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800 Christian families fled a Christian neighborhood after blasphemy accusation

Christian residents feared a repeat of several previous instances when Christian neighbourhoods have been set on fire following blasphemy accusations (World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) Several Islamic clerics and a few Christian leaders held a press conference at a police station in Lahore, Pakistan, (20 February) to send a message to at least 800 families who fled a Christian neighbourhood in the city after a 20-year-old Christian man was accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook, causing an angry mob to form.

The press conference was held at the Shahdara Police Station, after which a joint statement was signed calling for Christians to return and live peacefully with their Muslim neighbours, as before. The statement also noted that “the Christian community has guaranteed that they would not interfere in the religious matters of Muslims any further. And neither would any such incident [of disrespect] take place anymore. [Christians] will respect the religion of Muslims and holy places and their religious festivals and they [the leaders] will teach this to the members of their community”.

The mob had (19 February) set [tires] alight and blocked part of the Grand Trunk Road, a main artery in Lahore that connects the city with other major parts of the country, demanding Patras Masih be publicly hanged for posting content alleged to have disrespected the prophet Muhammad.

Lahore is a big metropolitan with a population of more than 15 million, including the largest population of Christians in Pakistan – no less than half a million. Around 2,000 Christian families, including Masih’s, live in the Dhair neighbourhood of Shahdara, a northern suburb of Lahore, and Bishop Emmanuel Masih of God’s Church in Lahore told World Watch Monitor that at least 800 fled to stay with relatives elsewhere, fearing a repeat of several previous instances when Christian neighbourhoods have been set on fire following blasphemy accusations.

Patras Masih had a nominal education and has been working as a cleaner in a bank, where his father, Inderyas, also works as a driver.

Masih’s paternal uncle, Arif, told World Watch Monitor his nephew was friends with both Christians and Muslims. “A few weeks ago, Patras posted a picture in a group of his friends that had both Christian and Muslim members,” he said.

According to the First Information Report (FIR) of the crime, lodged by a man named Muhammad Awais, the allegedly blasphemous content was posted more than a month ago, on 16 January, on a Facebook group named PaglonKiBasti (The Town of Lunatics).

“After seeing this post, I asked Muhammad Siddique [moderator of the group], who immediately phoned the suspect, Patras Masih, and asked him to remove the post. But Patras refused to remove the post, after which the area residents are quite upset and angry,” Awais stated in the FIR.

Patras Masih’s mother, Saima Bibi, told World Watch Monitor that on the evening before the trouble started, Sunday 18 February, three men of Pashtun descent came to her home, showed her son’s picture and inquired if he was home. “Patras’s younger brother told them that he was not home,” she explained. “Then again four boys came inquiring about him. When Patras came home, we told him and he could not make sense of why these people were looking for him.

“Early the next morning [19 February], Patras and his father left for work, where his friend told him on the phone that people were gathering outside, after which the two of them fled while I came back home. The police knocked on the door while I was in the washroom. They left after searching, without finding me. I spent all day in the washroom and at night I went to the second floor of the building and jumped to a neighbour’s house.”

Arif Masih told World Watch Monitor: “People had started gathering around 7am, while I heard about what was happening around 11.30am, when things had started getting worse. I live only few streets away and rushed to the place where people were gathering, while Patras and his father had already fled from home.”

Requesting anonymity, a local pastor from the area said that several people with long beards had gathered and demanded that Patras Masih be handed over to them or else they would set their houses on fire, having brought petrol for this purpose.

When the police arrived, they brought a few clerics with them to negotiate with the mob. The police managed to get the road cleared for traffic in the evening, but the mob continued to demand Masih’s arrest and public hanging.

“In the evening, when the angry mob was getting out of control, we went to the superintendent of police’s office and handed Patras to them,” his uncle explained. “Since then we don’t know what is taking place with him.”

“A huge number of people who were extremely angry had gathered and blocked the road, but thank God that no untoward incident took place and now the situation is under control,” Sub-Inspector Haji Munir, leading the investigation, told World Watch Monitor.

“Patras was told by other members of the Facebook group to delete the post, but he remained adamant, after which this issue arose,” Munir added. “Patras is still under investigation but soon will be sent to jail.”

In recent years, social media has become a thorny issue in Pakistan. YouTube remained blocked from September 2012 until January 2016, while in March last year Facebook was told it would be completely shut down if blasphemous content was not removed. Then in May, a 16-year-old Christian, Nabeel Masih*, was accused of posting a blasphemous picture on Facebook, and is now facing jail.

Punjab Assembly parliamentarian Mary Gill, who signed the statement in Lahore on behalf of the Christian community, told World Watch Monitor the younger generation must understand the sensitivity of such issues while using social media. “Our people [Christians] are illiterate and there have been several such incidents in recent years,” she said. “Due to the sensitivity involved, even Christian politicians fear to handle such incidents for fear of reprisals.”

*The name ‘Masih’, which derives from ‘Messiah’, has been used for whole Christian communities for many years in Pakistan. Bibi, meanwhile, is a respectful term for a married or older woman in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia – the most famous Christian example being Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2010.

 

 

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Two Rows by the Sea, 3rd anniversary of 21 Christians martyred in Libya

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Heb.11:37-38

My Brothers and Sisters,
On this day, 3 years ago, the Islamic State terror group (ISIS) shared video footage of 21 followers of Jesus being martyred on the shores of Libya. The 20 Egyptian men and 1 from Chad/also linked to Ghana, had traveled to Libya for jobs as laborers to make a living and care for their families back home. They were captured and had their throats slit by ISIS for being ‘people of the Cross. Each one died with the name of Jesus on their lips.

Shortly after this tragedy, the Bible Society Egypt quickly printed and distributed a scripture tract with encouraging verses and promise of blessing amid suffering to the nation. More than 1.6 million copies of the tract called, Two Rows by the Sea” was printed and shared with the churches. It was designed to be given to any Egyptian and included Bible verses to comfort the mourning and challenge people to commit to Christ.

In response to their execution, the tract also included a poem written by Dr Shady George. In the link below a brother reads this moving poem in his heart language of Arabic, but with English subtitles.

Based on the poem, a dear sister put together a beautiful music video remembering these martyrs of Jesus.

Richard Wurmbrand had often commented that it was never considered a first century church service unless the martyrs were remembered. Dear saints, let us remember those who paid the ultimate price in following their Savior, the martyrs, the witnesses of Jesus who lay down their lives on the altar and slain for the word of God and the testimony that they maintain. For sure they will be honored by Jesus and receive the reward of their inheritance.

Then I saw thrones and they sat on them and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, Rev. 20:4

~~~

Posted in honor of those who have been slain for Jesus.

Serving as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch,

Blaine Scogin

 

Iranian Christian Convert Admitted to Prison to Serve Sentence

Mohabat News — Last May, the Iranian Revolutionary Court had sentenced Naser Navard-Goltapeh to 10 years in prison for his faith. He has now been transferred to the infamous Evin prison in Tehran to serve his sentence.

Mr. Navard-Goltapeh had appealed his sentence but an appeals court upheld his sentence on November 12, 2017 in branch 36 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The sentence was approved in the appeals court in spite of Navard-Goltapeh’s attorney providing numerous grounds for his innocence.

The spokesman for the Article 18 organization, a Christian rights advocacy group, Kiarash Alipour told Mohabat News regarding Mr. Navard-Goltapeh’s accusations, “The court based its decision to convict Naser Navard-Goltapeh on a report by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, allegedly providing ample evidence that he attempted to undermine national security through establishing an ‘illegal house church network’. However, when asked for the report to be presented to his attorney, the court refused”.

He added, “In the appeals court, the judge surprisingly asked Mr. Navard-Goltapeh to convince the Ministry of Intelligence of his innocence in order to ease his sentence”!

It appears that the plaintiff in Mr. Navar-Goltapeh’s case is the Ministry of Intelligence itself. In earlier cases as well, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence had asked Christian prisoners to “cooperate” with them in order for their sentences to be eased. It is not clear what the ministry means by “cooperation”.

Mr. Naser Navard-Goltapeh had been arrested on June 24, 2016 in a private gathering along with three Christians from Azerbaijan’s “Word of Life” church in Baku.

All four Christians arrested in that incident were held in solitary confinement for two months and subjected to intense interrogation. They were all charged with “illegal gathering, collusion and evangelism” and eventually released temporarily on a heavy bail. The three Christian citizens of Azerbaijan returned to their home country after being released.

In an interview with the Article 18, Mr. Navard-Goltapeh’s attorney, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz said, “My client has not broken any of the criminal code and is not guilty of his charges. All other Christians arrested with him also confirmed all of their meetings were strictly focused on their faith and worship and nothing else.”

Earlier this year, four UN human rights experts raised concerns over the Iranian judicial system not providing Christians with a “fair and transparent hearing”.

These experts noted, “Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution.”
Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List has placed Iran among the top 10 countries where Christians are persecuted the most.

The Islamic regime of Iran systematically shuts down anyone trying to spread Christianity in the country. Christians in Iran are regularly faced with arrests that most often leads to long-term prison sentences.

ROME’S COLOSSEUM TO BE LIT RED FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

The Roman Colosseum Photo: Wikipedia

By Dan Wooding (Assist News)  The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.

Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.

The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit. 

Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”

“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”

Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]

Rebecca and family united. Photo: Voice of the Persecuted

Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”

The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.

“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.

China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”

The Middle East was a major focus for the report.

British Parliament lit up in red.

“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.

Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.

A man prays in a bombed out church in Aleppo.

ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.

A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”

About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. 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 HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTEDHis 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!

Jailed US pastor still refused ‘due process’ in Turkey

A photo of the Rev. Andrew Brunson during his time in prison. Photo courtesy of World Witness

(World Watch Monitor) As a high-level US delegation arrived in the Turkish capital [on 23 January], in an effort to resolve high-level tensions between the two NATO allies, discussions were slated to include what officials in Washington have termed the “wrongful detention” of US pastor Andrew Brunson for the past 15 months.

Led by Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Asian Affairs Jonathan Cohen, the bilateral meetings in Ankara are the first sessions of a Joint Coordination Committee recently established between Turkish and US diplomatic and justice officials.

With the visit coming right on the heels of the Turkish military’s “Operation Olive Branch”, launched over the past weekend in Syria’s Afrin province, the Turkish media stressed that the delegation included officials from the US Defense Ministry.

But according to a report in Hurriyet Daily News today, “The working group’s agenda includes a number of issues that have led to tension in bilateral relations in recent months, including the visa crisis and ongoing investigations of US consular staff.”

In Brunson’s case, the pastor of Izmir’s Resurrection Church was inexplicably detained some weeks after a failed 15 July, 2016 coup attempt against the Turkish government. After two months’ refusal to deport him, it became clear he had been caught up in Ankara’s massive crackdown to identify and punish the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terror Organisation (FETO) network accused of infiltrating Turkey’s armed forces and government and masterminding the coup.

In the ongoing state of emergency law ever since, 50,150 “suspected” judges, prosecutors, soldiers, academics, journalists, human rights activists and police officers have been jailed and held for months in pre-trial detention for supporting Gülen, an exiled Turkish Muslim cleric residing in the US.

Still no indictment

Fifteen months after Brunson was first detained and threatened with deportation on 7 October, 2016, Turkey’s judiciary still hasn’t issued any written indictment spelling out the allegations against him.

According to vague reports in Turkey’s pro-government media, his charges are based on “secret evidence” and a “secret witness” accusing Brunson of trying to overthrow the Turkish government.

He and his lawyer continue to be denied access to his confidential case file. In effect, he has experienced no substantive “due process” – an individual’s legal entitlement to notice of a charge and a hearing before an impartial court of law.

After six months in a crowded cell with 20 Turkish prisoners also accused of Gülen links, Brunson was moved to the maximum security Kiriklar Prison in Izmir, where he has shared a cell with two Turkish prisoners.

He is allowed to leave his cell once a week for a scheduled visit with his wife or a US consular officer.

According to two US representatives who visited him in October on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “He is the only American, the only English speaker, and the only Christian in the prison. He lives in a world of physical isolation and psychological dislocation.”

During his incarceration, he has missed his daughter’s wedding, and then her university graduation.

In late September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly declared that his government was holding Brunson as a political hostage, demanding that the US extradite Gülen back to Turkey in a prisoner “swap” for the pastor. Turkey insists that the evidence it has sent to the US proves that the cleric planned and orchestrated the coup attempt.

President Erdoğan declared further on 11 January that “as long as I hold office”, Turkey will not extradite any jailed “suspects” to the United States until Washington hands over Gülen. If Erdoğan persists, he will effectively cancel a 1979 extradition treaty between the US and Turkey on criminal matters.

Arrested at the age of 48, Brunson had raised his family and ministered in Turkey for 23 years. On 3 January, he spent his 50th birthday in his cell.

“We would never have imagined this kind of a birthday,” a close family member said. “Andrew did what he set out to do: he thanked God for the life he has had.” see below

As indicated in his only photograph from his imprisonment, Brunson has lost more than 50 pounds (20kg), becoming a pale, slender version of himself.

Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) note:

Pastor Andrew’s wife has recently shared, “This past month the tears have been flowing with a series of disappointments, including missing our daughter’s university graduation. Having those disappointments hit around Christmas made it all the harder.”

On January 1, 2018, a note from Andrew was shared that had been written a few weeks prior.

I am deeply grateful to all who have prayed for me. This trial – time in prison – has stretched me far more than I ever would have imagined. I have been very weak, had many doubts, felt very alone. I know that God’s grace is sustaining me, even when I do not feel that grace, and I know that the prayers of God’s people are surrounding me and giving strength. One of my big fears has been that I will be forgotten in prison. Thank you for not forgetting! It is a great encouragement to know there are people praying for me – it reminds me that I am not alone, and that I need to stand firm, with my face pointed in God’s direction always. Thank you for standing with me in this most difficult time.
Many blessings to you
Andrew

Responses poured in from that post to say that prayer is continuing. His wife expressed her extreme gratitude and said,  “I will pass some of these messages on to Andrew”.

Below is the most recent message from Andrew shared only two days ago.

Dear praying friends,

Each day I pray the following: “Father God pour out on me, your son, the courage, strength, endurance, perseverance and steadfastness of Jesus, that I may run the race set before me and finish well, a bride resplendent, purified in the fires of faithful obedience, and worthy of Jesus, my Beloved and King of Glory.” I pray this over my family as well. I supposed it applies to all of us, especially in times of trial and testing. I feel like I am living in Isaiah 50:10 – hanging on in the dark. Thank you for standing with me – and for me – in prayer, and sharing in my imprisonment. It is a great encouragement when Norine tells me that prayer continues, even after this long time. Again, I thank you. May the Lord accomplish his purposes, do a deep and thorough work in me – and do it quickly!

Andrew

Some have recently asked if they can send prayers and messages to Andrew in prison. We’re asking that you refrain from doing so at this time. If you would like to encourage the family and view the latest updates on Pastor Brunson, please visit this Facebook page. Your prayers may be shared with this dear pastor.

Keep praying!

Pastor Found Dead in Tamil Nadu, India

The body of Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy of Maknayeem Church in Tamil Nadu, India. (Morning Star News)

India (Morning Star News) – The body of a pastor in southern India was found hung from the thatched roof of his house early Saturday morning (Jan. 20), a week after he complained to police about opposition from Hindu extremists, sources said.

Congregation members said they found the body of pastor Gideon Periyaswamy of Maknayeem Church hanging from a rope in his one-room house beside the church building in Adayachery village, Kanchipuram District, but that his knees were bent stiff, as if others had placed him in the noose after his death. He was 43.

A convert from Hinduism 25 years ago, Pastor Periyaswamy was single and served as pastor in Adayachery for more than 12 years, his close friend, pastor Azariah Reuben, told Morning Star News.

“The local Hindus were not happy with growing Christianity,” Pastor Reuben said. “They had several times tried to stop the ministry.”

At pastors’ meetings and on other occasions, Pastor Periyaswamy spoke of Hindu hostilities to his church services and requested prayer, he said. Pastor Reuben said that Pastor Periyaswamy once remarked, “I have no problem – if needed, if the Lord permits it, I would die as martyr for Christ, but the ministry should not stop.”

A deputy superintendent of police identified only as Rajendiran told Morning Star News that a week before his death, Pastor Periyaswamy had filed a complaint with police “on some village people troubling him.”

“Our investigation was underway, and now we found him dead,” Rajendiran said.

A congregation member identified only as Indira said that the previous Sunday (Jan. 14), Hindu extremists were upset about a car sitting outside the area designated for church parking.

“They pelted stones at the car, and the pastor made an announcement requesting the church members to park their vehicles within the church premises only,” she said.

For the past six months, the local hard-line Hindus have harassed the pastor every Sunday, Indira said.

“When they see the pastor, they laugh, giggle and crack humiliating jokes at him,” she said. “They would always look for something to pick a fight over. But pastor told us, ‘We should be at peace with our neighbors – let’s not give them a reason to fight.”’

Last year local Hindu extremists kicked and beat him, Regina said. She and Indira found the pastor’s body.

“On Friday night [Jan. 19], our pastor visited the church families,” Regina said. “He told me and other sisters that there will be a fasting prayer on Saturday morning at 10 a.m., so please come early and clean the church hall.”

When they arrived on Saturday morning at 5 a.m. to clean the church building, they were surprised to find the pastor’s room bolted shut.

“We opened the door and were shocked to find Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy hanged,” Regina said. “A rope was fastened to the roof and tied to pastor’s neck, but his knees were slumped towards the ground. When the police came to unhang the pastor’s body, we saw a cut in his neck area. There was blood clotted.”

Police initially refused to file a complaint from congregation members, sources said. After church members and pastors from neighboring villages blocked a road in protest, his body was transported to Chengalpattu Government Hospital, where it has been placed in the hospital mortuary, Pastor Reuben told Morning Star News.

The Vanniyar community and other upper castes in Adayachery hate the lower caste of the pastor and his congregation, said pastor Immanuel Prabhakaran, who worked with the deceased leader of the church, which belongs to the Synod of Pentecostal Churches.

“They threatened the pastor, ‘How dare you set up a church in our locality? This area is of upper castes. Stop running church here. Stop inviting schedule castes to our area. You leave this village else we will make life difficult for you,’” Pastor Prabhakaran told Morning Star News.

Church members suspect Vanniyar and village leaders were behind the killing of the pastor.

“These people had cut the church’s water supply by disconnecting the pipeline,” said one church member.

Originally Pastor Periyaswamy had led the congregation as a house church, and before the current structure was built, they met in a shed. In 2016, area Hindu nationalists demolished the shed, church members told Morning Star News.

“We filed a complaint at Kalapakkam police station, but no action was taken,” one member said.

Pastor Periyaswamy’s cousin, Shiv Shankar, told Morning Star News that Pastor Periyaswamy was involved in many charity activities and led a simple life.

“We come from a Hindu family, and he was the first to convert to Christianity at the age of 18,” Shankar said. “He boldly professed his faith. I can never think my cousin would commit suicide. He was murdered.”

Two weeks ago, he invited all relatives to the church’s anniversary celebrations, he said.

“He was elated. My other cousin and her husband, Gideon’s sister and brother-in-law, gifted him a gold ring,” Shankar said. “He refused, but they forced him to accept. He did. Even that ring is missing.”

Nehemiah Christie, director of legislations and regulations for the Synod of Pentecostal Churches, urged police officials and government to conduct a fair investigation.

“There is urgent need for an autopsy in the presence of a judicial magistrate,” Christie told Morning Star News. “Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy’s death can’t be ruled out as suicide.”

The deputy inspector general of police of Kanchipuram Range, identified only as Thenmozhi, told Morning Star News that officers would carry out a fair investigation.

“There is no doubt in that – we will ensure a fair investigation,” Thenmozhi said. “If there is any troublemaker involved, we are looking at all angles regarding this. We ensure fair investigation. The post-mortem begins once the enquiry starts. Let the family and relatives come out with the facts they have; once we are given the witnesses statements and some supportive material, we will ensure post-mortem.”

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.

Chinese Authorities Demolish Evangelical Church in Crack Down

CBN reports that a church in northern China’s coal country that once served as the worship center for more than 50,000 congregants is no longer standing.  All that is left of the Golden Lampstand Church in the city of Linfen in Shanxi province is the church’s steeple and cross which now lays on top of a large pile of rubble. Chinese authorities detonated explosives in an underground worship hall earlier this week, ChinaAid, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy group, reports.

This is not the first time Golden Lampstand Church has come face to face with Chinese government officials. During the church’s construction in 2009, 400 police and other officials attacked church members, defaced the building, and seized Bibles. Several of the church’s leaders, including the pastors and their relatives, were arrested. They were charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by gathering together. Evangelist Yang Xuan, the founder of the church, spent 3.5 years in prison and Yang Caizhen, his wife, was sentenced to two years in a re-education labor camp and beaten while incarcerated. Read More

Eritrea: Government closes schools, clinics and prohibits Christian social activities

(Agenzia Fides) – “In Eritrea, the regime has begun to persecute religious confessions and, in particular, the Catholic Church. The objective is clear: to try to prevent its influence on society: not by prohibiting worship, but social activities”. This is the alarm launched by Mussie Zerai, a priest of the eparchy of Asmara, for years a chaplain of the Eritreans in Europe and active in saving migrants in danger in the Mediterranean. Since 1995 – he explained to Fides – there has been a law in force in the country according to which the State wants to carry out all social activities. Therefore, the latter cannot be carried out by private or even by religious institutions. So far, the law has been applied in a bland manner and has not seriously affected the network of services offered by Christians and Muslims. In the last few months, however, there has been an acceleration.

Public officials have decreed the closure of five Catholic clinics in various cities. The minor seminary (which served both the diocese and the religious congregations) was closed in Asmara. Also several schools of the Orthodox Church and Muslim organizations had to close their doors. The closure of an Islamic institute, at the end of last October unleashed the harsh protests of the students.

“Beyond the economic damage to individual religious confessions – continues abba Mussie – those who pay a high price is the population who no longer has serious and efficient structures to turn to. In Xorona, for example, they closed the only dispensary in operation that was run by Catholics. In Dekemhare and Mendefera, the authorities have banned the activity of Catholic medical centres by stating that they were a duplication of state ones. In reality, public facilities do not work: they do not have medicines, they cannot operate because they do not have suitable equipment and often not even electricity”.

But what is the reaction of the population? “To rebel is not easy”, explains the priest. “The Muslim uprising was stopped with weapons. And there were many dead and wounded. Last month, seven thousand young call-ups joined and, together, called for a meeting with President Isayas Afeworki to denounce the harassment of their officers. The president received them and listened to them. At the end of the talks the boys were taken to a concentration camp near Nakfa and, as a punishment, were left outdoors, under the scorching sun, with very little food and water. Many fell ill. After the parents’ protests, the regime said that it will send them to the barracks to finish the naja. But under what conditions?”.

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