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(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Thursday, March 10, 2022 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church and those suffering in Ukraine hosted by Persecution Watch.
Ukraine Population: 44 million, Christian 76 %
With independence in 1991 Ukraine was dominated and fought over for centuries by a succession of powers. Although political freedom came to all in 1991, a small but powerful group of men vastly enriched and entrenched themselves. The country experienced strife by people wanting to link with Russia and those looking to the westward for their future. The orange revolution in 2005 gave Ukrainians national dignity, freedom of press and open political systems, but infighting and rivalries are crippling progress. Promises of rooting out corruption have brought little fruit as it is deeply embedded.
- Please pray to the Father that He will convict President Putin of his disregard for safe travel for civilians fleeing from military violence.
- Pray for the Ukrainian men and women who are trying to survive in underground shelters.
- Pray that the Ukrainians are earnestly seeking the Lord in prayer.
- Pray to the Lord to hold His hand over, protect the nuclear power plant from releasing radioactive substances, as Russians have cut off power to cool the spent fuel assemblies.
- Pray to the Lord that much needed medication will reach the hospitals which by now are running low on supplies.
- Pray that the men and women who are staying behind have adequate food and first aid supplies.
- Pray that the Lord will work a miracle that many civilians can escape through corridors that are protected from military action.
- Pray that the Lord through His vessels will continue to give the Ukrainian defenders great advance intelligence on Russian plans and movements.
- Pray to the Lord that Ukrainian refugees are welcomed at the border and find both food and shelter.
- Pray that the Lord will trouble the commanding Russian leaders with lost or confusing military orders.
- Pray to the Lord for create opposition in Russia against the act of aggression against the Ukraine.
- Pray to the Lord that Russian equipment will be break down and stall advancement.
- Pray that the Russian offensive will continue to stall and to implode.
- Pray to the Lord that He will give the Ukrainian freedom fighters both protection and wisdom in trying to stop the enemy.
- Pray to the Lord that the displaced people, the refugees will not lack for food and shelter.
- Pray to the Lord that the nations who stand in solidarity with the Ukraine will not falter and actively support and continue to support the Ukraine.
- Lord we humbly ask, that You the great almighty God will not allow Russia to defeat and take over the Ukraine.
Again, we want to lift up these persecuted witnesses to the Lord:
- Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018. Pray for her release.
- Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
- Pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
- Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped from Iran and praying to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
- For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.
Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.
“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone.
We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you are new to the call and cannot find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.
Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team
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Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.
(AINA) 32 Syriac and Chaldean [Assyrian] organizations from France, Belgium, the United States (US), Sweden, Australia and Iraq have addressed an open letter to Turkey’s Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior and requested that Hurmüz Diril, who has been missing since January 12, 2020, be found and the death of his wife Şimuni Diril be brought into light (story).
Şimuni Diril and Hurmüz Diril went missing in their village in Şırnak on January 11, 2020. While the dead body of Şimuni Diril was found by their son Kemal Diril on the shore of a brook some 800 meters away from their house 70 days later, Hurmüz Diril is still missing.
Bring perpetrators to justice
The full letter of the organizations is as follows:
Dear Mr. Gül, Dear Mr. Soylu,Some time between January 8 and 11,2020 an Assyrian Christian couple Hürmüz Diril, 71, and his wife Şimuni, 65, were kidnapped from their village of Meer/Kovankaya in the Province of [Şirnak] (southeastern Turkey).
The remains of Şimuni were found by her two sons at the nearby river in the village on March 20, two months after the abduction. At this time, the fate of their missing father is still not known.
One year later, the family is still asking the government authorities to help find their missing father and to bring perpetrators to justice.
Three requests from ministries… Read More
The Armenian people — whose nation was the first to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD—were native to what is present-day Turkey for more than 3,000 years. However, they became an occupied nation following Turkic invasions in the 11th century. Although indigenous, as Christians Armenians were considered second-class citizens by their oppressors, and their human rights steadily declined and culminated in outright massacre by Turkey beginning in the 1800s. Their pleas for equal rights and even autonomy were met with a premeditated, state-sponsored genocidal plan which sought to eliminate the Ottoman Turkish Empire of non-Turks, including not only Armenians but Christian Assyrians and Greeks. The result was a combination of torture and massacre for adult men; torture, rape and abduction into harems, and forced conversions for select women and children; and torture, murder and deportations — also known as death marches — for the remaining Armenians. Although more than 1 ½ million Armenians, ¾ million Assyrians/Chaldeans and 1 million Greeks perished in the ordeals, today’s Turkish regime does not acknowledge the Genocide. And, there has yet to be restitution for these crimes against humanity.
— Lucine Kasbarian
As Turkey continues it’s constant attacks against Armenians, Lucine, known by VOP’s founder, has asks us to share the following report.
Six days into the renewed attacks by the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israeli axis on Armenia and Artsakh, many countries have come forward to denounce the warmongers.
But none of these condemning nations has yet to put any meaningful actions behind its words.
Consequently, everyday people who have stakes in the conflict — or are simply upholding their values — are imposing their own sanctions upon these rogue states. Enter the consumer boycott.
A term used to describe the withdrawal from commercial or social relations with a country, organization, or public figure as a form of protest or punishment, a boycott can be effective because anyone can participate. One need not hail from the corridors of power to make an impact.
According to the Boycott-Turkey.org and Boycott-Turkey.net campaign (websites hijacked – this is a partial mirror site), “probably one of the most powerful weapons individuals have to effect political change is their consumer purchasing power.”
For years, Turkey has injected itself, often militarily, into the sovereign affairs of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Greece, Cyprus, India, and now, Armenia and Artsakh. On October 2, reports emerged that Turkey is using NATO and American facilities to attack Armenia and Artsakh. Since NATO is unable or unwilling to rein in this rogue nation that many consider to be the single greatest threat to global security, public boycotts are increasingly gaining favor.
Against the backdrop of war, public disapproval for Turkish-made goods has intensified in Armenia again. Armenians recognize that Turkey’s involvement in this war will allow it to complete the Armenian Genocide.
Boycotting Turkey has been relatively consistent over the generations as Armenians as a rule refuse to support Turkey’s economy which has already enriched itself through confiscated Armenian national wealth and territory after launching the Armenian Genocide with no reparations or sanctions in sight.
These citizen initiatives include boycotting Turkish construction companies; restaurants, nightclubs; grocery stores and packaged goods; Turkish rugs, carpets, and textiles; Turkish music/ dance performances, and musical recordings; Turkish movies and soap operas; Turkish Airlines and tourism to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and/or N. Cyprus; as well as discouraging enrollment in Turkish language and studies programs at international academic institutions, many which are deeply enmeshed with the Turkish government and its military industrial complex.
Armenian-American activist Shunt Jarchafjian is on a mission to educate his fellow Armenians about the products they might see at their local markets. He pointed out that Tukas tomato paste was owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Pension Fund. He says that if someone bought that product from 1967 to 2014, the purchaser contributed to the tax revenue of the Republic of Turkey, and helped fund the retirement of the soldiers serving in the Turkish Armed Forces. He also adds that the Ulker processed foods company sits atop an Armenian cemetery confiscated by the Turkish government during the Armenian Genocide. He makes a point of explaining how the Turkish military and government have tormented the Armenians year after year, and how consumer consciousness counts.
Some activists are also demanding the suspension of support of all cultural exchange programs organized to foster so-called “reconciliation” initiatives between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
According to Bloomberg News, the Turkish lira “plunged to successive record lows in September,” that is, since the Armenia/Artsakh invasions, with 7.83 lira to the dollar. As many aggrieved groups are simultaneously boycotting Turkey, the country may be feeling the squeeze economically.
In July 2020, communities of Greece and Greek Cyprus doubled down on their decades-long boycotts of Turkish products and tourism in response to the unresolved Turkish Genocide of Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians and the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Their new initiatives are in response to Turkey’s highly-contested conversion of the UNESCO-protected Christian Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and Turkish illegal drilling incursions into the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey under Erdogan may attempt to justify his many foreign interventions in a bid to realize his dream of restoring the Ottoman Caliphate. However, Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim world is also not as ironclad as Erdogan may wish to have it appear. Mahmoud Zahran, a researcher specializing in Turkish affairs, said “the success of boycott campaigns would reveal how unpopular Erdogan’s regime is in a region where he has tried to paint himself as a leader.”
At the end of September, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on all Turkish goods. The Saudi Kingdom has been at loggerheads with Turkey over the contested murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the status of the Qatar peninsula. According to the Turkish newspaper Dunya, the Saudi government has ordered individual businesses not to trade with Turkish companies or buy any products made in Turkey, and has imposed fines on companies that do not comply.
A Turkish boycott campaign in also in effect in Egypt. In January of this year, MP Ismail Nasr El-Din called on the government to impose a boycott of Turkish products, services and tourism “in response to the blatant transgressions by the Turkish government in the region, and its attempts to plunder the wealth of the Middle East, spread chaos, and destabilize the Middle East.” MP Omar Sumaida, head of the Congress Party, said “we launched a campaign to boycott Turkish products, and our party has developed plans to educate citizens to boycott Turkish products in all offices affiliated with the party across the country.” As early as 2013, a number of Egyptian TV channels stopped airing Turkish soap operas and dramas, to protest Turkish intervention in the Middle East.
These popular boycotts intensify the existing Arab League boycott. Many Arab countries cannot afford the high cost of retaliating militarily to Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, and so are opting for economic sanctions as defense. “An Arab boycott of Turkish products would significantly hurt Ankara’s economy. Turkish exports to the Arab world total more than $30 billion annually, representing 18.3% of its overall exports, according to the trade data website, Trade Map.
Iraqi Kurds such as Jwnaid Murad, owner of Las Market in Erbil, have a boycott of Turkish products in effect. “Of course, boycotting goods will affect my business. But after watching Turkey commit the war crimes they have in Rojava, I don’t care,” he said. “If I had to choose between starving to death and eating food produced by Turkey, I would starve.” Iraqi Kurdish boycott organizer Hamid Banyee of Sulimaniyeh says “We’re expanding the campaign to include all parts of society, which will be a fatal blow to the Turkish economy,”
The Turkish lira has been in sharp decline since 2017, including increasing inflation, Turkish economists say. Sergey Dergachev, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment, believes that the geopolitical choices made by Turkey have contributed to the financial freefall.
As the number of global Armenian boycotts increase following the violent flare-up between Azerbaijan and Artsakh in July, Turkish/ Azeri thugs started to attack peaceful Armenians around the world, as well as destroy and deface Armenian churches, schools, monuments and memorials. The very day Azeri attacks on Artsakh began on Sep 27, the Karageozian family of Armenian-owned Noor Mediterranean Grill in Somerville, Massachusetts began receiving death threats, violent social media posts, negative online reviews, and slurs.
Few know that since 1992, independent Armenia has endured an illegal economic blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan for standing by the Armenians of Artsakh. In fact, Turkey has been running one of the longest and biggest boycott operations of all time which includes occupying and confiscating the ancestral Armenian homeland for a thousand years. Thus, Armenian-made products rarely leave Armenia for export. At the same time, Turkey has been exporting its own cheaper goods to Armenia through the Republic of Georgia, an act which presented the needy of Armenia with reason to abandon their own more expensive products for Turkish ones.
Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia and refuses to establish them until Armenia gives up Artsakh, accepts the boundaries agreed upon in the disastrous 1921 treaty of Kars between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia (there is no official agreement over these borders between independent Armenia and the Republic of Turkey), and promises to stop pursuing international recognition for the Armenian-Greek-Assyrian Genocide of 1915.
Says Armenian-American activist Joe Sifatsouz, “Most Turkish restaurants outside Turkey are subsidized by the Turkish government, which might explain why there are so many of them. When a friend has a yen for kebabs, tell him or her to enjoy the variations made by neighborhood Armenian, Assyrian, Cypriot, Egyptian, Greek, Kurdish, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Indian, or Iraqi restaurants instead.”
But individual resolve is seen as only one aspect of the issue. U.S. President Trump once said he was ready to halt a $100 billion dollar trade deal with Turkey over its hubris in Syria. “If the superpowers are sincere about curbing the Turkish menace, they should stop hiring Turkish construction firms, break bilateral tax treaties and remove Turkey companies from U.S. Stock Exchange listings,” added Sifatsouz. “Right now, Turkish businesses abroad must pay their host countries as well as Turkey’s Internal Revenue Administration. Removing obligatory taxes to the Turkish state — and other large-scale economic sanctions — will bring Turkey to heel.”
By Lucine Kasbarian
Commentary by Lela Gilbert (CBN) How familiar are most Americans with the ancient country of Armenia? It’s probably best recalled because of the great tragedy that took place there in the early 20th century—the Armenian Genocide. That massacre of some 1,500,000 Armenian Christians (along with the murder of around 750,000 Greek Christians) took place between 1914 and 1922.
In recent days, violence has erupted once again in Armenia’s corner of the world. This involves Christian Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh versus Muslim Azerbaijan. And now, Islamist Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has entered the fray, fueled by his dream of a neo-Ottoman caliphate.
On Monday, September 28, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) News reported:
Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of reigniting their decades-long conflict in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh after fresh violence erupted in the breakaway region.
The two sides resumed open conflict again on Monday morning with the use of heavy artillery. Outbreaks of violence had continued through the night, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan.
“During night battles continued with different intensity. Early in morning, Azerbaijan resumed its offensive operations, using artillery, armored vehicles, TOS heavy artillery system,” Stepanyan wrote on Twitter…
At least 31 people — both civilians and military — have died in fighting that erupted on Sunday between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian rebels in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials said.
The early 20th century genocides, which were carried out by the Ottoman Turks, are widely understood to have been a jihad against Armenian Christians. In fact, at the time, the killings were declared as jihad by the Turks themselves. And according to my conversation today with a friend in Yerevan, Azerbaijan’s present invasion is perceived by Armenians as more of the same.
There are deeply rooted historical reasons for this understanding.
Armenia, which is now surrounded by Muslim countries, was the first country in the world to convert to Christianity—in 301 AD. Its Armenian Orthodox Church is rooted in the earliest Christian history. In fact, the biblical record of Armenia’s land stretches back to the book of Genesis, when Noah’s ark came to rest after the Great Flood on what came to be known as Mt. Ararat.
At the time those 1,500,000 Armenian souls were massacred at the end of World War I during the Genocide, Armenia’s historic possession of Mt. Ararat also was overturned by Turkey. Ever since the mountain has remained a potent symbol both of Armenia’s spiritual heritage and terrible forfeitures.
And now—as of today—conflict is again exploding against Armenia, including the little-known Armenian enclave called Nagorno-Karabakh. This separate remnant of Armenia—some 20 miles away from the existing border—was created by policies of the former U.S.S.R., when ethnic and religious groups were intentionally split apart.
In the early 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Christian communities were attacked by neighboring Azerbaijan, Azeri Turks, and other Muslim fighters. This conflict was widely understood by the Armenians as an extension of the earlier 20th century “jihad.” Miraculously, in a David vs. Goliath finish, Karabakh won that conflict—against all odds.
During a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh a few years after that battle, I learned that the conflict was clearly not just about land. There was a Muslim/Christian component as well. And there were, in fact, jihadi elements among the Azeri-Turks fighting against Armenia’s Christians. Tragically, some 30,000 died in that little-known war.
And now, Turkey’s ambitious Islamist President Erdogan has declared Armenia as “the biggest threat to peace in the region.” His latest posturing threatens Armenia and Karabakh, both of which are almost entirely Armenian Orthodox Christian.
As I wrote for The Jerusalem Post a few months ago:
Turkish aggression in at least five countries has been headlined in international news reports just this month, June 2020. These accounts focus on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest intrusions into Israel, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Greece.
Meanwhile, it is noteworthy to those of us who focus on international religious freedom that whenever Turkey moves in, religious freedom moves out. There can be no lasting freedom of worship for any faith unless it conforms with Turkey’s Islamic practices.
Now we can add Armenia to the list of Erdogan’s ambitions. Based on his recent hostilities, his transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Chora Church into mosques, and his frequent expressions of triumphalism, a couple of serious questions arise:
Does Erdogan think that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, which are ancient Christian historical heritage sites, represent yet another Hagia Sophia-type landmark? Does he feel driven to seize, Islamize, and declare them as yet more trophies for his neo-Ottoman Empire?
Those questions seem to be clearly answered in a report from Asia News:
Turkey has sent 4,000 Syrian Isis mercenaries from Afrin to fight against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. A few days ago land convoys reached Turkey and then Azerbaijan by air. The salary is 1,800 US dollars a month, for a duration of three months. A leader of the Syrian terrorist group said: “Thanks to Allah, from September 27 until the end of the month another 1000 Syrian mercenaries will be transferred to Azerbaijan”.
With another dangerous religious conflict exploding across that war-torn region, let’s remember to pray for our Armenian Christian brothers and sisters. May religious freedom truly flourish in their corner of the world as well as elsewhere around the globe.
Lela Gilbert is a Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council.
VOP Note: Please pray for our Armenian Christian brothers and sisters.
- “The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists.” — The Nigerian Voice, May 14, 2020
- Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria.”
- “This [using a church as a personal toilet] is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos…. As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.” — Greek City Times, May 16, 2020.
(Raymond Ibrahim) The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of May 2020:
The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: From January 2020 to mid-May 2020, Muslim terrorists massacred at least 620 Christians (470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram). According to a May 14 report:
“Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians, and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.”
The report further states that, since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists.”
Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.
Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), murdered at least 17 people, possibly many more, in the Christian-majority (95%) African nation. “They fired several shots in the air,” a local said. “When the population was fleeing, they captured some people and cut them up with machetes.” In late 2019, the same group murdered a pastor after he refused to stop preaching and convert to Islam.
Attacks on Christian Churches, Cemeteries, and Crosses
Greece: Muslim migrants ransacked and transformed a church into their personal toilet. This public restroom was once the St. Catherine Church in Moria, a small town on the island of Lesvos, which has been flooded with migrants who arrived via Turkey. “The smell inside is unbearable,” said a local. “[T]he metropolitan of Mytilene is aware of the situation in the area, nevertheless, he does not wish to deal with it for his own reasons.” According to the report:
“This is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos….
“As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.
“These continued attacks have ultimately seen the people of Lesvos, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, become increasingly frustrated by the unresolved situation that has restricted and changed their lives as they no longer feel safe on their once near crime-free island.”
Other incidents on Lesvos include “African immigrants ridiculing and coughing on police in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of olives trees being destroyed.”
Turkey: On May 8, a man tried to torch a church in Istanbul; the church had been attacked in the previous years, sometimes with hate-filled graffiti. When police detained the arsonist, he said “I burned it because they [Christians] brought the coronavirus [onto Turkey].” Discussing this incident, another report said that “Minorities in Turkey, such as Armenians, Rums and Syriacs [all Christians], as well as their places of worship, are occasionally targeted in hate attacks.”
Two weeks later, on May 22, in broad daylight, a man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul and proceeded to yank off its metal cross and hurl it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized “hipster” than an ardent Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.
Pakistan: After Friday prayers on May 8, an armed Muslim mob shouting “anti-Christian slogans” attacked and tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Built 22 years ago, the church was desecrated, and a large cross and part of a wall broken. The Muslim man behind the attack had sold land to the growing church a year earlier, and now wanted it back. A Christian eyewitness said that the mob, “after attacking the walls and the cross, challenging anyone who dare oppose them, fled… Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too.”
“The Christian community there reportedly protested against the violation and tried to stop the vandalism. However, they were allegedly threatened with guns… [A]ll graves that were destroyed had crosses fixed on the top… [S]ome of the houses occupied by the Christians were demolished and people were forced to flee from their homes. Amid widespread discrimination against the Christian community in Pakistan, the properties owned by the minorities are often subjected to injustice including land grabbing and being the target of criminals. Moreover, the economic disparities and religious bias in Pakistan’s judiciary have increased the struggles Christians face to recover the lost land.”
Serbia: On Sunday, May 31, two Muslim migrants entered the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade during service and robbed several of the mostly elderly congregants. “There were two of them. They broke into the church during the liturgy, which was in progress, and they stole two purses along with three mobile phones,” a church leader said, adding:
“Upon entering the temple, they split up on two sides, and after the people saw what was happening, they managed to catch one of them and take away his mobile phones and the money he stole. The other managed to escape. He took two purses, in one there were 3,500 dinars, while in the other there were 18,000, which was the entire pension of one woman. We handed that young man over to the police, while the other managed to escape. This is an insult. Isn’t anything sacred to people, such as the liturgy? Terrible.”
Egypt: On May 30, 2020 — two days before President Trump recognized Global Coptic Day — Egyptian authorities demolished the only Coptic church in village of Koum al-Farag, even though it had stood for 15 years and served 3,000 Christians. According to the report:
“The destruction of the church was a punishment for the ‘crime’ of building rooms for Sunday school…. When the work began, some extremist Muslims began to attack Christians.”
A separate report on this incident relates:
“According to an ancient Islamic tradition, or common law, churches are prevented from being formally recognised or displaying any Christian symbols if a mosque is built next to them.”
The authorities decided to solve this issue by demolishing the church, which took a tractor “six long hours,” a Copt recalled:
“The decision was not welcomed by the Christians in the village, so they protested by appearing at the site in possession of the documents. However, the police and some radicals began to insult and assault Christians, including women and children. The church leader received so many punches in the face and chest that he passed out.”
“Security camera footage led to his apprehension. Fortunately, no one was injured in this attack. Predictably, however, the prosecutors appear to be [pursuing] an acquittal on the claim that the perpetrator of the religious hate crime is also mentally ill. Based on precedent, it is extremely unlikely that this perpetrator will face any consequences for his attempt to torch a church.”
Mozambique: Islamic terrorists attacked a monastery. The four monks residing in it managed to hide and emerge unscathed. However, the hospital they were building for a nearby village was destroyed by the armed Muslims. According to the May 18 report:
“Little is known about the insurgents, and until recently there were doubts they were actually islamists, but they have claimed to be fighting for the imposition of Sharia law in the North of Mozambique…. The attack on the monastery, which included the destruction of a hospital that the monks were building in the village, is the second most serious attack against a Christian target since the troubles began. Last month a Catholic mission was also attacked, although, as here, nobody was killed. Other communities have not been so lucky, as the insurgents have left a trail of death and destruction behind them in the towns and villages they attack.”
Nigeria: On May 7, a helicopter bombed and destroyed a church. The building was empty at the time; no casualties were reported. According to a local leader,
“The helicopter used to hover around the area, dropping some things. We don’t know what they have been dropping but yesterday in the afternoon, the helicopter came and dropped a bomb … [The] Assembly of God church was destroyed including a nearby building…. Hours after the incident, a group of people numbering about 100 pass through the village carrying guns. Some were trekking while others rode on motorcycles. One of them was carrying a flag which is not a Nigerian flag; one other person was making some incantations in Arabic… People have fled the village… The question is who was in the helicopter dropping bomb?… We are very concerned … If it was a mistake by security agencies, they should come out and explain so as to allay the fears of the community.”
Algeria: Four Muslim guards responsible for protecting a church vandalized and overturned its statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the report,
“[T]he chapel of Santa Cruz built in stones extracted from the mountain of Murdjadjo where it is perched, was the object of an attempted theft… Four looters allegedly destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary by attempting to steal it. They have even destroyed other holy monuments in their path….
It was later found, however, that the chapel’s four hired guards were themselves the “looters” responsible for the desecration. The report continues:
“In addition, the Christian community in Algeria denounces… the intimidation which the faithful are subject to. Many Christians have denounced the series of closings of churches in the national territory. Several evangelical associations and organizations have called for an end to ‘the increasing pressure and intimidation from the Algerian government.'”
Iran: On Sunday, May 17, a Christian cemetery was set ablaze, just two days after the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai was also set on fire on the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. Damage at the tomb — a holy site shared by Jews and Christians — was reportedly minimal. Few other details concerning the burned Christian cemetery aside from video footage showing smoke billowing over its walls are available. A Hindu temple was also reportedly set on fire in May.
“While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments ‘are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,’ according to reports drawing from government statistics.”
Although the identity of the vandals responsible for this latest outrage is unknown, it appears that Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations are seeing a disproportionate rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. According to a 2017 study on France — which has the largest Muslim population in Europe — “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” rose by 38%, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016, in a German region where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public Christian statues (including those of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.
Abduction, Rape, and Forced Conversion of Christian Women
Nigeria: Between March 23 and April 30, six young Christian girls and one older married woman were kidnapped. “We are saddened to report to you the battles we have been fighting even amidst the lockdown,” the Hausa Christians Foundation reported on May 4, adding that it “has been working on the following tragic incidences of abduction and forceful Islamization, despite the fact that the lockdown has limited our efforts.” The statement continues:
“The usual practice is that these girls will be forced into marriage and perpetually be abused sexually, physical and emotionally. We are doing our best to rescue these precious lives but our efforts have been truncated by the current government imposed lockdown that has put everything on hold…. The simple reason for the injustice and the persecution we have been subjected to… is because of our faith in Christ Jesus.”
Two of the young girls have since been rescued.
Pakistan: Another young Christian girl was kidnapped. According to a May 2 report,
“On Sunday, April 26, a 14-year-old Christian girl … was abducted by a group of armed Muslim men… [T]he Christian girl’s family has filed a police report and is begging police to recover their relative…. Myra Shehbaz was abducted by a group of Muslim men led by Muhammad Naqash. Eye witnesses claim that Myra was attacked while she was traveling to her workplace as a domestic worker on Sunday afternoon…. Myra’s abductors forced her into a car and Myra tried to resist…. [The] abductors were armed and fired several shots into the air…. [The girl’s mother] fears her daughter will be raped, forcefully converted is [sic] Islam, or even killed…. [A]n estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.”
Egypt: In a May 22 report, Coptic Solidarity, a human rights organization focused on the plight of Egypt’s Christians, made the following remarks:
“The indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to experience increasing persecution, by the government and society…. To illustrate, at least five Coptic women, including some minors, have reportedly been kidnapped or disappeared in just the last few weeks, and Egyptian state security has made no concerted effort to recover them…. Ranya Abd al-Masih, a Coptic wife and mother of three from a town just north of the capital, Cairo… remains hidden despite protests, including from the region’s church, which laments ‘the total lack of reaction by the authorities.'”
Hate for and Abuse of Christians
Austria: A local newspaper reported:
“A graffiti that rightly causes a lot of agitation. The lettering “Christians must die” can be seen at the Traisen-Markt train station. Above it, in the same style, the words “Allach Akkbar” [sic]. The removal of the graffiti has already begun and will cost about 500 Euros.”
Uganda: A Muslim father burned his daughter for converting to Christianity. While traveling with her father, a sheikh (respected elder) of the Muslim community, Rehema Kyomuhendo, 24, heard the gospel and secretly converted. On the night of May 4, while she and her father were staying at her aunt’s home, she called a Christian associate: “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed,” Rehema later explained, “and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.” He also shouted that he was “going to kill her.” He broke a gas container, lit the pieces with the unspilt fuel, and began to burn his daughter. Her cries awakened her aunt, who protected her from the sheikh. Last reported, Rehema was expected to need more than a month of hospitalization due to “serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back.” No one has “reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her.”
Pakistan: In another example of abuse of Christians, this time in connection to COVID-19, “an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam,” according to a May 8 report. Speaking on Pakistani television, the cleric boasted of how when a destitute Christian man came for aid, the “staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted.” The man was subsequently renamed Muhammad Ramadan, signifying his conversion had occurred during the Muslim holy month. The cleric had added that Muhammad was then fasting (which is ironic considering hunger is what prompted him to convert in the first place).
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
(Morning Star News) – Dozens of foreign Christians in Turkey have been forced to leave the country or been banned from returning in what appears to be government targeting of the Protestant Christian community, rights advocates say.
Many, like Carlos Madrigal of Spain, have been serving in leadership roles in Protestant churches in the country for years. Such foreigners have lived in the country for decades, forming families and buying property, according to a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC).
Madrigal has lived in the country for more than 19 years on a clergy visa as the spiritual leader of the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation (IPCF), according to a press statement from the group. At the airport in November 2019, he was issued a stamp in his passport that he realized would keep him from returning to Turkey if he left the country, so he decided to cancel his trip and appeal the decision, according to published reports.
Madrigal appeared on Turkish television in June to point out that he could see no clear reason why he was banned from the country, the MEC researcher said.
Noting that the ban against Madrigal was issued in November 2019, the IPCF stated, “It is with great sadness that we must inform you that since 2019, it has been made increasingly difficult for foreign Protestant clergy serving in Turkey to be resident in our country.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Interior notified another foreign Christian, Joy Anna Subasigüller, a U.S.-born mother of three married to a Turkish pastor, on June 5 that her family visa was denied, according to German media outlet Deutsch Welle (DW).
Subasigüller, who has lived in Turkey 10 years, is a stay-at-home mom of three children ages 2, 4, and 4 months. Her children, like their father pastor Lütfü Subasigüller, are Turkish citizens, and she suspects the decision to deport her is related to his Christian work, according to DW.
Pastor Subasigüller was stunned that Turkish authorities would require them to abandon their home and relatives in Turkey, he told DW. The couple plans to contest the decision in court.
Another case involves a U.S. pastor in Istanbul who was about to fly out of the country from Istanbul with his family on June 24. He learned he would not be allowed to return to Turkey, canceled his flight and filed an appeal, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Another foreign resident of Turkey, Hans-Jurgen Louven of Germany, had invested more than 20 years in culture and faith tourism in the country with encouragement and assurances from local officials. In August 2019 an application to renew his residency visa was denied, and he was ordered to leave the country in 10 days, according to Christian support group Open Doors’ World Watch Monitor.
De Facto Ban
It is estimated that about 35 Christian workers received similar bans in 2019 and 16 more since the end of June, according to a Middle East and North Africa researcher for CSW.
The bans could go undetected by the unsuspecting. As Christian foreigners leave the country at airports, officials stamp an “N-28 Code” in their passports, according to the IPCF. Officially the code indicates that they need to obtain special approval to re-enter the country via their country’s embassy, but those who have tried to obtain it have been refused, making the code essentially a de facto ban, said the MEC researcher.
The N-28 Code can also be used to deny visa renewals, according to the IPCF.
Those fighting the ban find that administrative courts are not giving lawyers access to reports from Turkish intelligence, according to the MEC researcher. Advocates hope that they will be more successful by appealing to the constitutional court and, if not, then at the European Court of Human Rights, he said.
Effect on Churches
The targeting of foreign Christians puts pressure on Turkey’s small and vulnerable Protestant community, which relies on foreigners for formal religious training and sometimes for funding, advocates say.
“This will deprive them of support and make them feel isolated and abandoned,” said the CSW researcher.
There are about 10,000 Turkish Protestants who attend about 170 churches, many of them house churches, in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of more than 84.3 million people, said the MEC researcher.
While officially Turkey allows freedom of religion, including conversion from Islam, advocates say that pressure began building against foreign Christians in the country when U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned on spurious terrorism charges from 2016 to 2018.
Some Christians believe that a blacklist may have begun while authorities were trying to gather evidence against Pastor Brunson, the MEC researcher said. Some have noticed that many of those banned had attended one of three Christian conferences, he added.
“It’s notable that none of these people have been charged with any breaking of the law,” he said.
Foreign and local Christians love Turkey, he added, saying that some will have to count the costs of staying in light of recent developments.
“You actually find that Turkish Christians, they love their country,” he said. “These people who are receiving the bans – I know many of them personally love Turkey and have given such a lot to Turkey.”
Turkey ranked 36th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
ANCA, EAFJD and Armenia’s Foreign Minister Condemn ‘State Policy of Intimidation’
(Asbarez News) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey convened a five-hour closed-door session of his High Advisory Board to discuss efforts to crackdown on activists and advocacy organizations engaged in securing the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
According to Anadolu news agency, Erdogan convened the meeting to formulate Turkey’s response to “groundless and anti-Turkey allegations regarding the events of 1915,” with his Communications Director Fahrettin Altun reiterating that Turkey would not allow the “seeds of hostility” to be sown through “distorted historical events.” Read More
(Al-Monitor) Vulnerable groups have faced intimidation or worse in recent weeks in what both the government and the opposition warn are efforts to stoke conflict, though they disagree on who’s to blame.
ISTANBUL — Ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey are on edge after a series of threats and attacks, with both government officials and their critics warning society’s most vulnerable are being targeted to foment strife.
Kurds, Christians and others have all faced intimidation or outright violence in recent weeks in what appear to be mostly unrelated incidents. Yet they coincide with growing economic uncertainty and political tensions wrought in part by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 4,500 people in Turkey and hammered the economy. READ MORE
Reported by Ayla Jean Yackley