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Monthly Archives: June 2016

Iranian Christian again forced to return to prison before end of medical treatment

Maryam Naghash Zargaran-Nasim

Elsewhere 2 Christians released, but many still detained

UPDATE (28 June): Maryam Naghash Zargaran has for the second time been sent back to prison before her medical treatment could be completed, after the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her medical leave.

On 6 June, she had been granted temporary release from prison, but on 19 June the authorities demanded she return.

Her family applied for an extension, but their appeal was refused and she returned to prison yesterday (27 June). Zargaran was also granted medical treatment in October 2015 and forced to return before it could be completed.

Original report (1 June):

An Iranian Christian serving a four-year jail term for “acting against national security” has gone on hunger strike to protest against the prison’s refusal to allow her to receive treatment for long-standing health issues.

Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a convert from Islam, is nearly three years into her sentence at Tehran’s Evin prison. She was originally arrested in January 2013, in connection with her work at an orphanage alongside Saeed Abedini, who was also imprisoned, but eventually released in January this year.

A member of the Zargaran family told Mohabat News: “Maryam hasn’t left her bed in four days. She is burning with fever and has been on hunger strike to raise her protest against prison authorities’ indifference toward her health. She is suffering from serious health issues. Before going on hunger strike, she had lost 25kg and her health issues had intensified. Authorities do not show the slightest concern over Maryam’s health. In addition, she is suffering from depression and takes medication for it.”

Middle East Concern (MEC) reported that a number of her fellow prisoners decided to forgo family visits on 29 May to show support.

On 31 May, MEC reported that she was briefly taken to hospital on 30 May, after which, on her return to prison, she started to drink water.

Zargaran has a history of heart problems and has recently reported pain in her ears and head. In October 2015 she was allowed to receive a few days’ treatment outside the prison, but forced to return before it was completed.

Rasht Christians bailed, but many still detained

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Rasht, two Christians have been released on bail after nearly three weeks in jail.

Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie were arrested on 13 May alongside Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor once sentenced to death for apostasy, and his wife, Tina. The couple were released later that day, but Mossayebzadeh, Fadaie and another Christian, Mohammad Reza Omidi, were detained.

MEC reports that Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie were each forced to pay the equivalent of $33,000 for bail. Omidi was not given that option, though it is not yet clear why. UPDATE (7 June): Omidi also granted bail.

Since 2015, more than 150 Christians have been detained by the Iranian authorities. Many are in jail, while others, including Mossayebzadeh and Fadaie, have been released conditionally, pending sentencing or an appeal.

MEC’s Rob Duncan said the current pressure being placed on Christians in Iran is “not as much through open violence and arrests, as through fear and intimidation”.

“There are fewer raids on house churches, but instead people are summoned to security for interrogation,” he said. “There is a lot of pressure on people to leave the country as a result. Also, when people are arrested and charged, bail demands are high and can financially cripple a family.”

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Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Issues Statement After Assassination Attempt

Patriarch Aphrem, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Aphrem, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

(AINA) — Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church issued a statement on the assassination attempt on his life last week. On June 19, while the Patriarch was leading a commemoration service for the Turkish genocide of Assyrians in World War One, a suicide bomber attacked the service but was stopped by the Assyrian Sutoro military forces in Qamishli, Syria (AINA 2016-06-19).

Here is the text of the statement.

The Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East
Damascus, Wednesday June 22, 2016After returning safely to the Patriarchate in Damascus following his pastoral visit to the city of Qamishly, His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, offered prayers of thanksgiving and condemned the suicide bombing which took place during His Holiness’ visit. On Sunday June 19, 2016 following the celebration of the feast of the Pentecost and after the inauguration of a monument for the Syriac Genocide Sayfo which His Holiness presided over, the faithful were gathered inside the auditorium of St. Gabriel School to celebrate the 101st annual Sayfo commemoration when a suicide bomber set himself off a short distance from the place. Two members of the Sutoro Protection Units fell martyrs and several were injured. This terroristic act is planned and executed by people who want to spread hatred and create division among the people of the region. Such acts cause great suffering to the people and aim at destroying the unity of our beloved country Syria.

His Holiness gives thanks to God Almighty for protecting him and all the others who participated in the said event, by His divine care.

He prays for the souls of the martyrs, especially the two young people who lost their lives as a result of this act of terrorism, and offers condolences to their families. He likewise prays for the quick recovery of the injured. His Holiness expresses his thanks and gratitude to their Holinesses and Beatitudes the Patriarchs of the sister churches, as well as different governments and community leaders who offered their sympathies and prayers for His Holiness’ safety by calling or writing. He, likewise, thanks the hierarchy, members of the clergy, and the entire faithful of the church who offered their prayers and expressed their concerns through phone calls, emails or text messages.

His Holiness prays the Lord to bless Syria with peace and security so that these difficult times come to an end and life returns to normal in this dear country Syria.

Will the Terrorization of Egypt’s Christians “Never Stop”

attacks on Christian homes and property

attacks on Christian homes and property

Originally published by Gatestone Institute under the title, “Egypt: New Attacks on Christians.”

In a chronically familiar scene, angry, rioting Muslims in Egypt burned down around 80 Christian homes on June 17. In the words of one of the victims, Moses Zarif,

On Friday afternoon, after noon prayers, a large number of Muslims gathered in the front of the new house of my cousin because a rumor had spread in the village that it would be turned into a church. They were chanting slogans against us: “By no means will there be a church here” and “Egypt will remain Islamic!”

According to the report, rioting Muslims beat the two cousins, attacked the building, destroyed all construction materials, and threw rocks at any Christian trying to intervene. Then they “turned their wrath on the Christian homes adjacent to the building, hurled rocks, looted houses and set fire to any Christian property in their wake.”

When the local priest heard what was happening, he rushed to the scene — only to be attacked while in his car; the Muslims climbed on it, stomped on it, and damaged it.

Currently the Christians of al-Bayda village, where the incident took place, have no church. They have to walk four miles in Egypt’s sweltering heat to attend another church.

The Arabic-language news show, “Behind the Scenes,” played short video clips of the incident as it transpired, made by phone cameras. The Muslim mob, which appears to have consisted of hundreds of people surrounding the building, included veiled women and children. There were shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”; women in hijabs clapped and whistled and ululated. At one point, almost in unison, the mob can clearly be heard chanting, “We’ll burn the church, we’ll burn the church.”

As usual, Egyptian TV reported the one-sided attacks from the Muslim majority on the Christian minority as “clashes.” After arriving, the police stood back and allowed the mob to continue destroying the house and setting more Christian homes and vehicles on fire. The Muslims then performed their afternoon prayers outside those Christians’ homes they had not destroyed — with loudspeakers pointed at their doors.

“No one did anything and the police took no pre-emptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks,” said Anba Makarios, a representative of the normally diplomatic Coptic Christian church of the incident. Instead, a report notes that,

In the end, police arrested six Muslim men, all of whom were released that evening, and six Christian men, who were released on the following day. The police station in Amirya charged the six men with erecting a building without permit and holding prayers without permission.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this latest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority is that every detail of it has been repeated over and over in countless other incidents.

Violent riots and attacks on Christian homes and property, at the mere mention that a Christian church might be built or just renovated, are commonplace in Egypt (see here for several recent examples).

Last year Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi agreed to build a memorial church in the village of Al-Our, which was home to 13 of the 21 Christians beheaded in February 2015 by the Islamic State in Libya. The families of the victims still live there. In response, Muslim mobs from the village rose in violence on April 3, 2015.

There they also shouted that they would never allow a church to be built, and that “Egypt is Islamic!” Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at another Coptic church, cars were set ablaze — including one belonging to a relative of one of the those Christians decapitated by the Islamic State — and several people were injured.

Even tents used by churchless Christians for worship are not spared.

Collective punishment — punishing all Christians for the real or imagined offense of one Christian — is common (as documented here). It is the reason that 80 Christian homes are torched on the rumor that one Christian might be turning his home into a church. Last month in Egypt, a 70-year-old Christian woman was stripped naked, beaten, and paraded in the streets of her village by a mob of 300 Muslim men.  The woman’s son was rumored to be romantically involved with a Muslim woman — a relationship strictly banned by Islam.

All these attacks take place on took place on a Friday: the one day of the week when Muslims meet in mosques to pray and hear sermons — possibly whipping them up against all things “infidel,” Christians chief among them.

The attack on the church had the bonus of occurring during Ramadan as well, when pious Muslims become even more radical and intolerant of uppity Christians who dare to build churches.

During the coverage of this attack, Dr. Mona Roman, the host of “Behind the Scenes,” said:

Throughout Egypt, we are accustomed to seeing Muslims laying out their carpets and praying wherever they want, and no one bothers them. Why must Christians be so hounded for trying to worship, prevented from building churches or even meeting in homes? Where is this equality we often hear about?

She concluded by asking what must be on the mind of every Christian in Egypt: “We all know the authority of Egypt’s government, that whenever it intends on doing something, it does it. How long will these acts continue with impunity – or will they never stop?”

Al-Azhar: to leave Islam is ‘treason’

Al-Azhar_(inside)_2006

Al-Azhar Mosque en.wikipedia.org

(World Watch Monitor) To convert away from Islam is “treason” that should carry the death penalty, according to Sunni Islam’s topmost religious authority.

“The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in Sharia,” Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyib declared on Egypt television last week.

An apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed,” el-Tayyib stated, reiterating Islam’s traditional position during a 16 June episode of a daily TV program featuring him.

Full Al-Azhar statement — Click here

The ‘Good Imam’ is broadcast every day during the Muslim month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, intense worship and increased zeal across the Islamic world. Shown over Egypt’s state TV, it is also broadcast by several private satellite channels across the Arab world and Muslim diaspora.

Apostasy manifests itself as crime … that has to incur a disciplining punishment

“[Preaching] apostasy stems from a hatred against Islam and a premeditated desire to work against it. As such it constitutes in my belief high treason and a departure from the community and what it holds sacred,” the official portal of Al-Azhar quoted el-Tayyib as saying.

Started over a millennium ago as a centre of Shiite power, Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque has since become renowned as “Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university”. Currently, it serves as a main ideological and logistical backer of worldwide Islamic missionary work.

‘Blind at heart’

“The broad consensus of Islamic theology, including the Prominent Scholars of [Sunni Islam’s] Four Schools, judge apostasy to be criminal,” el-Tayyib said. “They are all in agreement that an apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed.

“One is to employ dialogue and debate in the hope the apostate would repent, which in itself speaks for a measure of flexibility in that an apostate is not killed outright,” el-Tayyib said, describing converts from Islam as “blind at heart” for leaving “the Religion of Original Nature”.

In el-Tayyib’s home country of Egypt, where Sharia is not fully implemented, converts to Christianity are not sentenced to death. Other charges are often levelled against them to keep them in jail for lengthy periods of time, as in the current case of Mohammed Hegazy, imprisoned since December 2013.

Liberal Muslim voices have found themselves cornered by Al-Azhar’s professed role as guardian of orthodox Islam. Last January, a TV presenter and researcher, Islam el-Behery, was sentenced to a year in prison for arguing against canonical texts of Islam on a number of issues, including apostasy.

It is the second time this Ramadan that a statement by Egypt’s religious establishment has caused widespread reaction among sectors of the Egyptian public, which is 90 percent Muslim.

Preceding the start of the Muslim fasting month, the country’s fatwa issuing authority (Darul-Ifta) said on 6 June that to eat or drink in public during Ramadan “cannot be included within the realm of personal freedoms, but is a type of anarchy transgressing the sanctity of Islam”.

Stressing that “in the Islamic world, apostates are not being strung from the gallows in public squares,” the Grand Imam stated that the issue was being handled with “a flexible theology that emphasizes creativity of thinking based on Sharia’s ethos.”

The published statement by el-Tayyib concluded by blaming the West for “repelling people away from Islam,” describing concerns over women issues, apostasy, and Jihad as “defamation of Islam and Muslims”.

 

A glimpse inside an Assyrian (Christian) village on the frontlines with Daesh

nineveh-122

Once one of the many Christian villages that dot Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, today the tiny town of Baqofah is mostly deserted. Scant electricity flickers in abandoned homes and debris litters the streets. The town’s Assyrian residents, adherents of Chaldean Catholic church, are long gone.

Most of Nineveh province’s Christians fled for their lives when Daesh (ISIS) fighters seized Mosul and surrounding villages in June 2014.  Peshmerga (military of Iraqi Kurdistan) forces retook Baqofah and some other Christian towns soon afterwards, but many former residents remain in displaced persons camps in Erbil and elsewhere, afraid to return home. View slide show and continue reading here

North Korea Halts U.S. Prisoner Negotiations until Kenneth Bae stops talking about his imprisonment

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(Voice of the Persecuted)  For 14 consecutive years, North Korea (DPRK) has topped the World Watch List as the worst place in the world to be a Christian. Christianity is seen as an addiction, Western and something to be despised. North Korean Christians must hide their faith or risk spending years in hard labor camps and tortured under unspeakable treatment and conditions. Back on U.S. soil, Kenneth Bae, an American Christian who was imprisoned then released, continues to be threatened by the North Korean government. Kenneth Bae was the longest serving United States prisoner in North Korea.

Before his detention in North Korea, Bae was surrounded by friends, hosting meals and entertaining with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis tunes. He was the fun-loving uncle who showered his nieces with affection. He dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. And after coming home late from working two jobs, he’d spend hours watching his baby son sleep. Kenneth is a man who always does the right thing, no matter the cost.

Years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour company specializing in tours to North Korea, a remote country filled with stunning vistas and a people proud of their history and tradition. His livelihood was to introduce the natural beauty of the country and its people to the outside world as a tour operator. His heart was to be a personal touch-point of compassionate humanity to the North Korean people…to reflect the light of Christ.

On one of the many tours he had led through Rason (Rajin-Sonbong), a special economic zones for foreign investors, Kenneth was arrested by North Korean authorities on Nov. 3, 2012.  He was sentenced to 15 years in a hard labor camp for what the DPRK identified as “hostile acts” against the North Korean government.

As Ken was being held by one of the world’s most brutal governments, his family and friends in the U.S rallied for his release. Their voices drew the attention of media outlets who than began covering Ken’s unjust imprisonment.

Kenneth’s family and friends connected with Voice of the Persecuted asking VOP to encourage the Body of Christ to pray and intercede for Kenneth. They also asked for help in closing the petition his son, Johnathon started—doing what we could to help gain Kenneth’s freedom.

In a video interview with Bae released in July 2013, he spoke of his deteriorating health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver and back problems. A month later he was moved to a Hospital due to his worsening health and reports claimed he had lost more than 50lbs.

Alarmed by Kenneth’s appearance his mother, Myunghee Bae pleaded with DPRK to allow a visit with her son. Her request was granted by DPRK authorities to arrive in Oct., 2013.  Prior to the trip, she discussed her concerns and asks for continued prayers.  During her stay, she was allowed three visits, totaling six hours.

In January 2014, Kenneth’s mother, and sister, Terri Chung attended President Obama’s State of the Union address. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) had offered the seats to them. Terri, his mother, as well as Kenneth’s son, Jonathan Bae met with public figures in New York and Washington DC, uniting with the goal of seeing Kenneth released from detention in North Korea.

Terri, Myunghee, and Jonathan also met with Secretary of State John Kerry. Below is a statement from his sister:

“We were honored to have the opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry. Secretary Kerry was warm and sympathetic, and I want to thank him for affirming the commitment of the US State Department to securing Kenneth’s release. We are grateful for his support, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of many at the State Department who have been working behind the scenes for the past 15 months to bring Kenneth home.

The past week our family has received overwhelming support from people across the country. It is clear that many Americans are invested in this cause to see this fellow American come home to his family. I see the heart, soul and hard work of so many people. We will never be able to thank you enough for your kindness.

I also hope and pray that the attention and care that people are showing does not end with the publicity of today. The fact is, my brother remains in detention in DPRK (North Korea) after 15 months, the longest detention of any American in recent times. We will not rest until Kenneth is home in the United States. We continue to implore our government to do everything possible to secure Kenneth’s freedom.”

Kenneth Bae was sent back to the labor camp in January 2014. You can view his family’s emotional plea in this video interview on CNN.

Kenneth Bae spoke out about the harsh conditions at the labor camp where he is being held in North Korea. He told a Swedish diplomat that he was in great pain and longed to be back with his family. In March 2014, Bae was re-admitted to a hospital in Pyongyang but was again sent back to the labor camp. His sister, Terri feared for her brother’s serious health conditions afraid he may not survive in the labor camp. See our Sept. 2014 report.

In the early part of November 2014, his family shared the update we all had been waiting for. The U.S. State Department informed them that he had left North Korean airspace and was on a plane bound for the United States. He had been released!

They thanked the United States government, the DPRK government for allowing him to come home, and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang for their tireless efforts in advocating for Ken. They also expressed their gratitude for everyone across the world who continued to advocate and pray for Kenneth.

We at Voice of the Persecuted still rejoice with great thanks to our almighty God for our brother’s freedom. When in the flesh it appears there is no hope, we can always trust our God to do the impossible! Never giving up, constant in prayer and trusting He would do a great thing in this most turbulent storm, in His time.  VOP believes Ken’s release was an answer to our many prayers, a miracle to bring glory to our heavenly Father.

Since his return, Bae had been quiet as he recovered and healed from the physical and emotional abuse he received in North Korea. But he’s finally sharing the full story surrounding his arrest and imprisonment in his book, Not Forgotten.

Not Forgotten is a modern story of intrigue, suspense, and heart. Driven by his passion to help the people of North Korea, Bae moved to China to lead guided tours into the secretive nation. Six years later, after eighteen successful excursions in and out of the country, Ken was suddenly stopped at the border: he inadvertently brought his hard drive, that revealed the true nature of his visits. He was arrested, brought to Pyongyang for further questioning, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. His crime? Attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. He wondered if he would ever see his family again.

From the first harrowing moments of his ordeal to his release—and even today—Ken never wavers in his love for the North Korean people, even his captors. Not Forgotten is both a compelling narrative of one man’s dedication to serving the less fortunate and a modern testament of a missionary forced to rely solely on God who sent him into dangerous territory. Ken’s book gives a rare, firsthand account of life inside the most shrouded country on the planet, meeting its people, experiencing their daily lives, taking in the landscape, and encountering the tyranny of a totalitarian regime. With its combined spiritual and secular appeal, this never-before-told story is sure to captivate and inspire readers of all ages.  Get your copy of Ken’s book HERE

Since the release of Not Forgotten, Bae has shared his experiences during multiple public appearances and given interviews to promote the book. Bae was recently interviewed by a defector-run group in South Korea that broadcasts into the North. For translated version of Bae’s interview with Unification Media Group, use this ip address http://bit.ly/28Iu8fy

But North Korea is threatening Kenneth to keep silent about his imprisonment in the country.

On Monday, they warned they will not negotiate with the U.S. over two American citizens it is holding until former detainee Kenneth Bae stops publicly talking about his time in prison.

21-year-old student of the University of Virginia, Otto Warmbier was sentenced in March to 15 years’ hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda banner bearing the name of former leader Kim Jong Il. In April, a North Korean court convicted Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul of crimes against the state and sentenced him to 10 years’ hard labor.

Quoting the state KCNA news agency of North Korea,

“As long as Kenneth Bae continues his babbling, we will not proceed with any compromise or negotiations with the United States on the subject of American criminals, and there will certainly not be any such thing as humanitarian action,”

“If Bae continues, U.S. criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again.

Please keep Kenneth Bae and those persecuted by the North Korean government. Pray the hearts of authorities be soften and oppression no longer exist in the nation.

give-love-with-open-handsTogether 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.

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Muslim in Eastern Uganda Burns 9-Year-Old Son for Accepting Christ, Source Say

uganda

(Morning Star News) – The Muslim father of a 9-year-old boy in eastern Uganda who put his faith in Christ this month tied his son to a tree and burned him, sources said.

Nassif Malagara of the Kakira Parish area, Kisozi Sub-County, Kamuli District decided to become a Christian after a neighbor took him to visit a church in another village, undisclosed for security reasons, on June 5.

“At the end of the service, Nassif remained behind and then followed me to the church’s pastry room and requested that he wanted to receive Jesus as his personal savior,” the pastor of the church told Morning Star News. “I was a bit hesitant, but after his continuous press, I then prayed with him, and he left.”

Nassif subsequently declined to participate in any Muslim activities, including attending amadrassa (Islamic school), the pastor said. His father, 36-year-old Abubakar Malagara, and stepmother, Madina Namwaje, 35, became furious when they learned he had converted to Christianity, the pastor said.

The boy told Morning Star News that his parents prohibited him from eating, beyond the day-time fast of Ramadan, so that he went without food for two days before sneaking to his neighbor’s house for food. He brought food back to his home over the next few days, and on June 9 his father caught him eating.

“He started beating me up with sticks, but I managed to escape to a nearby bush,” Nassif said. “My father then followed me and got hold of me back to the homestead, where he tied me up to a banana tree. He went into the house and came back with a hot piece of wood. The banana tree had dry leaves, which caught fire and caused serious burns on my body.”

Neighbors heard his screams for help and rescued him, he said, and took him to Kamuli Hospital. The hospital’s Walwawo Zubari told Morning Star News that Nassif had burns on several parts of his body.

“Nassif has been recovering, but at a very slow pace,” Zubari said. “He might need to be referred to another hospital for specialized treatment.”

A relative told Morning Star News that she hopes to take custody of Nassif after his release from the hospital.

Area residents alerted Kisozi Police Post, and officers arrested Malagara, registering the case under reference number CRR044/2016. Malagara, who attends Nankaduro mosque, has been released on bail.

The neighbor (name withheld for security reasons) who introduced Nassif to the church said he fears for his life after receiving a threatening text message on his phone.

“We know that you are behind the conversion of Nassif to Christianity,” the message read. “You will soon reap what you have sown, which will be a lesson to others. Islam is against such conversion.”

The sender blocked his identity, but the neighbor said he suspects Malagara might have used another Muslim’s phone to send the message.

About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Kamuli District is about 220 kilometers (136 miles) from Mbale Town in eastern Uganda. Nassif’s case comes after a Christian in eastern Uganda who had received death threats from Muslims after a religious discussion was killed on June 4. The body of Yokannah Zirinkuma of Kasasira village, Kibuku District, was found in a pool of blood in nearby Kadama village, near the home of the primary suspect. Zirinkuma was 50.

On May 15 in Kasecha village, Kibuku District, Micah Byamukama, pastor of Kasecha Baptist Church, died at Kabweri Health Centre after ingesting an insecticide that a Muslim villager was suspected of putting into his food. He was 61.

On May 8 in Mbaale village, Imanyiro Sub-County, Mayuge District, a Muslim strangled his wife to death for leaving Islam, relatives and neighbors said. Awali Kakaire, 34, allegedly killed Mariam Nakirya for embracing Christianity. She was 30.

On April 19, Muslims in Pallisa District beat and raped a young Christian woman for testifying that a mosque leader killed her father because of his faith, sources said. The imam at a mosque in Kanyumu village, Sheikh Musana Ibrahim, and two other Muslims killed Samson Mukama on Jan. 28, according to his daughter.

On April 4, a Muslim in Kachomo village, Budaka District, attacked his wife for becoming a Christian, telling a judge that Islam allows him to kill any apostate, sources said. Having moved to another village with their four children following an attack last year, Ntende Hawa, 38, said she was visiting her estranged husband to discuss child support when he questioned her about her faith and began strangling her. Her husband’s brother stopped the assault.

Threats from hard-line Muslims and the rape of her 13-year-old daughter forced a Christian mother of five children to flee their village in eastern Uganda in March, sources said. Amina Napiya, a 42-year-old widow, fled her home in Nakajete village, Budaka Town Council, on March 16.

Napiya and her five children fled after receiving a text message that the family would be killed for leaving Islam, she said. Napiya’s daughter was raped on Feb. 25 while fetching firewood a kilometer from their home at about 4:30 p.m., the widow said. Napiya believes relatives may have hired Taika Suleiman, arrested in connection with the alleged rape, to assault her daughter because of their faith, as her daughter told her that the rapist said, “This is the second warning to your mother for disgracing the faith of the Muslims.”

On Jan. 10, relatives of Abdu Nsera, a recent high school graduate in Katende village near Busede, Jinja District, beat him after finding out he had left Islam to become a Christian. They burned down a house they had built for him and have been searching for him after he fled.

On Jan. 27 in Numuseru village, Naboa Sub-County in Budaka District, the body of Laurence Maiso was found at his house, his head in a pool of blood. Four days earlier, Imam Kamulali Hussein had met him and his wife on a local road and told him, “Allah is about to send to you the Angel of Death in your house. Please prepare to meet him at any time.”

On Dec. 23, 2015, a pastor in eastern Uganda was hacked to death as he and other church members resisted an effort by Muslims to take over their land in Nansololo village near Mazuba, in Namutumba District, area church leaders said. Pastor Bongo Martin is survived by a widow and two children.

In another area of eastern Uganda, five underground Christians in a predominantly Muslim village, including a pregnant mother, died from a pesticide put into their food after a Bible study on Dec. 18, area sources said. The Bible study took place in Kachomo village, Kachomo Sub-County, Budaka District at the home of Hajii Suleiman Sajjabi, a convert from Islam who had begun the study with eight family members who had come to faith in Christ under his influence.

Four of Sajjabi’s relatives have died, as did a pregnant neighbor, according to area sources. A doctor at Mbale Regional Hospital said a postmortem test showed a substance known as Malathion, a low-toxicity pesticide, in those who had died. Though low-level toxic, Malathion when ingested quickly metabolizes into highly toxic Tomalaoxon.

Islamic extremists in eastern Uganda on Dec. 8, 2015 set a deadly trap for a Christian policeman who had left Islam, and the next day other hard-line Muslims kidnapped three children from another convert in a nearby village. More than 20 Muslim extremists in the Komodo area of Kadama Sub-County, Kibuku District, killed officer Ismail Kuloba at about 4 p.m. after he responded to an urgent call to intervene in a supposed land dispute between warring parties, an area Christian told Morning Star News. Kuloba was 43.

One of the assailants, Mudangha Kasimu, threw a stone that hit Kuloba in the forehead. Kasimu then shot him twice in the head, and he died as other Muslims were shouting, ‘Allah Akbar [God is greater],’” sources said.

About 12 miles east in Kabuna, near Budaka in Kaderuna District, a group of Muslim men from Pallisa on Dec. 9 kidnapped three children of Madengho Badir, a Christian convert from Islam, sources said. Badir, 42, arrived at his home in Kabuna Sub-County, Kabuna parish, at 10 p.m. to find 5-year-old Nabukwasi Shakira, 7-year-old Gessa Amuza and 10-year-old Wagti Musitafa missing.

An area source said a 14-year-old boy from Kabuna, Karami Hassan, was with Badir’s three children when they were abducted near their home. The boy said a group of Muslims from Pallisa were looking for Badir, and the boy led them to Badir’s children.

Outside of Kabeshai, near Pallisa, a Christian father of five who supported 10 children whose families had disowned them for leaving Islam was killed on Dec. 2. One of three men who attacked Patrick Ojangole reproached him for failing to heed a warning to cease his Christian activities before the Christian was killed, said a witness who was with Ojangole and escaped. Ojangole was 43.

On Nov. 12, 2015, the father of a young Muslim woman in east Uganda tried to beat her to death after she became a Christian, but community leaders intervened and limited him to disowning her, sources said. Kibida Muyemba learned that his 21-year-old daughter, Namusisi Birye, had put her faith in Christ at an evangelistic campaign held that day in Nandere village, Kadama Sub-County, Kibuku District, 41 kilometers (25 miles) west of Mbale, church leaders told Morning Star News. Birye and a man in the traditional dress of an imam confessed openly to receiving Christ, they said, and angry Muslims cut the event short.

On Oct. 19, 2015, Muslims in Kalampete village, Kibuku District who were angry at a Christian for leaving Islam killed his wife, a month after his brother was killed for the same reason. Mamwikomba Mwanika, mother of three adult children and five others ranging in age from 17 to 9, died en route to a hospital after Muslims unknown to her dragged her from her home at about 9 p.m. and assaulted her, survivors said.

Her husband’s brother, Samson Nfunyeku, was killed in the village on Sept. 23 after flaring tempers cut short a religious debate he’d had with Islamic scholars.

In Nsinze village, Namutumba District, a Muslim beat and left for dead his wife and 18-year-old son on Aug. 11 after learning they had converted to Christianity, area sources said. Issa Kasoono beat and strangled his wife, Jafalan Kadondi, but she survived, said a source who requested anonymity. He said other relatives joined Kasoono in beating her and their two sons, Ibrahim Kasoono, 18, and Ismael Feruza, 16, though the younger son managed to escape with only bruises on his arm.

The wife of a former sheikh was poisoned to death on June 17, 2015 after she and her husband put their faith in Christ in Nabuli village, Kibuku District. Namumbeiza Swabura was the mother of 11 children, including a 5-month-old baby.

In Kiryolo, Kaderuna Sub-County, Budaka District on March 28, 2015, five Muslims gang-raped the 17-year-old daughter of a pastor because the church leader ignored their warnings that he stop worship services, she said.

praying_together_hand_in_hand-217x300VOP Note: Please pray for Christians in Uganda, particularly those who have converted from Islam.

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Suicide Bomber Targets Assyrian Event in Syria, 3 Killed

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Syria (AINA) — A suicide bomber disguised as a priest attempted to enter an Assyrian genocide commemoration event in the al-Wusta district of Qamishli but was stopped by Assyrian forces. The bomber detonated his bomb outside the hall, killing himself and three members of the Assyrian Sutoro security forces and wounding five. It is believed the bomber was targeting Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who was leading the commemoration.

The explosion occurred at the intersection of al-Quwatli and El-Kindi Park road in a neighborhood heavily populated by Assyrians. According to AssyriaTV, the 5 wounded Assyrians have been identified as Gawriye Ado, Riad Habsuno, Marios Malke, Fayez Farman and Siwar Hassan. The deceased have not been identified.

This is the fourth attack on Assyrians in Qamishli in the past six months:

  • May 22, 2016: an attack by ISIS in the Assyrian al-Wusta district of Qamishli, Syria killed at least five persons, three of them Assyrians, and injured more than a dozen.
  • January 24, 2016: Two explosions rocked an Assyrian neighborhood in Qamishli. The first targeted the Star Cafe, where a bomb was placed on a bicycle that was left in front of the store. The explosion killed 3 Assyrians and injured 20. The second blast targeted Joseph Bakery.
  • December 30,2015: Three explosions targeted Assyrian businesses in Qamishli, 16 were killed.

No one has claimed responsibility for the latest attack.

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