Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sudanese Bishop and Genocide Survivor Asks President Obama for 'Prompt Action to Save Those Still Alive'

"As the world's attention is focused on Syria, Bishop Andudu's letter is a powerful reminder to President Obama that the people of Sudan continue to be plagued by government-sponsored crimes against humanity." -- Faith J.H. McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Director

Bishop Andudu
WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- President Obama should intervene in the ongoing conflict in Sudan, according to a prominent Anglican bishop who is also a survivor of attacks in the region.

Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail of the Nuba Mountains of Sudan sent an open letter to President Obama today asking for "prompt action to save those still alive" in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur, areas of Sudan that have been under attack by the government for years.

"As a victim and survivor of genocide, I would like to remind your respected office that great effort is needed to end the deaths and displacement and restore peace to our community, which has suffered for so many years," wrote Bishop Andudu. "Please address the humanitarian crisis in the Nuba Mountains and use your position as leader of the free world, not only to bring attention to our situation, but to cause prompt action to save those still alive."

Full text of Andudu's letter is viewable at

"Our people feel as though the world has forgotten them. We wonder why you have not acted to end our people's suffering or that of the people of Darfur, who are still suffering and whose plight is getting worse," Andudu wrote. "We continue to be bombed from the air daily. Bombs land on farms and schools, churches and mosques, clinics and markets. Innocent civilians, women and children, are killed carrying on their daily lives."

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:
    "President Obama continues to oversee a disastrous approach to the ongoing genocide in Sudan. This approach has failed to prevent the tragic loss of countless lives and the mass displacement and starvation of countless more innocent people.

    "President Obama should immediately instruct the National Security Council and Ambassador Donald Booth, newly appointed Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, to develop a new pro-democracy and civilian protection-oriented policy on Sudan. Unless President Obama acts now to protect innocent civilians from their genocidal government, he will ultimately be remembered for his stained legacy on genocide."

Christian Newswire

Persecution on the upswing: do we care?

(Photos courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
International (MNN) ― The Church is under fire. Upon reading that statement, half the people who started reading this article just moved on to something "more interesting."

And that response is troublesome.

The plight of believers gets little attention on the global stage, leaving many Christians throughout North America unaware and therefore indifferent to what's going on in the body of Christ.

Mention persecution, and eyes glaze over. Silence continues because not enough church leaders are talking about it from the pulpit. Although Barna Research states the opposite, many North American church leaders and pastors say their flocks don't want to hear such negative and depressing things.
That's despite the following:

Al-Qaeda vows to slaughter Christians after the U.S. "liberates" Syria. Nigeria's Boko Haram has slaughtered 3,000 Christians since they began waging war. Egypt's Coptic Church is under fire. A Church official there says after the recent violence that destroyed over 72 churches, there are just 57 Christian churches in the entire country--down from more than 300 as recently as 2003.

The Barnabas Fund, a ministry to the persecuted Church, is airlifting Christians out of Sudan. So far, they've evacuated more than 5,000 Christians from northern Sudan. In Pakistan, believers are still trying to put their lives back together after 3,000 angry Muslims torched the Joseph Colony six months ago. That's only part of the Middle East and North Africa.

Asia is also on the list. North Korea is trying to erase Christians and has been atop the Open Doors World Watch List for 11 years as the world's worst persecutor of Christians. There's religicide going on in Burma and in parts of India.

And still, there's relative silence from North America. There are a few who have been speaking out as loudly as they can, but the overall impassive response to the worldwide persecuted church begs the question: Do we care?

Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA says, "I think the question arises because as we look around the world, we see more than 60 countries where Christians face some form of harassment or persecution. And you look at the average response of the average American Christian which is basically, ‘Man, that's too bad.'"

A defensive response is also common. But here, too, Nettleton asks, "If we care, how is that being lived out?

How are we SHOWING that we care? Not based on clicking the 'Like' button on a Facebook page, but how are we showing that we care in action that is designed to produce a result or some easing of the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters?"

He goes on to explain, "How we show we care is by being involved, by connecting with these Christians who are suffering. The first line of doing that really is knowing them: knowing their names, knowing their situations, knowing the countries that they live in so that we can pray effectively."

Nettleton is also quick to note that the issue has gotten more traction as awareness of social justice issues has risen. "More people know about the persecuted church now than did 15 or 20 years ago. I think the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church--which is coming up in November--has been a significant part of making the American church aware of what's happening with persecuted Christians."

But there's still a long way to go, he concedes. "One of the challenges is: Americans are pretty home-focused. Our media covers things that are happening in America. In a 30-minute news program, we might get two minutes of what's going on around the world."

Another aspect is understanding the spiritual and biblical component of persecution. "These are not just statistics or people who live 10,000 miles from here. This is our family. These are our brothers and sisters."

Nettleton points out his own two brothers: if they were to be arrested and face the scenarios faced by Christians in Eritrea, for example, he would be making noise about their plight. The same should be true of the body of Christ. "I should be aware of what's happening with them. And when they're being persecuted and oppressed, I should be speaking out on their behalf. I should be letting people know that it is happening and doing whatever I can within my power to make it stop happening."

When believers put real faces, real names, and real places to the stories, the bigger picture becomes clearer. Nettleton explains, "It's not presented as this is what the Bible said was going to happen. Jesus said, 'If you follow Me, the world will hate you.' This is happening all around the world. Followers of Christ are being hated because they're followers of Jesus Christ."

Sometimes Americans avoid the discussion of the persecuted church because the news is discouraging. It's hard to hear and to feel helpless about changing anything. However, Nettleton breaks response down to its most simple elements. "You start by praying. You educate yourself. And then, whatever God lays on your heart as a response, you keep saying Yes to that and keep responding to that. You will find that you will enter into the ‘fellowship of suffering.'"

Then what? Nettleton explains that when people invest in taking on the troubles facing believers worldwide, they begin to understand the God who provokes such a response. As a result, "The persecuted church is strengthened because we can encourage them, we can stand with them, and we can be a voice for them. But we are strengthened, as well, because we see their faithfulness, and we see God's faithfulness to them. And our faith is encouraged and challenged, and we find that we grow spiritually, as well."

Sudan Christians to be mass evacuated

Christian children in Sudan live in a primitive tent community
 outside the capital. (Photo courtesy of The Barnabas Fund)
Sudan (MNN) ― The Barnabas Fund is on a mission to rescue 3,500 Christians from persecution in Sudan.

Their Exodus mission started last year. Since then, Barnabas has airlifted and bussed 5,000 Christians to safety in South Sudan.

Because of recent generous donations, Barnabas is initiating a second wave of rescues. Their organization is working with Africa Inland Church to transport 3,500 more Sudanese Christians to South Sudan.

Suzy, a young mother, was one of those rescued by the Barnabas Fund's Exodus mission. She says, "After many years of suffering and prayers, God opened the way for us."

Barnabas still needs $118,000 to complete the mission. A bus trip to South Sudan for just one person costs $169. Barnabas is prioritizing the rescue of needy children and women, two-thirds of whom are widows.

The clock is ticking. Rainy seasons are coming, and the Christian tent communities could quickly transform into bog-like conditions. At times, the mud is reported to be waist-high, according to Barnabas.

Sudan is 98% Muslim under Sharia law. President Omar al-Bashir’s goal is to create a "100% Islamic constitution." After their nation split in 2011, Christians in Sudan who could afford transportation escaped to South Sudan. These Christians are able to start a new life without the oppression and hostility they suffered in Sudan.

However, many Christians are still trapped living in tented camps outside Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. They have little access to food or safety. Christian leaders in Sudan have been kidnapped, arrested, threatened, and many of their churches destroyed.

Please pray for the evacuation mission and for the safety of Christians still living in Sudan.

Maldives elections unlikely to improve religious freedom

Tourist hotspot the only place where being non-Muslim is illegal

Former president Mohamed Nasheed, centre,
 claims he was forced to resign in February 2012.
Tomorrow, the country’s almost entirely Islamic population will head to the polls for only the second two-party election of Maldivian history. Yet regardless of the outcome, little improvement is expected in religious tolerance.
Islam is so intertwined with politics in the Maldives that it is the only country in the world where it is illegal to be anything other than a Muslim. Those who convert to another religion can have their citizenship revoked. As such, there is no formal presence of any other religious faith inside the country, although small pockets of underground religious movements exist.

Persecution more intense in Pakistan than previously reported

Photos courtesy Christian Aid Mission
Pakistan (MNN) ― Recently, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report detailing Pakistan's history of violence against religious freedom.

The findings are deeply troubling: in just the last 18 months, the commission documented 203 incidents of violence in the name of religion, resulting in some 1,800 casualties and more than 700 deaths. Sarla Mahara is the director for South Asia for Christian Aid Mission. She says those findings are likely the result of the use of the blasphemy law. "The perception is correct, that it's being used practically every day."

Mahara observes that while the numbers are high, they're probably not telling the whole story. The big stories--like the March attack on the Joseph Colony near Lahore--grab headlines, but the reality is, "Even common people are using this to get back at their neighbors perhaps that they have had a quarrel with, or sometimes, there's jealousy. Even business competitors will use this."

What does seem common is that small sparks provoke huge reactions. Are they as out of proportion as they seem? Mahara explains, "Sometimes their neighbors will perceive them as somebody who is spying on them.

So, there's a much deep-rooted distrust." With that kind of distrust already in play, "When they look at Christians, they look at a foreign influence. That image of Christ being foreign is very, very strong. So it's not only that they're trying to hurt their own neighbors, but their hatred really is toward Christians.

"Faith in Christ in a place like Pakistan means life and death. You do the wrong thing, or you're perceived as being forceful or something, [and] they can use it against you," says Mahara. Under that kind of pressure, it's only natural for Christians to seek redress from the law. However, in Pakistan, that's unlikely to end in justice.
Last week, International Christian Concern reported that Christians in Pakistan staged a protest in Lahore, protesting against police discrimination and inaction. According to their report, local governments do little to protect their communities against mob violence, muggings, assaults, and kidnappings. In fact, they assert that police actively intimidate the Christian community to keep them from reporting incidents of violence.

Enter: frustration. Though the constitution guarantees religious freedom, Christians increasingly suffer under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Conviction under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law for derogatory comments about Muhammad is punishable by death or life imprisonment, which in Pakistan, is 25 years.

And yet through prayer, Mahara says God is strengthening indigenous believers who resolved to place His Word into the hands of 100,000 Pakistani people over a 20 year period. "This ministry not only gives away the Bibles, but they also do other kinds of literature. They do seminars where they do discipleship training.

They have an extensive ministry in church planting, and they run schools, so they have a lot of outreach programs."

With the antipathy in play, how does that affect local Gospel workers? Mahara admits they have to be careful. "Even when people come asking for something, they have to be very, very cautious because they don't know if it's somebody who's really genuinely inquiring about faith or if it's somebody who is spying on you." However, the intimidation campaign has not cowed the Church into silence.

"In spite of all the upheavals around us, God blessed our ministry in many ways this year," a leader reported. "The hallmark of this year's ministry was the achievement of our 20-year goal to give 100,000 Bibles into the hands of the masses in Pakistan. The Bible is the epicenter of our ministry. We believe there is no alternative to verbal proclamation of the gospel, followed by the written Word of God."

According to Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, during the year 2012 there was an acute shortage of Bibles due to political reasons. "However, we were blessed to have an adequate stock of Scriptures for our ministry through the generosity of friends at Christian Aid," a missionary wrote. "You are a vital part of this ministry. Because of your active support, we have been able to be effective for the kingdom of God in Pakistan.

"The recent events in the Muslim world demand from us a serious reconsideration of communicating the truth in love," he added. "Jesus tells us to share the Truth. The Truth sets people free, and yet, how do we do this?

One way is to offer them a copy of Scriptures, which explain God's love. That is why, throughout the year, our dedicated evangelistic teams have been going out, in spite of the most volatile situation and immense heat. They were able to sell 406 Bibles, 139 New Testaments, and 1010 portions of Scriptures to people in various areas during a two-month trip."

Missionaries sell the Bibles and other Christian literature so they won't be considered as proselytizing. People buy out of their own free will. Missionaries purchase the Bibles and literature and sell them for a fraction of the cost to be legally safe.

The mission in Pakistan continuously trains new leaders for the work of evangelism. Seventy students have been discipled through the years, while 100 young people attended a recent training seminar. The ministry provides temporary housing and discipleship for believers rejected by their families because of their faith. The mission also has a flourishing Christian school for 125 children through fifth grade. And, due to the desperate plight of earthquake and flood victims, ministry leaders have established a relief and rehabilitation branch, where more than 100 shelter rooms were built for people whose houses were washed away during vast flooding.

Indigenous missionaries set goals, count the cost, and follow the Lord to the finish. Mahara notes, "Whatever form of outreach that they are doing--going door-to-door or talking to a neighbor, pray for their safety. Pray for God's special anointing for these people that they will have the wisdom."

This year they hope to raise $5000 to erect a simple building for worship in a poor area where believers now are worshiping in a makeshift tent made of plastic bags. Pray, too, that the Christian population will continue to grow. There's already a steady but significant trickle of Muslims joining churches.

Evening prayer raided by Eritrean authorities

Eritrea (MNN/ODM) ― Eritrean authorities arrested 30 members of the Church of the Living God gathered for evening prayer on August 24.

The Christians were located in the Kushet suburb of the capital Asmara. Their group includes 12 women.

Map of Eritrea. (Photo courtesy
of the CIA World Factbook)
Sources with Open Doors USA say the Christians are being held at Police Station 5 in Asmara and are under pressure to recant their faith.

Since the beginning of the year, the religious atmosphere in Eritrea has deteriorated with authorities arresting at least 261 Christians.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that the government of Eritrea continues to incarcerate prisoners under inhumane conditions.

Officials continue to deny access to organizations like The Red Cross to investigate the state of prisons.

"The Church in Eritrea is deeply saddened by the continued scrutiny and distrust from the government and highly appreciates the prayers of our brothers and sisters around the globe," commented an Open Doors source who remains anonymous for security reasons.

Eritrea is ranked 10th out of 50 countries for extreme persecution of Christians on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List. Evangelical churches in Eritrea were closed in 2002 after a government ban on religions other than Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic and Islam.

Please pray for religious freedom in Eritrea and for the arrested Christians to be released.

Dozens of ‘noisy’ churches silenced in Cameroon

Government continues crackdown on Pentecostal movement

The government of Cameroon has ordered the closure of dozens of churches in an attempt to put an end to what it considers to be anarchy among some Christian organisations.

The measure, which authorities began to impose on August 23, targets Pentecostal churches, which are not officially recognised.

About 10 churches have had their doors locked in Yaoundé, the capital. In Bamenda, the main town in the northwest, which houses a high proportion of the country’s Christians, some 20 churches have been affected.


Christian CDs lead to government fines

Mosque in Kazakhstan.
(Photo courtesy of Ken and Nyetta/Flickr)
Kazakhstan (MNN) ― Do you own a Christian music CD? Have you ever given one as a gift? This may seem trivial, but it could get you heavily fined in Kazakhstan.

David Degterenko, a nine-year-old Kazakhstani, gave Christian CDs to two of his teachers, according to a recent report from a Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) source, Forum 18 News. One of the CD covers was labeled, “God loves you, too.”

A head teacher saw the Christian CD in the teachers’ lounge and immediately called the police. Degterenko was interrogated without his parents. When the investigator asked Degterenko who allowed him to bring the CDs to school, the boy replied, “My mother.”

David Degterenko’s mother, Tatyana Degterenko, has been heavily fined one-month’s wages for illegal religious activity. She appealed the fine on July 30, but the court held its verdict, according to VOM.

Kazakhstan’s population is 70% Muslim and just over 25% Christian. Most Kazakhstani Christians are Russian Orthodox. Open Doors USA says there is a bias in Kazakhstan against the Christian minorities who are partially denied registration. They are then deemed illegal by the state and face harsh religious laws.

Please pray for Tatyana and her son. Pray for the Christian music to touch hearts. Also pray, ultimately, for religious freedom in Kazakhstan.

Churches in Sri Lanka under pressure

(Images courtesy of Baptist Press)
Sri Lanka (MNN) ― Christian persecution on the island nation of Sri Lanka has seen a dramatic increase in the past year.

In the last four months alone, Open Doors USA, which closely monitors the persecuted church, says over 30 churches have been attacked by Buddhist extremists attempting to maintain Sri Lanka's Buddhist heritage.

We spoke via Skype with a Christian leader working with Asian Access in Sri Lanka who confirms the reports. For security reasons, we'll call him Brother Amos. "Large numbers of churches have been attacked, and many people think--when it comes to violence--it is the Muslims who can be violent against Christians. But that is not true, in our experience, in this part of the world. The Buddhists can also be extremely violent."

Why the spike in trouble from Buddhists? Violence seems to go against all their principles. Brother Amos explains, "With the Church beginning to grow, they feel very insecure. Their economy is hurting because people are turning to Christ. As a result of that, they [Buddhists] have turned against the churches, and that is their belief that by violence and by persecution, they can cause the growth of the church to be stopped."

How is economy tied into this problem? The growth of the church means that people who used to go to Buddhist temples are no longer doing so. "The income that came to the temple from these believers of Buddhism has now been diverted to the Church. Some of the temples in rural areas are finding it difficult to survive because people are leaving Buddhism."

There's a political angle, too. "Our constitution says that every religion has freedom of worship and expression and to propagate their faith," explains Brother Amos. However, "70% of our people are Buddhist. So the government is aware that if they go against Buddhism, they will be thrown out of power very soon." The government turns a blind eye to the attacks in order to appease the majority Buddhists, he adds.

Some churches have taken legal action and received favorable decisions, but is this a development in the right direction? On one hand, it's an accountability question. On the other, the challenge of persecution puts the relevance of the body of Christ into play. Brother Amos says, "Our mandate is to develop leaders who become relevant to the soil and relevant to the nations. Part of being relevant to our nation now is to be able to face persecution. In the midst of persecution, one of the key factors has been helping our people to know that God still reigns and God is seated on the Throne."

Asian Access invests in leadership training for the future. "Our investment has been picking the best in the country, providing them with the best training and presenting them with the best models so that they can be the catalyst in the growth of the Church."

It's likely the backlash won't be easing up soon. "My gut level feeling is that it will continue and it will intensify until and unless the international community will bring pressure on the government," Amos says, confirming that extremists will do whatever it takes to keep Sri Lanka a Buddhist nation. What it boils down to is the fight for the soul of a nation. "The God of this world has blinded the eyes of the people. Our direct enemy is not the human beings who are attacking us, but our direct enemy is the Evil One who causes people to do things against the Church of God."

Will you pray with the believers in Sri Lanka? They're asking prayer for wisdom for the Christian leaders, strength to endure hardship, and boldness to share the hope of Christ regardless.

A Christian mother goes missing in Somalia

Somalia's flag. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)
Somalia (VCM) ― Islamic militants suspected to be from Al Shabaab have kidnapped a Christian mother and threatened to attack her husband because of their faith.

According to reports from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada, three masked men abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein, 28, outside of her home in Bulo Marer, Lower Shebelle Region, on August 5th. Her husband, 31-year-old Mohamed Isse Osman, received a text from her that night urging him to evacuate. "Please leave immediately because of what we believe," she said in the text. "They have abused me sexually, saying I am an infidel."

Mohamed has also received anonymous threatening text messages from the kidnappers, including one that read, "Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement, and soon we shall come for you, too." Mohamed and his two daughters, aged 3 and 5, have moved to an undisclosed location. A religious leader in the region claims that Osman has had no contact with his wife since her text on August 5th.

Like most Somali Christians, Shamsa and her husband are secretive about their faith. According to one resident of Bulo Marer, locals are aware of Shamsa's abduction but have no idea why it occurred. "What little we knew about (the) family was that they were not very committed to attending the mosque during Ramadan time," he said. Somalis consider themselves Muslim by birth and regard Islam as a significant part of their cultural identity.

Officials estimate that Somalia is close to 100% Muslim. Apostasy, or the leaving of Islam, is punishable by death.

Pray that God will preserve Shamsa's life, bringing her safely back to her family. May they sense His comforting presence throughout the turmoil. Also remember in your prayers other Somali believers who are fearing for their own safety and that of their loved ones. Ask that the Lord will not only provide His protection but also bless them with boldness as they speak the truth in love.

Christian minority targeted after Muslim girl elopes with Christian man

Last month was the fourth anniversary of one of the worst outbreaks of violence against Pakistan's minority Christian community in the country’s recent past. In August 2009, seven Christians were burned to death in Gojra, while more than 100 houses were looted, ransacked and then set on fire.

Four years on, the situation remains bleak. In July, World Watch Monitor reported that a Christian in Gojra was convicted of committing blasphemy, while a couple was arrested for sending blasphemous text messages. Another Christian was shot dead in a nearby town later that month.

In such a climate, even a relatively common occurrence, the elopement of a 20-year-old Christian man and a 17-year-old Muslim woman, has resulted in a charge of gang rape, as well as the loss of livelihood for 40 Christian families. Their Muslim neighbours and landlords now refuse to hire them for daily work in their fields; a local activist says the families risk starvation.

Umair Masih, 20, eloped with his girlfriend Nadia Shabir, 17, on the evening of July 27. Both were residents of Chak (village) 375 JB, district Toba Tek Singh, about 15 kilometres from Gojra. The village consists of about 40 Christian families and 500 Muslim families.

In countries such as Pakistan where arranged marriages are still usually the norm among rural communities, young couples often leave home together, sometimes on a whim, sometimes in a determined attempt to be allowed to have their affection for each other taken seriously by their families, and sometimes as an act of desperation.

In many such elopements, local communities, and especially close family members, manage to follow and find the couple and bring them back to their families. Sometimes they are punished. It is always a scandal within the village, but the aftermath is usually confined within the family relationships of those directly involved.

Here, however, dozens of locals came out onto the road and resorted to firing guns into the air soon after they found the couple was missing. They first searched for them in the fields and then came to the houses of the Christians. The group forcibly entered their houses and told the Christians that they would take their all young women along with them to humiliate them. The mob also threatened to set their houses on fire and banish them all from the village.

The mob then decided to take along Masih’s three sisters, Saba, Chanda and Mariam, and their mother Shehnaz Bibi, and to publicly humiliate them. Finally, they settled on taking Saba and Chanda along with them.

“They hit the door with the butts of their guns and forcibly entered in the house. They started beating my father and called us names,” 18-year-old Saba told World Watch Monitor. Then they dragged Saba and Chanda out of the house and took them to a farmhouse.

“Dozens of men were present there. They hurled abuse at us but when some men started indecently touching us, a few of the elderly men objected to it, so they refrained from sexually assaulting us,” added 16-year-old Chanda to our reporter. “We remained tied there until the next day without food and water,” she said.

After the couple’s elopement, relations between the Christians and the majority became tense.

The next day, a village arbitrary council (panchayyat) decided Saba and Chanda would be returned to the family, and in exchange Nadia would return to her father. The council also decided that Umair Masih would no more live in the village. Masih’s father, Tufail Masih, agreed to all these conditions.

Contrary to their agreement with the council, the Muslim group then filed a writ petition in the court for the registration of a case alleging that Umair Masih and four of his family members had forcibly abducted Nadia and gang raped her. Apart from this legal action, they threatened to “spill Christians’ blood” in the village to avenge the “insult” inflicted on them by Nadia’s elopement.

Having in mind the history of communal strife in their area, the Christians then filed a writ petition before the Toba Tek Singh Additional Sessions judge and requested an order to the police of Saddar Police Station to register a case against the Muslim group for threatening to kill them. The judge issued an order the same day, calling the police to register a case against the group.

Since then, the police have been trying to strike a compromise deal between the Christians and the Muslim group, said Munir Masih Gill, a social activist of the village. He said that even if the legal matter was resolved, the social boycott still continued. He said almost all the Christians are poor and illiterate, and are hired by the Muslim landlords in their fields on a daily wage. They are also facing a shortage of food because of the boycott, he said.

Five Christians Killed in Roadside Ambush near Jos

Pastor says Nigeria armed ethnic Fulani herdsmen join forces with Islamic extremist mercenaries

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- As Emmanuel Sunday rode his motorbike near Jos on the evening of Aug. 29, gunmen stopped him and asked him his religion.

Rev. Pam Jang Pam of the Church of Christ in Nations in Foron, Plateau state. (Morning Star News photo)
According to a story by Morning Star News, the 19-year-old technical school student saw a group of people the gunmen had ordered out of a mini-bus; the Christians had been told to lie on the ground. 

"The gunmen asked me about my religion, and when I told them I was a Christian, they asked me to join a group of people already ordered to lie down by the side of the road,"Sunday told Morning Star News.

He added, "I did as I was ordered to do, and then one of the men came and searched me and took money from me, including my mobile phone."

A final year student at the Government Science and Technical College in Bukuru, near Jos, Sunday said the gunmen had also taken the belongings of the others lying on the roadside near the Bisichi/Foron Junction, four kilometers off the Jos-Barkin Kadi Highway.

"It was when the gunmen started shooting and killing those of us that were Christians grouped together that I ran into a nearby maize farm, because it was already dark," Mornin g Star News reported he said. "They shot wildly at me, but I escaped unhurt, except the injuries I sustained while running in the bush."

Sunday ran for two hours before making his way back to his village. There he later learned that two of the five people slain, Pam Gyang, 33, and Felix John, 32, were from his village. All five of those killed were from the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation in Foron. The pastor said the alleged killers were a combined band of ethnic Fulani herdsmen and Islamic extremist mercenaries.

Rev. Pam Jang Pam said the Islamic extremists also killed Jimmy Tiger, 28, Ishaku Gyang, 40, and DachungMonday, 20, and wounded 21-year-old Yohanna Gyang and 35-year-old Gyang Habila. Also wounded, he said, were two other as yet unidentified Christians, including a pregnant woman.

Pam Gyang, one of five Christians killed in roadside attack near Jos, Plateau state. (Morning Star News photo)
The pregnant widow of Pam Gyang, 28-year-old Grace Yop Gyang, told Morning Star News that her husband is also survived by their two daughters and a son.

"I don't have much to say except to praise God for His sustaining grace in our lives," Gyang said. "My husband is a friend, and I'm already missing him. But what can I do but thank God for his life. I pray that through his death those who killed him will get to know Jesus as their savior."

Pastor Pam, secretary/security supervisor of the COCIN's Foron Regional Church Council, said the incessant killing of area Christians has greatly affected the church.

Pleading that security agencies would "discharge their duties with the fear of God," Morning Star News said the pastor appealed to the government to "please do something about these attacks on us. The church is tired of these attacks."

Islamic extremist groups from outside Nigeria are suspected of aiding and inciting ethnic Fulani herdsmen who have had longstanding property disputes with Christian far mers in Plateau state, a volatile area between Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north and Christian/animist south.

Morning Star News said Christian leaders in the country claim that the vast majority of "sectarian violence" is Muslim aggression that Nigeria's Islamist media portray as Muslim-Christian clashes.
They say that in the rare instances of impoverished rural Christians coming into possession of weapons - in contrast with outside Islamic terrorist groups heavily arming Nigerian Muslim extremists - Christians use them only in self-defense.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria's population of 158.2 million, while Muslims account for 45 percent. Those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World, so the percentages of Christians and Muslims may be less.

Sunday told Morning Star News that his escape was nothing short of a miracle.

"It was not my ability that made it possible for me to escape, but it was God that made me escape to be alive to tell the story of how the attack happened and to show his miracle in my life," he said.

For more information about Morning Star News visit

Washington and the struggle regarding Boko Haram

By Scott A. Morgan
Special to ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- In recent weeks CANAN (Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans) held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. The timing of the event was symbolic. It came shortly after the United Kingdom made membership in the group illegal and it buoyed the hopes that similar action can be taken here in the United States. So the question that deserves to be asked is why is there a disconnect between London and Washington on this issue?

Members of Boko Haram
At the event the Christian advocacy group Jubilee Campaign presented a fact sheet compiling events that occurred last year in Nigeria from the State Department and start a body at the University of Maryland that monitors current trends by terrorist groups. Some of the findings were:

1) Nigeria had the fourth most suicide attacks of any country around the world.

2) Of the 57 attacks against telecommunications sites around the world 38 were launched by Boko Haram.

3) Of all the religious institutions that were targeted in 2012 around the world, one third were in Nigeria. Also of the 325 attacks launched against educational institutions, 60% of them occurred in both Nigeria and Pakistan.

4) There were more attacks against religious institutions in Nigeria than against diplomatic posts around the world in 2012.

5) The attacks in Nigeria were the most lethal with an average of 2.54 people killed per attack.

These statistics are chilling. It shows that the group is very dedicated to its efforts to drive away Christians, Muslims they feel are backsliding, and those who seek education. It should be noted that these stats are only in the northern states of Nigeria. These states have imposed Sharia Law as well as the national laws which are currently enforced in other parts of the country. It is currently believed that the group may be an influence in both Chad and Cameroon and may in fact trigger the status of an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization).

Bodies being loaded onto a truck after another suspected Boko Haram attack in Nigeria
So then what is a FTO as defined by the State Department? A group is determined to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State acting under authority of Section 219 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act as amended. The plan is to have this play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and to pressure terrorist groups to get out of the terrorism business. (author emphasis) There are legal definitions that have to be met also.

What are the current criteria currently being used at this time? 

According to the State Department website the following are used:

1) The Group must be Foreign.

2) The Group must be engaged in terrorist activity as defined by Section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA or terrorism as defined in Section 140 (d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. 2556f(d)(2) or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism

3) The organization's terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the Security of U.S. Nationals or the National Security (Foreign Relations, National Defense or Economic Interests) of the United States.

It appears that on these criteria that it is a no-brainer. Nigeria is a key ally of the United States in Africa. It provides 27% of the oil imported by America so it's a key economic partner as well. So what is the problem?

The Problem is tactics. The State Department is trying to determine whether or not Boko Haram is a terrorist group or an insurgency masking as a terrorist group. That is a huge question to determine and one that does not have an easy sell.

Legislation has been introduced in both Houses of Congress seeking to have the State Department determine such action. The Senate version has been introduced (S.198) but Chris Smith of New Jersey has not introduced the Bill in the House yet. It is expected to be introduced before the planned Nigeria hearings in October. There is a huge risk in this situation. It could divest into a partisan battle and the losers will be the Christians and moderate Muslims in Nigeria. Haven't they suffered enough already?

Monday, September 2, 2013

You can help persecuted believers in Egypt

(Image courtesy Bible Society of Egypt)
Egypt (MNN) ― Friday remains a dangerous day of the week in Egypt. Last week's Muslim Brotherhood call for protests drew some 10,000 people to Cairo alone.

There are protests in the streets, mass killings, and the burning of towns and villages over differing opinions of religion and politics. More than 1,000 people have died, and an estimated 3,500 people have been injured.

Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, says there's a way you can help Egypt's Persecuted Church.

So far, Christian Aid says 80 churches, two bible bookstores, three Christian schools, and countless homes, businesses, and property have been vandalized or destroyed. Christian Aid supports several ministries that are sharing the Gospel and reaching out to unbelievers despite violent blows dealt specifically to them.

One of those ministries, the Bible Society of Egypt, watched two of their bookstores go up in flames during the first wave of attacks in mid-August.

“The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them, and set the bookshops on fire," said Ministry Director Ramez Atallah.

"They did the same to many stores on those streets, as well as demolishing many parked cars.”

The Bible stores are located in the cities of Minia and Assiut in southern Egypt. Christians in those two cities have no other source of Bibles, and Atallah is determined to rebuild as the bookstores are in strategic locations.

In addition, the ministry is producing print and audio-visual Scripture selections to address the present crisis both for comfort and to challenge believers and unbelievers during this difficult time.

Egyptian believers are encouraging their distraught brothers and sisters not to seek retaliation in the wake of the attacks. Instead, they ask for Christians in other parts of the Middle East and around the world to offer their support and prayers.

Please pray for Egypt's violence to end. Pray that many will turn to the Lord for peace and accept Him as Lord and Savior. Pray protection for all Christian properties across the nation.

North India Church Destroyed by 1,000-Strong Mob

Gospel for Asia
For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact:
Taun Cortado @ 972-300-3120 

CARROLLTON, TX (ANS) -- Shouting religious slogans, a mob estimated at 1,000 people has destroyed a Christian church under construction in northern India, according to a report received from church leaders in the region. The attack occurred on Sunday, Aug. 25.

An anti-Christian mob destroyed the local congregation's church building, which was in the final stages of construction
With the building demolished, the mob began to beat the pastor, his mother and church members, who were able to flee and went into hiding for the night. The extent of their injuries is not known. No deaths were reported.

"It is our desire that these who are persecuting will know the love of God for them," said K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (GFA) founder and president.

The Christian congregation had begun construction more than two years earlier, but quickly met resistance and had been forced to stop the work. After much prayer, the climate seemed to improve and construction resumed.
 Building had progressed uneventfully to the point that workers were ready to install the roof, when the attack came this week.

Earlier that afternoon, a small group from the community confronted the pastor and demanded that construction cease, saying the building was not wanted. Recognizing the growing tension, the pastor stopped the work.

Despite the pastor's decision, the group rallied the villagers to a meeting and incited them to attack.

The day after the attack, regional leaders first prayed and then met with local police, who declined to become involved. Despite continuing threats, the leaders returned to the site to survey the damage and take photos.

Church leaders have requested prayer from believers around the world that God will protect the pastor, his family and the congregation; heal the pastor's son, whose medicine cannot be obtained in the current uneasy climate; and open the eyes of the villagers so they might experience the love of Jesus in their lives.

Those who wish to learn more about this event or make a donation can visit

President Obama to Seek Congressional Approval for Military Intervention in Syria

Syrian Christians brace for strike, ask for prayer

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (ANS) -- President Obama said Saturday morning the U.S. is ready to strike, but he will seek congressional approval for military intervention in Syria.
Screen shot of a child who was seriously injured during the chemical weapons attack in Syria.

However, as Syrians brace for that possible U.S. attack, many of the county's Christians are praying for divine intervention.

According to a story by Gary Lane, CBN News senior international reporter, they say military action against the Assad regime will only bring them greater hardship and suffering and they're asking Christians worldwide to pray that God intervenes to bring peace to their nation. They believe the collective prayers of Christians around the world could reverse an escalating conflict.

CBN News talked by phone with a Syrian pastor who lives in the United States and travels regularly to Syria. He said he is in constant contact with Christians inside the country.
For security reasons, he asked CBN News not to give his name or show his face, not only to protect him, but other Syrian Christians from retribution by militant Islamists.

"The Christians are living in fear right now in Syria," he said. "We know what might happen and we see the consequence of such an action by the U.S. and NATO tha t will be the destruction for the Christians in the Middle East and specifically in Syria."

That's because they say any U.S. military attack will only strengthen Islamists who have already targeted Christians.

"Once NATO hits Syria, that means they're going to weaken the structure and the rule of the system of Syria is going to be destroyed and that means what's going to come next is the Sharia (Islamic) law, and the Sharia law is very much against the existence of Christianity in that part of the world," CBN News reported he said.

Islamists have already forced many Christians out of the country. Others have been murdered or kidnaped, and churches have been destroyed.

While many Syrian Christians feel President Obama has abandoned them, they know God has not.

"Obama, he could care less for the Christians in Syria and the Christians around the world," the pastor said. "We know God has given promises, that God is going to protect the Christian community in Syria and our trust is not in any powers -- not in the regime, not in the U.S. -- no one else. We are trusting God himself that He sees and He hears the cries of the Christians."

And that's why it's crucial, he says, that Christians pray for their Syrian brothers and sisters in Christ because it's more than a battle for the survival of the Syrian Church.

"This is a battle between Jesus Christ and the enemy himself, and what's happening to the Christians in the Middle East will happen eventually to many Christians around the world and specifically in the West," CBN News reported he said.

So Syrian Christians say pray, but they know the outcome is not in the hands of Bashar al-Assad or those who oppose him.

"God is not going to work for anyone's agenda," the pastor said. "God is going to work for His own agenda and the purpose of the growing of the Kingdom of God."

Fridays are dangerous in Egypt

(Photo courtesy Globovision)
Egypt (ODM) ― During the last two weeks, a total of seven Christians have been murdered and 17 kidnapped during the violence.

Hundreds more have been injured. Additionally, the rampage has resulted in the destruction or damage of 212 privately-owned Christian shops and homes, and 95 church buildings. Buildings include orphanages, schools, and Bible book stores.

Open Doors ministry partners are confirming that Christians are living in fear, especially those in the countryside where Muslims are the majority. Many Christian families have lost everything and escaped with only what they were wearing. In the wake of the unprecedented violence targeting Egypt's Christian community, Open Doors is working closely with local church partners to support and comfort those left traumatized by painful losses.

Open Doors USA is asking for emergency financial support for those suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. The need is substantial with a goal of $430,000. The funds will be used for what is most needed to bring hope and relief to many suffering and devastated Christians.

"Christians in the West must understand that the rampage against the followers of Jesus is targeted and intentional," says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry. "Unless we pray, advocate, and support those faithful believers who are under attack, the persecution will continue and perhaps widen. Please consider how you might support our brothers and sisters in Christ."

To make a donation, go to and then click the "Help Egypt" icon.

An Egyptian Christian leader states: "What can Christians do? Although the fight seems to be between groups of people, it is clearly a spiritual war. It is written in Ephesians 6:12 that 'our struggle is not against flesh and blood....' Therefore to win the war, believers need to use the right weapons. Egyptian Christians are appealing to people around the world to pray and fast with them."

His prayer requests for Egypt include:

* An end to the current violence

* The police and army to control the situation and bring long-lost law and order back to the streets of Egypt

* For God to expose the lies and deceptions being told so that the truth will be revealed to the entire world

* That Christians continue to love, forgive, and rebuild their country, churches, homes, and businesses

* The country's future leaders bring peace and harmony to all parties and bring Egypt out of poverty and chaos

Egypt is ranked No. 25 on the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
For almost 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places.

Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians by supplying Bibles and Christian literature, training Christian leaders, facilitating social/economic projects, and uniting believers in the West in prayer for Christians, who are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries.

Secretary Kerry's Reengagement on American Pastor Saeed Abedini's Case Welcomed

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON D.C. (ANS) -- Secretary of State John Kerry's statement urging Iran to allow American Pastor Saeed Abedini to return to his family is an important diplomatic step in the effort for his freedom.
Saeed Abedini and his family
Jordan Sekulow in an article for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said, "We welcome this renewed involvement and effort initiated by Secretary Kerry to bring Pastor Saeed ... back home to his wife and young children."

Secretary Kerry's statement comes just days after the Iranian judiciary denied Abedini's appeal and affirmed his conviction and eight year prison sentence.

This statement from America's top diplomat reaffirms that despite the legal decision in Iran, the fight for Abedini's freedom is far from over.

It is a critical time to reengage Iran, to use all diplomatic avenues to secure his release.

The ACLJ said, "We urge the State Department to follow Secretary Kerry's lead and redouble all efforts for Pastor Saeed's freedom. As a U.S. citizen imprisoned in Iran merely because of his Christian faith, the U.S. Government - his government - should be doing everything in its power to bring this innocent man home to his family."

While Secretary Kerry's statement pu ts Abedini's case back in the diplomatic spotlight, that alone will not bring about his freedom.

The ACLJ added, "It is time for the President of the United States to engage his case. When a U.S. citizen - a Christian pastor - is illegally imprisoned in a foreign land, it should be a top priority of the President to bring him home."

The ACLJ said that Abedini's case deserves the attention and commitment of President Obama. who can raise it to the highest level of international diplomacy.

The ACLJ represents Abedini's wife Naghmeh. She said in the ACLJ story, "I am very thankful for the statement that Secretary of State John Kerry made to Iran regarding Saeed's immediate return to our family, and I hope that the State Department is truly willing explore all avenues to secure my husband's release."

She continued, "I still expect my president, President Obama, who has remained silent thus far, to speak out on this very critical human rights issue and let the Iranian government and the world know that re ligious freedom is still a top priority for our government. President Obama must demonstrate that America will not stay silent in the face of religious persecution, nor will it let an American citizen waste away in an Iranian prison simply because he chose to follow Jesus."

The ACLJ said now that Abedini's judicial appeals have been exhausted, the focus turns to the leadership of Iran. A decision for his release will come from the top.

Secretary Kerry noted the importance of reaching out directly to the new president of Iran. "President Rouhani has shared in his speeches and interviews over the past few months his hope and vision to improve the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran's relationship with the world."

The ACLJ said ti is is poised to launch a new effort focusing on international pressure on the leadership of Iran to release Abedini.

"We know the pressure of individuals around the world can make an incredible difference in these cases," the ACLJ commented, "just at it did in the case of Pastor Youcef who was freed nearly one year ago."

The second key landmark Secretary Kerry mentioned is the upcoming Sept. 26 first anniversary of Abedini's imprisonment.
Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, is organizing a nationwide prayer vigil for Abedini on Sept. 26. There are vigils scheduled in nearly every state in America and numerous foreign cities, with more being added daily.

The ACLJ said, "Because of the support of hundreds of thousands of people, Pastor Saeed's case has gained immense international media and diplomatic attention. It is time to focus the pressure on the Iranian regime to free this innocent U.S. citizen. He must be allowed to return home to his family that loves him and misses him."

For more information about participating in a vigil for Abedini, visit

Chinese House Church Leader Beaten and Threatened with Death

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Photo Courtesy ChinaAid
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- Church leader Li Shuangping, a leader at Linfen church, was beaten and threatened by unknown assailants on the night of Aug. 13.

According to a story by human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), relying on reports from China Aid, Li had been driving to his home in Shanxi Province and was forced to stop his car when a man who seemed to be intoxicated staggered into the road.

CSW said Li was then dragged into a black car which had pulled up alongside his vehicle, tied up, blindfolded and pinned down while three men beat him around his head and body. One man also threatened to kill Li and his family members, including his children. Li was then thrown out of the car.

Li believes the allaged perpetrators were working for the local government and he sees this is an attempt to threaten house church leaders. During the incident, one of the men asked Li how he would like to die as a result of being a house church leader.

In 2009, CSW reported, the 50,000-strong Linfen church was raided by several hundred police and plainclothes officers, after which Li was sentenced to two years of reeducation through labor. During the raid o n the property, Bibles and the building itself were damaged and a number of church members were beaten and injured.

Some church leaders attempted to travel to Beijing to file a formal complaint but were arrested on the way. Li Shuangping and several other leaders were released in July 2011; others were released in 2012 and 2013. However, some remain in prison, including Yang Rongli who is serving a seven year sentence.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in the news release, "This attack appears to be an attempt to intimidate the Linfen church leaders and their congregations. The Chinese authorities have a responsibility to protect all citizens from attacks on their personal safety and to investigate serious threats against them and their families by both state and non-state actors."

He added, "We call on the Chinese government to immediately put an end of all kinds of attacks and restrictions on Linfen church leaders, and urge the authorities to immediately releas e those leaders still in prison."

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

For further information, visit