EGYPT – Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II: Let us pray also for the evil who attack churches
Following the attacks on churches and the massacres of Christians that have bloodied Egypt in recent months, “the Coptic Church has prayed for all”, even for “the evil people” who have attacked churches and Christians . With these words, the Coptic Patriarch has again given witness of the transparent faith with which many Coptic Christians have experienced the many experiences of martyrdom that have marked the recent journey of their Church. He did this during an interview with the Japanese television network Asahi, reiterating his confidence in the power of prayer, “which can change hearts”.
The interview was released by Patriarch Tawadros during the Japanese visit that the Coptic Primate of the Coptic Church is carrying out in several communities of the Coptic diaspora and starting from August 30, will continue in Australia. During his stay in Japan, Tawadros also inaugurated the Cathedral of Our Lady of St. Mark in Kyoto, the first Japanese Coptic church.
In the interview with Asahi TV, the Coptic Patriarch also stated that (more…)
“It’s a War on Christians”: Muslim Persecution of Christians, April 2017
As in former years, Easter was under attack in various Muslim nations, most spectacularly in Egypt. On April 9, two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday Mass, which initiates Easter holy week, were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers. Twenty-seven people—mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, northern Egypt. “Where is the government?” an angry Christian there asked AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.” Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. Since the original building, founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century, was burned to the ground during the seventh century Muslim invasions of Egypt, the church has been the historic seat of Coptic Christianity. Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—emerged unharmed. About 50 Christians were killed in the two bombings, 126 wounded and many mutilated. (Graphic images/video of aftermath here.)
A few days earlier, on April 1, 3,000 fatwas [opinions by Islamic authorities] inciting the destruction of churches in Egypt had been circulated throughout Egypt. A number of Egyptian Christians interviewed after the twin bombings said that government-funded mosques regularly incite hatred and violence for Christians over their loudspeakers. In other mosques, according to Michael, a middle-aged Christian, “there are prayers to harm Christians. They incite to violence, youths are being filled with hatred against us and acting on it. It concerns us all. It leads to terrorism and to Christians being targeted.” Separately a Christian woman said, “The problem starts at school where children are treated differently. In school some refused to speak to me because I was a Christian.”
In Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen randomly opened fire on a Christian village. According to Bishop Bagobiri, “The attack came when the people were in the church for the Easter Vigil celebration.” The Muslim gunmen killed “at least 12 persons on the spot, with many injured,” including women and children. Instead of celebrating Easter Sunday, the bishop and a local priest presided over the burial of “at least ten Catholics.” The bishop publicly accused the local governor, a Muslim, of complicity with the perpetrators and bias against their victims.
In Pakistan, a “major terrorist attack” targeting Christians during Easter celebrations was foiled, according to the nation’s military. An Islamic militant was killed and four soldiers injured during the raid. Among the Muslim terrorists arrested was a female second-year medical student who said she was preparing to “martyr” herself as part of a suicide attack on a church during Easter Sunday. Last year in Lahore, an Easter Day Islamic attack left more than 70 people dead.
In Indonesia, 300 Christians from two churches that remain sealed by authorities in West Java, celebrated their fifth Easter by protesting outside the presidential palace in hopes that the president lifts a banning order preventing them from holding services in their own houses of worship. Both churches are legally registered but “are being persecuted by local authorities who refuse to allow them to worship in (more…)
Confessions of a Boko Haram Defector
VOP Note: Pray for all Boko Haram members to not only repent from the atrocities, but to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
(VOA) “I have been to war about six times,” he says. “I fought in Wulari. I fought in Bita. I participated in the fighting around Chad. I was in the group that repelled Nigerian soldiers whenever they ventured into Sambisa.” But his conscience was just as active as his gun. When asked if what Boko Haram does is good and right, he says it is not, because the group attacks people “mercilessly and unjustly,” and in his view, manipulates Islam to its own violent ends. Read More
Christian Hungary on Collision Course with European Union’s Islamic ‘Blackmail’
(CBN) BUDAPEST – In a time when most of Europe is in the grips of atheism, there is a nation where Christianity seems to not only be holding its own but some say is thriving.
Imagine a government that is unabashedly Christian, that thinks Christian values are worth defending; that wants to protect and even nourish the family.
Welcome to Hungary.
A Christian Nation
Hungary’s constitution is explicitly Christian, and says that marriage is between one man and one woman and that life begins at conception. It even includes the phrase, “God bless the Hungarians.”
Hungary’s Faith Church, with 300 branches, is one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Europe, with 70,000 attendees.
Help for Persecuted Christians
And the Hungarian government has taken on the role of protecting Christianity. It’s even set up an office to help persecuted Christians worldwide.
When CBN News revealed the story of Sweden’s threat to deport Iranian actress Aideen Strandsson back to certain prison and torture in Islamic Iran, only one nation stepped up and offered her asylum: Hungary.
The Hungarian government says, “Taking in persecuted Christians is our moral and constitutional duty.”
Returning to Its Christian Roots
Hungarian policy analyst István Pócza says Hungary has only returned to its roots as a historic bastion of Christianity, dating back over a thousand years.
“Hungary wants to protect the European values; European Christian Jewish values,” he told CBN News.
Christianity in Hungary has survived almost 200 years of Muslim Ottoman rule and Soviet Communist domination.
Secretary of State Zoltán Kovács told us, “You have to stick to your traditions and legacies. Europe’s legacy is a Christian legacy, not necessarily in a religious form but most definitely in a cultural form.”
And it’s this belief that has Hungary locked in a battle with the European Union over migrants.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán has accused the European Union of trying to Islamize Europe, and Hungary has infuriated Brussels by building a fence to keep illegal migrants out.
Orbán has essentially told the European Union to ‘take a hike’ when it comes to open borders. Hungary has seen the terrorism and chaos caused by migration in Western Europe and has said, “not here.”
The European Union has even gone to court to force Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to take in migrants. Mr. Oban has accused Brussels of “blackmail.”
“Securing the borders to stop illegal migration is indeed a solution, and this is actually the only way to reinstate law and order at the borders of the European union, and not the other way around,” Kovács told CBN News.
Kovács says it matters that most of the migrants trying to enter Hungary are Muslim. And he says Western European nations are paying a heavy price by pretending that Islam doesn’t matter.
“We’ve been living with and close to Islam for centuries in the past and we know about it. So, that’s why it does matter who has come in and in what manner people are coming,” Kovács told CBN News.
Orbán Is No Putin, Or Is He?
Orbán is often portrayed in the western media as a version of Vladimir Putin; an undemocratic strongman. In fact, at an EU summit in 2015, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly greeted Orbán with the words, “Hello, dictator.”
Hungary is most certainly not a dictatorship. But Orbán’s critics accuse him of corruption and using the instruments of government against his political opponents, including the recent billboard campaign against billionaire George Soros.
Tamás Lattmann of the Institute of International Relations told us, “What we see in Hungary today is the shameless use of public money, of tax money to formulate pro-government messages.”
Bulcsú Hunyadi of the Political Capital Policy Research and Consulting Institute said, “Since 2008 the Hungarian government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been continuously weakening the system of checks and balances and weakening democratic institutions.”
But Orbán, a man who even his critics concede is a skilled politician, doesn’t seem to have a serious political rival, and he will probably remain in power, meaning Hungary’s standoff with the European Union over migrants is likely to escalate.
Is also means that Hungary will continue to have a government that thinks Christianity is worth protecting.
Islamic Clerics Warn Against Spread of Christianity in the Most Islamic City in Iran
Qom, arguably the most Islamic city in Iran, is a socially and religiously conflicted city where house churches are hunted down and conversion to Christianity is viewed as an action against national security.
Mohabat News – Christianity has been growing at an exponential rate in the last couple of decades in Iran, causing the Islamic government a great deal of concern. In a most recent expression of their distress, one of the high profile Islamic seminary officials, Ayatollah Alavi Boroujerdi, stated “accurate reports indicate that the youth are becoming Christians in Qom and attending house churches”. However, this is not a new development. Earlier reports had also shown a surprising rise in the number of Iranians turning away from Islam and converting to Christianity.
One of the most senior Islamic Shi’ite clerics who has repeatedly expressed his concern over the spread of Christianity among the youth in the country is Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. He, as well as most of his colleagues blame the foreign influence for the conversion of young Iranians to Christianity. The question that comes up however, is that what could be the real cause for Iranian youths’ rejection of Islam and its principles, despite the serious risks involved with conversion to Christianity in an Islamic country such as Iran?
This high rate of conversion of Iranian youth to Christianity is in spite of rigorous Islamic indoctrination of the youth in their families and educational system. The Islamic government of Iran dedicates massive budgets to the support of Islamic organizations that promote Islam among the youth within and without Iran’s borders. Such efforts to attract Iranian youth is much more noticeable in Islamic cities such as Mashhad and Qom. Regardless of such efforts, Iranian youth seem to become increasingly distant from Islam, which is a cause of great concern for the Iranian Islamic government.
- Read more: Iranian Islamic Government Funds Publication of anti-Christian Books
- Read more: Anti-Christianity discussion workshops in Mashhad -IRAN
- Read more: A Brief Overview: 2016 was the Worst Year for Iranian Christians
Last year, after Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi expressed his deepest concern over the popularity of Christianity in the suburbs of Mashhad, the city’s religious and political officials immediately sent a vast number of Islamic teachers and preachers to Mashhad’s suburbs in order to turn the youth away from Christianity. The next phase in dealing with this matter was to crack down on the youth who refused to turn back following the efforts of Islamic teachers and preachers. The Iranian law enforcement and intelligence ministry got involved and began waves of arrests and harassment of Christian converts, facing them with long term prison sentences and heavy bails for their temporary release.
Another Iranian Ayatollah, Wahid Khorasani expressed concerns over the spread of Christianity in the country. He said he had received reports about the exponential increase in popularity of Christianity amongst the youth in the Islamic city of Qom. He criticized government authorities “for their negligence in preparing counteracting strategies to stop the spread of Christianity. In his remarks eight years ago, he had encouraged the government authorities to develop a coherent strategy to eradicate Christianity in Iran.
Another Ayatollah, based in Tabriz, stated he had received reports that at one time, 600 residents of one of the cities in Khorasan province had converted to Christianity.
These harsh remarks years ago, led to a rigorous crackdown campaign against the Iranian Christian community, resulting in arrests, imprisonments and disbanding of a number of house church gatherings.
— Failure of Islamic Authorities’ Efforts to Stop the Spread of Christianity
The Iranian Islamic government implemented a two fold plan to stop the spread of Christianity in the country, and it has failed on both fronts.
The first front was the allocation of millions of dollars for Islamic propaganda across the country, which over the years has proven to be ineffective as Iranian youth seem to be distancing themselves from the Islamic lifestyle the Iranian government wishes to spread.
The second front, in which the Iranian government’s Islamic agenda has failed is their crackdown campaign on newly converted Christians in order to plant fear in those who are interested in learning more about Christianity and possibly becoming Christians themselves. This failure is obvious as Iranian Islamic authorities continue to express their concern over the rapid growth of Christianity in the country.
In recent years many Iranian Christian converts have been arrested. However, the rate of growth of house churches in the country has been exponential, despite a mass exodus of Iranian Christians.
In this regard, Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, one of the high profile Iranian Islamic figures, wrote in a paper a few years ago, “There was a time when Islamic institutions in Qom were sufficient to counter the spread of Christianity in our city. However, today we do not have any Islamic institution in Qom that can stop Christian evangelism effectively”. In his remarks he also referred to the son of one of the Islamic clerics as having become a Christian.
In a report released seven years ago, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards identified 200 house churches in the Islamic city of Mashhad. Other reports indicate this number has grown significantly ever since. Mashhad is known as the Islamic capital of Iran and the Shi’ite Muslim world. Other cities having a record number of house churches in Iran include Rasht, Tehran and Karaj.
In Tehran there are many house churches that meet on a regular basis. One of Tehran’s Imams said in an interview, “today Christians present their gospel to our youth in the most appealing way. They gather in many neighbourhoods across the city, including Bani Hashem neighbourhood (in Tehran) where tens of homes have been turned into house churches which evangelize their neighbours”.
One of the visible effects of the Iranian government’s crackdown on Christians has been the closure of numerous churches, including the Central Assemblies of God (AOG) church and Janat Abad church in Tehran and the AOG church in Ahwaz. Additionally, Christian converts were banned from entering official churches and Farsi services were forced to cancel permanently across the country in all churches. Publication of anything related to Christianity or any material referring to Christianity was also restricted and books about Christianity already in the market were confiscated./ Farsi
Iranian Christian released from prison
As reported by “Mohabat News” Maryam (Nasim) NaghashZargaran, the converted Christian was released from Evin prison on August 1, 2017, after four years.
This prisoner was released after her long prison term concluded coupled with the extra days of incarceration due to her unwanted absenteeism. She was supposed to have been released on June 28, 2017 while her family waited for her at the entrance to the prison, but the prison authorities, claiming that her release paper were not ready, kept her incarcerated for three extra days.
Maryam NaghashZargaran was born in 1978 and she was interrogated in December 2009 being accused of hosting house churches and promoting Christianity. Eventually, she was arrested and exiled to an unknown area by Sepah Forces in 2012. Despite her temporary release on bail, she was sentenced to 4 years prison in absentia and her appeal court approved the district court’s decision.
Maryam was working in Turkey at that time and she had to come back to face these charges and she was subsequently arrested and sent to the jail on July 19, 2013.
In an objection to the uncertainty in her case and the resultant charges against her, Maryam went on a hunger strike on May 26, 2016. She broke her hunger strike having the promises of prison authorities to reconsider her charges on June 6, 2016. However, she was sent to jail on June 27, 2016. To show her objections she started her hunger strike on July 15, 2016 once again and received the same promises by prison authorities on July 21, 2016, when she got the permission to leave prison for few days.
These hunger strikes weakened her health day by day. This converted Christian suffers from “ASD”, joint pain and trembling, and went on an open heart surgery a few years back. Her health condition worsened due to these repetitive hunger strikes. Her health status was so bad that her mother recorded a video addressing the public and the government authorities to announce her dangerous physical and mental status.
She also mentioned that she might do something terrible anytime. Maryam NaghashZargaran has tried many times to write different letters and convey her rights and objections, apart from these hunger strikes, hoping to get a parole while she never got any responses. Pressures were even more on her when she was given few months leave until her charges were confirmed and while they allowed her to post bail they ultimately punished her with even more days in prison for the days she was absent from prison.
Saeed Abedini the Iranian- American pastor, and Maryam NaghashZargaran were arrested and sent to Evin Prison at the same time. This was perhaps a reason for excreting even more pressure on her in the court and during the interrogations and that is why the Sepah forces pressured her so much, including beating her in the ladies’ ward at Evin so badly that her leg was broken. This incident remained suspicious and never followed up again.
Now she has been released from prison and she has come back to her family after four years but her physical condition on one hand and her mental pressures on the other hand would follow her for even more months and she needs a long time to recover and get back to a more normal life.