Saturday, March 2, 2013

Nigerian Town's Christians Paralyzed after Suspected Islamic Extremist Killings

Church members fear going to church or buying groceries

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- In Mubi in northeastern Nigeria, Christians are scared to leave their homes after 8 p.m., church leaders say.

In addition, many Christians are too afraid of Islamic extremist attacks to attend church services.

According to a story by Morning Star News, suspected members of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram killed eight members of a Church of the Brethren (Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria, or EYN) congregation outside Mubi, among others - the latest in a series of attacks in or near the town in Adamawa state bordering Cameroon.
Rev. Daniel Yumuna of the
Church of the Brethren.

"The crisis has created a lot of hardship for Christians, as even movement to eke out a living is restricted," said the Rev. Daniel Yumuna, a district secretary of the EYN.

He continued, "Businesses of our church members have all collapsed because they face attacks regularly, and living generally has been made very difficult here not only for our church members but for all other Christians in this part of the country."

Morning Star News said the EYN church at Samunaka, on the outskirts of Mubi, was targeted on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4 in attacks on the area that killed at least 15 people. That besides the eight Christians killed and one church member wounded by gunshot.

According to church leaders, the church building and pastor's office went up in flames, as did some Christian-owned homes.

Two other EYN churches were burned down in Huwim, in Mussa District, on Feb. 2, and in Bita, in Gavva West district, on Feb. 3.

Morning Star News said among the dead from the attack on the Samunaka church, according to Yumuna, were Danjuma Garba, Ezra Kwada, Friday Toma, Kwasini Iliya and two children of Drami Tizhe.

"In the town of Mubi, Christians are even afraid of going to the market to buy food and other sundry items they need to survive," Yumuna said.

Christians from EYN churches in other parts of Adamawa state - Song, Hong, Yola, and Maiha - have also been displaced, he said.

Morning Star News said military authorities in Nigeria say Boko Haram, which has its headquarters in neighboring Borno state, is responsible for the attacks on Christians in Mubi.

The Islamic extremist group wants to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout the country. Nigeria's Joint Task Force, charged with protecting against extremist attacks, killed Boko Haram's commander in Mubi, Abubakar Yola (alias Abu Jihad), last September.

Officials said the military also arrested156 members of the sect and four of its commanders.

Morning Star News said last year, Boko Haram killed 46 Christian students at the Federal Polytechnic in Mubi. The students were slaughtered or shot dead as the assailants went door to door ordering them to recant their Christian faith. Those students who refused to do so were immediately killed.

In December 2011, Morning Star News said, about 30 Christians were killed in the towns of Yola, Lamurde, and Mubi.
Muslim extremists attacked a parish of the Christ Apostolic Church in the Nasarawa area of Jimeta-Yola, killing 12 Christians. The attack in Lamurde, about 50 miles away, took the lives of four Christians.

The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria says it has about 180,000 members.

Borno State
Morning Star News said in Borno state, an EYN congregation at Chibok lost its pastor and 10 of its members to Boko Haram violence last December.

EYN leaders report that on Dec. 1, "Gunmen attacked the EYN Kwaple Church in the denomination's Chibok district, killing Pastor Michael Peter Yakwa and 10 members of the congregation."
Yumuna added that their church building was burned down.

Morning Star News said another Church of the Brethren congregation was attacked in Borno's town of Biu in June 2012. The EYN website reports that five gunmen surrounded the church and began shooting.

"An alert watchman closed the gate to the church, but the gunmen then began shooting into the church through the walls," the report says.
It continued, "At the time there were about 400 people in the church service, including children. One woman was killed and a number of people were injured, but of the injured only two church members sustained major injuries."

Morning Star News said EYN leaders told Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan that 14 of its pastors had been killed in the volatile northeast, where the Boko Haram insurgency has taken root.
Other Church of the Brethren buildings have been destroyed in the Borno capital city of Maiduguri, and in Yobe state's cities of Damaturu and Potiskum.

"Every church in Nigeria is thinking about self-defense," Morning Star News reported EYN President Samuel Dali recently told a denominational conference in the United States.

He added, "How does the Church of the Brethren preach peace in this situation? Sometimes we are mocked when we talk about peace. But hope is not lost. Even during the time of missionaries it was not easy. But still they came up with a strategy to make sure the gospel was shared. So a difficult situation cannot stop the Word of God."

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Christian Shot Dead near Kismayo

Somalia Suspected Islamic extremists kill father of four

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

NAIROBI, KENYA (ANS) -- Suspected Islamic extremists in Somalia shot a Christian to death on the outskirts of the coastal city of Kismayo.

Ahmed Ali Jimale taught medicine and first aid in Kismayo, Somalia
According to a story by Morning Star News, two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. as he stood outside his house in Alanley village, near a police station, sources said.

The killers were suspected to be members of the Islamic extremist Al Shabaab, a rebel militia ousted from the area four months ago but still engaging in hit-and-run tactics. A few of the four rival clans in Kismayo, 328 miles southwest of Mogadishu, are said to be housing members of Al Shabaab.

A businessman, teacher and medical consultant well-known in the area, Jimale ran a pharmacy in Kismayo.
Morning Star News reported sources said he would give private lessons on medicine and first aid, and as an underground Christian - as are all Christians in Somalia - he highlighted the teaching with discussions comparing the Bible and the Koran.

The students would share these lessons with other children, and this teaching, along with his close work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides aid, appeared to have caught the attention of the Al Shabaab extremists, said a source who worked with Jimale but is no longer in the area.

Morning Star News reported the source said when the Somali National Army and the Kenya Defense Forces wrested control of Kismayo from Al Shabaab, Jimale became increasingly open in presenting the religious content of his teaching. The Islamic extremists suspected he was a Christian - and guilty of "apostasy" or leaving Islam, on the common assumption that all Somalis are born Muslim.

Toward the end of 2012, Jimale began receiving threatening messages in his phone, sources said.

"We have been monitoring your activities," read one. "You have to stop introducing the children to foreign Christian religion as well as your close working relation with a foreign organization, otherwise we shall come for your head."

Morning Star News said Jimale had been an employee of the NGO, and occasionally he continued receiving contracts from the aid organization. Such organizations are often associated with Westerners and Christianity, both anathema to Al Shabaab.

"Jimale was a good man who helped our community," a friend of the slain Christian told Morning Star News. "His widow is very scared and afraid, not knowing what will happen."

Jimale's children, two daughters and two sons, are ages 10, 8, 6 and 4.

Morning Star News said the incident was the latest in a series of murders of Christians in Somalia over the past several years.
On Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles north of Mogadishu, gunmen killed a Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. Two unidentified, masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home for leaving Islam, Muslim and Christian sources told Morning Star News.

Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000 according to a source who used to worship with them, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. This was after Somalia's transitional federal government and African Union Mission in Somalia troops captured Beledweyne from Al Shabaab rebels. Siad had taken a job with a local NGO.

Morning Star News said the area was under government control. There was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels who have vowed to rid the country of Christianity, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, 12 miles away, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16, Al-Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, Christian sources said.

Morning Star News said Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in Somalia's Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia.
Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 percent Muslim.
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Our Nightmare is Not Over!

The wife of imprisoned US pastor, Saeed Abedini, speaks out

By Naghmeh Abedini
Special to ASSIST News Service

IDAHO (ANS) -- Introduction: Naghmeh Abedini is the wife of imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen. She resides with their two young children in Idaho. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) -- -- which represents Naghmeh and the children, is at the forefront of a global effort to secure Pastor Saeed's freedom from the notorious Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran, and they have just published this moving letter from her..

Here it is:

Pastor Saeed with his wife Naghmeh,
and their two children
It has been 9 months since Saeed kissed the little foreheads of our children as he said his goodbyes early in the morning of June 22, 2012. Nine months since Daddy sung to them and tucked them into bed, and 9 months since I embraced my husband as we said our goodbyes, thinking at the time we would be separated only a few weeks, as he returned to Iran to continue work on building an orphanage. Maybe if I knew what was to unfold, I would have held him a little longer, talked a little longer?

It has been 5 months, since the frantic phone call that woke me up in the middle of the night, telling me of the horrific way my husband was taken-5 revolutionary guards, raiding the house and taking him, not knowing where he was or what had happened to him-5 long months. Maybe, that is why still to this day, I suddenly wake up frantic in the middle of the night; I turnover only to find Saeed's empty spot, only to find that the nightmare is not over yet, only to discover that this nightmare will not be over any time soon.

It has been 1 month, to the day, since Saeed was given his 8-year sentence because of his Christian faith. I know deep in my heart that unless we speak out and fight for him, Saeed might not survive the 8 years in that horrific prison, especially because he continues to face continued abuse and death threats.

This nightmare exists because Saeed refuses to deny Christ. He is standing up for what he believes. Are we going to stand up with him? Are we going to be a voice for him when the Iranian government is doing all it can to silence him?

How many more nights am I to hold my weeping children as they ask me to tell them stories of how Daddy used to hold them when they were born; how he used to play with them, kiss them, and hold them each night before he tucked them into bed? How many more times must I hold back my tears as I sing the worship songs he used to sing to them, as they beg me to sing like Daddy did because they are trying desperately to hold on to the memories of their daddy.

Over the last month, I have pondered over and over how I will ever explain to my children that Daddy has been given 8 years in a horrific prison and we don't even know if he will survive . . . one month; 31 days; 744 hours; 44,640 minutes; 2,678,400 seconds.

During this nightmare, I lean on the promise in Scripture that "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:8-9 NKJV)

Ultimately, God is in control and He controls governments and situations for His Glory. There is nothing Saeed and I desire more than to die to ourselves and allow Christ to shine through to this dying world. That He would be glorified in all of this and many would come to know the saving Grace of Jesus. Our trust is in the Lord, and He is carrying us through this nightmare and drawing us closer to Him. But I also believe that the Lord is using our prayers, and the political, social media, and other efforts to bring us together as the Body of Christ. He promises to turn all this for His Glory.

This nightmare and the plea for my husband's life should cross religious and political barriers. It should grip all human beings at our heart's core, motivating us to do what is right, to stand up for someone whose human rights are being violated. While Saeed doesn't have a voice to sing to his children, we each have a voice for his freedom; we can make a difference.

Note: You can join hundreds of thousands of others in signing the petition -- #SaveSaeed -- at 



Catholic priests and parishioners in Vietnam are reported
 to believe this “backward” decree is a sign that the
 government is following a Chinese model and
“looking for a way to control and
restrict the freedom of religion.”
On Jan. 1, Vietnam updated its rules for enforcing its highest law regarding religion. Known as the Decree on Religion 92/2012 ND-CP, or simply ND-92, the new decree is meant to clarify rules written in 2005.
On close inspection, ND-92 does appear to clarify one thing: Vietnam’s intent to control the spread of religion, especially Christianity.

That’s according to a veteran missionary to Vietnam and acknowledged authority on Vietnamese Protestant Christianity.

He has served as an advocate for persecuted Christians in Vietnam since it was reunited under communism in 1975. World Watch Monitor asked him to take a close look at the new religion decree. Because he travels extensively throughout Vietnam, we are not publishing his name. Here are his findings.


Eight years ago, the highest levels of the Communist Party and the Vietnam government signaled they were shifting away from direct ideological opposition to, and repression of, religion, especially Christianity. They took up a new, managerial approach to religion, using registration as the chief means of control. This was somehow supposed to translate into more freedom.

The evidence for this change was the adoption of three new religion “laws:” The 2004 Ordinance on Religion and Belief; the 2005 Decree on Religion 22/2005/ND-CP on how to implement the ordinance; and the Prime Minister’s Special Instruction No. 1 Regarding Protestantism. The latter was hastily created to fill a hole during the run-up to Vietnam’s attempt to accede to the World Trade Organization at a time Vietnam faced harsh international criticism for it repressive religion policies and practices. It was intended to show quick progress in church registration while the larger laws were being worked out.

In the eight years since this legislation, the church-registration regime has been found seriously wanting. While eight Protestant denominations could prove they had been around since before the 1975 communist victory, more than half of Vietnam’s Protestants remain unregistered. Hundreds of applications by congregations to receive supposedly straightforward permission to function have been ignored or rejected by local authorities. For the dozens of house-church denominations that began to emerge in 1988, there is no clear path toward registration, despite what the laws may say. In actual practice, registration has often been used as a tool to manipulate churches, leading many to lose interest in getting it.

The new Decree on Religion 92/2012 ND-CP, or ND-92, which had long been rumored, is intended to replace and clarify its often murky predecessor, ND-22, as the operational guide for the implementation of the 2004 ordinance, Vietnam’s highest “law” on religion. The new decree went into effect Jan. 1.

A transparent registration regime is far short of full religious freedom. In theory, however, it could be better than the previous heavy-handed oppression and persecution sponsored from the top.1 Yet registration has been implemented inconsistently, leaving more than half of Protestants still unregistered and vulnerable to arbitrary harassment and oppression.

There is reason to believe this is intentional: Vietnam’s religion bureaucracy last February credited The PM’s Special Instruction on Protestantism for slowing the rapid growth of Protestantism.2 This application of the instruction is directly opposite to its originally announced purpose.

On the matter of registration Decree ND-22 left many things unclear, creating room for officials to apply much subjective discretion. Most often they simply ignored registration requests, or capriciously denied them. In practice, many religious communities functioned without too much difficulty.

The vagueness of Decree ND 22, however, also meant it was difficult to enforce some provisions of the ordinance. After gradually granting legal status during the last eight years to eight Protestant denominations, the registration process for Protestants effectively ground to a halt. Enforcement of other provisions of the religion laws has been arbitrary. From the government’s point of view, more clarity was needed if the ordinance and its operational decree were to become effective tools for managing religion. The result was ND-92.

The omens, however, were not good. During the drafting stages of ND-92, there were news reports of government consultation with religious leaders known to be sympathetic to the government. Even these leaders were said to object strongly.

Method of evaluation

The Vietnamese language Decree ND-92 reached me Nov. 9, the day after it was published. I have studied it carefully in the original language. In December I was able to ask well-placed government officials and a significant number of Protestant leaders about the new decree. A number of other religious groups, some Buddhist and Catholic organizations for example, have published their own analyses, which I have compared with my own findings.

What does ND-92 include, and does it advance freedom?

The tone is set early. Chapter I is entitled “Freedom of religion and belief.” Article 2 contains 23 words that “guarantee” freedom of religion and belief. Those are followed by 142 words of conditions and warnings about its abuse. That’s a 6:1 ratio of warnings of abuse to promises of freedom.

Article 2 also promises “no one may infringe on a citizen’s freedom of religion.” The rest of the 24-page, 46-article decree infringes on that guarantee in even more intrusive ways than its 2005 predecessor.

And so it goes: one step forward, two steps back. ND-92 is designed to be more a tool for the management control of religion than a step toward religious freedom. The Party’s and the government’s deep suspicion of religion and religious people remains clearly on display. The updated decree appears to unmask the real purpose behind the 2004 ordinance: To manage, control and contain religious groups. The weight of abiding by this decree would be onerous for religious people and organizations, and this appears intentional.

Most relevant to Christian organizations are the six sections and 18 articles comprising Chapter III, entitled “Religious Organizations.”

Fundamental to understanding this chapter, and the entire decree, is the word dang ky, commonly translated as “registration” or “register.” In developed legal systems, if one meets well-known, clear and encoded written requirements, the law obligates the state to register, be it an organization or a car or a copyright.

By contrast, the dang ky registration in Vietnam’s handling of religion, including in ND-92, functions like having to ask permission. The evidence of this is that officials, usually at the commune level, have complete discretion on whether to grant registration. “Registration” therefore, is more accurately understood as “asking permission.” Many observers have not grasped or accepted this reality, thinking that registration in this context means meeting an objective requirement, or simply informing officials.

The reality is registration or permission is often conditional on elusive criteria which are open to highly subjective interpretation. This holds for permission for various levels of religious practice, such as for religious meetings, religious activities, or organizations seeking full legal recognition. It also holds for the approval of religious leaders in their official positions or location of service, and to students who wish to enter a religious vocation.

These elusive criteria are prominently spelled out in Articles 8 and 15 of the 2004 ordinance3. Article 15 states:

 “Religious activities or belief will be suspended in the following instances:

1. They infringe on national security, or seriously affect public order or the environment.

2. They adversely affect the peoples’ unity or the fine national cultural traditions.

3. They infringe upon the life, health, dignity, honor or property of other persons.

4. They involve other serious breaches of the law.”

What comes through clearly in these criteria is the government’s assumption that religious people are potentially dangerous people existing at the margins of legality and inclined toward anti-social behavior. The criteria readily provide excuses for officials to not give permission.

Consider the leader of a religious group seeking permission to conduct a meeting. Article 5 of Decree ND-92 requires the leader “to have a spirit of national unity and reconciliation.” Anyone who teaches the fundamental Christian tenet of worshipping God alone, and not ancestors or national heroes, is someone who could be accused of being against “national unity” or “the fine national cultural traditions.”

Article 6, stipulating qualifications for registering religious activities, says the group must have “doctrines, articles of faith, rites and ceremonies that support the nation and do not contradict fine traditions and customs.” This leaves much discretion to often hostile officials and state agencies with power to grant permission.

A new category – and why is that?

There are other anomalies and contradictions in the decree. Article 5 adds “religious meetings” (sinh hoat ton giao) as a new, lowest-level practice needing permission or dang ky, “[i]f citizens have a need for religious meetings to worship, pray and express their faith… .” This appears to replace the 2005 PM’s Special Instruction, issued under international pressure, to purportedly grant permission promptly.

“Religious meetings” seeking registration are required to name their organization and beliefs, identity their “representatives” by name and address, specify the number of members, and guarantee that the objectives and contents of the meetings do not offend the “people’s unity,”  “cultural traditions” and other virtues exalted in Articles 8 and 15 of the 2004 ordinance.

At points, ND-92 ties itself in knots. One requirement is having a “legal place for religious meetings.” By definition a “religious meeting” seeking permission to meet does not have such a place.

This new requirement apparently means every local congregation must obtain permission to meet before the congregation’s umbrella denomination can apply for higher-level registrations. This is yet another twist in the old tangle of already fully legally recognized denominations going back to register their individual ethnic minority churches. Before ND-92 came along, the government sometimes would order a denomination to do this. Under the new decree, it appears to be a standard requirement. All the while, many Hmong congregations already one or two decades old and affiliated with Evangelical Church Vietnam North, which has had legal registration since 1958, have been waiting years for registration. This provision of the decree only raises the question: what does full legal recognition mean, anyway?

Unreasonable times frames - 20 years and counting, but from when?

One level up from “religious meetings” is the category of “religious activities” (hoat dong ton giao)4. Registration at this level requires the demonstration of 20 years or more of “stable” religious meetings, meaning a spotless criminal and administrative record in the eyes of commune-level peoples’ committee. Prior to ND-92, however, the law contained no provision for registration of religious meetings. The prerequisite to registration for religious activities, then, was 20 years of meeting illegally, yet somehow without criminal or legal blemish.

The new decree may have eliminated that particular Catch-22, but it also may have introduced a new obstacle. Consider: The earliest commune-level permissions for religious meetings could first be granted in January 2013. The logical conclusion, then, is that no registrations for “religious activity” could be obtained for another 20 years.

With the period between registration for religious activity and full, legal registration now extended to three years5, the first of such registrations could not take place until 2036. And if commune authorities accuse a group of legal or administrative infractions, or of having leaders lacking “the spirit of national solidarity,” the process is further prolonged.

A better, though still dispiriting, possibility is that authorities could decide to start the 20-year, good-behavior period if and when an organization had at least some of its congregations registered under the 2005 PM’s Special Instruction. In this case, the earliest next full legal registrations would be possible in 2028.

There is mounting evidence that the strategy of the government, in sticking with and even extending these unreasonably long time periods, is to pressure unregistered groups to join already registered ones – supposedly to more easily manage the religion file. There is growing government pressure for individual congregations to leave their current organization and join registered groups. And some of these groups, believed to be a bit too friendly with the government, are themselves recruiting otherwise affiliated congregations promising them benefits.

Cumbersome and complicated obligations

Registered congregations and denominations are required each October to present all their intended activities for the coming year. Changes in activities are not allowed after permission is granted. This is impossible because religious organizations by nature must deal with members’ unpredictable rites of passage – baptisms, weddings, funerals. There are complicated provisions for varying or adding unforeseen activities, but they are cumbersome and require unreasonable advance notice.

Promises of efficiency and clearer lines of authority

Government officials are quick to point out that the new decree is more advantageous for religious groups than the old because it shortens the time in which officials must respond to requests and applications, and even requires them to state in writing the reasons in case of denial. Five final articles of the new decree do more clearly describe government lines of authority than the old decree. These “improvements” as described by some government officials, could, if implemented, mean more efficiency in management and control of religion but it is hard to see how, at the same time, they could produce any steps toward greater freedom.

It is possible that already fully registered organizations may benefit from clearer guidelines and timelines in asking permission for training schools and other infrastructure. If authorities abide by timelines required, religious organization will not be left hanging interminably as they often have in under the 2005 decree. It is a big “if.”

Leaders and clergy on a short rope

Articles 14 through 26 of ND-92 include highly detailed and intrusive qualifications and provisions for clergy training, ordination, stripping of credentials, placement, change of placement, travel and so on. All of these matters are universally considered internal ones for religious organizations.

International travel by clergy and believers for religious reasons now requires permission from the central Government Committee of Religious Affairs in Hanoi, and full details of the meetings to be attended must be provided to the government. The government requires 25 working days to decide and reply. A Vietnamese religious person granted permission to travel abroad must report any change in status granted to them by the overseas organization, and must disclose the content of courses studied.

These requirements are new. If enforced, they will largely frustrate the regular international travel of the hundreds of Vietnamese Protestants who have in recent years been going abroad for religious meetings and conferences and training. This, one suspects, is the intention.

Religious activity confined to the four walls of a church

There is a strong, explicit theme in the decree trying to confine and limit “religious activity” to take place within the four walls of a church building. Most Protestants in Vietnam do not have church buildings.

Article 31 prescribes the times and conditions under which a religious congregation can ask for permission to conduct a religious activity outside a legal church establishment. If the activity involves anyone outside the membership, the authorities require 15 working days to consider a reply. Try to imagine attempting to organize the funeral of a prominent person which many from afar would like to attend, and which required more room than the local church building.

Foreigners and religion

Twenty-five working days are required for the Committee of Religious Affairs to consider a detailed request for foreign religious leaders to visit Vietnam to participate in a religious event. Same holds true for foreign students who want to study in Vietnam. Foreigners living in Vietnam may request permission to meet for religious worship only within in a church building, a reversal of the current practice in which some foreign congregations meet in homes, hotels or other buildings.

What others say


Trinh Viet Phuong has published an analysis of the new decree on the government-despised Dan Lam Bao (Citizen Journalist) website, often used by people with damaging inside information on Vietnam’s leaders, as well as sometimes by the Vietnam Catholic Committee for Justice and Peace. It states (translation mine): “This (new decree) is a very regressive document compared to the 2005 Decree, which itself had many shortcomings because it brazenly, unjustly and illogically inserts itself into internal religious affairs and seriously infringes on the basic human rights of our citizens. Most certainly it will cause much upheaval in society, and predictably will cause immeasurable social complications.”

Further, “It is a backward step in the implementation of religious freedom and must be widely denounced both in Vietnam and abroad”.


On Nov. 29, the International Buddhist Information Bureau published an article that notes a sharply increased role for the Ministry of Interior in overseeing religious activities, and that the Government Committee of Religious Affairs is now headed by Lt. Gen. Pham Dung, a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Public Security. The new decree retains the most restrictive provisions of the earlier Decree ND-22, the article says, “but it also adds new obligations and vaguely worded provisions that give authorities greater leeway to sanction and restrict religious activities.” The new decree is a backward step, the article concludes.


The website of the Vietnam Human Rights Committee published an article Dec. 19 by Protestant lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai, who is under restricted release following a prison sentence. Dai notes several significant internal contradictions in Decree ND-92. One is the new and severe limitation of religious practice during the 20-year probation period following the first registration of a congregation by its commune level peoples’ committees. He observes that only “religious worship meetings” (sinh hoat ton giao) are allowed, not “religious activities” or “operations” such as organizing religious events, conducting missionary work, internal organizational development, electing leaders, holding classes, repairing or renovating facilities, or conducting charitable activities.

Dai pessimistically concludes that “[t]he goal of Decree 92/2012 ND-CP is to completely abolish the organizational structure and religious operations of the Protestant denominations that were formed some 20 years ago and have not been registered according to Decree 22/2005 ND-CP.” This is a reference to the large house-church movement in Vietnam that began in 1988.

Government sources

Party and state media sources reported in January that the head of the government religious-affairs committee not only introduced Decree ND-92, but also proposed amendments to the Ordinance on Religion and Belief. It will be interesting to see what these are, given the direction of the new implementation decree.

Prominent in each of the official press accounts on the publication of ND-92 was the identical line: “Participants emphasized the corrupt use of religious and ethnic issues by hostile forces to sabotage the Vietnamese State.” This refers to Vietnam’s ongoing concern about the rapid growth of Protestant Christianity among ethnic minorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and Northwest Mountainous Region. Though the government now rarely uses “eliminate” language, it is very open in its intention to “contain” Christianity. As recently as Christmas 2012, officials in some ethnic areas brutally attempted to force recantations.


1 The message of such a transition has still has not reached some officials who continue to use the force of their authority to try to hinder the advance of Christian activity and even force recantations. Some cases of involving brutal attacks and actions against Protestants over Christmas 2012 in Hoa Binh and Dien Bien and the Central Highlands are being withheld from public advocacy to give local officials time to take action. Such incidents, less frequent than in the past, regrettably still occur.

2 From a Vietnamese language article on the evaluation of religion management in 2011 posted on website of the Government Committee on Religious Affairs in February 2012, since removed.

3 Article 8, Sub-point 2 of the ordinance reads “It is prohibited to abuse the freedom of religion and belief to undermine peace, national independence and unity, to incite violence or propagate wars, to propagandize against the States’ laws and policies, to divide the citizens, ethnic minorities or religions; to incite public disorder, or infringe upon life, dignity, honor and/or property of others, or to impede the exercise of civic duties and the performance of civic obligations, to conduct superstitious activities or other acts contrary to the law.”

4 Sub-point 5 of Article 3 of the ordinance defines “religious activities” as the propagation and practice of tenets, principles and rites and the management of religious organizations.

5 See Article 8. The Vietnam Assemblies of God is an interesting case. While most other groups in the past achieved legal recognition a year after achieving registration for religious activities, the Assemblies of God remains at loggerheads with the authorities over its organizational structure. It presented its constitution with its traditional structure involving an intermediate “district” level between the national headquarters and local congregations. This was verbally approved, but the government religious-affairs committee reneged and is now withholding the promised registration and has been trying for three years to dictate an internal church organizational structure.



Copyright 2013 World Watch Monitor

An Islamic Sudan may become a reality

(Cover photo by Bread For the World.
Story photo by Kids Alive International)

Sudan (MNN) ― Sudan is quietly slipping toward becoming an Islamist state. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he wants to adopt a "100 percent" Islamic constitution now that the South has split off.

Christians worry they won't be able to practice their faith--a concern that's been borne out in action by Sudan's recent crackdowns. Matt Parker, Vice President of Operations at Kids Alive International, says, "Although the government itself is saying there is religious freedom, really those are empty words."

Parker goes on to say that Kids Alive partners have shared stories this week about churches that have been destroyed, as well as a corresponding wave of arrests and deportations. "We do know of other Christian organizations in the area (in fact, I spoke to the director of another organization just this week) who have lost some of their key staff and are really concerned about what the future holds." What's more, "I've heard stories this week of offices of Christian organizations being broken into, raided. There are reports of orphanages and schools being closed."

Although officials strongly deny any discrimination against Christians, Parker says, "Christians in Sudan, churches, are very fearful about what the future holds, but there's very little reported in the media about this."

Bashir has been facing pressure from religious hardliners. The Sudan Tribune reports that a group of Islamists recently signed the "Islamic Dawn" charter that would establish Sharia law in Sudan. Further, the charter would ban any parties opposed to the move. The recent round of arrests might be an effort to appease these groups. Parker explains, "We've heard of people being arrested. We've heard of people being deported from the country for sharing about their faith. At the same time, there are Christians in Sudan that are committed to sharing the Good News."

Kids Alive International has a presence in Khartoum. "We have a program working with 30 former street children, providing them with quality care, residential care, based on the compound of a church." The staff, while not directly affected by the closures and arrests, are watching the situation closely, says Parker. "We're very aware that we may have a limited window of opportunity to be there, and we're committed to being there for as long as we can and making the most of this opportunity that we have to be witnesses for Christ."

The Kids Alive ministry is Christ-centered, focused on fulfilling the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of children. For now, they're still operating normally. "Be praying for churches. Be praying for Christian leaders in Khartoum, praying that God will strengthen them and give them wisdom in this situation."

Awareness is a big part of how you can help. Parker says because of the potential for disruption, "pray for our ministry and the 30 boys that we care for. Pray that these boys, each one of them, would grow up to be godly men."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eritrean campaign against churches continues

(Images courtesy Compass Direct News, Open Doors)

Eritrea (MNN) ― A mild tremor in Eritrea's façade rippled through the government last month.
A brief and quickly-ended coup attempt executed by dissident soldiers did little to provoke an uprising. It was over before it really began.

However, it did give rise to two thoughts: (1) the government was dealing with discontent, and (2) due to the heightened tension, anyone who fell outside the prescribed government lines was under scrutiny.

The latter was particularly true for Christians, who voiced expectation of a spike in harassment and oppression. True to form, the government obliged. Paul Estabrooks, Open Doors Minister-at-large, explains that on February 20, "Seven more believers were arrested. Three of them work for the telecom company, one is a university student, and there was one woman among the seven--a mother of five."

The government only allows Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical Lutheran churches. As to why Eritrea's government seems to focus on evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Estabrooks suggests, "For some reason--and it's suspected that it's to do with a perception of evangelical Christianity being aligned with America, the government has decided that it's illegal to worship in any [denomination] other than those three."

Open Doors partners say that officials arrived during office hours at the Eritrean Telecommunications Corporation and took into custody employees: Petros Araya, Aster Ghermay, and Ferewini Hagos.

At the same time, university student Daniel Mesfin, and another Christian--Samson Tekle, were both taken from their homes in the Mai-Temenai district northeast of Asmara. Open Doors has learned that these two men have both only recently come to faith in Christ.

Officials also collected Haile Gebremiskel Wodi Keshi from his home. He is married and the father of three. Azib Hadgu--a married woman and mother of five--was taken from her small store in Asmara.

Their well-being remains unknown, says Estabrooks. "We don't know where they're being held, or where they'll be moved to. They don't have enough prison cells in Eritrea for that many prisoners, so they keep them in shipping containers." Estimates are that there are 1500-3000 Christians being held this way.

Worse yet, the legal system isn't protecting the rights of the Christians, either. "There never is a court case in these situations. They don't have any chance to defend themselves, so they are simply charged with ‘worshipping outside prescribed church denominational facilities.'"

Sometimes, the detention is used to try to force a Christian to recant. Open Doors partners have shared reports in which survivors revealed the pressure they faced. "All these people have to do is sign a document that they will no longer be evangelical Christians, they'll no longer follow Jesus, and they'll be released immediately. 'Just sign the document, and you're free.' And yet, our brothers and sisters refuse to sign that document and remain in these terrible prison conditions."

The harsh treatment of Christians hasn't escaped notice. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has designated Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for several years. Systematic and ongoing religious freedom violations continue. The report says these violations include: torture or other ill-treatment of thousands of religious prisoners; arbitrary arrests and detentions without charges of members of unregistered religious groups; a prolonged ban on public religious activities; revocation of citizenship rights of Jehovah‘s Witnesses; interference in the internal affairs of registered religious groups; and inordinate delays in responding to registration applications from religious groups.

"Every time we hear about believers being taken to prison, we wonder with the Psalmist, 'How long O, Lord?' But the one comfort that we all have in the Lord is that the gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ and His Church.... We need to continue crying to the Lord for help. Our help comes from Him alone," commented an Open Doors source who remains anonymous for security reasons.

Estabrooks urges prayer for these Christians. "Ask God to bring justice to their situation and faithfulness to those who are finding themselves in these terrible prison situations in Eritrea." Also remember the 40 believers arrested since January 1.

Iran: Pastor Irani Still In Need Of Medical Assistance

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAROL STREAM, IL (ANS) -- Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that Pastor Behnam Irani, currently held in Ghezal Hesar prison in Iran, is now unable to walk and that medical assistance continues to be withheld despite his deteriorating health.

Pastor Behnam Irani
Pastor Irani has been losing weight for several months and has been unable to walk for the last week due to acute back pain. The pastor has trouble with his vision and last year suffered severe bleeding due to stomach ulcers and complications with his colon, which caused him to lose consciousness at one point. He was given tablets to stop the bleeding, but was denied further medical attention.

"There are concerns that given his critical condition, the pastor may die unless he receives appropriate medical treatment," said a spokesperson for CSW.

Behnam Irani pastors the Church of Iran congregation in Karaj. He was arrested in December 2006, and sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of "action against the state" and "action against the order." The verdict against him includes text that describes Pastor Irani as an apostate and reiterates that apostates "can be killed."

CSW says that "increasingly, the official charges brought against Iranian Christians are couched in political language, when in reality they are being arrested on account of their religion. As a prisoner convicted of political charges, Pastor Irani has no access to medical furlough or cultural activities, is subjected to regular inspections, and can only see his family once every two weeks."

During the first few months of his imprisonment in Ghezal Hesar Prison, Pastor Irani was held incommunicado in a small cell, where guards would repeatedly wake him from sleep as a form of psychological torture. He was moved into a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to a crowded, filthy cell, which he currently shares with 40 criminals, many of whom are violent. He has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure, and has sustained regular beatings from his cell mates and prison authorities, as well as death threats.

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "CSW remains deeply concerned at reports of Pastor Irani's declining health and we reiterate our call for the Iranian authorities to allow Pastor Irani to access appropriate medical treatment without further delay. CSW also urges the Iranian government to honor its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and facilitate Pastor Irani's unconditional release, along with all others currently detained or facing execution on account of their faith following flawed judicial processes."

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

Captive In Iran Memoir Tells True Story Of Two Iranian Women Imprisoned, Sentenced To Death, Miraculously Freed:

Insider Accounts of Human Rights Violations In Iran

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAROL STREAM, IL (ANS) -- "Captive in Iran," the dramatic memoir of Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, is the true story of two young Iranian women who were imprisoned at the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran and sentenced to death for spreading Christianity. It is set to release April 2, 2013 (ISBN 978-1-4143-7210-7, HC, $22.99, Tyndale Momentum).

Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh
According to Rostampour and Amirizadeh, Islamic laws in Iran forbid sharing Christian beliefs, and they knew they were putting their lives on the line.

Following seminary training in Turkey, these women moved back to their home country, Iran, and covertly began putting Farsi New Testaments into the hands of their countrymen.

Rostampour and Amirizadeh also started two secret house churches, one for young people and one for prostitutes-many of these women had been abandoned by their husbands and had no other way to support themselves and their children.

"We wrote stories in our book of many women whom were victims of the Iranian government, whose human rights were violated in Iranian prisons, especially in Evin," said Amirizadeh. "We are trying to show other nations what is going on in Iranian prisons, including tortures and executions, not just with political prisoners, but with all who are victims of injustice."
According to a news release from Quinn Public Relations, "Captive in Iran" also tells the story of how Rostampour and Amirizadeh had almost been caught many times and what seemed like divine intervention when they were not. But finally-perhaps inevitably-in 2009, the two young women were arrested and held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, a place where inmates are routinely tortured, and executions by hanging are swift and sudden.

Book cover

They were interrogated, intimidated by their captors, held in solitary confinement, and given a death sentence. However, instead of succumbing to fear, Rostampour and Amirizadeh chose to take the radical-and dangerous-step of sharing their faith inside the very prison meant to silence them. According to Rostampour and Amirizadeh, Evin prison became their church.

"The government tried to silence us by keeping us in prison," said Rostampour, "but we had more opportunities to share the message of Jesus with prisoners and even some guards. We got arrested because of our faith in Christ and evangelizing Christianity."

In "Captive in Iran," Rostampour and Amirizadeh recount how God used their 259 days in Evin Prison to bring about a miraculous reversal of their death sentence. Now American refugees, they have a passion to share the stories of the women they met, and ministered to, in prison. They want the world to understand the violations of human rights in Iranian prisons, and "show the power of God and how He helped us survive Evin prison."

About Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh:
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh were born into Muslim families in Iran. They met while studying Christian theology in Turkey in 2005, and realized they had become Christians at about the same time six years earlier. Deciding to join forces, they returned to Iran and began a program of mission outreach, handing out Farsi New Testaments and starting two house churches in their apartment, one for young people and the other for prostitutes. They extended their ministry with mission trips to India, South Korea and Turkey. In 2009 they were arrested in Tehran for promoting Christianity-a capital crime in Iran-and imprisoned for 259 days in the city's notorious Evin Prison. The official charges were apostasy, anti-government activity, and blasphemy, for which they were sentenced to execution by hanging. As many around the world prayed for their freedom, and as a result of international lobbying, Rostampour and Amirizadeh were released in 2009 and cleared of all charges the following year. After their release, they immigrated to the United States and now live in Atlanta.
About Tyndale Momentum:

Tyndale House Publishers, founded in 1962, is one of the largest privately-held Christian publishers of books, Bibles and digital media in the world. Tyndale Momentum, Tyndale's non-fiction imprint, is the publisher of many New York Times bestsellers and is known for integrity in building lasting personal relationships with authors and agents. Tyndale extends the ministry of its authors by contributing its dividends and a portion of its profits to the non-profit Tyndale Foundation, which makes grants to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world. Originally founded to publish the Living Bible, a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible that became a global publishing phenomenon, Tyndale now publishes the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT), the translation of choice for millions of people.

Pastor in Pakistan Released on Bail after "Mistaken" Blasphemy Accusation Complainant Withdraws Statement

Accused still faces charge, threat of violence

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Pakistani Christians rally in support of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced
 to death under blasphemy laws.
 Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- In a rare instance in Pakistan, a judge granted bail to a pastor accused of blaspheming Islam because the complainant admitted that he had mistakenly accused him, attorneys said.

 According to a story by Morning Star News, Karma Patras, a 55-year-old pastor of Bado Malhi, Sangla Hill, had been languishing in Sheikhupura District Jail since October after preaching on Christ's sacrifice at a funeral attended mainly by Christians.

Some Muslims present thought he was speaking against the Islamic animal slaughter ritual observed at the time, and Patras was confused when police showed up at his home later that day (Oct. 13) and arrested him on charges of defaming Islam.

Morning Star News said victims of false accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan usually spend months in jail without trial, and then many more months after conviction.

If charges are dismissed, it does not usually happen until cases reach appeal, as most trial judges cannot withstand the pressure of furious Islamic extremists. Retraction of an accusation is also rare in Pakistan.

"Patras' release is the rarest instance of a complainant in a blasphemy case retracting his statement," Morning Star News reported one attorney said.

Pakistan is nearly 96 percent Muslim, according to Operation World. Religiously charged court cases commonly involve clamoring crowds of Muslims and other pressures coming to bear on lawyers and judges. Christians make up 2.45 percent of the population.

After Patras' arrest, Muslim villagers forced his five married sons and their families to leave the area or be burned alive, an attorney told Morning Star News. They still do not dare to return to the village out of fear of attack.

Morning Star News said the complainant in Patras' case, Syed Zulqarnain Shah, stated on Feb. 21 in Sangla Hill Judicial Magisterial Court that he had mistakenly accused Patras of committing blasphemy against Islam, and that he would have no objection if the pastor were released on bail.

The public prosecutor argued that Patras could not be released on bail due to Shah's retraction because the state was now the complainant in the case, the attorney said.

Morning Star News said the judge rejected this argument, saying that Shah was still the main witness so his statement was of pivotal importance. That Shah is no longer the official complainant in the case is presumably why the charges were not dismissed in spite of his retraction.

Morning Star News said The Center for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the European Center for Law and Justice, is representing Patras in court.

Pastor's Arrest

Morning Star News said Patras had been invited to address a funeral gathering in the village of Mehmandwali, Chak No. 111-R-B, Sheikhupura, in Punjab Province, on Oct. 13. Preaching at the bereaved family's house, he spoke of Jesus Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection. Someone asked the pastor if Christians could offer animal sacrifice, the attorney said.

Patras replied that Christ had sacrificed Himself once for all. Quoting Isaiah 66:1-4, the pastor cited verses stating that God esteemed one "who is humble and contrite in spirit . But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man."

Morning Star News said a few hours after the pastor returned home, police arrived and arrested him.

"The pastor was unable to make sense of why he had been arrested," the attorney said. "He believes that he was charged under the anti-blasphemy laws because the area Muslims bore malice against the family where he had delivered the sermon."

Morning Star News said Saddar Sangla Hill Police Station charged Patras under Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code for "outraging religious feelings."

Conviction carries a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine.

Morning Star News said after Patras's arrest, a mob of Muslims surrounded the police station and demanded that he be handed over to them, but Patras had already been transferred to another site. Unable to get Patras, it was then that area Muslims told his five sons to leave the village or else they would be set on fire, the attorney said.

The Christian community in the village, about 20 families, wept for the evicted families as they loaded their belongings onto tractor trolleys, he said. Since leaving the village, the five families have scattered to nearby villages.

Likewise, Morning Star News said, despite being released from jail, the pastor is living in another area, separated from his family; he fears for his life, and he does not want to jeopardize them.

A recent study by the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) found that those acquitted of blasphemy charges face threats from homicidal vigilantes. Of 52 people murdered after being charged with blasphemy in Pakistan, 25 were Muslims, 15 were Christians, five were Ahmadis, one was Buddhist and one was Hindu, according to the CRSS report.

Morning Star News said Sangla Hill was the site of mob violence in Nov. 2005 after a Muslim accused Yousaf Masih of burning a Koran. Some 2,000 Muslims attacked four churches in the area. Masih was later acquitted after his accuser, Mohamed Saleem, admitted that he had not seen the Christian set fire to a building used to store copies of Islam's sacred book.

Area residents later said that Saleem had leveled blasphemy accusation after suffering heavy gambling losses to Masih.

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Deadly religous brawl erupts in Nigeria over soccer field

Nigeria (MNN) ― A weekend argument over a soccer field in Nigeria exploded into a free-for-all of violence between Muslims and Christians. 

There are differing news accounts of what happened, but most accounts agree that a Muslim and a Christian quarreled with each other on the field on February 23 in Wukari, northern Taraba State. Open Doors Minister-at-large Paul Estabrooks explains what happened next. "Essentially, the Muslim young person was able to get his hands on a gun, and he shot the young Christian that he was arguing with, which then started a whole conflict between the team and everyone around." 

Within minutes, the fight spiraled out of control. Estabrooks says various news accounts describe absolute mayhem. "The violence extended into the village and the town: 300 homes were burned. It's just incredible violence that occurred there that makes you shudder!"

Police say at the end, five people were dead, although the toll is expected to rise. As of Monday, the casualty list ranged from 20 to 30 victims. Aside from the loss of homes, places of worship also sustained damage. 

The explosion of violence unnerved authorities, and Estabrooks notes that it took very little to tip the scales after a Boko Haram attack on a Christian family in Abuja just two days prior. "It just shows us how deep the religious tensions are in that part of the world. It doesn't take much."

In that attack, military and government reports confirm that Muslim attackers used machetes and guns to murder 10 members of the same Christian family in Plateau state, with half of the victims under the age of six. 

The incident also highlights concerns that the violence won't be contained in the north. "What distresses me," says Estabrooks, "is that it's the young people of northern Nigeria who are the most restless about the violence and about the issues that the two religious groups face." 

What's more, the messages young people are hearing from their leaders are mixed, adding to the tension and confusion. Estabrooks explains: on the one hand, "there is one church leader in Nigeria who has a lot of influence, who says to the young people, ‘Jesus taught non-violence. We cannot respond to violence with violence. It's just not the biblical pattern.'"

On the other hand, "you have another leader who has possibly more influence with young people there who tells them, ‘We have turned the other cheek so many times, we have no more cheeks to turn. So it's time to take up arms and deal with this issue!'

Security forces on patrol. (Story photo by This Day)

"The whole area is just pulsing with antagonism to one another. It seems to me that it has to be even more than just religious differences." Estabrooks asks if there is a winner in this contest for the youth. "Being young and being very emotional when these things happen, you get this kind of conflict that's horrifying as the ultimate outcome."

The future is what's at stake, and the youth have a lot of energy that needs direction. Government efforts to protect Christians haven't been reassuring since the attacks continue. Much of the violence is blamed on the sect Boko Haram, whose name in Hausa means "Western education is sin." Their stated goals are to create an Islamic state, instill Sharia Law, and eradicate Christianity. 

Estabrooks says Christians in Nigeria need prayer for wisdom and grace. "We really need to pray for our brothers and sisters who live in that area of such high tensions, and that God would give them the ability to be peacemakers rather than respond to every little insult and let it erupt into violence that will just about destroy an entire community."

The Gospel message runs counter to the tit-for-tat that disintegrated into a melee Saturday. Estabrooks explains, "Jesus' teaching is a very attractive teaching to people of peace, love, and the ‘putting others before yourself.' But if we don't live it as Christians, no one else is going to accept it because they don't see it in reality."

Sixteen Die in Weekend Attacks on Mourners in Nigeria's Plateau and Kaduna States

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Photo Courtesy: The Nigerian Oracle
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Six people died and many others were injured when unknown gunmen attacked Aduwan Gida Village in the Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Southern Kaduna during the evening of Feb. 23.

According to a news release from human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the attack occurred at around 10pm, as villagers gathered to mourn the death of an elderly member of the community.

Armed assailants are reported to have fired indiscriminately for around ten minutes, and fatalities are said to include a nursing mother and her six-month-old baby. The injured are being treated in hospitals in Kaduna and Plateau States.

Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of Christian Solidarity Worldwide-Nigeria (CSW-N), said in the news release, "It is unfortunate that after the announcement of a ceasefire by elements of Boko Haram, we are still experiencing attacks resembling their style of operations. We ask for continuing prayers for Nigeria, and urge churches to be vigilant with regard to security, particularly as the Easter period approaches."

The attack on Aduwan Gida constitutes the second night attack on predominantly Christian villages in as many days, and follows a period of relative calm.

CSW said in neighboring Plateau State, ten members of the same family were hacked to death and two sustained gunshot wounds when unknown assailants stormed Kogwom Village in Vom district in Jos South LGA during the early hours of Feb. 22.

According to local reports, the family had lost a grandmother a few days earlier and family members were gathered at the family compound for her for her funeral. The injured are currently receiving treatment at an undisclosed location.

In both cases, CSW said, locals expressed anger at what they perceive as ineffectiveness on the part of security forces stationed in their respective areas.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in the news release, "We are saddened by these attacks on communities that were already in mourning, and send our heartfelt condolences to the relations and friends of those who died over the weekend in Plateau and Kaduna States. Given the long-standing nature of the threats against both areas, the security services should by now have formulated an effective means of defending villages and apprehending assailants."

He added, "We urge those responsible for security in these areas to formulate effective arrangements to secure the lives and properties of innocent citizens and to forestall the very real possibility of people taking the law into their own hands."

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information visit

Tanzanian Attacks against Christians Leave Believers Wary over Future

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) -- Three incident of violence against Christian ministers in Tanzania have left believers in the Eastern African nation concerned over the future of religious freedom.
Father Evaristus Mushi

According to a news release from Open Doors USA (, on Sunday, Feb. 17, gunmen shot and killed a Catholic priest on the island of Zanzibar. The gunman waited for Father Evaristus Mushi as he parked his car outside the St Joseph's parish, surrounded the car and killed him while he was still in the vehicle.

"He was about to celebrate the first Sunday mass of Lent. The attackers fled on a motorcycle. Islanders knew Fr. Mushi as a philanthropist and advocate of interfaith dialogue. Police say they have arrested three suspects in connection with the murder, but their motive remains unknown," said the release.

On Feb. 2, on mainland Tanzania, an Assemblies of God minister, Pastor Mathayo Kachili, was hacked to death in the Geita region when he intervened in an altercation between villagers over the slaughter of an animal. According to sources, there was a group of Muslims who had demanded immediate closure of butcheries owned by Christians.

As far as Open Doors could determine, the demand is based on a longstanding tradition, together with a local government directive, that gave Muslims the sole right to act as butchers. In this incident the church had a non-Muslim butcher prepare meat to be served at a funeral. When the Muslims heard about this, they went on a rampage against the church in which Pastor Kachili was killed.

This sign says it all
The release went on to say that on Dec. 26, 2012, Catholic priest Father Ambrose Mkenda sustained serious injuries when unknown gunmen shot at him. He says he was followed by two men on a motorcycle as he was returning to his parish in Tomondo after work.

The attackers shot him as he left his car. He sustained two bullet wounds, one to the cheek and one to the back. The gunmen then ransacked the rectory. Fr. Mkenda was rushed to a nearby hospital, but was later transferred to Dar es Salaam where he underwent surgery to extract the bullets.

Father Anthony Makunde, secretary general of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference, told a local newspaper, The Guardian, that the situation signaled a plot to destroy peace in the country.

"The situations on Zanzibar and in the northwestern town of Geita remain tense," added the Open Doors USA release.

Tanzania is ranked No. 24 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. The 2013 ranking was released in early January. Previously Tanzania was unranked. Islamic extremism is the main persecution dynamic for the country.

Tanzania is a Christian majority country with a very substantial Muslim population. But Zanzibar is 97 percent Muslim.
Prayer points from Open Doors:

1. Peace to prevail in the communities affected by the violence. Pray that the government would take decisive action in resolving issues pertinent to the incidents. 

2. Justice to prevail in all of these cases. 

3. The wife and several children as they mourn the death of Pastor Kachili. Also pray for his church members to be comforted during this time. Pray that others would be able to stand up and lead the congregation with wisdom.

4. God's comfort to all those affected by the death of Father Mushi. 

5. A speedy recovery for Father Mkenda.

For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians by supplying Bibles and Christian literature, training Christian leaders, facilitating social/economic projects and uniting believers in the West in prayer for Christians, who are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to their website