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(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
UPDATE: 4-22-2019 Sri Lanka officals: Islamic militants targeted Churches and Hotels
PAKISTAN: Prayers are needed for Sawan Masih who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2014. Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in 2013. A case was registered against him under section 295-C of the Blasphemy Law which has a mandatory death penalty. Masih says the charge is false.
His case became internationally known when a large Muslim mob violently attacked Masih’s residential area, Joseph Colony, in Badami Bagh Lahore. The local mosque broadcasted the accusation via loudspeakers and a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims attacked Sawan’s home, looted and torched 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches. Witnesses say the police stood and watched instead of stopping the attackers and protecting local Christians and their property.
Hundreds of families were displaced as the mob threatened to burn Christians alive in their homes unless they left. Sawan Masih was handed over to the police and has remained in custody ever since. See our March 2013 report and photos of the violent mob attack
On March 27, 2014 the Lower Court sentenced Masih to death for committing blasphemy. Soon after this verdict CLAAS filed an appeal against the conviction in the Lahore High Court, which is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
Sawan Masih’s wife and three children are very concerned and living in fear. CLAAS is providing free legal aid to Sawan Masih. Prayers have been requested and considered crucial for his safety and release.
Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS-UK said, “This is a very unfortunate situation as although Asia Bibi was acquitted on October 31 by the Pakistan Supreme Court, she is not allowed to leave Pakistan despite several western countries being willing to accept her and her family.”
He added, “This is because the leader of the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan has threatened the government, saying if she leaves the country, there will be war. Unfortunately for the last several decades, Islamist groups in Pakistan have become more powerful than the state. Now the situation is that everyone, whether it is the prime minister or the chief justice of Pakistan, they have to proclaim publicly that they equally love the prophet and would sacrifice their life for the prophet.
A review petition and separately a petition to add her name in the exit control list (ECL) has been filed in the supreme court and keeping in view the present situation I don’t think the review petition will be heard very soon.”
Mr Saeed also said, “Pakistan’s President Dr Arif Alvi’s statement that the government will not amend the blasphemy law is not very encouraging as we all know the blasphemy law is often used by Muslims to settle personal grudges and scores against their rivals, and Christians are the main target. He said the blasphemy law needs change to stop its continuous misuse and the international community needs to remind Pakistan of this regularly.”
(Voice of the Persecuted) On Wednesday, protests by the radical group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) against the acquittal of the blasphemy sentence against Asia Bibi has paralyzed daily life in various cities throughout the country. Major cities such as Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, among others have all been affected. Protesters have forced people to close schools, shops and businesses. They blocked roads causing massive traffic jams, even flights have been delayed as passengers are finding it difficult to reach airports. The Punjab Safe Cities Authority reported protests were being carried out at 25 different locations, effectively blocking roads with intent to shut down traffic across the city. Security is also heightened in areas populated by Christians and for churches as well.
The TLP is now calling for the murder of the Supreme Court judges, mutiny within Army against General Qamar Bajwa, an Ahmadi, and an end to Imran Khan’s government.The government sent the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Noorul Haq Qadri and Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan to Lahore for the purpose of negotiating with Khadim Rizvi to end his protest.
Pray for the courage and safety of our Pakistani brothers and sisters. For the sake of all, that peace prevails in the country.
We ask that you also pray for those who persecute us, They do not know the Lord and the amazing love He’s offering them. Pray their chains will be broken, for revelation, repentance, that they will be found in Christ to receive the gift of salvation. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, let us pray.
As we rejoice and give thanks to the Lord with our sister, let us pray for her as she adjusts to life united with her family in a new country. We also would like to recognize the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, (ACN) grateful for the support they are and have given her family throughout their suffering. Asia and her family are members of the Catholic church.
Quote from the video below: “We have a great God and He answers prayers.”
(Voice of the Persecuted) Urgent prayers needed for Nigerian Christian teenager threatened to be executed today by Boko Haram. 15 year old Leah Sharibu was among over 100 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from a school in Dapchi, Northern Nigeria on Feb. 19, 2018. It was a kidnapping that mirrored what happened in Chibok four years earlier when 276 girls were abducted from the school in Chibok, Borno State. A month after the Dapchi abduction on March 22 the militants released 104 of the schoolgirls, with the exception of Leah. The teenager was the only Christian in the group. Boko Haram members told Leah to renounce her Christian faith and become a Muslim or they would not let her go. The Muslim schoolgirls begged her to do it and go home with them, but she refused to deny her faith in Jesus and is still a captive of the Boko Haram. The Nigerian government has been bombarded with pleas, including those from the international community, to step up and secure Leah’s immediate release.
A month ago, Boko Haram militants killed one of three Red Cross workers being held as their captives. The militants gave a one month deadline to kill Leah and the two others unless the Nigerian government met the radical group’s demands for their release. Today marks that deadline!
We ask that you pray with us for young Leah and the Red Cross workers.
…for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Rom. 14:8-9
The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5:8, we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Our brothers and sisters in the New Testament did not fear martyrdom. In fact, they considered the martyrs crown to be an honor and read in Revelation 20 that the martyrs will reign with Jesus in heaven.
Not to promote a cult of martyrdom, but to encourage that we need not fear what the enemy will do. Rejoice that Christ has conquered death and is victor over all. The persecuted church in Nigeria and around the world is not a “victimized” church but part of the global, persecuted church who is a “victorious” church because the bride of Christ follows a “victorious” Savior. The Son, who has conquered death, sits at the right hand of God the Father.
Only God knows what will happen to Leah Sharibu, this day, or in the days to follow. Pray for her release and let us also pray and rejoice that His good, acceptable and perfect will will be done to bring Him glory. For Leah Sharibu, our dear sister, belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not jihadists or even the devil can snatch her out of the hand of Jesus.
Voice of the Persecuted — Children of persecuted Pakistani Christians in Thailand woke up to the wailing sounds of their parents as Immigration police broke through their doors around 7 a.m. this morning. Immigration police raided Suppamas Mansion (apartment building) in Charan Sanitwong 8 and about 30 families were rounded up from their rooms and taken to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC) at Suan Phlu road in Bangkok. Approximately 80 people including 30 children and 50 adults have been reportedly arrested in that raid.
Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) began receiving urgent reports from our Thailand Representative, Christian Malik, while the raids were taking place. We were able to send out an alert to inform Pakistani Christian asylum seekers and refugees to stay indoors and out of sight. We also asked others to begin praying for them.
Among those arrested is Robin Victor, a father of three young children, who is a dialysis patient and is treated every 48 hours on a dialysis machine. We are gravely concerned that if he is not released his health may quickly deteriorate. Over the course of three years, approximately three people have died in the IDC due to medical illnesses. If appropriate action isn’t taken in time, Mr. Victor’s life could be in danger.
Immigration police continued its advance, far and beyond within Bangkok, and conducted two further raids in the evening hours. A building was raided in the Minburi District and about 9 people were arrested. One of those arrested is Tariq Gill, along with his two sisters, who received aid through VOP’s relief program for a few months in 2015 until an Australian church began covering their expenses.
Another apartment building was raided at Phet Kasem 77 in Bang Wa District and several people were detained. The exact figure for this raid is unidentifiable as Immigration authorities quickly took away their mobile phones.
Among other advancements, Immigration police cancelled the visas of Mr. X and Mr. Y. [ names withheld ] Mr. X is over 50 years old and had a retirement visa which he renewed 2 weeks ago, whereas Mr. Y had a non-B visa which he had recently obtained. The visas were rejected on the grounds that Mr. Y could speak Thai despite being in the country for a short period of time, while Mr. X, who had stayed legally in the country for the past 5 years, couldn’t explain how he fulfilled the requirements for his retirement visa. Voice of the Persecuted would like to acknowledge Mr. X for being one of those who has helped our relief mission, Project 133, to deliver aid such as food, toiletries, baby formula and diapers to those suffering inside the IDC. He has done so graciously without the expectation of anything in return. May the Lord bless and have mercy on this faithful servant.
Approximately 100 people have been arrested in raids across Bangkok today and more successive raids could follow. Many of those arrested are recognized refugees protected under International law.
The raids are a result of Thailand’s Immigration policy to eliminate illegal immigrants within the country. Unfortunately refugees and asylum seekers are also considered illegal as Thailand has not ratified the UNHCR Refugee treaty. Their asylum cases filed with the UNHCR, nor their UNHCR asylum cards are not considered by the government.
“Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday instructed Pol Maj-General Surachate Hakparn, Thailand’s acting Immigration Bureau chief to crack down on foreigners overstaying their visas…….”
This recent news report, read here, shows that the Thai Immigration authorities have increased their crackdown and will continue to raid and arrest illegals for the coming month. Unfortunately, our brothers in Christ will be affected and suffer even more.
Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and that God may be with them through this difficult time.
Some are asking why the Thailand authorities would do something like this. Thailand, a popular tourist hot spot, had been one of the major destinations for Christians fleeing persecution in Pakistan. But many came without the full knowledge of the dangers that lie ahead. Thailand, not being a signatory of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, regularly arrests asylum seekers and refugees. They are not distinguished from other immigrants, legal or illegal, even having UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) documents. In Thailand, all immigrants without valid documents are seized by the authorities and detained in the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). Often times, those arrested are first taken to the Central Jail and incarcerated along side those convicted of murder, rape and other serious crimes. We are expecting bail will be needed to keep many out of the Central Jail, approx. $100-$200 U.S. depending on the Judge. We are hoping for the ability to keep some from going to this dangerous place. However, this does not prevent them from being detained in the IDC.
At this time, bail is being denied for those in the IDC. They are forced to stay in it’s horrid conditions until they choose to self-deport. Hundreds are in the notorious Immigration Detention Center and some living in the deplorable situation for several years. The Immigration Detention Center is designed to hold about 50 detainees at a time. We approximate that before the latest raids there were 180 Pakistani’s, not including other nationalities, being held in the IDC. These large numbers lead to lack of space, sanitation and serious health concerns. They are at risk of contracting highly infectious diseases such as, tuberculosis, skin infections, among other air/water borne illnesses. They’re malnourished due to a diet of nothing more than mix of soupy rice and cucumber. Babies and children are not offered milk and they solely relying on outside help to sustain them.
Please pray for them to remain steadfast in holding onto their faith. VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Please consider helping our mission to cover these expenses and donate, today. Nutritional items, baby milk and diapers will be high on the list of needs. We may not be able to cover all expenses, but let us cover as many as we can! Your donations, whether large or small, aid in our ability to carry out this mission and are gratefully appreciated by our persecuted family. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
(VOP) There is much speculation about the outcome of Asia Bibi’s final appeal heard today by a special three-member bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. They will decide whether or not to confirm the death sentence of Asia Bibi. The chief justice warned the media and those present against commenting on or discussing the case until the court’s detailed judgement has been issued. No date is given when the Supreme Court will announce it’s decision.
Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of 5, was accused of blasphemy in 2009. In 2010, she was sentenced to death by hanging and spends her time in solitary confinement cooking her own meals to prevent an assassination attempt. Asia firmly denies the blasphemy allegations against her. If you are unfamiliar with the charges and details of her case, please read: What you need to know about Asia Bibi’s trial
Covering today’s appeal, Fides News agency shared that Christians in Pakistan await with bated breath, immersed in prayer and the conclusion of this final hearing. In the report Fr. James Channan who runs the ‘Peace Center’ in Lahore shared,
“It is good to know that, after such a long time, Asia Bibi’s case is brought to trial. Many people are praying for her release in Pakistan and around the world. It is our firm hope that, thanks to continuous prayer, she can be released. I am sure that the panel of judges will examine the case without prejudice and that justice will be done, without being influenced by external pressures. I pray that Asia may be released soon and may reunite with her family members who have lived many years of pain and anguish. If she is released, it will also give great relief to all those who, in the world, have felt deeply involved in this case, praying for her, so that this innocent woman may finally have justice. Moreover, if she is proved innocent, it will be necessary to punish those who falsely accused her, abusing the controversial blasphemy law”. He concluded, “Today we also remember those who were killed because of the support given to Asia Bibi: former governor of the Punjab province, the Muslim Salman Taseer and the Catholic leader Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minority Affairs. We hope their sacrifice was not in vain”.
Some are expecting the verdict to be announced within a couple of days, others believe that the risk of national riots and violence may delay the court’s verdict for sometime. Speaking to Voice of the Persecuted, a Pakistani Christian shared,
“The government doesn’t want her to be there anyways but the pressure from hardliners is keeping them from releasing her. There could be a national revolt if she is released so nobody has been willing to take the risk. If she is executed then Pakistan will face huge international humiliation. It needs to go through the due process and it will be a very tough decision.”
Asia is expected to ask the nation’s president for clemency if her appeal is rejected by the Supreme Court. Dawn News reports, “If that fails, she could become the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy”.
Asia’s husband and youngest daughter are in the U.K. as guests of the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. Her husband told the Catholic News Service that they visited Bibi in Multan Prison on Oct. 1. He declared she was in good health, psychologically, physically and spiritually strong, contrary to reports that she was developing dementia. He relayed that Asia had a message that the international community must remember her in their prayers and that those prayers would open the prison doors for her soon release. He also said that while Asia is praying, she feels Jesus encouraging and supporting her, that she was ready and willing to die for Christ and would never convert to Islam.
She has suffered so long. Please keep our dear sister, Asia, in your prayers. May God have mercy on her. Pray also for Pakistani Christians and the nation of Pakistan.
The movie below was filmed in 2014 in Pakistan, France and Italy. It features Asia Bibi’s family, her lawyers, journalists and friends, all actively engaged in campaigning for her release. It also includes an interview with Anne Isabelle Tollet, the journalist and author of the book Blasphemy, helping to bring public attention to Asia’s case.
(Voice of the Persecuted) For years, relations between the U.S. and Turkey have been deteriorating and, among other issues, critically affected by the detention of an American pastor, Andrew Brunson. Andrew has lived in Turkey for 23 years and is a pastor for the Izmir Diriliş (Resurrection) Church, a small evangelical Presbyterian congregation in the city of Izmir. He’s been unjustly detained since October 7, 2016 on charges of espionage and links to terror organizations which he firmly denies. Many believe Brunson is nothing but a political pawn in Turkey’s quest to force the U.S. to extradite Fethullah Gülen, who is considered an enemy of the Turkish government and living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for years.
During the first 18 months before his first trial hearing Andrew lost 50 lbs. and suffered extreme depression. Pastor Brunson’s first court trial hearing was on April 16, 2018, the second hearing took place on May 7; a third hearing on July 18. His fourth hearing is scheduled for October 12, 2018. The 50 year old pastor is facing a 35-year prison sentence if convicted by the Turkish court.
Through U.S. pressure, many hoped that Andrew would be released at the previous hearing on 18 July, but the judge ordered Andrew stay in detention. Reports claim that following an international outcry, the court ruled on July 25 that Andrew could be released from prison and be kept under house arrest due to health concerns.
On October 2, Ismail Cem Halavurt, Andrew’s lawyer, took Andrew’s case to the Constitutional Court hoping the claims against Andrew will be rejected and Andrew released from house arrest.
Turkish Christians and friends of Andrew Brunson are requesting prayer for the upcoming hearing.
Details for the call are below. Please, join us and let us remember all those who are in the shadow of the cross.
Your brother in Christ,
Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch.
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
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Three churches were closed in an Indonesian village last week amidst rumors Muslims were planning to protest against the churches’ presence because they did not have the required permits.
But a pastor from one of the affected churches in West Kenali village, Alam Barajo district, in Sumatra’s central Jambi province, told World Watch Monitor: “We had been worshipping here since 2004 and fulfilled all building license requirements. We have even built a good relationship with the local authorities. Yet the permit was not granted.”
“The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighbourhood,” said the pastor, who leads an Assemblies God church.
“The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighbourhood.”
The other two affected churches belong to the Huria Kristen Indonesia (HKI) and Gereja Methodist Indonesia (GMI) branches.
A local source, who wished to remain anonymous, said the churches were closed to prevent unrest ahead of a planned protest by supporters of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
“The village head filed a complaint with the higher authorities and rallied the support of radical group Islamic Defenders Front to hold protests against the churches,” the source said. “The day before the church closures, a letter had been circulated saying that a thousand Muslim residents would rally in front of the three churches on Friday, September 28. The government decided to seal the churches to prevent the commotion.”
The Indonesian Evangelical Fellowship (PGLII) and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) released a statement, urging the government to uphold religious freedom, protect minorities and not give in to mass pressure.
PGI also sent a legal team to support the churches, reported VOA. “The local government keeps delaying the process to have the permit, or just reject it without any reasons,” PGI General Secretary Gomar Gultom said.
Jambi District Spokesman Abu Bakar told VOA the church closures were just a “temporary action” due to “administrative issues”.
Bakar also denied that there had been pressure from the FPI to close the churches and said that if they submitted the required documents, they would receive permits within a week.
Paul Marshall, Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University, warned recently that Indonesia was likely see an increase in the “politicisation of religion” ahead of the 2019 elections.
“Much of this manipulation is done by people who are not especially religious,” he said at the Fourth Annual Southeast Asia Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Bangkok, in August.
He added: “What is most likely to lead to conflict is not robust, believing religion, but rather shallow religion that is used as a political identifier. The problem is usually not strong religion, but weak religion that is a strong source of identity.”
More than 1,000 churches have been closed or prevented from being built in Indonesia since a “religious harmony” law was passed in 2006, ordering minority religious groups to obtain the permission of the local majority group before building houses of worship, according to Human Rights Watch.
In Cilegon, a city in Banten, Java’s westernmost province, 21 churches registered under Cilegon’s Inter Church Cooperation Body (BKSAG) had all either been closed or were facing that threat, its President, Steven Polii, told World Watch Monitor in September last year. An historic agreement between local Islamic leaders and the government dictated that no churches are allowed in Cilegon, in order to preserve its Muslim identity, he said.
VOP Note: Indonesian Christians have contacted Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) asking that our Prayer Team pray for them. Please join us in lifting them up to the Lord.