Friday, August 12, 2011

Anti-conversion law imprisons pastor

Conversion to Christianity is greatly hindered by South Asia's anti-conversion laws. (Photo courtesy of Bibles for the World)

South Asia (MNN) ― Anti-conversion laws in South Asia recently has Pastor Dhevan Das facing criminal charges and possibly imprisonment.

According to Gospel for Asia, a believer in Pastor Dhevan's church had a desire to attend a Bible college, but needed help. Pastor Dhevan was helping her out with the enrollment process when the accusations started.

Villagers claimed Pastor Dhevan was forcing the woman into Christianity, and they instigated his arrest on July 28. Pastor Dhevan was charged with forced conversion in conflict with the anti-conversion law.

Police were going to release Pastor Dhevan on bail, but a group of nearly 40 people protested at the police station and filed a complaint. In protest, the mob shouted, "Do not release him! He is destroying our religion!"

Christian leaders with Gospel for Asia visited the jailed pastor to encourage him but left the jail equally encouraged themselves. Pastor Dhevan took advantage of the situation to reach his fellow inmates with the Gospel message.
Furthermore, the jailer in charge of Dhevan is a friend of the church. He promised the visiting leaders with GFA that Pastor Dhevan would be well cared for until he can be discharged.

"I do not have much problem in the jail," says Dhevan. "I am taking it as a good opportunity to share God's Word and my testimony with other prisoners."

Pastor Dhevan was finally released last Thursday, August 4, but he still waits to face criminal charges. If he is convicted at his hearings, he will be imprisoned again.

Anti-conversion laws have been used in manipulation to legalize unjust persecution and imprisonment of Christians. Words such as "force" and "allurement" in the law's outline of prohibited means have foggy definitions at best and are often used to prevent conversions in general.

Advocacy Director for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Alexa Papadouris, says, "It allows for substantial interference into the private process of an individual's conversion by a state government known for its extremist Hindu nationalist credentials. The requirement to explain the reasons for conversion to potential hostile officials is a significant block to religious freedom."

Please pray for the charges to be dropped against Pastor Dhevan. Pray also that those he ministered to in jail would take to heart the promise of salvation through a relationship in Christ.

To check out Gospel for Asia's report on the situation, you can click here.

Pakistan Bible distribution moves forward

Pakistan (MNN) ―Persecution is frequent for Christians trying to live peacefully in the 95% Muslim nation of Pakistan. Believers in Christ practice their faith cautiously, trying to remain strong amid difficult circumstances.
Unfortunately, God's Word--an unfailing source of strength--is difficult to access in Pakistan. Few Pakistani believers own their own copy of the Scriptures.

A lack of Scriptures not only makes persecution more difficult to deal with, but it makes growth even harder for new Christians just beginning in their faith. However, despite severe persecution in Pakistan--it is #11 out of all nations on the World Watch List for persecution, people are turning to Christ in droves.

"In 2010, more than 100,000 people (in Pakistan) accepted Christ and were baptized," notes Mawii Pudaite with Bibles for the World.

As the church continues to boom, so does the need for Scriptures. Bibles for the World is responding.

The ministry has been in touch with one reputable pastor in particular who is in high need of Bibles, says Pudaite. "Our pastor friend has sent us e-mails and telephoned us with urgent requests for Bibles, New Testaments and Gospels."
Bibles for the World is helping by first sending out thousands of copies of the Gospel of John.

"We will print the Gospel of John with the title, 'The Book of Hope and Light,'" says Pudaite. "We will also provide new Testaments and Bibles. Our prayerful goal is to print 150,000 copies of the Gospel of John for the first run."

The cost to print and distribute one copy of the Gospel of John in Urdu is just $0.25, and each copy will reach one family. Essentially, with $25, 100 families will be reached with the message of Christ.

"It will produce spiritual fruit and changed lives," notes Pudaite. "This is how Pakistan will be changed for good."
Many who read the Scriptures will be Christians, and many will be hearing the Good News for the first time. Only God knows the full scope of all that these Scriptures will do, but Pudaite reminds us that God promises His Word "will not return to Him void."

Because Pakistan is a high security risk area, Bibles for the World does not have a direct link to the Pakistan Bible project on their Web site. Instead, to get involved, contact Bibles for the World here, ormake a note with your contribution here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Radio reaches past resistance

Tibet being ruled by communist China means the Gospel is often met with persecution. Radio signals can still reach the lost.

Tibet (MNN) ― The history of mission work to spread the Gospel in Tibet has often been met with fierce political resistance. Often there is only one channel that can reach through closed lines: radio broadcast.

Words of Hope helps put on the Gaweylon (Good News) Tibetan program through radio broadcast every evening. Thirty-minute segments include Bible teachings with wonderful responses from listeners who have made the eternal decision to follow Christ.

But as is the trend in this communist country, their program has met resistance. Governmental authorities in Tibet imposed restrictions on their broadcast and are making the situation very difficult for their mission.

Opposition to religion is frequent in Tibet. In the nineteenth century there were common cases of persecution such as sewing missionaries up in a wet yak's skin and then setting them out in the sun to be crushed to death as the drying tomb of skin constricted.

Later in the 1960's, the Cultural Revolution took place and a communist-ruled Tibet suppressed any form of religion with beatings and arrests. During this time in Tibet, going to prison was practically a death sentence. Figures compiled by the Tibetan Administration showed that nearly 70% of those imprisoned died there.

These days, missionary works seem to ebb and flow. Cases of persecution remain, but the people are interested in learning more. Words of Hope developed a method that they have been using for two decades to reach beyond the closed sections of the community with the Gospel message: radio broadcast.

Also, the Gaweylon Tibetan program is in desperate need of a Tibetan Christian who can help them with thorough translation of the gospel messages into their language. Pinning down the correct dialect useful for Tibetans is difficult since certain words and ideas are hard to translate.

Words of Hope writes for the Tibet radio program in their prayer letter, "Pray that God will enable the programming to continue with clear reception in spite of difficult conditions and restrictions imposed by authorities."

Pray also that the Lord would bring a Tibetan Christian out of the woodwork for translation on the program.
 If you would like to consider donating to their Gospel broadcast mission, you can click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sudan: Genocide of Nuba by Starvation

-- a call to pray for the church in Sudan's Nuba Mts.

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 120 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- [For background see RLPB 113 (22 June 2011) & RLPB 117 (20 July 2011) at Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin]

Daily bombing raids targeting the Nuba populations of South Kordofan have resulted in significant loss of life and destruction of properties, including homes, crops and livestock. While the UN estimates that some 73,000 Nuba have been displaced, the former deputy governor of South Kordofan, Abdel Aziz el-Hilu, estimates the figure is closer to 500,000. Nuba seeking to flee the region are being intercepted and killed at roadblocks. Numerous tens of thousands of Nuba, many of whom are wounded, have been forced to seek shelter in hillside caves where they have nothing to eat but grass and leaves. The rainy season is making survival even more difficult. Furthermore the Government of Sudan (GoS) has sealed off the region so that humanitarian aid cannot get in.

Without intervention, mass starvation will be inevitable.

The GoS has considerable experience in waging genocide. Scorched earth warfare followed by denial of humanitarian aid has been used in the Nuba Mountains (early 1990s), Bahr el-Ghazal (South Sudan, 1998) and Darfur to kill many tens of thousands of Africans in just a few months. Yet while Khartoum is engineering a famine in the Nuba Mountains, it is also congratulating itself for pouring aid worth nearly two million dollars into famine relief in Somalia (Sudan Tribune, 28 July). That too is standard for Khartoum which routinely starves its own people while exporting food and receiving food aid.

[For more on how Khartoum uses starvation as a weapon of mass destruction, see 'Why is Akobo hungry?' By Elizabeth Kendal for Religious Liberty Monitoring, 9 April 2010]

Whilst the GoS's motive is greed and its goal is the theft of resource-rich land, it recruits fighters amongst Arab-Islamists with the language of Islamic jihad. In April 1992 Muslim clerics in South Kordofan issued a fatwa for the GoS that legitimised killing the Nuba as 'apostates' (Muslims not supporting the regime) and 'infidels' (unbelievers) 'who stand as a bulwark against the spread of Islam'. Today the Nuba are again being labelled rebels and infidels, and are being targeted by Islamic jihad to facilitate the ethnic cleansing of this resource-rich region.
Bradford Phillips is the founder and president of Persecution Project Foundation and the director (Sudan) of Voice of the Martyrs. He recently returned from 12 days in the Nuba Mountains. On Thursday 4 August he gave eye-witness testimony to a US House of Representatives subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. To Phillips 'the issue is genocide'. He is gravely concerned about the humanitarian crisis facing Sudan's largest Christian community.'There are 70,000 to 90,000 people that are probably going to die in the next month to two months,' he warns. Local Nuba told Phillips the GoS views the church as an extension of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement which the GoS deems a 'foreign' force, although it is not. Phillips heard stories of pastors being arrested and horrifically tortured by soldiers seeking to extract the names of church members. Refusing to betray their flock, many pastors have been imprisoned, whilst some have died under torture or been executed.

Also testifying before the House Committee was Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail, the Anglican Bishop of Kadugli. Andudu has been told soldiers searched for him house-to-house. He believes that had he not been in the US for medical treatment he would now be lying in a mass grave. Bisho p Andudu is pleading for intervention.

Like other Sudan experts Brad Phillips is calling for action that would neutralise/destroy Khartoum's Antonov bombers. Dedicated religious liberty and persecuted church advocate Congressman Frank R Wolf pleaded passionately for the Church to stand up and speak up for its persecuted brothers and sisters in Sudan. As Phillips told a CBN interview on 6 August, the most important thing the Church can do is 'intercede through prayer'.
[For more information on the 4 August hearing with links to transcripts and videos, see "Nuba Genocide: U.S. House Committeee hears testimony", By Elizabeth Kendal for Religious Liberty Monitoring, 10 Aug 2011.]

  • draw the Nuba and the global Church into dependent prayer for divine intervention; for the LORD will surely rise to show compassion at the sound of our cry (Isaiah 30:18,19). May Khartoum's bombers be neutralised and Omar el-Bashir's arrogant and racist reign of terror be ended. (Psalm 10)
'Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' (Isaiah 40:10,11 ESV)
  • provide displaced Nuba with their every need of shelter, food, healing and protection; may he ease their anxiety, bring rest to their souls and increase their faith.
  • protect Nuba pastors, hiding them from those who intend to torture and kill them; may those imprisoned be protected and preserved, experiencing God's presence and being assured of his love.

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

Elizabeth Kendal's blogs:
Religious Liberty Monitoring and Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin

Muslims Attack Christian Village in Egypt

One Murdered, Homes Looted and Torched

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

EGYPT (ANS) -- Muslims attacked Christians in the village of Nazlet Faragallah, in the southern Egyptian Minya province, on the evening of Aug. 7. The attack continued until the early hours of Monday morning, Aug. 8.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), one Copt was murdered and homes were looted and torched when Muslims from Nazlet Faragallah together with Muslims from four neighboring villages started to attack. The violence occurred at about 8 p.m. after Muslims broke their Ramadan fast.

According to eyewitnesses, AINA reported, thousands of Muslims entered the village from all sides, firing automatic weapons (mostly in the air), looting and throwing Molotov Cocktails at several homes.

"They even destroyed our irrigation pumps," AINA reported one witness said.

AINA said the first attack was on the house of Father Youanes, pastor of St. George Church. He was beaten, and his home looted and torched.

According to AINA, Maher Nassif Tobias, 50, an employee at the local council, was murdered in his home. He was found by his son. His house was completely looted, including his livestock.

Security forces arrived four hours after the attack began and there were too few of them. "They only had batons in their hands, and were unable to control the situation," said a Coptic village resident.

AINA said he added, "Our village is surrounded by corn fields. The Muslims came into the village to loot and quickly disappeared in the fields. The police could not follow them. They were coming from all directions at the same time."

Nazlet Faragallah has 8000 inhabitants, comprising about 80 percent Copts and 20 percent Muslims.
AINA said the events were preceded on Saturday by an altercation caused by Muslims harassing Christian girls as they came out of a church service in the late afternoon. Stones were hurled by Muslims at the church, breaking five windows. Some 200 Copts staged a sit-in in front of St. George's Church on Sunday afternoon to protest the attack.

AINA reported that in a statement, the security authorities in Minya said the Muslim attack on Nazlet Faragallah was caused by a group of Copts, headed by Haddar Ishaq, firing at Muslims as they came out of the mosque on Sunday afternoon. Copts in the village denied this claim.

AINA said three Muslims have been arrested so far, and three Copts today. None of the Copts were involved in any incident, and one of them had broken his leg two weeks before.

"Security is doing its balancing act again," AINA reported one of the villagers said. "They will use these Copts, who were arrested at random, to bargain for their freedom in exchange for village Copts giving up their rights during the 'reconciliation' meeting."

AINA said it was reported that Muslim women walked the streets, warning that after breaking the Ramadan fast the men would come to finish the Christians off, but this did not happen. That because among other issues, security was present in large numbers in the village.

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

Muslim extremists haunt a new Christian in India

India (MNN) ― An Indian woman just months into her Christian walk was recently attacked for the second time in four months.

Although Hindu radicals are behind many attacks against Christians in India, "In this case, we're talking about radical Muslims who were offended that a Muslim woman left Islam to follow Jesus Christ," explains Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.

Compass Direct reports that Selina Bibi converted from Islam in eastern India's West Bengal state, where, Nettleton says many of India's 172 million Muslims reside. The woman had been stripped and beaten four months ago when 50 Muslim extremists found out she'd become a Christian.

"She was attacked, embarrassed, and beaten up right after she came to Christ," explains Nettleton. "Now it's happened again, and they've said, ‘Hey, if you keep following Jesus, we're going to burn your house down. If you keep having Bible studies here, we're going to burn your house down.' So this is sort of another chapter in the life of faith for an Indian Christian."

During the March attack, extremists surrounded Bibi at Believers Church where she was being baptized. Compass Direct says another radical group came to the service upon discovering Bibi's conversion and verbally abused the Christians there.

Days later, two women and an extremist group brought Bibi to one of their homes and stripped her, apparently looking for marks they believe Christians are branded with when they convert. When they could not find any such mark, they began to beat her.

Bibi has been severely ostracized over the last four months, no longer able to buy goods from the store, sell vegetables, or draw water from the village well. The most-recent attack and threat came after she decided to host a weekly Bible study at her home despite the persecution.

Compass reports that a complaint has been filed, and police will prosecute if any further attacks or disturbances take place.

Many believers face persecution in India, but things have been particularly harsh for Bibi. "This is a lady who's only been a believer less than a year and already has faced significant persecution twice in her young life of faith," Nettleton points out.

Pray for Bibi's safety and for her faith in Christ to remain unshaken. Pray also for believers across India to continue preaching the Good News despite the hardships they're forced to face daily.

Although this particular attack does not seem to be connected to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in which persecution often increases, pray for believers in Muslim communities around the world who may be up against increased persecution through August.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Report: Restrictions on Religion Increased in 23 Countries

Nearly a third of the world's population live in countries where restrictions on religious beliefs and practices increased between 2006 and 2009, a new report reveals.

Restrictions, which include social hostilities and government restrictions, rose in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12 percent), decreased in 12 countries (6 percent) and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82 percent), the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported.

Read full article...

Muslim Radicals Kill Ten Christians In Nigeria

Islamists Fighting to Eliminate Christianity from Northern Nigeria

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Members of a radical Islamic group, Boko Haram, have killed at least ten Christians in Maiduguri, Nigeria over the past two months in what one Christian leader is calling a "silent killing" of Christians.
In an interview with International Christian Concern (ICC - ) , an anonymous local church leader explained, "Boko Haram is seeking to eliminate Christianity because they want Islamic (Sharia) law. They don't want to see anything Christian in the northern states [of Nigeria]. That is why churches are being persecuted and Muslims who don't follow the [hardline teachings of] Boko Haram are also persecuted."

ICC says Boko Haram is close to achieving its goal of eliminating Christianity from Maiduguri.

In its latest report on the situation, ICC said: "Most of the Christians have fled the city in fear of further attacks by the Islamists. Of the churches that remain, some have felt compelled to suspend their services to protect their congregations."

ICC explained that the Nigerian government, which has also been attacked by Boko Haram, deployed security forces to quell the violence, but came under sharp criticism from human rights groups for excessive use of force and the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The government of Nigeria has now established a committee to investigate the members of Boko Haram and look into the reasons for the violence.
The church leader told ICC that the few Christians who remain in the city are praying and fasting for God's intervention.

When asked what Christians could do to help, the church leader said, "They can pray for their fellow Christian brothers and sisters in Maiduguri. [We also] ask for assistance in the rebuilding of churches that have been burned down since 2006. The government has not compensated for the loss of Christians, but it has compensated for losses that Muslims suffered [at the hands of radical Islamists]."

ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said, "We welcome the deployment of the Nigerian security forces to protect innocent civilians from the attacks by Boko Haram. We also welcome the establishment of the committee to investigate Boko Haram. We call upon the committee to look into the plight of the victims and ensure that the perpetrators of the violence are brought to justice."

** 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.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Ne wswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

Genocide returns to Southern Sudan

By Ron Brackin
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

DALLAS, TX (ANS) -- From 2004-2009, I worked with Brad Phillips and the Persecution Project Foundation (PPF), bringing relief and the gospel to survivors of the genocide in Southern Sudan and Darfur.

Brad Phillips with Nuba resistance leader Abdelazia Adam Al-Hilu.
During more than two decades of fighting, over  two million Southern Sudanese people, most of whom were Christian or animist, were slaughtered. Four million more were displaced. The Nuba Mountains lost 500,000 people, roughly half its population, both Christian and Muslim. And since 2003, the genocide in Darfur  has claimed an estimated 400,000 lives.

In 2005, a  Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between north and south. This agreement provided South Sudan with semi-autonomy and eventually a referendum vote on self-determination, which, on July 9, 2011, resulted in the Republic of South Sudan becoming the world's newest nation.

SPLA  soldier with corpse
In 2009, the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The following year, another warrant was issued against him for genocide. Both were rejected by his regime in Khartoum, and Bashir remains at large and in power.

And recently, Bashir launched another bloody campaign of genocide in the Nuba Mountains.

On August 4, Brad Phillips, who also serves as Sudan Country Director for The Voice of the Martyrs, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The following is excerpted from that testimony:

Under the CPA, the Nuba people were guaranteed a free election, followed by a popular consultation, whereby elected leaders would interview their constituents and determine what the people wanted with regard to their political future. This consultation process would hopefully pave the way for a regime change or power-sharing arrangement in Khartoum that recogn ized and respected the rights of all of Sudan's diverse communities.

As of today, the popular consultation has not taken place. Moreover, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir publicly stated in April this year that if the NCP cannot get its way with the ballot box, it will use "the ammo box." This was a declaration of war and violation of the CPA. Also in April, as an intimidation tactic, NCP-backed forces attacked el Fayit, home to the Nuba SPLM commander and gubernatorial candidate, Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hilu. Twenty-seven members of al-Hilu's family were murdered in this attack.

All of this was done before the scheduled elections in May as an attempted provocation to draw the SPLM into war. But they did not take the bait. When the elections finally took place, evidence of large-scale vote rigging was reported. Yet, even with the evidence of voting fraud, Bashir sent down Nafie ali Nafie, special advisor to the president, to declare NCP candidate and indicted war criminal Ahmed Haroun the winner before the end of the mandated verification period.

The newly "elected" Governor Haroun then ordered all SPLM/A forces out of Southern Kordofan by June 1.  This order was in direct violation of the CPA, which allows the SPLA to operate in Southern Kordofan up to 90 days after the close of the interim period on July 9th, 2011.

This attempt by the NCP to cleanse the north of the SPLM/A before the July 9th independence of South Sudan was also carried out in the disputed Abyei region. After massing troops around Abyei, NCP forces invaded on May 20th, forcing most of the indigenous African population out. Some estimates of the number of refugees from this area are as high as 100,000.

It became obvious to all watching these events unfold what was happening. It's no wonder that the SPLM refused to disband or leave Southern Kordofan. When the order was not obeyed by the June 1st deadline, the NCP tried to disarm the SPLM by force. This was the beginning of the war on June 5th.

On June 6th, the NCP attacked and sacked the capital of Kadugli, murdering potentially thousands of civilians in the subsequent days. The NCP also pulled out an old card from their deck: daily, indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilian targets. Using Antonov bombers, MiG fighters, and helicopter gunships, the NCP launched a campaign of terror from the skies. I have included several pictures of bombed locations and civilian casualties for the committee's review.

I personally arrived in the Nuba Mountains on July 4th on one of the few private charters flying to the Nuba since fighting ended all UN humanitarian flights.

During my visit, I interviewed more than a dozen individuals who escaped from Kadugli, all of who m shared the same basic story:

Man with amputated leg
"Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops went from house to house searching for A. Any Nuba citizen, B. Christians, or C. Members of the SPLM. Anyone fitting this description was either killed on the spot or arrested and never seen again."

Fortunately, a few thousand residents obtained shelter at the UNMIS compound. But the compound soon filled, and I heard many stories and accounts of people being killed at the gates of the UNIMIS compound while UN soldiers stood by.
I spoke with Reverend Luka Bolis, an Episcopal Priest and Western Regional Chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, who escaped from Kadugli and told me that "The NCP is targeting the church in this war." Rev. Luka received a call from some friends in Kadugli warning him not to return. They told him the SAF had a list of all church leaders and suspected SPLM sympathizers.

Rev. Luka's testimony corresponded with others I received from Nuba Christians who were persecuted in the last war by the same regime. Luka said the NCP does not distinguish between a Christian and a member of the SPLM political party. If one is a Christian, he is assumed to be a supporter of the SPLM. Consequently, pastors are specifically targeted as leaders and recruiters of the SPLM.

Another pastor I interviewed, whom I will call "Kumi" for security reasons, was arrested by the NIF during the last war and tortured in the most horrific manner to try to force him divulge the names of his church members. His captors pulled out his fingernails and toenails. They hung him by the neck until he passed out. They crushed his testicles. They dragged him behind a tank. They poured gasoline on his hands and set them aflame, and many other cruel acts. Pastor Kumi was then imprisoned for a total of eight years. Although he lived several hours drive away from Rev. Luka and spoke concerning the previous war, his testimony was the sam e: the NCP troops assumed all Christians were SPLM members and all pastors SPLM leaders and recruiters.

Six men singing and praising God, echoed for miles through the mountains.

Yet another church leader I met in a completely different area had a similar story and perspective. "Musa" was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead after NCP troops attacked his church in 1997. Thinking Musa was dead, one NCP soldier cut off his left ear as a trophy. Musa told me that if the SPLM is defeated in the present war, the same persecution will return to the Nuba Mountains because the same regime is still in power in Khartoum.

And this is what I heard over and over again during my trip: the same people who committed war crimes in the Nuba Mountains before are doing it again today.

Commander Abdelazia joins with the church in singing hymns at a spontaneous worship service deep in the mountains.
The only difference in what I saw in 1998 and what I saw last month is that the SPLM has clearly taken the initiative and taken the fight, as it were, to their enemies. Led by Commander Al-Hilu, the people of the Nuba Mountains are fighting back and have won some impressive victories on the ground. And this has occurred without any significant help from the international community. This determined resistance by the SPLM in the Nuba Mountains is a genuine "Popular Uprising" and the only thing that has prevented another Rwandan-style genocide from happening. But time is running out.

The UN ended humanitarian relief efforts in June, and most NGOs operating under the UN umbrella pulled out. All roads to the north have been closed, and the rainy season in South Sudan has affectively closed supply routes to the south until the fall. The daily bombings have terrorized the local population to the degree that normal cultivation is not taking place during this crucial planting season. The Nuba Mountains are isolated, cut off, and f acing a humanitarian crisis within 60 days unless relief flights are allowed to recommence. And this will not happen while SAF MiGs and Antonov bombers and gunships patrol the skies. The NCP refuses to allow UN observers into the Nuba Mountains to document what is happening, which should not surprise anyone.

It is absolutely essential that the international community bring pressure to bear on the United Nations to immediately declare a Humanitarian Emergency in the Nuba Mountains and impose a "no-fly" zone to stop the bombing campaign and allow humanitarian access so that relief flights back into the region may resume.

Photo of me with weapons in a Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLS) camp, Nuba Mountains, 2004.
I will conclude by stating that there is more than enough evidence to justify speedy action by the US and the international community to address the dire situation in the Nuba Mountains. The president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is an indicted war criminal. The current governor of the Nuba Mountains is Ahmed Haroun, also an indicted war criminal for his role in the Darfur genocide. These men make Libya's Gaddafi look like a choir boy.

There is no justification in my mind for bombing Libya, while doing nothing in the Nuba Mountains. Seasoned reporters from the New York Times, Time Magazine, Aljazeera English, The Independent in Great Britain, and others have visited the Nuba Mountains and brought back testimonies, pictures, and video proving that war crimes are being committed against the Nuba people by the NCP regime. I have included copies of several of these articles with my testimony.

How is it, then, that the US government still claims there is not enough evidence to charge the NCP with war crimes? Why does the US government treat with the NCP and the victims of their crimes with moral equivalency? Based on the history of the NCP, and what we know about what they are doing today in Darfur, in Abyei, and in the Nuba Mountains, it amazes me how the US and the international community could tolerate these killers for so long, yet aggressively pursue other villains who have not killed 1/100th of the people for which Omar al-Bashir and his regime are responsible.

Three million lives-and counting. When will we say, "Enough"?

The writer of the NYT bestseller, "Son of Hamas", Ron Brackin has traveled extensively in the Middle East as an investigative journalist. He was in the West Bank and Gaza during the Al-Aqsa Intifada; on assignment in Baghdad and Mosul after the fall of Iraq; and more recently with the rebels and refugees of Southern Sudan and Darfur. Ron is the author of other books and has contributed articles and columns to many publications, including USA Today and The Washington Times. He was a broadcast journalist with WTOP-AM, Post-Newsweek's all-news radio station in Washington D.C. and weekend news anchor on Metromedia's WASH-FM. And he served as a congressional press secretary under the Reagan Administration. Visit his website at or his blog at

Authorities falsify 'tax evasion' charges against a church in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan (SGA/MNN) ― In Uzbekistan, it seems that the success of an earlier case is being used as a template for an attack on another church.

Joel Griffith with the Slavic Gospel Association explains that in 2009, "There was a problem a couple of years ago where one of the children's camps that SGA helps sponsor called ‘Camp Joy' had been raided by authorities as well. In the aftermath of that, the Uzbek authorities forced the leadership of the Uzbek Baptist Union to step down."

The recent case stems from a similar move against another church in Tashkent. According to Forum 18 reports, "One of the key Baptist Churches in the capital of Tashkent was raided in the spring. A couple of weeks ago, the Uzbek authorities issued an indictment against the pastor, Konstantin Malchikovsky."
The case was filed on July 15, and a local judge heard the case July 27. Griffith notes the similarities of the charges which both sets of church leaders confronted. "They're officially accusing him of 'not paying in monies from church offerings and book sales.' Baptist leaders say these charges are completely false and have been fabricated by the authorities, and the pastor could get up to two years in jail if he's convicted."

With a charge like tax evasion, "It seems like a similar situation to what they were charging Camp Joy with as well (in 2009). Baptist leaders there are denying that such a thing took place."

The raid on the Tashkent property yielded money and tens of thousands of Christian books, as well as printing equipment. At the time, Pastor Malchikovsky and three other church members were fined between 50 and 100 times the minimum monthly wage.

The actions of the Uzbek government have prompted protest by SGA and others. The government has typically responded with what sounds like a reasonable security concern. "Basically, they're concerned about religious extremism, and they seem to try to push back against all religious groups. We do know that other churches have received similar pressure."

However, Griffith says, "It really seems to us now that this is an increasing push against Christian churches. Whether it's motivated by Islam, or whether it's by a secular government trying to keep its thumb on all religions, it's really hard to say at this point. But it does seem like Christians are getting the brunt of it."

In the meantime, SGA contacted their Congressman's office and asked him to look into this situation.  They've also asked Advocates International to investigate. It's unclear what good will come of the requests. "Uzbek authorities, thus far, seem to turn a deaf ear in the fact that when Western nations step up criticism, it also seems like Uzbek authorities step up their crackdowns."

Please join us in regular intercessory prayer for Pastor Malchikovsky and evangelical churches across Uzbekistan. The Christians in this area are bold. The stronger the crackdown, says Griffith, the more creative believers get in living the Gospel. He adds that "they will probably have to recommence some of the things that they did during the Soviet period, in terms of learning how to do things more quietly."

Griffith urges a solidarity stand. "Pray for great wisdom, not only for Uzbek churches, but also for western Christians and governments as they respond, that they would respond in the right way and in such a way that it would not put our brothers and sisters there at more risk."

Pastor thrown into labor camp; no trial

Pastor Shi was sentenced to two years hard labor with no trial. (Photo courtesy of China Aid Association)

China (MNN) ― Pastor Shi Enhao, 55, was recently sentenced to serve two years of hard labor in a Chinese labor camp.
Voice of the Martyrs, Canada (VCM) reports that China has been cracking down on house churches, and Pastor Shi's Chinese House Church Alliance came into police sights.

According to VCM's source--China Aid Association, Pastor Shi was first detained by police on May 31 in the coastal Jiangsu province. He was held for 12 days and then re-detained on June 21 by the Suqian Public Security Bureau.
When given his two-year labor camp sentence, Pastor Shi was charged with "illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings."

Two years of "re-education through labor" is an extra-judicial punishment that can be sentenced by Chinese police without conviction of crime, trial or review by a judge.

Usually those given this sentence are either minor criminal offenders or members of religious groups police deem rebellious--mostly Christians.

Chinese House Church Alliance is made up of several thousand believers and meets in several locations around the eastern city of Suqian.

This is not the first time the church has been targeted. Pastor Zhang "Bike" Mingxuan, the chairman of Chinese House Church Alliance, has also been arrested several times.

In addition to the recent arrest of Pastor Shi, police ordered the church to stop all congregational meetings. They confiscated the church's car, choir robes, musical instruments and funds amounting 140,000 yuan ($20,900 CAD).

Pastor Shi's three daughters and their husbands have also been threatened by police. His son, Shi Yongyang, is in full-time ministry and was required to go to the police station to sign his father's sentencing paperwork.

Please pray for Pastor Shi's family as they struggle with a husband and father's prison sentence. Pray also that Pastor Shi would have the joy of the Holy Spirit in the midst of trial and would use this opportunity to minister to his inmates.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Two more Christians die in Eritrea's military camps

Story photo from Compass Direct: Shipping containers used for detaining Christians. [Cover photo from Google Maps: Satellite view of Dekemhare]

Eritrea (MNN) ― Eritrea's crackdown on Christians has claimed two more lives.
The country (ranked 12th on the Open Doors World Watch List) is known for its brutal hostility and indifference toward believers they arrest. Ministry partners of Open Doors have sent reports indicating the conditions detainees endure are inhumane, i.e.- gross neglect in shipping containers in the dessert and military detention camps, as well as torture.

Open Doors USA CEO Carl Moeller says, "Two young women, 23 and 27 -- Hiwet  Tesfu and Zemame Mehari -- were reported to have died in one of these military camps." They had been in the ALLA military camp for two years and three months.

Their plight was largely ignored on the international stage, as similar cases have been. "Both of these women had apparently been in ill health," says Moeller. "They were repeatedly tortured. They had been repeatedly denied medical treatment." They were buried at the military camp.

The women were arrested in April 2009 for attending a prayer meeting in Dekemhare, 15 kilometers from ALLA Military Camp southeast of Asmara. Both Open Doors and Compass Direct News reports show that at the time of their arrest, prayer and similar Christian meetings were being arranged by groups of young believers in the military service.

However, the government maintains that it has no religious prisoners in custody. Moeller dismisses that claim as semantics. "They don't recognize these evangelical or Pentecostal sects as ‘religious' institutions or organizations; therefore, when they arrest them, it's for holding illegal activities or illegal meetings. So, when they're held, they're not holding ‘religious' prisoners: they're holding ‘social' and ‘political' prisoners."

Since 2002, the government has cracked down on all but the traditional Orthodox, Catholic, or Lutheran churches and certain branches of Islam.
Tesfu and Mehari are the 17th and 18th Christians known to have died while serving time for their faith in one of Eritrea's harsh detention centres. They are the fourth and fifth Christian deaths confirmed in the ALLA Military Camp.

There are reports of thousands of believers in similar conditions, and very few, if any, have actually been charged since their arrest. Given the government reaction to Christians, it might seem logical that this treatment produces a "chilling effect" for Gospel workers. Yet, the opposite seems to be true, says Moeller. "When they see Christians willing to go to prison, willing to die, willing to be tortured for this religion, it creates an undeniable thirst for understanding what that faith is about."
The great paradox, Moeller notes, is that "it is sometimes exactly those places where the situation is the most desperate that we see the growth of the church most dramatically. I believe it's because that in the midst of the crucible of persecution, Christians are continuing to stand up."

Please continue to pray for Christians all over Eritrea who are suffering dearly for their Christian beliefs. Pray for godly wisdom, perseverance, and God's protection in their lives. Pray that Christians across the world would open up their hearts for these persecuted believers, continuing to pray and advocate earnestly for them.

Condition of two Azeri-speaking Christians unknown after arrest and beating by Iranian authorities

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TABRIZ, IRAN (ANS) -- Following the increase in pressure on the Iranian Christian community inside Iran, Iranian security forces have arrested and beaten two Azeri-speaking converts to Christianity.
Vahid Rofegar and Reza Kahnamoei (Courtesy Mohabat News).

According to reports received by the Iranian Christian News Agency Mohabat News ( ) , two Azeri-speaking Christians, Vahid Rofegar and Reza Kahnamoei, who reside in the city of Tabriz (in the eastern Azerbaijan province northwest of Iran) were arrested by the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran at 3 p.m. on July 24. Their condition is unknown since their arrest.

The Mohabat News website reports indicate that these two Christians were identified and chased by security forces while they were riding on a motorcycle in the city of the Kalibar (northeast of Eastern Azerbaijan province). Once they noticed police were chasing them, they tried to escape. But they went off the road, lost control of their vehicle, and landed in the dirt.

"These two young men were wounded due to the accident, and then the police arrested and beat them, and finally transferred them into a jail at the same city (Kalibar). Even though Reza's leg was badly hurt, the officers didn't care about his injuries and (also) didn't provide any medical assistance," eye-witnesses said.

When their families became aware of the incident, they attempted to contact the related organizations to track their loved ones' situation. It was then that the officials told the families the two men would be released on July 31.

It has been reported that some intelligence officers have invaded Vahid's home and thoroughly searched there, but have failed to find anything. So far, no news has been reported about Reza's residence.

Mohabat News says that although officials have made promises regarding their release, these two men still remain in prison. The latest update on their case is that security officials have transferred them into the prison of the city of Abhar, and kept them separate from each other.

Mohabat News also says it is likely these arrests are related to the increasing pressure on the Azeri-speaking Christians of Iran. Recently, some pro-government websites admitted to this fact and complained about the "widespread of the Christianity (sic), especially in the city of Tabriz."

Majid Abhari, the advisor of the social commission of the Islamic parliament of Iran, recently said that 6,500 copies of the New Testament were seized in the Zanjan-Abhar Road.

Mohabat News commented: "This new wave of pressures and threats that the Christian converts are facing in the Azeri-speaking cities of Iran shows that the threats and pressures of the Islamic regime of Iran change its color every single day!"

** 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.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Ne wswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter