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Converts, Pastors Threatened with Death; Gospel Meetings Banned in Town in Uganda

(Morning Star News) – Police have banned evangelistic events in a town in western Uganda following open-air preaching in which many Muslims put their faith in Christ, sources said.

Churches in Bwera, on Uganda’s western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, held a joint evangelistic event amid the large Muslim population in Bwera beginning on May 20. The success of the event led not only to the ban but to church leaders receiving evangelistic , pastors said.

“Tomorrow we are coming to kill all of you during the open air crusade,” read one text message to a church leader a day after several Muslims put their faith in Christ on May 20.

Police halted the event, which was supposed to continue until May 26, on May 25.

On the first day, several former Muslims spoke at the open-air meeting, the church leaders said.

“Jesus changed my life when I acknowledged him as my Lord and being the Son of the most high God,” one former sheikh (Muslim teacher) testified.

This testimony touched many people, and large numbers showed up the following day, many of them putting their faith in Christ, church leaders said. In all, 35 Muslims put their faith in Christ.

Another former sheikh on the second day of the event used the Koran to argue for the uniqueness of Jesus. Offended Muslims began mobilizing, and more than 250 Muslims armed with long swords and clubs showed up at the event on May 25 in anticipation of attacking.

Muslim leaders reported what speakers were saying at the meeting to police, who summoned church leaders, pastors said. Hundreds of Muslims marched to Bwera police station led by several Islamist leaders issuing threats and calling for the meetings to be banned, organizers said.

“We cannot allow the Christians to use the Koran in their meetings or to allege that Jesus is the Son of God – this a serious blasphemy to Muslims,” said the head of the mosque in Bwera, Muzamiru Aramanzani, according to the pastors.

The demonstrating Muslims also threatened to kill all former Muslims who embraced Christianity in Bwera, the church leaders said.

“We cannot watch the Christians changing our faithful members to Christianity. If those who have joined Christianity will not return back to Islam, then we are going to treat them as infidels, hence deserving death according to the teaching of Islam,” said another sheikh, according to organizers.

Following the May 25 meeting, police later that day banned all open-air Christian meetings in Bwera, they said. The event had been scheduled to end on May 26.

The ban sent a chilling message to those who have become Christians, who said they are afraid to go to worship services or other Christian meetings.

“I am very afraid for my life,” said one former sheikh. “I have received threatening messages in my phone that the Muslims want my head.”

Organizing the event was the Anglican Church of Uganda, the Sound of Salvation Ministry and the Church of Uganda of Bwera Custom Church.

The churches hoped to complete the event by seeking the help of a large number of police and military personnel, but the Muslim’ threats to kill the church leaders if they continued invoking the Koran in their teaching led police to cut the campaign short, organizers said.

Church leaders in Bwera called on the international community to pray for protection and that converts remain firm in Christ.

The opposition marks the latest of many cases of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, but with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

Ben Sasse Decries Russian Attacks on Religious Liberty

“In some ways, this isn’t a surprise. There’s a lot wrong with Russia — we are witnessing a rising authoritarianism in a declining state.”


 

Three Christians in Egypt Arrested for Allegedly Showing Contempt for Islam

egypt map

(Morning Star News) – Three Christians in Egypt have been accused of showing disdain or contempt for Islam after an evangelism outreach to Muslims over the weekend in the port city of Alexandria, sources said.

The three Christians were arrested on Saturday (July 11) after at least one was stopped for handing out small bags of dried dates and copies of the Sermon on the Mount, according to human rights activists. In addition to the dates, a snack Muslims commonly eat when breaking the Ramadan day-time fast, the bags contained a statement about God’s love and His omniscient nature.

“The Lord knows all that occurs, for He is the mighty knower,” the message read. “He can carry on His shoulders all that is oppressive and exhausting and bring comfort and joy, for He loves you very much.”

The bags also carried the name of an Arabic-language website about Jesus and the Christian faith.

Scripture-passage-and-dates-taken-as-evidence-in-blasphemy-charge.-Morning-Star-News

The outreach offended a Muslim who forcibly detained one of the three Christians and took him to a police station, according to a church leader in Alexandria who knows those who were arrested. The Muslim man told the Christian that if police didn’t punish him severely enough, he would seek his own “justice” against him, the church leader said.

The arrests were illegal, said the church leader, who requested anonymity.

“They were just giving out dates during the iftar [fast-breaking evening meal] hour and little booklets with the Sermon on the Mount on them,” he said. “In Egypt there is no such crime as evangelism, and if we look at this as a blasphemy case, there was no blasphemy either. The boys did nothing insulting whatsoever.”

All three were released on a 10,000 Egyptian pound (US$1,280) bond on Monday (July 13), awaiting further investigation by the attorney general’s office or a judge’s decision to either pursue or drop the case. The church leader said the consensus in the Christian community was that the case would be dropped.

Contrary to several media reports, the leader said the three were not beaten in jail. Still, the ordeal was difficult, one of those arrested said on his Facebook account, before the account was removed.

“If someone had been caught with hashish or was drinking alcohol on the street, it would have been easier for them than everything we’ve gone through,” the Christian said.

The names and ages of the three Christians have not been confirmed. One was identified as Stephen Boutros Fayed, and the full names of the other two, said to be Fady and Shady, were not immediately known. They were said to be in their late teens or early 20s, with one possibly being a minor.

After police arrested the Christian distributing literature and dates, he was allowed to call one of his friends. The friend went to the police station on Sunday (July 12) with a third Christian to offer assistance, and the two were promptly arrested and charged with blasphemy as well, sources said.

It was unclear if the two other Christians were involved in the evangelism outreach.

Egypt’s 2014 Constitution guarantees both religious freedom and freedom of expression, but the Constitution is often trumped by the penal code and aggressive, often unfair enforcement of Article 98F. While not strictly a blasphemy statute, Article 98F prohibits acts that show disdain or contempt for “any of the heavenly religions or the sects belonging thereto.” A violation is punishable by detention for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years, or paying a fine of not less than 500 Egyptian pounds and not exceeding 1,000 Egyptian pounds.

Ishak Ibrahim, freedom of religion and belief officer for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said the outreach was legal and that the arrest was just another example of the government’s abuse of the law to persecute religious minorities.

“In Egyptian criminal law, there is no crime called ‘evangelism’ or any punishment for it,” Ibrahim said. “But there is a section that considers blasphemy against a ‘heavenly religion’ to be a crime in cases where it threatens the unity of a nation. But in this case, they are being accused of blasphemy. It’s not that they really did blaspheme; it’s a misuse of the law.”

Blasphemy cases have been on the rise since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn into office in 2014. There have been 15 blasphemy cases since January, according to EIPR. The blasphemy cases disproportionately target Christians, but other religious minorities, such as Shia Muslims and Baha’i, have also been charged with actions against a “heavenly religion.”

Keep our Egyptian brothers and sisters in your prayers.

The Amazing Way People Are Coming to Christ in the Middle East

satteliterooftop

Daniel 12:1-4 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.  Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.  But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”

 

I saw this study last week and was absolutely mesmerized. Not only was this a beautifully crafted report (with very interesting infographics), but it had fascinating information about media use in the Middle East.

What stands out the most is how many individuals in these countries are using multiple media devices, and how frequently they are using them (even in countries where there are human rights violations). These statistics bring great hope.

For the past few years, Open Doors has been working to help spread the gospel in the Middle East through satellite television and other multimedia means. And the great news is that the audience is not a small one… these programs are capable of reaching a large number of people!

In Algeria, ‘Ordinance 06-03’ was introduced in 2006, and it restricts the exercise of any religion other than Islam. The law hinders or stops Christian evangelism.

Initially, this law was devastating for Christians in Algeria… they would now be facing a whole new realm of persecution if they shared their faith with a friend or a neighbor. Despite this law, God has made a way for the gospel to spread in this country.

“Today, satellite TV is the medium we use, because it allows us to reach a multitude of people,” shares one Algerian Christian. “ At the end of the program, people see local phone numbers displayed on the screen, so it isn’t expensive for them to call. When a program has spoken to someone, they phone us for information or to ask questions about the Christian faith. We tell them where they can find a church, or we send them CDs or Christian books.”

As the report indicates, the impact of the media is changing worldwide… especially in the Middle East. It is proving to be a very effective way to evangelize, even in areas where it is illegal.

Would you join us in praying for our brothers and sisters working on these programs, and for the people they are reaching? Please pray for their safety, courage and wisdom as they continue with this new wave of evangelism.

Open Doors

Muslim World Ministry 
Accross the Muslim world, converting to Christianity from Islam requires real courage

Isolated, shunned and sometimes killed for abandoning their Muslim faith, Christians live with a great need for the support of Bibles, training in leadership, and lasting community development.
You can send light to dark places in the Muslim World here

Officials charge Ethiopian Evangelist with Terrorism, Treason

ethiopia

ADDIS ABADA (Worthy News)– Ethiopian officials have arbitrarily detained and arrested a Christian evangelist for terrorism and treason, according to International Christian Concern.

Alemayehu Legese, an Ethiopian evangelist, was first arrested in March by police in Dodola after having admitted to owning literature that “discussed the history of Islam from a Christian perspective.”

A student at Mekane Yesus Bible School, Legese left the literature at a copy shop where a Muslim employee saw it and informed authorities about the content of the material to be copied.

However, after Legese’s lawyer objected to the terrorism and treason charges, the court ordered the prosecution to modify them, but until new charges are submitted against Legese, he will continue to wait in jail, possibly for years to come.

“We are concerned about the growing persecution of believers in the Muslim-dominated areas of Ethiopia,” said William Stark, ICC Regional Manager for Africa. “The fact that the public prosecutor charged Legese with terrorism and treason is an alarming development, as it indicates the manner in which Islamic radicals have infiltrated the justice system in the country. We ask all concerned to contact the Ethiopian Embassy, either by phone at (202) 364-1200 or email at ethiopia@ethiopianembassy.org, to demand immediate freedom for Legese.”

Saudi Arabia jails two men, one Lebanese for helping woman convert to Christianity

Saudi Arabia

RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi court jailed a Lebanese man for six years and sentenced him to 300 lashes after convicting him of encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity, local dailies reported Sunday.

The same court sentenced a Saudi man convicted in the same case to two years in prison and 200 lashes for having helped the young woman flee the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, local daily Al-Watan said.

A court delivered the verdict in Khobar in the kingdom’s east, where the woman and the two accused worked for an insurance company.

The July 2012 case caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Islamic Sharia law that stipulates Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.

The woman, known only as “the girl of Khobar”, was granted refuge in Sweden where she lives under the protection of unspecified NGOs, according to local press reports.

She had appeared in a YouTube video last year in which she announced that she had chosen to convert to Christianity.

The case of the “Khobar Girl,” as she has become known in the Saudi media,  has captivated the deeply conservative kingdom. Under Saudi law, any form of  proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be  sentenced to death.

The woman, who is in her early 20s, is currently living abroad in Sweden,  according to local press reports.

Last year she appeared in a video for a site called “Jesus Set Me Free,” an  Arabic-language Evangelical Christian website, to announce her conversion.

In the video, the girl, her face covered, urges others to “ask God” if they  are “hesitant or afraid,” emphasizing her belief that “[Jesus] is the son of God  and I have seen him” in her dreams.

Her family’s lawyer Hmood al-Khalidi said he was “satisfied with the verdict,” according to the press.

Both men, who could also be prosecuted over other charges including corruption and forging official documents that allowed the woman to leave the country without her family’s agreement, will appeal.

Saudi women are banned from traveling without their guardians’ permission.

Sources: The Daily Star – Ma’an News Agency – YouTube

Sudan Intensifies Arrests, Deportations of Christians

sudan

JUBA, South Sudan, April 30, 2013 (Morning Star News) reports– Sudan has stepped up its targeting of Christians for deportation, with interrogation including threats to bury them alive, sources said.

Besides the deportation to South Sudan of the secretary general of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference on April 12, other Christians have been targeted in the past several weeks for arrest, interrogation and/or deportation. On April 21, as a South Sudanese church elder was worshiping at a Sunday service in Khartoum, officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) detained him to pump him for information, the elder told Morning Star News.

Authorities questioned him for four hours before releasing him, he said.

“They told me to reveal to them 12 names of Christians who are active in evangelism in Sudan, but I told them I have no idea,” said the elder, whose name is withheld for security reasons.

The right to manifest one’s faith is a key provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a signatory.

NISS officials have required staff members of a university campus-based ministry to report to them weekly following their arrest on Feb. 23; initially they were held and interrogated for a week, one said.

“The security officers verbally threatened to bury us alive if we did not give information on who was supporting these Christian activities,” the Christian worker said.

After the Christian workers were released, for two weeks security officials ordered them to report to NISS offices on a daily basis for interrogation about links with Christian organizations, said the worker, whose organization name is withheld for security reasons. NISS officials confiscated the organization’s equipment, vehicle and documents. They also went to the home of organization members and took academic papers, laptops, digital cameras, mobile phones and iPads, among other personal belongings, he said.

Authorities deported three of the group’s workers to South Sudan in March after monitoring their movements and telephone calls, another member told Morning Star News.

“They gave me only 72 hours to leave the country,” the Christian worker said. “They came to my house while I was away and took five laptops of my sisters, as well as my documents, identity cards, school documents and mobile phone. I thank God that He has been with me during the interrogation with the Security.”

Some Christians from South Sudan have been given only 24 hours to leave Sudan, sources said.

On Monday (April 29), various church leaders in Omdurman, on the Nile River opposite Khartoum, organized a meeting to pray over the crisis facing congregations in Sudan.

Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. South Sudanese lost citizenship in Sudan and were ordered to leave by March 1, 2012, but an estimated 500,000 of them were reportedly stranded in the north due to job loss, poverty, transportation limitations and ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan.

Sudan and South Sudan signed an agreement on Sept. 27, 2012 to hold negotiations on citizenship rights for South Sudanese in Sudan and northerners living in South Sudan, but there has been no progress, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s annual report, issued this month. South Sudanese Christians in Sudan have faced increased hostilities due to their ethnic origins – though thousands have little or no ties to South Sudan – as well as their faith.

South Sudan’s secession has served as a pretext for Bashir’s regime to bulldoze church buildings once owned by South Sudanese and to deport Christians based on their ethnicity, sources said. The government’s determination to rid the country of Christianity was evident on April 12, when security forces deported the secretary-general of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Santino Morokomomo Maurino, and two colleagues to South Sudan.

Sudan Catholic Radio Network reported that NISS officials detained him in Khartoum and gave him three days to leave. Michael Fleury of France and an Egyptian identified only as Brother Hossam, both members of the De La Salle Christian Brothers in Khartoum, were also deported.

In a report issued this month, Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians since December 2012. The organization also reported that systematic targeting of Nuba and other ethnic groups suggests the resurgence of an official policy of “Islamization and Arabization.”

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 USCIRF this month recommended that the country remain on the list this year.

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