Saturday, July 2, 2011

Servants No Greater than Their Master

Gospel for Asia
For Immediate Release

While new believers receive love and spiritual nourishment at their churches, family members often try to prevent them from worshiping with other Christians.
Like these men, believers in Pastor Sulekh's congregation faced jail time because of false accusations by anti-Christian extremists.

SOUTH ASIA (ANS) -- Jesus told his disciples, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20, NKJV).

Throughout South Asia, many of Jesus' followers-especially those who have recently committed their lives to Him-face persecution from their communities. Within the past year, the following Christians have experienced threats and abuse because they claim the name of Jesus:

Man's New Infectious Faith Provokes Village Unrest
Kantimoy once devoutly followed the religion traditional to his people group. He, his wife and their three children got up early every day to worship their deity. Kantimoy was even in charge of maintaining the property of the temple in his village.
But the gods and goddesses he worshiped couldn't heal his three children. His 10-year-old son, Jugnu, suffered from seizures, his 8-year-old daughter had a hole in her heart and youngest daughter experienced night terrors that disrupted his entire household, robbing them of sleep.

One day, a Gospel for Asia-supported pastor told Kantimoy about Jesus. This pastor continued visiting him and praying for his family. Jugnu stopped having seizures, and Kantimoy started to have faith in Jesus. Finally, Kantimoy gave his heart to the Lord. He stopped working at the temple and even opened his home for a prayer group. Three neighboring families ended up joining!

But the other villagers-including his relatives and family members-turned against Kantimoy. They started opposing his congregation and are causing problems for his pastor.

Justice Denied for Christian Villagers

In a part of South Asia where believers have experienced unimaginable hostility and violence in recent years, believers in one village still face opposition. In September, some villagers attacked the believers, beating one individual. When a group of Christians protested against this violence, police jailed 10 of them. Although they were released on bail, hostility in the village continues.

Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Sulekh Kapoor reported in January that the villagers were cooperating with an anti-Christian extremist group to prevent the believers from going to the market.

In light of this situation, Pastor Sulekh has requested prayer for protection and safety for the Christian families in this village.

Choosing Christ's Family or Earthly Family

Kanan Tamang, 20, recently chose to give his life to Jesus. He worships with a growing congregation led by GFA-supported missionary Rehmat Chatterjee. However, his parents have threatened to disown him if he continues to follow Christ. The other villagers are also opposing Kanan's decision, saying that if he makes his decision to follow Jesus final, they will chase him from the village.

Pastor Rehmat requests prayers on behalf of Kanan that God will give him courage to remain faithful. Also pray that Kanan's witness will draw his family to Christ, and Pastor Rehmat will point many people to Jesus as he continues abiding in the Holy Spirit
Counting the Cost at a Young Age

Recently on May 10, two adolescent boys decided to give their lives to Jesus. Sixteen-year-old Bodhan Tambe gave his life to Jesus after his friend and schoolmate Yash, a Christian in a GFA-supported congregation, shared the Good News with him.

When Bodhan's parents found out, they angrily threatened to kick their son out of the house if he went to church. However, he is still trying to attend worship services.

The other young man, Kiranmay Mehta, faces a similar dilemma. When his parents learned that he chose to follow Christ, they started abusing him and prevented him from going to church.

Please pray that Bodhan and Kiranmay will stand strong in their new faith and be able to worship with other believers. Also, please pray that their families will receive salvation.

Please intercede for God to work mightily in each of these situations, strengthening the believers and transforming the hearts of those who are against Him and His followers. 

Gospel for Asia is an evangelical mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.

Christians 'not vilified' by Islamic billboards says Australian Advertising Standards Bureau

But that doesn't satisfy one Christian who says that they are 'a willful abuse of our freedom of speech and democratic values'

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Proclaiming Jesus to be "a prophet of Islam" on billboards in Australia is a statement of belief and does not discriminate against or vilify Christians, the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) there has found.

The controversial billboard
The row erupted in late May, when signs were placed on billboards in major Sydney roads, specifically chosen for maximum exposure. Organized and privately funded by an Islamic group called "MyPeace" the billboards advertise Muslim beliefs, including a claim that has upset the Christian community - that Jesus, like Mohamed, was a prophet of Islam.
"Representatives of Sydney's Christian community have said the campaign messages were inflammatory and provocative," said Rashida Yosufzai in a story

Leesha McKenny, Religious Affairs Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald (, said that the billboard, one of several in an "awareness campaign" by the Islamic group MyPeace (Australia), was the subject of a series of complaints to the bureau on the grounds that the statement was insulting to those who believed Jesus to be the son of God.

Other complaints, she wrote, included the charge that Jesus "must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion" and another claiming the advertisement was upsetting to children.

"What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!" one complaint stated.

But the bureau found, said McKenny, that while some members of the community would be offended by the statement, which would be inconsistent with Christian beliefs, "such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs" and was not a breach of the Advertiser Code of Ethics.

"The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed," it read.
The story went on to say that it found the billboards did not suggest violence or contain frightening material "and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised."

The billboards were placed by MyPeace (Australia) and its founder Diaa Mohamed, aged 29, confirmed earlier this month that two billboards had been vandalized.

Another reading "Mary and Prophet Jesus: read about their lives in the [Koran]" was erected on Fairfield Road,
Sydney, near the M5 at Padstow at the weekend, he told the Herald.

McKenny went on to say that, in a written response to the Advertising Standards Bureau, Diaa Mohamed said misunderstandings about Muslims and Islam prompted the campaign, which aimed to reduce discrimination and vilification of certain sections of the community - and in particular Muslims.

"[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence," his response said. "The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognize that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian."

However, that has not satisfied some Christians living in Australia, including Egyptian-born journalist, Assad Elepty, who told the ASSIST News Service, "It is my submission the ASB has made a number of serious and fundamental errors in its assessments and in reaching a conclusion. It concerns me gravely the ASB has relied on misinformation, presumptions, false assumptions and generalizations in reaching its decision.
"Does anyone in the ASB have a thorough and sufficient understanding of Mohammed, Islam, the Koran and 
Haddith so as to make an informed decision?"
He added, "These billboards are a willful abuse of our freedom of speech and democratic values, the same privileges that are essentially rejected by the Islamic faith. These billboards are no accident, they are a cunning and premeditated act designed solely to undermine the core beliefs and faith of every Christian in Australia.
"I am sure the ASB is fully aware that Islamic countries actively shut down any debate or discussion of Islam or Mohammed by the use of blasphemy laws. These laws are designed to oppress non-Muslims living in an Islamic state. Pakistan is a chronic violator of human rights by the use of the blasphemy laws. You are all aware of the murdered minister that attempted to repeal the laws in Pakistan.

"It is also well documented that majority of non-Muslims with any knowledge of Islam, Koran or Haddith are aware Islam has so many evil aspects that can only be silenced by the implementation of blasphemy laws.
"Christianity has no such absurdity and Jesus Christ did not teach such evil."

Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 47 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries. You can follow Dan on Facebook under his name there or at ASSIST News Service. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel "Red Dagger" which is available this link.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Historic Forum 20 Event Looks Back to the Future

By Peter Wooding
Europe Bureau Chief for ASSIST News Service

IRPEN, UKRAINE (ANS) -- As the evangelical church in the former Soviet Union is in danger of losing many of the freedoms they've enjoyed over the past two decades, since the fall of Communism, Russian Ministries is hosting a historic event called Forum 20 to thank God for the past era and plan for the future.

Russian Ministries, which is a catalyst in networking and introducing progressive ministry models, is initiating this strategic forum, which will take place at the Association for Spiritual Renewal Centre November 18-19 in Irpen, Ukraine.

Michael Cherenkov, Ukraine Vice-President of Russian Ministries/Association for Spiritual Renewal
"We've titled the event Forum 20, which ties together the history since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 and the history of Christian missions work throughout the Soviet Union during that time," said Michael Cherenkov, Ukraine Vice-President of Russian Ministries/Association for Spiritual Renewal.

He added: "The idea is to analyse the past 20 years, draw conclusions and to ensure that Christian missions work can move forward positively. We want to draw conclusions and take appropriate action. First of all we want to thank God for the past 20 years of religious freedom in our country. This gift of freedom has created the opportunity to plant so many churches to grow the evangelism movement in this country. But many of the freedoms enjoyed for 20 years are coming to an end now. Freedom is being limited and so we need to thank God for the past era of freedom and prepare for the future. So Forum 20 is going to talk about the past 20 years and also 20 key and unanswered questions about Christianity in culture, politics and missions."
Attendees at previous Russian Ministries forum

Cherenkov says that Next Generation strategists from missions, Christian education, and church leadership will be leading the forum. "We are inviting more of a younger generation of leaders, who will prepare ahead of time a high quality, thorough analysis and share that with the forum. So they won't be heads of denominations, but more Christian intellectuals and through them we are showing our vision, that we see the future in them.

"We see in them the hope, as we hope they will carry on the baton of ministry. The goal of the forum is to show ourselves and the church and society that Christianity does have these young intelligent voices and we want to bring these new voices into the conversation. So in this way the forum corresponds to our name in Russia, which is the Association for Spiritual Renewal. We're showing that there is renewal happening within the church and that the church does have a future. So there will be plenty of new things to look at."

All those attending the forum will be asked to be ready to discuss the papers of speakers which will be made available to them beforehand. There will be no age limits, but the primary focus will be for the next generation, the people in the near future who will be the heads of organisations or ministries, who will be formed and moulded through this event. Russian Ministries hopes there will be people who will be in search of answers, who are in a state of formation and are open to new ideas.

"This will be an international conference. So we'll be happy to hear from Westerners, who have participated in missions work in the Soviet Union in the last 20 years, but first and foremost it will be for nationals. The main speakers will be from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Latvia and we're inviting participants from every Soviet Union republic."

Cherenkov believes this forum is so important because they're expected much great persecution of the evangelical believers in the coming years:

"The biggest concern now is the era of complete freedom we enjoyed in the former Soviet Union during the past 20 years is coming to an end now and we'll be forced to work and serve under pressure from both authorities and from societies which are becoming increasingly orthodox and Islamic. So today we want to take advantage of the freedom that we still have, but also come up with an inspiring vision, which will enable us to work and serve in whatever freedom we have.

Cherenkov believes that a new vision for ministry will hugely impact the evangelical community during the next 20 years as it deals with many different challenges and a rapidly changing political, economic and spiritual landscape.

Cherenkov is urging support and prayer during these strategic times that could have an international impact: "Thanks for your interest in what's going on today in the former Soviet Union. We believe that we're here for a reason and that this region is strategic for Christ and we believe that renewal and reformation within churches here will bring blessings to the worldwide church. So we're grateful to everyone who supports us and are ready to serve with what resources we have."

To find out how you can register for Forum 20 contact:

Jean Zatulovsky -
Rachel Schupack -
To find out more about Russian Ministries go to:

Peter Wooding is an award-winning TV, radio and print journalist and media consultant under the name of Peter Wooding Productions ( Having previously spent 10 years as news editor with UCB Radio in the UK, he has travelled extensively reporting from countries including Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Dubai, South Korea, Zambia, Gambia, Mozambique, Croatia, Israel and India. He now reports regularly for CBN News, ASSIST News Service, GDOP London, Russian Ministries, Whispering Word and Sorted Magazine. Peter and wife Sharon live in North Wales, UK with their three children. Passionate to see God's Justice and Mercy impact lives, Peter is director of a new UK ministry Mercy Projects International ( to help at-risk young people in Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Kosovo, the Middle East and beyond. Contact Peter for consultation or tel. +44 1244 549167/+44 7500 903067

Chinese Authorities Expel Shouwang Church Member from Beijing

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
BEIJING, CHINA (ANS) – Chinese authorities detained a member of one of Beijing’s largest unregistered churches on June 27, and sent him to his home town in Shandong Province, sources said.
Map Courtesy of CHinaaid
According to a story by Compass Direct News, three officers from Beijing’s Dongsheng police station detained the Shouwang church member at about 5 p.m. while he was at a market to get a cell phone fixed, they said. They handed him over to a Shandong office based in the capital, which sent him to his hometown that evening.
Compass said he was the second member of the church to be expelled from the city since authorities allegedly compelled the owners of the church’s rented facility to stop leasing to the congregation in April, forcing them to meet outdoors the past three months.
The same Dongsheng police station in Beijing’s northwest Haidian district sent the first Shouwang member to be expelled from Beijing to his hometown in Hubei Province on May 8, sources told Compass.
After Monday’s expulsion, the Shouwang member was forbidden to use his cell phone, but he was sent to his parents’ home and was able to send a text message to church members. He said his identity card was confiscated, and he was warned not to return to Beijing before July 1, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Authorities told local village officials to monitor him.
In the church’s weekly statement issued yesterday, Compass reported Shouwang Church leaders said they had filed a protest against the expulsion.
“The forced expatriation by Dongsheng Police Station and Haidian Public Security Bureau has constituted a complete contempt for and a flagrant violation of the law, in effect depriving a citizen of any guarantee of the most basic of foundational existential rights,” the statement read.
The first expulsion of a Shouwang member came after the church held a fifth consecutive Sunday of outdoor worship. At least 15 people were taken to 10 police stations across Beijing on May 8th. All were released within 24 hours, except one who was jailed at Dongsheng police station for 48 hours and then turned over to the Wuhan municipal governmental office in Beijing. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province, where the household of the detained Shouwang member was registered.
After previous detentions, Compass said, he had already been forced to quit his job as an instructor at an international school for children under 3 years old. As he had lived at the school office, he also lost his living quarters.
Compass said the church member on May 10 told a contact by phone that he had been sent to Wuhan’s Beijing office from the police station earlier that day. Police ordered the office to buy a train ticket for his return to Hubei, he said. Police confiscated his identity card, later telling him that they could not find it. They told him to go to Hubei to apply for a new one.
Compass said the detained Christian later told another church member by phone that he wanted to see his parents and his maternal grandmother, and that he also wanted to rest after being detained four times for having attended five Sunday outdoor worship services.
With a police officer from the Wuhan Public Security Bureau based in Beijing’s Wuhan office, Compass said he took a train to Hubei’s provincial capital on the evening of May 11. More than 20 Shouwang congregants went to the Beijing West Railway Station to see him off, praying hand-in-hand and singing a hymn in the waiting area of the station.
Compass said the Shouwang member and the police officer arrived in Wuhan the next morning, then went to his hometown in Hubei. After having lunch, the police officer returned to Wuhan. On May 16, two local police officers came to the church member’s home asking for basic information on his family. He returned to Beijing in mid-June and has continued to attend outdoor worship, being detained every Sunday since.
Hundreds of Shouwang parishioners have been detained or confined to their homes on Sundays as well as weekdays since April 10. Some church members have lost their jobs or rented homes, or both. They are mostly young professionals working at companies or universities.
Before April 10, Compass said, the Shouwang congregation had gathered in a conference hall of the Old Story Club in the northern area of Beijing for more than a year. But according to Shouwang Church leaders, the owner of the rented venue was under mounting pressure from the government.
In March, Compass said, Shouwang planned to rent a conference hall of a hotel in the northwest of the city, but the church said some government agencies again interfered and prevented it from renting the new premises.
Compass said Shouwang Church first started as a family Bible study group in 1993. By 2005, Shouwang, which means “keeping watch,” had more than 10 fellowships. At that time, the church decided to apply to register with the government. But in 2006, authorities rejected Shouwang’s application, asking it to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement church.
In late 2009, Compass reported, Shouwang paid about 27 million yuan or about US$4 million for the second floor of the Daheng Science and Technology Tower in northwest Beijing’s Zhongguancun area, known as “China’s Silicon Valley.”
Funding came from the Shouwang congregation and other contributors for the purchase of a permanent worship place. Authorities once again interfered, according to church leaders, and the property developer refused to hand the key over to the church.
Compass said Shouwang Church had more than 1,000 worshipers each Sunday before the outdoor worship began in April. It still has dozens of family groups and fellowships.
In a related development, Compass said, China Aid Association (CAA) reported that two women from another Beijing house church, Shuangshu Church, were planning to join Shouwang’s outdoor worship service on June 26, but that police prevented them from leaving their home. Their landlord later came to pressure them to move out, according toCAA.
Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “Homeless in the City.”
Additional details on “Homeless in the City” are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

June Update

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 114 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [. . .] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7,11 ESV)

JUNE 2011 UPDATE -- During June we prayed for . . .

ZIMBABWE (RLPBs 110 & 111), where churches (particularly Anglican churches) are facing escalating political violence ahead of elections. See Religious Liberty Monitoring for more information.

UPDATE: according to The Tablet, a Catholic weekly newsletter, President Mugabe has branded the Catholic Church an enemy of the State. With secret police masquerading as Mass-goers, Catholic priests are increasingly at risk of arrest and torture. One priest laments: '[we] don't have any freedom to preach the Word as we would want to even within the Church because y ou never know what kind of visit you may get after Mass. You know that the secret police are attending and the moment you finish, things happen.' Even just acknowledging the existence of hunger in the country is enough to get a priest into trouble. Phones are tapped and Internet lines are monitored. Priests wearing clerical garb are routinely arrested, interrogated and humiliated. 'If you are lucky,' the priest said, 'you are interviewed and let go; if you are not so lucky you are tortured a little bit.' Pray for the Church in Zimbabwe.

REFUGEES (RLPB 112), as increasing numbers of Christians are being forced to flee war, Islamic jihad and violent religious persecution.

NUBA MOUNTAINS, SUDAN (RLPB 113): where as many as half-a- million mostly Christian Nuba -- some 50 African tribes indigenous to North Sudan's Nuba Mountains -- have been displaced by aerial bombardment and a violent ethnic cleansing campaign. Once again, as in the early 1990s, the Arab-Islamist regime in Khartoum has closed the Nuba Mountains off to all humanitarian aid as it seeks the genocide of the 'blacks' through the use of starvation as a weapon of mass destruction. See Religious Liberty Monitoring for more information. Please pray for God's intervention.

JUNE 2011 ROUND-UP -- also this month . . .


As was noted in RLPB 080 (3 Nov 2010), the sole purpose of Burma's fraudulent November 2010 elections was to legitimise the regime and give it a mandate to impose its will. Because the ethnic-religious minorities do not have enough confidence in the junta to disarm, the regime has bran ded them 'separatist' and tensions have escalated. Conflict has erupted in devoutly Christian Kachin State which borders China to the north. The trigger has been China's building of two hydropower mega-dams in Kachin, against the will of the Kachin people who protest that social and environmental damage will be catastrophic. With China wanting to build at least seven more such mega-dams in Kachin State, the Burmese junta's interest in controlling Kachin lands will intensify. Thousands of Christian Kachin are on the run and at least 50 have been killed. Pray for the Christian Kachin.


On 23 June hundreds of fundamentalist Salafi Muslims attacked the Coptic Church of St George in the village of Bani Ahmed in Minya Province, Upper Egypt, during Mass. The Salafis demanded that the priest, Fr George Thabet, either leave the village or be handed over to be killed. For months now, the Salafis have been protesting development work done o n the church. After a five-hour siege the Army intervened, quelling the rioting and escorting Fr Thabet out of the village.

On 25 June a rumour spread through the village of Awlad Khalaf in Suhaj Province, Upper Egypt, that the home being built by a Coptic Christian, Wahib Halim Attia, was actually a church. Consequently, a mob of some 200 Muslims responded by attacking Mr Attia. After looting and bulldozing his home, they moved on to loot and torch another six Coptic-owned homes. Attia was subsequently arrested. Reportedly, local Muslims intervened to return many of the looted possessions. Pray for the Church in Egypt and that Egyptian Muslims will awaken to the fact that Islam is not the solution.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has obtained some very revealing film smuggled out of North Korea. The footage confirms: there is mass poverty, starvation and fear; there are scores of scavenging, homeless orphans whose paren ts have died either of starvation or in concentration camps; and work is being done by malnourished slave labourers. But the report also reveals something quite new: many uniformed soldiers are weak from hunger and malnutrition. This is significant because if the regime cannot sustain its 'military first' policy -- feeding its military to secure its loyalty -- then the regime's grip on power could be tenuous. Under the Kim regime, hundreds of thousands of Korean Christians suffer some of the most severe expressions of religious persecution known. See Religious Liberty Monitoring for more on North Korea. And please pray.


On 15 June Tajikistan's Lower House of Parliament approved a controversial Parental Responsibility Law. An initiative of President Emomali Rahmon, the law obliges parents 'not to let children-teenagers participate in the activity of religious organisations [other than funerals], with the exception of those officially enrolled in [State-sanctioned] religious education'. Penalties will apply. 

Also on 15 June the Lower House approved amendments to the Criminal Code that will extend punishments for 'unapproved meetings' to unapproved religious meetings, and prescribe lengthy prison terms for those found participating in 'religious extremist' teaching. With the courts left to define 'extremist', observers fear that all unsanctioned religious education will be penalised. Before they can be enacted as law, the draft law and amendments need to be approved by the Upper House (Majlisi Milli) and signed by the President. Chair of the Lower House's Science, Education, Culture and Youth Policy Committee, Marhabo Jabborova, told Forum 18 she felt 'sure' the Parental Responsibility Law and the Criminal Code amendments would be adopted by the Upper House in July. Whilst Islamic sects considered to be dangerous are the target, Protestant Christians will be caught in the net, a detail the authorities will keenly exploit. Please pray for God's intervention.

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This prayer bulletin was initially written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission

Elizabeth Kendal's Religous Liberty Monitoring blog can be found at>.

Tensions Rise in Egypt Over Two Missing Christian Girls

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

EGYPT (ANS) -- Tension is escalating over the case of 14-year-old Nancy Magdy Fathy, and her 16-year old cousin Christine Ezzat Fathy, who have disappeared and allegedly converted to Islam. Many parties are being pulled into the dispute over their future, including Al Azhar, the Church, activists and lately Islamist organizations, which are threatening violence against the church.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the story of the missing girls became public after they disappeared while on their way to church on June 12. A the two day sit-in staged by Copts in front of the Minya Security Headquarters, demanding Nancy and Christine's return, focused attention on their story. 

AINA said rumors in the media emerged as to their whereabouts, the identity of the perpetrators and whether the girls were actually traded to another Muslim's gang.

Nearly two weeks after they disappeared, Nancy and Christine were found in Cairo wearing Burkas. They were stopped in the street by a police officer when he noticed that one of them had a cross tattooed on her wrist, as many Copts have.

AINA said the girls told the policeman they converted to Islam and did not marry any Muslims sheikh as the newspapers said, but fearing the wrath of their parents, they sought shelter at the home of a Muslim man. He issued a report of the incident and let them go.

Nancy and Christine subsequently surrendered at a Cairo police station.

AINA said an investigation into their disappearance was launched, as their parents accused two Muslim brothers from a neighboring village of abducting them. They were also asked about the video clip which appeared on the Internet, taken in Tahrir Square, where Nancy and Christine allegedly converted to Islam.

According to the investigators, AINA said, the girls said they converted to Islam of their own free will, and refused to return to their families, and even applied for protection from them. The prosecution decided to put them in a state care home and provide protection until the completion of the investigation. Authorities also wanted an Al-Azhar scholar to determine if they really believe in Islam.

AINA said this has angered their families, who said their girls are minors and should not be subjected to such procedures. Both families and the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights Organization protested on June 25 in front of the office of the prosecutor general, and demanded that their children to be returned to them.

Al Azhar and the Fatwa (religious edict) Committee denied that the two Coptic teenagers had converted to Islam, because they are still minors and have not yet reached 18 years of age, as is required by law.

The families' lawyer, Dr Naguib Gabriel, said the decision to deliver the girls to the state care home belonging to the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood is contrary to the law, because they are still minors, noting that Al-Azhar said that it does not recognize their conversion, and therefore the two girls should be returned to their families.

AINA said Gabriel added that he had complained to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, on behalf of the families, as they oppose handing Nancy and Christine over to the care home. He explained that the decision taken by prosecution in this case confirms the hypothesis that they converted to Islam, despite that being contrary to the law and the Al-Azhar fatwa.

AINA reported Gabriel said that there is a possibility the two girls were subjected to pressure in order to say they converted to Islam of their free will. Another possibility is they fear the reaction of their families in case they return home, especially since they come from an ultra conservative Upper Egyptian society, where the disappearance of a girl for days is considered a scandal and a shame. He said he will obtain a pledge from their families to protect them, and not to harm them in any way upon their return.

AINA said the security director of Minya told Al-Ahram newspaper on June 17 the two girls are considered minors before the law and the authorities, and therefore their conversion to Islam and their marriage is not recognized officially as they do not yet have the necessary ID card, which is issued from the age of 16. On this basis, anyone involved in the incident will be punished according to the law.

AINA said the two Muslim brothers accused by the fathers are in detention pending investigation. The family of the accused have protested, calling for their release because Nancy and Christine said they left home voluntarily and were not abducted.

AINA said the Egyptian daily newspaper ElYoum7 published a statement from the Islamist "Alliance for the support of New Muslim Women," in which the group threatened to carry out "extended protests" in all governorates in Egypt if Nancy and Christine are returned to the church.

The Alliance emphasized in its statement the protests this time will escalate violently, saying "We will not retreat this time, until each captive is free and out of the monasteries in which they are held as prisoners."

AINA reported the statement also said, "We say it openly, that we will not go back again to the era when newly converted Muslim women were delivered to the church, which wants to tempt them away from their religion, or forcibly detain them in reprisal for choosing freely their faith."

In the past, AINA said, the Alliance had staged over 20 demonstrations every Friday in support of Kamilia Shehata, the priest's wife whom they claim converted to Islam but was held captive by the church. That despite Al Azhar confirming that she never set foot there, and her appearance twice in public to refute all their claims of her conversion.

"The daily abduction and forced Islamization of Coptic minors, conducted by Muslims funded by Saudi Arabia, has escalated to new levels after the January 25th Revolution," said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid, "and has greatly enraged the Copts."

AINA said he added, "Everyone is now fearing that they might not be able to stand it any longer with the continuous Islamists provocations."

Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."

Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds