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Eritrea: 150 Christians arrested on account of their faith

150 Christians were arrested because of their faith in Eritrea. The first 70 were arrested in Keren on June 23, 2019.

Almost 2 months later, on August 18, 80 more were arrested in Godayef, and taken to a nearby police station before disappearing.

In an underground tunnel

The 70 prisoners arrested in June are being held in prison in Ashufera. The term “prison” refers to a number of underground tunnels that the prisoners are forced to extend, by digging, whenever more people are brought in, according to the Italian online publication Tempi.

Those arrested are all members of the Faith Mission Church of Christ, the last church to have been left open in the city of Keren. The 60 year old congregation had asked for official registration in 2002, though they never received any response from Eritrea’s government. After the arrest of 70 of its worshipers, the church’s school was also closed down.

“Renounce Christ”

On top of the 150 arrested for their faith, many more have been asked, before a judge, to renounce their faith, more specifically, to “renounce Christ.”

On August 16 2019, 6 Christian government employees were taken to court and asked to give up their faith. After replying that they were not willing, they were set free as they await a verdict.

Twenty-one Catholic-run hospitals have been closed down, the last on July , 2019. Each of them offered free healthcare to over 170 thousand people a yea. It took a month to confiscate and close down every single one of the clinics, most in rural areas.

The government

A law dating back to 1995 says that only the government can provide social assistance, and therefore run healthcare facilities.

But the government appears unable to do so as they continuously postpone their promised democratic reforms.

written by Francesca Merlo  source

UN Decries Lack of Reforms and Widespread Abuse in Eritrea

A U.N. investigator is condemning an Eritrean crackdown on fundamental freedoms and religious practice in a new report, as well as the country’s harsh, indefinite military service and widespread abuse.

Hopes that Eritrea, which has been accused of human-rights abuses, would institute reforms after it signed a historic peace agreement with Ethiopia in 2018 have not materialized.  If anything, a U.N. report on its human rights situation has found widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and torture. read more

Stop the Christian Genocide in Nigeria

Just recently, we commemorated the fifth anniversary of the deaths of the 21 Coptic martyrs of Libya. These brave men refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ, even unto death. The world looked on in horror as the hooded Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists recorded their crime against humanity in a scarring message to the “nation of the cross.” The incident validated that the genocide ISIS was committing against Christians was not limited to Iraq and Syria.

Boko Haram has killed more than 27,000 civilians in Nigeria. This is greater than the amount of civilians ISIS killed in Iraq and Syria combined.

The Global Terrorism Index states that Nigeria is the third most dangerous country after Afghanistan and Iraq. Open Doors estimates that more than 7,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed because of their faith over the last three years. The international mission to persecuted Christians estimates that 1,350 Christians were killed by Islamic militant groups in 2019. The Christian Association of Nigeria reports that 900 churches in northern Nigeria have been destroyed in their campaign.

Greg Stanton of Genocide Watch states that Boko Haram is committing a genocide against Christians and crimes against humanity against the wider population. In central Nigeria, Fulani militants are also committing ethnic cleansing and genocidal massacres against Christians. Stanton says that what is mistaken as a conflict between herders and farmers is actually “a genocidal war between ethnic groups that previously co-existed, ignited by Islamic extremists with modern weapons.”

In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Christian schoolgirls, and people around the world took part in the #bringbackourgirls campaign. Although the hashtag is no longer trending, more than 100 of those girls remain missing, and the world has all but forgotten.

Two years ago, Boko Haram kidnapped more than100 girls and released all but one: Leah Sharibu.

Why have they kept Leah in captivity?

Leah, who is a Christian, was the only girl who refused to renounce her faith. She is now being held by the group as a “slave for life.” The situation on the ground has continued to worsen since her initial kidnapping.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) notes the group has killed those, including religious leaders, it considers to be “nonbelievers.” USCIRF notes they have committed civilian abductions, forced marriages, forced conversions, sexual abuse and torture. Furthermore, they have begun using women and children to commit suicide attacks. In addition to committing a genocide against Christians, they are also terrorizing Nigeria’s Muslim community. Boko Haram is believed to have committed twin suicide bombings at a mosque and market in the city of Mubi, which resulted in 27 deaths.

The Christian community is struggling to respond to this genocide. Open Doors, which ranks Nigeria as the 12th highest country of Christian persecution in the world, reports that Christians “who see their mothers and sisters raped and their fathers and brothers killed” would be unwise to fight back because Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen militias are not street gangs: They possess military-grade weaponry.

How have these groups come to obtain military-grade weaponry?

Strong evidence suggests that foreign powers have smuggled arms to these groups. A leaked recording in 2014 indicates that Turkey has previously used Turkish Airlines for weapons smuggling to Nigeria.

The Nigerian government must take action to ensure that it closes all smuggling routes and channels between foreign suppliers of weapons and the terrorist organizations and militias that operate within its borders.

These groups are not only armed; they have been committing increasingly disturbing attacks against Christians in recent months.

Shortly after Christmas, Boko Haram executed 11 Nigerian Christians, one of whom was shot and 10 of whom were beheaded, who had originally been kidnapped in Borno State.

On Jan. 8, Aid to the Church in Need announced the murder of a Catholic seminarian who had been kidnapped from Kaduna State. Also in January, the Islamic State’s official propaganda channel released a video of a child soldier, approximately 8 years old, executing Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a Christian college student. That same month also witnessed the martyrdom of evangelical Protestant minister Lawan Andimi, whose preaching of the Gospel in his own hostage video went viral.

The Register, to its credit, has called on the Nigerian government to take action. As the editors highlighted, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto has charged that the government has “created the conditions to make it possible for Boko Haram to behave the way they are behaving.”

Bishop Kukah is right. President Muhammed Buhari has been, at the very least, complicit in this genocide, and the international community must pressure him to either enact serious reforms to Nigeria’s security apparatus or resign.

He recently told Crux that that while the Nigerian population is almost evenly divided amongst Christians and Muslims, all of the federal security chiefs, including the office of national security adviser and the minister of defense, are Muslims.

On a similar note, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze of Benin City, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, told Catholic News Agency that there is a “lack of significant prosecution” of the Fulani herdsmen who attack Christians, especially in Nigeria’s north. He echoes Bishop Kukah by noting that almost all of the president’s advisers are from the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group and are Muslims.

David Curry of Open Doors has warned the crimes Boko Haram and Funali militias are committing against Christians qualify as genocide because “[Y]ou have a group of people who are saying they’re going to eliminate Christians in the North; they’re largely pushing people out and or killing them.” He added that genocide is “rarely [called] genocide until it’s too late.”

Today, we are calling this genocide. We are also calling on the government of Nigeria, the government of the United States and the international community to do the same and take immediate action to stop it.

Posted by Frank Wolf and Toufic Baaklini on National Catholic Register

Frank Wolf is a former member of Congress from Virginia and the author of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. He now focuses exclusively on human rights and international religious freedom.

Toufic Baaklini is the president and chairman of the board of directors for In Defense of Christians.

VOP Note: Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

Eyes On The Persecuted: A Prayer For Sudan

Sudan is once again in the news as South Sudan nears a March 5th deadline for peace talks. Since 2013 the UN estimates that 2.5 million people have been affected and are near a crises for famine. It has been said that numbers of those killed are not kept by the government, but an International Crises Group claims 50,000 have been murdered.  South Sudan’s population is reported by some as almost 50% Christian. In the north, an estimated 16% are Christians while Muslims make up 62% and those who practice traditional religions 22%. Pray for Sudan, pray for the Christians in North and South Sudan.

World Watch Monitor is reporting that fears are growing for 2 Pastors who have been arrested.

(World Watch Monitor) Fears are growing for the welfare of two South Sudanese church leaders who are being held in unknown locations by Sudan’s intelligence services.

Pastor Yat Michael and Pastor Peter Yen (also named as David Yein Reith in some reports) have now each been held for over a month after being arrested during visits to the country from their homes in South Sudan.

The two pastors are members of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, and both were arrested while visiting Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

While South Sudan has a largely Christian population, Sudan is predominantly Muslim. However, many thousands of Southern Sudanese who fled the long civil war to live in the north are now so rooted there, they chose to remain. There are still churches in the north to meet their needs, although some have come under pressure in recent months.  “The longer these two men are held in a secret location, the greater the risk of them being tortured,” said Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen.  Sudan ranks sixth in the 2015 World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face most persecution. Its almost two million Christians face strict laws imposed by an Islamic government, which has ruled that apostasy is still legally punishable by death. Sudanese who are seen as non-Arab are most vulnerable to being punished under the Apostasy law.  (Read the full report)

The report goes on to say that the Church in Sudan is growing despite persecution.  We see this over and over, that God is growing His church in the middle of persecution.  They desperately need our prayers.  Sudan is suffering, the Christians are suffering.  The innocent caught in this conflict are suffering.  Pray for peace.

Most will remember Meriam Ibrahim, a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman who was sentenced to death for her religious views, imprisoned in squalid conditions with her 2 yr. old son, and forced to give birth in a dangerous position while her legs were still chained. Her story was highlighted throughout the world bringing attention to the plight of Christians in Sudan. Many around the globe prayed and spoke out for her. She is now free and living in the U.S. Let us continue to lift our suffering brothers and sisters to the Lord.

Father we ask that you shed your mercy over Sudan and the whole of Africa. We ask that your love and light surround these precious people with protection and a peace that can only come from you above. Protect them Father, place a veil of protection around the innocents. Father we know that you provide our needs, we ask that the flow of aid be restored to this nation. We ask that you abundantly provide their needs, send caring hands to provide and comfort. Give a peace to the Nations of Africa. Father. Guide the leaders in talks for peace. Show the light of Christ to the lost. Father push back those who wish to disrupt and destroy, and provide a peaceful respite and solution. We ask this in Jesus Name.

Voice of the Persecuted

The Legal Significance of Labeling Pro-Life Speech ‘Torture’


Kathryn has been covering the ongoing effort by radical pro-abortion NGOs to apply the U.N. Convention against Torture to the Catholic Church for — among other things — its international pro-life advocacy. The argument is so facially irrational that one would be tempted to dismiss it out of hand. Not even the U.N. could be so blindly malicious and ideological that it would attempt to destroy the church’s rights of free speech and religious liberty for the sake of protecting abortion-on-demand, could it?

Moreover, even if the U.N. Committee against Torture moved against the Vatican, such an action would be irrelevant to American courts and American constitutional law, wouldn’t it?

In fact, there is cause for concern. To be clear, the effort by the Center for Reproductive Rights clearly and explicitly targets the church’s rights to free speech and religious liberty. Here’s an excerpt from its recommendations to the Committee:

Note that the Holy See has negatively interfered with states’ attempts to develop legislation on abortion that would have served to better protect women from torture or ill-treatment. Note that the Holy See’s actions are a violation of Articles 1, 2, and 16 of the Convention against Torture and that the rights of freedom of speech and of religion extend only so far as they do not undermine women’s reproductive rights, including the right to be free from torture or ill-treatment. (Emphasis added.)

This is an astonishing statement, one that clearly targets the Catholic Church’s pro-life advocacy, equating it with state-sanctioned “torture or ill-treatment” of women and girls. By equating advocacy with torture, the Committee could begin an international legal process that would cause the U.N. to review statements or actions by pro-life public officials as “torture” within the meaning of the Convention. Radical pro-abortion groups would file amicus briefs citing new international legal standards equating pro-life advocacy with torture, thus claiming such advocacy is beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Indeed, the argument would be simple (and chilling): By permitting unfettered pro-life advocacy — by public officials and private citizens — the United States would be in violation of international law, specifically by torturing its own citizens.

Though the U.S. ratified the Convention against Torture only with significant reservations, international law has proven persuasive to the Supreme Court (and lower courts) on a number of occasions. Even without the aid of international law, the argument that pro-life speech is somehow inherently suspect is already present in the American constitutional debate, with viewpoint-discriminatory restrictions on speech outside abortion clinics (for now) part of the legal landscape. Abortion activists would gain a significant new legal and rhetorical weapon if the U.N. Committee were to apply the Convention against Torture to the effort to preserve innocent life.

It’s difficult to overstate the perversity of the abortion lobby’s U.N. argument. There are few acts more barbaric than abortion, and the very idea that such barbarism can be insulated even from criticism insults the very notion of free speech and obliterates religious liberty. This is a dramatic escalation of the already-overwrought “war against women” rhetoric, and one that would lead to such absurd results as domestic “women’s groups” accusing conservative candidates of literally torturing voters with pro-life arguments.

At the ACLJ, we’ll be engaging with the Committee through our own affiliated NGO to block the abortion lobby’s efforts (and indeed we started a petition effort that’s already gained more than 15,000 signatures only hours after launch). It’s a sad reality, but the legal defense of our own Constitution often starts overseas, in the halls of a potentially hostile U.N.

One final note: The bright side of this dismal effort is the reality that the abortion lobby is losing the argument. They can’t defend their barbarism in a truly free marketplace of ideas, so their solution is to close the marketplace. They must not succeed.

By David French for the ACLJ  cross posted on the National Review

It is not wrong to come to the defense of the smallest, most vulnerable victims in the modern world. Nor is it wrong to raise their voices for these who are voiceless.

Egypt ‘Christians Expecting Death Any Time’

(CBN)Egyptian government may no longer be in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the country’s Christian population still faces death and violence in their daily lives.


Making an International Deal: Iran Should Stop Persecuting Religious Minorities

The most celebrated case of persecution today is Saeed Abedini, an American citizen born in Iran and sentenced to eight years in prison last year for “undermining national security” by the Iranian government.

A Muslim convert to Christianity, his “crime” in Tehran’s view apparently was aiding house churches.  He went to Iran in 2012 to set up an orphanage, with the government’s approval.  Since then he was abused and tortured while held at two of Iran’s worst prisons.

Unfortunately, Abedini represents far broader religious repression.  The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has routinely labeled Tehran as a Country as Particular Concern.  The Commission’s 2013 report concluded:  “The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.”

Tehran’s brutal persecution has been getting worse.  The State Department reported that violations of religious liberty increased again 2012, as Tehran increasingly was “charging religious and ethnic minorities with moharebeh (enmity against God), ‘anti-Islamic propaganda,’ or vague national security crimes for their religious activities.”

Currently the regime appears to be most concerned about conversions.  Christians traditionally were minorities, especially Armenians and Assyrians, who speak a different language.  However, HRWF reported that charges against those arrested last year included “conversion from Islam to Christianity, encouraging the conversion to Christianity of other Muslims, and propaganda against the regime by promoting Christianity as missionaries.”

Iran is a theocratic state whose laws are to be based on “Islamic criteria.”  The constitution formally accords “full respect” to Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, who are allowed to worship “within the limits of the law.”  Proselytizing and converting are barred, however.  Moreover, according to the State Department, Jews are “regularly vilified” and the government “regularly arrests members of the Zoroastrian and Christian communities for practicing their religion.”

Worse is the treatment of other groups, such as Baha’is and other Muslims, including Sufis, Sunnis, and non-conformist Shia.  All are considered to some degree to be apostates.  Explained State, “The government prohibits Baha’is from teaching and practicing their faith and subjects them to many forms of discrimination not faced by members of other religions groups.”  Sunnis face double jeopardy since many are ethnic minorities, such as Arabs and Kurds.

Government hostility encourages private discrimination as well.  Said State:  “The government’s campaign against non-Shias created an atmosphere of impunity allowing other elements of society to harass religious minorities.”

The U.S. government has little direct leverage, having already targeted Tehran with economic sanctions over its presumed nuclear ambitions.  However, Washington (and the Europeans) could indicate to Iran that a deal is more likely if it quiets Western skeptics.

In fact, public pressure works.  The UN’s Ahmed Shaheed reported last year that “At least a dozen lives were saved because of the intervention of international opinion.”  Encouraging Tehran to respect the freedom of conscience of its citizens might even more effectively come from the most fervent advocates of engagement, who are resisting proposals for new Western sanctions.

As I conclude my latest article in American Spectator online:  “Tehran should release Rev. Abedini, pardon imprisoned Baha’is, allow Sufis and Sunnis to worship, and more.  ‘The international community is watching,’ observed Dwight Bashir, deputy director of USCIRF.  Iran should act accordingly.”

Cato Institute

British Woman May Face Execution in Iran for Insulting Islam

British woman, Roya Nobakht may face execution for insulting Islam.

British woman, Roya Nobakht may face execution for insulting Islam.

The notes from Dr. Azam’s medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing fingernails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet [and] extensive damage to her genitals.

Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.

Roya Nobakht, 47, presently being detained as a political prisoner in Iran, may face execution for insulting Islam. She has lived in Stockport, England with her husband for the last six years and holds dual British-Iranian citizenship.

Her husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, has stated that his wife was arrested while visiting a friend at Iran’s Shiraz airport last October for comments she had made on a Facebook group calling the government of Iran “too Islamic.” According to a copy of her charge sheet seen by the UK’s Independent; she was transferred to Tehran and charged with “gathering and participation with intent to commit crimes against national security and insulting Islamic sanctities”– crimes punishable by death.

In an interview, Mr. Taghipoor told the Manchester Evening News that “his wife is not well at all…she has lost three stones [42 lbs]… and is scared that the government will kill her.” He also said that a confession had been extracted from his wife “under duress.” As is well documented, torture is systematically used by Iranian authorities to obtain confessions from political dissidents and even from some common prisoners.

Ms. Nobakht’s fears are not unfounded. Iran’s persecution of expatriates is nothing new. The first known case was that of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who died under torture in 2003 while in custody. Ms. Zahara Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian, was hanged in 2011. Three Canadian-Iranians; Saeed Malekpour, Hossein Derakhshan and Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, along with American Amir Hekmati, were all arbitrarily arrested while visiting relatives in Iran on vague anti-government charges. With the exception of Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, who was recently released, each one presently languishes inside Iran as political prisoners under dire conditions.

Ms Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who had left Iran in 1974, returned in 2003 to cover a story about Iran. She was soon arrested and detained in Evin prison on charges of espionage. As Iran does not recognize dual citizenships, Ms. Kazemi was not allowed representation by Canadian authorities. She later died in custody. The Iranian officials claimed she had died as a result of a stroke but refused to return her body to Canada. In 2005, however, Dr. Shahram Azam, a doctor with the Iranian security forces who had examined Ms. Kazemi’s half-dead body, fled Iran. He testified that the victim’s body showed extensive signs of torture administered over a few days. The notes from his medical journal include a crushed toe, broken fingers, missing finger nails, broken ribs, a skull fracture, severe abdominal bruising, marks of flogging on her back and feet, extensive damage to the genitals and peculiar deep scratches on her neck. She was 52 years old and the first victim of the Islamic regime’s war of terror on Iranians holding dual citizenship. Her body has never been returned to her son in Canada. After her murder, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, diplomatic relations between Iran and Canada deteriorated significantly.

Ms Zahra Bahrami, 45, who held dual Dutch-Iranian citizenship, had travelled to Iran to visit her ailing daughter. She was arrested in 2009 for participating in anti-regime protests and taken to the dreaded Evin prison. According to eyewitnesses, Ms Bahrami was tortured so severely she could not sit or stand easily and was denied medical care for serious lung complications. On Jan 29, 2011, she was suddenly hanged at 5:00 a.m. without anyone’s knowledge. She was then hastily buried by the authorities in the absence of her children. Dutch authorities expressed shock and sadness over her execution and cut off diplomatic relations with Iran for approximately 20 days.

Mr. Amir Hekmati 31, an American born in Arizona to Iranian parents and who was visiting Iran for the first time, was arrested in 2011 and charged with “spying for the CIA.” He was tortured until he finally gave a televised confession. As a result he was sentenced to death but thanks to heavy international pressure, in 2014 his sentence was finally changed to 10 years in prison. Three Canadians — Mr. Saeed Malekpour, 39; Mr. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, 45; and Mr. Hossein Derakhshan, 38 — were arrested while visiting relatives in Iran in 2008, on various charges. Malekpour was charged with designing software that was used in an “un-Islamic” way by third parties, whereas Ghassemi-Shall was accused of the customary espionage. Both were tortured while kept in solitary confinement for over a year and sentenced to death. Malekpour wrote from prison that his jaw had been broken while his interrogators were trying to extract his teeth with pliers, and that he had only confessed to crimes dictated to him by his interrogators under torture and threats to his family. Malekpour’s death sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison, while Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, was released in September 2013 — both due to successful campaigns by various international human rights organizations.

Derakhshan — nicknamed the “blogfather” — is best known for introducing blogging to Iran in 2001. He was sentenced for the contents of his blogs to 19.5 years in prison — the heaviest sentence ever handed down to a blogger.

The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize dual citizenships and considers all those who were born in Iran or to Iranian parents as Iranian citizens subject to its deadly Islamic penal code. One hundred and thirty-one offenses are punishable by death including theft, adultery, homosexuality, political dissidence, drug possession and blasphemy. It would be fair to conclude that travelling to Iran with any citizenship carries a risk. One enters a lawless and unaccountable country that lacks any degree of human rights, and where torture and hangings are an integral part of its government’s rule and survival.

By Shadi Paveh for Gatestone Institute

Shadi Paveh is a human rights activist for Iran who works with many international human rights organizations. She is also known for co-translating a key interview which exposed Iran’s regime dubious activities in Canada, as well as for translating and relaying many documents and letters from prisoners of conscience to the EU Parliament.

Religious Freedom commission: Consider sanctions to end Christian persecution


The U.S. should consider economic sanctions on countries where Christians  endure persecution, torture and death to help ensure security here and abroad, a  religious rights advocate told Congress Tuesday.

Elliott Abrams of the U.S.  Commission on International Religious Freedom said a “case-by-case analysis”  could be used in weighing sanctions.

“You look at the list of countries and see so many that are underdeveloped,  or middle income or poor,” Mr. Abrams told the House Foreign Affairs  subcommittee on global human rights. “In those cases economic sanctions …  could have an affect. I think what we need to convey is … we care, and this will  affect our relations.”

“As it often is the first right taken away, religious freedom serves as the  proverbial canary in the coal mine, warning us that denial of other liberties  almost surely will follow,” he said. “Supporting religious freedom abroad is not just a legal or moral duty, but a practical necessity that affects the security  of the United States because it builds a foundation for progress and stability.”

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