Saturday, August 3, 2013

Uzbekistan: Violent Police Assault on Protestant

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

URGENCH, UZBEKISTAN (ANS) -- Police in Uzbekistan have violently physically assaulted a local Protestant, and charged him with committing an offence after he insisted on making a formal complaint about police brutality.
Uzbek Christians studying the Bible

Mushfig Bayram, the Central Asia Correspondent of the Forum 18 News Service (, said that Nodir Akhadov of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan had told the news service that in the north-western Khorezm Region of the country, police had violently physically assaulted Sardorbek Nurmetov, a local Protestant.

Bayram stated that on June 14, 2013, Police Captain Shukhrat Masharipov, Chief of the local police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Urgench [Urganch], stopped Nurmetov in the street near Urgench's railway station. He belongs to an unregistered local Protestant church, and who lives in the Region's Khanki District.

Captain Masharipov was accompanied by another unknown officer who would not identify himself.

"Under the guise of passport control they took Nurmetov to the nearest police station, where they confiscated a memory stick from him containing Christian materials local Protestants told Forum 18 on July 31, 2013," he said.

"Of course they know who Nurmetov is, and it is no accident that he was stopped by the police," a Protestant who knows Nurmetov told Forum 18.

Police officers then brought Nurmetov to Urgench City Police Station, where Bayram claimed, "Captain Masharipov five times hit Nurmetov with a thick book on the head and then delivered blows to his head and chest, and kicked his legs. As a result of this, Nurmetov became 'dizzy, weakened, and felt like vomiting."

He went on to say, "Captain Masharipov refused to call for an ambulance, despite Nurmetov's requests for this. In violation of Uzbek law, Nurmetov was kept at Urgench's main police station from 14.30 to 21.00, and not allowed to move, drink water, or go to the toilet, Protestants told Forum 18."

A Protestant informant told the journalist, "Masharipov treated Nurmetov brutally and tortured him, which is a severe violation of his rights and the Criminal Code."

Forum 18 says that violence and torture, or threats of this, by police and other officials are "routine" the United Nations Committee Against Torture has found.

Home searched

Mushfig Bayram added that Captain Masharipov and other officers then forcibly put Nurmetov into a police car and took him to his home in Khanka District, about 20 kilometers [13 miles] away from Urgench. With three more policemen from Khanka Police Station, they broke into Nurmetov's private home where they confiscated Nurmetov's laptop computer, three Christian books and a DVD disk.

"Police Captain Masharipov did not answer his office number but refused to talk to Forum 18 on August 2, 2013, on his mobile phone, claiming that it is a wrong number," he wrote.

Hospital collaborates with perpetrators of assault

The story continued by saying that, after the departure of the police, Nurmetov went Khanka District Hospital for treatment for his injuries and to get these formally certified. Doctor Zafar Kalandarov, who received Nurmetov at the hospital, informed the police, following which, two officers of Khanka Police - one of which took part in the raid on Nurmetov's home - came to the hospital.

Uzbek Christians praying
"When the officers found that Nurmetov wanted to get his injuries formally certified, they forcibly took him from the hospital with no regard to his health. They told Doctor Kalandarov that they were taking Nurmetov to the police station to investigate what had happened," the correspondent said.

"At Khanka Police Station the officers tried to pressure and talk Nurmetov into not complaining about them and Captain Masharipov. Despite this, Nurmetov did submit a formal complaint at the police station, demanded that action be taken against Masharipov."

Bayram stated that Nurmetov was then released and told to go home, even though he asked police to "take him back to the hospital as he felt ill."

Hospital refuses ambulance

He added that coming home, Nurmetov asked his wife to call for an ambulance.

"When they heard the reasons of the call, doctors from Khanka Hospital refused to send an ambulance. They claimed that none were available," local Protestants stated.

Nurmetov had to take a taxi to the hospital and, at the hospital, Doctor Kalandarov "fearing police reprisals refused to write a medical report, but gave Nurmetov a painkiller injection after examining the bruises on his body", the Protestants told Forum 18. He then told Nurmetov to go home and undergo out-patient treatment without formally certifying the injuries.
Victim not perpetrator charged

Bayram said that Urgench City Prosecutor's Office commissioned T. Ataniyazov, who local Protestants described as "an inexperienced probationer instead of a qualified, experienced Prosecutor," to deal with Nurmetov's formal complaint.

Ataniyazov ordered a forensic medical examination of Nurmetov, without, Protestants claimed, "thoroughly investigating Nurmetov's complaint and case files." On June 18, 2013, Nurmetov underwent forensic examination, and Ataniyazov sent the results of the examination to Urgench City Police for investigation.

"Urgench Police, instead of taking action against Captain Masharipov and others implicated in the crime, opened an administrative case against Nurmetov for illegally storing religious materials in his home," said the story. 

"Nurmetov has also made complaints to Uzbek President and other high state authorities."

Ruslan Bekmetov, the Secretary of Urgench City Court told Forum 18 on August 2, 2013, that Judge Makhmud Makhmudov will hear the case on 11 August 11, 2013.

Protestants confirmed to Forum 18 that a summons to this effect had been issued to Nurmetov. Asked what part of the Code of Administrative Offences Nurmetov had violated, Bekmetov said that Urgench Police had opened the case but would not give any details.

Asked whether the Court knew about Nurmetov being violently physically assaulted by Urgench Police, Bekmetov replied "No."

Asked whether Judge Makhmudov was available to discuss the case he asked to call back after the lunch. When Forum 18 called back, an official stated that the judge was not available and would not connect Forum 18 with other officials.

Bayram's story concluded with: "Captain Masharipov is already known for violations of freedom of religion or belief, having personally led two raids in January on the home of local Protestant Sharofat Allamova. These led to her being sentenced in April on criminal charges to 18 months' corrective labor, for the 'illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature.'

"She has been placed in a low-paid state job, her salary being further reduced by having to pay 20 per cent of it to the state during her sentence."

Saeed Abedini's Attorney Speaks About the Uncertainty of His Client's Situation

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Imprisoned Iranian-American Pastor Saeed Abedini's attorney is speaking out against what he calls the uncertain situation of his client and calling on Iranian judicial authorities to clear things up.
Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini

According to a story by Mohabat News, Abedini was arrested during a trip to Iran to visit his family and continued efforts to establish an orphanage in Iran.

Abedini was later sentenced to eight years in prison in branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court chaired by Judge Pir-Abassi. His attorney filed an appeal, and the case was transferred to branch 36 of the appeal courts in Tehran.

However, Mohabat News said there's been no progress on that front and he has not been granted bail. That despite Iranian judicial authorities promising Abedini's family several times they would release him on bail.

Abedini's trial was held behind closed doors on Jan. 22 of this year.

Meanwhile, Abedini's wife Naghmeh believes the delay in the appeals court is a good sign regarding her husband's case.

Naser Sarbazi, Saeed Abedini's attorney, also said he is hopeful that the Iranian authorities will soon clear up the situation in an appeals court.
Sarbazi said, "The courts should handle cases of those who are in pr ison out of turn, but no decision has been made in this regard."

Mohabat News said Naghmeh expressed hope that the appeals court will make a fair review of the case, and release her husband soon.

After Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison, Victoria Nuland, then spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, and Jay Carney, White House Press Secretary, expressed the U.S. government's deep concerns over Abedini and promised to make every effort to secure his freedom. They also called on Iran to honor Abedini's human rights and release him from prison.

Mohabat News said Abedini is suffering from a scar on his abdomen which needed medical care. According to reports, he was transferred to a private hospital on July 20. After being examined in hospital, doctors said he needed continuous medical care to treat the scars caused by beatings.

Abedini, who spent his 34th birthday in prison, was arrested for establishing house churches and therefore "disrupting Iranian national security.." He has been held in w ard 350 of Evin prison since Sept. 26 2012.

In the past few years, human rights advocacy groups and western governments have expressed ongoing concerns over the violation of religious minorities' rights in Iran.

Friday, August 2, 2013

On the 4th anniversary of Gojra murders: Pakistani Christians are still waiting for justice

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

GOJRA, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), an interdenominational organization working for religious freedom in Pakistan, is calling for justice four years to the day since a horrific attack on the Christian town of Gojra in Pakistan.
Pakistani men celebrating the burning of Christians homes in Gojra

It was on August 1, 2009 that a Muslim mob went on the rampage in the town, burning eight people to death, including children, and torching dozens of homes. The attack was triggered by reports that local Christians had desecrated the Koran, a crime punishable by life imprisonment under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

"Some eye witnesses claimed that the police stood by and ignored pleas for help from the Christians as the attack unfolded. In the immediate aftermath, there were promises that the perpetrators would be caught and punished," a spokesperson for CLAAS-UK told the ASSIST News Service ( "Yet no one has ever been brought to justice for the crime and Christians are wondering if anyone ever will."
A preliminary investigation, soon after the attack, concluded that the Koran had "not been desecrated" as alleged.
Christians digging through the wreckage of their homes after the violence four years ago

Police also arrested dozens of suspects, yet no one was ever brought to trial or imprisoned. There were reports that witnesses were intimidated and that police drew up a charge sheet attempting to reframe the attack as an instance of communal violence between Christians and Muslims, rather than an attack by Muslims on Christians.

"The Gojra judicial tribunal was set up to investigate the attack and recorded the statements of some 580 people," said the spokesperson. "However, the Punjab government has so far refused to publish the report into its findings.

"It is believed the report proposes amendments to the blasphemy laws and pins the blame largely on the failure of the police to respond adequately to the attack."

He added, "CLAAS is deeply distressed that after four years, so little has been done to bring the perpetrators of one of the worst attacks on Pakistani Christians to justice."

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS UK, said: "The inaction and bewildering lack of urgency in holding the culprits of the Gojra violence to account has set a dreadful and terrifying precedent - that those who attack and murder Christians in Pakistan are likely to get away with it.

A Christian women in Pakistan visit her house that was destroyed by a mob in Gojra (Photo: PA)
"Persecution of Christians will continue so long as there is no deterrent to stop radical Muslims doing what they like and taking the law into their own hands.

 It is imperative that the authorities do whatever it takes to see the perpetrators caught, tried and punished. Otherwise we can expect more innocent blood to be shed."

CLAAS then told ANS that the recent arrest of a Christian couple in Gojra for blasphemy "shows that very little has changed for the area's Christians."

Shafaqat Masih, 35, and his wife, Shagufta, face an uncertain future after being arrested for supposedly sending blasphemous text messages to a local Muslim. A local human rights advocate says Shafaqat told him he had been "forced into confessing his guilt."

Nasir Saeed said, "The blasphemy laws are being misused time and time again. The Pakistani government must amend the blasphemy laws so that they can no longer be used to make false accusations against innocent people. People who committed no crime are literally losing their lives because of these unjust laws."

About CLAAS:

The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) is an interdenominational organization working for religious freedom, Christians and other religious minorities who are being persecuted because of their faith in Pakistan. CLAAS works for religious freedom, to stop persecution of Christians in Pakistan because of blasphemy and other discriminatory laws, raise awareness, disseminate information and highlight the plight of Christians and other religious minorities on an international level. CLAAS provides free legal aid to victims of religious intolerance in Pakistan, as well as shelter and financial support for the victims and their families.

Madhya Pradesh awaits decision on stricter ‘anti-conversion law’

Bill on hold for now as opposition considers vote of no confidence against BJP

Protesters gather in Jhabua, a town in the west of Madhya Pradesh, on July 24.
Protesters gather in Jhabua, a town in the west of Madhya Pradesh, on July 24.
World Watch Monitor
Madhya Pradesh state in central India awaits the outcome of proposed amendments to its ‘anti-conversion law’, which would lengthen prison time and fines for anyone convicted of forcing someone to change their religion.
With state elections looming before this government ends its term in October, some observers claim the move is an attempt by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to appease Hindu hardliners.
The Christian minority now awaits the verdict of the state Governor, Ramnaresh Yadav, who must sign the bill before it can become law.
The amendment was one of a number of topics considered during a two-week local assembly meeting beginning on July 8 and scheduled to finish on July 19.
However, local sources told World Watch Monitor that proceedings were halted on July 11, while the opposition prepared a no-confidence motion against the present BJP government.
The Governor has therefore delayed his response to the proposed amendment and called for another meeting of the local assembly.
The Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, introduced in 1968, prohibits forcible conversion, but critics say the law has been abused by those who wish only to prevent others from changing their religion. As such, they have been widely labelled ‘anti-conversion laws’.
Dr. John Dayal, a member of the National Integration Council for the Government of India and Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, says that rather than promoting freedom of religion, laws such as the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968 are in fact “violations of the religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution”.
“It is a deliberate attempt to polarise society and to keep Dalits and other marginalised groups in serfdom,” he says. “We are determined to challenge such black laws.”
As punishment, the 1968 Act recommends a fine of up to 5,000 rupees ($83) and imprisonment of up to one year. In the case of a conversion involving a child, a woman or member of a ‘scheduled caste or tribe’ (those recognised in India’s Constitution as ‘historically disadvantaged’ by background), prison term and fine can be doubled.
The proposed amendment recommends maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 rupees ($830), or four years and 100,000 rupees ($1660) in the case of a child, woman or member of a scheduled caste or tribe.
The amendment also introduces the requirement for both the converter and would-be convert to obtain state permission at least 30 days prior to conversion. 
For this purpose an application would need to be filed with the district magistrate, who may then ask the police to investigate.
Those failing to obtain prior permission – both convert and converter – could face one year’s imprisonment and a 1,000-rupee fine.
ProtestsChristian leaders in Bhopal, the state capital, met Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan before the July 8 congress and petitioned him to reject the bill, while hundreds of Christians have attended protests across the state.
“We will not lay back, we will fight,” said protest organiser Indira Iyengar, Chairperson for non-profit organisations Mahashakti Seva Kendera, Jan Shikshan Sansthan Jhabua and Alirajpur Madhya Pradesh.
Protesters line the streets in Jhabua.
Protesters line the streets in Jhabua.
World Watch Monitor
“For us this bill is very important. The poor community in Madhya Pradesh will face a situation like Gujarat [a state in the west of India, where the law is particularly severe] if this amendment is made.”
Iyengar said that meetings had been held in every district in Madhya Pradesh and petitions signed against the amendment. Non-religious groups such as the centrist Bahujan Samaj Party (Majority People's Party) also attended the protests.
“Never were the Christian community so united as at this time,” she said.
BackgroundIn 2006, a comparable amendment to the state’s ‘anti-conversion law’ was reported internationally as ‘passed’, but then former Governor Balram Jakhar twice refused to give his approval.
This was also the case for a proposed amendment to the respective law in the mountainous northern state of Himachal Pradesh, which was quashed last year after protests led by the Evangelical Fellowship of India and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy.
Christians comprise a tiny fraction of the population of Madhya Pradesh (the 2001 census put the figure at around 170,000 people, or 0.3%) and just 2.3% of the total population of India (2011 census).
In the vast and diverse country, Christians often live freely. However, India ranks among the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult, according to Open Doors International, a global ministry that serves Christians who are pressured because of their faith.
The country is No. 31 on Open Doors' 2013 World Watch List, largely because of a streak of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, that envisions India as a purely Hindu state.
Earlier this week, World Watch Monitor reported a number of specific examples of attacks against India’s Christians in recent months.

Sectarian violence spirals in Guinea’s volatile southeast

Scores killed, churches and homes burned

Catholic church in Nzérékoré following deadly violence two weeks ago.
Catholic church in Nzérékoré following deadly violence two weeks ago.
World Watch Monitor
Judicial authorities in Guinea are investigating an outburst of deadly violence two weeks ago that left 95 people dead and 130 wounded. The murder of a suspected thief on July 14 in Koulé, a city 40 kilometres from Nzérékoré, the regional capital of Forested Guinea, has led to acts of retaliation and a wave of violence between members of Guerzé and Konianké ethnic groups.
Very quickly, the incidents became a sectarian conflict between Christians and Muslims, with the destruction of a number of Christians’ properties, including several churches.
In Nzérékoré, about five churches, four houses of pastors, and an undetermined number of shops and properties were burned or looted, witnesses told World Watch Monitor. A mosque was also reported burned and one Muslim cleric killed. In Beyla city, 150 kilometres northeast of Nzérékoré, attacks targeting Christians were particularly violent, according to a Catholic priest contacted by World Watch Monitor.
“The two Catholic and Protestant churches have all been ransacked and burned,” said the priest, identified as Fr. Joseph. “Almost all the houses and shops belonging to Christians or people affiliated with Christians, have not escaped the fury of attackers.''
The offices and other buildings within the Catholic compound, including the Presbyter and the nuns’ quarters, were looted or burned.
Elsewhere in Beyla, the Center for Youth Development, an internet café, a conference room, a library and a primary school were ransacked.
The priest said a physician and Beyla’s regional deputy of health services, Dr. Tolon Loua, was killed during the violence.
''He was inside of his house when the assailants arrived and set it on fire,” he said. “Badly burned, he was transported to the hospital where he was later declared dead.''
An undetermined number of people remain missing. Several Christian families found refuge in military camps and surrounding villages. Churches and local NGOs are trying to place them with other families.
Similar acts of violence were reported in the neighbouring city of Moribadou, home to workers for the mining giant Rio Tinto, and in the city of Sinko. In total, some 10 churches were destroyed in that violence, which lasted nearly three days.
The violence has a strong religious dimension, said David Foromo Guilavogui, Secretary General of the Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Guinea. Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise in southeastern Guinea, he told World Watch Monitor.
The inhabitants of Forested Guinea are mainly Christians or animists. Of the country’s 10 million people, 85 per cent are Muslim. Christians represent 4 per cent and animists 11 per cent.
"Until past wounds are treated well, southeastern Guinea will not experience a lasting peace."

--David Foromo Guilavogui, Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Guinea

A number of Islamic fundamentalist groups are established in the southeast region, particularly in Beyla, a city perceived as a centre of Islam in Guinea. Beyla was one of the main cites of Wassoulou Empire, an Islamic state founded in the 17th century by Samori Touré, a military and political leader known for his opposition to the French colonial occupation. Today the city is 99 per cent Muslim, and Christians are a tiny minority of workers.
“These incidents have served as a pretext for Islamist groups to assert their opposition to the Christian presence,” Guilavogui said.
The sectarian tension also has deep roots, he said. In 1991 more than 200 people were killed in post-electoral violence. It was followed by other deadly sectarian clashes, such as the bloody 2011 episode between Christians and Muslims in Galakpaye that killed at least 25 people.
“The problem is that each time a crisis breaks out, the authorities merely try to calm the tension without resolving its profound causes,” Guilavogui said. ‘‘Until past wounds are treated well, southeastern Guinea will not experience a lasting peace.”
The region’s isolation and poor roads haven’t helped matters. Military reinforcements took two days to reach the scene of the fighting earlier this month.
A Methodist church burned in Nzérékoré.
A Methodist church burned in Nzérékoré.
World Watch Monitor
Forested Guinea is a volatile area bordered by Sierra Leone and Liberia to the west, and the Ivory Coast to the east – each of which have waged civil wars during the last two decades. In addition to receiving an influx of refugees, the region served as a rear base for fighters, and the area remains thick with weapons.
Southeastern Guinea is rich with potential. It hosts the Simandou site, one of the world's richest iron deposits. In recent years, access to land has become a major source of tension between indigenous communities, the Guerzé, and members of Konianké ethnic group, who migrated from other regions.
Politicians play to these tensions, Guilavogui said.
“Politicians in search of votes tend to use the ethno-regionalist arguments,” he said. “Such practice is amplifying divisions between communities. The current list of candidates for parliamentary elections due in three months, is an illustration.''
The challenge for Christians now, Guilavogui said, is to avoid continuing the cycle of violence.
“The pastors and bishops must preach a message of love based on God’s Word,” he said. “They must consider everyone on the same footing and encourage their followers to pardon sincerely.” The inter-Christian Council of Guinea, which includes Catholic, Anglican and Evangelical churches, can serve as a framework in this effort of reconciliation, he said.

Christians detained for distributing the New Testament in Greece

By Nico Bougas
Special to ASSIST News Service

NEA IRAKLITSA, GREECE (ANS) -- Some 57 people from various countries were detained by local police in Greece last Saturday, July 27, 2013. The reason? They were distributing New Testament scriptures to the local population.

Distributing Bibles door to door in Greece
This may seem bizarre, but a group of priests of the Orthodox Church in Greece have mounted a concerted effort to prevent the distribution of copies of God's Word in modern Greek to homes throughout northern Greece.

For the past week nearly 400 volunteers from 25 countries have gathered in a town near ancient Philippi. They are participating in a mass Bible distribution project called Operation Joshua 6.

Although the New Testament was written in Greek, very few Greeks own a copy of the New Testament, and even fewer have ever read it. If they do have a copy, it is likely to be in a form of older Greek that most contemporary Greeks would not understand. The Bible is viewed as a book which can only be understood and interpreted by the local priest, theologians or academics.

However, Greece does have its own Greek Bible Society which produces Bibles for the Greek people. This includes a modern translation which has been approved by the Greek State church. Three prominent bishops of the church sit on its board while other members of the board are also members of the Greek Orthodox State Church. This modern translation is the edition which is being distributed by Hellenic Ministries during their Operation Joshua campaign. It contains endorsements from 4 patriarchs of the Orthodox Church from around the world.
Group photo of 380 volunteers at Philippi

Included with the Orthodox approved hardbound copy of the New Testament which has been translated and produced by the Greek Bible Society is an audio version of this New Testament read by a prominent Greek Orthodox member.
Also included is the personal story of a Greek whose life was transformed by the message of the gospel from a life of gambling.

Included in the Bible gift bag, is also a disclaimer to point out that this is a Christian group that holds to the teachings of the Bible and of the historical church creeds. In addition people are encouraged to read the Bible and to attend their local church.

One would have thought that this sort of project would be welcomed by any Christian church or group committed to following the truths of the Bible. Not so. This effort has been opposed by both civic and religious leaders. Hellenic Ministries has been condemned as a sect and a cult. This despite the fact that there has been no attempt to enlist members in the movement; there has been no attempt to divert from the teachings of the Bible or of the early church fathers which are so dear to the Greek Orthodox Church.

Some priests have gone so far as to instruct their parishioners to burn the copies of the scriptures that have been given to them by our volunteers. Since, "it cannot be a holy book if it is distributed by heretics." In other cases, priests have voiced their threats that they will press legal charges and if necessary, use physical force.
Johnathan Macris, President of Hellenic Ministries, and Bishop Anthimos

Not all Greek Orthodox priests have been quite so antagonistic towards the movement. Some have even encouraged their members to read the Bibles that have been given to them. During a similar campaign last year held in Alexandropolis on the north-eastern border of Greece, the area bishop, Bishop Anthimos attended one of the devotional meetings and brought a word of encouragement to the workers. Amongst other things, he said that the problems of Greece were not principally economic or financial but that the Greeks had abandoned Holy Spirit.
Steve Dutton, International Director of Hellenic Ministries

Steve Dutton, International Director of Hellenic Ministries, finds it difficult to understand the logic of both the religious and civic leaders.

"The economy of Greece is all but bankrupt," he said. "We are gathering almost 400 volunteers, who come to join us at their own expense, they bring much needed foreign exchange, they spend money on food, accommodation, and transportation; they enjoy the glorious country with its rich historical heritage and return home as ambassadors for Greece.

"Yet, the work that they are doing is seemingly opposed at every turn. This sort of attitude is extremely difficult to understand from a country which claims to be a Christian country with ties to the early Apostles, the birthplace of democracy and with a constitution that today guarantees religious freedom."

Churches Bombed in Kano, Nigeria, Killing at Least 45 People

Christians leaders say Islamic extremist Boko Haram terrorists suspected

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Terrorists suspected to be part of the militant Islamic extremist group Boko Haram set off four bombs that hit two churches in Kano city on July 29, killing at least 45 people.
Ibrahim Bitrus was killed by Boko Haram
in Adamawa state in April.
A story by Morning Star News reported sources said the four devices were detonated minutes apart between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in the Sabon Gari area of the city.

Rev. Ramsey Noah, chairman of the Kano state chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), told Morning Star News by phone the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were planted near three churches, blasting two of them as well as nearby Christian-owned businesses.

Churchgoers were meeting at Christ Salvation Pentecostal Church when one explosion hit. Christian leaders said 39 bodies were recovered in the area.

Believers were also meeting at St. Stephen's Anglican Church as another bomb went off, and an explosion apparently targeting Peniel Baptist Church did not affect the structure, Noah said.

"On Monday evening at about 9 p.m., four bombs exploded in the Sabon Gari area of Kano," Noah told Morning Star News. "The bombs we believe were targeted at three churches located in the area. There were worshipers in the two churches affected at the time having evening Bible study programs."

Total deaths from the church bombings were unknown at time of writing.

The pastor of Peniel Baptist Church, Rev. John Adeyemohe, told Morning Star News by phone that many Christians were killed.

"The attacks caused confusion and uncertainty in this area," he said. "I cannot for now say how many Christians have died or were injured, but I know that several deaths have been recorded as we saw military personnel moving dead bodies away to various hospitals."

Tobias Michael Idika, a Christian community leader in the Sabon Gari area of the city, told Morning Star News by phone that 45 people had died from attacks believed to have been carried out by Boko Haram.

"On Monday, July 29, between 9 and 9:30 p.m., terrorists we believe are Boko Haram members invaded Sabon Gari, an area we Christians reside in, and planted Improvised Explosive Devices, which exploded almost simultaneously at Enugu/Igbo Road, near the International Ho tel, and on New Road, directly opposite the popular Ado Bayero Square, precisely at No. 38, 39, 40 and 41."

Idika added, "We can confirm 39 deaths along New Road and six deaths along Igbo/Enugu Road. We also can confirm that quite a number of other Christians in the area were injured in the attacks."

Morning Star News said a spokesman for the military's Joint Task Force (JTF) in Kano, Capt. Ikedichi Iweh, issued a media statement on July 30 claiming that 12 people had been killed in the attacks, with another 12 sustaining injuries. No group has taken responsibility for the blasts, but Iweh also said Boko Haram was suspected.

A top Islamic organization, the Jama'atu Nasril Islam (JNI), along with the AREWA Consultative Forum (ACF) condemned the attack.

"We strongly condemn the inhuman and ungodly act in its totality, as it is reprehensible, and we equally call for calm and restraint," JNI Secretary General Khalid Abubakar Aliyu said in a statement. "As it has always been our prayers, whatsoever is the intent/motive of the perpetrators of these contemptible acts, they will never succeed insha'Allah."

According to Morning Star News a spokesman for the ACF, Anthony Sani, said in a statement that the forum was shocked and saddened, and the act desecrated the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Boko Haram has targeted Christians as well as government, police and military installations in its effort to destabilize the government and impose sharia (Islamic law) nationwide.

The group, whose name translates roughly to "Western education is a sin," has said that the sole purpose of its campaign of violence is to establish an "Islamic state like during the time of Prophet Muhammad."
However, Morning Star News said, the U.S. State Department of State insists that the group is motivated by poverty and marginalization.

Advocacy group Jubilee Campaign has stated that Boko Haram has used religion as its primary recruiting tool, and that statements by the Islamic extremist group's leaders reveal their motive for viole nce is "unambiguously waging Jihad.

In an April 29 report the Jubilee Campaign said, "No reference is made in the DOS (Department of State) report to their declared motive," Jubilee Campaign lamented in an April 29 report.

According to Operation World, 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.

For more information visit Morning Star News at

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bombs in Nigerian Christian district kill at least 12

Boko Haram suspected

Police say 12 people are dead after multiple explosions on Monday night that rocked the Christian Sabon Gari area of Kano State in northern Nigeria, despite continuing government efforts to restore peace.
No group has claimed responsibility for the July 29 blasts, but it is widely believed that the outlawed violent Islamic sect Boko Haram may be responsible for the attacks in which the official number of victims is being disputed by some residents.
There is no record of reprisal attacks. Security personnel have cordoned off the area.
The federal government has, however, given the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North an additional two months to bring about peace in the northern parts of the country.
The Chairman of the Committee and Minister for Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, who announced the extension on Tuesday, lamented the Kano blast, noting it was sad some people who do not wish the country well are bent on prolonging the security crisis in the north.
Kano, the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, has a predominantly Muslim population but the Sabon Gari area is populated mainly by Christians from southern parts of the country.
In March, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for suicide blasts at a bus park in the same district that killed at least 22 people.
The military Joint Task Force spokesperson, Capt. Ikedichi Iweha, confirmed the incident, and said preliminary investigations are underway.
Chief Michael Tobias Idika, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a cultural group for southeast Nigerians living in Kano, issued a statement saying terrorists had attacked the Sabon Gari area at about 9.30 p.m., and had planted Improvised Explosive Devices that exploded almost simultaneously, affecting various houses.
“At 41 New Road, the Christ Salvation Pentecostal Church was also bombed at the peak of evening worship,” Idika’s statement read. In contrast to the police confirmation of 12 fatalities, “Ohanaeze’s account can confirm 39 deaths in New Road and six in Igbo/Enugu Road; and also unspecified numbers of people who got injured.’’
The group called for better security in northern Nigeria.
The state Governor, Rabi’u Musa Kwnkwaso who visited the scene of the incident on Tuesday morning, condemned the  multiple bomb blasts, describing them as devastating and an attack on the whole of Nigeria.
“This attack on Sabon Gari is an attack on Nigeria because Muslims and Christians are involved. Several people of different ethnic extraction have either lost their lives or are critically injured. Whoever did this thing targeted Nigeria”, Kwankwaso said.
The Muslim umbrella body in the north, Jama'atu Nasril Islam, on Monday raised an alarm of what it called a grand design to push the entire North, and by extension all of Nigeria, into deeper crisis.
In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Dr Khalid Aliyu Abubakar, JNI wondered why the killing of innocent people has continued unabated, especially in the north:
"We strongly condemn the inhuman and ungodly act in its totality as it is reprehensible, and we equally call for calm and restraint. As it has always been our prayers, whatsoever is the intent/motive of the perpetrators of these contemptible acts, they will never succeed, insha'Allah [God-willing].’’
The pan-northern socio-political organisation Arewa Consultative Forum also pleaded with those behind the attacks to disarm in the interest of the country.

In India, a familiar pattern of pressure on Christians

News briefs: Incidents for May and June

In vast and diverse India, Christians often live freely. Yet India ranks among the 50 countries where life as a Christian is most difficult, according to Open Doors International, a global ministry that serves Christians who are pressured because of their faith. The country is No. 31 on Open Doors' 2013 World Watch List, largely because of a streak of Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, that envisions India as a purely Hindu state.
Each month, numerous reports surface of provincial Hindutva militants breaking up prayer meetings, intimidating pastors, assaulting worshippers, and chasing Christian families from their homes and villages. The dates, locations and names change, but many of the elements remain: Christians are accused of forcing Hindus to convert; church buildings are damaged; area church leaders intervene; police often provide little protection. The incidents reported here, for May and June, contain more of the same.
Hindutva has a political base in India's right-wing, nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party, or BJP. It is the No. 2 party in the national assembly and holds or shares power in seven of India's 28 states, comprising about 15 per cent of India's population. "This ideology . . . has firm root and strong support in many government structures as in the police," the World Watch List says.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory body to the U.S. Congress, notes the Indian government has created programs intended to prevent religious intimidation. But it also says the country's overburdened courts, rife with "political corruption, and religious bias, particularly at the state and local levels," rarely punish Hindutva aggression.
The result, the commission says, is a "climate of impunity," especially in states with anti-conversion laws. Five Indian states, three of them BJP-controlled, have passed laws placing restrictions on religious conversions.
"While intended to reduce forced conversions and decrease communal violence, states with these laws have higher incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians, than states that do not," the commission's 2013 annual report claims.
Incidents in May and June, listed by state:


May 15: Hindu nationalists rally in Pakshirajapura, accusing Pastor Steven Suresh of forcefully converting members of the nomadic Hikki Pikki Adivasi tribe to Christianity and insulting Hindu gods. Police arrest Suresh and 11 other Christians. Pastor Shiibu of Indian Evangelical Church tells World Watch Monitor the new converts were forbidden to draw water from the town well, and denied government-subsidised staples such as rice and sugar.
June 26: In Narasipura, a crowd burns Zion Church, beats the pastor and five church members, following repeated calls to stop holding worship services, according to the pastor, named Annaiah. Three days later, the temporary shed built to replace the church is also burned. Police tell Hindus to stop disturbing the church, and tell Christians to stop holding meetings and to pray at home.


May 21: Hindutva extremists attack Kati Singh in Bhalukasai village after he refuses to contribute to the local Hindu festivals. Singh is injured and admitted to Nilgiri Government Hospital. According to the All India Christian Council, Singh files a complaint with police, who turn aside his petition and ask Singh to make a festival donation.
June 12: The third day of a three-day meeting of pastors and church leaders conducted by Independent Pentecostal Church in Canalpada is disrupted when a crowd barges in, accusing organisers of forceful conversion, according to one of the guest speakers, Rev. Suratmahat Samal. Some of the intruders use motorcycles to chase several meeting participants as they leave the session in an auto-rickshaw. The rickshaw overturns, injuring eight.

Uttar Pradesh

June 10: Returning home from a visit to a church member in Sonari, Pastor Ram Prakash from the Prakash Healing Society's Church is stopped by a group, which threatens to kill him if he doesn't stop holding worship meetings in the area, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Prakash tells World Watch Monitor that the church member, named Raghu, "has been visiting our church for the past two years and I went to his house as he invited me to pray for him and his family." The militants threaten to burn Raghu's house. Prakash files a complaint with police, with no response.


June 10: Some residents of Kongpal assault Pastor A. Shyam and damage the newly built Victory Church of India, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India. They complain the church, completed in May, is an insult because it is built adjacent to an historic site.

Tamil Nadu

June 9: Pastor Ram Chandra is beaten by Hindu attackers after he prays for a sick man, according to Pastor C.V Chacko of the Indian Pentecostal Church. Chacko tells World Watch Monitor that the man's wife and children asked Chandra to pray with them, and that protesters massed at the family's home, setting upon Chandra as he left the house.


May 5: A mob of about 20 enters Maranatha Worship Centre in Pimpri village during services, menaces the 50 assembled parishioners assembled for evening prayer, and orders the priest to leave town and close the church, according to the Catholic Christian Secular Forum. The priest, Fr. Wilson Patole, suffers a swollen eye and other bruises.
May 23: Intruders barge into the Sarfabad house of Gyaneshwar Kurwade as they are gathered for an evening family prayer. The intruders assault Kurwade and his son, Shrikrishana, saying they don't want Christian activity in the area. The victims report the assault to police, but no action is taken.
June 6: State police in Pandherwani file a First Information Report against local Christians after Hindus accuse them of forceful conversion. Sudharkar Mavli, field coordinator for Indian Evangelical Mission, tells World Watch Monitor that some of Hindus in the town have assaulted Christians, destroyed a house, seized farmland, and have ordered Christians to leave the village.

Andhra Pradesh

June 4: In Thukkuguda, Hindu extremists attack a Telegu pastors meeting, hurl verbal abuse at their faith and caste, and beat them with sticks, according to Pastor Bhagati Timothy. Four pastors suffer significant injuries and are taken to the hospital. Police register a First Information Report against the attackers. No arrests have yet been made.
June 10: A Hindu mob, assisted by Dhanjiy Reddy, a local government official, demolishes Christ Church in Gutta Begumpet, making good on a year of insistence that Pastor Paul Viswas stop church services. At the intervention of area church elders, Reddy is transferred to a different area.


April 28: Angry Hindus in Twirisa interrupt worship meetings on April 14, 21 and 28, threatening "dire consequence" if the meetings don't stop, Nabin Zamatia tells World Watch Monitor. On April 28, the meetings stop. "There are about 40 church members and some are very fearful of the extremists' threats now," Zamatia says. "My family and a few other families went to another village to worship Christ."
May 23: Tapas Bin, 35, is murdered in Twirisa village. Area church leader T. Honathan tells World Watch Monitor that after Bin had married a local woman, his Hindu father had been pressuring him to abandon Christianity. Church officials claim the killing was religiously motivated. Police disagree, though at times have provided conflicting assessments.


June 5: Eight Hindutva extremists attack Church of God Full Gospel India Pastor Vijayan M. and his wife in Edathar, as they return home from a visit to a believer who had fallen sick, according to the All India Christian Council. The couple is knocked off their scooter, and in the ensuing assault suffer injuries that require care at Palakkad District Hospital. Local Christian leaders file a police complaint.


May 14: Rajubhai R. Bhuriyaand and his family, assembled in their Bilwani village home for the evening family devotion, are assaulted by a group of about 20 drunken villagers who accuse the family of forceful conversion. Five injured members of the family are admitted in Dahod Government Hospital.


May 3: Police arrest four pastors in Bhelwa Baddhara after they are accused of forceful conversion. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reports that pastors Mani Munda, Vishnu Kerketta, Ashok Idaigo, and Rajgopal Munda, from the Power of Saviour Ministry in Sundargarh, Odisha, were visiting the house of a believer when police arrived and took them to the police station for questioning. Ten local Christians tell police they became believers of their own free will. Police charge the pastors with continuing an assembly that has been ordered to disperse, and release the men on bail.