Mohabat News – A while ago, a UNESCO representative praised the Islamic Republic of Iran for including a few Armenian Historical church buildings on the list of national heritage sites. The St. Mary Church in Tehran was among the newly registered churches.
Some reports quoted Robert Biglarian, the Armenian member of the Iranian parliament, as saying “Recently, a group of extremist Muslims destroyed an Armenian church in Sava near Marivan County. Armenians have voiced their concern over this issue and officials are investigating to find those responsible.”
This is not an isolated incident. On May 12, 2016, another church called St. Mary in Salmas County in Urumia province was destroyed as well.
Some Iranian news services reported that a mal-intended group entered the church property stealthily, breaking into the church building through its roof and began destroying the cross inside the building using sledgehammers and axes. They also broke the statues of Mary and tore the pictures on the wall.
Destroying church buildings has a long record in the history of the Islamic regime of Iran.
In the spring of 2012, reports indicated that another church near Salmas County is on the verge of destruction.
A year before that in the summer of 2011, judicial authorities in Kerman issued a ruling for a historical church building in their city to be brought down, even though a few years earlier this church had been registered as a national heritage site.
On April 5, 2012, a historic Christian cemetery, more than 200 years old, was destroyed by a group of extremists. No one has been arrested so far in connection with the incident.
A historical evangelical church building in Mashhad that had been registered as a national heritage site in 2005, was destroyed a few years ago.
Currently, there are around five hundred registered church buildings in Iran, with many of them abandoned or on the verge of destruction.
VOP Note: According to reports. Lebanon has the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world. 1 out of every four people is a refugee.
Despite the numbers, Lebanon has a “no camp” policy which means refugees are not allowed to settle in large scale camps. Instead, they are forced to live in temporary shelters, often on waste land. Refugees are not entitled to work and have difficulty accessing schools and healthcare in Lebanon.
(Agenzia Fides) – On February 13, a small procession of about two hundred Christian Iraqi refugees staged a symbolic demonstration outside the local UN headquarters in downtown Beirut to demand their requests to travel to other countries, filed some time ago in the competent offices of several foreign diplomatic representations operating in the Lebanese capital. The posters displayed by the protesters, and the statements made by some of them to the local press, confirm the impression that most of the exiled Christian refugees from Iraq have no intention of returning to their Country, and do not even intend to take root in Lebanon but are hoping to emigrate as soon as possible towards some Western nation.
According to data provided by the local Chaldean community, difficult to verify, about 8 thousand Iraqi Christians emigrated to Lebanon, especially after the conquest of Mosul and Nineveh Plain by the jihadist Islamic State (Daesh).
US President Donald Trump, who began a tug of war with some US judges to impose provisions designed to limit or suspend immigration from certain countries with a Muslim majority, has instead recognized as a “priority” the granting of refugee legal status to the category of “persecuted Christians”. The idea of preparing a “fast track” open for Christian refugees entering the United States, while doors are closed to non-Christian citizens from Countries with an Islamic majority, “has been defined by Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis Sako I a “Trap” for Christians in the Middle East (see Fides 30/01/2017). “Every host country policy that discriminates against the persecuted and those who suffer on religious grounds”, explains Patriarch Louis Raphael, Primate of the Eastern Catholic Church, to which the vast majority of Iraqi Christians belong”, ultimately harms the Christians of the East, because among other things provi des arguments to all propaganda and prejudice that attack the native community of the Middle East as ‘foreign bodies’, groups supported and defended by Western powers”.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters seeking refuge from persecution.
Reminder: It was the Church that aided 1st century persecuted Christian refugees.
An Iranian Christian convert who recently started a hunger strike is in a critical health condition. He went on a hunger strike to protest the unfair handling of his case, as Iranian authorities have been keeping him in prison in uncertainty.
Mohabat News – Reports coming from Iran indicate that Iranian Christian prisoner, Amin Afshar Naderi is in critical condition in Evin prison. He began his hunger strike more than a week ago.
He had been arrested together with five other Christians in Firouz-kouh county. While three of those arrested were released, Mr. Naderi and another Christian believer were held in prison.
Mr. Naderi together with another Christian prisoner Hadi Asgari, have been on a hunger strike since February 5, 2017. The latest reports by sources close to Mr. Naderi state that the hunger strike has resulted in significant weight loss and a drop in his blood pressure.
These two Christian prisoners have been on a hunger strike to protest the unfair handling of their case and being held in uncertainty in prison before even being convicted of charges laid against them.
This is not the first time Mr. Naderi has been in prison for his faith. He had been arrested in 2014 as he attended a house church. On that occasion, he was detained for 40 days and spent some of that time in solitary confinement in ward 209 of the notorious Evin prison. He was later released on heavy bail.
Other Christian prisoners who have recently been on a hunger strike are Ebrahim Firouzi and Maryam ( Nasim) Naghash Zargaran. Their hunger strike was also to protest the unfair handling of their cases and the fabricated charges against them.
In a report published in September 2016, individuals close to these prisoners told Mohabat News, “the greatest concern of the families of these Christian men is that the authorities may fabricate charges against them, as they found three Bibles in their gathering. They are also concerned that authorities would put their loved ones under pressure, forcing them to confess to crimes they have not committed.”
The people who held him, ISIS fighters, found in his possession a picture of Jesus and two small crosses. They took the items away, burned them, and told him he would be beheaded if they found any more.
Ismail could tell they were serious this time. So he took his last cross — the only one they hadn’t found — and hid it very carefully in the back of a cable receiver box.
“When I left it there, I told myself the cross is not just around the neck, it’s in the heart,” Ismail, 16, says.
It was a small act of defiance — an attempt to retain a part of himself. It was also a symbol of hope. He was telling himself that one day he would be back to collect it. That he would survive. (more…)
Christians in 17th century Japan were given this choice, and it’s the same for Christians in many parts of the world today.
Throughout the film, the audience is shown Christians being told to step on – or, in one case, spit on – an image of Jesus or Mary. Some do; others can’t.
This same choice was given to Zarefa, an elderly Iraqi Christian woman, when the Islamic State captured her town in 2014. During a raid on the house where she was staying, IS fighters found a few crucifixes and other Christian images – strictly illegal under IS rule.
“They forced me to spit on the Cross,” Zarefa recalls. “I told them that it was not appropriate, that it was a sin. He said that I must spit. ‘Don’t you see that I have a gun?’ he asked me. I said to myself, (more…)
The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well—in this case, countless, nameless children
Past and present, Muslim militants continue relying on the same inhumane tactics to terrorize “infidels.” The devastating effects of one of these occurred last August in Turkey: a child “recruited” by the Islamic State blew himself up in a suicide attack that left at least 51 people—mostly fellow children—dead.
This child was one of countless, nameless, faceless children seized, beat, and indoctrinated in Islam, until they become willing “martyrs” and executioners. Known as the “cubs of the caliphate,” they are graduates from “schools [established by ISIS] to prepare hundreds of children and teenagers to conduct suicide attacks.” The Islamic State is fond of showcasing these abducted children turned criminals.
A few days ago, it posted a video of these “cubs,” most who appear to be about 10 years of age, walking around an abandoned amusement park, where they savagely execute hostages tied to rides. One child, reportedly only four years old, shoots five rounds into a tied up victim while screaming “Allahu Akbar!” (see image above). Another little boy slits the throat of his victim next to a kiddie train before planting the knife in his back. Last November ISIS posted another video of four children—one Russian, one Uzbek, and two Iraqis—executing civilians.
One Christian clergyman explained the Islamic State’s strategy: “They dislocate the families, they take the newborn babies, and they put them in Islamist families,” where they are indoctrinated in jihad, or what is called in the West, “terrorist activities.”
Children who’ve managed to escape ISIS say they were repeatedly beat and fed “endless propaganda,” including that they must kill their non-Muslim parents: “We weren’t allowed to cry but I would think about my mother, think about her worrying about me and I’d try and cry quietly,” one little boy said.
Seizing and indoctrinating children for the jihad is hardly limited to ISIS. Over the last three years, Boko Haram, the Islamic jihadi group terrorizing Nigeria, has kidnapped, enslaved, beat and indoctrinated more than 10,000 boys—some as young as 5 years of age, and many from Christian backgrounds—into becoming jihadis/terrorists.
“They told us, ‘It’s all right for you to kill and slaughter even your parents,’” said a former captive who witnessed a beheading on the day he was enslaved. Other boys held down the victim and explained: “This is what you have to do to get to heaven.”
Girls were kept in a separate camp and raped, often by captive boys, as a way to show the latter the boons of becoming warriors for Allah (the deity that permits his slaves to enslave and rape “infidel” women). An escaped girl, Rachel, now 13 and pregnant by rape, told of how dozens of boys from her village tied up a kidnapped man and beheaded him. They told the younger children watching not to “have feelings about it.” “If you go there [Boko Haram training camps], you can see 12-year-olds talking about burning down a village,” said another escaped girl, adding “They have converted.”
A boy, now 10, served as babysitter for infants and toddlers kidnapped or conceived by rape: “The children, none older than 4, watched jihadist propaganda videos and rehearsed a game called ‘suicide bomber’ where they ripped open sacks of sand strapped to their torsos.”
These Nigerian children, some as young as 6, have been used to terrorize neighboring Cameroon, a Christian majority nation. During a jihadi raid, more than 100 screaming boys suddenly appeared—barefoot, unarmed, or swinging only machetes—and ran toward a military unit which gunned them down. As Col. Didier Badjeck explained, “It’s better to kill a boy than have 1,000 victims. It’s causing us problems with international organizations, but they’re not on the front lines. We are.”
Another report, published just days ago, tells of more experiences from abducted boys and girls, and how Boko Haram showed the former to “have fun” with the latter, including by “learning to subdue a struggling victim during sexual assault.” One escaped 16-year-old girl said, “I was raped almost on a daily basis by different men. When they became fed-up with me, they asked the little boy, who has often watched them do it, to take over.”
But it’s not just ISIS and Boko Haram who seize, enslave, beat and indoctrinate boys for jihad (and girls to “make it up” to the boys). This practice is also taking place in Yemen, Somalia and even “moderate” Mali. Indeed, a cursory Internet search reveals the extent of this phenomenon.
In 2012, 300 Christian children were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam in Bangladesh. After convincing impoverished Christian families in Bangladesh to spend what little money they had to send their children to study at supposed “mission hostels,” Muslim conmen would “pocket the money” and “sell the children to Islamic schools elsewhere in the country ‘where imams force them to abjure Christianity.’” The children are then instructed in Islam and beaten. After being fully indoctrinated, the once Christian children are asked if they are “ready to give their lives for Islam,” presumably by becoming jihadi suicide-bombers.
Why are Islamic jihad groups resorting to this tactic of enslaving and indoctrinating children into becoming jihadis? Most Western analysts believe this is a reflection of weakened, desperate groups: “The growing trend for ISIS to use child soldiers as suicide bombers, particularly in Iraq, has been suggested as a sign of how stretched their resources are in the region,” noted one report.
Or it could suggest that ISIS, Boko Haram, etc., are simply following another page of the jihadi playbook. For over a millennium, Muslim caliphates specialized in seizing and enslaving tens if not hundreds of thousands of young non-Muslim boys, converting them to Islam, and then beating, indoctrinating, and training them into becoming jihadis extraordinaire.
The most famous of these were the Ottoman Empire’s janissaries—Christian boys who were seized from their homes, converted to and indoctrinated in Islam and jihad, and then unleashed on their former families. As the author of Balkan Wars explains, “Despite their Christian upbringing, they became fanatical Muslims and earnestly maintained their faith as warriors of Islam. This cruel practice of what today can be defined as the ‘brain cleansing’ of the Christian populations of the Ottoman Empire is perhaps the most inhuman Turkish legacy.”
That Turkey is now suffering from the effects of this system—such as when a child suicide bomber killed 51 people in the name of jihad—may be called “ironic.”
Western analysts would not be oblivious to this “new” jihadi tactic—optimistically portraying the reliance on children as proof that jihadi groups have “stretched their resources”—if they had Islamic studies departments that actually disseminated facts instead of pro-Islamic myths and propaganda. As with all unsavory aspects of Islamic history, the institution of child slave soldiers has been thoroughly whitewashed. Although young, terrified boys were seized from the clutches of their devastated parents, the academic narrative is that poor Christian families were somewhat happy to see their boys taken to the caliphate where they would have a “bright future” as “soldiers and statesmen.”
The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well—in this case, countless, nameless children. As Mausi Segun, a human rights activist discussing the plight of Boko Haram’s child jihadis put it: “There’s almost an entire generation of boys missing. My guess is that a large majority of them will die [as forced jihadis] in the conflict.” And they will die completely unknown in the West—just another victim group to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, lest Islam’s reputation be besmirched.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
Voice of the Persecuted is on the ground in places such as Nigeria and Thailand aiding Christians fleeing violence, languishing in refugee (IDP) camps or seeking asylum from persecution. 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.
Donations are always desperately needed.
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Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Jane’s Islamic Affairs Analyst, Middle East Quarterly, World Almanac of Islamism, and
Chronicle of Higher Education; he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, C-SPAN, PBS, Reuters, Al-Jazeera, NPR, Blaze TV, and CBN. Ibrahim regularly speaks publicly, briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; a CBN News contributor; a Media Fellow, Hoover Institution (2013); and a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum . Ibrahim’s dual-background — born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East — has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former.
Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday, January 8 the Iraqi regular army regained control of al Sukkar, an area in eastern Mosul once inhabited mostly by Christian families. This is what local sources reported to online magazine ankawa. The area comprises at least 700 homes belonging to Christian owners, some of whom had been occupied by foreign militants of the Islamic State (Daesh).
Many of the homes in the neighborhood had been marked with the Arabic letter “Nun”, the initial of the word Nasara, which means Christian, to indicate that those houses could be expropriated and were available to supporters of Daesh. The houses had been abandoned by Christians since, June 9, 2014, when Mosul had fallen into the hands of the jihadists of the Islamic State. According to reports from local sources, most of the buildings and also the pediatric hospital located in the neighborhood, were destroyed or damaged.
“News from Mosul need our attention”, says to Agenzia Fides father Thabit Mekko, Chaldean priest of the north-Iraqi town, currently displaced in Erbil together with his faithful, “but the situation is still dangerous, there are snipers in roads and it is too early to think about a return of Christians who have fled from their homes. Such a case will be considered only when security is assured. Many families have not yet decided what they will do. Not all those who left Mosul in front of the advance of Daesh will return”.
Meanwhile, Sunday, January 8 was marred by yet another bombing in the district of Jamila in Baghdad. A car bomb in a crowded wholesale market, claimed by Daesh, caused at least 12 dead and 50 wounded.
Pray for our brothers and sisters suffering in Iraq.
Mohabat News – Iranian Christian prisoner, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, who is imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison for her Christian faith, was sentenced to an additional 45 days in prison upon her return to prison on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 from a medical leave.
Prison authorities say she received 45 extra days in prison as punishment for her delay in returning to prison from her leave. She was originally granted a five day leave, which was later extended by a court ruling.
Her family confirmed that while she was on leave, court officials told her to remain out of prison until they reviewed her plea for conditional release. Her plea was eventually rejected and when she returned to prison, prison authorities sentenced her to an extra 45 days in prison for not returning to prison on time from her leave.
Ms. Maryam Zargaran has been in prison for almost three years and four months in the women’s ward of the notorious Evin prison. During her time in prison she has gone on a number of hunger strikes, mainly to demand a conditional release from prison.
Since her imprisonment on July 19, 2013, her family has exhausted all of their options for her release with no success.
Maryam Naghash Zargaran suffers from a number of health problems, including a heart condition known as atrial septal defect (ASD), for which she underwent surgery years ago.
Conditions in prison have further deteriorated Ms. Zargaran’s health. Mental, as well as physical pressure in prison has caused chronic joint pain in her hands, feet and spinal cord. Medical doctors in prison have diagnosed her with osteoporosis, arthritis and lumbar disc disease.