Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – The widespread statement released on Friday 12 May by three Syriac Bishops (a Syirac-Catholic and two Syriac-Orthodox) in northern Iraq, asking for the creation of a protected area reserved for Christians in the Nineveh Plain to be placed under international protection, to take away Iraqi baptized from sectarian persecution and violence, is causing embarrassment.
The Nineveh Province, scattered by Christian-majority towns and villages, was conquered by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) between spring and summer 2014. In those months, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled from their villages in front of the advancing jihadist militia, finding shelter in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
The statement issued last Friday to regional and national authorities and to international organizations was signed by two Archbishops of Mosul – Syriac Catholic Boutros Moshe and Syriac Orthodox Mar Nicodemus Daud Matti Sharaf – and by Mar Timotheos Musa al Shamany, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Bartellah. The three Archbishops ask to transform the Nineveh Plain into an autonomous area under UN international protection to take it away from conflicts and safeguard the rights of Christian communities that have their traditional roots in those lands. The statement also claimed the right of administrative autonomy for Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain.
On Saturday, May 13, the Chaldean Patriarchate issued an official statement to underline that the statement released the previous day does not reflect the position of the Chaldean Church, and does not represent it. The Patriarchate’s statement refers to a recent statement by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. In that text, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 6/5/2017), the Primate of the Chaldean Church underlined that in this critical stage the priority for so many displaced Iraqi Christian is to try to return to their home towns. This implies the urgent need to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure, also taking advantage of international aid. But only after the return of stability in the Country, processes to require the creation of new autonomous administrative units can be initiated, such as instruments to protect the rights and continuity of minority ethnic-religious groups”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2017)
India (Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern India’s Bihar state has lost his hearing after Hindu extremists assaulted him outside his home on church premises last month, sources said.
Doctors at a Hajipur government hospital determined the loss of hearing and wounds on Pastor Sikandar Kumar’s body were a result of being beaten with iron rods and sticks, Vaishali District Superintendent of Police Rakesh Kumar told Morning Star News.
Pastor Kumar, 45, was at his home in Jadhua village when a young boy riding a bicycle knocked on his door on April 5, church officials said. The boy told the pastor and his wife that a group of men were waiting outside to meet him, according to pastor Arun Kumar, who is now leading the victim’s Pentecostal congregation.
“When the pastor stepped out, 15 men started beating him and accused him of conversions in the village,” Arun Kumar told Morning Star News.
“They badgered his head with iron swords and sticks. Pastor Sikandar fell down unconscious; he had a deep injury on his head. He was bleeding severely.”
The assailants were shouting, “Jai Sri Ram, Jai Sri Ram (Hail Lord Ram),” he said, adding that they left the church compound apparently assuming Pastor Kumar was dead.
Police suspect the attackers were Ram Bhakts, devotees of Ram, who carried out processions in the district that day as part of a Hindu spring festival known as Rama Navami.
“Since there are no eyewitnesses, we detained five suspects based on Pastor Sikandar’s complaint,” the Vaishali District superintendent told Morning Star News. “We detained five suspects, but the victim, Pastor Sikandar, couldn’t identify them. So we released them.”
Pastor Kumar’s injuries were deep, he said, adding, “It was clear that the attack was brutal. The investigation is on.”
Arun Kumar said he and others found the pastor bleeding in the church compound.
“The assailants even snatched away his mobile and have been answering calls from media and believers for weeks now,” Arun Kumar said. “I asked the police to trace it.”
While he has not faced any direct opposition since taking over pastoral duties at the church, Arun Kumar said he has received threatening phone calls.
“More than 100 families attend the church,” he said. “The police have provided us security for the Sunday worship.”
Prior to the attack on him, Pastor Kumar had complained to police after he and other church members were attacked by Hindu extremists on Feb. 10, Arun Kumar said.
“He even wrote to the chief minister and other government officials in February,” he said. “He didn’t receive any great response.”
Doctors in Hajipur referred Pastor Kumar to Patna Medical College for further treatment. He has returned to his native village in Bihar state with his wife and children; from there he travels to a private neurological center in Patna, the state capital, for treatment.
A Christian who fell into a coma on Jan. 21 after suffering a brain hemorrhage due to hypertension after badgering by Hindu extremists has been discharged from the hospital, according to his wife, Kusuma Sujata.
K.A. Swamy, a 47-year-old professor, was insulted and threatened by Hindu extremists for distributing Bibles in Hyderabad, capital of Telangana state, before they took him to police who interrogated him the rest of the day.
“Swamy is scheduled for another surgery, and whatever he has been able to recover so far may come down or improve,” Sujata told Morning Star News. “It might become a burden, since we’re running on meager finances.”
India ranked 15th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection
(1 Corinthians 15) Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
The Order of Resurrection
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him.28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.
29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
The Mystery of Resurrection
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
An Indonesian court has found Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison, in a trial that is widely seen as a test of religious tolerance and pluralism in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
Following the verdict, the five-judge panel ordered Ahok’s immediate arrest. Ahok has said he will appeal.
A Christian with ethnic Chinese roots, Ahok is a double minority, and the case against him has sparked uproar in Indonesia.
Thousands of police have been deployed in the capital in case clashes break out between Ahok supporters and opponents who have demanded he be sacked and jailed. read more
Pray for Indonesia!
Ahead of Ahok’s trial on Tueday (happening now), police began enforcing maximum security efforts on Monday
– An Indonesian court is expected to decide on Tuesday whether Jakarta’s Christian governor is guilty of blasphemy against Islam, in a trial that is widely seen as a test of religious tolerance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
The government has been criticized for not doing enough to protect religious minorities but President Joko Widodo, a key ally of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), has urged restraint over the trial and called for all sides to respect the legal process.
Officials said thousands of police will be deployed in the capital in case clashes break out between Purnama’s supporters and hardline Islamists who have demanded he be sacked and jailed over allegations he insulted the Islamic holy book, the Koran.
“Both groups will have the opportunity to demonstrate, but we are taking steps to prevent clashes,” said national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto.
Purnama lost his bid for re-election in an April run-off – by far the most divisive and religiously charged election in recent years – to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan. read more
Please pray for this man and Christians in Indonesia.
Supporters sent 10,000 balloons for Ahok ahead of the verdict announcement
(Voice of the Persecuted) Held captive by the Boko Haram for over three years, 82 of the Chibok girls have been freed in a prisoner swap with the Nigerian government. Unofficially, five of the terror groups members were released in exchange for the girls on May 6, 2017.
Originally 275 Chibok girls had been taken from their school in April, 2014. Their plight became internationally known through the Bring Back Our Girls #hashtag campaign, but celebrity and global coverage quickly waned. Sadly, media silence led many to believe the girls had been released. Some did escaped and others set free, but the condition of the remaining 113 is still unknown.
Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja told Agenzia Fides,
“We thank God that these girls have re-embraced their families, but I wonder why they had to wait three years for this to happen.”
“In all these years, I was among those who insistently asked the government to do everything possible to free the girls. The government replied that it could not negotiate for their release with terrorists, exchanging them with some Boko Haram prisoners. But that is what eventually happened. For their release some Boko Haram leaders were released and an important figure was paid. Why did this not happen before, saving three years of suffering for these girls and their families?”
“Three years of anguish that could be have been avoided – he stresses. Among them is a girl with an amputated leg”.
“If these girls had been the daughters of some powerful leader would they have lost all this time? We also forget that there are still more than 100 girls whose fate we know nothing about. Some of them probably died during fights, illness or childbirth. At least let families know the fate of these poor girls. I invite everyone to pray for their release”, he concluded.
Tens of thousands have been killed by the radical militants. 2.6 million are displaced and thousands of men, women and children have been abducted since the Boko Haram began their deadly campaign in 2009. North Nigeria and the surrounding region is now experiencing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis that’s being called one of the gravest in the world. With the uptick of attacks by the Fulani brings continued fears and anxiety. Let us continue to remember our Nigerian brothers and sisters who are too often overlooked by the global community.
Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in Nigeria to care for our Christians experiencing brutal persecution. If you would like to show your love and support for those who’ve faced unimaginable persecution, please support our Nigerian mission project, today.
We are committed to being a VOICE for persecuted Nigerian Christians and bring them comfort, relief, and encouragement. We have committed to a long-term mission in Nigeria. When they are able to return home, we will be there to encourage and help rebuild villages and their lives. 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. Your gifts have brought so many smiles. THANK YOU!
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
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to 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!
You may also send your gift to:
2740 Third St
P.O. Box 122
Trenton, MI. 48183
If the Lord is placing it on your heart and you are able, please help us to continue the mission in Nigeria. It will be a long term project. Donations always desperately needed
CLAAS, a religious freedom advocacy group updated Voice of the Persecuted on the case of Zafar Bhatti, a Christian in Pakistan who was falsely charged of blasphemy and now sentenced to life imprisonment by a Pakistani court on May 3, 2017.
Bhatti had been charged under blasphemy law section 295C and telegraph act section 25D in 2012 for sending blasphemous text messages from his mobile phone, which is according to reports was not registered to his name. He denies the charges.
Since 2012, he has been imprisoned in Adiala Central Jail Rawalpindi. Considering the threats to his life, the case was conducted in the jail on April 24 but the judgment was reserved for later dates. On May 3, the Additional session judge jailed him for life.
Usually courts hand down a death sentence to those who are charged under 295-C, but because there was no concrete evidence against Bhatti, he was sentenced to life imprisonment instead.
In 2012 Islamabad, the lawyers’ bar passed a resolution that no lawyer will represent Bhatti in the court, but CLAAS accepted his responsibility. They’re also helping to care for his family.
Due to threats against the accused and their lawyers, CLAAS tried to move the case to Lahore but the request was denied.
Nasir Saeed, director CLAAS-UK said it is very unfortunate that even though there was not enough evidence against Bhatti, instead of freeing him, the court has sentenced him to life imprisonment because of pressure from Islamists.
“The blasphemy law is continuously being misused in Pakistan to take revenge and settle personal scores. Christians are the most targeted group, and several Christians have been burnt alive, and even their towns and churches are often attacked and set to fire.”
“The lower court’s judges always hesitate to make decisions on the merit, or free people accused of blasphemy, and instead transfer their burden to the higher court without realizing how their decision will impact the accused and their families’ lives.”
CLAAS says they will appeal against the lower court’s decision to the Lahore high court. They believe Bhatti is innocent and will be freed by the higher court. Unfortunately, it will take several years for his case to be heard by the High Court.
Please pray for Bhatti and his family who are suffering needlessly.
Recently Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution to prevent abuse through introducing safeguards. However, all such calls have faced strong opposition in the past. Those who’ve demanded changes in the blasphemy law were silenced and threatened with death. The governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti were savagely killed, as their acts were considered equal to blasphemy by hardliners.
Nevertheless, this latest resolution is clearly something to be welcomed and another reason to continue praying for the repeal of the laws so nobody has to suffer needlessly, CLAAS told Voice of the Persecuted.
The Hascemite Monarchy says it will renew efforts to protect the existence and identity of Arab Christians.
King Abdullah II of Jordan reiterated during a meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion, who was received in Amman on Tuesday, May 2. During the conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Monarch re-presented Jordan as a model of harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims. In the meeting – reports Jordanian media – King Abdullah also argued that recent unilateral regulations put into effect by Israel create hidden dangers for Christian and Muslim Holy places in Jerusalem, reiterating that the Hashemite Monarchy has the intention to reject any attempt to alter the “Arab identity of the Holy City area in which they are concentrated. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 3/5/2017)