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(Morning Star News) – The pastor of a church on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar Island was preaching earlier this month when a plainclothes police officer and local officials strode into the church service.
“One of the police officers in civilian clothes walked through the church’s door, stepped up to the podium and then grabbed the bishop by the arm,” a church member told Morning Star News. “The bishop pleaded with him to allow him finish the preaching.”
The congregation of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church in Kisauni, near the Zanzibar City airport, was gripped with fear that day (May 6) as the pulpit microphone picked up Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya’s plea. The regional and local district commissioners ordered him to stop the worship service as the officer dragged him into a police car, said the church member, unidentified for security reasons.
“Why are you arresting my father without giving us the reasons for his arrest?” the pastor’s daughter cried. “This is very inhumane.”
The local district commissioner slapped her and pushed her into the police vehicle, the source said.
Other church members tried to intervene, in vain. Bishop Kwiyeya and his daughter were taken to the police station in Mazizini. The 160-member congregation went back into their church building and began praying for them.
“No one can take away our faith in Jesus Christ – Jesus is always with us and is ready to help us,” a church elder told them.
Congregation members later went to the police station, where the chief officer told them there were no charges against the pastor and his daughter, and they were released later that day.
The incident followed an order to close the church after Muslim sheikhs from a nearby mosque complained that services on Sundays and weeknights were too loud – though the congregation does not use loudspeakers as the neighboring mosque does.
“We have the right to worship God just like our brothers the Muslims who worship God using loudspeakers, but no one terms their worship a nuisance,” the church member told Morning Star News. “We as the church are of the opinion that the order to close the church is tainted with favoritism and unconstitutional.”
On April 26, the regional and local district commissioners met with Muslim leaders on the church premises – without inviting the church leaders – and discussed the allegations that the church was becoming a nuisance to the community due to loud noise. The regional district commissioner then ordered the church be closed.
The church did not comply with the order since leaders had not been given the opportunity to defend themselves, the source said. The church instead filed an objection with the regional district commissioner.
“The church could have been given a hearing before such radical decision of closing the church was taken,” he said. “This is quite unfair and contrary to the provision of the constitutional rights of freedom of worship of the United Republic of Tanzania.”
Church members say the closure was a calculated move to weaken Christianity and do away with it in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, he said.
“The worship by the church should be respected as it is guaranteed by the constitution of Tanzania,” the church member said.
Area Muslims did not complain about noise at the church until it completed a worship building with a seating capacity of 500 people in February, he said. Previously church members worshipped in a tent.
In March, authorities closed another church in Zanzibar when police pulled down the temporary structure of 50 iron sheets of the Free Pentecost Church of Tanzania in Kiwengwa, sources said. The congregation has yet to find another worship place.
On Jan. 7, local government officials in Zanzibar Town gave no prior warning to church leaders before a bulldozer arrived and razed the building of Zanzibar Pentecostal Church of Jesus to make way for a state university.
God is at work in Muslims lives all across Africa.
As we pray for the lost, remember that we are praying for REAL people.
Meet Shino and Shania from Somalia.
They were once Muslims, but when Shania encountered Jesus in a dream and Shino through God’s Word, their lives were forever changed!
Though they live under threat of death, they continue to love and serve their Savior Jesus – no matter the cost.
- WATCH their amazing story here.
- PRAISE God for what He’s doing.
- PRAY for thousands more like Shino and Shania to come to faith in Jesus across the continent of Africa.
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:14
Nightly Call scheduled through Ramadan
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In this video, Michael, a Sudanese Christian, shares his encounter with Jesus and tells how he’s been called to preach the Gospel in the Middle East despite the risk of strong persecution.
I’ve seen many miracles – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 2/7
Supernatural joy in the midst of persecution – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 3/7
Loving others according to Jesus – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 4/7
God’s promises never failed – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 5/7
Who is Jesus for me – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 6/7
Should you believe in God? – Christian Testimony of Michael (South Sudan) – 7/7
We pray you were blessed and encouraged by hearing our brother, Michael’s testimony. Please share it widely for others to hear. Thank you to CHRISTIANS OF THE WORLD, a Christian Testimony channel, for sharing Michael’s story. Visit their YouTube channel and be inspired by testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ. We also ask that you will pray for their ministries to expand and bring glory to God.
Iran (MNN) – While much of the world was anticipating the possibilities of the new year, Iranians were busy calling upon their government for change in widespread protests that continue today.
*Peter Smith was able to speak with strategically placed Christians in Iran about the situation that is unfolding.
He says, “About [seven] days ago inside Iran, what started as a riot towards the price increase of eggs — the price of eggs went up by 40 percent and so the people said, ‘Hey, that’s too much!’ — it has since turned into a political revolt. And what started in the city of Mashhad, which is the Shiite holy city on the coast near Afghanistan, has now spread to than 100 different cities inside Iran.”
The protests have grown in both scope and size, and what started as a small group of protesters has garnered international attention.
As of yesterday morning, Smith said, “What I’ve heard so far in the first six days is anywhere from 16-25 people have been killed. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have been arrested.”
The Washington Post says that at least 20 people have been killed so far. Smith believes that one reason the world is lending an ear to these protests is to ask the question, “Is this going to lead to regime change, or is this something internally that the country needs to deal with?”
Either way, the people in the streets are calling for change—both in leadership and how the nation’s money is used.
Iran is certainly no stranger to political unrest. Smith recalls the Green Movement or Revolution of 2009 which was mostly fueled by the middle class, calling for a revote for the presidential elections. This movement, he explains, did not have outside support from other nations.
“This time, the revolt seems to be among the … poor people, people who live in the parts of the cities where the economics are not as good. And what they’re saying is, ‘look, if you really want to help bring regime change, we need help from the outside.”
In particular, he says they’re calling on the influential nations in Europe, and on the United States. It remains to be seen where this revolt will take Iran.
“Especially this week, I think, is very crucial because it’s either going to continue and get worse, or the Revolutionary Guard will come in and squelch it totally. And so, what the outside world does to influence any decision, I think the next two or three days are very critical.”
While Iran has a broad spectrum of issues, there is a story unfolding that brings hope. Despite the extreme opposition Christians face, the underground Church is growing in Iran. As we’ve mentioned recently, Iran is currently the fastest growing body of believers in the world. And they are just as concerned about what’s happening in Iran as their non-Christian neighbors.
Smith says on speaking with Church leaders, he learned of two things they’re focusing on in particular: “First of all, they’re asking for prayer — prayer to know how they should go out into the streets and do ministry among those who are doing the rioting. And secondly [what] they’re trying to figure out is, ‘long term, will we as a nation be free so that we can have freedom of religion? So we can meet openly in parks or in buildings without the threat of the Revolutionary Guard or others to come in and arrest us?”
This time of year is a particularly difficult time for believers. “For the last several years during Christmas time, the Iran government has used that as a platform to arrest large groups of Christians who gather for the Christmas holiday. And even again this year they did that in several major cities. And so yes, the house church movement inside Iran is very concerned about not just the revolution that might be taking place, but how that’s going to impact their church in their future.”
Will you pray for Iran? Ask God that if there is any change to come about from these protests, that he would bring a peaceful transition. Pray for national believers to have wisdom and courage in their outreach.
Back in 1925, the American Legion erected a memorial in Bladensburg, Md., to honor the memory of 49 men who perished during World War I.
The 40-foot tall memorial became known as the “Peace Cross.”
In 2014, the American Humanist Association — a group that believes in “being good without a god” — filed a lawsuit alleging the cross-shaped memorial is unconstitutional and demanding it be demolished, altered, or removed.
They alleged the cross carries “an inherently religious message and creates the unmistakable appearance of honoring only Christian servicemen.”
On Wednesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and ruled the historic memorial must be torn down — all because the Bladensburg Memorial is in the shape of a cross.
The Fourth Circuit said the memorial excessively entangles the government in religion because the cross is the “core symbol of Christianity” and “breaches” the wall separating church and state. read the ruling
Writing separately, Chief Judge Gregory wrote, “This Memorial stands in witness to the VALOR, ENDURANCE, COURAGE, and DEVOTION of the forty-nine residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland ‘who lost their lives in the Great War for the liberty of the world.’ I cannot agree that a monument so conceived and dedicated and that bears such witness violates the letter or spirit of the very Constitution these heroes died to defend.”
The American Legion could appeal directly to the Supreme Court. Read More
MALDIVES: Maldives Ruling Party Should Repudiate Attacks on UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly condemns the verbal and online attacks against UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed. The statements by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the online postings of at least one religious scholar include harsh criticism and accusations that Shaheed is an apostate from his Muslim faith. The denunciations of this advocate for religious freedom have even resulted in calls online for his beheading.
According to reports, statements from the PPM, the party of current President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, accuse Dr. Shaheed of spreading “evil deeds” among Maldivians. “As if this were not enough,” said USCIRF Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga, who recently met with him in Oxford to discuss religious freedom, “the party also called on the public to speak out against Shaheed’s ‘irreligious’ activities, which resulted in online postings accusing him of apostasy and calling for his beheading. Coming from the ruling party, this is nothing less than government-sanctioned incitement to violence. That is unacceptable in the Maldives or any other country.”
Shaheed is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. In this key position, he is mandated to “identify existing and emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief and present recommendations on ways and means to overcome such obstacles.” Freedom of religion or belief is intimately linked to freedom of expression. Dr. Shaheed is being attacked by political and religious figures in his home country for exercising his freedom of expression on a variety of issues spanning several countries.
One reported Facebook posting by an alleged religious scholar called for Muslims who have expressed views such as Shaheed’s to “repent,” and if they do not, “Their heads will have to be removed [from their bodies] as a non-believer. [This has to be] implemented by the ruler.” Postings and statements such as this and those by the PPM have resulted in numerous explicit, violent threats against Dr. Shaheed as well as his family.
USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark added, “The PPM should retract its statements threatening Dr. Shaheed and condemn in the strongest possible terms any calls for action against him. Rather than inciting violence against a fellow citizen, the PPM should protect Dr. Shaheed and indeed any other Maldivian citizen who exercises his or her right to freedom of expression. A government is responsible for protecting its citizens, not being complicit in threats to their lives.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties.