South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A Sudanese pastor in South Sudan was jailed and tortured for more than three months after Islamists who tried to kill him accused him of being a spy, sources said.
Adam Haron, a 37-year-old convert from Islam and a native of West Darfur, Sudan, said Muslim extremists called him on Nov. 9 and 10 threatening to kill him if he continued to proclaim Christ among Muslims in Aweil, near the Sudanese border. Pastor of a church in an undisclosed area of South Sudan, Haron had gone to Aweil, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) northwest of the capital city of Juba, to plant a church.
Evangelism is not illegal in South Sudan, where Christians outnumber Muslims, and the Transitional Constitution following the country’s secession from Sudan in 2011 guarantees religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith.
Haron said he knew the Muslims who threatened him as they were from his home region of West Dafur. The following day they tried to kill him when a Land Cruiser with no license plate nearly ran him over, he said.
Haron, who came to South Sudan in 2010 after converting to Christianity in 2005, said that three days later six armed men, including three in military uniform, entered his hotel room in Aweil and started to search his personal bag and laptop and scattered his clothes around. They also took his cell phone.
As the armed men ordered him to get into their car, they began kicking his legs and groin, he said.
“Thank God, who protected me from serious injury from them,” he said.
One of assailants took out a pistol, pointed it at Haron’s head, and asked him if he was a Christian pastor. He answered, “Yes, I am a pastor,” and they took him to a detention center in Aweil, he said.
Haron said the three men in uniform were military intelligence personnel. Based on a military officer’s interrogation of him, he concluded that the radical Muslims had the military personnel arrest him after falsely accusing him of being a spy for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party.
On Nov. 15, two soldiers gave him 364 lashes using a tree branch as a whip, he said.
“We will beat you every Saturday in this way,” one of them told him during the lashing.
Haron told Morning Star News he was encouraged because he was considered worthy to suffer for his faith and replied, “I am ready to die for the sake of the gospel.”
They threw him into a narrow cell, his legs bound with chains, he said. On Jan. 3 he was transferred to another jail cell. He was released on Feb. 18.
In the course of his incarceration, those who arrested Haron stole 2,600 South Sudanese Pounds (US$820) from him, he said.
Haron, who pastors an underground church made up primarily of converts from Islam, said he was gratified that the mistreatment tested his faith.
“This detention has been a great encouragement to my spiritual life,” he said.
Pastors Held in Sudan
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, two pastors of South Sudanese descent continue to languish in prison following their arrests in December and January.
Officials from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) are demanding that theRev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael pay $12,000, but even that may not guarantee their release, sources said.
Reith, from Khartoum but of South Sudanese descent, was arrested on Jan. 9 and is being held without charges. NISS officials arrested Michael, a visiting South Sudanese pastor from Juba, after Sunday worship at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on Dec. 21. He also has been held without charges.
Nuba Mountain Bombing
Bashir’s regime, meantime, continues to bomb civilian targets in its war with rebels in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state.
On March 11 at 2 p.m., Russian-made Sukhoi jets bombed Tanase village, Bram County, wounding a 15-year-old girl, an area source told Morning Star News. Saloom Habil Tiya of the Sudanese Church of Christ was walking near her home when the bomb landed a short distance away.
The source said the girl was seriously injured.
There is no military installation near the area, the source said.
“We hope the international community will pay attention to the crimes committed,” the source said.
(Voice of the Persecuted) While verifying events in Pakistan, I’ve heard reports that church’s are being threatened, and Christians are fleeing Yohanabad for fear of reprisal. The latter we know to be true and verified by those on the ground. Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are under a mammoth attack. Beheadings, crucifixion’s, burning alive, rape, false imprisonments and more, only because they are believers in Jesus. These Christians flee to safety or at least what they think is safety, to be met with more abuse.
Many Pakistani Christians have fled extreme persecution to Thailand seeking religious asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). After their case is filed they are given an Asylum Seekers Certificate and wait for an interview, which can take up to 3 years. Due to the fact that the Thailand government does not recognize this certificate, when their visa’s expire they are considered illegal immigrants. The authorities arrest and imprison them in detention centers where they are forced to live in hideous conditions—while the world is deciding if they should step in to help.
A recent religious liberty conference was held in Thailand, this week. A conference we were invited to, but foregone based on saving funds for our active aid missions. Some of the NGO’s who attended the conference from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands took the opportunity to visit with Christian refugees. These desperate Christians fearing arrest and deportation felt a glimmer of hope that finally something may be done for their rescue. We were briefed on some of these meetings and pray actions will be taken to secure their protection, sooner than later…time is of the essence.
The International Society For Human Rights has done a recent report citing 8,000 Christians have fled Pakistan to Thailand. They describe their journey as “From Hell to Hell.” This is also the way those we speak with describe it and it’s heartbreaking. Heartbreaking to hear it in their voices and see it on their faces. A thought flashes through our minds each time, “Where are the NGO’s with large donation fund accounts? Where is the Body?” It is clear governments do not feel an urgency to do much for their aid or protection. If our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ are to be helped, it must come from the family. We must be the hands and feet of Christ. As the 1st century Christians did, we must step up to help our brethren or no one will.
Quoting the report, “The Christian refugees from Pakistan were subjected to unacceptable conditions before the wave of arrests by the Thai police and the military. The average four-person families must live together in the living room usually only 15 m². Paid employment is forbidden to refugees and brought savings often rapidly depleted.” Read the full report here. If you would like an English translation of the report, email your request to email@example.com. Your eyes will be opened wide. Take this report to your church and tell your Pastor how concerned you are for these brethren. Ask him to pray for them with the congregation and to help you encourage them to start an aid mission for the suffering.
The MSM has used the refugees for gain and then abandoned them, refusing to cover the darkness that has now enveloped those suffering. While Christians are dying in genocidal numbers from the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the world has been blinded by a sinister veil that covers persecution against Christians. The Church has also been blinded, most specifically the Western Church. The Pope has recently cried out against the treatment of Christians in Pakistan, and France has made Asia Bibi, a Christian woman awaiting a death sentence for blasphemy, an honorary citizen. But why is the world/Body continually silent and blind?
In Pakistan, arrests are being made in the aftermath of the recent murderous bombing attacks on Christian Churches. An angry mob attacked and killed 2 men who they said took part in the attacks. The milieu that the government and media has created in Pakistan has done nothing but breed fear, and a climate of violence. It then turned into a Muslim/Christian rivalry ignoring the situation of survivors in the recent attacks on the churches. Read this report of survivors being forgotten and forsaken.
In the increasing persecution against minorities, Christians have been burned alive, woman and children kidnapped and abused in unspeakable ways, targets of bombers, murdered in heinous ways, and threatened with death or conversion until they are forced into hiding. The bonded labor program many Pakistani Christians have been forced into is barbaric in itself. Christians are forced to drink from different water fountains because their faith brands them as dirty. Pakistani Christians cry, “We want to live peacefully with all our neighbors and fellow citizens. What have we done? Why are we treated like animals? Why is there so much hatred against us?” They say they don’t recognize their own country anymore. We have been told the tension is now extremely high in Pakistan and the police are ‘everywhere.’
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – Political and religious leaders are asking the government in Punjab to set up a special Commission of inquiry regarding the massacre in Youhanabad, which deals with both the terrorist attack on March 15, and the two Christian churches (18 dead and 91 wounded), and to identify those responsible for the lynching following the massacre, when a crowd of Christians killed two suspected terrorists.
As Fides learns, a group of Christian leaders remarked the negligence in preventing terrorist violence and riots which followed. Anger and frustration grew because of impunity that exists in a number of cases of violence against Christians, they noted. In recent days, the police arrested more than 150 suspects in the lynching, many of whom “falsely accused”.
Christian leaders have criticized the Prime Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif for not having visited the Christian families after the attack. In the following days, many Christian residents had fled their homes in Youhanabad for fear of reprisals, instigated by the nearby mosques in revenge for the lynching. “The government should take care of Christians and religious minorities”, they said.
“People are gradually returning to Youhanabad”, says to Fides Joseph Nadeem, a Christian living in the suburb, head of the “Renaissance Education Foundation”, which deals with the education of poor families. “Police are releasing many of those arrested. The situation is now calm. We hope to live a peaceful Easter”.
As we approach the time that our Lord and Savior died on the Cross to give us life, and celebrate His resurrection, let’s remember those suffering persecution because they have accepted this wonderful gift. Pray through suffering and persecution, the world will see the light of Christ.
C. Refsland, VOP Advocate/News Anaylst
Voice of the Persecuted is an interdenominational organization standing with and stepping up for the persecuted. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you have greatly blessed others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
(ACLJ.org) American Pastor Saeed remains in an Iranian prison while the Obama Administration negotiates with the government holding him captive. Sign & Share the petition to say no to a deal with Iran until Pastor Saeed is returned home: http://bit.ly/1HUgTDD
Don’t Leave American Pastor Saeed Behind
A critical deadline is quickly approaching.
Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen – remains wrongfully imprisoned in Iran.
After more than two years in captivity, he’s suffering from immense pain and internal injuries from prison beatings.
Now is a pivotal time in the fight for his freedom.
The Obama Administration is literally sitting across the table from Iran with a June deadline for nuclear negotiations looming large.
We can’t trust Iran if it continues to wrongfully imprison an American pastor.
President Obama has promised to leave no American behind.
We must hold him to this promise. He must bring Pastor Saeed home.
We can’t leave him behind.
Join us in sending a powerful message:
No Deals with Iran Without Pastor Saeed
To President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry:
As President you have promised and you have the responsibility to leave no American behind. Use this unique opportunity with Iran to bring Pastor Saeed – a U.S. citizen and loving husband and father – home to America.
(Morning Star News) – The number of incidents against Christians in India has increased 55 percent since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in May 2014, according to figures from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
During a protest by religious minorities near India’s Parliament House on Thursday (March 19), rights activist and Christian leader John Dayal said there have been 168 incidents against Christians in Modi’s first 300 days in power. That figure compares with 108 such cases in the 300 days before Modi took office on May 26, 2014, according to the EFI.
Reported attacks against the Christian community in January totalled 20, with another 20 in February and 13 so far in March, according to the EFI. By comparison, in the first five months of 2014 there were only 32 anti-Christian incidents before Modi took power.
Dayal, former member of the National Integration Council, told Morning Star News that the number of incidents in Modi’s first 300 days pertains only to reported cases and that the actual number is higher. Cases ranged from false accusations of “forcible conversion” to desecration of church buildings to violent attacks on Christians.
“Illegal police detention of church workers and denial of constitutional rights of freedom aggravate the coercion and terror unleashed in hate speeches and campaigns of ghar wapsi [‘homecoming,’ or reconversions to Hinduism],” he said. “Since 2014, there has been a marked shift in public discourse.”
During the first 300 days of the Modi’s government coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the state of Chhattisgarh topped the list of incidents against Christians with 28, followed by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15, he said.
The tone set by Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack non-Hindus, Christian leaders say. Coercion to convert to Hinduism continues.
“The fact that Christmas celebrations of 2014 in India were sought to be diluted by the government’s call to observe ‘Governance Day’ on the day most sacred to the Christian community in India is a matter of great concern,” said the Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, general secretary of the EFI.
On Christmas Day, 20 Christians were arrested and police stopped four Christmas functions in separate incidents across the country, according to EFI.
About 2,000 people from 80 civil society groups participated in the protest in central Delhi, asserting that the secular nature of government has been regularly under attack as Hindu extremist assaults on religious minorities have jumped to alarming numbers.
Incidents included vandalizing, burning and robbing church buildings, burning Bibles, disrupting worship meetings and Christmas functions, beating pastors and evangelists and stopping church construction.
Of the anti-Christian incidents, Dayal said 54 percent came in the form of threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Physical violence accounted for 24 percent of all cases, including 11 percent against Christian women. Breaking of statues and the cross and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of the cases, “but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” Dayal said.
“A disturbing trend was rising communal violence in West Bengal, where the BJP and the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of which Modi is a member] have redoubled their efforts to fill what they see is a political vacancy following the decline of the Communist Party of India Marxist and the Congress party in recent times,” he said.
Dayal said the list of violent incidents against religious minorities, including unreported ones, could well exceed 800.
A pastor of Good Shepherd Community Church in New Delhi, Joshua David, told Morning Star News that at every Sunday worship meeting since Christmas day, two policemen have been posted outside his church.
“Initially, it created a different kind of feeling among the church members, raising some sort of suspicion among them of the possible danger in attending church services, but we are getting accustomed to it,” he said.
Social activists at the demonstration said the Sangh Parivar family of Hindu extremist groups have relentlessly attempted to create a divide between Hindus and all others.
“The Sangh Parivar and the present Bharatiya Janata Party government, which is part of the Sangh Parivar, do not believe in diversity and wish to have everyone follow their own dictates,” said Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians. “The basic tenets of the Indian constitution – the secularism and the pluralism – therefore are constantly under attack, and minorities are a part of that.”
The BJP has abused, ridiculed and threatened minorities, activists said, including hate statements by Union and state ministers and threats by members of Parliament and state politicians.
Renowned journalist Seema Mustafa said the main objective of the protest was to show solidarity and ensure that action is taken against perpetrators of violence.
“While communal incidents have taken place in the past as well, the difference now is that the BJP itself is in power,” she said. “Now the continuing violence and statements supporting the violence is vitiating the atmosphere and terrifying the minorities.”
Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in India.
- Pray that India’s leaders will adhere to the protection of religious minorities.
- Pray for Christians in India, facing increased or constant pressures, including threats and violence.
- Pray as they stand up to the injustice against them.
- Pray they will remain peaceful.
- Pray for their faith to grow, to endure.
- Pray for them to be bold for Christ as they share the Gospel and grow the Church in India.
Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric called on Tuesday for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula after legislators in the Gulf state of Kuwait moved to pass laws banning the construction of religious sites associated with Christianity.
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who serves as the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, said the destruction of churches was absolutely necessary and is required by Islamic law, Arabic media reported.
Abdullah, who is considered to be the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, also serves as the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
Last month, Osama Al-Munawer, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, announced his plans to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country, according to the Arabian Businesses news site. Al-Munawer later clarified that the law would only apply to new churches, while old ones would be allowed to stay erect.
President Obama released a statement (below) on Friday (Iranian New Year) in regard to Saeed and others being held in Iran.
The spirit of family is deeply woven into all of the rich cultural traditions of the Nowruz holiday. It is a time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year. Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran.
Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.
Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over three and a half years. His family, including his father who is gravely ill, has borne the pain of Amir’s absence for far too long.
Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California, an Iranian government credentialed reporter for the Washington Post, has been unjustly held in Iran for nearly eight months on vague charges. It is especially painful that on a holiday centered on ridding one’s self of the difficulties of the past year, Jason’s mother and family will continue to carry the heavy burden of concern regarding Jason’s health and well-being into the new year.
And finally, we recently marked yet another anniversary since Robert Levinson went missing on Kish Island. His family has now endured the hardship of his disappearance for over eight years.
At this time of renewal, compassion, and understanding, I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home and call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian and to work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson so that they all can be safely reunited with their families as soon as possible.
In honor of the familial spirit so strongly enshrined within this holiday and for the Abedini, Hekmati, Rezaian, and Levinson families, I hope this new spring is filled with joyous moments for us all with all of our loved ones by our sides.
Abigail Frymann Rouch for The Tablet, reports the Council of Paris, the governing body of the French capital, on Tuesday unanimously adopted a proposal by the city’s socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo to award honorary citizenship to Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who has been on death row since 2010.
Mrs Bibi, mother of five, was condemned to death for blasphemy after her Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from the same water as them and accused her of insulting Muhammad. The High Court in Lahore upheld her sentence in October 2014. On 30 November the Supreme Court agreed to re-open the case. A new trial should begin in May, the mayor’s office said in a statement.
“Falsely accused of insulting the Prophet of Islam, Asia Bibi is the victim of squabbles between families in her village linked to her adherence to the Christian faith in a majority Muslim country.
“To support her in her fight against ignorance and obscurantism, Anne Hildago wishes that Paris raises Asia Bibi to the level of honorary citizen, a rare distinction granted to the world’s most emblematic defenders of human rights,” the statement explained.
“To be an honorary citizen is to embody the values of Paris, the values of liberty and tolerance. By this bold gesture, I wish to testify to the solidarity of Paris towards the numerous women around the world of all confessions who are religious obscurantism and political extremism,” Ms Hildago said.
The mayor reiterated her commitment to supporting Mrs Bibi until a presidential pardon or a new sentence restores her liberty, and restated that the city would welcome her, with her family, as soon as this freedom is restored to her.
In December she unveiled a banner of Mrs Bibi which has remained on display on the steps of the City Hall. At the unveiling she stressed: “We must support Asia Bibi, because women in all regions of the world are the first victims of an order which theocrats, who twist the messages of all religions, try to impose.”
VOP Note: Asia’s husband and five children are desperately missing her. Please pray for her release!