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Egypt: Update on Christian broadcaster harassed by government

(Middle East Concern) On 12th October Middle East Concern requested prayer for the Christian satellite TV broadcaster SAT-7, after legal proceedings were initiated by the Egyptian government targeting SAT-7’s operations in Egypt.

On Wednesday 17th February SAT-7 Egypt Director Farid Samir received official confirmation that the case against him had been closed and all charges had been dropped. On 28th January cameras and other equipment which had been confiscated by the authorities were returned to SAT-7.

On 10th October officers from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology’s Censorship Department came to SAT-7’s Egypt studios. The officers presented a search warrant and proceeded to confiscate equipment. They took Mr Samir to the local police station. The police agreed to release Mr Samir following the intervention of Egyptian church leaders.

During a two-hour hearing on 11th October charges were brought against Mr Samir relating to incorrect registration of a TV channel, failure to hold licences for certain editing activities and failure to comply with regulations concerning live streaming of broadcasts on the internet. Mr Samir and the lawyers acting on SAT-7’s behalf refuted these charges. It was demonstrated that the Censorship Department’s report contained factual errors and evidence was presented to confirm that SAT-7’s registration and licences are in good order.

Those close to SAT-7 are grateful for the prayers and support of many around the world. They ask us to:
a. praise God for the return of the equipment, the closing of the case against Mr Samir and the dropping of all charges
b. pray that the SAT-7 team will be able to resume their normal activities
c. pray that SAT-7 will face no further problems with the Egyptian authorities

Fleeing Christians Persecuted in Europe’s Refugee Centers

 

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(L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE the growing concern of the Catholic and Protestant authorities about the persecution that Christians migrants suffer from Muslim migrants in Germany. Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.”  He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because  they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ” (Source: Catholic Herald , February 19)

Among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, Christians who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them, religious harassment = PERSECUTION.

World Watch Monitor reports that Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered.

The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including in the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq.

The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.

It all started at the turn of the year, recalls Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of Église Evangélique du Littoral, or EEDL, a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe.

“Between November and December, there was a group of Iranians who confessed their belonging to Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. But we got to know them, and we felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said.

“And then one evening [14 December], we were informed that two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third one was unknown.

“We then said that as Christians we cannot leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves told us that they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.”

The incident marked the beginning of EEDL’s support for migrant victims of persecution.

For the next few days, the victims were put up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.

Just one of the victims from the initial group remains, a 29-year-old who wished to remain anonymous.

“Generally the Kurdish mafia in the camp are against Christians,” he said. “When we gave our money to them for them to help us to go to England, they didn’t help us and they just stole our money and did not give it back. Then they attacked us and called us kafir [infidels] and dirty. They came and cut me with a knife and they beat my friends.”

He said there are still some Christians in the camp, but that many are too scared to speak about their faith.

“Yes, there are still some Christians there in the camp,” he said, “But they don’t prefer to stay there beside these strong Muslims. They are so racist, they just want to clear the camp to be without Christians.”

He added that a mosque has been created in the camp, and that the Call to Prayer resounds around the camp every day, but unlike the nearby Calais camp, there is no church.

An explosive cocktail

Located in the northwest of France, beside the English Channel, the camp of Grande-Synthe hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants – mostly Kurds from Iraq and Syria, but also some Iranians.

Tensions and other forms of violence are common in the camp, said a social worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear that the report could impact upon his work with the Christians.

Ethnic differences have created tension in the camp between the Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians.

Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp. Night raids, theft and violence are among the common threats.

On the night of 14 December, a knife attack left several Christians injured. One of them, a 19-year-old named Mohammad, was murdered. The local police were informed and an investigation is underway. Police did not respond to World Watch Monitor requests for information about the investigation.

A staff member at the Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which she said is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance.

On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs of smugglers erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp, and visitors must acquire prior authorisation from the Mayor’s office.

There are some who fear members of the so-called Islamic State may be among the migrants, intent on radicalising other migrants and imposing Sharia inside the camp.

A settled tension

Two months after the attacks against the Iranian migrants, the tension has settled, according to Dugard.

The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, their preferred destination, while others, tired of waiting for a hypothetical crossing or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way.

“Sometimes they just won’t show up at dinner time, even though we have already laid the table,” said Dugard. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.

“But in the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims who heard about the support provided to the Iranians, have now arrived.”

A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. A non-religious Iranian in his 30s, who identified himself as Max, complained of the poor conditions and lax security of the camp. A fellow Iranian, a Muslim man in his 20s who identified himself as Farhad, agreed.

“The living conditions in the camp are deplorable,” he said. “It is no place for humans. It is very cold and people fall sick easily.”

Churches overwhelmed

Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands being placed upon them, as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none.

What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said.

“We are wondering: what is the best option for us? Do we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work, which is full-time social work?” he said.

“Yet the migrants are really suffering. They crossed a multitude of borders and faced various obstacles to get here, in the hope of a better life. But they realise that it is often hopeless to cross to England and have ended up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in their countries.”

Those conditions could be improved if migrants exploring Christianity could do so safely, said Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, part of a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under threat because of their faith.

“Many Christians amongst the refugees are fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatised by their terrible experience in the Middle East,” Varton said. “Imagine their despair to realise that, once here in France, they are suffering the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants.

“The local churches have shown dedication to help the Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have simple buildings where they can meet and worship God in security and make sure that values of freedom of belief reign in the camps. It’s totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.”

In addition to the lack of resources, there is a logistical problem, as different churches act without much coordination.

Moreover, various groups and associations from all over Europe are also providing assistance to migrants, which has only added to the pressure, said Dugard.

“If some groups are useful, others believe that they can save the world,” he said. “They often come with very aggressive speeches, for two to three days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good, because after they leave it becomes difficult for us to do serious work.”

Talks are currently underway among churches, as they seek to create a regional platform, which would come underneath the umbrella of the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France, the national Evangelical Church network.

Humanitarian disaster

The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of marshland. It is difficult to walk through the slippery mud without proper boots.

With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common, says Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency care alongside Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).

According to MSF, a new camp, equipped with heated tents and located three kilometres from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in the coming days.

However, the migrant crisis remains a very complex issue, says Matthew Bosiger, the pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Dunkirk.

“They are a bit like in a prison,” he said. “It is good to try to improve their situation, but they have no plan to stay in France. The migrants have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.”

Many say they have relatives or friends already settled there and the living conditions seem very attractive – partly because many know a little English, but also because of the prospect of better economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation to reach the UK by charging them everything that they have, with no guarantee they will succeed.

Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.

After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.

Voice of the Persecuted

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Boko Haram Strikes Terror In Adamawa State

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17 Feb. 2016: Voice of the Persecuted received an urgent request for prayer from Nigeria Christians. We were notified that Boko Haram is suspected to have carried out an attack in Adamawa State which killed at least six people. Insurgents stormed Kuda village around 9pm on Monday and shot at fleeing villagers, which killing five and injured several. The extremists destroyed more than 20 houses. Reports claim an elderly woman burned to death when they set fire to her home. Witnesses claim the 30 heavily armed insurgents came on foot and looted valuables.

The head of Krichinga, Abubakar Kanuri, a nearby village, said the insurgents came through Malakwaya, a section of the Sambisa Forest.

He said, “Today, they will invade our villages as rustlers, another day they stormed our villages in convoy of vehicles and some time they will use cattle to deceive us that they are normal herdsmen only to start killing people.

“We need help in our area. Many are beginning to return but with current security situation, they may not return to these areas.”

He said that they are still hiding in caves inside Sambisa Forest.

The Nigeria government has offered no detailed proposal to rebuild the northeast razed by the Islamic terror group. Borno State has suffered most at the hands of the Boko Haram. Estimates to repair damage total more than $1 billion in Borno alone. Plunging oil prices have hurt revenue and further the Nigerian government’s economic woes.

Please keep our Nigerian brothers and sisters in your prayers.

Voiorphan-306x4601ce of the Persecuted (VOP) is caring for internal refugees from Christian villages hardest hit by the Boko Haram. Many children reside at the camp, including those orphaned and women made widows in the insurgency. Their needs are immense. Please consider supporting this mission to care for those suffering great physical and emotional trauma. VOP is on the ground in Nigeria, GO with us on the mission through your gifts.

We want you to know that even in great hardship, they thank God and feel extremely blessed that He has kept His hand on them. They have been so encouraged and thank God for each one of you who have joined this mission through your support and they keep you in their prayers.

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183

If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project.

Al-Qaeda holds Swiss missionary kidnapped in Mali for second time

(World Watch Monitor)

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UPDATE: Al-Qaeda in Africa has claimed the kidnapping of the Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, who was abducted in Mali in January.

In an eight-minute video, in which Stockly appears dressed in a black hijab, a masked speaker with a British accent claims responsibility on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

“Beatrice Stockly is a Swiss nun who declared war against Islam in her attempt to Christianise Muslims,” the speaker said.

The conditions of her release include setting free AQIM fighters jailed in Mali, and one of their leaders detained at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Switzerland has demanded her unconditional release.

AQIM, which is based in the Sahara Desert between Mali, Niger and Algeria, was involved in the January attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, which left 29 dead, including a US missionary and six Canadians visiting the country on behalf of a church. Last week AQIM released Jocelyn Elliott, an Australian Christian woman kidnapped with her husband in northern Burkina Faso on the same day as the attack in the capital. The Islamist group said in an audio recording that it released Mrs Elliott so as “not to make women involved in the war”.

Stockly was taken from her home in Timbuktu by armed gunmen on 7 January. It was the second time she had been kidnapped by Islamists. The most important condition of her release, the speaker in the video said, was that she did not return to any Muslim land preaching Christianity. The Swiss government had warned her not to return to Mali after her release in 2012.

Below is World Watch Monitor’s 11 January report on the kidnap of Beatrice Stockly.

Original report

A Swiss missionary abducted for 10 days in 2012 has been kidnapped again in Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu, sources tell World Watch Monitor.

Beatrice Stockly was taken from her residence before dawn on 8 Jan. by armed men, who arrived in four pickup trucks, according to the sources, whose names are being kept confidential for their safety.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Militant Islamist groups are active in the region, where two attacks within the past seven weeks, one of them at a Christian radio station just before Christmas, have left 25 people dead.

A local church leader, who claimed to have previously worked with Stockly, told World Watch Monitor the missionary settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.

He said Stockly is in her forties and leads an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian material. She was described as sociable, particularly among women and children.

Her home is in Abaradjou, a popular district of Timbuktu frequented by armed jihadist groups. She was taken from that same residence in April 2012, when northern Mali was occupied by armed Islamist groups. She was released 10 days later, following mediation led by neighbouring Burkina Faso.

During the 2012 occupation, Christians, a minority in Mali, have paid a heavy price. For most of the year, armed Islamist groups ruled the region, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship.

Thousands, including many Christians, fled and found refuge in the south, or in neighbouring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso. Others fled to Bamako, the capital, and other safer towns in the south.

Unlike other Christians, Stockly remained in the city. At her mother and brother’s urging, she returned to Switzerland after her 2012 kidnap, but soon returned, saying, ‘‘It’s Timbuktu or nothing’’.

Growing insecurity

The Mali government and the predominantly Tuareg rebel groups signed a peace agreement in June 2015, with limited impact. Jihadist groups have regained ground and intensified attacks, targeting Mali security forces and UN peacekeepers. Their scope has spread to southern regions previously spared by their incursions.

On 17 Dec., three men were killed when an unidentified gunman opened fire outside Radio Tahanint (Radio Mercy in the local dialect), which is closely linked with a Baptist Church in Timbuktu. Hamar Oumar Dicko and Samuel Dicko worked for the station; Abdal Malick Ag Alher was a visiting friend.

Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, President of the Baptist Church in Mali, told World Watch Monitor at the time that Christians were “shocked to see what happened”.

“We are trying to find out what happened, but for now we don’t have any explanation,” he said.

“It’s a Christian radio station that was broadcasting messages of peace lately. One of the young men who was shot last night, he had just finished broadcasting and his last words were about peace.”

“Insecurity is everywhere in Mali,” Yattara said. “The situation is very frail, but we didn’t see a particular threat to the community.”

About one month earlier, terrorists killed 22 people at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako. The government imposed a state of emergency that expired on 22 Dec., then extended it to 31 March.

It is thought that the abduction of Stockly is the first of a foreigner since the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in the northeastern town of Kidal in November 2013.

Turkey’s Protestants are today an “anxious and distressed” community

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For Turkey’s tiny Protestant community, 2015 was a year marked by threats and attacks against their churches and leaders. A report by the Protestant Churches Association on human rights violations documents a series of attacks and obstacles that Protestants faced over the course of last year, including physical attacks and verbal harassment. (Read report here) Judicial authorities showed no compunction to respond to their complaints about such offenses. In addition, the government excluded the community from its meetings with religious minorities. In the words of community leader Ihsan Ozbek, Turkey’s Protestants are today an “anxious and distressed” community.

As a testament to the community’s standing, on the door of the local Protestant church in the city of Balikesir, someone posted a piece of paper bearing the words “Turkish Islam Alliance” and painted “Allah is one” on a wall of the building.

READ MORE (Al-Monitor)

Ethnic Cleansing: Iran-backed Militia Seize Christian Neighborhoods in Baghdad

By Lisa Daftari

(va AINA) Iran-backed militias have seized homes, businesses and cultural sites, including churches belonging to Baghdad’s Christian communities, forcing individuals to resettle and forfeit all their belongings, according to members of the Christian members of the Iraqi Parliament.The militias have targeted properties belonging to Christians, forcing individuals to leave the area, according to Christian community leaders, including representatives from the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac minorities, as well as the Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq who have condemned the attacks, calling them a form of ethnic cleansing aimed to rid Baghdad of its Christians.

“Their claim is that the property of a non-Christian is halal, meaning it can be seized,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sacco said in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat.

According to leaders, the seizures have been carried out in the upscale regions of Baghdad, where militia men have forced entry into homes and businesses with falsified documents.

“We are begging, once again, appealing to the conscience of government officials and authorities from Sunni and Shiite states in order to do something meaningful to safeguard the life and dignity and property of all Iraqis, because they are human,” Sacco said.

The news was confirmed by Tom Harb, the co-chair of the Middle East Christian Committee, MECHRIC, who said Middle East Christian NGOs have long been reporting from Baghdad and Erbil that the Iranian-backed militias are pushing the Christians south of the areas controlled by ISIS, including Baghdad.

The paradox in U.S. foreign policy is that the current administration has shown a policy of partnering with Iran’s regime and even releasing the funds to the regime to back these militia, while at the same time creating conditions on the ground in Iraq where they can ethnically cleanse the Christian community, Dr. Walid Phares, who is an advisor to members of the U.S. Congress, said to The Foreign Desk.

In other words, Washington is backing and funding the ethnic cleansing of Christian minorities in Iraq, Phares said.

Iraq’s Christians are considered to be one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, with their villages concentrated in Baghdad, Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk. The Assyrians had made the towns and regions around the Nineveh Plains in the north home, until ISIS forced them out.

In 2014, the Islamic State announced that all Christians under its territories must pay a minority tax, or Jizzyah, of approximately $500 per family, convert to Islam or be put to death. Later, the decree was revoked and Christians no longer had the option of staying and paying a tax. They either had to leave the Caliphate or die.

At that time, Christian homes and properties were marked with the Arabic letter N, or nun, for Nassarah, meaning ‘Christian’ in Arabic.

According to Sacco, there are no Christians left in Mosul for the first time in Iraq’s history.

“In the long run, the U.S. should help establish an autonomous area for the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriacs in their homeland Nineveh Plains, near Mosul and help the Yazidis establish their own area in Sinjar,” Phares said.

At the same time, Phares recommends Washington demand more from its partner, Iraq, who receives aid, funding and training to evacuate militias, to now protect the empty homes and return Christians to Baghdad.

 

Christian leaders kept in Sudan since December uncharged, but incommunicado

Pastors Telal Rata (left) and Hassan Taour have been detained incommunicado and with no charges. World Watch Monitor

Pastors Telal Rata (left) and Hassan Taour have been detained incommunicado and with no charges.
World Watch Monitor

(World Watch Monitor) Sudanese authorities have been keeping two Christian pastors in an unknown location since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them.

On 12. Dec., members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) visited the family home of Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of the Fellowship of University Christian Students and a leader of Khartoum North Evangelical Church, sources close to the detainees said.

Telahoon (also known as Telal) Rata was told to “report” to the local NISS office north of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “He went to the NISS office behind the airport at al-Mashtel the next day, and he has been detained ever since,” the sources, requesting anonymity, said.

Meanwhile, two pastors from the Sudan Church of Christ, a denomination whose members originate predominantly from the Nuba Mountains in Sudan, were arrested by the NISS on 18 December.

The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity.

Rev. Kuwa Shamal, (the head of a church committee) was taken from his home in the district of Bahri, north of Khartoum, while Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour (the church’s vice-moderator) was detained while at home in Omdurman, a city across the Nile, west of the capital.

Shamal was released three days later, but was required to continue to report daily to the NISS until this formal requirement was cancelled on 16 Jan.

Both Rata and Taour remain in custody in an unknown location, with no access for either family or lawyers.

Rev. Rata’s parents were allowed to visit him only once, five days after his arrest, family said. They met with him in Khartoum’s al-Kober prison.

Since then they have tried four times to visit him again, but each time they were told to apply for permission to visit, only to be told a week later their request had been denied, confirmed the family.

Background

Thirty-six-year-old Christian worker Telal Rata was not at home the night the NISS agents came, 12 December. But some of his belongings were confiscated at his parents’ home, where he lived.

A lawyer has asked to see both Rata and Taour, but was informed by the prosecution that both are still being held by the NISS and no access to them will be given until the NISS hands them over for prosecution.

No details are known of the Christians’ legal status or physical condition, while they are being held incommunicado.

Rev. Taour’s lawyer has written to the Sudanese Human Rights Council to ask for help in bringing his client’s case to a court of law. In a letter to the Sudan HRC judge, he explained that the National Security was denying the pastors their basic rights by denying their lawyers access. He has received no reply.

The Sudan Council of Churches has also written a letter to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Omdurman Government Minister and the Security Office to appeal for access to Rev. Taour and “other Christians”, but again there has been no reply.

According to Sudanese law, 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. However, neither of these actions has occurred in Rata’s or Taour’s case.

Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.

In August 2015, Khartoum released two South Sudanese pastors whom it accused of “spying”. Pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months, respectively.

“The latest cases are representative of a much larger campaign by Sudan’s government to eradicate Christianity,” Sudanese religious freedom activist Kamal Fahmi told World Watch Monitor.

“Since the secession of South Sudan [in July 2011], Khartoum has intensified the war in Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains [both areas of known Christian presence], and the indiscriminate harassment and arrests of church leaders and active church members,” said Fahmi, who heads an advocacy website, ‘Set My People Free’, calling for the repeal of Islam’s blasphemy and apostasy laws.

“Foreign Christian workers have been deported. Sudan has stopped the import of Christian literature and scriptures, while confiscating most of the Christian literature in the country and closing the only Christian bookshop in the capital, Khartoum,” Fahmi said.

“Torture and arrest of converts from Islam is also commonplace,” he added.

Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian accused of being an apostate from Islam, was released in June 2014 after a global outcry. Earlier in 2014, Ibrahim was sentenced to death for apostasy and flogging for “adultery”(marriage to a South Sudanese Christian). During her six-month incarceration, she gave birth to her baby girl while shackled to the floor, while her 20-month-old son, Martin, was kept with her in prison.

Forced To Flee Persecution Christians Continue To Suffer Unfair Treatment

 

 

 

Heartbroken and persecuted in Pakistan

Heartbroked and persecuted in Pakistan

(Voice of the Persecuted) Faisal was a hardworking employee who had been with the company for years. His attention to detail paid off as he successfully managed projects leading the team in the office. Happy with his work, the boss often praised him with a ‘job well done’. In the evening, he made the journey back to his wife who was preparing dinner in their rented home. It was a decent place to raise their 2 children. Faisal’s education and wages offered his family opportunities many don’t have in Pakistan. They were living comfortably and excited about their son’s high marks on the entrance exam at the private school.  Everything seemed to be going in their favor, they never anticipated their lives would soon be turned upside down.

The couple had always been strong in their Christian faith and thanked God for all their blessings.  They raised their children to know the Lord, even helping them to memorize Scriptures. They faithfully attended church and helped the pastor with church programs and missions to the poor. Faisal never hid is faith and freely shared the Gospel to all who would listen. One day, a Muslim friend approached him and they spoke about Jesus. Though somewhat heated at the beginning, Faisal was able to explain the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His friend returned again and again, hungary to know more of this Savior. Soon, he and his family began following Jesus, along with his in-laws. Months later, a secret evening service was set up at the church for their baptism. 9 people were baptized that night.

The family’s conversion later became known to some Muslims in the community. The family eventually was forced to move to a safe location due to constant threats and pressures, even from their own family members. Faisal became a target as they blamed him for brainwashing his friend. One evening, he was approached by men unknown to him. They called him an infidel and other obscenities. They robbed him and began beating him on the street. They threatened him for spreading Christianity and tried to forcibly convert him to Islam. When he refused, they became so enraged, Faisal thought they would beat him to death and he cried out for help. The men ran way when his cries drew the attention of others who called for the men to stop. A local Christian helped him home. Faisal soon began receiving threats and his home was vandalized. His pastor became very concerned and thought he should move his family to another location.

One day, men came to his home looking for him, but he was out. They threatened his wife. They threatened their church if they kept attending. They threatened to kill them if they aided the conversion of Muslims to Christianity. A few nights later, the windows of their home were smashed. The family shifted to the home of a friend and Faisal chose not go to his job for fear of being assaulted or worse. His extended family members were also approached and asked to give up Faisal’s location. They too were threatened.

Advised by his pastor, Faisal took all their savings and fled to another country to seek asylum with the UNHCR. He wanted to live in a place where his children could worship and grow up without fear. Expenses to survive was much higher than they had expected. It wasn’t long before they’re visa’s expired and they were left penniless. Faisal sought out odd jobs to support his family, but did so at great risk of arrest and being sent to the detention center. If arrested, his wife and children would be left to fend for themselves, as they would not have the means to bail him out. Life became hard and they also relied on charity from others. (Name changed for security purposes)

In the case of a woman who had been left on her own, she struggled to find ways to care for her children. It broke her heart as she heard her children wail with pain from hunger. She was forced to beg in the streets to buy them milk. On Sunday’s, she and her children stood near the steps of a church praying the church members would have compassion for them. Some would give her the equivalent of a dollar or two and on rare occasions $20. But the majority would walk past her, while some shamed her or yelled to get out of their way. This shattered any dignity she had left. But every Sunday, she swallowed her pride and found herself back at the church steps, she had no other choice in this foreign land.

kidnappedAnother danger in places like Thailand is sex trafficking. Thailand is known throughout the world for this booming industry. Many asylum seekers fear for their young daughters, that they may be abducted then sold. Knowing how vulnerable they are, many girls are constantly approached by traffickers trying to lure them in. A few weakened by desperation have fallen for their trap. Some will tell you, “I had no other choice.” How sad it is to lose even one sister to this life of abuse, simply because she could find no compassion from others.

The stories above are not uncommon. Many who have left Pakistan due to persecution have traveled to Thailand for asylum. The Thai government brings further hardships as they don’t recognize asylum seekers, nor the UNHRC asylum seeker certificates that should protect them. When their visa’s expire they are considered illegals. If arrested, they’re thrown into the Immigration Detention Centre, along with it’s horrific conditions. The UNHCR office is burdened by thousands of asylum applications, while the office remains understaffed. The 24 month wait for a scheduled interview is often postponed by the office for another year . We’ve found this to be the case for many Pakistani Christians interview dates. Determination status and transfer to welcoming nations has taken as long as 6 years. That’s an unbearable amount of time for anyone to continue suffering without the means to change their conditions.

As illegals, they’re children are not allowed to go to school. They are not allowed a work permit and arrested if found working. They are given little to no aid and must beg or take risks to survive. It’s even harder for women with children, or those who suffer health conditions which prevent them from finding odd jobs. Many can’t afford medical treatment and medications for their illnesses. They’re unable to take their sick children to a doctor. They suffer in silence, or succumb to their disease.

The refugee crisis in the Middle East has taken over media headlines and government meetings, as they try to deal with the woes it is causing. Churches and organizations are now focusing their attention on these refugees. Based on numbers or rules as to how government grants must be used, many Christian refugees/asylum seekers from the Mid East and elsewhere are falling through the cracks. We see this being the case for the large number of Pakistani Christians in Thailand. We recently heard of a case where a Pakistani Christian had applied for sponsorship of his family with a church in a western nation. The process began very promising as they communicated back and forth. Sadly, the church later informed this brother that they were now only approving sponsorship for those coming from Iraq or Syria. He was heartbroken when the high hopes for his family’s freedom and an end to their ongoing pain in Thailand came crashing down in a single communication.

Thailand has stepped up their efforts and regularly raids low cost housing complexes known to house asylum seekers. The Bangkok Post reported in an article titled, ‘Migrant crackdown steps up’ that the Immigration Bureau claimed to only arrest those who have committed crimes. It’s true that some foreigners have entered with criminal intentions, but this is not the scope of the current situation in Bangkok. They are arresting anyone found with expired visa’s, as in the case of Pakistani Christians. The article states, Some of these refugees were found to be breaking Thai laws by working without permits. But their only crime is waiting on the UNHCR process to move them to a country of refuge, and working odd jobs to feed and shelter their families. It is unjust to expect them to starve to death, when the programs designed to help them are failing. What’s criminal is to expect them to return to a nation where they will face severe persecution, death sentences or lose their lives by the hands of extremists. They cannot return and like many other Christians fleeing persecution, they’re running out of safe places to go. How can we turn our backs on them?

Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Child arrested with his mother and brought to court in caged police van. Children remain incarcerated along side their parents.

Pakistani Christians make up the largest number of those seeking asylum in Bangkok. To be treated as they are and often prevented from bail outs from the IDC is inhumane. Voice of the Persecuted is caring for a family who took in another family’s children, both parents are locked up at the detention centre. Recently, all the adults but one woman in this family was arrested and taken to the IDC. She now must care for 9 kids on her own. Also alone, another woman has been caring for her 6 children. Her husband has been held in the IDC for 5 months. The struggles they face in Thailand is an unfair burden on the many who have already suffered so much. Voice of the Persecuted would like to see the Thai government do more to work with the UNHCR for the protection of valid asylum seekers, including allowing work permits so they can support their families. We would like to see the UNHCR Bangkok work on solutions to better staff their office and process asylum cases with greater efficiency. For cases to be heard at their scheduled times and no longer postponed. We believe the UNHCR should also be responsible for the education of asylum seeker children.  They are prevented (as illegals) from going to school in Thailand and until these families can be relocated, they remain uneducated.

This unstable situation that will become a regrettable tragedy if continued to be overlooked. If others cannot manage to help them, the Body of Christ (the Church) must step up and care for the least of our brethren in Thailand. Surely this example was set by the first century church, or have we forgotten?

Many new cases are brought to Voice of the Persecuted. Our mission has been designed to stay along side these families to help them endure. But we are a small mission trying to help in a big crisis. It is heartbreaking to not have the means to care for all those needing aid. Each month, we rely on and ask the Lord to provide as we continue covering those we already care for. To give us the ability to add the many other families on our waiting list. We ask for His heart for these dear ones who suffer for their faith in Christ Jesus. We pray for more to partner with us in the mission. As they have had to beg—today, we beg for them. Brothers and sisters, we ask for your help to distribute aid to the persecuted suffering in Thailand.

For more information to aid a persecuted family in Thailand, contact us at info@voiceofthepersecuted.org

Let us not forget them, nor think as the world, ‘someone else will step up to help’. Let us not regret the loss of even one of these ‘family members’ when there is surely a way to share and provide. But any help you can give is appreciated more than you could ever know.

L Kanalos, VOP Founder

Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support.  We couldn’t do it without you!
You may also send your gift to:

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P.O. Box 122
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Article may be reprinted with credit to Voice of the Persecuted.

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