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Jakarta has raised its alert status to the highest level, in the wake of suicide bombings that hit three churches. The blasts killed at least 13, including six suicide bombers, and wounded 43 others, in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday morning.
The first explosion took place at the Santa Maria Catholic church followed by attacks at the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal church and GKI Diponegoro church minutes later.
Police chief, Tito Karniavan, told reporters it is believed that a family of six, a husband and wife and their four children aged between nine and 18, had carried out the worst attack the country has seen in more than a decade.
At approximately 7.30 am when parishioners were heading into the churches for Sunday services, the blasts occurred within minutes of each other.
The Guardian reported that police identified the mother as Puji Kuswanti and said that she and her two daughters,12 and 9 years old, bombed the GKI Diponegoro church [using waist-bombs]. At the same time, the family’s two teenage sons, 18 and 16, rode motorcycles close to the entrance of the Santa Maria Catholic church, where they detonated their [lap-bombs]. Dita, their father, drove a car bomb into the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal church. Media reports claim that the explosion at the Pentecostal church was the biggest compared to the other two bombings.
Karniavan said he suspected the family had recently returned to Indonesia from Syria, where hundreds of Indonesians have traveled to join Islamic State, including entire families. Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks through its media agency, Amaq. However, at the time of this publishing, no evidence has been produced to support the claim.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo condemned the attacks as barbaric.
In a circular distributed to police stations in the capital, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Idham Azis said,
“Following the bomb attacks, all areas in the Jakarta Police’s jurisdiction have been placed under the highest alert status until further notice.”
Voice of the Persecuted Asian correspondent update report—Pakistan is the fifth most difficult country to live as a Christian, yet millions thrive and worship their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. April has been a brutal month for Pakistani Christians. ISIS has been on spree of kill and run incidents in Quetta where Christians have been targeted and killed for their faith.
ISIS killings in Quetta
In the beginning of April, four Christians were targeted in the Pakistani city of Quetta, provincial capital of Balochistan province in Western Pakistan. Two men on motorcycle fired at a rickshaw carrying four family members. Three members of the family and the rickshaw driver were instantly killed but a child survived the attack and was quickly rushed to the hospital. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
While the community was still in shock, ISIS struck again on April 15th, 2018. Four men on motorcycles fired and killed two men in the neighborhood of Essa Nagri in Quetta. Three including two girls were injured and taken to the hospital.Asm Yaqoob, a 25 year old from Sialkot, was attacked on 17th April, 2018. Her Muslim suitor, Rizwan Gujjar wanted her to convert to Islam and marry him. Upon constant refusals, Rizwan Gujjar attacked her on April 17th throwing acid and dousing her in petrol and setting her alight. She was moved to Lahore’s Mayo Hospital with third degree burns which affected 90% of her body. After fighting for her life for over a week, she succumbed to her injuries on Monday, April 23rd. Her family not only suffers the heartbreak of her death, but now find themselves in financial hardship. Asm was the only bread winner in the family of 10.2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the food fight, I have finished the race, I have kept my faith. ”
Asma indeed lived according to this verse and kept her faith till the end.
Asma isn’t the only victim to this brutality. Every year about 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forcefully converted to Islam and unwillingly married to Muslim men.
“Violence against women and girls—including rape, murder through so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage—remained routine. Pakistani human rights NGOs estimate that there are about 1,000 “honor killings” every year” —Human Rights Watch, 2017 report
Despite the reports, UNHCR continues to reject Pakistani Christians asylum seekers at an unprecedented rate stating that it’s safe for them to return in Pakistan. In the month of April, over 20 Pakistani Christian families have been refused and their files closed by the UNHCR in Thailand. It’s appalling that the UN believes their safety isn’t a concern in Pakistan.
May God open their eyes and give them passion to understand the plight of His people.
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Please pray for Pakistani Christians
Civilians on the island of Mindanao paid a high price with dozens killed and widespread destruction of homes and property amid the ‘battle of Marawi’ that pitted the Philippine military against militants allied to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) between May and October this year, Amnesty International said in a report today.
The ‘Battle of Marawi’: Death and destruction in the Philippines is the first detailed human rights analysis of the conflict, based on a research trip to Lanao del Sur, Mindanao in September. It documents how IS-allied militants targeted Christian civilians for the worst of the abuses, including at least 25 extrajudicial killings, mass hostage-taking, and extensive looting of civilian property.
Philippine armed forces, meanwhile, detained and ill-treated fleeing civilians, and also engaged in looting. Their extensive bombing of militant-held areas of Marawi city wiped out entire neighbourhoods and killed civilians, highlighting the need for an investigation into its compliance with international humanitarian law.
“Marawi’s civilian population has suffered immensely amid one of the Philippine military’s most intensive operations in decades. Displaced en masse when the fighting began in May, thousands of people are now returning to a city that has been utterly destroyed in places, where civilians have been slaughtered by militants, and both sides have committed abuses,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
“The IS-linked militants’ bloody, months-long siege of Marawi took a heavy toll on civilians, with Christians in particular singled out for brutal attacks, including grisly extrajudicial killings.”
Civilians targeted in reign of terror…Read More
(AINA) Reuters– A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by Islamic State when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more.
“The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday.
Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul.
“She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.”
Islamic State has kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis.
Christians who did not or could not escape in time were faced with an ultimatum – pay a tax for protection, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Some, like Christina, were kidnapped.
Christian families who remained in Qaraqosh were forcibly displaced on Aug. 22, 2014. The militants took away Christina from the minibus which had driven them to the edge of Islamic State territory, after threatening Aida, who desperately resisted.
The family’s efforts to track her though Arab friends were rewarded on Friday, when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy al-Tanak, a poor neighborhood of Mosul.
Eighth months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has fallen to Iraqi government forces except a pocket by the western bank of the Tigris river.
We went to a dirty place in Hayy el-Tanak (..), we took the child,” said Christina’s blind father, Khader Touma, wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the family now complete with the return of his youngest daughter.
Her two sisters and two brothers had escaped to Kurdish territory before the arrival of the militants.
“I’m with mum and dad,” said Christina, playing with a plastic toy, in a mobile home for displaced people in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, east of Mosul.
The parents said they now hoped to emigrate, to put their ordeal behind them.
In the meantime, they face a long wait in the cramped cabin, because their home in Qaraqosh was almost completely destroyed in the fighting to dislodge the militants.
Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Bolton.
(World Watch Monitor) UPDATE (25 May): Nine Christian civilians were reportedly shot dead at a militant-run checkpoint in the besieged city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on Tuesday (23 May).
Filipino news site GMA News Online – one of the biggest news and public affairs networks in the country – reported that local residents identified the nine as Christians, saying they had been pulled from a truck, had their hands bound and then their bodies riddled with bullets and left in a field.
This latest update comes as a Catholic priest and 13 other Christians are still reportedly being held by the Islamists, who have laid siege to the city, setting fire to buildings including a cathedral and Protestant-run college, and erecting the black flags of ISIS.
Reuters reports that the militants have been using the hostages as human shields, and have contacted cardinals, threatening to execute them unless government troops withdraw.
The governor of the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated, said the rebels are from three extremist groups – Maute, Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to crush them, saying: “Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no-one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all.
“If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That’s how it is.”
He added: “I made a projection, not a prediction, that one of these days the hardest things to deal with would be the arrival of ISIS. The government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere.”
Original article (24 May):
Chaos in the Philippines as Islamist group storms city, abducts Christians and sets church on fire
A Catholic priest and 13 other Christians were taken hostage, while a cathedral and Protestant-run college were among the buildings set on fire, when an extremist group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State descended upon the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines yesterday (23 May).
Three fires broke out, as around 100 armed members of the Maute group fired off their weapons, beheaded a police chief and erected the black flags of ISIS.
The abducted priest was identified as Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, by a local bishop, Edwin De la Peña, who told the Catholic news agency Fides: “Today is the feast of our Prelature, the feast of ‘Mary, help of Christians’. The faithful were in church to pray on the last day of the novena. The terrorists broke into St Mary’s Cathedral, took the hostages and led them to an unknown location. They entered the bishop’s residence and kidnapped [Fr. Suganob]. Then they set fire to the cathedral and the bishop’s residence. Everything is destroyed. We are dismayed.
“The terrorists have occupied the city. People are terrified and locked in the house. We are waiting for the army’s reaction. The important thing is to regain the city with the least possible bloodshed. Hostages have not been mentioned. We have activated our channels, the Church and Islamic leaders, and we hope to be able to negotiate soon so they are released safe and sound.
“…We also appeal to Pope Francis to pray for us and to ask the terrorists to release the hostages in the name of our common humanity. Violence and hatred lead only to destruction: we ask the faithful all over the world to pray together with us for peace.”
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines, added that Fr. Suganob was “not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilised conflict.”
Meanwhile, three of the buildings belonging to Dansalan College, which was established by the Protestant United Church of Christ, were burnt down yesterday. On its website, the college says it espouses the importance of interfaith relationship, as 95% of its students are Muslim, while 80% of its staff are Christian.
Reports say a hospital, the city’s jail, and several other establishments were also taken over by the gunmen.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reacted by cutting short a visit to Russia and imposing 60 days of martial law across the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated. The 27 provinces and 33 cities in Mindanao make up roughly a third of the whole country.
Martial law gives more power to the military, including its ability to detain people for long periods without charge.
It is only the second time martial law has been imposed in the Philippines since the fall of former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Human rights groups and religious leaders criticised the president’s decision, calling it “uncalled for” and warning that it would “inevitably result in intensified military operations, including aerial strikes, which can kill and affect hundreds of civilians”.
Sixty days is the maximum period allowed for martial law under the Philippines’ Constitution, but President Duterte said in a video released by the government that “if it would take a year to [overcome the insurgents], then we’ll do it”.
After his return home today (24 May), Mr. Duterte said at a press briefing: “If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”
Although the Philippines is a majority-Christian country, the region of Mindanao has a strong Muslim presence and is home to the Maute group, which stems from a violent Islamist movement called the Moro National Liberation Front, which sought independence for decades, hoping to create an independent Islamic state.
“On the ground, the people are asking for prayers,” a local source told World Watch Monitor. “The residents are threatened. They say homes are being trespassed, and that women not in hijabs are being taken away. The black flags are perched on top of a police car and a hospital. Social media screams with pleas for help, screenshots of texts of relatives on lockdown. One post says people must recite the shahada [Islamic profession of faith] when asked, else be killed.
“The fighting is said to spring from a hunt for Isnilon Hapilon, local Abu Sayaff leader tagged as the head of ISIS in the Philippines. Hapilon has not been caught.
“The military says things are in control now, and denies that ISIS was involved, saying the local Maute group was wreaking havoc only to get foreign attention.”
The AP reports the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a check point near the historic Orthodox Christian St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, killing one police officer and wounding four. ISIS has vowed more attacks against Egyptian Christians, who make up 10 percent of the country’s population.
One of the world’s oldest ‘working’ Christian monasteries, St. Catherine’s, officially “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai”, was built between 548 and 565 in a remote desert area at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a popular tourists destination. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus.
Militants ascended onto an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint several hundred meters outside the monastery. Then they opened fire. Some of the gunmen were wounded when police returned fire, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said.
Please pray for our Christian family in Egypt.
Photo By Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons
(Agenzia Fides) – A 40-year-old Coptic Christian was found dead with a gunshot to the neck, in the Egyptian town of Al-Arish, capital of Northern Sinai, on Thursday, February 23. The body was found inside his home, which had been set on fire. This is the third Coptic Christian killed in Al Arish in the past 48 hours, and the seventh murdered in the Sinai Peninsula in the last two weeks.
On Wednesday, February 22 the authorities found the bullet-riddled body of a Christian about 65; his son also died with him, burned alive by jihadists. On February 12, some masked men on a motorcycle gunned down a Christian veterinarian, while he was at the wheel of his own car. In late January, a 35-year-old Christian officer was killed.
In recent days, in a video posted on the Telegram messaging site, the Islamic State had promised to strike the Christian community, defined by jihadists as “the preferred prey”. Among these, the most serious was the suicide bombing on December 11 against a Coptic Orthodox church in Cairo, which caused 29 victims.
A priest says 1,000 Christians have fled, with some receiving threats on their mobile phones
Hundreds of Christians have fled the city of el-Arish in Egypt after a spate of attacks by suspected Islamic militants.
A priest told the Associated Press that he and some 1,000 other Christians had fled for fear of being targeted next. He blamed lax security, saying: “You feel like this is all meant to force us to leave our homes. We became like refugees.”
It was earlier reported that militants had shot dead a Coptic Christian man, Kamel Youssef, in front of his wife and daughter. The account had been given by two officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
A priest in the city said militants then kidnapped and stabbed his daughter before dumping her body near a police station. It wasn’t immediately possible to confirm his account. Read More
The people who held him, ISIS fighters, found in his possession a picture of Jesus and two small crosses. They took the items away, burned them, and told him he would be beheaded if they found any more.
Ismail could tell they were serious this time. So he took his last cross — the only one they hadn’t found — and hid it very carefully in the back of a cable receiver box.
“When I left it there, I told myself the cross is not just around the neck, it’s in the heart,” Ismail, 16, says.
It was a small act of defiance — an attempt to retain a part of himself. It was also a symbol of hope. He was telling himself that one day he would be back to collect it. That he would survive. (more…)