Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Weekend of violence in Egypt

St. Mark's Cathedral (Photos courtesy Wikipedia)

Egypt (MNN) ― Over the weekend, Egypt suffered its worst religious violence since President Morsi came to power last year.

Open Doors Minister-at-Large Paul Estabrooks says tensions had already built up. "In light of some violence that occurred just days before the weekend, there was a funeral at St. Mark's Cathedral--the Coptic orthodox cathedral--which is the home of the pope of the Coptic Church, the main cathedral for the Coptic Christian believers."

The four who were buried on April 7 had died in clashes with Muslims on April 4 in a town north of Cairo. That violence was allegedly sparked by accusations that local Christians had made offensive drawings on the wall of a local religious school.

Christians have been concerned about their situation in Egypt ever since the Arab Spring began about two years ago, says Estabrooks, adding, "It just kind of shows again that the ‘Arab Spring' has become a ‘Christian Winter.'"

Tempers flared when the funeral procession came out of the church. When it was over, Estabrooks says, "At least 80 people were wounded in these clashes, so there was obviously tremendous fighting. Six people had been killed in the violence over the weekend. It just shows that things are very challenging there."

Angry Christians say there is no protection for religious minorities. In fact, notes Estabrooks, "The Christians claim that the police actually sided with the anti-Christian demonstrators and actually fired tear gas into the church cathedral as all of this was happening."

In a conciliatory gesture, President Mohamed Morsi condemned the violence against Christians. "His quoted words were: ‘I consider any attack on the Cathedral as an attack on me, personally,'" says Estabrooks. However, the Muslim Brotherhood's political party blamed the Copts for the violence, claiming the Cathedral gathering was a preparation "for civil war."

Coptic Christians compose about 10% of Egypt's estimated 90 million people. Many fled in the early days of the Arab Spring. For those who remain, they face increasing economic and social challenges because of their Christian faith. Pray that they will see the Lord provide for their basic needs, displaying a witness of God's care to non-Christians.

Most importantly, Estabrooks comments, "Pray that God reveals to them how they should biblically respond to this challenge. It would be a great help for them." Ask God to strengthen and embolden Christians in this time of political uncertainty and give them new opportunities to share the Gospel.

Monday, April 8, 2013

North Korean tantrum

Prison camp, Gospel balloons
 (Photos courtesy Voice of the Martyrs-Canada)

North Korea (VOM/MNN) ― North Korea is setting a megaphone in front of the saber it's rattling.

On Friday, the North Korean government said it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassies after April 10, and suggested that Russia, China, and Great Britain consider evacuating their diplomats.

Tensions have been on the rise since the United Nations imposed harsher sanctions following Pyongyang's third nuclear test on Feb. 12. The rogue state expressed fury over ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises and threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. It also scrapped the Korean War armistice, began moving missiles, and restarted a plutonium reactor capable of producing more fuel for nuclear bombs.

One concern is that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, has something to prove. He's still tightening his grip on power and is something of a military unknown.

While the situation appears to be serious, governments are playing down the rhetoric from North Korea, assuming it represents yet another tantrum by a regime starving for attention, legitimacy, and economic aid. Spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton describes the typical pattern. "The world community makes some concessions. They deliver some food or they lower the sanctions or they deliver some oil, and the crisis magically goes away until the next time North Korea needs something."
Nettleton connected on Friday with their contacts working with North Korean Christians. According to them, "When North Korea needs something, when they need concessions, they create a crisis. They do a lot of saber rattling and a lot of press release about how terrible it's going to be for all the aggressors against them."

The situation is still fairly rhetorical. Nettleton says they're taking their cues from their national partners, some of whom are North Korean defectors. He goes on to say that because the poverty and hunger situation is desperate, it's unlikely the threats are little more than talk. He explains, "The surrounding nations are comfortable with the status quo. Maybe at times it's a little irritating, but it is seen as a better alternative than to see the regime fall and North Korea fall into complete chaos with those surrounding nations left to clean up the mess."

North Korea is the worst perpetrator of persecution against Christians in the world. Christians are tortured, imprisoned, and murdered. Private, non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to arrest, torture, or even public execution.

As many as 100,000 believers are thought to worship secretly. Possessing a Bible, saying the words God or Jesus, and meeting together are all offences punishable by death. VOM reports estimate that of the hundreds of thousands incarcerated in labor and concentration camps, about 30,000 are Christians.

Yet there are still requests for help. VOM supports Gospel radio broadcasts into North Korea and participates in balloon launches that carry the hope of Christ into the country. "Pray that North Korean Christians will remain faithful, that they will remain encouraged. The other thing we can pray is for the delivery of Gospel materials, for the these balloons, for these radio broadcasts, for other Gospel work that is going on into North Korea, that the Gospel message will get in there, that it will be received, and that there will be fruit."

Muslims Attack Christian Funeral in Egypt, 1 Killed, 23 Injured

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Thousands of Copts attended the funeral service held today (Sunday, April 7, 2013) at St Mark Cathedral in Cairo for the Coptic victims killed by Muslims on April 4 and 5 in al-Khosous, Qaliubiya. The service was attended by Christians from all denominations as well as Muslims.
Rooftop attackers seen in video clip

According to Mary Abdelmassih of the Assyrian International News Agency (, priests holding the service were unable to calm the Copts and at several times the service was interrupted by the wailing of the mothers of the victims, protests by angry Copts demanding retribution, and chants saying "no to the persecution and killing of Copts." Political chants dominated the scene, demanding President Morsi to "Go Away," and banners holding him responsible for the killing of Copts in al-Khosous were displayed.

After the funeral services ended, as coffins and attendants were leaving the cathedral, unidentified persons fired shots in front of the cathedral, she said. It was reported that clashes took place between Copts coming out of the Cathedral and Muslims in the area, and that Muslims were on roof tops of neighboring buildings firing at them (See video at:! )

Muslim activists who were present at the funeral, such as renowned activist Alaa Abdel Fatah, and the Maspero Coptic Youth Unions, among others, tried in vain to bring the Coptic youth inside the Cathedral to avoid a confrontation with the Muslim attackers.

"Fire broke out in one of the buildings inside the headquarters of the cathedral after Molotov cocktails were hurled at it. The fire was put out by the civil protection forces," said Abdelmassih. "24 Copts were injured and were transported to nearby Demerdash Hospital. One of Copts, Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim, died from gun shots wounds to the head and neck after reaching the hospital. Eye-witnesses reported there were no security forces guarding the Cathedral.

"After fighting broke out, Security forces arrived late and blocked several roads leading to the Cathedral. Security fired tear gas at the Papal residence and the Cathedral, which was filled with hundreds of mourners. Several NGOs received calls from mourners inside the cathedral, saying they were in great danger of suffocation."

The Free Egyptian Party condemned the attack on the coffins in front of the Cathedral as being "collusion." 

Mohamad Abu Hamad, former MP, accused the Muslim Brotherhood of shooting cartridges towards the petrol station neighboring the Cathedral.

Video (!) shows street fighting and houses neighboring St. Mark Cathedral burning.
Street fighting as cathedral burns (video clip)

The Council of Churches of Egypt condemned the attack on the cathedral of St. Mark, and said in its statement that attacks on places of worship are unacceptable. The statement called on state agencies to immediately intervene. Pope Tawadros II called on the need for "calm and the realization of the mind to maintain the safety of the nation, the lives and national unity."

Also father Dumas Fekry of St. Georges church in al-Khosous confirmed this morning that since yesterday evening there was gunfire near the church, without casualties.

"The Interior Ministry said in a statement issued this afternoon the funeral mourners were responsible for causing the clashes," added Abdelmassih.

"Late yesterday evening the head of Forensics examined Coptic bodies and reported that the four Copts killed at al-Khosous were shot by snipers from high places, based on the angle of the passing bullets."

500 Assyrians from Syria Flee to Turkey in Last Three Days

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

Syrians help an injured comrade as they flee from Syria after clashes between Syrian rebels and government soldiers in Rasulayn region, a few hundred meters from Turkey's Ceylanpinar (Photo: AAP)
TUR ABDIN, TURKEY (ANS) -- According to the Assyrian International News Agency ( some 500 Assyrians from Syria have crossed the border into Turkey in the past three days, seeking refuge from the war in Syria.

Assyrian church officials in Tur Abdin, Turkey, say that the refugees are now in Gazentap. The Assyrian churches and monasteries in Tur Abdin and its surroundings are at capacity. Church officials are now considering building a tent city to house the refugees.

"Assyrians and other Christians in Syria have been disproportionately affected by the war, and have been targeted by the Muslims rebels," said the AINA story.

"The Muslim Jihadists have kidnapped Assyrians for ransom, attacked places of worship and created a climate of fear, forcing many Assyrians to abandon their homes and villages and seek safety in Turkey.
Suad Malki and her three sons (Photo: Jubilee Campaign)

The case of Suad Malki, they are reporting, is a "typical example." In July of 2011 her husband, Dr. Staefo Malki, was sitting in his car, in Hassaka, when two Muslims approached and told him to remove the 

Holy Cross from his car. He refused. The Muslims shot him. Dr. Malki died later in the hospital. But the trouble for the Malki family was not over. The Muslims telephoned his grief stricken wife and told her that they would kill her three sons if they did not leave.

Swedish journalist Nuri Kino, is reporting: "Even though Christians make up more than 10 percent of Syria's population, this amount is not reflected in the UNCHR registered refugees numbers who fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

"The mostly ignored tragedy of the Christians in Iraq has convinced Christians of Syria that international authorities will not step up to protect them. While their plight is well known to the western media outlets they still are forgotten by international aid organizations. They are fleeing massively."

Nuri Kino's comprehensive 40-page report is available at 

Ten Christians, 1 Muslim Killed in Sectarian Clashes in Egypt

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted Friday in the Al-Khosous district of Qaliubia province.

Coptic Christians (background) form human shield
in front of church.
According to a story by Mary Abdelmassih for the Assyrian Internal News Agency (AINA), reports say ten Coptic Christians and one Muslim were killed. The violence broke out after swastikas were drawn on the side of a mosque wall.

AINA reported Muslims claimed the swastikas were drawn by Christian children, but the Qaliubia security forces manager, Mohamad Yousry , said it was two Muslim children who drew the swastikas and the mosque Imam chided them.

However, AINA said, some Christians and Muslims got involved in the incident and it escalated from there.

Yousry added that rumors of Christians drawing crosses on the mosque's walls were circulated by Muslims.

AINA said Salafi Muslims began gathering in side streets near the Coptic Church of St. Georges. Christians formed a human shield to prevent them from approaching. Witnesses said the Muslims shot at the church and disappeared into the side streets.

AINA said according to Father Sourial Younan, the priest of St. Georges Church, the Copts were killed in front of the church by gun shots.

AINA reported that pastors in Al-Khosous called several TV stations and NGOs early Friday evening to express their fear that if this incidents was not confined it would spread to neighboring areas, including Ain Shams and Zoreibat. Younan warned of impending bloodshed.

AINA reported Younan said he was locked inside the church with another priest and 50 Copts and stayed inside until the early hours of today.

"It was as if war had broken out. We peeped through the windows and saw Coptic youth slain in front of the church, and families carrying their wounded away."

AINA said Younan criticized the police, who arrived two hours late, and security forces, who he said arrived five hours late.

Younan said, "Destruction and arson took place in the presence of police, who were unable to control the attack."

AINA reported Younan said that later there was an armored vehicle calling on inhabitants to stay in their homes so that they could deal with the terrorists.

There was street fighting throughout the night.

AINA said according to Coptic activist Nader Shoukry, these events were encouraged by the neighboring Muslim religious institution, which belongs to Al-Azhar, to "purify the region of Christians."

According to Younan, there was a feud between a Coptic family named Samir Iskandar and a Muslim family, which may have been the spark that caused the violence. AINA said Younan believes that what started yesterday's clashes was Muslims from the family sexually harassing Coptic girls from the Iskandar family - which started the fight between them.

Younan said, "A fight between two families. What has this to do with the church?"

However, AINA said, many activists and politicians believe the incident was orchestrated by the regime to cover up the turmoil and demonstrations in the country.

Mohamad Abu Hamed, a former MP, said "It is not possible that every time the regime wants to cover-up its failure, the Copts are attacked and their churches burned."

AINA said while the governor and security forces claim everything is under control, Younan believes it is "the calm before the storm."

It has been reported that Christian families have started leaving Al-Khosour for fear of renewed clashes.

AINA reported security forces say they are in the process of arranging a "reconciliation" meeting between the two parties.

Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub said, "During which the Copts are expected to give up all their rights as usual."

Christian Protestors Tortured in Egypt as Opposition to Brotherhood Mounts

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAIRO (ANS) -- A mosque in Cairo has been occupied by radical Islamic militias and turned into a torture chamber for demonstrators against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood is mounting. (Via Barnabas Aid/Hany Fakhry)

Officials at the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque reported the takeover to the police. 

According to a news release from Barnabas Aid. It occurred after Friday prayers March 22.

Demonstrators, including Christians and moderate Muslims, were then rounded up from the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters and taken to the mosque, where they were tortured for hours.

Barnabas Aid reported that one of the victims, Amir Ayad, a Christian, said he was severely beaten before being left for dead at the side of the road. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken arm, bleeding in his right eye and pellet wounds.

Mosque officials expressed regret for what happened, saying that they "had lost control over the mosque at the time."

Barnabas Aid said their statement also "denounced and condemned the violence and involving mosques in political conflicts."

President Mohammed Morsi is becoming increasingly unpopular in Egypt, and there have been numerous demonstrations against his rule, which opponents have labeled autocratic. And as protests have intensified, Barnabas Aid reported, so have efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood to clamp down on dissenters.
Christians, moderate Muslims and secular liberals are increasingly concerned about the Islamisation of the country.

Barnabas Aid said last month, hundreds of moderate imams staged a protest lasting for several days in front of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. It was against the Muslim Brotherhood's control of the country's mosques. Dozens of imams have been replaced by Islamist preachers, while those who do not adhere to hard-line teachings are punished and marginalised.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has taken sole responsibility for the appointment of imams; previously it was shared with the country's leading Islamic university, Al-Azhar. It also controls the allocation of funds to mosques, charitable Islamic organizations and groups involved in spreading Islam.

Barnabas Aid said the moderate imams have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of politicizing the mosques, and using them for a propaganda campaign to bolster support for the government in the face of mounting opposition.

Barnabas Aid provides assistance to the persecuted church. To learn more, go to

Nigerian Pastor, Family Narrowly Escape Village's Easter Carnage

Suspected Fulani Muslims shoot indiscriminately in ethnic Attakar areas

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

ATTAKAR, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Morning Star News (, is reporting that the Rev. John Dakwat and his wife were at work in a back corner of their church building when they heard gunshots - just one in a series of attacks that killed at least 26 Christians in the border area between two states during Holy Week.

The Rev. John Dakwat in the ruins
of his church building 
(Morning Star News photo)
Dakwat, who identified the assailants as Muslim, ethnic Fulani herdsmen, managed to hide behind the church building with his wife. From there they were able to escape, he believes, because God kept the gunmen from seeing them.

He also notes that his children - and he and his wife - likely survived because the kids were in school at the time. Many of the predominantly Christian, ethnic Attakar victims of the attacks on villages along the border of Plateau and Kaduna states were either children or the elderly.

Pastor of a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation in Kirim village, Plateau state, Dakwat told Morning Star News that on March 28 at about 8 a.m., Fulani Muslims suddenly appeared in the village after pouring in from the nearby rocky hills, shooting and killing anyone they found. Dakwat and his wife were able to observe from their hiding place in the surrounding foliage.

"It was a helpless situation, as no Christians had any weapon to fight back," he said. "Women, children, and the elderly who were not able to escape were shot and killed. Fortunately, all my children are in school, so this made it easier for our escape from the Muslim attackers. We sneaked away in the midst of the confusion and trekked for more than 20 kilometers [12 miles] to find a place to stay."

In his report on the attack to COCIN leaders, he stated: "I thank God for blinding their eyes. I was just standing at the edge of the church building, and from there I escaped with my wife. While I was standing from a far distance, they set fire on my house and the church."

Morning Stars News Nigeria correspondent said that Dakwat returned to Kirim village four days later, only after security agents finally intervened. By then, at least 26 Christians from 12 villages on each side of the border had been killed, he said. The death toll could be much higher, as Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported 17 ethnic Attakar killed in Zilang, nine killed in Mafang, one slain in Mifi and one in Attakar on Saturday and Sunday (March 30-31) alone.

Interior of Kirim village Church of Christ of Nigeria building after attack(Morning Star News photo)
Christian leaders reported the destruction of eight area church buildings, 234 homes and the displacement of more than 1,500 Christians.

The attacks went on for three days without any response by Nigerian security forces, church leaders in the affected areas told Morning Star News. Gunfire on the settlements of the predominantly Christian Attakar ethnic group were finally brought to a halt on Easter Sunday (March 31).

Dakwat, 34, said he lost everything he had - including all his theological books, clothing, household items and food - in the fires set to his house and the building for his 250-member congregation.
"I lost everything I have ever had, but thank God I and my family are all alive," he said.

Prior to the onslaught, villagers had heard gunshots at about 3 a.m. in the hills on the border between the two states, Dakwat said.

"There was panic in the village, since we did not know what was happening," he said in Bum village, where has taken refuge. "But the Fulani herdsmen living among us told us that the shooting was coming from their colleagues who had gone to the other side of the rocky hills to take their cattle for grazing, and that they were now returning. So, the assurances from the Fulanis living among us made us to relax, believing that all was well."

Pastor John Dakwat's burnt house (Photo: Morning Star News)
The pastor said he later learned that the Fulani assailants had killed two Christians on the Kaduna side of the border, and that Christian villagers - though likely unarmed, as most are peasant farmers who can ill-afford guns - pursued them to the Plateau state side. From there, he said, the Fulani Muslims decided to invade the Christian villages.

"Apart from destroying homes, the Fulani herdsmen blocked all escape routes and were shooting and killing Christians," Dakwat said. "There is a point at a Railway Crossing at Tinariya where they blocked the road and killed innocent Christian villagers who had gone to the market at Ganawuri and were returning."

Identity of Killers

A Fulani leader in Kaduna state's Kaura district, Ibrahim Sulaiman Abdullahi, chairman of the state chapter of the Miyyeti Allah, reportedly denied that Fulani herdsmen were responsible for attacks in the border area, saying, "We have co-existed peacefully despite our ethno-religious differences, and we continue to wonder who is behind this mayhem in order to continue to incite us against each other."

The Morning Star News correspondent went on to say, "Islamic extremist groups have increasingly incited Fulani Muslims to attack Christian areas, and witnesses for some of the attacks reportedly said the assailants' faces were covered and that they carried sophisticated weapons.

Fulani herdsmen on a rampage
"Christians fear that Fulani herdsmen, with backing from Islamic extremist groups, want to take over the predominantly Christian areas in order to acquire land for grazing, stockpile arms and expand Islamic territory."

There were several reports of violence between Muslims and Christians in other areas of Kaduna and Plateau states in the two weeks before Easter, but the chairman of the COCIN Regional Church Council said there were no Christian reprisals related to the Attakar massacres.

"It is not true that Christians carried out any reprisal attacks on the Fulanis," the Rev. Saleh Mabweh Mangai told Morning Star News. "If you go to the affected villages, you'll see Fulani herdsmen moving about with their cattle. The claims of reprisal attack are false, and it is the usual way Muslims in Nigeria use false information to deceive the world about happenings in this country."

He appealed to the Nigerian government to step up efforts to curtail violence against Christians in northern Nigeria. Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million and live mainly in the south, while Muslims account for 45 percent and reside primarily in the north, according to Operation World. Besides hit-and-run attacks by Fulani Muslims, Christians in Nigeria have also been targeted by the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group in its effort to destabilize the government and impose sharia (Islamic law) nationwide.

Kobobin John, church secretary of a COCIN congregation in Attakar, identified some of the Christians killed in the 12 villages as Markus Awai, 70; Linus, 25; Andi Shakarau, 80; Markus Abba, 42; Godiya Abok, 90; Mafan Boyi, 25; and Henry Avong, 25. According to Dakwat, also killed were Mary Lutu, 50; Ayang Musa, 55; Ezekiel Nkut, 12; Babbie Nkut, 15; and Kushit Nkut, 7.

Among those injured, Dakwat identified Zakka Ishaku, 34, and Baba Anthony, 48. John, who spoke to Morning Star News in one of the camps of displaced Christians at Zangang village in Kaduna State, further identified some injured Christians: Zakka Abong, 38; Jonathan Ishaya, 32; Christiana Istifanus, 2; Mary Stephen, 25; and Anthony Bajo, 52.

Dakwat told Morning Star News that 13 Christians in Kaduna state villages and 13 in Plateau state villages were killed in the attacks. In the past decade, the border area has become a target of attacks from both Muslim terrorists and armed Muslim herdsmen, he said.

The 12 affected villages in both states were Kirim, Uchan, Zilang, Bubwat, Mafang, Zadiyen, Telak, Mayit, Bassat, Tingamagwai, Dugrak, and Chicham. Two COCIN church buildings in Kirim and Uchan were burned; four Anglican church buildings were ruined by fire in Zadiyen, Telak, Dugrat and Mayit; and in Tingamagwai, one building of the Evangelical Church Winning All and one Catholic church building were set ablaze.

"We request prayers for, and extend our condolences to, the families of all those who lost their lives during the tragic events of last week," said the Rev. Yunusa Nmadu, head of Christian Solidarity Worldwide-Nigeria.

Azerbaijan: Heavy Fines Follow Police Raids and Confiscations

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

Azneft Square in downtown Baku, Azerbaijan,
named after historical Azneft (AzOil) trust
ALIABAD, AZERBAIJAN (ANS) -- A judge in Azerbaijan (officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, the largest country in the Caucasus region located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe), has handed out exorbitant fines to two Baptist pastors for their activities.

According to Felix Corley of Forum 18 News Service (, Judge Imanverdi Shukurov in Zakatala fined two Baptists, Pastor Zaur Balaev and Hinayat Shabanova, more than a year's average local wages for a manual worker to punish them for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.

"I can't pay this amount," Shabanova told Forum 18 from Aliabad on April 4 while Balaev, who is caring at home for his sick wife, Nunuka, said, "I am worrying over how I will find this money."

Balaev went on to say, "I am not intending to appeal against the fine, as what I was sentenced for I did. There's no point. I would rather take the State Committee to court for refusing to register us for so many years."

Balaev fears that - as a community that has been denied legal status - it will no longer be possible for the Baptists to meet for worship without risk of further punishment. Like other local Protestants, he said the church would like to be able to celebrate Easter on May 5 (which is the date they normally celebrate the resurrection of Christ in their country).

Fines follow raids

Corley sated that the fines were imposed in the wake of raids on the Balaev and Shabanov family homes in Aliabad on November 7, 2012. Police warned those present that meeting for religious worship without registration is "illegal".

They seized religious literature - including Bibles - in Azeri, Russian and Georgian (The Balaevs and the Shabanovs are from the local Georgian-speaking minority). Balaev and his wife were away at the time, as she was seeking cancer treatment in Moscow.

Corley went on to say that Judge Shukurov, as well as the local police chief and the local official of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, refused to discuss the fines with Forum 18. Balaev and Shabanova's husband have both served prison sentences for their faith and their church has been denied legal status for nearly two decades - an Azerbaijani record.

Pastor Balaev has already served a prison term for his faith. Shabanova's husband - Pastor Hamid Shabanov - has similarly been imprisoned.

Bible censorship

Corley said that among the many religious communities facing State Committee obstruction to receiving religious literature is Azerbaijan's Baptist Union. Its head, Pastor Ilya Zenchenko, wrote a letter of protest to State Committee chair Elshad Iskenderov in mid-March after the State Committee rejected his application to import 3,500 copies of the Bible in Azeri. They would authorize only 1,000 copies, Zenchenko complained to Forum 18.

Zenchenko insisted to the State Committee that Azerbaijan's Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but he says they merely repeated their insistence on allowing only 1,000 copies. He also complained that he filed his request with the State Committee in late 2012 and had to wait three months for a response.