Friday, May 24, 2013

Accusations could carry serious consequences for believers

In Sudan, an Islamic leader is telling
the government to take action against
 Christians who share the Good News. (Image courtesy Open Doors)
Sudan (MNN) ― An Islamic leader is telling Sudan's government to take action against Christians.

Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, slammed his government last week for not taking decisive action against Christian missionaries, who he claims were operating "boldly" in Sudan.

According to independent media agency The Sudan Tribune, Saleh appealed to local authorities and the community to take a stand against "Christianisation" and find a long-term solution to what he views as a massive problem.

He says his government's efforts in this regard are timid compared to missionaries' efforts and claims 109 people have converted from Islam to Christianity in Khartoum. Saleh says these figures are growing in a "continuous" and "scary" fashion.

Dykstra says there are two sides to this coin.

"The bad news is that he wants to put more pressure on the government and the army to crack down on the Christians there," he explains. "But the good news is that many there are coming to Christ."

Despite persecution, Open Doors is seeing the Body of Christ in Sudan grow.

"It's been difficult for them obviously, but they are growing in numbers," states Dykstra.

In addition, a member of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Adam Mudawi, claims the NCP has information indicating that the Orthodox Church in Ombadda is hiding a large cache of weapons.

Mudawi also accuses the church of exploiting poor people by giving them financial support and assistance if they convert to Christianity.

According to Open Doors, Sudanese Christians have seen a dramatic increase in pressure over the past few months. Churches are being forced to close, and foreign workers are being kicked out of the country.

Given this tense atmosphere, Mudawi's accusations may have serious consequences for Christians in Sudan.

"We need to pray for Christians, especially those that are being marginalized around Khartoum," says Dykstra. "We also need to pray that there will be peace."

To help Sudanese Christians cope with growing persecution, Open Doors recently held two Standing Strong Through the Storm seminars. These seminars teach Christians how to relate to persecution and how to pray for one another.

A total of 13 different denominations were represented at the two seminars.

"The focus was to advance church unity, and many of the people who attended really appreciated the seminars," Dykstra says.

"It was a blessing that nobody was targeted or they weren't broken up."

Persecution in Sudan has moved the country from #16 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List to #12 in 2013.

Keep praying for Christ-followers in Sudan. Pray that their faith will remain strong. Praythat  the Gospel goes forth no matter what.

Pastor Arrested in Iran as Farsi Language Church Contemplates Closure

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Rev. Robert Asserian, a pastor at the Central Assemblies of God (AoG) Church in Tehran, was arrested this week while conducting a prayer meeting at the church.

Human rights agency Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a news release it has also received reports that the church may be forced to close by the end of June due to continued pressure from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

CSW said security forces are reported to have raided Asserian's house and confiscated some of his belongings, including his computer and books. They then made their way to the church, where Asserian was leading a prayer meeting. He was arrested and taken to an unknown location.

CSW said the Iranian human rights organization Article 18 reported that on May 19, church leaders informed the congregation that they would soon make an important decision about the future of the church.

A local source said, "The pressure has become unbearable, they (the authorities) constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this."

A final decision is expected later this week.

CSW s aid pressure on Iranian Christians has intensified in recent years, with churches and their members being targeted. The AoG Church in Tehran was one of few churches that offered services in Farsi. In 2009, it was ordered to end Farsi services on Friday, a day off for Iranians, and only permitted to hold services in Farsi on Sundays.

However, sources have confirmed that the Iranian authorities have now ordered the ending of Farsi services on Sunday, giving church leaders the option of conducting Sunday services in Armenian or facing closure. CSW said this news has caused church leaders to evaluate their options, with serious consideration being given to closure.

CSW's Advocacy Director, Andrew Johnston, said in a news release, "We are deeply concerned for the welfare of Rev. Asserian and urge the authorities to make his whereabouts known. The continued and sustained pressure by the Iranian regime on churches in Tehran has boxed them into a corner to such an extent that they can no longer function."

He added, "W e renew our call for the Iranian government to honor its national and international obligations, in particular Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of religion or belief, and the right, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

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

For further information, visit

Persecution in Kazakhstan

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- A Protestant pastor in Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana has been imprisoned.

According to a story by Felix Corley for Forum 18 News Service, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev faces criminal charges of harming health.

On May 19 he was ordered held for two months pre-trial detention.

Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Eastern Europe.

Kashkumbayev, who leads Grace Church in Astana, was arrested on May 17, church members told Forum 18. Astana Police told the local media on May 18 that Kashkumbayev was taken to the city's Temporary Isolation Prison.

Forum 18 said police added that Kashkumbayev's charges carry a punishment of restrictions on freedom, or imprisonment of between three and seven years. They said the criminal case had been opened in Oct. 2012 "for causing considerable harm to the psychological health" of a church member.

In Oct. 2012, Forum 18 reported, after raiding the church, detaining and questioning members, and taking literature and money, police told the local media that the alleged "harm" was caused by church members being "g iven hallucinogens to drink."

Forum 18 said the alleged "hallucinogens" were local red tea used as a non-alcoholic communion wine.

Forum 18 added that police questioning at that time ranged far beyond the alleged "harm" they were reportedly investigating.

Forum 18 said prosecutors have long been seeking to punish the leaders of Grace Church, but their reasoning remains unclear.

In addition, Forum 18 reported, Baptist leader Aleksei Asetov was jailed for three days in early May, for refusing to pay a fine equivalent to 18 months' average local wages. The fine was levied for meeting for worship without state permission.

He told Forum 18 he will not pay the fine, as he should not be punished for meeting for worship with his friends.

In other news, imprisoned atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov remains under investigation in a psychiatric hospital in the commercial capital of Almaty.

Forum 18 reported that Yevgeni Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law said "the case is even more urgent as the man is not only in pre-trial detention, but now undergoing forcible psychiatric examination."

For more information about Forum 18, go to

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bangladesh — Islamist protest leaders arrested in wake of Dhaka siege

Prime Minister claims opposition used Islamist demands to destabilise government

Cattle market in Dhaka, pictured in 2008.
(W Jackson for World Watch Monitor)
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on May 17 alleged that the opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was responsible for a conspiracy to topple the government from power, using recent violent protests which have rocked Bangladesh, led by Hefazat-e-Islam.

“The opposition party tried to use Hefazat (the pan-Islamic umbrella organisation) to get into power, but if there’s public support and people stand beside us, no conspiracy can work, [whether] national or international,” she said.

But a senior BNP leader alleged that her decision to ‘ban’ political rallies in Dhaka for the next month is a ploy to prepare the ground for imposing a state of emergency.

“They have banned rallies and meetings to repress the opposition. All they are left with is to impose a state of emergency,” MK Anwar said on Monday 20 May as Sheikh Hasina’s decision ran into stiff criticism even from within her own ruling Awami League.

A spokesman for Hefazat-e-Islam (Protectorate of Islam) has pledged a halt in its mass protests, but continues to accuse Christian missionaries of “targeting” poor people and “putting pressure on them to be converted”.

In the wake of the arrest of three Hefazat leaders on Sunday (May 19), Maulana Ashraf Ali Nizampuri told World Watch Monitor the Islamic group had “no plans” for further protests.

“Many of our leaders have been arrested and a ripple of fear of arrest is passing through our leaders, so we [already] postponed a country-wide strike planned for May 12,” he said.

The three Hefazat leaders arrested on May 19 were charged with murder, theft and possession of explosives, after the group led a siege of the capital Dhaka on May 5, during which at least 11 people were killed.

US-based Human Rights Watch said on May 11 the precise number of deaths was “unclear, with figures ranging from the official government figure of 22 deaths nationally to Hefazat’s estimate of thousands”. Independent news sources estimated the number killed as approximately 50, including several law enforcers.

In April, Hefazat activists had organised the country’s largest political gathering in decades to publish a 13-point charter of demands, including the introduction of a blasphemy law to punish those who desecrate Islam and its prophet Muhammad.

Four bloggers were arrested in April for allegedly writing defamatory and anti-Islamic elements in their blogs. According to existing Bangladeshi law, anyone convicted of defaming a religion on the Internet can be jailed for up to 10 years.

The issue of blogging had become an issue after a group of online activists took to Dhaka’s streets in February to demand the death penalty for the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh), Abdul Kader Mullah. He had been given a verdict of life imprisonment on February 5 for committing mass murder, rape, looting, and other crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s war of liberation against Pakistan in 1971.

Tens of thousands protested in the area of Shahbagh in central Dhaka, considering this (one of three possible verdicts) too lenient. They demanded that all war criminals should be given the highest punishment: a death sentence.

Before the Dhaka siege, Sheikh Hasina had clarified the government’s position on the banning of religious conversion and the other demands of Hefazat.

“Everybody in Bangladesh has religious freedom,” Hasina said, addressing a press conference at her official residence the night before the siege.

The Bangladesh constitution says that every citizen has the right to “profess, practice and propagate” any religion, and that every religious community and denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

However, Hasina said that forcefully converting people from one religion to another is an offence punishable by law and she promised that the government was monitoring the actions of foreign organisations.

“The law enforcers are keeping watch on NGOs [non-governmental organisations] that are allegedly converting people by taking the advantage of poor people,” said Hasina.

Nevertheless, despite promising no more mass protests, Nizampuri of Hefazat-e-Islam continues to accuse Christian missionaries of “targeting” poor people and offering them money to “pressure them” into changing religion.

“Most Christian missionaries are converting people by offering money among the poor people to give them a leg-up,” he said. “Once the poor people take money, the missionaries put pressure on them to be converted. That is why we are protesting – to stop missionaries converting [people].”

However, Bangladeshi pastor James Saberio Karmoker said Hefazat’s accusations were only propaganda.

“Christian missionaries are not converting people forcibly,” said Rev. Karmoker, who is general secretary of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh.

“It is Hefazat propaganda. Conversion is not an event in which missionaries give money and people are converted. It is a long process. When faith in Christ grows in people through a long process of propagation, when they proclaim to have faith in Christ, only then do we go through the formalities of conversion. Conversion cannot be done forcefully; otherwise there would be a riot.”

Sheikh Hasina has been leading a secular government in the Muslim-majority country since 2009.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) removed Bangladesh from its Watch List after the convincing victory of Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League in the 2008 general election. Her centre-left party is considered to promote secular policies and to be favourable towards the rights of minorities. Hasina’s announcement to implement reforms for religious freedom was another reason Bangladesh was removed from the Watch List.

Of Bangladesh’s 152.5 million people (UN, 2012), Muslims comprise around 88% with the remaining percentage a mix of Christian (1%), Buddhist and Hindu.

Nigeria adds curfew to state of emergency

(Cover photo: Boko Haram. Story photo:
Burned out homes. Images courtesy Christian Aid Mission)
Nigeria (MNN) ― Nigeria's military is striking back against the insurgency of the Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has battled the government since 2009 in an effort to impose Islamic law on majority-Muslim northern Nigeria. It's been a bloody fight. More than 3,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, including hundreds in government counter-insurgency operations.

With the recent uptick in violence, the military imposed a 24-hour curfew in 11 parts of the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the home base of the Boko Haram.

A state of emergency is also currently in force in Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno states. Brittany Tedesco is the Africa Director for Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. She explains, "The curfew is from 6 in the morning till 6 in the evening. That, as you can imagine, is really affecting their work."

On Friday, U..S Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Nigerian army to show restraint and not violate human rights as it pursues the militants. However, the rebels are not so circumspect.

Christian Aid-supported Missionary Crusaders Ministries in Nigeria have had to respond to the constant threat. Ministry leader Gabriel Barau writes, "In as much as our missionaries remain committed to sharing Christ with the unreached, we need your prayers and support." Just last month, says Tedesco, "Terrorists set fire to three of the homes/mission bases of the missionaries that [Barau] is working with."

Discouragement is one major challenge. Fear is another. The attacks were personal. "The missionaries are currently staying at the mission school of missions until [Barau] can provide accommodation for them. On top of that, there's the follow-up and the discipleship that he provides to new believers."

Barau is scrambling to get the survivors of the fire resettled, Tedesco adds. "Thanks to help of our donors, Christian Aid was able to send some funds to rebuild these homes/mission bases.
Each simple home, which doubles as a place for cell group meetings and discipleship of new converts, costs $3,500. The need is especially urgent now as the rainy season is about to begin and will halt construction.

Since 1983, Barau has trained and sent out missionaries to share Christ with the unreached of Nigeria. The ministry has grown, in spite of the harassment and persecution coming from the Boko Haram. Despite being targeted, prayer cover has been their mainstay. Tedesco says, "None of these missionaries have been harmed. There are 183 missionaries working with this ministry. None of them has been harmed or killed."

Many of their mission fields are located in the country's Muslim northern region, where the majority of Boko Haram attacks have occurred. However, Tedesco says, "This ministry is committed to moving forward despite the danger that they're in right now. They've reached two new tribes with the Gospel."

Safety IS a concern. Christian Aid has been working closely with this ministry to help them relocate their headquarters. "The headquarters office that they're renting is located in Adamawa state, where Boko Haram has been striking repeatedly." The project has been a long time in coming when the risk of attack is imminent.

Still, God has been faithful. Tedesco says, "We are in the home stretch, praise the Lord! Right now, all we need is the windows, the doors, and flooring." The team will move into this office as soon as the roofing is completed.

Please pray for wisdom for Gabriel Barau as he leads the work of Missionary Crusaders Ministries, and pray that terrorized Nigerians will experience a return to peace in their homeland. "Continue to pray for the Lord's hand on this ministry, to give discernment to the ministry leader as to how to move forward in the safest possible way, and also just for protection for these brave missionaries who are risking it all to remain on their fields."

Iranian Christians face 'systematic persecution and prosecution'

Iran’s human rights record questioned in run-up to June elections

by Steve Dew-Jones

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani greets his wife Fatemah
 after his release from prison in September 2012.
Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with some damning verdicts on the country’s human rights record.

Reports from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) cite evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution” of Protestants and Christian converts, as part of a widespread violation of international laws.

As national elections draw near (voters go to the polls on June 14), Iran is under increasing international pressure to improve its human rights record or face continued sanctions – sanctions ICHRI says are impacting the welfare of the Iranian people.

In its April report, A Growing Crisis: The Impact of Sanctions and Regime Policies on Iranians' Economic and Social Rights, ICHRI says that, rather than damaging the Iranian regime, sanctions resulting from Iran’s nuclear program have “brought about a severe deterioration in the ability of the Iranian people to pursue their economic and social rights”.

'Systematic persecution'

Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, noted in September 2012 that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, while at least 41 were detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in February that Iran “refuted” the UN’s claim of an increase in discrimination towards religious minorities, claiming “all people of Iran regardless of their religion or ethnicity enjoy equal citizenship rights”.

However, ICHRI’s January report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, based on interviews with 31 Iranian Christians between April 2011 and July 2012, claims that, “despite the Iranian government’s assertions that it respects the rights of its recognised religious minorities, the Christian community in Iran faces systematic state persecution and discrimination”.

This view is supported by Mansour Borji, advocacy officer for human rights initiative Article18.

“Sometimes the phrase ‘systematic persecution’ is used so loosely that it sounds like a cliché. However, in the case of Iran's persecution of Christians, it fits the criteria,” Borji told World Watch Monitor.

“Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, severe restrictions on worship services in Farsi language, a ban on the publication of Bibles and Christian literature in Farsi, threats and harassment of evangelical church leaders, and continued attempts to confiscate church properties – these are all pieces in the puzzle.

“In a nutshell, there is a systematic attempt to deprive churches of membership, literature, leadership training and development, communion with other Christians around the world, and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the international covenants that Iran is a signatory of.”

Christians in Iran

The Cost of Faith states that Iranian Protestants face the “most severe” restrictions on religious practice and association, through “arbitrary” arrests and detentions, state execution and extrajudicial killings.

The number of Christians in Iran was recorded by the World Christian Database in 2010 as fewer than 300,000 (0.36% of the population). “Ethnic Christians” from predominantly Armenian (100,940) or Assyrian (74,000) descent comprised the majority of this figure, while 25% (fewer than 70,000) were Protestants, the bulk of which are understood to be converts from Muslim backgrounds.

It is impossible to know the precise number of Christians in Iran due to the perils of professing a Christian faith (particularly for those from Muslim backgrounds), but the figure seems likely to be significantly larger than recorded. Some Christian organisations, such as Iranian Christians International, claim the number of converts alone could be as high as 500,000.

Many Christians in Iran attend underground house churches, which have grown in popularity since 2001. ICHRI attributes this to “growing repression”.

“Theoretically, Protestants, along with Armenians and Assyrians, are among the Christians recognised in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. In practice however, they have been persecuted and discriminated against, and have faced significantly more aggressive government restrictions and human rights abuses than ethnic Christian groups,” states The Cost of Faith.

Freedom of religion

Iran fails to comply with a number of laws set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to ICHRI, including Article 18, which obligates all countries to safeguard freedom of religion.

In a speech to mark the launch of the UK’s FCO report in April, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all citizens have certain “unalienable rights”, which are “universal” and not an attempt to spread Western values. These rights, he said, include freedom of religion.

The report states that this freedom is “broad” and “encompasses not only the freedom to hold a belief but also the freedom to share it”.

Iran’s appreciation of this freedom comes under serious scrutiny in both reports through a number of examples of Christians in Iran who have been arrested and detained, “often without fair trial or legal representation” (FCO).

Last September’s release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, is hailed in the FCO report as a “rare positive outcome following sustained pressure from the international community”.

However, Alistair Burt, FCO Minister with responsibility for Iran, said the arrest “should not have taken place” and called on Iran to “respect the religious freedom of its citizens”.

Pastor Nadarkhani was re-arrested on Christmas Day, but released on January 7. In March, photographs of a man being hanged were attributed as evidence of the pastor’s death, but these were later refuted.

A number of other Iranian Christians remain in what the UK’s FCO labels “harsh conditions” in prison, including Pastor Behnam Irani, who is said to be in ill health; Farshid Fathi, who after 15 months in detention was sentenced last year to six years in prison; and Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born American pastor who in January was jailed for eight years.

After his incarceration, Abedini’s wife Naghmeh Shariat Panahi told World Watch Monitor that she feared she wouldn’t hear her husband’s voice for the duration of his imprisonment unless the international community fought for his release.

The Cost of Faith claims the bulk of arrests of Iranian Christians are “arbitrary” and political, rather than because of any crime committed.

The most common charges, according to the report, include “propaganda against the regime”, “acting against national security”, “contact with a foreign enemy or anti-regime group” and “colluding with enemy foreigners”.

Iranian law

Apostasy remains “uncodified” in the Iranian constitution, which according to the The Cost of Faith creates a loophole that could lead to the legal prosecution of Christian converts.

“The Iranian constitution explicitly instructs judges to utilize Islamic legal sources where crimes and punishments are not covered by the code, leaving the door open for the continued practice of relying on jurisprudence that holds apostasy to be a capital crime,” ICHRI stated.

In his latest report in March, the UN Special Rapporteur called on Iran to improve its human rights record by putting a stop to “continued widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights”, including discrimination against Christians.

“Christians should not face sanctions for manifesting and practising their faith,” said Dr. Shaheed. “Christians are reportedly being arrested and prosecuted on vaguely-worded national security crimes for exercising their beliefs, and the right of Iranians to choose their faith is increasingly at risk.

“Christian interviewees consistently report being targeted by authorities for promoting their faith, participating in informal house-churches with majority convert congregations, allowing converts to join their church services and congregations, and/or converting from Islam. A majority of interviewees that identified themselves as converts reported that they were threatened with criminal charges for apostasy while in custody, and a number of others reported that they were asked to sign documents pledging to cease their church activities in order to gain release.”

Letters for persecuted, orphaned teen

Hernan and one of his sisters
(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)
Colombia (MNN) ― A teenage boy, Hernan, and his siblings face an unknown future because their parents wouldn’t back down from sharing Christ.

Two years ago, Hernan’s father was ministering God’s love to the people of Colombia, and many came to know Christ.

When Colombian rebels tried to recruit new believers to their cause, they were turned down. The rebel group saw Hernan’s father and his ministry as a threat, so they killed him.

After Hernan’s father died, his mother carried on the ministry. The rebels were still angered and killed her on January 7 this year.

Hernan at the time was not a Christian and wanted to take revenge on the rebels who killed his parents. But Open Doors USA worked with Hernan in their program for the persecuted church. Hernan’s heart was changed, he accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized.

Currently, Hernan is in charge of his two younger sisters: Rosmy, 9, and Jaqueline, 7. They temporarily live with their older brother and an aunt and uncle.

One month after their mother’s death, the kids were visited by Open Doors staff. The staff told Hernan, “We’ve come to learn what your needs are and to tell you that Christians all over the world know your names and are praying for you.”

“I give thanks from the bottom of my heart to know this,” Hernán said. “My little sisters are going through a particularly difficult time.”

Open Doors wants to uplift Hernan and his siblings especially as they try to figure out future unknowns. You can write a letter of encouragement to Hernan through Open Doors. Click here to learn more.

Please pray for Hernan and his family. Pray for their faith to grow in Christ and for their witness.

China: Tight State Controls on Religious Education

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CHINA (ANS) -- China does not allow religious communities to run schools for children, even though regulations do not forbid the provision of religious education to minors. Nor is religious education provided in state schools.
China schoolchildren busy studying

According to Magda Hornemann of Forum 18 News Service (, for students beyond school age, only state-approved religious groups affiliated with China's five state-backed monopoly faiths are allowed to apply to set up institutions for the study of their faith or training of clergy.

"Such rights extend only to the five state-sponsored faith structures, for Buddhism, Taoism, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity and Islam. Individuals are implicitly excluded from founding religious educational establishments, whether on a profit or not-for-profit basis," said Hornemann.

"Religious groups not officially permitted by the state - including the Vatican-loyal Catholic Church, unregistered Protestant house churches, or those that are slightly tolerated - including Protestant denominations like Seventh-day Adventists which maintain some self-identity within the state-approved Protestant body, or the tiny Chinese Orthodox Church - have no possibility for formal religious education.

"Restrictions are especially tight in Tibet and Xinjiang. The state limits the number of such institutions and their size. Establishing new colleges is cumbersome and long drawn out, even when successful."

Hornemann stated that their curricula must include "politics" and "patriotic" education, as defined by the state.
"The state also discourages religious activity on general university campuses. These restrictions reflect the authoritarian state's desire to control religious groups, including by intervening in the training of their leaders and the level of education of their members," Hornemann concluded.

For analyses of other aspects of freedom of religion and belief in China, see:  .

Boko Haram 'on verge of seizing control of Borno State' after pastor’s death

President’s 'state of emergency' decree fails to stop murder of Borno State CAN Secretary

Rev. Faye Pama Musa, CAN Secretary for Borno,
was killed in his home by suspected Boko Haram members.
Borno State in Northern Nigeria has been teetering on the brink of a takeover by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, warned its Governor, Kassim Shettima, a few days before the declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan of a “state of emergency” in Borno and two neighbouring provinces.

The President’s declaration on Tuesday (May 14), which also applies to Yobe and Adamawa States in the country’s troubled North East region, was followed shortly after by the murder of the Secretary in Borno of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Faye Pama Musa.

Musa, head of REME Assembly in Maiduguri (the Borno State capital) and Chairman of the state’s Pentecostal Fellowship, was reportedly shot at close range by two suspected Boko Haram members in his house, in the presence of his daughter, who pleaded with them to spare her father’s life.

A few days before, Borno's Governor Kassim Shettima had briefed visiting Senators and military advisers in a confidential security meeting on May 7, and warned them Boko Haram was close to seizing power in the state.  

Shettima also said: “Underneath the mayhem of Boko Haram, beneath the madness lies the underlying cause, which is extreme poverty and destitution which have permeated all spectrums of our society.

“Only and until we address some of these issues, believe me, the future is very bleak for all of us as the current crisis is just an appetizer of things to come. Very soon the youths of this country will be chasing us away.”

Reuters quoted Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi as saying: "What the governor said was frightening. He informed us there is a possibility that this state will be taken over by Boko Haram ... that they have the ability to do whatever they wanted here. I had thought Boko Haram had been subdued to some extent."

On May 14, CAN Chairman in the state, Reverend Titus Pona, who confirmed Musa’s death, said the Christian community in the state capital last week received a death threat from an unknown group to kill or kidnap a pastor, but it was dismissed.

“We never thought that the rumour could turn out to be true, and we’d told the Governor that our area was safe,” Pona told reporters in Maiduguri.

“Of course, there were no killings around this area before and where I am living has also been seen as safe, until they started killing people again. It is very unfortunate that they came to attack an innocent man.

“Our prayer and hope is that the amnesty declared by the President would help to fish out [those responsible] and bring them to justice for the innocent lives they have taken.”

The Governor promised in a condolence message to CAN that the perpetrators would be brought to justice and that Musa’s family would be provided for.

President Jonathan has announced a 'state of emergency' in Borno.
The National President of CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor, and Rev Felix Omobude of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, condemned Musa’s murder and called for improved security following Shettima’s admission that Boko Haram were on the verge of seizing control of the state.

Oritsejafor called for the dissolution of the committee created by the federal government to negotiate with Boko Haram and other violent groups in the country, saying “no reasonable agreements can be reached with terrorists”.

President Jonathan announced controversially last month that an amnesty was being considered with Boko Haram.
Christian organizations and leaders responded almost universally negatively to this idea.

"Why should they be given amnesty?” said Rev. Joshua Ray Mains, Bauchi State Secretary. “Are we congratulating them for the people they have sent to their early graves, or are we encouraging them to continue with their acts so that other groups can take advantage of the amnesty and continue to disrupt the peace of the country?"

However, Bishop Matthew Kukah, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, supported the amnesty, saying in his Easter message it would bring the country closer to a new dawn.

“To reject amnesty is to place oneself at the same level as these miscreants,” he said. “An offer of amnesty is not the same as a declaration of amnesty. An offer of amnesty brings the penitent to the table as a first step. Amnesty is a process, not a destination. The offer of amnesty will not solve all our problems, but it will bring us closer to a new dawn.”

The declaration of emergency across the three states, and the resulting mass deployment of military has been welcomed by many groups in the country.

However, the Progressive Governors’ Forum had earlier “implored Mr. President to be consistent with the combination of dialogue and mediation which he has already set in motion, and [hold back from] action on the planned declaration of State of Emergency in the affected states, which we believe would be counter-productive”.

Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Kill Christian Leader in Borno State, Nigeria

Pastor had refused to leave, saying God had called him to his people

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

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Gunmen believed to be members of the deadly Islamic extremist Boko Haram group yesterday (Tuesday, May 14, 2013) killed the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, secretary of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). He was 47.

The Rev. Faye Pama Musa, slain at his home by suspected Islamic extremists on Tuesday (May 14) (Photo courtesy of CAN)
According to the Nigeria correspondent of Morning Star News (, the gunmen reportedly followed the long-time Christian leader from his church building, where he was holding an evening Bible study, to his house in the Government Reservation Area in Maiduguri, and shot him dead there, said the Rev. Titus Dama Pona, chairman of CAN's Borno chapter.

"Rev. Faye Pama was killed last light," Pona said this morning by phone from Maiduguri, the state capital. "I am right now with his family, and they are still consulting on what next to do."

Morning Star News went on to say that the assailants reportedly dragged the pastor from his home and shot him outside, in front of this daughter, who had followed them out pleading for his life. Pama was the father of three children.

Senior pastor of a Pentecostal church, Rhema Assembly, Pama often spoke out against persecution of Christians in Borno state, epicenter of Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria. He had been involved in ministry leadership for more than 26 years.
Boko Haram continues its suspected killing
spree in Nigeria

"The shooting happened within an hour of President Goodluck Jonathan declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, allowing the government to send more troops and take other special measures to try curbing violence by Boko Haram," said the Morning Star Nigeria correspondent.

"The group has reportedly killed more than 4,000 persons since 2009, and the state of emergency comes after a gun battle between the military and Boko Haram in Baga, Borno state last month that some say took more than 100 civilian lives.

In a 2007 interview, Pama had said that he would not leave Borno state in spite of the danger to his ministry and life from Islamic extremists.

"I am an indigene of Borno state, and God has called me to work among my people," he said. "I believe that the best people who reach a people with the gospel are those who understand the culture of these people."
Pama believed that only by showing love to Muslims could they be won to Christ, "and not through fighting."
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan speaks to the media during a visit to This Day newspaper in Abuja April 28 (Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

An outspoken critic of the marginalization of and discrimination against Christians, Pama began preaching first with a Pentecostal ministry in Maiduguri, the Word of God Mission, in 1996, before he left to start Agape Ministries and planted Rhema Assembly, which has an associate pastor and about 200 members.

He once served as secretary of Borno state's chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.

"President Jonathan had also imposed a state of emergency in 2011 on 15 areas within four states in embattled northern Nigeria, with little success. Boko Haram, which the Borno governor says threatens to take control of the state, seeks to destabilize the federal government in an effort to impose strict sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria," said the Morning Star News correspondent.

"Boko Haram has attacked Christians particularly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, destroying Christian-owned businesses as well as harming churches. Many Christians have fled as displaced persons or become refugees in Cameroon."

Suspected members of the Islamic extremist group also attacked a police barracks on the outskirts of Bama Town, Borno state early on Sunday (May 12), according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (

CSW reported that insurgents arrived shouting "Allahu Akbar [God is greater]" before launching explosives and fuel bombs, and the army dispersed them before lives were lost. The previous week, according to CSW, some 200 Islamic militants attacked Bama Town, killing 47 people.

Lebanese Man Gets 300 lashes, 6 years for Helping Woman Convert to Christianity

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SAUDI ARABIA (ANS) -- A Lebanese man was sentenced to 300 lashes with a whip and six years in prison for his role in helping a Saudi woman convert to Christianity and flee the Saudi kingdom.

According to a story by Benjamin Weinthal for, the court in the Eastern Saudi city of Khobar -- located on the coast of the Persian Gulf -- also sentenced a Saudi man to two years in prison and 200 lashes. He had helped the young woman named Maryam -- dubbed "the girl of Khobar" -- in her escape to Sweden to secure asylum.

Maryam, whose case has been closely followed in Saudi Arabia, criticized Saudi Arabia's Sunni monarchy for instilling in her a hatred of Judaism and Christianity, according to the English-language Saudi Gazette. The Jeddah-based paper wrote that she "fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity." reported that the two men, who worked with Maryam at an insurance company, were arrested last July following a complaint filed by the woman's father, according to reports. The lawyer for Maryam's family, Hmood al-Khalidi, expressed satisfaction with the severe punishments.

Maryam, who last year appeared in a YouTube video and proclaimed her conversion to Chri stianity, embraced Christianity after dreaming about climbing to the sky and hearing God say that Jesus is his son, according to the Gazette.

However, reported, her fervent faith did not go over well in her homeland, which has been singled out for its intolerance of religious beliefs other than Islam. said Saudi Arabia's failure to guarantee religious freedom in its closed society prompted the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its new report to cite the Gulf monarchy ruled by the 88-year-old King Abdullah as a "country of particular concern" because of its ongoing violations of religious freedom. said the ongoing persecution of Christians and lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia has also triggered sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

"Until all people have the freedom to choose and practice their religion, we have an obligation to speak out for the voiceless and to develop policies that protect these communities, " Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., co-chair of the Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East, told

The shocking punishments came as President Obama's Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook, departed for Saudi Arabia. reported that Rep Joe R. Pitts, R-Pa., a member of the Helsinki Commission and Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, said the Obama administration should speak up for Maryam, as well as the men convicted of guiding her on her spiritual path.

"Freedom of religion is an internationally recognized human right," Pitts said. "The Obama administration should speak out on this case and urge the Saudis to release these two men."

Aaron W. Jensen, a spokesperson for the Bureau Of Democracy Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. State Department, told, "We are seeking information about these reports. And if confirmed, they are very concerning."

He added, "On freedom of expression and freedom of religion, which includes the right to change one's religion, are fundamental human rights enshrined in the universal of declaration of rights. We strongly oppose laws that curb the peaceful exercise of these freedoms."

Jensen continued, "We continue to engage the Saudis at the highest levels to resolve these cases and to press for equal treatment in law and practice of all religious groups." reported that multiple telephone calls and emails to Nail Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Arabian Embassy spokesman in Washington, were not returned. Lebanon's Ambassador to the U.S. Antoine Chedid did not immediately respond to a query.

Lebanon's foreign affairs minister, Adnan Mansour, told the publication NOW that the case was "personal and not political," and was waiting for more information from the Lebanese Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

"There is zero tolerance for any non-Muslim religions in Saudi Arabia," Nina Shea, the director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told

Shea, a lea ding expert on the persecution of Christians, added Saudi "imams promote the destruction and humiliation of Christians and Jews" during their services in the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina.

Shea, a co-author of the recently released, "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians," said a menu of penalties are available to the State Department, including economic sanctions in an attempt to change Saudi intolerance. Shea said the U.S. government has thus far exempted Saudi Arabia from punitive measures because of the oil trade.

"Religious freedom has not been a priority in the United States' bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia, and, as a consequence, the U.S. government has not held the Saudis to account for reforms that would substantially improve conditions on the ground," Dwight Bashir, deputy director for policy at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told

He added, "Since 2004, the United States has designated Saudi Arabia a severe violator of religious freedom, yet the U .S. government has waived any punitive action that such a designation mandates. Until the U.S. government lifts this waiver and prioritizes religious freedom in its relationship, you can expect limitations and abuses to continue."

Human Rights Leader Majed El Shafie Announces Successful Rescue of Victims of Religious Persecution in Afghanistan

TORONTO, May 15, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- On Tuesday evening, One Free World International founder Majed El Shafie met with Dr. Andrew Bennett, Ambassador to the Office of Religious Freedom, to announce the successful rescue of Shoaib and Najiba Assadullah from Afghanistan, where Shoaib endured unspeakable torture while in Nahar-e-Shahi Prison, where he was routinely sexually assaulted during his incarceration - leading to extensive physical injuries.

El Shafie brought Shoaib to the meeting at the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service office in Toronto, where he shared his firsthand account of religious persecution in Afghanistan after being arrested for leading an underground Christian church.

One Free World International arranged their escape from Afghanistan to India and in July 2012, El Shafie traveled to India and brought them to Canada. They are now safe and ready to tell their story.

"Sadly, Shoaib and Najiba's story is far from unique," said El Shafie. "While they now live in the peace and security of Canada, many other Christian converts like them are being hunted and persecuted by their own government in Afghanistan. I appreciate the Ambassador's willingness to hear Shoaib's story. We must be a voice for the voiceless and demand that this persecution stop."

El Shafie will be testifying in the near future about this case before the House Subcommittee of International Human Rights. El Shafie, who himself was arrested, tortured and sentenced to die in Egypt for defending human rights and fighting for freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, is seeking accountability and awareness for women's rights, child abuse and the persecution of minorities in Afghanistan and around the world.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Northern Nigeria under State of Emergency

Story photo courtesy World Watch Monitor)

Nigeria (ODM/MNN) ― Open Doors USA has issued an urgent appeal for prayer after receiving news that suspected Boko Haram terrorists attacked the predominantly Nigerian Christian village of Zangan in southern Kaduna around midnight on Monday.It was the latest in a string of attacks that prompted a State of Emergency.

Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra says they're still trying to determine the details of what happened, but so far, "Open Doors says it understands an ‘entire village' has been destroyed: burnt down, many people are fleeing after the attack."

The village chief's residence was reportedly burnt to the ground, and the village chief's whereabouts remains unknown after he fled Zangan. Churches and homes were among the buildings destroyed in the attack.

Dykstra says this attack came after an earlier threat and days of uncertainty. "The report that we got from Open Doors in Africa said that they had been threatened before by the Boko Haram. They were living in fear almost daily. In that area, many schools have been closed down because of that."

"We do not have any more details at this stage, but we understand that this area saw a similar attack about four weeks ago. Open Doors urges prayer for the people of southern Kaduna state and Zangan village in particular." Police say 19 people died in that earlier attack.

Open Doors has been active in Nigeria since 1997. Over the last few years, "The Boko Haram actually wants to take over the whole country and put into effect Sharia Law," explains Dykstra. Their attacks--which are estimated to have cost 3,600 lives since 2009--have included suicide blasts as well as coordinated gun and bomb assaults on houses of worship, Christian centers, security forces, schools and other symbols of authority. All that means the Open Doors response teams have seen dramatic growth in the outreach they do.

With the Boko Haram targeting church leaders and Christian adults, that leaves an untold number of orphans and widows. Open Doors projects target schooling for the children, as well as socio-economic projects for widows of Christian leaders who have been killed. Dykstra adds, "We support the Christians there in emergency situations with trauma counseling. We do a lot of care for Muslim-Background Believers, distribution of Bibles, Sunday school training, assistance to Christians in Sharia-controlled States in the North."

Nigeria is ranked No. 13 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List ( ) of the worst persecutors of Christians in the world.

It's unlikely that this pattern will change much. Aside from the physical help, Dyskstra says Nigerian believers are asking for wisdom in their response. "I think we need to pray for Christians not to strike back. The Christian leaders are urging--especially the youth--not to retaliate. That would kind of just recycle this pattern of violence."

'Brazen' attacks continue in Egypt

Christian Aid Mission supports Gospel work in Egypt.

Egypt (MNN) ― The sounds of firing guns and the accompanying shouts and screams have become commonplace background noise for a ministry leader and his wife supported by Christian Aid Mission.

"We just dream of peace and a stable situation, but each day is worse than the day before," reports the leader. "People die each day in our blood-covered streets. We try to distract our children from the noise of gunshots that constantly ring out."

Though they, along with their missionary coworkers, have been spared from harm thus far, they live and work with the idea that every day could be their last.

"They want to get rid of us Christians in any way possible. Maybe tomorrow they will burn our home, or kidnap, or attack us."

Throughout the horror that has unfolded since the election of the Muslim Brotherhood and the new Islamist-backed constitution in December 2012, the ministry leader has provided glimpses into his world, turned completely upside-down.

Brittany Tedesco, Africa Director of Christian Aid, your link to indigenous missions, says attacks against Christians are unprecedented. "They're very brazen. We're talking women being raped in broad daylight, men being attacked, or the homes of Christians being ransacked. And really, they have no recourse."

Tedesco says even the police, who work for the Muslim Brotherhood, are part of the persecution effort against believers. Often it is the victim of an attack who is arrested.

As part of the Islamic regime's radical control of Egypt, nearly all independent media outlets have been shut down, and concerted efforts are being made to essentially dispose of the judiciary system.

As their country darkens, tens of thousands of Egyptian Christians have fled the nation. Yet the ministry leader and his co-workers are determined to remain, taking every opportunity to share Christ with the hurting and confused masses.

Attending the frequent political gatherings and protests in Egypt's public squares, the missionaries start conversations and distribute gospel literature. They have successfully attracted university students to the discipleship and missions training sessions they hold two to three times per year, depending upon financial resources.
In addition, the ministry's evangelical parties have proven highly effective in attracting Copts (nominal Orthodox Christians) to hear the true gospel message.

Beginning as an outreach to Muslims and Copts in 2005, the ministry has continued to expand its outreach with help from Christian Aid. To date, these native missionaries have led more than a thousand Egyptians to Christ, taking care to provide solid discipleship to new believers. Dozens of home churches have formed each year since the ministry's inception due to the consistent effort of these gospel workers to build God's kingdom in Egypt.

Prayer requests:
Pray for protection for the ministry workers and their families.
Pray for wisdom, guidance, and increased opportunities for the workers to share Christ with the lost in Egypt.
Pray for financial resources to cover the increasing costs of personal and ministry expenses in a country suffering from rampant inflation.

Christian Aid Mission has a missionary sponsorship program. Tadesco says, "Sponsorships start at $50 a month. To get behind them financially would just be a huge encouragement to their work."

Central African Republic (CAR): Siezed by Muslim Rebels

-- an urgent call for prayer for the church in Central African Republic

By Elizabeth Kendal
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 210 
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- As the rebel army, Seleka, advanced towards Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), CAR President François Bozizé appealed to France (the colonial power) and the US for help.

However, this was to no avail, even though French troops were already in the country. Desperate for support, Bozizé appealed to South African president Jacob Zuma, who did send troops. But on 23 March, after fierce fighting, Seleka defeated the South African Defence Force, paving the way for the rebels to enter Bangui onSunday 24 March unhindered. Seleka then embarked on a campaign of raping, killing, looting and pillaging.

Micopax, the European Union-funded peace-keeping force in CAR, has made no effort to engage the rebels.

International Crisis Group (ICG) finds this 'disturbing' and wonders if Micopax has been instructed to stand aside. 

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 'One of the first targets was the Bangui Cathedral, where Seleka rebels entered the church, fired in the air, and robbed the wors hippers.' Something HRW and ICG both fail to mention is that whereas CAR is a French-speaking, mostly Christian country (76 percent Christian according to Operation World), the rebels who have seized power are Arabic-speaking Muslims.

The rebels, who claim to be liberating CAR from the dictator Bozizé, hail from the Vakaga district, a poor, remote north-east region of CAR bordering Chad and Sudan. Vakaga is the only part of the CAR where Arabic is the common language and Islam the dominant religion. Despite their poverty, the rebels entered Bangui wearing brand new military uniforms, driving brand new pickups and brandishing brand new weapons. Amongst them were janjaweed (Arab militiamen) from Darfur, Sudan, and jihadis from Mali and Northern Nigeria. In a FIDES press release, Church leaders in CAR denounce 'a rebellion characterised by religious extremism'. They describe a systematic and 'planned desecration and destruction of religious Christian buildings, and in particular the Catholic and Protestant churches'. They lament the heavy price the Church is paying, with churches destroyed and 'priests and religious women' attacked.

Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga has written a courageous letter to the self-proclaimed new president, rebel leader Michel Djotodia, listing Seleka's crimes: 'threats, terror, and psychological torture . . . rape of young girls and women, some of whom have committed suicide [and] recruitment of child soldiers'. Observing that Seleka consists 'largely of foreign Muslims and some from the nation', the prelate notes that 'the Muslim population [in Bangui] was largely spared looting', and asks, 'What are the real intentions of this movement against our Christian institutions?' According to one missionary's blog, hospitals and charities have all been looted. 'Rebels do not save anybody or anything,' she writes, 'except for mosques and Muslim traders, who buy the stolen property from them.'

The questions arising out of this crisis are enormous and ugly. Who is funding and equipping Seleka and with what aim? Why did France no t intervene in CAR, when it intervened in Ivory Coast (to support Islamic rebels) and in Mali (to fight Islamic rebels)? Why is the US refusing to send aid? Why did the EU-funded Micopax not protect CAR civilians as it is paid to do? 

In early 2011, Ivory Coast's president Laurent Gbagbo -- who believed in advancing African rather than Western interests -- found himself the victim of regime change at the hands of Islamic forces backed by Western powers pursuing Western 'interests'. Could the same be happening in CAR? President Bozizé had recently signed oil concessions over to Chinese and South African companies. Soon after proclaiming himself president, rebel leader Michel Djotodia promised to 'sort out' CAR's mining and oil contracts. If these contracts are handed to Western powers, then we will have most of our answers. Meanwhile, Seleka has seized control of CAR's extensive diamond industry. The global body of Chr ist must stand united, demanding truth -- no matter how unpalatable -- and justice. She must speak up for the Church in CAR and remember them in prayer as they have to navigate this crisis.

  • God will shine light into the darkness so that truth will be revealed; may the Lord himself bring justice, righteousness and liberty to CAR. (Habakkuk 2:6b-14)
'The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.' (Psalm 33:13-15 NLT)
  • the body of Christ in the world will stand as one against greed, megalomania, violence, deceit, repression and all manner of evil presently at work in CAR. 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (John 1:5 ESV)
  • the Holy Spirit will draw CAR's C hristians to himself, gracing them with faith and prayer, comfort and peace. May he bless, protect and sustain all those who put their faith in him. (Romans 8:31-39)


On 24 March a rebel army named Seleka seized control of Bangui, capital of Central African Republic (CAR), in an orgy of killing, raping and looting. The rebels are from the Vakaga district, a poor, remote north-east region of CAR bordering Chad and Sudan. Whilst CAR is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian, Vakaga is Arabic-speaking and Muslim. The 'poor' rebels are very well armed and amongst them are gunmen from Darfur, Sudan, and jihadis from Mali and Northern Nigeria. Churches have been destroyed and looted and Christian workers attacked, while the Muslim community of Bangui has been spared. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia has proc laimed himself president. EU peacekeepers did not engage the rebels. French forces (though present) and the US refused to help. Please pray for the Church in CAR.
To view this RLPB with all hyperlinks or to access RLPB and RLM archives, visit the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog

VHP leads mob to destroy Indian church

Government officials stand by as walls come down

India news briefs for March/April 2013

Members of Divya Jyoti Church were too late to
stop a mob from knocking down their building.

On March 12 in a southeast India village, the local newspaper published allegations that Divya Jyoti Church had been built on government land.

The next day, a crowd equipped with a backhoe demolished the small church building, encountering no resistance from the leaders of Guriya Village, in Chhattisgarh state.

Divya Jyoti Pastor Budhram Baghel said the church building had stood on land belonging to him.
“A temporary shed had been constructed in 2006 on this land after permission from the authorities and the same was later replaced by a permanent building,” said Rev. Rakesh Dass, a friend of Bahel’s.
Three residents of Gadia village, Yogeshwar Kashyap and two people identified as Lakhmuram and Shyamlal, filed a complaint that the building encroached on government land. Their allegations were published in the local newspaper, Dass said.
The crowd arrived the next day, led by Kailash Rathi and Yogendra Kaushik, officers of the local Viśva Hindu Pariṣad, or VHP, a Hindu nationalist organization.
Budhram tried to summon help, but it did not arrive quickly enough to prevent the demolition.
Those who protested were assaulted by members of the crowd, Christian witnesses said. They said several local officials, including the revenue officer, land officer, village head, police chief and a group of police officers, watched the demolition without objection.
“They didn’t even measure the land,” Dass said.
The church filed a complaint at the Lohandiguda Police Station on March 13 and held a silent protest rally on March 16. A memorandum regarding the demolition also has been submitted to the Collector & District Magistrate of Jagdalpur, a nearby major city.

In other incidents around India in March and April:



March 24 — Hindu extremists shouting anti-Christain slogans surrounded the house of two  brothers, Kayaram and Musuram Kashyat and threatened to expel them from the village if they did not renounce Christ, said Rev. Rakesh Dass. Early the next day, the head of Gunia village, Lohandiguda, Jagdalpur, summoned the brothers to his home, where the two were attacked when they arrived. The brothers were hospitalized and then filed a police report.
March 25 — State police stopped an “Open Special Gospel Meeting” in Nagra, Balrampur Ramanujganj following complaints of forceful conversions against the Christians. Pastor Mukti Prakash Lakra said Believers Church was organizing a three day meeting from 25- 27 March when the angry extremists barged into the three-day meeting. Police arrived and urged the organizers to close down the meeting, which they did.
March 28 — The head of Mokhagoan village, backed by local Hindu residents, urged the government to halt the opening of a day-care center built by Indian Evangelical Mission. “The local area Christians have been facing social discrimination from the extremists because of their faith in Christ for a long time,” Rev. Raja Singh of Indian Evangelical Mission told World Watch Monitor. After a government inquiry into the center’s operations, authorities dismissed the petition to halt operation.
April 2 — A group of Hindus in Chhotesalna, Raipur, burned the small Believers’ Church to the ground after accusing the Christian congregation of forcefully converting members of the community. There were no injuries. Pastor Padam Pande said the Christian community received further threats the next day after they had filed a complaint with police. On April 4 the Christians were summoned to the Village Council meeting, where they were urged to take back the complaint. The Christians refused. To date, police have not taken any action. 


April 23 — Police in the Gondia district arrested a Christian couple after Hindus accused them of forceful conversion and bribery. A representative of the evangelical organization Mission India who goes by the single name Geeta told World Watch Monitor that a group of people asked Mission India Pastor Vijay Meshram and his wife to visit a home to pray for the sick. After the prayer was over they asked the pastor and his wife to wait outside. As the couple waited, the host slipped from the back door, where a group of 100 people was waiting for his signal. The mob rushed the pastor and his wife, and accused them of bribery and forced conversions. Later, the Hindus filed a complaint against them, and police arrested the couple under several sections of the criminal code, keeping them in in custody while the crowd swelled outside, shouting anti-Christian slogans. They were released on bail the next day. “There was no case of forceful conversion and it was a false allegation against us, as we were merely praying for the sick people as they requested us” Meshram said.


March 8 — The Global Council of Indian Christians reported a group of Hindus barged into an all-night prayer meeting of The Word of Victory Ministry in Moodubelle village, Udupi and assaulted the participants, accusing them of forceful conversions. The pastor, Robert Lobo, and six believers suffered serious injuries and were treated in Ajarakadu Government hospital. Police arrested 10 attackers.
April 11 — A pastor and his family were hospitalized after an assault in their home in Vijapura, Chitradurga. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that a man named Rangappa, his wife and son beat the pastor, Kantharaj Hanumanthappa, and his family, after making several threats and complaining to the village head that the pastor had been forcefully converting residents. With the intervention of the Karnataka Legal Aid Cell, the Bharamsagara police filed a report against the attackers.  


April 10 — A pastor in Shivpura, Srinagar, in Jammu & Kashmir state, told World Watch Monitor that he and his family were assaulted by a group of Muslims who had accused him of converting children living in the Agape Home for youth. Pastor Neethi Rajan said the attackers forced themselves into his family’s home, and also damaged a car parked nearby that belonged to a friend. Police took Rajan and his family into protective custody, but the family later relocated to another area out of fear of a repeat attack.

Andhra Pradesh 

March 24 — Hindu extremists stopped a church construction In Charlapalli, Ghatkesar Mandal, alleging that the church will cause the disturbance in the neighbourhood. The All India Christian Council said a pastor identified as Bhaskar had purchased land for building a church, registered it in the name of “Life in Christ Ministries”, and obtain all required permits. However, as the Christians were digging the ground for the foundation of the church, a group of protesters stopped the construction, and filed a police complaint. Police instructed Bhaskar to obtain permission directly from the most senior local administrator. Other Christian authorities in the areas are intervening to resolve the impasse.
March 25 — Police in Vasnathvihar, Moulali, Hyderabad detained members of God Grace Ministries Church, including a pastor identified as Timothy, after local Hindus filed a complaint against the church alleging forceful conversions. The All India Christian Council said the congregation is building a church on their own land, which is drawing the opposition of some Hindus in the area.
March 26 — The All India Christian Council reported that a group of Hindus barged into a prayer meeting of Lay Men Evangelical Fellowship in in Langar House, Hyderabad, in the home of K. Kamalamma and started to verbally abuse the Christians, tore Bibles and beat up one participant, Ravi Babu. The Christians filed a police complaint and an investigation is going on. 



March 1 — A Christian family was beaten and chased from their village after they refused to pay tributes to idols and spirits of Hindu festivals. Rev. Christopher Takri told World Match Monitor that Hindu extremists led by Sahadeva Tudu summoned Rabinarayana Marandi to a village public meeting at 6 a.m on March 1 in Bhalutangara village, Kankadahada block, Dhenkanal. There Marandi was threatened with assault and banishment from the village if he did not give contributions towards the Hindu festivals. “The extremists asked Marandi to give a chick as an offering for a new baby boy to the idols, and the extremists beat him up when he refused,” Takri said. “The attack last for half an hour.” Unwilling to comply, Marandi and his family were chased out and are now taking shelter in their in- laws house in another area. , Monoranjan Mohanti, area Superintendent of police, told World Watch Monitor “Legal actions will be taken against the wrongdoers,” but declined further comment.
March 10 — A Christian convert fled his home in Dengabahalli, Dhenkanal, after hearing threats he and his family would be killed. “The Hindu extremists were planning to kill him that night” said a church leader, Rev. Christopher Takri. But the convert, Mohan Soren, and his family fled the village and took refuge in the house of a Christian leader in another area, Takri said.

©2013 World Watch Monitor