Thursday, August 22, 2013

South African Church Charged By State with Teaching Parental Abuse

By Nico Bougas
Special to ASSIST News Service

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (ANS) -- A Cape Town church has been charged by the South African Human Rights Commission over its views on corporal punishment. The church, Joshua Generation, has called on other South African churches to join it in standing against what they see as a government attack on freedom of religion.
Pastor Andrew Selley and his wife Emma

The Commission has charged Joshua Generation with its teaching of "spare the rod and spoil the child." 

However Senior Pastor, Andrew Selley, after meeting with religious rights lawyers and has issued a statement declaring that, "the real problem is that this is an attempt to curb religious freedom. If we don't oppose this it will lead to Christian churches being prohibited from teaching the Bible as they understand it."

"We call on Muslims and Jews to speak out against this situation because this is a struggle for religious freedom," said Selley in an interview yesterday.

Selley says that there has been an overwhelming response from both individuals as well as several large churches that have supported them in their fight for religious freedom.

Family Policy Institute Director, Errol Naidoo supported Selley's call on church leaders: "If Joshua Generationcannot share what the Bible teaches about child discipline it means that the whole church will forfeit its right to teach Biblical Christian principles. If the Human Rights Commission or any other government agency wants to dictate what the church can teach or not teach, it means the end of church autonomy.

A recent Global Gathering event at the church
"It is absolutely essential that the church speak with a united voice against this totalitarian intrusion into its legitimate role."

Corporal punishment in the home is not illegal in South Africa but it has been outlawed at schools since 2006. The Government is currently working on draft legislation to outlaw spanking at home.

African Christian Democratic Alliance representative and Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley, who met withJoshua Generation Church leaders today, advised the church to use the opportunity of the investigation to inform the commission that it is aware of the problem of violence against children in South Africa and offers parenting courses and other guidance to equip parents to discipline their children in a safe, and non-abusive way.

Selley said the church will inform the commission of its responsible parenting measures as well as its community outreach projects aimed at protecting children.

"At the same time we hope that the church in South Africa will rally around us and tell the commission to back off," he said.

This investigation is the second recent case in which the State human rights watchdog's activities have raised questions about an apparent agenda of attacking religious freedom. In April the Commission found Creare Christian Arts Training Centre in Bloemfontein guilty of discriminating against homosexuals for holding a Bible-based view that homosexual practice is sinful. Creare is appealing against the ruling which will be decided in the Constitutional Court.

Rimsha accused goes free

Cleric acquitted due to ‘insufficient evidence’

Rights activist Basharat Khokhar, left; Mizrak Masih, centre;
daughter Rimsha, right, in early 2013, after her release.
The Muslim cleric suspected of framing Pakistani Christian girl Rimsha Masih has been acquitted.

The district court found there was insufficient evidence to convict Imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti, who was suspected of planting the burnt pages of some Islamic texts into the teenager’s bag.

Rimsha was arrested at the age of 14 in August last year and jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the sector of Islamabad where her family lived.


Christians bracing for more attacks

Egypt (MNN) ― While the United States has suspended military aid to Egypt, few in the Middle East country are concerned. Why? Saudi Arabia has pledged to make up any aid that is taken away. That means radicals may only be more emboldened to cause chaos.

At this point, the Egyptian military has gained control of the country, arresting a top Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohammed Badie.

E3 Partners Middle East expert Tom Doyle says Christians seem relieved that the military is in control, "But I think they're also bracing themselves for attacks. They know with the Brotherhood out of power, they're not going to go away quietly."

Christians have traditionally voted against the Muslim Brotherhood, which just magnifies the problem.

Doyle says despite the unrest, the evangelical church is seeing great growth. 20 years ago, it was rare to hear of a Muslim becoming a Christian. Now, it's common to hear of Muslims coming to faith in Christ in amazing ways. "They privately sought out Christians, learned more about Jesus, started reading the Bible, [and] came to faith in Him. This is something we see as normal today."

Doyle says E3 leaders are excited about the work in Egypt right now. One leader told him, "I wouldn't [want] to be anywhere else in the world but Egypt right now, because God is moving. Certainly it's dangerous, but God is moving in such a powerful way. This is the hour of need where we can bring the message of Jesus to the nation."

E3 Partners is providing training and materials to help believers reach out to Muslims. And funding is needed more now than ever before. "There's a systematic plan to get the Gospel to every living person in Egypt: 85 million. That's quite a feat!"

Many E3 leaders use the EvangeCube, which is a puzzle-like cube with pictures, to share the Gospel with Muslims who had visions or dreams about Jesus. Doyle reports that a believer "was sharing the Gospel using the EvangeCube [with some Muslims], and this was the same picture that they saw in their dream of Jesus on the cross for them. How amazing is that?"

Prayer is essential, too. Click here to join the E3 8Thirty8 prayer initiative, based on Romans 8:38.

Open Doors offers free resources for IDOP 2013

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
 will be observed November 3, 2013.
 (Image courtesy Open Doors)
International (MNN) ― They're hunted down by the Boko Haram in Nigeria. They're slaughtered on the streets of Egypt. They're the target of legal injustice in Central Asia.

Why? The answer is simple: they are followers of Christ.

According to Open Doors USA, over 100 million Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They're the reason for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, or IDOP.

"Dedicating this day of prayer is absolutely vital," says Emily Fuentes with Open Doors. "Prayer has moved mountains in the past, and prayers change the hearts of leaders. Prayers can change the course of history for nations."

IDOP will be observed on the first Sunday of November this year, November 3. To help you engage the "prayer warriors" in your congregation, Open Doors is offering a free prayer kit.

"There are prayer guides, there are videos, there are bulletin inserts, sermon outlines--free resources in general, just to make this day happen," Fuentes explains.

You can click here to request a prayer kit from Open Doors, or you can download it to your computer by clicking here.

"This is a great way of uniting the Body of Christ," says Fuentes. "We're one body; when one member suffers, we all suffer. When one is lifted up, we all rejoice."

MNN will also be airing a special broadcast on IDOP, encouraging Christians to honor heroes of the faith around the world and to pray for Christians who face harm every day.
In the United States--a country founded upon freedoms, it's hard to grasp the concept of persecution.

"Brother Andrew, our founder, once had a statement saying, 'You Christians in America aren't persecuted. You're intimidated,'" Fuentes says.

She points to North Korea as an example. It tops the Open Doors World Watch List, a compilation of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the worst.

In this country, "your faith doesn't just affect you," Fuentes says. "It affects your whole family."

Fuentes explains that proclaiming Christ as Lord in North Korea will get you and three generations of your family thrown into a concentration camp or gulag.

"Dilemmas that Christians in countries like North Korea have to go through are beyond what any of us could ever imagine," she states.

Please remember the persecuted in your prayers today.

"It's important to remember how many times in the New Testament we're called to be one Body, the Body of Christ," adds Fuentes.

Possible kidnapping of Ukrainian church member

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)
Ukraine (MNN/SGA) ― Picture the most devoted Christ-follower you know. How would you feel if that person suddenly went missing?

That's what happened in the Ukraine at a church supported by Slavic Gospel Association. What follows is a verbatim report from their prayer letter.

Today we received an urgent prayer request from brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian city of Nikopol. One of their dedicated church members, Julia Tsapko, vanished without a trace on her way home from church August 4, 2013. She was last seen at the Nikopol Baptist Church Sunday, August 4, and then was seen walking on her way home. She never arrived.

For a time, Julia was here in the United States, fellowshipping at Grace Family Church, a Russian-speaking congregation in Carmachael, California. She is described as a fervent Christian who loves God and people, and one who has always been involved in various ministries including youth ministry.

She is a graduate of Tavriski Christian Institute, an evangelical Bible school in the city of Kherson. In the past year, Julia returned to Nikopol, Ukraine, where she lived with her parents.

The e-mail we received contained the following statement:

Julia's disappearance has shocked and greatly affected all of her family, friends, and acquaintances. Since she would not have left on her own, this case probably involves abduction. Despite numerous unanswered questions and not knowing, we trust in our God and His mercy, love, and faithfulness. We pray that God will shine His light on this situation, and that He will keep Julia safe, returning her home, and to glorify and lift up His powerful name as a testimony to all people.

Islamic Extremists in Somalia Abduct Christian Mother of Two Young Children

Husband receives threatening text messages from kidnappers

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

BULO MARER, SOMALIA (ANS) -- Islamic extremists suspected to be rebel al-Shabab militants have kidnapped a Christian mother of two young children in Somalia and threatened her husband because of their faith, her husband said.

Somalia`s Islamic al-Shabab spokesman Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Mansur (C) addresses a news conference where he vowed to step up attacks against government soldiers and foreign troops
in Mogadishu
Three masked men abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein, 28, on Aug. 5 in Bulo Marer, Lower Shebelle Region, at 7 p.m. outside her home after determining that she was a secret Christian, 31-year-old Mohamed Isse Osman told Morning Star News (
"I just heard screaming from my wife and the children as I approached my house," Osman said.

That night, his wife was able to send him a text message saying he should flee the area, he said.

"Please leave immediately because of what we believe," she said in the text. "They have abused me sexually saying I am an infidel."

According to the East Africa correspondent for the news service, Osman said he has received anonymous, threatening text messages from the kidnappers from a withheld number, including one reading, "Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement and soon we shall come for you too."

A leader of the underground church in the undisclosed town to which Osman and his daughters, ages 3 and 5, have fled said Osman has not heard from his wife since her Aug. 5 text message.

"Our two young daughters are crying for their mother," Osman told the church leader.

The story went on to say that a resident of the Bulo Marer area whose name is withheld confirmed that Hussein was abducted but that local residents knew little else about it.

"What little we knew about Osman's family was that they were not very committed to attending the mosque during Ramadan time," he said.

Somalis consider themselves Muslim by birth, and apostasy, or leaving Islam, is punishable by death.

"Al-Shabab, said to have ties with Al Qaeda, reportedly has a base in Bulo Marer. The group has vowed to rid Somalia of Christians, who meet secretly due to persecution. Al Shabaab is battling the Somali government that replaced the Transitional Federal Government a year ago, on Aug. 20, 2012," added the East Africa Correspondent.

"On June 7 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sources said. Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said."

The insurgents have lost control of several areas of Somalia since Kenyan military forces helped to dislodge them in the past year, but they are suspected in the shooting death of a Christian pharmacist on the outskirts of Kismayo in February. Two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on Feb. 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village.

According to Morning Star News, these are some of the other attacks:

* On April 13, al-Shabab rebels shot his widow, 42-year-old Fartun Omar, to death in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne, leaving their five children orphaned.

* On March 23, al-Shabab militants in Bulo Marer jailed and tortured a Christian, 25-year-old Hassan Gulled, for converting from Islam, sources said.

* On Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu, gunmen killed a Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. Two unidentified, masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home, Muslim and Christian sources said. Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the al-Shabab rebels, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few al-Shabab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.

* In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, al-Shabab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said. Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in the Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia.

"Kenya's population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia's is close to 100 percent Muslim," concluded the story.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Another shocking piece of Pakistani 'justice' as court drops charges in Rimsha 'blasphemy' cleric case

Muslim imam, Khalid Jadoon, was arrested after being in accused of framing a young Christian girl, and now free

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- In another shocking case of Pakistani justice, a court in this predominately Islamic country, has dismissed charges against a Muslim cleric who had been arrested on suspicion of framing a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.

Rimsha Masih's arrest picture
The imam, Khalid Jadoon, had accused 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, an illiterate Christian girl, who had been scouring the area for paper that could be used for heating and cooking in her poverty-stricken home in a Christian conclave of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital city.

Rimsha was arrested on August 16, 2012, and accused of burning pages from the Koran. The bewildered teenager spent several weeks in prison before being freed.

Fearing for her life, she has since fled to Canada with her family.

According to the BBC, Jadoon was never formally indicted, as witnesses have now withdrawn their accusations and he has been freed.

"It had been claimed that he planted pages of the Koran in a bag containing ash which was seized from the girl, who is believed to have learning difficulties," said the BBC story.

Mr. Jadoon's attorney and a prosecution lawyer told BBC Urdu that a district court accepted there was no case to be heard against him.

Khalid Jadoon at his arrest
Shortly after Rimsha's arrest, Pakistan Today reported that a witness came forward and claimed that the cleric who played a major role in framing the charges of burning pages of the Koran, had fabricated the evidence by placing Koranic pages in the ash brought to him by the complainant.

Recording his statement before a magistrate in Islamabad, Hafiz Zubair said he and two other people were present in the mosque for Aitekaf [meditation] during the month of Ramadan in the mosque - situated in front of Rimsha's house.

That was when Malik Ammad, the complainant in the case, came to the mosque's imam Khalid Jadoon with a plastic bag that he claimed contained the ashes of a Noorani Qaida [a basic learning book of the Koran] allegedly burnt by Rimsha.

Zubair said Jadoon brought some pages of the Holy Koran from inside the mosque and mixed them with the ash.
A man, who said he was an eye-witness, said at the time, "I asked Jadoon why he was fabricating the evidence. He said that this would ensure a strong case against the girl and would ultimately help them in evicting the Christians from the locality."

Pakistan Today said the man added that the other two people present in the mosque at that time had also asked the imam not to place false evidence against the girl.

Khalid Jadoon has now gone free
On September 22, 2012, police investigating the case declared that prayer leader was guilty of the crime, adding that there was no evidence against Rimsha and that he had framed her.

Eventually, on Tuesday, November 20, 2012, as the worldwide community began protesting this case, there finally came some good news for the poor girl when the Islamabad High Court (IHC), ordered that the case against her be thrown out and she and her family had to go into hiding after receiving death threats and have since been given asylum in Canada.

But then, as the police continued their case against the imam, it was thrown into disarray after the three witnesses who had testified against him, then withdrew their testimonies, and now, after Rimsha Masih's life was changed forever, he is free and no punishment has been given him for what he allegedly did.

But I guess we shouldn't be too surprised, as this seems to be typical of Pakistani "justice" against the Christian community, and also other members of minority religions, when the controversial blasphemy laws come into play.

Keep Victims of Religious Persecution in Prayers

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- One of the greatest things about living in the U.S. is the freedom of religion granted under the Constitution's First Amendment.

Mark A. Kellner
Writing in the Washington Times, Mark A. Kellner reminds readers we can attend worship services at any church, synagogue, mosque, meeting house, temple or assembly, and promote our religion without too much hassle.

Not every place in the world is as fortunate, as ongoing headlines worldwide show.

The violent uprising in Egypt, as opponents of the current military-backed regime keep up their protests in the streets, has spilled over onto Coptic and other Christian churches.

Kellner says according to journalist Elizabeth Iskander Monier, writing at the "Egypt Unwrapped" blog of the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the Copts "have no cheek left to turn" in the face of persecution.

Copts are targets of Muslim Brotherhood protesters, Monier writes, because they welcomed the removal of President Mohammed Morsi.

In turn, she notes, churches have been burned, and a 10-year-old Coptic girl, Jessica Boulos, was reportedly shot as she left a Coptic church.

Kellner says Monier notes that these attack s, and others, have largely been ignored by global media outlets that, understandably, are trying to keep up with the overall instability and tumult in Egypt.

According to a transcript of his Martha's Vineyard remarks on the crisis, President Obama noted the situation involving the Copts.

"We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we've seen by protesters, including on churches," he said.

However, Kellner says, Egypt is far from the only place where people of faith are facing serious challenges in just trying to be faithful to their beliefs.

Unconfirmed reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say that Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, 58, a Roman Catholic priest who disappeared in a rebel-controlled area of Syria on July 29, was killed by rebels linked to Al Qaeda.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying the report could not be confirmed.

Kellner says the fact that Dall'Oglio (who has spent much of the last 30 years working to restore an ancient church in Syria), disappeared during the fighting in Syria suggests how dangerous the Syrian situation is for all, but especially those who are part of minority religious groups there.

Also this week, news came out from North Korea concerning Kenneth Bae, an American citizen and missionary sentenced to 15 years in a prison camp.

Bae has been moved to a hospital from the prison camp, where he had been working eight hours a day as a farmhand. During his imprisonment, Bae, who has other health issues, lost 50 pounds and his condition was such that hospitalization was considered necessary.

In Seattle, Kellner says, family and friends have organized prayer meetings and petition drives to secure Bae's release.

Islamist Boko Haram guerrillas in northern Nigeria attacked several villages in Borno state on Aug. 10 and 11, killing 50 people and injuring dozens more, according to ASSIST News Service Founder Dan Wooding.

Wooding says the ongoing Boko Haram campaign, which previously was dir ectly largely at churches in the region as well as individuals going to or coming from houses of worship, has now expanded to mosques deemed unfriendly to the Boko Haram partisans.

These reports - and myriad others - underscore the huge challenge many people of faith face around the world.

Kellner says those who believe in, and support, religious liberty, can help by staying informed, praying and certainly lobbying government leaders here and abroad to respect the most basic of human rights; that of the freedom to follow the faith of one's choice, and to share belief freely.

For more information visit

Churches Raided in China as Shouwang Leaders Remain under House Arrest

Pastors arrested in Xinjiang, Hebei; harassment of Beijing fellowship continues

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

LOS ANGELES (ANS) -- Local police broke up the worship service of a house church and arrested its pastor in China's Xinjiang region for the second time earlier this month as pastors at Beijing Shouwang Church remained under house arrest.

Worshippers at Beijing Shouwang Church. (CAA photo)
According to a story by Morning Star News, in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, at least 20 police officers from the Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau and the Xishan Police Station on Aug. 4 shut down the worship worship and arrested Pastor Tan Wen.

The officers did not show any identification or follow correct procedures, according to news portal Monitor China, just as five officers without police uniform failed to do when they disrupted a service and detained the pastor for 10 days on June 9.

In the latest raid on the church in China's northwestern region, Morning Star News said officers also seized Bibles, hymnals and other books.

"The police also tried to take away Pastor Tan, but the congregation blocked the door and negotiated with the police, asking why they were being harassed, to which the officers answered that they were not permitted to gather and would be arrested every time they came together," Monitor China reported.

"The police then exited the church through a back door, taking Pastor Tan with them to the police station."

Authorities transferred the pastor to Xishan Police Station and then to a detention center that night to serve a 15-day sentence, according to China Monitor.

In the June 9 raid, three men and two women in plainclothes broke into the house where the church was worshipping - some members of the congregation feared they were being robbed - and shouted, "Yours is an illegal assembly, and all of you must stay still," according to China Aid Association (CAA).

"Although the police officer refused to provide any identification themselves, they interrogated the worshippers for more than an hour, threatening to take the young people to the police station for further questioning," CAA reported. "When the worshippers demanded to see official identification, one of the officers stated that those who raid illegal Christian gatherings do not need to show identification."

Local police, overstepping procedural bounds, sentenced the pastor to 10 days of public secur ity detention and fined him 500 Yuan (US$81), according to CAA.

Morning Star News said two other house churches whose worship services were disrupted in Urumqi, one onJune 23 and the other on July 21, were also hit with detentions and fines.
CAA stated that in all the Urumqi raids, police failed to show identification and imposed penalties that had no basis in law, as such matters are regulated by the Bureau of Religion.

"The officers had no authority to regulate the citizens' religious faith," CAA stated. "The relevant facts and applicable law were misstated by the officers and did not support the penalties imposed. The officers' actions violated the Christians' religious freedom and personal rights."
On the eastern side of the country in Hebei Province surrounding Beijing, Morning Star News said a priest of an unregistered Catholic Church fellowship was arrested this month.
Law enforcement officials arrested Rev. Song Wanjun of Xiwanzi, Qiaodong District at 4 a.m. on Aug. 7 as he was driving, according to Asia News.

In Beijing, a source told Morning Star News that two pastors' at Shouwang Church are still under house arrest more than two years after the fellowship was forced to worship in the open air.

"At the doors of at least two pastors' homes, there are still a couple of plain-clothes police officers on their duty 24 hours a day," said the source, who requested anonymity. "The other major co-workers are under house arrest for somewhat different hours."

The church has been meeting outside since April 10 2011 after authorities pressured a landlord to terminate the lease on their building. Officials had also blocked the fellowship from the premises it had bought in 2009.

Members of the church, attended by about 1,000 people, have been routinely arrested at the outdoor services.

"The time of detention over the recent months is a few hours on average, which is shorter than the past, when it could be 24 or even 48 hours," the source said.
Morning Star News said of the 38 peop le arrested Aug. 11, one woman was mistreated, according to a statement from the church.

"It was really sad for us to hear that one sister was manhandled by a deputy director at Zhongguancun West District police station, who seized her by the throat and pulled her hair," the church said. "Our sister calmly faced such rough treatment, and forgave this man by God's grace. Nevertheless, we still condemn this deputy director for his evil-doing."

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation whose mission is to inform those in the free world and in countries violating religious freedom about Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith.
For more information visit

Christian Churches throughout Egypt Stormed, Torched

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KAFR HAKIM, EGYPT (ANS) -- For 67 years, the Virgin Mary Church was a peaceful refuge for Shenouda El Sayeh, much like the Giza province village of Hafr Hakim where it rests and where he has lived all those years.

Egypt's churches looted and torched (via CNN).
However, according to a story by Sarah Sirgany and Laura Smith-Spark for CNN, as he swept its floors on Thursday, it was painfully obvious things had changed.

The night before, a mob -- chanting against Coptic Christians such as El Sayeh and calling for Egypt to become an "Islamic state" -- had torched and looted the Virgin Mary Church.

"I didn't expect this to happen," CNN reported El Sayeh said.

He's not alone. Christians all around Egypt are cleaning up in the aftermath of a spate of attacks, which not coincidentally came on the county's deadliest day since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span that started Wednesday, as well as numerous Christians' homes and businesses.

Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 c hurches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers.

Those churches reportedly set ablaze Wednesday included St. George Church in Sohag, a city south of Cairo on the Nile River.

And the new day brought new attacks. CNN said Prince Tadros Church in Fayoum, which is southwest of Cairo, was stormed and burned Thursday night, according to the official Middle East News Agency.

This and other attacks have been blamed by some on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group once led by more recently deposed President Mohamed Morsy. They, too, have reportedly been caught up in the violence.

CNN reported Egypt's health ministry said at least 580 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured amidst clashes involving security forces and Morsy supporters.

What group, if any, is behind the church attacks, and how coordinated this violence has been might not been be sorted out definitely for some time.

Until then, Christians in Egypt are left to try to put things back together, as well as to try to make sense of what's transpired.

As Dalia Ziada of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies told CNN, "This is horrible to happen in only one day."

Christians Highly Unsafe in Central African Republic

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (ANS) -- Amid the political chaos that has gripped the Central African Republic (CAR) since a rebel coalition captured power five months ago, the country's Christians seem to have become a target.

Map of the area
The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the northeast, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo in the south and Cameroon in the west.

According to a news release from the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-RLC), the government recently arrested a top evangelical leader, and armed Islamists attacked Christian villages, killing at least 15 people and displacing about 1,000.

On Aug. 6, authorities briefly arrested President of CAR's Evangelical Alliance, Rev. Nicolas Guerékoyamé, for criticizing the government in a sermon at his church in the national capital of Bangui, LNC Media reported.

Days later, the Catholic group Aid to Church in Need reported that at least 15 people were killed and more than 1,000 made homeless after Islamist militia attacked 14 Christian villages that come under the Catholic Diocese of Bouar.

The news release said the attackers were from the newly formed Séléka coalition, which overthrew the regime of President François Bozizé in a military coup in March. According to witnesses, the militants threw bodies in a river, including that of a five-month-old baby.

"These incidents highlight targeting of Christians and breakdown of law and order in the country," WEA-RLC Executive Director Godfrey Yogarajah said in the news release.

Guerékoyamé is a member of CAR's National Transitional Council (NTC), the acting parliament formed of 105 members, but "his immunity was not respected," WEA-RLC said LNC Media noted.

The NTC was formed after the Séléka alliance suspended the constitution and parliament that functioned under President Bozizé.

Bozizé came to power in 2003 through a military coup, and had since won elections.

"By arresting the evangelical leader, the new regime seems to be sending the message that churches and Christian groups should abstain from opposing new officials in any manner," Yogarajah said in the news release.

He added, " And the selective attacks on Christian villages raise the fear that Christians might bear the brunt of the breakdown of law and order in the country."

A panel of U.N. experts this week said the rule of law is "almost non-existent." They noted, "reports of killings, torture, arbitrary detention, violence against women, forced disappearances, acts of popular justice, as well as the general climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law established in the past five months."

Reports suggest armed rebels are taking advantage of the anarchy in the country, and there is also infighting among the rebels.

The WEA-RLC news release said rebels are sparing Muslim villages and homes as they go on a killing, looting and raping spree. Groups have also warned that over 100,000 children are facing sexual abuse and recruitment into armed groups.

About half of the country's population of 4.4 million is Christian - 25 percent Protestants and 25 percent Catholics.

The country's 15 percent Muslims are concentrated in the north, where the rebellion started.

The release said new President Michel Djotodia, leader of the Séléka alliance, declared himself the country's first Muslim leader after seizing power. Although he has said the CAR will remain a secular country, he is suspected of having an Islamist agenda.

Yogarajah said the country's Christian community needs to pray for and work towards religious harmony, adding, "The ongoing crisis is an urgent call for nations and international groups to provide all possible help and speak out for the protection of the Christian community and other vulnerable people."

The Religious Liberty Commission monitors religious liberty in more than 100 nations, defends persecuted Christians, informs the global church, challenges the Church to pray, and gives assistance to those who are suffering.