Take urgent action on sharia law, UK Govt told

A crossbench Peer has called on the Government to “respond urgently” to a review on sharia councils by legislating to protect vulnerable women.

Baroness Cox, a patron of The Christian Institute, joined with other members of the House of Lords to call for action to back up the verbal assurances already given by the Government.

Earlier this year the Home Secretary said sharia councils – which critics say discriminate against women – would not be given state backing, following the review.

Greater urgency

In the House of Lords on Thursday, Peers questioned whether ministers were moving forward with sufficient pace on the issue.

Lord Elton, a Conservative, said the problem of sharia councils “seems to me bigger and more urgent than Her Majesty’s Government are giving it credit for”.

Crossbencher Baroness Flather accused Whitehall of not taking the issue seriously.

And Lady Cox, who opened the debate, asked whether the Government “will make it a priority to respond urgently with appropriate legislation”.

Serious

Responding for the Government, Baroness Manzoor stressed that officials were working towards a solution.

She restated that the Government does “take this issue very seriously” and that “UK law has primacy and sharia law does not”.

Following the debate, Lady Cox told The Christian Institute she was “cautiously optimistic” about the response.

But she urged ministers to “proceed as quickly as possible to alleviate the tragic predicament of many Muslim women”.

Unequal treatment

In the review on sharia, it was found that the councils are almost exclusively used by women – 90 per cent of the time for divorce.

Concerning practices included women being treated unequally, “inappropriate” questioning and some council members having a poor grasp of English.

The Christian Institute welcomed the Home Secretary’s assertion that the councils would not receive official sanctioning.

“Muslims have the same legal rights as everyone else in this country. They shouldn’t be denied those rights by some kind of UK-sanctioned system of sharia courts”, Deputy Director Simon Calvert said.

Chinese Officials Interrupt Seminary, Arrest Pastors Without Warrants

(China Aid)  Officials interrupted a seminary class in China’s eastern Jiangsu province on Wednesday and brought away two pastors without displaying any warrants.

Saying that the seminary lacked proper credentials for operating a school, approximately seven police officers and several agents from the local religious affairs bureau broke into the classroom at 10 a.m. on May 23 and threatened to arrest the teacher and more than 20 students without giving any legal documentation.

The class negotiated with the police and questioned which law allowed them to arbitrarily arrest people, and the argument became physical. In the end, a Christian said, “The police softened a little, but they still brought away Pastor Fang and Pastor Wang.” They also took down ID card information while the students sang hymns.

Afterwards, many Christians arrived at Shitun Police Station, where the pastors were being held, to inquire about the details of the case. Wang and Fang were both released shortly after noon on the same day.

Persecution of Christian schools is not limited to one province, however. On May 19, the landlord of Zhongzi School, which is run by Shangli Church in Xiamen, Fujian, succumbed to government pressure and hired an unknown man to lock the school’s gate, preventing children from bringing their parents to class. The next day, the church’s members and their children prayed in front of the church to pray and express their anger. The local education departments accused the school of lacking registration and operating illegally. One of the church’s preachers wrote, “The government is still persecuting the school. I received a call from the police station, who has my household registration and came to investigate the school.”

Previously, landlords have repeatedly evicted the school and church. On May 15, the church’s landlord locked the front gate of the church. When Pastor Yang Xibo arrived early, he found he could not enter, and then led a group of children outside of the church to pray.

ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by the members of Shangli Church, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.

Chinese officials pressure Beijing landlords to cancel contracts with house churches

Chinese officials in Beijing have reportedly been pressuring landlords in the past week to cancel their leases to house churches.

According to China Aid, the national security brigade of the Xicheng District Public Security Bureau visited a church on May 6 and investigated the proceedings. Two days after the visit, the brigade reportedly asked the landlord of the building to cancel the lease of the church.

The church had asked to remain anonymous, but a member had told China Aid how the officials pressured the Christians to stop conducting services at the building.

“The police called us today and forbade us from organizing religious activities in any form,” a church member only identified as Yin said, according to China Aid.

“In the morning, the government forced the [Christian] brother who rented the building to sign a letter guaranteeing that he would not participate in any religious activities. We haven’t met with any representatives from the religious affairs bureau yet, and we don’t know how to handle all of this,” the church member added.

Another parishioner recounted that the police have promised to leave the church alone if it moves to a location out of their jurisdiction. However, the church members were concerned that they would just face harassment from the authorities in the new area.

An elder from another church told China Aid on May 9 that the authorities have also been harassing Christians in his neighborhood.

Xu Yonghai, an elder from Holy Love Fellowship, said that the normal activities of his church were disrupted by the police, who have been asking him about people who will attend a Bible study session.

“[W]e gathered for a Bible study on Friday, April 20. On April 19, the police showed up at my house and asked me: ‘Who is going to attend the gathering tomorrow? Will there be reporters?’ A few reporters visit our church frequently and attend the Bible study sessions. Two reporters had planned to come on April 20,” Xu narrated.

According to Xu, one reporter had called him and said that he would not go inside the building after seeing the police and officials from the neighborhood committee.

The church elder noted that the authorities had harassed members of Holy Love Fellowship in the past.

In January 2014, 13 members of the church were detained for “gathering illegally.” Seven more members of the church were arrested for “using evil cults to disrupt law enforcement,” according to China Aid.

Beijing officials have stepped up the crackdown against religion in the past few weeks. In April, government officials have reportedly forced the Zion Church to install surveillance cameras inside and outside of the church premises.

Members were reportedly interrogated by officials regarding their housing situations, occupations, details about their families as well as their relationship with the church.

The unregistered house church reportedly tried to calm its members by quoting part of China’s Constitution that guarantees the freedom of religion for citizens. The church also promised parishioners that it will safeguard their rights, maintain their safety and support them in accordance with Chinese law.

Gaza militants strike Israel, drawing Israeli retaliation

Palestinian militants bombarded southern Israel with dozens of rockets and mortar shells Tuesday, while Israeli warplanes struck targets throughout the Gaza Strip in the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war.

The Israeli military said most of the projectiles were intercepted, but three soldiers were wounded, raising the chances of further Israeli retaliation. One mortar shell landed near a kindergarten shortly before it opened.

The sudden burst of violence, which stretched past midnight with no signs of slowing, follows weeks of mass Palestinian protests along the Gaza border with Israel. Over 110 Palestinians, many of them unarmed protesters, have been killed by Israeli fire in that time. Israel says it holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for the bloodshed.

“Israel will exact a heavy price from those who seek to harm it, and we see Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

The last war in 2014 was especially devastating, with over 2,000 Palestinians killed, including hundreds of civilians, and widespread damage inflicted on Gaza’s infrastructure in 50 days of fighting. Seventy-two people were killed on the Israeli side.

Tuesday’s violence bore a striking resemblance to the run-up to past wars. In the early morning, Palestinian militants fired over two dozen mortar rounds into southern Israel, including the shell that landed near the kindergarten.

The Israeli military confirmed over 60 airstrikes throughout Gaza, including an unfinished tunnel near the southern city of Rafah that crossed under the border into Egypt and from there into Israeli territory. It said other targets included “sheds of drones,” a rocket manufacturing workshop, naval weaponry, military and training facilities and a munitions manufacturing site. No Palestinian casualties were reported.

Palestinian militants continued to fire additional barrages toward southern Israel, setting off air raid sirens in the area throughout the night.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief military spokesman, threatened tougher action and said it was up to Hamas to stop the situation from escalating.

“These strikes will continue to intensify as long as necessary if this fire continues,” he told reporters outside Israeli military headquarters.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant issued a joint statement Tuesday, claiming shared responsibility for firing rockets and projectiles against Israeli communities near Gaza.

They said Israel “began this round of escalation” by targeting their installations in the past two days, killing four militants. It was the first time the armed wing of Hamas has claimed responsibility for rocket attacks out of Gaza since the 2014 war.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman, Daoud Shehab, claimed that Egypt had brokered a cease-fire deal to go into effect at midnight. But more than an hour after the deadline, rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes were continuing. Shehab said some militants rejected the cease-fire and were continuing to fire rockets. There was no Israeli comment on the purported cease-fire plan.

Hamas has been severely weakened by the three wars with Israel, as well as a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has brought the local economy to a standstill.

Hamas initially billed the weekly border protests as a call to break through the fence and return to homes that were lost 70 years ago during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

But the protests appear to be fueled primarily by a desire to ease the blockade. Gaza’s unemployment rate is edging toward 50 percent, and the territory suffers from chronic power outages.

With limited options at its disposal, and a failure so far of the protests to significantly ease the blockade, Hamas appears to be gambling that limited rocket fire might somehow shake up the situation.

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, said the “resistance is capable of hurting the occupation and it proved this today by responding to its crimes.”

Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities.

Also Tuesday, two fishing boats carrying students and medical patients set sail from Gaza City’s port, aiming to reach Cyprus and break the Israeli blockade, which has restricted most activity along the coast. Hamas acknowledged it was mostly a symbolic act.

One of the boats quickly turned around, while the Israeli navy intercepted the second vessel after it ventured beyond a six-mile (10-kilometer) limit imposed by Israel.

The Israeli military said the boat was intercepted without incident, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod and the 17 people aboard would be sent back to Gaza.

In southern Israel, angry residents complained about the renewed rocket fire.

Adva Klein of Kibbutz Kfar Aza said she only got about two hours of sleep because of the frequent incoming fire and the warning sirens. Other residents reported machine- gun fire from Gaza.

“It’s been a really scary morning,” said Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim.

Regional councils near the Gaza border instructed residents to stay close to bomb shelters.

The high Palestinian death toll in the border protests has drawn strong international criticism of Israel, with rights groups saying Israel’s use of live fire is illegal because in many cases it has struck unarmed protesters who did not pose an imminent threat to Israeli soldiers.

But on Tuesday, the Palestinians came under criticism.

The United States condemned the attacks out of Gaza and called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Security Council “should be outraged and respond.”

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called for an immediate halt to the rocket and mortar fire.

“Indiscriminate attacks against civilians are completely unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had instructed embassies around the world to seek similar condemnations of the Palestinian fire.

Israel has rejected the criticism of its response to the protests, saying it is defending its border and nearby communities. It accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of protests and using civilian demonstrators as human shields.

Hamas has vowed to continue the border rallies.

‘Oldest Manuscript’ of Gospel of Mark Discovered

‘Oldest Manuscript’ of Gospel of Mark Discovered

An ancient and much-debated fragment of the Gospel of Mark has been dated to the late second to early third century A.D., making it the oldest fragment of Mark ever found.

The Egypt Exploration Society made the announcement about the fragment – known as P.Oxy LXXXIII 5345 – on its website May 24.

“After rigorous comparison with other objectively dated texts, the hand of this papyrus is now assigned to the late second to early third century AD,” the society said.

The society added that “the two sides of the papyrus each preserve brief traces of a passage” from Mark. It was found around 1903 along with many other ancient documents, the society said.

It is the same fragment that helped set off a debate in 2012 when news leaked that the fragment could date to the first century, which would have made it the oldest fragment of the New Testament ever found and would have placed it within the lifetime of some of the biblical characters.

Still, its dating to the late 100s or early 200s is significant, experts say.

“Much talked about old fragment of the Gospel of Mark has finally been published as P.Oxy. 5345 by @TheEES, which dates it to late second or early third century. If so, then it’s the oldest manuscript of Mark thus far identified and published,” professor Craig Evans wrote on Twitter. Evans is the John Bisagno Distinguished Professor of Christian Origins at Houston Baptist University.

Peter Gurry, assistant professor at Phoenix Seminary, agreed.

“It’s not first century after all. Still, it’s the earliest dated copy of Mark’s Gospel which is exciting!” Gurry wrote on Twitter.

The earliest-known fragment of the New Testament dates to about 125 A.D. and is from John’s Gospel, Baptist Press reported.

Authorities in Zanzibar, Tanzania Close Down Pentecostal Church

Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya. (Morning Star News)

Officials stop worship service as crackdown continues.

NAIROBIKenya (Morning Star News) – The pastor of a church on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar Island was preaching earlier this month when a plainclothes police officer and local officials strode into the church service.

“One of the police officers in civilian clothes walked through the church’s door, stepped up to the podium and then grabbed the bishop by the arm,” a church member told Morning Star News. “The bishop pleaded with him to allow him finish the preaching.”

The congregation of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church in Kisauni, near the Zanzibar City airport, was gripped with fear that day (May 6) as the pulpit microphone picked up Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya’s plea. The regional and local district commissioners ordered him to stop the worship service as the officer dragged him into a police car, said the church member, unidentified for security reasons.

“Why are you arresting my father without giving us the reasons for his arrest?” the pastor’s daughter cried. “This is very inhumane.”

The local district commissioner slapped her and pushed her into the police vehicle, the source said.

Other church members tried to intervene, in vain. Bishop Kwiyeya and his daughter were taken to the police station in Mazizini. The 160-member congregation went back into their church building and began praying for them.

“No one can take away our faith in Jesus Christ – Jesus is always with us and is ready to help us,” a church elder told them.

Congregation members later went to the police station, where the chief officer told them there were no charges against the pastor and his daughter, and they were released later that day.

The incident followed an order to close the church after Muslim sheikhs from a nearby mosque complained that services on Sundays and weeknights were too loud – though the congregation does not use loudspeakers as the neighboring mosque does.

“We have the right to worship God just like our brothers the Muslims who worship God using loudspeakers, but no one terms their worship a nuisance,” the church member told Morning Star News. “We as the church are of the opinion that the order to close the church is tainted with favoritism and unconstitutional.”

On April 26, the regional and local district commissioners met with Muslim leaders on the church premises – without inviting the church leaders – and discussed the allegations that the church was becoming a nuisance to the community due to loud noise. The regional district commissioner then ordered the church be closed.

The church did not comply with the order since leaders had not been given the opportunity to defend themselves, the source said. The church instead filed an objection with the regional district commissioner.

“The church could have been given a hearing before such radical decision of closing the church was taken,” he said. “This is quite unfair and contrary to the provision of the constitutional rights of freedom of worship of the United Republic of Tanzania.”

Church members say the closure was a calculated move to weaken Christianity and do away with it in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, he said.

“The worship by the church should be respected as it is guaranteed by the constitution of Tanzania,” the church member said.

Area Muslims did not complain about noise at the church until it completed a worship building with a seating capacity of 500 people in February, he said. Previously church members worshipped in a tent.

In March, authorities closed another church in Zanzibar when police pulled down the temporary structure of 50 iron sheets of the Free Pentecost Church of Tanzania in Kiwengwa, sources said. The congregation has yet to find another worship place.

On Jan. 7, local government officials in Zanzibar Town gave no prior warning to church leaders before a bulldozer arrived and razed the building of Zanzibar Pentecostal Church of Jesus to make way for a state university.

Pastor’s Wife Hides Husband from Hindu Extremists Seeking to Kill Him in Northern India

Christian leaders pray for Ram Prasad, wounded in church attack in Uttar Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News)

Police disparage Christians for holding worship services, sources say.

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – In an attack on a church service in northern India that left a 55-year-old man unconscious, the wife of a pastor hid her husband after Hindu extremists said they would kill him, sources said.

Women and children were not spared in the attack by 25 masked extremists armed with wooden sticks last month on the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Baburia Khera, Uttar Pradesh state, after which police treated church members as criminals.

“They were looking for the pastor, saying, ‘We will kill him today,’” pastor Kamlesh Kumar’s wife, identified only as Shashikala, told Morning Star News. Her voice shaking, she said, “We had hidden him inside a room and locked the room from outside. They went on hunting for him everywhere. This is how we were able to save his life.”

Ram Prasad, 55, tried to stop the attackers from hitting congregation members in the April 29 assault, and the Hindu extremists seized him and beat him until he lost his consciousness, she said.

“I saw Ram Prasad fall on the floor bleeding profusely after being hit by a brick, but the attackers continued kicking him and hitting him with wooden sticks until he lay motionless on the floor,” Shashikala said.

The masked men forced their way into neighboring homes in search of Pastor Kumar, terrifying the resident women and girls.

“They manhandled women, beat them, pulled their clothes, spoke to them in a filthy language and disgraced them,” Pastor Kumar told Morning Star News.

The women and girls began to flee the chaos, Shashikala said.

“The neighbors just stood watching us in fear during the attack,” she said. “No one came to our rescue for fear of getting beaten up.”

The congregation had gathered for worship in Baburia Khera, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Raebareli, when the Hindu extremists entered and, chanting “Jai Shri Ram (Hail lord Ram),” quickly attacked the congregation, beating men, women and small children, Pastor Kumar said. Besides using wooden sticks and bricks, they picked up chairs as weapons, he said.

Prasad received stiches for his head wound, and several other church members sustained injuries requiring medical examination. Shashikala and three other women, identified as Mithlesh, Kalavati and Maya, received hospital treatment.

There were 32 incidents of persecution of Christians in Uttar Pradesh state last year, according to the United Christian Forum advocacy group.

Police Disdain

A church member called police, but the officer who arrived chastised the Christians for being an active church.

“Instead of taking action against our plight,” Pastor Kumar said, “the police began to question us as to, ‘Why are you running a church? You are not supposed to worship here…otherwise you will get killed and we can do nothing to help you.’”

The officer told the Christians in a derogatory way to “flee from the church,” Shashikala said. Interrogating church members, he asked them if they had been forcibly converted to Christianity.

“The people told the police that none of them have been forced, but that they all come willingly,” Shashikala said. “They told the interrogating police personnel that they come here for prayers and get healed from their diseases and get peace of mind.”

Police have registered a First Information Report but no arrests have been made, church leaders said.

“We have been serving here for many years now. We had received threats even in October 2017 by the same people, but they had not attacked us then,” Pastor Kumar said.

The church was established in 2014, with about 55 people from neighboring villages regularly attending the Sunday worship service.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, against non-Hindus, has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, religious rights advocates say.

India ranked 11th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the most persecution.

Ways to Combat School Violence

(Editors note  1-Do not allow your child to play violent video games)

Like many, I am deeply concerned about school violence. A massive shift has occurred. Talking, chewing gum and making noise were the top three public school problems in the early 1960s. Currently, rape, robbery and assault could lead the list.

Education expert William Jeynes correlates the decline in public schools with the Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 decisions to remove Bible reading: “One can argue, and some have, that the decision by the Supreme Court – in a series of three decisions back in 1962 and 1963 – to remove Bible and prayer from our public schools, may be the most spiritually significant event in our nation’s history over the course of the last 55 years.”

That decision had enormous implications that will continue unless we make drastic changes. Granted, how can we promote prayer in schools when prayer in the church is at an all-time low?

Tighter guns laws have some merit as long as law-abiding citizens are not restricted. However, guns are not the problem – sin is the problem. Will we outlaw pipe fittings to prevent pipe bombs and cars to prevent road rage? Of course not. Cain killed Abel with a rock. The human heart is the problem.

ourtesy: ©Thinkstock/ronniechua

2. BRING GOD BACK INTO THE SCHOOLS.

I remember a time when we weren’t embarrassed about God. Teachers and administrators would willingly share their faith. Now, evolution is taught as fact, and God is portrayed as a fairy tale – when in reality, evolution is a fairy tale and creation is a fact. In the same sense that this article did not write itself, we are not here by random chance. Kids need to know that they are made in the image of God and that their Creator loves them and will guide them if they turn to Him. Bringing God back into the schools will reverse everything from violence to bullying to depression.

Secular groups have been pushing their agenda far too long. “Separation of church and state” is their battle cry. The courts have misused the infamous “separation” phrase to ban religious activities, primarily those promoting Christian principles. Thomas Jefferson used the phrase in 1802 in a private letter written to the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut. The Baptists feared that the government might try to regulate religious expression. They were assured that this would not happen. Ironically, we are seeing this today.

In other words, the people did not want the government imposing a national religion on the people. Jefferson wisely agreed with them. His statement was intended to protect religious expression by building a wall of separation between the church and the state; solidifying the fact that the federal government could not strike down religious freedoms.Ironically, the public school system was first introduced in the 1600s to teach kids the Bible. Scholars were born through Princeton and Yale. God was embraced, not replaced. America, wake up! We can unapologetically acknowledge the sovereign hand of God on our campuses. Acknowledgment is not establishment. I pray that local school districts don’t cave in to political correctness; difference makers should make a difference.

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.com

3. ALLOW HOPE ONTO THE CAMPUS.

When I inquired recently if pastors could help students after a local school shooting, I was told that they have many trained secular psychologists who can help. In short, pastors aren’t allowed on campuses. Remember, “separation of church and state.” The irony is that those who can offer lasting hope are not allowed on campuses. Granted, I’m not talking about being aggressive and proselytizing unwilling students. My recommendation is that (after a thorough vetting process), certain Christians are allowed on campus as encouragers and change agents, building up those who are bullied and offering hope to the hopeless.

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.com

4. BRING GOD BACK INTO OUR HOMES.

As the family goes, so goes the nation. Violent video games and movies do nothing but foster violence. For example, in Grand Theft Auto, kids can have sex with a prostitute, take back the money, and set her on fire. Parents, for the love of God, wake up! Turn off the media and invest in your children.

Ironically, the missing element that few want to talk about is the fact that mostshooters are taking psychotropic drugs to deal with emotional pain. Therein lies one of the main problems. Homes resemble a volcano ready to erupt rather than a loving, nurturing environment. And our media choices instill fear, violence, and sexual perversion. In short, we are reaping what we are sowing in our homes.

Parents should be the spiritual leaders in our homes; our absence has caused an epidemic. The majority of youth suicides, runaways, rapists, and high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Also remember, we don’t have to leave home to be absent; we can check out mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and lead our family astray. If we fail to train our children, society will do it for us.

Many who have been interviewed after a suicide attempt talk about feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. They see no way out. By bringing God back into our homes and schools, we can impact the next generation at a very deep level. Parents must repent of their apathy and turn completely to God to be changed from the inside out, which, in turn, will change the atmosphere of our homes, schools, and country.

We are witnessing the tragic results of people dying spiritually. We must point people to the true source of healing, or violence will only escalate. Xanax, OxyContin, and Vicodin will never replace repentance, renewal, and restoration through Jesus Christ. We have sown to the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. In addition to violence increasing, SAT scores have sunk to the lowest level since the college admission test was overhauled in 2005. Unless the Lord builds the house, he who labors, labors in vain. Unless the Lord builds the school, he who labors, labors in vain.

 

 

Authorities in Zanzibar, Tanzania Close Down Pentecostal Church

Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBIKenya (Morning Star News) – The pastor of a church on Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar Island was preaching earlier this month when a plainclothes police officer and local officials strode into the church service.

“One of the police officers in civilian clothes walked through the church’s door, stepped up to the podium and then grabbed the bishop by the arm,” a church member told Morning Star News. “The bishop pleaded with him to allow him finish the preaching.”

The congregation of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church in Kisauni, near the Zanzibar City airport, was gripped with fear that day (May 6) as the pulpit microphone picked up Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya’s plea. The regional and local district commissioners ordered him to stop the worship service as the officer dragged him into a police car, said the church member, unidentified for security reasons.

“Why are you arresting my father without giving us the reasons for his arrest?” the pastor’s daughter cried. “This is very inhumane.”

The local district commissioner slapped her and pushed her into the police vehicle, the source said.

Other church members tried to intervene, in vain. Bishop Kwiyeya and his daughter were taken to the police station in Mazizini. The 160-member congregation went back into their church building and began praying for them.

“No one can take away our faith in Jesus Christ – Jesus is always with us and is ready to help us,” a church elder told them.

Congregation members later went to the police station, where the chief officer told them there were no charges against the pastor and his daughter, and they were released later that day.

The incident followed an order to close the church after Muslim sheikhs from a nearby mosque complained that services on Sundays and weeknights were too loud – though the congregation does not use loudspeakers as the neighboring mosque does.

“We have the right to worship God just like our brothers the Muslims who worship God using loudspeakers, but no one terms their worship a nuisance,” the church member told Morning Star News. “We as the church are of the opinion that the order to close the church is tainted with favoritism and unconstitutional.”

On April 26, the regional and local district commissioners met with Muslim leaders on the church premises – without inviting the church leaders – and discussed the allegations that the church was becoming a nuisance to the community due to loud noise. The regional district commissioner then ordered the church be closed.

The church did not comply with the order since leaders had not been given the opportunity to defend themselves, the source said. The church instead filed an objection with the regional district commissioner.

“The church could have been given a hearing before such radical decision of closing the church was taken,” he said. “This is quite unfair and contrary to the provision of the constitutional rights of freedom of worship of the United Republic of Tanzania.”

Church members say the closure was a calculated move to weaken Christianity and do away with it in Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania, he said.

“The worship by the church should be respected as it is guaranteed by the constitution of Tanzania,” the church member said.

Area Muslims did not complain about noise at the church until it completed a worship building with a seating capacity of 500 people in February, he said. Previously church members worshipped in a tent.

In March, authorities closed another church in Zanzibar when police pulled down the temporary structure of 50 iron sheets of the Free Pentecost Church of Tanzania in Kiwengwa, sources said. The congregation has yet to find another worship place.

On Jan. 7, local government officials in Zanzibar Town gave no prior warning to church leaders before a bulldozer arrived and razed the building of Zanzibar Pentecostal Church of Jesus to make way for a state university.