Throng of 3,000, including Salafists, burn Christian-owned houses, businesses.
By Wayne King
CAIRO, Egypt, September 30 (Compass Direct News) – A group of hard-line Muslims attacked a church building in Upper Egypt this afternoon, torching the structure and then looting and burning nearby Christian-owned homes and businesses.
The 3,000-strong mob of hard-line and Salafi Muslims gutted the Mar Gerges Church in the Elmarenab village of Aswan, then demolished much of its remains, multiple witnesses at the scene said. The mob also razed four homes near the church and two businesses, all Christian-owned. Looting was also reported.
Michael Ramzy, a villager in Elmarenab, said the attack started shortly after Muslims held their afternoon prayers.
“Imams in more than 20 mosques called for crowds to gather and destroy the church and demolish the houses of the Copts and loot their properties,” Ramzy told local media.
The Mar Gerges burning is the third church in Egypt in seven months to be burned down by a mob. Additionally, numerous other churches have been looted or otherwise attacked this year, including a New Year’s Eve bombing at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria that left 23 dead and scores critically wounded.
No casualties have yet been reported in today’s attack.
The tension in Elmarenab started the last week of August, when Muslim extremists, many of them thought to be members of the Salafi movement, which patterns its belief and practices on the first three generations of Muslims, voiced anger over renovations taking place at the church and anything perceived as a Christian symbol that could be seen from the outside.
To force the Copts to acquiesce to their demands, the Muslim extremists blockaded the entrance to the church and threatened Copts on the streets, in effect making them hostages in their own homes.
On Sept. 2, a meeting was held with military leaders and village elders in which the local leadership of the Coptic church agreed to strike all crosses and bells from the outside of the church. Normalcy returned briefly to the village, but by early the next week, the same people making demands for the removal of the crosses demanded the removal of newly constructed domes.
In subsequent meetings, known as “reconciliation meetings,” the priests of the church said that removing the domes would cause the building to collapse. Unfazed, the group of hard-line Muslims called for the church building to be burned.
During the dispute, the Muslim group claimed that the renovations were illegal because the building in question wasn’t actually a church, but a hospitality building – a claim cast into doubt as the original building on the site had existed as a church for roughly 100 years, and the parish received permission by the Aswan governor in 2010 to rebuild it as a church.
The attack is part of a larger and ever-increasing trend taking place in Egypt whereby a government official in a province or municipality grants permission for a church to be built or reopened, and hard-line Muslims threaten violence if services take place. Coptic leaders accuse the government of playing a colluding role in the violence by not enforcing the law, including a recently renewed and expanded Emergency Law, which stipulates imprisonment as a penalty for acts of sectarian strife, “thuggery” and vandalism of private property.
Andhra Pradesh, India, September 30 (Compass Direct News)– Police charged eight Christians with “promoting enmity” under Section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Court after Hindu extremist Adepu Venugopal filed a complaint against them of forceful conversion on Sept. 23 in Karimnagar district. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Christians of Brethren Church in Kerala came to proclaim Christ in some villages after obtaining permission from the Karimnagar superintendent of police. While they were preaching in Donoor and Dharmapuri villages, the Hindu extremist mob suddenly surrounded them and then filed the complaint of forceful conversion, GCIC reported. The extremists took the Christians to the police station, and the Christians were charged with “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion,” according to GCIC. The Christians were sent to jail; area Christian leaders were taking steps to obtain bail for them.
Andhra Pradesh – On Sept. 21 in Girmapura, Hindu extremists accused a Christian identified only as Pastor Steven of forceful conversion and verbally abused him for his faith. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that the extremists, led by one identified only as Mallareddy, forcefully entered the prayer meeting at the house of a woman identified only as Padma and verbally abused the pastor for his faith. The woman defended the pastor, saying that it was her right to choose to worship God. Several of the Christians who met for prayer then went to the village head, Raghupati Reddy, to file a complaint. He refused to help the Christians, however, as his term was to end four days later. AICC reported that he preferred to stay clear of any controversies and hence did not want to get involved, though he did blame the Christians for disrupting peace in the village.
Chhattisgarh – In Khandari Kona, Shankargarh, Surguya, Hindu extremists led by Ambuj Yadav on Sept. 18 attacked pastor Vishwanath Tirkey and another church member as they were returning home from a prayer meeting. Pastor Mukti Lakra told Compass that at about 6 p.m. the Hindu extremists stopped and suddenly attacked the two Christians, asking them why they dared come back after the extremists had beaten them and ordered them not to visit the area again. The extremists called police, but officers released the Christians without charges after questioning. Police summoned Pastor Tirkey and 20 church members, however, for questioning the next day. “The police in charge told us not to conduct worship meetings during daytime, and he also falsely accused us of going around converting people,” Pastor Tirkey told Compass. No police report, however, was filed by either party.
Tamil Nadu – Police warned pastor S. Arputharaj of Jesus Comfort Assembly not to conduct further worship meetings after a doctor with the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh filed a complaint against him in Erode, Appakudal on Sept. 18. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that a doctor identified only as Varatharajan, who runs a clinic near the pastor’s church, and a local official identified only as Thasildar, convinced police to take action against the pastor. The sub-inspector of police asked the pastor to sign a letter stating that he would no longer conduct worship services in the church building. After the intervention of representatives of the AICC and the area pastors’ association, the pastor was allowed to lead the usual Sunday worship services under police protection, Moses Vattipalli of AICC told Compass.
Karnataka – On Sept.18 in Mallikoppa, Chickmagalur, suspected Hindu extremists set fire to a pastor’s motorbike and broke the windows and doors of his church building. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Hindu extremists attacked Immanuel Church while pastor C.S. Varghese was away from his home with his family. A small orphanage is located near the church, and children and those minding them came out after hearing the noise; they saw the fire and woke up villagers, who put out the blaze, according to GCIC. The assailants escaped. The villagers also informed the N.R. Pura police station about the incident, and an investigation was continuing at press time.
Karnataka – In Athani, Belgaum, Hindu extremists on Sept. 16 stopped a baptism service led by pastor Santosh V. Naganoor, manhandled him and accused him of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Pastor Naganoor, of House of Praise Church, was just about to begin the baptism of two women identified only as Muthavva and Rani in a canal when the Hindu extremists intruded. The extremists pushed the pastor and hurled verbal abuse at him as they accused him of forceful conversion, and then called police, according to the GCIC. Officers took Pastor Naganoor, guest speaker P.C. Joseph and six church members to the Khagaveri police station. After area Christian leaders’ intervention, the Christians were released without charges.
Karnataka – Police on Sept. 16 arrested Pastor Daniel Raghu after Hindu extremists accused him of forceful conversion in Arakalgud, Hassan district. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Pastor Raghu, of New India Church, was conducting a prayer meeting in a Christian home when the extremists surrounded the house shouting anti-Christian slogans. The police arrived, questioned the pastor and later charged him with promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, according to the GCIC. The pastor appeared before a judge and was sent to Sakleshpur Sub-jail. After area Christian leaders’ intervention, he was released on bail on Sept 19.
Madhya Pradesh – Police along with Hindu extremists in Mainashree Colony, Dewas Railway Station on Sept. 12 disrupted a baptism service led by pastor Ramesh Manduwey and slapped a Christian. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the policemen and extremists stormed into the house of Manish Tiwari, where about 20 Christians had gathered for the baptism, and questioned them. After the Christians told them they were carrying out a baptism service, the police and extremists became enraged and started verbally abusing them, with one extremist slapping Tiwari. Police arrested 15 Christians, including three pastors. On interrogation, the candidates for baptism said there was no case of forceful conversion as they had decided to be baptized of their own will. The officer and extremists tried to pressure the Christians to file a complaint of forceful conversion against Gospel for Asia’s Pastor Maduwey, but they refused, GCIC reported. The 15 Christians were later released without charges, but the three pastors were summoned to the police station the next day, where they were arrested under the state “Freedom of Religious Act” and sent to jail. They were released on bail on Sept.19.
Karnataka– In Honnavar, Kanara, Hindu extremists on Sept. 7 beat two converts to Christianity, Bhasker Naik and Hemant Naik, warning them to convert back to Hinduism or face violence, sources said. The extremists dragged the two Christians to the Honnavar police station and accused them of forceful conversion when they refused to give up their faith in Christ. A police inspector identified only as Venkatappa and a sub-inspector identified only as Revathi charged them under Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs,” and a Honnavar judge sent them to the Honnavar Sub-jail. The Christians were released on bail on Sept. 9.
Chhattisgarh – Hindu extremists led by Ganga Ram on Sept. 5 barged into the Sunday worship meeting in Kanker of a house church led by Bhagat Lal, accused him of witchcraft, violence and disrupting the peace in the area and beat him and his wife. Pastor S.S. Jhali reported to Compass that the extremists entered the worship meeting and started accusing the Christians of being pagans as they beat them. Lal and his wife received treatment at Government Komaldev Hospital for their injuries. The Christians filed a police complaint, but no arrests had been made at press time.
Orissa – In Banapur, Khurda, Hindu extremists on Sept. 2 attacked a Christian couple after having beaten them in July for converting to Christ. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Bangu Dei, mother of convert to Christianity Satyaban Nayak, instigated her nephew and villagers to attack her son and his family for their conversion from Hinduism. The incident took place when Dei found Nayak’s wife drawing water from the village well, and Dei and others began verbally abusing her. Later that day, Dei instigated Babula Nayak, Satyaban Nayak’s cousin, and other villagers to attack her son and his family. The extremists dragged the Christians to the village square and ordered them to give up Christianity. When the Christians refused to deny Christ, they manhandled them in the public square, pushing, kicking, beating them and demanding that they leave the area. During the hour-long attack, according to GCIC, the Christian couple continued to pray loudly, calling upon Christ to forgive their tormentors. Thereafter, the angry mob became quiet and started to disperse one by one, reported the GCIC. Babula Nayak asked the Christians for forgiveness, according to the GCIC, but Dei was still bent on harming them. Police organized a meeting in which the two parties agreed not to file any complaints. The GCIC provided first-aid and arranged for medical treatment, and the badly bruised Satyaban Nayak received hospital treatment.
Madhya Pradesh – In Khargone, the village head on Aug. 31 barged into a prayer meeting led by a pastor identified only as Wilson and accused him and others of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the village head later filed a police complaint against the Christians at Bhagwanpura police station, and officers summoned the pastor and the owner of the house where the prayer meeting took place; under police questioning, the owner said that no one had forced or otherwise fraudulently “lured” him to convert to Christianity, and that he had invited Pastor Wilson to lead the meeting at his home, the GCIC reported. The police released the pastor and the homeowner.
Madhya Pradesh – In Khamkheda, Khargone, Hindu extremists led by Gayatri Samaj on Aug. 31 stormed into a prayer meeting and ordered pastor Veersingh Kalesh of the Philadelphia Church to end it, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). One of the extremists called police, who later arrested the pastor. Villagers, however, blocked police and informed them that they should not arrest him, saying he was a good man who preached good news and displayed the power of God in a way that left people blessed, reported GCIC. Officers then took the pastor along with Samaj to Khamkheda police station. Pastor Veersingh informed the police that he was not converting anyone, but that people were blessed by the message of Jesus Christ. Police warned the pastor to not visit the village anymore and sent him away.
Karnataka – Karnataka police on Aug. 30 arrested four Pentecostal Christians in Puttur, Dakshina Kannada district, accusing them of trying to forcibly convert people from a Dalit colony in Nidle Boodujalu. The Christians were beaten before being arrested, reported the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). Hindu extremist Praveen Boodujalu accused the Christians of door-to-door evangelizing, although such activity is legal in India. Some area Hindu extremists also said that the group, identified as 60-year-old Mary, her 30-year-old son Kunjimonu, his wife Lenny, 23, and B.T. Sainu, 34, went to some homes every Sunday for a month, bringing books to aid people in converting to Christianity, according to the GCIC.
Tamil Nadu – In Thurivarur district, Hindu extremists on Aug. 13 beat pastor Ramados Williams and his wife. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported the extremists opposed the government’s declaration that the church land belonged to Pastor Williams, of Bethel Prayer House. Later that day, the enraged extremists demolished the church, destroyed the Christians’ two motorcycles, stole six bicycles, one camera and a cell phone and dragged Pastor Williams and some church members to the police station. The Christians were arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and were sent to jail, the GCIC reported. They were released on bail on Aug. 19.
The Christian Post reports that a high-school student in Vacaville, Calif., was punished by a teacher who claimed the student disrupted the classroom with the words "Bless you." Health teacher Steve Cuckovich took 25 points off the student's grade and explained: "When you sneezed in the old days, they thought you were dispelling evil spirits out of your body, so they were saying 'God bless you.' ... But today, [the blessing] really doesn't make sense." Following outrage from some parents, the school principal agreed that Cuckovich went overboard: "He realizes there's better ways to do that. We don't condone that type of punishment." However, there is no report of the punishment being rescinded.
Kazakhstan's upper house of parliament passed a bill that will impose greater restrictions on religious groups, part of an attempt designed to combat growing Islamic militancy, The Telegraphreports. The law will increase surveillance of religious groups by forcing them to re-register with local authorities; those too small will be refused registration. The law will also restrict where people can worship, and will ban prayer rooms from government buildings. Opponents say the law infringes on religious freedom, but Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev says it's needed to stop the spread of violence linked to radical Islam. The bill will go into effect as soon as Nazarbayev officially signs it into law.
Pakistan (MNN) ― An eighth-grade student in Pakistan was expelled from school and narrowly missed a blasphemy charge--punishable by death--for misspelling an Urdu word in school, according to Compass Direct News.
Targeting of civilians in embattled state darkens outlook of converts in north.
Special to Compass Direct News
KHARTOUM, Sudan, September 29 (Compass Direct News) – Failure by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and allied Islamic militia to distinguish between combatants and civilians in territorial battles in South Kordofan state is due in part to a desire to rid the area of Christianity, local Christians say.
A Christian in the Leri East area of Kadugli who escaped SAF Intelligence agents 18 days after his June 20 arrest from his home said he saw six other Christian detainees taken away, one by one, to be executed over the course of two weeks.
“They were insulting us, saying that this land is an Islamic land and that we were not allowed to be in this land,” he told Compass. “I saw them take my fellow Christians brothers and shoot them in the forest near the place where we were detained.”
While the SAF and its paramilitary allies have targeted members and supporters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement forces, the Christian, who requested anonymity as he is still in hiding, said he was detained simply because he was a Christian. A convert from Islam 10 years ago, he said he was scheduled to be executed the day he escaped.
“I was already dead, so I did not fear being shot dead – I was not worried about my safety any more; after all, I was under their mercy as they thought, but God was in control,” he said.
A former aid worker with a Christian humanitarian agency, he said he was praying throughout the ordeal.
“I was praying despite the fact they were threatening me that I would face the same fate of the six brothers who were shot dead in the forest,” he said.
After the miracle of being able to escape during a lull in their vigil, God rescued him from other potential dangers in his trek to freedom, he said.
“I was interrogated three times at three different check-points, but God covered their eyes to keep them from discovering me,” he said. “I think God is teaching me that I still have a mission to accomplish; that was why he rescued me from the hand of Muslims.”
As do other Christians in the north since South Sudan split from Sudan on July 9, he believes the Islamic government is targeting Christians in an attempt to clear Christianity from South Kordofan – part of a strategy to turn the north into a purely Islamic state.
“This is clearly a planned persecution by the Islamic government,” he said. “My life is in great danger, as they are still looking for me. I may be arrested at any time and even killed.”
Other Christians who have fled the area say many Christians have been killed and church buildings burned by the SAF and Islamic militias.
Armed conflict in Kadugli broke out between southern and northern militaries on June 6 after northern forces seized Abyei in May.
With reports of military forces targeting Christians and churches in South Kordofan, assurances by a Sudanese official this month that sharia (Islamic law) would protect Christians in the north were not warmly received.
At a seminar organized by a U.S.-based Christian support group in Khartoum on Sept. 20, Azahry al-Tighani Awad el Sayeed, federal minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments,told church leaders that Islamic law would protect the rights of Christians in Sudan.The statement outraged Christians in Sudan, who voiced their concern that sharia – currently only “a source of legislation,” according to the Interim National Constitution – will become the law itself.
Sudan’s laws and policies already favor Islam, and sharia would make citizenship rights dependent on religion, relegating non-Muslims to second-class status with limited privileges and rights, the Christian leaders said.
“I am against the sharia as a Sudanese Christian because it undermines my basic right and it also does not allow us to co-exist,” said one Christian on condition of anonymity.
Church leaders also objected to hostile rhetoric against Christians by Islamic leaders and government officials, sources said. At some Friday mosque services, imams exhort their followers to decline to cooperate with Christians, and in some cases not even greet them because they are “infidels,” they said.
They also objected to government leaders labeling churches as foreign institutions with links to the West.
“Some people think that the church is a foreign institution existing to implement foreign agendas, but the fact is that is totally false and baseless,” said the unnamed Christian.
Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Episcopal Church of Sudan said that Christians have long faced discrimination, and that the government still denies permits to acquire and build church buildings. He also criticized the ongoing Islamization of school curricula that omits the history of Christian kingdoms from textbooks.
"By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS) -- A documentary film that has been more than 50 years in the making now completes the trilogy of movies that tell the story of Nate Saint and the four other missionaries martyred for their faith in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956."
"By Elizabeth Kendal Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 127 Special to ASSIST News Service AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- 'What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Christ?' Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!' (Matthew 27:22 NIV) 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.' (John 15:18)
SEPTEMBER 2011 UPDATE -- During September we prayed for . . ."
Wild accusation of ‘blasphemy’ forces eighth-grader’s family to relocate.
By Murad Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan, September 28 (Compass Direct News) – An eighth-grade student in Pakistan has been expelled from school and her family forced to relocate after the Christian girl misspelled an Urdu word, leading to accusations of “blasphemy,” sources said.
In the garrison city of Abbottabad, 13-year-old Faryal Bhatti, a student at the Sir Syed Girls High School in Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) Colony Havelian, misspelled a word on an Urdu exam on Thursday (Sept. 22) while answering a question on a poem in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, according to area Christians.
Faryal wrote laanat, the transliteration of the Urdu word for “curse,” instead of naat, which means a poem written in praise of Islam’s prophet, they said. The school administration and local Islamists declared that the error was serious enough to violate Pakistan’s widely condemned laws against blaspheming Muhammad and Islam.
Conviction under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death, though life imprisonment is also possible.
Faryal’s Urdu teacher was collecting the answer sheets from her students when she noticed the word on Faryal’s paper. The teacher, identified only as Fareeda, summoned the Christian girl, scolded her and beat her, area sources told Compass by telephone.
Fareeda then notified the principal, who in turn informed school officials as news of the error spread throughout the colony. The next day, male students at the school as well as some Muslim representatives staged a demonstration, demanding registration of a criminal case against the eighth-grader and her eviction from the area, sources said.
Prayer leaders within the Muslim community also condemned the incident in their Friday sermons, asking the colony’s administration to take action against Faryal as well as her family, sources said.
POF Colony Havelian Managing Director Asif Siddiki called a meeting of clerics and school teachers to discuss the conflict, according to reports, at which the girl and her mother were ordered to appear; they explained that it was a mere error caused by a resemblance between the two words.
The girl and her mother immediately apologized, contending that Faryal had no malicious intentions, but in a move apparently designed to pacify Muslim cries for punishment, the POF administration expelled her from the school on Saturday (Sept. 24).
School administrator Junaid Sarfraz said Faryal had confessed that she had inadvertently made the mistake and the school administration, after consulting local clerics, decided to expel her. Sarfraz claimed that Faryal’s teacher was certain that she had made the mistake intentionally and that the matter was referred to clerics because Faryal had previously aroused similar suspicions of blasphemy.
Maulana Alla Dita, head of the area’s prominent mosque, reportedly said the school administration had made the right decision in expelling Faryal from school. Dita claimed that he had met with Faryal, who had apologized for the mistaken use of the word. Dita said he wasn’t clear about Faryal’s intentions, but that “the word she had used was sacrilegious,” according to press reports.
Faryal’s mother, Sarafeen Bhatti, a staff nurse at the POF Hospital Havelian for several years, was immediately transferred to POF Wah Cantonment Hospital. Abbottabad District Commissioner Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah said the 13-year-old had been expelled for using “derogatory words” and her mother had consequently been “moved to another place.”
A Christian lawyer in Havelian who was among the community members making efforts to defuse area tensions told Compass by phone that the military had acted swiftly to save the lives of Faryal and her mother.
“The military swung into action soon after protests broke out calling for a blasphemy case against the teenager,” said the attorney on condition of anonymity. “They bundled the family in an ambulance and took them away before the situation could turn violent.”
A text-message campaign also started on Saturday (Sept. 24) calling for action against the family, he said.
“Some Christian families living in the area panicked, but the situation has been under control so far,” he said.
An area Christian told Compass there were 13 or 14 Christian families in the colony who now have fears about security. He said that Faryal’s family had little contact with other Christians living in the area. The resident also praised the army for acting timely, “or else the mullahs would have punished all of us for the little girl’s error.”
The incident has instilled fear in Christian parents that an unintentional mistake by their children could cause them personal disaster. Shazia Imran, mother to three schoolchildren, told Compass that Faryal’s episode had left her distressed.
“Ever since I came to know about the young girl’s story, I have been unable to sleep properly,” she said. “We have been continuously telling our children not to discuss their faith with anyone in school and to avoid getting into religious discussions with their Muslim class fellows, but this was beyond my imagination.”
She added that she and her husband were now “very disturbed and fearful” about their children’s future in Pakistan.
Azra George, a Christian mother to a college student, said the incident had shocked her and the congregation at her Presbyterian church.
“Everyone at church was discussing this sorry incident on Sunday,” she said. “Parents of school-going children were particularly perturbed. This blasphemy thing will always remain hanging on our heads like a sword, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
Compass’s repeated attempts to reach the Bhatti family were unsuccessful as they had moved to an undisclosed location due to security concerns.
Asif Aqeel, executive director of the Community Development Initiative, an affiliate of the European Centre for Law and Justice, said the incident showed how Pakistani society was getting sensitized over the issue of blasphemy.
“Only a small number of people are formally accused of blasphemy – we do not know the number of people who, like Faryal and her family, are harassed without a legal charge,” he said. “Members of Pakistan’s minority communities are afraid of moving around and expressing themselves freely due to the fear of being accused of blasphemy.”
Christians make up only 2.45 percent of Pakistan’s population, which is more than 95 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy law makes willful desecration of the Quran or use of an extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Section 295-A prohibits injuring or defiling places of worship and “acts intended to outrage religious feelings.” It is punishable by life imprisonment, which in Pakistan is 25 years.
Aqeel said a Christian boy was recently implicated in a criminal case of harassment by the family of a Muslim girl who was in love with him. Aqeel said the boy’s family urged the police investigating officer to free the boy, whose name was withheld for security reasons, as the charges were baseless.
“The family was taken aback when the police official told them that their son had mocked the Sunnah [sayings and teachings] of prophet Muhammad by keeping a French beard,” Aqeel said. Thus, although the harassment case had nothing to do with the blasphemy law, the mere mention of the law forced the family to keep silent, he said.
Similarly, Christian teachers avoid lessons that mention Islamic history or anything related to the religion out of fear that any misstep could bring criminal charges. Likewise, Urdu language and social studies textbooks include several lessons on Islamic religious thought, so Christian teachers avoid nearly half of these books to avoid being charged with blasphemy, he said.
Napolean Qayyum, a leader of the Minorities Wing of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, condemned the incident, saying it was unfortunate that a 13-year-old had to suffer this ordeal over a miniscule error.
“The army’s timely intervention saved the Christians’ lives, but most people are not so fortunate,” he said, adding that the incident showed how intolerance towards minorities was taking root in Pakistani society.
“Would the teacher have highlighted the same mistake if it was made by a Muslim student?” he said. “I would guess not.”
"By Jeremy Reynalds Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The 8th grade Christian girl expelled from her school on an accusation of blasphemy when she misspelled a term of praise for Mohammad has fled from her hometown with her family fearing for their lives."
"By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- A US Congressman has weighed-in on the sentencing of Iranian Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces execution as early as tomorrow (Thursday, Sept.29) for refusing to recant his faith."
"By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
RASHT, IRAN (ANS) -- Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused the final opportunity to renounce his faith at the last hearing of his court case in Rasht, Gilan province, which took place today (Weds., Sept.28). He had previously refused to renounce his faith during sessions held on September 26 and 27."
CONTACT JEREMY REYNALDS AT (505) 400-7145
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- In his upcoming book and first novel "10 Minutes," author Jeremy Reynalds portrays two young jihadists, Ahmed and Ayman, who are responsible for a video store shooting, motivated by their desire to rid the world of sin and bring glory to Allah after the clerks refused to remove the “Adults Only” section."
"By Michael Ireland Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- An Egyptian Coptic Christian schoolgirl has been prevented for over a week from entering her school because she refused to wear a veil.
"The school management described her as 'flaunt' for not covering her hair," said Coptic activist Nader Shoukry, who uncovered the story, reported by Mary Abdelmassih, writing for AINA – Assyrian International News Agency (www.aina.org ) "
"By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- A US legal justice group has called on the international community to collectively press Iran for the unconditional release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor being held in Iran under a sentence of death for his refusal to deny his Christian faith."
Court to determine Yousef Nadarkhani’s fate in the coming week.
By Damaris Kremida
ISTANBUL, September 28 (Compass Direct News) – Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused to recant his Christian faith today at the fourth and final court hearing in Iran to appeal his death sentence for apostasy (leaving Islam).
The court house in Rasht, 243 kilometers (151 miles) northwest of Tehran, has swarmed with security forces for four consecutive days since Sunday (Sept. 25), the first day of his four appeal hearings. Applying sharia (Islamic law), the court on Monday, Tuesday and today gave Nadarkhani, 35, three chances to recant Christianity and return to Islam in order for his life to be spared. In all instances, Nadarkhani refused to recant.
“I’m in contact with Iran,” a source close to Nadarkhani’s family said, “but the news isn’t very good. We’ll see. If they really want to they can kill him they can, because he hasn’t renounced his faith. It finished today. We have left everything in the hands of God.”
Authorities arrested Nadarkhani in his home city of Rasht in Oct. 2009 because he allegedly questioned obligatory religion classes in Iranian schools. In September 2010 the court of appeals in Rasht found him guilty of apostasy and in November issued a written confirmation of his charges and death sentence.
At an appeal hearing in June, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence but asked the court in Rasht to determine if he was a practicing Muslim before his conversion. The Supreme Court also determined that his death sentence could be annulled if he recanted his faith.
On Sunday (Sept. 25) in the first two and a half hours of the court, the judges determined that Nadarkhani indeed was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion to Christianity. The source said that in this time period things looked more promising for Nadarkhani, and that the court might reverse the sentence based on the findings.
In the end, however, the court declared that although Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion, he was still guilty of apostasy due to his Muslim ancestry, the source told Compass.
Secret service agents surrounded the court and maintained a presence there throughout the following days, and his wife, Tina, was not allowed in the courtroom. On Sunday (Sept. 25), she was allowed to stand at the doorway for a few minutes to see her husband, the source said.
A defense lawyer told Nadarkhani’s family and friends there is a way to take the case back to the Supreme Court or extend Nadarkhani’s prison sentence, but the source said the directives of the Supreme Court were clear and he didn’t think there was much hope.
“Yousef is known as a hero, so if he is released it will seem like the government was defeated,” he said, “but if they leave him in prison there could be more international pressure.”
It is critical for foreign governments to negotiate and engage in diplomacy with Iranian authorities about Nadarkhani’s case, the source said, adding that his predicament could be more hopeful if they intervened.
“They need to start negotiating,” the source said. “It’s the moment to negotiate, because if they do, the situation could be regulated.”
The source and advocates in the international community fear that authorities may kill Nadarkhani as early as midnight tonight (Sept. 28) or any time in the coming week. The court said a verdict on Nadarkhani would be issued within the next week.
“They probably won’t kill him today, but they can do it whenever they want,” the source said. “They can hang him in the middle of the night or in 10 days. Sometimes in Iran they call the family and deliver the body with the verdict. They have gone outside the borders of law. This is not in the Iranian law, this is sharia. Sometimes they don’t even give the body.”
The final appeals hearing today lasted about an hour and a half, ending around 1 p.m. after Nadarkhani’s defense lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, gave his closing defense. Dadkhah also reportedly faces charges for “actions and propaganda against the Islamic regime,” due to his human rights activities.
The hearings on Monday (Sept. 26) and yesterday lasted just 30 minutes, long enough for Nadarkhani to refuse to recant Christianity.
The source said Nadarkhani’s 30-year-old wife is very apprehensive about what the courts might decide this week. They have two children: Joel, 7 and Daniel, 9.
“The wife is under depression and worried; we can say his wife is very worried,” he said. “It is difficult for all his family, it is difficult for us.”
Nadarkhani, whose first name is also spelled Youcef, belongs to the Church of Iran, a group that has been marginalized by other Christian Iranian groups over concerns that its doctrine on the Trinity is inadequate.
The Church of Iran’s statement of faith on its website http://www.eglisediran.org/?page_id=8 asserts that God is “revealed in the Scriptures as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19).”
The church’s statement of faith also affirms “...the Lordship of Jesus Christ, only Son of God, the Word manifested in flesh. We believe that He is from the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20) and He was born of a Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:23, Luke 1:34). We believe in His atoning death and redemption (Heb. 9:28), in His bodily resurrection (Luke 24:39), in His ascension (Acts 1:9-11), on His return in person to gather His Church (1 Thess. 4:17), followed by His coming in glory to judge the rebels and establish the reign of a thousand years (Rev. 1:7). ”
The church also states that it believes the “baptism of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5, 2:38) is the new birth (John 3:5-8). It introduces the Christian in the Eternal Life of God and leads into all truth, to holiness in communion with Christ.”
Five dead in Niger, three in Kaduna after attacks the past two weeks.
By Obed Minchakpu
MADALA, Nigeria, September 27 (Compass Direct News) – Muslim extremists bent on ridding Nigeria’s volatile middle region of Christianity killed five Christians in Niger state on Thursday (Sept. 22) and three others the previous week in the north-central state of Kaduna, including a 13-year-old girl, sources said.
Suspected militants from the Boko Haram Islamic sect in the Niger state town of Madala went to shops owned by Christians at a market at about 8 p.m., ordering them to recite verses from the Quran, eyewitnesses told Compass. If the Christian traders were unable to recite the verses, the gunmen shot and killed them, they said.
The sound of the gunshots compelled Christians to call police in nearby Suleja, and officers arrived to find five Christians had already been killed. Richard Adamu Oguche, a spokesman for the Niger State Police Command in the state capital of Minna, confirmed that five Christians had been killed.
He told Compass the attack was linked to members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect who have recently bombed Christian sites.
Killed in the Madala market attacks were Sunday Emmanuel, John Kalu, Uche Nguweze, and Oliver Ezemah. The identity of the fifth Christian was not immediately known as witnesses could not identify him.
Suspected Muslim extremists killed three Christians in a Sept. 17 midnight attack on a Christian community in Kaduna state, sources said.
In guerrilla style typical of recent Islamic extremist attacks in northern Nigeria, about 15 gunmen stormed three houses in Ungwan Rana Bitaro village in the Jaba Local Government Area of Kaduna, leaving three dead and eight wounded.
“Three houses were attacked by the attackers before they retreated into surrounding bushes,” a resident of the village told Compass by phone. “When the Muslims came, they brought out the members of these families and started shooting them and cutting some of them with machetes. The sound of gunshots forced us out of our houses, and we took to our heels since we could not fight armed men when we do not have arms like them.”
Killed were Monday Hassan, 55, his 13-year-old daughter Godiya, and his 35-year-old nephew, Istifanus Daniel. The eight who sustained injuries received treatment at Kwoi General Hospital.
A medical staff member at Kwoi General Hospital who requested anonymity confirmed the village residents’ account.
“Most of the victims brought to the hospital had gunshot wounds and machete cuts,” the hospital worker said. “Some of them with more serious injuries have been referred to the Kafanchan General Hospital.”
Dr. Danladi Gyet Maude, Jaba chief and an area Christian community leader, said the attack was reported to police.
Kaduna city police also confirmed the attack and the number of casualties, with officials saying they have ramped up the search for the attackers. Aminu Lawan, spokesman for the Kaduna State Police Command, said police have begun investigating and officers are on the trail of the assailants.
“Three persons were killed, and some others were injured as a result of the attack, but we have drafted our men to the village with a view of arresting the perpetrators,” Lawan said.
The murders follow similar Islamist attacks on Christian communities in Kaduna state’s Fadiya Bajju, Ungwan Yuli and Ungwan Yaro villages. The attack at Ungwan Yaro and Ungwan Yuli left no casualties, but many were injured. The assault at Fadiya Bakut village in Bajju district left two persons dead.
The attack on Ungwan Rana Bitaro village brings the death toll in Kaduna state to five Christians in three weeks (see www.compassdirect.org, “Muslim Extremists from Niger Help Kill Christians in Nigeria,” Aug. 31).
The recent guerrilla attacks by Muslim extremists in southern Kaduna state have also been typical of assaults on Christian communities in Bauchi and Plateau states.
Amid this spate of attacks, reports from Internet activist group Wikileaks have surfaced indicating a mosque in the city of Kaduna, commonly known as Yahaya Road Mosque, runs an Islamic school where Muslim teenagers are allegedly trained to become terrorists; most of those trained in the mosque, according to the Wikileaks report published in Nigerian media Sept. 4, are allegedly members of the dreaded Islamic sect Boko Haram.
Nigerian newspapers have quoted Wikileaks as reporting that U.S. Embassy personnel found Muslim teenagers were being indoctrinated with hate theology against Christians and Western nations, particularly the United States and European countries.
Mosque leaders deny it. Alhaji Garba Ibrahim, chairman of the management committee of the mosque, issued a statement to media in Kaduna on Friday (Sept. 23) asserting that it was unfortunate that Wikileaks portrayed the mosque as hypnotizing students with Islamic extremism and organizing them to do violence.
“Ordinarily, this ought not to bother us in view of the source of the information, the United States, leader of the Western nations against Islam and Muslims, but for the records, and to reassure parents and government of Kaduna state, the report is nothing but a tissue of lies,” Ibrahim said. “It was curious that a mosque situated in … a neighbourhood of serving and retired top public officers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, would undertake unlawful activities unnoticed except to the eyes and ears of the American Embassy.”
Ibrahim said the school was opened in November 1979 after approval from the state government with a curriculum designed by an Islamic association known as the Association for the Propagation of Islam.
“The mosque’s management, however, invites Nigerians to visit the place of worship and see things for themselves, rather than being cowed by the malicious American report, which has strengthened our faith and commitment to observe and propagate the tenets of Islam within thesharia [Islamic law] and laws of our country,” the statement said.
Boko Haram Attacks
The Madala attack last week was Boko Haram’s fourth such assault in Niger state this year, including a July 10 bombing of the worship center of the All Christian Fellowship Mission in Suleja that killed three Christians.
Nineteen members of Boko Haram are on trial in Abuja in connection with the bombings of Madala and Suleja churches. Apart from the attack on the Christians and their churches, these militants are also on trial for the bombing of the United Nations office in Abuja that resulted in the death of 23 persons.
Boko Haram, which has declared a jihad on the government in a bid to impose a strict version of sharia on the country, reportedly formalized links with Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb last year. Sharia is already in force in 12 northern states, where Christians are supposed to be exempt but are often compelled to comply by various sectors of society. Borno state, where Boko Haram has its base, is one of the states implementing Islamic law.
Dr. Abdulateef Adegbite, secretary-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, has said Muslim leaders do not support the activities of Boko Haram.
Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.
Attack ‘first of its kind in Indonesia;’ police find similar bomb near church in Ambon.
By Sarah Page
DUBLIN, September 27 (Compass Direct News) – Indonesian police today identified the suicide bomber who detonated eight pipe bombs outside a church building in Solo, Central Java on Sunday (Sept. 25). The bomber, Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, killed himself and wounded at least 20 church members.
“The church never expected anything like this to happen; this [suicide bombing] is indeed the first in church history in Indonesia,” a local source, who preferred to go unnamed, told Compass.
Police had been searching for Pino Damayanto, who used the alias of Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, in connection with a previous suicide bombing at a Cirebon, West Java mosque inside a police station in April, local news agency Antarareported. In that incident, the bomber died and 30 were injured.
Five men connected with the April bombing managed to escape arrest, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam told Antara. The men were in possession of 15 pipe bombs. Hayat, who was one of the five, detonated eight of those bombs in Sunday’s attack, leaving seven bombs unaccounted for.
Police on Monday morning (Sept. 26) found a similar bomb outside the Maranatha Church in Ambon city, on the island of Ambon.
“This is the fourth bomb we’ve found in Ambon since Thursday,” Alam told reporters fromThe Jakarta Globe. “We still don’t know if these are related to the Solo bombing.”
Church Members ‘Not Afraid’
A total of 600 to 700 people attended the two services at Bethel Full Gospel Church (GBIS, or Gereja Bethel Injil Sepenuh) in Solo last Sunday, the same local source told Compass.
The explosion occurred at around 11 a.m., at the end of the second service.
“The bomber went into the church just as everyone was singing the last song,” the source said. “He must have felt uneasy about it, so he went out and waited in the church yard, where the motorbikes were parked.”
A Jakarta Post report confirmed that the bomber had briefly gone into the church building; witnesses said he had earlier asked for directions to the church and to the nearest Internet café.
“As soon as the service was over and people started to move, he blew himself up by the glass doors leading out of the sanctuary,” the source said. “Most of the victims are doing well now, except for 18-year-old Deviana, who is still in the ICU ward with nails and other objects implanted in her head.”
She has had some surgery and is responding well, he said.
“The church members are not afraid and they believe God was there to protect them,” the source explained. “In fact, on the day of the bombing, the guest preacher spoke about the ever-present help of God and quoted from the story of Stephen the martyr. Church members say the fact that nobody died, other than the bomber, is proof of God’s care for them.”
GBIS is an old church, established in 1947, with a big building and a relatively large congregation.
“The church has a good standing with other denominations and with the local government,” the source said. “So Solo takes this as a personal affront, not just an attack on the church.”
The church will be closed for at least a week while investigations take place, he said.
Religion, Terror or Both?
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in a televised address on Sunday, claimed that terrorism rather than any religious element was to blame for the attack.
He also used the bombing to gather support for new anti-terror provisions that would allow police and intelligence staff to carry out surveillance on any citizen without evidence of criminal activity, according to an Asia Times report published today.
Since June, police have captured or killed more than 20 suspected militants in Central Java. The city of Solo, also known as Surakarta, is home to the extremist Ngruki Islamic boarding school founded by militant Abu Bakar Ba’ashir, according to a Voice of America (VOA) report published Monday (Sept. 26). In June Ba’ashir was sentenced to 15 years for his role in a Bali bombing attack that killed more than 200 people.
But the church and mosque bombings were strangely out of character, according to security analyst Noor Huda Ismail. Solo has long been identified as a militant recruitment center, but not as a place “where they put into practice radical teachings,” Ismail told VOA. Students usually “strengthen their cause here but put their ideology into practice outside Java, for example in Ambon, Poso, Jakarta or Bali.”
The attack was likely the work of disgruntled former members of terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Darul Islam who felt their leaders were no longer actively pursuing jihad, Ismail said.
Other terror analysts claimed the bombing was likely triggered by a sectarian clash in Ambon on Sept. 11, in which seven people were killed and many buildings set on fire. The clash on Sept. 11 occurred after a text message circulated through Ambon falsely claiming that Christians had tortured and killed a Muslim motorcycle taxi driver. A similar text message also began circulating in East Java that day, urging Muslims to go to Ambon to wage jihad, according to the Jakarta Globe.
Sydney Jones of the International Crisis Group, however, told VOA on Monday (Sept. 26) that it was too early to link the Solo church bombing with events in Ambon.
“There has been a lot of material on radical websites expressing anger toward ‘crusader Christians’ and holding them responsible for the recent unrest [in Ambon],” she told VOA. “So a link wouldn’t surprise me. But we’ll just have to wait and see.”
In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, 88 percent of the total population of 233 million follow Islam, according to the Asia Times. Christians make up 10 percent of the population, according to Operation World.
While the country is supposedly a secular democracy, in recent times politicians have proposed and adopted more than 150 bylaws based on Islamic teachings, the national news magazineTempo reported.
Human rights bodies such as the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace have also reported a stark rise in attacks on religious minorities this year, leading to calls for the government to take religious violence seriously.
The president should have flown to Solo with leaders of the country’s largest Muslim organizations to meet and commiserate with victims, Asia Times writer Gary LaMoshi said in an article published earlier today.
“Moreover, they should have reiterated that they stand by Indonesia’s constitutional protection of religious freedom, and assured the public that the state will take all necessary steps to guarantee it for all Indonesians regardless of their faith,” he declared.
South Asia (MNN) ― A group of anti-Christians brutally attacked a missionary supported by Gospel for Asia Friday night with swords and other weapons.
When Pastor Bashuda received a call from one of the believers in his church asking for prayer Friday evening, he got on his bicycle and headed for the house. As Bashuda rode his bicycle, a car pulled up beside him. Five men jumped out and went after the pastor. He tried to run, but the men caught him and began beating him with swords. After Bashuda stopped moving, the men drove off, leaving him for dead on the side of the road. Bashuda was alive, but unconscious.
The 11th branch of Gilan provincial court has ruled that Youcef Nadarkhani has Islamic ancestry and therefore must recant his faith in Jesus Christ. The judges, acting as terrorists who have a hostage, demanded that he recant his faith in Christ. They have stated that, even though this judgment is against their current laws, they will uphold the previous decision of the 27th Branch of the Supreme Court.
When asked by the judges to repent, Youcef stated, “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” The judges said, “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam.” Youcef replied, “I can not.” Youcef was reported to be happy, his faith strong.
Youcef will be brought to the court on September 27th and 28th for the sole purpose of demanding that he recant. My sources report that though they are being told that the case will be sent back to the Supreme Court. However, they are concerned that the provincial court will act upon a law, temporarily ratified by parliament, which would allow him to be executed as soon as Thursday.
This law dictates what should be done with apostates, depending on what type of apostasy has been committed. Section 6 - 225: “when a person His or Her parents were Muslims at the moment they were trying to have baby , and He or She converts to another religious without claiming to be Muslim, He or She is a National apostate.” Section 8 – 225 states the procedure for handling a national apostate: “the death sentence is the penalty for National apostate, but after the verdict was pronounced, He or She will be commanded to repent of what He or She has done and if He refuses to repent, He will be killed.”
The situation is, of course, quite difficult and confusing. We ask that you continue in prayer for Youcef. Ultimately, this is a spiritual battle against the demonic forces seeking to overthrow the faith of the believers there. Let’s unite together in prayer, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, binding the work of Satan in this case. Remember that Youcef’s life is in God’s hands alone. No power is given to his captors besides that which the Father gives.