Friday, June 15, 2012

Christian organization rescues a young Indian girl sold by her mother

By Jacob Philip
Assistant Correspondent in India for the ASSIST News Service

MUMBAI, INDIA (ANS) -- The Indian Rescue Mission (IRM), an organisation that rescues minor girls that have been sold, trafficked and forced into prostitution, was recently able to rescue a 14-year-old girl from the clutches of her perpetrators, and from her own people who were trying to sell her virginity and then force her into prostitution.

The rescued girl – pictured blurred to protect her identity
A couple of weeks prior to this rescue, which was done with the help of the local police, IRM received information of a girl child selling racket in Mumbai city and the team verified the information by investigating on the case.

After several days of hard work and meeting with the lady pimp and the mother who were selling her daughter * Jytohi (name changed for security reasons), finally the day came, when she was rescued.

Speaking to ANS, Mr. James Varghese, Founder President of the Indian Rescue Mission said, “We received information of a mother selling her daughter for about $2,000 USD in Mumbai city and our team traveled to the city and then planned a rescue operation which was successful.”

According to a statement that she gave to the police, the rescued girl said, “I was told by my mother that we were going to Mumbai to see my aunt. I was there for a month and, during that time; I was taken before several rich people whom I did not personally know. All I could understand was that a negotiation for money was made, but I was not aware that the ‘dealing’ was for me.”

She added, “Social workers from the Indian Rescue Mission came to my help and rescued me from my own mother and aunt who were trying to sell me off. I would like to express my thanks to the Indian Rescue Mission.”

When counseling the girl, social workers from the Indian Rescue Mission asked her whether she was aware that she was going to be sold for sex to a customer and were shocked when she asked “What is sex?”

James Varghese with girls after a previous rescue conducted by his organization
Speaking about this incident, Mr. Varghese, who is also a correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, said, “It is such a sad thing to know that a girl who is innocent, and does not know anything about what was happening to her when she was getting sold, has to go through such a terrible experience.

“We took action on this because if we don’t rescue girls like her, then she would be sold to someone else who would exploit her, which would become a nightmare for her.”

The rescued girl has since been placed in a safe home in Mumbai where she will undergo training and counseling sessions.

“The Indian Rescue Mission wants to help this girl get a good education and then make her stand on her own feet,” explained Mr. Varghese.

If you have been touched by reading this story, it is possible for you to make big difference. There are hundreds of young girls being sold to brothels every day in India. We can stop this only if we join with an organization like IRM that works to rescue these innocent children.
If you would like to help, then write to them to support their work or

For more details on their work, you can also visit them at:

Jacob Philip works as a correspondent for an Indian newspaper and also serves as the Assistant Correspondent in India for ASSIST News Service. Jacob lives in Bangalore and runs a software development business. He can be contacted by e-mail at:

Christians Hail Dissolution of Egyptian Parliament

Election irregularities cited in election that ushered in Islamist majority.
By Wayne King
CAIRO, Egypt, June 14 (Compass Direct News) – Christians in Egypt welcomed today’s court decision to dissolve the Islamist-controlled parliament due to election irregularities.
The decision offered hope for Christians, many of whom were convinced the country was about to be handed over to Islamists who would stifle religious freedom and persecute non-Muslims.
“Christians are happy, because they were afraid the Muslim Brotherhood was taking over the parliament,” said Athanasious Williams, a Coptic Christian human rights lawyer in Egypt and a leader within the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. “But now they feel that there might be a better chance for a secular government.”
In the 2011-2012 elections for the People’s Assembly of Egypt, political parties competed for two-thirds of the body’s total 508 seats. Candidates unaffiliated with any political party, also known as “farmers” or “workers” candidates, competed for the rest.
In reality, many of the “independent” candidates ran as party members. On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo ruled that the independent candidates who had been sponsored by political parties had been seated unconstitutionally. The entire assembly will be dissolved.
The results of parliamentary elections shocked many Christians throughout Egypt, with parties affiliated with Islamist groups winning 71 percent of the seats in the People’s Assembly.
An increase in attacks against Christians and church buildings after the Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 2011 revolution, combined with the ever-changing rhetoric from the Islamist parties on the subject of Islamic law, had caused anxiety among Christians in Egypt fearful that they would be relegated to second-class citizens at best if hard-line Muslims took power.
Along with the decision to strike the parliament, the court also ruled to allow Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, to continue running for president. Shafik, despite his connection to the old regime, is seen by many Christians as a preferable option to Mohamed Morsy, the candidate fielded by the Muslim Brotherhood. The two-day presidential election will start on Saturday (June 16).
The court ruling does not guarantee that the Islamists won’t regain power through another parliamentary election. Samia Sidhom, managing editor of Watani newspaper in Cairo, said the Muslim Brotherhood is skilled at manipulating public opinion and could use the ruling to their favor.
“They are very good at playing the victim,” she said. “How they will be able to exploit this, we will have to see.”
Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Gutted Church Building Leaves Egyptian Copts with Debt

Additional repairs needed for structure Muslim extremists set ablaze last year.
By Wayne King
Photo of the restored Virgin Mary Church
(Courtesy Compass Direct News)
CAIRO, Egypt, June 14 (Compass Direct News) – A hasty, inadequate renovation of a church building that Salafi Muslims largely gutted a year ago has left the congregation with staggering debt from additional repairs, church members said.
Waiting inside the main hall of the Virgin Mary Church in Imbaba, Cairo on Sunday (June 10), a woman looked at the woodwork and religious artwork around her.
“The church looked much nicer before it was burned,” she said.
On May 7, 2011, at least 12 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded when members of the conservative Islamic movement attacked at least two churches and surrounding Christian-owned homes and businesses in a poor section of Cairo (see, “Islamic Extremists Attack Churches in Cairo, Egypt,” May 9, 2011).
Salafis, a hard-line Islamic movement with extremist tendencies rioted, then set fire to the Virgin Mary building of the Coptic Orthodox Church after a rumor spread that a Coptic woman who had allegedly converted to Islam was being held inside the building against her will.
Army and police forces did little to stop the attacks, arriving at the scene two hours after they ceased. Fire crews spent four hours trying to extinguish the blaze. A church attendant, Salah Aziz, died in a room used in part for baptismal services.
No one has been charged for the fire or Aziz’s death.
In the weeks after the fire, the governorate of Cairo pledged to pay for the entire cost of the repairs.
“The city governorate said that they had funds of 6.5 million [Egyptian] pounds [US$1.07 million] for renovating the church building,” said Alfons Ghatas, a deacon at the church. “With this amount, they could have demolished the whole building and rebuilt again, and it would have cost less than that.”
Ghatas said the construction company the government hired, Arab Contractors, worked around the clock on the project. As early as two days after the fire, workers from the company were at the site surveying the fire damage. But their materials and workmanship were inferior, Ghatas said.
“They had a timetable, and they were working twenty-four/seven, but the kind of work was what we call quantity, not quality,” he said.
Much of the original woodwork in the church building was replaced with inferior, veneer covered, pressed plywood. Some structural and decorative elements were not rebuilt, including a florescent cross on top of the church building that could be seen across Imbaba.
“After they finished, we started to look through the work they had done, and it was just covering up what was destroyed instead of completely changing it and doing it in a way it should have been done to last for a long time,” Ghatas said.
The additional repairs, which had to be done quickly, became expensive for the congregation, Ghatas said.
“We decided to ask for donations, and we did collect a lot, and we redid a lot of the work all over again, but that wasn’t enough, and this is why the church still owes the good contractors money,” he said.
The Rev. Sarabamoun Abdo, elder priest of the church, said that the congregation still owes 350,000 Egyptian pounds (US$57,760) to the second set of contractors for the additional renovations.
Faith from Ashes
Five days after the fire, as fine ash particles still hovered in the air, members of the church gathered to observe the Coptic liturgy. The liturgy was an act of obedience to God, but also of defiance to the men who attacked the church building.
“If you saw the crowds of people in the service just after the attack on the church, and how that strengthened people’s faith… As the Bible says, ‘The gates of hell will not prevail against you,’” Abdo said.
Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Turkey's new constitution may not allow for a neutral state

Turkey (MNN) ― Turkey Constitutional Reconciliation Commission (AUK) started writing the draft of a new Constitution on May 1. But since the project has been underway, Forum 18 News Service has noted that it is still unclear as to whether or not the new constitution will effectively protect the right to freedom of thought, religion, or belief at all.
Turkey does not exactly have a history of equality among its people. Although it's certainly much more tolerant of minorities than neighboring countries, Turkey remains 31st on the Open Doors World Watch List for persecuted of Christians.

A quality, neutral Constitution would not necessarily solve problems of persecution, but Forum 18 argues it "could solve at least some of the systemic problems and send a strong signal to government and society of other necessary changes."

In other words, it may encourage change in the daily lives of the Turkish people.

Throughout the Constitution drafting process, representatives from multiple religious groups have presented their views to the AUK. A few smaller minority groups have been left out of the process, but Sunni Muslims, minority Alevis, Christians, and more have been able to express their concerns and ideas.

Forum 18 says, "Some of the key religious freedom manifestations that religious groups--including minorities and groups within the majority Sunni Muslim population--hope to see protected in the new Constitution include: the right to establish schools where religious training can be provided, the right for religious organizations and communities to acquire legal entity status, the right to establish places of worship, the right to appoint leaders in accordance with their respective religious traditions."

These are ideas they have been able to express to the AUK. However, recent government decisions suggest that the AUK may not necessarily take all of these concerns into consideration.

For one thing, there have been odd moves in the education realm. Forum 18 notes that the Turkish government recently allowed the opening of Islamic schools and the creation of distance learning for female students who want to wear headscarves. However, no accomodations have been made for other minority groups.

At the same time, the "Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics" class students are required to take has yet to be abolished or even refined. Forum 18 suggests it could be redefined to include education about all religions in Turkey or at least provide optional lessons to learn about Christianity, Judaism, and other religions found in Turkey.

Furthermore, on June 1, legislation was passed introducing tax exemptions for people building places of worship or places of religious instruction. But Forum 18 notes that in order to get the exemption, the places must be approved by the local Governorship. Forum 18 says that seriously limits who can receive the tax exemptions. They say Protestants already face serious obstacles in establishing places of worship.

If the strange goings-on of the government indicated nothing, and the AUK created a truly neutral Constitution, things still might not pan out in favor of religious freedom. Forum 18 reports that although the AUK has to make a unanimous decision, the draft Constitution will be subject to changes by the General Assembly of parliament, the Grand National Assembly.

Clearly there are multiple variables in this Constitution process that could jeopardize religious freedom and tolerance within Turkey. The best thing to do now is pray. Pray for a Turkey's Constitution to provide freedom for believers, but most importantly, pray that the Gospel would move forward regardless of what comes next. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

China: Woman Forcibly Aborted at Seven Months (warning, graphic image)

SHANXI PROVINCE, China, June 12, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Women's Rights Without Frontiers has learned that a woman was forcibly aborted at seven months of pregnancy on June 3, 2012.
Photo: Feng Jianmei and her baby, high resolution version, Credit: 64Tianwang
According to a report by the China-based human rights organization 64Tianwang, the woman, Feng Jianmei, was beaten and dragged into a vehicle by a group of Family Planning Officials while her husband, Deng Jiyuan, was out working. The officials asked for RMB 40,000 in fines from Feng Jianmei's family. When they did not receive the money, they forcibly aborted Feng at seven months, laying the body of her aborted baby next to her in the bed. Feng is under medical treatment in Ankang City, Zhenpin County, Zengjia Town, Yupin village.
Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, stated, "This is an outrage. No legitimate government would commit or tolerate such an act. Those who are responsible should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. WRWF calls on the United States government and the leaders of the free world to strongly condemn forced abortion and all coercive family planning in China."

Church Raid by Turkmen Police

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

MAGDANLY, TURKMENISTAN (ANS) -- The leader of a prominent ministry that helps Evangelical Christians and churches in Russia and the former Soviet Union, has revealed that he has received some news from the former Soviet nation of Turkmenistan that he says needs “urgent prayer.”

Bob Provost
Bob Provost, President of the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), says that it all began with a recent raid on the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (UECB) Church in the town of Magdanly, Turkmenistan, a country in central Asia, followed by a key Turkmen pastor having a serious automobile accident.

“The UECB church raid happened about 25 days ago," he said. "All adult believers at the meeting were questioned about their faith and all of their Christian literature was confiscated.

After two weeks of fervent prayer by the Turkmen believers, God answered their prayers and all the confiscated literature was returned to them.”

Provost went on to say, “As is always the case in these Muslim-dominated and oppressed nations, the local believers are rejoicing for the great opportunity they had to witness to the local authorities about Christ. But the enemy quickly threw up another attempt to hinder the Gospel. 

The national church leader overseeing this region was involved in a car accident late last week and his car was totaled. It was not his fault, but the other driver who was at fault has no insurance and no money to pay.

“I am withholding the name of the pastor for security reasons. He cannot conduct his ministry without a car, and he needs at least $8,000 to purchase a reliable used one. He is hopeful of finding $1,000 on his own, but he is very concerned. His responsibilities require him to travel regularly throughout the country to visit all the churches and developing groups, and in Turkmenistan, all ministry must be conducted very discreetly due to government opposition to Evangelical churches.

“If anyone is able to help, please let me know. It is our final month of the fiscal year and we are already under great pressure. Please pray for this faithful brother and for the oppressed believers of Turkmenistan. Also, please join with us in prayer for a full time pastor for the zealous church in Mangdanly.”

If you would like to help, just send an e-mail to Bob Provost at or go to their website, which is:

Note: Since 1934, SGA has been serving evangelical churches, helping make disciples of the people in the lands of Russia for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through prayer, strategic ministry and financial assistance.

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 hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and 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. Dan has recently received two top media awards -- the "Passion for the Persecuted" award from Open Doors US, and one of the top "Newsmakers of 2011" from Plain Truth magazine. He is the author of some 44 books, the latest of which is "Caped Crusader: Rick Wakeman in the 1970s." To order a copy, go to: . Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel “Red Dagger” which is available this link.

Death, danger stalk Syrian Christian ministry

Syria (CAM) ― An indigenous missionary from nearby Lebanon crossed the border to baptize a believer last week. Instead, he had to bury the believer -- shot in the head as a martyr for his recently-found faith in Jesus Christ.

Native missionaries continue to share Gospel CD's, baptizing new believers, and delivering food and medical aid to suffering Christians in Syria while violence rages around them. More help is needed each day according to one of the ministries in Syria being assisted byChristian Aid Mission based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A Lebanese team is preparing to deliver more aid as soon as funds arrive from the USA to buy supplies at the local market.*

"Right now," said the missionary leader at his base in Lebanon," there is no food or medicine left. The economy has come to a standstill, and there is no work." Many Christians are sick and starving, along with other minorities such as the Bedouins and Gypsies.

"This has been one of the longest weeks of my life," the missionary told Christian Aid. "To visit Syria, I had to sneak in through the mountains and not go by normal roads.

"I went there to bury a friend who died last week. I was supposed to be baptizing him, but I ended up doing his funeral. I led him to Christ two years ago. He was a key helper in the ministry. He was shot in the head. Why? Because he had become a Christian. Now revenge is taking place."

The slain Christian had been witnessing to many friends and neighbors and had led a growing house church that met in his home with 43 other believers. He was actively involved in delivering aid to some 600 Syrian Christians in his area.

"Lots of people came to the funeral. In the beginning, I did not know how to start the service. Then I decided to share some letters of encouragement from the churches. I invited several of the believers to read in front of the meeting. They were so encouraged to know that they are not alone. By the time we were done, there were tears of joy instead of sadness. As it says in the Word, when one member suffers, all suffer."

The Lebanese leader of the mission is preparing now to go back to Syria with Bibles, CD's, food and medicine. He listed the following needs:

  • About 80 food packages and a small amount of cash; $150 per family or $12,000 total.
  • About $6000 for emergency surgeries, medicines and basic medical supplies.
  • $4 each for 2000 New Testaments in Arabic; total $8000.
  • $1.70 for each Gospel CD; 20,000 needed, or $34,000.
    "Yesterday," he said, "I was harassed by local authorities. "You know what this tells me? Simply that I am doing the right thing. I feel every time we move forward, Satan tries to stop us. That is why I want to continue-- especially now when we have more people coming to Christ and being baptized. I will not stop until I am with Jesus."

    Lebanese Christians are ministering on both sides of the border with Syria, welcoming refugees into their homes and church buildings at considerable risk. Lebanese believers are trying to help with basic needs such as food, housing, and medicine as funds permit. Rent for a refugee family can run as high as $800 a month.

    *Offerings for the suffering believers of Syria are being collected by phone at 800-977-5650 or by Christian Aid Mission at Aid for Syrian relief should be designated for Gift Code 400REF.
  • Police in Pakistan Decline to Prosecute Rape/Beating Suspects

    Officers refuse to arrest Muslims accused of beating Christian woman, causing miscarriage.
    LAHORE, Pakistan, June 12 (CDN) — Police have refused to arrest Muslims accused of causing the miscarriage of twin girls by beating their mother, even though a judge cancelled the suspects’ interim bails, according to the woman’s husband.

    Officers in Punjab Province’s Narowal district are biased in siding with Muslims accused of causing the miscarriage and of gang-raping the mother’s 13-year-old Christian niece, said Asher Masih, uncle of the girl and husband of the mother. The gang beat the mother, Nosheen Masih, and other relatives to pressure them into dropping the rape charges, Masih said.

    Among those accused of beating Nosheen Masih, then five-months pregnant, and raping the girl, is Irfan Safdar. Police are protecting Safdar because of the influence of his father, retired police inspector Safdar Bajwa, Masih said by telephone from Dhamala village.

    “Even though their bails have been cancelled, the police are trying to give a clean sheet to Irfan and haven’t taken him into custody even once,” Masih said.

    He added that the accused, with police help, have continued to pressure the family for a “reconciliation agreement,” under which they would drop charges.

    Police also have already declared Safdar innocent in the rape case because of the influence of his father, Masih said. First Information Reports (FIRS) on both the alleged rape and beating crimes have been registered.

    The alleged rape victim told Civil Judge Mansoor Ahmed Warraich that Irfan Safdar, an employee of Safdar identified only as Shahid, and an unidentified man had kidnapped her as she walked past Safdar’s house on March 29 while heading to the fields. She said they drugged her, took her to an outhouse in the fields and raped her (see, “Pakistani Muslims Rape Girl, Beat Relatives for Prosecuting,” May 21).

    The girl told the judge that she had not gone to school since the day of the attack and never wanted to return.

    Sarwat Hakeem, the investigating officer in both cases, reportedly told the court that the girl had gone to the fields with the three suspects of her own will, that she had a “friendship” with Shahid and that she consented to sex with him. He also claimed that the family had not found the girl in the outhouse, and that she had gone home on her own.

    He dismissed the family’s claim that the twins had been lost to miscarriage due to the beating, claiming the stillbirth did not happen until 48 hours after the attack.

    Muslim criminals believe police and courts will give little credence to the complaints of Christians in the country, which is nearly 96 percent Muslim.

    Masih said relatives have lost hope of getting justice from police, adding that his family was “paying a huge price for being poor … and for being Christian.”

    “What can we expect from the police when they are not paying heed even to the court orders?” he said. “They are distorting facts and have even gone to the extent of accusing a 13-year-old of committing adultery with three men.”


    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Attacks against Nigerian Christians -- third week in a row

    Boko Haram fighters.

    Nigeria (MNN) ― For the third weekend in a row, Christians in Nigeria were targets of deadly violence by Islamist militants. Reports indicate this time at least four people were killed in two separate attacks. These attacks hit the cities of Biu and Jos.

    In the first attack, gunmen sprayed bullets as Christians attended church on Sunday in Biu. Four people died while more than 40 others were injured. The second act of violence was a car bombing outside a church in Jos. While nobody died in that attack; dozens were injured.

    Africa Director of Christian Aid Mission Rae Burnett says this is just the tip of the iceberg. "There are a lot of reports that aren't getting to the news. A motorcycle rides by and shoots people in the store. Cars are being hijacked. There are individuals -- supporters of the work that is being done among the Islamic tribes in Northern Nigeria [being targeted]."
    Why is it happening? Burnett says, "This is really the nature of Islam. And we're seeing it worldwide. We're not only seeing it in Nigeria."

    Burnett says that's not politically correct, but she says it's the truth. "There are a lot of people who were born into Islam, and they just want to live a peaceful happy life. But when you read the Quran and you see what it says, and what the Hadith say, and what serious Islamic teachers says, you see it's not a religion of peace."

    She says, "You relate to anyone who is a non-Muslim by converting them, or by killing them."

    The violence is taking place because radicals want Sharia (Islamic) law. Burnett says, "Mostly, you've got nominal Muslims and they don't want Sharia because it's too restrictive." That's why many Muslims are also being attacked in the conflict.

    Burnett says God is using Christian Aid to support and assist national Christians. "The main [group] that I'm helping is making tremendous inroads into Islamic areas throughout the north. It's like the Lord is exploding the work in the last few years."

    However, the organization's home base is not in a good area, says Burnett. "This town that they're in is continually under siege by Boko Haram, although it's totally unreported. The missionaries are not retreating. Now they are really alarmed that they're being targeted. They're trying to move from that area."

    Burnett says they have a huge funding need. "The first really big need is for this ministry to move its headquarters. [It'll cost] $35,000 for them to move all of their people and their headquarters to Abuja."

    Funding is also needed to help supply transportation to believers who are sharing their faith in this difficult region of Nigeria. If you can help with a financial gift, click here

    Emir rejects death penalty for blasphemy

    Church compound in Kuwait (Flickr photo by Samira)

    Kuwait (MNN) ― Kuwait's proposed changes to blasphemy law continue to polarize.

    Although the amendment was backed by 46 votes, the Emir rejected changes that sought the death penalty for those who blaspheme. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the decision provoked a lot of backlash. However, "It seems that that legislation is going to die. It's not going to come before the entire parliament for a vote, which is obviously good news for Christians."

    Even though the law had been approved by lawmakers and state ministers in two rounds of voting, the Emir still has the power to block parliament.  

    The question is: why he would refuse to add the death penalty as has been done in Iran and Pakistan? Nettleton explains, "One of the things that has happened just within the last week: a Kuwaiti man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, and among the charges against him were 'insulting the prophet Mohammed.'" 
    The case could be pertinent to the Emir's decision. Nettleton shares some thoughts on the issue. "I'm wondering if this man being sentenced has sort of taken the need for the death penalty off of the table. 'We are addressing the issue harshly; we are taking care of those who would blaspheme the Prophet. We've just locked this guy up for 10 years.' I don't know if that played into the decision to table the legislation or not, but it's interesting that the two would happen so close together."

    The biggest question mark in deciding blasphemy cases is what really defines blasphemy? "If you're a Christian in Kuwait, you wonder 'where is the line of blasphemy? If I'm witnessing to a Muslim, if I'm explaining to them why I think Jesus Christ is superior to the Prophet Mohammed, is that blasphemy?'"

    For example, in Pakistan, the law is used to settle feuds and other personal scores, nearly always in favor of the Muslim. Nettleton says similar legal questions are being debated in Kuwait. "It's hard to know how it would be enforced or how it would be put into practice. What happened in Pakistan is that the blasphemy law sort of becomes a big club to beat Christians over the head with."

    Although Kuwait's constitution technically protects freedom of belief, Islam is the state religion and Islamic law (Sharia) is an important source of legislation. The situation has deepened the rift between the Shia and Sunni majority Muslims and could worsen with the proposed changes.

    Christians, however, have not had an easy time in Kuwait. The country is #30 on the Open Doors World Watch List, a compilation of countries known for their persecution of Christians. There are only a few hundred Kuwaiti believers; most Christians are foreign workers. "Pray for the Church in Kuwait. There is a Church there. There are believers there. We can pray that they will be encouraged, that they will be bold witnesses for Christ."

    There is no word on the next step parliament will take next on the penal code changes in the blasphemy law. That's a window of opportunity. Nettleton says, "We can pray for the government. We can pray against laws that would take away religious freedom that would take away the right of Christians to be a witness, to worship together, anything that would hinder their living out their faith."

    Helping hand, safe houses give hope in North Korea

    (Photo courtesy Open Doors)

    North Korea (ODM/MNN) ―For the past decade, North Korea has been the world's most hostile country in which to live and practice the Christian faith.

    Open Doors USA notes that nearly a quarter of the Christians in the country are believed to be serving out sentences in labor camps. By the end of his life, Kim Il-Sung saw himself as a deity, setting into motion a cult following under his sons. Those who did not participate were killed or sent for re-education in the labor camps.

    Meanwhile, poverty is the reality the rest of the country bears. Roughly ten million inhabitants are malnourished, with thousands eating only grass and bark.

    According to Open Doors, half the population lives in the north, close to China, where family-based networks of house churches exist in significant numbers. Last year, Open Doors distributed over 45,000 pieces of Christian materials in North Korea and secretly trained approximately 5,000 North Korean believers.

    In addition, around 1,000 refugees and their families received help through Open Doors' safe houses across the border in China. Many North Koreans caught crossing the borders into China are returned, likely to face death sentences or worse--the punishment of family members down to the third generation.

    That's where safe houses come into play. Open Doors can now provide over 1,500 North Korean refugees safe haven. Those who successfully cross can find safety, medical attention, food, and most importantly: spiritual nourishment.
    What's more, Open Doors says that because not everyone escaping from North Korea is a Christian, their ministry partners can share the Gospel with hundreds of people. 

    As more people began fleeing North Korea, the need for more safe houses became clear. Open Doors asked for help raising $66,000 for new safe houses to meet the growing demand. The good news is that they not only met that goal, but exceeded it.  

    This additional amount allows Open Doors to move quickly, providing Bibles, training, advocacy, and other support where Christians need it most.

    Lao Police Arrest Pastor for Spreading Faith

    Christians under pressure in Laos, activists say.

    Officials threaten, arrest Christians in Savannakhet Province.
    DUBLIN, June 11 (CDN) — A 53-year-old Lao pastor remains behind bars today after Lao police arrested him on Wednesday (June 6) for encouraging others to convert to Christianity, a spokesman from the group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) confirmed to Compass this morning.

    The arrest of Asa, identified by only a single name, took place at around 4 p.m. at his home in Peeyeur village, Luang Namtha Province, according to HRWLRF. Police then drove Asa to the Luang Namtha provincial prison, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) away – too far to allow visits from concerned family members or friends who have limited access to road transport.

    If normal procedure had been followed, HRWLRF said, police would have held Asa in a village or district prison for three days while they investigated charges against him.

    On Thursday (June 7), Khamla, a prominent Christian leader in the province, met with police and discovered that Asa had been charged with leading people to Christ.

    Two years ago police forced Asa to sign documents agreeing that he would neither proclaim Christ nor lead people to Christianity. This year, however, many people in Peeyeur and surrounding villagers, touched by Asa’s life and testimony, have accepted Christ.

    Church leaders say local authorities are intent on eliminating Christianity from Luang Namtha in an effort to protect its title as a world heritage site. They point to the arrest on March 24 of six Thai Christians caught preaching in the province as just one example; the six were released in early June after several weeks in detention.

    Officials in neighboring Luang Prabang Province summoned two Christian leaders from Hueysell village in January and ordered them and some 80 Christians in the village to abandon their faith or face expulsion. To date officials have not carried through on their threats.

    Opposition in Savannakhet
    Authorities in southern Laos have also continued to threaten, interrogate and arrest Christians.

    On May 18, officials warned that members of Khamnonsung Church in Saybuly district would be prosecuted if they continued to meet in their banned church premises. The church, however, has continued to meet in the building each Sunday, with no significant consequences to date, according to HRWLRF. Two other churches in Kengweng and Dongpaiwan villages of Saybuly district have continued to meet outside their confiscated buildings in quiet protest. (See,  “Lao Officials Confiscate Church Buildings,” April 6.)

    Officials in Phin district, Savannakhet Province, summoned church leaders Bounlerd and Adang to police headquarters for questioning on May 11. The enquiry dealt with three issues: the use of three homes in Alowmai, Kengsainoi and Kapang villages as unregistered places of worship; an order to remove the crosses adorning these houses, and concern over the number of people in these villages coming to the Christian faith, HRWLRF reported.

    Bounlerd and Adang insisted they had a constitutional right to gather for worship and to display symbols of their faith, just as others in the village had. To date officials have taken no further steps to address these issues.

    “From my perspective, the authorities in Phin district are now very cautious due to international attention given to the case,” an HRWLRF spokesman told Compass.

    Earlier, on April 8, officials raided a worship service in Paksong village, Songkorn district, Savannakhet Province, arresting church leader Khamsorn and forcing him to sign a written agreement that he would hold no more services before they released him.

    Some 50 Christians in Paksong told HRWLRF that a former village chief authorized their worship services “about a year ago,” but a newly-elected village chief who took office in March has not defended this right. Local Christians also told HRWLRF that the Songkorn district religious affairs office had approved the construction of a church in Paksong, a fact again ignored by the new village chief.

    Authorities also arrested five Lao Christians who had gathered for worship in Boukham village, Ad-Sapangthong district in Savannakhet Province, on March 25 and charged them with “leading religious movements without official approval.” Boukham has a long history of opposition to Christian residents. (See, “Officials Arrest Five Christians in Southern Village,” March 28, and “Lao Officials Arrest Eight Christian Leaders,” Dec. 19.)

    The Lao Constitution and other regulations such as a 2002 Decree on Religious Practice (known as Decree 92) theoretically protect freedom of belief and worship for all faiths – but officials at village, district and even provincial levels often flout these laws with impunity.


    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Saudi Officials Offer Conflicting Explanations as 35 Ethiopian Christians Continue to Languish in Prison

    By Michael Ireland
    Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

    WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Over the past month, Saudi Arabian officials have been making conflicting statements when asked why a group of 35 Ethiopian Christians were arrested at a prayer service in a private home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last December.

    International Christian Concern (ICC)  says it has learned that the statements were made over a period of several weeks after staff members from multiple Congressional offices began calling the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. to inquire into the situation.

    ICC says the calls began soon after ICC held a series of meetings during the last week of April on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the case and to ask for calls from Senators, Representatives, and their staff to the Saudi Embassy.

    In a media update, ICC says that on Monday, May 7, a Congressional office told ICC that a source close to the Saudi ambassador had indicated the Christians were arrested as part of an investigation into a large scale human smuggling ring.

    ICC says this explanation contradicted the original rationale published by Human Rights Watch in January that the group had been accused of the “illicit mingling of genders.”

    Then, just three days later, Sarah Nezamuddin, a representative from the Embassy, told a separate Congressional office that the Christians had all been arrested for having issues with their work permits.

    ICC proceeded to provide a list of the prisoners with legal work permit numbers to the Congressional office, and after some follow up, Ms. Nezamuddin changed the explanation and said that the Christians were involved in both drug and human trafficking.

    ICC goes on to report that finally, on May 21st, in a meeting with staff members from multiple Congressional offices, representatives from the Saudi government said that the 35 Christians had been arrested for visa issues, but that they were also involved in some form of smuggling ring.

    ICC said: “When pressed for specifics, the Saudi officials reportedly demurred and changed the topic. At least one Congressional staff member left the meeting with the impression that neither Saudi official actually knew why the Christians were arrested in the first place.”

    Speaking with ICC, one of the prisoners reported feeling “very sad, and very surprised” at the constantly changing allegations.

    “Why haven’t they brought us to court? Why don’t they show us some evidence and bring charges against us?” said one of the prisoners. “[We feel like] the Saudis are trying to punish us for being Christians by keeping us in prison.”

    ICC further states that soon after the May 21 meeting, the prisoners reported being taken to a processing center for the first time since their arrest.

    However, after two extended trips to the processing center, the prisoners were returned to their cells without any new information as to when or if they will be released.

    After speaking with some of the prison authorities, one of the prisoners reported being under the impression that orders had “come from higher up” for their release, but that the prison authorities may be reluctant to let them go.

    Ryan Morgan, ICC’s Advocacy Officer, said: “I continue to be baffled by the inability of the Saudi government to explain exactly why 35 Christians attending a prayer service at a private home were suddenly arrested almost six months ago.

    “The story keeps changing, and it is very troubling to think that a key U.S. ally in the Middle East may be lying to U.S. government officials about why they are arresting religious minorities. I strongly encourage interested individuals to call the Saudi Embassy and express their concern at this alarming turn of events.”

    The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia can be reached at the following numbers:
    United States: (+1) 202 342 3800, Canada: (+1) 613 237 4100, UK: (+44) 207 9173-000, Australia: (+61) 2 6250 7000, Germany: (+49) 30 88 92 50, France: (+33) 1 56 79 4000, Ethiopia (+251) 1 710303.

    ICC is a Washington,DC-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441 or 301-585-5915.

    ** 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

    Covert persecution on the rise

    (Photo courtesy of Andy Fitz)

    Indonesia (MNN) ― The rise of covert persecution tactics on Christians in Indonesia may be moving this country up the rankings on the World Watch List of worst places for Christians to live.

    According to Compass Direct News, last year Indonesia had a total of 64 cases of violation on Christian freedoms. This year, Indonesia has reached nearly two-thirds of that number already with 40 Christian freedom violations in these first five months.

    22 churches have been forced to close down by the Indonesian government this year. 18 of those occurred just within the last month in the Aceh Province after the election of a hard-line Islamic governor.

    Direct violence has also increased. On May 17, 600 Islamists threw bags of urine and ditch water at 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church in Eastern Indonesia. So far this year, the extremist group, Islamic Defenders Front, has carried out two attacks on the Gereja Pentakosta di Indonesia church.

    If this trend of persecution continues through the year, marginalization of Indonesian Christians will have increased by 50%. This will be the third year in a row that persecution has gone up.

    However, the trials Christians in Indonesia face don’t always make the news.

    Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada says, “The persecution is not as violent [in Indonesia] as in places like Nigeria, which gets a lot of coverage, but it’s an ongoing situation there. Christians are marginalized, and with the rise of more of a militant Islam, there’s concern that it’s going to become even worse in Indonesia.”

    While violent persecution still happens in Indonesia, Musselman says that even the passive-aggressive restrictions on the church need to be taken seriously. “[In] Indonesia, because it’s just more subtle pressure on Christians, it has a very devastating effect on people who are willing to reach out….When it’s more violent, [people] have to make a decision, ‘Are we willing to spread the Gospel in the face of such danger?’”

    “It’s an ongoing, always underlying [pressure in] the life of the church there. In some ways they accept that and say, ‘Well, this is just the way it is.’” Musselman begs the question, “When do you speak up and say, ‘Enough is enough and we’re going to meet no matter what and the government can’t do this to us?' Does that fuel more persecution?”
    Some would say because select Islamic groups have been disbanded, like the Laskar Jihad back in 2002, that persecution of Christians in Indonesia can’t be that bad.

    But Musselman points out, “The way things are going with the rise of some of these Islamic groups, they disappear, then they come back as a new name…. The reality is: there are other [Islamic] groups that are starting to come together in this worldwide networking between the groups like Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Nigeria.”

    A review on the Laskar Jihad published last year by says although it’s officially disbanded, the group continues activities of persecution and marginalization of Christians and other ethnic minorities on the Indonesian islands.

    Despite all this, the church in Indonesia is steadily growing.

    Musselman was encouraged by meetings he had with Indonesian believers in underground Bible colleges and discipleship training centers. “The passion of these young people to go and plant churches, and the amazing stories that we’re hearing [about people] coming to Jesus Christ…they’re phenomenal stories.”

    Please be praying for safety and growth of the church in Indonesia. “I can only see that this more sophisticated persecution from the militant Islamist side—which is the issue in Indonesia—is getting stronger,” says Musselman. 

    “The church needs to be even stronger than the persecution coming at them.”

    Global Concern Triggers Positive Turn in Case of Five-Month Pregnant Cao Ruyi Who Was Threatened with Forced Abortion

    VOA photo shows Ms. Cao in her hospital bed.

    CHANGSHA, HUNAN, China, June 10, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Due to the global outcry triggered by ChinaAid's exposure of the attempted forced abortion of a woman's five-month-old unborn baby in Changsha, Hunan province, the pregnant woman Cao Ruyi was allowed to return home on Sunday.
    Cao's husband Li Fu told ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu that the surveillance personnel from the local family planning office had also been called off. On behalf of his wife and their unborn first child, he expressed their thanks to ChinaAid for exposing the violent manner in which the local family planning officials dragged his wife to the hospital and the threat of performing a forced abortion on her. He said the domestic and international attention and concern that Fu's publicity efforts elicited was the reason Ms. Cao was allowed to return home.
    However, before her release from the hospital, Ms. Cao was forced to sign a guarantee that she will pay a 10,000 yuan (nearly US$1500) "pregnancy termination deposit fee," which will not be returned if she insists on keeping her baby. Instead the deposit will serve as partial payment of her fine for giving birth to a baby without government permission. She will also be required to pay a "social burden compensation fee" of US$25,000.
    Nonetheless, this is a welcome change. ChinaAid expresses its thanks for the timely prayers of many brothers and sisters and for the concern expressed by many in the international community, most notably U.S. congressman Chris Smith who contacted the Hunan provincial and Changsha municipal governments directly. Some Chinese netizens have also traveled to Changsha to lodge a formal protest with the procuratorate about Ms. Cao's illegal detention by local officials. Many house church Christians prayed for Ms. Cao's unborn child and called the couple to encourage and express support for them
    ChinaAid calls on the residents of the three U.S. cities that have established sister-city relationships with Changsha to call their mayors and local representatives and urge them to pay attention to this case. Changsha's sister cities in the United States are: St. Paul, Minnesota; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Annapolis, Maryland. 

    Suicide Bombing Hits Another Church in Jos, Nigeria

    Boko Haram Islamic extremist finds weak link in military security chain.
    By Abdias Pasoville
    Collapsed building of the Christ’s Chosen Church of God
    Photo courtesy: Compass Direct News
    JOS, Nigeria, June 10 (Compass Direct News) – An Islamic extremist ran a car full of explosives at a Pentecostal church in this Plateau state city this morning, killing at least two Christians and injuring more than 40 others, military and police officials said.
    In Borno state also today, gunmen reportedly killed at least two Christians during church worship. The Boko Haram Islamic sect reportedly took responsibility for both assaults.
    The attack in Jos on Christ’s Chosen Church of God was the second suicide bombing of a church in two Sundays and the third church bombing in Jos in six months. The explosion, which hit after a service had ended and church leaders and some children remained in the building, collapsed the roof of the sanctuary, witnesses said. The death toll was expected to increase as injuries were severe.
    It marked the second consecutive Sunday that an extremist from the Boko Haram Islamist sect has been able to get through check-points to bomb a church, and reports followed of rioting by aggrieved youths that left further casualties.
    Esther Solomon, a 31-year-old university student whose family’s house sits directly opposite the church building, told Compass that a pastor, church elders and some children remained in the sanctuary at the time moment the bomb was detonated. She said she was in her family living room at the time.
    “I heard this loud explosion that broke window glass. The impacts of the explosion forcefully opened the front door of our house and threw me into one of the bedrooms,” Solomon said. “I just found myself in the bedroom, and when I rushed out, I found out that a suicide bomber had crashed into the church across the road.”
    Rahab Gunat, 41, said the suicide bomber was seen trying first to bomb two churches, St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), each like Chosen church located along Rukuba Road, but could not gain entry. The bomber then targeted Christ’s Chosen Church of God, though officials said he was stopped short of the building before detonating the explosives.
    “He was seen trying to go to the ECWA church, but he was prevented from doing so by members of the Boys Brigade [similar to Boy Scouts] who were keeping watch over the church,” Gunat said. “From there, he went to the St. Peter’s Catholic Church, but was denied entry too, but when he found that there was no security in this church, he crashed into it.”
    Celina Malo, 20, whose family’s house is just a few meters from the collapsed church building, told Compass that she was preparing for a bath when the bomb exploded.
    “I heard a loud explosion that brought down the ceiling of our house, shattered all glass of our windows and violently brought down household items,” she said. “I was confused and began crying.”
    Her two younger sisters, ages 8 and 11, were also crying, she said.
    “I rushed outside to see what had happened and saw that it was a car that had crashed into a nearby church, and people inside were crying,” Malo told Compass.
    She said that when she rushed out of her house, she saw the daughter of the pastor of the Christ’s Chosen Church of God crying outside the demolished structure.
    “Her name is Victory, and she told me that her dad, the pastor of the church, and her mom, were both inside the church,” Malo said. “As we were thinking of what to do, people around rushed here to rescue people trapped in the church. Many have been injured, and they have been taken to the hospital.”
    Malo added that she assisted in moving the 10-year-old son of the church pastor, Peter, away from the bombed church before he was taken to a hospital.
    “The boy was bleeding from wounds he got in the explosion,” Malo said.
    The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the church pastor, Monday Uzoka, and a church elder were in critical condition following the blast.
    Malo’s mother, who was out of the town at the time of the bombing, arrived as Malo spoke with Compass and began to cry upon seeing her daughters.
    “I am happy my children are alive,” she explained. “I praise God that I met them alive.”
    The injured were being treated at Bingham University Teaching Hospital, Jos University Teaching Hospital and the Plateau State Specialist Hospital, all in Jos.
    In Biu, Borno state, gunmen reportedly shot at worshippers as they were leaving a worship service before entering the sanctuary and killing two Christians. The Borno state police commissioner reportedly confirmed the attack on the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN in the local Hausa language) congregation.
    On June 3 in Bauchi state, a Muslim suicide bomber from the Boko Haram sect attacked the Living Faith church in Yelwa, a Christian settlement on the outskirts of the northern Nigerian city of Bauchi, killing 13, with allegations following that authorities killed eight others who were protesting the lack of security. The blast also collapsed a wall of the nearby Harvest Field Church of Christ, leaving three people in critical condition. 
    Literally meaning “Forbidden Book” and translated as “Western education is forbidden,” Boko Haram has targeted churches, state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria.
    Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according toOperation World.
    *** A photo of the collapsed building of the Christ’s Chosen Church of God is attached for subscribers, to be used with credit to Compass Direct News. A high resolution photo is also available; contact Compass for transmittal.
    Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News