Thursday, December 12, 2013

Report claims 30,000 Eritreans kidnapped in 5 years

Total of $600 million extorted in ransom payments

Asmara, Eritrea.
Carsten ten Brink / Flickr / Creative Commons
A report presented to the European Parliament shows that around 30,000 Eritreans have been kidnapped since 2007 and taken to the Sinai while ransom payments are demanded.
The report says that a total of around $600 million (€468m) was extorted from families and that Eritrea's Border Surveillance Unit (BSU) and Sudanese Security officials are among the “actors” collaborating with the gangs that hold people hostage in Sinai.
The Eritrean military was also blamed for abducting young people and forcing them to join the National Youth Service, while the Eritrean government came under fire for its inability to protect its citizens.

Christian Convert Transferred to Evin Prison's Ward 350; Two Christian Bloggers Arrested

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Mohabat News says human rights sources are reporting that an Iranian Christian convert, Rasoul Abdollahi, has been transferred to Ward 350 of Evin Prison to serve his three year prison term.

In the meantime, as part of a new wave of arrest of bloggers and cyber-activists, Revolutionary Guard authorities arrested two Christian bloggers.

On Dec. 4, an Iranian senior judicial authority said that intelligence forces in Revolutionary Guard identified 16 Internet activists in Kerman who were in contact with foreign agents.

Abdollahi, an Iranian Christian convert, accused of "collusion against the government and evangelism," had earlier been sentenced to three years in prison.

Mohabat reported that Abdollahi had also been arrested during an organized raid on a Christmas celebration on Dec. 26 2010 in Tehran.

This raid resulted in the arrest of a number of other Christians including Farshid Fathi. Fathi was kept in prison for 15 months without any official charges, and then sentenced to six years in prison. He is currently serving his term in Evin Prison's Ward 350.

According to a report by the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Revolutionary Guard authorities on Dec. 4 arrested two Internet acti vists/bloggers; Kiavosh Sotoudeh and Jamshid Jabbari, in front of Kerman University. They were taken to an unknown location.

There are no updates available on the reason for these arrests.

Mohabat News said media state that these two Internet activists have ties with house church and evangelistic groups.
There was news recently that indicated a new Revolutionary Guard campaign to crackdown on internet activists.

Mohabat News said in addition, Fars News agency, which is supported by the Revolutionary Guard, reported that Intelligence agents of the Revolutionary Guard have arrested several Internet activists.

An intelligence authority told Fars News that these individuals are accused of cyber crimes, desecrating Islamic holy figures, and contact with foreigners. He also claimed that they were part of a complex security media network.

Other reports also indicated an escalation in the arrest of reporters, religious dissidents, student and political activists.

For more information about Mohabat News visit

Rumour of tryst triggers anti-Christian violence in Egypt village

One killed; homes burned in trouble-plagued province

The Minya province in Upper Egypt has been
afflicted by anti-Christian violence since August.
World Watch Monitor / David Degner / Getty Images
The way Christians in the Egyptian town of Nazlet El-Badraman describe it, the deadly rampage that engulfed their village grew out of an unfounded rumour.
When it finally blew over, one person was dead, nine were wounded, nearly 20 houses had been burned, and a teen-aged girl had been hurled from a building, breaking both her arms. And it was just one of many violent anti-Christian episodes in Egypt’s Minya province since the July removal of President Mohamed Morsi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It began Nov. 25 when a 20-year-old Nazlet El-Badraman woman left the town and went to Cairo. That fact is among the few not in dispute.
Fr. Srapamon Agban, a priest at Mar Gerges Church in Nazlet El-Badraman, told World Watch Monitor that the woman paid a visit to Shenouda Louis Habib, who is a neighbour to the woman, but who works in Cairo.
The woman is Muslim. The man is a Coptic Christian.
Mideast Christian News, one of the few news services to report on the incident, reported that the woman visited two men — Habib and his brother — not one. MCN said the woman’s father dispatched a family member to his daughter in Cairo, “where she was checked to see if she was still a virgin”. The news service reported that “a medical examination of the girl revealed she had not been harmed”, and both the woman and Habib were warned any further contact would result in a fine for both of them.
The woman returned to Nazlet El-Badraman the following day, Nov. 26, Agban said. By then, he said, rumours were flying.
Two days later, he said, relatives of the woman went to the home of Shenouda’s father, Louis Habib Hanna. There was a quarrel.
Soon afterward, the houses of Louis Habib Hanna and his brother, Nabil, were burned. Several of the Christian inhabitants were injured, Agban said.
On that same night, a Muslim resident of the village, whom Agban identified as Hamada Saber Abdullah, 39, died in a motorcycle accident. Soon, he said, another rumour spread: The Christians killed him.
Mar Gerges Church finished mass quickly the next morning. “We finished the mass of Friday very early at 8:30 andcancelled all the Friday children meetings, and closed all the doors of the church because of were afraid of the Muslims’ attacks,” Agban told World Watch Monitor.
The attacks began after mourners had buried Abdullah. Marchers processed from the funeral to the Christian neighbourhood. Some threw firebombs from the roof of an elementary school, Agban said. Others looted homes.
“I received a great deal of calls from the Christians whose homes were ransacked and destroyed,” the priest said. He said more than 10 homes were fully burnt, and more than 30 were ransacked. One man was killed, MCN reported. Attackers attempted to break into the church, but failed, Agban said.
The attackers entered the home of Bushra Ekladios, grabbed his 14-year-old daughter, Yvonne, and threw her from the second floor of the house. MCN published a photo of a bruised girl, her broken wrists bandaged and both arms in a sling.
Agban told World Watch Monitor that police did little to stop the attacks, and that several Christians were arrested, though “they didn’t do anything”. MCN reported several of the victims were arrested, and that police used tear gas to chase off the attackers.
Christian children haven’t returned to school since the violence, Agban said. Ten families have left the town, and those who remain are afraid to venture out of their homes, he said.
“There is a situation of panic and fear among the Christians here”, he said. “We are afraid that they can attack us again, especially after the security forces leave the village".
Minya, south of Cairo in the region known as Upper Egypt, has the country’s highest concentration of Christians. It also is home to some of Egypt’s most militant Islamic sects. Following the August military crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo, angry Muslims burned scores of churches in Minya, destroying more than 30. Numerous Christian homes and businesses were looted and burned; kidnappings have been epidemic.
The Nov. 28 violence in Nazlet El-Badraman prompted the secretary for Coptic Pope Tawadros II to appeal directly to Egypt’s interior minister to protect the town’s Christians. The minister promised immediate reinforcements, MCN reported.

©2013 World Watch Monitor

World Watch Monitor is distributed to raise awareness of Christians worldwide under pressure for their faith. Articles may be reprinted, with attribution.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nigeria's Boko Haram strikes again in Cameroon

Missionary killed, churches torched around time of French priest's kidnapping

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

CAMEROON (ANS) -- A missionary has been killed and several churches set ablaze in attacks by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram in neighboring Cameroon.

In April last year, churches were targeted by suspected Boko Haram militants. Some victims had their throats cut, while others were beaten to death or burned alive. This is one of the survivors, whose name is being withheld to protect his security. (via Cameroon Human Rights Monitoring)
According to a story by the World Watch Monitor (WWM), the Nigerian missionary, David Dina Mataware, with the Christian Missionary Foundation (CMF), was killed on Nov. 13 by suspected Boko Haram militants in Ashigashia. That's a village which straddles the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

He was murdered on the same day as the kidnapping of a French priest, Father Georges Vandenbeusch. However, the death was not reported by the media, a church leader told WWM, even though both incidents happened in the same area.

The kidnap was claimed by Boko Haram "in an operation co-ordinated with Ansaru," its spokesman told Agence France Presse.

Ansaru is a Boko Haram splinter group that has attacked several Western and Nigerian targets. It claimed responsibility for the kidnap and murder of seven international construction workers earlier in 2013.

WWM said Mataware had worked with CMF since 2010. CMF is a Nigeria-based mission agency active in Cameroon since 1989. Its ministry is focused on the tribes of Mandara, Kanouri and Guem ergou in the district of Mora in northern Cameroon.

"An undetermined number of armed men crossed the border and entered into Cameroon at midnight. On their way back, they attacked the CMF compound. Unfortunately, one of the six missionaries had his throat cut. Five others managed to flee," 
said the church leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Cameroon is a secular country in Central Africa. Approximately 70 per cent of the population is at least nominally Christian and most of its population in the North are Muslims.

Over the weekend of Nov. 15-17, a number of incidents took place alongside the porous border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Local sources contacted by WWM said dozens of properties, including Ewy church in Tourou (in Cameroon) were attacked while at least one church was set ablaze and destroyed on the Nigerian side of Ashigashia.

At least four people were killed and many others wounded and transferred to health centers. Despite the reinforcement of security forces in the area, villagers f ear continued attacks from Islamist militants from Nigeria.

Bible translator killed in Central African Republic

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- A Bible translator in war-ravaged Central African Republic (CAR) was shot and killed this week as he attempted to escape mounting violence in Bangui, according to Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Elisee Zama
Elisée Zama, who served as a translator with ACATBA, Wycliffe's partner organization in the CAR, was shot as he was transporting family members to the relative safety of a hospital compound.

Violence began intensifying in CAR following a coup in March 2013. Many humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from the country or cut back services and government health clinics have largely been abandoned.

"Reprisals against Christians in particular in Bangui are of great concern," said Larry Robbins with SIL, a Wycliffe partner in CAR.

"There have been . . . reprisals in certain neighborhoods of Bangui, resulting in thousands seeking refuge on the airstrip of the international airport," he said.

Assemblies of God Pastor and Minister Released from Iran's Sepidar Prison in Awaz

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Two Christian prisoners were released from Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz after 214 days.
Farhad Sabokrouh and
Naser Zamen-Dezfuli
According to Mohabat News, two Christian prisoners, Farhad Sabokrouh, Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, a church minister, were released on Dec. 4 2013 after 214 days in Sepidar Prison.

On Dec. 23, 2011, Iranian security authorities raided a Christmas celebration at the Assemblies of God church of Ahwaz and arrested everyone in attendance. All those arrested were transferred to an unknown location in two buses.

Everyone arrested was were threatened and released after being interrogated and their personal information taken.

However, Mohabat News said, Sabokrouh, his wife Shahnaz Jayzan, and church ministers, Naser Zamen-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani, were held in prison. They were charged for converting from Islam to Christianity, proselytizing Muslims, and propagating against the Islamic regime through evangelism.

Later, the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz sentenced each to one year in prison. Davoud Alijani was arrested and taken to prison to serve his sentence when he went to the court on May 1, 2013, while the three others were summoned to the court and transferred to prison on May 4.

Sabokrouh and Zamen-Dezfuli have been released while there are still two weeks remaining from their prison term. Mohabat News said Iranian judicial authorities have refused to provide a reason for their slightly early release. As a result, it is not certain whether or not this pardon will include the pastor's wife, and Davoud Alijani.

According to a directive from Iran's Revolutionary Court and as part of the court's policy to further pressure and persecute religious and political prisoners, Christian convicts are not to be granted leave permits while serving their sentences.

The Assemblies of God Church of Ahwaz, which is technically a house turned into a church, is registered and thus under the supervision of Iranian authorities. Despite this, the church has been targeted and subject to unreasonable pressure.

According to Mohabat News, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on Christian converts are not a new phenomenon. All religious minorities in Iran are subject to various forms of discrimination.

After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the situation of religious minorities in Iran has always been a major human rights concern.