Right Side News: Christians are persecuted, killed, tortured, raped and are fleeing countries like Egypt and Iraq as Muslims and Hindus target Christians around the world. Little coverage from mainstream news outlets keep this issue virtually hidden thus empowering Muslims and Hindus to continue their attacks month after month, year after year without condemnation from world governments and organizations like the United Nations.
CHRISTIAN CIVILIANS ATTACKED DURING CHRISTMAS
January 9 (Compass Direct News) – Attacks on Christians in Burma continued into the Christmas season in Kachin state as Burmese Army troops killed a civilian and destroyed church property despite President Thein Sein’s order to stop the war against insurgents. A Baptist church in Loije, Bhamo district, held a funeral on Dec. 27 for 47-year-old Maran Zau Ja, who was shot dead without provocation by the Burmese Army ’s Light Infantry Battalion No. 321 on Christmas Day, a Kachin source told Compass by phone. Zau Ja was a farmer who was returning from his sugarcane field with a friend when troops sprayed bullets at them. His friend survived the gunshots.
The two were not armed insurgents of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization that has fought for autonomy in the Christian-majority state since the early 1960s, when then-Burmese Prime Minister U Nu made Buddhism the state religion. About 90 percent of the roughly 56 million people in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are Buddhist, mostly from the Burman ethnic group. Burmese soldiers see “all Kachin civilians as the enemy,” the Kachin News Group recently quoted a Kachin village elder as saying. On Dec. 16, troops of Light Infantry Battalion No. 142 burned a building housing the kitchen of a Baptist church in Dingga village, also in Bhamo district, the source added. KIA men and local villagers managed to save the church building, but the fire engulfed five homes. Earlier, on Nov. 30, Burmese soldiers killed a woman and injured six villagers as they fired mortar shells targeting civilians in Tarlawgyi area in Waingmaw Township.
AUTHORITIES AGAIN DENY FACILITY TO SHOUWANG CHURCH
January 3 (Compass Direct News) – Authorities in China again thwarted efforts by Shouwang Church to lease a worship facility at the year’s end, and the Beijing congregation again met outdoors on Sunday (Jan. 1) – resulting in the arrest of 48 members, sources said. “The church tried three times to rent three different venues, but it was all to no avail because of the authorities’ intervention,” a source close to the church told Compass. Shouwang had signed a rental contract with a new landlord on Dec. 17, but the landlord terminated the contract due to pressure from “the local police station, the housing management office and leaders of various government agencies,” church leaders announced to members on Dec. 23. Church leaders had arranged to have an indoor meeting on Sunday (Jan. 1) in a room they had leased from the Beijing Parkview Wuzhou Hotel on Dec. 17, according to a post on Shouwang’s Facebook page. But due to police interference and the cancellation of the lease, they moved to Plan B – a continuation of the outdoor worship services held every Sunday since April 10. Shouwang began meeting outdoors last year after authorities blocked their attempts to rent worship venues or use a building they had purchased for use as a church. Church leaders had hoped the situation would change early in the new year. Police detained at least 48 church members who gathered for outdoor worship on Sunday (Jan. 1), releasing 40 of them by midnight, Shouwang’s governing committee stated on its Facebook page.
KARNATAKA MOST DANGEROUS STATE FOR CHRISTIANS ***
January 13 (Compass Direct News) – Attacks on Christians accelerated over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in the south Indian state of Karnataka, which was identified as the most unsafe place for the religious minority for the third consecutive year in 2011. With 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians in 2011, Karnataka remained the state with the highest incidence of persecution, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s annual report, “Battered and Bruised…” The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which is based in Karnataka, documented at least six anti-Christian attacks between Christmas Eve 2011 and New Year’s Day. On the evening of Dec. 25, about 20 people beat Christians with stones and wooden clubs as they celebrated Christmas at a house in the Maindguri area, near Surathkal, a few miles from the city of Mangalore, in Dakshina Kannada district, according to the GCIC. The attackers, allegedly from a local extremist Hindu Jagran Vedike (Hindu Revival Forum), attacked the Christians, including women and children, indiscriminately. A 27-year-old man identified only as Joyson fractured his leg; a pastor’s wife identified as Lata, sustained chest injuries; a 29-year-old woman identified as Roshini and another woman identified as Annamma received head injuries; and a 23-year-old man identified only as Deepak broke his nasal bridge in the attack. A local Christian told Compass by phone that police arrested five of the attackers, but that they had been released on bail. The attacks on Christians in Karnataka are “shameful” and “a blot on the secular and democratic India,” GCIC President Sajan K. George said. The local government and authorities were “complicit in the persecution against Christians,” he added.
TENSIONS RISE IN KASHMIR AFTER ‘GUILTY VERDICT,’ FATWA
January 20 (Compass Direct News) – Christian workers are fleeing India’s Kashmir Valley after a sharia (Islamic law) court issued a “guilty” verdict against three Christian leaders, issued a fatwa against Christian schools and allegedly launched a door-to-door campaign to bring converts “back” to Islam. The court, which has no legal authority, found the Rev. Chander Mani Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar, Dutch Catholic missionary Jim Borst and Christian worker Gayoor Messah guilty of “luring the valley Muslims to Christianity,” The Times of India daily reported on Dec. 19. The three had already left the region apparently due to rising tensions. Headed by Kashmir Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, the sharia court also “directed” the state government to take over the management of all Christian schools in the region, the daily added. “I fled with my wife and children, as I was not feeling safe in Srinagar,” a Christian worker from Kashmir told Compass on condition of anonymity. “A group of Muslims visited my house twice, threatening my parents with a social boycott if they failed to produce me.” Another source told Compass that some men had visited his family and those of his friends in Srinagar, warning that if they did not “reconvert” to Islam they would be ostracized. The source added that those who have fled may not be able to return to their homes for at least a year. Besides the “guilty verdict” against Pastor Khanna, Borst and Messa, mufti deputy Nasir-ul-Islam reportedly said an investigation against Parvez Samuel Kaul, principal of a local Christian missionary school, was underway. The court also ordered all Christian schools to teach Islam and other faiths.
RECENT INCIDENTS OF PERSECUTION
January 31 (Compass Direct News) – A Hindu extremist in Adigar, Phulbani, Kandhamal district on Jan. 25 attacked a pastor’s hut and harassed his family, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). Jaleshwar Pradhan threw stones at the home of Pastor Patiba Mohan Kota while he was away, verbally abused his wife and pushed his daughters, shouting, “You Christians must not live here – it is not your land; the last time your houses were only damaged, this time all of you will be buried here,” the GCIC reported. Though damage to the house was minimal, the pastor and his family were anguishing in fear as Hindu extremists have previously tortured him physically, causing partial loss of eyesight and hearing, reported the GCIC. The pastor was among those whose houses were destroyed during anti-Christian violence in 2008. Pradhan was booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, reported the GCIC.
Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Jan. 23 barged into a prayer meeting led by Pastor Chandrakanth Chavan of New Life Fellowship in Haliyal, Kanara, beat him and stripped him naked. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists shouted at the Christians in coarse language as they started beating and kicking Pastor Chavan and Kishore Kavalekar before parading the naked pastor in a procession throughout the village. At about midnight they tied the pastor to a tree near a temple and sent for police. Haliyal Police Sub-Inspector Umesh Shet and a dozen officers took Pastor Chavan and Kavalekar into custody for questioning, according to the GCIC. Both were charged and locked up but were released the same night.
Orissa – Raikia police on Jan. 9 arrested Pastor Sukadeb Digal from his home in Sipainju (or Sipainjari) village, Tiangia, G-Udayagiri Block, in Kandhamal district on false charges of forced or fraudulent conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that police incarcerated him. Digal, pastor of Danekbadi Baptist Church at Daringbadi, remained in jail at press time.
Karnataka – Armed Hindu extremists on Jan. 9 beat Christians at a prayer service in Anekal, Bangalore, seriously injuring a pastor and others and accusing them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a pastor identified only as Shanthakumar had organized the service at the home of another Christian where about 20 people had gathered in the Coogur area. At about 10:30 p.m. some 20 Hindu extremists attacked with huge clubs and iron rods, ranting in foul language and accusing them of fraudulent and forcible conversion, according to the GCIC. In the beatings, Pastor Shanthakumar lost one finger, and a church member identified only as Yashodamma received treatment for head and nerve injuries at Anekal Government Hospital. Another church member identified only as Vijay suffered a serious leg injury. The Christians reported the matter to the police; officials have held an inquiry and registered a First Information Report against the extremists, but no arrests have been made.
Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on Jan. 17 beat a pastor and another church member in Yadagirgutta, accusing them of forceful conversion. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that the pastor, identified only as Kiran, and another Christian were on their way to visit a church member who works with the tourism department in Yadagirigutta, Bhogri, a Hindu pilgrimage town, when the extremists took notice and gathered a mob to attack them. As is customary in India, police arrived and arrested the victims. After area Christian leaders’ intervention, the accusations against the two Christians were found to be baseless, and they were released without charges, according to the AICC.
Karnataka – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on Jan. 1 attacked a New Year’s prayer service and accused a pastor of forceful conversion in Humnoor, Bagalkot. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists stormed into the prayer meeting led by Pastor Siddu Seemanth Gunike of Blessing Youth Mission Church, ordered it to stop and beat the pastor, alleging that he was involved in fraudulent and forced conversions. After manhandling the pastor and other Christians, the extremists sent for Jamkhandi police, according to the GCIC. The sub-inspector and a few other officers arrived and began questioning those present. Area Christian leaders intervened, and police took a written statement from the extremists that they would not disturb the Christians again; officers advised the Christians to continue their prayer services.
Karnataka – About a dozen Hindu extremists in North Kanara forced their way into a New Year’s Eve prayer service, ordered Christians to stop praying and beat them. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that extremists led by Biju Nair and a friend identified only as Venkatesh accused the Christians of fraudulent and forcible conversions. The extremists informed police, and two police constables arrived and joined in harassing the Christians, threatening to harm them. The officers ordered the pastor to go to the police station the next morning, and on that day Christians filed a police complaint against the extremists and the two constables for trespassing on church property and for their heavy-handed tactics, according to the GCIC. Later, the Christians met with Ramnagar Police Sub-Inspector Babu Madar and briefed him about the incident. The sub-inspector reprimanded the two constables and advised the pastor to continue the prayer services without fear.
ANTI-CHRISTIAN INCIDENTS NEARLY DOUBLED IN 2011
January 4 (Compass Direct News) – Acts of violence and intolerance against Christians in Indonesia almost doubled in 2011, with an Islamist campaign to close down churches symbolizing the plight of the religious minority. The Indonesian Protestant Church Union, locally known as PGI, counted 54 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in 2011, up from 30 in 2010. The number of such incidents against religious minorities in general also grew, from 198 in 2010 to 276 in 2011, but the worst is perhaps yet to come if authorities continue to overlook the threat of extremism, said a representative from the Jakarta-based Wahid Institute, a Muslim organization that promotes tolerance. Rumadi, who goes by a single name, said his Wahid Institute also observed an attempt to institutionalize intolerance; at least 36 regulations to ban religious practices deemed deviant from Islam were drafted or implemented in the country in 2011. Indonesia’s hot-bed of extremism is West Java, the most populous province that includes the nation’s capital city of Jakarta. This province alone witnessed 160 incidents against religious minorities. Churches in West Java, which has about 520,000 Christians, also suffered the most last year. On Christmas Day, two churches in West Java’s Bogor city bore the brunt of growing extremism. “Islamist vigilantes screamed and yelled at us and threatened us, as we sought to hold a Christmas service,” a leader of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia, also known as the GKI or the Yasmin Church, told Compass in an email.
PERSECUTION INCREASED MOST IN SUDAN, NIGERIA, REPORT SAYS ***
January 4 (Compass Direct News) – Sudan and northern Nigeria saw steeper increases in persecution against Christians than 48 other nations where Christians suffered abuse last year, according to an annual ranking by Christian support organization Open Doors. Sudan – where northern Christians experienced greater vulnerability after southern Sudan seceded in a July referendum, and where Christians were targeted amid isolated military conflicts – jumped 19 places last year from its 2010 ranking, from 35th to 16th, according to Open Doors’ 2012 World Watch List. In northern Nigeria, a rash of Islamist bombings, guerrilla-style attacks and increased government restrictions on Christians contributed to the region leaping by 10 on the list, from 23rd to 13th place. “Nigeria continues to be the country where the worst atrocities in terms of loss of life occur, with over 300 Christians losing their lives this year, though the true number is thought to be far higher,” according to the Open Doors report, noting that the Islamic extremist Boko Haram became increasingly violent across the reporting period through most of 2011. As it has the previous nine years, North Korea topped the list as the country where Christians are most persecuted, with a persecution index of 88. The persecution index for three other countries rose by at least 5 points – Egypt from 47.5 to 53.5, Ethiopia from 30 to 36, and Indonesia from 26.5 to 31.5. Most of the countries on the list, 38 out of 50, have an Islamic majority – including nine of the top 10.
*** A photo of Nigerians killed in Vwang Kogot, Plateau state is available to subscribers, to be used with credit to Compass Direct News. A high resolution photo is also available; contact Compass for transmittal.
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS’ TOP 10 STORIES OF 2011
January 6 (Compass Direct News) – Unceasing, accelerating incidents of bloodshed in Nigeria topped Compass’ top 10 news stories of 2011 as Boko Haram and other Islamic extremists lashed out at Christians. Following this top news story was the assassination of Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member in March 2011; the upholding of the death penalty for a pastor in Iran who refused to recant; Islamist violence unleashed in Egypt; and increased anti-Christian hostilities in Sudan following the secession of South Sudan. The complete list follows.
1 – Firestorms of Violence in Nigeria
A presidential election and an acceleration in Boko Haram Islamic extremist attacks led to firestorms of violence against Christians in Nigeria in 2011. Bomb explosions by Boko Haram came with seemingly unceasing guerrilla-style attacks on Christians by other Islamic extremists in remote areas far from the mainstream media’s view.
The first wave of attacks hit Plateau state in January after Christmas Eve bombings of churches by Islamic extremists, with the resulting tit-for-tat violence killing more than 200 people in Plateau state, according to Human Rights Watch. Then the April 16 election of a Christian president triggered attacks that killed hundreds of Christians and destroyed more than 100 church buildings, again drawing in retaliating youths from Christian families.
While media attention was riveted on a Boko Haram bomb blast of a U.N. building on Aug. 26 and on other attacks on government installations, Muslim extremists with the help of Nigerian army personnel killed 24 Christians in Plateau state that month with little attention from the mainstream press. Plateau Gov. Jonah Jang called for immediate withdrawal of the Nigerian Army, saying Muslim soldiers had taken sides with Islamist assailants. In September, a rash of attacks by armed Muslim extremists on villages in Plateau state left more than 100 Christians dead, and the next month Nigerian soldiers summoned to stop inter-religious fighting between Muslim and Christian youths shot and killed a Christian mother of five in the Yelwa area of Bauchi city. Boko Haram extremists on Sept. 22 killed five Christians in Niger state, and other Muslim extremists killed three Christians the previous week in the north-central state of Kaduna, including a 13-year-old girl.
In November, 200 members of Boko Haram stormed Damaturu, Yobe state, killing some 150 people – at least 130 of them Christians, according to church sources. The destruction included the bombing of at least 10 church buildings. Later in the month, Fulani Muslim herdsmen along with Muslim soldiers killed at least 45 ethnic Berom Christians in Plateau state. Smaller attacks beginning on Nov. 20, reportedly over allegations by Fulani Muslims of cattle theft, preceded an attack on a Barkin Ladi church on Nov. 23 that killed four Christians, and an assault the next day left 35 Christians dead in Barkin Ladi and nearby Kwok village. The attacks began Nov. 20 with the killing of three Christians outside Barkin Ladi, and then two Christians in the town were killed on Nov. 21. The next day, a Christian was beheaded in town behind a popular hotel known as the White House.
A Christmas Day suicide bomb attack by Boko Haram on St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, outside the Nigerian capital of Abuja in Madalla, left at least 45 people dead and 73 others injured. Three of the 45 confirmed dead were policemen on guard duty at the time of the attack, and most of the rest were parishioners.
On Dec. 31, President Goodluck Jonathan declared areas of Borno, Plateau, Yobe and Niger states to be under a state of emergency due to the Boko Haram attacks.
2 – Christian Member of Cabinet in Pakistan Gunned Down
Unidentified gunmen in Islamabad on March 2 shot dead Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, then Pakistan’s only cabinet-level Christian and an outspoken critic of the country’s widely condemned “blasphemy” laws. Suspected Islamic extremists from Pakistan’s Taliban and al Qaeda left a letter at the scene saying those who try to change Pakistan’s blasphemy laws would be killed. The murder came two months after Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was killed by his bodyguard for supporting Asia Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), the first Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.
The assailants sprayed 25 to 30 bullets at Bhatti’s car after he came out of his mother’s home in a residential area of the Pakistani capital to attend a meeting of the federal cabinet. The federal government had provided bodyguards for Bhatti, but they were not present at the time of the attack. A letter found at the scene, purportedly from Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists, claimed responsibility for the killing. Police sources said the letter accused Bhatti of waging a campaign to amend the blasphemy law. Bhatti had defied death threats after the Jan. 4 assassination of Taseer, conceding in several interviews that he was “the highest target right now” but vowing to continue his work and trusting his life to God.
3 – Pastor’s Death Sentence Upheld in Iran
A death sentence was upheld for a pastor in Iran convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, even though a court determined that he was never a practicing Muslim. Authorities had arrested Yousef (also spelled Youcef) Nadarkhani in his home city of Rasht in Oct. 2009 on charges that he questioned obligatory religion classes in Iranian schools. After finding him guilty of apostasy, the court of appeals in Rasht in November 2010 issued a written confirmation of his charges and death sentence. At an appeal hearing in June, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence but asked the court in Rasht to determine if he was a practicing Muslim before his conversion. The court declared that Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion, but that he was still guilty of apostasy due to his Muslim ancestry.
The Supreme Court had also determined that his death sentence could be annulled if he recanted his faith. The Rasht court gave Nadarkhani three chances to recant Christianity in accordance with sharia (Islamic law), but Nadarkhani refused to do so. The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, reportedly ordered the presiding judge over the trial in Rasht to do nothing for one year. The nation’s Islamic authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, was to make a ruling on the sentence.
Authorities have also continued to pressure Nadarkhani to recant his faith while in prison. In September they gave him Islamic literature aimed at discrediting the Bible, according to sources, and instructed him to read it. The court reportedly has been told to use whatever means necessary to compel Nadarkhani to recant his faith.
4 – Islamist Violence Unleashed in Egypt
Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt began 2011 with a bomb blast after a New Year’s Eve Mass celebration that killed at least 22 people, and less than two months later the country’s “Arab Spring” demonstrations brought down the Egyptian government – unleashing Islamist aggression that culminated in an Oct. 9 massacre of 27 people, including at least 23 Christians.
In the wee hours of Jan. 1 in Alexandria, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Coptic Orthodox church of St. Mark and Pope Peter, or “(Two) Saints Church.” Several Facebook sites and other websites sprang up in Egypt in support of the violence, and the sentiment was echoed in the comment sections of the online versions of several Egyptian newspapers.
The political chaos that followed the Feb. 11 resignation of President Hosni Mubarak helped create conditions for a series of attacks, including a Muslim mob in Sool village south of Cairo on March 4-5 burning down a church building and nearly killing a parish priest after an imam issued a call to “Kill all the Christians.” The attack on the Church of the Two Martyrs St. George and St. Mina started on March 4 and lasted through most of March 5. On Sept. 30, a 3,000-strong mob of hard-line and Salafi Muslims attacked Mar Gerges Church in the Elmarenab village of Aswan, torching the structure and then looting and burning nearby Christian-owned homes and businesses.
These attacks set the stage for the Egyptian Army’s Oct. 9 massacre of demonstrators, mostly Christians, protesting the Mar Gerges destruction at the television and radio broadcasting building commonly known as the Maspero Building. The army shot into the crowd and rammed riot-control vehicles into the protestors.
5 – In Sudan, Anti-Christian Hostilities Galvanize in North
The secession of South Sudan in July left Christians in the north more vulnerable to the Islamist bent of President Omar al-Bashir, and territorial warfare in states along the north-south divide targeted Christians. The Sudanese leader, wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, vowed to impose a stricter form of Islam on Sudan, but some local officials and citizens were already emboldened to vent anti-Christian aggression – sending ominous text-messages to Christian leaders, demolishing and threatening to demolish church buildings and attacking Christians. On July 18 Muslim extremists attacked the home of Anglican Church of Sudan Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail in an attempt to kill him and two other pastors, Luka Bulus and Thomas Youhana, who all happened to be out of the house at the time. No one was hurt, but the assailants left a threatening letter warning them of similar attacks.
Muslims in Omdurman West long opposed to a Sudanese Church of Christ near Khartoum attacked Christians trying to finish constructing their building on Aug. 5, claiming that Christianity was no longer an accepted religion in the country. Muslims in the north, where an estimated 1 million Christians still live following the secession of South Sudan on July 9, fear the potential influence of the church. “They want to reduce or restrict the number of churches, so that they can put more pressure on believers,” said one church leader.
In the border areas of Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Christian communities and church buildings have been targeted. In Sudan’s embattled South Kordofan state, military intelligence agents killed one Christian, and Islamic militants sympathetic to the government slaughtered another in June after attacking churches. Sudan Armed Forces Intelligence (SAF) detained Nimeri Philip Kalo, a student at St. Paul Major Seminary, on June 8 near the gate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan in Kadugli’s al Shaeer area and shot him in front of bystanders. Kalo and other Christians were fleeing the town after Muslim militias loyal to the SAF attacked and looted at least three church buildings in Kadugli, they said. On June 8, Islamic militants loyal to the SAF slaughtered a young Christian man by sword in Kadugli Market. Adeeb Gismalla Aksam, 33, was a bus driver whose father is an elder with the Evangelical Church in Kadugli. The Islamic militias were heard shouting Allahu-akbar (God is greater) as they began shooting at a Roman Catholic Church building the same day.
6 – Shouwang Church Members Arrested Weekly in China
One of the largest unregistered Protestant churches in Beijing was subjected to weekly arrests when it began worshipping outdoors on April 10, after authorities pressured landlords to keep them out of their purchased and rented properties. Leaders of the 1,000-member church said the landlord of their venue had been under mounting pressure from authorities to terminate the lease, and the government also prevented the church from using the premises it had purchased in late 2009. Shouwang had paid 27 million yuan, or about US$4 million, for the second floor of the Daheng Science and Technology Tower in northwest Beijing’s Zhongguancun area. Authorities interfered, and the property developer refused to hand the key over to the church.
The members of the church’s governing committee, two pastors and three elders, and other major co-workers have been under house arrest for the whole or much of the time since April 9. Hundreds of other people, including many Shouwang parishioners and some members of other churches in Beijing and other cities, were detained for between a few hours to two days.
The church was unwilling to be subject to the controls and restrictions of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), as it disagrees with TSPM beliefs and controls. Many unregistered evangelical Protestant groups refuse to register with TSPM due to theological differences, fear of adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members or fear that it will control sermon content.
Shouwang signed a rental contract with a new landlord on Dec. 17, but the landlord terminated the contract due to pressure from “the local police station, the housing management office and leaders of various government agencies,” church leaders announced to members on Dec. 23. Church leaders had arranged to have an indoor meeting on Sunday (Jan. 1) in a room leased from the Beijing Parkview Wuzhou Hotel on Dec. 17, but due to police interference and the cancellation of the lease, they continued meeting outdoors for services – with the arrests also continuing.
7 – Afghan Convert from Islam Released from Prison
After intense diplomatic pressure, Afghan authorities in February released Said Musa, who had been in prison for nearly nine months on charges of apostasy, or leaving Islam, punishable by death under Islamic law. The 46-year-old Musa (alternately spelled Sayyed Mussa) left the country.
Musa had written a series of letters from his prison cell, the last one dated Feb. 13, in which the Christian amputee and father of six said representatives of embassies in Kabul visited him and offered him asylum; after the representatives left, however, Musa was taken to another room where three Afghan officials tried to convince him to recant his faith. They promised to release him within 24 hours if he would do so. He refused and was sent back to his cell. “I told them I cannot [follow] Islam,” he wrote in his letter. “I am Jesus Christ’s servant. They pushed me much and much. I refused their demands.”
Details of Musa’s release remained confidential in order to protect him and his family.
The country’s most popular broadcaster, Noorin TV, broadcast images in May of Afghan Christians worshiping, putting in motion the events that got Musa and other Christians arrested. The hour-long TV show sparked protests throughout the country against Christians and a heated debate in parliament. In early June, the deputy secretary of the Afghan Parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for the execution of converts from Islam.
Before being transferred to Kabul Detention Center in the Governor’s Compound in November 2010, Musa had suffered sexual abuse, beatings, mockery and sleep deprivation because of his faith in Jesus in the first months of his detention.
8 – New Level of Violence in Indonesia
A suicide bombing of a church in Central Java, Indonesia on Sept. 25 pointed not only to a new level of attacks on religious minorities in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country but to a political bent accommodating Islamist extremism. Pino Damayanto, aka Ahmad Yosepa Hayat, who blew himself up and wounded more than 20 members of the Sepenuh Injil Bethel Church (Bethel Full Gospel Church) in Solo, apparently believed it was his religious duty to kill “the enemies of Islam.”
Extremism has grown since the fall of the authoritarian President Suharto in 1999, who kept radical groups under control. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable dated May 9, 2006, published on the WikiLeaks website in May, revealed that a member of the National Intelligence Agency told the U.S. Embassy that a top official of the national police had “provided some funds” to the hard-line Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front or FPI), and that police were using the FPI as an “attack dog.” Extremist groups and officials close to them flout laws and violate the rights of minorities with almost complete impunity, sources told Compass. Extremist groups have infiltrated at all levels, including the clerical body representing all Indonesian Muslim groups to the government. “The government has no will to control extremist groups,” said Rumadi of the Wahid Institute, adding that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono doesn’t want to be seen as “anti-Islamic.”
This dynamic was most clear in West Java, where the Bogor mayor’s refusal to obey a Supreme Court order to restore a congregation’s permit cast doubt on the ability of the Indonesian government to enforce the rule of law. Muslim demonstrators and area police have continued to obstruct the services of the Indonesian Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia, or GKI) congregation in the Yasmin area of Bogor, West Java, which was worshiping on a roadside or in a member’s home as the Bogor city government sealed its building in 2010.
9 – Al Shabaab Continues Slaughter of Christians in Somalia
Islamic extremists from the al Shabaab militia vying for control of Somalia continued their campaign to rid the country of Christians, seeking out secret believers and publicly executing them. The extremists cut the throat of a Christian mother of four on Jan. 7 on the outskirts of Mogadishu. Asha Mberwa, 36, was killed in Warbhigly in front of villagers who came out of their homes as witnesses. She was survived by her children – ages 12, 8, 6 and 4 – and her husband, who was not home at the time she was apprehended.
Others known to be killed by al Shabaab in 2011 were Guled Jama Muktar, beheaded on Sept. 25; Juma Nuradin Kamil, whose decapitated body was found on Sept. 2; and 21-year-old Hassan Adawe Adan, shot on April 18. With estimates of al Shabaab’s size ranging from 3,000 to 7,000, the insurgents seek to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law), but the government in Mogadishu fighting to retain control of the country treats Christians little better than the al Shabaab extremists do. While proclaiming himself a moderate, President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has embraced a version of sharia that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.
Following the Oct. 13 kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers from a refugee camp in Dadaab, on the Kenyan border with Somalia, and the kidnapping and murder of foreigners at tourist sites, Kenya on Oct. 16 began air strikes on al Shabaab territory in southern Somalia.
10 – Christian Leaders in Laos Imprisoned
In one of the more telling of many incidents in Laos, eight Christian leaders in Boukham village, Savannakhet Province, were arrested on Dec. 16 after they had gathered some 200 church members for a Christmas celebration. Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported that the leaders had secured permission for the event from Boukham’s village chief, but village security forces entered the site and marched the eight leaders to the Boukham government headquarters, where they were detained without being charged. Four of the detainees were placed in handcuffs and wooden stocks, while the other four were left unrestrained. “While they were held without formal charges, it is quite clear that they were arrested for gathering people for worship,” an HRWLRF spokesman told Compass.
Lao Evangelical Church representatives on Dec. 18 managed to negotiate the release of one of the detainees held in stocks, who goes by the single name of Kingnamosorn, after paying a fine of 1 million kip (US$123) to the village chief (the average monthly wage for an unskilled laborer in the province is close to US$40). The chief later ordered the other four unrestrained detainees to be placed in stocks as well. Boukham village authorities later moved six of the detained Christians to an animal pen, blocked visits from family members and banned direct delivery of food. The other detainee was released temporarily to attend a government training session but was then held with the others – all seven in wooden stocks. When last seen, the health of one of the detained leaders, identified as Puphet, had deteriorated; Puphet suffers from a kidney ailment. The legs of six of the detainees, but particularly those of Puphet, Wanta and Oun, were swollen and infected, according to HRWLRF. Family members feared that authorities would employ starvation tactics in order to force the six to give up their faith.
DEATH TOLL CLIMBS IN ISLAMIST ATTACKS IN NORTHEAST ***
January 9 (Compass Direct News) – The number of Christians killed in an Islamic extremist attack here on Thursday (Jan. 5) has risen to nine, and over the weekend the same terrorist group killed at least 21 Christians in neighboring Adamawa state, sources said. Members of the Boko Haram group that seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) on Nigeria emerged from a mosque near the Deeper Life Bible Church in the Boso area of Gombe, capital of Gombe state, at about 7:30 p.m. and shot Christians attending a weekly meeting known as “The Hour of Revival,” area sources said. Silas Ugboeze, who was in coma for three days at the Federal Medical Centre in Gombe, died 20 minutes after Compass arrived on Saturday (Jan. 7), bringing the death toll to nine and the list of those wounded in the attack to 19. Ugboeze’s son Gideon was also killed, and his 12-year-old daughter, Victoria Silas Ugboeze, was wounded in both breasts. She has thus far survived along with her brother Daniel, who was also shot. Ugboeze’s widow was overcome with grief at the hospital, able to say only, “Lord, where are you? This burden is too much for me to bear.” Boko Haram had published an ultimatum in a newspaper on Tuesday (Jan. 3) threatening violence if Christians did not leave predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria in three days. Since then, the group has claimed responsibility for killing at least 44 people in four states. In Adamawa, on Friday night (Jan. 6), 11 people were killed and many others injured at the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) in the Nasarawa area of Yola, the state capital. Earlier on Friday, 12 persons were reportedly killed when armed men claimed by Boko Haram shot a gathering of Christian traders holding a prayer session before opening their shops in Mubi, Adamawa. The gunmen also shot at another group of Christians meeting at a town hall to arrange for the transportation of relatives slain the previous day, bringing the total of those killed in Mubi to 21.
SEVEN CHRISTIANS KILLED IN BAUCHI STATE
January 24 (Compass Direct News) – Early morning attacks in Tafawa Balewa, Bauchi state on Sunday (Jan. 22) left at least seven Christians dead and a church building destroyed. The attack on the Evangelical Church Winning All Church 2, residents of Tafawa Balewa said, was carried out by area Islamic extremists alongside members of the Boko Haram sect, with the church building and surrounding houses bombed. Yunnana Yusufu, pastor with the Church of Christ in Nigeria in Tafawa Balewa, told Compass that the assailants arrived in the early morning hours and began shooting at Christians in the town, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Bauchi City. “I saw seven dead bodies of some of the Christians killed,” Yusufu told Compass by phone. “The situation is terrible, and I am about to go out to other parts of the town, to see the extent of the damage caused by the attackers.” Yusufu said that many other Christians were injured. Bauchi Police Commissioner Ikechukwu Aduba reportedly confirmed the attack on Tafawa Balewa, saying two soldiers and a policeman, as well as eight civilians, were later killed in a gunfight. He added that six suspects had been arrested. Police also reported that bombs were thrown at a Catholic church building and an evangelical church building in Bauchi City, causing little damage and no deaths or injuries. Two weeks ago, gunmen believed to be Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked three Christian farmers on their farms in Pyakman village, near Tafawa Balewa, killing the three. Corpses recovered from the farms had bullet wounds and machete cuts, said Bukata Zhadi, secretary of the Christian Elders Council in Tafawa Balewa.
CHRISTIAN CHARGED WITH ‘BLASPHEMY’ DENIED BAIL
January 30 (Compass Direct News) – A judge has denied bail to a young Christian man charged with desecrating the Quran under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws despite the lack of evidence against him, sources said. Police in Shahdara, near Lahore, had arrested 23-year-old Khuram Masih on Dec. 5 and charged him with desecrating the Quran after his landlord, Zulfiqar Ali, alleged that he had burned pages of the book in order to prepare tea. Masih has said that he was falsely accused in the case because he had had an argument with Ali, his landlord. Section 295-B makes willful desecration of the Quran or use of an extract in a derogatory manner punishable with life imprisonment. Masih’s previous lawyers, Muhammad Farhad Tirmizi and Liaqat John, on Jan. 3 petitioned for his bail. In their petition, they stated to Additional Sessions Judge Anjum Raza Syed that police had registered a false case against Masih based on hearsay, and that police had not found any incriminating evidence. Judge Syed, however, refused to grant bail to Masih on grounds that the case was “very sensitive, and bail to the accused would fan religious sentiments and cause a great mishap.” Asif Aqeel, executive director of the Community Development Initiative, an affiliate of the European Centre for Law and Justice, told Compass that the lawyers hired by Masih’s relatives should not have petitioned the trial court for Masih’s bail so soon in the Muslim-majority country. “There’s no use moving for bail in the trial court, because the lower courts cannot sustain pressure in such cases,” Aqeel said. “The judges in trial court are under extreme pressure from religious quarters and simply cannot set a blasphemy accused free on bail after just a month of the incident.”
CONVERT FROM ISLAM WHIPPED IN PUBLIC
January 10 (Compass Direct News) – A Somali convert from Islam was paraded before a cheering crowd last month and publicly flogged as a punishment for embracing a “foreign religion,” sources said. Sofia Osman, a 28-year-old Christian from Janale city in Somali’as Lower Shabelle region, had been taken into custody by Islamic extremist al Shabaab militants in November; the public whipping was meant to mark her release. She received 40 lashes on Dec. 22 while jeered by spectators. “Osman was whipped 40 lashes at 3 p.m., but she didn’t tell what other humiliations she had suffered while in the hands of the militants,” an eyewitness, told Compass, adding that whipping left her bleeding. “I saw her faint. I thought she had died, but soon she regained consciousness and her family took her away.” The whipping was administered in front of hundreds of spectators after Osman was released from her month-long custody in al Shabaab camps. Nursing her injuries at her family’s home, in the days after the punishment she would not talk to anyone and looked dazed, a source close in touch with the family said. “Please pray for her quick recovery,” the source said.
GOVERNMENT THREATENS TO ARREST CHURCH LEADERS
January 18 (Compass Direct News) – Sudan’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments has threatened to arrest church leaders if they carry out evangelistic activities and do not comply with an order for churches to provide their names and contact information, Christian sources said. The warning in a Jan. 3 letter to church leaders of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) arrived a few days after Sudan President Omar al-Bashir told cheering crowds on Jan. 3 that, following the secession of largely non-Islamic south Sudan last July, the country’s constitution will be more deeply entrenched in sharia (Islamic law). “We will take legal procedures against pastors who are involved in preaching or evangelistic activities,” Hamid Yousif Adam, undersecretary of the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowment, wrote to the church leaders. “We have all legal rights to take them to court.” Sources said the order was aimed at oppressing Christians amid growing hostilities toward Christianity. “This is a critical situation faced by our church in Sudan,” said the Rev. Yousif Matar, secretary general of the SPEC. Christians in (north) Sudan celebrated last Christmas amid several threats from officials in Khartoum, and some followers of Christ were arrested for their faith, sources said. Yasir Musa of the Sudanese Church of Christ was arrested along with two other church members by national security agents in Khartoum on Dec. 23; they were detained because they were Christians and therefore suspected supporters of southern military forces. Released shortly afterward, they said authorities threatened to arrest them again if they did not comply with orders not to carry out Christian activities in the Islamic nation.
POLICE BEAT, ARREST EVANGELIST
January 20 (Compass Direct News) – Police this week beat and arrested a church leader in Khartoum, sources told Compass. Evangelist James Kat of the Evangelical Church of Sudan was arrested on Tuesday morning (Jan. 17), with officers beating him as they took him to a North Division police station, the sources said. He was released on bail the same day. Kat, who lives at the church site, was apparently arrested for using the place as his home. Another church leader was arrested on Monday (Jan. 16) in a Sudanese Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) church property dispute in which police and courts have been unjustly biased in favor of Muslims, Christian leaders said. Officers arrested SPEC worker Gabro Haile Selassie, as he lives on the church property that has been transferred to a Muslim businessman in a disputed agreement; he has refused to be evicted without police providing him an official document indicating the basis for the action. Selassie, who was released on bail after a few hours, said he fears being arrested again; officers have already started demolishing the church compound fence, Selassie added. “They will definitely demolish my house” he told Compass. Armed police were deployed Sunday evening (Jan.15) to the site to take the property by force, as authorities are supporting Muslim businessman Osman al Tayeb’s efforts to take control of the plot as part of a planned confiscation of church property, church leaders said. “The government is still trying to get involved in the affairs of the church by supporting people like Osman al Tayeb,” said one church leader.
TWO CATHOLIC PRIESTS KIDNAPPED
January 25 (Compass Direct News) – South Sudanese militia loyal to Sudan’s Islamic government have kidnapped two Catholic priests in Rabak, Christian sources said. A large truck smashed through the gates of the St. Josephine Bakhita’s Catholic Church compound in Rabak, 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of Khartoum, on Jan. 15 at 10 p.m., and the assailants broke down the rectory door, the sources said. The Rev. Joseph Makwey and the Rev. Sylvester Mogga were kidnapped at gunpoint. On Jan. 19, the kidnappers forced the two priests to call their bishop with a ransom demand of 500,000 Sudanese pounds (US$185,530), 250,000 Sudanese pounds each. Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok told Compass by phone that there was no direct communication between the bishop and the kidnappers, though the priests managed to convey that they were being mistreated. “We are worried about the two priests,” he said. “They are not treating them well.” The kidnappers have attempted no communication with church leaders since then, Adwok said. Neither Makwey, in his 40s, nor Mogga, in his mid-30s, are supporters of southern Sudan military forces in territorial conflict with Sudan over border areas, he added. Eyewitnesses told Compass that they saw the assailants severely beating the priests while abducting them. The kidnappers also looted the priests’ living quarters, stealing two vehicles, two laptops and a safe. The incident caused panic and terror among Christians in Rabak, with church leaders saying they fear for their lives as they become targets of the Islamic government and its allied militias.
GIRL TORTURED FOR CHRIST REGAINING USE OF LEGS ***
January 16 (Compass Direct News) – A 15-year-old Christian girl in western Uganda who lost the use of her legs after her father locked her in a room for six months for leaving Islam has begun to take tentative steps. Susan Ithungu of Isango village, Kasese district, had been hospitalized since September 2010 after neighbors along with police rescued her from her father, Beya Baluku, who had given her hardly any food or water. In March 2010, Susan had trusted Christ for her salvation – prompting her father to threaten to slaughter her publicly with a knife. Neighbors who discovered that the girl was locked in a room with almost no food or water notified authorities. They took her to a hospital on Sept. 6, 2010; she would not be discharged from hospital care until Oct. 19, 2011. She now lives in a rented house in an undisclosed location. “Well-wishers have been paying the house rent and buying me food and clothing,” said Susan, who added that she has forgiven her father. A member of the Bwera Full Gospel Church in Kasese, Biira Dreda, left her own four children under the care of her mother in order to look after Susan while she was hospitalized. A member of a Pentecostal church, Susan has begun to walk with support. She cannot squat or stand upright because she lay on one side for such a long time, besides suffering a bout of malaria. “I thank all those who have continually supported me spiritually, materially and even morally,” Susan said. “I am also thankful to Biira Dreda, who stood by me in the hospital, and to date she is still with me when none of my family members has come to see me.”
CONVERT FROM ISLAM SURVIVES SOCIETAL HOSTILITIES
January 23 (Compass Direct News) – Hassan Muwanguzi, a convert from Islam in Uganda who lost his family and job because of his Christian faith, is thankful after fighting off the latest attack – an attempt by Muslims to imprison him and shut down the school he started. Following his conversion in his early 20s in 2003, Muwanguzi’s family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him, he said. His wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher at Nankodo Islamic School, near Pallisa. Undaunted, a year ago he opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, at Kajoko, Kibuku district, 27 kilometers (17 miles) from Mbale town; the area’s population of 5,000 people is predominantly Muslim. Incensed by his boldness, an Islamic teacher, Sheikh Hassan Abdalla, filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his minor daughter. Together with his Muslim countrymen, Abdalla filed a case at the chief magistrate’s court in Palissa-Kalaki, and a warrant for Muwanguzi’s arrest was issued on April 1, 2011. Initially he was locked up for three weeks, he said. On April 22, he was released on bail when the complainant did not appear at his hearing, and the sheikh didn’t show up at hearings each of the next four months, either, Muwanguzi said. “The judge found out it was a false accusation, hence the case was dropped,” Muwanguzi said. “I had been subjected to humiliation, but I forgave them for the sake of my Christian outreach in the area.”
FORMER MUSLIM EXTREMIST FLEES WRATH OF EX-COLLEAGUES
January 27 (Compass Direct News) – A former member of a Muslim extremist group in Uganda who converted to Christianity is in hiding in Kenya, his movements severely restricted following threats to kill him. Hassan Sharif Lubenga, 54, was a sheikh and member of the Buk Haram, a violent group of Islamists whose name suggests that the Bible is corrupt and therefore forbidden. Originally from Chengera, seven kilometers from Kampala, the husband to four wives began his conversion process four years ago; in June 2011, he said, after dreams and visions in which Jesus appeared to him, he made a full commitment to follow Christ. In 2009, he said, a message from Jesus came to him in a vision: “Do not hide your Christian faith.” Within a few months, a threatening letter arrived: “If you do not join Islamic Jihad, then we shall kill you.” His father, Morshid Kabide, came to his house in July 2010 to establish the truth of the rumors he had heard, Lubenga said. When he affirmed his faith in Jesus, his father was crestfallen; he later committed suicide, leaving a letter that read, “I have decided to kill myself because my son became a Christian” and urged all family members to curse him. Lubenga said that since then he has been in hiding, growing more terrified as threats intensified. “But I kept my faith in Jesus,” he said. “I sold some of my belongings to build the church structure at Chengera, outside Kampala.” As a result of this act, threats on his life grew more shrill, and he fled to Kenya.
Compass Direct News is distributed monthly to raise awareness of Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith.