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Forum 18 reports the Orthodox Church of Ukraine fears that the authorities in the western Crimean city of Yevpatoriya will demolish a small wooden chapel it built in 2013, before Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The city court ruled on 6 November 2019 that the Church is using the site illegally and that it should demolish its chapel within one month.
The Church complains it learned about the court hearing only on that day. Its lawyer said the Church is appealing against the decision (see below).
Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Yefymenko visited the Yevpatoriya church during Sunday liturgy on 1 December, which was attended by “a large number of parishioners” squeezing into the small church. Many had come specially from other cities of Crimea, she told Forum 18. “Representatives of the Russian special services may come to such liturgies under the guise of parishioners, and record those who visit places of worship of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” she said.
Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea is not recognized by Ukraine or internationally.
UNHRC call to halt Cathedral eviction
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the Russian government not to evict the Orthodox Church of Ukraine congregation from its rented accommodation in the Crimean capital Simferopol while the Committee considers an appeal by 62 parishioners. The premises serve as the Crimean Diocese’s Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral.
On 18 November a Russian arbitration court rejected the Diocese’s latest appeal against a court order to annul the rental agreement and evict the Cathedral. On 28 November, the Diocese lodged a last-ditch appeal to Russia’s Supreme Court in Moscow.
The now Kiev-based lawyer for the Church, Sergei Zayets of the Regional Centre for Human Rights, told Forum 18 that the chapel was built on land belonging to the community of those living in the flats.
According to court documents seen by Forum 18, the wooden chapel is 5.5 metres (18 feet) by 5.5 metres and its height to the top of the gold-painted cross on the wooden onion dome is just over 10 metres (35 feet).
Obstructing, punishing worship
The Crimean Justice Ministry has rejected the registration application from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s Simferopol parish, most recently on 20 September. It claimed there were “violations” in the documents presented. A Justice Ministry official insisted to Forum 18 from Simferopol that “nothing in principle” obstructs the registration of communities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
Massive rent increase and evictions
The Kiev Patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as it then was, has rented premises that earlier housed the Officers’ Club in central Simferopol since 1995. It is there that its Simferopol and Crimea Diocesan Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral and offices are located. The Diocese has three floors of the building, with the sanctuary on the middle floor.
Almost all the Kiev Patriarchate’s dioceses and parishes – including in Crimea – joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine when it was recognised as canonical by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in January 2019.
In 1996 ultimate ownership of the Simferopol building was transferred from a disbanded military base to the Crimean Property Fund. In 1997, under a Crimean Supreme Council decree, rent was set at the symbolic level of 1 Ukrainian Hryvnia (0.5 Norwegian Kroner, 0.05 Euros or 0.08 US Dollars) a month.
Five of the Kiev Patriarchate’s churches in Crimea were forced to close within months of the March 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
The Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral – which is next to the offices of the Property Fund – appears on a list of state-owned property in an attachment to a 15 March 2000 Crimean Supreme Council decree. A 16 May 2001 Supreme Council decree – seen by Forum 18 – governs the Church’s use of the building, whose size it gives as 1,475.7 square metres (15,900 square feet).
However, on 18 April 2014, the State Council (which replaced the Supreme Council) adopted a new decree – which remains on the Russian-backed Crimean government website – amending the 2001 decree. It confirmed the Diocese’s rental of the premises until 2050 but changed the basis on which rent is levied.
Archbishop Kliment (Kushch), head of the Diocese, told Forum 18 in June 2014 that the change would result in the Diocese having to pay about 160 Russian Roubles per square metre per month (236,112 Roubles, then equivalent to 42,990 Norwegian Kroner, 5,145 Euros, or 7,000 US Dollars a month). “We’re a non-commercial organisation – how can we pay commercial rates? We live on donations.”
No Russian registration, no rental
The Russian-controlled Crimean State Council amended the Crimean Law on the Particulars of Regulating Property and Land Issues in Crimea on 31 July 2018. This required that any rental contract for state-owned or municipally-owned property with an organisation that had state registration under Ukrainian law but which failed to gain registration under Russian law after the 2014 annexation be cancelled through the courts.
In his explanation presented to the Crimean State Council justifying the amendment, the head of Crimea’s Russian-backed government Sergei Aksyonov noted several Ukrainian-owned companies in such a position, but made no mention of the Orthodox congregation in Simferopol.
Courts order eviction
On 31 January 2019, the Crimean Property and Land Issues Ministry asked the Federal Tax Service and Justice Ministry in Crimea if the Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine had brought its documents into line with Russian law (i.e. if it had Russian registration). Finding that it had not, the Ministry wrote to the Diocese on 5 February cancelling the rental agreement and asking when Ministry inspectors could visit the premises to arrange the “return” of the building. To read full report click here
CRIMEA: “Anti-missionary” prosecutions double in 2018
Compared to the first year they were implemented, punishments in Russian-occupied Crimea for ill-defined “missionary activity” doubled in 2018. Of 23 prosecutions for sharing faith or holding worship at unapproved venues, 19 ended in punishment. Also, 17 cases were brought for communities not using their full legal name.
In Russian-occupied Crimea in 2018 there were 23 prosecutions brought against individuals for ill-defined “missionary activity”, of which 19 ended with punishment, Forum 18 has found. Many of those punished were prosecuted for sharing their faith on the street or for holding worship at unapproved venues. Cases against two more are due to be heard in mid-January 2019.
This represents a doubling of such cases in the Crimean peninsula since the first year such punishments for “missionary activity” were imposed. July 2016 to July 2017 saw 13 known cases of which 8 ended in punishment.
(Evangelical Focus) by Joel Forster—Peaceful demonstrations call authorities to “stop closure of worship places”. Churches re-organise themselves in houses as the government threatens to close more buildings.
Algerian Protestant Christians have protested peacefully in the last days against the “unjust” governmental campaign to close churches. Groups of believers have called on the streets for “freedom of worship without intimidation”. “Mr Governor, stop the closure of churches”, said one of the signs written in Arabic and French.
“No to the unjust closure of churches” was written on another banner. Demonstrators also called to “derogate the 06/03 law of 2006”, a controversial order used to hinder the activities of faith minorities.
BUILDINGS CLOSED, MATERIALS BLOCKED
“The closures of churches happen arbitrarily, with no chance of taking the materials out of the worship places. Chairs, microphones, materials, Bibles, everything is blocked”, told Evangelical Focus an Algerian source who knows the churches on the ground well.
Several local churches have moved their belongings to other worship places when the intervention of police officers seemed imminent.
Nine Protestant worship places have already been closed in 12 months, the last case being a “witness point” of a larger church in Tizi-Ouzou.
AN ANTI-PROTESTANT CAMPAIGN
The government action against Protestant groups has focused much on the Kabylie region. Some believers in the region see it as a “provocation” of the government with the underlying aim of prompting some kind of reaction that could then be punished “with a firm hand”, the source said.
Nevertheless, Algerian church leaders have called to maintain a peaceful attitude, not expressing anti-governmental opinions on social media, and defending religious freedom as they continue to engage in the prayer and fasting initiatives started in March.
The hostility of the government has led to a “stronger unity than ever before among the churches”. The significant growth of the Christian Protestant communities in the last twenty years may have led to some discrepancies in secondary theological issues, but these have now been set aside “to face all these injustices together”, the Algerian source told Evangelical Focus.
Christian communities whose places of worship have been shut have found the collaboration of other groups who are offering their facilities. “New groups in houses” have also been started lately.
The national government of Algeria is in the midst of a confusing transition time after the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Abdelkader Bensalah is the new interim leader called to organise new elections.
MORE CHURCHES AT RISK
In the last days, it has been known that two more churches in the Kabylie region could be forcibly closed. So far, authorities have justified their actions arguing that most Protestant places of worship do not have the license required under a law of 2006, known as the 06/03 order.
The Algerian Protestant Church (EPA, in French), an entity formed four decades ago which now unites more than forty Protestant churches in the country, has denounced Christian communities have applied for these licenses for many years, but authorities have intentionally ignored their requests in order to put them in a position of illegality. Algerian Human Rights experts are seeking to derogate the law.
WEA DEMANDS END OF CLOSURES
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is one of the international organisations that has positioned itself in favour of the Algerian Protestant Church.
The WEA addressed the situation at the recent September sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It denounced that “the churches are in a legal grey-zone of non-recognition, giving authorities the latitude to close one building after the other”. The body representing 600 million evangelical Christians worldwide called to “end the campaign against Protestant churches, and review the registration process”.
Cairo (Agenzia Fides) – The start of parliamentary debate on the new Egyptian law that should regulate the construction of churches and places of worship had been announced for the end of May, but almost two months later, the text of bill has not yet been brought into parliament, and is subjected to constant changes. The delays are of concern in the Churches and Christian communities in Egypt. Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, in a recent interview, reported he often prays for the intention that the legislative process of the new law will soon be accomplished.
Egyptian sources consulted by Agenzia Fides, reported that Anba Paula, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Tanta, continues, as representative of Churches, to meet with officials of the Ministry of Justice and the competent parliamentary committees to make further adjustments to the text, so that it can be approved and does not risk being rejected in court by a parliamentary vote against.
The bill, presented to the relevant parliamentary offices in mid-May (see Fides 16/05/2016) consisted of 13 articles. In the draft it recognized among other things the right of Bishops to appeal to the State Council for delays imposed in an unnatural manner concerning procedures for the construction of new churches.
The new legislation, should lead to the total filing of the rules laid out by the so-called “Hamayoni Decree”, the law which dates back to the Ottoman period which is the cause of many disputes at a local level. According to these rules, the construction of Christian churches is subject to obligations that do not weigh on the construction of mosques, such as the ban on the construction of Christian places of worship close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. (
(Voice of the Persecuted) We are deeply disturbed by the recent news of vandalistic attacks on places of worship. In the latest news of the Islamic State’s quest to stomp out Christianity, the terrorist group posted images and video footage portraying militants razing the nearly 1,600-year-old Syriac Catholic Mar Elian Monastery. The location is believed to be where Saint Elian was killed by his father, a Roman officer, for refusing to renounce his faith in Jesus. During the destruction, it is claimed they dug up and desecrated the bones of the martyred Christian saint.
Earlier this month, the jihadist captured the town of al-Qaryatain in the Homs province kidnapping more than 230 Syriac Christians. Purported as ISIS’ biggest military advance since it took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in May, it’s suspected that some of the kidnapped Christians were taken from the town’s ancient monastery. The site is also the location where a priest and church volunteer was abducted in May.
Christians are being slaughtered, cleansed of their lands across the world, as a genocide is taking place. We regularly condemn and demand that governments, particularly Islamic governments, put an end to discrimination and these horrific attacks against Christians. We’ve called on western nations and the international community to stop all ties with nations who continue to promote and condone violence by inaction. We have asked Muslims to stand up and raise their voices against the violence and those wishing to harm their Christian neighbors.
So how can we call this behavior evil and silently witness abusive acts taking place in the West against people of other faiths? It’s hypocrisy to not speak out. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He taught us to turn the other cheek. He gave us the great commission to spread the Gospel in patience and love, but no where in scripture does it tell us to kill, commit acts of violence or desecrate another’s faith. We are warned to stay away from such religions and doctrines of demons, but no where did Jesus, nor the Apostles attack the Roman government or pagan religions in the manner in which was seen before and today.
In no comparison to what is happening to Christians in strict Islamic nations, evidence of discrimination is happening in the U.S. that should be concerning to Christians, true followers of Christ.
For example, twice in one week, an air conditioning unit was vandalized during prayers at a Virginia mosque, in July.
In a report shared in April, pieces of bacon were left in the parking lot and at the entrance of the Islamic Society of Edmond’s mosque. Police said bacon strips were wrapped around door handles at the mosque in Oklahoma. On April 12th, another mosque was targeted when several windows were shot out by vandals with a bb gun near the campus of Oklahoma State University.
Members of both mosques were concerned about drawing negative attention to their house of worship saying they didn’t want to draw more crazy people to their institutions.
Muslims believe pork is an unclean meat unfit for consumption, so Muslims are to refrain from eating pork. A Muslim commented that the vandals use of bacon was meant to be offensive, but pork is not like Kryptonite and would not stop them from going to worship.
Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the shining light on a hill. In today’s world, as we approach the end of time, we should be about our Father’s business spreading love and the Gospel. Not wrapping bacon around the doorposts of mosques or synagogues. This type of behavior covers the light in darkness. It’s exactly what the spirit of evil wants, and is mostly likely behind it. Satan wants to discredit God’s people. Jew and Christian alike. Understand this, the world is watching us right now. It doesn’t need an excuse to ban Jesus from the public square. Yet we enable it’s realization, when Western Nation’s that pride themselves in freedom of worship with the right to choose, exhibit the very behaviors we call evil.
So much death and destruction has wrought callousness in western society, including some in the Church. To the people experiencing the affects of the chaos, it’s brought much suffering, pain and sorrow you can’t even imagine. The world is failing miserably as a community to care for those facing persecution and fleeing death. If you have followed our reports, there’s no need for charts and graphs of statistics to be aware of this. So much blood, innocent blood has been shed. So much suffering and pain, a practical Christian genocide taking place…yet the world never misses a beat to condemn Christianity.
Take the Central African Republic for example. It’s been called ‘the forgotten crises’. Lately, much attention has been given to the Daesh and the Mid East and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, but few care to hear about the CAR and the atrocities there. We have covered this extensively in the past, but it’s back in the news with the worldly blasting Christian militia’s are beheading and slaughtering. Yet not a mention from the Western media that they are not followers of Christ. Not Christian doctrine or behavior, but behavior of an evil anti-christ spirit that has manifested in Militia’s like the Lord’s Resistance Army. They’re still very active in this region, even the UN admits their presence and has set up roadblocks and networks to trap them. But due to their cameleon abilities to morph into other groups like the Anti-Balaka to invade, capture and spread their evil doctrine much like the Daesh.
This spirit is not new to the world. But again, not the doctrine taught by Jesus. This spirit of evil manifested many times in Biblical history and now in modern times. Bible history tells us of this evil spirit manifested in ‘Antiochus lV’ that is easily without a stretch, fits today’s events.
He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion.
Again throughout history, evil has existed and present day barbarity is staggering. We, as a Body and the world have are failing. It’s time to show the light and love of Christ to the world instead of selfishness, hatred and revenge. Stand up, be counted and stand firm or the darkness will overtake you.
Instead of harboring negative feelings towards those of other faiths, open your eyes and see that God is bringing the nations to us! Opening the door for them to hear His Gospel! Share it in love, then let them choose. Let them see His love and light through you. It is God who draws those near to Him, not us.
If you don’t submit yourself to the Holy Spirit and do God’s will, even if it hurts or goes against the flesh or the carnal, you won’t come out of this crisis. Let our focus be on our Father’s business.
Serving those most affected by the crisis, we ask for your help. Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope to persecuted Christians.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
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Under dangerous conditions, Eritreans are fleeing their country to escape extreme human rights and religious freedom violations.
The ISIS terror group kidnapped 88 Eritrean Christians from a people-smugglers’ caravan in Libya last week, a U.S. defense official confirmed Monday.
The defense official confirmed initial reports of the mass kidnapping to Fox News after seeing a recent intelligence report. The independent Libya Herald newspaper reported that the convoy was ambushed by militants south of Tripoli before dawn this past Wednesday morning.
Meron Estafanos, the co-founder of the Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees, told the paper that the group of migrants included “about 12 Eritrean Muslims and some Egyptians. They put them in another truck and they put 12 Eritrean women Christians in a smaller pick-up”.
Estafanos said that the militants had initially stopped the truck and demanded that the Muslims on board make themselves known. Everyone who responded was asked about the Koran and their religious observance in an attempt to catch Christians pretending to be Muslims. Read More
ROME, March 20, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – President Obama’s policies “have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization,” said American Cardinal Raymond Burke in an interview published in English exclusively by LifeSiteNews today.
Burke did not mince words in responding to a question about the Catholic reaction to President Obama’s attack on religious freedom, especially through policies such as the controversial HHS mandate.
“He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies,” said Burke.
“Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.”
The wide-ranging interview, published originally by Polonia Christiana magazine, covers everything from sex-education, in vitro fertilization, abortion, and euthanasia to annulments, politicians who are Catholic in name only, gender ideology, and same-sex “marriage.”
Obama ran his 2008 presidential election campaign on a promise to transform America by what he called “change we can believe in.” Since taking office in 2009, he has done more than any other president to promote contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, what critics say amounts to an outright assault on life, marriage, and family.
Obama declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in 2011, setting the stage for its demise at the Supreme Court in 2013. Now with the HHS mandate in place, American business owners must pay for the contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs of their employees or face crippling fines.
Burke lamented the slide into what he called a “loss of freedom.”
“Such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago. It is true that many faithful Catholics, with strong and clear leadership from their Bishops and priests, are reacting against the ever-growing religious persecution in the U.S.”
“Sadly, one has the impression that a large part of the population is not fully aware of what is taking place. In a democracy, such a lack of awareness is deadly. It leads to the loss of the freedom which a democratic government exists to protect,” he said.
“It is my hope that more and more of my fellow citizens, as they realize what is happening, will insist on electing leaders who respect the truth of the moral law as it is respected in the founding principles of our nation,” he added.
Find the full interview with Cardinal Burke here.
Reports from Iran indicate that five Christian converts from a house-church in eastern Tehran were arrested during a Christmas celebration. Iranian Christian converts face constant restrictions and persecution.
In a report published by Mohabat News, we learn Iranian security authorities raided a house owned by Mr. Hosseini, where a group of Christians had gathered on Christmas Eve. Those arrested are Mr. Hosseini , Ahmad Bazyar, Faegheh Nasrollahi, Mastaneh Rastegari, and Amir-Hossein Ne’matollahi.
The report stated: “These Christians had gathered to worship and celebrate birth of Jesus.”
The NCRI, a Foreign Affairs Committee of Human Rights in Iran reported that security forces and plainclothes agents raided the residence, arrested the Christians and seized their books, CDs, computer laptop and satellite receiver. Adding in their report that “security forces also raided the neighbor who was watching the scene and threatened him to keep silent.
Mohabat News reported that the authorities had searched the neighbors house, insulted and beat the father of the family and then warned them not to speak with anyone about what they had witnessed. Excessive and an extreme form of intimidation.
There is no update about the whereabouts or condition of these arrested Christians.
Iran has intensified their pressure and threats against Christians. And during the last few Christmas seasons, intimidation and surveillance of churches has increased.
In the past few years Christian converts have been arrested or faced other persecution during the Christmas holiday. A large number of Christians converts were arrested in Tehran as part of pre-organized attacks by government authorities.
Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, sent Pope Francis Christmas greetings while his government continues to harass Iranian Christians and restrict their freedom.
As we who are free to worship and celebrate the birth of Christ openly and in joy, the threats by the Iranian Islamic regime makes this season a different experience for the faithful in Iran. Be grateful and do not take the rights we’ve been given for granted. We must do all we can to ensure those rights are not taken away. We must also remember those who are being oppressed for their faith in Christ.
As persecution rapidly spreads, sitting idly by while our brothers and sisters suffer extreme abuse is inexcusable. Stop being a part of why it continues. We must use our VOICES to advocate and speak out against these atrocities. We must inform others so they too can join us and will learn of this under-reported humanitarian crisis. Ask your elected officials what they are doing to combat the war against Christians. Demand straight answers for a solution. We can make a difference! If we don’t do something about this now, do not be surprised when it is at your door!
Restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12%), decreased in 12 countries (6%) and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82%), according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affected a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion – live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied. Only about 1% of the world’s population lives in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities declined.
Among the world’s 25 most populous countries – which account for about 75% of the world’s total population – restrictions on religion substantially increased in eight countries and did not substantially decrease in any. In China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, the increases were due primarily to rising levels of social hostilities involving religion. In Egypt and France, the increases were mainly the result of government restrictions. The rest of the 25 most populous countries, including the United States, did not experience substantial changes in either social hostilities or government-imposed restrictions.
This is the second time the Pew Forum has measured restrictions on religion around the globe. Like the baseline report, the new study scores 198 countries and territories on two indexes:
- The Government Restrictions Index measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs or practices. This includes efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups.
- The Social Hostilities Index measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations and social groups. This includes mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons and other religion-related intimidation or abuse.
Among the five geographic regions covered in the study, the Middle East-North Africa region had the largest proportion of countries in which government restrictions on religion increased, with nearly a third of the region’s countries (30%) imposing greater restrictions. Egypt, in particular, ranked very high (in the top 5% of all countries, as of mid-2009) on both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. Egypt was one of just two countries in the world – Indonesia was the other – that had very high scores on both measures as of mid-2009.
Europe had the largest proportion of countries in which social hostilities related to religion were on the rise from mid-2006 to mid-2009. Indeed, five of the 10 countries in the world that had a substantial increase in social hostilities were in Europe: Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The study also finds that social hostilities involving religion have been rising in Asia, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam.
Read More at PewResearch