Monday, December 30, 2013

Iranian Christian Converts Arrested as They Celebrated Christmas

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Iranian security authorities raided a house where a group of Christians had gathered to celebrate Christmas on Dec. 24.

They and arrested house owner Mr. Hosseini , Ahmad Bazyar, Faegheh Nasrollahi, Mastaneh Rastegari, and Amir-Hossein Ne'matollahi.

A story by Mohabat News Iranian Christian News Agency said The Committee of Human Rights Reporters reported that during the raid, plain clothes security insulted and searched people there, carefully searched the house and seized all the Christian books, CDs and laptops they found there. They also took the satellite TV receiver with them.

Authorities also searched the house of one of Mr. Hosseini's neighbors. Mohabat News said they insulted and beat the father, and told those there not to say a word about what they had seen.

There is no news on the whereabouts or condition of the Christians who were arrested.

In recent years, Mohabat News said, authorities have intensified their pressure and threats against Christians around Christmas. That has included arresting a number of Christians, and increasing their surveillance on churches.

While Christmas is a time of celebrations f or Christians worldwide, Mohabat News said "with threats from the Islamic government, Christmas is a different experience for Iranian Christians."

Mohabat News said while his government continues to harass Iranian Christians and curtail their freedom, ironically, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sent Pope Francis Christmas greetings on Dec. 25.

For more information visit

Verdict for Moroccan Convert from Islam Sentenced for "Proselytism" Expected Feb. 6

Hastily convicted Mohamed El Baladi received 30-month prison term. 

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Fez, Morocco. (Wikipedia, Zimaal)
TIZI OZOU, ALGERIA (ANS) -- A Moroccan appeals court on Dec. 26 heard arguments for a Christian convert from Islam hastily sentenced to prison for alleged "proselytizing," sources said. The Court of Appeal in Fez is expected to deliver a ruling on Feb. 6.

According to a story by Morning Star News, Mohamed El Baladi was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Sept. 3, just a week after his arrest on Aug. 28, in a court in the northern town of Taounate, 50 miles from Fez.

Unlike that occasion, when the court convicted him before police allowed him to obtain legal representation, several defense lawyers were on hand at the hearing.

Authorities on Sept. 26 released him from prison after international outcry over his conviction. El Baladi, 31, was charged with encouraging young Muslims to convert, punishable by six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500 dirhams (US$60), according to Article 220 of Morocco's penal code.

El Baladi's fine of 1,500 dirhams exceeded the maximum. Police also took 5,000 dirhams from his home during the raid, a source said.

According to Morning Star News, sources said police in the remote town of Ain Aicha, Taounate Province, arrested him for alleged proselytizing, vilified him for leaving Islam and pr essured him to reveal names of other converts to Christianity. Strict sharia (Islamic law) condemns apostates from Islam to death.

Mohamed Oulad Ayad of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights reportedly said he hopes the sentence will be reduced to a one-month suspended sentence and fine of no more than 500 dirhams.

Human rights advocates say El Baladi's conviction and sentencing violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Algeria is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which implements provisions of the UDHR.

Along with the 5,000 dirhams police stole, gendarmerie also seized several Christian CDs, books and magazines, Morning Star News reported sources said.

The West has generally applauded Morocco's new constitution of 2011, which provides for a fair trial and presumption of innocence until proven guilty for those accused of breaking the law.

While police monitoring and harassment of Christians is common in Morocco, El Baladi's case come s as Christians have become increasingly unsettled by persecution and violations of religious freedom.

Morocco's King Mohammed VI is seen as a moderate, but Islam is the official religion of the state, and the king's titles include, "The Defender of the Faithful."

Morning Star News said Christians are also suspicious as his government shares power in a coalition that includes the Justice and Development Party, considered to have links with the Muslim Brotherhood. The party calls for a society governed by Islam.

On Dec. 28, 2005, Christian convert Jamaa Ait Bakrim was sentenced to 15 years in prison for proselytism and for destroying the goods of others by burning two abandoned telephone poles touching his property.

In March 2010, the government expelled at least 33 Christian foreign residents from the country. Among them were 10 adult Christians, along with their children, who were running The Village of Hope, a foster daycare center for orphans. The foster children were turned over to the care of peopl e they did not know.

In addition to the expulsions, Morning Star News reported, about 81 people were declared "persona non grata" for alleged proselytizing.

There are about 8,000 Moroccan Christians out of a population of almost 35 million people, according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report of the U.S. Department of State.

For more information about Morning Star News visit

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Report claims 30,000 Eritreans kidnapped in 5 years

Total of $600 million extorted in ransom payments

Asmara, Eritrea.
Carsten ten Brink / Flickr / Creative Commons
A report presented to the European Parliament shows that around 30,000 Eritreans have been kidnapped since 2007 and taken to the Sinai while ransom payments are demanded.
The report says that a total of around $600 million (€468m) was extorted from families and that Eritrea's Border Surveillance Unit (BSU) and Sudanese Security officials are among the “actors” collaborating with the gangs that hold people hostage in Sinai.
The Eritrean military was also blamed for abducting young people and forcing them to join the National Youth Service, while the Eritrean government came under fire for its inability to protect its citizens.

Christian Convert Transferred to Evin Prison's Ward 350; Two Christian Bloggers Arrested

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Mohabat News says human rights sources are reporting that an Iranian Christian convert, Rasoul Abdollahi, has been transferred to Ward 350 of Evin Prison to serve his three year prison term.

In the meantime, as part of a new wave of arrest of bloggers and cyber-activists, Revolutionary Guard authorities arrested two Christian bloggers.

On Dec. 4, an Iranian senior judicial authority said that intelligence forces in Revolutionary Guard identified 16 Internet activists in Kerman who were in contact with foreign agents.

Abdollahi, an Iranian Christian convert, accused of "collusion against the government and evangelism," had earlier been sentenced to three years in prison.

Mohabat reported that Abdollahi had also been arrested during an organized raid on a Christmas celebration on Dec. 26 2010 in Tehran.

This raid resulted in the arrest of a number of other Christians including Farshid Fathi. Fathi was kept in prison for 15 months without any official charges, and then sentenced to six years in prison. He is currently serving his term in Evin Prison's Ward 350.

According to a report by the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Revolutionary Guard authorities on Dec. 4 arrested two Internet acti vists/bloggers; Kiavosh Sotoudeh and Jamshid Jabbari, in front of Kerman University. They were taken to an unknown location.

There are no updates available on the reason for these arrests.

Mohabat News said media state that these two Internet activists have ties with house church and evangelistic groups.
There was news recently that indicated a new Revolutionary Guard campaign to crackdown on internet activists.

Mohabat News said in addition, Fars News agency, which is supported by the Revolutionary Guard, reported that Intelligence agents of the Revolutionary Guard have arrested several Internet activists.

An intelligence authority told Fars News that these individuals are accused of cyber crimes, desecrating Islamic holy figures, and contact with foreigners. He also claimed that they were part of a complex security media network.

Other reports also indicated an escalation in the arrest of reporters, religious dissidents, student and political activists.

For more information about Mohabat News visit

Rumour of tryst triggers anti-Christian violence in Egypt village

One killed; homes burned in trouble-plagued province

The Minya province in Upper Egypt has been
afflicted by anti-Christian violence since August.
World Watch Monitor / David Degner / Getty Images
The way Christians in the Egyptian town of Nazlet El-Badraman describe it, the deadly rampage that engulfed their village grew out of an unfounded rumour.
When it finally blew over, one person was dead, nine were wounded, nearly 20 houses had been burned, and a teen-aged girl had been hurled from a building, breaking both her arms. And it was just one of many violent anti-Christian episodes in Egypt’s Minya province since the July removal of President Mohamed Morsi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It began Nov. 25 when a 20-year-old Nazlet El-Badraman woman left the town and went to Cairo. That fact is among the few not in dispute.
Fr. Srapamon Agban, a priest at Mar Gerges Church in Nazlet El-Badraman, told World Watch Monitor that the woman paid a visit to Shenouda Louis Habib, who is a neighbour to the woman, but who works in Cairo.
The woman is Muslim. The man is a Coptic Christian.
Mideast Christian News, one of the few news services to report on the incident, reported that the woman visited two men — Habib and his brother — not one. MCN said the woman’s father dispatched a family member to his daughter in Cairo, “where she was checked to see if she was still a virgin”. The news service reported that “a medical examination of the girl revealed she had not been harmed”, and both the woman and Habib were warned any further contact would result in a fine for both of them.
The woman returned to Nazlet El-Badraman the following day, Nov. 26, Agban said. By then, he said, rumours were flying.
Two days later, he said, relatives of the woman went to the home of Shenouda’s father, Louis Habib Hanna. There was a quarrel.
Soon afterward, the houses of Louis Habib Hanna and his brother, Nabil, were burned. Several of the Christian inhabitants were injured, Agban said.
On that same night, a Muslim resident of the village, whom Agban identified as Hamada Saber Abdullah, 39, died in a motorcycle accident. Soon, he said, another rumour spread: The Christians killed him.
Mar Gerges Church finished mass quickly the next morning. “We finished the mass of Friday very early at 8:30 andcancelled all the Friday children meetings, and closed all the doors of the church because of were afraid of the Muslims’ attacks,” Agban told World Watch Monitor.
The attacks began after mourners had buried Abdullah. Marchers processed from the funeral to the Christian neighbourhood. Some threw firebombs from the roof of an elementary school, Agban said. Others looted homes.
“I received a great deal of calls from the Christians whose homes were ransacked and destroyed,” the priest said. He said more than 10 homes were fully burnt, and more than 30 were ransacked. One man was killed, MCN reported. Attackers attempted to break into the church, but failed, Agban said.
The attackers entered the home of Bushra Ekladios, grabbed his 14-year-old daughter, Yvonne, and threw her from the second floor of the house. MCN published a photo of a bruised girl, her broken wrists bandaged and both arms in a sling.
Agban told World Watch Monitor that police did little to stop the attacks, and that several Christians were arrested, though “they didn’t do anything”. MCN reported several of the victims were arrested, and that police used tear gas to chase off the attackers.
Christian children haven’t returned to school since the violence, Agban said. Ten families have left the town, and those who remain are afraid to venture out of their homes, he said.
“There is a situation of panic and fear among the Christians here”, he said. “We are afraid that they can attack us again, especially after the security forces leave the village".
Minya, south of Cairo in the region known as Upper Egypt, has the country’s highest concentration of Christians. It also is home to some of Egypt’s most militant Islamic sects. Following the August military crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, angry Muslims burned scores of churches in Minya, destroying more than 30. Numerous Christian homes and businesses were looted and burned; kidnappings have been epidemic.
The Nov. 28 violence in Nazlet El-Badraman prompted the secretary for Coptic Pope Tawadros II to appeal directly to Egypt’s interior minister to protect the town’s Christians. The minister promised immediate reinforcements, MCN reported.

©2013 World Watch Monitor

World Watch Monitor is distributed to raise awareness of Christians worldwide under pressure for their faith. Articles may be reprinted, with attribution.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nigeria's Boko Haram strikes again in Cameroon

Missionary killed, churches torched around time of French priest's kidnapping

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAMEROON (ANS) -- A missionary has been killed and several churches set ablaze in attacks by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram in neighboring Cameroon.

In April last year, churches were targeted by suspected Boko Haram militants. Some victims had their throats cut, while others were beaten to death or burned alive. This is one of the survivors, whose name is being withheld to protect his security. (via Cameroon Human Rights Monitoring)
According to a story by the World Watch Monitor (WWM), the Nigerian missionary, David Dina Mataware, with the Christian Missionary Foundation (CMF), was killed on Nov. 13 by suspected Boko Haram militants in Ashigashia. That's a village which straddles the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

He was murdered on the same day as the kidnapping of a French priest, Father Georges Vandenbeusch. However, the death was not reported by the media, a church leader told WWM, even though both incidents happened in the same area.

The kidnap was claimed by Boko Haram "in an operation co-ordinated with Ansaru," its spokesman told Agence France Presse.

Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter group that has attacked several Western and Nigerian targets. It claimed responsibility for the kidnap and murder of seven international construction workers earlier in 2013.

WWM said Mataware had worked with CMF since 2010. CMF is a Nigeria-based mission agency active in Cameroon since 1989. Its ministry is focused on the tribes of Mandara, Kanouri and Guem ergou in the district of Mora in northern Cameroon.

"An undetermined number of armed men crossed the border and entered into Cameroon at midnight. On their way back, they attacked the CMF compound. Unfortunately, one of the six missionaries had his throat cut. Five others managed to flee," 
said the church leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cameroon is a secular country in Central Africa. Approximately 70 per cent of the population is at least nominally Christian and most of its population in the North are Muslims.

Over the weekend of Nov. 15-17, a number of incidents took place alongside the porous border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Local sources contacted by WWM said dozens of properties, including Ewy church in Tourou (in Cameroon) were attacked while at least one church was set ablaze and destroyed on the Nigerian side of Ashigashia.

At least four people were killed and many others wounded and transferred to health centers. Despite the reinforcement of security forces in the area, villagers f ear continued attacks from Islamist militants from Nigeria.

Bible translator killed in Central African Republic

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- A Bible translator in war-ravaged Central African Republic (CAR) was shot and killed this week as he attempted to escape mounting violence in Bangui, according to Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Elisee Zama
Elisée Zama, who served as a translator with ACATBA, Wycliffe's partner organization in the CAR, was shot as he was transporting family members to the relative safety of a hospital compound.

Violence began intensifying in CAR following a coup in March 2013. Many humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from the country or cut back services and government health clinics have largely been abandoned.

"Reprisals against Christians in particular in Bangui are of great concern," said Larry Robbins with SIL, a Wycliffe partner in CAR.

"There have been . . . reprisals in certain neighborhoods of Bangui, resulting in thousands seeking refuge on the airstrip of the international airport," he said.

Assemblies of God Pastor and Minister Released from Iran's Sepidar Prison in Awaz

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Two Christian prisoners were released from Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz after 214 days.
Farhad Sabokrouh and
Naser Zamen-Dezfuli
According to Mohabat News, two Christian prisoners, Farhad Sabokrouh, Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, a church minister, were released on Dec. 4 2013 after 214 days in Sepidar Prison.

On Dec. 23, 2011, Iranian security authorities raided a Christmas celebration at the Assemblies of God church of Ahwaz and arrested everyone in attendance. All those arrested were transferred to an unknown location in two buses.

Everyone arrested was were threatened and released after being interrogated and their personal information taken.

However, Mohabat News said, Sabokrouh, his wife Shahnaz Jayzan, and church ministers, Naser Zamen-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani, were held in prison. They were charged for converting from Islam to Christianity, proselytizing Muslims, and propagating against the Islamic regime through evangelism.

Later, the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz sentenced each to one year in prison. Davoud Alijani was arrested and taken to prison to serve his sentence when he went to the court on May 1, 2013, while the three others were summoned to the court and transferred to prison on May 4.

Sabokrouh and Zamen-Dezfuli have been released while there are still two weeks remaining from their prison term. Mohabat News said Iranian judicial authorities have refused to provide a reason for their slightly early release. As a result, it is not certain whether or not this pardon will include the pastor's wife, and Davoud Alijani.

According to a directive from Iran's Revolutionary Court and as part of the court's policy to further pressure and persecute religious and political prisoners, Christian convicts are not to be granted leave permits while serving their sentences.

The Assemblies of God Church of Ahwaz, which is technically a house turned into a church, is registered and thus under the supervision of Iranian authorities. Despite this, the church has been targeted and subject to unreasonable pressure.

According to Mohabat News, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on Christian converts are not a new phenomenon. All religious minorities in Iran are subject to various forms of discrimination.

After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the situation of religious minorities in Iran has always been a major human rights concern.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pakistan’s churches increase security after Peshawar blasts

Officer dies guarding another church in Peshawar

Christians guard the Full Gospel Assemblies
 Church in Bahar Colony in Lahore.
Security around churches in Pakistan has increased since the deadly suicide blasts in Peshawar in September and the death of a police guard outside a church last month.

On September 22two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the All Saints Church in Peshawar when congregants were leaving the church after the Sunday service. Ninety-six people were killed and 133 were injured.
Then on November 19, a police constable, Muhammad Attaullah, was killed during a security operation outside another church in Peshawar.
Samson Simon Sharaf, Central Defence Secretary of Peshawar’s  provincial ruling political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), told World Watch Monitor that the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association is “providing security to 160 churches and it can be increased further”.
Following the Peshawar blasts, the Pakistani police held meetings with church leaders in Christian areas, such as Bahar Colony in Lahore.
Rev. Dr. Liaqat Qaisar from the Full Gospel Assemblies Church in Bahar Colony said that police were working alongside church members to provide security on Sundays.
“The police instructed us to put barricades on the outside of the church, to keep the entrance clear and, rather than all the congregation leaving at the same time, worshippers should leave in small groups after the church ends,” said Qaisar.
After the death of police constable Attaullah outside the Swati Gate Assemblies of God (AG) church in Peshawar, Deputy Superintendent of Police Fazal Wahid told World Watch Monitor that the incident had no religious dimension; rather that terrorists were attacking police everywhere.
The church administration, however, did not rule out the possibility of another attack on a church and added that the church had employed security guards for a number of years.
“The first time indiscriminate firing took place outside the church was in 2009, after which security has been permanently deployed,” AG General Secretary Dr. Arshad Masih told World Watch Monitor.
He added that another police constable, Muhammad Shehzad, was killed outside the church on July 5.
In Lahore, three men were arrested on October 6, after they were spotted at a wedding in St. John’s Catholic Church in Yahounabad.
The men, Pashtoon in origin, were spotted by security guards, who noticed that they were outsiders to the area and asked why they had come to the wedding. When they could not provide a reason, they were handed over to the police.
Locals say they have noticed Pashtoons (from the north-west region of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan) moving into Yahounabad – one of the largest Christian settlements in South Asia – in recent years. They add that they are concerned not only by possible terrorist attacks, but also of increasing hostilities to the long-term residents, such as trying to manoeuvre them out of this prime area of the city, by buying up land.
Meanwhile, local media reported that there were fears that the Lohari Gate Presbyterian Church in the Anarkali area of Lahore may be a target for terrorist attacks.
PTI Defence Secretary Sharaf added that churches were one of the most likely targets for such attacks.
“Christianity is seen as a symbol of Western cultural imperialism, which is why, after the Shiite and Barelvi [an offshoot of Sunni Islam] worship places, churches are the third target of hardliner terrorist groups,” he said.

©2013 World Watch Monitor

Syria: Conflicting Reports about Missing Nuns

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (ANS) -- Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), has told the ASSIST News Service ( that it is concerned for the welfare of twelve nuns and three young women who were taken away from their convent in a village 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) north of the Syrian capital Damascus by Islamist rebels on Monday, 2 December 2, 2013.

The Greek Orthodox convent of
St. Takla of Maaloula
But now, according to CSW, there are conflicting accounts on the current plight of the nuns and their three associates. Pope Francis has called for prayer for "the nuns of the Greek Orthodox convent of St. Takla of Maaloula in Syria who were forcibly taken away by armed men two days ago,"

However, yesterday their mother superior, Pelagia Sayyaf, said the women were "comfortably installed in a house in Yabrud and no one was bothering them,"

Thousands of Christians and many Muslims fled Maaloula when it was invaded on September 5, 2013, by Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamist militia, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabat al-Nusra. 

Christian families who escaped were accommodated by churches in the Damascus area, which provided food and medical supplies. However, 40 nuns remained in Maaloula to look after dozens of orphaned children.

Maaloula is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the few places in the world where the locals still speak Aramaic. According to Syrian news agency SANA, the rebels "committed acts of vandalism in the town's neighborhoods and around the convent, attacking locals and targeting them with sniper fire."
Syrian rebels forcibly evacuated 12 nuns including the mother superior Pelagia Sayyaf (Reuters)

CSW remains concerned by the disappearance of Archbishop Boulos (Paul) Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who were abducted by gunmen in April 2013 as they returned from a humanitarian mission near the Syria/Turkey border. 

Their whereabouts remains unknown.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the Syrian civil war has so far claimed at least 125,835 lives, with five million people internally displaced, and two million Syrians fleeing to other countries. The seven million affected represent a third of Syria's population.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the nuns and the three young women in their entourage, particularly in light of conflicting reports regarding whether they were forcibly abducted or evacuated to safety. These are worrying times for the Christian community in Syria, given the earlier abductions of two Archbishops and the documented and deliberate targeting of clergy and laity by Islamist militia.

"CSW urges every party to the conflict to adhere to humanitarian standards with regard to the treatment of civilians, religious leaders and religious establishments, regardless of creed or ethnicity. We also request the speedy release of these nuns and their associates into the hands of church authorities."

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

Lahore church provides aid to 'tortured and abducted' brick kiln workers

Now they say they are receiving death threats for helping them

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A Lahore, Pakistan, church has told the ASSIST News Service ( that has been providing aid to "tortured and abducted brick kiln workers" in Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab.

Two of brick kiln workers
According Pastor Javaid Austin of the Light of the City Church, the shocking incident took place on September 12, 2013, when six kiln workers, namely Mr. Asghar, Mr. Iqbal, Mr. Tariq Masih, Sharif Jalal, and two others, were "brutally beaten along with their families including women, and children" by local kiln owners and six "unknown" persons, and later were forcibly taken to Dhondaey village "with the threat of weapons."

He said that when he first heard of the shocking incident, he and a team rushed to the scene, and asked people who saw the incident what had occurred, and they said that the kiln owners and others had "hit them with heavy slippers and sticks and hung them on the front side of wall of a house."

The pastor added that after the "brutal and inhuman beating," the victims "became disabled and can no more work to earn a livelihood for their families."
Pastor Javaid Austin (in blue) with some of
brick kiln workers

The pastor then said that, despite the fact that they were ones who were beaten, the kiln owners then registered what he called a "fake" First Information Report (FIR) # 737/2013 at Raiwind City Police station, Lahore, against Tariq Masih and Sharif Jalal.

The pastor went on to say, "All these people are innocent and they have not committed any crime, but in spite of all this, they were tortured by the kiln owners. Iqbal Masih's wife was pregnant and was brutally beaten by owners and, due to this act, her child has died."

Pastor Austin says that his church "is working in order to raise the voice of voiceless people, especially for the down-trodden kiln workers for their economic, educational and social uplift."

He then said that when he first heard of heard about this "cruel act and inhuman treatment," he and his son Azeem Javaid, and other team members, including Pastor Ashik, Mubashir Younis, Yousaf Daniel, Javaid Saleem and Shumshar Ashgar, "rushed to the place to try and "take the necessary action to save them from the cruel kiln owners."

"When the Police were called by me and my team, they did not take any action against the kiln owners, but rather they protected owners. No one was ready to speak against kiln owners for the fear of their lives," he added.

The pastor said that they encouraged those who had been injured saying that they would do "all they could" to support them, and two of the men were taken to his home for "medical treatment, shelter, safety and protection."

Pastor Austin leading a protest against the treatment of the brick kiln workers
Then, the pastor and his team, provided legal aid to the workers, and protested in front of the Assembly Hall in Lahore "in the favor of victims" which, he said, was carried in several newspapers.

Pastor Austin has since submitted, on behalf of his church, a writ petition to the court of the Session Judge of Lahore, on behalf of those who were attacked.

"Since this incident occurred, we have receiving death threats on us and our families, in a bid to stop us continuing the case," he said. "We are continually attending the hearings of courts and we have requested to high officials of the Government that justice be done and have asked that due legal protection should, as early as possible, be given to the tortured workers as well as our families, and our Christian organization, as early as possible."

If you would like to contact Pastor Javaid Austin, his e-mail address is:

To watch a video about the incident, please go to 

American Pastor Saeed Abedini Robbed, Life Threatened, as Health Deteriorates in Deadly Iranian Prison

Social media "event" spearheaded by Albuquerque pastor draws about 25,000

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Pastor Saeed Abedini not only confronts deadly conditions in Iran's Rajai Shahr prison, but he also faces direct threats on his life from other prisoners.

Campaign logo
According to a story by the American Center for Law and Justice's (ACLJ) Jordan Sekulow, Abedini's Iranian family was able to visit himMonday - the second visitation allowed since he was transferred to the deadly new prison last month.

Abedini is facing constant threats to his life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives.

The ACLJ said his "cell" is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share. That allows dangerous prisoners - murderers and rapists - access to him 24 hours a day.
Abedini has also been robbed at knife point several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.

The ACLJ said, "As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed's health has quickly deteriorated."

The pain in Abedini's stoma ch has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys. As a result of repeated beatings in Evin Prison, Abedini also suffers from internal bleeding.

After months of being refused medical care, the ACLJ said Abedini was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year. As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided.

However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication and his condition is worsening.

In addition to being denied needed medication, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to Abedini's body being covered head to toe in lice. Because of the lice and increased pain, he is having trouble sleeping.

He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections. There is no medication to stop the infections. He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.

T he ACLJ said Abedini has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.

"The conditions he faces are unfathomable, "the ACLJ said. "He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis. Iran has sent him to disappear. The time is now to pressure Iran for his release. Each day could be his last."

These troubling reports make Albuquerque Pastor Alan Hawkins' efforts to pressure the Iranian authorities to free Abedini even more crucial.

Social media blitz to free Abedini

Abedini's plight caught the attention of Alan Hawkins, founding pastor of Albuquerque's New Life City Church. Hawkins has organized a social media "event" to bring attention to Abedini's plight.

Those interested are encouraged to get involved by going to

The hope is that an onslaught of attention, and the accompanying pressure, will help in Abedini's release.
But how did Hawkins, 59, come up with this idea? In a recent interview he told me that his interest took a while to sprout.

Hawkins said it was his brother-in-law who first drew his attention about a year ago to Abedini's situation.
"I read the basics and then forgot about it," Hawkins said.

That changed when a group of men with whom Hawkins "blogs with theologically" began sharing their displeasure about how Abedini's situation has been handled by the American administration.
Hawkins said, "We complain a lot. Why don't we do something?"

Some more discussion resulted in a social media blitz focused on Dec.4. Hawkins said he came up with the Dec. 4 date as that was the day former hostage and Associated Press Correspondent Terry Anderson wa s released in 1991 from six years and nine months of captivity in Lebanon.

Hawkins said the project is an attempt to create "viral awareness" about Abedini's plight. He dubbed it a "spontaneously generated passion."

Reflecting on his fellow theological bloggers, Hawkins said "We're a bunch of people who had spent years debating over stuff who finally decided to do something."

And now the spark of passion has ignited, Hawkins said he's going to see it through.

"I don't expect them to release Abedini on the 4th, but I expect the awareness to rise to another level. I think American Christians really care, but they don't know much. This will put it in their faces, and we'll also make sure the politicians know we do care."

People do care. At time of writing, about 25,000 people had signed up for the "event."

To contact Hawkins, email him at