News from the Frontlines of Persecution
CHINA DRIVE TO RELEASE RIGHTS ATTORNEY PUSHES FORWARD March 30 (Compass Direct News) – Confirmation this week of China’s assertion in December that human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is alive and serving out a prison sentence is key as efforts continue for his release, a human rights attorney said. Gao, a Christian whose advocacy for religious minorities led to his conviction in 2006 for “subversion,” is serving a previously suspended sentence of three years in Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang region in western China.
The government had informed Gao’s brother on Dec. 29 that he was detained at the remote Shaya prison, according to an urgent petition by Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Freedom Now to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, but officials had refused the family’s request to visit the prisoner. Chinese officials granted permission for Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, to visit the rights attorney on Saturday (March 24), The Associated Press reported this week. Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, told Compass that confirmation of Gao’s imprisonment was important, as “it was not a foregone conclusion that he was alive, given the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] record for reporting on the whereabouts and health” of detainees. “The United States has worked publicly and privately for Gao’s release, but we’re looking for the White House, specifically the president and vice president, to get involved, and so far this has not happened,” Genser said. “We’re pushing hard, but so far we’re not getting a positive response.”
ISLAMISTS USE RUMORS TO ATTACK CHRISTIANS
March 5 (Compass Direct News) – Tensions remain high in an Egyptian village where as many as 5,000 mostly Salafi Muslims went on a rampage over a false rumor that a church was holding a girl against her will in order to convert her back to Christianity. Dismissing media reports of 20,000 rioting Muslims, sources told Compass that between 2,000 and 5,000 hard-line Muslims, most of them from the Salafi movement, last month harassed Christian villagers in Meet Bahsar in the Nile Delta, attacked a church building to “save” the girl, damaged a priest’s house and then destroyed his car. The girl was not in the church building. She reportedly said her father, a Coptic convert to Islam, treated her poorly and that she had fled of her own accord, and that after hearing reports of the attacks, she contacted police. The Salafis have used such rumors to incite other attacks. In January, Salafists terrorized Christians of a village in northern Egypt after an unsubstantiated rumor spread about a video recording of an affair between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman. The Muslims in Sharbat forced numerous Christians to abandon their property in informal but binding “reconciliation councils,” though a parliamentary commission overturned their rulings last month, and most of the evicted Christian families have returned home.
COURT SENTENCES PRIEST FROM ATTACKED CHURCH BUILDING
March 7 (Compass Direct News) – A priest in Egypt was sentenced this week to six months in jail for a minor construction violation at his church building, while no one in a mob that burned the same structure down has been arrested. The Rev. Makarious Bolous of the Mar Gerges Church in Aswan was sentenced on Sunday (March 4). Bolous said the ruling, coupled with the absence of prosecution against those who burned down the church building, is clear evidence of persecution and a legal double standard between Christians and Muslims. The lower court that made the ruling also fined Bolous 300 Egyptian pounds (US$50). He remained free Tuesday (March 6) awaiting appeal. Local government officials said the building was 2.5 meters taller than what they had approved on a series of architectural drawings for the church building. On Sept. 30, 2011, some 3,000 villagers set fire to and then demolished the Mar Gerges building and razed four nearby homes and two businesses, all Christian-owned. The tension in El Marenab village began the last week of August, when Muslim extremists voiced anger over the renovations at Mar Gerges. On Oct. 9, thousands of people marched through the streets of Cairo in protest over that and other attacks on Christians, a demonstration that turned into a blood-bath after counter-protestors opened fire and soldiers ran over protestors with riot-control vehicles. Of the 27 people killed, at least 23 were Christians.
NUNS TRAUMATIZED AFTER SCHOOL ATTACK
March 16 (Compass Direct News) – Two nuns in Upper Egypt faced “unimaginable fear” – with one later hospitalized over the emotional trauma –when 1,500 Muslim villagers brandishing swords and knives trapped them inside a guesthouse last week and threatened to burn them out. The next day, the assailants frightened children at the school; attendance has since dropped by more than a third. Accusing the nuns of building a church at the site, the throng on March 4 chanted Islamic slogans as they surrounded the guesthouse of a privately run, public school in the village of Abu Al-Reesh, in Aswan Province. Two nuns, volunteer teachers at Notre Dame Language Schools, barricaded themselves into the school’s guesthouse for about eight hours. The women were “terrified,” said Magdy Melad, director of the school. School workers hid a third nun from the mob in a separate building on the campus out of fear that the mob would attack her as well. From three mosques near the school, people began shouting over loudspeakers in minarets, summoning more Muslims to surround the guesthouse. The two nuns suffered cuts and bruises in the attack, and one fainted during the ordeal. The women were taken to a Catholic church in Aswan, except for one, who suffered what Melad characterized as a “major” nervous breakdown and had to be transported on March 8 to Cairo, where she was hospitalized.
SALAFIST LEADERS CELEBRATE DEATH OF COPTIC POPE
March 23 (Compass Direct News) – As Christians across Egypt continued to mourn the loss of Pope Shenouda III this week, Islamist leaders of the Salafist movement issued a litany of insults, calling the late leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church the “head of the infidels” and thanking God for his death. The vitriol indicated the level of hostility the Salafists, who now make up 20 percent of Egypt’s parliament, have toward Christians. In a recorded message released on the Facebook page of one leading Salafi teacher, Sheik Wagdy Ghoneim, the sheik celebrated the pontiff’s death. “We rejoice that he is destroyed. He has perished,” Ghoneim said on Sunday (March 18), the day after Shenouda died at the age of 88. “May God have His revenge on him in the fire of hell – he and all who walk his path.” After the cleric issued his statement, several others followed suit, releasing insults throughout the week. Bishop Mouneer Anis, head of the Episcopal and Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, said that insulting people after their death is considered one of the rudest things someone can do in the Middle East. Anis, a close friend of the pontiff, told Compass the comments and actions were “very sad.” Most Muslims in Egypt did not share Ghoneim’s sentiments. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic group in the country, issued a statement expressing his condolences over the Coptic pope’s death.
PARENTS, ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS BEAT YOUNG WOMAN
March 20 (Compass Direct News) – A young woman was thrown out of her home this month for daring to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name in a predominantly Muslim village in India’s West Bengal state, and then her parents helped Islamic extremists to beat her nearly unconscious. The attack on Rekha Khatoon, 22, took place on March 9 in Nutangram, Murshidabad. “I boldly told those who beat me up that I may leave my parents, but that I will not leave Jesus,” Khatoon said. “Jesus has healed me, and I cannot forget Him.” In a village where hard-line Muslims have threatened to kill the 25 families who initially showed interest in Christ, leaving only five frightened Christian families, Khatoon was returning from worship with Believers Church at Al Hamdulillah Hall when her parents and Muslim extremists attacked her, she said. The mob also harassed the Christian woman who encouraged Khatoon to trust Christ as Lord, Aimazan Bibi, said Bashir Pal, pastor and founder of the village Believers Church. “On the same night, Rekha Khatoon’s father, Nistar Shaike, and about 20 Muslim radicals surrounded Aimazan’s house, shouted anti-Christian slogans, threatened to harm her and her family and falsely accused her of ‘luring’ Rekha to convert to Christianity,” Pastor Pal told Compass.
INDIA | RECENT INCIDENTS OF PERSECUTION
March 29 (Compass Direct News) – Police arrested five Christians on March 25 in Dhanegaon, Chhinwara, after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked them and accused them of forceful conversion. A source told Compass the extremists barged into the Sunday worship service of Bharatiya Pratna Bhawan (India Prayer Hall), beat pastor Harichand Varti and church members Santaram Parteti and Mayram Padame, and dragged them to the police station. Pastor Varti’s back was seriously injured, and his hands were cut, the source said. Senior Pastor Rajkumar Narad rushed to the police station to file a complaint, but police took him into custody and later also charged Pastor Varti and two church members with “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” At press time area Christian leaders were taking steps to get them out on bail.
West Bengal – State police arrested seven Christians on March 15 in Asansol, Branpur after anti-Christian elements attacked them. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that the opponents of Christianity suddenly surrounded five pastors – Weleston Kisku, Animesh Das, Nripen Das, Satyanarayan Soren and Rajesh Das – and two unidentified Christians as they distributed gospel tracts and verbally and physically mistreated them. Police took the seven Christians to the station and later released them without charges. Soon a group of Kora tribal people filed a police complaint against the Christians of forceful conversion and luring people to Christianity by offering food and clothes, according to the EFI. Police summoned the Christians back and charged them with promoting enmity and hurting religious feelings. The next day, a judge rejected their appeal for bail and sent them to the Dulal Mandal jail, where they remained at press time.
Madhya Pradesh – Police in Jabalpur detained eight Korean Christians on March 15 after Hindu extremists filed a complaint against them of luring people to convert to Christianity. A source reported that Hindu extremists from the Dharma Sena (Religious Army) also accused them of distributing pamphlets with objectionable materials in them and took the Christians to Adhartal police station. Hindu extremist leader Arvind Baba complained that the Koreans were offering huge sums of money to people to convert to Christianity. The Koreans denied the accusations. After police investigated, the Christians were released without charges.
New Delhi – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on March 12 attacked a prayer meeting in Kalkaji, New Delhi and made false allegations that Christians were desecrating idols and making insulting remarks about their gods and goddesses, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). Jagdish Dey of the Apostolic Faith Church (AFC) was leading a prayer meeting at the residence of a church member attended by six women and a few children when the extremists stood at the door of the house and started taking photographs, according to the EFI. After the final prayer, the extremists forcefully entered the house and dragged Dey out to the street, where about 30 armed extremists waited to beat him, but the women kept Dey from them. Police arrived and took Dey into custody, where area AFC pastor Bobby Chellappan and the Rev. Jobby Prasannan soon arrived, as did 50 Hindu extremists who threatened to hurt the Christians and pressured police into forcing Dey to promise to stop the prayer meetings. “It was a false allegation against us – we do not talk about other people’s religion, nor teach people to talk ill against any other faith,” Chellappan told the EFI. The Hindu extremists have also kept the Christians from using the public water pump and have pressured landlords to evict them, Prasannan told the EFI. In a similar incident the next day, the extremists disrupted a women’s prayer meeting led by another AFC pastor, Blessy Bobby, and ordered the Christians to cease the meeting or face harm, according to the EFI.
Madhya Pradesh – State police on March 11 arrested a pastor and another Christian after Hindu extremists disrupted their Sunday worship in Multai, Betul district. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that extremists from the Bajrang Dal stormed the house church, stopped worship and accused pastor Motilal Gujare of forceful conversion. Pastor Gujare’s brother, a zealous Hindu extremist, instigated his co-religionists to break up the worship due to a personal grievance he had against the pastor, according to the EFI. Multai police arrived and arrested Pastor Gujare and Prakash Masih for “uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.” The Christians were sent to jail and were released on bail on March 15.
Karnataka – State police in Ankola, Uttar Kannada on March 4 arrested a pastor after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh disrupted a worship service, beat him and other church members and accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists barged into the Sunday worship of New Life Church, beat pastor K. Manohar, his wife Lavanya and other church members and took the pastor and his wife to police, accusing them of forceful conversion. The Christians were detained till late evening, and after area leaders’ intervention, Pastor Manohar’s wife was released without charges, but he was charged with hurting religious feelings and was sent to jail, according to the GCIC. At press time area Christian leaders were working to get the pastor released.
Karnataka – On March 3 in Vijayanagar, Bangalore, Hindu extremists accused Christians of forceful conversion and ordered them to halt a prayer meeting. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists forcefully entered the prayer meeting led by two women identified only as Parimala and Padmavathi of Mahima Prarthana Mandira. Police officers arrived, verbally abused the Christians and then ordered them to report to the police station the next day. Officers detained the Christians the following day, but after area Christian leaders’ intervention, they were released without a First Information Report being filed against them. GCIC also reported that the two women had to give a statement in writing that they wouldn’t visit houses and distribute tracts, and that they would not lead prayer vigils.
Assam – Hindu extremists in Gophur on March 3 beat a Christian worker for his faith. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists beat evangelist Santosh K. Jose, put a garland of sandals on him and paraded him through the village. Jose sustained severe injuries and was taken to his native Kannur, Kerala state, for treatment and rest.
Madhya Pradesh – On Feb. 28 Dasrath Mandari expelled his Christian wife, Satwantin Mandari, from their home and village in Tuthuly, Kanker, because of her faith in Christ. A source told Compass that Hindu extremists had warned him that they would ostracize the family if his wife continued to believe in Christ, and he cast her out that same night. The community strictly prohibited her from returning home unless she returned to Hinduism. The homeless Christian was staying with a Christian family in Kanker.
Madhya Pradesh – The parents of a 23-year-old woman, along with community members, chased her from her home and village because she refused to renounce Christ. A source told Compass that Hindu extremists Patel Singh, Jalam Singh and Raja Ram and one identified only as Iswar pressured Mingaro Bhai’s parents, Dasu Ram and Sadhini Ram, to throw her out. The convert from Hinduism took shelter with another Christian in Kanker and filed a complaint against the attackers on Feb. 13 in Dudhada Chowki Thana. Officials summoned her on Feb. 24 to tell her she could proceed with the complaint against her attackers, including her parents, in a higher court, but at press time Bhai had not done so.
Madhya Pradesh – On Jan. 19 in Modi, Thana Antagar, Kanker, Hindu extremists stopped a Christian from beginning her new job because of her faith in Christ. A source reported that the Madhya Pradesh government appointed Shrimati Sambhai of a Gospel for Asia church as a pre-school teacher, but the village head, Dhanuram Behari, and community leader Hiralal Behari persuaded the state to revoke her appointment because of her Christian faith. She filed a police complaint in Sarpanch Amodi on Feb. 18, to no avail. Area Christian leaders were intervening, but at press time the Christian was still not allowed to take her post.
Madhya Pradesh – Hindu extremists in Terra Gowndi, Dhamtari, on Jan. 18 ostracized a Christian convert from Hinduism and pressured him to leave the village. A source told Compass that the extremist threatened to throw Om Prakash Sahu out of the village if he did not renounce Christ, and they also threatened his parents with harm if they did not bring him back to Hinduism.
CRACKDOWN HITS OFFICIAL CHURCHES
March 16 (Compass Direct News) – In a rare crackdown on a concentrated area, Iranian authorities have arrested Christians living in the country’s third largest city in what is seen as a tactic to discourage Muslims and converts to Christianity from attending official churches. Since last month officials have arrested about 12 Christian converts in Isfahan, 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of Tehran. Authorities have arrested leaders and members of churches meeting in buildings, as well as some from underground churches, according to Mohabat News. The targeted arrests started on Feb. 22, when intelligence officers arrested approximately seven Christians at their homes between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., Mohabat reported. The Christian Iranian news service identified those detained on Feb. 22 as Hekmat Salimi, pastor of St. Paul Anglican Church, a convert of 30 years and author of theological books; Giti Hakimpour, 78, a female pastor at St. Luke’s Anglican Church; Shahram Ghaedi, an actor; Maryam Del-Aram, 54; Shahnaz Zarifi, a mother of two; and Enayat Jafari. Another Christian, house church member Majid Enayat, was arrested on the same day at his workplace. Of those arrested, Mohabat reported that authorities released Hakimpour on Feb. 25. On March 2, authorities arrested another convert in Isfahan, Fariborz Parsi-Nejad. None of those arrested in Isfahan last month has been officially charged. Though religious freedom monitors in Iran said it was not clear what triggered authorities to target Christians in Isfahan, one Iranian Christian outside the country said it may be yet another tactic to stop converts from attending Farsi-speaking meetings in official church buildings. “The government is very sensitive in Isfahan, which is the only city apart from Tehran with official church buildings,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “Now the government is focusing on the church buildings to scare the people so they don’t go.”
OFFICIALS ARREST FIVE CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN VILLAGE
March 28 (Compass Direct News) – Officials in a village in southern Laos on Sunday (March 25) arrested and detained five Christians during worship and charged them with leading a religious movement without official approval, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). The five Christians from Palansai district were attending a worship service in nearby Boukham village in Ad-Sapangthong district. HRWLRF identified the five by their single names, as is customary in Laos: Phosee (male), Viengsai (male) and Alee (female) from Phosai village; Poon (female) from Pone village and Narm (also female) from Natoo village. Previously they had attended many services in Boukham, Savannakhet Province, without interference from authorities. Boukham church members meet in a private home, as do Christians in most other provincial villages. Officials strongly oppose small groups meeting outside the umbrella of the government-approved Lao Evangelical Church (LEC), but many Christians prefer meeting as house churches, citing strict controls over LEC activities. “This is typical of Laos now,” a pastor from the capital, Vientiane, told Compass on condition of anonymity. “In Vientiane we see things opening up a little. But the law is fluid. Things can change from day to day, and the situation is still very difficult in the provinces.”
ANOTHER CHURCH IN JOS HIT BY SUICIDE BOMBING
March 11 (Compass Direct News) – Two weeks after a suicide bomb attack by the Islamist sect Boko Haram during a church service here left at least three Christians dead, a similar blast during a Catholic Mass today killed at least three people. As in the Feb. 26 bomb blast outside the church walls of the Church of Christ in Nigeria service, security personnel action apparently forced the suspected Islamic extremists approaching St. Finbar’s Catholic Church in Rayfield, an affluent area of Jos, to detonate their bomb before their car reached the sanctuary where worship was taking place, eyewitnesses said. At Jos University Teaching Hospital, 14 people were reportedly receiving treatment for wounds following today’s explosion, which damaged the church’s roof, windows and a portion of a fence surrounding its compound. Damian Babang, 26, a parishioner at the church, told Compass that he had just completed a reading during the service when he heard the explosion. “The next thing I saw was the ceiling of the church falling on us and cries of people struggling to get out of the church,” he said. “Many people are injured and many have died. I cannot say how many died or injured, but I saw dead bodies being carried away, as well as the injured.” Babang, visibly traumatized as he spoke inside the church building, said he did not understand why churches have become targets of Muslim terrorists. Retaliatory attacks by Christian youths reportedly took at least seven other lives today.
SURVIVORS DESPERATELY SEEK LOVED ONES IN JOS BLAST ***
March 13 (Compass Direct News) – One man rendered a widower by the Islamist suicide bombing at a Catholic church on Sunday (March 11) discovered his wife had been killed only after finding her severed hand with her wedding ring on it. Another could identify his wife only by the clothing left on her remains. Both women, 52-year-old Rose Dominic Dung Tari, and 50-year-old Roseline Kumbo Pam, had given birth to five children. They were two of the nine Christians confirmed killed in the bombing of St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church by Islamic extremists reportedly from the Boko Haram sect. Among those killed in the in the blast, church sources said, was Tari Benjamin, who would have been 9 years old on March 26. Emmanuel David, 16, who like Tari was a Boy Scout helping to secure the church compound, was also killed in the blast. Tari’s mother, Rose Benjamin, told Compass that her son died at about 1 a.m. this morning. “They were working alongside security men, screening worshippers before allowing them entry into the church, before the suicide bombers crashed into them when they refused to allow them into the church,” she said. Several members of the church were still missing. The Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jos, appealed for calm on the part of Christians, saying God was not unaware of their suffering. “We have a faith that preaches the respect of the sanctity of the human life,” Kaigama said. “We have a faith and have the ability to reason. So, we must not behave like those who believe they are serving God by killing others.”
PARENTS TORN OVER LOSS OF DAUGHTER
March 22 (Compass Direct News) – Nearly seven months after their 24-year-old daughter disappeared during a wave of Islamic extremist violence here, Helen and Dakim Gyang Bot can only assume that the voice on the other end of her cell phone that told them “we have killed her” was telling the truth. The body of Simi Maltida Kim has not been found, and those who answered the active Catholic’s cell phone shortly after she disappeared on Sept. 1, 2011 did not indicate why they killed her. But there are signs that she was one of the hundreds of victims of Islamic extremist violence in northern Nigeria last year that has driven thousands of Christians to flee. The Bots live in an undisclosed town near Jos, in Plateau state, but their daughter was a final-year student of Science Laboratory Technology at the Federal Polytechnic, in northeastern Nigeria’s Bauchi state. An instructor there had troubled her about her faith in Christ and unduly failed her on an exam in an effort to get her to recant, her mother said. Her father said that when she did not answer her cell phone and did not return home on day she had said she would, the family was all the more anxious because news had filtered into town that Christians were being killed in Bauchi city. The family reported the disappearance to authorities and continued to call her mobile phone; on one attempt, a female voice said, “Don’t ever call this phone number again – we have killed her, so stop wasting your time looking for her,” her father said. The priest at the family’s church told Compass that Kim might well have been killed by Muslim extremists in Bauchi. “We learned that many Christians were killed in Bauchi at that time, so we are convinced that she must have been killed, too,” he said.
CHRISTIAN WOMAN FREED AFTER ‘BLASPHEMY’ ACCUSATION
March 1 (Compass Direct News) – In a rare triumph of rule of law over mob mentality in Pakistan, police last week resisted intense pressure from violent Muslim protestors and released without charges a Christian woman falsely accused of desecrating the Quran. Muslim teachers at City Foundation School in Roranwala village, in the suburbs of Lahore, accused the school principal, Saira Khokhar, of desecrating a quranic scripture booklet on Feb. 22. Sources told Compass that police refused to bow to pressure from Islamists clamoring outside the school for registration of a case against Khokhar under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s widely condemned “blasphemy” laws. In most such accusations against Christians in Pakistan, they said, police file charges without proper investigation to quell pressure from accusers. After police rescued the principal from the mob, sustaining injuries from irate Islamists in the effort, Superintendent of Police Imtiaz Sarwar told Compass that after a thorough investigation he had concluded that school staff members had falsely accused her. A school cleaner alleged that Khokhar had deliberately thrown a “Surrah-e-Yaseen” booklet into a dustbin while clearing the cupboards of her office. Upon hearing this accusation, the teachers rushed up to the principal and demanded an apology. “The next day [Feb. 23], as soon as I reached the school and sat in my office, a teacher named Asma rushed into the village and started shouting that I, ‘a Christian,’ had desecrated the Quran yesterday,” Khokhar told Compass sources. “Within minutes, a large mob gathered outside the school and started shouting slogans against me.”
TWO CHRISTIAN HOSPITAL WORKERS ABDUCTED IN KARACHI
March 7 (Compass Direct News) – Authorities do not know who abducted two Christian hospital employees in Karachi last week, but police sources said they suspected the kidnappers had links with banned terrorist organizations. There is a strong possibility that Islamic extremists took the two workers of South Korea-based Good Samaritan Hospital, Issac Samson and Indrias Javaid, to Pakistan’s tribal areas after kidnapping them on Thursday (March 1), the sources said. “Such cases are on the rise, as banned Islamist groups and other criminal gangs are turning to kidnappings for ransom in order to survive and procure weapons and ammunition, but at the same time one cannot rule out the possibility of a targeted elimination of foreign and local NGO [Non-Governmental Organization] workers,” a senior investigator for the Karachi police told Compass. He said that most radical groups believed that Christian NGOs were involved in evangelizing “under the guise of charity” and have been targeted for that reason. Samson, 26, and Javaid, along with a worker identified only as Austin and a driver identified only as Nasir, were headed to the Good Samaritan Hospital in Karachi’s Orangi area when their hospital van was intercepted by four “fair-skinned” suspects in a car. Javaid is the general manager of the hospital. Saul Ashraf, brother of the 42-year-old Javaid, said his brother had two small daughters, 5 and 7. “My brother never shared any security threat with us,” Ashraf said. “This incident has shocked us. The police say that he might have been kidnapped for ransom, but we haven’t received any demand for money so far.”
WOMAN CHARGED WITH ‘BLASPHEMY’ FOR REFUSING ISLAM
March 12 (Compass Direct News) – A young mother has been falsely accused of “blaspheming” Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, because she rebuffed attempts by relatives who had converted to Islam to force her to renounce her Christian faith, family members said. Police in Khichiwala, Bahawalnagar district, in Punjab Province, charged 26-year-old Shamim Bibi, mother of a 5-month-old girl and resident of the village Chak No. 170/7R Colony, in the Fort Abbas area, under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” statutes after neighbors accused her of uttering remarks against Muhammad. She was arrested on Feb. 28. Speaking ill of Muhammad in Pakistan is punishable by life imprisonment or death under Pakistan’s internationally condemned blasphemy laws. Shahbaz Masih, her brother-in-law, told Compass that one of the two men named as witnesses has denied hearing anything from Shamim Bibi that supports the charge. Bahawalnagar Superintendent of Police Investigation Irfan Ullah acknowledged that one of the two witnesses had admitted to not being present at the alleged “crime” scene at the time of the alleged remark. “The other witness is standing by his claim, and she has produced nothing so far which can prove her innocence,” Ullah told Compass by phone. He vehemently denied that police had caved in to pressure from local Muslims and had registered a case in undue haste.
CHRISTIANS TARGETED IN ‘ETHNIC CLEANSING’
March 20 (Compass Direct News) – The “ethnic cleansing” that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has undertaken against black Africans in the Nuba Mountains is also aimed at ridding the area of Christianity, according to humanitarian workers. By targeting Christians among people who are also adherents of Islam and other faiths in the Nuba Mountains, military force helps the regime in Khartoum to portray the violence as “jihad” to Muslims abroad and thus raise support from Islamic nations, said one humanitarian worker on condition of anonymity. In South Kordofan state – which lies on Sudan’s border with the newly created nation of South Sudan but is home to sympathizers of the southern military that fought against northern forces during Sudan’s long civil war – Bashir’s military strikes are directed at Muslims as well as Christians, but churches and Christians are especially targeted, he said. Aerial bombardment killed the five members of the Asaja Dalami Kuku family, which belonged to the Episcopal Church of Sudan, in Umsirdipa in the Nuba Mountains on Feb. 25, the source said. The government in Khartoum is using Antonov airplanes to drop bombs, “coupled with state- sponsored militia targeting churches and Christian families,” said the humanitarian worker. “The brutal state-sponsored militias are moving from house to house searching for Christian and African indigenous homes as the government continues with air strikes,” he added.
AERIAL BOMBING AIMS AT CHURCHES IN NUBA MOUNTAINS
March 30 (Compass Direct News) – After Khartoum denied that it had bombed civilians earlier this month, Sudanese aerial strikes last week were aimed at church buildings and schools in Kauda, South Kordofan state, a humanitarian aid worker said. Antonov airplanes dropped bombs on Thursday and Friday (March 22 and 23), destroying some houses and cattle near the church buildings and schools but causing no casualties, he said. Humanitarian agencies consider the Islamic government’s targeting of civilians in the Nuba Mountains, which has a large Christian population, an “ethnic cleansing” against non-Arab peoples in the multi-ethnic state, with the added incentive of ridding the area of Christians, he said. Churches in the Nuba Mountains are holding worship services very early in the morning and late in the evening in order to avoid aerial bombardments that target their churches, he said. Most of the bombings take place during daytime, when visibility is better for pilots of the Russian-made Antonov planes. Khartoum is actively recruiting more security personnel and sending them to South Kordofan to help kill or arrest Nuba civilians, including Christians, sources said. Islamic government officials consider the various Nuba ethnicities as enemies or “infidels” in their campaign to clear the region of non-Arab races and Christianity. The Sudanese government has razed 10 church buildings and 17 mosques since fighting broke out last June, according to a report released on March 16 by the Arry Organization for Human Rights and Development. The South Kordofan-based organization reported that the Sudanese Armed Forces and allied militias have destroyed 73 villages and 48 schools.
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