Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nigeria: Weekend Attacks in North East Claim At Least 50 Lives

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

NIGERIA (ANS) -- At least 50 civilians were killed and dozens more injured in a series of weekend attacks in north-eastern Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram.
Civilians killed by Boko Haram

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), twelve people are reported to have been killed when Boko Haram members dressed in military and police uniforms attacked Ngom, a village situated between Mafa and Konduga Local Government Areas in Borno State, on Saturday, August 10, 2103. Several sources report the victims' hands were tied behind their backs prior to their throats being slit.

According to an unconfirmed report, 19 people from surrounding villages were also murdered in a similar manner during Sunday, August, 11, 2013.

Also on August 11, Boko Haram gunmen attacked Konduga Central Mosque and adjoining mosques in Konduga Town during early morning prayers, killing 46 worshippers and injuring at least 30 people, 26 of whom required hospital treatment.

At the same time, other members of the group petrol bombed and destroyed around 50 homes. This was Boko Haram's first large scale attack inside a mosque; the group had previously targeted individuals on their way to or from prayer.

"The attacks occurred despite the existence of states of emergency in Borno and Yobe States, and are thought to be in retaliation for a growth in vigilantism as local communities work increasingly successfully with the security services to expose Boko Haram members and sympathizers. Boko Haram is reported to have murdered 45 villagers it accused of belonging to vigilante groups or collaborating with the military during two separate attacks in Borno State in July," said a spokesperson for CSW.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau
The attacks occurred as Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video message in which he claimed responsibility for recent violence in Borno and Yobe States and vowed it would continue until northern Nigeria was Islamized. Claiming the sect was too strong for Nigeria and could now "comfortably confront" the United States, he also called on people to join the sect, shun democracy and western education, and embrace Islam and jihad: "Forget about the constitution and accept Shari'a.and we shall continue to kill those who strive to stand against the will of Allah by opposing Shari'a."

In a comment on the weekend's violence, the Reverend Yunusa Nmadu of CSW Nigeria said, "We condemn in the strongest terms this unwarranted taking of human lives. Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and it is particularly appalling that so many people were murdered in places of worship by a group that attributes religious motivations to such unjustifiable actions and purports to be working for the wellbeing of the people they have murdered. We urge the federal government to maintain extreme vigilance and to step up the process of protecting lives and properties in north eastern Nigeria."

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

Children's camps raided, threatened in Uzbekistan

Each summer, hundreds of children have the opportunity
 to attend church-run Christian camps across
 Central Asia. (Image, caption courtesy SGA)
Uzbekistan (MNN) ― Religious freedom is hitting a new low in Uzbekistan. According to Forum 18 News, police raided one children's camp and is trying to take the property of another.

Local Protestants were holding an unregistered children's camp recently when four buses carrying 80 officials arrived carrying 30 police and 20 riot police. Brandishing rubber batons, a source told Forum 18, they began questioning everyone-- including small children.

After collecting statements for six hours, the officials took everyone at the camp--9 adults and 22 children--back to the police station for further questioning.

And in another region, a children's camp is at risk of seizure. "Camp Joy" sits on property purchased in 2000 by the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptist (UECB), a registered group of congregations supported by Slavic Gospel Association.

"The state does not want to buy the land back from the UECB. Instead, they want to confiscate it. The intention then is to turn around and sell the land to somebody else," says SGA's Joel Griffith.

Although the property's intended purpose is for hosting children's summer camps and activities, it hasn't been able to since 2009. That's when UECB had to change their leadership as a result of a police raid on Camp Joy.

"They actually have not used that for children's camps since then because it does carry a risk of arrest with it," Griffith states. "Whatever children's activities [UECB has] are held at different locations around the country."

Baptists told Forum 18 that officials have no legal ground to stand on. Under Uzbek law, actions like this have to be done within three years of the land purchase. The UECB bought the Camp Joy property in 2000.

Believers told Forum 18 that they don't understand why authorities waited 13 years to raise an issue like this. However, the case will go before a judge tomorrow.

"Once this court hearing gets held on August 15, we'll have a clearer idea of where things stand," says Griffith.

Pray for justice in tomorrow's court hearing.

While Uzbekistan's constitution guarantees religious freedom, Griffith says it's basically non-existent in everyday life.

"Whatever the churches do, they try to do it as quietly as possible; but it's always at great risk," he says. "[Uzbekistan is] supposed to have a very secular government; but again, you have the government cracking down on people of all faiths."

The battle over Camp Joy is only one challenge the UECB faces. Griffith says they also have a hard time registering new churches with the government: another state requirement.

"All religious faiths encounter difficulty," he explains. "Freedom of religion and freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of practice: they all encounter difficulties."

It's a problem noted in Forum 18's religious freedom survey, published last week, as well as the U.S. International Religious Freedom Report for 2012. Open Doors USA puts Uzbekistan at #16 on their World Watch List, a compilation of the world's 50 worst persecutors of the Christian faith.

"Pray that the Lord would move in the hearts of the authorities to change the situation on the ground in Uzbekistan," Griffith states.

Will you also ask the Lord to protect Gospel workers in Uzbekistan? Pray, too, for the Gospel to go forth unhindered.

"The Church is determined and committed to carrying out the Great Commission, no matter what man may do, and they've certainly proven that through the years," says Griffith.

"Despite the opposition, they're going to go on proclaiming the Gospel."

See how SGA supports the church in this mission.

Spectre of war not far off in Somalia

(Image courtesy Assist News)
Somalia (ODM) ― Open Doors is asking believers in the West to keep praying for Somalia.
After the many years of anarchy, elections last year in September paved the way for greater stability and growth in the Horn of Africa country. The decreased violence, coupled with increased successes in the internationally-supported fight to drive out al-Shabaab Islamist insurgents, greatly improved the atmosphere in Somalia.

This did not necessarily bring freedom for the Church. But it did bring some welcome consistency and created "space" for increased discipleship, albeit still under great secrecy. However, Open Doors is concerned that the atmosphere is changing rapidly.

The newly-installed Somali government is increasingly challenged in its efforts to maintain stability. It was expected of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to stamp out notorious clan politics, corruption, and the "stubborn Islamist insurgency" of al-Shabaab. But observers say his inexperienced government lacks funds as well as the authority to get the job done.

Additionally, in the absence of clear instruction from the provisional constitution, the government is battling to find a way to divide power between the center and the regions. Reuters reported recently that Somalia's neighbors and foreign powers fear a return to civil war.

"It is unclear from our vantage point if the group's influence is really as great as they claim," said an Open Doors worker. What is clear, however, is the fact that greater instability means greater difficulty for believers to function.

For the sake of creating better opportunity for discipleship that can lead to a stronger local Body of believers, we ask believers worldwide to pray for the Lord to show grace to the inexperienced government of Somalia so that they can overcome their multiple challenges."

Pain Increasing for American Pastor Saeed Abedini

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- The Iranian family of American Pastor Saeed Abedini was once again able to visit him in Evin prison in Iran. Despite previous threats from Iranian authorities that they would cut off Pastor Saeed's visitation, he was able to spend some brief time with his family in Iran on Monday, August 12, 2013.
Saeed Abedini

In a story, Matthew Clark, Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Advocacy with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in the Washington, D.C. headquarters, says, "Unfortunately, we have learned that Pastor Saeed's internal injuries are causing him increased pain. Pastor Saeed has been suffering from internal bleeding - the results of intense beatings he has sustained in prison for his faith.

"Recently, Iranian authorities allowed him to be treated by a doctor at a local hospital. Since that time, he has continued to take the medication he was prescribed. However, his pain has recently increased, to the point that on one occasion he fainted from the immense anguish.

"This is a disturbing turn of events. It serves as a renewed reminder of the dangerous conditions Pastor Saeed faces in one of the world's worst prisons."

Clark went on to say that Iran must see to it that Pastor Saeed is "treated humanely and receives the critical medical attention he so desperately needs."

He added, "He must be release from this torment for his Christian faith and be allowed to return home to receive medical attention in the United States and more importantly to be reunited with his loving family."

Clark said that even as Pastor Saeed suffers, Iran's brutal crackdown on Christians continues stating that there are reports that three more Christians were just recently arrested without charge in Iran. Reportedly, they have been beaten, one to the point of being hospitalized.

Another was recently convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison (by the same notorious judge who convicted and sentenced Saeed) for, among other things, membership in an "anti-security organization," i.e. a Christian church. Court documents obtained by an Iranian Christian media source show that he had previously been found guilty of "apostasy" (converting to Christianity).

"It is vitally important that we highlight these situations," said Clark. "Pastor Saeed is the face of Christian persecution in Iran, but he is far from the only one. The ACLJ is preparing to launch new initiatives to highlight the persecuted church around the world and the work to expose their human rights abusers and shine light into the darkest corners of the globe. We will continue to bring you updates on Pastor Saeed's and these new efforts.

"Please continue to pray for Pastor Saeed's freedom, share his story and how your friends can take action at, and learn more about the upcoming prayer vigils being sponsored around the globe onSeptember 26th."

Three Iranian-Azeri Christians Arrested; Their Fate Unknown

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Following the increasing pressure on Iranian Christians from the Islamic regime of Iran, a number of Christian converts were arrested in Tabriz.

According to a story by Mohabat News, as pressure increases on the Iranian Christian community, three Christian converts, Farshid Modares-Aval, Mohammad-Reza Pirri, and Yashar Farzin-No, were arrested on July 20 in a raid by security authorities.

After arresting them, authorities searched their homes and seized a number of their personal belongings.

News sources reported that the three men were transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence's detention center in Tabriz prison. Security and judicial authorities have not yet provided any reason for their arrest to their families.

Lack of communication about their health and situation caused the families of those imprisoned to reach out to security and judicial centers for information.

However, Mohabat News said, none of the authorities would provide a concrete answer.

In many cases, Mohabat News commented, when families of detainees go to the authorities about the plight of their loved ones, they just hear promises for their early release if they keep silent and do not publicize the case.
Eventually when nothing happens, families decide to speak out and publicize their stories in the media.

According to reports received, Mohabat News said, the three Christian men have been beaten during interrogation. Mohammad-Reza Pirri's beating was so brutal that he had to stay in the prison hospital for four days.

Although Iranian law enforcement has always tried to relate house churches to foreign governments and often describes them as political groups intending to overthrow the Islamic regime, Mohabat News said there is no evidence to support these claims.

The crackdown against Christians in Iran is mostly targeted towards what the Islamic regime describes as "evangelical and extremist" Christians, and thus "a threat against the Islamic regime."

However, in reality all these arrested Christians are members of small Christian groups who gather in their houses for worship and Christian celebrations, out of sight of the authorities who do not allow these meetings. The only reason for these gatherings is to worship God - with no political agenda involved.

Mohabat News said some time ago, a website called "Ya Lasarat," affiliated with Ansar-e Hezbollah Islamic militant group, published an article against Christians and what they called "the threat of evangelical Christians and house churches." The article expressed concern over the growth of Christianity in Iran, especially in Tabriz.

Following this, Majid Abhari, Counsel at the Social Committee of Islamic Parliament of Iran, expressed his concern over the growth of Christianity in Azeri-Speaking regions and emphasized that the growth of house churches must be stopped.

Mohabat News said he also mentioned the confiscation of 6,500 Bibles at a roadside checkpoint near one of the Azeri-speaking towns.

Anxieties rise in Egypt as anti-Christian violence mounts

Coptic Pope cancels public appearances

Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of Coptic Orthodox church
 (Photo: Reuters)
Mass no longer is being celebrated at The Church of St. Mary. Police officers guard the entrance.

Throughout the Egyptian town of Eastern Bani Ahmed south of Cairo, the Christian-owned shops are closed.  At least seven Christian homes, and even more of their vehicles, have been ransacked, burned, or both. At least 18 people are injured, and police have issued dozens of arrest warrants.

A disagreement over a song on the radio was all it took to set off the violence Aug. 3.

Since July 3, when the Egyptian military removed the Muslim Brotherhood from power, anti-Christian backlash has flared in pockets across Egypt. Though there have been many examples of Christians and Muslims breaking bread together and joining ranks to support moving the government off the Brotherhood's Islamist path, the crescendo of violence has heightened Christian anxiety.

It has proven worrisome enough that Coptic Pope Tawadros II last week backed out of public appearances he had planned for this week at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo. He determined his presence could endanger the congregation, according to Bishop Angaelos, leader of the Coptic church in the United Kingdom, who revealed the pope's change of plans to the BBC.

Also last week, 16 Egyptian human-rights groups issued a joint statement of "grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the June 30 uprising."

Two days after the July 3 government takeover by the Egyptian military, four Christian men were killed during daylong assaults on Christians in al-Dabayia, a town west of Luxor in southern Egypt. On July 6, gunmen shot and killed a Coptic priest, Mina Abboud Sharubim, in northern Sinai.

Five days later in Sheikh Zuweid, a remote settlement a few kilometres west of the Israeli border, the decapitated body of Magdy Lamei Habib, a Christian electronics merchant, was discovered.

The fuse that touched off the violence in Bani Ahmed on Aug. 3 was lit inside a cafe owned by Sherif Abdel Moneim Radi, a Muslim. It was early evening, before the iftar, the traditional evening meal during the month-long observation of Ramadan, at which Muslims break their day-long fast. According to a statement issued by the Diocese of Minya and Abu Qurqas, events unfolded this way:

Over the radio in the cafe could be heard the song "Teslem Elayady," a catchy pop tune that praises the Egyptian military. Radi moved to turn the music off. A customer, a Christian man named Hanna Dos Fahmi, asked Radi to keep the radio tuned to the song. The argument began. Cooler heads stepped in and broke up the argument.

After the iftar, however, a group of Muslim men appeared at the cafe. A group of Christians showed up in opposition. The confrontation escalated quickly as Muslims from neighbouring villages arrived in Bani Ahmed, chanting slogans against Copts, police and the military. Some carried guns and Molotov cocktails. The crowd grew to about 4,000 people.

A pharmacy, furniture store, auto-repair shop and other Christian-owned businesses were looted, according to the diocese statement. Several homes were set on fire. Clashes broke out in surrounding villages. Security forces did not arrive in force until 11:30 p.m., and used tear gas to disperse the rioters. The Associated Press reportedthat 18 people were injured, and that police issued arrest warrants for at least 35 people. The diocese said the riots caused damage estimated at nearly 3.4 million Egyptian pounds, or about US $480,000.

On Sunday morning, Aug. 4, a group of Muslims barricaded the entrance to the Coptic Church in Bani Ahmed, preventing members from attending mass.

A Christian teacher in Bani Ahmed told World Watch Monitor that a tense calm has settled over the town during the days since the Aug. 3 disturbance. Security forces are visible in the town. On Aug. 9, the teacher said, Muslims burned an abandoned Muslim home in an attempt to accuse Christians of the act, but security officers moved in before the gathering crowd could lash out. In the meantime, the teacher said, shops and the church remain closed. World Watch Monitor is withholding his name to ensure his safety.

On Aug. 6, about 100 kilometres south of Bani Ahmed, thousands of Islamists marched through the streets of Assiut, chanting "Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians." Christians shuttered their shops and retreated to the interiors of their darkened homes.

News service Ahram Online reported Aug. 7 that Egypt's prosecutor-general had ordered 11 people held in custody for 15 days while authorities investigated the Bani Ahmed violence.

On the same day, the coalition of 16 human-rights groups denounced the "continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence, which have been seen in several governorates, to account."

©2013 World Watch Monitor

Pakistani Christians ensure police arrest key murder suspect

Family and friends gather round the body of Ishaq Masih.
45-year-old Ishaq Masih, a resident of a village in the Okara district, near Lahore, was shot dead on July 27, his children say, by a man named Muhammad Luqman (alias Ranjha) who, accompanied by others, had illegally occupied Masih’s land.
Fearing the police would not follow “due process” as a minority Christian was involved, local Christians rushed to the scene.
They then refused to bury the body for three days (contrary to Pakistani practice of burial the next day) until police had agreed to register the murder, arrest two of the suspects and conduct an autopsy.
On July 29, police promised that they would arrest all other suspects (including Ranjha) within a week, but only if the Christians would bury Masih, and then disperse peacefully. The protesters agreed, and Catholic Father James Bahadur buried Masih that night.
Police, however failed to arrest prime suspect Ranjha by their self-imposed deadline of August 5, the outcome Bahadur and others had feared. (Meanwhile seven suspected accomplices were released on bail).

Top pastor’s arrest adds to Christians’ concerns in Central African Republic

 President Michel Djotodia, pictured, seized power in a coup in March.
On Tuesday (August 6), the leader of the country’s evangelical churches, Rev. Nicolas Guerékoyamé, was arrested for comments about the government. He was released a few hours later.
Local media reported that Guerékoyamé, who is president of the CAR’s Evangelical Alliance, was questioned about remarks during a sermon in Bangui, the capital, on August 4.
However local sources, which remain anonymous for security reasons, said his arrest was linked to the publication of an article in which he inferred that the citizens of the CAR are being treated like slaves.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boko Haram investigated for 'crimes against humanity'

Cover photo courtesy of Pinterest/
Story photo courtesy of World Mission.
Nigeria (MNN) ― When the courts of a country fail to prosecute, the International Criminal Court (ICC) steps in.

ICC’s Chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, stated last Monday August 5 that Boko Haram is being investigated by ICC for “crimes against humanity” through “widespread and systematic attacks.”

Greg Kelly with World Mission says, “They’ve been targeting Christians especially. In the neighborhood of about 3,000 people have lost their lives as the direct result of their attacks since 2009. So they’re very aggressive, they definitely target Christians, and they primarily operate in Northern Nigeria.... They want to incorporate Sharia law among all of Northern Nigeria.”

World Mission has worked in Northern Nigeria for 12 years and have been personally impacted by Boko Haram’s attacks.

“We’ve lost leaders in that area,” says Kelly. “In fact, just a few months ago, one of our Northeast Nigeria [was] participating in a prayer meeting, and Boko Haram people sort of invaded that area and executed 10 people, including our state national leader.”

It’s not safe to be a Christian in Northern Nigeria. When someone makes a decision to follow Christ, sometimes World Mission has to take protective action.

Kelly says, “In villages where hostilities are exaggerated,... it’s just not safe for someone who’s made a decision to follow Christ. Once they’re found, then they tend to disappear, and we never hear from them again. So that’s why we try and bring people out into a safe harbor, disciple them, mentor them, grow them in their understanding of who Jesus is, and then reintroduce them into either that village or another area where they can be effective.”

Because Boko Haram is so radical, they are difficult to engage, says Kelly. But God has called World Mission to reach northern Nigerians, including Boko Haram. “We’ve been distributing The Treasure--which is our solar-powered audio Bible--in the Hausa language, which is the language of the Boko Haram,” Kelly says. “So we do distributions and set up listening groups, and we’ve seen 20 people give their lives to Christ just in recent weeks.”

A high percentage of the population in Northern Nigeria learns orally. 9 times out of 10, they prefer The Treasure audio Bible to a written Bible. World Mission has a goal to distribute 500 Treasures to Northern Nigeria this year. On average, one Treasure touches the lives of 12 people. Over 50,000 people would be impacted by these 500 Treasures.

According to Kelly, “It takes $50 for us to distribute a Treasure. That unleashes our entire arsenal so to speak. We’re distributing a unit, paying the royalties, providing follow-up, providing leadership training.”

There’s also an opportunity to engage a community’s physical needs when World Mission passes out Treasure audio Bibles. “In many instances, especially in Northern Nigeria and places where there’s radicalization of Islam, we’ll do a water well or we’ll do a humanitarian expression which just softens the soil and makes the Treasure that much more impactful. So in Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has created 240,000 refugees just in two states; there’s a real humanitarian crisis that’s really not spoken about,” says Kelly.

Pray for World Mission as they distribute Treasures to communities in Northern Nigeria. Pray for safety and for many Muslims to come to Christ.

Reverend missing; activists suspect kidnapping

Reverend Paolo Dall'Oglio.
(Photo courtesy of VOMC/Flickr /veDro - l'Italia al futuro)
Syria (MNN/VOMC) ― Rev. Paolo Dall’Oglio is still missing two weeks after his disconcerting disappearance in Syria.

Dall’Oglio, an Italian Jesuit priest, was last heard from on Monday, July 29th. Activists in the region speculate he may have been kidnapped by Syrian rebel forces linked to al-Qaeda.

Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio spent three decades in Syria before the government deported him last year for helping victims of President Bashar al-Assad's military crackdown, according to Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) source, Assist News Service. He re-entered the country in late July.

A source close to Dall’Oglio got an e-mail from him on July 26. The reverend wrote in the e-mail that he would be travelling to assist “difficult mediation,” according to the Religion News Service. The Christian Post says the source suggested, “It is possible the priest purposely went off the grid in Raqqa to help mediate the release of two hostages being held by Islamic rebels.”

The reverend's disappearance comes three months after the kidnapping of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo in April. According to VOMC, these reflect the dangers Christians are still facing in this war-torn country.

Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church were kidnapped near the village of Kafr Dael on April 22nd while returning from the Turkish border on a humanitarian relief trip. The abduction happened on the road to Aleppo from the rebel-held Bab al Hawa Province, where gunmen intercepted their vehicle and killed the driver.

The fate of both clergymen is still unknown.

According to the United Nations, Syrian Christians have been vulnerable since the beginning of the civil war in 2011 which has left more than 100,000 people dead. Reportedly hundreds of believers have been kidnapped since hostilities began in 2011, and thousands more have fled the country. Many have crossed over into Lebanon or Turkey where they await legal or illegal means to reach Europe and obtain political asylum.
VOMC asks for prayer that the Lord would be a shield to the multitudes of innocent people who are caught in the cross fire between the forces of good and evil. Ask for His divine protection and strength to be upon all of His faithful servants who are boldly taking a stand for righteousness.

Egyptian Crhristians harassed by Islamists

Egypt 2012 (Photos by Ruth Kramer)
Egypt (MNN) ― As tensions boil in Egypt, the country's Christians are dreading its repercussions.

Since President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood were removed from power by the military in early July, Islamist extremists have targeted Egypt's Christian minority, holding them partly responsible. E3 Partners Middle East expert Tom Doyle explains, "Whenever there is some political change, whenever there is something new--the Arab Spring, whatever arises--inevitably targets result...and typically, it's Christians."

Over the weekend, a clash in one southern city between Christians and Muslims saw 15 people wounded, and homes and a church burned. It started innocently enough: Muslim neighbors had a dispute over a speed bump being built in front of a Christian home. Tempers flared and fighting broke out, resulting in the ruins seen in the light of day.

When asked why Christians were blamed for the Morsi's ouster, Doyle said, "They went from having oppression under the government, to now [being] out of power and then being the agitators. They really can't do anything to the military, at this point, because the military is so strong. So they're going after Christians. They're unleashing their anger on Christians."

Applications to leave the country are increasing among both Christians and Muslims. By some estimates, tens of thousands of Christians have fled post-revolution Egypt.

According to corresponding reports from the Voice of the Martyrs USA, radicals have vandalized Christian-owned shops to identify them. Many Christian shop owners have closed their businesses. Christian women and girls are staying at home to prevent being attacked or kidnapped by radical Muslims. Asking for protection provides little comfort. Doyle cited a case where church officials got wind of a threat against them, asked police for help, and only after the church burned to the ground did help arrive. As cases like these pile up, he says, "God is their protector there because they cannot depend on the government."

Doyle goes on to say that the paradox of persecution comes to life in times like this. "There's unrest on both sides, Christian and Muslim. It's a dangerous situation, and people are reevaluating how they think and what they believe."

As people begin questioning the violence, their dogma, and more, ground is being prepared for the seed of hope. "We really need to pray for believers there. There are Christians that are in above-ground churches, like the Coptics. There are underground believers that come from a Muslim background, that are worshiping privately in homes so they're not in danger."

Christians in Egypt are asking you to pray with them for protection, but there's more to it than that. "Pray that the Christians can be known for love and not retaliation," notes Doyle. When believers respond in the name of Christ, and with boldness, it gets noticed. "Privately, Muslims are coming to faith in Jesus, wanting a different way, looking for a different relationship with God that they can only find through Jesus."

VBB seeks open doors in North Korea

According to the Open Doors World Watch List,
North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians
 in the world. (Image courtesy World Watch List)
North Korea (MNN) ― Concern is growing for a U.S. Christian being held in one of North Korea's infamous gulags.

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old U.S. missionary, was recently moved to a hospital because his health is rapidly declining. Detained in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of "hard labor" in April, Bae is accused of "hostile acts" against the country of North Korea.

According to the Associated Press, Bae is the sixth American to be detained by North Korea since 2009, and at least four of the people imprisoned in recent years are devout Christians.

Vision Beyond Borders President Patrick Klein just returned from the oppressive nation.

"It was unbelievable spiritual warfare. I mean, just constant," says Klein. "I've never faced such spiritual oppression before in my entire life."

Klein and a few others were visiting foreign workers in North Korea, looking for ways VBB could start supporting believers in the country.

"I think the people of North Korea are hungry," says Klein. "But there's incredible oppression, and I believe that's why we have to pray that God will break through that and that the people will see the Truth of Jesus Christ."

Idolatry is a significant challenge in North Korea because the national government insists people worship their leaders as gods. Klein recalls an oft-played video; he feels it was intended to showcase North Korea's supremacy.

"It really was a mockery of a church service," says Klein. "It had women leading [something] like a praise service, and people were worshiping their leaders. The whole place was filled with people dressed nicely.

"And then, they flashed on the big screen pictures of their leaders, and people started applauding and worshiping these leaders."

As if that weren't enough, the video's ending scenario truly "put a cherry on top."

"There was a nuclear warhead headed for the United States, and then they showed this big explosion," Klein recalls. "And at the end of this explosion, the people stood up and started applauding very, very loudly.

"That is such a mockery of our worship services, where we exalt Jesus and are looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ."

According to the Open Doors World Watch List, North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world.

"[This government] is so wicked that they actually turn children against their parents," says Klein.

He shares a story he heard while in-country: "'Some of your parents have a little book,' teachers told their students one day. 'Your assignment is to go home tonight and find that book, and bring it back to school tomorrow.'"

In class the next day, 16 children came to class with their parents' Bibles and were paraded around the classroom to much applause and cheering. One little girl was so excited by the celebration, Klein says, she couldn't wait to run home and tell her parents about it.

However, "when she got home, her parents were gone, and [they] never came back. They were taken to a concentration camp, and the little girl was taken to a state-run orphanage," Klein says.

"What a wicked, wicked system," he continues. "But we know that God is so much greater and that He Himself can break through this. I believe that prayer is the key."

As VBB searches for a way to support the Body of Christ in North Korea, please pray.

"The only way we can really get involved in there is through prayer and God opening the doors. We're committed to go back," says Klein. "We know it's only the Lord that's going to open the doors; we can't do it on our own."

Pray that doors will open for VBB in North Korea. Ask the Lord to open blind eyes to governmental oppression and idolatry.

Visit our Interviews page and hear more of Klein's stories from North Korea.

Coptic Christian Girl Shot Dead in Egypt Threats, attacks continue as Christians are blamed for ouster of Morsi

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Morning Star News ( is reporting that a Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed this week in Cairo by an unidentified gunman, human rights activists said on Friday, August 9, 2013.

Jessica Boulous (Morning Star News photo courtesy of Boulous family)
Amid a near-constant din of threats and scattered attacks against the Christian population in Egypt by militant political Islamists, the rights representatives said 10-year-old Jessica Boulous of the Ain Shams section of Cairo was killed early Tuesday evening (Aug. 6) while walking from the Ahmed Esmat Street Evangelical Church through a market to her home with her Sunday school teacher.

According to the Middle East Correspondent for the news service, the teacher turned to buy an item at a market stall only to turn back and find Jessica lying in the dirt in a puddle of blood, rights activists said. A Muslim shopkeeper who knew Jessica saw her fall to the ground and ran to her side. He took off his shirt, wrapped it around her motionless body and rushed her to a hospital, but she was already dead.

A single bullet had passed through her chest and heart, killing her instantly, witnesses said.

Nasr Allah Zakaria, Jessica's uncle, said the killing has devastated the girl's family.

"I just can't believe she is gone," Zakaria said. "She was such a sweet little girl. She was like a daughter to me. I can't believe she is gone."

The story added that no one has claimed responsibility for the killing. Zakaria, pastor of an evangelical church in Egypt, said he didn't know for sure if the shooting was religiously motivated but quickly added that violence against Christians "seems to be normal" in Egypt now.

"Violence or intimidation against Christians has become almost a daily occurrence in most parts of Egypt," continued the Middle East Correspondent. "In the aftermath of the protests that led to the removal of Mohamed Morsi as president, militant supporters of Morsi have publically scapegoated the Coptic Christian minority for the Islamic Brotherhood-backed president's fall from power.

"Many have called for revenge against Christians. Less than 12 hours after the Egyptian military announced that it had expelled Morsi from office, reports of attacks against Christians by Morsi supporters began.

"After numerous attacks for about a week and a half, there was a relative lull in the violence. But at the end of July, the pace picked up once more. The attacks were inspired, human rights activists said, by a near-constant stream of vitriol from Islamic leaders calling for retribution against the Copts."

The journalist went on to say that members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 2 distributed flyer threatening to attack church buildings and police stations in Minya in Upper Egypt, according to local residents. Muslim Brotherhood leaders have stated that the attacks against the Christians will not stop until Morsi has returned to power. The new wave of attacks has included drive-by-shootings, kidnappings, attacks on church buildings and Christian-owned property and now two lethal shootings.

On the same day Jessica was killed, masked gunmen burst into a grocery store in Jazeerat Al Khazendara village in Souhag and attacked a Coptic Christian family according to the rights activists. During the kidnapping attempt, Milad Ebeed was abducted and his father, mother and brother were all shot. His father, Sadek Ebeed, 75, died at the store. The others sustained serious, but not life-threatening wounds.

Milad Ebeed was later released after a ransom was paid, the rights activists said.

Along with the shootings, the towns of Minya and Assuit have been the sites of repeated attacks against Christians, which make up about 10 percent of Egypt's predominantly Sunni Muslim population. For the past two weeks, unidentified vandals have painted graffiti on church buildings and Christian-owned homes and businesses in Assuit declaring, "Egypt is Muslim, not Christian."

According to the story, "At the same time, Islamists have been roaming Christian areas of Assuit handing out anti-Christian flyers and intimidating any Coptic business owner who keeps his store open, rights activists said.

"On Saturday (Aug. 3), roughly 20 people were injured and five Coptic-owned homes were destroyed along with several Coptic-owned businesses in the village of Al-Sharqiya in Minya Governorate when a political dispute at a Coptic-owned café turned ugly. A fight that started over changing the channel from a news program quickly led to Islamist mobs rampaging through the village with clubs, swords and Molotov cocktails, according to human rights activists."
Mina Thabet, spokesman of the Maspero Students Union, said things could get worse in Minya.

"For the past few days, we have had many instances of attacks against Copts," Thabet said. "Threats are widespread. In the Minya Governorate, I think it will be hard for the next few days."

In a statement released Wednesday (Aug. 7), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and 15 other human rights organizations condemned Islamist incitement to violence and the government's lack of will to stop it.

"These organizations strongly condemn the rhetoric employed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, which includes clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains, regardless of the grave repercussions of such rhetoric for peace in Egypt," the statement read.

The statement further denounced negligence of the state to protect Christians, to confront sectarian attacks and to hold assailants in several governorates responsible.

"This negligence reveals that the pattern of impunity which spread during the Mubarak era and remained in place throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood continues to this day, even after both of these regimes were overthrown," the organizations stated.

The Morning Star News story stated that Zakara said that, strangely, Jessica, an only child, was concerned about the violence and seemed to have a premonition of her death. She watched protests on television and urged her parents to get involved, but at the same time she was afraid enough for her safety that she asked her Sunday school teacher to escort her home from Bible school.

"She said she didn't feel safe," Zakaria said. "She asked her mother and father, 'What if I am at a protest and I got shot in the chest? What would happen to me?'"

Egypt: CSW Expresses Concern about Attacks against Christians As Coptic Pope Cancels Public Sermons

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) -- Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has told the ASSIST News Service ( that it is deeply concerned by continuing attacks against Egyptian Christians, which have increased in frequency since the removal of the Morsi regime and have prompted Pope Tawadros II to cancel his weekly public sermons.

Pope Tawadros II (Photo: Reuters)
The UK-based group says that violence and hate speech targeting religious minorities was already on the increase under the former president's rule. Since his removal from power, attacks on the Coptic community in particular have increased sharply, primarily but not exclusively in Upper Egypt, following allegations from several Islamist sources that Christians played a pivotal role in the removal of Morsi's regime.

On August 7, 2013, 16 Egyptian human rights organizations issued a statement expressing "grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the June 30 uprising" and denounced the "continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence, which have been seen in several governorates to account."

In a statement issued yesterday, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said, "Egypt cannot move forward while state apparatus does not hold people accountable for these unlawful hate crimes that stand to divide the country further, promoting increased polarization at every level.

Proactive efforts must be made towards promoting social cohesion and inclusion for all members of society so that this new phase of Egyptian history can be built upon true unity, collaboration, and reconciliation."

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "CSW urges the interim government to ensure security for the Coptic community, and that those perpetrating sectarian violence are apprehended and charged. Egypt's Christians must be afforded the same protection under the law as their fellow citizens. We continue to pray and stand in solidarity with all Egyptians at this critical time in their nation's journey to full democracy."

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

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0) 20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or