Friday, July 6, 2012

Iranian Pastor Nadarkhani May Face New Charges in September

By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

RASHT, IRAN (ANS) -- Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has spent nearly 1,000 days in prison on charges of apostasy, may face fresh charges in September, pertaining to crimes against national security and possibly blasphemy, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
According to CSW’s sources, judges have reportedly received instructions to try Pastor Nadarkhani on new, trumped-up charges in order to make his sentence appear more acceptable.

CSW says in a media update that it understands a date for the new trial may have been set for September 8, 2012.

Pastor Nadarkhani is currently in prison facing the death sentence for apostasy, which was upheld following an appeal at the Supreme Court. He was arrested in his home city of Rasht in 2009, soon after questioning the Muslim monopoly of religious instruction for children, which he felt was unconstitutional.

CSW says Nadarkhani’s case has twice been referred to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who has yet to issue a final ruling. He has been offered freedom in exchange for renouncing his faith on at least four occasions, but has consistently refused to do so.

CSW also stated that without the intervention of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or Mr. Sadegh Larijani, the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, who have the authority to halt an execution, the authorities are obliged to carry out the Supreme Court ruling, which stated that Pastor Nadarkhani could be executed if he refused to recant.

Sunday July 8, 2012, will mark 1,000 days since Pastor Nadarkhani was imprisoned.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “CSW is deeply concerned at reports that Pastor Nadarkhani may face fresh charges in September. The Iranian government is increasingly bringing charges against Christians on political grounds to mask the fact that like Pastor Nadarkhani and Pastor Fathi Malayeri, they have been arrested and imprisoned solely on account of their faith.
Lakan Prison where Youcef Nadarkhani is being held and where he has been imprisoned
for the last 1,000 days. 
(Courtesy PTM)

“We are also concerned by the lack of due process in these cases and continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, Pastor Fathi Malayeri and others who are unjustly imprisoned or facing execution following flawed judicial processes. CSW urges the Iranian authorities ensure respect for the right to freedom of religion, which is guaranteed in the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

Jason DeMars of Present Truth Ministries ( ) told ANS, “We received some news that Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill wrote a letter to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, requesting the pardon of brother Youcef Nadarkhani.”

The details are based on an Interfax ( ) report titled: “Iranian ayatollah promises Russian Church to solicit pardon for convicted pastor.”

The report, datelined Moscow, June 27, 2012, says “Iran will probably pardon Protestant pastor ‘Jusef’ [their spelling] Nadarkhani, sentenced to death for his recantation of Islam and coming to Christianity, Secretary General of the World Assembly for Proximity of the Islamic Schools of Thoughts Ayatollah Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri told Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, in Moscow.”

The report says: “We are aware that Nadarkhani's life depends on the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who is to pass the final verdict,” Metropolitan Hilarion said.
It states: “Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia asked the Iranian spiritual leader in September 2011 to pardon the pastor, he said, adding the he himself had referred the same request to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

It adds: “Ayatollah Taskhiri said in a reply, citing his sources, that the death sentence on the Iranian pastor had been overturned and assured Metropolitan Hilarion that after his return to Iran he would hand over the Russian Patriarch's request for the pastor's pardon to the office of the Iranian spiritual leader,” the External Church Relations Department said on its website.

The Interfax report said Taskhiri is the leader of an Iranian delegation that has arrived in Moscow to attend a meeting of the Russian-Iranian Commission for Orthodox-Islam dialogue.
The Interfax report added: “The death sentence handed down to Nadarkhani on September 22, 2010, caused a global resonance. The death sentence was condemned by the White House. Notorious American Pastor Terry Jones burnt the Koran in protest against the arrest of his Iranian colleague.”

DeMars told ANS: “Our sources in Iran have informed us that Youcef has been officially notified of a new trial for crimes against national security in September. We assume by implication that this means the charges of apostasy have been dropped since the new charges have been issued, but we have no confirmation of that.”

DeMars added: “At this point we need to keep Youcef’s case in the news. Please publicize this information. Youcef has not committed any crimes against Iran’s national security. He was the pastor of a network of house churches in Rasht and was not performing any political activities against the state. In fact, they pray for their country and its leaders.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Present Truth Ministries (PTM) supports missionaries in the Middle East, providing relief for families of pastors imprisoned for their faith. PTM may be contacted through its 

For further information on CSW or to arrange interviews with CSW staff, please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit .

** 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

Iran: Christians Arrested In Khorasan’s Principle Cities of Mash-Had and Neishabour

Part of crackdown on house churches

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

MASH-HAD/NEISHABOUR, IRAN (ANS) -- Plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance raided a House Church in Neishabour on Friday 25th May 2012, arresting the worshippers.
“Hadi” arrested in Neishabour (Photo: FCCN)

Sources have informed the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) -- -- of another house church raid by plainclothes agents of the Islamic Regime on May 26, 2012; this time in Mash-had.

A Christian source from Khorasan has told FCNN about “coordinated attacks against house churches, and large scale arrest of Christians in the two principal cities of the province of Khorasan.”

According to these reports from Mash-had (regional capital of the vast province of Khorasan, 497 miles NE of Tehran), plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance raided a house church in Neishabour on Friday, May 25, 2012, arresting the worshippers.

The report reveals that two of the detainees, identified as “Hadi”, and “Alireza”, were separated from the rest, transported to Mash-had – some 80 miles away -- and were being “aggressively interrogated”.

“Hadi” is new Christian convert from Neishabour, and has been “accused” of organizing and running a house church. He has, for some months, been under not so covert a surveillance, as well as highly visibly overt pressure, by and from the local agents of Islamic enforcement gang of Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

This group is sent out into the streets to help enforce Islamic law in Iran.
Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
with Basij commanders

“The formation of its very own ‘black shirts’ are extensively used in its role of domestic spy and intimidation agency,” said a spokesperson for FCCN. “The ‘Basij Force’ is one of proudest achievements of the Islamic Republic.”

Sources have also informed FCNN of another house church raid by plainclothes agents of The Islamic Regime on May 26, 2012, this time in Mash-had, during which they searched of the house where Christians had been meeting, and the subsequent arrest of all those present.

Iranian Christian News Agency has identified one of the detained Christians as a young man, whom they named as Mr. Vahid Zardi, a graduate of the University of Mash-had, and a gifted musician, who they said “is a [relatively] new and active Christian convert in the city.”
Confirming the news of Mr. Zardi’s arrest, sources in Mash-had added that he had been previously arrested in Neishabour in 2007.

“They are of the opinion that the almost simultaneous raids and arrests cannot be a coincidence,” said the FCCN spokesperson.

In April of this year, rumors of the imminent freedom of Mr. Ehsan Behrouz, had raised hopes of “probable moderation of the Islamic Regime’s concerted attacks against Christians in the country in general and city of Mash-had in particular”.

Mr. Behrouz is a 24-year-old student of Industrial Management Studies in the university of Mash-had, who was arrested, for the second time in one year, in November 2011.

The spokesperson added, “Mr. Behrouz has now spent over eight months in prison, and needless to say under Islamic jurisprudence in the Islamic Republic, has never been charged, and there is no news of any impending trials.

“Islamic Justice Ministry officials in Mash-had have banned his family from contacting the media, foreign or domestic, under threat of dire consequences for their son and the loss of their US$80,000 surety posted for his freedom; should they ignore the order.”

Two months after repeated promises of his release, Mr. Behrouz’s family are yet to hear of his freedom, or even informed about his conditions in prison.

FCCN says that Mash-had is Shia’ Islam’s most important site outside the Arab world, and a highly important religious city.

“Rapid growth of house churches in Mash-had has caused considerable unease amongst the Islamic religious cabal running the country; and it seems to have shocked and angered them into taking punitive actions against the new converts and growing numbers of House Churches in ‘The Religious Heart’ of the Islamic Republic”, added the spokesperson.

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.

MALI: Islamists destroy heritage and take human shields

An Islamist militant celebrates and shouts "Allahu Akbar"
 (God is Greatest) after destroying an ancient shrine in Timbuktu (AFP/Getty Images)

By Elizabeth Kendal

The cultural heritage of Timbuktu -- destroyed

Having seized control of northern Mali, al Qaeda-linked jihadists are now destroying the cultural heritage of Timbuktu. 

Reached by telephone in an undisclosed location in northern Mali, Ansar Dine spokesman Oumar Ould Hamaha told Associated Press: "The only tribunal we recognize is the divine court of Shariah. The destruction is a divine order. It's our Prophet who said that each time that someone builds something on top of a grave, it needs to be pulled back to the ground. We need to do this so that future generations don't get confused, and start venerating the saints as if they are God."

See: Islamistscontinue destroying Timbuktu heritage
By Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press 2 July 2012

According to Reuters: "The UNESCO ambassadors meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday joined Malian Culture Minister Toure in appealing to global governments and organisations and 'all people of goodwill' to act to prevent the prevent the destruction of the Timbuktu monuments by 'vandals'. 'We consider this action to be a crime against history,' the appeal said.

"Experts are comparing the Timbuktu tomb destructions to similar attacks against Sufi shrines by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year. The attacks also recall al Qaeda attacks on Shi'ite shrines in Iraq in the past decade and the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two 6th-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan."

See: Timbuktu tomb destroyers pulverise Islam's history
By Pascal Fletcher , Tue Jul 3, 2012

No-one should be surprised, for as history demonstrates, cultural destruction such as this is to be expected when Islamist take power.


Censorship of all religious materials coming soon?

Kyrgyzstan (MNN) ―Censorship on religious literature could soon be so restrictive in Kyrgyzstan that anyone wanting to "import, publish or distribute religious literature will have to seek prior permission from the authorities," reports Forum 18 News Service.

Despite being a reasonably free nation in regard to religious freedom after the fall of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has been imposing more and more restrictions to religious communities over the years. The behavior follows suit with the rest of neighboring former Soviet nations, but it is making religious communities increasingly cautious.

In 2009, Kyrgyzstan created a Religion Law, but it did not impose censorship on all religious literature, notes Forum 18. Now, amendments to the law have been proposed to tighten censorship by September.

The new amendment technically reads like this: "Control on the import, production, acquisition, storage and distribution of printed materials, film, photo, audio and video productions, as well as other materials with the purpose of unearthing religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism is conducted by the plenipotentiary state organs for religious affairs, national security and internal affairs."

Many Kyrgyzstanis agree that would mean all-out censorship of all religious materials.

The amendment was initially refused by President Almazbek Atambayev in April, but it is now being considered by parliament's Education, Science, Culture and Sport Committee, says Forum 18.

If the amendment passes, the Committee has suggested the establishment of another committee which will exist exclusively to oversee the censorship. Essentially, local authorities won't be the enforcers: a specific task force will be.

Whether all-out censorship is being proposed to eliminate extremism or not, it will likely mean bad news for Christians. Evangelism has been getting more difficult over the last few years, but this could make it much harder.

Slavic Gospel Association partners with a number of churches in Kyrgyzstan. SGA's Joel Griffith says although the churches are concerned, it's not the first time they've faced persecution.

"We have to remember that the believers in these regions--the former Soviet countries--were for 70 years under communism where they had to face outright persecution and being jailed."

Griffith adds, "They're not going to be deterred in proclaiming the Gospel. They take the attitude of the apostle Peter and others: 'Shall we obey God, or shall we obey men?' They're going to choose to obey the Lord and continue to show the love of Christ and proclaim the Gospel, no matter what."

As of now, it looks like no certain decision will be made on the amendment until September. Until then, be praying for the Kyrgyz church. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

So goes Egypt, so goes North Africa

Egypt (MNN) ― For months leading up to the elections, Tom Doyle with e3 Partnerspredicted a Muslim Brotherhood win in Egypt's presidential elections. Now that Mohammed Morsi has indeed won the presidency, Doyle says Sharia law is around the corner--and not just for Egypt.

Doyle is a Middle East expert and the Vice President for Church and Ministry Partners for e3 Partners. All along, he's said that if the Muslim Brotherhood took over, Sharia law would follow. Despite Morsi's many promises to Westerners that he will support women's rights, protect Christians and uphold human rights, Doyle's opinion hasn't changed.

"Now they have Mohammed Morsi, who has said one thing to the Western press, and another thing to the Middle East press," Doyle explains. "As he speaks to the Brotherhood and other Muslim groups who would be called hardline, he has definitely said that he would like to see Sharia law instituted, and he'd like to rip up the peace treaty with Israel, and on and on. And all of a sudden, the Middle East becomes very unstable if any of these things are acted on."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has until now been fairly suppressed in Egypt, has been waiting for a government opportunity for decades. Now that they have the chance to rule, Doyle doesn't think it'll take long for things to change in Egypt.

The bigger problem is: Sharia law might begin in Egypt, but it won't end there.

"The plan all along from hardline Muslims is to take northern Africa and move on down," says Doyle. "I would expect for them not only to get very strong in Egypt, but to make a play to influence all of North Africa. Once they have that, then they're in a much stronger position to influence the whole continent of Africa."

This is a particular threat for vulnerable North African nations in the midst of transition. Post-revolution Libya, for instance, would be an easy target for a group like the Brotherhood's influence, says Doyle. Hardline Islamists cover much of Sudan and Tunisia as well.

The result of this strong influence by the Muslim Brotherhood could be extremely severe. As a quick history lesson, Doyle points out, "They have been the umbrella group for radical Islamic terrorist groups. We've got Hamas, Islamic Jihad--you don't have to go far from Egypt, just over the border into Gaza, to see all kinds of groups cheering when Morsi wins the presidency."

The situation is looking grave politically. But interestingly, this increase of pressure could be a good thing from a Gospel perspective in the traditionally hard-to-reach North.

Doyle explains, "Here's kind of the formula in the Muslim world: the more radical it becomes, there is a fear among the people--there's no question they accomplished that agenda. Then it seems like the church grows."

Often, the more hardline a nation is when it comes to Islam, the more that traditional Muslims seek out alternatives. For instance, Iran may be governed by Sharia, but the church is bursting at the seams. Already, e3 Partners has seen a swell of conversions in Egypt. Doyle says we should expect that to grow in Egypt and the rest of North Africa as hardliners come in.

That doesn't make the situation remotely easy, though. Pray for believers in Egypt especially as they face a new reality under the Muslim Brotherhood regime. Pray that the Lord would be preparing the church all over to stand firm, remain faithful and spread the News that North Africa's been waiting for. 

Bomber may avoid jail time

Jack Teitel in handcuffs.
(Photo courtesy of Israel Watcher)

Israel (MNN) ― Jewish extremist Jack Teitel may not be facing prison time for his crime of bombing a Christian-Jewish pastor’s home among other offenses.

According to sources fromVoice of the Martyrs USA, Teitel’s attorneys are going for revised charges that do not label his act as a hate crime.

If Teitel pleads guilty under these new charges, then he would most likely be sent to a psychiatric institution and avoid prison.

According to The Christian Post, the bombing occurred back in March 2008. Teitel placed a booby-trapped basket of Purim at the front door of Messianic Pastor David Ortiz’s home.

The explosion severely injured Pastor Ortiz’s son, Ami, who was 15 at the time. Since then, Ami has significantly recovered.

Already, Teitel openly takes credit for the bombing. Voice of the Martyrs USA says his motivation was thought to be getting rid of those in Israel who believe differently than he does—that is, Orthodox Jews.

Teitel does have a history of earning exempt status in court since, back in 2010, he was declared unfit to stand trial after a psychiatric evaluation. Later, however, that decision was withdrawn.

Along with the Ortiz bombing case, Teitel stands trial for murder shootings, attempted arson, and another bombing case.

However, prosecutors are either sidelining or avoiding Ortiz in pursuing justice for his case. Ortiz says it is because his prosecutor doesn’t want to have a reputation of defending Christians.

Please pray for justice in Ortiz’s case. Pray that the peace of the Lord will cover their family and that they may be a living example of Christ’s example in the midst of persecution.

Iranian Imam Warns against Spread of House Churches

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- The increasing spread of Christianity in Iran and the resulting growth of house churches among Iranians has is greatly concerning Iranian religious experts and clerics. They make frequent statements about the situation.
Hojatol-Eslam Seyed Mohammad Saeedi

According to the Iranian Christian news agency, “Mohabat News,” in his latest remarks in a meeting with the leader and managers of the Organization of Islamic Propaganda in the religious city of Qom, Hojatol-Eslam Seyed Mohammad Saeedi, who is also the Friday prayer Imam, warned against “the enemy's efforts” to establish "house-churches.”

Mohabat News said he called on cultural authorities, especially those at the Organization of Islamic Propaganda, to be pioneers in promoting religious teachings.

Qom is considered the religious capital of Iran and because the most prominent Shi'ite seminary is based in the city, it is also known as the center of the Shi'ite world.

Mohabat News reported that the Islamic cleric, saying “some families are vulnerable,” called for the implementation of propagating programs for Iranian families. He said, “The presence of clerics among families is the best and most effective way to promote religious matters and sharia laws."

Mohabat News said that taking such positions against Christianity in Iran is not something new. Some Ayatollahs including top religious experts Mesbah-Yazdi, Vahid Khorasani, Makarem-Shiraz, have “already insulted Christianity and Christians.”

Mohabat News said the same statements by Ayatollahs have prompted security and intelligence forces to impose more pressure on Iranian Christians.

Ayatollah Khorasani

Mohabat News said along the same line, Ayatollah Khorasani, a well known religious authority, claimed, in a gathering with Islamic seminary students in Qom held to address Christian evangelism in Iran, that they even know the number of young people in Qom who have converted to Christianity!

Mohabat News reported that the Shi'ite Ayatollah criticized the growth of Christianity in Iran and said, “Christianity rooted in Iran is deceiving young Shi'ites and they (the authorities) are fighting for who will be the boss.”
After saying that he requested that Christian evangelism be eradicated from the country.

Mohabat News said he added, “Isn't there someone to say what it means to have this much corrupt Christian propaganda even in the religious city of Qom?”

After that, Mohabat News said, he severely criticized the senior administrators and authorities for giving their attention to unimportant matters and being negligent in such issues. He also warned them not to be negligent any longer.

Mohabat News said Heydar Moslehi, the Iranian Intelligence Minister, also spoke in a meeting held in Feizieh Seminary in Qom. He outlined ways to deal with the growth of Christianity and house churches in Iran, and announced a series of new plans against Christianity.

Mohabat News commented, “The increased threats, arrests and torture of a number of Christians and Christian converts by security and judicial authorities, especially in religious cities, is convincing evidence that the Ayatollahs (Islamic clerics) direct the intelligence and security services of the regime in dealing with the growth of Christianity in Iran.”

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

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

Terrorist Who Made Bombs for Indonesian Church Attacks Jailed

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

INDONESIA (ANS) -- A former “most wanted” terrorist who made the explosives to blow up several Indonesian churches as part of a major anti-Christian attack in 2000 has been jailed for 20 years.

According to a news release from Barnabas Aid, Umar Patek, 45, was sentenced on June 21. He was found guilty of six charges including murder, bomb-making and terrorism offences in relation to two incidents.

The first was coordinated attacks on several churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve in 2000, part of a major assault on 25 churches in eleven cities by militants from the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah. About 19 people, mostly Christians attending services, were killed.

Barnabas Aid said Patek was also convicted of making explosives that were used in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners, in 2002. Patek was found guilty of mixing the 700kg bomb that blew up two nightclubs on the Indonesian island.

The court heard how he had first used his bomb-making skills in 2000 when Imam Samudra, mastermind of the Bali bombings, asked him to make explosives for the church attacks. Samudra later asked Patek to help kill foreigners in Bali by making the explosives.

According to Barnabas Aid, Eddy Setiono, who is serving a life sentence for terror offences, told the court that he drove a car to several churches on Christmas Eve 2000 while Patek "set up" bombs disguised as gifts, in the back seat. The bombs were delivered to churches and ministers.

Christians in Indonesia suffered an ongoing Islamic onslaught between 1999 and 2002 that claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Barnabas Aid said Patek was once the most-wanted terror suspect in Indonesia. He spent nearly a decade on the run before being discovered in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad several months before Osama bin Laden was killed in the same town.

The Indonesian was the last key suspect to be tried in relation to the Bali bombings. The others have either been executed, killed in police raids or are now serving life sentences.

Barnabas Aid said prosecutors had asked the court to lock up Patek for life. However, he was given a more lenient sentence because he was said to have cooperated with the police, and also made a public apology to the victims’ families, Christians and the government.
Barnabas Aid provides hope and relief for the persecuted church.

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

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

Kenya: church bombings and al-Shabaab

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin: "Kenyan-assisted military operations to rout al-Shabaab in Somalia are being blessed with success. Gradually, order and security are being restored to large tracts of Somalia. Facing immense pressure, many al-Shabaab militants are shedding their uniforms, ditching their weapons and fleeing south into eastern Kenya where they disappear into the refugee population, sheltered by sympathetic Islamists who have fled war and famine. Just 80km west of the Somalia border and with as many as 500,000 Somali refugees, Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp has become a major security problem for Kenya.  Aid workers have been kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia, mines and grenades have been used to kill Kenyan soldiers, and several refugee leaders have been executed. Many aid organisations no longer let their foreign workers serve in Dadaab because it is simply too dangerous."


Church attacks in Kenya condemned

Images are screen grabs from KTN Kenya TV: Church attack in Garissa

Kenya (MNN) ―   At last report, at least 18 died and more than 60 were wounded in Sunday's church attack in northeastern Kenya.

Masked militants, believed to have an al Shabaab connection, crossed the Somalia border and attacked the Africa Inland Church (AIC) and Catholic Church in Garissa. Open Doors President and CEO Carl Moeller explains, "This is a region of Kenya that is exposed to a huge refugee population from Somalia.

Throughout those refugee camps, radical Islam in the form of al Shabaab and terrorism has been permeating those camps." The town is also near  the large Dadaab Refugee Camp is located, where in the past week four aid workers were abducted but eventually freed. 

Eyewitness told Open Doors that first, the gunmen threw grenades into the church, and then, as church goers fled from the explosives, the gunmen shot them as they exited the building.  Even as he described the situation, Moeller said, "The church is a soft target, and this should be seen for what it is: a  huge human rights and persecution tragedy."

Eyewitnesses were deeply shocked by the aftermath of the attacks. Moeller says, "The church in Kenya has been largely an island of stability, although they've been hard pressed as Islam does intrude more and more radical Islam into the culture."  

"We heard something like stones being thrown on top of the roof. Then we realized that we were being shot at," said Mr. Dennis Nzioki who was attending the AIC worship service at the time of the attack. Police say they have identified suspects, no but one has been arrested in connection to the attacks yet.

Then, the inevitable question came: could this be just the beginning of more violence? Moeller agrees with speculation that radical Islamists are only using the tense atmosphere in these regions to get rid of the Christian presence in these Somali dominated border regions. However, he says, "It's our prayer that the church in Kenya will remain in peace and that this sort of violence will not be retaliated."

Meanwhile, Chairman Abdulghafur El-Busaidy of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims condemned Sunday's church attacks: "All places of worship must be respected. We want to send our condolences, and we are sad that no arrests have been made yet."

Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka also condemned Sunday's church attacks. "Places of worship... should be respected," he said.

Although fear seems to be the initial reaction to the attacks, Moeller says church leaders appear strong in the midst of the difficult circumstances. "The impact as a result is that those Christians that are remaining there (and we just continue to pray for peace in the region), that they become those agents of peace, that they become those agents of hope."

Open Doors is planning to visit the church in the next few days to offer encouragement and to determine the need for further support. Africa Inland Mission's Regional Executive Officer Marvin Smith, in a written statement released by Africa Inland Mission, said, "Join us in prayer for the families who lost loved ones, martyred for their desire to worship God and grow in the Lord. Many of the wounded have been airlifted to hospitals in Nairobi, so pray also for their quick recovery. Pray also for the Africa Inland Church as they receive and respond to this event. While we do not understand why this happened, we can trust our Faithful Creator to work all things for His glory. "

Moeller went on to describe another attack that has been overshadowed by the Garissa incident: "In a separate incident Sunday morning, a large church in Nairobi, Nairobi Lighthouse Church, was attacked by 15-20 armed men, who forced the entire congregation to lie on the floor in order to rob everyone of all their possessions.  They also stole money and other items from the church offices. Our Kenyan Short Term Assistant, Janet Ngarika normally attends the church, but she did not attend yesterday. These incidents against churches in Kenya remind us to take our faith seriously as we live in uncertain times." 

Please pray for the Lord's comfort for the bereaved. Pray that justice will be done. Pray for Open Doors workers as they investigate the attacks and determine an appropriate response.

Two Kenyan churches attacked; at least 17 dead

Worshippers gunned down as they flee church building

Garissa, Kenya, July 2 (Compass Direct News) — Attackers with guns and hand-grenades killed at least 17 people and wounded scores more during worship services at two churches Sunday in Kenya.

Three of those killed were children. Two were police officers standing guard over one of the churches.

Both attacks occurred in Garissa, a provincial capital about 120 miles west of the Somalia border. Suspicion for the attacks immediately fell upon al Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group that western governments say has links to al-Qaida, but authorities have not officially named any suspects.

The first of the attacks began at about 10:15 a.m. at the Africa Inland Church, where Christian worshippers were attending Sunday services. Published news reports differ on the specifics, but between two and four men approached the church, and shot the two police officers. The attackers took the officers’ guns, and two grenades were thrown into the church. Reports differ on whether either grenade detonated, but they agree that gunmen entered the church and began to fire.

Several of the victims may have been shot as they fled from the church. News accounts differ, but as many as two gunmen waited outside the church to shoot at people as they ran out of the simple wooden building.

Several of the 17 people killed died at the scene. Others died while receiving treatment at the scene or in hospitals. Of the 17 killed, eight were said to be women, and three were children. Two were the police officers, who were on guard as a precaution against militant Islamists, who have targeted Christian churches in several African regions.

The second attack occurred about two miles away, at a Catholic church. Hand-grenades were lobbed at the church from a moving vehicle, causing serious injuries to at least three people. No fatalities were reported in the second attack.

The Kenya Red Cross said at least 75 people were injured in the two attacks. The number of victims overwhelmed regional hospitals, and several of the most seriously injured were airlifted to hospitals in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said he intends to direct “a thorough investigation concerning this futile terror attack on churches.”

The Sunday attacks drew condemnation from local, Kenyan and international authorities.

“I condemn the attackers with the strongest terms possible,” said police commander Philip Ndolo.

“All places of worship must be respected,” said Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims. “We want to send our condolences, and we are sad that no arrests have been made yet.”

Visiting Garissa on Monday, Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga said militant Islamists are targeting churches as a ploy to bait Christians into anti-Muslim reprisal attacks and create a false context for Christian hatred of Muslims.

“We are more intelligent than that,” Odinga told the Voice of America. "This is not a religious matter, this is a group of terrorists who are resorting to these kind of desperate measures because of the progress being made by our troops in Somalia." Kenyan forces have been battling al Shabaab in Somalia since October 2011.

In the United States, the White House press office said the attackers “have shown no respect for human life and dignity, and must be brought to justice for these heinous acts.”

“At a time of transition, peace and stability are essential to Kenya's progress. We support those who recognize Kenya’s ethnic and religious diversity as one of the country’s greatest strengths.”

Such assurances are of little practical comfort to Ibrahim Magunyi, pastor of the East Africa Pentecostal Church.

“The government has stepped up security in Garissa and posted policemen to guard the Church faithful,” Magunyi said. “But these attackers have now come into open to attack the Churches in Garissa.”


Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tunisia - Convert from Islam to Christianity Beheaded

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- According to the UK-based Barnabas Fund, video footage of a convert from Islam to Christianity being murdered by Muslims has been shown on Egyptian TV.
The graphic incident, which is reported to have taken place in Tunisia, was aired on a program called Egypt Today.

The footage shows a young man being held down by masked men with a knife to his throat. One man chants a number of Muslim prayers in Arabic, mostly condemning Christianity. The man holding the knife to the Christian convert’s throat begins to cut, slowly severing the head amid cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“god is great”).

The story continued by saying that the Egypt Today presenter was visibly distressed by the scenes. Then, referring to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, who together hold the majority of seats in the country’s parliament, he asked, “How are such people supposed to govern?”

“The footage of this brutal beheading is the latest alarming indication of the violent threat to religious freedom in the post-Arab Spring order,” said a Barnabas Fund spokesperson.

The spokesperson added: “Give thanks to God for our Tunisian brother’s life and his faith that would not waver, even unto death. Pray that his witness will touch the hearts of his killers and those who have seen the footage of his death and that they will turn to Christ.”
For more information, please go to: 

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.

Kenya church attacks ‘kill fifteen’ in Garissa

Also Aid workers kidnapped from Kenya’s Dadaab camp near Somalia

By Dan Wooding, who recently returned from Kenya
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

GARISSA, KENYA (ANS) -- Fifteen churchgoers have been killed in attacks on churches in the Kenyan town of Garissa near Somalia, say the Kenyan Red Cross and a medical official.
One of the victims being carried by
other churchgoers
According to the BBC, regional deputy police chief Philip Ndolo said balaclava-clad “goons” attacked the town’s Catholic church and the African Inland Church (AIC).

A combination of grenades and gunfire was used, police said.

“Kenya's border region has been tense since it sent troops into Somalia to pursue al-Shabab Islamic militants,” said the BBC story.
“Kenya said the operations, launched last October, were designed to bring an end to kidnappings on Kenyan soil and other violence which it blamed on al-Shabab.

A grenade that didn't go off

“But since then, al-Shabab has been blamed for a further string of grenade and bomb blasts across Kenya - though it has never admitted to carrying out any such attack on Kenyan territory.”

No group has yet said it carried out these latest attacks, but the finger of blame will once again undoubtedly be pointed at al-Shabab or sympathizers, says the BBC’s Kevin Mwachiro in Nairobi.

“We condemn this act in the strongest terms possible,” Mr Ndolo said.

The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims also condemned Sunday's church attacks, saying that “all places of worship must be respected”, reported the AFP news agency.

“Terrible scene”

Another victim of the attack on the
African Inland Mission church
The BBC went on to report that Sunday's attacks took place during morning sermons at the churches in the garrison town.

The Provincial Medical Officer for North Eastern Province in Kenya, Mahamad Abey Shekh, said 15 people had been killed.
About 40 were thought to be wounded, several in serious condition.

The first and most serious attack took place at the AIC, police told the BBC correspondent.

“Gunmen shot two policemen outside one of the churches, and grenades were then thrown inside. As the panicked congregation rushed to escape, gunmen fired on them, police said. At least 10 people died,” the BBC report went on to say.

“In the second - apparently coordinated - attack at a Catholic church, two grenades were thrown inside the church. One failed to go off, but police say three people were injured by the other one.”

Police said up to seven gunmen were involved in the attacks, but none had been apprehended.
A survivor receiving urgent medical treatment
Witnesses told AFP that bodies lay scattered in the blood-spattered churches as scores of wounded were rushed to hospital.

“It is a terrible scene, you can see bodies lying in the churches,” regional police chief Leo Nyongesa told the agency.

“You can imagine for such a small town how the police and medical services have been stretched trying to deal with this,” Mr Ndolo told Reuters news agency.

Garissa is the capital of North Eastern province, about 90 miles from the Somali border.

“It is close to the Dadaab refugee camp, where gunmen kidnapped four aid workers and killed a driver on Friday in an attack Mr Ndolo said he suspected al-Shabab sympathizers of carrying out,” added the BBC.

“These two incidents have not painted a good picture of the efficacy of Kenyan security forces,” said the BBC correspondent.

“Troops are supposed to have secured the Kenya-Somali border and frontier towns, but this does not seem to be happening,” he adds.

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.

Sudan ponders a season of 'Spring'

(Cover photo by BBC World Service: File footage refugee camp.)
 [Story photo by Kids Alive International: Sudan boys]

Sudan (MNN) ― On Friday, thousands lined the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman demanding that the president step down as a result of the country's economic woes.

They clashed with security, which fired tear gas into the crowds in an escalating effort to clampdown on the turmoil.
The protests started June 16 at universities in the capital of Khartoum and quickly spread to other cities across Sudan. Demonstrators are calling for an of end Omar al-Bashir's nearly 23-year rule. They say recent budget cuts and tax increases are draconian enough to call for his ouster.

Could this movement be the Arab Spring moving south? No one really knows if the protests will gather the kind of momentum seen in last year's Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, but given the previous instability triggered by the secession of South Sudan, it might tip the balance.

Meanwhile, Sudanese and South Sudanese delegations are looking to resume talks this week after little progress over a buffer zone on the common border. Kids Alive International President Al Lackey says the situation remains tense because "the problem in the North right now is that they (the government) withdrew all the personal ID information from all the residents, and they (the residents) have to go back and reapply. As they do that, they have to identify what religion they are. Many of the Christians are fearful to do that at this time."

Sudan's history with Christians has been acrimonious, at best. The secession ramped up tensions, especially near the border areas. Although serving neither side exclusively, groups like Kids Alive International were caught in the middle. Lackey explains, "Like many non-profits, we were in the North and the South two or three years ago. A lot of our ministry has now moved to the South, so we're trying to plant that, develop that."

That meant personnel overseeing both projects needed to be able to cross the borders regularly. That's when the problem emerged. "They're more or less trapped because they can't use the airport. They may get out, but if they try to come back in, they could be denied."

Hostilities mean travel is difficult and the additional chaos will likely slow whatever paperwork needs to make its way through the government channels. Prayer goes a long way. Lackey says, "A lot of our focus in the South is to rescue more orphans and to care for the people that are moving in around us. It continues to grow daily." It won't be easy to do both, with the red tape disruption, but Lackey says their team is committed fully. "Our focus in the North is to maintain what we're doing and to be responsible to the children that we have."

An estimated 10% of Sudan's children are orphans. Over 1.8 million of them are now living on the streets or in refugee camps. "We bring children into small residential homes if they have no family, or if they're living in an abusive situation. They live in small homes of eight to ten kids, maybe up to 12, with house parents. And then, we educate those children and care for them all the way up until they're young adults."

Lackey goes on to say that their work doesn't stop with the rescue. "True hope is not just giving them all the things they need to exist in life. It starts with the Lord Jesus Christ, and then all those other pieces are the hope giving, and the development, and the kingdom building that we desire for each of our kids."

Protests, clashes, and chaos are creating a lot of disruption for Kids Alive International. They're still seeing new kids in need of rescue every day. It takes about $60 to really do the job right, and funding is what limits their growth the most.

Kids keep turning up in desperate need. Lackey says money helps, but prayer support has fallen off, too. "When Sudan was in the news, everybody was praying, churches were praying. But now that it has lost number one focus, people forget that there are still people in persecution, that people trapped in the North, and there's a huge exodus of people coming to the South."

Check our Featured Links section for more ways to help Kids Alive International in Sudan.

Another bloody day in Syria saps hope

Post gun battle, city of Douma. (Photo courtesy Douma Revolution)

Syria (ODM) ― Cars, taxis, and buses fill the streets of Damascus. Shops are opened as usual, and people walk everywhere. Life is continuing as usual in the Syrian capital.

But at night, you can hear the shelling of the suburbs of the city. At several spots in the city, roads are blocked because of bombs that have exploded there during the last few months. The situation in Syria, even in the relatively peaceful city of Damascus, is far from normal.

A team of workers with Open Doors visited this country which, even according to Syrian President Assad, is at civil war. Fighting in the country has already been waging for 16 months with no sign of peace. The violence is paralyzing the economy. Many Syrians have lost jobs. As a result, many church members are unemployed.

That crisis brings Christians closer to God is the conviction of several Christian leaders in the country. They shared this when the Open Doors workers visited them.

"It was very encouraging to see how they stand strong, how they trust God that He will use the current crisis for the expansion of His Kingdom," one of the workers said.

A pastor of a Protestant church said: "My wife and I feel that it is the right time for us to be here. We can support people and families, answer questions, and reach out. Also for the church it is a great opportunity to actively reach out and be present in the society. We see open hearts to receive the Gospel."

There is a 24-7 prayer and fasting campaign taking place. "We think this is a special time also for the church, and we believe this will help in the salvation of people in our city and in our land," the pastor adds.

When visiting another church, the pastor shared: "Before the situation went as extreme as it is now, we saw the churches breaking up, and we feared for that. Now in this situation, after the tragedies, we are getting together and praying more intimately. It is encouraging for us to see."

The pastor gave an example of how some church members are reacting: "Yesterday, a member of the church went to the commercial bank. There was a long line [of people] waiting in front of the bank. He prayed in his heart how to reach them and then felt that he should just step out of the line and share. He went to the front, held the Gospel up high and said; 'This is the Gospel, the Word of God, and it will bring you eternal life. Who wants to read it? If you want one I give it to you.' He gave away all 20 of the Bibles he had with him."

But in some churches, it is reported that Christians either have left the country or are thinking of leaving Syria. The co-worker states: "A bishop we met told that me he already brought valuable things from his church to a safe place. He said, "But I am to live here, not to leave. When the violence gets to our city, the members of my church might flee; I hope that I will get the courage to stay and leave as the last.'"

In the last 16 months, many Syrians have left their homes in the cities where the civil war is fought between the Free Syrian Army and the government troops. Most of the Christians seem want to stay in the country. From Homs, for example, they fled especially to the so-called "Christian Valley" in Syria, west of Homs and Hama. Several churches are helping the refugees in Damascus and the other places they fled to and others in Homs. Open Doors is supporting the relief operation, partnering with churches. Hundreds of refugee families are receiving food and hygiene parcels, medical assistance, and other help.

An Open Doors worker says; "Many families rent an apartment together with several other families to share the costs. We have visited an apartment where four families--16 persons in total--are living in two rooms. They really depend on the help they get from the churches."

The situation in and around Homs continues to be very dangerous. Almost daily the city and its surroundings are shelled. But even there, the church still is present.

For example, the pastor of an evangelical church stayed in the city. "We heard of him and three priests that have stayed in the city of Homs," one of the Open Doors workers said. "The pastor and his wife are doing a wonderful job there. He is a doctor and is going to the clinic. He does not work there every day, but is present for those who show up and need help. He visits a home for elderly people and does a lot of visits. Every Sunday, he opens the church for the few Christians in the neighborhood who are left. Also other people come to the church. His wife is very active, too. They risk their lives doing so."

According to Open Doors sources, there are still Christian families living in Homs, but about 90% of the Christians have left.