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Egypt Tries to ‘Reconcile’ Coptic Churches to Non-Existence

By  — From attacks by Muslim mobs to closures by Muslim authorities, the lamentable plight of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt always follows a pattern, one that is unwaveringly only too typical.

Thus, last April 14, a Muslim mob—predictably riled by the previous day’s Friday mosque sermons—attacked the church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos in Beni Meinin, Beni Suef.   According to Watani, as with 3,500 other Egyptian churches, after patently waiting for decades to receive a permit, the church “had been used for worship for some 10 years now…  [T]he building authority committee had recently [earlier that day] visited the church in preparation for legalising its status, and the attack was waged in retaliation.”

Local authorities’ response was even more typical: Twenty people were arrested after the attack—eleven Muslims (attackers) and nine Copts (defenders).  At least five of the arrested Christians, whose “crime” was to try to put out fires Muslims started, were illegally incarcerated for over a month.  One lost his job due to this prolonged absence (police refused to admit holding him to his employer).

Thereafter, on May 22, followed the usual “reconciliation” meeting between local Christian and Muslim elders, whereby victims forego their legal rights in an out of court settlement.  In order to release their innocents the Copts had to agree to close the church—no more mass, wedding or funeral services on grounds that it is a “security risk”—and agree that the eleven Muslims who led the violent attack also be acquitted.

Just four days after that, the whole process was repeated again: on May 26, another Muslim mob attacked a church in the village of al-Shuqaf in the province of Beheira.  “The mob,” notes the report, “also pelted the Coptic villagers’ houses with stones, damaged the priest’s car, and set on fire a motorbike that was parked in front of the church. Seven Copts suffered slight injuries. The police was called and caught 11 Muslims and nine Copts.”

As with the previous church incident, according to Watani, this church had also

been in use for worship for over three years now, and is known as the church of St Mark…  a few months ago, construction work started on building a mosque close to the church. On Saturday afternoon [May 26], the Muslim worshippers began shouting slogans against the church and the Copts, and used the mosque microphones to call upon the villagers to attack the church. Many villagers gathered and waged the attack.

The Coptic villagers claim that the nine Copts who were arrested had been caught randomly in what has now become common practice by the police in order to pressure the Copts into ‘[re]conciliation,’ so that no legal action would be taken against the Muslim culprits in exchange for setting free the Coptic detainees and ensuring a swift end to hostilities.

Such is the unvarying “boilerplate” plight of Egypt’s Christians and their churches. To become acquainted with the persecution of one Coptic church is to become acquainted with all.  For instance, nearly two years ago I offered the following detailed look at the “reconciliation” process—one that, as these two recent incidences show, remains perfectly applicable to and well entrenched in Egypt:

Christians trying to build a church … are typical violations that prompt large, armed Muslim mobs to attack all the Christians in that village (and their church if one exists) as a form of collective punishment, which is also Islamic….

After the uprising has fizzled out, authorities arrive.  Instead of looking for and arresting the culprits or mob ringleaders—or, as often is the case, the local imam who incites the Muslim mob against the “uppity infidels” who need to be reminded of “their place”—authorities gather the leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities together in what are termed “reconciliation meetings.”  During these meetings, Christians are asked to make further concessions to angry Muslims.

Authorities tell Christian leaders things like, “Yes, we understand the situation and your innocence, but the only way to create calm in the village is for X [the offending Christian and extended family, all of whom may have been beat] to leave the village—just for now, until things calm down.” Or, “Yes, we understand you need a church, but as you can see, the situation is volatile right now, so, for the time being, maybe you can walk to the church in the next town six miles away—you know, until things die down.”…

[Should Christians] rebuff the authorities’ offer and demand their rights as citizens against the culprits, the authorities smile and say “okay.”  Then they go through the village making arrests—except that most of those whom they arrest are Christian youths.  Then they tell the Christian leaders, “Well, we’ve made the arrests. But, just as you say so-and-so [Muslim] was involved, there are even more witnesses [Muslims] who insist your own [Christian] youths were the ones who began the violence.  So, we can either arrest and prosecute them, or you can rethink our offer about having a reconciliation meeting.”

Under the circumstances, dejected Christians generally agree to the further mockery.  What alternative do they have?  They know if they don’t their youth will certainly go to prison and be tortured.   In one recent incident, wounded Christians who dared fight against Muslim attackers were arrested and, despite serious injuries, held for seven hours and prevented from receiving medical attention….

[N]ot only are the victims denied any justice, but the aggressors are further emboldened to attack again.

Indeed, as seen by recent events—including one month where four churches were attacked and then closed—this modus operandi and culture of emboldened impunity is now more entrenched in Egypt than before.

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Two Christians Ambushed, Killed in Central Nigeria

Peace Joseph, 6, slain in attack in Miango, Nigeria on March 8. (Morning Star News)

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Sunday (June 10) killed two Christians and seriously wounded another in central Nigeria as they made their way home from a church service, local sources said.

Ibrahim Weyi, 45, and Larry More, 53, were said to be hacked to death when herdsmen ambushed them at 7:40 p.m. as the Christians were going home on a motorcycle from an evening worship service in Plateau state’s Kwall village, in the Bassa area, Patience Moses told Morning Star News.

A third Christian, 23-year-old Samuel Weyi, was wounded in the attack, the local resident said. All three belong to the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Kwall, another resident, Lawerence Zango, told Morning  Star News. Weyi is receiving treatment at an Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Jos, he said.

“Fulani herdsmen have continued to kill innocent Christians in our villages, yet the Nigerian government has not taken proactive measures to end the onslaught,” Zango said.

A spokesman for the Plateau State Command, Mathias Tyopev, confirmed the attack and told Morning Star News that an investigation is underway.

Herdsmen attacks on Christian communities in the Bassa area intensified late last year and have continued in spite of the presence of military personnel, sources said. Since February, 11 Christians have lost their lives in the area at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen, including the two killed on Sunday, said the Rev. Sunday Zibeh, pastor of the ECWA church in Nzharuvo, Miango.

“In these cases, the victims were either ambushed and killed by the herdsmen or attacked in their homes at night,” Pastor Zibeh told Morning Star News. “The sad reality is that the Nigerian government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Muslim and a Fulani man, has not acted in any way to end these attacks.”

He gave the names of those killed as Adam Sunday, 38; Jatau Akus, 39; Chohu Awarhai and Marcus Mali, 22, all of Jebbu-Miango village. They were ambushed and killed by the herdsmen on April 18.

“The four victims were construction workers working on site when they were attacked,” he said.

In March two other Christians, 17-year-old Lumumbah Chayi and Joseph Alli, 23, were killed in Jebbu-Miango and Rotsu villages, he said.

“Joseph was attacked and beheaded at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 15 in Rotsu village, while Chayi, a high school student, was murdered on Monday, March 12, at about 7 p.m. by the Fulani herdsmen in Kwall village,” he said.

In February three other Christians were killed and two injured in an ambush by herdsmen near Zanwra village, Pastor Zibeh said. John Esije was 32; Monday Nzwe was 38; and Saku Giyeri was 41. The wounded survivors are Sunday Bala, 33, and, Gudu Gara, 25, he said, adding that all the victims were members of ECWA church.

Zango, a church youth leader in Miango, which is part of the Bassa Local Government Area, told Morning Star News that since the beginning of 2017, 99 Christians in the Miango area have been killed in attacks on at least 26 villages, with another 44 Christians injured and 863 houses razed.

Among them were three children of an ECWA church member in Nzharuvo village, Miango. Joseph Gah Nze said Muslim Fulani herdsmen broke into his house on at 10 p.m. on March 8 and killed his three children – 12-year-old twins Christopher and Emmanuel, and 6-year Peace Joseph – and 18-year-old nephew Henry Audu.

In addition, Zango said more than 23,000 Christians have been displaced from their Miango area homes, thousands of dollars of farm produce have been destroyed and 15 motorbikes and a bus have been burned. At least 24 irrigation water pumps have been destroyed, he added.

The Irigwe Development Association, an umbrella community organization for Irigwe ethnic peoples, who are predominantly Christian, in April decried the incessant killings. Sunday Abdu, president of the association, said at a press conference in Jos on April 24 that between Jan. 25 and March 12, more than 70 Christians were killed by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen.

“The Irigwe nation feels compelled to once more raise the alarm over the continuous loss of lives from attacks on innocent villages,” Abdu said. “You are aware that we buried 25 people on the day we had set out to bury four out of the five that were killed on the night of the president’s visit to the state, this is in addition to the ones we have buried from series of attacks since January, not to mention the number of homes we have lost from such attacks and the destruction of farmlands which has ensured a looming hunger.”

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

 

 

Police in Pakistan Kill Young Christian Man in Raid, Relatives Say

Body of Waqas Masih. (Morning Star News)

Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Poor Christians in Pakistan commonly see police target them for extortion on false charges, and last week such a case ended in the death of a 24-year-old Christian, relatives said.

On the assumption that Christians with few legal resources can be targeted with impunity in the 96-percent Muslim country, policemen on May 29 killed Waqas Masih when his uncle refused their demand for money after they threatened to file false charges, the relatives said. Police are now pressuring the family to drop the murder case, they said.

The slain young man’s mother, a widow who belongs to a Pentecostal church, told Morning Star News that three policemen forced their way into the home of her brother, rickshaw driver Saleem Masih, in in Punjab Province’s Haider Colony, Gujrat District. Saleem Masih had recruited Waqas Masih and other relatives to help him with a construction project at his residence.

“Around 6 p.m., I was informed that three policemen had beaten my son to death,” Khalida Bibi, a sweeper at a hospital, told Morning Star News. “The police are now mounting pressure on us to ‘reconcile’ with their accused colleagues. They were initially reluctant to even arrest the accused, but eventually they had to take them into custody when we threatened to launch protests.”

Saleem Masih’s son, Emmanuel Saleem, told Morning Star News that he and other relatives were sitting in the courtyard of their home when three officers identified only as Shoaib, Shehbaz and Saqib forced their way in around 5:15 p.m.

“We asked them what they wanted, to which they said that they had information that we are drug peddlers and that they had raided the house to recover the narcotics,” he said, adding that the allegation was frivolous as the three policemen were notorious for blackmailing poor people in the area.

“We are poor Christians, but we earn our livelihood with honesty and integrity,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “We knew that the policemen were there for extorting money, but since we had done nothing wrong, my father chose to confront them rather than succumb to their blackmail.”

A heated argument ensued between his father and the police, and they began threatening to file false charges against him and other family members, he said.

“This must have panicked Waqas, who ran outside the house,” Emmanuel Saleem said. “The three cops ran after him, as did my other cousins, Qaiser and Dawood. The cops got hold of Waqas soon after and started hitting him mercilessly with punches, kicks and gun butts. Qaiser and Dawood tried to save Waqas from the police torture, but they were pushed back and warned not to intervene in the beating.”

His two cousins had returned to the house to tell his father what had happened when the policemen arrived and told them to check on Waqas Masih, saying he was “feigning illness,” Emmanuel Saleem said.

“We immediately rushed toward Waqas and saw him lying on the street, motionless,” he said, adding that he had already died by the time they arrived.

Waqas Masih worked as an assistant gardener at a government-run, rural health center. Asked why he had run from the house, Emmanuel Saleem said police often target poor Christians for extortion and file fake charges against them when they don’t have anything to pay. He said this was not the first time local police had illegally entered a home and beat Christians.

“Waqas was a very honest and hard-working young man who had no criminal history,” he said. “I guess he got frightened after the policemen threatened to implicate the cousins in fake cases.”

He confirmed that officials were pressuring the family to “pardon” the accused and give statements in their favor.

“We have even been offered money, besides threats to withdraw the FIR [First Information Report], but we have decided to hold our ground,” he said.

Police Denial

Gujrat District Police Officer (DPO) Jehanzeb Nazeer, however, denied that the accused officers were pressuring the family.

“I immediately ordered the registration of the FIR, and the three accused officials were taken into custody within 72 hours of the incident,” he said, but he added that the officers have not been formally charged with murder as the initial post-mortem report did not reveal the cause of death.

“The initial post-mortem report does not state any injury marks on the deceased’s body or the cause of death, therefore we are now waiting for a full report from the Punjab Forensic Science Agency [PFSA] before reaching a final conclusion about the incident,” he said.

Initial investigation showed the three officers raided the house on a tip that drug peddlers were present, he said.

“Waqas fled when the officials sought to frisk him, resulting in a chase,” he said. “The boy reportedly fell on the road, and one constable claims that he only kicked him twice in anger. The boy died on the spot, and the officials fled the scene.”

When asked if the deceased had any criminal record, the police chief said that they had not found any case registered against him.

Nazeer denied that the three accused officers extorted money from citizens.

“Since the matter involves a minority community, I took immediate action so that no one tries to exploit the situation for their ulterior motives,” he said. “Action will be taken in accordance with the law if the PFSA report points to police high-handedness.”

The three officders were taken into custody so that they could not influence the investigation or fabricate evidence against the victim, he added.

Pakistan is ranked fifth on Open Doors’ 2018 Word Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Turkey Turns On Its Christians

The ultra-nationalist Islamist group Alperen Hearths staged a forced conversion of Santa Claus to Islam, putting a gun to the head of an actor dressed as Santa Claus. This photograph was then posted on Twitter.

(Middle East Forum) While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Reconciliation Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) depict them as a grave threat to the stability of the nation. With Erdoğan’s jihadist rhetoric often stereotyping Christian Turkish citizens as not real Turks but rather as Western stooges and collaborators, many Turks seem to be tilting toward an “eliminationist anti-Christian mentality,” to use historian Daniel Goldhagen’s term. Small wonder that the recent launch of an official online genealogy service allowing Turks to trace their ancestry has kindled a tidal xenophobic wave on the social media welcoming the fresh possibility to expose “Crypto-Armenians, Greeks, and Jews” mascarading as true Turks. [1]

“The Mosques Are Our Barracks”

Persecution of Turkey’s Christian minority has long predated Erdoğan and the AKP. As it stood on the verge of extinction, the Ottoman Empire engaged in mass deportations and massacres that culminated in the Armenian genocide. The end of World War I saw the expulsion of more than a million Greeks,[2] and the position of the dwindling Christian community only somewhat improved in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secularist republic. Yet while Kemalist Turkey paid lip service to the equality of its non-Muslim minorities, the AKP unabashedly excludes these groups from Turkey’s increasingly Islamist national ethos.[3]

An ominous indication of what lay in store for the religious minorities was afforded as early as December 1998 when Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul and an opposition politician, announced that the “mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers,” quoting a line from a poem by the nineteenth-century nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp underscoring the Islamist foundation of Turkish identity. And while this recitation landed Erdoğan in prison for inciting religion-based hatred,[4] once at the helm, he steadily realized this vision, systematically undoing Atatürk’s secularist legacy and Islamizing Turkey’s public space through such means as the government-operated Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which pays the salaries of the country’s 110,000 imams and controls the content of their Friday sermons.

Things came to a head during the July 15, 2016 abortive coup when the regime ordered the imams to go to their mosques and urge the faithful to take to the streets to quash the attempted revolt.[5] Not surprisingly, this Islamist-nationalist reassertion was accompanied by numerous Christophobic manifestations (in Ayyan Hirsi Ali’s words),[6] notably attacks on churches throughout the country.[7] In Malatya, for example, a gang chanting “Allahu Akbar” broke the glass panels of the front door of a Protestant church while, in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, rioters smashed the windows of the Santa Maria Catholic church. Witnesses said the attackers used hammers to break down the door of the church before Muslim neighbors drove them away.[8] As Istanbul pastor Yüce Kabakçı lamented:

The reality is that Turkey is neither a democracy nor a secular republic. There is no division between government affairs and religious affairs. There’s no doubt that the government uses the mosques to get its message across to its grassroots supporters. There is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation. Even the educated classes here don’t associate personally with Jews or Christians. It’s more than suspicion. It’s a case of let’s get rid of anyone who isn’t Sunni.[9]

Anti-Christmas Campaigns… [Full Story]

Please pray for Christians in Turkey and for our brother, Andrew Brunson, an American imprisoned for his faith and awaiting the next session of his trial on July 18th.

Christian asylum seekers told to stay away from churches or risk arrest

Pakistani Christian asylum seekers forced to remain hidden or risk arrest

Voice of the Persecuted Asian correspondent (26 May 2018)— Thai Immigration and Tourist police resorted to yet another inhumane tactic targeting illegal migrants. On Sunday, May 20th, police went to all English speaking churches in Bangkok to check for people leaving and entering churches, in an attempt to arrest illegal migrants.

Five churchgoers were arrested from Silom district in Bangkok. All five were young Pakistani asylum seekers, mostly teenagers. They were heading to an Urdu church when they were stopped, then taken to the Immigration Detention Center. After some hours, they were released, miraculously, and were able to be reunited with their family.

A pastor from one of the English-speaking churches sent an email to the refugees attending the church warning them to stay away from the church during the week. The pastor wrote,

“………It seems that for this week at least, you need to be very careful and keep well away from any of the Bangkok churches. Therefore, we will cancel Thai and English lessons on Thursday this week. Other churches with similar groups are doing the same thing. 
We will wait and see what happens before talking about next Sunday……..”

Last year, Thai authorities began a crackdown naming it ‘Operation Black Eagle’. Many illegal foreigners have been arrested since then, which also includes some refugees and asylum seekers. Many were arrested in November 2017. See VOP report

Please pray for our brothers and sisters as this is yet another attack by the devil to subdue them and keep them from worshiping Jesus. Also, Sunday is the only day when the families get an opportunity to get away from their hideous single room apartments. Not having a break from their harsh existence can be devastating.

VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Please Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Help bring relief to those suffering in and out of Thailand’s IDC. Please consider our mission and donate, today. Go with us to Thailand through your blessings  to share with these dear brothers and sisters who have suffered so much. God bless you and your families.

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Catholic Therapist Fired Because Of Her Religious Beliefs On Marriage

ANN ARBOR, MI –The Thomas More Law Center reports Kathleen Lorentzen, a Catholic and licensed clinical social worker was told by her supervisor that she had to be “a social worker first and a Catholic second,” and was fired because she refused to compromise her faith which teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman. Mrs. Lorentzen had an exemplary employment record of providing psychological counseling for over 20 years to a diverse group of patients. But despite her outstanding record, her former employer, HealthSource Saginaw (“HealthSource”), located in Michigan, terminated her.

The Thomas More Law Center  (“TMLC”), a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed a federal lawsuit on Friday, May 11, against HealthSource on behalf of Mrs. Lorentzen for violation of civil rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as Michigan state law.

TMLC Senior Trial Counsel Tyler Brooks said, “This case shows that people of faith are under assault in the workplace. The fact is, however, that Christians need not choose between their faith and their jobs. Despite what many would have us believe, discrimination against Christians is a civil rights violation that will subject employers to legal liability.”

   The events that led to Mrs. Lorentzen’s termination began after she was referred a gay couple seeking marriage counseling, whom she saw on two occasions last summer. Though Mrs. Lorentzen has counseled many gay patients in her career, she felt that she could not see this couple any further for marriage counseling because doing so would violate her religious beliefs and practices regarding the sanctity of marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Mrs. Lorentzen’s supervisor, though, became angry with her when she asked to refer the couple to another therapist, as was her right under Title VII. Federal civil rights law generally requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs so long as doing so would not impose an undue hardship. In this case, the couple could have easily been referred to another therapist.

After this initial meeting, Mrs. Lorentzen was called into a second meeting with the same supervisor as well as HealthSource’s outpatient manager. In this meeting, Mrs. Lorentzen was aggressively interrogated about her faith and her work at HealthSource. At one point, one of the men dismissively referred to the teachings of the Catholic Church by saying, “They are just priests.”

Soon thereafter, Mrs. Lorentzen received a letter in the mail informing her that she was being terminated in 30 days. As described in the complaint, the decision to terminate Mrs. Lorentzen was based on her religion as well as her request for an accommodation under the law and her opposition to being discriminated against on the basis of her religion.

Click here to read the full complaint.

Authorities in Zanzibar, Tanzania Close Down Church

Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya. (Morning Star News)

(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.

Ten killed as Christian college attacked in South Sudan

Residential accommodation at the Emmanuel Christian College training centre in Goli, South Sudan. (Photo: Open Doors International, 2009)

At least ten people, including five children, have been killed in an attack on a college in South Sudan teaching Theology, Education and Business, according to the Christian charity Open Doors International.

Three guards and five students – one secondary and four primary school pupils – were among the victims of the 14 May attack on the Emmanuel Christian College (ECC) in Goli, in Yei county. A displaced father and son, who had taken refuge there after fleeing Mundri, were also killed.

The attackers also raped the 14-year-old daughter of a staff member, Open Doors reported, and vandalised and looted college offices, single-staff houses, classrooms and the library.

Witnesses reportedly told Open Doors the attackers were from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the main force which formerly fought Africa’s longest-running civil war for independence from Sudan in the north.

After peace was agreed between north and south Sudan in January 2005, the SPLA’s political arm, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), in turn formed a government under President Salva Kiir, and his deputy, Riek Machar. However a political feud between the two men then degenerated into political and ethnic rivalries: Kiir is a Dinka and Machar is a Nuer.

It is not clear why government-backed forces might have attacked the college.

The ECC management, which stresses the inter-tribal, inter-ethnic nature of its college, has reported the incident to state authorities and is working with them on next steps, Open Doors said.

ECC is a training institution that was set up by Open Doors in partnership with the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in 2001.

Since predominantly Christian South Sudan gained its independence from the Islamic Republic of Sudan in the north in 2011, Open Doors has been gradually withdrawing from the world’s newest country, and had handed over ownership of ECC to the local Church.

“We extend our condolences to all affected by the loss of life and our sincerest empathy to those affected by rape, witnessing of violence and looting,” Open Doors’ Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, JP Pretorius, said. “We call on the international Christian community to rally in prayer around staff at the ECC and the Church in South Sudan. We also call on the international community to do whatever it can to help bring an end to the hostilities in South Sudan and on the South Sudan government to take swift action to bring the perpetrators to book.”

Background

Since its independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan has been mired in conflict. More than 2 million people were displaced during two years of civil war, primarily between the Kiir and Machar factions, which officially ended in 2015.

Although the warring factions signed a peace deal, the fighting continued. In 2016 a UN commission on human rights warned of “ethnic cleansing” taking place in the country and in 2017 a famine was declared in parts of South Sudan.

Insecurity in the area had on several occasions interrupted activities at ECC, Open Doors said, and while most key staff members remained on the premises, theological and other training had been moved to Yei. (World Watch Monitor)

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