Thousands of Christians Gather in Prayer at State Capitals Across America

Thousands of Christians Gather in Prayer at State Capitals Across America

This week tens of thousands of Christians are gathering for mass prayer and worship in state capitals across the United States.

As a part of an event called “Tent America 2018,” hosted by Awaken the Dawn, Christians from across the U.S. are heading to their state capitals for a three-day prayer session and celebration where they will pray for the healing of our nation and celebrate the works God is doing.

The event is running from September 27-29 and is taking place simultaneously with the Feast of Tabernacles which is happening in Israel.

The event will have a tent city set up where people can come to worship, listen to and sing music, pray and hear gospel proclamations. According to Awake the Dawn, the hope is to be able to bring prayer tents to all 50 state capitals as well as to hundreds of college campuses across the country.

According to the Awaken the Dawn website, “The Tent of Meeting represents the raw, unfiltered presence of God, unrestrained by cultural norms – extending an invitation to weak men and women to cry out to meet with Him, face-to-face. This is the cry that must arise from the generations as we tabernacle together in September: We want to meet with You face-to-face! …John 1:14 declares that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ – we want Jesus to tabernacle among us during Tent America 2018 in His full splendor.”

“We want to go on a rescue mission to a generation and to a nation,” said an Awaken the Dawn representative in a video on their website.

“Awaken the Dawn is a Movement with assignments from God. The National Mall was the first assignment, and NOW, we’re mobilizing for TENT AMERICA 2018, tent cities on every state capital and on campuses across the nation!” the organization said in a statement.

“We’re rallying the nation to pray 24/7 for revival in America and for breakthrough and covering for Tent America 2018 between now and September 27.”

The statement concludes with a call to arms saying, “Would you prayerfully consider taking one hour of your week to dedicate to prayer for Tent America 2018 and Great Awakening in our land?”

 

Turkey Charges Pastor Brunson with ‘Christianization,’ Daughter says it Equates Christianity to ‘Terrorism’

Pastor Andrew Brunson may be released from Turkey next month at a hearing, according to reports.

Brunson is under arrest and spent two years in a Turkish prison. It wasn’t until more than a year into his imprisonment that authorities finally charged him with “Christianization.”

According to Breitbart.com, the formal charge is terrorism and espionage. He could face up to 35 years in custody in Turkey.

Brunson’s daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, spoke at this year’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, saying God is in control of the situation.

“There have been times I have not been happy with God’s plan in this situation,” she said. “I’ve really come to realize God is in complete control and He has a plan and this is all for his glory. He is worth everything that my family has gone through.”

She says her father was held with 22 people in a cell meant for eight people. She says he now has anxiety and depression.

She says her father has been able to write letters to her, saying he is trusting in God.

“I’ve seen that message come through in my dad’s letters as well as he started to transform and submit to God and say, ‘God, my life is yours. Whatever you do with me let it honor you, let it declare your name and your goodness to people.’”

During the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is working for Brunson’s release.

“We are sparing no effort to return Pastor Brunson to the United States … he has been wrongly held, and his proper place is to be able to return here to once again practice his faith in our great nation,” Pompeo said. “Know this, President Trump will never forget about our own.”

Rebel Force Attacks Churches in Burma

A United Wa State Army (UWSA) militant begins toppling cross on church building in rebel-held territory in Shan state, Burma (Myanmar), in photo circulated on Facebook. (Morning Star News)

ANGON, Burma (Morning Star News) – Ethnic Wa rebels this month shut down churches or destroyed their buildings and temporarily detained several clergymen in eastern Burma (Myanmar), sources said.

On the border with China, soldiers of Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), attacked the churches in the rebel’s autonomous region in Shan state, according to Christian leaders.

“We confirmed that at least 12 churches have been destroyed or closed as of Sept. 20,” a Christian leader who has lived in the Wa region for several decades told Morning Star News. The Wa people worship ancestral spirits, and the move by the UWSA was meant to hamper Christian missionary activity, said the leader on condition of anonymity.

Most of the targets were Baptist churches in Panghsang, where Wa soldiers destroyed crosses, the source said. The headquarters of the UWSA is located in Panhsang, on Burma’s border with China.

A video showing the UWSA soldiers damaging a church building in Mong Maw town on Sept. 19 was widely circulated by Myanmar Facebook users. Local sources said schools built by Christian organizations in Panghsand town also have been shut down.

“Not only churches in Panghsang city were shut down, but churches in Mong Maw town were also destroyed,” said Ah Kar, a local resident in Mong Maw town. “Some religious leaders were arrested, and some people who worship were briefly arrested, and they were head-shaved before release. Some of those who were head-shaved were women.”

Local media reported that the UWSA rebels attacked because the church buildings were built without UWSA permission. The rebel soldiers in the past week detained and questioned several Christian leaders in the UWSA controlled region, sources said.

U Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for the UWSA, told the Myanmar Times, a Yangon-based newspaper, described the rebels as controlled by extremist elements and said UWSA officials are looking into whether the arrested religious leaders are allowed to carry out their activities in rebel-controlled territory.

“I heard that some churches were demolished that had been built without the permission of the UWSA central committee,” U Nyi Rang told the Myanmar Times. “We are trying to control the instability in the region caused by extremist, unregistered religious leaders from outside.”

Although most of the population in Wa territory worships spirits or Nats, there are also Buddhists as well as Christian communities such as Baptists and Roman Catholics. Many area members of ethnic minority groups, such as the Ahkar, Lahu and Kachin, as well as the Wa, are Christians, sources said.

“We live in hills and were isolated,” said Tat Nyi Nat, a Christian who lives in Nang Pang in the Wa region. “But we got a chance to study and became educated persons because of the Christian missionaries. We were happy. But we are not happy for the future of our children.”

Missionary activity among the Wa has long been carried out, but attacks have been growing steadily worse, and some suspect Chinese authorities are behind them, a local Christian leader who is a long-time resident in the Wa region told Morning Star News.

“There have been more restrictions on Christian religious organizations for three years,” he said on condition of anonymity. “It has become worse. We don’t criticize other religions and don’t force non-Christians to convert into Christian.”

Bertil Lintner, a veteran journalist who has written several books on Myanmar ethnic minorities, wrote in Asian Times Online that pressure from Chinese authorities on the border is believed to be behind the restriction on Christian activities in Wa areas.

The Chinese Communist Party see missionaries as tools of Western influence among Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, including the ethnic Wa who have Christians among them, Lintner writes.

Asia Times Online obtained a Chinese-language, UWSA statement stating that all Wa military officers and administrators are instructed to “find out what the Christian missionaries are doing and what are their intensions.”

The statement promises to punish local administration officials who support missionary activities, prevents the construction of church buildings and requires that leaders of existing churches be native and not foreign, Asia Times Online reported.

Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian.

The country is ranked 24th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Coptic Christians Deprived of Home Worship Hall in Egypt

El Amarawy mosque in Minya, Egypt. (Wikipedia)

Morning Star News) – Nearly a year after declaring that attacks on Christians had hit a level not seen in decades, a Coptic Orthodox bishop in Egypt continues to lament a stream of incidents of violence against churches in Upper Egypt.

Coptic Orthodox Bishop-General of Minya Anba Makarios this month confirmed that an Islamist assault on four Christians’ homes after mosque prayers on Aug. 31 left two Copts with knife wounds in the head and face.

Makarios issued a statement saying the homes of Adel Saeed Rizq, Reda Abdel-Sayed Rizq, Kamel Fawzy Shahata and Fawazy Shahata Boutros in Dimshau Hashim village were damaged and plundered because the assailants objected to the Copts using a small hall in one of the homes for worship.

The village has no church facility, so after the damages to the homes, the Coptic families were forced to hold a Sept. 6 funeral in the street, according to Egyptian news outlet Watani.

At the four homes in the village in Minya Governorate, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Cairo, the assailants stole gold jewelry, smashed electric equipment and set part of one property on fire. A fireman was injured attempting to douse it. The wounded Copts received treatment at Minya Public Hospital, according to Watani.

Makarios reported that Minya police arrested 38 Muslim extremists, released 19 and held another 19 for investigation on suspicion of creating unrest and assault. The bishop said the attack was motivated by the Islamists’ objection to Copts allegedly building a church facility without a license.

He said he appreciated the tight security that followed, saying officials were striving to restore Copts’ rights. The bishop said he was pained to listen to the Coptic families tell him how their terrorized children wailed during the assault, according to Watani.

Makarios said it was heart-aching that the children “should be subjected to such horror simply because their families exercised their constitutional right of freedom of worship,” according to Watani.

While striving to console them, he encouraged them to hold to the Christian tenet of entrusting themselves to God while bearing the persecution and to practice forgiveness, tolerance and patience. At the same time, he said the government is obligated to prosecute the culprits and bring them to justice, compensate the victims and reject customary “reconciliation” meetings between victim and assailant that invariably result in Muslim attackers denying religious rights to Copts, according to Watani.

Such injustices allow assailants to escape justice and send Islamic extremists the message that they can commit crimes with impunity, he said.

Last October Makarios had said that it has been years since Egypt had suffered the flurry of church closures and assaults on Christians and their properties in one month. Four churches were closed over two weeks after Islamic extremists attacked three churches in Minya Governorate.

Egypt ranked 17th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

1. US-Israel special ties are accentuated by Columbus Day (October 8, 2018), which is always celebrated around Sukkot (September 24-30, 2018). According to “Columbus Then and Now” (Miles Davidson, 1997, p. 268), Columbus landed in America on Friday afternoon, October 12, 1492, the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, in the Jewish year 5235, on the 7th day of Sukkot, Hosha’na’ Rabbah – a day of special universal deliverance and miracles. Hosha’ (הושע) is “deliverance” in Hebrew, Na’ (נא) is the Hebrew word for “please” and Rabbah (רבה) is “The Sublime.” The numerical value of Na’ in Hebrew is 51 (נ – 50, א – 1), which corresponds to the celebration of Hoshaa’na’ Rabbah on the 51stday following Moses’ ascension up to Mt. Sinai.

2. Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles named after the first stop during the Exodus from Egypt, the town of Sukkota (סכותה) – Exodus 13:20-22 and Numbers 33:3-5.
It commemorates the transition of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt to sovereignty in the Land of Israel; from nomadic life in the desert to permanence in the Promised Land; from oblivion to deliverance; and from the spiritual state-of-mind during the High Holidays to the mundane of the rest of the year. Sukkot aims at universal – not only Jewish – deliverance.

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3. However, Sukkot is celebrated six month after Passover. According to the Jewish mystical Zohar (“Radiance” in Hebrew) – which was written by Rabbi Shimon bar-Yochai in the 2nd century and published by Moses de Leon in the 13th century – Sukkot commemorates the divine clouds of glory, which expressed the presence of God, sheltering the Jewish people throughout the Exodus until the return to the Land of Israel. The first appearance of the divine clouds of glory occurred in the first stop of the Exodus, Sukkota.

The holiday of Sukkot follows Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which reaffirm the faith in God’s moral and material supremacy. It is followed by the holiday of Simchat Torah – celebrated a day after Sukkot – which highlights the centrality of the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) in Jewish life. The Sukkot holiday represents a human effort to be worthy of the presence and benefits of the divine clouds of glory.

4. The Hebrew root of Sukkot stands for the key characteristics of the relationship between the Jewish people, the Jewish Homeland and faith in God. The Hebrew word Sukkah (סכה) means “wholeness” and “totality” (סכ), the “shelter” of the tabernacle (סכך), “to anoint” (סוך), “divine curtain/shelter” (מסך) and “attentiveness” (סכת).

5. Sukkot, the 3rd major Jewish holiday. It follows Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – in the month of Tishrei, the holiest Jewish month. According to Judaism, 3 represents divine wisdom, stability, integration and peace. 3 is the total sum of the basic odd (1) and even (2) numbers. The 3rd day of the Creation was blessed twice; God appeared on Mt. Sinai 3 days after Moses’ ascension of the mountain; there are 3 parts to the Bible, 3 Patriarchs, 3 annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, etc.

6. The Book of Ecclesiastes. The holiday of Sukkot is dedicated to the study of the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon. It accentuates Solomon’s philosophy of the importance of humility, morality, patience, learning from past mistakes, commemoration and historical perspective, family, friendship, long-term thinking, proper timing, realism and knowledge. The Hebrew name of Ecclesiastes is Kohelet (קהלת), which is similar to the Biblical commandment to celebrate the community-oriented Sukkot holiday – Hakhel (הקהל), which means “to assemble,” as well as “public” (קהל) and “community” (קהילה). Solomon’s call for the realization of human fallibility, vulnerabilities and limitations is consistent with a central message of Sukkot: a seven day relocation from one’s permanent residence to the temporary, humble, wooden Sukkah (booth).

The five Biblical Scrolls are read on five Jewish holidays: the Song of Songs is read on Passover, the Scroll of Ruth on Pentecost, Ecclesiastes on Sukkot, the Scroll of Esther on Purim and the Scroll of Eikhah is read on the Ninth Day of Av.

7. Sukkot and the longest-serving US Senator, the late Robert Byrd (D-WV), who often quoted Biblical verses, in general, and Ecclesiastes, in particular. For example, on November 7, 2008, Senator Byrd announced his retirement from the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee: “’To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.”  On September 9, 1998, Senator Byrd made the following Senate floor remarks on the Lewinsky affair: “As the book of Ecclesiastes plainly tells us, ‘there is no new thing under the sun.’ Time seems to be turning backwards in its flight. And many of the mistakes that President Nixon made are being made all over again.”

More on Sukkot and other Jewish holidayshttp://bit.ly/137Er6J

20+ Nigerian Christians drown in river attempting to escape Fulani attackers

A pastor was one of at least 27 people who lost their lives following fresh attacks carried out by Fulani militants on five predominantly Christian communities in northeast Nigeria in recent days. Many of them drowned as they attempted to escape via the local river.

Various sources contacted by World Watch Monitor confirmed that the attacks took place between 13 to 16 September, and affected the villages of Gon, Bolki, Ndumusu, Yotti and Yanga, in Numan local government area (LGA), Adamawa state.

This is the same area where 3,000 homes were destroyed in December 2017, after fighter jets sent by the Nigerian Air Force were alleged to have fired rockets at villages where Fulani herdsmen were attacking Christian residents, according to a February report by Amnesty International.

A local pastor, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said 27 people had been buried following the latest attacks, which targeted communities along the Benue River. He added that, on hearing sounds of guns, many were scared and fled into the bush, or drowned attempting to escape via the river as they could not swim. He said that ten people are still missing, four from Yanga and six from Bolki.

“Nobody knows the whereabouts of these people missing. Since their dead bodies are not found, it is too early to declare them dead. We will give them the benefit of doubt; maybe some of them may return home to their families,” the pastor said.

Rev. Gerison Killa (World Watch Monitor)

Rev. Gerison Ezekiel Killa, 43, of the Boiki Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, was one of those who drowned. He is survived by his wife and six children.

More than 45 others were injured. The assailants also looted and burned down many homes, and stole cattle.

Rahab Solomon, a survivor from Bolki village, said the attackers stormed their community at about 3pm and began shooting indiscriminately.

“My husband and I went to Numan to my pick up our children around 2pm. At about 3pm, while we were on our way back home, we heard that our village was under attack and that three persons were killed,” she recalled.

“We couldn’t go back home because we were told that our house was burnt. So we came to stay in this camp.

“The next day [14 September] we called my husband’s brother and he told us that the Fulani chased our people and killed so many of them. Those who tried to run through the river were shot and many who tried to escape through the river, but could not swim, died as well; those who could swim were able to survive. We heard that over 25 bodies were recovered from the river. The exact number of people who died in the attack is yet to be known as the place is still under attack.

“We were told that the Fulani militants burnt down all our houses, and some women and children who hid in the farms were abducted by the Fulani. We no longer have a place to call home. Right now we are helpless.”

“We were told that the Fulani militants burnt down all our houses,” one survivor said. (World Watch Monitor)

Jidauna Igiya, the head of Gon village, who survived the attack, recalled the moment his village was attacked:

“On Sunday [16 September], we were home with our families; we did not know that the Fulani were coming to attack us. Although we heard rumours earlier that there was a planned attack by the Fulani on Pasham and Lau villages, so we did not think they will attack us since we did not receive such messages, but at about 4pm, we heard gunshot sounds. Everybody in the village sought cover and began to run for safety, as the Fulani were shooting and burning houses.

“The Fulani burnt all our houses. No house is standing right now and we cannot go back to our villages. The Fulani also moved from our village to Ndumusu, from Ndumusu to Yanga, from Yanga to Bolki, and continued their attack, killing more people and burning more houses. They took away our cattle and looted our foodstuff and property and burnt the remaining things they could not take away. Twenty-six people were killed in our village, Gon, while two others were wounded.

“During the attack, we tried to call security forces but none came to our rescue. We managed to put our families, children, women and old people through the bush and that is how we were able to be saved. Right now we are all scattered. Some of us are still in the bush, taking shelter around Gon north, while some of our families are in Numan and others in other villages.

“Most people who tried to escape through the river during the attack lost their lives as the Fulani chased them because they could not swim. It is not easy for us right now to find food to eat. We have to go to nearby villages to get food for our survival.”

Responding to the attack, the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Stephen Mamza, lamented that innocent Christians were being “killed by these so-called herdsmen on a daily basis, without security forces responding appropriately to stop them from hurting Christians”.

He said the “incessant attacks on Christians has led to hunger and starvation, adding that if these Christians are not aided many will die of starvation”.

Mamza said some them who fled to Numan are taking refuge in a local primary school, while others are staying with relatives.

Long-running conflict

One eyewitness said attacks on the Christian communities have been going on for years (World Watch Monitor)

Solomon Faider, an eyewitness who fled from Ndumusu and took refuge in a relative’s house in Numan, said the herdsmen attacks on Christian farmers in southern Adamawa state have “gone on for three or four years now, without the government or anybody else finding a solution”.

“There seems to be collusion between the military and the killer herdsmen group,” he said.

“Where the suspected killer herdsmen are reported to be attacking from is called Abbare. This place is just a 30 minutes’ drive from Numan, and the military have been informed of the impending attack four hours before it happened.”

The member representing Numan at the Adamawa state House of Assembly, Sodom Tayedi, also lamented the failure of the security forces to prevent the attacks.

“There are soldiers camped in Abbare, yet these attackers will always mobilise from that Abbare”, she told World Watch Monitor. “There is never a time they’ll attack and I don’t call security forces as member representing the constituency.

“I just called the Brigade Commander again and he assured me that troops are on their way to the area.

“We had intelligence report of the attack and reported to the paramount ruler [local chief], who always passes the same information to the security forces, but they [the Fulani] will always come and destroy our community,” she lamented.

Tayedi also said that even if the soldiers were able to mobilise, they may not be able to reach the affected villages due to flooding problems at this time.

Little hope of finding survivors after landslide buries chapel in Philippines

Hopes are fading of finding survivors from a massive landslide that buried a chapel in the Philippines on Saturday.

At least 57 people were unaccounted for in the small hillside mining community in Itogon, Benguet, on Tuesday. Many of them were sheltering inside a small chapel at the time of the landslide, triggered by Typhoon Mangkhut.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by widespread damage to roads, preventing heavy machinery from being brought to the site.

Hundreds of rescuers have had to hike two hours from the nearest highway to reach the village and dig through the mountain of mud and debris by hand.

The massive storm forced around 150,000 in the Philippines to shelter in evacuation centres, before it brushed past Hong Kong and made landfall in China, where another four people have been confirmed dead.

Police officer Heherson Zambale told The Associated Press he had tried to persuade villagers in the mining community to evacuate the day before the tragedy struck but they decided to stay put.

The villagers reportedly told the police officer that they believed the site of the chapel and nearby bunkhouses to be stable, and that they would evacuate if the storm became severe.

Some villagers decided to go to the evacuation centre after the officer’s warning.

‘But many were left behind,’ said Zambale.

According to CBC Canada, a special police unit scanned the affected area with a special radar that can detect heart beats, but nothing was picked up.

Regional police commander Rolando Nana said: ‘I really feel sad, I cannot describe the emotion. It’s not only the people who don’t listen. They have children, wives, elderly parents who will all suffer.’

Hillary aghast Trump might fire disloyal staffers

Hillary Clinton with Rachel Maddow

Hillary Clinton is talking – again. In an interview with MSNBC, she worried that President Trump is becoming “uncontrollable.”

The unsuccessful 2016 Democratic presidential candidate sat down with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and said she has an overwhelming fear concerning President Donald Trump once the midterms are over:

Clinton: “He will fire people in the White House, he will fire people in his administration who he thinks are crossing him, questioning him, undermining him. The president is close to being uncontrollable.”

Political analyst Richard Randall finds Clinton’s remarks somewhat hypocritical, pointing out that she often fired those who she thought were disloyal – and he argues she would never have stood for someone controlling her.

“She somehow has a problem with the president [firing] somebody who is undermining him, betraying him, leaking information, or trying to disrupt what goes on in the White House – and [she] seems to think it’s a problem for him to not want that person working in the White House?” he asks.

And why wouldn’t the president fire that self-described “resistance” person who wrote the op-ed in The New York Times that he hides things and grabs papers off the president’s desk in the Oval Office?

Randall says it’s like the left wants to bring an atom bomb to every knife fight.

“Democrats, progressives – they’re at wit’s end. They never saw this coming,” he says. “They couldn’t imagine Trump winning … they couldn’t imagine Hillary not having eight years to go down that road.”

New American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines Support Sex Reassignment for Kids

New American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines Support Sex Reassignment for Kids

In a new medical policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it supports the surgical and hormonal transition of transgender children and teens.

The statement will be published in October in the AAP’s journal, Pediatrics.

According to The Christian Post, the document discusses ways for parents and health care providers to affirm the gender choices of patients, including encouraging primary care doctors to install gender-neutral bathrooms in their offices and signs that show the office is LGBT inclusive. The statement also suggests diversity training for employees to be “helpful for educating clinical and administrative staff.”

AAP is also recommending that doctors use the term “gender affirmation” instead of “gender transition” to discuss the gender identities of children and teens.

Dr. Jason Rafferty, a member of the AAP Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health and Wellness, wrote the guideline.

The guideline also supports the use of chemical treatments to stop normal puberty, saying those treatments are “reversible.”

The treatments can be used until the child is 16 and gives time for the family to “explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills and further determine treatment goals.”

“The available data reveal that pubertal suppression in children who identify as [transgender or gender-diverse] generally leads to improved psychological functioning in adolescence and young adulthood,” the guideline claims.

The statement also says that chemical treatment to stop puberty can be risky, saying that “research on long-term risks, particularly in terms of bone metabolism and fertility is currently limited and provides varied results.”

In 2017, Johns Hopkins University and Washington University researchers called those treatments “radical” and “experimental.”

Meanwhile, the American College of Pediatricians released its own policy statement in 2017, saying that doctors, lawmakers and educators should “reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.”

Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Sara Rampazzo

Christian Teenager Jailed on Baseless Rape Charge in India, Sources Say

Statue of Hindu deities in Chhattisgarh, India. (Wikimedia, GK13286)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – A 16-year-old Christian and three others in eastern India have been in jail for more than a month on a baseless rape charge, sources said.

Tarai Beda village leaders in Kondagaon District, Chhattisgarh state who worship tribal and Hindu deities had Piso Ram arrested days after a 16-year-old girl accompanied him to his house in early August, relatives said.

One relative told Morning Star News that village council leaders who have long persecuted Christians pressured police to file the charges after the girl’s father discovered she had gone to Piso’s house. Tula Ram, Piso’s 22-year-old cousin and adoptive brother since Ram’s parents adopted Piso after the boy’s parents died eight years ago, told Morning Star News that police still call him regularly threatening to arrest more Christians.

“The station-in-charge calls me every next day to warn about the threats from the village council leaders,” Ram said. “They want to publicly humiliate and expel us from the village.”

The girl’s mother earlier this year told Piso that she and her husband would give their daughter to him in marriage, Ram said. The girl’s mother encouraged them to see each other, Ram said, adding that Piso agreed with him when he told the boy he was too young to be thinking about marriage.

“Months passed by, but through some relatives in the village, he found out that the girl had developed affection for him,” Ram said. “The very next day, [girl’s name withheld] came with Piso to my house. We are a family of nine and follow Christianity, but she and her parents worship the tribal and Hindu gods. I asked her, ‘Why did you come here? Do your parents know that you are here?’ She said, ‘I came to live here with Piso.’”

Within five minutes, the girl’s sister, who knew about her interest in Piso, brought her parents to Piso’s house, and they took the girl away, said Ram’s wife, Subri Ram.

“She had sent him a message that she loves him and wants to stay with him and came home [with him],” she said.

Three days later, on Aug. 11, the girl’s father and four other tribal men attacked Tula Ram’s cousin, identified only as Parsu, deep in the forest, he said.

“He was brutally attacked by her father,” Tula Ram said. “He accused Parsu of lifting his daughter from his house to convert her and marry her in Christian faith, in extremely abusive language.”

The next day, Aug. 12, the girl’s parents filed a complaint against seven male members of the church, alleging that their daughter was gang raped, the pastor of the church told Morning Star News.

“It was shocking,” said the pastor, whose name is withheld. “Police arrested seven male members, including Piso, 16, and Baadhu, 18. The arrests were made solely based on the oral statement given by [the girl] and her parents.”

Piso is in the juvenile ward of the Jagdalpur central jail.

Three of the Christians were released, and the First Information Report (FIR) against the other four Christians was not filed until a week after their arrest – a strong indication that the charges were fabricated, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India said. Besides Piso, charged with kidnapping and rape were Christians identified only as Lakshman, 30, Parsu, 25, and Baadhu.

They were booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for kidnapping (Section 363); kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her marriage (Section 366); rape (376); obscene acts in any public place (294); voluntarily causing hurt (323); criminal intimidation (506); wrongful confinement (342); acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention (34); and section 4 of the POCSO ACT, penetrative sexual assault, punishable by imprisonment that may extend to life.

“We tried to file a counter complaint against her father citing the brutal attack on Parsu the previous day, but police refused to receive the complaint,” the pastor said. “The station-in-charge told us that [the girl’s] father had contacted the village council leaders, and that under their directions they had recorded a statement alleging gang rape so that there can be a strong case against Christians.”

The Tarai Beda village council head, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member identified only as Rudra, has sent a message to the Christians via police officers asserting, “You did not leave the village when we asked you to leave – now we will publicly humiliate and expel you from here,” according to Tula Ram and the pastor.

The girl and her parents were unavailable for comment. Relatives said the girl’s father is keeping her at home and away from all public contact.

Police Sub-Inspector Pitambar Khattar of Makdi Block police station told Morning Star News that the girl’s mother had told Piso that they wanted to give him in marriage to her daughter, but that the two teenagers did not have a romantic relationship.

“The girl gave the statement that she was locked in a room with four men and that they tried to take advantage of her, and her father was repeating the same,” Khattar said. “But as per medical reports and doctor’s statement, we see the possibility of intercourse, and it could have been a forced intercourse, but not gang rape. We suspect Piso must have forced her.”

The ADF-India attorney based in Chhattisgarh told Morning Star News that there was no possibility of intercourse between the two teenagers.

“The police were under the village council’s pressure to frame Christians under section 376 [gang rape],” the attorney said. “When the girl came to Piso’s house, his brothers and their wives and his adoptive father and mother also were present. She was there with Piso’s family for not more than five minutes, according to eyewitnesses, and her parents took her away immediately.”

To prosecute the gang rape charge as area leaders have sought, supportive medical evidence was necessary, so police fabricated medical documents as they are under pressure from the village council, the attorney said.

“Let them submit the evidence to the court, we can challenge its genuineness in the court of law only,” the lawyer said.

ADF, which undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom, notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights that it is sadly ironic that Christians are persecuted in a country with a long tradition and legal framework of freedom of religion.

Article 18 of the U.N. declaration asserts that believers have the freedom to practice their faith “in teaching, practice, worship and observance,” ADF notes in its campaign to obtain signatures supporting the Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.

History of Persecution

For years, the pastor said, the village council has refused to issue caste certificates to Christian youths, preventing them from obtaining low-caste benefits, including admission to educational institutions.

Christians in Tarai Beda village suffered attacks orchestrated by the village council during Christmas and Easter celebrations, sources said. As commonly happens in India, police registered an FIR against the victim of one of the attacks, an area pastor, according to the local pastor who works with him.

“The pastor and I now minister in the neighboring villages and have invited a guest pastor to lead the Sunday worship in Tarai Beda,” he said.

Leaders of the Hindu extremist BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 2016 called for a meeting with more than 500 tribal people and Hindus from Tarai Beda and neighboring villages to devise plans to expel Christians from villages in the district, he said.

“In 2016, a batch of armed RSS activists prevented us from using the route to the ground where the meeting was held – they asked us to use a different route to enter the village,” the pastor said. “But a Christian police officer who was posted in Kondagaon back then warned the RSS leaders that they cannot hold meetings promoting enmity between faiths. The police officer saved our lives that day by intervening timely.”

Christian leaders raised the issue before the district collector, he said. The ADF-India attorney said the RSS and Bajrang Dal members who make up the village council in Tarai Beda have been irked that pastors from villages can raise issues against them before the district collector and police.

“Now, the trend has changed in Chhattisgarh,” the lawyer said. “Earlier, when they refused to supply water and essentials to Christians or disrupted the prayer services, the matter was raised before higher officials. The Hindu extremists now launch personal attacks by setting up their own tribal relatives against Christians.”

The attorney said such retaliation is precisely what has happened in Tarai Beda.

“They picked a very serious and sensitive issue involving a minor female and framed a case,” the lawyer said. “It is not easy to avail bail in POCSO cases.”

Last year, more than 30 Christian families in Chhattisgarh state were driven from their homes and villages because of their faith, living as displaced people in neighboring villages, according to the lawyer.

“This kind of violence and displacement can be seen mainly in Kanker, Kondagaon, Bastar and Sukma districts,” the attorney said. “The victims are currently in grave need of relief and protection, and rehabilitation from the state authorities. We filed a writ petition in the high court seeking protection and rehabilitation of displaced Christians.”

ADF-India has recorded 18 incidents of persecution so far in 2018 from Chhattisgarh state.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist BJP, 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.