Friday, September 14, 2012

U.S. Christians and Muslims Condemn Attacks on Embassies

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- Following a briefing from the Department of Homeland Security related to the attacks on the embassies in Egypt and Libya, the U.S. based Christian Emergency Network and U.S. Muslim Public Affairs appeared on the steps of the U.S. State Department to demonstrate solidarity in condemning the two attacks.

CEN President Mary Marr and Muslim Public Affairs President Salam Al-Mayarti serve on the Department of Homeland Security Faith-based Security and Communications Committee.

CEN's Public Information Officer Misti McHatton said in a news release. "We uphold the sovereignty of each nation's embassy. As the U.S. protects all embassies and consulates in the U.S. we expect each embassy and consulate in other countries to be protected. We stand in solidarity, as leaders of faith, condemning the attacks on our embassies in Cairo and Libya and call for peace and a calm resolve, as violence is never an appropriate answer for words."

McHatton continued, "We uphold the freedom of all religions in the U.S., and the expression, which comes from the Constitution, including freedom of speech we may find reprehensible, with the exception of speech that calls for violence or the removal of the rights of others. We call for prayer for the survivors of these attacks in Cairo and Benghazi and for the President of the U.S. and all those in civil authority to have wisdom in the days ahead."

Speaking in the news release Muslim Public Affairs President Salam Al-Mayarti said, "We condemn the attack on the US embassies and the death of the US Ambassador. This is an attack against our country. The film issued yesterday was intended to incite anger against the US. It's deplorable and unfortunately succeeding in its objectives."

Al-Mayarti added, "We as Muslims living in America are living freely to worship Islam. We have political challenges like any other community, but America is our home and is home to Islam like so many other religions. Anyone who attempts to promote the misconception that Muslims are not integrated into America is fomenting more fear and destructive behavior."

Christian Emergency Network unites Christian volunteers, community leaders and emergency professionals in equipping the Church to be aware and ready to respond in emergencies large and small.

For more information go to

Turmoil in the Middle East spreads

(File photos courtesy SAT-7)

Middle East (MNN/SAT7) ―Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has called for a nationwide peaceful demonstration today to condemn insults to Prophet Mohammad from an amateurish film.

The announcement followed the attacks against U.S. Embassies in Libya and Egypt. Demonstrators also attacked the U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt (again) on Thursday. The spreading turmoil was a response to a film they consider blasphemous to Islam.

An investigation has begun into the events surrounding Tuesday's attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Eight Libyans were injured in that violence.

Protests also erupted in Iraq and Iran, as students in Tehran protested outside the Swiss embassy. In Bangladesh, Islamists tried to march on the U.S. embassy in Dhaka but were turned back by police. There were also reported protests at U.S. missions in Tunisia, Sudan, and Morocco.

The film may have been the vehicle used to stir up tensions, especially in light of the September 11 anniversary. SAT-7 CEOTerry Ascott says, "That reaction is inflamed by people who have a vested interest, like Al Qaeda, in exploiting people's anger at the West. It's a bit of a coincidence, one might say, that this flared up all within hours in Egypt, in Yemen, in Libya, in other places. It seems somewhat orchestrated."

Security was being increased at U.S. diplomatic stations around the globe, but what about ministries? "There have been specific threats against, for example, Egyptian Christians in Yemen and churches and Christians, in general...anyone who is a ‘cross worshipper,' as they say in the street."

Ascott goes on to say, "It's not the people that are making the movies or the cartoons in the Western world that pay the price for their enjoyment of free speech. It is the Christians in the Middle East that bear the brunt of the reaction that inevitably comes."

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it's a common belief that Christianity is a Western religion. Therefore, when trouble occurs similar to what's happened this week, entities with Western connections are targeted, and that includes ministries.

SAT-7 has an office in Cairo. When asked if there was a contingency plan for the staff, Ascott first said, "We do have heavy fences and cameras and security people around our building, but it certainly would not be enough if a mob decided to attack the building."

However, Ascott went on to explain that they're also being vigilant. "If there are signs of trouble, we would try to evacuate our staff from the premises before that got out of hand. But we don't have armed guards on the building to protect it from a riot."

Still, the staff is putting together programs that will address much of what has happened this week in the region.

Interestingly, the SAT-7 ARABIC team had already begun a series of programs called Forbidden, which address issues relevant to North Africa. Presenter Emad D. is a Tunisian poet and pastor. The inspiration for the program comes from John 11:35, "Jesus wept." Emad wants to show the Arab world that Jesus cares about them and weeps over them.

Emad hopes to use testimonies to demonstrate that the Church is spreading all over the world, and longs to see equality between people of all religions--with more respect for new believers. Ascott states that the program aims to overcome negative perceptions of the Church.

Another team is doing a live show on Saturday. Ascott says, "In the situation with the Middle East where there are so many agendas, so many tensions between so many different groups, we're trying to bring reconciliation through better understanding, advocacy of forgiveness, and so on--some of the things that are unique in the Christian Gospel."

Pray wisdom for the production teams. Pray for safety for the staff. Pray for peace to return. Pray for open hearts.

Book uncovers horrors hidden by Communist government

North Korean Prison Camps hold 150 -200 k
 human beings in bad conditions

North Korea (MNN) ― Spotted easily on satellite images but heavily denied by the government, North Korean prison camps harbor horrors equal to the Holocaust. A biography released earlier this month profiles the only man to escape from a "total control zone" camp, Shin Dong-hyuk. After spending a few weeks on bestseller lists, Escape from Camp 14 is drawing international attention to North Korea.

As North Korea faces human rights criticisms, Open Doors USAdraws attention to the plight of North Korean believers. The isolated Asian nation ranks #1 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List: a compilation of 50 countries where believers face the most religious persecution. An estimated 40,000 to 70,000 Christians suffer in total control zone internment camps, where people labeled as "wrong thinkers" are sent to die.

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in this same type of camp in 1982. In his book, Shin admits reporting his mother and brother to prison guards because they were going to escape without him. As a result, they were hung in front of Shin and other prisoners, and he was also tortured as punishment for their "crime."

Shin told American journalist Blaine Harden, author of Escape from Camp 14, "I wanted people to know this is the kind of children they are raising right now in these camps: people whose loyalty is to the guards and who will do anything to get more food."

Conditions in North Korean prison camps are similar to camps under the unforgettable regime of Hitler, Stalin and Mao. "Political prisoners" essentially work themselves to death while being subjected to severe physical and psychological torture. Open Doors reported they work 18-20 hours each day, with little to no food. To supplement their rations, prisoners consume anything edible, including snakes, rats, insects, roots, and grass.

In April, the U.S.-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea released a report based on interviews with 60 former prisoners and guards. The 200-page report describes prison camps located mainly in northern mountainous regions behind barbed wire and electric fences -- fences Shin climbed through to escape, using his best friend's body as insulation against the deadly current.

In 2009, North Korea told the UN Human Rights Council, "The term 'political prisoner' does not exist in the [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] DPRK's vocabulary…the so-called political prisoners' camps do not exist." According to the April report, former prisoners were able to identify their work sites, execution grounds, and other landmarks using satellite imagery available through Google Earth.

Greg Scarlatoiu, Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said that while North Korea tries to hide the horrendous realities of Pyongyang, over 30,000 North Korean defectors have fled the country -- up from 3,000 defectors ten years ago.

Pray for imprisoned believers in North Korea. Ask God to sustain them, and pray that they might be released. Pray for changes that can only be brought about by the Gospel.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Libya, Egypt Attacks Will Increase Christian Persecution, says Christian Freedom International

 Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich., Sept. 13, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- Christian Freedom International (CFI), a Michigan-based organization dedicated to assisting persecuted Christians around the world, is expressing concern that Middle Eastern Christians will feel extended repercussions of the recent bombings in Libya and Egypt that killed four American workers, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Chris Stevens.

The bombings came in retaliation for the anti-Islamic film "Innocence of Muslims," a 14-minute video created by an Israeli-American filmmaker that allegedly blasphemes the prophet Mohammed. While four deaths occurred at the Libyan embassy on Tuesday, no casualties were reported following the attack on the U.S. embassy in Egypt, although protesters did tear down the embassy's American flag. U.S. officials speculate that the attacks were carried out by the militant Islamic group Ansar al Sharia and an African-based faction of Al-Qaeda, and that they were planned in conjunction with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

CFI, whose humanitarian presence extends into Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, believes that the persecution already experienced by thousands of Middle Eastern Christians as a result of the Arab Spring revolution will continue to intensify in the wake of the attacks in Libya and Egypt. Other organizations, such as Open Doors USA and the World Evangelical Alliance, have issued similar statements voicing concern for the safety of Christians in the region and the potential for more violent conflict due to the tendency by Muslim fundamentalists to link the United States with Christianity.

"CFI mourns the death of Chris Stevens and the three other American employees who risked their lives to serve our country abroad," says CFI President Jim Jacobson. "We must pray for the families who have lost loved ones in these attacks and for all the Christians in these and other countries who suffer persecution. There is most certainly a growing threat to minority Christians in this region."

In addition to humanitarian relief of food, medical aid and educational resources, CFI provides advocacy for persecuted Christians on Capitol Hill as well as through social media venues like Facebook and Twitter. For more information about CFI's work within the persecuted church, visit
Christian Newswire

Open Doors USA Launches Campaign to Support Girl Accused of Blasphemy

SANTA ANA, Calif., Sept. 13, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- On Aug. 16, Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl with possible learning disabilities, was arrested on charges of "blasphemy" in Islamabad, Pakistan. Open Doors USA announced today it has launched a campaign on her behalf.

Rimsha, allegedly between the ages of 11 and 14, was accused of burning pages of the Quran, a serious crime under Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Following her arrest, angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the area. Many Christians were forced to flee. After an initial court appearance, Rimsha was held in prison and some reports say that her parents were placed in protective custody.

Last Friday a Pakistani judge granted bail to Rimsha. Judge Mohammad Azam Khan set bail at $10,500. It's rare that bail is granted in a blasphemy case, partly for the defendant's own safety, but Masih's lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile, according to Open Doors News.

The girl was released Saturday from a prison in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad, and taken away by helicopter accompanied by tight security.

Robinson Asghar, aide to the Minister for National Harmony, told Reuters Rimsha is expected to re-join her family in a secret location. Asghar said there are no plans to send Rimsha abroad. Prosecution lawyers said this was a risk as a result of the prominence the case has received in international media. Asghar's boss, Minister Paul Bhatti, is concerned with the girl's security after his brother Shahbaz, then Minister for Minorities, was shot dead in March 2011 for challenging the blasphemy laws.

"Even though Rimsha was released, she and her family will be in grave danger and likely will not be able to return to their home," says Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey. "Vigilante killings of those accused of blasphemy are common in Pakistan."

"Even with her release, she still faces blasphemy charges and a possible trial. Those charges against her should be dropped immediately. Like other victims of this unjust law -- including Aasyia Noreen (Bibi) who has been in prison for four years under a death sentence for blasphemy -- Rimsha needs the support and prayers of Christians worldwide."

Vessey says the Open Doors USA campaign could make a difference for Rimsha. Christians can help her case by contacting Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, asking Pakistan to protect Rimsha and ensure justice for her.

To send an email to Ambassador Rehman, visit the Open Doors Advocacy website to take action. Included on the site is a sample letter.

Prayer Requests:
  • For safety and justice for Rimsha and her family

  • That the displaced Christians will be able to resettle in safety in their homes

  • For other Christians facing blasphemy charges such as Aasyia Noreen (Bibi)
Nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with little or no freedom of religion. Open Doors is an organization that for over five decades has come alongside Christians in 60 of these restrictive, dangerous countries, campaigning for the freedom to believe from the gulags in North Korea to the halls of Congress. Open Doors' outreach to more than 100 million persecuted believers includes delivery of Bibles and other materials, training of indigenous leaders in the Word, Christian community development, prayer and advocacy. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go

'Christians, they will pay for this,' says e3 Partners

A protester reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in f
lames during a protest by an armed group said to have been protesting
a film being produced in the United States September 11, 2012.
 (REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori)

International (MNN) ― The world is on alert in the aftermath of the attack on two United States embassies. First, protesters scaled the walls of the embassy in Cairo, tearing down the U.S. flag and replacing it with an Islamic one. 

Then, Islamist extremists attacked the embassy in Benghazi, Libya killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomats.

The attacks reignite an already volatile situation in the region. Tie that together with civil war in Syria and the region is unstable at best.

Vice President of e3 Partners Tom Doyle is puzzled about how quiet Egypt's president has been in all this. "As far as I've seen, there hasn't been an official statement for Mohammad Morsi."

On the other hand, Doyle says, "The Libyan government issued a statement of regret and sorrow about the things that happened. It is definitely gang warfare in Libya."

With Libya up for grabs politically, Christians in Egypt are concerned. "They were very concerned that this brotherhood sweep in Egypt would just flow over into Libya and take that over. If that happens, virtually the land space -- that's half of North Africa being led by the radicals."

This recent violence against the United States could be just a glimpse of things to come. "It seems to be in the Middle East a contest of who can outdo each other in their radical allegiance to the Quran and Mohammad."

What about Christians in this region? "There's always the tie from Muslims to believers in their country to the west -- to America, the great Satan. When you see these things, most people don't think about what that means for the Christians. They will pay a price for this."

While the tension is ratcheted up since the attacks, Doyle says many Muslims are sick of the violence. "They've been seeing Muslims kill Muslims. And many young people have had enough of that. You won't see that on the news."

Doyle says, "Isn't it amazing that today the countries of conflict--look at Iran--boast the fastest-growing church per capita in the world right now, according to Operation World. The hotspots in the world is where the church is thriving and flourishing and growing faster than in those countries than it probably ever has in 2,000 years."

With the commemoration of the 9/11 attacks and these recent attacks, Muslims in the west are being marginalized. 

Doyle says Christians should "reach out to them. Start a conversation about Jesus. You will be shocked at how open they are to receive your friendship and just your greeting. Jesus could use this to really reach out to a Muslim."

Persecution follows demolition of Moscow Protestant church

A group of unidentified people vandalized and demolished the
Holy Trinity Evangelical church in Moscow. (Image courtesy of RMI)

Russia (MNN) ― Earlier this week, Russian Christians were uncertain what thedestruction of the Holy Trinity Church would mean for religious freedom in the former Soviet Union nation.

"It was the first time since the Lenin-Stalin revolution where a church was vandalized and destroyed," said Wade Kusack with Russian Ministries. In light of recent events, it appears dawn is breaking over a dark horizon in Russia and the future looks oppressive.

"It's a signal," Kusack said. "This is a clear sign for all other groups who hate Protestants all over Russia."

The Holy Trinity Church congregation still met with their pastor on Sunday, worshipping God near the ruins of their former church. Two days later, government officials held the pastor in police custody for three hours, interrogating him about the "illegal meeting" he held with church members.

"Illegal meetings are prohibited by law and may be punished by up to four years in prison or huge fines, up to $15,000," reported Kusack. "He was [also] threatened."

Police used intimidation tactics, telling the pastor that if believers met again, more people would be arrested and he could face prison-time. The officials used a recent law as the basis of their threats, which states that no "open-air meetings" may be held without the government's permission.

"They think the property doesn't belong to the church anymore," explained Kusack. "The building's destroyed, and [in their view] the church cannot gather over there any longer. They just kicked [Christians] out.
"They kicked them into the street and said, 'We don't know you, we don't like you.'"
How do Russian Christians react?

"They stated that they will go and worship regardless," Kusack said. "We will see what is going to happen next Sunday.
"Authorities have no regrets about what happened, and I think they'll be more harsh with Christians."
Ask God to protect believers facing threats and persecution.

According to Kusack, the Holy Trinity Church situation sums up the government's new stance toward churches throughout Russia. Authorities demand that churches leave certain areas, but when they try to relocate, officials deny their applications.

"They're trying to push churches far away from big cities like Moscow," Kusack stated.

The church is trying to find justice through the Russian courts by appealing their case, Kusack said, but he isn't optimistic about the results. Pray for the persecutors of Russian Christians, and pray for Russian authorities. Above all else, pray for peace in Russia.

"Right now, the situation is getting worse and worse, and tensions are rising in the society," said Kusack. "Russia needs peace right now."

In the two-year School Without Walls program, young people learn to deepen their own faith and share it with their neighbors. For less than $50 each month, you can support a young person in this program and help them point their fallen nation to Christ. Click here to help.

Youcef Nadarkhani and Rimsha Masih

-- Two Christian prisoners walk 'free'

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 176 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Over the weekend of 8-9 September two persecuted, imprisoned and much-prayed-for Christians -- Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (34) of Iran and Rimsha Masih (14) of Pakistan -- walked free from their cells into the warm embrace of family. While we praise and thank the LORD for granting these blessings, we must recognise that these battles are not over. We must persist in prayer.


On Saturday 8 September, after more than 1000 days in jail, Youcef Nadarkhani -- the sorely persecuted pastor who repeatedly refused to renounce his LORD -- emerged a free man, unbroken. The court acquitted Nadarkhani of apostasy, the charge for which he had been sentenced to death. According to Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah, Nadarkhani's lawyer, the court 'finally accepted our argument' that Iran's penal code did not 'criminalise apostasy' (Financial Times, 9 Sep). However, the court did find Nadarkhani guilty of 'evangelising Muslims'. For this 'crime' he was sentenced to three years imprisonment but granted time served and released.

While we rejoice that Pastor Youcef is out of jail, enjoying the fellowship of believers and the joyful, tender warmth of his wife and sons, we must remember that Nadarkhani's life might be more at risk now than ever. Iran's penal code might not criminalise apostasy but Islamic Sharia law does. Furthermore, as this prayer mini stry previously cautioned in RLPB 173, 'by launching a new trial with unprovable accusations [extortion and banditry], the regime may be seeking to "wash its hands" publicly of Nadarkhani and release him to the Islamists and secret police while declaring itself "innocent of this man's blood" (after the manner of Pontius Pilate in Matthew 27:24), as has happened before in Iran.' Furthermore, a second conviction of 'evangelising Muslims' would doubtless be punished more severely than the first. We must also remember that numerous Iranian Christians remain in prison, including Pastor Behnam Irani (41; married, with two children) who is gravely ill.


Rimsha Masih (14) was granted bail on 7 September but could not leave prison until adequate security was arranged. On Sunday 9 September she was transported in a bulletproof armoured vehicle to a helicopter that flew her to a secret location where she should be safe from the radicalised Muslim mobs that demand her death. 

Rimsha will face court again on Sunday 16 September and should be acquitted. Having been accused of blasphemy, Rimsha in reality is not safe anywhere in Pakistan -- her innocence is irrelevant! Unless the family is removed to a safe-haven in the West, she will eventually be killed -- probably sooner rather than later.

Whilst Rimsha's plight is terrible, what it says about the Pakistani society in which Christians have to live is far worse. And because the authorities have been able to turn this case into one about age and mental capacity (Rimsha is a mentally impaired juvenile) and a local imam has been accused of evidence-tampering, they have been able to whitewash the whole crisis completely so that it is no longer about the blasphemy law and endemic religious hatred at all. The danger is, that with the next crisis waiting in the wings, the real issues are not being addressed. A few voices of protest and disgus t are being raised, warning that Pakistan will be torn apart unless Wahhabi Saudi Arabian, Sunni fundamentalist ideology is countered. However, political courage is in short supply.

While we rejoice that Rimsha is out of jail and back in the comforting arms of her loving parents, we must resist the temptation to cry 'peace, peace' when there is no peace! At this stage, nothing has changed in Pakistan.

Religious Liberty Monitoring, 5 Sep 2012]

  • intervene in Iran and (as in RLPB 128) 'redeem the suffering of Iran's Church, so that this persecution will actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. (Habakkuk 2:14)'
  • intervene i n Pakistan and (as in RLPB 173) 'redeem all this appalling suffering, and use it to shame and awaken Pakistani Muslims to the ugliness that has engulfed them, softening their hearts to the Good News so that they and even their whole communities can be radically transformed. (Isaiah 2:2-4)'
'Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.' (Psalm 126:6 TNIV)
  • be a strong shield and fortress around Youcef Nadarkhani and Rimsha Masih as well as all their family members; may angels guard them, and may those who seek to kill them be frustrated and ashamed. (Isaiah 26:1-6 and Psalm 141:8-10)

Christians in Egypt, Libya, Other Countries Could Face Increased Persecution

Coptic Christians hold up cross in the midst of protest.

SANTA ANA, Calif., Sept. 12, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Tuesday attacks on U.S. embassies in Libya and Egypt could have severe consequences for already marginalized Christians in the Middle East and northern Africa.

The violence, including the death of four American embassy staff members in Benghazi, Libya, was allegedly sparked by a film produced in the U.S. that insulted the Prophet Mohammad.

"It illustrates how hot the fuel is that one spark ignites it so suddenly," says Open Doors spokesman Michael Wood. "At some point we heard that people were protesting because of a film not even knowing what movie this was all about. And as was the case with the publishing of the Danish cartoon several years ago, the movie has been on the Internet several months.

"But it is the unpredictable momentum that suddenly creates a wave of protests and anger. Many of the Muslim fanatics link the U.S. with Christianity. So that puts believers in these hot spots such as Libya and Egypt directly in the line of fire."

Angry protests over the film have already spread in the Middle East with new demonstrations reported late today in Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan. Egypt's powerful Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday called for nationwide protests on Friday.

Wood adds that Christians in Egypt, who compose 10 percent of the population, and the small community of believers in Libya need our prayers now more than ever before. "Pray that the violence over this film does not spread to other countries...that is the No. 1 prayer request," he says.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website
Christian Newswire

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Prayer Request for young Christian Leader in South Sudan

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SOUTH SUDAN (ANS) -- Gary and Louis Short, leaders of Hope for Life International based in Arlington, WA (, are requesting urgent prayer for David, a young Christian leader in South Sudan who they says was jailed "unjustly" two weeks ago in South Sudan.

"David was falsely accused by a jealous and angry person, who probably had tribal motivations," they said in a message to ANS.

"This man who knew David convinced security personnel to arrest him. Unfortunately, the police there often jail people who have been accused of wrong regardless of evidence and then sort out the truth while the person is in jail. This is what has happened to David.

"South Sudan, the newest nation on earth is trying to emerge into a more progressive democratic justice system from a long period of military government which it had practiced through the civil war years. The clash of these cultures often means the individual accused is at the mercy of the accusers and police."

Gary Short
The couple went on to say, "About a year and a half ago we had another three leaders thrown in jail for three months and this persecution threatened not only their safety but the forward movement of the Gospel crusades and church planting in which we are involved. Our ministry has seen thousands turn to Christ in the last few years of the fragile peace in South Sudan.

"One of the underlying issues in this struggle to establish a new nation are the tribes along the Uganda, South Sudanese border who traditionally live on both sides of the border. David, though he considers himself Sudanese, has relatives living in border towns on both sides of the line. Unfortunately some in South Sudan seems to have a short memory as to how much they were helped by both Uganda and Kenya during its civil war with thousands of refugees fleeing to these border countries."
Louise Short

Fears in Kazakhstan over Latest Uzbek Extradition Case

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- Friends of Uzbek religious refugee Makset Djabbarbergenov - who has lived with his family in Kazakhstan since 2007 - fear that the Kazakh authorities are about to return him to his homeland.

Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

According to a story by Feliz Corley of the Forum 18 News Service, the Uzbek authorities have been hunting him since 2007 for criminal trial to punish him for his religious activity. Police in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty detained Djabbarbergenov on Sept. 5, and two days later a court ordered him held in detention in the run-up to an extradition hearing. He was transferred on Sept. 8 to Almaty's Investigation Prison.

Djabbarbergenov, now 32, is married with four boys, one of whom was born since the family's arrival in Kazakhstan. His wife Aigul is expecting their fifth child next April.

Almaty's Bostandyk District Prosecutor Gani Seisembiev - who presented the detention suit to court - refused to discuss it. "I can't give any information by telephone," he told Forum 18.

His assistant Daniyar Zharykbasov, who prepared the documentation in the case, told Forum 18 the Uzbek authorities put Djabbarbergenov on a wanted list for the Commonwealth of Independent States on Feb. 29 2012 for a "crime" he committed in 2007. "We have to respond to this request," he told Forum 18.

Askhat Primbetov, head of the Extradition Division of the International Co-operation Department at the General Prosecutor's Office, declined to comment on Djabbarbergenov's case.

"When the documents arrive we will examine them and take a position," he told Forum 18. "Until then we can't give any comment."

Asked about the United Nations Committee Against Torture's June 1 finding in a similar case that Kazakhstan had violated human rights obligations by extraditing to Uzbekistan a group of Muslim refugees and asylum seekers in 2011, Primbetov insisted that his government is preparing an official response to the Committee.

"The Committee decision reached us officially only in August, and we have up to 90 days to respond. We are committed to responding." Forum 18 said he declined to discuss the Committee's criticisms of those extraditions.

Zharykbasov of Bostandyk District Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that the Uzbek authorities said Djabbarbergenov was wanted under Article 229-2 of the Uzbek Criminal Code, which punishes "violation of the procedure for teaching religion" and carries a maximum term of three years' imprisonment.

He is also wanted under Article 244-3, which punishes "illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature," and also carries a maximum term of three years' imprisonment.

Zharykbasov initially told Forum 18 the extradition case was not about religious activity. But told that the Uzbek authorities are seeking to imprison Djabbarbergenov because he led an unregistered Protestant church in his home town of Nukus in Karakalpakstan, Zharykbasov then expressed some sympathy for him.

"As a person I can say this is not right," he told Forum 18. "But we have to follow the rules. We just collect the documentation, and Kazakhstan's General Prosecutor's Office will take the decision whether to extradite him or not."

Ermik Rakhimbaev of the international department of Almaty City Prosecutor's Office is collecting all the materials related to Djabbarbergenov's case to be sent to the General Prosecutor's Office in Astana.

"We're studying all the documents in the case at the moment and will send them on soon," he told Forum 18.
Rakhimbaev confirmed that Djabbarbergenov has challenged the Kazakh authorities' denial of refugee status through the courts, a case that is still pending at the Supreme Court.

"We'll wait until the Supreme Court has taken a decision," he claimed. However, he was unable to explain why Djabbarbergenov had been detained if the Supreme Court has yet to rule.

As they did not know where to find him, in late August police seized Djabbarbergenov's sister-in-law and held her for two weeks, family members complained to Forum 18. She was initially held at the police station before being transferred to a center for the homeless.

Eventually police found the telephone number of his wife, Aigul, in her mobile phone. Police seized her, and then came to the family home in Almaty on Sept. 5 and arrested Djabbarbergenov. According to Forum 18 his sister-in-law was released on Sept. 8.

Both Zharykbasov of Bostandyk District Prosecutor's Office and Rakhimbaev of the city Prosecutor's Office said they had no information about the two-week detention of Djabbarbergenov's sister-in-law.

Forum 18 said the detention request for Djabbarbergenov was prepared by Bostandyk District Prosecutor Seisembiev. It was approved by Bostandyk District Court No. 2 on Sept. 7, the court chancellery told Forum 18.

"They didn't tell us or the UNHCR office about the hearing," Aigul Djabbarbergenova complained to Forum 18. 

"They gave Makset a state lawyer rather than allowing him to find his own. They claimed to me later that they had informed us about the hearing, but they didn't."

Zharykbasov of Bostandyk District Prosecutor's Office denied her claims to Forum 18. "The police told her about the hearing, and he had a state lawyer because he had no money to hire his own."

The UNHCR office in Almaty declined to comment to Forum 18 on Djabbarbergenov's case, citing individuals' confidentiality.

Forum 18 said Djabbarbergenov had led a Pentecostal community in his home town of Nukus, the capital of Uzbekistan's autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, from 2001. He had been fined for his religious activity and had his home raided and Christian books confiscated.

He fled in Aug. 2007 after anti-terrorism police raided his home, claiming he was holding an "illegal" religious meeting. Police detained him, but did not prevent him leaving the police station several hours later to attend to his distressed wife Aigul, who was seven months pregnant.

Soon afterwards, Djabbarbergenov left Nukus for the Uzbek capital Tashkent. On Aug. 20 2007, Nukus police issued a wanted poster (seen by Forum 18) stating that he was a follower of Isa Masih (Jesus Christ) and was being sought to face charges under Criminal Code Article 229-2. Police confirmed to Forum 18 from Nukus in Oct.2007 that they were still hunting for Djabbarbergenov.

To evade arrest, Djabbarbergenov crossed into Kazakhstan on Sept. 11 2007, where he sought refugee status with the UNHCR. His wife and children joined him in 2008. The UNHCR's office in Almaty acknowledged in writing his and his family's status as refugees in a 2008 certificate, seen by Forum 18.

"As a refugee," it said, "he is a person of concern to the UNHCR, and should, in particular, be protected from forcible return to a country, where he would face threats to his life or freedom."

On March 3 2011, in a document signed by its deputy chief Lt-Col. Askhat Butunchinov and seen by Forum 18, Almaty City Migration Police rejected the appeal for refugee status from Djabbarbergenov, his wife and four children.

It claimed that he did not meet the eligibility criteria for refugee status under Kazakhstan's Refugee Law.
"According to Article 12, Part 1 of Kazakhstan's Refugee Law there is no ground for granting refugee status," Forum 18 reported the rejection letter claims. The letter said they were entitled to challenge the rejection in court.
Successive court decisions - seen by Forum 18 - rejected Djabbarbergenov's appeal against the Migration Police's decision.

The first came in a Oct. 17 2011 decision by Court No. 2 of Almaty's Almaly District. This was upheld by the appeals division of Almaty City Court on Dec. 6 2011. A panel of three judges at the cassation division of the same court rejected his further appeal on Feb. 2 2012.

Forum 18 said the court decisions agreed with the Migration Police's claim that Djabbarbergenov did not meet the eligibility criteria for refugee status. They claimed he had not presented sufficient evidence of his claims that he would be persecuted for his faith were he to be returned to Uzbekistan.

Forum 18 said Djabbarbergenov then filed an appeal to Kazakhstan's Supreme Court. However, as of Sept. 10, the Supreme Court had given no date for any hearing. Telephones at the Supreme Court's relevant departments went unanswered each time Forum 18 called that day to find out when the case will be heard.

Forum 18 said on May 29 2008, the KNB seized Djabbarbergenov on the street near his Almaty home in an attempt to expel him back to Uzbekistan. The Uzbek authorities had claimed to the Kazakh authorities that he is an Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist

The Almaty office of the UNHCR confirmed to Forum 18 on June 3 2008 that Djabbarbergenov had been detained by the Kazakh KNB as a result of an inquiry from Uzbekistan and was released on UNHCR's request.

Forum 18 said Kazakhstan has earlier sent back refugees to Uzbekistan. On June 9 2011, it sent back 28 men wanted by the Uzbek authorities on anti-state and religion-related charges, despite protests by human rights defenders. Relatives of the men say they were peaceful Muslims the authorities were seeking to punish for their religious activity.

Representatives of the men complained to the UN Committee Against Torture, arguing that they were at risk of torture if they were returned to Uzbekistan. On June 1 2012, the Committee ruled that Kazakhstan had violated its commitments under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Forum 18 said the Committee noted that the men were detained as soon as they arrived back in Uzbekistan, and that some at least had received prison terms of more than ten years.

Kazakhstan had told the Committee that it had received "written guarantees from the General Prosecutor's Office of Uzbekistan that the complainants' rights and freedoms would be respected after the extradition and that they would not be subjected to torture or ill-treatment."

However, Forum 18 said, the Committee noted that Kazakhstan's accepting such assurances without close monitoring of conditions in Uzbek detention was not enough.

The Committee Against Torture said the men should be brought back to Kazakhstan and given compensation. It asked the Kazakh authorities to respond to the findings "within 90 days."

Forum 18 said while Primbetov of the General Prosecutor's Office told the news service his government will respond, the UN Committee Against Torture and Kazakhstan's Mission to the United Nations organisations in Geneva did not respond immediately to Forum 18's enquiries. (END)

Christians face systemic persecution in Burma

(Image courtesy Vision Beyond Borders)

Burma (MNN) ― Burma doesn't seem to have made as many advances as it first appeared in a year of change. 
This was the conclusion of The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) which released a new report last week. 

According to their findings, Christian Chin from western Burma are denied religious freedom and face coercion to convert to Buddhism. They're not alone. Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders says, "The report is specifically about the Chin and the persecution that they face, but we're seeing the same things throughout all the ethnic groups in Burma." 

CHRO exposed a decades-long pattern of religious freedom violations and human rights abuses including forced labor and torture which has led thousands to flee their homeland.

Romeijn says along with the abused Chin are members of the Kachin tribes and the Karen. It's bad for everyone. "All the same policies that were in place before continue; the Kachin in northern Burma are being highly persecuted. About an additional 50,000 have fled into China. In violation of international law, China is forcing those Kachin refugees back into Burma where they'll be slaughtered."

The government is trying to change its public image and has made definite strides toward freedom. But there are dark shadows forming against the bright prospects, explains Romeijn. "We don't want to discount the reforms that have taken place, but at the same time, there's still a long way to go. The religious, ethnic and tribal groups are still being heavily persecuted."

That's been borne out in the 2012 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report. Burma remains on its list of "countries of particular concern" (CPCs). The nation also sits at #33 on the Open Doors World Watch List, --an index of the top 50 countries in the world known for their persecution of Christians.

Vision Beyond Borders says their partners note frequent attacks that are gaining in intensity along the Thai-Burmese border. Oddly, this is the best hope for the Gospel. Their last team visited a Buddhist monastery where they saw clear evidence of community transformation.

Romeijn says, "The monks are seeing it's the Christians that are coming in; they're the ones who are helping to take care of these children; they're the ones helping take the refugees. We're supposed to be the church; we're to be Jesus' hands and feet. And as we do that, God uses the "good works before men" to glorify His name, and we're seeing openness to the Gospel even among the Buddhist monks."

That's where the real change happens. Romeijn sums it up by saying, "You can see some external circumstances change, but unless there is a heart change in a situation, there really is truly no hope for Burma."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Apostasy, Fitna and abuse of Interpol

Saudi Arabia does not allow the public
 practice of any un-Islamic religion
If a 2 September report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol as been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate. 



On 28 July 2012, the Saudi Gazette reported: "A Saudi girl who recently embraced Christianity and fled the country for refuge in Lebanon told the host of a religious program on an Arabic TV channel that she was tired of performing prayers and fasting during Ramadan. 

"The girl, who said her name was Maryam, said praying and fasting did not bring her any benefits. She also criticized the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai'a) and claimed that she was raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity.

"She said she became a Christian after she had a dream one night. In it, she climbed to the skies and heard God telling her that Jesus is His son." 

According to reports, Maryam (28) was working in an insurance firm in Al-Khobar when she became interested in Christianity through the influence of her Christian boss, Lebanese expatriate, Mr Henna Sarkees (50). An unnamed male Saudi national with links to the firm then secured false travel documents that allowed her to leave the country for Lebanon, then for Sweden. 

Henna Sarkees and the unnamed Saudi national will stand trial in Al-Khobar, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, on Saturday 15 September. Maryam's parents have charged the two men with coercing Maryam into converting to Christianity and then convincing her to leave the country without the consent of her male guardian. They have even suggested it may all be part of a conspiracy to get their daughter into the hands of international people-traffickers. 

Saudi media asserts that Maryam regrets her conversion, maintains she is still Muslim, denies ever talking to Arabic TV, desires to return home and is accusing Christians of taking her to Sweden against her will. 

For more background, details and links see: 
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 175 | Wed 05 Sep 2012
SAUDI ARABIA: convert flees; helpers to face court 
-- Interpol and Swedish authorities aid Saudi Embassy to hunt convert.
By Elizabeth Kendal

On 2 September, the following news report appeared in the Saudi Gazette: 
(copied in full; emphasis mine)
Efforts on to bring back ‘Al-Khobar girl’ from Sweden
Sunday, September 02, 2012 

AL-KHOBAR —The Al-Khobar girl who fled the Kingdom after allegedly converting to Christianity will be brought home from Sweden in a matter of few days, Al-Yaum newspaper reported Saturday quoting informed sources.

The Interpol is coordinating with the Saudi Embassy in Stockholm and Swedish authorities to return the girl to her homeland before her 'kidnappers' move her to another country, the sources said.

The girl's father received phone calls from unknown people who threatened to kill his daughter or move her to another European country if the main suspect in her case, a Lebanese man named Henna Sarkess, was not released from jail in the Kingdom. 

Sources said it is highly likely that a global human trafficking network was involved in the kidnapping of the girl, who was persuaded by her Lebanese manager to embrace Christianity and leave the country without the knowledge of her family.

A Saudi was arrested for faking a travel permit, which the girl used to leave the Kingdom and go to Lebanon. There, she stayed with a Christian group inside a church for a while. When she told the group that she wanted to return to the Kingdom and that she regretted what she had done, the group decided to take her to Sweden because it did not want her to return to the Kingdom. 

The girl’s father has called upon the authorities to help him bring back his daughter. He said his daughter still talks to them over the phone and she is currently in Sweden. The father is worried that his daughter might get brainwashed. 

The Saudi Embassy in Stockholm said it received a letter from the girl’s father requesting it to help her return to the Kingdom. The [Saudi] embassy has started a search with the Swedish authorities.



The information in this section of the posting has mostly been gleaned from the following sources:

Interpol's Red Notices Used by Some to Pursue Political Dissenters, Opponents.
Investigative report by Libby Lewis, for The Cutting Edge, 25 July 2011 

Journal article (91 pages) by Mario Savino, March 2010
Journal of International Law and Politics, New York University

The website of Fair Trials International / Interpol 

Interpol's official website 


With 190 member countries, Interpol is the world's second largest international entity after the United Nations. As in the United Nations, Interpol's member countries span from totalitarian dictatorship to liberal democracies. While Interpol possesses many attributes of an international organisation, many would say it is really more of an international network, linking police globally for the purpose of facilitating police cooperation and law enforcement across the globe.


Interpol operates "a closed communications system linking police via vast international databases". (Lewis) Normally, police in member countries send Interpol a domestic arrest notice, which Interpol then sends out as a global Red Notice. On the basis of a Red Notice, police in other member countries may arrest suspects for extradition. 

While Interpol's Constitution mandates neutrality and prohibits "any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character," cooperation is based on trust -- i.e. Interpol trusts member countries not to abuse the system. 


While Interpol has doubtless made the world a safer place by facilitating the arrest of numerous transnational terrorists, traffickers and other criminals, there is nothing to prevent human rights-abusing, non-free, totalitarian states from abusing the system and using Interpol to extend their own repressive arms internationally. Indeed, dictatorial regimes have been known to abuse the system and use it to track down and capture, or even just drive underground, their most troublesome dissidents. 

And because Interpol is neither transparent nor accountable, it is extremely easy to abuse.

"Interpol is not entrusted with any significant investigative or operational powers. Those powers are still located at national level. . . Interpol's core business is the administration of information." (Savino, p26)

Fair Trials International reports: "Even though some of Interpol's member countries are known human rights abusers and notoriously corrupt, Interpol has no effective mechanisms to prevent countries, or even individual prosecutors, abusing the red notice system. As a result, even though most red notices may be perfectly valid, abuses of Interpol are also affecting human rights campaigners, journalists and businessmen, in countries all over the world.

"People in this situation have no independent court they can turn to for redress. Your only option is to request a review by a Commission, funded by Interpol and serviced by Interpol staff. You have no right to a hearing, no opportunity to respond to allegations against you and will be given no reasons for the decision reached. Even if the Commission concludes that a red notice is inaccurate or abusive, it cannot require its removal or amendment. It can only make non-binding recommendations."

According to Interpol's Chief Lawyer, Joël Sollier, the agency does try to ferret out dubious requests. His instruction to Interpol is that a Red Notice should be cancelled if there is any doubt. (Lewis)

According to Lewis, Interpol's issuance of Red Notices has increased markedly in recent years, from 2,343 Red Notices in 2005, to 6,344 in 2010. "Partly to deal with that increased workload, Interpol is putting more power into the hands of its police members.

"Two years ago," writes Lewis, "police had to apply directly to Interpol for a Red Notice. Today, every Red Notice request is entered into the system directly by the police themselves—not by Interpol. Police around the world instantly see those notices—before Interpol even reviews them.

"Police can also bypass the formal Red Notice system altogether—and just type an informal notice of arrest in an email—and post it on Interpol’s communications system. Those email notices—Interpol calls them 'diffusions'—go out instantly, with no automatic Interpol review."

And as Lewis notes, "these informal email notices are linked to far more arrests than arrests linked to the Red Notices Interpol vets for political concerns". In fact, according to Lewis, in 2010, at least 1,858 arrests were made of people named in email notices while only 663 arrests were made of people named in Red Notices.

This might explain why in February of this year, while Malaysian police were claiming that they had arrested the Saudi tweeter Hamza Kashgari (23) "following a request made to us by Interpol" on behalf of the Saudi authorities, Interpol was strongly denying that it had anything to do with it. 

See: Interpol accused after Malaysia arrests journalist over Muhammad tweet
Police agency strongly denies its system used by Saudi Arabia to get journalist detained for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter
By Own Bowcott, The Guardian, 10 February 2012

Kashgari had fled Saudi Arabia after his tweeted imaginary conversation with the prophet Mohammad was deemed blasphemous. After being arrested in Malaysia and extradited, he was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.He remains in prison to this day, still offering up apologies, but to no avail. Voices are still calling for him to be executed. 

There have also been some really obvious and undeniable abuses of Interpol.

One such case involves Indonesia's call for a Red Notice to be issued against Papuan independence advocate Benny Wenda (36). The Red Notice was issued despite the fact that the persecuted, tortured, now Oxford-based Wenda had been granted asylum in the UK. Only in August of this year was the Red Notice against Wenda dropped. 

See: Benny Wenda's plight has highlighted the misuse of Interpol
Interpol must act to stop its red notice system being abused by countries to persecute refugees and exiled political activists
By Alex Tinsley, The Guardian, 6 Aug 2012.

In an article published by CNN, Libby Lewis raises the case of Iranian dissident Shahram Homayoun (57). "After fleeing Iran in 1992 and moving to Los Angeles, Homayoun started a satellite television station, Channel One, to beam a message of civil resistance into the homes of Iranians.

"Over the years, his audience has scribbled his slogan, Ma Hastim ("We exist" in Farsi) on Iranian walls and bridges to promote democracy in the country. He has also called on his listeners to show their solidarity in creative ways, such as gathering at the tomb of Cyrus the Great or showing up at their local bakery on the same day -- every Thursday -- and asking for bread. 

"At the request of Iran, which charged Homayoun with inciting terrorism, Interpol issued a Red Notice in December 2009 requesting Homayoun's arrest."

Regarding Maryam, all the Saudi authorities would have had to do was to report through Interpol channels that a Saudi Arabian girl was being held in Sweden against her will, possibly by international traffickers, and request help to retrieve her and return her to her family. And with that, Maryam's hopes of liberty are dashed.  


As I said in my opening remarks, if the 2 Sept 2012 report in the Saudi Gazette is true, then it may well be the first time Interpol has been abused by an Islamic State for the purpose of retrieving an apostate. 

In the past, Islamic states have generally been content to let apostates flee, for at least then they are not be around to spread fitna (temptation / doubt) amongst the locals. However, in these days of global communications -- satellite TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc -- the apostate can generate far more fitna from a safe-haven in the West than they ever could at home. And "fitna is worse than killing". (Qur'an Sura2:191).

Christian advocacy groups that have excelled at speaking into political power must quickly learn how to speak into international law enforcement so that Interpol and national police forces do not become unwitting extensions of Islamic religious police.