Saturday, September 17, 2011

Iranian Christian Couple leave Iran with the Islamic regime’s approval

Iranian Christian Couple leave Iran with the Islamic regime’s approval:

'via Blog this'

Chinese Believers Arrested for Attending Outdoor Service

Chinese Believers Arrested for Attending Outdoor Service:

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Prominent House Church Leader Zhang Rongliang Released Early from Prison - Christian Newswire

Prominent House Church Leader Zhang Rongliang Released Early from Prison - Christian Newswire:

'via Blog this'

Christian human rights group calls on Mexican Government to Protect Religious Minorities in Puebla State

Christian human rights group calls on Mexican Government to Protect Religious Minorities in Puebla State:

'via Blog this'

Christians in Mexico Forced from Village

Traditionalist Catholics in Puebla state threaten to kill Protestants.
By Elisabeth Isais

MEXICO CITY, September 16 (Compass Direct News) – About 70 Protestant Christians lived in the village of San Rafael Tlanalapan, Puebla state, until Monday (Sept. 12), when they faced a frightening ultimatum – leave immediately or be “crucified or lynched.”

Traditionalist Catholics in the village, near the municipality of San Martín Texmelucan about 60 miles from Mexico City, reportedly threatened to burn down or otherwise destroy their homes.

The Protestants left.

The traditionalist Catholics, who practice a blend of indigenous and Catholic rituals, reportedly asserted that 20 years ago an assistant village president had vowed that no temple of any non-Catholic faith would ever be permitted in San Rafael Tlanalapan. Protestants in Puebla, Hidalgo, Chiapas and other states sometimes refuse to help pay for and participate in traditionalist Catholic festivals, which often include drunken revelry and what they regard as idolatrous adoration of saints.

In 2006, the Protestants in San Rafael Tlanalapan asked for government help after Catholics led village authorities to cut off their water supply.

Tensions reached a crisis level two weeks ago, when local priest Ascension Benitez Gonzalez reportedly said in a Sept. 4 sermon that his parishioners should pressure the Protestants to leave for good. Although their number has grown to 70, the evangelical Protestants have been allowed no place of worship.

On Sept. 7, the village’s assistant president, Antonio Garcia Ovalle, reportedly met with the Protestants. The evangelicals promised to leave, though the 200 traditionalist Catholics present sought to beat them and expel them right then. According to Puebla online news portal, the priest rang the church bells continually during the meeting.

The evangelicals’ departure date was set for Monday (Sept. 12). In a newscast two days later on TV Azteca of Puebla, area traditionalist Catholic Irma Diaz Perez rejoiced, saying, “They will never return, because we have drawn up a document wherein they have no permission to come back now or ever.”

On the same segment, another traditionalist Catholic, Hortencia Minero Garcia, said critics should not finger the priest for the expulsion.

“We are strong Catholics and respect our religion and don’t want anyone to touch our priest, because he has nothing to do with this – it is the people,” Minero Garcia said.

In the city of Puebla, the state capital, Catholic leaders tried to soften prejudices.

“It is necessary to respect the traditions of the towns,” Puebla Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinosa told the daily La Jornada de Oriente. “The Catholics feel attacked, but we would hope there would be no violence. I invite the community, totally Catholic, and the small Christian community, to prudence, order and respect.”

The Protestants sought refuge in nearby towns, including the municipal center of San Martin Texmelucan, where their churches have become prominent. Others have reportedly fled to a church building in Alto Aposento.

The “Uses and Customs” section of the Mexican constitution grants indigenous communities some autonomy to exercise traditional law, although Protestant attorneys say it is misused to allow local authorities to violate minority communities’ religious freedom. The “Uses and Customs” article is designed to protect indigenous customs from government obliteration, but traditionalist Catholics evoke it to jail or expel those who differ from them, the attorneys say.


Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Friday, September 16, 2011

Religious freedom continues forward in U.S. legislature

International (MNN) ― The House yesterday approved House Resolution 2867. It's a bill that reauthorizes the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The commission reviews religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the president and Congress. Among its duties is the issuance of a report detailing countries that severely infringe on religious rights.

This year's report listed Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan among the world's worst offenders. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says, "We appreciate the U.S. government really making religious freedom an issue within our relationships with other nations. This is something that the State Department looks into."
There were several countries missing from the list, most notably Pakistan, Vietnam and Somalia. The USCIRF also recommended that Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and Turkmenistan be on the list.

The commission reviews religious freedom violations and uses the CPC report to make policy recommendations to the president and Congress. Nettleton says the message the report sends is clear. "Overall, I think this is an important thing for our government to say that religious freedom is important and to bring this out in front of the world as the law stipulates that they will do."
Although there has been a lot of upheaval in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East as reported by religious rights watchdogs, Nettleton notes that "there have not been any changes to the list of Countries of Particular Concern since 2009. It's been two years since they've either taken somebody off of that list, or added somebody to that list."

Some countries vigorously defend their human and religious rights records, says Nettleton. "There are always questions about what's the terminology, how do they come to these conclusions, who gets on the list, and who gets off the list. But the important thing is: we're talking about this. It's in front of the world."

Others make strides to improve the conditions. "There have been some very positive developments with Turkey, and I think some of that links back to Turkey very badly wants to be a part of the European Union. The European Union, as well, has said, 'We need to see progress in the area of religious freedom. We need to see progress in how minorities are treated in Turkey before we want you to be a part of our group.'"

Does being on the list have any teeth? Aside from sanction recommendations, "Yes," says Nettleton. "International pressure can produce good results in countries where Christians are persecuted."

Nettleton goes on to say that "in our conversations with legislators and with others in Washington, DC, we're able to say, 'The State Department says this is going on. Let us tell you about what we know. Let us tell you what our contacts inside that country are saying as well.' It becomes one more tool in our toolbox, as we try to be a voice for persecuted Christians, in the United States."

Awareness of the plight of believers often leads to action. "We want people to be aware. I think the first step, particularly in churches and in the hearts of Christians, is just knowing what's going on. That knowledge helps people to go forward and then say, 'Okay, what we can do?'"

Once naiveté is stripped away, the message of the Gospel and the spiritual connection around the world are catalysts for change. Nettleton says they use that energy to encourage Christians being persecuted for their faith. "Voice of the Martyrs really directs people in some really practical things that they can do, starting with prayer. We can lift them up before God.

Then, there are other things that we can do to be a voice for them: providing help directly, and providing Bibles."
You can help. Click here.

Imprisoned Pastor's Apostasy Case to be Re-examined

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

RASHT, IRAN (ANS) -- An Iranian pastor who faces the death sentence for apostasy will have his case reexamined by a lower court.

Youcef Nadarkhani and his wife. (Courtesy Present Truth Ministries).
According to Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries ( ) , Youcef Nadarkhani remains imprisoned in Rasht under the death sentence for apostasy while his case is being reexamined.
DeMars told ANS: “We have learned that the re-examination will take place on September 25, 2011. The local court was ordered by Branch 27 of the Supreme Court to examine specifically whether he was a practicing Muslim between the age of accountability, 15, until he became a Christian at age 19. After they review the case, it will be referred back to the Supreme Court for a final decision.”
DeMars also told ANS that Behnam Irani remains in prison in Karaj, and recently five other Christians were ordered to report to prison to serve a one year sentence in Shiraz.
“This is part of a larger campaign by the Iranian government to purge the nation of Christians. Many government-paid mullahs have issued statements during sermons encouraging the police to do more to put an end to the Christian movement in Iran,” DeMars said.
DeMars is calling on concerned believers to join him on September 24th for a day of fasting and prayer for Youcef and his case.
“Let’s join forces in this spiritual battle and keep our brother continuously covered in prayer,” he said.

** 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 make a donation online under 'Donate' tab, then look for 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' under 'Donation Category' 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 Newswriters 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

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Court in India Questions State’s ‘Anti-Conversion’ Law

Himachal Pradesh takes note of heavy-handed clause in disputed law.
By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, September 15 (Compass Direct News) – The High Court of northern India’s Himachal Pradesh state on Monday (Sept. 12) questioned one of the many disputed provisions in the state’s “anti-conversion” law in a lawsuit filed by a Christian group.
“One of the two judges immediately recognized that there should be no question of the district magistrate [administrative head] granting permission or conducting an inquiry into whether a person’s faith is genuine,” a representative of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s (EFI) Advocacy Department, the main petitioner, told Compass.
The source quoted Justice Surjit Singh as saying, “If I am dying and I want to change my religion, will I wait for some babu [official] to tell me I can do it?”
The mandatory provision in the “Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 2006” to advise authorities of one’s intended conversion 30 days before one converts was one of the many clauses cited as being “contrary to law, arbitrary and against the basic tenets of jurisprudence” by the petitioners.
A failure to send a prior notice is punishable with a fine of up to 1,000 rupees (US$21).
At the same time, both judges, including Justice Rajiv Sharma, seemed concerned about alleged inducements to convert, “and the biggest hurdle is to overcome this prejudice,” the source added.
The court scheduled the next hearing for Sept. 26, requesting the state’s head attorney to appear before it.
“We expect the court to hear both sides,” the source said. “However, a final ruling in the matter cannot be expected immediately.”
The public-interest lawsuit by the EFI, headed by the Rev. Richard Howell, and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, a civil society group headed by Shabnam Hashmi, was filed in the High Court in the state capital of Shimla on Feb. 22 with a plea to strike down several sections of the law. Senior Advocate Sudhir Nandrajog appeared before the court.
The petition was filed by Soli J. Sorabjee, senior advocate and former attorney general of India, and drafted by lawyers Robin R. David, Pramod Singh, Loreign Ovung, Munawwar Naseem and Tehmina Arora.
The law claims to prevent a “rise in conversions based on allurement” and is based on “a persistent demand from across the different strata of the society, urging the State Government to curb it” as, otherwise, fraudulent conversions may “erode the confidence and mutual trust between the different religious and ethnic groups in the State.”
The law in Himachal Pradesh was enacted by the former state government ruled by the Congress Party, which claims to be “secular” – a term that in India commonly means equal treatment of all religious communities. The Congress Party opposes the policies of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the Indian Constitution provides for full religious freedom, it is subject to public order, morality and health. The petitioners, however, argue that the term “public order,” when used as grounds for reasonable restrictions of a fundamental right, has a limited meaning narrowly tailored by the Supreme Court.
“The impugned provisions of the Act and the Rules are causing schism in the minds of the people, which outweighs the pretext of public order taken by Respondent in enforcing the impugned provisions of the Act and the Rules,” the petitioners argue.
They also argue that on several occasions, Christians have been attacked by extremist groups on the pretext of “forcible religious conversions.” On May 1, 2009, Pastor Suresh Masih Bhatti in Solan area was accused of forceful conversion, attacked and threatened with harm if he conducted further Christian meetings, says the petition. It cites several such examples to show that, contrary to maintaining “public order,” the law was causing religious tension.
The petitioners also submit that Christians in particular were unable to follow the tenets of their faith in its fullness or to interact with the people of other religions “for the fear of being inquired against and charged for violating the impugned provisions of the Act and the Rules.” They also noted that propagation of one’s faith was an integral part of the practice of Christianity.
“The impugned Act imposes severe and mandatory provisions to record and enquire into each conversion and thereby severely restricts the right to freedom of conscience and the right to privacy of an individual, thus infringing Article 21 of the Constitution,” the petitioners assert.
In March 2007, the National Commission for Minorities “noted with concern the terminology used in the [Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion] Act and the methodology prescribed for implementing it” and the “attempt of the Act, and reportedly by similar pieces of legislation contemplated in some other States, to interfere with the basic right of freedom of religion that is the birth right of every Indian.”
“Freedom of Religion” laws in some states in India are termed “anti-conversion” as they are used to limit conversions in general and not just those by “unlawful” means.
Anti-conversion laws are in force in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat, besides Himachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh state has such legislation on paper, but its implementing rules are yet to be formed. Rajasthan state also passed a similar legislation, but it is awaiting consent by the president of India.
These laws define “force,” “fraud” and “inducement” vaguely, which can restrict Christian work. Although the legislation has been in force in some states for close to four and a half decades, not a single person has been convicted of wrongful conversion by any court.
Section 2(b) of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act terms “divine displeasure” as “force.” Section 2(d) labels an “inducement” the offer of “any gift or benefit,” contrary to Christ’s commands to feed, clothe and give drink to the poor. Section 2(b) vaguely defines as fraud “misrepresentation or any other fraudulent contrivance.”
Section 4(1) requires any person wishing to convert to give a prior notice of at least 30 days to district authorities. Yet, “no notice shall be required if a person reverts back to his own religion.”
Section 3 states that a person who is converted by any unfair means shall not be considered converted. According to Section 5, an offense under Section 3 – which includes conversion “by the use of force or by inducement or by any other fraudulent means” – is punishable with imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine up to 25,000 rupees (US$517). In case of conversion of a minor, woman, Dalit or tribal person, the imprisonment can extend to three years and the fine up to 50,000 rupees (US$1,035).
The Supreme Court in 1977 upheld the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act in theReverend Stanislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh case, ruling that the right to propagate did not include the right to convert another person. Not all in the legal fraternity, however, agree with the judgment, and it dealt with only one argument, i.e. what entails Christians’ right to propagate.
Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Messianic Jews Singled Out in Israeli Town

Flyers post addresses, phone numbers of harassed minority.
By Wayne King
ISTANBUL, September 15 (Compass Direct News) – Messianic Jews in a suburb west of Jerusalem continue to be harassed for following their faith, this time by someone anonymously placing flyers in public areas singling out members of Messianic congregations.
The flyers began appearing two weeks ago in the town of Mevasseret Zion. Asher Intrater, leader of the Ahavat Yeshua Congregation, said he thinks the flyers are “an effort to drive us out of the neighborhood.”
The flyers posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Messianic Jews, and in some cases included their photographs. Intrater said he thinks the addresses were placed on the flyers to incite others to harass or harm the Messianic Jews.
Why else would you put the addresses on the flyers?” he said.
This is the second time in three months that a group has singled out Messianic Jews in Mevasseret Zion for ridicule. On June 26, members of Yad L’Achim, an ultra-Orthodox, anti-Christian group, protested outside the home of Serge and Naama Kogen, a messianic couple.
Yad L’Achim claimed the couple had befriended and then manipulated a teenager into becoming a Christian. The Kogens denied the charge, as did the 16-year-old girl who was the alleged conversion target. The girl’s parents, with considerable help from Yad L’Achim, filed charges against the Kogens and Intrater. The judge found in favor of Intrater and the Kogens and dismissed all the charges.
It is unclear who actually posted the flyers, and Intrater declined to speculate. But the flyers match a well-established pattern in Israel. According to a classified communiqué issued by the U.S. State Department in May 2008 and leaked on Aug. 30 by Internet activist group Wikileaks, “‘Outing’ Messianic Jews and Evangelical Christians through the publication of names, photos and addresses alongside flyers with hysterical allegations about ‘soul stealing’ and ‘brainwashing’ is a favorite tactic of Yad L’Achim branches throughout the country.”
The State Department further noted links between Yad L’Achim and both national and local governments in Israel.
Yad L’Achim and other anti-missionary activists may also have allies, tacit or active, in the Interior Ministry and police departments, where clerks and police officers have wide discretion in deciding which national benefits a person is entitled to and which crimes are worth investigating, given limited resources,” the State Department communiqué said.
As an example of the links, the communiqué referred to comments made by Uzi Aharon, one-time deputy mayor of the Tel Aviv suburb of Or Yehuda. According to the State Department, Aharon told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv in 2008 that the Or Yehuda municipality “operated a team of activists, available 24-hours a day, devoted entirely to uprooting missionary activity, and that the burning [of Christian materials] was a fulfillment of the commandment to ‘burn the evil from your midst.’”
Aharon was a prime player in a May 15, 2008 incident in which, on his instruction, a group of students from a local ultra-Orthodox school collected hundreds of New Testaments from throughout the town. The Bibles were later burned in front of a synagogue.
Kogen said that the flyers in Mevasseret Zion stay up only a brief while before someone rips them down. Intrater added that the latest round of harassment has been viewed as such an invasion of privacy that it may have “backfired a little bit.”
“This is the first time we have seen a positive response from the local government, TheJerusalem  Post and possibly the police,” Intrater said.
*** A photo of a member of Yad L’Achim protesting outside the home of Messianic Jewish couple Serge and Naama Kogen is attached for subscribers, to be used with credit to Compass Direct News. A high resolution photo is also available; contact Compass for transmittal.
Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sudan: war spread across "new south" into Blue Nile.

-- citizens of Blue Nile suffer bombings and denial of humanitarian aid

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Monitoring
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- The Arab-supremacist, Islamist regime of President Omar el-Bashir has long systematically marginalised (politically and economically) all Sudan's non-Arabs and violently persecuted all those who dare resist Islamisation. Black African Muslims who oppose the racist regime are labeled apostate and targeted for elimination along with the infidels. Consequently, Khartoum has long been at war not only with the predominantly-Christian South, but with the entire non-Arab periphery. In fact anyone -- including Arabs -- who advocates religious liberty and ethnic diversity over Sharia and Arabisation is treated as an enemy. The most significant opposition has long been the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).

Consequently, the secession of South Sudan was never going to bring peace to the Republic of Sudan, for while the South seceded, the problem -- the regime in Khartoum -- remained. As was inevitable, the secession of the South has only made Khartoum more determined to entrench its power and exert total control over coveted lands and resources.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) mandated that three regions -- Abyei (straddling the North-South border) along with South Kordofan and Blue Nile states (both in the north) -- be entitled to "popular consultations" through which the predominantly black African, largely-Christian, SPLM-allied tribes could determine their own futures. However, in total defiance of the CPA, the Government of Sudan (GoS) seized and ethnically cleansed Abyei in May 2011, before launching, on 5 June, an ethnic cleansing campaign in South Kordofan. As is their regular strategy, Khartoum is engineering famine in South Kordofan by means of aerial bombardments and denial of humanitarian aid, in order to use starvation as a weapon of mass destruction.
Sudan: Nuba genocide resumes, 24June 2011.
Nuba Genocide: US House Committee hears testimony, 9 Aug 2011.
In June, as war raged in South Kordofan, President el-Bashir postponed Blue Nile's "popular consultations", prompting Blue Nile's elected governor, SPLM-North chairman Malik Aggar, to warn that war may indeed be imminent. For just as in neighbouring South Kordofan, the people of Blue Nile have no desire for Arab domination or Islamisation. In Blue Nile, just as in South Kordofan, the SPLA-North -- which has long defended the peoples of Blue Nile and South Kordofan from Khartoum's aggression -- is refusing to disarm, and Khartoum is labeling this refusal an act of rebellion justifying military intervention in the name of defending national unity.
On 28 and 29 August, the GoS moved "significant military forces – comprised of Popular Defence Forces (PDF) [Arab militias] national security, and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) – with heavy equipment into Blue Nile state." (source: Reeves / African Centre of Justice and Peace Studies)
On 1 September 2011, GoS forces attacked the home of Governor Malik Aggar in Al-Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile State before launching a full-scale assault on SPLA positions. Heavy military equipment has been deployed inside civilian areas.
On 2 September, President Bashir declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile and, in what is beingdescribed as a "political and military coup", dismissed Governor Aggar, installing Major General Yahya Mohamed Khair as military ruler in his place.
Reports abound of massive GoS troop deployments, aerial bombardments and wide-scale displacement across the Blue Nile state. An estimated 50,000 people have been displaced, with some 16,000 having crossed the border into Ethiopia. Furthermore, as in South Kordofan, the GoS is refusing to allow humanitarian aid groups access to the region. As food supplies run out, starvation will set in and we will witness yet another GoS-engineered humanitarian crisis.
Not only is the GoS moving to secure valuable resources (oil in Sth Kordofan and water and hydroelectric power in Blue Nile), the GoS is doubtless acting preemptively to hamstring the SPLM-North.
Now that South Sudan has seceded, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile have become the "new south". Today conflict is raging right across this "new south" as well as in Darfur in the west. Should Sudan's other marginalised and persecuted peoples decided to fight -- such as the Nubia in the far North and the Beja in the east -- Sudan may well disintegrate.
Khartoum takes aim at the GoSS
Further to this, Khartoum has accused the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) of supporting rebel movements in the north. SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman, however, categorically denies that the GoSS is supporting the SPLA-North. (NOTE: As long-time civil war allies, soldiers of the SPLA-North carry weapons that have come from the South.)
GoS moves against the SPLM-North
The GoS has banned the SPLM-North, seized its offices and is arresting its members, not only in Khartoum but in all states across the North.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) reports that perceived SPLM-North supporters are being arrested throughout Sudan. The ACJPS report provides a list of dozens known to have been arrested.
SPLM-N secretary general Yasir Arman has slammed the GoS for carrying out "arbitrary arrests" of SPLM-N members across the country and for the "closure of its offices and confiscation of vehicles and properties". He also scoffed at the GoS, saying its plan to crush the SPLM-N was little more than "wishful thinking" and an "impossible mission".
As Arman notes, the conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile started long before the separation of South Sudan. "The current conflict," says Arman, "is a creation of [President Bashir's] NCP [National Congress Party] in that they sowed the seed of the problem when they voluntarily destroyed the CPA; attempted to disarm the SPLA/N and rejected the Addis Ababa Framework Agreement. The SPLM/N and other resistance movements and democratic forces are determined to put an end the illusive NCP program of the second Islamic Republic (see RLPB 117 ), a Taliban Republic that is based on heavy human cost and loss, denial of diversity, ethnic cleansing, genocide and terrorism."

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.

Somalia: a land of terror and martyrdom (plus update on Nigeria)

-- a call to prayer for the church in Somalia

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 125
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Christ has a Church (a people) in war-ravaged, famine-wracked Somalia. This Church consists almost entirely of Somali converts from Islam. Al-Shabaab -- the Islamic fundamentalist al-Qaeda affiliate that controls most of Somalia -- is committed to extinguishing this Church. At least 25 Somali Christians have been martyred since September 2008, when Mansur Mohamed (25), a Christian for three years, became the first to be executed by al-Shabaab.

Each of these believers could have saved their lives by simply renouncing Christ and returning to Islam. Yet in each case these believers chose Christ over life, submitting their bodies to the Islamic sword in full assurance that their death would immediately be 'swallowed up in victory' (1 Corinthians 15:50-59). [For more on Somalia's martyrs, see]
On 2 September the body of Juma Nuradin Kamil was found decapitated and dumped on the outskirts of Hudur City in south-western Somalia. A local Christian told Compass Direct News, 'It is usual for the al-Shabaab to decapitate those they suspect to have embraced the Christian faith, or sympathisers of Western ideals. Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.' Witnesses saw three militants whom they suspect were members of al-Shabaab ambush and kidnap Kamil on 21 August. Local Christians say the abduction was so efficient that al-Shabaab must have been closely monitoring Kamil for some time.
Al-Shabaab includes large numbers of veterans of the Afghan jihad and is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Al-Shabaab wants to turn Somalia into the next Afghanistan: a base and training centre for international jihad. In December 2010 al-Shabaab merged with Hizbul Islam, a nationalist-Salafist revolutionary group led by Sheik Hasan Dahir Aweys, formerly of the Islamic Courts Union. By doing so, al-Shabaab appeased, secured and strengthened its nationalist faction and broadened its local appeal. Al-Shabaab is actively training local and international recruits for local and international jihad, including militants from Boko Haram (Nigeria) as well as diaspora Somalis travelling on Western and other foreign passports.
International efforts to counter al-Shabaab have been insufficient. The African Union forces that had been fighting for control of Mogadishu are massively under-manned. Al-Shabaab's main weakness lies in its factionalism and tribalism. But even if al-Shabaab were to implode, the alternative US- and UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is totally Islamist and committed to the implementation of Sharia Law, including death to apostates. Most Somali Muslims still believe that Islam is the solution to everything. Somalia needs a miracle.
  • have pity on Somalia: may he break through the darkness of Islam (Isaiah 59:15b-19); may the Islamists be ensnared in their own intrigues (Psalm 9:15,16), may he enlighten the eyes of the suffering masses (2 Corinthians 3:14-18).

    'And should not I [God] pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left.' (Jonah 4:11 ESV) 
  • shield and protect his besieged and imperilled believers; may they grow in faith and grace and may God provide all their needs, preserving them as living testaments to his power and love.

    'I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
* JOS, NIGERIA: that God will intervene to end the violence. On Friday 9 September in Vwang Fwil Village in Jos South Local Government Area (LGA) all 14 members of the Christian Mallam Danboyi family were massacred in their beds by a mob of Fulani Muslim herdsmen wearing military uniforms. The dead ranged in age from 9mths to 70 years and included a pregnant woman. Then 12 Christians were massacred in midnight attacks on several villages in Barkin Ladi LGA. Around 100 Christians have been killed in this manner in Jos in the past month. Emmanuel Logman, the Chairman of Barkin Ladi Local Government Council, regards the persisting attacks as an attempt at 'ethnic cleansing'. According to police, Northern Muslim youths are being mobilised by text message to come to Jos and support the Muslim struggle. Please pray.
* SUDAN: that God will intervene in South Kordofan and Blue Nile (Sudan's 'new south') where ethnic cleansing continues and mass starvation looms. Please pray.

At least 25 Somali Christians have been martyred since September 2008, when Mansur Mohamed (25), a Christian for three years, became the first to be executed by al-Shabaab. On 2 September 2011 local Christians found the decapitated body of Juma Nuradin Kamil dumped in Hudur City, south-western Somalia. Kamil was abducted on 21 August, presumably by al-Shabaab militants who had been monitoring him. A local Christian leader told Compass Direct News, 'Our brother accepted the Christian faith three years ago and was determined in his faith in God. We greatly miss him.' Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern Somalia, is determined to extinguish Christianity and is actively training local and international recruits for worldwide jihad. May God bring light. Please pray for Somalia's besieged, imperilled Church.

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

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

A Captive Audience

Gospel for Asia
For Immediate Release

These prisoners are reading Gospel literature for probably the first time.

SOUTH ASIA (ANS) -- Pastor Anek and his team of Bible college students had been praying long and hard for the opportunity to share Christ’s love at the jail in their area. God answered their prayer when, at long last, local authorities gladly extended an invitation for the Gospel for Asia-supported missionaries to visit.

On the day of the event, 1,200 prisoners and their superintendents filled t

he conference hall. Although Pastor Anek and his team weren’t permitted to speak directly from God’s Word, they effectively communicated the Gospel through skits, traditional dances and Bible stories. The event also incorporated food and games.

The prisoners and guards were captivated throughout the entire message; there was no disturbance of any kind, and everyone stayed until the end. The presence of the Lord was evident.

The jail superintendents thanked the team when the day was done, and Pastor Anek is now even more eager to bring Christ’s love to the prisoners.

Pastor Anek asks for prayer for more opportunities to reach out to the prisoners and for the Lord to work in their hearts so they can be saved.

Read about a pastor who ministers behind
Learn about other ways Bible college students serve!

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

Imprisonment Didn't Deter Pastor's Ministry

According to, a Gospel for Asia-supported pastor in South Asia was recently released from prison after serving 17 months for being falsely accused of being part of an insurgent terrorist group. But Roshan Kuma made the most of his time behind bars. "While he was in prison, he was actually sharing the gospel with all the inmates," said GFA spokesman Daniel Punnose. "And so he was kind of doing prison ministry while being in prison. And by God's grace, a lot of the prisoners were able to give their hearts to Christ because of his testimony." Punnose explained that the prison conditions were poor and many prisoners were difficult to handle, so the fact that Kuma endured and effectively presented the gospel to them was an "indication of his character." Despite his imprisonment, his church of about 100 members continued to grow during his absence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Iranian Ayatollah Sobhani Invites Christian Leaders of Iran to Debate

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- According to the Iranian Christian News Agency “Mohabat News,” the Iranian government's official news agency, ISNA, reported that Ayatollah Sobhani recently commented in one of his Quran interpretation classes, in Hojatieh Seminary in Qom, that “If Christians are ready, we are ready to have discussions with them."
Mohabat News said Ayatollah Sobhani is one of the Marja-e-Taghlid in Qom (literally meaning a source guidance and reference) who recently warned about the rapid growth of Christianity among the Iranian youth. He said that 600 people in the city of Neishaboor alone had converted to Christianity.
Mohabat News said Sobhani did not mention how and where these debates should take place, and which Christians would be allowed to participate.
In March 2011, Mohabat News reported, the website “Alef,” affiliated with the Islamic republic, published an article by “Soroush Shahriari,” an Iranian in Canada who (Mohabat News said) claimed to be a professor at Carleton University. Mohabat News said he invited Iranian Christians to a debate on Iran’s state-run television. He said this proposal was a way to deal with growth of Christianity in Iran.
In that article, Mohabat News said, Shahriari used words Like “sedition” and “calamity” to describe the growth of Christianity.
Mohabat News said he also proposed some solutions. In his opinion, one of the best ways to combat Christianity, as in the case of Ayatollah Sobhani, was to invite Christian clerics to debates on state-run media and to discuss Christianity and examine its legitimacy.
Mohabat News added that the Iranian professor in Canada also claimed that the Islamic government can get rid of Christianity in Iran within a week!
Mohabat News said Shahriari’s article on the “Alef” website insulted Christianity and other non-Muslims more than ten times with words such as pests, seditious and cruel.
Mohabat News said, “In a religion that allows a Muslim university professor use these words to attack others, it is crystal clear that what other extremists and fanatics would do. They will only tolerate others after spilling blood and/or stoning.”
Mohabat News concluded, "So it seems that it will impossible to have such debates and the government would not tolerate other beliefs in the Iranian society."
For more information about Mohabat News go to

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 at

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orthodox leaders smooth path to proposed summit meeting

The patriarchs of three ancient Orthodox Christian churches met from 1-2 September in Istanbul to discuss the situation of Christian minorities in the Middle East, and perhaps an even more prickly topic - the move toward a historic pan-Orthodox council - removing major stumbling blocks to what would be the first such gathering in centuries - writes Sophia Kishkovsky.
The pan-Orthodox council is regarded with great interest by the world's Orthodox churches, many of which are in unstable regions following revolutions in the Middle East, or in countries facing a third decade of economic and social transition following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
"The patriarchs, and of course the Archbishop of Cyprus, they all expressed the readiness to proceed to the pan-Orthodox council that is forthcoming, and they said to me that they support the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarch to this direction," said Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Proussa, former Chief Secretary of the Synodical Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, also known as the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The meeting, called a synaxis, was hosted by Patriarch Bartholemew of Constantinople and attended by Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus. Patriarch Igantius of Antioch was represented by a bishop.
Representatives of 14 Orthodox churches met in Chambesy, Switzerland last February to try establish a consensus towards a pan-Orthodox council, but became mired in disputes about diptychs, the order of commemoration of the churches, and procedures for autocephaly, or the granting of independence to a church.
This time, Elpidophoros, said, "the answer of almost all the Orthodox churches was that we can proceed to the pan-Orthodox council without having agreed on these two issues of diptychs and the autocephaly," he said in an interview with ENInews.
Last month, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations, toured the Middle East and met with the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. He discussed the importance to Moscow, which is the world's largest Orthodox Church, of the Istanbul meeting and its potential for influencing the move towards a pan-Orthodox council.
At the Istanbul meeting, the leaders discussed the threats to Christians in the Middle East in the wake of recent upheavals and expressed concern that "the behaviour of these revolutionaries towards the Christian minorities is very hostile and aggressive, and this makes the Christian leaders, and of course the patriarchs, to be very much concerned about the future," said Elpidophoros.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Test case for religious tolerance in Indonesia

In a test case of religious intolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, an Indonesian mayor is defying court rulings by pushing for a decree to block Christians from opening churches on streets with Islamic names - writes David Crampton.
Members of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church in the West Java town of Bogor are, after three years, still forced to worship on the sidewalk outside their building, protected by police.
The administration of Bogor mayor Diani Budiarto revoked the church's building permit and sealed the building as the street had an Islamic name. The mayor's office also alleged that church leaders had falsified signatures when obtaining the permit.
Local Muslim cleric Muhammad Mustofa, whose father is the street's namesake, has publicly stated that he has no objection to the church. "Islam in Indonesia ... has always interacted with Buddhism, and Christianity. We are ready to live side by side with anyone," he told the Al Jazeera news network.
Although a verdict from Indonesia's highest court in December, backed by the National Ombudsman Commission, favoured the church, Bogor has defied the order. Church spokesperson Bona Sigalingging said the mayor's defiance was dangerous and unlawful. "There are many churches built on streets with Islamic names, and mosques on streets with Christian names," he told Al Jazeera on 3 September. "This is dangerous for the unity of Indonesia ... The mayor promised that he would abide by whatever decision was handed down by the Supreme Court."
The United Nations has written to the Indonesian government expressing concern about increasing violence against religious minorities, specifically mentioning this case. Last year at least 30 churches were attacked or forced to close. Some were burned, and church members attacked.
Ombudsman Commission chairman Danang Girindrawardana reportedly instructed Budiarto to annul the decision to revoke the permit in two weeks, or President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may move to end the standoff.
However, Yudhoyono is said to be reluctant to challenge the issue of increasingly violent Islamic intolerance as he depends on Islamic support in Parliament. The Jakarta Post, in a 21 August editorial, said if Bogor was to prevail, Indonesia risks sliding into anarchy. "We pray that the mayor will soon obey the law for the good of the nation," the newspaper said.
Recent research by the Pew Research Centre found Indonesia was one of two countries that had recorded significant increases in religious restrictions, while the Associated Press reported 64 incidents of violence involving religious intolerance in Indonesia last year, up from 18 in 2009.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Secretary Clinton to Release Report on International Religious Freedom on September 13

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2011 /Christian Newswire/ -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will release the 2010 mid-year Report on International Religious Freedom on Tuesday, September 13, at approximately 10:00 a.m. in the Press Briefing Room at the U.S. Department of State. 
Secretary Clinton will introduce the report. Following her remarks, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner and Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook will take questions. 
The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom covers the legal status of religious freedom in more than 190 countries and territories around the world. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 also mandates the designation of Countries of Particular Concern. Countries of Particular Concern are governments that have engaged in, or tolerated, systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pakistan: Muslim men ’kidnap’ Christian girl in Gujranwala to ’purify her’

By Jawad Mazhar
Special Correspondent for ANS, reporting from Pakistan

GUJRANWALA, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Four Muslim abductors in Saleem Colony, within the jurisdictions of Shisharwali Police Station Satellite Town, Gujranwala City in the Punjab Province of Pakistan, allegedly kidnapped a Christian girl identified as Mehek (aged 14 years and 8 months), on Wednesday, August 17, 2011.
AsiaNews reports that the girl was taken by the main Muslim man so he could “purify her” to make her “Muslim and my mistress.”
ANS was apprised of this crime by Rashid Masih, a Christian laborer and father of six, including Mehek, who all live in a rented house.
According to our ANS investigation, the names of Rashid Masih’s family are: Mrs. Nasreen Bibi, his spouse, Masih’s abducted daughter Mehek, also daughter Soha, and sons Saul Masih and Usman Masih.
The abductors were said by eye-witnesses to be a young Muslim man, and his four accomplices who claimed they were armed with deadly weapons. They allegedly forced their way into the house of Rashid Masih brandishing their weapons in the air. The attack took place in broad daylight, and the assailants were said to have pointed a gun at the head of Mehek, and then forced her to climb aboard a white car
ANS has learned that the alleged abductors were chased by the eye-witnesses, but the armed Muslim men threatened them telling them to desist otherwise they would kill them. They also were said to have used a derogatory word for female Christians.
On hearing the news, workers from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), led by Khalid Gill, went to the local Police station, where, they said, police "reluctantly" registered the case against the perpetrators.
On the instructions of the Station House Officer, a sub-inspector was deputed to probe into the issue.
However, APMA sources said they were “concerned” that although the case was lodged, no efforts were apparently being made to "nail" the alleged Muslim culprits.
ANS was also told by locals that APMA head Dr. Paul Bhatti, has expressed his solidarity with the victim Christian family and pledged to extend all possible support and help towards them.
Interviewed by AsiaNews, the Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore and former president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference Mgr. Lawrence John Saldanha stresses that such cases are “common in Pakistan,” and families “can do little or nothing” to save the victims from their captors. He adds: “The Muslim family has an advantage, because the law favors them.”
Rashid Masih, along with his family, had moved from Bawarey Village to Gujranwala city for the education and bright future of his Children, unaware that he would have to face such a fateful situation.

Jawad Mazhar is a Pakistani journalist specializing in writing about Christian persecution. He was born on November 28, 1976 at Sargodha's village Chak and raised in Sargodha, a city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He earned his Bachelors Degree from Allama Iqbal Open University majoring in computer sciences and has taught at various educational institutes in his country. He is also involved with “Rays of Development,” an organization working for minority rights in Pakistan. He says, “My aim is to help eradicate Christian persecution through my writing as I bring the plight of these brave people under the spotlight of the whole world.”

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Pastor Takes a Beating, Remains Joyful

Gospel for Asia
For Immediate Release

Kavi is one of many who have experienced hardships for Christ’s sake. This pastor endured the brutal anti-Christian attacks that took place in Orissa, India, in 2008.

SOUTH ASIA (ANS) -- Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Kavi Das, who serves in a volatile region in South Asia, endured a harsh beating while sharing the love of Christ with his neighbors. The unprovoked attack came without warning from a man Kavi was speaking to.

Kavi is doing well and is on the mend. The local GFA leader visited the pastor to encourage him in his ministry.

Kavi isn’t new to persecution. He has faced threats for showing films about Jesus, also, along with actively proclaiming the saving grace of God.  

“For the sake of the Gospel, he has gone through a lot of opposition and scary situations in his life,” said a GFA field correspondent.

Even with all the persecution, Kavi remains joyful as he thinks about the way the Lord will continue to grow his ministry in the coming days.

Please keep Kavi—and all the other national missionaries facing inevitable persecution—in your prayers.


Believers face persecution in all forms, even after death.

A group of Bible college students were attacked by a mob out for blood.

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