Saturday, January 11, 2014

Church in Iran closes its doors to Farsi speakers

Church in Iran closes their doors to Farsi-speaking
church attenders in Iran. (Mohabat photo)
Iran (MNN/Mohabat News) — Increasing pressure from the government has forced a church to do something no church ever wants to do: it told certain attenders to stay away. The church in Iran closes its doors to Farsi speakers.
According to Mohabat News, the pastor of a church in Tehran was forced to announce that Farsi-speaking Christians are not welcome anymore. The news service reports this is just another in the list of churches where Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed anymore.
The pastor made the announcement to the majority Farsi-speaking attendees. Some have been attending the church for more than 20 years.
Just one week after the announcement, the church’s custodian prevented a few of the Farsi-speaking members from entering the church. Those prevented included Sunday school teachers, ministers, and elders of the church. They were told they cannot enter the church building even for purposes other than attending the service.
Iranian churches are under pressure from government–more specifically Revolutionary Guard Intelligence–to stop their service in Farsi.
Earlier, the Ministry of Intelligence asked members of this church to submit their ID cards and personal information to the ministry. This was done to intimidate church members and keep them from attending church services.
It is noteworthy that only a few Armenian and Assyrian families attend this church. It’s unlikely this church can continue with so few attenders remaining.
Some analysts believe that Assyrian Member of Parliament, Yonatan Betkolia, is behind this prohibition order. Past experiences have clearly shown his close cooperation with the Ministry of Intelligence. Through this cooperation, he has been able to convince a number of Assyrian and Armenian pastors to close the doors of their churches on Farsi-speaking Christians.
Since 2011, pressure and restrictions on Iranian churches have increased dramatically.
Many Christians, especially newly-converted Christians, have faced imprisonment, pressure, and harassment in the past few years. Iranian intelligence and security forces have recently focused their efforts to close down more churches around the country. Among the already closed churches are the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, the Farsi-speaking church of Janat-Abad, and Central Assemblies of God Churches in Tehran. The Central AG Church was the largest Farsi-speaking Church in Tehran which was completely closed down during the past presidential election campaigns in Iran.
Even a Latin Catholic Church in Tehran was forced to ban Farsi-speakers from attending, although only small parts of their services were held in Farsi. Government authorities threatened church officials and warned them against allowing Farsi-speaking Christians in their services.
There are a few other churches across the country, as well, that are ordered to prohibit Farsi-speaker attendance. They are also banned from registering new members.

The real story in North Korea

North Korea (MNN) — While the reports of the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle were verified, the method of execution was open to speculation.
Then, a report surfaced last week about Jang Song Thaek and his advisers being fed to wild dogs. Major news sources picked up the story, and even as it picked up headlines, the debunks were being published in equal force.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, “It was traced back to a Chinese newspaper and then eventually to a social media post that may or may not have been satire. So everything that comes out of North Korea, really, we need to look at carefully. We need to cross reference between multiple sources to see what’s true and what’s not.”
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
Reports coming out of the recluse nation have to be examined closely because “it’s just so difficult to get information out of the country. Anything that does come out needs to be questioned: ‘What’s the agenda behind it?’ ‘Who released it?’ ‘Is it a credible source?’”
The problem was that the stories debunking the urban legend had little more than ‘it probably didn’t happen that way.’ Experts doubted the veracity, noting the detail in the report, the numbers of dogs, victims, and more. Yet they also noted that this form of execution was used in North Korea to punish prisoners. Nettleton says one thing it DOES prove: “Just the fact that we think that it MIGHT be true says how terrible things are in North Korea.
“If Kim Jong-un will kill his own uncle, he will certainly kill anyone else who crosses the regime or who is perceived to be disloyal,” Nettleton adds.
Within North Korea, those perceived disloyal include anyone who worships someone other than Kim Jong-un. Nettleton explains, “It’s treason. It undermines the very legitimacy of the North Korean government. That’s why Christians are persecuted so severely.”
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
In fact, for the 12th year in a row, North Korea tops the 2014 World Watch List, released yesterday by Open Doors USA. The WWL is a ranking of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most severe.
In the report, Open Doors says believers must hide their decision to follow Christ. Being caught with a Bible is grounds for execution or a life-long political prison sentence. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons, and prison-like circumstances under Kim Jong-un.
And yet, there IS a Church. The Voice of the Martyrs has been active in North Korea for decades, including launching tens of thousands of “Scripture Balloons,” helium filled balloons that are printed with Scripture passages and other Gospel messages.
It’s a message that gets through in a country where very little else does. Nettleton says far
(Image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)
(Image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)
from being helpless, you can “pray for the protection and safety of our Christian brothers and sisters. Pray for opportunities to witness, and then I think it’s fair to pray for a government that respects its own people and values their safety and their health.”
There are more ways you can take action and inject truth into North Korea. Click here for more.

Jubilee Campaign and the Nigerian Working Group Join With Survivor to Mark Anniversary of Nigeria Terror Massacre and Seek U.N. Humanitarian Response

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

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Several US organizations advocating on Nigeria have marked the official start of the anti-Christian genocide in northern Nigeria on January 6, 2012, according to a news release from Jubilee Campaign USA.
Some of the victims of Boko Haram's Mubi Massacre

“From the time it issued an ultimatum, shortly after blowing up churches on Christmas day, demanding that Christians leave Northern Nigeria in January 2012 or die, Boko Haram has prosecuted a pernicious and systematic campaign of extermination,” said the release monitored by the ASSIST News Service.

“Funerals for randomly killed non-Muslim ‘others’ have been attacked, companies have been raided and non-Muslims summarily executed by shots to the head, buses have been stopped with the occupants separated and systematically slaughtered. More Christians were killed in northern Nigeria in 2012 than throughout the rest of the world.”

Ikenna Nzeribe
The Working Group on Nigeria has joined with Ikenna Nzeribe, the sole survivor of Boko Haram’s Mubi massacre of January 6th 2012 to remember the estimated 2000 Christians who have been killed since then. 14 Christians were killed when they gathered to mourn another murdered Christian in Mubi in northern Nigeria. After being medivaced abroad, Ike continues to undergo surgery for shots to his head - a hallmark of Boko Haram's vicious attacks.

The release went on to say, “While we commend the designation by the United States of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) during an Africa sub-committee congressional hearing in November 2012, as Congressman Chris Smith noted then, ‘What I learnt on the trip (to Nigeria) was that victims of the terrorism are not receiving ... assistance from the international community including the United States. Individual private voluntary charitable groups ...are stepping up to the plate... but in nowhere near approximating the need of these individuals who are now IDPs and have PTSD problems.’”

Last week Canada also designated Boko Haram as an FTO, joining the United States and England.

Accordingly the group has asked the following:

A Boko Haram fighter
1. That the United Nations Security Council impose sanctions to restrict terror financing flows to Boko Haram. This is only logical now that the UK, US and Canada are amongst the countries whose governments have done so.

This is even more necessary since the majority of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have lost citizens to the Boko Haram (France, UK, China). Furthermore Boko Haram has in fact bombed U.N. offices itself in August 2011 killing 25 people.

2. That the U.N. reimburse Nigeria for the cost of rebuilding its bombed office by setting up a Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation and humanitarian assistance to victims. It is unfair for the U.N. to benefit from this tragedy while poor victim citizens are deprived of similar restitution. The U.N. should pay its bills and give back to its hurting hosts.

3. That the US, EU and other international partners similarly assist victims to help mitigate the potential for violent escalation.

Members of the Working Group on Nigeria who signed the letter to the United Nations are:


Jubilee Campaign
Religious Freedom Coalition
The Institute on Religion & Democracy
Igbo League
The Westminster Institute
Justice for Jos
African Christian Fellowship USA
Christian Association of Nigerian Americans
Red Eagle Express
Advocates International


Andrew E. Harrod, Ph.D (Independent Writer & Researcher)
Ikenna Nzeribe (Sole Survivor of Boko Haram's Mubi Massacre, January 6, 2012)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Soldiers Join Slaughter of Christians in Nigerian Village

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

RIYOM, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Survivors of the Jan. 6 slaughter of 33 Christians in a village in Nigeria's Plateau State said Special Task Force (STF) soldiers stationed to protect them turned their weapons on those fleeing the attack.

Bata Badugu, 75, and granddaughter Lydia, both injured in Shonong attack. (Morning Star News).
According to a story by Morning Star News, speaking from her hospital bed with bullet wounds in her legs, Antele Alamba, 25, told the news agency that hundreds of Muslim Fulani herdsmen armed with guns and machetes attacked Shonong village in Riyom Local Government Area. They did so unprovoked, burning homes and butchering women and children. 

"The soldiers stationed in the village to protect us joined the Fulani herdsmen in shooting, and in the process most of our people were killed," Alamba said as tears dripped down her cheeks.

She added, "I was shot by soldiers I ran to for protection. We were all trapped in the village as there was no way of escape for us. We ran to the premises of the church, and some soldiers followed us there. 

They were shooting, and the herdsmen were shooting too. It was chaos and confusion everywhere."

Morning Star News reported sources said pastors of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) conducted a funeral service on Jan. 7 for the 33 slain C hristians amid tight security provided by soldiers. 

Alamba, receiving treatment at Vom Christian Hospital near Jos, said the herdsmen killed the first Christian on Jan. 5.
The next morning, word reached the village that Fulani herdsmen accompanied by a soldier had attacked a local Christian, Andrew Bature, his wife and others when he went to his farm.

"He and the women were attacked, and he was killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen," Morning Star News reported Alamba said. "His wife and the women who ran back to the village said Andrew Bature was killed by a band of Muslim herdsmen led by one of the soldiers stationed in our village by the name Aminu."

Villagers went to the farm and brought back Bature's body, she said.

"In less than 15 minutes of their return with the remains of Andrew Bature, hundreds of Fulani herdsmen armed with guns surrounded our village and began shooting everyone they saw," said Alamba. "They set fire on houses and either shot or butchered our women, children and the elderly."

Alamba, a student of environmental health at the School of Health Technology, Zawan, near Jos, said she miraculously escaped and trekked to neighboring Fang village, where Christians took her to the hospital. Residents of Fang had come to Shonong to help defend them against the attackers.

Alamba said the soldiers who had been shooting into the air and shouting on Sunday night (Jan. 5) had demanded that area resident Jidauna Mwangwong open his shop to provide them alcoholic drinks, but that he had refused because of the late hour.
They forced another resident to open his shop, but not before insulting Mwangwong and telling them that ""hey would see how he will open his shop" the following morning, she said.

"After the soldiers drank themselves out, they went back to their duty posts and continued with the shooting into the air," Alamba said.

Another survivor, Edward Iliya, 22, said the raid was a collaborative effort by the soldiers and herdsmen.

"Twenty of us went to the farm of Andre w Bature to retrieve his corpse minutes before the attack occurred, and I was almost shot by one of the soldiers because he pointed his gun at me to shoot me when I dived for cover and scampered away," Iliya told Morning Star News.

He added, "I was in the village at the time of the attack. We were trapped in the village with no hope of escaping as the rampaging herdsmen attacked us in all directions. God in His infinite mercies caused Christians from our neighboring village of Fang to rush here to assist us. They repelled the Fulani gunmen, and we found ways to escape from the attackers."

Iliya, a student at Federal College of Land Resources Technology, Kuru, near Jos, said David Gwong, 22, son of the Shonong COCIN pastor, was among those killed in the attack. The pastor has fled the village, he said.

"Right now the entire village has been destroyed, and there are no more houses to return to," said Iliya, uninjured but assisting victims at the hospital. "When we (were) there yesterday for the burial of our dead relatives, there were only three houses left that were not burned by the attackers."

Rev. Yakubu Fom, pastor of the COCIN congregation at Riyom town, told Morning Star News that the victims' bodies were recovered amid charred houses and surrounding bushes.

Fom lamented that soldiers and other members of security agencies stationed in Shonong village did not keep Muslim attackers from murdering elderly Christian women and children in their homes.

"One wonders what the soldiers were doing in the village while the Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed and set fire on homes of our members without the soldiers repelling them," Morning Star News reported Fom said.
All of those killed, she said, were members of the Shonong COCIN congregation.

The church has about 300 members. Shonong also has a local congregation, Evangelical Church Winning All.

For more information about Morning Star News visit< /a>

Syrian pastor and family terrorized

Syria (MNN) — It started off as an Urgent prayer request on Facebook. A Syrian pastor and family were terrorized by armed thugs as the country’s civil war continues. Being a Christian in this lawless nation puts life at risk.
yrian Pastor and family were terrorized.
Syrian Pastor and family were terrorized. E3 Partners is asking for prayer. (File photo from E3 Partners)
Middle East expert with e3 Partners Tom Doyle says a Syrian pastor saw his life flash before his eyes. “Three terrorists came into his house, demanded money. Of course, he didn’t have any. They forced him to sign a statement that he would [get some]; they were going to shoot him.”
That wasn’t the end of the terror. “Then they began mocking him and saying, “‘You’re a Christian, your God can do nothing.’ Then one of the gunmen clicked his gun. It was not loaded when he pointed it, but he said, ‘Your God can do nothing.’ Click.”
The terrorists threatened to kill the whole family if they didn’t come up with the money.
Doyle says this is a twist to the popular kidnapping technique to raise money. “Kidnapping was popular among the terrorist groups. But then they’re stuck with people, and they have to wait for money, and that takes too long now. So they’re not doing the kidnapping: they’re actually finding people, going into their homes, breaking in, holding them at gunpoint, demanding the money right then. That’s the new wave.”
Doyle says the pastor and his family members are safe right now in a safe-house. However, Doyle is concerned. “This is a new phenomenons in Syria, in that people living there are hearing about a new terrorist group weekly. There are so many splinter groups trying to gain control of this Sunni-Muslim front.”
Mission Network News posted an urgent prayer request over the weekend on Facebook and at, and thousands of you prayed.
Doyle says Syria is in utter chaos today, but he’s thankful for your prayers. “Thanks to believers here in America for praying. [Syrians] said they could feel it, and they just sensed Christ’s presence in the midst of this terrible situation.”
Christians need a break. Please continue to pray for Christians there. “It is open warfare in the street continually, 24/7.”
Doyle likens it to gang-warfare with major weapons.
What can we do? Doyle says prayer is most important. Join the 8Thirty8 movement on Facebook to keep up-to-date on prayer needs in the region. You can also financially support pastors in the Middle East by clicking here.

Persecution of Christians increases in Failed States

(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
International (ODM/MNN) — The Fund for Peace Failed States Index and the Open Doors World Watch List resemble each other this year.
According to Open Doors USA*,overall the top 10 countries where Christians faced the most pressure and violence in 2013 are: North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen.
A major trend which the Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) tracked in 2013 was a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities living in “failed states.” A failed country is defined “as a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control.” (For the complete list, go to
(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)
(Image courtesy Open Doors USA)
This year’s WWL Top 10 contains six failed states: Somalia (#2), Syria (#3), Iraq (#4), Afghanistan (#5), Pakistan (#8), and Yemen (#10). Another newly failed, war-torn state–the Central African Republic (CAR)–made the list for the first time at #16. Libya (#13) and Nigeria (#14) remain very high.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry explains, “What we see are situations where there’s large political unrest, where there are dictators that are falling, where there are systems that have been in place a long time that have been replaced by up and coming regimes, and it has brought pressure against Christians.”
It is notable that North Korea, for the 12th consecutive year, remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity. However, the trend of “failed states” shows that 2014 may not be much of an improvement in terms of the persecution of Christians. Curry says, “Nine of those top 10 are in the Middle East. We’re seeing large trends where Islamic extremists are trying to exterminate Christianity.”
“Failed States” usually equal chaos and corruption. The combination of those two elements usually means a lot of things go under the radar, including “religicide.” As a result, Christians are being persecuted nearly out of existence in some places. “We’re seeing a drop in the percentage of the population from over 20% 100 years ago, to 4% or less today.”
The data also brought a surprise from Nigeria. The ranking actually improved during a year that started with Boko Haram church attacks nearly every Sunday. Says Curry, “It’s dropped because the incidents and the intensity in the other countries is so much greater.”
(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
(Photo courtesy Open Doors USA)
Overwhelmingly, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt (a semi-arid zone extending from Senegal on the Atlantic Ocean eastward to Sudan and the Red Sea) where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity.
This year’s World Watch List is the most comprehensive study of the systematic persecution of Christians ever done. Curry adds, “The 2014 WWL is a wakeup call to Americans to become more aware of these atrocities and restrictions on religious freedom.”
A total of 2,123 Christians were martyred in 2013 compared to 1,201 the previous year. Syria had the most martyrs with 1,213, followed by Nigeria 612, Pakistan 88, Egypt 83, Kenya 20, Angola 16, Niger 15, Iraq 11, CAR 9, and Colombia 8.
The death total in North Korea is not available due to the extreme difficulty to obtain public information from the secluded country. Curry concludes that if nothing is done, more freedoms will erode. “People are attacking Christians for their faith. We need to make this a point of public policy. Christians need to stand up and let their voice be heard.”
Dr. Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, head of Strategy and Research for Open Doors International, says, “It is our intent through the WWL to encourage more people and organizations to carefully study the needs and stories of persecuted Christians, and as a result, deepen the passion to pray for them.
Most importantly, “The WWL is more than a set of numbers. It must also be seen as a human document, reflecting millions of sad but also amazing stories of strong faith.” As Open Doors partners continue to tirelessly share the Word of God, they will be targets of the extremists. Prayer is essential in spiritual warfare, but resources mean that Open Doors teams can still respond in times of need. More often than not, believers who aren’t living in these nations simply don’t know what’s happening. Share their story. There are links on how you can get involved here.
*Open Doors is an international ministry which has been supporting and strengthening persecuted Christians around the world for almost 60 years.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Yet Another Nigerian Tragedy

Once Widowed Christian in Nigeria Loses Second Husband to Muslim Extremists Mother of six, 14-year-old girl also killed

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

BOKKOS, NIGERIA (ANS) -- Morning Star News (, is reporting that Muslim extremists had once prior widowed Faith Kore Usman, a 29-year-old mother of five children, before Fulani herdsmen killed her second husband on New Year's Eve.

After losing her second husband to Muslim extremists, Faith Kore Usman says she is trusting God. (Morning Star News)
The Nigerian correspondent of the news service says that as 34-year-old Kore Usman and other Christians were praising God in a field near their church building in Maihakorin Gold village, near Bokkos in central Nigeria's Plateau state on Dec. 31, ethnic Fulani gunmen arrived and shot at the congregation.

Besides killing Usman, the assault also killed a 41-year-old mother of six children and a 14-year-old girl.

"I have placed my faith in God and am waiting on Him to comfort me and keep me and these five children," Usman's widow told Morning Star News.

She said she and her second husband had been married for nine years.

"My first husband, Davou Philip, was killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Jol Village in Riyom Local Government Area in 2002," she said. "I had only a son with him. However, God brought me and Kore Usman together, and we got married. God has blessed us with four children. I thought my burden has been lifted as a widow, and now, again my second husband has been killed by Muslim gunmen."

Eyewitnesses said that as the Christians were praising God for his faithfulness in 2013, about five Muslim Fulani gunmen stormed the Christian community at about 9 p.m., shooting at the Christians gathered on the field near their worship auditorium.

Luka Tejan's wife Naomi was killed in the attack on the congregation. (Morning Star News)
The husband of the slain Naomi Tejan, 47-year-old Luka Tejan, also expressed his faith in God to Morning Star News.

"We see these killings of Christians as evil acts aimed at truncating the spread of the gospel in this country," he said. "The devil has been using these Fulanis to kill Christians. The good thing is that we have hope that in spite of the pains, the suffering and the tears, we shall overcome in Jesus' name."

Of the couple's six children, one is 25 and two are 20-year-old twins. The others are ages 12, 7 and 3.

"Usman's widow called on the gunmen to repent of their unprovoked killing of Christians," said the story.

The 14-year-old girl killed was Nandi Jamok, according to the Rev. Danlami Yatu, pastor of COCIN congregation in Maihakorin Gold village, 43 miles (69 kilometers) south of Jos. Twelve other Christians were wounded, he said, identifying them as Marium Random, 35; Tyamol Maram, 14; Uvwat James, 15; Shagul James, 32; Rita James, 8; Yibal Philemon, 8; Mashat Geofrey, 10; Macif Mabul, 17; Alex Yunana, 41; Emmanuel Ishaku, 30; Malo Marium, 50; and Victor Barnabas.

The Rev. Danlami Yatu, pastor of COCIIN congregation in Maihakorin Gold village, Plateau state. (Morning Star News)
"Myself and other members of the elder board of my church were holding a meeting in the church auditorium while our parishioners were outside the church building, on the field, singing and dancing in praise worship, thanking God for his blessings on our lives throughout the year, when suddenly gunmen we believe are Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot at our members and killed the victims," Yatu said.

It was the fourth attack on the community in the two-plus years that he has served as pastor, he added.

"During the first attack in 2011, the Muslim attackers came here and attacked homes, but they were repelled by security agents," he said. "So also, another attack was carried out against us in 2012. A member of my church, Alex Yunana, was injured, and our church secretary too, Sunday Mabas, was attacked in his home, but he escaped unhurt miraculously."

In the third incident, the pastor's home and that of another church member, Joel Mafyil, were attacked, he said.

"Spirited efforts by our members in repelling the attackers saved us," Yatu said.

Fulani herdsmen on a rampage
The story went on to say that the wounded Christians in the New Year's Eve attack were being treated in the Plateau Specialist Hospital in Jos and the Barkin Ladi General Hospital, he said.

Hosea Haruna, assistant church secretary for the local congregation, and Jemimah Isaac, a leader of the Women's Fellowship in the church, told Morning Star News that the 500-member church's daily Bible study programs and fellowship activities have ceased due to the attack. The church began 22 years ago.

Haruna and Isaac appealed to the Nigerian government to takes measures to end the terrorist attacks not only on their community but against all Christians in northern Nigeria.
Note from Dan Wooding: Having been born in northern Nigeria to British missionary parents, Alf and Anne Wooding, both from Liverpool, my heart aches for the courageous believers of this part of the country of my birth.
 Please join with me in prayer for them as they daily face such violence.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fines for "Extremist" Books in Kazakhstan

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- Two Protestants in Kazakhstan's capital Astana were fined nearly four weeks' average wages in Dec. 2013 for possessing Christian texts which the court found to be "extremist."

That's according to court documents seen by Forum 18 News Service, which in a story by Felix Corley wrote that one of the books had been banned as "extremist" one month after it was seized from one of those fined.

Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Eastern Europe.

However, Forum 18 was unable to find a court decision banning any of the other texts as "extremist."

Protestants have repeatedly rejected to Forum 18 accusations by state bodies that works confiscated from them are "extremist," and deserve to be banned.

Unannounced hearings

Because court hearings to rule whether materials are "extremist" take place unannounced and because no published list of banned books appears to exist, people in Kazakhstan remain unaware of what has and has not been banned.

Forum 18 said the unannounced nature of court hearings also makes it impossible for book publishers, distributors, readers or free speech advocates to challenge court-ordered bans.

The government's Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA) - which is often represented in "extremism" court hearings - does not publish on its website a list of religious books banned by the courts as "extremist."

Forum 18 has repeatedly asked the ARA for such a list, most recently on Jan. 6, but has not received a copy.

Saktagan Sadvokasov, the ARA spokesperson, declined to tell Forum 18 where people can get a copy of the list. He insisted that such bans were imposed by the courts, not by his Agency.

For more information visit

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Revolutionary Court Sentenced a Christian Convert to One Year in Prison

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- While Christians all around the world celebrated Christmas and the New Year, many Christian families in Iran missed their loved ones who are in prison.

Untitled graphic in Mohabat News story
According to a story by Mohabat News, Karaj Revolutionary Court sentenced Farsi-speaking Christian convert Hossein Saketi Aramsari to one year in prison.

Judge Asef Hosseini convicted him in Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Karaj.

Human rights activists said Saketi had appeared in court several times before receiving his prison term. While the court sentenced him to a year in prison, he had earlier been granted bail.

However, Mohabat News said, "For unknown reasons, judicial authorities prevented his family from posting the bail for his conditional freedom."

Iran's Ministry of Intelligence had arrested Saketi on July 23 2013 in Golestan province.

Saketi (known by his friends as Stephen), was then transferred to a jail in Jajrom county and from there to the Intelligence Office in Bojnord, in the Northern Khorasan province.

After 15 days in solitary confinement, and making the claim that the court in Bojnord did not have the required jurisdiction to judge him, Saketi's case was transferred to Alborz Province Revolutionary Court.

The charges in Saketi's case, Mohabat News said, were related to Christian evangelism.

Saketi was handed over to the Intelligence Office in Karaj on Aug. He was held in solitary confinement in Ward 8 of Rajaei-Shahr prison until Oct. 26 and eventually taken to Ward 7 of Karaj Central Detention House, where he is being currently held.

Religious dissidents in Iran, especially Christian converts, are under increasing pressure and suffer "inhumane" treatment from Iran's Islamic government.

These pressures have peaked in the last three years and resulted in arrests and the imprisonment of a large number of Iranian Christians, as well as the closure of many Farsi speaking churches and house fellowships across the country.

Mohabat News said these government pressures are intended to stop the spread of Christianity in Iran.

For more information about Mohabat News visit

Authorities strike Bible Society of Malaysia

Image courtesy Eric Toah via Flickr
(Image courtesy Eric Toah via Flickr)
Malaysia (MNN) — The “Allah” issue continues to unfold in Malaysia. According to, authorities recently raided a Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) office in Selangor and confiscated hundreds of Malay-language Bibles.
BSM president Lee Min Choon told the Web news group that the state Islamic Religious Department (Jais) confiscated 321 copies of Scripture and 10 Bibles in the Iban language on Thursday.
“We don’t know what will happen, but I guess this is something to do with the ‘Allah’ word fiasco,” Choon told
Choon and two other Bible Society members were arrested during the raid. Although they were later released on bail, the trio was told to report to Jais on Friday for further investigation.
“The word ‘Allah’ is the common word for God,” explains Voice of the Martyrs USAspokesman Todd Nettleton.
“It is used by both Muslims and Christians, but now the government is saying, ‘Hey, Christians are not allowed to use that word; these Bibles that are printed with the wordAllah inside them are now illegal.’”
Islamic officials reportedly used a 1988 state law as support for their decision to raid the BSM office. The enactment puts a blanket ban on non-Muslims’ use of 35 Arabic religious words, including Allah.
However, lawyers told on Friday that the Jais raid, and use of the 1988 law to support their actions, was unconstitutional.
“The constitution does not say we can’t use these words at all, it just [says] the state law may restrict propagation of other religions on Muslims,” said human rights lawyer Andrew Khoo.
Root Cause
A Baba Malay Bible in the Peranakan Museum.  (Photo cred Jerry Wong via Flickr)
A Baba Malay Bible in the Peranakan Museum.
(Photo: Jerry Wong via Flickr)
Allah tensions between Malaysia’s Muslim and Christian communities trace back to a 2009 court case involving a Roman Catholic newspaper, “The Herald.” They wanted the right to use the wordAllah in their publications, and a Christian judge ruled that it was okay, thereby granting Christ-followers permission to use Allahin reference to God.
However, Islamic parties fought back, claiming Allah was strictly a Muslim word, and the Home Ministry filed an appeal in 2010. In October, an upper court overturned the 2009 decision, making Allah strictly an Islamic word.
The case is still before Federal Court, and a hearing is expected to take place on February 24, according to
Below the Surface
Nettleton says the Allah debate and issues stemming from this case all point to a deeper conflict.
“The Malay people are considered to be, by the government at least, 100% Muslim,” he states.
“They [the government] don’t want the Malay people to be evangelized, so they want to make it as difficult as possible for Christians to communicate the Gospel message in the Malay language.”
Most Christians in Malaysia are not ethnic Malays, Nettleton explains, and he says the government “wants to keep it that way.” Many states have written legal codes that give religious minorities basic freedoms, such as using Allah to describe God or owning religious texts. But, the majority draw a line at evangelism.
“The government very much wants to keep the Malay people Muslim,” Nettleton explains. He says it’s officially illegal to proselytize–share the Gospel with–a Malay Muslim.
Pray that government efforts to stop Gospel work will backfire.
Nettleton notes human nature plays an interesting role in this case because “if something is forbidden, it [becomes] interesting.
(Photo courtesy Bible League Malaysia)
(Photo courtesy Bible League Malaysia)
“We can pray that, among the Malay people, they will wonder, ‘Well, what’s all the fuss about this Book that they don’t want us to read?’ and perhaps even get a copy and start reading it. I think this can be a time where seeds are planted, a time where people are interested in the Gospel.”
Pray for courage and strength for the Body of Christ in Malaysia. Pray for BSM as they contest the raid on their office.
“We can pray for that process, but I think just mostly pray for the believers to continue to be bold witnesses for Christ, in spite of this pressure and persecution that they’re facing.”

Imprisoned Pakistani Catholic Asia Bibi Writes to Pope Francis Saying Only God Can Free Her

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KARACHI, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The Catholic Pakistani mother sentenced to death for blasphemy, has written to Pope Francis saying that only God can liberate her.

Asia Bibi
According to an article in the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines News Service (CBCP News) relying on a Dec. 31 report in the Italian daily Tempi, Asia Bibi said, "I also hope that every Christian has been able to celebrate the Christmas just past with joy. Like many other prisoners, I also celebrated the birth of the Lord in prison in Multan, here in Pakistan."

She continued by saying that "only God will be able to free me" and made a point of thanking the 'Renaissance Education Foundation" that helped make her "dream come true" to live Christmas with her husband and children by bringing them to Multan.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square
before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 11, 2013. 
(Credit: Kyle Burkhart / CNA).

"I would have liked to be in St. Peter's for Christmas to pray with you," she told Pope Francis, "but I trust in God's plan for me and hopefully it will be achieved next year."

Bibi is awaiting the conclusion of an appeals process after being incarcerated for four and a half years without trial.

Working as a farmhand in June 2009, she was asked to fetch water for some of her co-workers.

She complied, but some of her Muslim colleagues refused to drink the water as they considered Christians to be "unclean."

CBCP News said arguments followed (there was already a running feud between Bibi and a neighbor over property damage), and witnesses maintain that Bibi verbally abused the two women, their religion, and the prophet Muhammad.

A few days later, complaints were made to a cleric about these alleged derogatory comments, resulting in a mob coming to her house and beating her and members of her family.

Bibi was rescued by the police but, under pressure from the crowd, they charged her under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, the country's notorious anti-blasphemy law.

"I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom," CBCP News said she continued in the letter.

Bibi added, "I do not know how long I can go on and on. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me. I have met many people who speak and fight for me. Unfortunately still to no avail. At this time I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible. Only He can liberate me."

Bibi was also grateful to all the people who work and raise funds for her cause. She then talked about her daily hardships.

"This winter I am facing many problems: my cell has no heating and no suitable door for shelter from the bitter cold," CBCP News said she told the Pope. "Also the security measures are not adequate, I do not have enough money for daily needs, and I am very far from Lahore so my family cannot help me."

She concluded by asking Pope Francis to accept her best wishes for the new year. "I know you pray for me with all your heart," she wrote. "And this gives me confidence that one day my freedom will be possible. Certain to be remembered in your prayers, I greet you with affection. Asia Bibi, your daughter in the faith."