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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.
Informed sources reported to Mohabat News that “Behnam Ersali, a Christian convert living in Karaj, traveled to Mashhad and was arrested by security guards at a friend’s home on Friday, November 16, 2018 and taken unknown location.
Six plain-clothed security officers entered the house without a legal decree and arrested him along with the another person. The second was released a few hours later.
Behnam Ersali, was a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran. Mohabat New also reported that several years ago Ersali had been fired from his job because of his Christian faith.
Davood Rasooli, known among the believers as “David”, was also arrested on Friday by two plain-clothes officers on in front of his home in Karaj. He too was transferred to an unknown location. Informed sources, quoted by the Christian convert’s family, say that the officers returned to the house two hours later with Rasooli. They searched his home and confiscated some of his books and personal belongings.
MEC reported that Rasooli had planned to meet Ersali in Mashhad that same day. It’s believed that Iranian intelligence had intercepted their calls and learned of the arrangement.
Since the arrest of these two Christian converts there has been no contact with their family members. Mohabat news shared that no information is yet available on the cause of their detention or where they are kept. According to MEC, friends of Rasooli believe that he is in solitary confinement and undergoing interrogation in Rajai Shahr Prison.
Mohabat news shared that reports indicate Iran’s intelligent agencies have summoned and arrested a number of believers in the northern cities of the country. There are still no details on this issue, but it is said that some of them were released on their recognizance’s.
The Islamic Republic is under international pressures, and government officials are at an impasse, but they continue to harass religious and ethnic minorities without any understanding of their own conditions. It seems that there is a new wave of arrest and pressure against Christians.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has recently adopted a resolution indicating the increase in the number of executions, especially executions of criminals under the age of 18, violations of the right to freedom of expression and violations of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, repression of protesters and journalists, torture and ill-treatment in prisons, detention and the condemnation of dual nationality and the violation of women’s rights in Iran, and that the human rights situation has become worse in Iran. However, Iran’s President, Hassan Rowhani, has claimed that he intends to improve the situation of religious and ethnic minorities./FARSI
Where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were preserved in the midst of a blazing furnace fire in the presence of the Lord. A land where God saved Daniel when he sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions. Today, this same land has one of the fastest growing number of Christians in the world—second only to China. Please keep our Iranian brothers and sisters in your prayers.
India (Morning Star News) – Five families in eastern India were at a worship service last month when they received a phone call telling them to return to their homes immediately.
The Christians rushed nearly four miles from their church in Lisiya village to their homes in Durula, West Singhbhum District in Jharkhand state, where they found the shanty of one of the families in ruins. Villagers under the influence of tribal movement Adivasi Ho Samaj had left the home of Sidiu Bari and his family in shambles.
Members of the Adivasi Ho Samaj, which in turn had come under the influence of Hindu extremists to join forces against the spread of Christianity, persuaded villagers that they must drive the five Christian families out, area resident Subod Sinku told Morning Star News.
“They damaged Bari’s roof, threw away their clothes and utensils and took away a sum of 20,500 rupees [US$280],” Sinku said. “Even after all this, they were not done. There was lot of verbal abuse and verbal grilling that continued for at least a week after the [Oct. 18] incident.”
Threatened with expulsion from the village and with seizure of their farmland, three of the five families converted back to the tribal religion, Sarnaism, he said.
“Pastors and Christians from Lisiya and surrounding village churches tried to encourage them to continue in the Christian faith in these testing times,” Sinku said. “But we were only able to get Sidiu Bari to write a complaint and report the matter to a local police station.”
Police advised against filing a First Information Report (FIR), telling the Christians to try to settle the matter “amicably,” he said.
Another source said on condition of anonymity, “The situation in Jharkhand is turning worse since the Ho Samaj joined hands with the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], holding meetings to instigate the tribal population against their own brethren for choosing to follow Christ.”
Sinku, 25, said that in his home village of Deoghar District, his family has warned him that he will be thrown out of his parents’ home and will not receive his share of land if he continues in his Christian faith.
“Putting faith in Christ is a matter of heart, and gradually as a new convert from the Adivasi religion grows in fellowship with other Christians, one’s entire lifestyle gets transformed,” Sinku said. “You learn many things. You become particular about hygiene, your intake of food, dressing, and you are not afraid to move to the city for education and get a job. This is not how indigenous tribes live. And, they think that we can afford the clothes, food and education from the supposed amount we received because of conversion to Christianity. It is completely false.”
Church Building Converted
In Ranchi District on Oct. 20, Sarna members broke a lock and barged into a church building while Christians were away attending a burial service of a young female member at another site, area residents said.
In the absence of anyone at the church building in Garh Khatanga, Hindu and tribal religion extremists surrounded the structure. Outside elements had instigated the villagers, who joined the extremists in breaking a cross on the building and chanting slogans against Christianity, Pastor Amandeep Bodra told Morning Star News.
Church members heard about the attack but, occupied with comforting family members who had lost a child, they decided not to try to stop them and thus avoided a fight, the pastor said. The next day they reported it to police, who have taken no action, he said.
“The Sarna activists had removed the cross and had set up a signboard saying, ‘Sarna Bhavan[Sarna Complex],’ and the police tell us to compromise with them,” he said.
The church purchased land and constructed its building on it about six months ago, and no one objected, he said. The now 70-member church had begun meeting in 2014.
The tribal animists have put their own lock on the building, which they have not been using, and they do not let the church use it, the pastor said.
“If we also break open the land and claim it back, the situation will get worse,” he said. “Police will not wait long to book severe cases against us, and there will be physical violence against us.”
Church leaders told the village president that they are willing to forfeit the land and requested the official show them another plot for construction of a church building, Pastor Bodra said. They have not heard back from him and are worshipping in a congregation member’s home.
In Surlu village, dozens of RSS members and tribal animists on Oct. 5 met to plan how to punish villagers for becoming Christians.
“The village president agreed to the propaganda put forth by them,” said area resident Nirmal Boraiburu. “Their plans were very harmful. They decided that Christians should not be allowed to go into the open fields to answer the call of nature. How can a human survive in such conditions?”
The Hindu extremists and Adivasis later told the Christians that they can farm their fields, but that they cannot pass through others’ fields to get to their own, Boraiburu said.
“Which means there will not be a path for us to walk to our field,” he said. “How can we plough or grow a crop when we can’t even enter the field? The entire village joined hands against us that nobody would give us work. But what prompted us to vacate the village was that some women made an announcement that now that these Adivasis have converted to Christians, they are no longer our tribe’s, and that Adivasi men are free to rape Christian women.”
The Christians have fled to Odisha state, Boraiburu said
“The pastor and believers here helped us build some huts to take shelter,” he said. “There in Surlu, women are usually alone at home after men go to work; it is not safe anymore. My two sisters are pursuing their studies, and dad works, in Chaibasa District. I left the property and everything in Surlu for their safety.”
As a handful of Christians among the majority Sarna adherents, they would have risked provoking the entire Adivasi community against them by reporting them to police, he said.
Earlier in Bokaro District, Hindu extremists used an elderly, bed-ridden man to give a false police statement of forcible conversion against Christians, sources said.
The ordeal began when pastor Sikandar Ravidas received a phone call from a police inspector telling him to bring documents related to church construction, on the request of revenue authorities.
Pastor Ravidas went to the police station near Lal Mithiya village, along with his father, Mahabir Das, and Binod Ravidas. There the inspector insisted they go with him to Chandrapura police station, said the pastor’s uncle, Manoj Ravidas.
“We received a phone call after he was taken into custody in Chandrapura,” Manoj Ravidas said. “He called us saying to pick up the documents, as they are being sent to jail the next day. After reaching the police station, we learned that police wanted to frame Binod Ravidas, former president of Lal Mithiya, in a case.”
A village official who is a staunch supporter of the RSS and the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party used the elderly Mani Ravidas to give a false statement to police that Christians were involved in forced in conversions, Manoj Ravidas told Morning Star News.
“The complainant, Mani Ravidas, is a bed-ridden old man,” he said, adding that the official obtained his thumb prints to sign an FIR against Binod Ravidas. “He brought the pastor into picture to make the case stronger under the state’s anti-conversion laws.”
Eight Christians, including the pastor, Ajay Ravidas, Lakhi Devi, Hiralal Shaw, Motilal Shaw, Robert Edward, were booked on Sept. 26 under Section 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for wounding religious feelings, and under Section 4 of Jharkhand’s “Freedom of Religion Act” (anti-conversion law). Under the law, forcible conversion can be punished with up to four years of prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$1,370).
“Pastor Ravidas’ wife and their 3-year-old are now under the protection of believers in Lal Mithiya village,” Manoj Ravidas said. “Even their own relatives can’t meet her or provide any sort of help as, the official might plot against them as well. He has a criminal history.”
Ajay Ravidas was taken into custody after he tried to report Hindu extremists chasing him on motorbikes, Manoj Ravidas said.
“He went to the police station to report against the bikers, but police arrested him instead,” Manoj Ravidas said. “He discovered in the police station that he also has been booked in the same FIR filed on Sept. 26.”
The initial judge and an additional district judge have rejected bail petitions.
“We are urging the church members to be united and strong, but they are very upset that the pastor has been in jail for more than 40 days now,” he said.
The coordinator of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Jharkhand unit, Sandeep Tigga, said it is sad that lower courts refuse to take cases booked under the anti-conversion law, so the file gets passed to appellate courts, where matters remain in litigation for so long.
“Christians avoid taking legal course of action in most cases as they fear revenge attacks from extremist groups,” Tigga added. “Most of the Christian youth are the first generation getting into education, and they don’t want court cases to be an impediment to their studies, and even if they take a courageous step to report, police advise them to settle with the help of a village council.”
ADF-India organizes sessions for pastors, youth leaders and Christians in Jharkhand to make them aware of their rights and provisions in the law, Tigga said. ADF undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom in several countries.
The group notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it is sadly ironic that Christians are persecuted in India, a country with a long tradition and legal framework of freedom of religion. Article 18 of the U.N. declaration asserts that believers have the freedom to practice their faith “in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” ADF notes in its campaign to obtain signatures supporting the Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
“Incidents of violence and hate targeting Christians have risen to a never-before level in Uttar Pradesh,”
(Morning Star News) – Attacks on Christians that began in one area of Uttar Pradesh in July have spiked and spread, instilling fear in congregations throughout the state, sources said.
After several attacks in Jaunpur District in July, by the end of October persecution of Christians had spread to 32 of Uttar Pradesh’s 75 districts, rights activist Dinanath Jaiswar told Morning Star News, with some of those districts seeing assaults earlier in the year.
“Jaunpur District has emerged as the epicenter of violence against the Christian community,” Jaiswar said. “The frequency and intensity of the incidents took us by surprise. There were days when at least two or three incidents would be reported from different parts of Uttar Pradesh, and we would struggle on how to provide help to hapless Christians.”
Many pastors went into hiding since July, though in many cases their congregations were able to keep meeting, and all of the church leaders have since returned home, sources said.
“Many a time we have had to divide our team or call more people, just so we could stand with the people who were being targeted and arbitrate with the authorities for their release,” Jaiswar said.
“There is a sense of fear in the atmosphere,” a Christian leader said. “Which church would be attacked, and when, is a constant threat in the hearts of the pastors of Uttar Pradesh.”
Persecution of Christians in Jaunpur District spread like wildfire to nearby districts, making Uttar Pradesh the state with the most violence against Christians since January, rights activists said.
“Incidents of violence and hate targeting Christians have risen to a never-before level in Uttar Pradesh,” said the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) and national director of EFI’s Religious Liberty Commission. “Whereas there were 50 incidents that were documented in the state of Uttar Pradesh last year as a whole, this year till [the end of] October we have already documented 64 incidents.”
September and October were among the worst months for aggression against Christians in the state, he said. EFI-RLC recorded 28 cases in September and 16 in October in Uttar Pradesh.
Since January, violence has broken out against Christians in districts of Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Ghazipur, Kaushambi, Allahabad, Bareilly, Meerut, Agra, Lucknow, Mahoba, Mau, Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Kannauj, Pilibhit, Ghaziabad, Muzzafarnagar, Lakhimpur, Fatehpur, Raebareli, Sitapur, Meerut, Mirzapur, Hapur, Barabanki, Siddharth Nagar, Kanpur, Khushinagar, Gautam Budh Nagar and Kannauj, along with Jaunpur.
“It is a fact that the Christians living in the most populous state of India, Uttar Pradesh, are facing heightened fear of threat to their lives for practicing their faith,” said A.C. Michael, national coordinator of minority affairs for the All India Catholic Union (AICU).
Pastors were routinely taken into police custody based on false allegations of forceful religious conversion, he said.
“In one such case, on Sept. 13, a Christian who was leading a prayer meeting was beaten up and warned of severe consequences if he continued to pray,” Michael said. “Christians in Jaunpur are in great fear of being attacked and are not even conducting prayers in their own homes.”
Police deliberately approached pastors’ homes late at night to harass them and their families, said a source who requested anonymity.
“Picking up pastors and Christian leaders after midnight, keeping them in police custody for 24 hours, is a technique to mentally harass them and to instill fear in them,” the source told Morning Star News.
Attacks on Christians in India have risen from 150-plus in 2014 to more than 250 already in 2018, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom.
“What should worry the Christian community, especially its leadership, is that out of three democratic pillars of India, both government and media are ignoring these seemingly systematic attacks on Christians,” an ADF press statement reads.
The third pillar, the judiciary, has more than 200 cases of false allegations of forcible conversion pending in various courts of India, including the Supreme Court, it adds.
The Hindu extremist targeting of churches started from the Bhulandih village, Jaunpur District, where pastor Durga Prasad Yadav leads the Jeevan Jyoti Satsang Prarthana Kendra (Light of Life Fellowship Prayer Centre).
Police also targeted Pastor Yadav, summoning and beating him in June. Between 7,000 to 8,000 people regularly attend his church services, according to reports.
On July 20, news portal jantakiawaz.org reported in Hindi that 95 percent of households in a Jaunpur village had become Christian. A subtitle read, “Christian missionaries running their campaign quietly but effectively. Conversions happening in the name of prayer…”
The portal updated the content the next day, and national Hindi newspaper Dainik Jaagran and other portals carried the same news.
On Aug. 3, an Additional Civil Judge in Pancham ordered registration of a complaint against Pastor Yadav and 270 other Christians. For Sunday services on Aug. 5, police provided protection from Hindu threats on his church at the pastor’s request.
Police on Sept. 5 registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Pastor Yadav and the 270 others based on the complaint by attorney Brijesh Singh. Christian leaders said that the police started to visit many area churches, questioning pastors, other Christians and whoever they could find on church premises.
Sources indicated that police began the harassment only after state officials became involved. Superiors at the Chandwak police station even removed a police officer, Shashi Chandra Chaudhry, from the Bhulandih village case for failing to act against Pastor Yadav and other Christians, according to local news outlets.
Meantime, news channels led by Zee TV created a furor with nearly 24-hour reporting on alleged forcible conversions in the Jaunpur area on Sept. 10-11. Christian leaders have slammed the coverage by Zee TV as inflammatory.
Between Sept. 11 and the end of the month, police arrested and detained many pastors, disrupted worship services and told people to go home and not attend anymore.
At the same time, Hindu extremists were targeting churches throughout the region, disrupting services and attacking Christians not only in Jaunpur but also other districts in Uttar Pradesh. Many pastors began to go into hiding.
Police Prohibit Services, Attendance
There are at least 10 megachurches in Jaunpur District alone, with about 25,000 people attending worship services, sources said.
“About six megachurches that were targeted by the police in Jaunpur are permanently closed since the initial attack,” rights activist Jaiswar said. “They have been asked to obtain permission from the district magistrate or High Court to resume church services.”
Pastors who had been in hiding since the attacks in September have all returned home, he said.
The largest megachurch, with 7,000 members, is that of Pastor Durga Prasad Yadav in Bhulandih village, Jaunpur, which has been shut down.
“I have not conducted church for two months now,” Pastor Yadav said. “Police are guarding our worship places morning and evening to stop any believer from coming to church. The situation here is very tense.”
Police issued an arrest warrant against Pastor Yadav, but he secured a stay order against it from the High Court on Oct. 10. He said he is desperately waiting for justice and permission for his church to resume services.
Hindu extremists on Sept. 23 attacked pastor Ashok Rajbhar, who leads a church of about 2,000 members in Nevadiya village, Jaunpur District. Though police have not registered a case against him, officers stopped worshippers from reaching church services on four consecutive Sundays, sources said.
For the next two Sundays, police arrested and locked up Pastor Rajbhar and his father to keep them from leading services, they said. His church is completely shut down.
Police on Sept. 24 arrested pastor Nanhe Lal of Jaunpur. Though they did not register a case against him, officers obtained a pledge in writing from him that he would not lead services until he obtains permission from the district magistrate or High Court.
Police secured the same pledge in writing from Pastor Ram Asre of Badlapur, Jaunpur District, threatening to arrest him if he led worship for his 1,000-member church. Pastor Ram Bachan received several threats before police booked him under various charges alleging forceful conversion. He obtained bail on Oct. 30, but his 500-member church has shut down.
Police also have registered a case against pastor Ram Kumar of Pratapgarh District on various charges. He has filed for a stay against the FIR in the Lucknow High Court, but his church has closed.
After these churches were forced to shut down, the members began meeting in small groups in their homes. Sources said police patrolled outside their homes and stopped them from meeting.
Christian leaders said that all churches in Uttar Pradesh are stricken with fear from reports every day of attacks on churches.
“The Christian community in Uttar Pradesh is under duress, and there is a sense of fear in the atmosphere,” a Christian leader from Uttar Pradesh told Morning Star News. “Which church would be attacked, and when, is a constant threat in the hearts of the pastors of Uttar Pradesh.”
ADF notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it is sadly ironic that Christians are persecuted in India, a country with a long tradition and legal framework of freedom of religion.
Article 18 of the U.N. declaration asserts that believers have the freedom to practice their faith “in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” ADF notes in its campaign to obtain signatures supporting the Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.
The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.
India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
(Voice of the Persecuted) On Wednesday, protests by the radical group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the acquittal of the blasphemy sentence against Asia Bibi has paralyzed daily life in various cities throughout the country. Major cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, among others have all been affected. Protesters have forced people to close schools, shops and businesses. They blocked roads causing massive traffic jams, even flights have been delayed as passengers are finding it difficult to reach airports. The Punjab Safe Cities Authority reported protests were being carried out at 25 different locations, effectively blocking roads with intent to shut down traffic across the city. Security is also heightened in areas populated by Christians and for churches as well.
The TLP is now calling for the murder of the Supreme Court judges, mutiny within Army against General Qamar Bajwa, an Ahmadi, and an end to Imran Khan’s government.The government sent the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Noorul Haq Qadri and Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan to Lahore for the purpose of negotiating with Khadim Rizvi to end his protest.
Pray for the courage and safety of our Pakistani brothers and sisters. For the sake of all, that peace prevails in the country.
We ask that you also pray for those who persecute us, They do not know the Lord and the amazing love He’s offering them. Pray their chains will be broken, for revelation, repentance, that they will be found in Christ to receive the gift of salvation. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, let us pray.
As we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord with our sister, let us pray for her as she adjusts to life united with her family in a new country. We also would like to recognize the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, (ACN) grateful for the support they are and have given her family throughout their suffering. Asia and her family are members of the Catholic church.
Quote from the video below: “We have a great God and He answers prayers.”
(Voice of the Persecuted) According to a supplementary cause list issued by the Pakistani Supreme Court on Monday, the verdict on Bibi’s final legal appeal against execution will be announced at 9 a.m on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. The appeal challenged the Lahore High Court’s October 2014 verdict of upholding a trial court’s November 2010 decision of sentencing Bibi to death for committing blasphemy.
Generally the Supreme Court announces decisions the same day. After hearing hours of testimony on Oct. 8th, the Court deferred the ruling in Bibi’s appeal case to an undisclosed later date. The court also restrained both electronic and print media from discussing or commenting on the matter untli the final judgement. Many believe these actions were taken for security purposes.
The 51-year-old Christian firmly denies the alleged charges against her.
If the Supreme Court upholds her conviction, her only recourse will be a direct appeal to the president for clemency. If that fails, she could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy.
If she’s acquitted, a high level of security will be necessary. There’s no doubt that her life will be in jeopardy. There are other risks of mob rioting and violence. Christians are generally apprehensive that they may become victims of a backlash.
Please pray for Asia’s release, peace in Pakistan and for our brothers and sisters living in the country.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslims attacked a market in Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria, on Thursday (Oct. 18), killing dozens of Christians and burning a church building, sources said.
Area residents said a Muslim at the market in Kasuwan Magani, 36 kilometers (22 miles) south of the city of Kaduna, began yelling “Thief!” in the late afternoon in a move calculated to cause pandemonium ahead of an attack on Christians and their homes and businesses.
“A Muslim raised a false alarm about a thief in the market, which caused stampede, and then other Muslims started chanting ‘Allahu Akbar [the jihadist slogan, God is Greater],’ attacking Christians, burning houses and shops belonging to Christians in the town,” area resident Kefas Mallam told Morning Star News.
The Rev. James Moore of the town’s Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), told Morning Star News that the assailants burned down one church building belonging to the Cherubim and Seraphim movement.
“There was an alert of a thief in the market,” he said. “When people heard ‘Thief! Thief!’ they were confused and started running. Unknown to the people, it was a strategy by the Muslim youth to attack the people. They went into killings, looting and burning.”
Moore, who is the area district secretary of the ECWA, said it was difficult to give a definitive casualty figure as the town was in complete lockdown following imposition of a 24-hour curfew the night of the attack. Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-Rufai visited the site in the Kajuru Local Government Area on Friday (Oct. 19) and said 55 people had been killed.
“According to what the police have briefed me so far, 55 corpses have been recovered; some burned beyond recognition,” he said.
Local press reported the violence began as an attack by young men attacking the market that escalated into a clash between “two youth groups of different religion.”
Gov. El-Rufai told reporters that the state government had imposed a curfew in the area and security agencies were restoring calm.
“It cannot continue, we are going to deal decisively with anyone involved in this,” he said. “This country belongs to all of us; this state belongs to all of us. No one is going to chase anyone away. So, you must learn to live with everyone in peace and justice.”
He added that the violence was “totally unacceptable,” and that anyone connected with or even observing the violence would be detained.
“I have charged the security agencies and the authorities here, local and traditional, to ensure that everyone connected with this, whether as a participant, instigator, or even watching while it is going on, is apprehended and prosecuted,” he said.
Area Muslims also attacked Christians on Feb. 26. Luke Waziri, a Christian community leader in Kasuwan Magani, told Morning Star News by phone that during the February attack, 12 Christians were killed.
“And 67 other Christians arrested after that incident are currently facing trial in a court in the city of Kaduna,” he added, lamenting that they were detained without cause by police under the direct control of a Muslim inspector general of police and a Muslim police commissioner.
“The sad thing is that the police are aware that Muslims in Kasuwan Magani have accumulated weapons with the intent to continually attack us, but they are unable to arrest these Muslims,” Waziri said.
Waziri, who is the national secretary of the Adara Development Association (ADA), a predominantly Christian ethnic group in Kaduna state, expressed sadness that while Christians had yet to overcome the trauma of the February attack, Muslims launched an assault on them again on Thursday (Oct. 18).
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.