with the intent to preserve the city of Qaraqosh from being destroyed. The attempt was unsuccessful. Sunni insurgents ask the Kurdish militias to withdraw. The Kurdish Peshmerga have no intention of allowing insurgents to get close to the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In this dramatic situation, from Qaraqosh Archbishop Moshe through Fides Agency wants to launch an urgent humanitarian appeal to the international community:

“Before the tragedy being experienced by our people”, the Archbishop says to Fides, “I appeal to the consciences of political leaders around the world, to international organizations and to all men of good will: it is necessary to intervene immediately to put a stop to the deterioration of the situation, working not only at a humanitarian level, but also politically and diplomatically. Every hour, every day lost, is likely to make all unrecoverable. Inaction becomes complicity with crime and abuse of power. The world cannot turn a blind eye to the tragedy of people who have fled from their homes in a few hours, taking with them only the clothes they are wearing”.

The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul outlines with a few vibrating words the particular condition experienced by Christians in the upsurge of sectarian conflicts that are putting at risk the survival of Iraq:

“Qaraqosh and the other cities of the Nineveh Plain have been for a long time places of peace and coexistence. We Christians are unarmed, and as Christians we have not fueled any conflict or had any problem with the Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other realities that form the Iraqi country. We just want to live in peace, work with everyone and respect everyone”

The Syriac Catholic priest Nizar Semaan, Archbishop Moshe’s collaborator, told Fides that the appeal “is also addressed to Western and European governments that often speak of human rights, and sink into a comfortable silence when their operations and their analysis of the problems of the Middle East prove shortsighted and disastrous. To be clear, the Archbishop does not ask to resolve the situation by sending more weapons to the Middle East”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 27/06/2014)

VOP note: The highlighted in red above, are the exact words we have heard by persecuted Christians from the Middle East, Nigeria and Pakistan. In unity, their voices cry out. Can you hear their cries? Brothers and sisters, stand up for our own and pray!

Sudanese mother is released and ‘will travel to the U.S.’ after being arrested for trying to flee country

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Latest update reports- After spending 48 hours in jail, it is now being reported that the Sudanese Christian woman, Meriam Ibrahim has been released, again.

Recently, a court overturned her death sentence for apostasy and had released her from a woman’s prison. Less than 24 hours later, Ibrahim was detained along with her Christian-American husband Daniel Wani and two young children at Khartoum airport in Sudan for trying to use documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy to flee the country. More than 40 armed men from the NISS stopped and detained Ibrahim for travelling on false documents, which can carry a seven-year sentence. Some claim she was also being banned from leaving Sudan. Her husband, Daniel Wani was being detained at the police station as an accessory.

Facts of her release have been hard to decipher as multiple media outlet reports appeared conflicting. One of her attorney’s confirmed she had been released from a police station, today in the capital Khartoum after pressure from foreign diplomats on the Sudanese government to set her free.

There were also claims that the US vice consul was with the family at the airport. The Sudanese Foreign Ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors to explain themselves.

Dr Ibrahim had been granted emergency travel documents by the government of South Sudan to travel there and then on to the US.

Mr Shareif insisted that the documents were legitimate and that it was ‘not right’ to claim otherwise.

In a statement issued on its Facebook page, Sudan’s security service said earlier this week that passport police had “arrested” Mr Ibrahim after she presented “emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese embassy and carrying an American visa”.

“The Sudanese authorities considered this a criminal violation”, it said. source

Freed from her latest detention – Ibrahim may now come to the US. She is set to fly to South Sudan and from there on to America where she could start her a new life.

The US State Department is under pressure to do everything in its power to ensure her swift and safe passage after being criticized by Senators for its response.

We will continue to wait until Meriam is out of Sudan. Praying for this victory!

Thank you, Senator Roy Blunt!

Imagine Living as a Christian in Nigeria

Religious Freedom Down, Hostility Up

Religious Freedom Down, Hostility Up

I hosted a World Cup party. About 25 people crowded into my living room to enjoy the epic battle in which the U.S. Men’s National team fought against the highly-touted, Ronaldo-led squad from Portugal.

Yes, the last-second cross from Ronaldo to the head of Varela sent shockwaves down all 25 spines in the room, causing us—at least momentarily—to lose both our will and our ability to speak.  But, all in all, we enjoyed the football, the food, the fellowship, and the fun of the World Cup event. Many people around the U.S. enjoyed similar parties in similar settings.

But World Cup parties played out differently in Nigeria. Nigerians—including Nigerian Christians—also had World Cup viewing parties. Sadly, in the Mubi area of Adamawa state, Muslim extremists bombed a party of football watchers gathered (just as we were) to enjoy this global spectacle that, by design, hopes to bring the world together.

According to this Reuters report, the attack left 14 people dead and 12 injured, some of those are critically wounded.  Most people suspect Boko Haram, a terrorist group working to rid Nigeria of all but the purist form of Islam. In April of this year, this terrorist group kidnapped 200 schoolgirls possibly to keep as brides for Muslim men. The girls are still being held. And, since the kidnapping, Boko Haram has killed more than 500 innocent civilians in settings similar to World Cup watching parties. The majority of those being targeted by Boko Haram are Christians.

We have taken much for granted in the U.S.  Even while our freedoms are shrinking daily, we still have not come to a place where bombs are expected at “futbol” parties. We can be thankful for that, of course, but we also can be more sober about the world in which we live.

Islam is a force of intolerance with no equal right now. A couple of Islam scholars I have read have argued that groups like Boko Haram spring up in countries where Islam is almost a majority. Their hope is that through violence and intimidation and an appeal to Islamic heritage they can tip the Lady Justice Judge othersscales nationwide toward Islam and Sharia law.

I’m certainly no expert on these matters, but I will say that Nigeria fits that description. Nationwide, they are 50% Muslim and 50% Christian or traditional African religion.  The area targeted in this recent attack is a Fulani area (I think). That would make sense because Boko Haram has been slaughtering Christians and any who don’t appear Muslim enough. The Fulani people, I believe, are mostly Muslim, but they hold to a tradition all their own.

Regardless of the particulars at play in Nigeria, the case is certain that it is not safe to be a Christian there, especially in the northern parts of the country like Adamawa state (where this attack occurred).  Our brothers and sisters in Christ in Nigeria need our continued prayer and support. Our concern for humankind and for individual liberty calls us to care for the fate of the Fulani people in Nigeria, too.

To contemplate the reality that while we were joyfully watching a game for its entertainment value other people were being mercilessly slaughtered in the name of religious conformity is, at the very least, sobering. It is an almost unbearable reality.  We can’t just ignore it for that would make us cold, indifferent, and almost culpable.  We also can’t be debilitated by it. We must continue both to express our own freedom and work so others can enjoy theirs. Both in Nigeria and in California, people should be free to watch the World Cup together without fearing an Islamic invasion.

More thoughts about religious liberty

Gregory Cochran

Copt Convicted of ‘Blasphemy’ in Egypt for ‘Liking’ Facebook Page

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(Morning Star News) – A young Christian man in Upper Egypt accused of blaspheming Islam for “liking” a Facebook page was sentenced Tuesday (June 24) to six years in prison, shocking the Coptic community and other Facebook users.

Judge Hazim Hany of Armant Criminal Court found Kerolos Shouky Attallah, 29, of Al-Mahamid village near Luxor, guilty of violating two articles of the Egyptian Penal Code – Article 98F, defaming a divinely revealed religion, and Article 176, inciting sectarian violence.

Attallah was charged for “liking” an Arabic-language Facebook page administered by an anonymous group of Christian converts known as the Knights of the Cross. His attorney, Mohamed Ahmed Abd-Alaal, said Attallah did not make any comments on the site, share any of the postings or upload anything to it. Attallah promptly removed his name from the page once he realized the Facebook page offended some Muslims.

The guilty verdict and the severity of the sentence came as a surprise, said Safwat Samaan, chairman of Nation Without Borders, a human rights and development group headquartered in Luxor.

“The sentence today was a shock not just to Kerolos but to everyone who uses Facebook in Egypt,” Samaan said. “Any person who uses Facebook in Egypt and presses ‘Like’ on any page … can be put into prison for six years.”

Abd-Alaal told Morning Star News that the cause of Islamist anger in Al-Mahamid wasn’t a satirical cartoon about the Salafi movement but religious extremism and oversensitivity.

“Nobody could upset Christ or Muhammad by these comments; the accusation came out of nowhere,” said Abd-Alaal, a Sunni Muslim.

The Knights of the Cross Facebook page was designed to provide Arabic-speaking converts from Islam – many forced to live alone and in hiding – a cyber-place to encourage each other and safely discuss the Bible. Members also post essays about Christian apologetics and entries about perceived errors and conflicts in the Koran.

The number of years in prison Attallah received for each charge will be released within 30 days. An appeal is planned for next month.

It is unknown what day Attallah “liked” the Knights of the Cross Facebook page. Attallah obtained a cell phone sometime in May and started his own Facebook page soon thereafter. Days later, Muslims in his village became aware that he had “liked” the offending page, and by May 28, they printed and distributed leaflets demanding vengeance against him. One leaflet read, “You will not be men if you don’t kick him out of your village,” according to Samaan.

The Muslims tried to attack Attallah at his home the next day, but security authorities intervened by arresting Attallah. Authorities did not arrest any of the Muslims involved in the attack or those who incited it with the leaflets. Up until the day before the sentencing, Muslims were intermittently attacking Christian-owned homes and businesses, using the Facebook site as an excuse.

Human rights activists regard courts in and around Luxor as predisposed against those accused of committing blasphemy, human rights activists have said. Area Christians are disproportionately accused of committing blasphemy, and sentences are severe and swift while evidence, testimony and legal procedure that would exonerate the accused are ignored.

“When Copts are accused of blasphemy, the courts have to act as fast as they can,” Samaan said. “But when Copts are kidnapped, Copts’ land is stolen, or Copts are being killed … the law is not used at all.”

Historically, Samaan said, judges in Luxor Province in Upper Egypt have been very aggressive in prosecuting blasphemy cases, handing down sentences well above statutory limits.

Exacerbating the problems Attallah has to endure is his family’s financial situation. The legal fees have been ruinous, Samaan said. Also, in most prison systems across the Middle East, families are expected to bring food to augment the rations prisoners receive. On a recent visit to the prison, Attallah’s father brought him three bottles of water and a bag of potato chips.

“When will they stop persecuting Christians?” Samaan said. “When will the Copts stop paying the price and being sacrificed for every revolution? When will the Copts stop being a scapegoat and a target for every extremist in the country?”

Who’s Gonna Fill Frank Wolf’s Shoes?

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George Jones once asked through the lyrics of a country song, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” Released in 1985, the song pays homage to country music legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline. For a country music purist, the question is a pertinent one.

However, many upstarts have volunteered to fill the famous shoes of country music superstars. Indeed, there will be more legendary performances by future legendary singers. Fame (and fortune) will always draw a crowd.

Truly legendary character is much harder to replace. Take, for instance, the retirement of Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently said of Representative Wolf, “No one fought harder for the persecuted church around the world.” Moore rightly termed Frank Wolf “a hero.”  Who in congress will replace Frank Wolf?

Sure, there will be plenty of suitors for the office of representative. The Washington Post reports,

The battleground district, which stretches from McLean to the Shenandoah Valley and whose seat has not been vacant for more than three decades, has attracted a host of potential contenders from both parties.

But filling an office is not the same as filling Wolf’s shoes. Just as a great many country music wannabes have sought to become famous for their abilities to entertain, so, too, there will be a host of hungry politicians seeking to increase their political influence through possessing congressional office. But who will fill his shoes?

Who will use the influence of his office to call attention to lowly, politically disconnected Christians suffering injustice around the world? Why bother speaking up for Christians? The media do not care about their plight. Some would say the current administration does not care about their welfare. And a cynical observer of church activities might even make the case that professing Christians themselves are unconcerned. Representative Wolf famously called out Christian leaders as a result of their silence on the issue.

Caring for the persecuted church is not in vogue. It isn’t sexy. It won’t win you very many friends. It might even get you castigated from some social circles of influence. So, again, why bother? It seems to me there is no politically motivated reason to bother. There is no popular reason to bother (as there is with lobbying for gay marriage, subsidizing green energy, or providing birth control and abortion funding through federal healthcare legislation).

Who indeed will care for the most severely mistreated minority on earth? I don’t know, but I am glad Representative Frank Wolf did. His office will be filled, his shoes?

By Gregory Cochran

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