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Christian and Muslim leaders in Burkina Faso met last week to discuss interreligious dialogue amidst growing concerns about the spread of violent Islamic extremism in the country, reports Fides.
The landlocked West African nation, which borders Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast, is majority-Muslim (around 60%), but also has significant numbers of Christians (over 20%, the vast majority of whom are Catholics) and followers of indigenous beliefs (15%), according to the latest census (2006).
On top of a rise in violent extremism, delegates of the Second General Assembly 2018 of the Episcopal Commission for Islamic-Christian Dialogue noted an increase in radicalisation and the use of religion to drive political agendas.
“We are called to live together,” Muslim leader Iman Boureima Drobo told delegates. “We must learn to do it. It is an obligation, otherwise it will be very difficult to be happy on this earth. It is here that Paradise and eternal life are prepared. If we are not in this state of spirit in this world, it will be very difficult to obtain what God has promised us after death.”
Last month the International Crisis Group warned of an “alarming escalation of jihadist violence”, as reports emerged about a group called ‘Islamic Security’, operating from Pouytenga, 150km east of the capital Ouagadougou. The Fédération des Associations Islamiques du Burkina described the group as “the non-armed service of the local Sunni movement”, whose members were guarding mosques and other religious sites during times of worship. The group is now believed to have been disbanded.
Burkina Faso has been the scene of several Islamist attacks, including one in January 2016 in which 29 people were killed, including a US missionary and six Christians on a humanitarian trip.
On the very same day, an Australian doctor and his wife were kidnapped in the town of Djibo, near the Mali border. Ken and Jocelyn Elliott, who are in their eighties, had worked in Burkina Faso since the 1970s. Jocelyn was released after a month, but her husband, who was declared a citizen of the West African nation by an official decree in November 2016, is still missing.
It is believed that he is being held outside of Burkina Faso. In July 2017, he appeared in a video produced by his kidnappers, along with several other Western kidnap hostages. On it, he said: “This video is to ask various governments, in particular the Australian government and Burkina government, to do what they can to help negotiate my release.” Addressing his family, he added: “I just want to say, again, I love you all and I appreciate all your prayers and all your cares. I look forward to one day being reunited.”
World Watch Monitor
President Donald Trump
Pastor Andrew Brunson, a fine gentleman and Christian leader in the United States, is on trial and being persecuted in Turkey for no reason. They call him a Spy, but I am more a Spy than he is. Hopefully he will be allowed to come home to his beautiful family where he belongs!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
Andrew Brunson, is standing trial on terrorism-related charges and Christianization. He faces up to 35 years in prison which could be considered as a life sentence for Pastor Brunson, who is now. 50 yr., denies all charges.
Brunson’s supporters say Turkey is using Brunson as a bargaining chip for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living who in exile in Pennsylvania. Turkish officials claim Gulen is the mastermind of the 2016 coup attempt. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has demanded that the Trump administration to extradite Fethullah Gulen in return for releasing Andrew Brunson. Erdogan has been quoted as saying, “You have a pastor too. You give us that one and we’ll work with our judiciary and give back yours.” The statement suggests Brunson would not be released until after he’s tried in court. A case which could linger on for years.
(Morning Star News) – A court in Omdurman, Sudan on Wednesday (April 11) charged four Christians who defended church property from a takeover by a Muslim business interest, sources said.
Azhari Tumbara, Muna Matta, George Adam and Kudi Abderhman last year tried to keep authorities from seizing Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) property in Khartoum. Judge Adam Babiker charged the Christians with causing physical harm to police and supporters of a Muslim businessman who tried to take control of church school property in April 2017, the Rev. Yahia Abdelrahim Nalu, SPEC moderator, told Morning Star News.
If found guilty under Article 142 of the Sudan Penal Code, the four Christians could be sentenced to a fine and a prison term of up to six months, said Attorney Adam Abu Anja, their legal counsel. Anja said he doubted they would receive the maximum sentence.
“I am confident – the charges are not that serious,” Anja told Morning Star News. “We have enough witnesses that, if they are convicted, they might be fined, that is all.”
A verdict could come at the next hearing on Monday (April 16).
On April 3, 2017, church elder Younan Abdullah died from injuries sustained in the raid by authorities and the Muslim business interest’s supporters on the school in Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. Abdullah, an elder with Bahri Evangelical Church, died in a hospital after being stabbed while he and others were defending women at the Evangelical School of Sudan, SPEC sources told Morning Star News.
He is survived by his wife and two young children.
At the same hearing on Wednesday (April 11), the judge cleared five church leaders accused in the church takeover case, including Pastor Nalu.
“Five of us were freed for lack of evidence,” Pastor Nalu said.
Pastor Nalu, the Rev. Idriss Kartina, the Rev. Zachariah Ismael, elder Bolus Tutu and Salim Hassan were acquitted.
On Feb. 5 a court in Sudan fined seven church leaders who fought the takeover of the school in Omdurman for “objection to authorities,” a church leader said. The court fined SPEC elder Yohanna Tia 5,000 Sudanese Pounds (US$275).
Tia was one of 26 church leaders who appeared in court over a two-week span in the case. Seven church leaders were ordered to pay fines of 2,500 Sudanese pounds (US$137) each, and 19 were freed for lack of evidence, according to Pastor Nalu.
Two pastors – the Rev. Dawoud Fadul, SPEC moderator, and Pastor Kartina – were also fined 2,500 Sudanese pounds each. Church elders Adam George, Bolus Tutu and one identified only as Azhari were also fined, along with school director Ustaz Dauod Musa Namnam.
On Aug. 15, 2017, police raided Pastor Nalu’s home and another belonging to SPEC leader. They evicted the families of Pastor Nalu and the Rev. Sidiq Abdalla, a SPEC pastor who has two children, ages 8 and 10. Pastor Nalu has a 1-year-old boy.
The action was considered part of the government-aided bid by Muslim businessman Hisham Hamad Al-Neel to take over church property. Police told the pastors they were carrying out a court order.
Leadership of SPEC remains in the hands of government-appointed committee members even after a court ruled in November 2016 that the appointments were illegal, sources said.
The Evangelical School of Sudan is one of several SPEC schools throughout Sudan.
In its campaign to rid the country of Christianity, church leaders say, Sudan has designated at least 25 church buildings for destruction.
Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.
Sudan ranked fourth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.
UCN News shared with Voice of the Persecuted a report of a mysterious fire that damaged a Protestant church in a Pakistani town rocked by blasphemy protests two months ago.
Gospel of Jesus Mission Church is in a narrow street of a Christian basti (slum) in Shahdara town near Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
The remains of burnt holy books, an offering bag and a chimta (music tongs) lay near the half-melted pulpit of the building, which has been under construction for more than three years.
Pastor Yousaf Aziz John filed a police complaint on April 15 at Shahdara police station, where a peace agreement between local clerics and Christian leaders was signed on Feb. 21 after an angry mob protested against Patras Masih, 18, who allegedly shared an anti-Islam photo on Facebook.
“We are a poor community and had been building the House of God with donations. We strongly believe that unknown miscreants have committed this evil. The losses amount to about 50,000 rupees (US$430). We demand an immediate remedy for the wounds of the whole Christian community,” Pastor John told ucanews.com.
Police sub-inspector Rana Amir visited the site on April 16 and recorded statements from the community.
“The forensics department collected samples the same night. A report will be released this week revealing the cause of the fire. A security plan has been chalked for the 14 churches of Shahdara registered with the police station, but no forces are appointed for unregistered ones,” he said.
Churches not registered with the Auqaf Department, which supervises important religious monuments and holy places, are deemed illegal by the government. In January, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province closed but later reopened six home-based churches in Abbottabad.
Police have warned that they will not take any responsibility for any mishaps at prayer gatherings in residential areas. Home-based churches are common in Christian ghettos and their surroundings. Youhanabad, the largest Christian settlement in Pakistan, has more than 100 unregistered churches usually comprising a single room or a hall.
Khalid Shahzad, a Catholic activist based in Shahdara, slammed police for filing the Shahdara case as an accidental fire.
“Only the sections regarding vandalism and loss of property have been nominated in the first information police report. They deliberately skipped the blasphemy clause 295 which deals with acts intended to insult religion or religious beliefs of others. This loophole will help in bail for the accused if arrested,” he said.
“The community was already living in fear after the recent blasphemy case in an adjoining village.” Read more
As I begin to write, it is about 9:45 p.m. in Turkey. The trial of Andrew Brunson has concluded at least for today. As of right now, no decision by the court regarding his innocence or guilt has been forthcoming.
This is simply one of those times in which many of us, as intercessors, have not been getting a clear answer from the Spirit as to the outcome for our dear brother, Andrew. Some are not even sure how they should pray for him. It’s as if God has us in a state of waiting on Him. Taking us through a lesson of learning to solely rely on and trust Him. So, we wait with expectation that He will answer and certainly do not want to walk in the light of our own understanding.
In this case, no news may be good news. However, dealing with the government of Turkey who can say. As I spoke with a sister earlier, she mentioned that a tactic of Islamic hard-line regimes is to play on the emotions of their victims. To wear down or break the ‘spirit’ so to speak. But we, as believers in Christ, will put ourselves before the Lord who holds all of history in his hands.
Our hearts are with Andrew who pleaded his innocence in the courtroom, today, and we cry out for his release. But we realize that God’s will is to bring about His glory and His glory alone.. Whatever the outcome of this case will be, we wait upon the will of God that will bring glory to his name.
I urge all who read this to please continue lifting our brother and his family up in prayer. Pray for his release and to soon be reunited with his family. Pray also for his physical and mental health. Let us pray that the will of God be done which will glorify Him.
Your brother in Christ,
Serving Jesus as Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted and Persecution Watch
(Update: The Turkish court has decided to keep Pastor Andrew in jail pending trial over alleged links to a group accused of orchestrating the failed 2016 military coup in Turkey. NTV reported the next hearing will be on May 7.)
Father, we give you praise with the knowledge that Your ways and plans are always perfect. You’re with us and will never forsake us. You care deeply for our dear brother Andrew, yet allowed him to go into captivity in this season. Though we may not fully understand, You are never wrong, so we give thanks and worship You. We pray for the leadership of Turkey and those in charge of this trial taking place in Izmir, a place once known as Smyrna. May their hearts be softened towards our brother and false accusations against him be brought into the light. We pray for the Gospel to go forth in Turkey. That understanding will come and the Truth of salvation in Christ be revealed to the Turkish people. Heavenly Father, whatever the outcome of this trial, we accept Your will. But if it pleases You to show our brother mercy, we ask You for his release. In Jesus Holy name, we pray.
Pakistan: We received information that two members of the Christian community were killed and between 5 to 9 others injured in a shooting incident near a church in Quetta. The incident occurred when worshipers were leaving the Sunday service at a church in Essa Nagri area of the provincial capital, DawnNews reported.
In a drive-by shooting, gunmen opened fire on the members of the Christian community and managed to flee the scene. Victims were rushed to a Quetta medical center, but two of the worshipers succumbed to their injuries. Screams and wailing was heard as the two bodies were brought in covered with white sheets at the Hospital.
A day after Easter Sunday, four members of a Christian family were also killed by gunmen while travelling on Quetta’s Shah Zaman road to celebrate with relatives. Later, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Officials confirmed the Christians were targeted for their faith.
In December, nine people were killed and 30 injured when suicide bombers attacked the Bethel Memorial Methodist Church on Quetta’s Zarghoon Road. At least two suicide attackers had struck the Bethel Memorial Church while Sunday service was ongoing. There were 400 worshipers inside the church when the assault started. The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has created a branch in Pakistan and Afghanistan by recruiting established militants.
Pakistan is experiencing a continuing rise of aggression and violent persecution against the Pakistani Christian community. The latest incident is the second attack deadly on Christians in the area, this month. Please pray believers in Pakistan.
VOP is on the ground in Thailand helping Christian asylum seekers who’ve fled persecution in Pakistan. Please Join hands with us to spread the love of Jesus. Keep us in your prayers as we try to raise the needed funds for the relief mission. If you feel led to help, 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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On Sunday evening at 9m EST, we will be hosting a special prayer conference call to pray together for Andrew Brunson. In Turkey, it will be 4 am giving us the opportunity to pray before Andrew’s trial begins. JOIN US!
9 p.m. Eastern time
8 p.m. Central time
7 p.m. Mountain time
6 p.m. Pacific time
For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!
MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link or App Store – iTunes
Special Sunday call scheduled for Pastor Brunson (APRIL 15, 2018)
9 p.m. Eastern time
8 p.m. Central time
7 p.m. Mountain time
6 p.m. Pacific time
more at link below