Saturday, September 28, 2013

Turkish military linked to Christian murders

New evidence provides glimpse into Turkey’s ‘Deep State’

Nearly six years into the court trial over the murder of three Christians in southeastern Turkey, documents have emerged confirming that secret military units were involved in those assassinations and others.

Malatya’s 3rd Criminal Court is conducting the trial of five men accused of stabbing, torturing and then slashing the throats of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske in the Malatya office of Zirve Christian Publishing on April 18, 2007.
Earlier this month, the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office handed over to the Malatya court confidential intelligence files seized from the General Staff’s Tactical Mobilization Group archives. According to the most recent indictment in the Zirve case, the documents confirm the existence and illegal activities of secret military units involved in extrajudicial surveillance and assassinations of members of Turkey’s Christian minority communities.
Zirve plaintiff lawyer Erdal Dogan said the prosecution of Malatya’s Zirve case is revealing the structures that previously orchestrated the murders of two other Christians – Italian Catholic priest Andrea Santoro at his parish in Trabzon in February 2006, and Turkish Armenian editor Hrant Dink in front of his Agos newspaper office in Istanbul in January 2007.
In the Zirve case, the young suspects were arrested and put on trial, but the instigators behind them obscured their own identities by destroying evidence and mounting clever disinformation campaigns, according to the newly revealed documents.

A rescue mission is planned for pastor in Iran

Turkey (MNN) ― A rescue mission is underway for Pastor Saeed Abedini, a Christian arrested for starting home churches in Iran. But it's more like a rescue intervention.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C. is taking action in this crisis and plans to leave the U.S. this Sunday for Turkey to meet and talk to Iranian officials there for the release of Abedini.

Once in Turkey, Mahoney hopes that he can make a difference. "I will not be speaking on a political level, but rather as one faith leader to another."

Rev. Mahoney says he's going on this rescue mission in "hopes of securing the release of Pastor Abedini who is serving an 8-year prison sentence because of his Christian beliefs." Rev. Mahoney says, "Every person should be afforded the right to express their faith traditions, free from government persecution, harassment, and intimidation. No one should have to suffer violence or brutality because of what they believe."

Abedini's wife teamed up with The Christian Defense Coalition and America Center for Law and Justice to hold a prayer vigil in front of the White House yesterday--the one-year anniversary of Abedini ‘s imprisonment. This prayer vigil was one of dozens held across the country and around the world for the release of Abedini and religious freedom.

Pray for safety for Mahoney. Pray also that the hearts of Iranian officials will be softened. Click here for more information on other prayer vigils and updates, and to join 600,000 others who have signed a petition securing the release of Saeed Abedini.

Situation in Pakistan deteriorating fast for Christians

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A posting on Shoebat Foundation website (, says, "It appears that in the wake of the suicide bombing in Pakistan, violence is escalating, not receding. Christians in the area were understandably outraged by the attack. In response, the Muslim community appears to have taken up for the bombers' cause and is attacking the victims."

Stranded Pakistani victims of the recent violence
The site, run by Walid Shoebat, who describes himself as a "Former Muslim Brotherhood Member, Now Peace Activist," said, "Just now I received a call from a Bishop. He told me that the situation in Pakistan is getting worse after Christian reaction to the Peshawar Bomb Blast.

"Muslims of Iqbal town Islamabad are threatening Christians, and the angry mob of Muslims beaten and tortured the Christians in Zia Musjid Area and Khana Pul Islamabad. Similarly, Muslims have attacked the Christian Colony Korangi No 3, 1/2. Because of this ongoing tension, hundreds of Christians had to flee from their houses."

The caller, it said, added, "Need urgent prayers."
The blog continued, "One of the many questions those in the west have about terror attacks is why 'moderate' Muslims don't come out in forceful opposition to such attacks. When it comes to this suicide bombing in Pakistan, at least, the most vocal Muslim opposition appears to be directed at the victims of the attack.

"In order for us to help to the degree of saving thousands from persecution, we also need thousands of people to participate at any level they can afford. G-d will bless you for your generosity in not turning your back on your brethren. If you can help, great. If you can spread the word of our work by word of mouth and get others to know what we are trying to do, then you will also be doing wonders for G-d's people."

The blog concluded by saying that if people are moved to contribute, please click here:

Muslim Brotherhood banned; good news for Christians?

(Photos courtesy Globovision)
Egypt (MNN) ― A lot can change in a year. Just ask Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

The organization is reeling from the stunning reversal of power it experienced this summer. They went from being the national darlings post-Arab-Spring to being repressed in the same vein they oppressed other religious minorities.

This week, an Egyptian court issued a ruling that could provide a reprieve for one of those minorities: Christians. Todd Nettleton, spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA,  says, "They've banned the Muslim Brotherhood. They've said it's not acceptable as a Non-Government Organization. Its activities are banned. That's a court ruling on a piece of paper. The big question is: what does that mean on the ground?"

He goes on to say, "If this court ruling becomes reality, and if they actually do close down the Muslim Brotherhood, that's a hopeful sign for the Church and for Christians in Egypt. But again, it remains to be seen how this is actually going to play out on the ground with the authorities there who have to put this court ruling into practice."

Does this injunction dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood? The action also means seizure of the group's assets as it awaits a verdict from a higher court. The group has been accused of exploiting religion for political gain and of "terrorism" in the days after President Mohamed Morsi took office.

The military ousted him a year later, following massive protests throughout the nation. The court's latest action is part of a sweeping crackdown that has already put Muslim Brotherhood leadership and thousands of its supporters behind bars.

Nettleton asks the next questions that no one can answer. "Are the police going to actively pursue Muslim Brotherhood members? Are they going to arrest them? Are they going to take them into custody?"

The Muslim Brotherhood could decide to compromise with the caretaker government in order to remain a political player, there could be an outright revolt, or the group could continue to protest in an effort to question the legitimacy of the interim government.

Predicting their next move is hard. Every scenario plays out differently, depending on how unruly its participants become.

In the meantime, Christians are deeply concerned. In none of these scenarios do they come out on top. "The Muslim Brotherhood had repeatedly attacked churches, attacked Christian homes and businesses, and encouraged that radical Islamic opinion that all of the Christians should either leave Egypt or they should convert to Islam," Nettleton explains.

That could describe any time since Morsi came to power, however, it's likely that the incident he mentions began 14 August. Police violently cleared two protest camps set up by the deposed president's supporters in Cairo.
The crackdown sparked nationwide retaliatory violence that left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Christians were blamed for Morsi's downfall. An international human rights group documented dozens of burned churches and noted that most of the anti-Christian attacks were concentrated in southern Egypt. The potential of a volatile reaction is cause for dread among the battered remnant Church. Nettleton acknowledges, "That could happen again with this court ruling. That could be something that leads to churches and Christians being targeted as they say, ‘It's your fault that the court ruled this way. It's your fault that the Muslim Brotherhood has been ruled illegal.'"
Egypt's future is murky. No one knows if the next few months will lead to an exodus of the remaining believers, or if the nation will be so war weary that stability becomes the prize. Until then, VOM remains a quiet presence in the country, says Nettleton. "Voice of the Martyrs has very significant operations in Egypt to help the Church. We provide Bibles and Scriptures to those that need them. In many cases, we provide medical care to those who were injured in persecution-related attacks, as well as the simple act of encouragement."
What else can be done? Talk about what's happening. The silence from the North American Church has been deafening so far. Raise awareness about the plight of Christ-followers living in Muslim nations like Egypt. Let them know they're not forgotten, says Nettleton. "We need to pray that the Lord will protect them and look out for them. I think, secondly, we need to pray that they will respond in a Christ-like way to the persecution that they're facing. That can be an incredible witness for Christ: the seeds for revival in a country."

Pakistani Church Bombing Killing 81 Prompts Global Call to Prayer from Christians and Muslims

Gospel for Asia Leader Champions Peace over Persecution

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

CARROLLTON, TX (ANS) -- In the aftermath of one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan's Christian community on Sunday that killed 81 at the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, both Christian and Muslim leaders are calling for prayer for the injured and families of all victims.
Victims' relatives outside the historic All Saints' church, the day after suicide bombers killed at least 81 people there after the Sunday service. (Photo: Arshad Arbab/EPA)
As believers exited All Saints Church Sept. 22, two suicide bombers detonated their explosive devices, leaving at least 81 dead and 140 injured.

"In this time of tragedy, let us pray not only for healing and comfort, but also that God will continue using it to provide peace and turn sympathies toward Pakistani believers who have faced much persecution in the past," said K. P. Yohannan, founder and director of Gospel for Asia (

Gospel for Asia has provided flood relief in the recent past for Pakistan citizens through its Compassion Services teams. "As the Bible says, when one of us suffers, we all suffer," said Yohannan.

People were completing worship and about to share a meal together when suicide bombers entered the church compound. Among the dead were 34 women and seven children, as well as two Muslim police officers.

A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they "will continue to strike wherever we will find an opportunity against non-Muslims" until their political demands are met.

In a country where only 3 percent are Christians, many Muslims expressed sympathy and outrage at the attack on peaceful worshippers, and government officials have condemned the attack. "Such cruel acts of terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists," said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Muslim and Christian leaders around the world have called for a time of prayer for the victims of the bombing. "We are with our Christian brothers and sisters in this time of grief and sorrow," said Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi.

Gospel for Asia is specifically calling people to pray for:

* Healing and comfort for the victims and their families.
* Grace for Pakistan's Christian leaders and other believers ministering to the victims.
* Changed hearts in the people who planned this and future attacks.
* Wisdom for Pakistan's leaders as they determine the best way to deal with terrorists in religious persecution in their nation.
* Peace in Pakistan.

Sudanese Bishop pleads for end to suffering

Obama and UN must not ignore crimes against humanity, says Rev. Elnail

Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail.
United to End Genocide / Flickr / Creative Commons
A Sudanese bishop has written to U.S. President Barack Obama, calling for prompt actions to save the lives of those still alive in the country’s Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur regions.

Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, the Bishop of Kadugli diocese, called for tough actions against the Sudanese regime. He reminded world leaders to not just focus on the Syrian conflict, but pay more attention to the war raging in various part of Sudan.
In another strong call for action, a collection of 20 international human rights organisations sent a letter on September 9 to the UN Human Rights Council outlining serious human rights violations in Sudan during the past year, urging them to address these during its session ending 27 September.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also written a letter to the Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council, commenting on the 10 September report of the Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Sudan.


Pakistan’s Christian leaders demand security after bombings

Bishop blames violence on ‘total failure’ of state to protect minorities

Protesters took to the streets in cities across
Pakistan following the church bombings.
World Watch Monitor
Anguish and anger has erupted across Pakistan since Sunday after two suicide bombers killed dozens of people as they were leaving church services.
The bomb attacks took place at 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 22 as about 600 people were leaving worship services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, the capital of the war-ravaged Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan, along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
At least 89 people, including children, were killed. One family lost six members. About 150 others were injured, about a dozen critically. The powerful explosions left bodies and blood strewn across the church grounds.
As expressions of sympathy poured in, protests broke out across the country, fuelled by grief and by accusations that the government does too little to protect religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country. One person died in the protests.
Protests continued today in Peshawar, Karachi, Islamabad, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, Kasur, Toba Tek Singh, Faisalabad, Okara, Veharhi, Sahiwal, Khanewal, Multan and Quetta. In Peshawar, five further funerals have taken place, of those who had been in intensive care. 

Imprisoned Pastor's Wife Speaks to Iranian President; Hand-Delivers Letter

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

NEW YORK (ANS) -- Sept. 26 marks the one-year anniversary of American Pastor Saeed Abedini's imprisonment in Iran- just because of his Christian faith.

Saeed Abedini
Abedini's wife Naghmeh hand-delivered a letter to Iran's new president urging her husband's freedom today. 

That's according to a story by Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which represents Abedini's wife and children who live in the United States.

The ACLJ said the encounter occurred as Naghmeh was being interviewed in the lobby of a New York hotel where she is staying. The Iranian delegation is also staying at the same hotel.

As Naghmeh was talking with a reporter, the Iranian delegation - with President Hassan Rouhani - walked through the lobby toward the elevators.

Naghmeh approached the delegation and introduced herself to Rouhani. Speaking in Farsi, she asked him to release her husband who is imprisoned in Evin Prison because of his faith. She told the Iranian president's delegation she wanted to deliver a letter that her husband had written to the president pleading for his release.

Acco rding to the ACLJ, as the elevator doors closed, a member of Rouhani's detail accepted Abedini's letter from Naghmeh and said he would deliver it to Rouhani.

The ACLJ said, "We are hopeful that President Rouhani will quickly act for Pastor Saeed's release as he has done for other prisoners of conscience in Iran in recent days."

There are new reports today that Iran announced the release 80 prisoners of conscience. Unfortunately, the ACLJ said, it seems that Abedini was not among those reportedly released.
The ACLJ statement said, "We can confirm that Pastor Saeed's family in Tehran saw him today during regular visitation hours, and as of noon Tehran time, he was still imprisoned and the family has not been notified that his status has changed."

While the release of these prisoners of conscience is a welcomed humanitarian gesture from the new Iranian regime, the ACLJ said if Iran's new president wants the American people and the international community to believe he is a true reformer, he must release Abe dini.
"As long as prisoners of conscience, including a U.S. citizen, suffer torment in Iranian prison, President Rouhani's claims of change will remain unsubstantiated," the ACLJ said. "President Rouhani is clearly seeking international approval. He is listening. And now he has Pastor Saeed's letter."

For more information visit

Friday, September 27, 2013

Suicide bombers leave more than 80 dead, 100+ wounded

Protestors flooded the streets following Sunday's
 attacks in Pakistan.
(Image courtesy 8thirty8 via Facebook)
Pakistan (MNN) ― Many are calling Sunday's blast the "deadliest assault" against Pakistan's Christians.

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the historic All Saints Church in Peshwar after Sunday's service was dismissed. Explosions rocked the area as hundreds of people, many of whom were women and children, left the church building.

Witnesses reportedly heard two blasts, the second more powerful than the first. Over 600 people were inside for Sunday's Mass, reports Reuters.

So far, the injured exceeded 120, and the death toll soared past 80. Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says it probably won't stop there.

"Our contacts in Pakistan are telling us by the time everything is said and done...the death toll will likely go over 100 for this attack," states Nettleton.

Two Islamic militant groups, both with past links to the Taliban, are claiming to be behind the attack, according to BBC News. Reuters says one of the groups, TTP Jundullah, claimed responsibility within hours.

Reuters quotes the group's spokesperson, Ahmed Marwat, as saying, "They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them. We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land."

Following Sunday's assault, masses reportedly took to Peshwar's streets, burning tires and protesting the government's apparent inability to protect religious minorities.

"They knew it was a potential target. Peshawar is a city where there is a lot of radical Islamic activity, so that's one of the questions and one of the complaints from the Christian community there in Pakistan: how did this happen?" Nettleton says.

"I think underneath that question is the grief and the shock of so many people being killed so quickly in, really, a senseless attack."

While some are taking to the streets in protest, Nettleton says other believers are reacting with violence against Peshwar's Muslim community.

"We need to pray against that; we need to pray for peace; we need to pray for the Christian community to have a spirit of forgiveness and understanding and grace," he says.

Pakistan's Christians are the second-largest religious minority group behind Hindus, representing around 1.6% of the mostly-Muslim population. One lawmaker says about 200,000 believers live in the north-western province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Islamic militants often target religious minorities in their campaigns for power, but sectarian violence in Pakistan has primarily involved two parties: Sunni and Shia Muslims. While sporadic bouts of violence do occur against Christ-followers, most persecution results from Pakistan's blasphemy law.

While the source and cause for Sunday's attack remain unclear, Nettleton says there may be a silver lining.

"Potentially, maybe there are some slivers of hope in this as we see the government, even Muslims within the government, respond to this attack and say, 'This is unacceptable,'" he states.

He adds that recent statements from Pakistani leaders--"This is not true Islam. This is not acceptable under any religion to attack women and children like this"--are an encouraging sign.

"Again, those are words," Nettleton says, "but we wait to see what actions will be taken and what will be done to practically provide protection for the Church there."

Your prayers are needed as Pakistani believers grapple with this tragedy. Please pray for those widowed or orphaned by Sunday's attack. Ask the Lord to meet each of His followers in a deeper way during this time.

"Pray for the pastors who are working in this situation and trying to minister hope and help and encouragement to the Christian community there," asks Nettleton. "One of our contacts there is a pastor. When we spoke with him, he had already done five funerals yesterday--five burials for those killed in the church."

Pray for supernatural grace to fall upon each heart impacted by this tragedy.

"In a situation where grace is completely NOT the natural response, we need to pray that God will provide supernaturally for them to respond with forgiveness," Nettleton says.

Colombian Christian leader accused of FARC affiliation

Mennonite faces renewed charges by right-wing paramilitary group

Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, pictured in 2012 at a
Lutheran World Federation event in Bogotá, Colombia.
Milton Blanco / Flickr / Creative Commons
A pamphlet produced by paramilitary group Los Urabeños has accused Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas, director of the Mennonite church-affiliated Foundation Sowing Seeds of Peace, of affiliation with the Colombian government and Latin America’s oldest left-wing guerrilla insurgency, FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
It accuses him and other community leaders of promoting the return of the armed group to the mountain region of El Carmen de Bolivar in the northern Colombian department of Bolivar. He is also accused of robbery and extortion.
The accusations likely stem from his organisation’s work in helping return land to farmers displaced by paramilitary groups between 2000 and 2004. Government authorities often misunderstand the motivations of human rights workers, assuming them to be affiliated with leftist rebels. 

Kashkumbayev reportedly transferred to pre-trial prison

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)
Kazakhstan (MNN) ― Could you take a few moments to pray for Presbyterian pastor Bakhytzhat Kashkumbayev?

Earlier this month, we shared how the 67-year-old church leader was being detained in a psychiatric center. According to Forum 18 News, Kashkumbayev is accused of "seriously harming the health of citizens."

Authorities claim the pastor "prayed for the sick and psychologically influenced" church members. The woman they say Kashkumbayev harmed, Lyazzat Almenova, told Forum 18 "[Kashkumbayev] is totally innocent and has not harmed my health at all."

International Christian Concern says Kashkumbayev is now being held at a pre-trial prison in the nation's capital.

"By all accounts, this is a very, very troubling development," says  Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association. "When you see somebody that gets locked up in a psychiatric prison for practicing their religious faith, that basically calls back to the days under the former Soviet Union."

Evangelical Christians aren't directly affected or involved in this case, Griffith notes. But that doesn't mean they're protected, either.

"What impacts one group can indeed have ripple effects on other groups," says Griffith. "It just remains to be seen how this [will be] handled."

Religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities in Kazakhstan are already threadbare. Griffith says Kashkumbayev's case, along with mixed signals from Kazakhstan's president, aren't helping.

"With him putting out what looked like, on one hand, that olive branch, then to turn around and pass laws that are very's just very troubling and I'm sure confusing to a lot of religious bodies to know exactly what the government's going to do there," says Griffith.

A highly-restrictive 2011 Religion Law, supposedly intended to curb religious extremism in Kazakhstan, has instead put shackles on religious minorities.

While Griffith says levels of persecution vary from region to region, one thing is constant across the board: faiths viewed by the government as "traditional" (Islam, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Jewish) function without problem.

"I don't think that you will find Russian Orthodox churches in those regions encountering anywhere near the same difficulty that evangelical churches would encounter," observes Griffith.

Pastor Bakhytzhat Kashkumbayev was arrested and detained at the end of May by Kazakh authorities. The leader's family has expressed concern for his health. Kashkumbayev himself has appealed to international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee: "Though I am 67…and I cannot boast of ideal health since I had a heart attack in 2011, have chronic [inflammation] of both ears, varicose veins in my legs, chronic bronchitis, [and] chronic gastritis." He stated in a written appeal on July 18, "I am psychologically healthy."

Details concerning when and if a trial will occur are unavailable. Please pray for Pastor Bakhytzhat Kashkumbayev. Ask the Lord to sustain his health, and pray for his immediate release. Pray for comfort and peace for his family members.

Pakistan Church Blast Kills Dozens

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A twin-suicide bombing outside a church in Peshawar in Pakistan has killed at least 75 people and wounded more than 120.

A man cries at the death of his brother in the suicide attack on the church in Peshawar, Pakistan. (Via: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)
According to a story by the BBC, it's being called one of the worst attacks on Christians in the country.

The BBC reported that police say two bombers blew themselves up as worshipers were coming out of the city's historic All Saints church after attending Sunday Mass.

Relatives of the victims gathered at the scene to protest against the government's failure to protect them.

Militants linked to Pakistani Taliban have said they carried out the bombing. The group, Jandullah, said it was in retaliation US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal northwest.

Witnesses said they heard two blasts, the second more powerful than the first.

According to the BBC story, officials said suicide vests were later found outside the church.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on Pakistani Christians, who represent about 1.6 percent of the country's largely Muslim population.

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Pakistan said the attack has outraged many people, but there is also a sense of helplessness about the governmen t's apparent inability to prevent such atrocities.
There were angry scenes outside the church, with friends and relatives denouncing the government.

In a statement made available to the ASSIST News Service, Shahid Khan, vice-chairperson of the British-based human rights organization Global Minorities Alliance, said the attack was "a security lapse where the government has failed to protect the minorities."

He added, "I am deeply concerned about the chaotic situation at the scene of (the) incident, where church members have no clue where their loved ones are. There are so many people missing and there is no help for the deeply shocked Christian community."

Sudanese Woman Faces Ordeal as Convert from Islam

Long before current crackdown in Sudan, society punished "'apostates"

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN (ANS) -- After her family in Khartoum, Sudan nearly buried her alive for leaving Islam and authorities imprisoned her for six months, a Sudanese Christian thought she might find refuge in Ethiopia.
South Sudan map
According to a story by Morning Star News, she had fled to Ethiopia in 2010, five years after putting her faith in Christ. By the following year, she found herself face to face with hostile Sudanese officials.
"Some security personnel from the Sudan Embassy in Addis Ababa informed me that I must leave Ethiopia because I was an infidel," the 35-year-old woman, whose name is withheld for security reasons, told Morning Star News.
Now in South Sudan, which split from Sudan on July 9 2011, she still lives in hiding. Sudanese Muslims in South Sudan, she says, are monitoring her movements.
She had come to faith when a Christian woman told her about the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, and soon she began attending church. When her family learned of her conversion, she said, they locked her in a dark room for six months and arranged visits from an Islamic sheikh who struck her 10 times each day.
"After six months, I was re leased and was very frustrated and went into hiding, but my family discovered where I was hiding in Khartoum and reported to the police that I had left Islam," Morning Star News reported the woman said.
Her family learned of her hiding place, found and beat her, and threw her from a second floor landing.
"I was bleeding and my ribs were broken," she said.
Family members threatened to charge her with apostasy unless she repented and returned to Islam. They told her, "You are an infidel. You are no longer a good Muslim."

Apostasy is punishable by death in Sudan, which upholds sharia (Islamic law) as a source of legislation, according to the U.S. Department of State.
"They called a Muslim sheikh to force me to repent and come back to Islam, but I refused the attempt," she said, adding that the sheikh would later accuse her of "being possessed by an evil spirit, which he said was a Christian evil spirit."
Family members hid her in the trunk of their car and took her home with the intent of burying her alive, she said. 

The woman said she felt close to death, and by keeping her hidden, the family hoped Muslim neighbors would accept that her absence meant she had met her expected end as an apostate. The neighbors, however, called police.
"They dug the grave, and as they were putting me into the grave, the police entered the house," Morning Star News reported she said. "I believe it was the Lord Jesus who made the police arrive on time and saved me from that inevitable death."
Officers arrested family members for attempted murder, but they were later released.
After a few days of recovery, she managed to escape again. Security officials attempted to track her down.
"Security started to search for me everywhere, accusing me of leaving Islam," she said. 

When Na tional Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officials caught up with her four years later, in early 2009, they imprisoned her for one month, she said.
After her release, in March 2009 she tried to flee the country by air. Authorities were notified, removed her from an airliner about to take off from Khartoum International Airport and confiscated her passport.
During interrogation, NISS personnel tortured her as punishment for leaving Islam and trying to flee the country, Morning Star News reported the woman  said. She was imprisoned for another six months at Omdurman Prison for Women.
"The security officials took my documents, and after serving six months of imprisonment, I decided to go into hiding and sought refuge in the house of some Christians in Khartoum who gave me food and shelter and took care for me," she said.
Morning Star News said all these events occurred ordeals before the 2011 secession that opened t he way for harsher treatment of Christians in Sudan. President Omar al Bashir has vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. 

The estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Christians in Sudan have suffered increased arrests and deportations and destruction of church buildings and affiliated centers.  Church leaders say foreign Christians have been driven out. 

In an April report, human rights agency Christian Solidarity Worldwide noted an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians since Dec. 2012.
Freedom of religion is a key provision of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a signatory. 

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, In April the U..S. Commission on Interna tional Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list this year.
After her six months in prison, eventually the convert from Islam managed to cross into neighboring Ethiopia by land in 2010, only to encounter more threatening Sudanese officials. 

Even now in predominantly Christian and animist South Sudan, Morning Star News said she  describes her life as "fear and agony," with seemingly nowhere to hide from hostile Islamists.
For more information about Morning Star News, visit

The Nightmare Continues

Humanitarian crisis is officially declared in Philippine City

By Noel T. Tarrazona
Philippine correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ZAMBOANGA CITY, PHILIPPINES (ANS) -- A humanitarian crisis has been officially declared by the Philippine government in Zamboanga City, Mindanao, in the south of the country, after displaced civilians caught in the crossfire ballooned to 115,000, who are now housed in different 31 evacuation centers in the city.
Over 1,000 troops have been battling to drive rebels out of Zamboanga (From BBC website)

Around 300 rebels, part of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), arrived by boat in the city early in the morning of September 9th, and had wanted to raise their flag above Zamboanga's city hall, military officials said.

They then took siege of the city and held more than 170 hostages, most of whom have since been released.

The Philippine soldiers and rebels, who are engaged in this standoff, have seen that the violent crossfire has already killed more than 70 rebels and 15 government troops in the ongoing battle.

A number evacuees are crying day and night without food. Some do not have shelters and toilets and they keep hoping to end this crisis to go back to their normal lives.
A boy cries upon learning his house was burned in the crossfire

According to Inquirer News (, some 12,000 students from 38 public schools caught in the Zamboanga City crossfire will continue to miss regular classes at least for the next three months, said Philippine Education Secretary Armin Luistro, who flew to Zamboanga City on Friday with officials of the Department of Education (DepEd).

But 167 of the 205 public schools, including annexes, in the city may resume classes as early as Monday once the city's interagency crisis committee deems it already safe, Luistro said.

"Classes in Zamboanga City have been suspended since Sept. 9 when the military engaged armed MNLF members who occupied five densely populated coastal barangays using civilians as human shields," added the story.

Scores of people have been injured in the violence, including this boy (photo: Reuters)
Some 188,000 students are enrolled in 171 public elementary schools and 34 high schools in Zamboanga

Rolly Pelinggon, director of the Philippine Student Alliance Lay Movement (PSALM) said that this is the best time that different ministries can reach out to the evacuees that include women, students and children because they are looking for a new hope and it's only Jesus who can give them that new hope.

A number of Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) churches are helping in the distribution of relief goods to only 10,000 evacuees. Shortage of relief goods reportedly remain a challenge of the government.

Children of war show their innocent smile who are too young to understand what the war
was all about
Zamboanga was a key City in introducing Evangelical doctrines. Zamboanga was among those first cities where US missionaries started the first Sunday Schools in different communities. It was also the City where the Ebenezer Bible College and Seminary was established. It was the first Christian and Missionary bible school in the Philippines.

When C&MA missionaries arrived at Zamboanga City in the 1900s, they realized they need a Bible school to train Filipinos in the way of the Lord. Ebenezer was built upon a foundation of two Christian day schools known as the Ebenezer Schools. The first school was for girls which was established by the Rev. and Mrs. David Lund in 1911 and the school for boys was established in 1920.

Then in 1926, the two schools were merged to form the Ebenezer Bible Institute with Rev. George Sthrom as its first principal. When the Second World War arrived in the Philippines, the school temporarily suspended its classes. Classes were only resumed in 1946 by Rev. Herbert Jackson. For the first times in 1950, the Ebenezer Principal went to a Filipino, the Rev. Vicente Pada.

Nur Misuari
The BBC says that Nur Misuari founded the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1971, with the goal of fighting the Philippine state for an independent Islamic nation. The MNLF then signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

However, Nur Misuari has complained that his faction has been marginalized in a peace agreement currently being negotiated between the government and another insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Last month, he declared an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines.

"Nur Misuari has not commented on the violence. Journalists and government negotiators say they have been unable to reach him," said the BBC report.

What MNLF forces hope to achieve in Zamboanga is not clear, reports the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head. 

The government says it is prepared to negotiate, and a likely outcome is that they are allowed to go out of the city, provided they leave the residents of the areas they are holding unharmed.

Nur Misuari's forces used Zamboanga residents as human shields before, in 2001, to secure safe passage after a failed uprising and Christians in the besieged city are now asking for prayer and also assistance to help them at this difficult time.

After the storm

Egyptian Church leaders in Delga reflect after army re-establishes state control

The charred remains of the Orthodox
Church of the Virgin Mary in Delga.
World Watch Monitor
A few days on from the Egyptian army’s re-establishment of state control over Delga in Minya province, the country’s Coptic Christians are beginning to reveal the extent of their sufferings at the hands of supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi.

Father Abraam Abu El-Yameen, priest of the 1600-year-old monastery of St Mary and Abraam, which was torched, told World Watch Monitor that as many as 150 Christian families fled the village and that those who remain are scared.
“[Despite] the existence of the military in the village and the arrest of more than 100 Muslim militants, the Christians here are so afraid because they have received many threats from Muslims,” he said.

Iran releases 2 Christians, but many more still imprisoned

Prisoners freed on eve of President’s UN address

Mostafa Bordbar, 27, is serving a 10-year sentence.
Mohabat News
Two Christian women were among a number of prisoners of conscience released in Iran, ahead of new President Hassan Rouhani’s first address to the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
Since his election in June, Rouhani has projected a tone that is less strident than that of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, following a couple of months in which at least a further 20 Christians have been arrested on charges of “acting against national security”, Rouhani still has some way to go to win over sceptics.
Mitra Rahmati and Maryam Jalili were released from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on Sept. 17.  Mohabat News reports that the pair would likely have been released in one month’s time, after almost completing their two-and-a-half-year stints for evangelism among Muslims, and their membership in a Christian group.

Nearly a dozen captives freed; prayer needed for those who remain

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)
Iran (MNN) ― Two of the prisoners released from Iran's notorious Evin prison are Christ-followers.

"We want to thank God that these two women, these two believers are released. That is wonderful news to receive," says E3 Partners VP of Church and Ministry Partnerships and Middle East Strategy Director, Tom Doyle.

A few days ago, at least 11 political prisoners were released from Iran's notorious Evin Prison. Among them were believers Mitra Rahmati and Maryam Jalili, according to Mohabat News.

The women were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for sharing the Gospel with Muslims and "being members of a Christian group", the Mohabat article states.

"It is a good sign," Doyle adds, "but we know that Iran--their government--is very famous for kind of 'pandering to the press' when the pressure is on, and they're feeling that right now."

Iran's moderate Islamic president, Hassan Rohani, is scheduled to appear before the United Nations General Assembly next week. Rohani is expected to deliver a speech and raise diplomatic favor.

With U.S. Pastor Saeed Abedini and Pastor Farshid Fathi among those remaining within Evin's walls, the desperate need for prayer remains.

"When I heard prisoners were going to be released, we certainly prayed, but it didn't happen that two of the key ones were let go, so we need to just keep praying for them," says Doyle.

"It seems like they go harder after the leadership," he adds, explaining that Abedini and Fathi are viewed as "prized possessions" by Iranian officials.

"Pastor Saeed and Pastor Fathi had quite a network, and that's what [officials are] trying to do: break up any kind of network and [its] influence."

Pray for their release. Ask the Lord to keep them safe during their imprisonment.

"I never hear believers in Iran pray for persecution or hardship to end," Doyle notes.

"I've always heard them pray, 'Lord, just show us what we need to learn. You are God. You could've stopped this, so we conclude that there's a reason for it, so teach us everything that we need to know'."

For 25 years, E3 Partners has been sharing the Gospel with the Middle East and Central Asia (MECA). Doyle says they help persecuted believers in any and every way they can.

"Some of them have struggled financially; some of them are needing follow-up materials for new believers," he says.

One of E3's most recent projects is a small publication printed in the Farsi language, called "The Incredible Journey."

"It's just a small Bible survey that helps new believers navigate from Genesis to Revelation," Doyle explains. "Obviously, the Holy Spirit leads us, but we find that there are extra resources that we can get that can really help them as they're training this new, vibrant, fast-growing Church in Iran."

Learn more about E3's MECA program and how you can get involved.

"If people want to reach out and bless the Church in Iran, the leaders that need help with resources, materials, going to conferences, or help with feeding their family, they can get on," says Doyle.

You can also get updates on Abedini, Fathi, and Iran's other persecuted believers on E3's 8thirty8 Facebook page.

"Informed prayer is critical," Doyle states. "We give updates of people who are either in prison, under persecution or in danger, whether it be Iran, Egypt, Syria.

"If believers get connected, they'll be a little bit more informed on their prayers, and that would really be helpful."

Pray for the Body of Christ in Iran.

"It amazes me the believers that go to underground churches and risk their lives, knowing that they might end up at a place like Evin Prison," says Doyle. "They want to share the Gospel, and that's why Iran is the fastest-growing Church in the world now, per capita.

"People are sharing the Gospel, but it's risky, and that's why we need to pray for them."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Iran: Two Christians among Eleven Prisoners of Conscience Released From Jail

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS) -- Iranian Christians Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati were released from the infamous Evin Prison, Tehran, yesterday, six weeks before their two and half year sentences were due to be completed.

Maryam Jalili, free at last
The women were amongst eleven prisoners of conscience to be released; others included prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the reformist politician, Mohsen Aminzadeh.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Maryam and Mitra, both converts from Islam, were arrested on Christmas Eve in 2009, along with 13 others, after a raid by government officials on a house church in Pakdasht, south-east of Tehran.

While most of the others were released shortly after being arrested, the two women were detained until 17 March 2010, when they were released temporarily. They were re-arrested in April 2011 and imprisoned after being convicted of "membership of an illegal group."

"Although the Iranian government has not given an explanation for the release of the eleven prisoners, it comes as President Hassan Rouhani prepares to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where there is speculation he may hold talks with President Obama," said a spokesperson for CSW.

Human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, shown in this 2007 photo, drew the ire of Iran's conservative regime when she defended women, minorities and opposition figures following the contested 2009 presidential election that kept
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. 
(EPA / November 3, 2007)
"During the presidential campaign, President Rouhani, viewed as a moderate and a pragmatist, promised to uphold the rights of women and religious minorities and to release political prisoners. The President also pledged to set up a 'civil rights charter,' which would ensure equality without discrimination based on race, religion, or gender."

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper uncovered close to 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran, including journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, feminists, Christian priests, Sunni clerics and Baha'i leaders.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said, "CSW welcomes the release of Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other prisoners. While this positive step by the Iranian government is to be commended, it is by no means sufficient given the vast number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

Inside the women's section of the
infamous Evin prison 
(Photo: Saeed Faraji, Fars News Agency)
"CSW continues to call for the unconditional release of all of these prisoners, including Farshid Fathi, Benham Irani, Saeed Abedini, Shahin Lahooti, the seven Baha'i leaders, and others who belong to religious minorities and have been unjustly detained."
Note: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.