Saturday, October 6, 2012

Bail Petition Filed for Man Accused of Blasphemy and Jailed

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Lawyers for Khuram Masih, a Christian accused of blasphemy and jailed, are still hopeful for his bail. He has a petition for bail scheduled to be heard on Oct. 8 in the court of Sayyed Mazahar, Ali Akbar Naqvi, a High Court judge.

Khuram Masih
According to an Internet posting by Lawyers of the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), which followed his case, the 23-year-old man was physically worn out but overjoyed that he has survived.

LEAD said he has not stopped thanking God for allowing justice to triumph.

According to LEAD, on Dec. 5 2011, a blasphemy case was filed in Lahore against Masih.

He was accused of burning pages of the Quran, was arrested the same day and jailed. LEAD said he has been beaten by police officials while in custody.

LEAD said its attorneys tracked the case and filed a petition for bail. That petition was dismissed on Jan. 3 2012.

According to LEAD, a second petition for bail was filed in Lahore High Court in which Judge Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, ordered that a trial be wrapped up within three months.

After seven months, LEAD filed another bail petition in the same judge's court.

LEAD said, "We are very hopeful that the bail will be granted, and he will be released very soon and united with his family, (just as) Rimsha Masih was released on bail."

LEAD said the president of PCC of Lahore District and National Director of LEAD Missionary Pastor and Advocate Mushtaq Gill urged the Pakistani government to take strong measures regarding the abuses of blasphemy laws against Pakistani Christians.

LEAD said he also requested that the policy be amended so that those accused of blasphemy be granted bail until a trial has concluded.

LEAD asked readers to partner with the organization regarding its fight for the persecuted church in Pakistan.

‘I will never forget that day’

A visit with Hannatu Dantong, widow of slain Nigerian senator

Hannatu Dantong, foreground, and her eldest children, Grace, left, and Dan                Photo: Open Doors News

Emily Fuentes
Open Doors USA

Jos, October 5 (Open Doors News) — It has been nearly three months since Hannatu Dantong’s husband died. She has been surrounded by his colleagues and family during this time, but still is in a deep state of mourning.
“I find the greatest comfort in Psalm 23,” Dantong said. “I am reminded that the Lord will always care for me, even during this trying time.”

On July 8th, Nigerian Sen. Gyang Dantong was attending a funeral for more than 100 Christians who had been killed by members of Boko Haram the day before, in Plateau state. While the attendees were burying those who had died, gunmen infiltrated the service and began shooting those in attendance.

“One of the most difficult things to deal with is the fact that we still do not know exactly what happened that day,” Hannatu Dantong said during a visit with Open Doors News. “All we really know is that gunmen invaded the funeral and that my husband and others are dead.”

Gyang Dantong was a member of the Nigerian National Assembly, representing Jos, the capital of the Plateau state. He served four years in the House of Representatives, and then was elected to the Senate, where he had served for the past five years. He was an advocate for peace in the region and crossed many cultural, religious and tribal divides.

A physician by training, Dantong was as a surgeon at Vom Christian Hospital in rural Plateau. His election to the National Assembly took him away to the capital, Abuja, about 150 kilometers away. Despite the distance, he returned from the national assembly to assist with surgeries on a weekly basis.

“My husband did many things for Nigeria,” his widow said. “I know that his life blessed many and God will continue to use his legacy. My husband loved Nigeria and loved the people he served.”

Hannatu Dantong has three children; Dan and Grace attend university, but have remained at home to be with their mother during this time. They comforted their mother as she shared about the events of that day. 

“I will never forget that day,” she said. “My husband attended the funeral early in the morning and planned on returning soon after to accompany me to church. When he did not arrive home when he said he would, I was worried and called his cell phone multiple times, but he did not answer. I became so worried that I got in my car and started to drive myself to where the funeral was being held. As I began to drive, I received a call with the horrible news that my husband had been killed.”

“My husband loved the people he served,” she said, “and it is very difficult to move forward without him.”


Two Young Egyptian Christian Boys Accused of Defamation Of Islam

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

EGYPT (ANS) -- Two Coptic children have been detained on charges of Defamation of Islam.

According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Mina Nady Farag, 9, and Nabil Nagy Rizk, 10, both from the village of Ezbet Marco in Beni Suef, were arrested and sent to a juvenile detention center.

The incarceration will last until Sunday, pending investigation into a complaint submitted by the village Muslims. The children will appear again before prosecution on Sunday.

AINA said Nabil's father told Copts United that his son does not read or write. He said the children were searching in a pile of trash to find "something useful" when they found a plastic bag with torn papers. They were stopped by a Salafi sheikh, who took the children to church to report them to the priest.

"He insisted that the priest stop mass and come outside to talk to him," said a resident of the village. The priest went out and chided the two boys.

According to AINA, not many newspapers covered this story which broke on Monday, and those which did had several versions of the story.

AINA reported that Al-Ahram, the semi-governmental daily, said in its Oct. 1 issue that authorities succeeded in containing a sectarian crisis between Muslims and Christians by arranging a meeting between Muslim and Christian families, where the Christians apologized and the Muslims accepted their apology.

AINA said Al-Ahram wrote that the two nine-year-old boys were tearing some old papers in a library, including papers "suspected to be from the Koran," when an imam of a mosque saw what they were doing, and subsequently took them to their parents to complain.

AINA said the newspapers later changed the story and reported that the two children "urinated" on the Koran.

"We thought the matter was sorted out after the meeting between the Muslim and Christian families two days ago, but we were stunned today when both boys were to be held in custody in a juvenile detention center," AINA reported Nabil's father said.

In a new development, AINA said it has been reported that the Muslims in Ezbet Marco have prevented the priest of the church from entering the village, allegedly because he did not chastise the two boys enough.

AINA said some Copts believe that the real aim behind this defamation of Islam story is to ban the priest from the village and stop any prayers in its church.

Christians Help Displaced Families in Rimsha Case

Witnesses against an Imam charged with planting evidence have changed their evidence

By Shamim Masih
Special to ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Rimsha Masih, is a 14-year-old Pakistani Christian girl arrested in a poor suburb in Islamabad on August 16 after a Muslim Imam accused her of burning papers containing verses from the Quran, in breach of Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws.

Rimsha Masih -- what will happen now in her case
After a period in remand, the court on September 7, granted bail to Rimsha against two surety bonds of Pakistani Rs500, 000 each. 

She was then flown by a helicopter to an undisclosed location after her release from jail.

Since the day she was arrested, Christian families had to flee for their lives from that locality. Many of had been beaten by a mob on the day this incident happened, and these extremists also threatened them saying they planned to set their homes on fire.

So after all of this, they ran for their lives on the same midnight leaving their houses opened. Many of families tried to settle down in the forest in sector G-9/4, but due to the clutch of local residents and interference of local police, they couldn't.

However, the Chairman the Capital Development Authority (CDA) allowed them to live there for few months after their protest, even then local residents seized that piece of land.

After the release on bail of Rimsha, displaced families are trying to settle down now in a town called in Meharbadi, although there is apprehension there. During their displacement, some of them claimed that they lost their jobs and their household items were stolen.

During the three weeks of Rimsha's in jail, these families kept moving from place to place due to their fear. Since the rehabilitation process started, these families were neglected by the local government and NGO's mostly. But there is one organization seen that has been taking care of these displaced families.
A displaced family receiving aid

According to Farrukh H. Saif, from World Vision in Progress (WVIP), since the day they moved from the vicinity WVIP had been providing them with food on a regular basis. After the release of Rimsha, WVIP helped these families by paying them rents on monthly basis. Since then 75 families were being accommodated.

On October 2, Farrukh H. Saif came from Lahore to pay their monthly rent as per his promise. On the day, 25 families were being paid monthly rent as their compensation and WVIP promised to pay to more families in the coming week.

Earlier the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) supplied them with food stuff on a weekly basis through its local representative. BPCA has reached to 38 families and willing to supply food stuff to the displaced families up till their rehabilitation.

The case against Rimsha has now been complicated by the fact that three witnesses who had earlier testified against prayer leader Khalid Jadoon Chishti in the blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih withdrew their statements on Monday, insisting that the police had "coerced" them into doing so.

Earlier the three "witnesses" had claimed that they saw the cleric tearing some pages of the Quran and placing them in a plastic bag. The eyewitnesses had claimed that Chishti added those torn pages to the ashes seized from 14-year-old Rimsha to implicate her.

So now, those of us here in Pakistan are waiting to see what will happen in this strange and controversial case.

Excessive Government Interference in the Affairs of the Apostolic Church of Esfahan

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ESFAHAN, IRAN (ANS) -- There is a relentless and daily increase of pressure and restrictions against the members and elders of Esfahan's Apostolic churches.

Bishop Marshal and St. Paul church members
According to the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), it is now months since the forced establishment of agents as supervisors and enforcers in churches across the city.

FCNN said they are openly interfering in the daily operation of the churches, to better enforce the will of the Islamic Regime.

FCNN said these agents interfere in every aspect of the churches' daily life. The agents constantly interfere in conversations, actively frightening people away from the church. Church elders are threatened, and ordered not to converse with non-Christians. They are told to ignore people if addressed by a Muslim.

According to FCNN these agents, appointed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, are constantly trying to turn away visitors away with dire warnings of what could happen if they show up again or try to contact the church in anyway. Even older members' children are frequently threatened, and often forbidden to attend the church services.

In the Apostolic Churches, FCNN reported, someone insisting he be addressed as "Mr. Mazaheri," and claiming to be a retired teacher, has been placed as the church affairs supervisor.
FCNN said, "His job solely consists of spreading false rumour, trying to cause dissent and disputes among the believers, and generally to enforcing the whim of the religious authorities."
According to reports received by FCNN, the Intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards has installed listening devices in a hospital adjacent to the church of St. Luke in Esfahan. The aim is reportedly to better control church members and visitors. The same scenario is also occurring in a school adjacent to the Church of St. Paul Esfahan.

FCNN said, "Islamic authorities have never shied away from exploiting civilians and structures for military use, or to spy on their own citizens. Indeed it is considered something of a scoop, and fondly referred to by high and low of the Islamic Regime."

FCNN said Pastor "Sharifian" of St. Luke's Church was ordered by the in-house Islamic agent to provide telephone and mobile numbers, addresses, and photocopies of ID cards of everyone who enters the church.

FCNN added, "Every single one has since been under surveillance at one time or another, called in for interrogations, and warned in no uncertain terms about his or her future should they to continue their association with the church or Christianity."

FCNN concluded, "By covert spying or blatant intimidation, the Islamic Regime does its very best to cause a breakdown of religious atmosphere in the church and force a collapse from within, finally to bring about the long standing dream of the mullahs and force the closure of churches in Esfahan after centuries of active presence."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Iranian lawyer imprisoned, sentenced to 9 years in Evin

Iran (MNN) ― Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is demanding freedom for lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. He's currently detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, sentenced to nine years of imprisonment.

"I was in a court in Tehran defending one of my clients--a jailed political activist on death row," Dadkhah told theGuardian, a UK news service, "when the judge told me that my own sentence has been approved and I will be shortly summoned to jail to serve the 9-year sentence."

It's not the first time he's been behind the bars of Evin. In 2009, Dadkhah was tortured and held in solitary confinement for the majority of his 74-day incarceration.

Ask the Lord to protect Mohammad Ali Dadkhah. Pray that the charges against him would be dropped.
"I have been convicted of acting against the national security, spreading propaganda against the regime, and keeping banned books at home," he said.

He was also banned from practicing law for the next decade. A co-founder of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Dadkhah was convicted in July 2011 of charges that included "membership of an association [the CHRD] seeking the soft overthrow of the government" and "spreading propaganda against the system through interviews with foreign media." The CHRD was forcibly closed in 2008 by Iranian authorities.

Dadkhah is the fourth CHRD member to be imprisoned within the last 18 months.

"He should never have been put on trial for his legitimate human rights activities," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

"The Iranian authorities must overturn his conviction and sentence, and release him immediately and unconditionally."

Dadkhah has defended the rights of many high-profile clients, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who faced apostasy charges and a potential death sentence. With the help of Dadkhah and international pressure, Nadarkhani's case was dropped, and he returned to his family last month.

"Mohammad Ali Dadkhah and other human rights defenders should be encouraged and supported in their lawful and important work instead of being persecuted for their activism," Harrison continued.

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) also condemned the sentencing of Dadkhah and Iran's continual harassment of CHRD members.

"The authorities in Iran are doing their utmost to stifle human rights defenders by imposing heavy sentences of imprisonment, exile, and ban on professional practice," said Gerald Staberock, OMCT secretary general.
"All this is aimed at intimidating the whole society into a deadly silence."

In 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the reported persecution of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Iran. It stated that "human rights defenders and defense lawyers often serve prison sentences based on vaguely formulated crimes such as 'mohareb' (enemy of God) or the spreading of propaganda against the establishment."

Christian students massacred in Nigeria

Nigeria (MNN) ― Christian students were specifically targeted by Islamists in what some say was a retaliatory attack in northeast Nigeria. The massacre killed up to 30 students at Federal Polytechnic Collage in the city of Mubi in remote Adamawa State.

Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USA describes the attack. "Certain students were called out and attacked. But Open Doors sources in the area have notified us that the people who were attacking were allegedly members of Boko Haram and were allegedly separating Christians from Muslims students; [they] attacked the Christians students there."

This is a new for Boko Haram. "Up until now," says Fuentes, "Christians were either attacked in their churches, their homes, and maybe their places of business. So this is different to have Christians attacked at university, at the school that they're going to."

Was it retaliation? Some are claiming that, says Fuentes. "Police actually went through these halls and arrested 156 members who they believe were members of Boko Haram who were actually in the school."

Fuentes says more than 700 Christians have been attacked in 2012, and believers are on edge. "It's a different kind of attack than the ones that they're used to. And it's a whole different form when [terrorists] are attacking the young at the university."

Christians are taking action. "There's been a big movement with this minister, as well as other pastors and church leaders, to encourage churches and Christians to be wise about their security to prevent more attacks like these from happening."

Open Doors is encouraging people to be aware of this situation and pray earnestly for Christians there.

The U.S. State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report released a few weeks ago confirms that there have been increasing attacks against Christians. However, the government didn't effectively quell rising hostility or investigate and prosecute those responsible.

Nigeria is ranked #13 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians.

VOMC supports women widowed by Boko Haram

Nigeria (MNN) ― Each week, it seems there's a new report of Nigerian Christians slaughtered by the Boko Haram. But what happens to those who survive? Some women lose more than just a husband: they lose their livelihood.

Through their Women's Ministry, Voice of the Martyrs Canadasupports Nigerian women who lost husbands and children in Boko Haram attacks.

 During a visit to the nation ranked #13 on the Open Doors USA World Watch List, VOMC teams spoke with three widows: Monica Dra, Fatu Apollos, and Ester Simon.

Each lost a husband to Boko Haram persecution. Each found strength to overcome.

"If I am able to endure like him, I will see him again and that will bring me comfort," said Apollos.

Violence erupted in northern regions of Nigeria last April following the election of a Christian president. Angry Muslim youth took to the streets, attacking believers and burning houses and churches. After learning Apollos' husband was a pastor, they killed him in front of her eyes.

Dra and Simon also lost their husbands in anti-Christian attacks. VOMC recorded each woman's story, and you can find details by clicking here.

VOMC's Women's Ministry provided each of the widows a new way to support their families. Dra received a sewing machine and grinding machine that she uses to support herself and her only surviving son. Simon received help from the Stevens House, a Nigerian safe house for children orphaned by persecution.

Not only do they provide an education for Simon's children, but they gave her the funds to start her own general store. With the money she earned from her store, Simon was able to purchase some land and construct a 3-room building.

Setback in Case of Pakistani Teen Facing Blasphemy Charges

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Three witnesses whose testimony could absolve a 14-year-old Pakistani girl facing life in prison have changed their statements
According to a story by Reza Sayah and Nasir Habib, for CNN, it's the latest twist in the case of Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager who was charged more than a month ago under Pakistan's blasphemy laws for allegedly burning pages of Islam's holy book for cooking fuel. She has denied the charges.
Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti was originally accused
of tampering with evidence.

CNN reported the three witnesses initially told police they saw Khalid Jadoon Chishti, a Muslim cleric, tear pages out of a copy of the Quran and put them with police evidence that led to the charges against Rimsha.

But they recanted those statements on Monday at a bail hearing for the cleric, according to the imam's lawyer, Wajid Ali Gilani. A fourth witness stood by his initial statement.

CNN said the witnesses are a critical part of the police investigation that determined last week that the imam framed the teen. Based on that investigation and a lack of witnesses, her lawyers are now appealing to have the blasphemy charges dismissed.

Meanwhile, a blog posting by Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) said the judge presiding over Monday's hearing in Islamabad High Court has now extended the stay on Masih's trial until Oct. 17. Originally, her defense lawyers were seeking an acquittal on Oct. 1.

CNN said the teen's case has sparked international outcry against the Pakistani government, with some saying the blasphemy laws are used to settle scores and persecute religious minorities.

Meanwhile, BPCA said, extremists already incensed by the anti-Islam video that has caused huge violent riots in Pakistan, look set to continue targeting Christians (seen as easy targets) for a series of violent attacks. 

For example, BPCA said, a church was razed to the ground and 27 homes looted and levelled in an attack on a Christian community in Mardan. Nuns who helped initiate and joined the first protest against the anti-Islam video in a show of solidarity, were shot at and their driver injured, A pastor has been beaten and told that all Christians will suffer a similar fate.

Talking in his blog about the three witnesses changing their statements Chowdhry wrote, "They initially stood bravely to condemn the actions of a rogue imam and have now created a hornets nest of hatred towards the very Christians they initially chose to protect."

He added, "News of this withdrawal will embitter Muslims against Christians who though completely innocent, will be targeted by extremists. In previous instances police have failed to react to localized riots and skirmishes that have led to major attacks on defenceless communities. Pakistani authorities need to ensure that security services are in constant communication with key Christian figures, so that rapid deployment of resources can prevent incident escalation."

Chowdhry concluded, "This is an anxiety-ridden time to be a Christian in the Islamic world, no more so than in Pakistan. I call on humanitarians of all faiths and diversities to pray for peace, and to call for stronger protection for these victims via the Pakistani authorities."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Grenade attack on Sunday school kills one, injures three others

By Michael Ireland
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

(Photo: Reuters/Chris Mann)

NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- A nine-year-old boy was killed and at least three other children were seriously injured in a grenade attack on a Sunday school in Nairobi yesterday (Sept.30).

Suspected Islamist militants attacked St Polycarp's Church on Juja Road during a worship service for children aged between six and ten.

Witnesses reported a loud explosion then 'people started running for their lives'. A total of nine children were hospitalized, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP) according to Release

The news report says police blamed sympathizers of Al Shabaab extremists in neighboring Somalia, angered by Kenya's role in UN-backed efforts to oust the group. The previous day, Al Shabaab was driven from Kismayo, its last urban stronghold in Somalia.

St Polycarp's is near Eastleigh, a district of Nairobi popularly known as 'Little Mogadishu' due to its many Somali immigrants.

Nairobi officials appealed for calm after youths reportedly attacked a nearby mosque and homes in apparent retaliation for the grenade attack, the report states.

In July, suspected Al Shabaab extremists killed 15 people in raids on churches in Garissa, a town near the Somali border.

Archbishop of Kenya Condems attack on St Polycarp

Following the incident, Archbishop Dr. Eliud Wabukala joined other religious leaders in condemning the explosive attack.

Earlier in the day, Archbishop Wabukala, and Bishop Joel Waweru of Nairobi Diocese visited and prayed with four of the six children still admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital, Children's Ward.

In a statement released today at the scene of the explosion, he stated that Kenya is a multi-religious society and termed the attacks as 'atrocities whose perpetrators should face the full rigor of the law.' He called upon the Government to offer adequate security since asking citizens to be vigilant is not sufficient.

"This is a cruel provocation, but I appeal to Christians not to feed violence with violence, either in word or deed, because we are called to overcome evil with good," he commented.

Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Mr. Njoroge Ndirangu and Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims Secretary General Sheikh Adan Wachu gathered at the scene and expressed their disapproval of the attack.

Bishop Waweru and Provincial Commissioner Ndirangu later visited the bereaved family who lost a nine-year-old son, Ian Maina. Ian succumbed to injuries after the explosive device was hurled.

. Ask God to heal and comfort all those injured or bereaved in yesterday's attack. Pray particularly for the parents of the boy who died.

. Thank God for the success of military efforts to rout Islamist militants from Somalia. Pray that the Al Shabaab bid to extend strict Islamic law across Somalia will not succeed.

Nigerian seminary attacked; broader aim revealed

File footage of past attacks on churches in Nigeria (Courtesy Compass Direct)

Nigeria (MNN) ― A bomb blast and gunfire shook an area around a seminary in northern Nigeria on Sunday, leaving two dead. 

It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast in the city of Zaria, but extremist group Boko Haram has been blamed for hundreds of deaths as part of its insurgency in northern and central Nigeria.

Investigators said the blast was the result of an improvised explosive device. The targeted area included the school as well as the worship center.

Sound like a familiar story? In this case, it involved the Salafi, students who are studying Sunni Islam. Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs USA, explains what this might mean. "I think it goes to show the nature of Boko Haram, that they have a very narrow vision of what Islam is and what it should be, and they want all Nigerians to fall within that very narrow vision." Nettleton goes on to say that reports indicated "the Salafist cleric who runs this Islamic boarding school has been at odds with Boko Haram in the past. It seems like that is a strong possibility of a Boko Haram attack in Nigeria." 

The violence came a day ahead of commemorations marking 52 years of Nigerian independence. However, says Nettleton, "They celebrate independence, but I think there's a real threat to their independence that is growing in northern Nigeria among Boko Haram."
Nigeria's north has been hit by scores of deadly attacks attributed to Boko Haram. In the last two years, their rebellion has cost 1,400 people their lives. 

While Boko Haram has claimed to be fighting for the creation of a state in Nigeria's north, Nettleton warns: don't be fooled. "They talk about wanting an independent state that would be run according to their vision of what true Islam is, but their demands have changed over time, as well."

The lines have gotten muddied on what Boko Haram actually wants. The name of the group is generally translated as "Western education is sinful," but in Hausa it literally means "book forbidden." The founders of the group believed Islam had been corrupted by Westernization, especially education and Christianity. They also rejected the legitimacy of the state and of Muslim traditional rulers. 

What they wanted, explains Nettleton, was a Sharia state governed by orthodoxy. "Obviously, Christians fall outside of that. We've seen attacks on churches, we've seen attacks on Christian institutions, but this shows that even if they [Boko Haram] think fellow Muslims are outside of what they call the ‘true teaching of Islam,' they will attack them as well."

The battle for Nigeria's soul intensifies. While Islamic terrorists rely on weapons and fear, Nettleton says Christians need to trust in God's love and eternal promises. That's also one of the challenges for the church in Northern Nigeria: the issue of fear. "Just imagine when you wake up Sunday morning and are deciding, ‘Should we go to church or not?' If you add in the threat that ‘maybe our church will be bombed while we're there this morning,' you imagine the sense of fear and the sense of concern that that would raise." 

That's what standing in solidarity would mean, Nettleton adds. "We can pray with them against that spirit of fear, and against that spirit of intimidation. I think the second issue then becomes: 'How are we going to respond to those who attack us? How are we going to respond to the Muslims around us?' There is obviously a place for evangelism; there's a place for sharing." 

The bigger issue is how to respond to the violence of the insurgents and "the issue of forgiveness, the issue of loving those who society would say are our enemies. That's a difficult thing, and that's another thing that we can pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters, for them to be able to do that with God's help."

Ask God to protect them and help them as they seek to respond in love and prayer for their Muslim attackers. Pray for the attackers, that God's mercy and grace might pierce through the hardness of these hearts so opposed to His name. Ask God to send peace to Nigeria. 

Religious discrimination increases in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan (MNN) ― Multiple raids occurred recently in Turkmenistan's northern city of Dashoguz, noted Forum 18 News Service. The latest attack was particularly violent, leaving the hands of a 68-year-old woman beaten and bloodied. Her 77-year-old husband was literally dragged out of their home by his shirt collar, detained, and questioned by police.

"I am very sad that this lawless behavior took place without regard for the individual," one believer told Forum 18.

Begjan and Klara Shirmedov were gathered in their home with 15 members of the Path of Faith Church when police broke in, questioned congregation members, and seized religious literature. 

Officers seized Begjan Shirmedov, dragging him out of the house. 

Forum 18 said that when Klara Shirmedov spoke up, police beat her hands until they bled. Police then took church members to their station for questioning and threatened them with prosecution.
Ask God to heal Klara's wounds.

This attack comes on the heels of another raided home church meeting in the city. Forum 18 said three believers were fined in this incident, and one was banned from leaving the country. When Oleg Piyashev tried to board a plane last week, intending to return to his family in Russia, officials prevented him from leaving the country. Later, Piyashev was told that even though his documentation was correct, he was "temporarily banned from travelling."

Forum 18 said that a number of believers are currently on Turkmenistan's "exit black list," including a pastor who was imprisoned for two years. Another leader had been imprisoned from 1998 to 2002 to "punish him for his faith." His wife and nine children were barred from leaving the country in 2008. They tried with no avail to get an explanation from the government, Forum 18 noted.

"They replied most say we are still banned from travelling, but again gave no reasons," the believer complained to Forum 18.

Turkmenistan is #18 on the Open Doors USA World Watch List, a compilation of 50 nations with the worst Christian persecution. Police and other officials put Christian activities under strict surveillance, making it difficult for believers to spread the Gospel. Pray that doors would be opened in this restrictive society.

Car bomb attacks target Iraqi security forces and Shias

By Michael Ireland
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (ANS) -- At least 32 people have been killed in Iraq as car bomb attacks targeted security forces and Shia pilgrims around the country, police say, as reported by the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Sept.30 .

"It has been a morning of intense bombings this morning. Scores of people have been killed, the bombings also happened in the Christian areas just around us. Please pray for all our people. We will let you know more news soon," wrote Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George's Church in Baghdad, on his Facebook page.

Earlier, Canon White wrote: "Friday was a wonderful day with the vsiit to the Church of some of the leading people from the US Embassy. The Youth service was simply glorious -- no picture can capture the open heavens."

The BBC's Rami Ruhayem in the capital Baghdad said such bombings have almost become "very much a part of daily life."

Map showing location of Taji, Madain ans Kut in relation to Baghdad (Graphic via BBC website)
In Taji, a mainly Sunni town north of the capital, Baghdad, four car bombs went off within minutes of each other, killing at least eight people, the BBC reported.

In the southern town of Madain, a bomb exploded near a Shia shrine and Iranian pilgrims were among the injured, the BBC said.

There were also attacks in Kut and other Iraqi cities, the BBC added.

Civilians were among those killed and injured in the attacks around the capital, but the aim of the attackers seems to have been to kill as many security personnel as possible, wherever they could reach them, says the BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad.

The BBC says that although violence has decreased in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007, attacks escalated again after the withdrawal of US troops from the country at the end of last year.

More than 100 people were injured in Sunday's attacks, the BBC said.

The BBC went on to say that aome reports say the car-bomb blasts in Taji were near Shia Muslim homes in the town, 20km (12 miles) north of Baghdad. Others say the blasts targeted police checkpoints.

The first bomb went off in Taji at 07:15 (04:15 GMT), police were quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
In Madain, a car bomb exploded at around 10:30, next to a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims.

Three Iraqis were killed and seven Iranians are among the injured, officials told AP.

Police and Shia civilians were killed or injured in other attacks in the Baghdad area on Sunday, according to the BBC report.
A car bomb targeting a police patrol in Kut killed six people and injured 10, police told BBC News.
Bombs also went off in the cities of Mosul and Baquba, the BBC said.

The BBC reported that a resident of the Ammil district in Baghdad accused fugitive Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi and pro-Sunni media organizations of inflaming passions against Iraq's Shia majority.

"They are the terrorists," he told Reuters news agency. "They want to terminate the Shia. They want to see all the Shia gone."

The BBC said Hashemi was recently sentenced to death in absentia after an Iraqi court found him guilty of running death squads.

Three dead, 280 Christians held hostage in Rableh, Syria

By Michael Ireland
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

HOMS, SYRIA (ANS) -- In addition to the 150 civilians who were detained earlier, another 130 Christians have been kidnapped in the village of Rableh, in western Syria on the border with Lebanon, by armed gangs in the area, creating a group of 280 hostages.

Local sources of Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, report the hostages were crammed into a school in the village of Gousseh, while the kidnappers released the women that had been stopped previously. The armed kidnappers announced that they intend to wait for their head and then discuss any possible ransom.

The news agency reports: "In the Christian community of Rableh there is a lot of fear as yesterday three Christians, who had been kidnapped in the village of Said Naya a few days ago, were found murdered on the side of a road."

The agency says that according to a local priest, who asked to remain anonymous, "This is not a persecution, but a maneuver to spread suspicion and mistrust and incite sectarian war."

Agenzia Fides says the local committee of the Mussalaha is looking for dialogue and a peaceful solution.

"The point is that we are talking about 'unidentified armed gangs and out of control, they act independently and are not connected to the Free Syrian Army.' This makes any negotiations much more difficult," observed the news agency's source in the area.

According to Fides sources, in Syria there are currently about 2,000 armed groups not related to the Free Syrian Army, with their own agenda, that try to pollute the ongoing conflict between rebels and loyalists.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Jordan may be next for Muslim Brotherhood

Tom Doyle with e3 Partners says Jordan could
 be next on the Muslim Brotherhood hit list.

Jordan (MNN) ― The Muslim Brotherhood has seen incredible growth over the last two years as they've had a hand in government overthrows in Egypt, Syria and Libya. The extremist organization is involved in other nations, as well. Now, Jordan is being threatened.

According to reports, Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood is threatening Jordan's King Abdullah. Reports suggest the king has until October to agree to their demand of transforming that nation into a constitutional monarchy, or face an Arab Spring street pressure.

Middle East expert with e3 Partners Tom Doyle says this is troubling. He says Israel could be surrounded: "Lebanon, which Hezbollah has now. Syria, which is in a civil war, but always ready to go to war against Israel. Then there's Egypt to the south. And, even in southern Israel, Hamas is controlling Gaza. The only missing piece of the puzzle has been Jordan."

Doyle says this is a country at risk, and hard-line Islam is already thriving in Jordan. "One of the tell-tell signs in the Middle East as to how fundamental a Muslim country is: the number of honor killings. Per capita, Jordan is way up on the chart--the leader in that. So that just tells us there are numerous groups taking the Quran literally."

Does Doyle think the possible changes will affect e3's work? "If Jordan goes very fundamental Islamic, it will accelerate the work of the church because more people are going to hate the changes that come to Jordan which has been a relatively free country."

The changes in the Middle East are sobering, especially Iran's saber rattling. Doyle says, "We haven't had  leaders since Adolph Hitler that boasted about wiping out the Jews like [Iran's President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and the ayatollah are now. So these have extreme prophetic ramifications."

Doyle says as Christians hear the news, we need to make sure we're sharing Christ with Muslims, wherever we are. "Jesus never called us to be Christians: He called us to be disciples --over 250 times. That's what we're looking for."

Doyle continues, "In the midst of this, in the midst of all the bad news you're going to see on CNN and Fox, it is the greatest harvest time for Muslims in 14 centuries." Many of them are coming to Christ through dreams and visions.

Egyptian Christians call for prayer, fasting

Egypt (ODM/MNN) ―Suspected Islamic militants are chasing Coptic Christian families from their homes in parts of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Death threats and harassing attacks have been on the rise, especially in the days since President Mohamed Morsi of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood took office. 

The post-uprising Egypt for Coptic Christians has not been a kind one. Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman with Open Doors USA, says Morsi was addressing the United Nations General Assembly this week. A charismatic speaker, he has gained a lot of favorable publicity, according to the news reports.

This has caused some worry for Christians, says Dykstra. "Morsi is taking center stage, saying, ‘We have tremendous religious equality in Egypt.' At the same time, he's saying, ‘There are limits on freedom of expression.' So what is the truth?" 

There have been increasing reports from watchdog groups indicating that Christians are being increasingly marginalized in Egypt. Ordinarily, it would be someone like the Coptic Church Pope who would speak up on their behalf. "They look up to their Pope as a spiritual leader but also as one who has a voice for the voiceless."

However, Pope Shenouda III died in March and hasn't yet been replaced. Dykstra explains, "The process is in place, and according to what I read, it's December 2 that the new Pope will be chosen." That's a long time to go without an advocate at a time when things are starting to heat up in Egypt. 

Dykstra notes that the feeling of vulnerability has only been increasing. "Only six months ago, Morsi said that the Christian Coptic population should convert, pay tribute, or leave the country." Yet a mass exodus isn't practical. Coptic Christians make up roughly 10% of the population. 

Conservative Islamic parties took a lion's share of votes in the parliamentary elections late last year, so they are tasked with writing a new constitution for the country's long-term future...which means the oppression isn't likely to let up any time soon. 

Dykstra says, "It was tough, and they expect to see more persecution. And, unfortunately, that has taken place. They're uncertain about the future; they're uncertain about whether Sharia law may be imposed." 

The uncertainty has left Christians asking themselves, "Where is Egypt going?" Pressed between the proverbial "rock and a hard place," Christian leaders have issued a call for urgent, united prayer for Egypt, starting today. "They're praying for an orderly selection for the right person for the new Orthodox Church Pope, and that this new Pope will have a vision for the millions of Coptic Christians there." 

Just like they did prior to elections, there's a nationwide call for the Egyptian church to unite, says Dykstra. "This is why they called for a time of prayer and fasting. They've asked us in the West to pray for them also from October 1-3."

"The significance of the call to prayer comes from the desperate urgency we Egyptian Christians feel as we see the developments that are taking place in our country and the many concerns we have about the future," says a Christian leader who has been blogging from Egypt.

Egypt is ranked No. 15 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.

Open Doors comes alongside believers through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry, and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.

On Wednesday, Christians are urged to gather in churches across the country to ask God to save and protect Egypt from every evil and cause all falseness to be unveiled, and to pray that God would select and anoint the next Orthodox Church Pope who will be chosen soon to lead the Coptic Church in unity and with a clear vision.