Historic case of ex-magistrate challenging top judges moves forward
Richard Page was removed as a magistrate for expressing the view that it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father
In a hearing last week, ex-magistrate Richard Page was granted permission to take his case against the most senior judges in England and Wales to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Richard, 72, was removed as a magistrate by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in 2016 for expressing his view that it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father.
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr Page, who was represented in court by the highly-experienced religious freedoms barrister, Paul Diamond. In court, he argued that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice victimised him for his deeply-held Christian and philosophical view that children do best when raised by a mum and dad in a committed, stable relationship.
Richard Page served as a magistrate for 20 years with an exemplary record until, in July 2014, he dissented in a judgment relating to an adoption by a same-sex couple. He expressed the view that it was in a child’s best interests to have both a mother and a father. He was subsequently reported for his actions, reprimanded, and forced to attend ‘re-education training’, which he duly did.
Then in March 2015, Mr Page spoke on a BBC television programme where he further explained his opinion, saying “My responsibility as a magistrate as I saw it was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and a woman who were adoptive parents.”
This common-sense statement led to an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office’s disciplinary panel. They recommended to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor that Richard should be removed from office for serious misconduct, saying that “any reasonable person” would “conclude that [Richard] would be biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters”. Richard was removed from the Magistracy on 29 February 2016 for bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
On the 16 February 2018, the Employment Tribunal upheld this decision.
Within the bounds of judicial functions
Representing Richard in court last week, barrister Paul Diamond argued that although judges are expected to show restraint while commenting in public, Richard’s remarks were well within the bounds of his judicial functions – and that he had therefore been victimised.
In legal argument before the judge, Mr Diamond compared Richard Page’s comments to those of Judge Pickles, who described the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, as a “dinosaur living in the wrong age” and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, as a “brooding Quixotic dictator” born with a golden spoon in his mouth and as “an arrogant, pompous, toffee-nosed Old Etonian”.
He also noted other members of the judiciary who publicly stated their political views, such as Lord Phillips who, in 2009, provoked concern when he voiced ‘sympathy’ for assisted suicide, shortly after having decided the Purdy v DPP case on the very same point.
Similarly, in a speech in May 2018, Lord Justice Munby, the President of the Family Division, said that he welcomed and applauded single parent, unmarried, three parent, and polygamous households; and the demise of the typical nuclear family was, by implication, not a matter of concern.
Judges are permitted to hold even ‘intolerant’ views
Her Honour Judge Katherine Tucker allowed Richard’s appeal to proceed, saying that judges have a fundamental role in democratic society. She said that judges are permitted to hold even ‘intolerant’ views that should be respected – but that there may be limits as to how they can be expressed so as not to impugn the impartiality of the courts.
Responding to the decision, Richard commented:
“I am amazed that it has taken so long to get this far. It is vital that we maintain the true independence and impartiality of the judiciary and that ordinary people like me are not excluded from it.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Mr Page, said:
“This is an important moment, shining a light on how justice is done in our country. Even the top judges in the land should not be beyond proper scrutiny and we are glad to see Richard’s claim go forward.
“It was always disproportionate to remove a kind-hearted and long-serving public servant like Richard from his position simply because of the way that he expressed his beliefs.
“At the Christian Legal Centre, we see many people removed from public life for expressing views. We will continue standing by Richard, and others like him, as long as it takes for the legal system, and society in general, to recognise the positive impact of Christians in our nation’s life.”
Please pray for Richard and his case
The next stage of Richard’s case should be heard in 2019.
The Christian Legal Centre is also helping him with a separate claim against an NHS trust that blocked his return as a non-executive director because of the same pro-family statements. This case is expected to be heard in January 2019.
Please pray: •That in both cases, the judge will give a fair hearing to Richard and his legal arguments
•That the judgments would protect the freedom of Christians to hold and express common-sense Christian views
•For Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre as they support Richard’s cases.
An impartial police force and army that protected all its citizens would go a long way to stopping these atrocities.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Christian leaders meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria this month delivered a sharp rebuke, saying the military is complicit in attacks on Christians.
With the governor of Plateau state in attendance, the Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), delivered a report to Buhari at the presidential villa on Nov. 6 stating that 646 Christians in Plateau state alone were killed from March through October.
“The narrative has been that these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes,” Datiri said in the report, obtained by Morning Star News. “All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil.”
The truth, he said, is that Muslim Fulani militias heavily armed with sophisticated guns, including AK47s, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades have…
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And so it goes on! Several men are on death row in Pakistan including Imran Ghafur (2009), Zafar Bhatti and Farhan Aziz (appeal postponed). May God bring justice and guard and keep these folk enabling them to leave the country if necessary.
Pray for Imran Khan, prime Minister of Pakistan, ignorant concerning Christ but apparently committed to equality of religion in his country as was Jinnah the founder in 1948.
(Voice of the Persecuted) The November 27, 2018 appeal hearing of Sawan Masih, a Pakistani Christian accused and sentenced to death for blasphemy, was postponed. Nasir Saeed, a spokesperson from CLAAS, Sawans’s defense counsel, told Voice of the Persecuted that they have yet to receive a rescheduled hearing date. It’s possible that the court avoided conducting the hearing deliberately because of the present situation in the country after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he added.
Sawan is at the center of a case that caused a mob of 3000 Muslim men to attack the Joseph Colony of Lahore, Pakistan in March of 2013. (View report and photos) After a local mosque announced the blasphemy charge over loudspeakers, the vigilantes stormed the Christian community where Masih lived. They burned or ransacked 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches during the attack. Mob members threatened to burn…
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Latest on Aasia Bibi:
This appeal was yesterday-news awaited.
PAKISTAN:Prayers are needed for Sawan Masih who has been on death row for blasphemy since 2014.Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Shahid Imran, of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad in 2013. A case was registered against him under section 295-C of the Blasphemy Law which has a mandatory death penalty. Masih says the charge is false.
His case became internationally known when a large Muslim mob violently attacked Masih’s residential area, Joseph Colony, in Badami Bagh Lahore. The localmosque broadcasted the accusation via loudspeakers and a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims attacked Sawan’s home, looted and torched 180 Christian homes, 75 shops and at least two churches. Witnesses say the police stood and watched instead of stopping the attackers and protecting local Christians and their property.
Hundreds of families were displaced as the mob threatened to burn Christians…
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Latest on Aasia Bibi-good that authorities are at last cracking down on Islamist extremists.
Police detained radical Islamic cleric and (TLP) chief, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who led protests that brought daily life to a halt following the Supreme Court acquittal of Asia Bibi. On Friday, authorities began a nationwide crackdown and arrested over 1000 leaders and supporters of the Islamist party. The cleric’s arrest ignited violent clashes with police and several people were injured. A majority of the arrests took place in the province of Punjab, headquarters of the extremist Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party. They alleged the crackdown against the party and its leadership was to prevent them from protesting the acquittal.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry dismissed those claims. He explained that Rizvi had been placed under “protective custody” because he refused to withdraw a fresh call for street protests on Sunday and turned down offers to organize the rally at a place proposed by the government. “It’s to safeguard public life, property and order and has…
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This made international news:
American Missionary Reportedly
Murdered by Hostile Tribe in India
Murder Case Registered Against Unidentified Members of Tribe’s Community
11/20/2018 International Christian Concern (Washington D.C.) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an American missionary named John Allen Chau, age 27, was reportedly killed by unidentified individuals from the Sentinelese community on North Sentinel Island, located in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This murder comes at a time when Indian Christians report ever escalating levels of persecution across the country.
According to local sources, Chau had traveled to North Sentinel Island with the help of local fishermen in an attempt to interact with members of the Sentinelese tribe. Chau reportedly hired a fishing dinghy from the Chidiyatapu area and traveled to North Sentinel Island on November 16. Chau had reportedly visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on five previous occasions and had expressed a strong desire to meet with the Sentinelese tribes to preach Christianity.
Sources claim that Chau was killed by hostile members of the Sentinelese tribe after arriving on North Sentinel Island. The Andaman Sheekha reported that his body was spotted by local fishermen.
Police officials have confirmed today that a case of murder has been registered against unknown members of the Sentinelese tribe. “After getting relevant information a murder case has been registered,” a senior officer told Andaman Sheekha.
India has a history of attacks on foreign Christian missionaries. In January 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, was burned alive along with his two sons Philip, age 10, and Timothy, age 6. A mob of Bajrang Dal fundamentalists attacked the missionary and his children while they sleeping in their station wagon in Manoharpur village, located in the Kendujhar District of India’s Odisha State.
Across India, reports of persecution continue to escalate in both number and severity. Much of this escalation in persecution followed the rise of the current BJP-led government in May 2014. Using religiously divisive rhetoric for political gain, BJP officials incite Hindu radicals to take action against religious minorities. In 2014, the year the BJP-led government took power, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) documented 147 incidents of Christian persecution. In 2017, after three years of the current government, EFI documented 351 incidents of Christian persecution.
Jesus said we would be persecuted and brought before religious and civil authorities to give witness.
Informed sources reported to Mohabat News that “Behnam Ersali, a Christian convert living in Karaj, traveled to Mashhad and was arrested by security guards at a friend’s home on Friday, November 16, 2018 and taken unknown location.
Six plain-clothed security officers entered the house without a legal decree and arrested him along with the another person. The second was released a few hours later.
Behnam Ersali, was a former member of the Assemblies of God church in Tehran. Mohabat New also reported that several years ago Ersali had been fired from his job because of his Christian faith.
Davood Rasooli, known among the believers as “David”, was also arrested on Friday by two plain-clothes officers on in front of his home in Karaj. He too was transferred to an unknown location. Informed sources, quoted by the Christian convert’s family, say that the officers returned to the house two hours later with…
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Laos district governor orders Christian
families to leave village or face jail
A regional governor gave 20 Christian families one month to leave their village in northern Laos or face jail, after claiming Christianity is a “foreign religion”.
Despite local church leaders pointing out that Christianity is not illegal in Laos, the local governor insisted he would “not allow” believers in the area. The deadline for them to leave will expire in mid-December. In the face of the threat of imprisonment, five families have given up their faith, but Barnabas contacts reported that the rest are “holding strong”, adding, “The main thing we need now is prayer.”
Laos’ Communist government imposes tight restrictions on religious organisations, although Buddhists, who make up the majority of the population, enjoy comparative religious freedom in parts of the country. Local officials are typically highly suspicious of Christians, partly because of a perceived connection with the West.
From Barnabas Fund Contacts
Excellent update, passionate account and points for prayer from Pastor Emmanuel Singh at recent Reformation Day Conference in Singapore.
Persecution and Grace Fill Iran’s Streets
By Claire Evans
11/14/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The massive waves of unrest which have plagued Iran this past year point toward the people’s frustration with the moral and economic bankruptcy of a governing Islamic elite. “This is a very enlightened generation of younger people in Iran,” said Dr. Mike Ansari from Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform. “People are smarter and wiser and they can see through the fog of confusion created by the Iranian government.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran was created in 1979 with the intention of safeguarding Islamic principles by enshrining them into piety politics that define every aspect of life. One generation later, and Iranians have had enough with the harshness imposed by the Islamic regime. “They are taking a sense of pride in their past and heritage. They want to know what their ancestors were before they were forced to be Muslims,” continued Dr. Ansari.
Iran has a rich Christian history, and Iranians are not ignorant of the persecution which the Church has faced under the modern regime. In their quest for discovering the meaning of life, many Iranians have encountered the Gospel message. “When the Church is ready for persecution, we also see grace,” added Dr. Ansari.
“As Christianity is growing fast in Iran, the top religious leaders are alarmed. They then put pressure on the Revolutionary Guard’s security police as, ‘What are you doing to stop Christians?’ …The strategy of the government is not a widespread arrest and execution. Their strategy is to arrest a few, but publicize their arrest to put fear in the hearts of 1-3 million Christians and make them isolated, fearful, and prisoners in their homes,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat of Iran Alive Ministries.
This past year, International Christian Concern (ICC) has documented at least 100 cases where Christians have faced continued harassment, interrogation, detainment, imprisonment, or another type of judicial action intended to repress the Church. Many other cases continue to be investigated. Often, these believers have experienced persecution for decades, but the pressure on them has increased within the past year.
One such example is the family of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamerez. He was arrested four years ago, the day after Christmas, on charges of acting against national security and espionage. If his appeal against these charges fails, then he will be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“God is very much alive in Iran. He is moving and he is building his Church in Iran and it is growing and there is a lot of good news that is happening inside the country.”
This year, the judiciary under the guidance of Judge Ahmadzadeh turned their attention toward the rest of the pastor’s family. In January, Pastor Bet-Tamerez’s wife was sentenced to five years in prison on the same charges as her husband. In July, their son Ramil was sentenced to four months in prison on the charge of holding house churches. Sadly, this family is not the only one to have experienced such persecution by the government because of their faith.
The perpetrators of Christian persecution are well-known to many: Judge Ahmadzadeh, Judge Ahmad Zargar, and Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, among others. They often send Christians to jails, such as Evin Prison, notorious for their human rights abuses. Meanwhile, the judiciary’s close relationship with the Revolutionary Guard ensures that even those believers who freely walk the streets do so under surveillance and harassment.
Miraculously, God works even among the perpetrators of these human rights abuses. Ali was a Revolutionary Guard member who would convert to Christianity and eventually have to flee the country after spending time in prison. He currently works with the underground church inside Iran to help prepare them for the inevitable persecution.
“In my opinion, Christians need to know their position,” Ali said. “We need to recognize this situation. When you decide to be Jesus’ disciple, don’t run away from these matters and don’t be surprised by them. You need to be prepared.”
This preparation is all the more important as Iran ramps up the persecution facing the Church. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “Local observers note that as the Iranian regime has grown more unpopular and citizens have become more vocal in their criticism of corruption in official circles, the government has become increasingly reliant on the support of hard-line ayatollahs, who favour increased pressure on religious minorities.”
Despite the challenges facing the Church, many Christians are hopeful. Ali shared, “The hunger of the persecuted is the biggest potential. That person says, ‘I want to use everything for the glory of the name of the Lord. I want to become everything for everyone for glory of the name of the Lord’ … The persecuted Church is thirsty to use all the potentials for the glory of the name of the Lord.”
Dr. Ansari added, “What we are dealing with, unfortunately nowadays, is that there is no choice but to hear the negative news about Iran. However, God is very much alive in Iran. He is moving and he is building his Church in Iran and it is growing and there is a lot of good news that is happening inside the country.”
For the past year, Iranians have protested against a regime that seeks to control their souls. The days have been filled with ever increasing persecution against the Church. But they have also been filled with ever abundant grace as the Church continues to grow.
For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com
India’s Christians Troubled by Surge in
By ICC’s India Correspondent
11/05/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – India’s Christian community is deeply troubled by the rising tide of religious persecution targeting pastors and their churches. Over the past two months, International Christian Concern (ICC) documented at least 67 incidents of persecution, beginning in September. Of these 67 incidents, 49 took place in Uttar Pradesh, one of the most populous states in northern India.
While documenting these cases, ICC spoke with many people on the ground in Uttar Pradesh, including Pastor Sanjay Robinson, a Christian leader in Lucknow. Pastor Robinson stated, “Pastors and Christian workers are terrified and worried about their survival as the attacks continue to rise in Uttar Pradesh. The trend of increased attacks will get worse as the election for the Loksabha is fast approaching.”
ICC also spoke with Pastor Vijay Massih, a pastor who was brutally attacked by Hindu radicals alongside two of his colleagues. On September 8, a mob of 50 people barged into a private gathering of 25 Christians who were meeting for a spiritual retreat. Pastor Massih reported that the Hindu radicals began hurling verbal abuses at the Christians before attacking the three pastors leading the retreat.
In describing the situation following the attack, Pastor Massih stated, “Our lives are in danger… Everything went against us following the incident, including negative publicity by print and electronic media leveling false charges of forcible conversions. Even the police have taken the side of the attackers.”
“Recent developments in India must disturb not just Indian citizens, but the peace-loving people of the world at large.”
Similarly, 43-year-old Pastor Surajveer Peter was ordered by the local Station House Officer (SHO) to close down his house church that he has been pastoring for nearly 15 years in Khannupur village, located in the Muzafernagar District of Uttar Pradesh. Peter told ICC that the police locked the doors of the church in which they were worshiping. Shortly after, he was taken to the police station and told that he had to stop worshiping or else he would be put in jail.
“I was so afraid,” Pastor Peter told ICC. “When the police came to the place where the worship was going and chased the Christians worshipers, I thought to myself, I didn’t do any harm to anybody, but I was treated as a criminal by both Hindu radicals and also the police.”
“Recent developments in India must disturb not just Indian citizens, but the peace-loving people of the world at large,” Dr. John Dayal, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, said regarding the recent rise in attacks. “The killing of Muslims in the garb of protecting cows, the threat to throw out Christians, closing their educational institutions and ending all conversions by changing the constitution of India are real threats.”
“Without the economic progress it promised, the Modi government is engineering a confrontation between the religious minorities and charged sections of the Hindu majority,” Dr. Dayal continued. “The targeted hate, the manner of denying sections of Muslims the protection of the law as citizens, stripping Dalits of the affirmative action and protection from discrimination, and the punitive persecution of small Christian communities and new followers of Christ are clear signals. The RSS is leading the national discourse.”
For pastors, like Peter and Massih, the circumstances are life-threatening. Yet, Christians are still willing to pay the price as they await with hope that the attacks against them will soon be brought to justice.
Two Boys Abandoned After Recently
Converted Father Is Poisoned in Uganda
By ICC’s East Africa Correspondent
11/08/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Growing up in western Uganda, Bwambare and Mumbere, two Ugandan boys never imagined a day when they would be separated from their parents. However, trouble began in November 2016 when their father, Abdul Hamza, converted to Christianity after an evangelist shared the Good News with him.
“I visited the family of Abdul Hamza during my usual village visitations and, after sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them, Hamza was convicted of his sins and asked if we could lead him in prayer to receive Christ,” said the evangelist, Rev. Canon Kainja. “His wife was against the idea and she threatened him that leaving Islam would attract grievous measures from their family.”
Rev. Kainja continued, “The young boys had no idea of what was going on and they were outside playing with other children. So I prayed for their father and later on prayed with the boys. Hamza’s wife declined to pray with us.”
While the vast majority of people are Christians in western Uganda, Islam has been increasing dramatically after Muslim traders entered through East Africa in the early 19th century. Conversions to Islam were made communally, thus making it risky for individuals to decide to follow Christ.
Rev. Kainja dedicated his time to guiding Hamza on the new path of living for Christ. He shared, “Abdul Hamza was showing the great joy of being a Christian and his spiritual growth was impressive. He began accompanying me during my evangelistic visitations and many were amazed at his testimony. His wife started complaining how Hamza’s lifestyle is affecting the family ties and if he could reconsider coming back to Islam. He would not listen to any of that. He had become a committed follower of Christ.”
As the days went by, Abdul Hamza gained more knowledge about Christianity and how to reach out to Muslims. Strangely, some of his Muslim friends remained close to him and he thought that was an opportunity to gradually draw them to Christ. Sadly, this would not be the case.
“His wife started complaining how Hamza’s lifestyle is affecting the family ties and if he could reconsider coming back to Islam. He would not listen to any of that. He had become a committed follower of Christ.”
“One evening, Abdul Hamza and his friends went out to the local market to have some tea and snacks,” Rev. Kainja said. “Not suspecting anything, he sipped his tea, amidst catching up [on] the days’ occurrences. He immediately complained of pain in the stomach followed by vomiting. I was informed about his sudden sickness and asked my fellow pastor, Rev. John Murabyo, to help me take Hamza to the hospital. He succumbed to the stomach pain and vomiting, which the doctor later confirmed was food poisoning.”
International Christian Concern (ICC) had the opportunity of speaking with Abdul Hamza’s father, Mr. Ibrahim Masereka, who is a staunch Sunni Muslim. He said, “Everybody in the family was shocked by the conversion of Hamza and we were left with no option other than letting him leave and settle elsewhere because we could not bear the shame. I was pained a lot, but tolerant. Thoughts of killing him never crossed my mind. His wife was so upset, even contemplating a divorce. Later on, Hamza was poisoned and died at the hospital.”
Abdul Hamza joined many Christians who have been killed by poisoning in Uganda.
“His wife did not mourn him,” Rev. Kainja said. “A day after laying to rest Hamza, she left the matrimonial home and their two young boys and got married off to Abdul’s friend, who is suspected of poisoning him.”
The two boys are now living with Rev. Canon Kainja in Kisinga, Kasese district.
For interviews with Nathan Johnson, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Violent Intruder Disrupts CairoChurch, Injuring Two
Egyptian Christians Worry that Authorities Are Ignoring Root Causes of Persecution11/15/2018 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 11, the Church of St. George in Cairo experienced a violent intrusion. According to Watani, the intruder was a 22-year-old man who injured two Christians while shouting Islamic slogans. Police responded to the scene and arrested the attacker.
Egyptian authorities claim that the intruder made the violent disturbance because of a mental illness and drug usage. However, local Christians have expressed concern that this claim is an attempt to hide the Islamic extremism that plagues Egypt.
“The media uses words which don’t reveal the truth,” Ehad, a local believer, told ICC. “Now we have discovered that that this was a young man, not an old one. Also, he was holding a Koran and sharp tool [while] injuring some people on their heads. The media’s role is to reveal the reality and not to hide information to make the Copt[ic Christians] calm down.”
Another local Christian, Majeed, added, “It’s too awful. I can’t imagine that we should adapt to these incidents. Lies and lies and lies… I’m sure that this criminal will not be punished.”
“Mentally ill, what?! How the media manipulates us!” exclaimed Hani, another local Christian.
The intruder reportedly entered the Church of St. George through a room intended for baking bread intended for the Lord’s Supper during the service. The intruder hit the baker on the head with an iron rod, while shouting, “Allah is great.” When another Christian attempted to rescue the baker, he was also injured.
The incident occurred just over a week after the deadly attack against Egyptian Christians traveling to St. Samuel Monastery. Egyptian authorities have experienced a renewal of heavy criticism for failing to address the root causes of Islamic extremism and protect Christians from violence.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Thankfully, no one was seriously injured during the violent intrusion of St. George’s Church, and the police responded quickly. However, we cannot forget the context of the attack. It is not unusual for the Egyptian authorities to claim that something other than Islamic extremism drives the less publicized incidents of persecution. The situation surrounding Egypt’s Christians will not improve unless there is honesty in confronting why these kinds of incidents happen. We must continue to keep Egypt’s Christians in our prayers.”
Message by Pastor Emmanuel Singh
Given recently at CERC Reformation Day Conference.
“Their nation views them as traitors. They are Turks who love their country and their families. But that love is constantly questioned by a government which perpetuates the myth that Turks can only be Muslim.”
More from International Christian Concern magazine (recommended)
Over the last millennia, extremist Islamic influence has eroded Turkey’s relationship with its Christian population, leading to increased acts of terrorism, discrimination, and hatred towards Christianity. Once a shining reminder of the early Christian church, modern-day Turkey has become a convoluted mixture of ethnoreligious persecution. The Turkish government perpetuates the antiChristian narrative by stirring up ethnic and religious hatred towards Christianity through hate speech. Persecution of Christians in Turkey will last as long as its own charged rhetoric allows. Turkey’s admission of large numbers of refugees in the past decade further complicates the situation, bringing new Christian communities into the fold of persecution. The Erosion Begins Turkey is a product of different civilizations and centuries of warfare and conquest. Many pivotal moments in church history occurred on Turkish soil, including
the first seven Ecumenical Councils and the Council of Nicea. It is even known as the birthplace of the early church. Notable followers of Christ, such as Paul of Tarsus, Timothy, Nicholas of Myra, and Polycarp of Smyrna, hailed from Turkey. The city of Constantinople, now Istanbul, became the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the headquarters of the Eastern Orthodox Church. This all quickly changed with the aggressive expansion of Islam. In the 7th century, Seljuk Turks captured half of Christian land, including the city of Jerusalem. At the turn of the millennia, Christians rose up to defend the Byzantine Christians from Seljuk Turks and recover the Holy Land in a 200-year conflict known as the Crusades. Both sides committed human rights abuses against each other, a reality that challenges interfaith dialogue and attempts at reconciliation tho this day. Turks’ bitter view of the Crusades presents a significant hurdle for evangelization, and for some Turkish Muslims, justifies the persecution of Christians. The Turks possession of Constantinople in 1453 marked the beginning of an attempt to completely eliminate Christianity in Turkey.
In a symbolic act, they forcefully converted a thousand-year old church and architectural wonder, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque. When the Ottoman Empire officially dissolved in 1923, the modern “secular” state of Turkey was born.
By Meg McEwen
An historical overview of Turkey’s relationship with the Church and its ongoing persecution of Christianity
20th Century Genocides In the 20th century, Christianity dipped from roughly 25% of the population to 2%, a direct result of government-supervised ethnoreligious cleansing. Most of the victims belonged to the Eastern Church. The Turkish government participated in an intensive, highly systematic killing spree, attempting to eliminate the Armenian people Leading up to this event, Armenians were treated as second-class citizens, abused by Muslims under the Ottoman Empire’s dhimmi system. Multiple international attempts were made to establish basic human rights for the Armenian people, but the government never enforced its agreements. The Armenian genocide left approximately one million corpses strewn across the parched path to the Syrian desert, a death march that remains largely controversial within the international community. Both the United States and Israel have failed to recognize the Armenian genocide, though many credible documents and eye-witness reports have surfaced regarding the tragedy. The Assyrian and Greek genocides also contributed to the plummeting number of Christians over the course of the early 1900s. Modern-Day Turkey Authorities consistently level hate-speech at Christians, keeping the spirit of enmity alive. Christians are not allowed to train their clergymen, and authorities rarely give them permission to establish a place of worship unless it is in a historical building. Christians are ostracized from society for choosing to opt out of compulsory religious classes. Churches find it nearly impossible to obtain legal standing as
religious congregations. Religious affiliation has been removed from ID cards but is still visible in back end systems, leading to government discrimination. Christians live in uncertainty under the surveillance of President Erdoğan, who recently used an imprisoned American pastor, Andrew Brunson, for leverage in hostage diplomacy with the United States. The president plans to reinforce the Muslim religion by pulling down public schools and replacing them with religious schools. Fifteen years ago, there were only 450 religious schools in Turkey. There are 4,500 today. The president expressed his desire to raise a “pious generation,” which will almost certainly translate into a “violent generation” in the aftermath. Levels of Persecution A large influx of refugees from neighboring, war-torn countries placed new communities of Christians under government pressure, with levels of persecution varying by ethnicity. Christian Turks face a high degree of persecution because the Turkish population is predominantly Muslim. There are 70 million people and 6,000 Turkish Christians, making it difficult for the Christians to practice their faith. In the culture’s understanding, Turkish and Islamic blood run in the same veins. The Turks consider Syrian and Iraqi refugees to be brothers, a remnant of the glorious former Ottoman empire. Christians in these communities are hated, marked as traitors to their heritage. Iranian Christian refugees land on the other side of the persecution spectrum; they are largely left alone, free to worship God. Even though Iranian Christians enjoy relative religious freedom, they fear that they
People who work closely with President Recep Erdoğan describe him as a stern patriarch who alternates between faithful piety and fiery oratory. Before Erdoğan, religion in Turkey remained primarily in the private sphere, and piety was hardly a defining feature of its secular government. But with Erdoğan’s climb up the political ladder, Islamism has come front and center. Erdoğan has transformed Turkey into an Islamic authoritarian state at war with Christianity. Erdoğan’s devotion to Islam is not surprising. He grew up in the Black Sea Region, known for its Islamic conservatism. Ironically, the Black Sea was once the heart of Christianity in ancient Turkey, but today, its Christians number only in the dozens. The fact that Erdoğan’s home community, and possibly even his own ancestors, used to be predominantly Christian makes his brand of Islamic nationalism all the more tragic. Islamist Worldview What does surprise is how quickly Erdoğan’s worldview and message gained traction among his countrymen. He rose from mayor of Istanbul in 1994, to the nation’s Prime Minister in 2003, to President in 2014. Many point to Erdoğan’s four-month imprisonment in 1998 as a defining moment. Charged with “inciting hatred” after reading a religious nationalist poem at a rally, he entered prison openly devoted to Islamism, but left claiming he would wall off his religion from his politics. Shortly after his release, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “Before anything else, I’m a Muslim. As a Muslim, I try to comply with the requirements of my religion… But I try now
very much to keep this away from my political life, to keep it private.” Because Erdoğan’s prison experience was one of luxury and comfort, some doubted its transformative effects. In fact, his jail sentence served to boost his profile, and his public charisma grew. In 2001 he helped found the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and two short years later he was elected Prime Minister. Defender of Christianity? A decade and a half later, Erdoğan remains in power (now as President), and Turkey looks radically different. For the first 10 years of his leadership, the country’s slide towards Islamism was hard to perceive. Erdoğan even seemed to defend Christianity at times. In 2007, when young Muslim extremists murdered three Christians operating a Bible publishing house in Malatya, one of the suspects was quoted saying, “Our religion (Islam) is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.” Erdoğan said of the attack: “This is savagery.” Though such incidents make Erdoğan’s Islamism seem less blatant, his authoritarian bent remained clear. The tumultuous aftermath of the failed military coup in July 2016 led to a massive purge of journalists, government officials, teachers, and many others, displaying the draconian character of Erdoğan’s regime. The failed coup also testified to how drastically Turkey had changed, as much of the populace rallied to put down the coup. With the coup’s failure, Erdoğan purged his opponents, both real and perceived, emerging more powerful than ever. He brandished the strident style of his younger days as he took steps to solidify his grip on power. Islamism reemerged as a defining feature of his politics and rhetoric.
Revival of Ottoman Tradition In other words, Erdoğan declared himself openly at war with Atatürk, the founder of Turkey’s secular state. Erdoğan is a passionate historian and a great admirer of Abdülhamid II, known as the “bloody sultan” of the Ottoman Empire. Where Atatürk had cast off the Islamic authority of the Ottoman Empire, Erdoğan seeks to resurrect it, picking up where Abdülhamid II, the empire’s last effective sultan, left off. Said Erdoğan this past February, “Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong… We are struggling so that a foreign flag will not be waved anywhere where adhan [Islamic call to prayer in mosques] is recited. The things we have done so far [pale in comparison to the] even greater attempts and attacks [we are planning for] the coming days, inshallah [Allah willing].” It is this open declaration of war that deeply troubles Turkey’s Christians. They know that their president’s view of history matters greatly when it comes to their future. They know that the way Turks in general view Christians is a product of how they interpret the close of Ottoman history. Explains one believer, “During the independent war we fought against lots of countries and some bishops blessed the Turks enemies. That’s why people started to hate Christianity and Christians. Also, some of the enemies’ flags had crosses, like Greece. And because of that people started to see Christians as an enemy.” Erdoğan has tapped into the deepest cultural fears of Turks and promised to resurrect 600 years of Ottoman history with himself as chief proponent. Indeed, he has positioned himself well. One year after the coup, he enacted constitutional changes that greatly reduced the role of parliament and consolidated power within his “executive presidency.” These changes came into full effect in June 2018, after Erdoğan “won” a hotly disputed early election. As his rhetoric increasingly demonstrates, Erdoğan views all opposition to his new authoritarianism as a “clash between cross and crescent.” More than any other leader besides Atatürk, Erdoğan has thoroughly transformed Turkey. The question is, what role do Christians have in Turkey’s future? Are they the enemies, as Erdoğan’s rhetoric suggests? Or are they second-class, dhimmi citizens, just as they were under Ottoman rule?
President Erdoğan’s Rise Signals Trouble for Christians
By Claire Evans
“Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong…” – PRESIDENT RECEP ERDOĞAN
I was born in a country where Christianity is a deeply rooted, but deeply marginalized religion. Turkey, which today encompasses Asia Minor (or Anatolia), contains more biblical sites than any other region in the Middle East except Israel. Many Christian Apostles and Saints, such as Paul of Tarsus, Peter, John, Timothy, Nicholas of Myra, and Polycarp of Smyrna, among others, either ministered or lived in Turkey. The Seven Churches of Asia, the major churches of early Christianity, are in Anatolia. The first seven ecumenical councils were also held there. The first was convened in A.D. 325 by the emperor Constantine in Nicaea (Iznik). Today, however, only 0.2 percent of Turkey’s population of nearly 80 million are Christian. Centuries of Islamic Control The Islamization of the region began when Turkic tribes from Central Asia invaded the Armenian highland of the Greek Byzantine Empire in 1071 and started occupying Christian cities. Those Muslim tribes first established the Seljuk Empire in Anatolia and then ruled the Ottoman Empire (1299–1923). For centuries, Christians became dhimmis— third-class, tolerated citizens forced to pay a tax in exchange for “protection” under Islamic Sharia law. Then from 1914 to 1923, the Ottoman government and Turkish nationalist forces committed genocide against Armenian, Greek and Assyrian Christians. Approximately 3 million Christians perished. Many Greek Christian survivors were forcibly expelled from Turkey in 1923. But successive Turkish governments have aggressively denied that the genocide ever occurred and have continued persecuting Christians. From 1941-1942, the Turkish military attempted to force Christians and Jews—
including the elderly and mentally ill— to work under horrendous conditions in labor battalions. In 1942, a Wealth Tax was imposed to eliminate Christians and Jews from the economy. A savage anti-Greek pogrom in 1955 also targeted Armenians and Jews in Istanbul. In 1964, thousands of Greeks were forcefully expelled from Turkey. These policies all contributed to the annihilation of Christians in the country. Present-Day Discrimination Christians remain exposed to severe oppression in Turkey. Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians, for example, cannot freely obtain education in the Theological School of Halki, the main theological school of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The school was shut down by the Turkish government in 1971 and has not been reopened. Since that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity, has been unable to train clergy and potential successors for the patriarch. The remaining Christian Assyrians are also struggling with many challenges. For example, they lack the official right to public education in their own institutions. In Istanbul, they are attempting to open a private elementary school although the government refuses to grant financial support. Meanwhile, both the government and some Muslim Kurdish locals in southeast Turkey continue to illegally seize their properties. Protestants are among the most oppressed Christians in Turkey. The government does not recognize the Protestant community as a “legal entity.” Hence, Protestants hold no right to freely establish and maintain churches. The Protestant community also faces discrimination in the training of religious leaders. Since current law prohibits the opening of religious training schools, the Protestant community relies on support from foreign church leaders. Sadly, several foreign religious workers and church members have been deported, denied entry into Turkey, refused residence permits, or denied entry visas. Violence Not Limited to the Past Several incidents in recent memory reinforce the very real threat of physical violence against Christians. In 2006, Father Andrea Santoro, an Italian Catholic priest, was murdered in his church in the city of Trabzon by a Muslim shouting “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest). A year later, three Christian employees of the Zirve Bible Publishing House in Malatya were tortured and murdered by five Muslim assailants. Two of the victims were converts. In Anatolia, where Christianity was once the majority religion and thrived for centuries, Turkey’s state forces target and demonize Christian missionaries. And it appears that police, military and intelligence organizations are involved in the murders of Christians in the country. Turkey’s National Security Council has even argued that missionary activities should be regarded as a “national threat.”
“Christians remain exposed to severe oppression in Turkey. “
The Systematic Eradication of Christian Civilization in Turkey By Uzay Bulut
Who Can Count the Cultural Loss? The destruction of churches and their use for sacrilegious purposes such as stables are among the physical outcomes of Christian annihilation and Islamic intolerance in Turkey. But even more alarming is the destruction of the immense knowledge and great cultural legacies of millions of Christians—including that of Christian saints, philosophers and other scholars. Throughout its long history in Turkey, Christian teachings served as an inspiration for philosophy, literature, ethics, philanthropy, architecture, music and theatre, among other fields. Anatolian Christians—both in ancient times as well as under the rule of Byzantines and even as dhimmis under the Ottoman occupation—made countless contributions to human progress in the fields of science, technology, medicine, art, law and politics. Today, however, the Turkish state does not even recognize the “Ecumenical” status of the Patriarch and Patriarchate, the spiritual center of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, the destruction of Christianity is accompanied by the rise of political Islam in Turkey. For example, 54 percent of the participants in a 2017 survey conducted by the progovernment MAK counseling company said “yes” to Turkey having “a religious leadership similar to the caliphate.” Sadly, Turkish governments have carried out their oppressive and destructive actions against Christians either with the active participation or the silent approval of the clear majority of the Muslim Turkish people. Never once in their history have Turkish people attempted to protest the government as Christian and other non-Muslim citizens of the country were and still are exposed to horrific injustices such as murders, pogroms, rapes, and various social pressures. Annihilating Christian peoples and cultures in Turkey has harmed not only Christians but humanity at large. Sadly, the West still looks away as Turkey’s rich Christian heritage is on the verge of disappearing forever.
One cool evening in Ankara, I joined four Turks for tea. All were university-aged converts, two of whom still keep their conversion secret. They gather almost every night and challenge one another to grow in their faith despite the many hardships they face. This night, in hushed but urgent tones, they were eager to unburden themselves about the crisis of identity they face as Turkish Christians. “Ankara is a dark place, a conservative place,” explained one woman. “It is spiritually depressing.” Tears welled in the eyes of another. She was unable to speak for several minutes. She looked toward her brother who nodded in assent about the spiritual darkness surrounding them. Ankara is the capitol of Turkey and its second largest city, a hub of rich history and culture. The palatial Presidential Complex and other government ministries are scattered among its neighborhoods. The mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern day Turkey, is toured by millions
every year. When I visited, I was struck by the reverence on the faces of so many who had journeyed there. I wondered aloud why the man who invented the concept of Turkishness would be so admired almost 100 years later. What is “Turkishness?” “Most people show respect to Atatürk. I also like him and show respect to his ideas,” explained one of the Christians gathered at the café. He described his parents as terrorists, and said he was afraid to tell them of his conversion because they are Islamic nationalists. He added, “The most important one of Atatürk’s six principles is secularism, I think. Through the secularist system that he brought, we can have a choice to change to another religion from Islam. So I think Atatürk’s influence is really important and great for us who were Muslims before.” His friend has also kept his conversion a secret, but for a different reason—his family is committed to secular nationalism. He told me, “I became a Christian and immediately felt like I betrayed my country. I still feel that way.” “Turkish people believe that if you aren’t Muslim, you’re an enemy. When you ask people’s religion here, some people will say ‘I am Turk.’ Because people believe that if you’re Turk, you have to be Muslim,” he continued. Similar comments about Turkishness have marked every conversation I’ve had with believers in Turkey. Strong ideas about what it means to be a Turk have spread from their origin in Ankara all across the county’s 81 provinces. A fierce defensiveness about the Turkish national identity has been carefully cultivated. It has provided the fodder for Turkey’s transformation from a quasi-democratic state to a thoroughly authoritarian one. Turks to the World: “We Will Not Bow” In his 2014 post-election speech, President Erdoğan proclaimed, “The people gave a clear message to Turkey and to the world: What did they say? They said, ‘We are here.’ They said, ‘The Turkish people are impassable … We are the owners of this country. The people will not bow and Turkey is invincible.’” President Erdoğan won his 2018 election by further emphasizing that authentic Turkishness means a coming war between cross and crescent. The pressure of being true to the national identity is felt by Christian all across the country. Churches are so rare in Turkey that they are considered a foreign novelty, and are often visited by touring Muslims. One pastor
TURKEY’S YOUNG CHRISTIANS FEEL THE WEIGHT OF THE SPIRITUAL DARKNESS IN THEIR LAND
Turkish believers wrestle with the entrenched cultural belief that real Turks are and must be Muslim.
By Claire Evans
in Eastern Turkey shared that, “…they come to church and when I start talking, they are like, ‘Wow, you speak such good Turkish!’ And I say, ‘Well of course, I am a Turk!’” Free to Gather, For Now Back in Ankara, the four young Turks sitting in the café continued to contemplate how the idea of Turkishness had impacted their lives. It was clear that talking about their challenges with each other had greatly eased the burden. As we left the café, one pointed to a public square renamed after those who defended Erdoğan during the 2016 coup. Since the coup, state surveillance of Christians has increased and the idea of Turkishness has been further ingrained in Turkey’s citizens. These four believers are able to safely gather, for now. But so many others are not. Their families view them as apostates to their religion. Their nation views them as traitors. They are Turks who love their country and their families. But that love is constantly questioned by a government which perpetuates the myth thwill eventually face government pressure. The Turkish government is already actively relocating them to nationalistic cities with large Islamic communities, like the other refugee communities. Armenian, Assyrian, and Kurdish Christians endure a more intense form of persecution because they are nationally hated in Turkey for their religion and ethnicity. The Turks already persecute Armenian and Assyrians on an ethnic front, so the few Christians who survive within these communities truly endure the brunt of this persecution. In Southeast Turkey, a war is being waged between Turks and Kurds. Turks believe that Kurds are terrorists and thus seek to isolate the community to “protect” national security. Because they successfully established similar regions in in Iraq and Syria, they are labeled as unstable terrorists by the Turkish government (and the international community). The Turks frequently isolate and despise Kurdish communities in an attempt to repress a mounting rebellion. Christian missionaries have been imprisoned or deported while trying to minister and evangelize the Kurds. For this reason, the Kurds are an increasingly unreached ethnic group. ICC’s Involvement in Turkey Due to the extremely sensitive position of Christians in Turkey, we must be vague in describing our work there. But the brittle spiritual ground in Turkey has not stopped the Lord from paving a way for ICC to minister to persecuted Christians. ICC is building a nursery for MBBs (Muslim background believers) who leave their young toddlers at home alone while they work the only jobs open to them – those that require long hours and heavy labor. With the help of ICC, an illegal church is moving to a new location to safely accommodate its growing numbers. ICC also provides legal assistance to pastors who have been singled out by authorities because of their ministry work and advocates with the United States government to effect policies that may ease the pressure on Christians in Turkey.
See other posts on Turkey: Category Turkey
Rustram was converted to Christ and now works as Tajik Bible Teacher for SAT-7 a middle eastern Christian TV channel. They need more Tajik and Afghan presenters (languages related). Pray for believers who face much opposition in these countries.
|Sep. 28, 2017 | Pakistan
This man has been in prison longer than Aasia Bibi!
Three Muslim men badly beat a Christian convert in the village of Tamchi in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, on 17 October, leaving him fighting for his life.
The attackers cornered Eldos, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, alone in a courtyard and attempted to force him to say the shahada (the Islamic creed). Recitation of the shahada is considered conversion to Islam. He was viciously beaten and left bleeding with severe concussion, a jaw fracture, missing teeth, a bleeding eye, and suspected brain haemorrhage.
Allegedly, the police attempted to disguise the religious motivation for the attack by claiming Eldos was beaten for playing loud music. They forced him to sign a statement to this effect, which they said he had given them verbally. However, Eldos’ lawyer confirmed he had been unable to speak at the time because of the injury to his jaw.
Eldos has since had a complicated operation on his jaw and now needs treatment for his eye and dentures to replace his lost teeth.
Eldos was beaten unconscious – but will not be silenced
Eldos from Kyrgyzstan was beaten to within an inch of his life – for the ‘crime’ of turning to Christ.
The Christian was hospitalised with serious head injuries, including a broken jaw, and his attackers threatened to kill him if he went to the police.
But he ignored their threats and has spoken out, to try to protect other Christians.
Please ask God to protect Eldos and heal him fully.
His assailants ordered him to deny Christ and read a prayer converting back to Islam but he refused. Our partner reports that the police have not yet taken any action in Eldos’ defence.
- Please ask God to heal Eldos, in his body, mind and spirit. Pray that He will renew in Eldos a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10).
- Thank God for Eldos’ bravery in choosing to speak out about the attack. Pray that this decision will highlight persecution in Kyrgyzstan and cause officials to take action to protect minorities including Christians.
- Pray that Eldos’ attackers will be apprehended and charged and repent of their crimes and come to know the unconditional love of Christ for themselves. (See below for more on our #Pray50 campaign)
(Source: Release partner)
Click here to watch our recent film on persecution in Central Asia.
Many Christians in Kyrgyzstan live with constant persecution since the introduction of a very restrictive Religion Law in 2009. In October 2017, a pastor’s grandson was severely beaten at school for being a Christian and in May 2018 a Christian woman in Kyrgyzstan, recently converted from Islam, was held captive in her home and beaten by her Muslim family for refusing to renounce her faith in Christ.
Western hypocrisy, Saudi Arabia and the
persecution of Christians
Western oil interests and a quest for Middle Eastern “stability” mean Saudi Arabia is welcomed as an ally of the so-called Christian West – a profound contradiction that ignores the country’s treatment of Christians and involvement in jihadist violence around the globe. The largely unquestioning support of Western governments for Saudi Arabia is an insult to Christ’s followers there who live in the shadow of death.
It is a capital offence for a Muslim to convert to Christianity in Saudi Arabia. Although none have been officially executed, as far as is known, some converts have been murdered by family members. The number of Saudi nationals who are Christians is unknown and even for foreigners it is not advisable or safe to be openly Christian in Saudi Arabia because it is illegal to manifest any religion publicly except Islam. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians among the estimated two million non-Muslim foreign workers in the kingdom. They are only able to worship in secret and even private gatherings are sometimes raided by religious police. Active believers, including Western expatriates, face potential deportation; non-Westerners can face imprisonment and torture.
In Saudi Arabia, no non-Muslim public buildings are permitted. In 2012, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, when asked about church buildlings in Kuwait, stated it was “necessary to destroy all churches in the region”, based on a hadith. The hadith (traditional record of Muhammad’s life and teachings) narrates that on his death bed Muhammad declared, “There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula.”
Following his death in 632, Muhammad’s successors followed his instruction to permit only Islam in the region. There is no mention of Christianity in Saudi Arabia in the historical records after 650.
In May 2018, a story claiming that the Saudi government had struck a deal with the Vatican to allow the construction of church buildings was widely reported in Western press, but later dismissed as fake news after the Vatican denied it and the Egyptian newspaper that broke the story retracted it.
Western support for Saudi Arabia
The modern nation of Saudi Arabia was formed by Ibn Saud in the 1920s, gaining recognition from the UK in 1927, although British politicians were well aware of the true nature of the regime. Earlier in the 1920s, Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, had described daily life under the Saudis’ Wahhabi interpretation of Islam: “They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions … Women have been put to death in Wahhabi villages for simply appearing in the streets … Men have been killed for smoking a cigarette.”
Today, Saudi Arabia is one of nine countries which formally include hudud punishments (meaning the penalty is specified in the Quran) within their legal system, but it is the country most frequently known for handing down sentences such as floggings and amputations. But for successive Western governments, the desire for a “friend” in the oil-rich region appears to have outweighed any scruples individual leaders might have about supporting Saudi Arabia. The ruling royal family has maintained a close relationship with Western governments, including agreeing lucrative arms deals and leasing military bases.
It is a tragedy that Western nations whose governments claim to be defenders of democracy and religious freedom ignore Saudi Arabia’s brutal repression of all religions other than Islam.
The Wahhabi movement founded in the 1700s by Abd al-Wahhab sought to purify Sunni Islam, returning to fundamentalist ideas emphasising the original interpretation of jihad (struggle) as a physical war against religious enemies. Wahhabism spawned ideology which has been adopted by Al Qaeda, which in turn shaped the birth of the Islamic State (IS) militant group. (It was IS that was responsible for ethnic cleansing and genocide of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, and also enslaved women and girl children, many of whom were sold on to the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.) The ideology is spreading in Africa and its impact can be seen in several strongly Christian countries, including Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.
Saudi Arabia’s export of Wahhabi jihadi ideology has profoundly changed the modern world and especially the Middle East. The country’s oil wealth has been used to fund mosques, charities and Islamic institutions worldwide, as well as radical Islamist groups. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks in the US were Saudi.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has provided funding for Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq and is widely thought to have directly aided Islamic State. In Yemen, it has helped Sunni government troops fighting Iranian-backed Shia Houthi forces in a civil war that has become the latest expression of Sunni Saudi Arabia’s proxy fight for dominance in the Middle East
Pursuing truth for persecuted Christians in the Middle East
In an era of fake news, when truth is often the first casualty of over-simplified Western media reporting, Christians should not unquestioningly accept the narrative of Western governments and media that excuses the near eradication of Christianity in Saudi Arabia. Neither should we ignore Saudi support for the spread of violent jihadism, which has brought terror to the West and aided Islamist groups who continue to target our brothers and sisters across the world.
She should be recompensed and sent with family on first plane to the west.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday acquitted Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned to death on blasphemy charges after accepting her 2015 appeal against her sentence.
“The judgement of the high court and that of the trial court is reversed,” Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar said, reading out the verdict. He added that Asia Bibi should be set free if she is not wanted in any other case.
“Her conviction is set aside and she is to be relieved forthwith if not required in other charges,” the judgement read. (Dawn)
All glory to GOD in the Highest!
We congratulate to Pakistan for their courage!
Aug. 03, 2017 | Eritrea
Pray for the Family of Imprisoned Pastor Haile Nayzgi
There are hundreds more like him. What are the Eritrean regime accomplishing by locking them up? Nothing? Creating misery? Actually furthering the gospel as with Paul in Rome and acting as refiners of their faith!
|Pastor Haile Nayzgi has spent the last 13 years in prison, one of the about 3,000 believers being held without charges or a trial in Eritrea. After he was arrested, his wife and three children fled the country, knowing they could easily be next on the list for arrest. Their journey included a 10-hour walk through the desert and refugee camps, enduring hunger and thirst along the way. Today, thankfully, they are resettled in another nation sharing fellowship with a body of believers. Haile’s 20-year-old daughter and his 19-year-old recently shared their experience of God’s provision and gracious protection with a VOM worker. Although they have not seen their father since his arrest, the two young adults discussed their father’s faith and courage under difficult circumstances. They hope to follow in his footsteps. Pray for Pastor Haile’ s release. Pray also that God will continue to care for and sustain his family while they are without him.
A major civil war raging since 2015 between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels backed by Iran has claimed scores of thousands of lives along with epidemics like cholera etc. This week (Oct. 24th 2018) the UN has said Yemen is a humanitarian catastrophe with 14 million on the brink of famine and seeking to raise 2 billion dollars in aid. Most are only being kept alive by humanitarian aid. But for lives to be saved the fighting must stop.
Pray to the Lord who makes wars to cease.
Pray for protection of aid workers and for resources to reach the needy.
For the gospel of hope to reach and save more and the emerging church grow and persevere.
Leader: President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi Population: 27.2 million (a few thousand Christians) Main Religion: Islam Government: Republic World Watch List Rank: 10 Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism There is some religious freedom for foreigners here but evangelism is prohibited and Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty. Muslim-background believers are forced to meet in secret. If their faith is discovered, they face severe persecution from authorities, family, and extremist groups who threaten ‘apostates’ with death if they do not recant. Insecurity caused by Islamist movements makes Yemen very unstable. Christians are believed to be under surveillance by extremists and expat Christians can be a specific target for these extremist groups.
- The number of local believers is estimated at just a few hundred. Ask the Lord to encourage them and increase their numbers
- Several expat Christians have been kidnapped in recent years. Pray for protection for foreign Christian workers and NGOs
- Al-Qaeda-linked groups are gaining more power. Pray that Yemen’s leaders will be able to restore peace to this deeply divided country.
Yemen is very unstable and its situation has deteriorated since the Arab Spring riots of 2011. The country is balancing on the brink of civil war. In the chaos, Al Qaeda militants have seized the opportunity to spread to parts of Yemen where formerly the government maintained some sort of order. These developments have led to an increase in oppression of Christians. Kidnappings of foreigners occur regularly, and Christians are believed to be under surveillance by extremists. Several expat Christians have been kidnapped, though it is hard to discern to what extent religious factors play a role. Migrant Christian fellowships have been raided and forced to stop meeting. Muslim-background believers face strong family and societal pressure. Threats from family, society and extremist groups are very serious and indigenous Christians have been killed for their faith, even by the current government. Due to this risk, many believers have had to go into hiding or even flee the country. Female converts are under threat of forced marriage once their conversion is revealed.
Fearing for their lives after blasphemy allegations in Karachi these two young men fled for asylum to Thailand BUT were incarcerated in a lounge-size room filled with 100 men and only two toilets and very little water. Many became ill including these men with hives and scabies. ,others got TB.
Bring to the Lord two Pakistani brothers incarcerated for nine months in a Bangkok detention centre, that He will give them grace and peace as they recover from their ordeal (Colossians 1:2). Ask that God will bless them as they continue to seek His Kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and that their testimony will lead others to Christ.
Authorities in eastern Ukraine shut down all Evangelical churches
All Evangelical churches in the Lugansk People’s Republic face forced closure, as authorities in the self-proclaimed autonomous region in eastern Ukraine, overrun by forces loyal to Russia, are understood to have banned their activity. Congregations are emptying church buildings of books and furniture. Church leaders contacted Barnabas to ask for prayers “that God gives wisdom and strength in this situation”.
In February 2018, authorities in the LPR announced that all religious associations would need to register by August and in July banned the activity of one group of evangelical churches, which were described as an “extremist religious organisation”. In August, a pastor and other leaders were arrested and detained in a raid on a church service in Alchevsk.
The LPR was formed in 2014 as a result of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Evangelical churches have been repeatedly targeted by separatist elements.
Lift up the Evangelical Christian community in eastern Ukraine. Pray that in the midst of threats and uncertainty they will rejoice that they have been counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s Name (Acts 5:41). Pray for wisdom and strength as they are forced to become an “underground” church and that they will know the presence, comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
From Barnabas Fund contacts
Rwanda’s authoritarian leader closes thousands of churches
The government of authoritarian president Paul Kagame has shut down thousands of churches across Rwanda, citing building code violations in a move that has reportedly left some Christians meeting to worship in caves.
The closures began in the Christian-majority East African country in February following the introduction of much stricter building regulations. It is thought as many as 7,000 church buildings may have been forced to close. Churches are now meeting secretly, as group prayer is prohibited anywhere other than in government approved buildings.
One analyst told journalists, “The church closures are much more politically influenced than the government says. It signals to the churches that they are under observation, just like other social organizations in Rwanda.”
Kagame secured election for a third term as Rwanda’s president with 99% of the vote in 2017 after amending the constitution to abolish a previous two term limit. Under Kagame Rwanda has seen a time of economic growth and restoration of social order following the 1994 genocide. He has worked to forge ties with America and Rwanda is a significant recipient of US aid, but Kagame’s administration has received criticism for the pressuring and arrest of dissenters and political opponents. This has not deterred support from Christians: following his election victory in 2010, US megachurch pastor Rick Warren prayed for Kagame at his swearing in ceremony, celebrating with him “on behalf of the United States of America”.
Praise God that even in our present evil time He remembers mercy (Hab. 3:2). Give thanks that He has restored relative prosperity and order in Rwanda since a time of great darkness and genocide in 1994. Pray that the Lord who judges and exalts (Psalm 75:7) will grant Paul Kagame wisdom as a leader, that he will relax restrictions on Christian worship and that stability will continue.
From Barnabas Fund contacts
Young Kyrgyz Christian convert fighting for his life after severe beating by Muslims
Three Muslim men badly beat a Christian convert in the village of Tamchi in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, on 17 October, leaving him fighting for his life.
The attackers cornered Eldos, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, alone in a courtyard and attempted to force him to say the shahada (the Islamic creed). Recitation of the shahada is considered conversion to Islam. He was viciously beaten and left bleeding with severe concussion, a jaw fracture, knocked-out teeth, an eye injury and suspected brain haemorrhage.
Allegedly, the police attempted to disguise the religious motivation for the attack by claiming Eldos was beaten for playing loud music. They forced him to sign a verbal statement they took from him to this effect, before he was taken to hospital. However, his lawyer confirmed that Eldos had been unable to speak at the time because of the injury to his jaw.
At the time of writing, Eldos remains in a life-threatening condition in hospital, where he has undergone surgery to reconstruct his jaw.
Since the introduction of a very restrictive Religion Law in 2009, many Christians in Kyrgyzstan live with constant persecution. In 2017 an increase was seen in the harassment and persecution of Christian schoolchildren; in October a pastor’s grandson was severely beaten at school for being a Christian. In May 2018 a Christian woman in Kyrgyzstan, recently converted from Islam, was held captive in her home and beaten by her Muslim family for refusing to renounce her faith in Christ.
Pray that our brother Eldos in Kyrgyzstan, severely beaten and fighting for his life in hospital, will know the tender lovingkindness of the Lord who makes alive and heals wounds (Deuteronomy 32:39). Ask that he will hold fast in his faith, secure in the knowledge that God will keep and protect us forever from the wicked (Psalm 12:7).
From Barnabas Contacts
More planned killings and destruction by Muslim mob.
Kaduna state, Nigeria. (Wikipedia, Himalayan Explorer based on work by Uwe Dedering)
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Muslims attacked a market in Kaduna state, in north-central Nigeria, on Thursday (Oct. 18), killing dozens of Christians and burning a church building, sources said.
Area residents said a Muslim at the market in Kasuwan Magani, 36 kilometers (22 miles) south of the city of Kaduna, began yelling “Thief!” in the late afternoon in a move calculated to cause pandemonium ahead of an attack on Christians and their homes and businesses.
“A Muslim raised a false alarm about a thief in the market, which caused stampede, and then other Muslims started chanting ‘Allahu Akbar [the jihadist slogan, God is Greater],’ attacking Christians, burning houses and shops belonging to Christians in the town,” area resident Kefas Mallam told Morning Star News.
The Rev. James Moore of the town’s Evangelical Church Winning…
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There are no words to describe these killers.
(Voice of the Persecuted) What does it mean to tell a 15 year old Nigerian girl that she is a slave for life. Particularly when she sees or hears that another young woman has been executed.
We were deeply saddened to hear the Boko Haram had executed Hauwa Limon. She was a 24 year old midwife who worked for the International Red Cross. Hauwa wanted to help displaced mothers deliver their babies. She was a Muslim yet executed by the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram. Their defense for executing her, she became an apostate when she went to work for the Red Cross. The first local chapter of the Red Cross was established in 1881 at the English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dansville in New York.
How can our hearts not be saddened over this senseless killing. One can only hope that in her final moments she cried out to the…
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Excellent Irish Prayer Guide
(Voice of the Persecuted) Urgent prayers needed for Nigerian Christian teenager threatened to be executed today by Boko Haram. 15 year old Leah Sharibu was among over 100 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram insurgents from a school in Dapchi, Northern Nigeria on Feb. 19, 2018. It was a kidnapping that mirrored what happened in Chibok four years earlier when 276 girls were abducted from the school in Chibok, Borno State. A month after the Dapchi abduction on March 22 the militants released 104 of the schoolgirls, with the exception of Leah. The teenager was the only Christian in the group. Boko Haram members told Leah to renounce her Christian faith and become a Muslim or they would not let her go. The Muslim schoolgirls begged her to do it and go home with them, but she refused to deny her faith in Jesus and is still…
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Darfur is a predominantly Muslim, war-torn region. The constant conflict between the Arab Muslims and Christians led to the secession of South Sudan in 2011, after which Sudan pressed harder for adopting stronger Islamic policies.
Commenting on the incident, a lawyer who represents Christians prosecuted in Sudanese courts, expressed, “Until now, the Christians have not been asked what was happening or given a chance to explain what they were doing. This is a total breach of the law of the land that gives freedom of worship and sharing of one’s faith. It is also unlawful to detain anyone without trial.”
Adding to the matter, Rev. Kuwa said, “Some of the arrested men are disciples that I baptized in 2015 when they left Islam and converted to Christianity. The detainees have been doing a recommendable work of sharing the Good News in Darfur, and we pray for their immediate and unconditional release.”
Christians in Sudan who convert from Islam often face discrimination and hostility as a result of their faith. They are considered apostates who deserve the death penalty, according to radical Muslims throughout Sudan.
While speaking with ICC, Pastor Abdulrahem Yoshua of the Sudan Christian Assembly (SCA) sympathized with the arrested brothers and petitioned “all Christians in Sudan and all over the world to stand with the 12 during this trying moment. I sympathize with them because I have gone through the same ordeal a few years ago.”
This past Saturday I was arrested by the police during a routine ID check at the Ankara train station. I had arrived to speak at a youth event, and then to preach at the international church the following day. Others filled in and so that wasn’t a problem, though it did cause a lot of believers in Ankara to pray for me. 🙂
Praise God, I’ve been set free, and have a 15-day visa. Need to talk with the lawyers to decide next moves. Thanks to all who have prayed, I’m doing great, glad to be back with my wife and other loved ones.
Some of the members of the youth group spent several hours Saturday evening going from police station to police station, trying to find where they had taken me. I had been taken to the main police station’s terrorism department’s jail, which obviously was not open to visitors.
For many hours Saturday I was interrogated by multiple policeman, who painstakingly typed up my answers in their computer. One of the interrogators was obviously from the secret police, as he knew the names of all sorts of Christian workers and activities around the country, and asked about my connections with them.
They asked so many questions about so many things that several times I thought to myself that I wouldn’t need to write up my own memoirs later on, if only they would share with me all the copious notes they had written about me. 🙂
Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I was released and given a 15 day exit paper, during which time I must leave the country. They told me I’ll have to pay a fine for overstaying my visa, but it wouldn’t cost much, and if I do they wouldn’t put an entry ban on my file, thus enabling me to return on a tourist visa.
My friends and coworkers were working feverishly to help me while I was in there. Andrew Brunson’s lawyer, Cem Halavurt agreed to help me, since my own lawyer felt that since they were apparently accusing me of a crime (doing things “linked to terrorist groups,” though they ended up not pressing any charges) that it was no longer an area she was able to help with. He sent another lawyer who managed to visit me in the prison Sunday morning for about 30 minutes. Cem himself had bought an air ticket to fly to Ankara today (Monday) to help, but thankfully didn’t have to because I was released yesterday.
It’s hard to know exactly why they decided not to deport me (as they were planning to do on Saturday). It could be that they don’t want to disturb relations with America right when things seem to be getting better now that Andrew Brunson has been released. Or it could have been the Supreme Court decision from February 2017, which explicitly prevents the government from deporting me until they have time to look at my case and make a decision. Maybe it was a bit of both.
Whatever the case, I was happy to take the many opportunities that arose to explain the good news of Jesus to various different policemen. Even now, just a few minutes ago, when Ulrike and I arrived at the train station for our return journey, two of the policemen with whom I had spent so much time on Saturday came up to me to greet me and wish me well on my return journey.
I’ve met with some church leaders, some of which seem to think that our time of ministry here in Turkey is coming to an end. Others are expecting I’ll be able to stay, somehow, someway. I got a call from a staff member of the US Embassy this afternoon, who also encouraged me to make sure I leave the country in 15 days. They are aware of my situation, and have also informed people at the Istanbul Consulate, in case I need any help from them.
Tomorrow will be an important day, as we meet with lawyers, ministry colleagues, fellow BCC leadership team members, members of the BCC board, colleagues and leaders from our mission sending agency, to decide what steps to take next.
It might be as simple as making an exit trip out of Turkey, returning shortly thereafter with a tourist visa, then applying and (highly unlikely) receiving a residence permit. Or they may let me come back in on a 3-month tourist visa, but then need to be away from the country for 3 months before coming again. Or they may put a one year, 5 year or permanent entry ban on me (despite promising not to–one never knows).
These last two days Ulrike and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, not only from believers here in Turkey, but from literally all around the world. It means a lot to us and encourages us greatly to know we’re not alone, that we’re a part of such a great family, God’s family.
It goes without saying that we value your prayers as we consider what to do in this situation. We’ll try to send more information in the upcoming weeks as things become clear. Our hearts are at peace. We long to stay in Turkey with the people we have grown to love here, but are resigned to do whatever God wants. To him be all the glory. Amen.
David & Ulrike
Montagnard House Church in Central Vietnam Faces Shutdown
On Sunday morning, more than 20 churchgoers gathered at the home of Christian leader Ama Sim for service. Approximately 13 officials from the Cuor Dang commune and Cu M’Gar district suddenly entered the home as the group was praying.
Officials asked the members to stop their religious activities and leave. The group refused and responded by saying that if any action were to be taken, it must be after their service.
Given the cramped space, the officials could not enter and only stood at the door until the group finished. They then demanded that Ama Sim be taken back to their office for investigation. The church refused, worrying that he might disappear if taken into custody, so they stood their ground until the officials relented.
Finally, the officials threatened them, saying, “We are giving you [a] warning this time, but next Sunday if you still gather, we will bring more crowds to shut you down.”
The church is asking for prayer for the Ede Border Evangelical Group, in Cuor Dang Commune, M’Gar District, Daklak Province.
The communist government in Vietnam is nervous about large gatherings of people for fear of ‘subversive activities.’ Many religious gatherings fall victim to this suspicion, with believers often attacked, detained, or imprisoned on trumped up charges.
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Montagnard Christians in Vietnam have long faced persecution and discrimination for their ethnicity, Christian faith, and role of fighting alongside the US during the Vietnam War. It is shameful that the government continues to violate the freedom of belief and religion, as enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution, especially toward minorities.”For interviews with Gina Goh, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: email@example.com
The evil blasphemy saga continues-let us pray MOB RULE LOSES!
(World Watch Monitor) Radical religious groups in Pakistan have called for mass protests and threatened the judges of the country’s Supreme Court in Islamabad ahead of their ruling in the blasphemy case of Christian woman Asia Bibi.
The hardline Islamic party, the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), threatened the judges in a press conference on YouTube, saying that if Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, were to receive clemency, the justices would meet a “horrible” end, reported AFP.
Meanwhile another religious group, the Red Mosque in Islamabad, asked the Supreme Court to order that, if Asia Bibi is released, she would not be able to leave the country.
“Western forces are trying to get Asia Bibi out of the country but she should be hanged,” the petitioner, Hafiz Ihtesham Ahmed, told AFP.
The TLP also announced it would hold a rally on Friday, 12 October, and on social…
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AT LAST! BUT SHE AND HER FAMILY WILL NEED ASYLUM OUTSIDE PAKISTAN!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Asia Bibi to Be Acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court
Apex Court’s Decision Brings Close to Pakistan’s Most Visible Case of Persecution
10/08/2018 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the final appeal for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad, was heard by Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier today, October 8. According to sources reached by ICC, the three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, will reverse Bibi’s death sentence.
According to these sources, although the decision to reverse the judgment against Bibi has been made, the court has ordered the media not to comment until the decision is formally announced. This formal announcement could be made at any time.
“I’m very hopeful for Asia’s release and acquittal,” Sajid Christopher, President of Human Friends Organization, told ICC. “[Bibi’s lawyer], Advocate Saif-Ul-Malook, prepared very well. He pointed out all the contradictions in the FIR and witness statements. I am very confident that Asia is innocent.”
“I am hopeful of justice being served,” Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, said. “I am hopeful that sanity prevails and [Asia] gets her rightful justice.”
In October 2016, the Supreme Court of Pakistan indefinitely adjourned Bibi’s appeal after one of the three justices hearing the case recused himself. Since then, Bibi’s appeal was pending before the Supreme Court.
“Asia Bibi’s case is an example of the widespread abuse of the blasphemy laws and persecution facing Pakistani Christians,” Peter Jacob, Executive Director of Center for Social Justice, told ICC. “Law enforcement and justice system should consider that the victims of blasphemy laws undergo enormous suffering years before they get relief from the courts.”
Bibi has been on death row since her conviction and death sentence were announced by the Sessions Court in District Nankana, Punjab in 2010. Her High Court appeal was also delayed and rescheduled seven times, but was finally held on October 16, 2014 at the Lahore High Court. During that appeal, Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, one member of a two-judge bench, confirmed Bibi’s death sentence. On July 22, 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan accepted Bibi’s petition for her case to be reviewed and suspended her death sentence.
The blasphemy accusation against Bibi is based on flimsy evidence from a dispute that took place in June 2009 between Bibi and a group of Muslim women with whom she had been harvesting berries in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women became angry with Bibi when she, a Christian whom they considered unclean, drank water from the same water bowl as the Muslim women. An argument between Bibi and the Muslim women ensued and the Muslim women later reported to a local cleric that Bibi had blasphemed against the prophet Muhammad.
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “It is amazing to see Asia finally receive justice after almost a decade in prison. It has been nine long years since Asia had this false blasphemy accusation completely change her life. We here at ICC are hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon formally announce Asia’s acquittal. It is ICC’s hope that, with this decision, the Supreme Court will lay a foundation for reforming Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws and signal to both Pakistan and the world that justice will prevail over extremism, even when a religious minority is accused of blasphemy.”
Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has said that the Supreme Court will hear Asia Bibi’s appeal against her blasphemy conviction “soon”, and that he will preside over the bench.
- Describing her case, Bibi said she was working in a field when she was asked to fetch water. Because she is a Christian, some of her Muslim co-workers objected, saying that she should not touch the water vessel as she would make it unclean. An argue began and harsh words were exchanged. Bibi claims the women later accused her of blasphemy in conspiracy with another Muslim woman. Bibi maintains her innocence.
But let us not forget others imprisoned or on death row for blasphemy who are innocent namely IMRAN GHAFUR (2009), ZAFAR BHATTI and FARHAN AZIZ.
LAHORE: The Supreme Court is due to hear the final appeal against the execution of Asia Bibi, a Christian, accused for blasphemy, on Thursday. Some insist it is not just a fight for one life, but a battle for the nation’s soul as the state walks a razor-sharp line between upholding human rights and appeasing populist hardliners.
This will be the final appeal for Asia Bibi, some six years after she was sentenced to death, accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) during an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water.
“There is no question that what is at stake is the very soul of the state and Pakistan society: does Pakistan respect the rights of the most vulnerable? Does it defend those rights against spurious allegations even where those allegations involved matters that are sacred to most Pakistanis?” Mustafa Qadri, an expert on human rights in South…
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Check out this Irish Church in Chains production to learn about worldwide Christian persecution:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Iran’s Judges Further Criminalize Christianity
Two Believers Sentenced for Affirming Basic Christian Doctrines
Dr. Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform, told ICC, “If there is no codified law with respect to a particular issue, judges must deliver their judgments on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources. Iranian courts typically follow the lead of conservative clerics such as Ayatollah Khomeini who viewed apostasy a crime punishable by death.”“In the last few years, most extrajudicial killings in Iran have been slowly replaced with arbitrary arrest and detention,” Dr. Ansari continued. “Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution or arrest of family members.”
Judge Mashaullah Ahmadzadeh was one of the judges involved in the sentencing. He is the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Branch 26. He is heavily complicit in Iran’s human rights abuses, and has presided over several cases which led to the imprisonment of Christians. The purpose of the Revolutionary Court is to try ideological opponents of the Islamic regime.
Judge Ahmad Zargar is currently on the European Union’s sanctions list for serious human rights violations, including overseeing miscarriages of justice. In addition to his role as an appeal judge, he is a hojjatolislam, a clerical position immediately below that of an ayatollah. He presided over Fadaie’s appeal, as well as those of several other Christian prisoners.
Both Christians were arrested while attending a house church in May 2017. Fadaie is currently serving a separate jail sentence in Evin Prison, Iran’s most notorious jail. Their sentencing comes at a time when the Iranian regime has increased the amount of pressure on the Church.
“As Christianity grows rapidly in Iran, the Islamic government and the clergy in power are alarmed. Their only strategy to slow down this growth is through a campaign of fear, violence, and intimidation… We expect the persecution in Iran will increase as the Islamic government feels threatened by the spread of Christianity among Muslims in Iran,” explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The suppression of religious freedom and abuse of humans rights is what we have come to expect from Iran’s judiciary. The judiciary is not only sentencing Christians to jail—they are sending them to be tortured while imprisoned and harassed for life by the Intelligence Ministry. By deepening its criminalization of the Christian faith, the judiciary is inflicting significant and irreversible trauma on believers.”
They have appealed against these sentences.
These stories are becoming absolutely and terribly regular and heart-wrenching and I hold the Nigerian Government at least partly responsible for doing little or nothing to stop these cowardly murderers.
(Morning Star News) – Armed Fulani herdsmen accompanied by militants in Nigerian army uniforms killed 17 Christians in their homes in the heart of Jos, north-central Nigeria, on Thursday (Sept. 27), including four children, area sources said.
At about 7:30 p.m. in an area known as Rukuba Road, the assailants broke into one home shooting randomly and killed 14 members of one family, including 15-year-old Ishaya Kogi, 17-year-old Jonathan Kogi, Cynthia Kogi, 22, and Lucky Kogi, 25, their uncle told Morning Star News.
Two of Lucky Kogi’s children, 3-year-old Majesty Lucky and Blessing Lucky, 14, were also killed in the assault, he said.
“When the Fulani herdsmen came, they shot into the house randomly, breaking and forcing their way into rooms shooting defenseless women and children and anyone in sight,” the mournful Rogu Audu, who lost his…
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More guilt on the security forces of Nigeria.
(World Watch Monitor) A pastor was one of at least 27 people who lost their lives following fresh attacks carried out by Fulani militants on five predominantly Christian communities in northeast Nigeria in recent days. Many of them drowned as they attempted to escape via the local river.
Various sources contacted by World Watch Monitor confirmed that the attacks took place between 13 to 16 September, and affected the villages of Gon, Bolki, Ndumusu, Yotti and Yanga, in Numan local government area (LGA), Adamawa state.
This is the same area where 3,000 homes were destroyed in December 2017, after fighter jets sent by the Nigerian Air Force were alleged to have fired rockets at villages where Fulani herdsmen were attacking Christian residents, according to a February report by Amnesty International.
A local pastor, who wanted…
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I believe it would be right to pray for the utter destruction of Boko Haram unless some repent and desert and lead a bunch of skilled mercenaries or SAS to their hideaways.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Following disclosure of a video by Boko Haram Islamic extremists threatening to kill Christian high school student Leah Sharibu within one month, Christian leaders in Nigeria have declared three days of prayer and fasting.
In the video disclosed last week, the terrorists are shown killing an aid worker. In a comment to Morning Star News, the 15-year-old Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, pleaded with the terrorists to have mercy on his daughter, who was not released with more than 100 kidnapped high school girls earlier this year because she refused to convert to Islam.
“I plead that the leaders of the group have mercy on my daughter and spare her life,” Sharibu told Morning Star News by phone on Monday (Sept. 24). “I also want to plead with the Nigerian government…
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When Chinese authorities released Christian human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng from prison on Aug.7th 2017, we didn’t hear anything from him, presumably because of the communist state’s one-year prohibition against him saying anything publicly that might “damage the reputation or interests of the state.”
His family had telephone conversations with him, but they didn’t hear much from him either. After some phone talks in which he said very little, the Los Angeles Times reported, his wife wasn’t sure whether he was still in too much pain to talk or had forgotten how.
It has become clear that isolation and torture left Gao, once a prominent attorney who defended Christians and the Falun Gong, unable to speak coherently. China Aid reports, “Gao has been utterly destroyed. He can barely talk – and only in very short sentences – most of the time he mutters and is unintelligible. It is believed that he is now suffering from a broad range of physical and mental health problems; he has not been allowed to see a doctor since his release.”
As his wife, Geng He, pointed out to the Times, if he cannot even obtain adequate dental care, what hope does he have for obtaining help to recover his mental health? While she and their two children escaped to the United States in 2009 and are living in northern California, Gao is under virtual house arrest at Geng’s sister’s place in Urumqi, capital of China’s Xinjiang Province in the country’s far west. Dentists there don’t have the means to repair the damage malnutrition did to his remaining teeth, and the government has forbidden him to travel to Beijing, much less to the United States to be reunited with his family.
Gao’ s advocacy for religious minorities led to his conviction in 2006 for “inciting subversion,” and in 2007 he began serving a previously suspended sentence of three years in Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang region. After he wrote an open letter to the U.S. Congress about human rights abuses in China, authorities “disappeared” him on Sept. 21, 2007, torturing him for more than 50 days. Gao later revealed that his captors shocked his genitals with an electric baton and pierced them with toothpicks.
“As with the torture experienced during his pretrial detention, the purpose of this mistreatment was to extract a false confession,” noted a petition by Freedom Now, which works to free prisoners of conscience.
Thugs suspected of being agents of the state again abducted Gao on Feb. 4, 2009. He reportedly reappeared from March 28, 2010, to April 20 of that year, during which he described how police beat him for two days and nights, according to Freedom Now.
China announced on Dec. 16, 2011 that it would take him to prison to serve the three-year sentence imposed on Dec. 22, 2006, thus withdrawing the five-year probation then about to expire. In Shaya Prison since December 2011, Gao remained in isolation in a small cell with little light 24 hours a day, according to China Aid.
“Guards were strictly instructed not to speak with him,” the advocacy group reported. “He was not allowed any reading materials, television, or access to anyone or anything. He was fed a single slice of bread and piece of cabbage, once a day; as a result, he has lost roughly 22.5 kilograms (50 pounds) and now weighs about 59 kilograms (130 pounds). He has lost many teeth from malnutrition. It is believed he was also repeatedly physically tortured.”
His wife commented to China Aid that she was devastated by his condition.
“The only thing I feared more than him being killed was his suffering relentless and horrific torture and being kept alive,” she said. “We desperately need help from our adopted country and from President Obama and Secretary Kerry personally to demand the Chinese government to allow my husband to come to the United States for medical treatment. If President Xi Jinping has any sense of decency or humanity, after crushing my husband both physically and psychologically, the least he could do is allow me as a devoted wife to care for him.”
Jared Genser, head of Freedom Now, told China Aid he was heartbroken for Gao and his family.
“We knew that if Gao wasn’t killed, he would have suffered immensely,” Genser said. “But the situation is far worse than my limited imagination enabled me to contemplate. While China is a great power in the 21st century, the inhumanity and brutality that it has demonstrated by the torture of Gao Zhisheng shows its profound insecurity and fear of anyone in its population who stands up to its repression
Gao Zhisheng timeline
• 2005: Authorities close down Gao Zhisheng’s law practice
• Dec 2006: Convicted of subversion and sentenced to house arrest
• Sept 2007: Says he was tortured during a period of detention
• Jan 2009: Disappears; last seen accompanied by security officials
• Mar 2010: Reappeared for a month before disappearing again
• Dec 2011: State media says he has been jailed for three years
• Jan 2012: Gao revealed to be in Xinjiang prison
• August 2014: Gao freed from jail
The Associated Press reported that Mr Gao’s wife, Geng He, spoke to her husband later on Thursday.
Ms Geng and the couple’s two children are in the United States where they sought asylum in early 2009.
She told AP that it was clear there were security minders present as she could hear unfamiliar voices in the background.
Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng has reportedly been released into ‘controlled freedom’, according to Release partner China Aid. Gao was freed from prison on Thursday and is currently with his brother in Xinjiang province. Gao has not been allowed to talk to anyone, not even his wife in the US. Some reports say he is accompanied by Chinese security agents. He was jailed for ‘inciting subversion’ after ‘violating probation rules’. Please pray that Gao will be granted full freedom and reunited with his family. (Source: China Aid)
181 Montagnard Refugees Still Detained in Bangkok
By Gina Goh
09/19/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – More than three weeks have passed since Thai authorities arrested and detained 181 mostly Christian Montagnard refugees on the outskirts of Bangkok on August 28. International Christian Concern’s (ICC) sources have confirmed that all of the adults were sent to Immigration Detention Center (IDC) last week, while 50 children, including young boys, girls, and infants, were sent to three different shelters.
A local source who wishes to remain anonymous told ICC that these shelters “are not ‘migrant shelters,’ but rather shelters designed for Thai children who cannot stay in their homes. These shelters are not prepared to care for large numbers of children who do not speak Thai, or for breastfeeding children separated from their mothers.”
Despite local rights groups’ attempts to visit the children, they have not been granted permission. This means that these children have not seen their parents, nor any familiar faces from local NGOs, for nearly three weeks. Separation anxiety and fear will take a toll on these children’s health with each passing day.
Montagnards, also known as the Degar people, are an indigenous people group of approximately one million living in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Persecuted for their ethnicity and Christian faith, many of them chose to flee their homeland to seek a future where they can be treated with dignity and enjoy the freedoms that they were deprived of in Vietnam, such as basic rights to hộ khẩu (household registration that grants Vietnamese citizens access to public services) or the freedom to worship at churches without government interference.
They set foot in Bangkok, Thailand, given the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has an office there and can help process refugee or asylum status for them. Although Thailand itself is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and as a result rules out legal obligations to protect refugees or legally recognize that status, many still hope that they could use Thailand as a springboard to a third country if they are fortunate.
“For the Montagnards who weren’t arrested, they are living in fear every day. They all got kicked out from their apartments by the landlords because the police came to harass the landlords.”
In fact, most of these recently detained Montagnards have either refugee or asylum status, along with others in the process of applying for one.
The latest arrest came as a shock especially to the local NGOs working on refugee issues, “since UNHCR and Thai immigration appeared to have set an agreement in place since January to not arrest anyone registered with UNHCR,” a source familiar with the matter informed ICC.
He added, “This [arrangement] is potentially even more devastating since Thailand has usually allowed children to stay with their parents.” From an advocacy perspective, it is also disheartening because the NGOs “have seen significant progress in the past 12 months, with bail being open, fewer arrests, and government moving towards their own screening mechanism, but this is a major, major setback and a scale of arrest we have not seen in years.”
They hope that this was merely a result of inter-governmental miscommunication, not something that the government will continue to implement down the road.
Grace Bui, the Thailand Program Director at the Montagnard Assistance Project also shared her concerns with ICC, “For the Montagnards who weren’t arrested, they are living in fear every day. They all got kicked out from their apartments by the landlords because the police came to harass the landlords.” She continued to highlight the biggest challenge for her right now, which is “finding housing for them. We also need to find money so they can put down deposits and first [month’s] rent. It is not easy because most of the landlords in the areas are afraid and don’t want to rent to the Montagnards. Many of them are hiding in the park or temples.”
Human rights groups have called on the Thai government to release these detainees, yet nothing has been done. Bui is determined to free them with a petition calling on Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to grant them freedom immediately. Click here to voice your support for their release and continue to lift these Montagnard refugees up in prayer.
International Christian Concern is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) charitable organization focused on human rights, religious freedom and assisting the persecuted Christian Church around the world.
Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator
International Christian Concern
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