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Breaking: Pastor Andrew Brunson Moved From Turkish Prison To House Arrest

(Voice of the Persecuted) Due to health condition, the Turkish court has ruled to allow American pastor, Andrew Brunson to be moved from jail to house arrest. The court ordered that Brunson is banned from leaving Turkey as he waits out his trial to continue at his home in Izmir. In custody since 2016, Brunson was arrested for terror and espionage charges, which he strongly denies. Andrew faces up to 35 years in prison for “committing crimes on behalf of terror groups without being a member and for espionage. All who know this gentle pastor call the trial a sham and the charges outlandish.

We can imagine the joy his family is feeling at this moment as they wait at the prison for his release. Let us lift up the Lord and give him praise for all He is doing in this case and Andrew’s life. May God heal him and give our brother strength. In Jesus holy name, all glory to God.

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Egypt: Copts celebrate first mass in new church, seven years since last church’s closure

(World Watch Monitor) Seven years after their previous church was closed by local authorities because of “security reasons”, the Coptic community in the Egyptian village of Kom El-Loufy, 250km south of Cairo, held a first mass in their new church yesterday, 22 July.

The 1,600 Copts from the village in Minya governorate were marking the completion of the first stage of building of their church, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Abanoub Al Nahisi, with a mass led by Fr. Feltaws Ibrahim, as the Coptic villagers sat on the floor.

The priest of the Saint Abu Sefein Coptic Orthodox Church, in the nearby village of Ezzbet Rafla, had hosted the Copts in his church while they were without a building.

Since the closure of their previous church, the Copts had experienced fierce opposition from their Muslim neighbours. Two years ago angry Muslims set fire to four Coptic homes in the village, suspecting a house would be turned into a church.

It wasn’t until the very end of 2017 when the Copts finally withdrew their complaint against the arson in exchange for permission to build a new church.

With the charges dropped, in January the community started the building process on a piece of land 700 metres outside the village.

Contentious

As World Watch Monitor has reported, Copts in several other villages have faced similar troubles.

In recent years it has been almost impossible for Coptic Christians to obtain a license to build a church, though in theory this changed in August 2016 when the Egyptian parliament passed a new law on the construction of Christian buildings of worship.

However, by March this year there were still more than 3,500 pending applications from churches that needed to be examined by a government commission set up to verify whether they met legal requirements.

The building of new churches remains a contentious issue, with a number of churches that have applied for licenses being attacked by Muslim extremists.

Earlier this month World Watch Monitor reported how a mob recently attacked a church in another Minya village in protest against the church having received approval. Police failed to intervene, while one of the officers apparently promised the protesters that no church would be allowed in the village.

International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria

VOP Note: For the past 5 years, Nigerian Christian leaders and rights activists have been trying warn the world that a genocide was taking place against the Christians in the North. The barbaric acts of jihadist groups, Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen, still continue unabated as more than 6000 Christians have been killed since the start of 2018. Where is the international concern and outcry? (Raymond Ibrahim) —In what the Christian Association of Nigeria is calling a “pure genocide,” 238 more Christians were killed and churches desecrated by Muslims last week in the west African nation. According to a joint statement by the Christian Association, an umbrella group of various Christian denominations, “There is no doubt that the sole purpose of these attacks is aimed at ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and forceful ejection of the Christian natives from their ancestral land and heritage.”

The statement condemned the recent attacks, “where over 200 persons were brutally killed and our churches destroyed without any intervention from security agencies in spite of several distress calls made to them.”

The statement adds that the majority of those 6,000 Christians massacred this year were “mostly children, women and the aged…  What is happening in … Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

The details of the murder of these thousands, though seldom reported, are often grisly: many were either hacked to death or beheaded with machetes; others were burned alive (including inside locked churches or homes); and women are often sexually assaulted or even raped before being slaughtered.

For long, both the Nigerian government and the U.S. government have sought to present this protracted jihad as territorial clashes between the haves (apparently always Christians) and haves-not (apparently always Muslims).

For instance, in 2012, Bill Clinton said that “inequality” and “poverty” are “what’s fueling all this stuff” (the “stuff” being a reference to the ongoing Muslim slaughter of Christians in Nigeria).  Following the 2012 Easter Day bombing of a Nigerian church that left 39 worshippers dead, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, said, “I want to take this opportunity to stress one key point and that is that religion is not driving extremist violence” in Nigeria.  Similarly, the Obama administration reportedly agreed to spend $600 million in a USAID initiative launched to ascertain the “true causes” of unrest and violence in Nigeria—which naturally lay in the socio-economic, never the religious, realm.

In its recent statement, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria denied these claims. After saying that those responsible for slaughtering Christians are always allowed to “go scot free” by the Nigerian government—which further portrays the attacks as “farmers/herdsmen clashes”—it inquired:

“How can it be a clash when one group [Muslims] is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, [and] destroying, and the other group [Christians] is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?”

On May 2, the National Christian Elders Forum — a wing of the Christian Association, the members of which average the age of 75 and come from Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones — met with the British High Commission in an effort to receive support. (Days before the meeting, around 30 Muslim herdsmen had stormed a church during early morning Mass and murdered nearly 20 parishioners and two clergymen.) The group’s executive summary of issues included:

It is clear to the Christian Elders that JIHAD has been launched in Nigeria by the Islamists of northern Nigeria led by the Fulani ethnic group [the “herdsmen”]. This Jihad is based on the Doctrine of Hate taught in Mosques and Islamic Madrasas in northern Nigeria as well as the supremacist ideology of the Fulani. Using both conventional (violent) Jihad, and stealth (civilization) Jihad, the Islamists of northern Nigeria seem determined to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Sultanate and replace Liberal Democracy with Sharia as the National Ideology. The object of course, is to supplant the Constitution with Sharia as the source of legislation. The current 1999 Constitution is plagued with dual conflicting ideology of Democracy and Sharia. There are certain values which are non-negotiable in a pluralistic society and it seems the advocates of the Caliphate do not respect this. A dual-ideology-driven Nigeria cannot be the Nigeria of our dream. We want a Nigeria, where citizens are treated equally before the law at all levels…. Bearing in mind that Christians constitute over 50% of the Nigerian population, the goal of the Islamists is bound to create serious conflicts which if not checked is capable of escalating into another civil war. Already, the Islamists are murdering Christians with impunity and destroying vulnerable Christian places of worship and communities at an alarming and inhuman rate.

That 6,000 Christians, “mostly children, women and the aged,” have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.

It took three times as long (a year-and-a-half, between December 2013 to July 2015), for example, for the same Muslim herdsmen to slaughter a total of 1,484 Christians (532 men, 507 women, and 445 children), critically wound 2,388 Christians (1,069 men, 817 women, and 502 children), and burn or destroy 171 churches.

The Nigerian government and the international community, however, have from the start done little to address the situation. This lack of participation is not surprising: they cannot even acknowledge its roots, namely, the intolerant ideology of jihad. As a result, the death toll of Christians has only risen — and will likely continue to grow exponentially — until such time that this reality is not only acknowledged but addressed. Cross posted on Gatestone Institute

Calls for action

Sent to Voice of the Persecuted by one of our contacts,

“I am very far from Nigeria but the sad and bad news from Plateau State are not far from me. I hear that herdsmen are on the prowl again and there is bloodshed, murder of infants, youths, men and women in huge numbers in our beloved land of “peace and tourism”. The flagrant and despicable taking of human lives and the continued destruction to homes and means of livelihood is a disgrace to humanity and a shameful projection of a negative image of Nigerians.

The  gruesome murders have robbed me of the enthusiasm, energy and pride with which I came to Canada and America. I came boasting to the various audiences I had – whether in Church prayer gatherings or discussion groups, at media interviews or during interactions with officials of Foreign Affairs  Ministry, about the huge potentials in Nigeria and how even in the midst of violence caused either by Boko Haram, militant herdsmen or the yet to be identified “foreign invaders”, peace is very possible as we are determined to sustain the culture of civilized conduct and peace. I declared emphatically that I am proud of being a Nigerian and cannot apologize for that conviction. I have talked to hundreds of people in Canada and the United States of America, assuring them that Nigerians are a hard working, religious, resilient and peaceful people. I told my friends who have been postponing their visit to Nigeria for ten years now due to security issues not to be afraid. I told them to “come and see”. Last year, I hosted visitors from 12 countries from South America, Asia and Europe and they all returned home safely after visiting Jos and even  Maiduguri.  I therefore renewed my invitation to my friends to come to Jos and they will experience that the people are a kind-hearted, loving and peaceful people and not what they read in exaggerated media reports.

While I am still here making frantic positive propaganda for my country Nigeria,  inhuman and diabolical killings have taken place in parts of Plateau State. What do I tell the friends I have convinced to come, the youths I interacted with telling them how beautiful Nigeria is? What of the messages of hope  about Nigeria that I gave  in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, New York, Portsmouth, Milwaukee, etc, telling everyone about the goodness of my beloved country? Was I lying? Why should I be confronted with such embarrassing news while I am still on “active duty” here as an unrecognized and unappreciated ambassador for Nigeria – a duty I have performed selflessly in many parts of the world for over two decades now. Wherever I find myself I have tried to promote the positive image of our dear country, of course, not neglecting it’s dark sides.

While I am out here, people are still asking me questions about the Chibok girls, the Dapchi girls, especially of Leah. They ask me what they hear about the murderous terrorists called herdsmen who kill priests and lay faithful at worship or defenseless people on the farms. They join me in worrying that these murderous agents don’t seem to have in sight the end of their massive destruction to lives and property.

In the course of my journey I have also met with government officials and tried to put up strong arguments about why there is violence and destruction in our land, blaming  corruption, poverty and bad governance and begging them (officials abroad) to genuinely intervene to speed our socio-economic progress. Now, with this indescribable wickedness of killers in Plateau State and other parts of the Middle Belt where the poison of extreme violence is emitted intermittently from the wells of their evil hearts, meant to cause monumental loss to lives and property, is there still justification in telling the “good news” about Nigeria?

I have shared the story of multidimensional peace efforts in Nigeria, using our Dialogue Reconciliation and Peace (DREP) Centre in Jos as an example. DREP is an initiative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Jos meant to offer a neutral place where reconciliation of aggrieved parties takes place and also the Interfaith Vocational Training Centre in Bokkos near Barkin Ladi, where Muslim youths and Christian youths are trained for two years in vocational skills and helped to appreciate the civilized culture of dialogue instead of hostile confrontation at the slightest feeling of provocation. I explained how shortly before I left Nigeria we were at meetings in DREP Centre in Jos with the Fulani and Irigwe ethnic groups to strategize on how to evert further killings. We even agreed to hold an interfaith prayer session in August.

Today, when I heard that the killings have resumed, I called His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong and my Vicar General Msgr. Cletus Gotan, who both kindly explained the pathetic situation to me,  and all of them felt so flabbergasted at the turn of events by the gruesome murders.
Could our President come out clearly, categorically and courageously to explain to his kinsmen why dialogue is the best solution. Cattle, as important as they are, cannot be valued over human beings. That does not mean that cows should be wounded, stolen or killed. I believe not enough has been done to challenge the herdsmen killings. Is it because of the so-called “hidden agenda” or  simply the absence of courage, determination,  patriotism  and political will? The Igbos who merely attempted secession were brutalized and suppressed. Who will suppress these raging evil killers? Quod erat demonstrandum.” —Bishop Ignatius Kaigama

“World watches in awe as 12 boys are being rescued from imminent death by floods in Thailand while Nigeria watches as hundreds die avoidably for cows.” —Nigerian human rights lawyer, Emmanuel Ogebe

Nigeria’s bishops call again on president to save country from ‘avoidable chaos’ or resign

“It can no longer be regarded as mere coincidence that the suspected perpetrators of these heinous crimes are of the same religion as all those who control the security apparatus of our country, including the President himself,” the statement said. “Words are no longer enough for the President and his service chiefs to convince the rest of the citizens that these killings are not part of a larger religious project.”

“While we vehemently condemn any shedding of human blood and ask the Police to speedily arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, we must point out the double standards applied by the same Police any time the herdsmen are attacked and killed. In this latter case they react very swiftly and the law promptly takes its course. Would that the same swiftness be applied to all cases.

“Once again,” the bishops said, “we ask President Muhammadu Buhari to please save this country from further pain and avoidable chaos, anarchy and doom.” Should he not take action to promote peace, he should step down from his role, the statement said, as he would lose “the trust of the citizens.”  Read more

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. 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. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDHis 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!

North Koreans ‘betrayed’ by human rights omission in Trump-Kim agreement

(World Watch Monitor) North Koreans were “betrayed” by the failure of US President Donald Trump to include human rights provisions in his agreement with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, following their historic meeting in Singapore, according to Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director, Phil Robertson.

“The North Korean people have suffered for so long,” he told the BBC World Service, “and it looks like they’ll have to suffer for a little longer.”

But after the meeting Trump said the many North Koreans currently being held in forced-labour camps were “one of the great winners today”.

Responding to a question from ABC News’s Jon Karl about whether North Korea’s oppression of its people was worse than any other regime on earth, Trump said: “It’s a rough situation over there; there’s no question about it, and we did discuss it today pretty strongly.

“I mean, knowing what the main purpose of what we were doing is – de-nuking – but we did discuss it in pretty good length.

“We’ll be doing something on it. It’s rough; it’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there, but it’s rough and we will continue that, and I think ultimately we will agree to something, but it was discussed at length. Outside of the nuclear situation, [it was] one of the primary topics.”

‘Very deep resentment’

John Choi*, a Christian human rights advocate who escaped from North Korea and now lives in the UK, was more optimistic.

“Hopefully denuclearisation will lead to more money available to feed the everyday citizens of North Korea and provide them with a better life. President Trump said that the human rights issues are a continuing process. I am glad it is now on the agenda. But Kim Jong-un has to be committed to it too. Kim Jong-un has not yet referred to the prison camps or religious freedom. This is an ongoing process and I will continue to advocate and pray for it,” he told the Christian religious freedom charity Open Doors International.

But Yong Sook, whose husband died in a North Korean prison and who now lives in South Korea, told Open Doors she watched the meeting between the US president and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un “with very deep resentment”.

“How many innocent people have died because of the development of the nuclear weapons they are talking about now?” she said. “So far, none of the leaders of North Korea have really taken care of their people. They let them starve to death. Why? Because they don’t want to give up those nuclear weapons. They need them to survive and survival is Kim Jong-un’s desire. Now he wants to give up those weapons? Maybe, but again, he will only give them up if his survival is guaranteed.

“Kim Jong-un should confess what he and his regime have done. He should open the doors of the political camps and kneel down to apologise to those who have suffered due to its regime. The lives of North Korean citizens are just as important as Kim Jong-un’s life.”

Christian roots

Historically, North Korea has a rich Christian heritage, but after Japan’s formal rule from 1910-1945, followed by the Korean War (1950-53), any form of public Christian worship has been banned, and surviving Christians have had to take their beliefs “underground”.

Today North Korea is atheistic and totalitarian, and since 2002 it has been the most dangerous place to be a Christian, according to Open Doors.

If you “merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern-day North Korea”, Tim Urban wrote in the Huffington Post after visiting the country in 2017.

“It’s a dictatorship of the most extreme kind, a cult of personality beyond anything Stalin or Mao could have imagined; a country as closed off to the world and as secretive as they come, keeping both the outside world and its own people completely in the dark about one another — a true hermit kingdom.”

‘70,000 Christians detained’

There are approximately 300,000 Christians in the country, with almost a quarter of them (70,000) being held in prisons and labour camps, where they face “unimaginable torture, inhumane and degrading treatment purely because of their faith”, according to Zoe Smith, Head of Advocacy at Open Doors UK & Ireland.

Leading up to the summit, North Korea released three American citizens who had been put in labour camps for “anti-state activities”. One of the detainees, Kim Hak Song, recently said his captors had told him he was imprisoned because of his “hostile act” of prayer.

“The systematic persecution of Christians is just one of many heinous human rights violations perpetrated by the North Korean regime,” Smith said. “If true change is to come to that country – and we hope it will – any further negotiations must confront the desperate human rights situation.”

Meanwhile North Korea appears to be upgrading its longstanding neighbourhood-watch system, or ‘inminban’, whereby every North Korean is called upon to report on any criminal activity or political disobedience that they see. According to the South Korea-based news service Daily NKinminban leaders now receive special rations in return, while in some places, like the capital Pyongyang, they have the authority to expel families who have engaged in illegal activities.

According to the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017, there were more than 1,300 religious-freedom violations in North Korea last year, while it is estimated that its camps hold more than 120,000 political prisoners.

In December three jurists called on the International Criminal Court to establish a special tribunal to prosecute North Korea’s leader and his top officials for committing “crimes against humanity”.

(*) Name changed for security reasons

Prayercast Ramadan Challenge: Day 27 – Islamic State (IS)

“This war is from Satan against you, Lord. Against humanity, created in your image.”

SUMMARY—Up to 1.2 million people were displaced by the violence in Iraq in 2014 alone. Millions more live in fear. Massacres, beheadings, crucifixions, abductions, and sexual violence are rampant. Islamic State has attempted to eliminate entire Christian communities. As many as eight million people are believed to now live under the partial, or complete, control of IS.

This modern day nightmare has not only darkened the landscape of Iraq and Syria, but the whole world, with over 11,000 people from abroad joining the ranks of the 30-50,000 Islamic State militants. Teaching an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, they believe they are the only true believers and see the rest of the world as their enemy. Using violence to get what they want, their goal is the creation of an Islamic caliphate ruled by a single political and religious leader, ruling Muslim communities around the world.

Despite these gruesome realities, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). This is a spiritual battle against our adversary, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).

We hate the darkness and underlying evil, and we grieve the resulting bloodshed and pain. Yet Jesus still says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). God’s love reaches not only those suffering under this oppression, but it reaches even into the ranks of Islamic State. Just as God transformed Saul into Paul through an encounter with Jesus, so can He transform today’s persecutors into tomorrow’s evangelists. And He is doing just that.

As we continue on the nightly prayer conference call during Ramadan, using the Prayercast Ramadan Challenge prayer points, let us unite in prayer that the church will grow where the enemy tries to destroy those who follow Christ. Let us pray that they will come out of the darkness to follow Jesus. Pray the Light of Christ will shine in places where there is hatred from those who don’t know our Lord and Savior.

Pray for those who persecute you from Voice of the Persecuted on Vimeo.

Our prayers do have an impact on the things of eternity and the souls of men and women to find truth in him who is the Living Word. Please join us on the prayer conference call to lift prayers up together. As ever, I remain your brother and prayer partner in our Lord Jesus. Meet you on the call!

Blaine Scogin, Prayer Director of Persecution Watch and Voice of the Persecuted

VOP Note: If you are unable to participate on the call, or cannot join us on a particular evening, you can still use the prayer points and pray in your personal prayer closet. The only thing I would urge you is, please do it.  Whether you pray privately, in a group, or on our call, please pray for a great harvest of souls during this time of Ramadan.

Nightly Call scheduled through Ramadan 

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Australia                                              +61 (0) 3 8672 0185

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Turkey Turns On Its Christians

The ultra-nationalist Islamist group Alperen Hearths staged a forced conversion of Santa Claus to Islam, putting a gun to the head of an actor dressed as Santa Claus. This photograph was then posted on Twitter.

(Middle East Forum) While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Reconciliation Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) depict them as a grave threat to the stability of the nation. With Erdoğan’s jihadist rhetoric often stereotyping Christian Turkish citizens as not real Turks but rather as Western stooges and collaborators, many Turks seem to be tilting toward an “eliminationist anti-Christian mentality,” to use historian Daniel Goldhagen’s term. Small wonder that the recent launch of an official online genealogy service allowing Turks to trace their ancestry has kindled a tidal xenophobic wave on the social media welcoming the fresh possibility to expose “Crypto-Armenians, Greeks, and Jews” mascarading as true Turks. [1]

“The Mosques Are Our Barracks”

Persecution of Turkey’s Christian minority has long predated Erdoğan and the AKP. As it stood on the verge of extinction, the Ottoman Empire engaged in mass deportations and massacres that culminated in the Armenian genocide. The end of World War I saw the expulsion of more than a million Greeks,[2] and the position of the dwindling Christian community only somewhat improved in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secularist republic. Yet while Kemalist Turkey paid lip service to the equality of its non-Muslim minorities, the AKP unabashedly excludes these groups from Turkey’s increasingly Islamist national ethos.[3]

An ominous indication of what lay in store for the religious minorities was afforded as early as December 1998 when Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul and an opposition politician, announced that the “mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers,” quoting a line from a poem by the nineteenth-century nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp underscoring the Islamist foundation of Turkish identity. And while this recitation landed Erdoğan in prison for inciting religion-based hatred,[4] once at the helm, he steadily realized this vision, systematically undoing Atatürk’s secularist legacy and Islamizing Turkey’s public space through such means as the government-operated Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which pays the salaries of the country’s 110,000 imams and controls the content of their Friday sermons.

Things came to a head during the July 15, 2016 abortive coup when the regime ordered the imams to go to their mosques and urge the faithful to take to the streets to quash the attempted revolt.[5] Not surprisingly, this Islamist-nationalist reassertion was accompanied by numerous Christophobic manifestations (in Ayyan Hirsi Ali’s words),[6] notably attacks on churches throughout the country.[7] In Malatya, for example, a gang chanting “Allahu Akbar” broke the glass panels of the front door of a Protestant church while, in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, rioters smashed the windows of the Santa Maria Catholic church. Witnesses said the attackers used hammers to break down the door of the church before Muslim neighbors drove them away.[8] As Istanbul pastor Yüce Kabakçı lamented:

The reality is that Turkey is neither a democracy nor a secular republic. There is no division between government affairs and religious affairs. There’s no doubt that the government uses the mosques to get its message across to its grassroots supporters. There is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation. Even the educated classes here don’t associate personally with Jews or Christians. It’s more than suspicion. It’s a case of let’s get rid of anyone who isn’t Sunni.[9]

Anti-Christmas Campaigns… [Full Story]

Please pray for Christians in Turkey and for our brother, Andrew Brunson, an American imprisoned for his faith and awaiting the next session of his trial on July 18th.

Pakistani Christian youth being arrested without cause

Voice of the Persecuted Asian correspondent – Since March 2018, the Christian area of Youhanabad in Karachi city, Pakistan has been raided 3 times by secret agencies who arrested 24 young Christian males. The first raid was conducted on March 30 in which four people were arrested,  followed by another raid on April 15th with six people arrested. 14 more were taken into custody during the latest raid on May 8th. Each time, the raids were conducted between 2 – 5am when people are sleeping in the comfort of their homes.

Most of those arrested were educated males as young as 15 years old. Christians in the area shared horrific accounts where secret agents forcefully entered their homes by climbing over the walls or cutting through the locks. The agents verbally abused the women, while the young men were lined up in the street to be identified by a local named ‘Shiraz’. Apparently Shiraz had an inclination towards criminal activities and was arrested for those activities prior to the the raids. Some claim Shiraz had been asked to identify and falsely accuse the young Christian men with possession of arms and robberies.

Khurram Shahzad, a dental technician, was arrested on May 8. His wife told the press that when her husband tried to ask the grounds of his arrest, they beat and dragged him out. Witnesses claim a police mini truck with no license plate on the vehicle was used in the raid.

Akash Younus, a 15 yr. old Christian boy, was arrested on April 15, but it’s suspicious that the FIR (first incident report) was registered on April 20th. He said he had been taken to a secret location and subjected to brutal torture during his detention. He claimed that he was beaten with clubs and electrocuted as they tried to force him to admit to false charges of burglary and the possession of illegal weapons. 3 days later, he was released on bail.

Imran Robin, also a 15 yr. old, was arrested along with his elder brother, Kashif Imran, who is a 10th grade student going through board exams when he was arrested. It is believed all those arrested were likely being forced to admit to the false charges.

UCA News reported that Christian residents of Youhanabad held a protest outside St. John’s Church in Karachi against police raids on May 15. A lawyer has been hired and a report filed to contest the police claims.

Fearing more raids, parents of the Youhanabad Christian community stopped sending their children to school, or moved their youth elsewhere to protect them.

There are approximately 70,000 missing people in Pakistan, according to Defence for Human Rights Pakistan. ‘There are no formal applications against the missing persons thus forcefully disappeared.’ Source Wikipedia.

Please continue to pray for Pakistani Christians as the state continues to use gruesome tactics to subdue the community.

Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) is on the ground in Thailand offering relief for Pakistani asylum seeker families. We’ve also initiated support for brothers and sisters suffering inside the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). We intend to send in more food, hygiene products and the much-needed sundry items not offered to them by the detention centre. Donations, whether large or small, aid in our ability to carry out this mission which is highly appreciated by our persecuted family. Go with us to Thailand sharing your blessings with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

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Brunson’s trial highlights Turkey’s ‘hostage diplomacy’ tactic

A photo of the Rev. Andrew Brunson during his time in prison. Photo courtesy of World Witness

(World Watch Monitor) On the eve of jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson’s second court hearing in Turkey, growing international comment has focused on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s transparent “hostage diplomacy” tactic, one of several issues seriously souring his nation’s relations with the United States.

The upcoming 7 May hearing near Turkey’s third-largest city of Izmir marks Brunson’s 19th month in custody. According to statistics released last week by the Turkish Justice Ministry, the Protestant pastor is one of 35,000 suspects under arrest and awaiting trial in Turkey on suspicion of supporting the accused perpetrators of a failed coup attempt against the Turkish government nearly two years ago, on 15 July 2016.

After 23 years in open church ministry in Turkey, Brunson was detained during Ankara’s widespread crackdown against the government-labelled Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETO), led by a self-exiled Turkish cleric living in the US for the past two decades and accused of launching the deadly coup attempt.

Erdoğan has insisted repeatedly that Gülen be extradited back to Turkey, declaring 14 boxes of documents had been sent to the US Justice Department to prove Gülen’s guilt. The US has cited a lack of sufficient judicial evidence to authorise US courts to expedite the aged imam’s forced return to Turkey.

Last September, Erdoğan publicly proposed Brunson as a political bargaining chip, suggesting that if the US would send Gülen back to Turkey, the American pastor could be sent back to the US. The offer came four months after US President Donald Trump had surprised the Turkish President during his state visit to Washington, asking him in person to release Brunson. Most recently, after the first trial hearing against the pastor, Trump declared in an April 18 tweet that Brunson was “on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason”.

Reporting from Washington, Hurriyet Daily News columnist Cansu Çamlibel said on 28 April: “There has been no single conversation between Trump and Erdoğan where the US President did not [say] Brunson’s name.”

Only seven weeks ago, the pastor and his Turkish lawyer finally learned the specific allegations on which his charges of alleged espionage and terrorism are based, most of them from “secret witnesses”. The prosecution has demanded 35 years in prison if Brunson is convicted of these charges, all of which he denied in his six-hour defence before Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on 16 April.

More than 50 members of the European Parliament wrote to President Erdoğan today (4 May), protesting Turkey’s treatment of the Protestant pastor “as a bargaining chip”. Expressing “deep concern about the wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson,” the letter reiterated the Parliament’s resolution on 7 February, urging Turkey to respect its European and international commitments on the prohibition of arbitrary detention by releasing Brunson.

The letter also protested the indictment’s association of “Christianization” with terrorism, implying the Christian faith to be endangering Turkey’s unity. The signatories included Lars Adaktusson and Peter van Dalen, the vice-chair and co-chair, respectively, of the European Intergroup on Freedom of Religion.

Just last week, the US Congress passed legislation introducing “hostage-taking accountability” against Iran, notorious for its long-time habit of using this ploy against the citizens of Western nations as a tool of its foreign policy.

The new US laws enacted on 25 April mandate sanctions against Iranian officials responsible for “wrongful, politically motivated jailing of US citizens”. Condemning the practice of prolonged, politically motivated detentions as “a crime against humanity and a violation of customary international law”, the statutes go more strategically beyond blanket sanctions, which penalise all the Iranian people; instead, they target specifically the Iranian officials involved in hostage-taking.

Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, himself held as a political hostage for 18 months in Tehran by the Iranian government during the high-level negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal, applauded what he called “a long-overdue move” to curb “this particular bad habit” of hostage-taking.

“[Iranian officials] have … learned to ignore the personal nature of this crime in large part because none of them have ever been held accountable for it. Hostage-taking destroys lives, tears apart families and leaves lasting trauma in its wake. Are there human-rights abuses that are worse than this?” Rezaian asked. “Undoubtedly. But this is practice that flouts every international convention on human rights and must be ended. It is a tool of terrorists and pirates, not sovereign states.”

After the first hearing in Brunson’s trial, two-thirds of the US Senate members declared in a letter to President Erdoğan: “That a Turkish court could accept such a document as the basis for prosecution removes any shred of doubt that Andrew Brunson … is being used as a political pawn by elements of the Turkish government bent on destroying the longstanding partnership between two great nations.”

VOP note: We are preparing for the 24 hour Prayer Conference Call for Andrew Brunson, which begins tonight at 9 p.m. (EST). We invite you to come on the call as we pray, united, for the Lord to intervene on behalf of Andrew and the persecuted church, globally. Click here for call information.

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