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Acts of Terror and Persecution Against Christians March 1, 2012

Written by Jeff Baird

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The continued global march against Christians continues as mainstream press, the United Nations, President Obama and other world leaders remain silent.  Acts of terror by both Muslim and Hindu are reported below by Compass Direct News. These acts include vile hate speech, assault and battery, damage to property, church burnings, Christian being thrown in jail, forced conversions, false witness and testimony, suicide bomb attacks, acid attacks, and mudering of innocent missionairies (Mexico).  As U.S. military leaders and President Obama apologize to Muslim killers, the silence in regards to the global persecution of innocent Christians is truly deafening.

from Compass Direct News

INDIA

ACCUSED PASTOR IN KASHMIR GIVEN REPRIEVE

February 16 (Compass Direct News) – A court has ordered the Jammu and Kashmir state government to temporarily halt criminal proceedings against a pastor accused of bribing Muslim youths to convert to Christianity. The state’s High Court on Saturday (Feb. 11) halted proceedings in the police complaint of “promotion of religious enmity by conversions” against the Rev. Chander Mani Khanna of the Church of North India denomination. Responding to a petition by the pastor to quash the complaint, the court issued notices to top officials of the state’s police department and interior ministry because investigators have not been able to formulate charges even though the case was registered last Oct. 29, Pastor Khanna told Compass by phone. The pastor, who remained in jail for more than 40 days until he was released on bail last Dec. 1, added that the court asked the government to file its response by March 14, and then it will set the date for the next hearing. The pastor, who retired last month, said that real victory will be achieved when he is allowed to return to Kashmir, in the Muslim-majority region of the state.  Kashmir’s sharia (Islamic law) court, which has no legal authority in India, in December found Pastor Khanna, the Rev. Jim Borst, a Dutch Catholic missionary and Gayoor Messah, a Christian worker, guilty of “luring the valley Muslims to Christianity” and ordered them to leave the state. The court, headed by Kashmir Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, also “directed” the state government to take over the management of all Christian schools in the region.

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INDIA

BRIEFS: RECENT INCIDENTS OF PERSECUTION

February 29 (Compass Direct New) – State police on Feb. 21 arrested a Christian after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) accused him of forceful conversion and beat him in Thuvakudi, Trichy district. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Hindu extremists made the accusation against Sahayam Chidambaran after arguing with his brother, pastor John Chidambaran. The pastor’s neighbor had demanded part of his church land, and after a quarrel had broken a water pipeline. When the pastor filed a police complaint, the neighbor brought about 10 extremists from the RSS to attack the pastor and falsely accuse him of fraudulent and forced conversion. They also beat his daughter, Mercy, who had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment, reported the GCIC. Police assured the pastor that they would amicably settle the matter and also took a statement from him, but the neighbor along with an RSS leader identified only as Mahendra subsequently attacked the pastor’s brother and raised the same false accusation to get him arrested and jailed. Sajan K. George, president of the GCIC, told Compass today that the Christian remained in jail at press time and that he and his team was working for his release. “We are expecting that he will be out from the prison in two days time,” he said on Tuesday (Feb. 28).·

Kerala – Hindu extremists in Kanhagad, Kasargod, on Feb. 21 verbally abused a pastor and his children and damaged his car because of his faith in Christ. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that Hindu extremists barged into the house of a convert from Hinduism who had invited pastor Titus Ignatius Kapan and his family for dinner. The invading extremists tackled the pastor and his children, and then began dropping huge boulders and stones on his car, according to the GCIC. The assailant fled after learning Pastor Kapan had called police, who arrived about an hour later. Officers filed a charge-sheet, but no arrests had been made at press time.·

Chhattisgarh Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) disrupted a prayer service organized by Bershebha church on Feb. 15 in Pandhi village, near Bilaspur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the church had organized a worship event for Feb. 14-16 and had prior police permission. On the first day of the meeting, 15 to 20 RSS members arrived and issued threats, telling pastors Daulat Ram and Sunam Kumar Besra to halt the event; on their way out, they slapped Pastor Besra. On the second day, about 50 RSS members told the pastor to stop the meeting and then started tearing down the tent, microphone and speakers. The mob then dragged the Christians and started assaulting them, resulting in severe injuries. Pastor Besra suffered head injuries that required stitches. Later that evening, the extremists came back and attacked pastor Immannuel Banchor and other church members, beating them badly with their fists and a leather belt. The pastor sustained an injury to his left eye, and another Christian’s ear was severely injured. The extremists also damaged the pastor’s motorbike. With great difficulty the Christians managed to take refuge at a Christian’s house near the event site. At around 3 a.m. some pastors and church members brought them to their houses in Bilaspur. A case has been registered against the extremists, reported the GCIC.

Andhra Pradesh Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) threatened a church in Sutari Gudem village, near Medchal, during a worship service on Feb. 12. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that Timothy Paul, a pastor in Sutari Gudem for more than two years, received a warning six months ago from BJP members to stop leading services in his rented home. Another Christian provided a place for services where about 50 people meet on Sundays, and it was there that the Hindu extremists from the BJP stormed into the church service and had a heated argument with the pastor that nearly led to a physical attack. Pastor Suvarho Rao and a few of the church elders planned to meet with village elders to resolve the issue of church services in the village, according to AICC.

Karnataka – Police along with Hindu extremists on Feb. 2 searched the home of a pastor, took tracts and Bibles and filed a complaint against him of forceful conversion in Siddapura, Utara Kannada. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that officers in civil attire and area Hindu extremist leaders searched pastor Kiran Thippanna Das’s house without cause and questioned him. They took his vehicle, some books and Bibles and ordered him to meet with the inspector. Three days later he received a phone call from police ordering him to meet an official identified only as Almurthy, who told him he had received complaints from villagers that he was forcefully converting people to Christianity and that he had 24 hours to leave the village or go to jail. The pastor contacted pastor L.N. Gowda, state coordinator of the GCIC, who in turn informed the official about human and legal rights and said legal trouble could arise from his action on behalf of the Hindu extremists. The official summoned the pastor the next day and told him that he could ask for protection if necessary.·

Chhattisgarh Police arrested a pastor and another Christian on Feb. 1 after Hindu extremists accused them of forceful conversion in Jorapara, Raipur. A source told Compass that pastor Harish Sahu of New Life Fellowship led prayer meetings at the house of a Christian identified only as Baghel. The extremists confronted Baghel’s relatives, Upendra Pande and Purnima Pande, at about 1 p.m., accusing them of forceful conversion, and beat them. As the Christians reported the matter at Modhapara, Raipur police station, the extremists filed a police complaint against Pastor Sahu and Baghel of forceful conversion and allurement, the source said. Police summoned Pastor Sahu and charged him and Baghel, who were later sent to Central Jail, Raipur. Both of them denied the charges, and they were released on bail on Feb. 2, the source said. Purnima Pande, Baghel’s niece, filed a complaint against Hindu extremists Suneel Gaikwad, Raju Shendre, Ajay Sahu, one identified only as Goldi and others. The extremists were arrested but later released on bail.

Chhattisgarh Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal disrupted a gospel film screening, destroyed equipment and beat a pastor on Jan. 31 in Indira Nagar, Dongagarh. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that pastor Rajendra Masih of a Believer’s Church congregation was screening the movie in front of the residence of one of the members of his church when the extremists charged in. They caught hold of Pastor Masih and began thrashing him, leaving lacerations on his face and wounding his left eye. The extremists phoned police at about 11:30 p.m. complaining that the Christians were forcibly and fraudulently converting Hindus to Christianity. The police inspector visited the place along with a few constables and took the pastor to the station for further questioning. Finding no basis for the accusation, he closed the case after the two groups worked out an agreement.·

Chhattisgarh – Hindu nationalists surrounded Nirmala Convent School on Jan. 31 in Korba to try to force those present to make a ritual offering to a Hindu goddess. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that the extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh entered the school chanting slogans and accused staff members of forceful conversion. A student carried an idol of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, with the intention of performing “puja,” or ritual offering, in class, and the Hindu extremists were on hand to support the act, according to the EFI. Soon police arrived and ordered the principal, Sister Mary, to lead the Hindu ritual. When she refused, a Hindu teacher was told to conduct the offering. A local cable TV channel, Abhi Tak, subsequently broadcast false reports that the idol had been desecrated by Christians at the convent school. Police ignored an attempt to file a complaint against the channel, which repeated the fabricated news for 48 hours. Despite several attempts by school authorities to file a case against the radicals, none was taken.·

Jharkhand Christians in Chaibasa district were forced to leave their village after a series of attacks against them by local villagers. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that in the latest attack, on Jan. 29, a mob closed down all the exit points of the village and attacked the Christians with iron rods, axes, arrows and other sharp weapons. The Rev. Rajendra Babu received a blow with iron rods while trying to leave the village, breaking the helmet he was wearing, the EFI reported. The mob also beat three other Christians – Madan Muduiya and two identified only as Sunil and Vinod – and broke doors, windows, furniture and other belongings in the house of a Christian. They also dragged some Christians, including children, to a room, locked it from the outside and attempted to set it ablaze. The arrival of police halted the violence. The Christians have taken refuge on church premises outside the village, without adequate food and clothing. Their animals have been slaughtered and their harvest stock destroyed, EFI reported. A First Information Report was registered against the attackers, but no arrests were made. On Jan. 29 the village head called for a reconciliation meeting and identified the assailants, but the Hindu extremists boycotted.·

Gujarat – Unidentified people on Jan. 26 used a bulldozer to destroy tombs in a Christian cemetery in Sabarmati, Dharamnagar. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a local councilor along with ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party members had incited the assailants. “When we reached the cemetery, cars were parked in the area where tombs used to be,” said Martin Hector Harris of the Methodist Church in Dharamnagar, according to the GCIC. “We also saw the desecrators pile mud from the tombstones on a nearby sidewalk. Police have not arrested anyone yet, or even started an investigation.”·

Karnataka Four Dalit Christian families have been receiving threats since nine Hindu extremists charged into the house of a Christian identified only as Puttamma as she was celebrating her son’s 25th birthday on Jan. 9 and injured 10 people. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the attackers, alleged to have come from Sarjapur six kilometers (less than four miles) away, fled when the commotion attracted other villagers. Puttamma reportedly said some villagers had threatened to cut off the water supply to the Christians’ homes and remove their names from a rationing list. She was hit on the leg when she tried to stop the Hindu extremist assailants from assaulting the pastor. The GCIC reported that the Hindu extremists have also told people not to employ the Christians.·

www.compassdirect.org·

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INDONESIA

PRESIDENT SIDESTEPS CHURCH CONTROVERSY ***

February 23 (Compass Direct News) – In a defeat for the rule of law in Indonesia, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has declined to enforce a Supreme Court ruling that a local government allow a West Java church to worship in its building. The Bogor city government revoked the building permit of the Christian Church of Indonesia (Gereja Kristen Indonesia, or GKI) Yasmin church in February 2008; the Supreme Court ordered it be reinstated in December 2010, but Bogor Mayor Dhani Budiarto has refused. President Yudhoyono said on Feb. 13 that he would hand the matter back to the Bogor municipal government and the Ministry of Religion, in accordance with the Indonesia’s regional autonomy law. The president’s statement constituted “a false argument to give legitimacy to his decision for not getting involved in the dispute,” lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party told The Jakarta Post. The GKI congregation, along with sympathizers from other religious faiths, has since held at least three worship services in front of the National Palace, as they are now forbidden to worship even on the roadside strip in front of the building that Bogor municipal government has sealed. The Indonesian president’s appeal for local authorities to work out an agreement with the church came five days after Islamic political parties in the Muslim-majority nation had church representatives ejected from a meeting with the minister of religion and others.

*** A photo of the GKI church worshipping at the National Palace is available to subscribers, to be used with credit to Compass Direct News. A high resolution photo is also available; contact Compass for transmittal.

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IRAN

AUTHORITIES RAID HOUSE CHURCH IN SHIRAZ

February 10 (Compass Direct News) – Iranian authorities this week arrested Christian converts from Islam while they were meeting for worship at a home in the southern city of Shiraz, according to sources. Officials are holding them at an unknown location, said the sources, who put the number of the arrested Christians at between six and 10. The sources said they know the name of only one of those arrested on Wednesday (Feb. 8), identified as Mojtaba Hosseini. Authorities arrested Hosseini in 2008 along with eight other Christian converts on charges of being Christians, according to Mohabat News. “I guess they have been watching Hosseini since then,” an Iranian Christian who requested anonymity told Compass. Shiraz is not a particularly “religious” part of predominantly Shiite Islamic Iran, the Christian said, but persecution against Christians in Iran stems from the government more than from local religious sentiment. Asked if there was a change in persecution trends from previous years, the source said, “Nothing has changed, the issue is the same,” explaining that the attitude of the government toward Christians remains hostile. Authorities have prohibited musical worship and Bible distribution at the Central Church of Tehran, the largest and most visible Assemblies of God church in the country.

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IRAN

CHURCHES FORCED TO STOP FARSI WORSHIP IN TEHRAN

February 17 (Compass Direct News) – Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has ordered the last two officially registered churches holding Friday Farsi-language services in Tehran to discontinue them. Emmanuel Protestant Church and St. Peter’s Evangelical Church were the last two official churches offering Farsi-language services on Fridays in Tehran, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). Officials issued the order on Feb. 10. Authorities had ordered the Central Church of Tehran to close its Friday Farsi services in December 2009; the Assemblies of God congregation had conducted multiple services on Fridays. Friday services in Tehran attracted the city’s converts to Christianity as well as Muslims interested in Christianity, as Friday is most Iranians’ day off during the week. Authorities told the churches they can hold the services on Sunday, a working day when most Iranians are not able to attend. “This decision means that there are now no Farsi-language services on Fridays in any officially registered church in Tehran,” an MEC report issued this week stated. Emmanuel and St. Peter’s are Presbyterian churches, and, along with the Central Church, are among Tehran’s few registered churches. They exist mainly to serve the Armenian and Assyrian communities. The three churches’ Armenian- and Assyrian- language services are typically held on Sundays. A source said that the newest restrictions have cut the two churches’ memberships by half.·

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IRAN

RUMORS OF IMMINENT EXECUTION OF PASTOR UNCONFIRMED

February 24 (Compass Direct News) – Lawyers for an Iranian pastor awaiting a final decision on his death sentence have not received communication from authorities that their client will be executed, despite reports that his death is imminent. Rumors of an imminent execution for Yousef Nadarkhani were leaked this week after a source close to one of his lawyers contacted international media, informing them that a lower court had signed Nadarkhani’s execution papers and that his death would be carried out soon, sources told Compass. “The lawyer is waiting for confirmation, but he understood from a source that the execution was issued,” said Firouz Khandjani, a member of the council of the Church of Iran, Nadarkhani’s denomination. “Now we are trying to understand exactly what is happening.” Nadarkhani’s case had been sent to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for a decision on his death sentence, but legally the lower court still has the authority to issue an execution order, Khandjani said. “We are waiting for a confirmation, but we have to take action, because we know of people who were executed without notification,” he said. Some sources told Compass they are skeptical of the credibility of information that Nadarkhani’s lawyers received this week and the certainty with which international press has been reporting his “imminent death.” They say this may be a governmental ploy to gauge international reaction to such a rumor.

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KENYA

ETHIOPIAN CONVERT FROM ISLAM DODGES DANGERS

February 1 (Compass Direct News) – A Christian convert from Islam who fled hostilities in his native Ethiopia has faced attempted murder and ongoing death threats in Kenya. Somali Muslim extremists in Kenya kidnapped and tried to kill Barack Hussein Kedir in July 2010, and most recently Kenyan-born Islamic extremists in contact with their co-religionists in Ethiopia sent a death threat to his cell phone on Dec. 3, the Christian told Compass. Born to Muslim community leaders in Arsi Negelle district in southern Ethiopia, Hussein had been a zealous Islamic youth coordinator who once harassed Christians before his conversion – a long process that led his father to shoot him in the leg for his commitment to Christ, he said. Hussein had fled to Kenya in 2003 but secretly returned to his rural home in Ethiopia in June 2009 to help establish three new churches. When area Muslims discovered his work, they started looking for him with intent to kill him, forcing him to return to Kenya, he said. On July 9, 2010, presumed Muslim extremists rammed their car into the driver’s side door of the car he was driving and told him they would kill him. On July 27, 2010, four Somalis, presumed Muslim extremists, forced him into a car and, at gunpoint, made him take a detergent (Jik) mixed with powdered soap (Omo), and he fell unconscious and was pushed out of the car, he said. Passers-by took him to a hospital, where staff determined that he must have been thrown out of the car at high speed. The Somalis, whom he did not know, objected to his preaching Christianity, he said.·

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MEXICO

MISSIONARY COUPLE SLAIN; PEACE PACT IN PUEBLA

February 3 (Compass Direct News) – A married couple who had served for 28 years as Baptist missionaries in Mexico were murdered on Tuesday (Jan. 31) at their home near Monterrey in El Cercado, Santiago, Nuevo Leon. John Casias, 76, and Wanda Casias, 67, were strangled with electrical cords when intruders broke into their house and stole a safe, televisions and ministry vehicles, along with other items. The area has suffered heavily from attacks by drug cartels in recent weeks, including the murder of the mayor of El Cercado, leading to the tentative conclusion that the crime was committed by people serving narcotics traffickers. Drug traffickers in Mexico oppose the message of Christ because it turns people away from their business, and thus Christians have been among the targets of the criminals. Christians noted that the assailants would not have needed to kill the missionary couple in order to rob them. In Puebla, intervention by state authorities after Protestants came under threats of expulsion and death led Catholics in San Rafael Tlanalapan to agree to allow evangelicals to construct a worship place in the town far from the Catholic church building. Last fall Catholics threatened to crucify the Protestants if they didn’t leave town immediately. Parishioners later revealed that a local priest incited them to make this threat, and after this became public, Catholic authorities transferred the priest to another town. Catholics (not “traditionalist Catholics” that mix Catholicism with indigenous practices, as previously reported) in San Rafael Tlanalapan, near San Martín Texmelucan, about 60 miles from Mexico City, had reportedly threatened to burn down or otherwise destroy the homes of about 70 Christians.·

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NIGERIA

TWO CHURCHES TARGETED IN BOMB ATTACK ***

February 21 (Compass Direct News) – Suspected Islamic extremists detonated a bomb outside a church building on Sunday (Feb. 19), two months after Boko Haram Islamists killed 44 Christians and blinded seven in a church bombing in nearby Madalla. Sunday’s blast in Suleja, in front of Christ Embassy church during morning worship, injured five people, one seriously, sources said. The bomb, planted in a parked car, was left by suspected members of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, and authorities arrested some members of the sect the same day. Triumphant Ministries International Church is also near the site of the explosion. Peter Osema, a search-and-rescue worker with Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, told Compass that the bomb was likely meant to affect both churches, and indeed Compass learned that at least one of those injured belongs to the Triumph Ministries church. At St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, where the casualty figure has varied the past few months as victims were sought and identified at various hospitals, the Rev. Isaac Achi said Monday (Feb. 20) that 44 church members were killed in the Christmas Day blast. “Of the 127 victims, we lost 44, and of the injured seven lost their sight,” he said.·

NIGERIA

SUICIDE BOMBERS ATTACK WORSHIP SERVICE IN JOS ***

February 26 (Compass Direct News) – Two suicide bombers from the Boko Haram Islamist sect drove a car laden with bombs into the worship service of a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation here this morning, killing at least one Christian girl and injuring dozens of other church members, sources said. A man claiming to be a spokesman for Boko Haram reportedly claimed responsibility for the blast. The two suicide bombers broke through a security barrier at the gate of the church building at 7:20 a.m., a church leader said. “When the bombs went off, I saw the dead body of one girl and four other members of our church who were injured,” said Yakubu Dutse, director of finance at COCIN headquarters, which is located in the same building. Dutse said one of the bombers was shot dead and one was injured by soldiers posted as security guards before the bombs went off, killing the second assailant as well. “When they were stopped at the gate of the church, they refused to stop, hence the soldiers posted to the church shot at the car,” he said. Church member Felix Apollos rushed to the scene of the attack minutes after the bombs went off; he told Compass that he saw the bodies of five people killed in the attack, but the identities of the dead were yet to be confirmed at press time. At least 38 people were reportedly injured in the blast. Apollos said some members of a security force manning the church gate tried to stop the assailants, but soldiers also guarding the church ordered them to allow the bombers onto the premises. Boko Haram, whose name translates loosely as “Western education is forbidden,” seeks to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria.

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PAKISTAN

MUSLIMS EMPLOY ‘BLASPHEMY’ THREAT IN LAND GRAB

February 27 (Compass Direct News) – Tensions are still high in a village near here following Muslims’ attempt to seize land from a Christian family by threatening to accuse them of “blasphemy.” What began on Feb. 19 as a quarrel over a pigeon between Christian and Muslim youths at Nawa Pind Sabu Mohal village, in Sialkot’s Pasroor area in northeast Punjab Province, grew into an occasion to jail some Christians in the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim country, the Christians said. Gulshan Masih, 20, told Compass that after the young Muslims carried on the stone-throwing fight from within a mosque – later accusing the Christians of desecrating the mosque by throwing stones at it – police officers arrived and took his father, 55-year-old Bashir Masih, 55, and 50-year-old uncle, Pervaiz Masih, into custody. Two days later, Tuesday (Feb. 21), police arrested eight more Christians, including Gulshan Masih, in order to increase pressure on them, according to Napoleon Qayyum, a Christian rights activist. He said it was evident that the Muslims were trying to seize a plot of land owned by Bashir Masih, as they demanded that he surrender it as a condition for the release of the jailed Christians. Police released Bashir and Pervaiz Masih and the other eight Christians on Wednesday evening (Feb. 22) with a warning that they would be charged with blasphemy if they did not meet the conditions set the previous day by a “reconciliation committee” made up of the area’s notable Muslim leaders, Qayyum said – though in fact an influential family had argued successfully against imposing the condition on the Christians.

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SOMALIA

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS BEHEAD ANOTHER CONVERT

February 8 (Compass Direct News) – Islamic extremists from the rebel al Shabaab militia in Somalia beheaded a Christian on the outskirts of Mogadishu last month, sources said. The militants fighting the transitional government in Mogadishu murdered Zakaria Hussein Omar, 26, on Jan. 2 in Cee-carfiid village, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) outside of the Somali capital, they said. Omar had worked for a Christian humanitarian organization that al Shabaab banned last year. His body was left lying for 20 hours before nomads found it and carried it into Mogadishu, a close friend said. “Last year he mentioned to me that his life was in danger when the NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] he worked for was banned by the al Shabaab,” the friend told Compass. “One of the persons who saw him said, ‘This is the young man who stayed in Ethiopia, and people have been saying that he left Islam and joined Christianity.’” Omar converted to Christianity seven years ago while in Ethiopia, where he lived with relatives. He returned to Somalia in 2008 and completed his university education in 2009 with a degree in accounting. Omar had married in the latter part of 2010; he is survived by his wife, his parents (originally from central Somalia), a brother and four sisters.

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SUDAN

PRIESTS RELEASED AMID WAVE OF ABDUCTIONS

February 15 (Compass Direct News) – Two Catholic priests abducted at gunpoint in Rabak, Sudan last month have been released amid a wave of forcible conscriptions into rebel southern militias. Their captors – South Sudanese militiamen loyal to (north) Sudan’s Islamic government – accused the Rev. Joseph Makwey and the Rev. Sylvester Mogga of ties to the South Sudan military. South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011, has been in military conflict with (north) Sudan over border areas while staving off southern rebel militias. The two priests were kidnapped from the compound of St. Josephine Bakhita Catholic Church on Jan. 15 and were released two weeks later, they said. For security reasons they would not discuss conditions of their release, but the kidnappers had demanded 500,000 Sudanese pounds (US$185,530); press reports indicated no ransom was paid and that they were released after pressure from influential groups including the government in Khartoum. Christians in Sudan have complained of a spike in threats against them by South Sudanese militias rebelling against the new South Sudan government. The South Sudanese rebels go house-to-house in Khartoum and other towns in the north abducting mainly Christian men, Christian sources said; hundreds of young men have been forcibly conscripted, while older men are either killed or ransomed. Christians in (north) Sudan said that such abductions are increasing as the Islamic government in Khartoum supports these militias, which are fighting the government of South Sudan and the South Sudan-based Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. “Christians in Khartoum live in fear as they become the target of these militia groups,” one church leader said.

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TURKEY

CHRISTIANS SUBJECT TO DISCRIMINATION, ATTACKS, REPORT SAYS

February 14 (Compass Direct News) – Despite some promising developments, Christians in Turkey continue to suffer attacks from private citizens, discrimination by lower-level government officials and vilification in both school textbooks and news media, according to a study by a Protestant group. In its annual “Report on Human Rights Violations,” released in January, the country’s Association of Protestant Churches notes mixed indicators of improvement but states that there is a “root of intolerance” in Turkish society toward adherents of non-Islamic faiths. “The removal of this root of intolerance is an urgent problem that still awaits to be dealt with,” the report states. “There is still a lot of room for improvement,” said Mine Yildirim, a member of the legal committee for the association. The report documented 12 attacks against Christians in 2011, including incidents in which individuals were beaten in Istanbul for sharing their faith, church members were threatened and church buildings attacked. None of the attackers have been charged. In some places in Turkey, church leaders have to “live under some sort of police protection,” the report reads. “There are at least five church leaders who have bodyguards, and at least two have a direct phone line to a police protection unit,” the report states. “Several churches have police protection during worship services.” The report notes some positive developments in Turkey over the past year, including school administrators being more responsive to the rights of non-Muslim students to opt out of state-mandated Islamic education. In addition, due to a court order, Turkish citizens are allowed to leave the religious affiliation space blank on their state-issued identification cards.

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TURKEY

CHURCH HEAD IN UNPRECEDENTED MEETING WITH MPS

February 27 (Compass Direct News) – In an unprecedented meeting, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey last week expressed his concerns and hopes for the country’s Christian minority to members of the Turkish Parliament. The visit took place in Ankara after Speaker of the Parliament Cemil Cicek invited Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to meet with a parliamentary commission responsible for revising the country’s constitution. Christians in Turkey are hoping that the new constitution will guarantee them the ability to worship, educate their communities and conduct their religious activities with the same rights as their Muslim-majority counterparts. The Feb. 20 meeting is a sign that progress is being made, but more progress is needed, said the patriarch, who as “archbishop of Constantinople” is “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox Communion. Problems with the government remain; critical to Bartholomew and other Turkish Christians is the fact that there is no method under Turkish law for a church group to establish itself as a legal entity.

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TURKEY

INDICTMENT OF ‘MASTERMINDS’ OF MURDERS EXPECTED ***

February 28 (Compass Direct News) – Judges in Turkey’s southeastern city of Malatya have announced the preparation of an indictment in the case of three murdered Christians that is expected to reveal a shadowy network that incited five young men to carry out the crime. The Third Criminal Court of Malatya is expected to announce the indictment on April 9, followed by a week of witness testimony that judges believe will link the five murder suspects to the “masterminds” who prompted them, plaintiff lawyers said. The brutal murders of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske at the Zirve Publishing House by five young men in 2007 are believed to be part of a conspiracy to overthrow the current pro-Islamic government. “In the next court hearing, the new indictment will certainly be ready and the case will deepen as the suspects and instigators are judged together,” co-plaintiff lawyer Erdal Dogan told Compass. Co-plaintiff attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz said that with this second indictment he expects former gendarmerie commanders and other officers who have been arrested in connection with the Malatya murders to finally take the stand in the case – something he and colleagues have long hoped for. Ergenekon is believed to be behind at least three key murders of Christians since 2006, including those in Malatya, as well as other crimes.

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UGANDA

Muslim_Acid_Attack_on_PastorDOCTORS TRY TO SAVE REMAINING EYE OF PASTOR ***

February 28 (Compass Direct News) – While a Ugandan pastor was fighting to retain sight in his remaining eye after an acid attack, Muslim extremists this month were shooting at his close friend, a leader of another church. Doctors at Sheba Hospital in Tel-Aviv, Israel, are still not sure what kind of chemicals Muslim extremists cast on Bishop Umar Mulinde of Gospel Life Church International outside of Kampala last Christmas Eve, but they know that the acid is threatening the vision in his remaining eye. Mulinde, a former sheikh (Islamic teacher) who became the target of Islamic extremists after converting to Christianity in 1993, said his left eye has been getting better under the specialized treatment he has been able to receive since Compass publicized the attack on him. “The damaged right eye is somehow affecting the left eye,” Mulinde said. “The doctors are thinking of removing the right eye with hope of saving the left eye.” Mulinde said he was encouraged that ministry is continuing at his church in Namasuba, about 10 kilometers (six miles) outside of Kampala, though his friend Zachariah Serwadda, a pastor with an Evangel Church congregation, was ambushed on Feb. 4 after an evangelistic outreach in the predominantly Muslim town of Mbale. “I only heard several voices as I dropped down when the windshield of my vehicle got broken,” said Serwadda, who was unhurt in the attack. “It could be the same group [that attacked Mulinde]. It seems it’s the same network, because after attacking Bishop Mulinde they threw down letters at the Gospel Life Church International there threatening to attack other preachers like him.”

*** A photo of Umar Mulinde is available to subscribers, to be used with credit to Compass Direct News. A high resolution photo is also available; contact Compass for transmittal.

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