Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christians in Nepal Attacked as Constitutional Deadline Nears

Bomb goes off in front of charity office; preachers assaulted, church building razed.
By Sudeshna Sarkar

KATHMANDU, November 25 (Compass Direct News) – Two years after an explosion shook one of the biggest Catholic churches in Nepal and killed three people, the underground group that orchestrated the attack claimed responsibility for another bomb blast this week.

A crude bomb went off Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 22) in front of a leading Christian charitable organization’s office in this capital city, sowing fresh fear and insecurity among Christians ahead of a critical constitutional deadline. On the same day in the northeastern district of Sindhupalchowk, local residents of the predominantly Buddhist village of Danchhe assaulted two brothers for leading worship services at their home, leaving one unconscious.
Police said they were investigating the explosion in front of the office of the United Mission to Nepal (UMN). While the crude bomb claimed no casualties or damage to the UMN office, it shocked area Christians. The UMN, a Christian international non-governmental organization founded in 1954 by Christian groups from almost 60 countries, has built hospitals, schools, hydropower plants and industrial development and training institutions in Nepal.

At the site police found leaflets signed by someone calling himself a senior member of the Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a militant armed group that has terrorized Christians and Muslims, demanding that they leave Nepal. The leaflets asserted that the majority population in Nepal was Hindu and that therefore it should be a Hindu state. The leaflets also accused the UMN of converting Hindus to Christianity.
Though there was no immediate reaction from the UMN, Nepal’s Christian community expressed shock.

“It is ironic that the blast occurred on the eve of the International Day against Impunity,” said Chirendra Satyal, spokesman of the Assumption Church, where a bomb placed by the NDA in 2009 killed two women and a schoolgirl. “The government of Nepal is treating the lives of Nepalis as expendable by planning to grant amnesty to leaders of the NDA.”

The mastermind of the church attack, NDA chief Ram Prasad Mainali, was arrested within four months and put behind bars, but he retained his criminal links. Earlier this year, police said they arrested six people who admitted they were under Mainali’s instructions to set off fresh explosions in public places.

Despite the revelation, Nepal’s new government has begun negotiations with the NDA, offering amnesty for Mainali and other jailed leaders of the group if it agrees to lay down arms.

“With Christmas coming closer, we are afraid of further attacks,” said Satyal. “There will be larger prayer and festive gatherings, and our churches don’t have the resources to ensure their security.”

The National Christian Federation of Nepal, an umbrella of Protestant organizations, has met Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, urging him to ensure security for religious minorities and form a special team to investigate the blast.
“This is a highly sensitive issue,” said C.B. Gahatraj, general secretary of the federation. “There are growing attacks on religious minorities.”

In its memorandum to the prime minister, the federation detailed other recent attacks on Christians. On Tuesday (Nov. 22), two brothers who are Christian preachers came under assault in their village. Panchman Tamang, a 45-year-old school teacher in Sindhupalchowk, a district in the northeast, and his elder brother Buddhiman, a farmer in his 50s, were attacked by local residents of their predominantly Buddhist Danchhe village for leading worship services at their home.

Gahatraj said the mob attacked the brothers’ house armed with daggers and wooden batons. When the pair tried to flee, they were pelted with stones. Though Panchman managed to escape, Buddhiman was knocked unconscious. As he was bleeding profusely, the attackers left him for dead.

Later that night, Panchman came back and managed to take his brother to another town for medical care, Gahatraj said. Suffering from a serious head injury, Buddhiman was referred to hospitals in Kathmandu.

Gahatraj said the brothers had taken refuge in another town, unable to return to their village for fear of further attacks.
Sindhupalhowk is one of the poorest districts in Nepal, and the primarily Buddhist, ethnic Tamang community residents have a low literacy level.
“Though Nepal was declared secular five year ago, there is growing persecution of Christians today,” said Chandra Shrestha, pastor at the Nepali Evangelical Church in Bhaktapur, a temple town close to Kathmandu.

A building of a branch of Shrestha’s church in central Nepal’s Kavre district was demolished by villagers last month, and neither police nor the district administration came to the aid of the Christian community, the pastor said.

In October, when Nepal celebrated its biggest Hindu festival (Dashain), during which the country shuts down for almost a month, local Hindus tore down the little one-storey church building constructed by the Christians four years ago because the Christians declined to participate in Hindu celebrations, preferring instead to hold a two-day fellowship event.

The attackers also beat six worshippers, including women and the preacher, who was recovering from a serious operation.

“It’s a poor village that has no hospital or even health post, and people fall sick regularly,” Shrestha said. “There is also a high incidence of drinking.”

Several people became Christians when they were cured through prayers and gave up drinking, Shrestha said.

“There was a perceptible change,” the pastor said. “But it was not liked by the liquor mafia, so the attack could have been instigated by them. Both the government and the administration remain oblivious to Christians’ plight. This neglect has been encouraging the attackers. The government has been treating us like second-class citizens.”

Once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, Nepal became secular in 2006 and a federal republic after an election in 2008.

The electorate was promised that parliament would draft a new constitution within two years to uphold the secular nature of the nascent republic, but a succession of governments has failed to meet the challenge.

As the fourth deadline to put forth a constitution dawns on Wednesday (Nov. 30), a document is still far from ready. Instead, yesterday (Nov. 24), the government once again began the process of extending the deadline, asking for six months more.

The delay and the mounting lawlessness during the transition have left Christians increasingly frustrated.

“We Christians had been praying devoutly that the new constitution be ready in time,” Shrestha said. “So it’s natural that we will feel frustrated by the delay. We are not certain, though, that the new constitution will give us what we want.”

A draft of the document says that though people would have the freedom to follow whichever religion they want, conversions would be prohibited.

“With conversions still deemed a crime in the suggested constitution, we feel that the draft retains the bias towards Christians,” Shrestha said. “This is a direct violation of our fundamental right to practice whatever religion we want.”
Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Uganda: more moves to quell LRA

 A call to pray for God’s intervention in the LRA crisis

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 135 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous cult militia established in the late 1980s ostensibly to fight for the rights of the long-marginalised and abused Acholi people of Northern Uganda. The LRA quickly lost its political focus, becoming infamous for its unrivalled brutality, most of it directly targeted at Christian communities, churches and seminaries. Squeezed out of Uganda, the LRA moved to South Sudan and more recently to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Central African Republic. The LRA has long been armed and funded by the Islamist regime in Khartoum, which has employed the LRA as a proxy force against the South Sudanese and their Christian allies. The LRA's founder and present commander, Joseph Kony, is a former Catholic altar boy turned occultist / spirit medium. Children who have escaped Kony's camps have told social workers that when Kony gets 'possessed' -- he claims by the Holy Spirit -- he will demand worship, crave human blood and prophesy things that come 'exactly true'. This goes some way to explaining why this band of rebels has eluded capture for more than 20 years.

In such an overtly spiritual battle, it should be unsurprising that prayer has proved to be the most powerful and effective weapon of all. In the opinion of this writer, the most effective local force against the LRA has been Northern Uganda's religious leaders and particularly the long-suffering and supremely courageous pastors and bishops of the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative(ARLPI).
With the stated aim of seeing the LRA removed from the battlefield, the US recently sent 100 combat-ready Special Forces troops to Uganda, tasked with providing 'technical assistance'.

The LRA's evil and the local suffering may well be not the main reasons why the US has entered Uganda. Other possible motives include the discovery of oil in Uganda five years ago and China's quick investmentin it. Also a quick moral victory in Africa would look good on President Obama's resume in the lead up to the 2012 US presidential elections. Importantly though, an 'oil war' is looming in Sudan, and the LRA -- long a proxy of the Republic of Sudan -- is presently lurking in the hills of South Sudan awaiting orders. Eliminating the LRA would greatly assist South Sudan. Furthermore, American Special Forces assistance in East Africa could be helpful in countering al Shabaab or at least in seeing that Kenya and Uganda are rewarded for their counter-terror efforts. All these possible reasons aside, removing the LRA from the battlefield would be a very good outcome indeed.

However, as the ARLPI notes, military means have never worked against the LRA. In December 2008 US military advisors assisted Uganda, DRC and the South Sudan-based Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) as they joined forces in Operation Lightning Thunder to fight the LRA in the heavily-forested Garamba National Park region of north-eastern DRC. Mysteriously alerted to the allied advance, the LRA tactically retreated and dispersed. In early January 2009 the alliance boasted that the LRA had been routed but by late January the LRA was enacting reprisals and terrorising civilian populations across the region. By March the Ugandan army had pulled out. The military operation, which cost a huge 500 billion shillings, was an unmitigated disaster, subsequently blamed on 'leaky intelligence'. Today the region is relatively calm and though sporadic violence continues (see LRA Crisis Tracker), the ARLPI believes that gains are being made through dialogue which offers a more holistic outcome than military action ever could.

So the dilemma is this: whilst everyone wants to see the end of the LRA, most Acholi do not favour a military solution. One reason why the ARLPI is opposed to the military option is because the LRA never had popular appeal and it could only fill its ranks by kidnapping young children. Consequently, apart from its top leadership, the LRA comprises mostly abducted, traumatised, terrorised Acholi children, who, after being forced at gunpoint to murder their own parents, were then brainwashed to believe they have no other home nor life than the LRA. However, the churches of Northern Uganda have, in great generosity of spirit, worked very hard over many years to prove that this is not so. These children deserve the opportunity of rehabilitation and reconciliation.
For more background on the LRA see blogs --
Religious Liberty Monitoring label: Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
 label: LRA.

  • Yahweh Sabaoth -- the Lord of Hosts (literally the commander of heaven's forces) -- will open the door to victory on earth by delivering a victory in heavenly realms; may demonic spirits be bound, through 'Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him' (1 Peter 3:22 ESV).
  • Joseph Kony and the other senior leaders of the LRA will be removed from the battlefield in accordance with the will and purpose of God.
  • multitudes of abducted children will be spiritually and physically freed to leave the bush and surrender themselves to those who will in amazing grace -- and usually to the bewilderment of the children -- love them, rehabilitate them and facilitate reconciliation.
  • Ugandan churches -- both northern and southern -- will unite across deep tribal divides to pray for the above outcomes and to work together as one people in Christ for peace, justice and equity across the nation.

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is a blasphemous cult militia established in northern Uganda in the late 1980s. For decades it has wreaked terror across the largely Christian regions of central Africa, often directly targeting churches and seminaries. Its leader Joseph Kony is a spirit medium. The Islamist regime in Khartoum arms and funds the LRA as a proxy against the South Sudanese and their Christian allies. The US has sent 100 combat-ready Special Forces 'advisors' to Uganda to help fight the LRA. All past efforts to destroy the LRA militarily have failed and even made things worse. Lacking popular appeal, the LRA fills its ranks with abducted local children. Ugandan religious leaders are very concerned but they are making real gains through dialogue. Please pray for them and the 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

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Algerians Unite to Vindicate Condemned Christian

By Aidan Clay
Special to ASSIST News Service

ALGERIA (ANS) -- In a positive turn of events, the long awaited trial of Algerian Christian Siagh Krimo was postponed last Thursday after a large gathering of Muslim and Christian supporters rallied for his acquittal.

Siagh Krimo, an Algerian Christian sentenced to a five year prison term for giving a CD about Christianity to a neighbor, waits outside the courthouse in Oran
In the unusual show of public solidarity, the demonstrators’ message rang loud and clear – to unjustly condemn one Algerian is to violate the rights of all Algerians.

Krimo, 29, was arrested on April 14 and detained for three days in Oran for giving a CD about Christianity to a neighbor. On May 4, Krimo was given a five year prison sentence for blasphemy based on the neighbor’s accusation that he had insulted the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Krimo was sentenced according to Article 144 bis 2 of Algeria’s Penal Code, which criminalizes acts that “insult the Prophet and any of the messengers of God, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam.” Having appealed the decision, Krimo waits to be summoned to an appellate court where a final verdict is expected to be handed down.

“In the argument which led to the conviction of my client, there is no evidence,” Krimo’s lawyer, Muhammad Ben Belkacem, told the Algerian daily Liberté. “Even the person who complained was never presented at the hearing… [All evidence], including DVDs seized at the home of Siagh Krimo, were never presented in court... As for insulting the Prophet, he (Krimo) totally denies it!”

The day before the anticipated trial was to be held, a gathering of human right activists, journalists, and concerned Muslims and Christians assembled outside the Ministry of Justice in Algiers demanding that Krimo’s prison sentence and fine of 200,000 dinars ($2,700 USD) be overturned. To many Algerians, Krimo’s verdict was viewed not merely as an offense committed against a Christian, but as a direct violation of the human rights of all Algerians.

“People decided to show solidarity with their fellow citizen who had chosen a religion that suited him,” Kaddour Chouicha, a representative of the National Coordination for Change and Democracy, told Radio France Internationale. “The Algerian constitution allows freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought. The judge exceeded his powers by ruling in accordance to his ideology over his regard for the law.”

Christians and Muslims rally together for Siagh Krimo’s acquittal at the
Ministry of Justice in Algiers
Selma, a Muslim student, agreed. “So what if he is an Algerian Jew or Christian, he has the right to live like any other who is a Muslim,” she told the independent newspaper El Watan. “A Christian completely has the right to offer someone a Bible, just as a Muslim has the right to offer a Quran. Previously, these types of cases were mostly held in Kabylie, now they are taking place in Oran. Where will it go from here?”

Outside the Ministry of Justice, both Muslims and Christians held up signs which read, “Freedom to worship equals equality for all” and “I am Muslim and tolerant.” The sit-in had its intended effect.

“As the group began to grow in number of participants… a representative of the Ministry of Justice came out to talk to us,” a spokesman of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) told ICC. “[We] told the official that the judge had abused his power by hastily sentencing Siagh Krimo. The official said he would resolve the problem. That is why the trial was postponed.”
Krimo’s trial follows a series of convictions in recent years targeting Algerian Christians for proselytizing or for failing to publically observe the practices of Islam, like fasting during Ramadan. Evident in the recent demonstrations, however, is a steadily growing acceptance of Algeria’s Christian minority. Recent government decisions – like the July 18 resolution that granted EPA churches permission to apply for official registration – have been welcome improvements. Yet, while Algeria’s central government has made positive steps to promote religious freedom, provincial authorities and district courts have at times undermined those efforts by reaching a judgment based on personal conviction rather than the rule of law.

Though laws that discriminate against religious minorities are found in Algeria’s legal codes, Algeria has also acceded to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states in Article 18 that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion… [and] in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Krimo’s final verdict, now scheduled to be announced on December 1, will display the importance Algeria’s government places on upholding the “freedom of creed” guaranteed in Article 36 of the country’s constitution. On the day Krimo’s case is reexamined, a crowd of Muslims and Christians will reunite outside the courthouse under the shared principle that religious freedom is the inviolable right of people from all faiths. Will the government heed their calls for equality or revert to the same discriminatory laws used time and again to silence religious minorities? We will soon find out.

Aidan Clay is the Middle East Regional Manager for International Christian Concern (ICC), a Washington, DC-based human rights organization that exists to support persecuted Christians worldwide by providing awareness, advocacy, and assistance ( Aidan is a graduate from Biola University in Southern California. Prior to joining ICC, Aidan worked with Samaritan’s Purse in South Sudan and he has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, Africa and Europe. He and his wife currently live in Nairobi, Kenya. For more information, contact Aidan Clay at

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Iranian Christian News Agency Exposes Unsubstantiated claim of Security Authorities Regarding Evangelical Activities by AOG Churcu

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Exaggerating has become a habit of news providers for government-supported and regime-dependent media in Iran who introduce themselves as hidden soldiers, says Mohabat News ( ) the Iranian Christian News Agency.

The inside of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran. (Photo courtesy Mohabat News).
The news agency says that an unsubstantiated report about evangelistic activities of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran “was obviously written by one of the hidden soldiers of the 12th Imam (Secret Security authorities) to motivate senior security authorities. It also appears that this shabby act was intended to spark anti-Christian feelings within Iran.”

MohabatNews says Iranian security services, through state-sponsored media outlets, “have claimed that the Markaz Church, an Assemblies of God church in Tehran, is extremely active in propagation and sending evangelical Christian groups throughout the country to attract Muslim youth to Christianity.”
The state-sponsored news media websites say: "The congregation of the Church of Markaz are Christian extremists who use various ways to bring members to their church and to convert Iranian Muslim youth. 

They try to destroy the image of the sacred regime of Iran in the world. They deceive young people who are financially in need by promising to grant them refugee status in other countries." 
Mohabat News says the websites also report that these evangelists, with the support of American mass media, want to show a negative image of the Islamic republic to the international community.

Mohabat News stated: “But making such repeated claims by the staff of government-sponsored media is more like a report to the security authorities and organizations rather than a piece of news. Such action seems to have an unstated purpose behind it.

“Presentations of this kind of biased news about Christianity and Iranian Christians has taken place at the same time as the Supreme Leader, scholars and Islamic clerics -- as well as senior authorities and staff of the Revolutionary Guards and other security and intelligence forces -- are making serious efforts to oppose Christianity in Iran.”

Mohabat News went on to say: “These unsubstantiated and misleading claims about the activities of churches to attract Muslim youth to Christianity are being made at time when government, religious and security authorities have become particularly sensitive on such issues. The churches don't consider it necessary to take such actions to invite Muslim youth to Christianity!

“Meanwhile, as a result of the increasing awareness of Iranian citizens following the establishment of the pure Islamic government and in spite of threats, torture, beatings, imprisonments and executions, Iranian youth are turning from Islam in large numbers and seeking to base their lives and religious beliefs on their own investigation.”

From closure of churches to shutting down of worship services of Farsi-speaking Christians

Despite all the pressures and threats by the regime, the movement to Christianity in Iran has grown to the extent that some (generally Farsi-speaking) churches in some cities were closed and locked by the security forces, Mohabat News reports.

“In the other churches that were not closed, these forces prevented Farsi-speaking Christians (mainly Christian converts) from entering. The Assyrian church of Shahr-Ara in Tehran is an example of this. Farsi-speaking Christians formed a large number of its congregation before security forces with the cooperation of the representative of the Assyrians in the Islamic parliament (Majles-e-shoraye-eslami), dismissed the pastor of the church and cancelled the Farsi worship services there.”

In another case and prior to this incident, there were routine Farsi church services being held in the AOG church of Markaz in Tehran, but on Friday, October 30, 2009 security authorities threatened the church leaders and cancelled the Friday evening services which were being held in two services because of the huge number of attendees.

However, says Mohabat News, these restrictions have made every believer's house into a church and have caused the regime to be afraid of the house church movement and active churches. The authorities also seem to be afraid of historical churches which have become historical monuments and belong to the history of the country.

Mohabat News added: “The destruction of the historical church in the city of Kerman didn't cause an outcry from any Iranian authorities, not even the voice of the spineless representatives for religious minorities in the Islamic parliament of Iran. These are all examples of the attitude of the regime towards Iranian Christians and their places of worship.”

Spying on the activities of the churches
According to Mohabat News, “The dear person who writes such reports about the activities of the AOG church of Tehran and raises such claims, knows very well that all church activities, programs and services in Iran and, in this case the AOG church of Tehran, are under careful observation by security and intelligence agents.

“Though the writer of this article comes from the same church, it is well known that all the efforts and activities of the leadership of the AOG church of Tehran have always been according to the word of God which says: ‘Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13-14).

A church is not like a mosque in receiving government funding
Mohabat News goes on to say: “It's been claimed that the AOG church in Iran is taking advantage of the poverty of jobless youth, especially those who lack sufficient funds to get married and deceives those who are weak in their Islamic faith.

“The purpose of this claim is not clear. However, the churches of Iran don't receive any kind of government support. All their funding comes from their congregations and believers who want to give to God and ministries in the form of tithes and offerings. In a situation where churches are facing financial challenges to even repair the church building, how could they support the youth in matters of marriage, employment and financial problems? Is it possible that such ideas come from the way mosques are managed since they receive huge amounts of money from government only to bring people to the prayer sessions? Allocation of a budget of $50 million USD to the mosque of Jamkaran only to develop its facilities to attract more people to the mosques, or huge funding of the Revolutionary Guards (Sepah-e-Pasdaran) to build mosques in Europe, are some of the examples of the major investment of the Iranian regime in propagating Islam.”
Mohabat News asks: “Isn't it true that all these attempts have failed to satisfy the spiritual needs of young people and to release them from their financial and social challenges?”

Seminary scholars complaining about the tendency of the youth toward Christianity
Despite three decades of effort and millions of dollars of investments to support the propagation of Islam, the regime feels it must use force, fear and threats to oppose Christianity, Mohabat News stated.

“It is interesting that all these attempts have been ineffective and the seminary scholars are complaining day and night about the drift of youth to Christianity. (Mohabat News has discussed this matter in detail in previous articles).

Mohabat News said: “The distaste of Iranian youth for Islam is a troubling reality that religious and government authorities are aware of and acknowledge. Their speeches and the actions of security authorities to crack down on Christians are also a clear confirmation of this fact.”

It adds: “The unsubstantiated report on the evangelistic activities of the Assemblies of God church of Markaz in Tehran was obviously written by one of the hidden soldiers of the 12th Imam (Secret Security authorities) to motivate the security authorities. It appears that this shabby act was intended to spark anti-Christian feelings within Iran. Without any reasoning, it seems that the author of the report is trying to influence the authorities of the regime and to show his loyalty towards the regime.”

Mohabat News concludes: “Such claims have been published over and over in media supported by the regime. They also mentioned other subjects, including distribution of books and flyers, etc., but Mohabat News does not consider it necessary to mention them here in view of the length of the article.”

** Michael Ireland is the Senior International 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 International Reporter

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Pastor’s Arrest Stir’s Anti-Christian Sentiment in Kashmir, India

Bishop says area Christians in danger from angry Muslims after accusation of ‘allurement’

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

KASHMIR, INDIA (ANS) -- Compass Direct News (CDN) is reporting that charges that a pastor in Jammu and Kashmir state “lured” Muslims to Christianity by offering money are false and have put the lives of the clergyman and other Christians in danger, according to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of the Church of North India denomination.

Bishop Samantaroy
CDN says that following the arrest on Saturday (Nov. 17) of the Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar, Bishop Samantaroy told Compass by phone that the time has come for the church to speak up against the “discriminatory action” by authorities in India’s Kashmir Valley. The bishop of the Amritsar Diocese said the pastor told him his life was in danger, as the charges have angered area Muslims.

The government must provide protection to the pastor, churches and Christian institutions “immediately,” he said. Pastor Khanna was arrested for creating “enmity” between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments. Bishop Samantaroy said the allegation made by Kashmir Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad that Pastor Khanna had converted Muslims by offering money was “totally baseless and untrue.”

The story added that the Superintendent of Police of East Srinagar Sheikh Zulfkar Azad, however, told Compass there was “certain evidence” of allurement by Pastor Khanna, though he did not specify it. Seven youths who were baptized have denied to police that they were offered money to convert, a local Christian told Compass.

“A source who requested anonymity previously told Compass that police beat the converts from Islam when asking them if Christians had given them money for their conversion,” the CDN story also stated.

For more information, please go to:

Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 48 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK and also in Belize and South Africa. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries and also provides a regular commentary for Worship Life Radio on KWVE. You can follow Dan Wooding on Facebook under his name there or at ASSIST News Service. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel “Red Dagger” which is available this link.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pastor’s Arrest Stir’s Anti-Christian Sentiment in Kashmir, India

Bishop says area Christians in danger from angry Muslims after accusation of ‘allurement.’
By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, November 23 (Compass Direct News) – Charges that a pastor in Jammu and Kashmir state “lured” Muslims to Christianity by offering money are false and have put the lives of the clergyman and other Christians in danger, according to Bishop Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy of the Church of North India denomination.
Following the arrest on Saturday (Nov. 17) of the Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar, Bishop Samantaroy told Compass by phone that the time has come for the church to speak up against the “discriminatory action” by authorities in India’s Kashmir Valley.
The bishop of the Amritsar Diocese said the pastor told him his life was in danger, as the charges have angered area Muslims. The government must provide protection to the pastor, churches and Christian institutions “immediately,” he said.
The allegations of allurement appear to have turned Muslim clergy and separatist leaders against the Christians. Kashmir lies at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China, even as many Kashmiris call for separation from India. Two prominent leaders of the separatist movement, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have met religious leaders to prevent “conversions.”
A court in Srinagar on Sunday (Nov. 18) remanded Pastor Khanna to judicial custody for 15 days, a representative of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s advocacy wing told Compass. Pastor Khanna was arrested for creating “enmity” between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments.
Bishop Samantaroy said the allegation made by Kashmir Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, the state’s highest official of Islamic law, that Pastor Khanna had converted Muslims by offering money was “totally baseless and untrue.”
Ahmad has a video of Muslims being baptized in Pastor Khanna’s church, which he said was evidence on which to file a police complaint of fraudulent conversion, although the video only shows a baptism ceremony. The Constitution of India grants religious freedom to all, allowing them to propagate and change their religion or have no religion at all.
Superintendent of Police of East Srinagar Sheikh Zulfkar Azad, however, told Compass there was “certain evidence” of allurement by Pastor Khanna, though he did not specify it.
“I am in hospital for treatment, and that’s all I can say at the moment,” he said.
Seven youths who were baptized, as shown in the video, have denied to police that they were offered money to convert, a local Christian told Compass. But some local newspapers have quoted anonymous police sources as claiming the converts were given money.
A source who requested anonymity previously told Compass that police beat the converts from Islam when asking them if Christians had given them money for their conversion (, “Police Detain, Beat Converts from Islam in India,” Nov. 10).
Police arrested Pastor Khanna two days after the mufti held a hearing on conversions in thesharia (Islamic law) court he heads. Although sharia courts in India deal only in civil matters with community people’s cooperation and do not have any legal authority, the mufti had summoned the pastor to appear for the hearing. The pastor agreed in an effort to maintain peace.
On the pretext of meeting with a senior police official, police picked up Pastor Khanna at his residence on Saturday evening (Nov. 17). After arresting him, officers did not inform his family, nor was the pastor given any written communication concerning the charges, the bishop said.
Police later brought Pastor Khanna to his home as they searched for evidence. They took CDs and literature for examination and kept him in custody.
Bishop Samantaroy said Kashmir’s Bar Association had asked its members not to defend the pastor. The church has asked a lawyer from Jammu, a Hindu-majority region in the state, to apply for his bail.
He also said he was worried about Pastor Khanna’s health. The pastor is diabetic and needs daily medical attention, and the bishop said he has learned that the doctor looking after him has a poor attitude toward him.
The pastor earlier told Compass that the Muslim youths had been coming to the church on their own initiative and wanted to take part in Holy Communion. Pastor Khanna told them they had to follow a procedure if they wanted to join in the sacrament, and they expressed desire to be baptized in due course.
Barring a few sporadic incidents of communal violence, Christians and Muslims had had good relations in Kashmir. Tensions began in March 2003 after local newspapers alleged that Christian missionaries were converting Muslim youth. Reports of conversions followed an article in an evangelical Christian website in the United States that claimed thousands of Muslim youths were converting to Christianity, which local Christians say was not true.
In November 2006, a convert from Islam, Bashir Ahmed Tantray, was shot dead by Islamist extremists in Barmullah district. Tantray’s name had appeared in newspaper reports.
In September 2010, Muslim mobs burned a school and a church in Tangmarg district after a television channel showed U.S. pastor Terry Jones burning the Quran.
Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Muslim Brotherhood likely to take over in Egyptian elections

Cover photo: Protests in Tahrir
 Square (Naicomeno). Story photo:
 Protests go into the night (Ramy Raoof).

Egypt (MNN) ― After days of protests, Egypt's military rulers have not only accepted the cabinet's resignation, but they have even agreed to speed up presidential elections to July 2012, according to BBC News.
Three-month preliminary elections are still scheduled to begin Monday, November 28.

Regardless of these new promises, however, clashes continue. Reports agree that since protests began in Tahrir Square on Saturday, at least 29 have died and several hundred have been injured as the police have fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and more into crowds.

The election conditions agreed upon by the Egyptian military do not seem to have satisfied most protesters. Many protesters fear that even if a new president is elected fairly, the military will not recognize the leader but will instead hold on to power.

If the military is true to their word and a new government is elected, things may not get much better for Egypt though.
Tom Doyle, Middle East-Central Asia Director for E3Partners, warns, "This just plays into kind of the worst scenario with a vacuum of power and the Muslim Brotherhood stepping up and saying, ‘We'll restore order.'"

Doyle says Christians in particular are nervous for what may come. "It's always who's lurking around the corner. Most of the leaders in Egypt seem to think it's going to be Islamic Brotherhood."

At this point, says Doyle, there is no other contender for the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming elections. No other group seems altogether organized or prepared to step in.

"The Christians have never had a real political stand there, haven't had much influence. Then you've got the secular Muslims that were pretty much with Mubarak, and they were thrown out because of the corruption," Doyle explains. "So then you have moderates and radicals. And it just always seems when it's moderates versus radicals, it's the radicals that win."

Opening the door for the Muslim Brotherhood could easily mean hard-line Islamic law in Egypt.

"We've heard talk about Sharia law," notes Doyle. "Islam started in the Arab world, and they do not like that Iran has the platform as the leader of Islam, if you will, today. And they want that back."

The prospect for Egypt's future looks grim. But while bad news gets worse, believers are actually getting bolder. Doyle says if Muslim fundamentalists take over, the church is likely to grow even more.

"When the hard-liners get in, that's when the church flourishes. We certainly don't want to see our brothers and sisters in persecution, but when the difficult government takes over--like in Iran, then the church grows."

Pray that the church would grow whatever happens, and that believers would have the strength for what is to come. 

Human Rights Organization Urges International Community to Highlight Plight of Ethnic Nationalities in Engagement with Burmese Regime

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights organization is concerned that the plight of Burma's ethnic nationalities is being neglected in the process of engagement with Burma's regime.

In a news release, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) particularly highlights continuing severe violations of human rights, including the use of rape, forced labor, religious persecution, torture and killings in Kachin State. There the Burma Army has been waging an offensive against ethnic civilians since breaking a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) in June.

CSW said recent political developments in Burma suggest some potential welcome indicators of change. They include the decision by the National League for Democracy (NLD) to re-register as a political party, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's announcement that she will run for a parliamentary seat in forthcoming by-elections.

However, CSW reported, reports from the ethnic states, particularly Kachin State, indicate that grave human rights violations continue to be perpetrated by the Burma Army.

According to information received by CSW, nine villagers from Nawng Zang Kung village for internally displaced people, in Nam Jang, northern Shan State, were taken by Burma Army soldiers to a military camp at Nat Tsin Kung, at midnight on Nov. 17.

Four villagers were released the next day, but five were detained and have reportedly been subjected to severe torture.

CSW said Dawshi Roi Ji, 60, the mother of two of the detainees, Zahkung Yaw Zung and Yaw Sau, was taken to the camp and badly tortured. She was released the next day, but taken back to the camp that evening by the local ward official, Sai Aik Nyen. Her situation and that of the remaining detainees remains critical. Other civilians from the local area have fled to China to escape forced labor, harassment and torture.

CSW said the pastor of Banggaw Kachin Baptist Church, Gam Aung, was arrested by Burma Army soldiers in Manwin village at 3pm on Nov. 17, while in a store speaking on the phone. Local sources say no reasons were given for his arrest and his whereabouts are unknown.

CSW is also deeply concerned about the well-being of Sumlat Roi Ja, 28, mother of a 14-month old baby, from Hkai Bang village. She was captured by the Burma Army on Oct. 28, and forced to work as a porter. It is believed she has been held in the Burma Army camp and repeatedly gang-raped. The local Burma Army commander promised her family that she would be released by Nov. 2, but when the family waited for her at a designated location, she did not appear.

According to CSW's sources, Shayu Lum Hkawng, assistant to the pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Muk Chyuk village, Waimaw Township, died on Nov. 7 after severe torture. He had been detained along with the pastor, Lajaw Lum Hkawng, and tied up, after Burma Army soldiers attacked and looted the church the previous day.

The whereabouts of Hpalawng Lum Hkawng, deacon and youth music team leader, who was injured in the attack, is unknown.

CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said in a news release, “Undoubtedly, as President Barack Obama said last week, there are ‘flickers of progress’ in Burma, and these should be welcomed and encouraged. However, it is vital that in our enthusiasm to welcome some political changes, we do not overlook the very grave human rights violations that continue to be perpetrated, particularly in the ethnic states.”

Rogers continued, “We therefore urge all international actors, particularly US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visits next month, to urge the regime to end its attacks on civilians in Kachin State and all parts of the country, to cease its campaign of rape, forced labor, torture, religious persecution and killing, to declare a nationwide ceasefire, release all political prisoners, and to enter into a meaningful dialogue process with representatives of the ethnic nationalities and the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Rogers emphasized, “The key test for the regime is to match its rhetoric with action, stop attacking its people, and begin a process that will secure peace and protect human rights for all the people of Burma.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit

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

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

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christians Injured in Attack in Vietnam Denied Medical Care

House church network leaders finally resort to private hospital far from attack site.
Special to Compass Direct News
Nguyen Thi Lan in the hospital
(Compass Direct News)
HANOI, Vietnam, November 22 (Compass Direct News) – Three Christians seriously injured during a savage attack near Hanoi on Nov. 13 have been evacuated to an undisclosed hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after several hospitals in the region refused to examine and treat them.
The attack on a church leaders’ worship service of an Agape Baptist Church (ABC) house church in Lai Tao village, Bot Xuyen commune, My Duc district left one woman, evangelist Nguyen Thi Lan, with her pelvis broken in two places and with badly damaged internal organs, according to doctors who recommended emergency surgery. Yet previously doctors at three area hospitals had told her and two other seriously injured Christians that they were fine and dismissed them, said Pastor Nguyen Cong Thanh, head of the ABC.
When doctors in Vietnam learn that religious motives play a role in violence, commonly they do not dare to treat or even examine the victims of persecution.
ABC head Nguyen Cong Thanh had rushed north from his base in Ho Chi Minh City to help the church members. The attack took place in the home of the injured Nguyen Thi Lan (not that of pastor Nguyen Danh Chau as previously reported), a recently retired Communist Party official who converted to Christianity only last year.
Within that short time she had led some 50 extended family members, friends and neighbors to the Christian faith, angering a fellow villager identified only by his given name, Khoan. Khoan and his son led a gang into her house and beat several people, leaving pastor Nguyen Danh Chau unconscious and destroying property, sources said. Khoan repeatedly threatened to kill Nguyen Thi Lan, and the gang of about a dozen threatened to kill Nguyen Danh Chau if he continued gathering Christians for worship, the sources said.
ABC head Nguyen Cong Thanh said he tried to obtain medical examinations and treatment for the worst wounded in several government clinics and hospitals in the region, but the injured were continually told they needed no care. After a nearly a week, the three most severely injured Christians still suffered acute pain, and they suspected serious internal injuries, he said.
Late Friday (Nov. 18), five days after the attack, staff members at one hospital told Nguyen Cong Thanh that there would be no examinations the next day and Sunday, and to come back on Monday (Nov. 21), when examinations were possible.  
At that point ABC leaders decided to take the two injured women and wounded man to Ho Chi Minh City, a 1,000-mile, two-hour flight south. They reasoned that even if government hospitals would not take them, they would certainly find some doctors with a conscience in private hospitals, even though such hospitals would be expensive and would require a full-payment deposit before examination and treatment.
Nguyen Thi Lan, who had not been able to eat since the attack, was admitted to a hospital immediately after her examination, as the doctors discovered her doubly broken pelvis and severely injured female organs.
Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau, who had severe bruises on his face and head, had also been kicked in his back, chest and stomach. Doctors diagnosed internal injuries to his kidneys, liver and perhaps other organs. He too was admitted for further observation and treatment. Nguyen Thi Tac, who had been hit with a steel shovel on her chest and stomach as well as her back, was also still in considerable pain, but a medical examination found no serious internal injuries and she was not admitted to the hospital. 
In Khoan’s rants during the attack, sources said, he charged that the land, now legally owned by Nguyen Thi Lan, had once belonged to his ancestors, implying that the ancestors would be angry that the current residents no longer worshipped them. Blurry cell-phone photos of the attack show a sullen Khoan in a tug-of-war with a woman trying to hang on to the wooden cross he had torn off the wall of the large room the Christians used for worship.  
The invading gang destroyed furniture and seriously damaged motorbikes, a small vegetable garden and fruit trees before leaving (see, “House Church Leaders Attacked near Hanoi, Vietnam,” Nov. 16), sources said.
The injured Christians wrote a petition to police indicating the articles of the criminal code that had been violated, but officers have done nothing about Khoan’s death threats nor helped to redress the damage done to the Christians and their property. 
While not opposing the attempt at securing legal redress, the affected Christians’ top leader, Nguyen Cong Thanh, encouraged the injured Christians to show forbearance.
“I pray that you will patiently endure your suffering for Jesus’ sake without bitterness,” he told them. “Know that the blood you spilled is now joined with Christ’s blood in suffering.”
He said officials have failed to prosecute the perpetrators.
“They remain beyond the reach of the law and dare the authorities and the Christians, saying, ‘If we are not imprisoned, we will surely murder Ms. Lan if she ever returns.’”  
A long-time Vietnam religious liberty advocate said there is a growing pattern of strong social persecution in Vietnam where new Christian groups flourish.
“It is also the pattern that local police and government officials are loathe to prosecute those who harm Christians or to extend protection to threatened Christian believers,” he said. “In this incident, Christians recognized some police and local officials dressed in civilian clothes among those who took part in the original attack on the house church on Nov. 13.” 

Copyright 2011 Compass Direct News

As elections approach, fury builds in Egypt

(Cover photo of Tahrir protest by
 Tori Aarseth) Story Photo: Prayer
 vigil (Tallskinnykiwi)

Egypt (MNN) ― Thousands of protesters flocked to Egypt's Tahrir Square Monday. Clashes continued with tear gas and fire bombs. By day's end, Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation--an effort to stabilize in advance of the November 28 elections.

The vote was intended to be the first milestone on the road to transition from military to civilian rule, but the oppressive response by the interim government is feeding a growing fury. SAT-7 CEO Terry Ascott explains, "As the election approaches, and the army does not seem to be yielding any constitutional power, even to a newly elected body, people feel that their revolution has been stolen from them, and so they're on the streets."

In practical application, although the President's ouster was triumphant for the masses in the streets, Ascott says, "The reality on the ground was that very little changed, except that Hosni Mubarak was replaced by another military consortium, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces."

Political forces have issued statements condemning the "excessive use of force" and acknowledging protesters' right to demonstrate. The November 28  elections are scheduled to go forward, despite security problems, but Ascott cautions a realistic approach to the vote. "This is not going to all be over by the spring. There's not going to be a new Constitution and a settled-down political identity phase yet for quite some time. I think there's going to be another decade of struggle between different parties trying to find their way to an Egyptian-styled democracy."

The Muslim Brotherhood has been gaining traction in Cairo's power vacuum, raising concerns of what might happen to Christians should they take power. "It does look likely that no one party is going to gain any kind of overall majority," says Ascott. That means there will likely be a coalition government, which is good news for believers. "Coalitions are good at moderating this [Muslim Brotherhood] kind of extremism."

However, the specter of violence against Christians and a massacre last month remains fresh on the minds of the community. They did the only thing they could: they prayed. "It's a very difficult situation for the church, for the Christians. In the middle of this, we did have this amazing night of prayer. Twelve hours of praise and worship in the open air."

SAT-7 is a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. Their teams have been providing coverage and a public forum of the upheaval in the region on a constant basis. Naturally, they provided full coverage of an amazing prayer movement on November 11, 2011 at the "Cave Church." 

Prayers for the night also focused on issues of personal and social peace and seeking God's blessing on all Egyptians--Muslims and Christians, the authorities, and the important parliamentary elections that begin on November 28th.  "SAT -7 was able to cover that, live, for 12 hours. Between 50,000 and 70,000 people attended at least some of that service. It was full of joy. It was a call to repentance."

SAT-7's participation also helped to guide audiences throughout the region in prayer for their own respective countries, as well as share in general prayers.

Nine days later, SAT-7 said they were still receiving requests for recordings of the event from other television stations.
Ascott says there was a lot of interest in what the Christians were doing. A Facebook page set up for the event drew more than 800,000 comments. "I think it was a wonderful testimony that will place Christians in a much better position in the eyes of the general public in Egypt."

Keep praying wisdom for the broadcast team as they continue to provide a biblical response in the public forum addressing the concerns in Egypt.

U.S. government postpones decision to fund Religious Freedom Commission

USA (MNN) ― After over a month of waiting for re-authorization, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was told Friday to wait some more.

"Basically, instead of passing real budgets and instead of reauthorizing the commission, they've just given it a lifeline for one more month," explains Lindsay Vessey with Open Doors, USA. "So now the commission is funded through December 18."

Essentially, USCIRF has not been cut out of the budget yet, but no clear decisions to keep the commission afloat have been put into place either.

Why is that important? And is USCIRF really relevant to the rest of the world?
Vessey would respond with an emphatic "Yes."

The job of USCIRF can be likened to a watchdog service. USCIRF focuses exclusively on religious freedom issues around the world, monitoring violations in various nations, bringing them to light in the U.S., and making recommendations as to how the U.S. should respond.

Vessey says that USCIRF was created at the same time as the U.S. State Department Office of International Religious Freedom. Although the State Department itself deals with these religious freedom issues, Vessey explains, persecution, for instance, may be called "sectarian violence" coming out of the State Department. USCIRF would likely call this same incident "persecution," and highlight religious freedom abuses.

With USCIRF gone, this lone government voice for the persecuted would be silenced.

"One of the main things that we're concerned about, if they lose their funding and cease to exist, is that we will lose that really clear voice speaking out on behalf of people of all faiths worldwide who are being persecuted," notes Vessey.

The implications are even more severe than just one voice silenced in the States, though. Ridding the nation of USCIRF could actually affect the whole rest of the globe and encourage high-profile nations' bad behavior.

"We are the only government in the world who has an agency like this--an independent, bipartisan agency that works in religious freedom," Vessey explains. "So if we were to shut down the commission, it would be like saying that religious freedom really isn't a priority for the U.S. government any more. That would make a huge impact, I believe, on many governments around the world who are violating religious freedom."

Vessey fears that nations violating these freedoms would feel justified in doing so if they get the idea that the United States does not care whether or not they provide religious freedom. Tightening of religious restrictions of course could mean preventing evangelistic momentum.

At the end of the day, Vessey says, the December 18 postponement date isn't good enough.

"The commission needs to be reauthorized. They don't need lifelines keeping them afloat month-to-month. They actually need a true re-authorization which would keep them in existence for a couple of years. There is a bill in the senate which would do this, but it's being blocked by one senator."

Open Doors reports that one senator issued an anonymous callback preventing HR 2867 -- the bill which would amend the International Freedom Act of 1998 and reauthorize USCIRF -- from going to a vote. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois has been named by many as the "anonymous" senator responsible.

Vessey urges concerned Christians to speak out by contacting both President Obama and state senators. To contact the White House,click here. For a list of U.S. senators, click here.