Iranian Intelligence agents stormed a 100-year-old church, which is a National Heritage site, and tore down the cross from the tower.
(Article 18) The Assyrian Christian community in the northwestern city of Tabriz has been left it a state of shock, after the Presbyterian church was forcibly closed earlier this month.
Intelligence agents stormed the 100-year-old church, which is a National Heritage site, on Thursday, 9 May, changed all the locks, tore down the cross from the church tower, and ordered the church warden to leave.
“They made it clear that the Assyrian people are no longer allowed to hold any worship service there,” explained a trusted source to Article18.
The source said church members had been fearful since just a few days after Christmas, when pastors from other churches were prevented from visiting the Tabriz church for a joint worship service with other Assyrian and Armenian Christians.
Then on 9 May “a large number” of agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and EIKO, an organisation under the direct control of the Supreme Leader, “entered our church compound and changed all the locks on the doors, removed the cross from the church’s high tower, installed some monitoring instruments and started to threaten and force our custodian to leave his place inside the compound immediately”.
The church, belonging to The Assyrian Presbytery, was “confiscated” by Revolutionary Court order in 2011, but church members had been able to continue using the building for services in the Assyrian language – until now.
“Many churches owned by Protestants have been confiscated in Iran,” explains Article18’s Advocacy Director, Mansour Borji, “In most cases the government has been unable to repurpose them, especially if they were listed. So they typically remain as empty buildings, often neglected, and turn into ruins before being demolished, as was the case with the church in Kerman.”
Christians from Iran’s historic Assyrian and Armenian communities are a recognised minority, who are usually able to freely practise their faith, providing they don’t open their doors to Muslim-born Iranians by holding services in Persian.
“Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels,’” the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.
According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being “the most persecuted religious group”; “religion ‘is at risk of disappearing’ in some parts of the world”; and “In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.”
British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been “asleep”—his word—concerning this growing epidemic: “I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers. That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic.”
Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is, many of the world’s most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries. For example, those most faced with the threat of genocide—including Syria’s and Iraq’s Assyrians and Egypt’s Copts—were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe’s colonizers became Christian, let alone went missionizing.
The BBC report highlights “political correctness” as being especially responsible for the West’s indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard: “What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet.”
Although the BBC report has an entire heading titled and devoted to the impact of “political correctness,” ironically, it too succumbs to this contemporary Western malady. For while it did a fair job in highlighting the problem, it said nothing about its causes—not one word about who is persecuting Christians, or why.
For instance, it is well established that the overwhelming majority of Christian persecution occurs in Muslim majority nations. According to Open Doors’ World Watch List 2019, which surveys the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, “Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians.” In seven of the absolute worst ten nations, “Islamic oppression” is the cause of persecution. “This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly following Jesus can have painful consequences,” including death.
Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia (which academics such as Georgetown University’s John Esposito insist is equitable and just). In Afghanistan (ranked #2), “Christianity is not permitted to exist,” says the WWL 2019, because it “is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward” Christians. Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), “The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country’s constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence.” In Iran (#9), “society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted.”
Equally telling is that 38 of the 50 nations making the WWL 2019 are Muslim majority.
Perhaps the BBC succumbed to silence concerning the sources of Christian persecution—that is, succumbed to “the atmosphere of political correctness” which it ironically highlighted—because it did not rely on the WWL in its own report. The problem with this interpretation is that the study the BBC did rely on, the Bishop of Truro’s, is saturated with talk concerning the sources of Christian persecution. In this regard, the words “Islam” and “Islamist” appear 61 times; “Muslim” appears 56 times in this comprehensive review on persecuted Christians.
Here are a few of the more significant quotes from the Bishop of Truro’s report:
- “The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity—the Middle East & North Africa.”
- “In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage.”
- “The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of ‘the sword’ or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of [Islamic] extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines.”
- “[T]here is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia.”
- “The single-greatest threat to Christians [in Nigeria] … came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed… Those worst affected included Christian women and girls ‘abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.’”
- “An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence [in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines] was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church’s structure and leadership.”
- “Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region.”
The BBC should be commended for (finally) reporting on this urgent issue—even if it is three years behind the times. As the Truro report correctly observes, “In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi’a Muslims met the tests of genocide.”
(Morning Star News) – Village leaders in eastern India prohibited five Christian families from working on their farms or walking on the main road before district authorities this month revoked the order, sources said.
Leaders of Banhardi village, in Jharkhand state’s Latehar District, told the five families in April to either convert back to their ancestral Sarna religion or face punishment, Christian leaders said. When the Christians refused to renounce their faith, the village on April 10 issued a decree instructing that their farmland be confiscated and prohibiting them from interacting with anyone, fetching water and buying or selling, they said.
Before district officials arrived on May 13 and annulled the April 10 decree, the Christians had to go outside the village to look for food and other items to meet daily needs and were on the verge of starvation, said Motilal Oraon, one of the persecuted Christians.
“We had to carry drinking water from some other village to our homes,” Oraon told Morning Star News. “They did not allow us to enter our own farmland or work in it. We went searching for work in somebody else’s farmland in a distant village, as we could not find work in our own village. Our families were starving.”
After District Collector Rajiv Kumar intervened and annulled the order, the villagers agreed to let the Christians receive government rations and water, but they said they will continue to refuse to associate with all who have converted to Christianity, area pastors said. The villagers also said that they will forbid any Christian preacher from entering the village.
Along with Motilal Oraon’s family, the other Christian families punished were those of Madhwari Oraon, Banarasi Oraon, Lukku Oraon and Rajesh Lohara.
Sarna, also called Saranaism, is recognized as the indigenous religion of Adivasi tribes in eastern India. All Banhardi villagers followed the Sarna tradition of their ancestors until one family put their faith in Christ eight years ago, said Asaf Surin, senior pastor of the main Believers Eastern Church in Bariatu Jagir, 12 miles away. Gradually, four other families followed, he said.
“These five families are the only Christian families in the village of about 500 homes, and they attend worship at a small fellowship belonging to the Believers Eastern Church,” Pastor Surin said. “The fellowship meets at the house of a Christian about a mile away from Banhardi in village Riche, jointly with five Christian families of Riche.”
Beneswar Oraon, pastor of an area Believers Eastern Church, said that retaliation to this extent was unprecedented.
“Initially there was no persecution until 2016, but then the villagers noticed the increase in the number of families turning to Christ,” Pastor Oraon told Morning Star News. “They got together and discussed their concern, saying that if they did not stop Christianity from spreading, the whole village will soon become Christian.”
More than 30 families attended the village meeting on April 10 in which they decreed that land owned by the Christians be confiscated and distributed among their non-Christian relatives; the Christians would not be invited to any marriage ceremony in the village or be allowed at any funeral; any villager found taking part in or attending any function in Christians homes would have to pay a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$14); and the Christians’ grocery ration card under the government distribution program, and all women’s self-help group memberships, would be cancelled.
“While the Christians where helplessly struggling to meet the basic needs of their families, Newswing [a local newspaper] published the news of this boycott, which then caught the attention of the authorities,” Pastor Surin said.
District Collector Kumar, along with an investigation team, reached the village on May 13 and initiated talks between both parties, the pastors said. He then ordered that all the local leaders’ decisions be annulled.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer Virendra Ram, who headed an investigating team, instructed the villagers to follow their own religion and let the five families practice their faith. Police also said that everyone could equally access government rations.
After the visit from the district authorities on May 13, the ration distributor approached the Christians on May 15 and insisted that they collect their share of the ration allotted for them.
“We are so delighted at the way God has heard our prayers,” Motilal Oraon said. “We got help even when we had approached nobody. God opened a way, and the authorities themselves walked inside our village and rescued us from starvation.”
Jharkhand’s population is 26.3 percent tribal, of which 14.5 percent follow Christianity, 39.8 percent Hinduism, 0.4 percent Islam and the rest other ancestral religions including Sarna, according to the 2001 census.
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. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.
Photo: Five families in village in Jharkhand state, India punished for becoming Christians. (Morning Star News)
(Voice of the Persecuted) ASIA IS FREE!
Dawn News reports that Asia Bibi is free, has left the country and traveled on her independent will.
After nine years on death row, Asia Bibi was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s Supreme Court on October 31, 2018. Following widespread Islamic hardliner protests and death threats, she was released from Multan women’s prison on November 7th and flown to Islamabad to an undisclosed location amid tight security.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) who is also a radical cleric, instigated country-wide protests following the high court ruling and demanded she be hung. The protests halted daily life in major cities throughout Pakistan. Schools, shops and businesses were forced to close. The group also called for the murder of the Supreme Court judges.
Authorities began a nationwide crackdown and arrested the radical leader and over 1000 other leaders and supporters of the Islamist party to end the radical protests. The cleric’s arrest ignited violent clashes with police and injuries were reported.
After 9 years of affliction for her faith in Christ, repeated death threats and living under protective custody since November, Pakistani government officials have confirmed she has left for Canada.
The Guardian quoted her Muslim lawyer, Saif Ul Malook,
“It is a big day. Asia Bibi has left Pakistan and reached Canada. She has reunited with her family. Justice has been dispensed.”
He said that Bibi’s safe arrival in Canada was the result of hard work by activists, foreign diplomats and others who stood by her in hard times and worked for her freedom.
Click here to read how Saif Ul Malook’s described Asia’s amazing faith, strength and a dream she shared with him. Be encouraged!
From the time Malook agreed to defend Asia, his life has been constantly under threat. He was forced to flee Pakistan for the Netherlands in December 2018.
Asia is finally free to be reunited with her family, heal from the horrible injustice against her and worship freely. Let us praise the LORD for this outcome and pray no harm will come against her or her family. Rest in HIS arms, dear Asia. Please keep our Pakistani brothers and sisters in your prayers.
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)– The senior pastor of a Sri Lankan evangelical congregation says he has forgiven the suspected Islamic militants who bombed his church on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people. Pastor Roshan Mahesan of the Zion Church in Sri Lanka’s eastern city of Batticaloa also thanked those offering prayer and support.
“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you,” he said in a video message obtained by BosNewsLife.
The explosion at Zion Church reportedly occurred during the Easter morning service, leaving 28 people dead and more than 70 seriously injured. It was one of eight attacks, some of which targeted three hotels and two other churches in the Asian nation, killing hundreds of people. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating who was responsible.
However, “No matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pastor Mahesan added. “Jesus Christ on the Cross, he said: ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say, for the Lord: ‘forgive these people.”
The pastor spoke before news emerged Saturday, April 27, that militants linked to Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by local security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery: 15 bodies, including six children.
ISLAMIST GROUPS BANNED
As part of the security operation, Sri Lanka’s president banned two Islamist groups suspected of involvement in the suicide bombings on churches and hotels that left more than 250 people dead, many of them devoted Christians.
The National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim groups were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in published remarks. Both are believed to be inspired by organizations such as Islamic State who seek to establish states based on strict Islamic law.
Amid the bloodshed, Pastor Mahesen said in his video message that he wanted to “take this opportunity to thank every church around the world, every believer, every person is known to me and unknown to me who has contacted me, calling me, sending messages of condolences, and then words of encouragement.”
In the video shared by Sri Lankan Christian group ‘The Life’ he pledged that his congregation would “stand and continue what the Lord has purposed in our life and we are ready, and we will continue to fulfill the mission the Lord has given us.”
Pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, who leads a Sri Lankan church uniting Tamil and Sinhalese Christians and founded ‘The Life’ group, spoke with Pastor Mahesan earlier this week while he was visiting Britain.
SHOCKING THE WORLD
“These atrocious attacks have shocked the world, the violence has impacted my friends and family, and many in the Sri Lankan community in the UK know people who have died,” she said in remarks sent to BosNewsLife.
“If only we can hear Pastor Roshan Mahesan’s words and respond with forgiveness instead of hate. Jesus Christ calls us to love even those who persecute us, and what is more powerful than to choose to love in the circumstances such as these. Let’s forgive, stand together and build the kingdom of God. Don’t give up.”
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents millions of evangelical Christians, agrees. Its director, Steve Clifford, told BosNewsLife in a statement that he had joined a Sri Lankan prayer gathering earlier this week following the attacks. “I am mourning with my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in Christ as they bury loved ones, as church communities are shaken by the violence inflicted on them and as others live in fear that the same might strike them.”
Yet, he remained hopeful. “Pastor Roshan offers love and forgiveness that can only come from knowing that we are forgiven by Jesus. I will continue to pray for him and all the believers in Sri Lanka, that they will know hope in Jesus that overcomes all fear.”
Sri Lanka’s worst attack against Christians in years shattered the tense calm that the Buddhist-majority country has seen since a 26-year civil war with mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago. Authorities have already warned of more attacks against churches and other religious centers, prompting Catholic churches to postpone Mass.
President Sirisena and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have faced intense criticism after it emerged that India had repeatedly given warnings of the possibility of attacks. Both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have said intelligence was not shared with them. Commentators say those remarks underscore rifts at the top of the government and raised questions about its ability to deal with the security crisis.
CHRISTIANS INCREASINGLY TARGETED
The political turmoil added to concerns among Christians who make up over 7 percent of the country’s 23 million people.
Besides the latest bombings, there were already 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against minority Christians, said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian groups.
In 2019, the NCEASL so far recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
The attacks were linked to extremists of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic communities
Christian advocacy and relief group Open Doors says persecution of Christians impacts especially those from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds. They are treated “as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks,” the group noted.
“Believers from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as a conversion is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity.”
Additionally, most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, “so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism,” Open Doors said. Before the Easter Sunday bombings, several churches in rural areas were already attacked or closed, and Christians were assaulted, the group added. Rights activists and the Christian community now fear more attacks in Sri Lanka.
Note from our Prayer Director, Blaine Scogin and the Persecution Watch/VOP Prayer warrior team
My Brothers and Sisters, the greatest Injustice ever done to a man was done to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men nailed him to the cross for no crime he had ever committed. And yet the most powerful words that Jesus ever uttered from the cross were Father forgive them for they know not what they do. ( Lk. 23:34 ).
Jesus exemplified what he taught in The Sermon on the Mount. In his discourse, Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ( Mat. 5:44 ). Obviously such a love for enemies cannot be manifested in the flesh. When in our anger we cry out retribution against those who have wronged us. The Spirit inside of us says forgive them. Only he can work out that transformational love that comes out of a fruit born through Christ living in us.
Where Jihad teaches hate and Islam says kill the infidel, Jesus teaches love your enemy.
In the next few days Ramadan will start where Muslims will seek their god through prayer and fasting. Let us pray that during this time of Ramadan that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who bore their sin, will appear, even in dreams and visions, and direct Muslims to the true and living God. Let us pray that Muslims will receive him who is love. That they will welcome Christ to live in their hearts who will show them a much better way than Jihad would teach. Pray their eyes will be opened that Jesus came to love them and to die for their sins and bring the fruit of the Spirit. That which we would know as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; would flow out of their hearts.
Indeed let that be true of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that the fruit of his Spirit would flow from our own hearts by the presence of our Lord through his Holy Spirit in us. Pray also for strengthening of every believers faith, come what may, that we will continue to remain in Christ alone.
(Morning Star News) – Christians in Sri Lanka have never seen such a large-scale attack on them as the one that hit three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday (April 21), killing at least 290 people, they said.
“I don’t have words to express my pain,” a teary-eyed Eranda Weththasinghe told Morning Star News from Negombo, a predominantly Christian area north of Colombo where 104 worshippers died in a suicide bomb blast at St. Sebastian’s Church. “Tomorrow is going to be the mass funeral service, we only want prayers. We lost so many people.”
Weththasinghe said he lost several friends in the explosion that he witnessed, which the Sri Lankan government blamed on a local Islamic extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath. Officials said the small, obscure group could not have carried out the coordinated attacks without international accomplices.
“The smell of flesh is all around me,” Weththasinghe said. “We are a peace-loving community in this small city, we had never hurt anyone, but we don’t know from where this amount of hate is coming. This city has become a grave with blood and bodies lying around.”
Weththasinghe, who helped with rescue efforts after the blast, said some of his friends are still missing.
“Since the past three years, we don’t know why, but we see an extremist’s mindset developing among the Muslims,” he told Morning Star News. “I know many good Muslims, but there are also a lot who hate us, and they have never been so before. It is in these three years that we see a difference.”
While Christians in Sri Lanka have suffered at the hands of radical Buddhists and, increasingly, hard-line Hindus, attacks by Muslim extremists have been rare. Muslims account for 9.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of about 22 million, which is 70 Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.
Shyami Sirivardene, also a resident of Negombo, told Morning Star News that Negombo and parts of Colombo where the blasts took place are predominantly Christian areas.
“Negombo is fondly called the ‘little Rome,’ with shrines and ancient churches,” Sirivardene said. “We can’t say who is behind the attacks, but the locals suspect it to be the plot of Islamic extremists. The attacks have been planned to affect the Christian community; since the churches in these areas date back to 19th century, people flock in huge numbers to attend the Mass on Easter and Christmas.”
Residents in neighboring areas close to the church buildings join the previous Saturday Easter vigil service, and Christians come from distant areas to attend the Easter morning service, she said.
“They have been targeted,” she said. “Colombo to Negombo and surrounding towns and suburbs is hardly a half an hour drive using the highway, and most Christians prefer to travel by bus or drive on their own using another route, which takes about an hour or more depending on traffic. People are very furious and scared. The busy toll road from Colombo to Negombo connecting the airport somewhere in the midst is empty today.”
A government spokesman told media that police found 87 bomb detonators at the main bus station in Colombo, the capital.
Sirivardene added that the luxury restaurants targeted at the three bombed hotels serve special Easter buffets that attract foreigners, including those from the United States and Europe.
Besides St. Sebastian’s in Negombo, also attacked by suicide bombers were St. Anthony’s Shrine (a large Catholic church in the Kochchikade area of Colombo), and Zion Church in Batticaloa, in the eastern part of the country. Suicide bombers also detonated explosives in Colombo at the Shangri-La Hotel, the ground-floor Taprobane restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and at the Kingsbury Hotel.
The suicide bomber blasts also reportedly wounded at least 500 people.
Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director for human rights group Amnesty International, told The Washington Post that the scale of the attacks were “shocking and unprecedented.” They were the worst in Colombo since 1996, when rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam detonated explosives at Sri Lanka’s central bank that killed nearly 100 people.
Sri Lankan police attempted to defuse another explosive substance found in a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, which was exploded without causing damage. Suspicious objects such as bags and boxes discovered in Kotahena and Pettah caused two more explosions.
“We have been asked to stay indoors, and tomorrow [April 23] would be the national mourning day,” said Sirivardene of Negombo. “There would be a mass funeral service for all the bodies collected so far.”
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said a foreign network was likely involved with the local Islamist group that carried out the attacks. The group’s name, National Thowheed Jamaath, roughly translates as the National Monotheism Organization.
He reportedly called on Police Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara to resign, as security agencies had received a report warning of attacks by the group against churches and hotels 10 days before.
A police memo reportedly issued in Sinhalese 10 days before the attack, entitled, “INFORMATION OF AN ALLEGED PLAN ATTACK” and stamped on April 11, said foreign intelligence officials suspected imminent attacks by the National Thowheeth Jamaath against non-Muslims. It instructed all police to be extra vigilant and cautious in monitoring locations under their jurisdiction. It is signed by Deputy Inspector General Priyalal Dissanayake.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe told media he did not know about the letter, saying, “Neither I nor any ministers were kept informed.”
President Maithripala Sirisena controls Sri Lanka’s security agencies, but since he tried to oust Wickremesinghe in an Oct. 26 coup, the prime minister has not been invited to security council meetings, a parliamentarian told The Washington Post.
Police have reportedly arrested 21 people in connection with the bombings. Three police officers were reportedly killed in a raid on a house where suspects were hiding.
In his Easter address, Pope Francis called the bombings “horrendous.” In his Easter Monday sermon today, he appealed for help for the people of Sri Lanka.
“I hope that everyone condemns these terrorist acts, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.
Yousef A. al-Othaimeen, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 predominantly Muslim nations, “strongly condemned” the “cowardly attacks [on] innocent worshipers and civilians.”
Bishops Dhiloraj Canagasabey and Keerthisiri Fernando of Colombo, along with the Kurunagala Church of Ceylon, issued a joint statement condemning Sunday’s attacks.
“We call on the government to institute quick action to investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice, to ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group,” their statement said. “We ask for the continued support of all security and emergency services in ensuring public peace and in providing care for the affected; the motives of those twisted and warped minds who planned and executed such appalling acts could very well be to destabilize the country and to cause damage to the unity and harmony of our nation.”
Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.
Photo 1: Sri Lankan Christians mourn (Angel TV Youtube)
Photo 2: Security memo issued 10 days before April 21 attacks warning of possible suicide bombing by Islamic extremist group National Thowheed Jamaath. (Twitter, Sri Lankan Ministry of Telecommunication)
(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.
(Voice of the Persecuted) It is with a heavy heart to report on Resurrection Sunday that a massacre has taken place targeting Christians who were attending worship services at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church, in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. At the time of this report, the latest update from police claim that at least 207 were killed and at least 450-500 injured in 8 explosions by suicide bombers at the churches, Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels. Viewer Warning: below video content graphic
The majority of casualties are Christians and the death toll and numbers injured are expected to rise. Earlier, the government said they suspected the suicide bombings were carried out by one group. Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera said,
The bombings are not the doings of a fanatical individual. It’s obviously a highly coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy in the country.
The Defence Minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said seven people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Three police officers were killed in an explosion during a raid pertaining to the attacks.
The government has temporarily blocked social media sites to prevent false news that’s spreading on social media sites. Officials claim the ban will be lifted when their investigations are concluded.
Please remember the injured and families of victims in your prayers, today. Continue to pray for persecuted believers worldwide.
UPDATE: 9:19 p.m. EST
Sri Lankan Defence Minister described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. — Thirteen people have been arrested.
News outlet Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported it had seen documents showing that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ [National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka] is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said, according to AFP.Mr Wickremesinghe said there was not an adequate response and there needed to be an inquiry into how the information was used.
Read full abc.net.au report here