Friday, January 30, 2015

Religious Freedom Under Attack for Christians in India's Chhattisgarh State

Religious Freedom Under Attack for Christians in India's Chhattisgarh State
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service 
(ANS- Washington, D.C., Jan.29, 2015) – In an article analyzing religious freedoms for Christians in India, International Christian Concern (ICC) says that ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, religious freedom in India has significantly diminished as right-wing Hindu nationalist organizations infringe upon the rights of minorities. 
The ICC India Correspondent writes that particularly in the state of Chhattisgarh, intrusions on religious freedom have increased at a very fast pace. From the passing of resolutions banning Christian missionaries and non-Hindu religious activity to the interference in Christian schools by forcing Catholic schools to hang the Hindu Goddess Saraswati's picture, Christians in Chhattisgarh are suffering some of the most acute persecution in India. 
Attack on Christian Community of Madota 
ICC reports that on the morning of October 19, 2014, more than 30 Hindu radicals barged into Beersheba Church in Madota, a village located in Chhattisgarh state, and began beating the Christians gathered there, while also accusing them of practicing a foreign religion and forcibly converting innocent tribal people. The church members were then dragged outside and further assaulted. 
“Hindu radicals threatened the Christians and told them to leave the Christian faith and come back to their original religion. They also warned them with severe consequences if they continued to hold Christian activities in the village,” the ICC Correspondent writes. 
The reporter states: “When the Christians reported the incident to the police in Bhanpuri, the police told the Christians they needed assemble on the October 25 to hold discussion with the other Hindu villages, as the matter was related to village affairs. Approximately 100 Christians showed up for the meeting and were met by the local Hindu community accompanied by about 400 Hindu radicals. 
“The police did not show up to the village meeting, causing many of the Christians to become nervous. All of the sudden, the radicals attacked the Christians with rods and clubs, injuring many of the Christians. Seven were severely injured, having both their hands and legs broken. The attackers also hit a local Christian named Mr. Narsu Madavi on the head, causing him severe injury. Many Christians ran to the nearby forests to protect themselves from brutal attackers.” 
Mr. Mangal Mandavi lost his hearing when he was hit on his ear by one of the attackers. He said, "We never had to go to police station in our life. Today, for the sake of following Jesus, we are persecuted. We as Christian community are very strong, even after the attack on us. We will never turn back. Even if we have to die, we will never leave Jesus." 
ICC reports the Hindu radicals did not allow government emergency ambulance service into the village after the attack and stopped the ambulances at the entrance of the village. Later, police intervened and took the seven severely injured Christians to the Maharani hospital in Jagdalpur.
ICC says that following the incident, police arrested two Christians and sent them to jail. When Pastor Panda Mandavi and Mr. Pandra Kashyap went to the police station for an enquiry, they were also booked under sections 115, 116 of Indian penal code. Police then went on to book cases against twelve others Christians. 
“Reportedly, prior to the incident on October 25, there was an attempt to re-convert all Christians in the village of Madota. Local sources revealed that fifteen Christians participated in the re-conversion ceremony; however, according to local newspapers, the VHP claimed that they re-converted thirty-five Christians,” the ICC Correspondent said. 
Discrimination Against Chhattisgarh's Christians 
ICC stated: “Besides this devastating attack on the Christian community of Madota, there has also been a common pattern of right-wing Hindu organizations threatening Christians to re-convert or lose the benefits of ration cards (BPL cards). The radicals also threaten ‘social boycott’ against Christians, which could include things like denying Christians the use of public water sources, food rations, and access to electricity.” 
"We were denied rations for two months," said Pastor Sibo Mandavi of Sirciguda. "When we asked the reason for the discrimination, they told [us] that it was Panchayat's (village council) decision that all the Christians of the village do not get the ration, as they are practicing outside religion other than Hindu religion," he continued. 
The ICC report goes on to say: “When the Christians of Sirciguda complained to a higher officer, the officer tried to resolve the situation. The Hindu radicals then threatened the officer and told him to leave the village, claiming the decision against the Christians was a village matter. 
“The very next day, a resolution was passed by the village Panchayat (council) to ban Christian missionaries and non-Hindu religious propagation in more than thirty-five villages in Bastar District. This resolution, which has spread across Chhattisgarh, essentially has made Christianity illegal, denying many Christians in Chhattisgarh their constitutional right to religious freedom.” 
ICC explained that these rapid developments and intrusions on Christians' right to religious freedoms have not only snatched the freedom of religion from these communities in Chhattisgarh, but have also given fringe elements free reign to attack and marginalize Christian communities. As a result, Christians in Chhattisgarh are more vulnerable than ever before.  
The ICC India Correspondent concluded: “Repeated cries for help from the local Christians to authorities have not been heard and many continue to suffer acute persecution. India's government must take action soon if it is to remain true to its own constitution which promises the freedom of religion. If action is not taken, the right to religious freedom could soon be extinguished in India's Chhattisgarh state.”  
International Christian Concern (ICC) is a Washington D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Libyan militants still holding 20 Egyptian Christians hostages

Libyan militants still holding 20 Egyptian Christians hostages
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service
(ANS-SIRTE, LIBYA, Jan.26, 2015) -- The kidnapping of at least 20 Coptic Christians in two separate incidents in December and January has been claimed by Libyan militants affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS.
Barbara G. Baker, writing for World Watch Monitor, says seven of the Christians were abducted on Dec. 29 while driving by car back to Egypt from the coastal city of Sirte, currently under the control of the Libya Dawn alliance of Islamist militants. Another 13 Copts were seized Jan. 3 in Sirte by armed men who raided the building where they lived. The attackers checked the men’s Egyptian I.D. papers, taking hostage those who were Christians and letting the Muslims go free.
“We were afraid to go out because we might be targeted,” said Mila Ishak, 27, who had been living in the same housing compound in Sirte as the kidnap victims. At about 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, he told World Watch Monitor, he received a cell-phone call from a friend who occupied a room in an adjacent building.
The friend, Ishak said, “called me again and with fear and a low voice, told me that they were able to break the door of the room beside his room, and had abducted all their six friends who were inside the room.” Ishak said the intruders tried to break into the room from which his friend was calling, but gave up and left.
Then the intruders entered the building where Ishak lived. He said he heard one of them command another resident of the building, who was up at that hour, to “show them the rooms of the Christians in the building,” and to rouse the men sleeping inside. The man pounded on the door where seven men, all Christians, were sleeping.
“I was hearing everything,” Ishak said. “One of the seven residents of the room . . . awoke and opened the iron door of the room. They entered the room and abducted all of them too.”
Next, he said, came the pounding on the door to his own room. But as there were only three pairs of shoes outside his door, compared to the seven pairs outside the first room, one of the intruders said “leave them. That is enough. Let’s go.”
Ishak said he and 10 others paid a Libyan smugger to get them back into Egypt on Jan. 5.
In her report, Baker says that photos of all 20 kidnapped Copts were posted on an official ISIS website on Jan. 12. Their faces have all been identified by relatives in their home villages in Upper Egypt’s Minya province. None of the families have been contacted by the kidnappers. Although Egyptian officials say they are communicating with the Libyan authorities, the government has only confirmed that the men are still alive.
Baker writes that several relatives of the kidnapped men told World Watch Monitor their pleas to Egyptian authorities have gone nowhere.
“Two weeks (have) passed since the time of their abduction and the foreign ministry hasn't done anything to help us,” said Hany Adly, whose brother, Gaber, was among the seven men abducted Dec. 29. “We haven't seen any positive step from them.”
Baker’s report explains that as many as 1.5 million Egyptian workers remain caught in the chaotic fighting between warring factions in Libya, where an internationally recognized government in Tobruk in the east is locked in conflict with a rival government in Tripoli in the west. On Jan. 25, the Ansar al-Sharia group based in eastern Libya confirmed the death of its leader, Mohammad al-Zahawi, injured last October while battling government troops in Bengazi. Militias allied with Tripoli accuse Egypt of supporting the Tobruk side, although Cairo denies military involvement.
But Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been particularly targeted recently, Baker writes. On Dec. 23, two Coptic doctors in Sirte were shot to death in their home in front of their two small children. Their teenage daughter’s bullet-riddled body was found in the desert several days later.

Colorful Kids

Ethnic Hmong children learn about Christ at an outreach at an undisclosed village in Burma (Myanmar). While most Hmong live in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand after Han settlers drove their ancestors from China in the eighteenth century, there is a small population of Hmong in Burma. Several indigenous ministries in Burma sponsor camps and campaigns for gospel proclamation in remote areas and provide food, education, medicines and health care. Funds are needed for these ministries and for the repair and expansion of bamboo structures for worship and outreach, for digging water wells and for providing bicycles for both students and teachers. While indigenous Christian workers sometimes meet with opposition, one ministry director said many people are open to hearing about Christ. “The Buddhists and the people of Myanmar have hearts open to the gospel – I call this time a hungry time,” he said. “Buddhists, and animists worshipping evil spirits, they don’t have any satisfaction in their lives. So when we introduced Christianity, they were happy.”

Obstacle to Conversion Looms for Burma’s Beleaguered Evangelists

Obstacle to Conversion Looms for Burma’s Beleaguered Evangelists

January 29, 2015
Children of animist upbringing at Burma village orphanage showed keen interest in Christian song and teaching.
In a country where Christians face hostilities from the Buddhist majority, the upper house of Burma’s parliament last week passed a bill requiring all people wishing to convert to another religion to obtain approval from an 11-member government committee. The Religious Conversion Bill would also force those seeking to convert in Burma (Myanmar) to provide an extensive list of personal information to “registration boards,” answer intrusive questions, and wait 90 days for approval.
The punishment for applying to convert “with an intent to insult, disrespect, destroy, or to abuse a religion” would be as much as two years in jail, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). It was unclear how such intent would be proven, USCIRF noted, and members of the abandoned religion would have conveniently vague grounds for filing criminal charges against those who left them.
The legislation, roundly condemned in the international human rights community, would add a huge obstacle to furthering the message of Christ in villages where native missionaries already encounter threats, deprivation and violence from Buddhist monks, followers of native animistic beliefs, and village officials.An indigenous missionary whose work led to the establishing of a new church last month in the town of Pin Da Zah, Shan state, regularly faces threats of violence.
“By the grace of God, the Lord’s church has been founded in Pin Da Zah town, where strong Buddhists are fighting against other religions,” said the director of a Burma-based ministry that trains and sends native missionaries. “Please pray for them, as their lives are under threat.”
The native missionary reached out to villagers by offering school lessons at her home to about 15 children. In that way she became acquainted with their parents and other relatives, gradually gaining opportunities to share Christ with them. She and a few other native missionaries then formed a church that began meeting on Dec. 16 with three families.
The opposition of Buddhists and animists has influenced local officials.
“The township authority has called her two times and commanded that she might teach only school lessons, but no songs, no Christian beliefs,” the ministry director said. “But some parents appreciate her sacrificial work, and she is known by many now in her area.”
The leader of another indigenous ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission said workers have more freedom of movement than in past years, though they still have to tread cautiously. They now face only occasional opposition from monks.
“In the past, the monks would purposely install a loudspeaker facing the church,” the leader said. “We’d have monks chanting early in the morning – as early as 4 a.m. For some reasons unknown to us, they moved!”
Village woman in Burma receives a Bible from a ministry that Christian Aid Mission assists.
Most remaining problems arise in more remote areas, he said.
“With our longstanding presence in the community, more and more parents began to relate with us on a deeper level, we feel, and rapport has been building with the larger community,” he said. “This certainly creates a platform for us to speak to the people.”
On Open Doors’ latest World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, only Kenya had a higher jump in ranking from one year to the next than Burma. Though its degree of persecution rose only slightly, from 59 points to 60, Burma’s ranking among 50 other countries increased by 21 in 2014, to 25th place from 46th the previous year. (Kenya increased by 24, going from 43rd place to 19th place).
Religious nationalism is the primary factor behind persecution in Burma, according to Open Doors. The ethnic Burmese, who make up the majority of the population, equate their ethnicity with being Buddhist, and the government promotes that notion in efforts to unify the country. Officials permit the hostile excesses of radical Buddhist groups and label non-Buddhists as threats to social stability.
A Burmese missionary leader assisted by Christian Aid Mission said some members of his team are suffering primarily from village officials who have tacit approval from the national government to abuse non-Buddhists.
“They beat them, and also they expel them from the village,” he said. “That’s what we’re facing right now. In many, many villages we are opposed by Buddhists and opposition from the village chairman. But we can still go to the next village and tell the gospel.”
The U.S. Department of State designated Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” in July 2014 because of religious rights violations – as it has since 1999.
“In our field,” said the indigenous missionary director, “children are forced to attend school at Buddhist monasteries. And there is one thing they do regularly to persecute our people: if you are a missionary, they say, ‘You cannot live in our village.’ If you want to be in a church, they say you cannot. But the Buddhist person can do everything.”
Church-planters find it especially difficult to erect a church building or a house for a missionary. The missions leader encourages them to move in with Christian families, so that antagonistic Buddhists or animists cannot object or deprive them of accommodations. On other occasions, however, native missionaries are able to win approval from local leaders.
“When we go to a village, we go first to the village chairman to share the gospel and to ask if we can stay in their village,” the missions leader said. “Sometimes we have to give small gifts, such as a shirt, or whatever we can. And after he smiles, we know that everything will be okay.”
Difficulties are small compared with knowing God and doing His will, he said.
“A few people have died, but not many,” he said. “So if persecutions come, God is working more and more and giving us more strength to stay there and endure. Some villages don’t want to hear the gospel right now, but later they will hear. I’m ready to face any harm; I don’t care, as long as we share the gospel.”
To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call 434-977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 800PERS. Thank you!

Appeal heard against death sentence of killer of Salman Taseer in Islamabad High Court

Appeal heard against death sentence of killer of Salman Taseer in Islamabad High Court
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service
(ANS - ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, Jan.29, 2015) -- The Islamabad High Court this week held its first hearing in the appeal against the death sentence of Mumtaz Qadri, who confessed to the killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
The Pakistan Christian Post ( says Qadri justified the governor’s murder by stating that he had killed him for supporting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman whom Taseer believed had been wrongly convicted of committing blasphemy. The appeal was heard by two-members of division bench of IHC’s comprising of Justice Noor ul Haq Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and adjourned until February 3.
Salman Taseer with Asia BibiAccording to the Pakistan Christian Post, Mumtaz Qadri, a constable in the Punjab Police and member of its elite force, had filed an appeal before the court on October 6, 2011, challenging the death sentence awarded by Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Rawalpindi Judge Syed Pervez Ali Shah on October 1, 2011. The judge was later forced to flee the country after receiving death threats.
The Pakistan Christian Post reports that throughout the whole country, protesters from Sunni Tehrik have been chanting slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri's release and warned the Government of “dire consequences” by wall chalking, play cards and banners in the streets. He is considered a "hero" of Islam by Sunni Tehrik. Reportedly, hundreds of Sunni Tehrik and Shabab-e-Milli Tehrik were present outside the court and chanted slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri. Chairman Sunni Tehrik Dr. Zafar Iqbal Jalali lead the rally.
The newspaper says strict security arrangements were reportedly made, and the road to High Court was blocked with barricades and a large number of police and special force personnel were deployed at buildings in the surrounding areas.
The newspaper reports that Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Human Rights Defender and head of LEAD, said the human Rights Defenders had “great concern” about this appeal in the case of Qadri. He said that if Qadri would be acquitted from the Salman murder case then there would be an increase in fear of insecurity of life among them. It stated the fueling of religious intolerance and violence will (only) be stopped “by condemning such elements of society who take the law in their own hands by harassing peace workers.”
The newspaper said the blasphemy law is being misused against religious minorities for personal vendetta and to harass them. It explained the Pakistani Church is under constant fear of attack from religious extremists and resultantly it has deliberately stopped enjoying religious freedom and liberty.
The paper commented: “We have to take steps to promote religious freedom and liberty; and to discourage violence in the name of religion. Our request (is) to remember Asia Bibi in your prayers who is languishing in jail since 2009 in a false allegation of blasphemy.”
Photo: The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, with Asia Bibi. This meeting would cost him his life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Islamic State Has Bombed the Historic Walls of Nineveh in Iraq

Islamic State Has Bombed the Historic Walls of Nineveh in Iraq
By Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST and ASSIST News Service
MOSUL, IRAQ (ANS – January 28, 2015) -- Jihadists have resumed their bombings against the historic sites in Nineveh and destroyed remains of the ancient wall of Mosul, specialized sources reported today; while local politicians accused the United States of hampering the counterterrorist fight.
According to a story released by the Assyrian International News Agency (, an historian living in Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, told the publication Shafaq News that militants of the Islamic State (IS) destroyed on Tuesday night much of the historic city wall located on Tahrir neighborhood on the left coast
of Mosul.
Using a great amount of explosives, “Takfirists” (Sunni Islamic terrorists) blew pieces of the wall considered the most important historical monument of the Iraqi province and the whole region, dating back to the civilization of the Assyrian kings in the eighth century BC.
Since the beginning of the attacks in June 2014, Jihadists of DAESH, the Arabic acronym of IS (Islamic State), have reduced to ruins numerous archaeological, historical and religious sites of great historical value in Mosul.
An operation launched just launched in the area of Al-Rashidiyah resulted in the abduction of people accused of collaborating with Kurdish Peshmerga military forces, after the Iraqi Deputy Hakim Al-Zamili had said that the army and police have informants within the aforementioned city.
“Meanwhile, the leader of the Shiite political party in Iraq Assaib Ahl Al-Haq, Qais Al-Khazali, accused the United States of hindering the release of areas occupied by the Islamists, and that international coalition aircrafts launched aids that have delayed the military actions of the Army,” said a spokesperson for AINA.
According to Al-Khazali, “DAESH terrorists could be wiped out in a few months, but the US government is trying to delay this process”.
He added that there are testimonies and evidence of the support of US planes to Takfirists in the city of Muqdadiyah, which delayed its release.
The politician predicted that the next fight will be in the northern province of Salaheddin to avenge the “martyrs” of Spyker airbase, near Tikrit, where last year about a thousand 700 Shiites of the Army and hundreds of civilians were killed by fundamentalists.
Note: Nineveh is an ancient Mesopotamian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. It was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria itself, it was sacked by an unusual coalition of former subject peoples, the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BC. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq.

Nigerian Christians Cry Out For World Intervention

Nigerian Christians Cry Out For World Intervention
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service
(ANS-TRENTON, MI, Jan.27, 2015) -- Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) reports that Boko Haram recently released a new video threatening all of Northeast Africa. 
In a blog posting at VOP says several threats were made against, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad. 
Chuck Refsland, VOP Advocate/News Analyst, Voice of the Persecuted, writes: “Threats made by the leader showcasing their huge array of weapons, and trumpeting their pride in how far they have come ‘from machetes and sticks’ to now, trumpeting that they would rule. Their recent violence in Niger inciting protests against a cartoon have sent significant shockwaves through the Christian Communities. Image after image of Christians continuing to worship in darkness show a contrast to the fear that this murderous group is attempting to instill in the world. But the reality is that while the world remains silent, the Black flag of Islam is controlling large swath’s of land. Larger than the world can imagine.” 
nigerian christiansCiting a report from Abuja by Agenzia Fides news outlet, Refsland writes: “Boko Haram tried to enter Maiduguri twice last weekend: the first time on Friday 23 and the second yesterday, Sunday, 25 January,” says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Oliver Dashe Doeme, Bishop Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, in northern Nigeria where the Boko Haram fighters tried to enter after having taken possession of other cities in the north-east of the Country. 
“The guerrillas of Bolo Haram were rejected by the military and the civilian militia that defend the city. The fights were very intense. Boko Haram has lost several men. At the moment the situation in Maiduguri appears calm,” says to Fides Mgr. Doeme, who states that he is in Damaturu (Yobe State capital, whose territory falls within the diocese presided over by the Bishop) on a pastoral visit, although his collaborators keep him constantly updated on the situation in Maiduguri. 
“We find ourselves in a very dangerous and difficult moment” continues the Bishop. “We risk seeing Boko Haram conquer the entire north-east before the end of the election, unless foreign troops intervene,” said Mgr. Doeme, referring to the presidential elections to be held in mid-February and to the coordination of the military actions of neighboring Countries against Boko Haram, after the latest raids of Nigerian extremists in Cameroon and the conquest of the base of the international force of Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad (see Fides 01/09/2015). 
“The situation is very complex and the first victims are innocent civilians,” concluded the Bishop of Maiduguri who implies the existence of some “saboteurs” and accomplices within the Nigerian army, who favor the advance of Boko Haram for political reasons. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 01/26/2015) 
Refsland says that a recent report by CNN gained a lot of criticism for portraying the government’s lack of concern, care and support of the military. He writes: “They spoke with soldiers and wives of soldiers, and their report shows soldiers having to buy their own uniforms, equipment and health care. Widows of soldiers are ignored, with the government refusing to hear their pleas.” 
Click here to watch the video from CNN. 
“It’s eye opening. We also were skeptical, so we sent it to someone on the ground there,” writes Refsland, adding: “And sadly they confirmed this was true, saying there are many women in the same situation. Their husbands missing or killed, and the government refusing to open their cases. Many women and children abandoned from a government their husbands swore to defend. Many innocents on the run from Boko Haram finding little comfort. One critic of the above said that the media here in America wouldn’t dare to call out our military in that manner, but yet we have. We have repeatedly called out our government for the way our veterans and their families are treated.” 
boko haram sattelite vertRefsland writes that Boko Haram has devastated large areas of land, “Right under the noses of the African Government and military.” 
He asks: Just how much territory do they control? “It’s been said that Boko Haram alone controls land the size of Belgium. How could this happen? How could the world allow this cancer to spread? They seem to have underestimated the super highway that has been constructed right under their noses. By uniting with ISIS, Al-shabob, Al-queda, Hezbollah, Hamas, (the) Taliban and Iran they have created this super highway of terror that reaches from Iran to the coast of Africa. They are receiving funding and weapons with their own network of alliances that rival NATO. That’s not hyperbole or an understatement.”  
While previewing one video for truth, Refsland said Voice of the Persecuted was told that one way for the Boko Haram to obtain weapons was to attack military bases where they receive intelligence from their connections in the military. “Until the world realizes the scope of the magnitude of what is happening these groups will thrive. Again, their weapons, their intelligence, their support rivals that of NATO. They have created this mammoth network all across the Middle East and Africa. Look at Yemen how quickly the government fell.” 
Despite all the violence, Christianity continues to grow in Nigeria, Refsland stated. “The numbers of Christians in Nigeria has grown from 21.4% in 1953 to 49.3% in 2010. Their faith is strengthened in the face of tribulation. What is heartbreaking is the numbers of displaced. Refugee camps are growing.” 
World Watch Monitor quotes a Nigerian Cleric in a story titled: What ISIS has done in Iraq, Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria.
World Watch Monitor also tells of the plight and anger of Christians at the Government’s inability to care for or protect them.
refugee camp nigeriaHe cites World Watch Monitor which reports the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria for the North Central Zone, Daniel Kadzai, said Christians in the north have lost confidence in the government’s ability to deal with the crisis. 
“The Federal Government has toyed with the lives and limbs of the Christians in Northern Nigeria for political gains. There is no explanation the government can give as to why the Federal troops will run away from the towns prior to the attack on such towns by Boko Haram without putting up any resistance, if the government does not have a hand in the whole genocide on Northern Christians as is being speculated in the local and foreign media,’’ Kadzai said. 
According to the Voice of the Persecuted weblog, citing World Watch Monitor, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN), based mainly in the northern part of the country, is the worst affected by the insurgency. Information released during the protest shows that the church has suffered heavy losses and damages over the 5 years of Boko Haram insurgency. Over 8,000 of their members have been killed, while more than 700,000, mostly women and Children have been displaced and now scattered in places like Jos, Abuja, Kaduna and Yola. Some 270 churches have been razed completely by the insurgents. Nigeria is ranked fourth on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) for 2013, issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace. According to the index, more than 80 per cent of the lives lost to terrorists occurred in five countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. The institute says Boko Haram is one of the four most-active militant organizations along with the Islamic State (otherwise known as ISIS), the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Refsland concludes: “So you begin to see the magnitude of what is transpiring in Nigeria. Why are the cries of the innocents unheeded? We would like to know the answer to that. Although recent attacks are ever stronger, the condemnation from world leaders and the UN are not. No aid, no help, and nothing to stop the rampage. Pray for Nigeria.”
Photo One: Nigerian Christians express thewir anger (Courtesy World Watch Monitor).
Photo Two: Boko Haram's expanding reach (Photo from CNN screenshot).
Photo Three: The United Nations refugee camp in northern Cameroon (Courtesy Workld Watch Monitor).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Accused Perpetrators Released in Malatya Murder Trial

Accused Perpetrators Released in Malatya Murder Trial
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent.  
A Turkish criminal court has released two former military officers and an Islamic university researcher who had been jailed for nearly four years on suspected involvement in the 2007 murders of three Christians in southeast Turkey.
According to a story by Barbara G. Baker for World Watch Monitor, at the Jan 21 hearing,  the Malatya First High Criminal Court ruled that the three men – Ret. Col. Mehmet Ulger, Maj. Haydar Yesil and Ruhi Abat -- be set free pending the conclusion of the trial.
“This is a huge shame, that leaves us without much hope,” said Protestant church leader Umut Sahin, who was present when the court’s ruling was announced. “Unfortunately, we expect the case will drag on now for at least another year.” 
“We were not at all surprised,” plaintiff lawyer Erdal Dogan told World Watch Monitor shortly after the panel of three judges and two prosecutors announced its decision. 
He noted that political manipulation had changed the direction of the case over the past 12 months. 
Together with Ret. Gen. Hursit Tolon, the accused mastermind of the murders who was set free last June, the newly released suspects now claim the deadly plot was orchestrated by the government’s former-ally-turned-nemesis, the Hizmet movement led by Muslim scholar Fetullah Gulen.
The day before the Malatya hearing, Gulen’s lawyer, Nuruallah Albayrak, issued a statement accusing the Turkish government of  “trying to heap unsolved murders” on Gulen and his movement. 
World Watch Monitor said  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has labeled this an illegal “parallel” conspiracy trying to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party.
On the witness stand Wednesday, defendant Abat testified that the accusations against him were “disinformation” devised by the parallel state, stressing, “I am with President Erdogan to the end, and I will always support him.’ 
Met by his family and local journalists as he left the prison that evening with his fellow defendants, Abat declared that they had been arrested "in a dirty plot."
With Wednesday’s release of Ulger, Yesil and Abat, all but one of 20 of the men jailed in March 2011 on charges of planning the Malatya killings are now released on probation. 
World Watch Monitor said they are banned by court order from leaving the country until the completion of the trial. The last of the 20 is jailed in another city on a separate case.
Life sentences without parole have been demanded for the five men accused of carrying out the plot. They were released under house arrest in March 2014 and fitted with tracking devices.
The drawn-out Malatya trial has now spanned more than seven years, with the 8th anniversary of the brutal stabbing deaths of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Tilmann Geske to be commemorated on April 18.
Hearings are scheduled to resume in the trial on Feb. 18.

Zimbabwe authorities threaten Christian ministry with closure

Zimbabwe authorities threaten Christian ministry with closure
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service
(ANS- BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE, Jan.24, 2015) – Barnabas Aid ( reports that in an act that is being repeated across Zimbabwe, government authorities have declared new ownership of the Maleme farm in Bulawayo, Matabeleland, threatening its Christian owners with arrest for refusing to leave the land that houses the Shalom and Ebenezer Christian ministries.
Barnabas Aid says that having made an official appeal for the reversal of this land acquisition, the leadership team is currently involved in difficult negotiations with district officials.
According to Barnabas Aid, Mr Cunningham, owner of the Maleme farm, was told on December 18 that the land had been allocated to a new owner, Mr Mashingaidze, and that this decision had been finalized.
Later the same day, the lands officer accompanied the new owner to Maleme farm so that he could take inventory of all his assets, warning the Christian owners that if anything was taken from the site, this would be considered theft. Instructed to cease all farming operations, he was told to prepare to hand over the farm to the new owner and shut down the Shalom Christian campsite that is situated on the farmland.
Since 1958, the Maleme farm has housed an inter-denominational campsite, known as Shalom, which is heavily subsidized from farming operations in order to provide non-profit campsite facilities for churches from all over the country.
In 2007, another portion of the farmland was dedicated to the development of the Ebenezer ministry which trains 75 apprentices in agri-business each year, attracting school leavers from all over the Matabeleland region.
District authorities told Mr Cunningham that he would be able to keep part of the land used by Ebenezer if there was no reaction to the acquisition and if he cooperated in leaving the farm without reporting the incident to anyone.
Explaining to the authorities that without the farm, he would be without an income and unable to finance the operations at Ebenezer, he was told that he would need to prepare to shut down the Ebenezer ministry as well.
The Shalom campsite takes around 16,000 overnight stays per year. Plans have been underway to expand the Ebenezer program to double the number of apprentices this year.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Kidnapped Cleric and French aid worker released - BREAKING NEWS

Kidnapped Cleric and French aid worker released - BREAKING NEWS
By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service
(ANS- CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Jan. 23, 2015) -- Two aid workers kidnapped at gunpoint on Jan. 19 in Central African Republic, Claudia Priest and Rev. Gustave, were released on Jan 23, according to a report by World Watch Monitor.
World Watch Monitor reports that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius thanked those involved in the negotiations, "especially the archbishop of the country's capital for their help," according to ABC.
Priest, 67, is a French national who arrived in Bangui, the capital, on Jan. 6, and Gustave, is a member of the congregation of Holy Spirit who works at CODIS, a diocesan service that is active in health care and education in Central African Republic.
Priest runs a small charity organization, and has been travelling to CAR on a regular basis since 2005. She was preparing to return to France on Jan. 20.
World Watch Monitor says the kidnapping took place Jan. 19 at about 8 a.m. near a Protestant church in the 4th arrondissement, or district, of Bangui.
According to local sources who spoke to World Watch Monitor, Priest and Gustave were in a car loaded with medicine along with another member of the congregation of the Holy Spirit, a man identified as Elkana. They were returning from a trip to Damara, 70 kilometres north of Bangui. As they arrived at the entrance of the church, they were intercepted by four men, armed with guns and who ordered the three to get out of the vehicle. Their phones, money and other personal belongings were confiscated.
The car’s driver, Elkana, managed to flee while Gustave and Priest were taken hostage.
The two were taken to the Boy Rab area, known as the stronghold of anti-Balaka militias in Bangui. Their vehicle and all loaded inside were taken away.
World Watch Monitor says the kidnappers demanded the release of one of their leaders, Rodrigue Ngaïbona, known as "General Andjilo," who was arrested on Jan. 18 by United Nations peacekeeping forces, in exchange for the release of the two hostages.
Ngaibona is accused of being responsible for the massacre of civilians, notably during the failed offensive led by anti-balaka militias in Bangui, in December 2013.
World Watch Monitor explained that negotiations aimed at obtaining the release of the two hostages and the return of their vehicle and its contents were led by the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou, the President of Evangelical Alliance in CAR. The two top clerics are members of the Muslims and Christians Platform in CAR.
The French government called it ''an act contrary to humanitarian law.’’
World Watch Monitor further stated the abduction of foreign nationals by armed groups is recurrent in this war-torn central Africa country. Also on Jan. 20, a humanitarian aid worker on the UN staff was kidnapped by a group of armed men in Bangui. She was abducted while driving to work, but was released a few hours later.
In October, a Polish priest was abducted by eight members of a rebel group called the Democratic Front of the Central African People, in the extreme west of the country, near the Cameroon border. Rev. Mateusz Dziedzic, of the diocese of Tarnow, in Baboua, was released weeks later in exchange for a Democratic Front leader, Abdoulaye Miskine, who had been imprisoned in Cameroon.
Who are the anti-balaka?
The Central African Republic has been wracked by violence since December 2012, when a coalition of Muslim-dominated rebel groups under the Séléka banner moved through the country to eventually drive out President Francois Bozizé in March 2013. What followed was 10 months of Séléka violence, much of it directed at Christians, thousands of whom were killed and driven from their homes.
Séléka leader Michel Djotodia took control of a transitional government, but lost control of Séléka soldiers. In December 2013, the UN Security Council authorised the expansion of the African and French military forces then attempting to maintain security in the CAR, and started planning for the possible conversion of those forces to a UN-managed peacekeeping operation. By January 2014, a new president had replaced Djotodia, the Séléka coalition had been disbanded, and was being pursued by violent vigilante groups known as the anti-Balaka.
Since December 2013, the anti-Balaka have waged a revenge campaign of ethnic cleansing in the west of CAR, as Séléka remnants have retreated to the northeast. Many hundreds of Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, have been killed, and tens of thousands have fled.