(Premiere) By Cara Bentley
The Home Office has agreed to reconsider an asylum application after rejecting the Iranian by using Bible verses out of context to argue that Christianity is not a peaceful religion.
The Iranian who is trying to claim asylum in the UK on the grounds of Christian conversion received a letter this week saying his argument that he converted to Christianity after discovering it was a peaceful religion must be false due to various passages from the Bible with violent imagery, which the letter quotes.
The letter contains quotes from Matthew, Revelation and Exodus to argue that the claimant had made an error in assuming Christianity was : “about peace, forgiveness and kindness”. Read more
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) by our Nigeria Correspondent—Boko Haram terrorists attacked a village in Adamawa State which forced residents to flee to the mountains.
Kwada Tizhe, an eye witness of the Boko Haram attack in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, shared with VOPs correspondent during an interview. I was lying down, resting with my family at home in the evening hours on Monday (March 18, 2019). Around 6:40 in the evening, I heard the echo of gun shots which I initially thought was the military testing their rifles. Within a short time, the shots sounded closer and consistent. We began to hear the heavy weapons and could see the red fire flare of bullets sailing through the air. Then followed sounds of rocket launchers and explosive devices. When I realized Boko Haram was attacking and saw everyone scattering, I joined the men, women and children that were running for cover.
The Boko Haram rode in on many motorcycles and an open-bodied truck. They were shooting and throwing bombs and kept approaching closer while we were running to the hills. It was fortunate the attack happened at night when it was hard to see from a distance which direction we were running to. If it had been earlier, the casualties could have been higher.
The militants separated themselves into groups. Some went straight to the Union Bank, bombed the entrance and took lots of money. Others proceeded to the market square, broke into shops and carted away many food stuffs such as rice, macaroni, indamine and other provision items. They virtually emptied all the shops and loaded all the food items into their truck.
The other group kept shooting and throwing bombs in every direction. Unfortunately, 4 people were shot and all of them died in route to the hospital. Apart from the 4 that were killed, an elderly person was shocked with the sounds of the explosives and died due to a history of high blood pressure.
“The attack continued for hours, then they left the town through another route. While they were moving, the truck was damaged. They abandoned it after removing the money and looted items. Security forces came from Yolo, Madagali and Mubi to surround the town.” Contrary to reports, the villagers claim they showed up after the attack.
Our correspondent asked, What are the possible reasons for the attack?
Response: I think they have been specifically targeting Michika because it’s the largest Christian community with strong political/economical influence. We have heard several times from them that they would wipe us away. All these persecutions started because of the following reasons.
In the 2015 Presidential elections, we voted for President Good Luck Jonathan against the present sitting President (Muhammadu Buhari). Since then, the Muslim communities around us were not happy and they decided to plot to a point that lead to the separation of our market square.
The Muslims fixed ‘market day’ on Sunday’s which affected church service worship. When we drew their attention to it and asked them to consider our faith, they refused to pay attention because it was deliberate. We then organized all the Christians in the churches and changed the market day from Sunday to Saturday and patronized our brethren shops. The Muslims were so angry that they made multiple advances to armed groups to attack us.
Another reason is the coronation of a Christian brother as King of Michika which was recently done by the traditional ruler. They were shocked for a Christian to emerge as King in northern Nigeria. They consider it as taboo for an infidel to obtain this kind of title. They vowed that they would wipe away the community and even attack the king.
The forth reason might not be far from political interest. We always vote for the candidate that supports Christians. This 2019 election, we voted against the sitting President and the governor before the INEC declared it inconclusive. A new election was scheduled this Saturday, March 23, 2019. They know we will vote against the sitting governor. In their thinking, if we leave the town in fear of a Boko Haram attack, then it would give them room to rig the elections.
I think above all, as do others, that the Boko Haram has run short of money and food items. That’s why they attacked us. In any case, we are all back to our homes now, and we are going nowhere.
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.
(Morning Star News) – Following the arrest of 44 worshipers from house church meetings in southwestern China in February, police in Chengdu this month arrested a married couple from the church and beat them during interrogation, the church reported.
The couple, identified as Liu and his wife Xing, of Early Rain Covenant Church, were visiting Christian friends when police from Chengdu Shuyuan Police Station on March 2 detained them and took them to Taisheng Road Police Station for interrogation, according to the church, whose pastor along with more than 100 others was arrested in a Dec. 9 raid.
“At 2 p.m., while being interrogated, they were personally humiliated, abused, and violently beaten by seven to eight police officers from the Chengdu Taisheng Road Police Station,” the church’s March 2 statement on Facebook reads. “They were detained for nearly eight hours. After being beaten by police officers from the Taisheng Road Police Station, sister Xing and her husband were escorted by an unidentified person back to their home.”
The unexplained violence was one of the latest instances of persecution of the church in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. After church pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong, were incarcerated in the Dec. 9 raid, authorities on Feb. 24 detained 44 Early Rain members meeting for worship in several homes.
Some were released the next day, and seven others were released on Monday (March 11), the church reported. Pastor Wang and his wife were charged with “inciting to subvert state power” and are in secret detention. Ten others are also facing criminal charges, including four church elders, according to the statement.
Police have pressured landlords to evict some church members and compelled employers to fire others, and one church member has been missing since March 5. In a statement on March 8, the church reported that Pan Fei, who had lost his job because of his church activities, disappeared after his first day at a new job on March 4.
“He stopped going to work beginning on the following Tuesday morning,” the statement reads. “We have visited his apartment multiple times to look for him but to no effect. We have not been able to contact him.”
Police had arrested Pan Fei several times since May 2018 and had illegally searched his home, according to the church. After police compelled his landlord to evict him, community officers visited him at his new apartment and harassed him regularly, the statement reads.
“In the past, when brother Pan Fei would encounter harassment and persecution, he would ask his brothers and sisters to pray for him,” it reads. “But he has not sent any messages since disappearing four days ago. We are concerned that brother Pan Fei is being targeted for his faith.”
Yesterday (March 14) Early Rain member Zhang Ying and her daughters received a visit at their apartment in Chengdu from her landlord, accompanied by officers from the local police station, according to a church statement online.
“Six males and one female barged into her home,” the statement reads. “They insulted sister Zhang and her three children, threatened them, and derided them. Two of them were extremely aggressive and threatened to rape and beat sister Zhang. Community officers stood by the side and recorded their insults and verbal abuse with a video camera.”
Zhang has signed a two-year contract with her landlord for the apartment, but he falsely claimed that she had violated it without saying what she had done wrong, the statement reads.
“He was harassing her because community officers and police had pressured him to,” according to the church. “When the landlord and community officers left, they required sister Zhang to move out of her home by the end of March.”
One church member whose husband was arrested in the Feb. 24 raids said that a community police officer stopped her and her child during a visit to another Christian’s home, according to a March 1 posting. When she objected, she said, the officer called a police station director identified only as Ding.
Telling her that she was still in custody and needed permission to go anywhere, the police station director told the Christian woman, whose name was withheld, that she couldn’t take home the treat her friend had given her.
“He even grabbed my neck and told me to stomp on it,” she reported. “I firmly refused to stomp on it. He then said that if I didn’t stomp on it, he would throw it into the face of my child right in front of me. He also said that if I didn’t listen to them, he would put me in detention and send my child to a welfare institution. He said, ‘Your husband is still in detention. Do you think I won’t keep him there? I will send him to live with people with AIDS.’”
The official concluded by saying that if she didn’t “behave” that weekend, he would cause trouble for her. “I won’t be as nice to you as I was today,” he told her, according to the church posting. “If this happens again, you will be taken directly to the police station.”
Such threats have become commonplace for church members, according to the church.
“For the most part, there is no member of this church who has not suffered in some way,” the church reported in a Feb. 24 statement.
In the Feb. 24 arrests, plainclothes officers at the police station struck church member Tang Chunliang and his wife in the face, according to a church statement on Feb. 25. Surrounding several homes during worship and making arrests afterward, including all present in two homes, officers did not spare the elderly, 11 children and a pregnant woman, according to the church.
“Some were not released until 2 a.m.,” the statement reads. “Tired children slept on ice-cold tables and floors. Others were not released until 6 a.m.”
Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” punishable by up to five years in prison or 15 in extreme cases, as the Communist regime views religion as a threat to its ideological control, according to advocacy group China Aid. It notes that Christian groups have no intention of threatening government power.
Pastor Wang was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.
The raids on the Early Rain church are part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or “underground” churches that Beijing escalated since last year following amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that give lower-level officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for “unauthorized religious gatherings,” according to the SCMP.
Unofficial churches decline to become part of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, which would subject them to intrusive government controls. The Early Rain church on Tuesday (March 12) posted a video of Xu Xiaohong, head of the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church, telling the National People’s Congress the previous day that officials planned to “Sinicize” Christianity. This plan would rid Christianity of all “Western” influences and ensure that all Christian doctrine and worship conforms to the government ideology, the church stated, noting that Xu denounced churches gathering in “private meeting places” and “black sheep” who are “subverting state security.”
The U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 10 that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.
China ranked 27th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Special Report: Translators persecuted for translating the gospel
By Nena Podbury for American Bible Society—This week, we received heartbreaking news about an attack against Bible translators and we’re urging everyone to pray.
American Bible Society has been supporting a network of churches that are working on 25 Bible translation projects for unreached people groups in Central Asia and the Arabic Gulf region. Working in an undisclosed location in Northeast Africa, where the Christian church faces strong opposition, Christians risk their lives to translate God’s Word.
Last month, a terrorist group became aware of these translation efforts. Two weeks ago, this militant group burned the translation facility and killed five members of the lead translator’s family. The lead translator was also seriously injured. Another 49 translators were abducted and are still missing.
Despite this horrifying tragedy and the constant threat of extreme danger, this network of pastors plans to carry on its work.
They need our prayers. Let us cry out to God for these brave translators and for God’s Word to continue to shine light in the darkness.
- The missing translators. Pray for the safe release of the 49 translators who are missing.
- Translation work. Pray for these translation projects to be completed so that those 25 unreached people groups will have access to God’s Word in their native language. Pray for safety, wisdom, and courage for all translators.
- The lead translator. Pray that God will bring healing and comfort to this translator who lost members of his family.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – The government of Nigeria failed to protect people massacred by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in predominantly Christian areas of Benue state in 2016 and should prosecute those responsible, a West African court has ruled.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice on Feb. 26 ordered the government to investigate the attacks that killed more than 300 Christians and destroyed property in the Agatu area, identify and prosecute the perpetrators and redress victims.
“The Nigerian government was in violation of its obligation to protect the human rights of these communities,” the three judges stated in their unanimous verdict.
The court also ordered Nigeria’s government to take urgent measures to protect Christians in the area by deployment of soldiers and police personnel to the affected communities. The suit states that in the past three years, Muslim Fulani attacks have killed 1,000 people and destroyed property in 15 counties, including the Agatu area.
The Rev. Solomon Mfa, a Catholic priest, along with 10 other Christian leaders in the area had filed suit against the Nigerian government at the court, which has jurisdiction over human rights issues for West Africa, as its companion courts, the European Court of Human Rights and the East African Court of Justice, do for their regions.
Based in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, the ECOWAS court heard the plaintiffs’ request that the president of Nigeria, the inspector general of police, the chief of army staff and the minister of Internal Affairs be held accountable for the violation of the fundamental human rights of area Christians. In the past three years, herdsmen have set ablaze homes, household items, farms, crops, vehicles, machinery, food and schools, the Christian leaders stated.
“Fulani herdsmen within the last three years carried out over 50 major attacks on Benue communities, the most prominent of them taking place in 15 out of 23 Local Government Areas of the state, namely Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi, and Konshisha,” their suit states. “The affected Christian communities have been completely overwhelmed and are now desolate and devastated as they have suffered wanton destruction of their churches, properties and lives.”
The plaintiffs charged that the failure of the government to constitute an investigation panel or take measures against further attacks amounted to negligence and was oppressive, arbitrary and capricious. They further held the government “responsible for injuring the dignity and pride of the applicants and for causing them great physical and psychological trauma.”
In the lead judgment by Justice Dupe Atoki, the court ordered the government to provide adequate security by deploying more security personnel to the “area to protect the community and prevent further occurrences of that mayhem.”
Based on Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, to which Nigeria is a signatory, the court held that the government is obliged to protect the human rights of its citizens.
The 10 other Christian leaders who filed the suit were the Rev. Joseph Dooga, Dr. Sam Abah, Dr. David Iordaah, Hon. Ochepo Yakubu, Hon. Terse Tange, Favour Adah Paul, Samuel Msonter Ijoho, Iorbee Bajah, Ashi Bajah and Terseer Iorbee Bajah, along with the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO).
The judges said their decision was anchored in the need to identify the attackers, prosecute them and give justice to the Christian victims.
Government officials have yet to respond to the court’s ruling, but the government had argued that it could not be held responsible for any ethnic crime committed by unidentified and unknown persons not connected or known to the defendants or any of its agencies – a contention the court rejected.
At the same time, the court ruled that it could not award the 500 billion naira (US$1.38 billion) sought by the defendants as it had no record of victims’ names, gender, age or addresses, and destroyed properties had not been specifically identified nor their value estimated.
Solicitor General Dayo Apata, who represented the defendants, blamed the crisis on ethnic differences between the Agatu community and the Fulani community over farming and rearing of animals, “as has been established by various panels of enquiry set up at different times in a bid to proffer solution.”
He argued that the crisis between the Agatu and Fulani communities was not based on security lapses or the inability of the federal or state governments to protect the lives and properties of the people of state, as security agencies were deployed to the Agatu community to protect lives and property.
Justice Edward A. Asante, president of the court, presided over the case, alongside three other judges, including Justice Dupe Atoki, who read the judgment.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
INDIA (Morning Star News) – Cases of hate and violence against Christians in India increased 57 percent the first two months of this year compared with the same period last year, an advocacy group reported.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission (EFIRLC) documented 77 incidents of hate and targeted violence against Christians in January and February, up from 49 cases during the same period last year. The cases include the murders of one Christian in Odisha state and another in Chhattisgarh state, both in February.
“We have reasons to believe that both men, who were in their 40s, were killed because of their faith,” the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the EFI, told Morning Star News. “We have recorded cases where Christians have been facing social boycott and have been excommunicated from their villages, and in a few instances have had to flee to save their lives.”
Of the 77 incidents, 16 took place in Tamil Nadu state, 12 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Maharashtra and five in Chhattisgarh, the report found. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and, surprisingly, Kerala each saw four cases, followed by other states, Lal said.
The 49 cases recorded in the first two months of 2018 followed the documenting of 50 cases during the same period the previous year.
In one of the incidents this year in Uttar Pradesh, female police officers on Jan. 13 disrupted a Sunday worship service and arrested four women and two men, including the female pastor leading worship. At the police station, a female police officer physically assaulted the woman pastor, Sindhu Bharti, who fell unconscious.
“Boiling tea was forcibly thrust in her mouth because the police thought that she was feigning her unconsciousness,” an eyewitness, Madhu Bharati, told Morning Star News. “When that did not work, they poured two jugs of cold water on her face, not caring that it was already severely cold due to winter.”
Those arrested were charged with intent to hurt religious feelings, defilement of a place of worship and rioting, among other charges. The intervention of Christian leaders resulted in police freeing the arrested female Christians, but the men were kept under judicial custody.
Pastor Bharti received medical treatment for her injuries.
In the murders, two Christians were killed by Maoists, known as Naxalites, after area tribal people influenced the rebels in Odisha and Chhattisgarh respectively.
“Munglu Ram Nureti from Kohkameta village in Chhattisgarh was killed because villagers who were opposed to his practicing the Christian faith falsely reported him as a police informer to the Maoists,” Lal said. “Anant Ram Gond, from Nabarangpur in Odisha was killed a day before Munglu Ram Nureti in a similar but more gruesome manner. He was already being persecuted for his faith for some time. It has been reported and verified by credible sources that he was reported to be a police informer by villagers [who were angry at him becoming Christian] to the Maoists, which led to his killing.”
Gond had been living outside the village for some time after facing social boycott because of his faith, Lal said.
“There have been occurrences where Christians have been taken to temples and made to chant Hindu verses and seek forgiveness for the ‘sin’ of conversion,” he told Morning Star News. “At least two instances have been recorded where public banners against Christians have been placed outside Navsari, Gujarat and in Alangulam village near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The Navsari banners prohibit the entry of Christians in the town, while those in Tamil Nadu, apparently put up by the Hindu Munnani, reportedly ask the Hindus to awake against religious preaching in the village.”
Alliance Defending Freedom-India, which provides legal advocacy for Christians, reported on Feb. 19 that 29 incidents against Christians took place in January.
Throughout 2018, the EFIRLC documented 325 incidents against Christians in India. The previous year, it recorded 351 such cases, up from 230 in 2016.
Its 2018 annual report, “Hate and Targeted Violence against Christians in India,” released on Feb. 22, took note of the “sudden spurt of violence in a few districts of Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous province, and in Tamil Nadu in the extreme south of the subcontinent.”
The cases documented in the report are by no means exhaustive, as it was based on voluntary reporting and civil society investigations, it states. The EFIRLC said most cases go unreported, either because the victim and witnesses are terrified, or the police, especially in the northern states, turn a blind eye and refuse to record mandatory First Information Reports.
With general elections due in April-May, attempts at religious polarization were at an all-time high, the report noted. It added that the “small Christian community, 2.3 per cent of the 1.3 billion population, which seems to be targeted on issues of conversion, is also collateral victim of the hate crimes against the much larger Muslim community, which is about 15 percent.”
Over 40 percent, or 132, of the documented incidents in the 2018 report took place in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where Christians were targeted the most. This was followed by Tamil Nadu with 40 incidents, while Telangana came third with 24.
The increase of incidents in Uttar Pradesh can be attributed to the systematic campaign against Christians in the eastern part of the state, particularly Jaunpur District, where 45 incidents were documented, according to the report.
Churches in Jaunpur have been targeted through a systematic campaign involving Hindu extremist groups, media, local politicians and the state administration, according to the report. Arrests and detention of pastors and the stopping of church services have become commonplace.
Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state of India, home to almost 17 percent of the country’s population. Christians make up only 0.18 percent of the state’s population.
The state is currently led by Yogi Adityanath, who along with being the chief minister is also the high priest of the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur. The chief minister is also founder of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a Hindu youth militia that has been involved in communal violence and in targeting religious minorities.
India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. India was ranked at 31st in 2013 but has been ranked worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
“We are still collecting and verifying information almost on a daily basis,” Lal said.