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(Voice of the Persecuted) During a press conference, the Sri Lankan Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne confirmed that the suicide bombers in the Easter attacks were carried out by Sri Lankan citizens associated with a local Jihadi terror group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), with the help of an international network. The death toll has risen to 290, with over 500 injured.
There are reports of more bombs found near the airport and bus station. Please continue to pray.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 17 Christians who had gathered after a baby dedication at a church in central Nigeria, including the mother of the child, sources said.
Safaratu John Kabiru Ali, the mother of the baby, was slain in the attack on Sunday (April 14) in Konshu-Numa village, in Nasarawa state’s Akwanga County, which also took the lives of people ranging in age from 10 to 80. The baby’s father, John Kabiru Ali, was shot and is in critical condition, sources said. He is receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, in Nasarawa state.
The attack took place at about 7 p.m. as Christians in the predominantly Christian community gathered to eat after the child was dedicated that morning at the Ruhaniya Baptist Church in the village.
The massacred Christians were buried on Wednesday (April 17) after a funeral service at the Baptist church.
A resident of Akwanga town who lost relatives in the shooting, Jacob Tantse, told Morning Star News that 17 Christians were killed, including 10 members of the Ruhaniya Baptist Church, five members of Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ (ERCC), one member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), and a musician playing for guests.
Tantse identified those killed as Ali Nkene, 80; Gode Kako, 13; Afiniki Kako, 10; Matthew Emmanuel, 28; Tafiya Baya, 17; Sarakuna Haruna, 21; Amos Julius, 60; Mary Amos, 40; Sunday Adebayo John, 21; Talatu Mada, 40; Saratu Kabiru John, 21; Justina Barrau, 60; Simon Anfani, 37; Kadon Sule, 20; Ayuba Bulus, 11; Haruna Bawa, 22; and the musician, Samame Andaha, 28.
He also said eight Christians, including the host of the event, John Kabiru Ali, were wounded in the attack.
“They include members of the various congregations of the Baptist, Catholic, and ERCC churches,” Tantse said.
He identified those wounded as John Kabiru Ali, 32; Maikasuwa Engila, 30; Biyaya Engila, 60; Ayuba Maikano, 80; Juliana Clement, 47; Gode Tijani, 30; Nicholas Danzaria, 26; and Alkali Raba, 43.
The wounded are from ERCC churches in Ngah Bar-Numa and Angwan Pa-Numa villages; the Roman Catholic Church in Nghah-Numa; the ECWA church in Gyan-Numa; the Ruhaniya Baptist Church in Konshu-Numa; and the Nasara Baptist Church in Numa, he said.
Samuel Meshi, chairman of the Akwanga Local Government Council, told Morning Star News that area Christians had done nothing to provoke the attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
“They just started shooting sporadically on a community that was just having a feast of dedication of a child after a church service earlier in the day on Sunday, 14 April, at a Baptist church in the area,” Meshi said. “The killings occurred in the evening of that day. Unfortunately, these persons were killed in cold blood for just no reason.”
Pastor Samson Gamu Yare, community leader of the Mada ethnic group in Nasarawa state, reportedly described the killings as “barbaric.” He called on the federal government to urgently take measures towards curtailing the menace of herdsmen attacks on his people.
VOP Note: Please pray for this community and for the safety and discernment of our field workers in the area.
Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
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.
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.
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
LAOS- Christians in southern Laos faced a grim New Year after seven believers including church leaders were detained by the Communist government’s security forces during violent church raids, reported Stefan J. Bos for (BosNewsLife).
Sirikoon Prasertsee, who leads the advocacy group Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF), said the detentions occurred late Saturday, December 29, when police stormed a Christmas church service in Nakanong Village located in the Phin District of Savannakhet Province.
He said three male church leaders, identified as Akeo, Kert, and Somwang, were first moved to the regional police headquarters. Police returned to the church and detained 4 more Christian men. “They were led away to the Phin district police headquarters,” Prasertsee said.
Shortly after BosNewsLife made the international community aware of their arrest, the seven were released.
Security forces also “demolished the stage, cut off the power line, destroyed the sound system, and seized 3 mobile phones,” according to HRWLRF, which represents Christians in the area.
Police are reportedly charging the Christians with the “illegal gathering for a Christmas church service without state permission.”
The HRWLRF said it had urged the Lao government to release immediately and unconditionally the seven Lao Christians and pay for the damages to the physical properties of the church. It was not immediately clear when and how the government would react to these demands.
However, the detentions are the latest in a series of incidents targeting Christians in Laos.
Activists and local Christians say the persecution is partly linked to concerns within the Communist party and movement Pathet Lao, which has ruled the Southeast Asian nation since 1975, ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict regime aligned with Vietnam.
Communists view the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power base and way of thinking, BosNewsLife established.
“The government has recently made efforts to increase the monitoring of illegal house churches with the help of registered churches, resulting in the arrest and detention of Christian believers,” said advocacy group Open Doors.
“Provincial and local authorities hinder Christian activity. They often cooperate with community leaders like Buddhist monks to put pressure on Christians, especially converts. Families of converts heavily contribute to this persecution within the home.”
Christians comprise less than two percent of the mainly Buddhist population of over 7 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The detentions come despite reported Western-style reforms in other areas such as the limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment which began in 1988. Laos also became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1997 and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2013.
In a statement to BosNewsLife, the HRWLRF urged the Lao government to respect “the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009.”
Under these laws, the individual has the right to adopt a religion or belief of choice and the freedom to “manifest that religion or belief” publicly. ——
Christianity is considered a Western influence and especially dangerous by the Communist Party in Laos. Authorities heavily monitor all religious activities, including those of registered Christian churches, religious gatherings must be reported beforehand. House churches are forced to operate illegally, in secret.
Buddhist teachings are often considered part of Lao “cultural education,” and included in the curriculum at some schools. In one case, Christian students were required to attend a Buddhist temple ritual.
Converts to Christianity become outsiders within their Buddhist-animist communities, pressured by Buddhist monks, family members and local authorities to recant their new faith. Some believers are arrested and detained when caught engaging in illegal church activities, or when Bibles or other Christian literature are discovered. Others are threatened, fined or beaten in an attempt to make them renounce their faith.
- Pray that Christians would have wisdom in witnessing to their Buddhist neighbors and family members. Pray that their efforts would be well received.
- Pray that Christians in Laos would be able to freely access Bibles and register churches. Pray also that Christian children in Buddhist schools would not be discriminated against and receive low marks simply because of their faith.
- Laos is one of the five remaining Marxist-Leninist countries in the world, and as such, it is strictly opposed to any influence deemed foreign or Western. The Communist Party puts enormous pressure on the small Christian minority. Please pray for increased openness and acceptance towards Christianity.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistani Christian brothers, Qasir (also shared as Qaisar) and Amoon Ayub, have been sentenced to death in the Talagang District Jhelum court after being accused of blasphemy. Both brothers have been held under the charge of 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the District Jail Jhelum since their arrest in 2014. Their case was heard on December 13, but due to security reasons, the brothers were not in the courtroom and told of the death sentence ruling from inside the jail. Qasir is married with three children, while Amoon is also married and a teacher at the Cathedral School in Lahore.
The allegations surfaced when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website, reported AsiaNews. However, Qasir said he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim friends, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website and kept ownership in Qasir’s name.
He had worked at the international office of the Raja Centre in Lahore. While at work in 2010, an argument broke out between his friends and one of them made a comment about another’s sister. The ‘friend’ blamed Qasir and warned him that it was a serious matter in Pakistan. Shortly after, Qasir started to receive death threats from them and he went into hiding. When the situation deteriorated he and his brother fled to Singapore without telling their wives. After a month, they returned to Pakistan and Amoon shared the whole story with his his wife. Yet the situation remained tense, so they left again this time for Thailand. Unable to survive there for very long, they went back to Pakistan in 2012.
After four years on the run they were arrested. A friend told Qasir that the authorities were looking for him. On November 10, 2014, while Amoon was on his way to work, the police detained him. They questioned him about his brother and said a case had been registered against him. Qasir told Amoon to stay hidden. Qasir was later arrested and sent to District jail Jhelum. Fearing for his safety, Amoon again tried to flee the country but was detained by Immigrant Police at the Lahore Airport. Later police sent him to Jhelum District Jail for the same offense as his brother.
Amoon’s wife did all she could to get her husband released, but has failed. She approached the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) for assistance.
(CLAAS) represented Qasir and Amoon and told Voice of the Persecuted that they will challenge the sentence before the Lahore High Court Bench at Rawalpindi as soon as possible. The group believes judges hearing blasphemy cases are threatened by religious fanatics and why those accused of blasphemy are convicted.
CLAAS-UK Director, Nasir Saeed told Voice of the Persecuted,
“This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners, lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent. In this case the trial Judge did not apply his judicious mind and convicted the accused in a very casual manner.
We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi, who was similarly convicted by the lower court and it took her years to reach to the Supreme Court to get justice. I am afraid now Qasir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice. It is a sad reality that the present government has no intention even to talk about or to take steps to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi has already said that the government would not amend the law. This means the killing of innocent people will continue despite growing opposition to the law around the world.”
He shared that the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been acknowledged by the world for his recent decision of opening the Kartarpur corridor for Indian Sikhs. However, he has no plans for Pakistan’s own minorities. Nasir added that minorities feared Khan’s statements of making Pakistan a Medina-like state.
“Very recently, his statement that there is no mention of Jesus in history, hurting the feelings of Christians not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world,” he also lamented.
The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.
Qasir’s son (14yr.) has been experiencing extreme anxiety since his father’s incarceration. Please keep these brothers and their loved ones in your prayers.