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Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – After a dispute between a group of Christians and Muslims, in the village of Bath, between Multan and Lahore, in Pakistani Punjab, the chapel of the Protestant Christian congregation called “Apostolic Church” was set on fire in the night between 6 and 7 January, as local sources report to Fides. On the evening of January 6, the community had organized a prayer vigil for the Epiphany. The following evening an arson destroyed the inner part of the building. Pastor Zulfiqar, who leads the community, went to the police and filed a complaint against unknown persons. The fire burned Bibles and sacred vessels. The Pastor informed the agents of the dispute which also occurred earlier, which involved loudspeakers used to spread prayers and hymns outside the building: a group of Muslims asked to turn them off during the Islamic prayer. Local Christians put the dispute and the destruction of the church in close correlation, but for now there is no evidence in this regard and the police investigation is underway. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 11/01/2016)
Abuja (Agenzia Fides) – At least one person died and several others were injured in an attack against a Catholic church in the village of Ungwar Poppo, in Kachia Local Government Area in the State of Kaduna (in the north of Nigeria).
Some armed men with Kalashnikov AK47 attacked the place of worship while the faithful were gathered to celebrate Mass on Sunday morning, August 3, firing indiscriminately, killing a guard in charge of protecting the church and wounding several people, some seriously.
The attackers are Fulani herdsmen, who in recent months have carried out several attacks against certain communities in the area. The traditional clash between Muslim herders and Christian farmers seems to have made a quantum leap since the Fulani have exhibited having sophisticated weapons, obtained perhaps, by the Islamist Boko Haram sect.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram has intendified its attacks and suicide bombings in different areas of Nigeria, also against Christian places of worship. On Sunday, July 27 a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the parish of St. Charles Kano. “The girl must have been 17-18 years of age”, says to Fides Agency Fr. Valentin, of the Society of African Missions (SMA). “The soldiers who protect the church had stopped her at the entrance, because they wondered why she was covered from head to toe, and then the bomb she was hiding exploded. In addition to the female suicide bomber, four other people were killed and seventy were injured. I took some of the wounded to the hospital. Unfortunately, three patients subsequently died”, concluded the religious.
By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
Authorities in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek are seeking to confiscate the building of a Protestant Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, Forum 18 News Service has learned. In January a court annulled the sales contract signed more than 14 years ago, claiming it was in violation of the law. The Church’s appeal against the decision – and its separate appeal to have the whole case thrown out – are due to be heard in Bishkek City Court on 18 April.
Some Church members, and members of other Protestant churches in Bishkek, told Forum 18 that the authorities’ legal moves to seize the building may be motivated by their dislike of the Church’s activity and its members spreading their faith across Kyrgyzstan.
However, other Church members speculate that a major incentive might be financial. “The authorities just want to take advantage of us,” they complained to Forum 18 on 3 April. They point out that the building is in a “prestigious district” of Bishkek with a market price of “about one million US dollars”. The authorities “just want to take it away from us because, we think, they have potential buyers”.
Insecure property ownership
Religious communities can face insecurity over property ownership. The State Property Fund official who represented it in court in the Church of Jesus Christ case told Forum 18 that it is also looking at property ownership affecting other religious communities, but refused to identify them.
Religious communities also face inspections by a range of state agencies, as has happened to mosques and churches in Bishkek since early 2014.
Among those visited several times was Bishkek’s Hope Baptist Church, most recently on 7 April. Officials inspected the documents of its building. The Church’s Pastor Eduard Pak told Forum 18 on 7 April that the Mayor’s Office has already “ordered us to vacate the land since we are only renting it” (see forthcoming F18News article).
On 24 January, in the absence of Church representatives, Judge Zhyrgalbek Nurunbetov of Bishkek’s Inter-District Economic Court annulled the 1999 sales contract between the Church of Jesus Christ and the State Property Fund. Judge Nurunbetov claims in the decision, seen by Forum 18, that the contract was signed in violation of the Law and that the Church did not fulfil its contractual obligations.
Church members, who wished to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals, adamantly deny this.
The suit, the decision notes, was brought by the State Property Fund, which was represented in court by Aysulu Orozbekova. Also the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) was invited as an interested party and represented in court by its lawyer Kanybek Mamataliyev.
Hearings began in the Economic Court in November 2013, with two other hearings in December 2013, where Church representatives and interested third parties to whom it rents rooms in the building participated. The Church boycotted the fourth and final hearing, held on 24 January 2014. “We and the third parties gave all the evidence for the defence but the Court ignored it totally,” church members complained. “Then in our absence the Judge made the decision.”
Church members learned of the final 24 January hearing only two days earlier, when the Economic Court rejected their separate motion to have the whole case thrown out. Church members told Forum 18 they did not wish to be seen to endorse the case by attending the final hearing.
The 1999 contract
The Church of Jesus Christ was registered in 1991. It bought the Culture House of the old Bishkek Machine-Building Plant from the State Property Fund under a 1 September 1999 contract signed by Tursun Turdumambetov, then Deputy Chair of the State Fund, and Vasily Kuzin, the Church’s Senior Pastor. The contract was registered on 26 October 1999 in the State Inventory and Appraisal of Property Department. According to the contract, the building occupies 3,200 square metres (10,500 square feet), with an additional 3,000 square metres of adjacent park.
The contract – seen by Forum 18 – states that the building was sold to the Church for 1,946,218 Soms (then 354,000 Norwegian Kroner, 43,000 Euros or 46,000 US Dollars) for it to use and manage the building with the condition that it remain under the control of the State Property Fund. The contract allows the Fund to terminate it unilaterally if the Church fails to fulfil its contractual obligations, that is if it does not maintain social activity, such as courses for young people, as its main profile.
Church members told Forum 18 that they have arranged courses for young people, including dancing and singing classes, and classes for children preparing to go to school. A children’s charity helping poor families and a newspaper’s editorial office are among other users of the building, they said. This is also seen in the Court decision, as it summoned to the hearings as interested parties representatives of 15 organisations which rent rooms in the building.
“Violation of norms”?
Judge Nurunbetov claims in the decision that the State Property Fund sold the building to the Church not on a tender but directly with violation of the norms of direct sales of state property. According to Provision 70 of the 1995 Law on Privatisation and Denationalisation of State Property, state property can be sold only on the initiative of the Government, Ministries, State Committees, State Administrations, State Committee on management of State Property, or local Administrations.
Judge Nurunbetov argued that the initiator in this case was the Church itself by writing a request to purchase the building, which was endorsed by Boris Silayev, then Deputy Prime Minister, in a separate letter with a seal and his signature on it. This, according to Judge Nurunbetov, is a violation, since the initiative did “not come directly” from the Government but the Church.
Judge Nurunbetov also claims that the Church did not observe the social profile of the building, and has not paid tax on the additional plot of land which came with the building.
Church members reject the first two claims. “That they requested the Government does not mean that they initiated the sale, since the initiative came from the then Deputy Prime Minister.” They also insist they kept the social profile of the building by renting out space to organisations supporting young people.
Church members told Forum 18 that it had not paid tax on the additional land. They pointed to the contract, which says “nothing on how we are supposed to use it or whether we should pay tax on it. However, we have taken care of the park all these years.”
“We invested thousands of dollars in repairing the building, improving the area around the building, taking care of the park, and thus have fulfilled our obligations on the contract,” church members insisted. “It is not just that the State Fund brought a suit in the court more than 14 years after it sold the building to the Church.”
Why did authorities bring suit after 14 years?
Asked by Forum 18 on 3 April why the court accepted the suit brought by the authorities more than 14 years after the Church and State Property Fund signed the sales contract, Judge Nurunbetov refused to say. “I have my decision, and let them bring an appeal. I will not comment over the phone.”
Orozbekova of the State Property Fund vehemently defended the suit to Forum 18 on 4 April. Told that it was the Fund which sold the property to the Church, endorsed by the Government, and asked what had changed after 14 years that the authorities seek to confiscate it now, she responded: “The General Prosecutor’s Office raised the case in 2009 but it did not reach the Court at that time because soon after there was regime change in Kyrgyzstan.”
Told that in 2009 the Church had already maintained the building for ten years and observed its contractual obligations by renting out space for social projects, and asked why the Fund still wants to take it away from the Church, Orozbekova insisted: “It is not just the Church of Jesus Christ’s property under investigation at the moment. Other religious and non-religious buildings are also under question.”
Orozbekova refused to give any details to Forum 18 of which other religious communities’ property is being investigated. “There are so many cases, I cannot remember all the details,” she retorted.
General Prosecutor’s Office opened investigation in 2009
Church members told Forum 18 that on 12 May 2009, during the rule of then President Kurmanbek Bakiev, the General Prosecutor’s Office sent a proposal to the Government’s State Property Ministry to “remedy the breaches of the Law in the contract”, but that no suit was brought to court.
“Now no suits can be brought in court based on the Law because the three years’ limitation period for bringing a suit after an alleged violation expired in May 2012.” Church members pointed out that more than four years had passed between the General Prosecutor’s proposal on the alleged violations and November 2013, when the Court accepted the suit.
Lyudmila Usmanova, Deputy General Prosecutor, said she was unable to comment. “First of all I cannot comment on why the General Prosecutor’s Office raised this issue in 2009, especially if we take into account that there was a fire in our building in 2010, and many documents were burnt,” she told Forum 18 on 4 April. “I also cannot say why the Court made such a decision at the moment.”
Will any officials be punished for “illegal contract”?
Orozbekova also evaded Forum 18’s question whether any officials who signed and endorsed the contract will be held responsible and punished. “It is not our responsibility – it is the duty of the law-enforcement agencies.”
Deputy General Prosecutor Usmanova also declined to answer the question, asking Forum 18 to send its questions in writing. Forum 18 sent its questions in writing on 4 April, but received no response by the end of the working day in Bishkek on 8 April.
Will Church be properly compensated?
Church members told Forum 18 that approximately one thousand people attend Church services in their building every week. “We cannot afford to lose the place, particularly in view of its central location. It would be hard for us to buy a new place, especially given market prices.”
Asked whether the Church would accept any compensation from the State, they said that they do “not want to lose the place but in the worst case they will accept compensation based on the property’s market value.” They pointed to Article 184, Point 4 of the Civil Code, which states: “When a transaction – as a result of which a property was bought by a person, who is a conscientious buyer – is not valid, the value of the property at the point of time when the Court makes a decision will be exacted from the guilty persons for benefit of the owner of the property.”
Told that the Church will have trouble to find a place and funds to buy such a building for worship, especially given rising prices, and asked why should it suffer the consequences of the authorities’ decisions, Orozbekova responded: “Many illegal contracts were made and buildings sold in earlier years. Staff of the State Property Fund have now changed and we are investigating many property deals. We are not against the Church or its activity but the contract was null and void from the beginning and must be annulled.”
Asked whether the authorities will properly compensate the Church, Orozbekova responded that the Fund intends to return to the Church “just what it paid 14 years ago”. Asked why the Fund should not pay the Church the market price of the property according to Civil Code Article 184, Point 4, if it deems that the only solution is the return of the property, Orozbekova laughed. “The Church paid such a ridiculously small amount for it, why should we now pay them such a large sum?”
Why is SCRA party to case?
Tabyldy Orozaliyev, Deputy Head of the SCRA, claimed to Forum 18 on 4 April that the SCRA is not a party in the case, and that the only reason their lawyer Mamataliyev participated in the hearings was because the Court “summoned him as a witness to ask questions on the legal status of the organisation”.
Told that the Court decision indicates that the State Commission is an interested party, he denied it. “It is a civil case, and we were represented there neither to speak against or defend the Church, but to answer whether or not the Church is registered at the indicated address.”
However, Church members objected. “Mamataliyev came to all the hearings we participated in. He falsely accused us of not keeping the building’s social profile,” they told Forum 18. “At our insistence the Court invited our sub-tenants, who testified to the Court about their social activities and that they are using our building for this purpose.”
Told about this and that one of the tasks of the SCRA is building bridges between the authorities and religious communities, and asked why their lawyer said nothing in defence of the community, Orozaliyev sounded agitated. “Do not ask improper questions, do not teach me what we should or shouldn’t do.”
Asked by Forum 18 whether he or the SCRA is not concerned that the Church might lose its building, he responded angrily: “You get lost.” He then put the phone down.
Construction company interested in buying site
A commercial company EVOS constructed a high-rise building next to the park by the Church. One employee of the company, who did not give his name, told Forum 18 on 4 April that the park “is our property, and soon we are going to put up a fence around it and make it into a park for recreation of our tenants”. He added that the company intends to buy up the land around the building, which he called a Culture House.
When Forum 18 noted that the building is a Church building, the employee objected saying that it is a “Culture house,” and that “not a Church but a sect occupies only part of the building.” Asked what will happen to the building, he told Forum 18: “It will be decided in future, but we are waiting for more investment in our project to build more high-rises in the area.”
Told by Forum 18 that construction company EVOS hopes to buy new plots of land around the Church building, and asked whether this is why the suit is being brought now, Orozbekova of the State Property Fund refused to answer. “Look, I have no time to discuss with you all of these questions you have,” she said, and declined to talk further.
Thousands of Christians have formed a human shield around a church in eastern China in an effort to protect it from demolition by the Communist Party. The officially-atheist Chinese government has declared the church, which is in Wenzhou a city nicknamed the “Jerusalem of the East,” an “illegal construct.” Churchgoers have been camped inside and in front of the church around the clock since earlier this week, when officials painted the “Demolish” in red on its facade.
The 25 year old was arrested and admitted his guilt. Witnesses: he was shouting against God and Christianity. Among the victims, a nun who tried to stop the killer. Local priest she is a “martyr of Christ”.
According to Archpriest Viktor Gorbach, the killer cursed God and Christianity, and for this reason – he added – the killed nun must be considered a “martyr of Christ”. According to his reconstruction, the nun tried to draw to the attention of the armed young man to allow those who were still in the church, women and children, to escape. READ FULL STORY
ZAMBOANGA: On Sunday five people were injured when men on a motorcycle hurled a grenade into a Roman Catholic church in the troubled southern Philippines in a city known for Muslim rebel activity, officials said.
They threw the grenade into the church in a suburb of the city of Zamboanga as elderly members were meeting, officials said.
Four senior citizens and one passer-by were injured.
“It (the motive) is unlikely to be personal. What can they get from these senior citizens? Perhaps this is a message,” he told reporters.
The local police chief, Chief Inspector Felixberto Martinez, said they were pursuing all possible leads but could not give a motive for the attack.
It is far too easy for American Christians to hear of the imprisonment and brutal treatment of Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran and just be complacent about it. After all, we are not being imprisoned for our faith, and shouldn’t Pastor Saeed have known that Iran is a dangerous place to begin with?
Attitudes like that will betray a brand of “Christianity” that is shaped more by lifestyle than by worldview, more by culture than by God’s Word.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us, “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (13:3). Our thoughts and prayers are to be with our brothers and sisters suffering in prison for their faith as if we were right there beside them. Why? Because we are a part of the same body, the Body of Christ. And the Apostle Paul makes it clear that when one part of the body hurts it effects the entire body, even if halfway around the earth (1 Corinthians 12:26).
When Peter was imprisoned in the early days of the church, Luke tells us, “So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” (Acts 12:5). Peter was imprisoned for the single fact that he was preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was sharing good news that would change the hearts and lives of men and women if they would believe. But that was seen as a threat to the “security” of the existing authorities, both religious and civil.
The church did not merely go into a helpless mode when Peter was kept in prison, but rather they became very active in prayer. Luke says the church “fervently prayed to God” on Peter’s behalf. The church believed that they served a God who is greater than Herod and that their God could deliver Peter if He so willed.
That is the call and challenge to the church in the United States and around the world today. We must be in “fervent” prayer on behalf of Pastor Saeed. He is a part of our body. He is our brother in Christ, and if he is hurting then the whole body is to hurt with him and hold him up to our Heavenly Father.
Pastor Saeed was working with orphans in Iran. Granted this work was because he is a follower of Jesus and seeking to obey Him, but it was also for the good of the Iranian people, not to undercut them in any way. It is somewhat ironic that the charges against him are for “attempting to undermine the national security of Iran by gathering with fellow Christians in private homes.”
There are several things that we need to be praying for in this situation.
- Pray that God will bring about the release of Pastor Saeed. Whether he does this in the miraculous way He did with Peter in Acts 12, or through the efforts of the ACLJ and diplomatic channels, is not the issue. But we have to realize that God’s ways are not our ways and His are always best and right! As Paul says, “Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.” (Romans 11:33).
- Pray that, while imprisoned, Pastor Saeed will bring glory to God through his suffering. The Bible teaches us that we are to seek God’s glory in every place we find ourselves. In extraordinary circumstances like this but also in everyday, even mundane, things like eating and drinking (1st Corinthians 10:31)
- Pray that God will use Pastor Saeed’s circumstances to see many come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. Paul saw this happen while imprisoned in Rome. Paul tells the church at Philippi that “ Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,” (Philippians 1:12-13) God uses situations that we see as negative to spread the gospel.
So perhaps God is going to use this horrible situation for the Abedini family to awaken the church in America to the real persecution and attacks that exist against Christianity in other parts of the world. Perhaps God is wanting to wake us from our slumber, our comfort, and be challenged to intercede and be involved with other parts of our “body” in very different and very dangerous parts of the world.
God was not caught off guard by Pastor Saeed’s circumstances; and God is not helpless to use these for Saeed’s good and for the good of the church, and for His own glory.
May we Christians be sensitive to all that God is doing, and may we be obedient to His call to strengthen the body of Christ, the church, to face the spiritual warfare that is very real in our world. And may we stand in His grace, His truth, and wear the spiritual armor that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 6:10-20.
Let’s do battle in prayer for Pastor Saeed and the Abedini family and for God’s church around the world.
This article was written by Bill Haynes, Sr. Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Somerset KY.
Copts whose church was one of dozens destroyed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters have returned to the charred house of worship, with their pastor vowing the violence suffered by his flock will make them “better Christians.”
“This will learn us to be better Christians,” said Pastor Sameh Ibrahim of a torched congregation in Minya, the capital of Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt, where some 14 churches were reportedly attacked in recent days.
Across Egypt, at least 60 churches have been targeted, along with Christian schools, homes,businesses and even an orphanage, according to conservative estimates. In the areas of Minya, Beni Suef, Fayoum and Assiut, Christian homes and businesses have received leaflets warning them to leave or face reprisals by Islamists, Christians said.
Christian homes and businesses in Minya have reportedly been marked with black X’s to single them out for attack.
Another pastor in the area shares his concerns. “We live in our church, so when someone attacks out congregation, it’s as if our house is being attacked,” said Pastor John Amin of the Meni Mazar church in published remarks.
“Our children are afraid,” he added.
As violence envelops Egypt, Christians are paying a heavy price with scores of their most sacred buildings and monuments being systematically destroyed by members of the Muslim Brotherhood in what one Coptic leader called an attempt at ethnic cleansing.
The group, which is clashing with the military throughout the North African nation, has zeroed in on Christians since the Muslim Brotherhood-backed administration of Mohamed Morsi was ousted on July 3. The military removed him from power after he imposed several sweeping constitutional changes that appeared to put the nation of 90 million on a path toward Islamist rule.
“The Muslim Brotherhood continues its attacks on churches to implement their scheme, which includes ethnic cleansing and the forced displacement of Copts,” Abul Ezz el-Hariri, a Christian and former presidential candidate from Alexandria, told MidEast Christian News. “Egyptian churches are part of a blueprint by the MB to lure other Islamist groups.”
At least 50 Christian churches and schools have been looted and set ablaze since fierce fighting broke out last week. In one recent case, Islamists torched a Franciscan school and then paraded three nuns on the street like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge, according to Catholic World Report.
The campaign of intimidation also has targeted the homes and businesses of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the nation’s population. Egypt’s Christian community is one of the world’s oldest, and generally kept a low-profile before becoming more active after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the rapidly spiraling Islamification that followed under Morsi.
Under fire, Christians are solidly backing the military’s harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt…confirms its strong stance with the Egyptian law enforcement, the armed forces, and all of the institutions of the Egyptian people in its confrontation of the violent armed organizations,” the nation’s Christian leader, Pope Tawadros II, said in a statement.
Monasteries, dioceses, churches, schools and other property of Copts have been targeted since government security forces broke up Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Raba al-Adaweya and Nahda squares on Wednesday.
as reported by FoxNews