Saturday, January 28, 2012

Overseas Chinese Christian Businesswoman Who Visited House Churches in China is Kidnapped, Tortured by State Security Agents

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- A Chinese Christian businesswoman from Canada who visited China late last year was kidnapped and tortured by Chinese state security agents after she visited two persecuted Chinese house churches during the Christmas and New Year's holiday season, ChinaAid has learned.

Photo: Jenny Chen took this photo on Christmas Day 2011 of an armored personnel carrier and other police vehicles outside Jindeng Church in Linfen, Shanxi province.

Jenny Chen, who is in her 50s, was held by state security agents and denied food and water for nearly two days.  About to go into shock, she was taken to a police hospital, from where she managed to escape and get on a flight to Los Angeles, arriving in the United States on Jan. 17.

Chen, who does business in Canada, the United States and China, had learned of the severe persecution inflicted on Shouwang Church in Beijing and the Linfen house church in Shanxi province from reports online.

Motivated by Christian concern for her fellow believers, Chen and her daughter traveled to Beijing and Shanxi.  On Christmas Day, she was an eyewitness to police action in front of the Jindeng Church established by the Linfen house church.  She saw both regular and armed police and police vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, surrounding the church to stop church members from attending a Christmas worship service. Police blocked streets leading to the church and closed nearby shops.  Chen was followed and threatened by plainclothes police officers.

In Beijing, Chen had paid a visit before Christmas to Rev. Jin Tianming, senior pastor of Shouwang Church, who has been under house arrest since April 2011, and on New Year's Day, she and her daughter attempted to attend Shouwang's outdoor worship service. (See her account here:  On both occasions, she was followed by Domestic Security Protection agents.

Aware that they were being followed more and more closely, Chen put her daughter on a U.S.-bound plane on Jan. 10, then returned to her hometown in the city of Tianjin.  On the evening of Jan. 14, she was forcibly taken into custody by two plain-clothed state security agents who refused to show their IDs and taken to a secret place for questioning.  She later realized that she had been kidnapped by Tianjin state security agents.  She was interrogated in a cold, windowless cell with only one chair, and was asked what organization she was affiliated with and what overseas mission she was on.  Chen said she had no organizational affiliation nor was she on any overseas mission.  She said she was simply an overseas Christian whose conscience had propelled her to return to China to visit her fellow believers.  The agents appeared not to believe her and threatened to imprison her for more than ten years for subverting state power and stealing state secrets if she did not tell them the truth.  The agents also beat her, pulling her hair and slapping her hard. 

Chen was detained for nearly two days without food and water, and almost went into shock. 

Physically exhausted, she was sent to the Tianjin Public Safety Hospital, where she was diagnosed with slight pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  However, Chen had no money with her, and the state security agents said they had no money either.  The hospital refused to treat her, giving her the excuse of returning home to get money.  Instead, she took a cab and rushed to Beijing Capital Airport, where she caught a flight in the early morning of Jan. 16.  She arrived in Los Angles on the following day and is currently undergoing medical observation and treatment.

"It is appalling to hear what Ms. Chen had experienced at the hands of the brutal Chinese security forces for simply visiting and trying to worship with the Chinese Christians during the Christmas season," said Eddie Romero, director of ChinaAid's Los Angeles office. "The unprecedented persecution against the peaceful house churches like Shouwang and Linfen should be stopped. We urge the Chinese government's highest authorities to hold those abusers accountable for the harm done to this businesswoman, Ms. Chen."

Jenny Chen's journal New Year's Visit to Shouwang

Over 3000 Muslims Attack Christian Homes and Shops in Egypt, 3 Injured

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT (ANS) -- A mob of over 3000 Muslims have just attacked Copts in the village of Kobry-el-Sharbat (el-Ameriya), Alexandria, Egypt. Coptic homes and shops were looted before being set ablaze. Two Copts and a Muslim were injured.

Mary Abdelmassih, writing for the Assyrian International News Agency ( said that the violence started after a rumor was spread that a Coptic man had an allegedly intimate photo of a Muslim woman on his mobile phone. The Coptic man, Mourad Samy Guirgis, surrendered to the police for his protection.

According to eyewitnesses, the perpetrators were bearded men in white gowns. “They were Salafists, and some of were from The Muslim Brotherhood,” according to one witness. It was reported that terrorized women and children who lost their homes were in the streets without any place to go.

Father Boktor Nashed from St. George's Church in el-Nahdah, said that a meeting between Muslim and Christian representatives was supposed to take place in the evening in Kobry-el-Sharbat. But, by 3 P.M. a Muslim mob looted and torched the home of Mourad Samy Guirgis, as well as the home of his family and three homes of Coptic neighbors. A number of Coptic-owned shops and businesses were also looted and torched.

“We contacted security forces, but they arrived very, very late,” said Father Nashad. The fire brigade was prevented from going into the village by the Muslims and the fires were left to burn themselves out. “Those who lost their home, left the village,” said Father Nashed.
Coptic activist Mariam Ragy, who was covering the violence in Kobry-el-Sharbat, said it took the army 1 hour to drive 2 kilometers to the village. “This happens every time. They wait outside the village until the Muslims have had enough violence, then they appear.” She said that she spoke to many Copts from the village this evening who said that although their homes were not attacked, Muslims stood in the street asking them to come to their homes to hide. “They believed that this was a new trick to make them leave, so that Muslims would loot and torch their homes while they were away,” said Ragy.

Abdelmassih said that the Governor of Alexandria visited al-Nahda, near Kobry-el-Sharbat, this evening and told elYoum 7 newspaper that the two Copts and one Muslim who were injured were transported to hospital. He said that the family of the Muslim girl whose image was on the Copt's mobile phone wanted revenge from the Coptic man. They broke into his home and torched a furniture factory located in the same building.

Joseph Malak, a lawyer for the Coptic Church in Alexandria, said it is too early to count injuries to Copts or losses to their property.

Mr. Mina Girguis, of the Maspero Youth Union in Alexandria, said that “collective punishment of Copts for someone else's mistake, which is yet to be determined, is completely unacceptable.” He believes that the reason for this violence is fabricated, and the military is behind it. “They are trying to divert the attention from the second revolution which is taking place now.”

The Middle East journalist went on to say that Father Nashed denied that Islamists were present, only ordinary village Muslims, and could not give an explanation as why people who have lived together amicably for years could commit such violence. “Maybe because of lack of security, they think that they can do as they please,” he said.

He added that the nearly 65 Coptic families were ordered to stay indoors and not to open their shops and businesses tomorrow. He added that security forces did not arrest any of the perpetrators, “on the contrary, they were begging the mob to go home.”

“By midnight the violence had subsided,” concluded Abdelmassih.

Dan Wooding, 71, 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 192 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, one of which is 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.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Former Muslim Extremist in Uganda Flees Wrath of Ex-Colleagues

Convert to Christianity faces death threats; father committed suicide over conversion.
A former member of a Muslim extremist group in Uganda who converted to Christianity is in hiding in Kenya, his movements severely restricted following threats to kill him.

Hassan Sharif Lubenga, 54, was a sheikh and member of the Buk Haram, a violent group of Islamists whose name suggests the Bible is corrupt and therefore forbidden. Originally from Chengera, seven kilometers from Kampala, the husband to four wives began his conversion process four years ago; in June 2011, he said, after various dreams and visions in which Jesus appeared to him, he made a full commitment to follow Christ.

Lubenga fled to Kenya last July 10 after hostilities peaked, and upon returning to Uganda in September he received messages on his cell phone from mujahidin – Islamic fighters – threatening to kill him, he said. He reported the threats to Chengera police, who told him they would investigate, but in October a friend told him that he’d heard in a Chengera mosque that his former colleagues were enraged and planning to kill him.

“My heart got troubled, but the voice of Jesus continued whispering to me to witness for Jesus without fear,” Lubenga said.

When Lubenga felt like giving up on his new faith, he said, he received a call from Bishop Umar Mulinde, his former pastor at Gospel Life Church International who was scarred in a Christmas Eve acid attack by Muslim extremists (see “Muslim Extremists in Uganda Throw Acid on Bishop,” Dec. 28, 2011). Mulinde told him the church was praying for him, and Lubenga was deeply heartened, he said.

“All my family members have deserted me,” he said by telephone. “The Muslims are looking to kill me. I need protection and help.”

The Islamic extremists who had declared war on “infidels” such as Lubenga had been threatening him since 2007, when he first began to speak of dreams and visions of Christ. Dangers peaked in 2010, when Muslims saw him visiting a church in Uganda. By April 2010, one of his four wives had poisoned him because of his budding faith in Christ, leaving him unconscious, he said. After his recovery, he fled Chengera to a village 25 kilometers from Kampala, Kiwangala.

In 2007, he said, he told his Muslim jihadist friends that he had seen Jesus in a dream. He said they had warned him, “Do not make such a mistake again – we are ready to help you. If you continue with this move, then we will destroy you. You know that you are a sheikh.”

He reported the threats to police at Insanje sub-county, Wakizo district, angering his colleagues, who sent threatening letters.

“I explained to them that it is Jesus who came to me, and not I who sought Him,” he said. “They were furious. They then kidnapped me and blindfolded me for three days, coupled with beatings. They demanded I deny Jesus as the Son of God, which I consented to because I feared that they were going to kill me.”

In 2009, another message from Jesus came to him in a vision, he said: “Do not hide your Christian faith.”

Within a few months, another threatening letter arrived: “If you do not join Islamic Jihad, then we shall kill you.”

Lubenga decided to go on pilgrimage to Mecca, in accordance with the tenets of Islam. While there, however, he heard another voice, he said: “You have decided to forsake me, and instead you are here to accuse me.”

“I then saw Jesus high up with white robe,” he said. “He laughed. I just left the place but got sick for two weeks. I visited Mohammed Ali, the head of majini [evil spirits], who promised that the majini will come and help me. But I did not receive any healing.”

Jesus continued appearing to him for three months in visions, he said.

“I could not resist, so I decided to believe in Him and started openly declaring that Jesus is my personal Savior,” Lubenga said. “The whole family and clan members were out to destroy me.  I was poisoned by my own family.”

His father, Morshid Kabide, came to his house in July 2010 to establish the truth of the rumors he had heard, Lubenga said.

“I heard that nowadays you do go to church, and you are claiming that you saw Jesus,” his father told him. When he answered in the affirmative, reaffirming his decision to follow Jesus, his father was crestfallen; he later committed suicide, leaving a letter that read, “I have decided to kill myself because my son became a Christian” and urged all family members to curse him.

Lubenga said that since then he has been in hiding, growing more terrified as threats intensified.

“But I kept my faith in Jesus,” he said. “I sold some of my belongings to build the church structure at Chengera, outside Kampala.”

As a result of this act, threats on his life grew more shrill, and he fled to Kenya.

Two of his wives had left him in 2007; one has decided to stay with him, and he has been sharing his faith with her. The fourth wife, whom he married five years ago, is a Christian who has also received death threats; six months pregnant, she has fled to an undisclosed location.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two Catholic Priests Kidnapped in Sudan

Islamic militias loyal to government forces attack Catholic church compound.
Islamic militias loyal to the Sudanese government have kidnapped two Catholic priests in Rabak, Christian sources said.

A large truck smashed through the gates of the St. Josephine Bakhita’s Catholic Church compound in Rabak, 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of Khartoum, on Jan. 15 at 10 p.m., and the assailants broke down the rectory door, the sources said. The Rev. Joseph Makwey and the Rev. Sylvester Mogga were kidnapped at gunpoint.

Four days later, on Jan. 19, the kidnappers forced the two priests to call their bishop with a ransom demand of 500,000 Sudanese pounds (US$185,530), 250,000 Sudanese pounds each.

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok told Compass by phone that there was no direct communication between the bishop and the kidnappers, though the priests managed to convey that they were being mistreated.

“We are worried about the two priests,” he said. “They are not treating them well.”

The kidnappers have attempted no communication with church leaders since then, Adwok said. Neither Makwey, in his 40s, nor Mogga, in his mid-30s, are supporters of southern Sudan military forces in territorial conflict with Sudan over border areas, he added.

Eyewitnesses told Compass that they saw the assailants severely beating the priests while abducting them. The kidnappers also looted the priests’ living quarters, stealing two vehicles, two laptops and a safe.

The incident caused panic and terror among Christians in Rabak, with church leaders saying they fear for their lives as they become targets of the Islamic government and its allied militias.

Sudan has seen a steep increase in persecution against Christians, according to an annual ranking by Christian support organization Open Doors. Sudan – where northern Christians experienced greater vulnerability after southern Sudan seceded in a July referendum, and where Christians were targeted amid isolated military conflicts – jumped 19 places last year from its 2010 ranking, from 35th to 16th, according to Open Doors’ 2012 World Watch List.

Sudanese law prohibits missionaries from evangelizing, and converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by imprisonment or death in Sudan, though previously such laws were not strictly enforced. The government has never carried out a death sentence for apostasy, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report.

Christians are facing growing threats from both Muslim communities and Islamist government officials who have long wanted to rid Sudan of Christianity, Christian leaders told Compass. They said Christianity is now regarded as a foreign religion following the departure of 350,000 people, most of them Christians, to South Sudan following the July 9, 2011 secession.

Sudan’s Interim National Constitution holds up sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation, and the laws and policies of the government favor Islam, according to the state department report. Christian leaders said they fear the government is tightening controls on churches in Sudan and planning to force compliance with Islamic law as part of a strategy to eliminate Christianity.

As he has several times in the past year, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Jan. 3 once again warned that Sudan’s constitution will be more firmly entrenched in sharia.

“We are an Islamic nation with sharia as the basis of our constitution,” he told crowds in Kosti, south of Khartoum. “We will base our constitution on Islamic laws.”

His government subsequently issued a decree ordering church leaders to provide names and contact information of church leaders in Sudan, sources said. Christian leaders said the government is retaliating for churches’ perceived pro-West position.

Muslim scholars have urged heavy-handed measures against Christians to Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Egyptian Judiciary Accused of Collusion in Kidnapping and Forced Islamization of Christian Minors

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- A Middle East journalist is reporting that an Egyptian court has ordered a 16-year-old Christian girl to be held in a state-owned care home, instead of returning her to her family, allegedly for expressing her wish to convert to Islam.

The 16-year-old girl
“She is to be held in state care until she reaches the age of 18. The decision has been widely criticized by Copts, who say it encourages Islamists to continue unabated the abduction of Christian minors for conversion to Islam,” said Mary Abdelmassih writing for the Assyrian International News Agency (

“The decision taken by a prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour district, Giza, makes him an abductor and makes the law an accomplice to the crime,” said Dr. Oliver, a Coptic activist. “What this prosecutor committed is a crime -- he legitimized child abduction and detention.”

Dr. Oliver explained that these crimes are committed by thugs, criminals and kidnappers of children and, when the State legitimizes them, it makes itself a partner. In addition, he said, placing a girl under care for allegedly wishing to convert to Islam while still a minor is “tantamount to abduction by the State”.

Abdelmassih went on to say that the abduction of 16-year old Amira Gamal Saber, from Saft-el-Khamar village, Minya province, who disappeared from her home over 40 days ago, has turned into a tug of war between the Christian family and Islamist lawyers from an organization named Alliance for the Support of New Muslim Females.

They claim that they are “defending the rights of their Muslim sisters” and that “according to the Egyptian constitution, the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence (Sharia), which should apply to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and therefore at 16 years of age, Amira can chose her own religion.”

According to the Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, a person cannot convert to Islam before reaching the age of 18 years.

In December 2011, Amira attended a school lesson but failed to return home. Her teacher said she had left school with two veiled girls. Her family looked for her in all the neighboring villages and were informed that she had accompanied three Muslim men to Cairo. They filed a report with the police on December 4. The head of security in Minya confirmed her kidnapping and assured her family that the culprits were being watched and not to take any action until they were detained. However, time passed and nothing was heard from security.

The journalist added that attorney, Tawfik Kamel, who accompanied the Sabry family to Giza, said that on January 15 a man named Mohammad Ahmed Ibrahim phoned the family and said that Amira had been staying at his home in Boulaq El Dakrour for the last 38 days and asked for 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($33,110.41 USD) for her return.

“The family asked to speak to their daughter, and she spoke to her mother,” he added.
According to Kamel, “We had no idea that Islamists were involved. We went to Giza to pay a ransom to someone and collect our daughter, instead we were directed to the police station where Amira is, and then we were told there that government prosecuters are handling the case.”

They were detained and interrogated for seven hours.

“We were surprised to find a bearded lawyer,” said Kamel, “backed by another 12 Salafist lawyers, appearing in the session, claiming that Amira wants to convert to Islam, and that she does not want to return home as she is afraid of retribution.” He presented prosecution with the birth certificate proving Amira is 16-years-old and a certificate from the Fatwa department of Al Azhar saying they have no record of her, and conversion is not permitted for people under 18 years old.

“We thought we would bring Amira home but were stunned by the decision to send her to a care home in Giza until she reaches 18,” said her uncle.

Abdelmassih added that Tawfik Kamel said that he heard that Amira is presently not in a state-owned care home, but in a home affiliated to the Sharia association in Giza, which is in violation of the court decision. He said that he is in the process of appealing the decision to the Attorney General.

Nancy and Christine Fathy
The decision of the prosecutor in Boulaq El Dakrour was not the first time that prosecution has taken such a measure. On June 12, 2011, 14-year-old Nancy Magdy Fathy, and her 16-year old cousin Christine Ezzat Fathy disappeared from their home in Minya. The family accused two Muslim brothers from a neighboring village of abducting them. Two weeks later they were found in Cairo, but said they converted to Islam, refused to go back to their families and applied for protection from them.

Prosecution decided to put them in a state care home and provided protection for them, until completion of the investigations. It was discovered they had lied about converting to Islam, according to Al Azhar.

“To this day they are still in the care home,” said activist Waguih Yacoub, “and no progress on their status had been made, except that the two brothers implicated of their disappearance were released”.

According to Dr. Oliver there is an active ring called “Sharia Association of Ain Shams” in the Cairo suburb of Ain Shams, which kidnaps Christian minors. “It depends on the protection and backing of a prosecutor serving there who colludes with this association,” he said.

“It is also not uncommon that prosecution detains parents of abducted minors so that they cease to search for their abducted daughters.”

Abdelmassih concluded by saying, “Similarly organized Islamization rings, which depend on the protection and collusion of high profile personalities, including prosecutors and policemen, exist in Alexandria. They target Christian minor girls through sexual coercion”.

Dan Wooding, 71, 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 192 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, one of which is 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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Embattled Indonesian Church Services Disrupted Again

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

BOGOR, WEST JAVA, INDONESIA (ANS) -- A crowd of Muslim hard-liners disrupted about 100 members of the embattled GKI Yasmin congregation as they held divine services at a member's home in Bogor, West Java, on Sunday (January 22, 2012).
Image from a past protest over the embattled church (Photo:

“We were conducting our worship at one member's home before people from Forkami and Garis came to our place,” 

GKI Yasmin spokeswoman Dwiati Novita Rini told The Jakarta Post ( over the telephone on Sunday.

Dwiati said she did not know why the groups - the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Muslim Communications Forum (Forkami) - were protesting.

The congregation resisted efforts by about 50 Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers to stop their service, Dwiati said.

“The Satpol PP came around 9 a.m. and were trying to stop our activity because they didn't want any clashes to happen. [House of Representatives member] Lily Wahid was negotiating with one of the Satpol PP officers and the congregation could continue worship,” she said.

The congregation completed their service peacefully around 10 a.m. and the demonstrators from Forkami and Garis left the congregation member's home around 11 a.m, Dwiati added.

“The Bogor City administration, citing permit application problems, has barred the congregation from conducting religious services for more than two years, defying a 2010 Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the congregation's right to hold services at its church building,” added the Jakarta story.

Dan Wooding, 71, 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 192 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, one of which is 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.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

Protestors gather to remind government of revolution demands

Protestors in Tahrir one year later.
 (Photo by Bora S. Kameel)

Egypt (MNN) ― Egypt's military ruler has decreed a partial lifting of the nation's hated emergency laws effective today--the first anniversary of the start of the popular uprising that toppled longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The move caps off a wild beginning for Egypt's first democratically -elected parliament in 60 years.

A top priority will be for the chamber to elect a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution, which will have to be put to a vote in a referendum. The next major step in the transition will be a presidential election, scheduled to be held before the end of June.

However, the changes are not going in the direction revolutionary groups wanted. They're calling for mass demonstrations against the military rule on January 25, the one-year anniversary of the uprising that eventually led to former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. SAT-7 USA President Rex Rogers says, "There's a lot of hope tempered by realism. There have certainly been some positive changes. Things have opened up."

That's a step in the right direction, but it hasn't come easily. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, has an office in Cairo. Despite the weeks of unrest, their team has kept up with the events and adjusted accordingly. Rogers notes, "We've done a lot more live programming. We've tried to interact with people's on-the-ground needs. We've tried to share with them how practical Christianity is for life, and at the same time, continue to pray because we don't know exactly which direction this is going to go."

Daily live TV shows gave an outlet for the building emotional tension. Egyptian church leaders created an opportunity to calm angry spirits, to call for peace and to explain the Gospel. Rogers explains, "We try to encourage people, we try to help them understand how do you stand up for your rights, and at the same time turn the other cheek? We try to get in and understand 'what does the Word of God say?' 'When is it right to do one thing and right to do another?' "

Even as protestors gather in Tahrir Square to remind Parliament of the revolution's demands, Rogers says, "Pray for safety, obviously. Pray for an understanding of individuals different from oneself. I mean that religiously, and otherwise. You pray for people, and have a concern those that do not believe as you believe because ultimately, you want to reach out to them."

Despite a growing sense of disillusionment that's been widely purported, Rogers adds, "Staff is hopeful. They continue to pray. They are optimistic, but at the same time, they recognize there are a lot of political tensions taking place."

SAT-7's five channels include: SAT-7 ARABIC, SAT-7 PARS (Farsi), SAT-7 TÜRK (Turkish), SAT-7 KIDS (Arabic) and SAT-7 PLUS (Arabic). SAT-7 has an estimated 15 million viewers (Intermedia research, 2009) and broadcasts in three languages: Arabic, Farsi and Turkish. SAT-7 can be viewed via satellite in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, much of Central Asia and worldwide

As Egypt marks one year since revolution, Christians look past surface tension to real need

Photo by Ramy Raoof,
 Demonstrators heading to Tahrir
 Square in January 2011

Egypt (IMB/MNN) ― Egypt's new lower house of parliament just held its first session two days ago, after completing an historic election that put Islamic groups in the legislative lead.

A year ago, Cairo was in turmoil as thousands of angry protesters clashed with government soldiers and tanks.
While the square seems calm, there's an energy that leads Christian worker to note the region's volatility.

Lucy Hamilton (not her real name), with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board says the Arab Spring was the manifestation of the tension in the region. "In Egypt at least, there's a revolution attitude of ‘I can do what I want' because people are disillusioned and desperate, and the police force is unable to keep up with petty crime problems."

The changes in Egypt haven't been as deep as many expected, but they have still made a region-wide impact, says Nik Ripken (not his real name), who has served 25 years with the International Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts.

"I believe that the Arab Spring and what has happened in Egypt has begun to redefine the Arab if not the entire Muslim world," Ripken says. "What has happened to Mubarak has so terrified the leaders of countries like Yemen and Syria,  and of course we saw what played out in Libya -- that no dictator or leader is now willing to participate in a peaceful transition to a more democratic or less corrupt form of government."

The people seem to want something as different as possible from the leadership they've had, Ripken notes, adding that this may mean a more Islamic form of government.

Because Egyptian people don't feel like they have gotten the jobs, economic improvement, new opportunities or respect, not much has changed in their view. Proving Ripken's point, the winners of the elections came from the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafi al-Nour party.

But with this, much like Tahrir Square on its peaceful days, things may not be exactly as they appear, says Ripken. "This is not necessarily a bad thing from a believer's point of view, because having conversations concerning faith and religion are more important for us than conversations about government and corruption." Ripken continues, "Often it is in the most conservative of Muslim hearts that we are finding God appearing to them in dreams and visions and sending them on a spiritual pilgrimage that can last for years, where they secretly read the Bible many times and have quiet discussions with followers of Jesus Christ."

Hamilton says a sense of hopelessness in the government can bring them to Christ, too.

"We hear that many are turning to the One whose Kingdom is just and merciful and has no end," she says. "The church in Egypt also seems to be waking up as never before. It is great to watch Him use His church in the work of revolutionizing hearts."

In the light of this, Ripken says, "We want to pray that we will take every opportunity we can to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give that cold cup of water in Jesus' name. We must pray for the absence of fear for both believers in country and those from the West who are seeking to meet the needs of both the body and soul inside these countries." 

Pray that people will have access to the Gospel through any means possible. Ripken concludes with this thought: "Now we have time to prepare the next generation for going to people groups and countries that have experienced massive change."

Syria's Assad to be left alone?

(Photos by PanARMENIAN Photo)
Syria (MNN) ― The Syrian government rejected the Arab League's call for President Assad's resignation, defending their brutal crackdown on rebels as an obligation. In response, Arab nations actually appear to be stepping down.

Gulf Arab states announced yesterday that they are withdrawing from the Arab League's observe mission in Syria, reports BBC News.

At this point, it seems unlikely that the Arab League or any individual Arab nation will try to step in again, says Tom Doyle, Middle East/Central Asia Director of E3Partners.

"[Because] Syria is such a strong Arab nation, I think the other Arab nations risk isolation from Syria. In that area, they all need each other," explains Doyle. "Eventually, probably what's going to happen is it will all be a lot of talk for nothing."

Months of talk have lifted the hopes of rebels in Syria, but those hopes are dying. "They feel forgotten. They expected a coalition of nations to come against the dictator, much like happened in Libya, and it hasn't happened." And Doyle says it likely won't.

The bloodbath has cost at least 5,000 lives in the last 10 months. It seems unlikely that any nation will step in unless it gets much worse, says Doyle. Essentially, it seems Assad will hold onto power unless forced out of it.
It's an interesting position for believers. Although Assad's regime has been violent, the government has laid off Christians as of late.

"Through this revolution, the pressure on believers has let up because I think the government has seen that the church, the believers, are not a threat--they're not trying to overthrow Assad," explains Doyle. "So the pressure that's normally been on them--which has been fairly intense in the last five years--has kind of lessened."

If a rebel-run government were to take over, things could get much worse for Christians. Unsure of what's to come, believers are taking advantage of this interim time to boldly preach the message of Christ.

"We've seen an upsurge in the Gospel. People are desperate; they're frustrated; they have lost a lot of hope. This is prime soil for the Gospel to just flourish." Seeds are being sown, and a harvest of both Alawites and Muslims is growing.

Above all things political, pray for the church in Syria. Pray that believers would continue to boldly proclaim the hope found only in Christ. Pray that Syrians would cling to this truth. 

Seven Christians Killed in Bauchi State, Nigeria

Many injured, church building destroyed.
Early morning attacks in Tafawa Balewa, Bauchi state on Sunday (Jan. 22) left at least seven Christians dead and a church building destroyed.

The attack on the Evangelical Church Winning All Church 2, residents of Tafawa Balewa said, was carried out by area Islamic extremists alongside members of the Boko Haram sect, with the church building and surrounding houses bombed.

Yunnana Yusufu, a pastor with the Church of Christ in Nigeria in Tafawa Balewa, told Compass that the assailants arrived in the early morning hours and began shooting at Christians in the town, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Bauchi City.

“I saw seven dead bodies of some of the Christians killed,” Yusufu told Compass by phone. “The situation is terrible, and I am about to go out to other parts of the town, to see the extent of the damage caused by the attackers.”

Yusufu said that many other Christians were injured.

“Some of them have been taken to the General Hospital here, while others are being treated at home by medical personnel who are Christians,” he said.

All churches have cancelled services.

“The situation we are in calls for attention to the injured and taking appropriate steps to calm frayed nerves over the attack,” he said.

Bauchi Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba reportedly confirmed the attack on Tafawa Balewa, saying two soldiers and a policeman, as well as eight civilians were later killed in a gunfight. He added that six suspects had been arrested.

Police also reported that bombs were thrown at a Catholic church building and an evangelical church building in Bauchi City, causing little damage and no deaths or injuries.

Bukata Zhadi, secretary of the Christian Elders Council in Tafawa Balewa, said attacks on Christian communities in the area have been incessant, with Sunday’s attack bringing to 10 the number of Christians killed in the past two weeks in Tafawa Balewa.

A fortnight ago, gunmen believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked three Christian farmers on their farms in Pyakman village, near Tafawa Balewa, killing the three of them. Corpses recovered from the farms had bullet wounds and machete cuts, Zhadi said.

Boko Haram, the name given to the Islamic extremist group officially called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad – “The People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” – seeks to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria. The name Boko Haram translates loosely as “Western education is forbidden.”


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Boko Haram declares war in Nigeria

(Photos by Associated Press/Sunday Alamba)

Nigeria (MNN) ― Police in Nigeria discovered ten more car bombs yesterday in Kano, an area already reeling from multiple bombings on Friday.

Spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, Todd Nettleton, says the level of sophistication is what's drawing their concern. "This was a very serious attack. It also shows the growing ability of Boko Haram to coordinate attacks and to maximize the body count."

Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect, claimed the bomb blasts that killed 256 people. The attacks came shortly after Muslim prayers in that beleaguered nation's second-largest city. This time instead of churches, it was police headquarters and other police stations, a secret police building, and immigration offices that were targeted. According to a video released by the group's leader, the attacks were a response to a refusal by the authorities to release the sect's members from custody.

The government deployed thousands of troops to quell the violence. While they have over 300 people in custody, Nettleton says it's not doing much to reassure the shell-shocked Nigerians. "The government seems unable to stop these attacks, unable to take a really significant stand against Boko Haram, and that's a concern not only to Christians in Nigeria, but really to everybody in Nigeria."

Although the group has mainly confined their activities to northeastern Nigeria, many fear extremist elements within the sect may try to escalate the crisis throughout the country -- "not only government of Nigeria targets, but international targets, as well. They have basically declared war on law and order in Nigeria, and anybody who represents law and order, they are willing to attack as they continue these calls that Nigeria should be an Islamic nation and should follow Sharia law."

This could amount to starting a civil war and destabilizing the government at the same time. President Goodluck Jonathon declared a 24-hour curfew to clear the streets. However, from there, it's clear that fear is spreading. 

If Christians are provoked further, church leaders warn they will defend themselves. "Pray that the Christians will have wisdom to know how to respond, because we want to respond like Christ. We want to represent Him. At the same time, they don't want to be 'sitting ducks' for more of these attacks that are specifically targeting Christians."

Nearly 200 religious leaders gathered on Monday for a prayer vigil. A short time later, police discovered the car bombs as well as nearly 300 homemade explosives.  

In Hausa, Boko Haram means "Western education is sinful" and is modeled on the Taliban movement. Since Christianity is equated with the West, Nettleton says believers know they're in the cross-hairs. "What is this going to mean for Nigeria? What is this going to mean for religious freedom in the northern part of the country? Are Christians going to have the ability to witness, the ability to meet together, the ability to worship in a place where they have been clearly told by Boko Haram, 'You should leave, or else'?"

Experts predict the violence will continue to spiral out of control. Nearly every news report Nettleton watches concludes with a grim prediction of civil war.

"Pray for wisdom for the Christians in Northern Nigeria to know how to respond, to balance their own need for safety and protection while also living out the biblical mandate to love our enemies and to forgive those who persecute us."

Accused apostate's accuser recants in Pakistan?

Pakistan (MNN) ― The case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistan Christian mother-of-five who was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, has taken an extraordinary turn.

According to a story monitored by the ASSIST News Service, Qari Salam, who accused Bibi of blasphemy charges which resulted in a jail sentence and possible hanging, is reported to have "ostensibly" regretted filing a blasphemy charge against the impoverished Christian woman.

"The source of his guilt: realization that the case was not based on facts but on hyped religious emotions and personal bias of some village women, including his wife," said the story posted at:

Bibi has been languishing in Sheikhupura jail since a sessions court gave her a death sentence for insulting Prophet Muhammad.

Qari, according to some of his close friends, was now thinking of not pursuing the case anymore and expressed his desire to some of his friends, only to find himself in a difficult situation when activists of an Islamic religious organization "convinced" him not to change his mind.

"We will chase her through hell. Don't worry about the money, hiring best lawyers," Salam told The Express Tribune, quoting the son of Khatm-e-Nabuwat's London chapter's leader.

The leader's son flew to Nankana from London after hearing that Salam might not go to Lahore High Court (LHC) when the review petition against Asia's conviction is taken up.

Convert from Islam in Uganda Survives Societal Hostilities

Ostracized by family and fired from his job, Christian overcomes false charge.
Hassan Muwanguzi, a convert from Islam in Uganda who lost his family and job because of his Christian faith, is thankful after fighting off the latest attack – an attempt by Muslims to imprison him and shut down the school he started.

Following his conversion in his early 20s in 2003, Muwanguzi’s family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him, he said. His wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher at Nankodo Islamic School, near Pallisa.

Undaunted, a year ago he opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, at Kajoko, Kibuku district, 27 kilometers (17 miles) from Mbale town; the area’s population of 5,000 people is predominantly Muslim.

Incensed by his boldness, an Islamic teacher, Sheikh Hassan Abdalla, filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his daughter, a minor. Together with his Muslim countrymen, Abdalla filed a case at the chief magistrate’s court in Palissa-Kalaki, and a warrant for Muwanguzi’s arrest was issued on April 1, 2011.

Initially he was locked up for three weeks, he said.

“After 48 hours, I was taken to court, and the judge read the charges against me and asked whether I knew of the case,” Muwanguzi said. “I answered that I was not aware of such charges. I asked for a court bail, but the judge insisted that a bail can only be given after hearing from the complainant.”

He was then sent to Kamuge Prison. On April 22, he appeared again before the judge, but the complainant did not appear. His lawyer appealed for his release.

He was freed on bail for 600,000 Uganda shillings (US$246), he said. At his first hearing on May 21, the complainant did not appear. Nor did Sheikh Abdalla appear at hearings on June 25, July 16 and Aug. 13, Muwanguzi said.

“The judge found out it was a false accusation, hence the case was dropped,” Muwanguzi said. “I had been subjected to humiliation, but I forgave them for the sake of my Christian outreach in the area.”

He said the Muslims filed the charges because he had opened the Christian school against the wishes of the Muslim majority. More than a quarter of the school’s 235 children come from Muslim homes, with the consent of their Muslim parents, he said.

“The Muslims have tried to use all kinds of threats to make me close the school – first they used witchcraft,” he said. “This did not work, so then they tried to discourage Muslims from bringing their children to the school, saying that the school was converting Muslim children to Christianity by teaching Christian Religious Education.”

The constitution and other laws protect religious freedom in Uganda, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Muwanguzi has also helped the area to improve its agricultural practices, training the community to become self-reliant by starting tomato and eggplant gardens, among others, and providing free seeds to widows and other indigent people, including more than 100 Muslims.

“There is need for more seeds and insecticides so that the farmers can have good yields,” he said. “This will help them see that Christianity has something good to offer to better their lives.”