South Sudan (Morning Star News) – A Sudanese pastor in South Sudan was jailed and tortured for more than three months after Islamists who tried to kill him accused him of being a spy, sources said.
Adam Haron, a 37-year-old convert from Islam and a native of West Darfur, Sudan, said Muslim extremists called him on Nov. 9 and 10 threatening to kill him if he continued to proclaim Christ among Muslims in Aweil, near the Sudanese border. Pastor of a church in an undisclosed area of South Sudan, Haron had gone to Aweil, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) northwest of the capital city of Juba, to plant a church.
Evangelism is not illegal in South Sudan, where Christians outnumber Muslims, and the Transitional Constitution following the country’s secession from Sudan in 2011 guarantees religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith.
Haron said he knew the Muslims who threatened him as they were from his home region of West Dafur. The following day they tried to kill him when a Land Cruiser with no license plate nearly ran him over, he said.
Haron, who came to South Sudan in 2010 after converting to Christianity in 2005, said that three days later six armed men, including three in military uniform, entered his hotel room in Aweil and started to search his personal bag and laptop and scattered his clothes around. They also took his cell phone.
As the armed men ordered him to get into their car, they began kicking his legs and groin, he said.
“Thank God, who protected me from serious injury from them,” he said.
One of assailants took out a pistol, pointed it at Haron’s head, and asked him if he was a Christian pastor. He answered, “Yes, I am a pastor,” and they took him to a detention center in Aweil, he said.
Haron said the three men in uniform were military intelligence personnel. Based on a military officer’s interrogation of him, he concluded that the radical Muslims had the military personnel arrest him after falsely accusing him of being a spy for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s National Congress Party.
On Nov. 15, two soldiers gave him 364 lashes using a tree branch as a whip, he said.
“We will beat you every Saturday in this way,” one of them told him during the lashing.
Haron told Morning Star News he was encouraged because he was considered worthy to suffer for his faith and replied, “I am ready to die for the sake of the gospel.”
They threw him into a narrow cell, his legs bound with chains, he said. On Jan. 3 he was transferred to another jail cell. He was released on Feb. 18.
In the course of his incarceration, those who arrested Haron stole 2,600 South Sudanese Pounds (US$820) from him, he said.
Haron, who pastors an underground church made up primarily of converts from Islam, said he was gratified that the mistreatment tested his faith.
“This detention has been a great encouragement to my spiritual life,” he said.
Pastors Held in Sudan
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, two pastors of South Sudanese descent continue to languish in prison following their arrests in December and January.
Officials from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) are demanding that theRev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael pay $12,000, but even that may not guarantee their release, sources said.
Reith, from Khartoum but of South Sudanese descent, was arrested on Jan. 9 and is being held without charges. NISS officials arrested Michael, a visiting South Sudanese pastor from Juba, after Sunday worship at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on Dec. 21. He also has been held without charges.
Nuba Mountain Bombing
Bashir’s regime, meantime, continues to bomb civilian targets in its war with rebels in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state.
On March 11 at 2 p.m., Russian-made Sukhoi jets bombed Tanase village, Bram County, wounding a 15-year-old girl, an area source told Morning Star News. Saloom Habil Tiya of the Sudanese Church of Christ was walking near her home when the bomb landed a short distance away.
The source said the girl was seriously injured.
There is no military installation near the area, the source said.
“We hope the international community will pay attention to the crimes committed,” the source said.
(Morning Star News) – The number of incidents against Christians in India has increased 55 percent since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in May 2014, according to figures from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
During a protest by religious minorities near India’s Parliament House on Thursday (March 19), rights activist and Christian leader John Dayal said there have been 168 incidents against Christians in Modi’s first 300 days in power. That figure compares with 108 such cases in the 300 days before Modi took office on May 26, 2014, according to the EFI.
Reported attacks against the Christian community in January totalled 20, with another 20 in February and 13 so far in March, according to the EFI. By comparison, in the first five months of 2014 there were only 32 anti-Christian incidents before Modi took power.
Dayal, former member of the National Integration Council, told Morning Star News that the number of incidents in Modi’s first 300 days pertains only to reported cases and that the actual number is higher. Cases ranged from false accusations of “forcible conversion” to desecration of church buildings to violent attacks on Christians.
“Illegal police detention of church workers and denial of constitutional rights of freedom aggravate the coercion and terror unleashed in hate speeches and campaigns of ghar wapsi [‘homecoming,’ or reconversions to Hinduism],” he said. “Since 2014, there has been a marked shift in public discourse.”
During the first 300 days of the Modi’s government coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the state of Chhattisgarh topped the list of incidents against Christians with 28, followed by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15, he said.
The tone set by Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack non-Hindus, Christian leaders say. Coercion to convert to Hinduism continues.
“The fact that Christmas celebrations of 2014 in India were sought to be diluted by the government’s call to observe ‘Governance Day’ on the day most sacred to the Christian community in India is a matter of great concern,” said the Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, general secretary of the EFI.
On Christmas Day, 20 Christians were arrested and police stopped four Christmas functions in separate incidents across the country, according to EFI.
About 2,000 people from 80 civil society groups participated in the protest in central Delhi, asserting that the secular nature of government has been regularly under attack as Hindu extremist assaults on religious minorities have jumped to alarming numbers.
Incidents included vandalizing, burning and robbing church buildings, burning Bibles, disrupting worship meetings and Christmas functions, beating pastors and evangelists and stopping church construction.
Of the anti-Christian incidents, Dayal said 54 percent came in the form of threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Physical violence accounted for 24 percent of all cases, including 11 percent against Christian women. Breaking of statues and the cross and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of the cases, “but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” Dayal said.
“A disturbing trend was rising communal violence in West Bengal, where the BJP and the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of which Modi is a member] have redoubled their efforts to fill what they see is a political vacancy following the decline of the Communist Party of India Marxist and the Congress party in recent times,” he said.
Dayal said the list of violent incidents against religious minorities, including unreported ones, could well exceed 800.
A pastor of Good Shepherd Community Church in New Delhi, Joshua David, told Morning Star News that at every Sunday worship meeting since Christmas day, two policemen have been posted outside his church.
“Initially, it created a different kind of feeling among the church members, raising some sort of suspicion among them of the possible danger in attending church services, but we are getting accustomed to it,” he said.
Social activists at the demonstration said the Sangh Parivar family of Hindu extremist groups have relentlessly attempted to create a divide between Hindus and all others.
“The Sangh Parivar and the present Bharatiya Janata Party government, which is part of the Sangh Parivar, do not believe in diversity and wish to have everyone follow their own dictates,” said Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians. “The basic tenets of the Indian constitution – the secularism and the pluralism – therefore are constantly under attack, and minorities are a part of that.”
The BJP has abused, ridiculed and threatened minorities, activists said, including hate statements by Union and state ministers and threats by members of Parliament and state politicians.
Renowned journalist Seema Mustafa said the main objective of the protest was to show solidarity and ensure that action is taken against perpetrators of violence.
“While communal incidents have taken place in the past as well, the difference now is that the BJP itself is in power,” she said. “Now the continuing violence and statements supporting the violence is vitiating the atmosphere and terrifying the minorities.”
Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in India.
- Pray that India’s leaders will adhere to the protection of religious minorities.
- Pray for Christians in India, facing increased or constant pressures, including threats and violence.
- Pray as they stand up to the injustice against them.
- Pray they will remain peaceful.
- Pray for their faith to grow, to endure.
- Pray for them to be bold for Christ as they share the Gospel and grow the Church in India.
Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric called on Tuesday for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula after legislators in the Gulf state of Kuwait moved to pass laws banning the construction of religious sites associated with Christianity.
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who serves as the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, said the destruction of churches was absolutely necessary and is required by Islamic law, Arabic media reported.
Abdullah, who is considered to be the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, also serves as the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
Last month, Osama Al-Munawer, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, announced his plans to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country, according to the Arabian Businesses news site. Al-Munawer later clarified that the law would only apply to new churches, while old ones would be allowed to stay erect.
President Obama released a statement (below) on Friday (Iranian New Year) in regard to Saeed and others being held in Iran.
The spirit of family is deeply woven into all of the rich cultural traditions of the Nowruz holiday. It is a time for reuniting and rejoicing with loved ones and sharing hopes for the new year. Today, as families across the world gather to mark this holiday, we remember those American families who are enduring painful separations from their loved ones who are imprisoned or went missing in Iran.
Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs. He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.
Amir Hekmati of Flint, Michigan has been imprisoned in Iran on false espionage charges for over three and a half years. His family, including his father who is gravely ill, has borne the pain of Amir’s absence for far too long.
Jason Rezaian of Marin County, California, an Iranian government credentialed reporter for the Washington Post, has been unjustly held in Iran for nearly eight months on vague charges. It is especially painful that on a holiday centered on ridding one’s self of the difficulties of the past year, Jason’s mother and family will continue to carry the heavy burden of concern regarding Jason’s health and well-being into the new year.
And finally, we recently marked yet another anniversary since Robert Levinson went missing on Kish Island. His family has now endured the hardship of his disappearance for over eight years.
At this time of renewal, compassion, and understanding, I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home and call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian and to work cooperatively with us to find Robert Levinson so that they all can be safely reunited with their families as soon as possible.
In honor of the familial spirit so strongly enshrined within this holiday and for the Abedini, Hekmati, Rezaian, and Levinson families, I hope this new spring is filled with joyous moments for us all with all of our loved ones by our sides.
Abigail Frymann Rouch for The Tablet, reports the Council of Paris, the governing body of the French capital, on Tuesday unanimously adopted a proposal by the city’s socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo to award honorary citizenship to Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who has been on death row since 2010.
Mrs Bibi, mother of five, was condemned to death for blasphemy after her Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from the same water as them and accused her of insulting Muhammad. The High Court in Lahore upheld her sentence in October 2014. On 30 November the Supreme Court agreed to re-open the case. A new trial should begin in May, the mayor’s office said in a statement.
“Falsely accused of insulting the Prophet of Islam, Asia Bibi is the victim of squabbles between families in her village linked to her adherence to the Christian faith in a majority Muslim country.
“To support her in her fight against ignorance and obscurantism, Anne Hildago wishes that Paris raises Asia Bibi to the level of honorary citizen, a rare distinction granted to the world’s most emblematic defenders of human rights,” the statement explained.
“To be an honorary citizen is to embody the values of Paris, the values of liberty and tolerance. By this bold gesture, I wish to testify to the solidarity of Paris towards the numerous women around the world of all confessions who are religious obscurantism and political extremism,” Ms Hildago said.
The mayor reiterated her commitment to supporting Mrs Bibi until a presidential pardon or a new sentence restores her liberty, and restated that the city would welcome her, with her family, as soon as this freedom is restored to her.
In December she unveiled a banner of Mrs Bibi which has remained on display on the steps of the City Hall. At the unveiling she stressed: “We must support Asia Bibi, because women in all regions of the world are the first victims of an order which theocrats, who twist the messages of all religions, try to impose.”
VOP Note: Asia’s husband and five children are desperately missing her. Please pray for her release!
Can you take a moment…make a moment to sign this petition started by Pakistani Christian refugees? They need 100 signatures, but only 33 have signed it in 2 days. We can do better than that! Let’s set a goal of 1000 signatures. Let’s stand in solidarity and show them they are not forgotten! WE CARE! In CHRIST, One Body
(Morning Star News) – Two sisters in their mid-20s were attacked and a church building burned last month in an area of Kenya where Islamic extremists killed at least 13 people last July – including the young women’s father.
Somalis in coastal Kenya’s Lamu County struck 25-year-old Annah after she answered their knock on the door on Feb. 22 at about 7:30 p.m. in the village of Hindi, said her sister, Karuiki. Islamic extremists from Somalia killed their father, Simon, on July 5, 2014. The surnames of all three are withheld for security reasons.
“The attackers made a knock at the door, and my sister decided to go and open the door, only to be hit with a blunt sharp object near the forehead,” Karuiki said. “My sister fell down screaming, and I decided to rush in to help. Just at the door, I was hit on my right hand, and I fell down.”
Neighboring Muslims rushed over, and the attackers fled, she said. Annah began seriously bleeding, and neighbors called for a motorbike to come and take the women to a hospital.
The assailants spoke the Somali language and broken Kiswahili, Karuiki said.
“As they fled,” she said, “a neighbor heard one saying, ‘We do not want hard-haired [Kenyan] Christians in our region – they should go back to where they came from. We shall soon come back again.’”
The rest of the sisters’ family was away at their hometown in central Kenya at the time of the attack. Upon learning of the assault, their mother came to them at the hospital in Mpeketoni, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Hindi.
“The neighbors know the attackers, but they fear to disclose them because they are all Muslims,” said the sisters’ mother, whose name is withheld. “I have recorded statements at the Hindi police station, but the attackers have not been brought to book. We want our stories to be heard with the hope security will be tightened here in Mpeketoni.”
On July 5, 2014, she lost her husband when gunmen attacked Gamba and Hindi in Lamu County. In Hindi, 15 to 20 assailants with guns and knives killed at least 13 people, including 12-year-old Ken Mangara, area sources told Morning Star News.
“We have lived a difficult life since the death on my husband,” she said.
Like those who attacked the sisters, the assailants in the July 5 massacre also spoke Somali and Kiswahili (Swahili, Kenya’s national language), and they also said non-Muslims should leave the area.
Members of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a violent separatist group claiming political and economic discrimination, work closely with area Somalis in attacking Christians, an area church pastor said. The MRC includes Christians, but the Kenyan government has banned it as a “criminal gang” dominated by Islamic extremists. Members of the Somali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab and sympathizers have also been active in northern and coastal Kenya.
The pastor said supporters of MRC are everywhere in the coastal region, and that it is difficult to discern who is a member.
On Tuesday (March 17) the pastor and 30 Christians from Hindi visited the area district officer of Hindi to request added security as Christians want to go back to their farms in accordance with a government plan, she said. Somalis living in the area and other Muslims, she said, have been agitating for them to “go back to their ancestral land.”
Two Christians were also killed on July 7, 2014 in Gamba, 46 kilometers (28 miles) from Mpeketoni, a predominantly Christian town where gunmen killed at least 57 people in a June 15 attack.
In Maramande, Hindi, on Feb. 28, Somalis set the pastor’s church building ablaze at 1 p.m.; the same church’s building had been burned during the violence of July 5, 2014. In January the church had rebuilt another worship center.
“What I saw, I fell down, my energy gone, and went back telling God to uphold my soul and to continue trusting in Him for his providence,” said the pastor.
She reported the fire to Mohammed Lausi, police chief of Hindi sub-county, who promised to provide more security.
“These people do not want Christianity in this area,” the pastor said. “They want to finish me so that Christianity will not go on here. But I will continue raising up my eyes to God for help.”
Violence in Kenya’s coastal region has accelerated in the past few years. On Jan. 11 in the Mombasa area, a gunman shot a Christian dead at the gate leading to a church building, apparently after mistaking him for the church pastor. Police reportedly said the assailants could be members of an active Islamic extremist terror cell in Mombasa blamed for past gun and grenade attacks.
Islamic extremists were suspected in the Feb. 2, 2014 killing of 59-year-old Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge, an assistant pastor at Glory of God Ministries Church in the Majengo area of Mombasa.
On Oct. 19, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists in Mombasa killed pastor Charles “Patrick” Matole of Vikwantani Redeemed Gospel Church following riots associated with a mosque said to be a recruitment center for Islamic terrorists. Matole had received death threats.
In a recent meeting with his family, Jacob Abedini, Saeed’s son pleaded with President Obama to bring his father home for by his birthday. But yesterday, he celebrated his 7th birthday without his ‘Daddy’ by his side. Please speak out for American Pastor Saeed imprisoned in Iran. And pray Jacob will be reunited with his father before his next birthday!
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – “We do not need and do not want a civil war. We Christians are people of peace. Do not let the pain cloud our eyes. What future do we want to build for Pakistan? A future of harmony and reconciliation”: this is what the Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Shaw said to a crowd of over 10 thousand faithful who took part in the funeral of the victims of the St. John Church (Catholic) and Christ Church (Protestant) attack in Youhanabad, Christian suburb on the outskirts of Lahore.
The celebration of the funeral, which was held in the Catholic church of St. John, was ecumenical: it was attended by the Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Lahore. The victims and the families present belonged to both Christian communities: the funeral of the victims of both attacks was celebrated as a sign of profound communion. The funeral was also attended by representatives of civil authorities and some Muslim leaders came as a sign of solidarity with Christians.
In an interview with Agenzia Fides, Archbishop Shaw said: “We have reiterated that violence is not the right path. The Gospel calls us to Always be, in every circumstance men of peace. Today, in this pain, we can pray and seek consolation in God. Christ is our consolation”. The Bishop stressed that “Christians today want peace and security. As Pakistani citizens, we ask the government security and protection, in order to live in harmony and to help build a just, peaceful and fraternal nation”.
The bodies of the victims were taken to the cemetery in Lahore, where they received proper burial. “We are in mourning, but our faith sustains us. The Lord does not abandon us in this ordeal”, says to Fides don Asharf Gill, a priest of the diocese of Lahore. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 17/03/2015)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:9-11
Eye for Eye
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (words we must remember and live by)
“In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:10-12
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
In love, we stand with Pakistani Christians and pray for their endurance. Be strong brothers and sisters, God is with you.
Voice of the Persecuted is an interdenominational organization standing with and stepping up for the persecuted. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you have greatly blessed others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!