Turkey’s high-profile criminal case against Protestant pastor Andrew Brunson has triggered a significant increase in public hate speech against the nation’s small Protestant community, creating what its church leaders last week called a ‘climate of insecurity’ for its congregations and individual members.
World Watch Monitor shared that according to the Turkish Association of Protestant Churches’ annual human rights report for 2018, the number of attacks designed to incite hatred of Protestants “purely due to their beliefs” in Turkey’s local, national and social media outlets had seriously increased during Brunson’s arrest, jailing and two-year trial.
The report said that the Protestants’ 150 congregations watched the US pastor’s case closely “with great sadness and concern”, disturbed by the media’s repeated practice of linking churches and individual Christians with terror organisations, without providing any substantiating evidence. Instead, the accusations by secret false witnesses against Brunson were “reported as if they were true,” and local and national publications refused to allow the slandered churches and individuals their constitutional right of reply or correction.
Although the government has enacted a Personal Data Protection Law, during the Brunson case the Turkish media published names, personal details, photographs and specific church activities openly in a negative context, the report said, targeting both Protestant churches and their members in direct news reports.
Open publication of the name and company of one Protestant church member, accused by a national newspaper of supporting a terrorist organisation after he visited a church in the eastern city of Van, led to the loss of a number of his business contracts.
Protestants in the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, Izmir and Manisa attempted legal action against the “insidious propaganda” linked to the Brunson case that targeted their churches and leaders, the report said. But local authorities either declined to investigate or failed to punish the perpetrators.
Negative Malatya atmosphere recalled
The Protestant Association explained their particularly “serious concern and apprehension” over this recent surge in religious hate speech because of its similarity to widespread Turkish media coverage against Christian churches and activities 12 years ago, just before the 2007 torture and murder of three Christians. Two Turkish citizens and one German resident were stabbed to death by five young Turks in Malatya, in southeast Turkey.
The 2018 report reiterated a number of unresolved problems faced by the Turkish Protestant community over the past decade. They include the longstanding difficulty of establishing recognized places of worship, legal restrictions prohibiting seminaries or other formal religious education for non-Muslim faiths, and the absence of a legal path to obtain official identity as a religious congregation.
The Turkish government persisted again this past year in failing to invite the Protestant community or any of its church representatives to meetings of religious groups organized by the government or official organisations. Local churches within the Protestant community are not linked with a hierarchical structure like the Orthodox and other ancient Christian traditions in Turkey. Accordingly, the government has yet to acknowledge the Association of Protestant Churches formed in 2009 as the religious group’s representative institutional body.
The report noted that an unspecified number of Protestant foreign church members residing in Istanbul, Izmir, Mersin and other cities were deported or denied re-entry back into Turkey during 2018, or told to leave Turkey within 10 days after renewal of their residence permits was refused.
On a positive note, for the first time since the year 2000, a Protestant church was approved during the past year to form a religious foundation; another Protestant church’s application for foundation status is currently pending.
The Protestant community currently consists of some 150 churches, mostly concentrated in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Only 10 congregations meet for worship in official church buildings, most of them historical buildings. Another 67 fellowships either rent or purchase facilities designated as legal “association” meeting places. A total of six Protestant foundations with five representative branches have been formed and registered. The remaining congregations, including some 25 house fellowships, have no legal entity status.
Photo 1: Pastor Andrew Brunson
Karamles, North Iraq (AINA) — There is no peace for Christians in northern Iraq. If, on the one hand, the memory of the violence perpetrated by Islamic State jihadists (SI, ex Isis) is still alive, in recent weeks another threat is shadowing the future of the community: the Shiite militias linked to the Shabak, who are in fact hindering Christians return to the Nineveh plain.
The epicenter of this new chapter of anti-Christian persecution is Bartella, increasingly drapped with banners depicting the militia battles against Isis as well as saints and sacred figures of the Shiite tradition.
“Bartella is a problem, a special case”, says Paolo Thabit Mekko, head of the Christian community in Karamles, speaking to AsiaNews. “In recent years – he continues – the presence of Shabak has increased dramatically and Christians are afraid to return. At least 600 families who have fled in the IS era are still in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, and have no prospect of return at the moment. There is a real demographic upheaval in the city, which began in 2003 after the US invasion and which has accelerated in the last period “.
The presence of local Shiite militias, adds Don Paolo, “creates unease and the prospects for the future arouse anger and concern”. The priest sees a behind-the-scenes attempt to “change the demographics of the area”, according to some a “design” orchestrated by the Shiite leadership and maneuvered from the outside, with the complicity of a part “of the Shabak politicians and exponents in Baghdad who support them “.
Until 30 years ago, the population of Bartella was entirely Christian. The demographic changes of the last decades have turned the composition upside down, ending up dividing it in half between Christians and Shabak, a largely Shiite Muslim ethnic group. When the Islamic State (SI, former Isis) conquered much of northern Iraq, including the Nineveh Plain, the entire population of Bartella left the area due to persecution by Sunni radicals.
Today, two years after the ousting of the “Caliphate” jihadists, less than a third of the original 3800 families that populated the town have returned. Most of them are still in exile and there is fear of returning due to persecution, threats and intimidation perpetrated by some members of the Shabak community, which presides over the Shiite militias that control the area.
Following the expulsion of Isis, confessional divisions, militias and armed groups are emerging with increasing strength, trying to get hold of growing sections of territory in northern Iraq, above all in the plain of Nineveh, which was once almost entirely Christian. Qusay Abbas, a member of the Shabaks in Parliament, said the attacks were the work of a small, unrepresentative minority.
But the stories (and complaints) from Bartella and other towns in the area tell another truth: That the Shiite militias are trying – most of the time by force – to eliminate the Christian component. In fact the cases of sexual attacks, thefts, threats and violence against private individuals is becoming more and more frequent. Recently, an ethnic Shabak man fired bullets in the air for over an hour in front of a church in the town.
“What is happening to Bartella – underlines Don Paolo – is repeated, albeit to a lesser extent, in other areas of the plain such as Karamles and Qaraqosh. We are facing a movement that seeks to expand “.
“A council of the sages of the Nineveh plain – he continues – which includes Christians, Arabs, shabaks has initiated dialogue and is trying to resolve the situation. Unfortunately there are no official agreements and there is no way to apply the rare agreements between the parties “.
In this context the Iraqi Church remains firm on the refusal to create a Christian armed militia and strengthens the initiatives of meeting and confrontation. “The situation remains delicate – concludes the priest – and Christians are afraid. One of the solutions that can be followed, and which we hope, is the establishment of an official, institutional police force, within which Christians can also contribute to enlisting the protection of law and order”.
(Morning Star News) – Police in Sri Lanka arrested a Christian who reported a Buddhist mob’s threat on his life, according to an advocacy group in the island country.
In Nattandiya, in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province, six area Buddhists on Jan. 26 threatened to attack the Christian if he refused to stop inviting a pastor to lead Bible studies at his house, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) reported.
The next day (Jan. 27), the Christian (name withheld for security reasons) filed a complaint about the threat on his life at the Marawila police station, in Puttalam District. This upset the six Buddhists, and with others they formed a mob on Jan. 29 that headed toward his house with intent to assault him, the NCEASL reported.
Before they could get near his house, a friend notified the Christian of their approach and tried to stop them, resulting in a fight in which one of the Buddhists was injured and received hospital treatment, a source said.
“Exact details are not known, however, his injury was not very serious,” the source told Morning Star News.
The Christian was not present at the fight, but the injured Buddhist filed an assault complaint against him, the source said. Police arrested the Christian, who remained in custody at this writing.
Violence and Harassment
Violence and harassment against Christians have been persistent in Sri Lanka, where the population is about 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu, with attacks by Hindus on the upswing.
In Western Province’s Kalutara District, officers last month summoned a pastor of the New Covenant Life Centre at Millaniya to the Millaniya police station after a temple monk and several villagers complained that he was leading worship without official permission, according to the NCEASL.
The station chief ordered the pastor to stop religious activities until he received approval from the local divisional secretary, even though such approval is not required, a source said.
In the country’s Eastern Province, unidentified motorcyclists on Jan. 12 disrupted the worship service of Gethsemane Gospel Church in Kurumanveli, Batticaloa District, NCEASL reported.
Shouting obscenities, the mob called for the pastor to come out of the church building. He refused and later filed a police complaint at the Kalawanchikudi police station. Police investigated but told the pastor to settle the matter, and he reached an undisclosed agreement with the instigators.
Cases of intimidation, discrimination, threats, violence, false allegations, legal challenges, demands for church closures, police inaction and demonstrations persist in Sri Lanka but are rarely reported in mainstream media. The NCEASL recorded six cases against Christians since the beginning of January – three threats, two cases of discrimination and one false allegation. In January 2018, the alliance recorded eight cases, and five cases in January 2017.
In 2018, NCEASL reported a total of 86 cases of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka, compared with 93 incidents in 2017, 80 incidents in 2016 and 90 in 2015. The highest number of incidents recorded in 2018 came under the category of threats against Christians, with 20 cases, according to NCEASL figures.
This was followed by 19 incidents of violence; 14 of intimidation; 12 each of discrimination and demands for closure of worship places; three of false allegations; two each of police inaction and registration of cases against Christians; and one each in the categories of legal challenges and demonstrations.
Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.
Kenya (Morning Star News) – Somali Muslims who beat and raped a Christian mother of four last month began sending threatening messages more than a year ago at a refugee camp in Kenya, she said.
The 41-year-old Somali woman was a Muslim living in Somalia with her husband when he sent her and their four children to Kenya’s Ifo refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Somali border, in February 2016. She put her faith in Christ a year later, though it remained a secret until Somali Muslims saw her coming from church worship at Dadaab International Worship Centre in February 2018.
“We have known that you are a Christian, and one of us saw you come out of a church on Sunday,” read one threat, sources said. “If you continue attending the church, then we shall come for your head soon.”
She stopped attending the church services and relocated nearby.
“But it looks like we had already being marked,” the woman (name withheld) told Morning Star News. “Soon four of my children converted to Christ, and I cut all links with my husband in Somalia.”
When she stopped attending the church, the pastor visited the family and began praying with them in their house, an area source told Morning Star News.
“I think the enemies of Christ might have being monitoring their movements,” the source said.
On Jan. 2, four Muslims from Somalia forced their way into her home.
“I was beaten and then raped by four men who threatened me, telling me not to say anything about the ordeal that I went through,” she told Morning Star News. “As they left the house at 1 a.m., one of them said, ‘We could have killed you for being a disgrace to Islam and joining Christianity, which is against our religion, but since you are a single mother, we have decided to spare your life with the condition that you should not mention our names.’”
The woman is in dire need of trauma counseling, the source said, adding, “We as the underground church in Dadaab need prayers and support for our persecuted believers in Christ.”
Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia(Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.
Somalia is ranked 3rd on the Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian; Kenya is ranked 40th.
As we approach the next elections, the question that should agitate our mind is “Where is Leah Sharibu?” This should be made a subject of discussion particularly for the incumbent President seeking a second term. Unfortunately, we seem to have swept this issue under the carpet. See the full article here to read the questions not only Nigerians but the global community are asking about this Christian girl who still has not been rescued.
Please keep Leah in your prayers.
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) — Multiple states in Nigeria continue to witness attacks by extremists and a recent rise in violence. VOP’s Nigerian correspondent interviewed community leaders and eye witnesses of 5 Christian villages that were brutally attacked by Fulani herdsmen during the past year. All the villages are located in the Local Government Area of Numan in Adamawa State.
On January 4, 2018, armed Fulani herdsmen raided GON village and killed Mijidanna Akilla, an elderly man of 70 years who was unable to flee during the attack.
On September, 14, 2018 – In the late afternoon, the Fulani militants came again shooting then burned down the villagers homes. 12 women and children were killed while others escaped though the Benue river in canoes. Gon’s community leader told VOP’s correspondent, “We reported the matter to the Nigerian police/military three times but they didn’t respond until after the armed herdsmen raided our village. Our community is not safe.”
The Numan Local Government Head of the Service assisted the villagers placement into the Numan Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. The village leader shared, “Unfortunately we are facing a problem of shelter,
feeding and medical care. We sleep on the floor in a classroom, while some on mats and fewer on mattresses. Though they have assisted in enrolling our children into public school, it’s very difficult to pay for books.”
“We can’t go back to our villages; we are appealing to the International community and the government institutions to come to our aid. We are unsure about the future here and what our fate will be without any intervention.”
In May 2018, Mrs Sodom Daniel, a lawmaker representing Numan constituency in the Adamawa House of Assembly, implored the Federal government to consider establishing an Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp in the area.
She described how incessant attacks on the communities within the Numan local government area had rendered many people homeless. She appealed to all those concerned to assist the victims of the attacks.
“It has become a serious matter of worry as we wake up from time to time to observe increasing number of displaced persons resulting from incessant attacks on our communities in Numan by herdsmen.
I am appealing to the Federal Government to establish an IDPs camp that would cater for this growing number of internally displaced people.
I am also calling on well meaning Nigerians, donor agencies, philanthropists and many other groups to come and assist us in tackling this enormous humanitarian task,” she said.
The Fulani attacked Bolki village on February, 5, 2018 and killed 11 people while 4 still remain missing. “We don’t know if they are dead or alive. We reported the matter to security forces but they did nothing about it.”
On May 9, 2018, the Fulani again invaded the village armed with guns. One of the victims described how they were able to survive the attack. “We were lucky to have canoes and cross over to the other side of the riverbank.
On August, 1, 2018, the herdsmen ravaged the village by bringing many cows with them. They led the cattle to the fields where the village farmers had planted maize, carrots and other vegetables. Some of the Fulani militants stood guard with guns and machetes waiting to kill any villager who tried to intervene. The animals ate all the crops, which robbed the farmers of much needed income and the villagers of nutrition.
The last attack took place on September 14, 2018 where armed Fulani herdsmen came to Bolki in the evening hours and started shooting. 3 people were instantly killed while 19 others drowned in the river while trying to escape the killers.
During the Fulani raids in the last quarter of 2018, a total of 34 villagers were killed.
“Due to the horrific attacks, the local government officials sent canoes to the riverside to rescue us then brought us to the IDP camp in Numan.
When we first arrived they gave us some mattresses and food, but now things have terribly gone wrong. We have challenges of shelter, food and medical services, they are not enough. The situation, has forced some of the men to return back home in search of food. Sadly they were attacked between September 19-22, 2018 and one of them were killed.
We are prepared to go back home, but the fear of insecurity has left us with no other option than to suffer here. Our women and children are finding it impossible to endure this hardship. We are appealing to the government to intervene and make our community safe so that we can go back.”
We are facing many challenges in our community because of the attacks by the armed Fulani Herdsmen. On September 4, 2018. They invaded our village with guns and bow and arrows. They burnt down the entire village and killed over 20 people that night. Many drowned in a river and died as well. Some of their bodies have never been recovered.
It was very chaotic! Everybody was running to save their lives. Unfortunately, the incidence happened while I was in pain with no strength to run because I had a fresh wound from surgery. Out of panic, I fled into bush and stayed in hiding until I was rescued and brought to the IDP camp.
We have very serious problem of food here. As am talking to you now, we haven’t had any food in 4 days. We cannot go back home because of the insecurity but the suffering here is getting more terrible everyday. Another issue is the shelter, medical service and even education facilities for our children.
We are desperately looking for assistance. We can’t return back home since our villages are completely destroyed. We ask the government and international community, come to our rescue and save us!
On September 14, 2018, the Fulani militia came into our village in the evening hours and started setting houses on fire. They chased the villagers with guns and machetes. Since the Christians were anticipating an attack at any given moment, they stayed on alert. But even so, 21 people were killed. Of the victims, 7 men were murdered while the remaining were women and children.
They burned all our food and houses rendering us empty with no alternative for survival.
The following day, a member of the House of Assembly representing the Numan constituency and the Head of Service organized a means of transport and rescued some of us. After we arrived at the IDP camp, we learned that the gunmen went further to destroy all our properties.
Life here in the camp is pathetic, very few individuals assist us despite the challenges of school facilities, medical services, shortages of shelter and of course lack of food. In some instances, they send our children away from the school even with all the pledges.
We need help, we cannot return back to our community, it’s not safe. Let the government intervene to support the efforts of the other individuals.
Leader of NUMAN IDP Camp
Numan IDP’s stated after coordinated attacks on 5 villages namely Gon, Bolki, Nzumosu , Yanga & Sabon Layi between September and October 2018, over 3000 people arrived at the Numan IDP camp. The number has been reduced as 43% left due to the dire hardships in the camp.
Some returned back to try and repair their burnt homes and check if it’s possible to resettle in their villages. Others have scattered in the town with no sense of direction. At great risk, some farmers and fishermen decided to go back to the killing zone in search of shelter and food.
“We currently have a total of 1,716 Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) in the Numan camp and all are Christians equaling 236 families.”
Here is a breakdown of the people in the camp.
- Gon: 539 people with 68 families
- Bolki: 476 people with 68 families
- Nzumosu: 294 people with 42 families
- Yanga 329 people 47 families
- Sabon Layi 78 people with 11 families
(Photo: Voice of the Persecuted-Displaced Christians in Numan IDP Camp)
Voice of the Persecuted is committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief and encouragement. We are committed to our mission called PROJECT 133 in Nigeria. They will not be forgotten!
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 thankful for each one of you who have joined this mission through your prayers and support.
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!
If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. Donations always desperately needed.