Saturday, July 9, 2011

South Sudan: Sharia Law and Jihad Leads to Birth of a New Nation

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Even though the mainly Christian and animist south Sudanese people will have their own independent country on Saturday, July 9, the plight of Christians and non-Arab Muslims continues in North Sudan.

Although the new country will celebrate its official establishment in a ceremony tomorrow, its establishment does not end the plight of Christians and non-Arab Muslims living in North Sudan, according to International Christian Concern (ICC - ) .

ICC says the Sudanese president, Omer Al-Bashir, previously threatened to introduce Sharia law throughout Sudan if the South seceded.

In a media advisory, ICC states: "The South's independence comes after the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The CPA granted the southern Sudanese the right to hold referendum on whether they wanted to continue to be part of Sudan or have a separate nation. Nearly 99 percent of the South voted for independence in the referendum held in January 2011."

According to ICC, years of conflict, triggered by the policies of the Islamic government that marginalized the southern Sudanese, resulted in the death of two million and the displacement of over four million southern Sudanese.

"The holy war was declared by the North (Muslims) against the South (Christians) and then the war actually moved from a war of independence and a war of marginalization to a war between Muslims and Christians," said Ezekiel Gatkuoth, head of the Government of Southern Sudan Mission to the USA.

ICC says the civil war resulted in the devastation of infrastructures in the south. Churches were among the primary targets for destruction by the Jihadi forces of Sudan.

"In the South, if you tried to build churches, the North would target them, bomb them, and attack. We thank Christians who continued to spread the gospel during the war despite all this targeting and humiliation that they went through during the war," said Ezekiel.

"We want to congratulate the southern Sudanese on the establishment of their nation. The independence ends years of enslavement, persecution and marginalization by Islamic forces. We are, however, very much concerned with the fate of Christian minorities living in Sudan. We urge vigilance from the international community to protect the rights of religious minorities in Sudan," said Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

** Michael Ireland is Senior Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution

News from the Frontlines of Persecution

By Mahruaii Sailo

Sunday School
Andhra Pradesh, India, July 8 (Compass Direct News) – Pastor Johnny Lazarus, 50, was beaten by Hindu extremists on June 28 at Bollepally village in Bhongir Mandal. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that one extremist, Malla Reddy, accused Pastor Lazarus of performing witchcraft on him. Reddy and his family members verbally abused the pastor and his faith, saying, “You brought a low-caste god among us,” slapped him and threatened to harm him further if he did not leave the area immediately. The pastor reported the attack to police and to the AICC. Police officers summoned both parties on July 1, and the attackers apologized to the pastor, putting into writing that they would not disturb him again. The pastor forgave his assailants.

Karnataka – Police on June 28 arrested two Christians after Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal attacked Pastor M. Sandeep and a man identified only as Isaac as they were returning home from a prayer meeting in Heggere, Hubli. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 11 a.m. the extremists rushed the Christians and began questioning them, accusing them of forceful conversion. They searched their bags for Christian literature, slapped them and verbally abused them. The extremists then took the Christians to the Old Hubli police station, where they were detained for about six hours. Thereafter police filed charges for hurting religious sentiments, violation of private property and unlawful coercion. The Christians appeared before a judge and were later sent to Dharwad Jail.

Karnataka – On June 28 in Shimago, state officials verbally ordered the cancelling of permission for a Christian school to operate after Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh urged authorities to do so. The extremists accused Good Shepherd Community School officials of forceful conversion. The All India Christian Council reported that the school, belonging to Operation Mercy India Foundation, educates people of all faiths. Area Christian leaders were taking steps to resolve the conflict, with villagers supporting S. Prakash, community development officer of the school. Tensions prevailed in Shimoga as people awaited written notice cancelling the school’s permission to operate.
Karnataka – Police arrested four tribal Christians after Hindu extremists accused them of forceful conversion on June 21 in Badragola village, Virajpet. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Christians – three of whom were identified by their single names of Mani, Agela and Ravi – were detained at the police station for about five hours without food and water. They later appeared before a Virajpet judge, and the Christians were released on bail the same day with the intervention of area Christian leaders. The GCIC reported that the area Hindu extremists were jealous of improvements in the tribal Christians’ lives after they received Christ.

Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on June 19 disrupted worship and threatened to harm Christians if they continued meeting in Gurur, Durg. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists led by Narayana Teke stormed into the Sunday worship meeting, took pictures of the congregation and ordered the Christians to leave the building. Pastors Mohan C. Thomas and Anish C.K. went out to meet the furious mob, and the extremists then warned them to leave the area altogether.

Tamil Nadu – On June 12 in Karaikal, Puducherry, Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh threatened a Christian identified only as Pastor Robinson and members of the Church of Jesus. The extremists warned the Christians that they would be harmed if they continued to hold worship services. Pastor Robinson works as a manager in a Christian school and also leads a church of 100, reported the All India Christian Council. About 50 extremists stormed into the Sunday worship meeting and threatened the pastor and others with knives, warning them to cease all Christian activities. Pastor Robinson and local Christians submitted a memorandum to the district collector asking authorities for protection.

Imprisoned Lao Pastor ‘Extremely Weak,’ Family Says

Two church leaders in prison; conditions improve for expelled Katin Christians.
By Sarah Page

DUBLIN, July 8 (Compass Direct News) – A Lao pastor imprisoned six months ago for holding a “secret meeting” has lost weight under harsh prison conditions and is extremely weak, according to his family.

A typical Lao village home where Christian congregations would meet.(Photo: Compass)
Police arrested Wanna and fellow pastor and inmate Yohan, both identified only by a single name, on Jan. 4 along with several other Christians in central Laos’s Khammouan Province.

Prison authorities have repeatedly told the men that they will “walk free” as soon as they sign documents renouncing their faith, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) said in a press statement today.

Wanna is the pastor of an unregistered church in Nakoon village, Hinboun district, while Yohan pastors a similar church in nearby Tonglar village.

Hinboun district police arrested Wanna, Yohan and nine others at gunpoint on Jan. 4 and charged them with holding a “secret meeting” after they celebrated Christmas without prior approval. Police then loaded the Christians onto a truck and took them to Khammouan provincial prison in Takkhet City. (See, “Lao Officials Arrest 11 Christians at Gunpoint,” Jan. 6)

By Jan. 6 police had released eight of the detainees – including two children ages 4 and 8 – after they paid fines. A ninth prisoner, identified only as Kane, was released shortly afterwards, HRWLRF reported.

Wanna and Yohan were the principal breadwinners for their families. Their imprisonment left their wives and families with no means of financial support; several of Wanna’s children have since left school to find work, according to HRWLRF.

Harsh conditions in the prison have also taken their toll on Wanna; after a recent visit, family members observed that he had lost weight, contracted an infection and seemed extremely weak, according to HRWLRF.

The families have appealed for advocacy as both men remain in prison on charges directly related to their faith.

“Our greatest concern right now is for these two men,” a HRWLRF spokesman confirmed to Compass. “Presently, relatively speaking, there is less opposition and persecution of Christians, but these men need help.”

A report issued in May by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom states that while Protestants in urban areas last year reported an increased ability to “worship without restrictions,” provincial authorities continued to “severely violate freedom of religion or belief, particularly of ethnic minority Protestants.” Rights abuses including “detentions, surveillance, harassment, property confiscation, forced relocations and forced renunciations of faith” in 2010 have kept Laos on the Commission’s Watch List for 2011.

Rice, Wells Needed for Katin Christians

In Katin village in Ta-Oih district, Saravan Province, conditions for a group of Christians expelled from the village last year have vastly improved since the beginning of the dry season in February, when the group resorted to begging for food. (See, “Christians Deprived of Food, Water at ‘Critical Stage,’” Feb. 25)

“They’re still living at the edge of the jungle, but they’re in good health, with a good supply of rainwater and food from the jungle,” the HRWLRF spokesman said. “Each family is now growing rice on a few hectares of land near their settlement. But they will need a supply of rice every month until their first harvest matures in mid-September.”

If authorities permit, the Christians also hope to dig wells in the coming months to ensure a more permanent water supply over the next dry season.

Officials marched 11 Christian families, totaling 48 people, out of Katin village at gunpoint in January 2010 after they repeatedly refused to give up their faith. The officials left them to find shelter about six kilometers (nearly four miles) outside the village and confiscated the Christians’ homes, livestock, and essential registration documents. A further seven families, totaling 15 people, were forced to leave the village last December.

Villagers then thwarted the Christians’ efforts to plant rice on commonly-owned village land and warned people in neighboring villages not to assist the Christians as they were “breaking the law” by following Christ – even though provincial-level authorities had told the Christians they had the right to worship as they chose.

In recent months, district authorities have tacitly recognized the expelled Christians as a group separate from other Katin villagers and allowed them to remain in their temporary settlement, the HRWLRF spokesman said. Other villagers oppose their faith but are presently “not causing any trouble” and in fact a few Christians living in Katin quietly join the outcasts for worship without harassment.

“The district authorities directly oversee them and provide education for their children,” he said. “However, they don’t provide physical help.”

Authorities have allowed some of the children to attend school in nearby Ta-Oih township and allowed others to relocate to an orphanage in Savannakhet, where they have better living conditions and access to education.

The situation is not fully resolved, however, as the Katin Christians have no official documentation stating their right to remain at the edge of the jungle, let alone their right to worship.

Cuban Pastor, Family Arrive in U.S. after Suffering under Regime

Authorities imprisoned, fined church planter who fought for religious freedom.

By David Miller

MIAMI, July 8 (Compass Direct News) –

Rev. Carlos Lamelas, his wife Uramis and two daughters
Photo courtesy Compass Direct News
 An evangelical pastor once jailed by the regime of Fidel Castro arrived in the United States from Cuba yesterday with his family under a special resettlement program for political refugees. The Rev. Carlos Lamelas, 50, his wife Uramis and two daughters landed at Miami International Airport Thursday evening (July 7) on a direct flight from Havana. Lamelas, who once served as national president of his denomination in Cuba, was granted asylum in the United States due to persecution he has endured for more than five years at the hands of Cuban authorities. On Feb. 20, 2006, security officials arrested Lamelas on charges of “human trafficking,” but those close to him said police targeted him because he had challenged the Castro regime on religious liberty issues. Four months after his arrest, Lamelas was unexpectedly released, and in December of 2006 the state prosecuting attorney recommended acquittal on the human trafficking charge. Later that month, however, the court convicted Lamelas on a previously unannounced charge of “falsifying documents” and fined him 1,000 Cuban pesos (US$45). Lamelas said the resettlement news came as a shock, albeit a welcome one. “For our part, we have been open to the will of God, and we know He will take us where we can best serve Him,” he wrote.

Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week 13: China arrests 19 more Christians

Posted on Jul 6, 2011 | by Whitney Jones

Police in Tiananmen Square
BEIJING (BP)--Despite restrictions due to the Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary, members of Shouwang Church in Beijing continued to meet outdoors July 3, leading to at least 19 arrests.

Church members defied the Chinese government for the 13th consecutive week with the outdoor service. The illegal church, which was evicted from its leased meeting space in April, reported in a translated statement on that police were waiting outside the church's designated worship site, an open-air plaza in northwest 

Beijing, and "only a few dozen people" were able to meet because, "many believers were under stricter detainment at home. Some individuals were taken to be detained in hotels nearby."

All but two of the 19 people arrested were released by midnight, and one was released the next day.

Some church members have lost their homes or jobs and others have been subjected to verbal abuse because of their faith. Shouwang's strength and endurance through persecution has inspired churches all over the world, and members of Shouwang say the government's restrictions have not stunted the spread of the Gospel.

"As we suffer together with the Lord and take the cross together with him, our life is deeply rooted and is growing, so does our church take root and grow in this city and this country," the church said in its latest statement. "God's work is achieved through the cross, and all the disciples who are bearing the cross with the Lord are blessed."

Not wanting any unrest during the Communist Party's anniversary on July 1, police action against the church members began even earlier than the previous weeks according to ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China.

Shouwang, which is one of the largest house churches in Beijing with nearly 1,000 members, is not a legal church. Only churches who are registered with the government and are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Church are considered legal. However, with registration come regulations that forbid evangelism, Sunday School, and baptizing minors, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid.

Although members are in their third month with no indoor facility and continue to face persecution and time in prison for expressing their beliefs, the Chinese Christians continue to see God's divine hand working through their trials.

"We have seen God's work of protection and guidance for Shouwang Church," the church said. "The long-lasting battle has not demolished God's church. On the contrary, it helps us to see that the fire of life lighted by God in this church continues to burn, and that no force in this world can extinguish it."

More than 160 people were arrested at the first outdoor meeting of Shouwang Church. The following shows the approximate arrests from the subsequent weeks: Week 2 (50 arrests), Week 3 (40), Week 4 (30), Week 5 (13), Week 6 (20), Week 7 (25), Week 8 (20), Week 9 (20), Week 10 (14), Week 11 (14) and Week 12 (15).

Whitney Jones is a student at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and an intern with Baptist Press. 

Burmese Diplomat Defects to U.S.

Burma (MNN) ― A high-level Burmese diplomat has defected to the United States, fearing democratic change in his country is stillborn.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kyaw Win is seeking asylum. The Burmese junta repeatedly rejected his efforts to build bridges with the international community, labeling him "dangerous."

Cover photo: Burma's leader,
 General Than Shwe. Story photo:
 Burned-out Karen village.
 (Photos courtesy of Worldwide Impact Now)
Information from the Associated Press confirms this move came about because of his stand on reform issues relating to democracy, human rights, and individual liberties. The second-ranking official at the Burmese embassy in Washington, Win supported an investigation into human rights abuses against the ethnic minorities and warned against continued oppression.

Patrick Klein of Vision Beyond Borders says the timing is interesting. "What I'm reading is that a lot people are defecting from the military. The soldiers don't want to go into these villages and kill any more people. They've been forced to do it by the government, and I think people are starting to stand up and say, ‘We don't want to be a part of this. This is wrong, and we will not.'" That's about 15% of the military that seem to be of the same mind as the former Ambassador Win. 

Vision Beyond Borders partners with a ministry in Thailand that works in the refugee camps. Klein says they're "openly sharing the Gospel with these people. A lot of the Karen are coming to Christ because they see that it is the Christians who are really coming to their aid."

VBB ministry partners estimate that roughly 40% of the Karen are Christians. They're also the ethnic minority and are in the government crosshairs.

We asked Klein why the junta decided to eradicate the Karen. He explains, "They're living on land that the government wants because there are a lot of natural resources there. There's gold, there are gems and timber. Now, they're putting in dams because China needs hydro-electric power. Instead of compensating people and relocating them, it's easier to just go in and wipe out whole villages."

Aside from the obvious physical aspect of this genocide, there is also a spiritual side. Klein says, "From what I'm hearing, the generals are very involved in the occult, listening to astrologers and all these people, and they [the military] are just going in and wiping out the Christians."

Other reports coming to Klein's ears are worthy of war crimes investigation. Klein explains, "We've heard stories of [the military] going to the Buddhist children, giving them arms, and turning them against the Christians, [then] having the Buddhist kids go in and shoot these Christians indiscriminately."

Win says the military is on a campaign to silence "the voices seeking democracy, human rights, and individual liberties." That's no surprise, and it creates a backdrop against which hope shines brightly. As people are drawn to the hope of Christ, Klein says he's confident the Gospel will also spread. He shares about the commitment of a village evangelist they met on a recent trip. "He lost both of his hands and both of his eyes in a landmine that blew up in his face. Yet, he still goes around the village, sharing the Gospel with Buddhist people."

Pray for the strength of Christians to stand firm in their faith, despite the lawlessness around them. Pray that freedom will come to Burma. Pray for ministry opportunities for Christians to share their faith with others

Marching for Justice and Religious Freedom

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Neville Kyrke-Smith and Wilson Chowdhry submitting petitions to 10 Downing Street.

LONDON (ANS) -- Petitions calling for action to protect Christians and other minorities in Pakistan have been submitted to the British Prime Minister's residence, London's 10 Downing Street.

According to a news release from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the documents with names of more than 2,000 people were presented at Number 10 by an ecumenical delegation which included Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK director of Aid to the Church in Need.

ACN said the visit to the Prime Minister's residence on July 2 came at the climax of a two-mile protest march highlighting human rights violations in Pakistan.

A Scottish bagpiper led the protest with tunes such as Amazing Grace!
Both the march and the petitions called for reforms to Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws, which impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam.

ACN said Pakistani authorities have been widely criticized for inaction over widespread abuse of the laws and the petitions called for improved law enforcement.

Earlier this year, ACN said, Punjab governor Salman Taseer and federal minorities' minister Shahbaz Bhatti were killed after criticizing the controversial legislation and related mob violence.

ACN said tributes to Shahbaz Bhatti were paid at the event, which was organized by Wilson Chowdhry and the British Pakistani Christian Association and involved Aid to the Church in Need as well as Christian Concern. Sikh, Hindu and Muslim representatives also took part.

ACN said keynote speeches were given by Chowdhry, Andrea Minichello-Williams of Christian Concern, Manoj Raithatha of the Evangelical Alliance, Alan Craig, leader of the Christian People's Alliance, Alison Ruoff, a member of the Synod of the Church of England, and the Rt Rev Michael Nazir Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, who is of Pakistani origin.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, ACN reported Kyrke-Smith said, "We are at one with those who are persecuted in Pakistan and all those who suffer in connection with the Blasphemy Laws. As things currently stand, these are blasphemous Blasphemy Laws."

He added, "We ask the government of David Cameron to ensure that religious rights are an essential part of discussions with other countries."

ACN said his comments came after the British government was criticized in March for plans to increase UK aid to Pakistan, in spite of an upsurge in reports of increased human rights' violations, especially minorities.

ACN said more than 300 people took part in the march which started with a prayer service and speeches outside the High Commission for Pakistan in London's Lowndes Square, where a copy of the petitions was handed in.
The petition signatories include Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
Speaking before submitting the petition, ACN reported Chowdhry said, "The Pakistan government has got to realise the horrendous human rights abuses recorded in their country."

ACN said Imam Dr. Taj Hargey, from the Muslim Educational Center of Oxford, condemned Pakistani extremists carrying out violence in the name of the Blasphemy Laws.

Quoting sources showing the Prophet Mohammed's respect for Christians, ACN reported he said, "The people who carry out such violence malign my faith and bring it into disrepute. They stand for everything I am against."
Bishop Nazir Ali said, "The Blasphemy Laws are being used against Christians and people like the Ahmahdis (a religious group with Islamic roots).

ACN said he added, "The Blasphemy Laws are bad laws. The laws have destroyed Pakistan's reputation in the international community."

ACN UK's John Pontifex, who has traveled widely in Pakistan, told the marchers, "The only way change can come to the people of Pakistan - especially minority groups - is if the Blasphemy Laws are amended."
For additional information about Aid to the Church in need, visit


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

Christian Mission and Persecution

Why the new rules for Christian witness will not solve the problem of persecution.

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- The Church is slowly waking up to the reality that we are living in days of escalating persecution. Global trends such as booming population growth, rapid urbanisation and mass migrations are converging, producing fierce competition for land, resources and power; creating societies that are increasingly difficult to govern, especially where institutions of governance were not already established. Add to this volatile mix the trend of escalating religious tension -- the result of converging religious trends -- and we have an incendiary environment.

This reality provides the context for the document:

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious WorldRecommendations for Conduct

World Council of Churches
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
World Evangelical Alliance
28 June 2011

The WEA press release states: "This historic document is in part a r esponse to criticisms levelled at Christians by some religious communities in what they perceived to be a use of unethical methods. In some case these objections have led to anti-conversion laws and violence."

Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), said the text "will help us reduce unnecessary tensions and present the truth of God in a credible way to the world around us".

However, it is highly unlikely that the "Recommendations for Conduct" -- a document which provides Christians with principles to follow "as they seek to fulfil Christ's commission in an appropriate manner, particularly within interreligious contexts" -- will have their desired effect. While the document might be a handy tool in the hands of those engaged in "quiet diplomacy", it will not change the reality on the ground because the church and her accusers are speaking totally different languages. As such, interpretations will continue to differ, and accusations will continue to fly. In fact the ve ry existence of this document might lead to the situation where the Church will be expected to hold Christian evangelists, missionaries and humanitarians accountable for violent persecution.

The reality is: the intense hostility the church is facing in the early 21st Century has been building for decades. A mighty flood is upon us for which there is no quick fix and only one real solution.


On 21 August 2007, the UN's Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diene, presented his report on Islamophobia and defamation of religion to the sixth session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). A profound anti-Western and anti-Christian bias was evident from the outset.

According to the report, "defamation" of Islam produces Islamophobia which expresses itself as hatred of Muslims which in turn generates "extremism". As such, those who "defame" Islam should be held accountable for Islamic extremism (violence and terror).
Likewise, Christian missionaries were accused of having exploited freedom of expression to defame Hinduism, thereby creating militant Hindutva. According the UN report, "Christianophobia" is a consequence not of escalating intolerance, but of the "aggressive proselytism of certain evangelical groups".

The UN Special Rapporteur's report recommended therefore that international human rights covenants be reinterpreted and amended, and that "complementary standards" be adopted on "the interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination".

After much inter-religious dialogue, the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance appear to have taken the lead in the adoption and promotion of such "complementary standards".

Recommendations for Conduct

The document affirms Christian humanitarian service, but with the complementary proviso that exploitation of si tuations of poverty and of vulnerable people has no place in Christian outreach.

In reality it is virtually impossible to provide charitable services in hostile environments without being so accused. Think about it. How can a self-giving Christian humanitarian who in love desperately wants to ease the sufferings of the poor, downtrodden, infirmed and marginalised, avoid an accusation of exploitation?

Actually, the only way to avoid the charge of exploitation is to refrain from all Christian witness while serving impoverished, infirm and "vulnerable" people. Christians would have to refrain from witnessing to youths (children and teenagers). Christian aid workers would have to totally refrain from witnessing to the poor and marginalised. Christian pastors, doctors and nurses would have to totally refrain from witnessing to the sick and dying.
This of course, is precisely what the apostaphobic religious dictators of this world of want. "Yes please," they say. "Feed our poor, tre at our lepers, dig our wells and build our schools, but don't threaten our authority by presenting an alternative truth."
And while it is fine to denounce the offering of allurements and rewards, one needs to understand that in some hostile environments a meeting place with seating is considered an allurement, and the offer of heaven a fraudulent reward.

Christians are also called to "reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness". But this will not appease India's Hindutva protagonists who regard conversion as violence. It will not appease those who accuse evangelical Christianity of cultural terrorism. Even Doudou Diene, the UN's Special Rapporteur, warned in his Aug 07 report that the "legitimate expression of ideas" could in reality be "ideological violence" or "intellectual violence". Is it psychological violence to warn of judgment? What is abuse of power in witness?

Along with this, Christians are also called to "reject violence, unjust d iscrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts".
While this fine statement presumably leaves individuals with the liberty to dispose of their own property -- idols, juju, shrines, texts -- as they see fit, those who have no understanding of the separation of church and state, those who don't understand liberty and only understand dictatorship, will expect religious and secular authorities to control and be held accountable for the deeds of individuals.

The text recommends that "churches, national and regional confessional bodies and mission organizations, and especially those working in interreligious contexts . . . [deepen] their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and to do so also taking into account the perspectives of the adherents of those religions", adding, "Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions".

The reality is however, tha t anything that is said about a religion or belief will misrepresent someone's personal perspective of that religion or belief. This strategy which recommends inquiring of the "street" over an examination of the texts is primarily promoted by Muslims keen to hide intolerant pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian fundamentalist Islam under a cloak of liberal, nominal, folk or secularised Islam.

The only way to deepen knowledge and understanding of a religion is to study its texts and then examine history in that light. And while "taking into account the perspectives of adherents" might be of value in revealing immense diversity of belief, it must be acknowledged that many, if not most adherents of religion are quite nominal, ignorant as to the contents of, and the demands made by, their own sacred texts.

Finally, a quote from the May 2006 consultation found in the Appendix (point 3), confirms the degree to which this document is influenced by world trends, while demonstrating the ultimate adoption of "comp lementary standards".
"We affirm that, while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating others' rights and religious sensibilities. Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the equally non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith."

Note: Christians are called to refrain from any exercise of religious liberty that might violate another's "rights and religious sensibilities". Does "rights" include the right not to be offended -- a now routine feature of contemporary anti-discrimination and equal opportunity law? What are "religious sensibilities" and how are they violated?
Furthermore, Christians are called to "respect faiths other than our own". Really? Must we respect Islam? Must werespect Hinduism? Must we respect Buddhism? Must we also respect Shinto? Where can we draw the line? Must werespect Aum Supreme Truth? Must we respect Voodoo? This language mirrors that of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's "Combating Defamation of religions Human Rights Resolution 2005/3". Is the church really being called to follow in the OIC-led UN which now protects religions more fiercely than it protects humans, in particular the human's fundamental right to proclaim, pursue and receive truth?

This pulls the rug right out from under Principle 7, which affirms freedom of religion and belief while denouncing religious persecution and calling upon Christians to "engage in a prophetic witness denouncing such actions". For while this is a fine statement, to which all Christians should give a loud AMEN, how does one "engage in prophetic witness denouncing [religious persecution]" without being accused of arrogance, condescension and disparagement (principle 3); false witness (principle 10); disrespect, denigration, vilification and misrepresentation (Appendix 3); and of course "defamation" of religion (as per UN Resolution 2005/3, which expresses "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism Islam with human rights abuses, violence or terrorism").

The reality is, it is not possible today to denounce persecution without being so accused.


There is little doubt that at the root of most persecution in the world today, is hostility towards Christian witness / evangelism / mission. However, Christian witness / evangelism / mission provides the only solution to the problem of persecution.

"And they will do these things [hate you, persecute you] because they have not known the Father, nor me" (John 16 :3 ESV).

Christians must step out in faith with the word of God, at the direction and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to seek to make the triune God known. And while we are cautioned to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves", we are also encouraged to commit ourselves to the Lord's care, and trust HIM (Matthew 10).

No matter how much integrity we practise, hatred, false accusations and persecutions will continue. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). Indeed if we are to truly imitate Jesus Christ, as the document asserts (Principle 2), then we must be prepared to suffer as he suffered.

The Principles for Conduct will do little to reduce religious tensions and persecution. All we can do is prayerfully walk by faith, not fearing man, w ith eyes fixed on Jesus -- our means, our goal and our role model (Hebrews 12:1-3) -- remembering the paradigm of Isaiah 2:1-4: that spiritual transformation is the foundation, not the consequence, of peace.

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).

Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This article is an edited version of a posting written for her blog: Religious Liberty Monitoring .

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Pakistan’s Christian Sanitation Workers Swept into Societal Gutter

‘Sweeper’ leader faces suspension, criminal charges; for others, disease, death – and murder.
The following news analysis was written by Asif Aqeel, director of the Community Development Initiative, a human rights group affiliated with the European Centre for Law and Justice.
LAHORE, Pakistan, July 7 (Compass Direct News) – The often unseen or unrecognized abuses suffered by Christians at Pakistan’s lowest level of society – street sweepers – have come into sharp focus this year.
Abbas Masih (photo courtesy Compass Direct News)
While one Christian sanitation worker in Lahore has been suspended and criminal charges filed against him for objecting to discrimination against fellow workers, another was killed the same month for not tending to a shopkeeper’s command fast enough.
Anayat Masih Sahotra, who has worked as a street sweeper for Lahore’s Solid Waste Management (SWM) department for 24 years, said he is facing baseless charges of forgery and fraud from his employers because of his work as a labor leader for area sweepers, who are nearly all Christians. He was suspended and accused of the crimes on May 14 after he asked SWM Managing Director Wasim Ajmal Chaudhry to fulfill a promise to make 400 Christian workers regular employees with full benefits, he said.
Sahotra said when Chaudhry refused his request to make the Christian sweepers regular employees according to the requirements of Pakistani law, he told the managing director that he could expect protests. Protest against injustice was their civil right, he said, and plans for a demonstration were underway when he received the suspension order alleging forgery and fraud.
When he went to Chaudhry’s office again on May 26 to object to the injustice of the suspension order, he said Chaudhry referred to him and other Christian workers asChuhras, an offensive term of contempt for street sweepers, an occupation assigned only to those of such low “untouchable” social standing that they are below the remnant caste system predating Pakistan’s predominantly Islamic society.
“I know you low-born Christian Chuhras, and I know how to deal with you,” Sahotra said Chaudhry told him.
Sahotra left Chaudhry’s office, he said, only to receive a phone call a few minutes later from SWM Assistant District Officer Faiz Ahmed Afridi telling him to come to his office. Sahotra went to Afridi’s office in the evening, where he was offered to sit and have a cup of tea, he said.
“While I was taking tea, police entered the office and arrested me,” Sahotra said. “I was shocked how cunning Faiz had been to me.”
Charges were filed the same day at Islampura police station, accusing Sahotra of criminally intimidating Afridi, though Sahotra said he was calmly taking tea when police arrested him.
The next day Sahotra was granted bail, but a few days later Anarkali police called him, saying the superintendent of police wanted to talk to him.
“The police of Anarkali are tricking me into meeting them,” he said. “They want to arrest me on any other charge in order to mount pressure on me to withdraw my support to the Christian employees who are not being made regular despite having worked there for several years.”
As temporary or “work charge” employees, the sanitation workers’ contracts expire every 88 days, and they are hired every third month. This goes on for decades, with the employees working until they are too feeble to do so without any benefits or pension. They get no days off – no weekends, no holiday, no sick leave.
Their morning shift begins at 6 a.m., but the general public does not want them working when they are awake, so the sweepers prefer to clean streets beforehand. Starting at 4 a.m., they work until 7 p.m. for US$100 per month, leaving them no opportunity to work any other part-time job. Thus they are kept poor, with no opportunity to provide quality education to their children, who
perpetuate the cycle as they too become sweepers.
Murdered Sweeper
The deep, culturally-rooted disparagement Christian sanitation workers suffer was apparent in another incident in May. Abbas Masih, 36, was cleaning the streets when he was murdered for not picking up trash quickly enough, human rights advocates said.
Eyewitnesses said Masih was cleaning streets in the Pir Maki area of Lahore on May 21 when Muhammad Imran, an Arain or agricultural caste member who worked at a flower shop, told Masih to pick up dried leaves and flowers from in front of the shop. Masih told him that he would gather them up when he came back from the end of the street.
“How can a Chuhra argue with me?” Imran said, and he took out a knife used at the flower shop and shoved it into Masih’s heart, according to the witnesses. Masih fell. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Two brothers who own the shop, Muhammad Tariq and Muhammad Shehzad, told Compass that Imran had opened the store that morning. Imran asked Masih to pick up a small pile of dried leaves and flowers and take them away with the garbage, they said.
As witnesses also noted, they said Masih told him that he would pick up the trash upon his return from the end of the street. Imran insisted that he pick up the pile immediately.
“Imran called him names and then took out the knife and stabbed the heart of Masih,” Shehzad said, adding that he was at home at the time but heard about it from another who came home from the scene of the incident. “I rushed to the spot, picked Masih up, put him in a rickshaw and rushed him to the Mayo Hospital. I also phoned the emergency police, Rescue 15, and informed the shop that Muhammad Imran must not be allowed to go, as Masih had passed away in the hospital.”
He said that Masih was “a very good person.”
The Lower Mall police station registered a First Information Report (FIR) only after several Christian leaders protested.
Although Masih had worked with SWM for 16 years, he remained a work-charge employee, so his family was not eligible for financial assistance upon his death. Several Christian leaders protested to the Chief Minister of Punjab Province, whose office in turn wrote to the SWM.
Based on feedback from the chief minister’s secretariat, in a June 9 letter the SWM responded to the Christian leaders: “It is the policy of the government to grant financial assistance to the family of deceased civil servants, and work charge employees do not fall under the definition of civil servants. However, on the death of work charge employees during their engagement, it is the practice to pay financial assistance after getting the approval of the Chief Minister as a special case.”
The chief minister has not responded to the request, and Christians said there is little possibility that he will consider it.
Though Christians account for 90 percent of sewage workers and an even high percentage of sweepers, they make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Masih’s widow, Rukhsana Masih, said that she and her family members had feared filing a police report about the case – Pakistani police are notorious for falsely charging or otherwise harassing marginalized minorities like Christians – and that they were too poor to retain a lawyer. The Community Development Initiative, an affiliate of European Centre for Law and Justice, has since allayed her fears about the legal process and offered to assist her, and she has agreed to pursue justice.
Overlapping Religions
When the Indian subcontinent was divided in 1947 and Pakistan was carved out in the name of Islam, ultimately there was a merging of Brahmanic Hinduism’s ritual impurity with Islamic ceremonial uncleanness in regard to sweepers – almost all of whom were Hindu “untouchables” who converted to Christianity in the late 19th century.
This synthesis, however, came about over time. Initially the founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had no notion of bringing religion into the sphere of political life. He was also an advocate of ending caste-based discrimination. With Jinnah’s early death and the use of Islam for political gain by migrating, Urdu-speaking leaders who previously had no political bases here – in particular the first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan – over six decades Islam permeated every aspect of life: social, political, economic and legal.
After Pakistan became fundamentally Islamic, Muslims confused the notion of ceremonial uncleanness – considered temporary in nature in Islamic jurisprudence – with the Brahmanic notion of ritual impurity, considered innate and permanent. Islam forbids eating and drinking with a kafir or infidel, but it allows it with the “people of the Book.” But as caste-based “untouchability” became confused with the Islamic notion of ceremonial uncleanness, Christians also came to be seen as ritually polluting a person or a thing.
Thus contempt toward Christians is deeply rooted, and there is no legislation to arrest this hatred. Rather, the state appears to want to keep Christians in this degrading occupation. Several job advertisements from government departments clearly state that sweeper candidates must be non-Muslim; some even specify that they must be Christians.
The Pakistani government hasn’t evolved any modern system of maintaining hygiene in metropolitan areas, so Christian sweepers are forced to collect and discard garbage under filthy conditions. Rotten and stinking garbage is a source of several contagious diseases, and most of the sweepers have respiratory and skin problems. A large number of them suffer from tuberculosis and hepatitis B.
One reason Sahotra is struggling to get these workers full employee status is that as temporary workers they are not entitled to any Social Security Hospital. They are not considered government employees and hence are not entitled to treatment in hospitals for government employees.
The same situation prevails at the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), which maintains the sewage system, where about 90 percent of workers are Christians. They face extremely dangerous work conditions. When sewer lines clog because they are too small, these workers are not provided any protective gear as they sometimes dive 30 to 50 feet below ground into manholes filled with dirty and toxic water. When a sewer line gets unclogged, the strong flow sometimes carries away the worker.
Several sanitation workers have lost their lives due to toxic gasses in manholes. Overall, hundreds of people have lost their lives working for WASA, but their families do not receive the benefits that other government employees get because the workers do not have regular status despite working decades for the department.
Caste-Based Blasphemy
One reason missionaries had such success in converting area Hindus to Christianity in the late 19th century was that conversion offered the community a way to socioeconomic as well as religious emancipation.
Although a large number of Christians managed to escape the bondage by attaining education, still an overwhelming number of Christians were caught in an occupation that society rendered humiliating and degrading.
Several cases of Christians falsely charged under Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws have been rooted in such caste-based discrimination.
Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), sentenced to death in November 2010 for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam, was working in the fields picking fruit when she took water from a bucket for all workers. Her co-workers argued that she had polluted the water by touching it, and that the water would be drinkable only if she converted to Islam. When she answered, they ensnared her in a blasphemy case. 
Remnant Hindu Brahmanic notions of untouchability combined with Islamic fervor for conversion in Pakistan also figured in accusations of blasphemy against Rubina Bibi in Alipur Chatta, Punjab Province. She had bought ghee, an Indian oil used for cooking, but when she felt it was adulterated, she told the shopkeeper to return it and give her money back. The shopkeeper argued that the oil had been polluted for having been poured into the bowl of a Christian, so it could never be returned. The ensuing argument veered into religious issues that ultimately invoked Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The hierarchical sense of superiority that marked Imran’s alleged murder of Abbas Masih was also present in the ransacking of Christians’ homes in Bahmaniwala, Kasur, in June 2009. Trolley driver Sardar Masih asked Muhammad Hussain to remove the motorbike that he had parked in the middle of the road. Hussain refused, asking how a “Chuhra” could give him an order.
The argument grew into a brawl between two families, with the inevitable accusation from the Muslims that the Christians had committed blasphemy. The entire Christian population of the village fled, and Muslims ransacked their houses.