China Adds Charge against Pastor, Coerces Christians to Accuse Him Falsely, Sources Say

Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. (China Aid)

(Morning Star News) – Authorities in China have added “illegal business activities” to the subversion charge against pastor Wang Yi and have coerced congregation members to falsely accuse him, according to advocacy and media reports.

Pastor Wang, of Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, was detained in a Dec. 9 raid along with more than 100 congregation members and, as leader of an unregistered church, was charged with “inciting subversion of the state.” His arrest was formalized on Dec. 14. He remains incarcerated along with four other church leaders.

Chinese Christians were baffled at the “illegal business activities” charge, with an elder at a Beijing house church telling Radio Free Asia that it makes no sense, as the church doesn’t sell Bibles or anything else.

Authorities have forbidden Pastor Wang’s attorney to confer with him.

Other ERCC members have been released but regularly arrested and interrogated for brief periods since the Dec. 9, 2018 round-up. Some of them report being forced to take unidentified substances and make false accusations against church leaders, advocacy group China Aid reported.

Those who refused to make false accusations against Pastor Wang and church elders were shackled on their hands and feet for more than 10 days to prevent sleep, a released church member told China Aid.

Pastor Wang’s wife, Jiang Rong, also accused of “inciting subversion of state power,” was released on bail after six months under “residential surveillance,” a common term used by officials to denote being held away from home in a location that is not an official prison, according to China Aid.

Chinese authorities in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province also secretly held a Christian affiliated with ERCC in a basement for months, according to China Aid. Gou Zhongcan was held in the basement of a Public Security Bureau office after refusing to reveal passwords to his computer and cell phone, the group said.

The statutory investigation period for Pastor Wang’s case has ended, his attorney, Zhang Peihong, said in a Facebook post, according to Radio Free Asia.

Some church members detained in Dec. 9-10 raids and later released said police beat them, with one describing being tied to a chair and deprived of water and food for 24 hours, the news site reported. Many church members remain under surveillance.

The subversion charge against Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases. China Aid reports that Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” as the Chinese Communist Party views religion as a threat to its ideological control and rule, though China’s Christians practice their faith peacefully and have no intention to threaten government power.

The government accelerated a crack-down on churches and other Christian institutions under amendments to Religious Affairs Regulations last year. After Pastor Wang’s arrest, church members released an open letter he wrote in September 2018 in which he said he would use non-violent methods to stand in faith and oppose laws that contradicted the Bible and God. The pastor had given instructions that the letter be publicized if he went missing for more than 48 hours.

He was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 10 included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.

Pastor’s Suicide

Revelations about the latest persecution against the Early Rain church came following reports that a pastor at a state-sanctioned church in Shangqiu, Henan Province took his life over the Chinese Community Party’s crack-down on religious groups.

The Rev. Song Yongsheng wrote in a note before he jumped from a building on July 17 that he hoped his “martyrdom” would highlight the Chinese government’s abuses, according to Asia News. China Aid noted that Song was the chairman of Shangqiu’s Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and the president of the city’s China Christian Council (CCC), two organizations that serve as China’s only official Christian institutions. It is illegal to practice Christianity in churches outside the TSPM network.

As leader of Shangqiu’s TSPM and of CCC, Pastor Song was the leader of the official Protestant church in the city.

“I wanted to work with the government, but it was a failure. I want to be the first martyr of this terrible situation,” Pastor Song wrote, according to Asia News.

His letter denounced control of religion by the government and the Communist Party, and he described himself as “exhausted” by the pressures of the heavy-handed measures.

His wife sent messages saying he fasted four days prior to taking his life, Asia News reported. Only two church representatives were reportedly permitted at the cremation of his body on Friday (July 19), with officials forbidding public funeral services.

China ranked 27th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Reporting Persecution to Police a Vanishing Option for Christians in India

Pastor Shelton Viswanathan was attacked in Sheohar District, Bihar state, India. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – Persecution of Christians in Bihar state, India, has so intensified in the past two years that Pastor Shelton Viswanathan didn’t dare call police after Hindu extremists broke bones in his hand and foot.

“If I force the police to register cases against the assailants, the [Hindu extremist] Bajrang Dal’s top leaders will not spare me,” Pastor Viswanathan told Morning Star News. “The police officials asked me to be wary as the Hindu militant activists roam freely with guns, and through their videos, I can be easily identified by other RSS [Hindu extremist umbrella group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh]-affiliated groups also.”

Violence against Christians in Bihar state, in India’s northeast bordering Nepal and Bangladesh, has increased in the past two years, sources said. Hopes for forming a Christian response center with help from legal aid and relief organizations has yet to be realized, Devesh Lal of the Bihar Pastors Fellowship told Morning Star News.

“The Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] extremists are walking into churches and are disrupting prayer services – on a weekly basis, we hear of threats and attacks on home churches and pastors,” Lal said. “Christian persecution is widely spread across Bihar, and it appears to be a much planned, systematic opposition created to target activities.”

Like Pastor Viswanathan, many of those attacked choose not to call police, as officers are often complicit in Hindu extremist aggression, he said.

“We also see police supporting the perpetrators instead of taking action against them, and the victims do not come forward fearing this bias,” Lal said.

The saffron-clad Hindu extremists who attacked Pastor Viswanathan on June 23 were trailing him on motorcycles on Patna-Sitamarhi Road in Sheohar District when they pushed him off of his scooter, he said. The 46-year-old pastor was distributing gospel tracts in Sheohar District unaware that the members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), were stalking him.

“I slowed down my scooter, moved it to the other end of the road and pulled away, but they pushed me with such great force that I fell on the road,” he said. “They were eight men on four motorcycles. One of them clasped me from behind my neck and started beating me.”

Pastor Viswanathan on June 28 received treatment for his injuries at an area health center, where doctors advised bed rest.

“The doctors said that my hand and foot have been fractured,” Pastor Viswanathan told Morning Star News. “I’m trying to limp about, but there is a pain in my injured knee, and I can’t stand straight without support.”

The assailants shot video of him on their phones and warned him not to enter villages in Sheohar District, he said.

“They also placed a Bajrang Dal sticker on my scooter,” he said. “As the passersby gathered to lift me, they ran away on their bikes.”

Originally from the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, Pastor Viswanathan said he moved to Bihar in 2003 in obedience to a call from God to serve in Sheohar District. He pastors a congregation of 18 people at a house church.

“After the attack, some of my Christian friends went to Sheohar police station to inform them about the attack,” he said. “But the police said their hands are tied and that they cannot take any action.”

Goddess Follower Bullying

In Beheri Basti village of Jamui District, Christians bullied by devotees of the Hindu goddess Kali are also afraid to report abuse to police, sources said.

The Kali devotees, who have gone door-to-door demanding donations for a Kali puja (worship ritual), are trained by powerful leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), area Christian Anand Kumar Das told Morning Star News.

“No Christian comes forward to lodge a police complaint against them,” he said. “The police have been biased, but if we unite in huge numbers and approach the higher authorities, they can’t ignore us.”

A mob of well-built Kali followers burst into the house of Das’s neighbor during the daylight hours of June 9, beat the married couple there, robbed them and fled, he said. The couple has since ceased any public display of their faith, Das added.

The mob of Kali followers, known as Kali Dal, also demanded 5,000 rupees (US$73) from Das’s family, he said. His family has long suffered at their hands. As a child growing up in a Christian family, Das saw the Kali Dal compel shops to stop selling goods to them. Living as outcasts in their village, his father opened a general store in Jamui town to make ends meet, he said.

“We work very hard in town, as our agriculture fields have been snatched away from us,” the 26-year-old Das said. “They warned us not to conduct Christian prayers in the village, and that our water supply would stop if we are found assembling as a church in Beheri Basti.”

The persecution has been relentless.

“There is no peace here,” he said. “By God’s grace and supply of means, we solve a problem, and no sooner another problem comes up. I don’t even remember the last time I sat in an auto-rickshaw in my village, as we have been banned from using autos and public transport for commute.”

Sandeep Tigga Oraon, coordinator of Alliance Defending Freedom-India’s Jharkhand Legal Aid Center, visited Jamui on June 27 and July 17. Christians in Bihar are facing severe discrimination because of their faith, he said.

“They have been stopped from receiving government supplies also,” Oraon told Morning Star News. “In Jamui, police framed Christian Dinesh Das and his wife in a false case after beating them up and forcefully ‘reconverting’ them to Hinduism. After learning about the attack on Das and his wife, a few families gave in and donated cash to the Kali Dal activists.”

Another area Christian, Antu Das, told Oraon that hard-line Hindu villagers ridiculed him and called him a Muslim, insinuating a threat of bodily injury in a country with a history of Hindu/Muslim violence.

“I helped him draft a complaint to hand to the police,” Oraon said. “They are scared that they could be under attack at any time. I have been persuading them to take a legal course of action, but their fears and concerns also should be taken into consideration.”

In general, there are three main ways of excluding religious minorities in India: social hostility, laws curbing religious freedom and caste discrimination, according to Andreas Thonhauser, director of external relations at ADF International. In a report published in 2018, the U.S. based Pew research center gave India the highest score for “social hostility” towards religious minorities, including Christians, Thonhauser wrote in a recent issue of the Catholic Herald.

“This intolerance appears to be growing,” he wrote. “In the first quarter of 2019, there were more than 80 reported cases of mob violence against Christians. This means one violent attack almost every day, targeting priests, pastors, families, and whole church communities.”

In Bihar state’s Bharatpur area of Jamui District, Kali devotees stormed into a house church the first week of June and demanded 1,500 rupees [US$22] from Christian resident Sangeeta Devi, Devi said.

“I told them that I cannot offer any money, and they started threatening that they will not allow us to use the toilets,” Devi told Morning Star News.

She and her husband went into debt to build the home used for the house church, she said. Working as a cleaner in a hospital in Pune, Maharashtra state, her husband earns 12,000 rupees (US$175) a month, from which they pay 8,000 rupees for the bank loan, she said. They have three children.

“Even if they kill me, it is fine, but I cannot offer a single rupee for their puja,” Devi said. “Even if our family has to starve, it is fine, we will die serving the Lord.”

Forced Hindu Worship

In Bihar state’s Maheshpur village in Bhagalpur District, Christians have faced shunning, forced Hindu worship and cutting of water and electric services.

“The village council summons one family at a time to a public meeting where they force us to drink the water and food offered to the goddess,” Krishna Kumar Suman told Morning Star News. “If we resist, they would beat us up. They don’t care if it’s a woman or minor or child.”

Christians have been ostracized there since April 2018.

“The villagers have been warned from socializing with us, and if they ever speak to us, the village council would impose a penalty,” Suman said. “It is very difficult to survive there. They stopped the supply of water and electricity to our agriculture fields and have made life terrible for us. My elderly parents, who were highly respected once, endure humiliation daily for not giving up our faith.”

Four Kali devotees have blocked the paths to Christian houses by putting up walls and fences.

“Youth members of the families have moved to different cities for work,” Suman said. “Now they are troubling our elderly parents and women by digging holes in front of our homes. These holes would cause water clogging in rain, making it difficult for senior citizens to walk on a path full of puddles.”

Christians make up just 0.12 per cent of Bihar’s 99.9 million total population, according to the 2011 census.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the BJP came to power in 2014.

US lawmakers overwhelmingly approve anti-BDS resolution

 

In my book Winds of Megiddo and Conspiracy Conspiracy Conspiracy I point out the many resolutions that have been made against Israel and the coming war of Armagedden. Here is another resolution to add to the collection. Read what God revealed to me in the books. You can get them on Amazon.com.

House of Representatives passes measure to oppose efforts to boycott Israel. Resolution passes by vote of 398-17, in a rare display of bipartisan unity.

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution Tuesday opposing an international effort to boycott Israel, a rare bipartisan vote as Democrats try to tamp down increasingly heated political rhetoric over differences with the longtime US ally.

Democrats have been wrestling with the issue all year. Liberal lawmakers, most notably Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, two newly elected Muslim Americans, have spoken out about the boycott, divest and sanctions movement, known as BDS, as they criticize Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Republicans have amplified the views of the left flank to portray Democrats as deeply divided and at odds with Israel.

Ahead of voting, the bill’s chief backers warned against the stark framing as dangerous for both countries.

“This issue has been politicized in a way that I find ugly and ultimately harmful to the US-Israel relationship,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The resolution passed on a vote of 398-17.

House Democrats have been eager to vote to show support for Israel and, for those lawmakers from more conservative areas, to resist having the party be defined by its most liberal members.

Omar, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the only lawmakers to voice objection when the bill was included in a package the panel approved last week.

“What are we doing to bring peace? I believe that simple question should guide every vote we take in this committee,” said the freshman lawmaker, who came to the US as a refugee from Somalia when she was a child and became a US citizen.

Omar has been outspoken against Israel, once tweeting that lawmakers were supportive of the Jewish state because they were essentially being paid to do so. It was widely considered a slur that relied on a trope against Jewish people, and she later “unequivocally” apologized.

Trump called her apology “lame” and Republicans have continued to stoke opposition to her views as part of the “squad” of liberal freshmen lawmakers. Trump stood by last week at a campaign rally as the crowd chanted about Omar, “Send her back.”

Omar, who was among a handful of Democrats who voted against the bill Tuesday, said she supports the long-held US goal of a “two-state solution.” But she said during the committee hearing last week that “truly achieving peace” means “ending this occupation.”

The House has struggled with the issue since the start of the year, after an earlier version passed the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had introduced it as the first piece of legislation of the new Congress, and brought it forward repeatedly for votes until it ultimately passed, also with robust bipartisan support. But the Senate measure, which was part of a broader foreign policy package, stalled in the House amid concerns over First Amendment rights and the ability of Americans to protest Israel’s policies.

The resolution puts the House on record opposing the BDS movement and its efforts to target US companies that do business with Israel. The movement has grown in recent years, and Israel sees it as a threat. Supporters of Israel view it as an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state.

“We must reject the blatant anti-Semitics injected throughout BDS,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, a sponsor of the measure.

To win over those in the House who had panned the Senate effort, the resolution beefed up First Amendment protections over the boycott. While the Senate bill affirmed the legal authority of state and local governments to restrict contracts or take other actions against entities that boycott Israel, the House bill affirms the constitutional right of Americans to engage in “free speech, including the right to protest or criticize the policies of the United States or foreign governments.”

US lawmakers overwhelmingly approve anti-BDS resolution

New technology unlocks burned Leviticus scroll, text unchanged in 2000 years

While skeptics like to say the Bible has been changed over the centuries, new technology affirms one scroll from the ancient Torah to be virtually unchanged in 2000 years.

The burned scrolls found in an ancient synagogue’s ark near the Dead Sea in 1970 resemble charred lumps of elongated charcoal. They sat in archaeologist Yosef Porath’s storeroom since they were discovered – too fragile to be opened or read.

Studying scroll (University of Kentucky)

But last year Porath asked the Israel Antiquities Authority’s lab in Jerusalem to scan the burned scrolls, using a 3D version of the CT scans hospitals use to create images of internal body parts.

“I looked at him and said, ‘you must be joking,’” Pnina Shor, who heads the lab, told The Times of Israel.

No one thought a scan of the charred objects would render anything of value. But Porath sent the images to William Brent Seales, a researcher in the computer science department of the University of Kentucky. He developed a new technique known as “virtual unwrapping technology,” which provided the breakthrough.

Dr. Seales had been working on his technique for the last 13 years, pursuing the Holy Grail of reading a brittle ancient scroll without opening it.

While the CT scan could find blobs of ink inside the scroll, the jumble of letters floating in space would be unreadable unless they could be assigned to their proper place on the surface where they were originally inscribed.

In 2009 Dr. Seales figured out how to recreate the physical structure of the layers of a papyrus Herculaneum scroll found near Pompeii, destroyed when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

His method models the surface of an ancient scroll in the form of inter-locking triangles. Each triangle is resized by the computer until the virtual surface fits the actual scroll. The Hebrew letters are then assigned to their appropriate place on the virtual surface, and the computer turns the 3-D structure into a 2-D sheet.

computer imaging program allowed reading ancient text (Seales)

When the researchers realized they could actually read the Leviticus text, they were ecstatic.

“You can’t imagine the joy in the lab,” Shor told The Times of Israel.

“Not only were you seeing writing, but it was readable,” Dr. Seales noted. “At that point we were absolutely jubilant.”

The Scripture found in the burned Ein Gedi scroll is “100 percent identical” to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use since medieval times, the Masoretic text, according to Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“This is quite amazing for us. In 2,000 years, this text has not changed,” Tov told the Times of Israel.

“We may safely date this scroll” to between A.D. 50 and 100, noted Ada Yardeni, an expert on Hebrew paleography, in the journal Textus. Dr. Tov also agreed with the first-century date.

Only one of the surviving scrolls yielded results, the scroll that contained the first two chapters of Leviticus, wherein Moses describes the role of sacrifices in God’s plan to atone for man’s sin, a symbol of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice as the “Lamb of God.”

While Dr. Seales’ technique offers great promise to Bible scholars, it could also unlock long-lost works of Latin and Greek literature, especially the charred scrolls found in the Roman villa at Herculaneum.

Is the the word ‘Christian’ too hot for YouTube

Image result for my tube pictures

Many expressions of Christian belief have been censored by YouTube, which is owned by Google.

But on Tuesday, even the word “Christian” ran afoul of the social-media giant.

Chad Robichaux reported an ad for his ministry to veterans was rejected for including the word “Christian.”

Robichaux was instructed to “please remove the unacceptable content to continue.”

View image on Twitter

 

Canadian Woman Forced to Close Business after Refusing to Wax a Trans Woman’s Genitals

Image result for tRansgender pictures

An immigrant living in Canada closed her home-based waxing business after a trans woman filed charges against her before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal.

Jessica Yaniv, a biological male who identifies as a female lesbian, asked the woman for a wax, which involves removing hair from the genital area. The woman initially agreed to the service, but later canceled it. Yaniv said it was because the woman learned of Yaniv’s sexual identity, but the woman claims it was because of safety concerns and Yaniv harassing her, the Toronto Sun reports.

Many have rushed to Marcia Da Silva’s defense. Da Silva, who immigrated to Canada from Brazil, offers waxing services for women. They argue that since Yavin still has male genitalia, Yavin would need to get a different service that is aimed at men; one which Da Silva does not provide.

Yaniv, who claims to be an LGBTQ2SIA and Human Rights Activist, is no stranger to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. Yaniv has filed complaints against 15 others for refusing to provide the genital waxing service, claiming discrimination based on gender identity.

Jay Cameron, an attorney with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom who represents Da Silva and other clients, told The Post Millennial that, “Some of my clients have been significantly affected on a personal level. [Another client also] closed her business, she has been depressed, anxious, sleepless, and that has gone on for a period of many months.” He continued, “It is a very serious thing to launch a human rights complaint against a person. My clients are people. They have a right to make a living and this has interfered with their livelihood, but also you have the stigma of being associated with this hanging over you.”

At a hearing last week, the tribunal voted to lift a publication ban on the case, which had previously kept Yaniv’s name out of the limelight, even though the complainant had been openly discussing the case on social media. Cameron observed, “I don’t think that somebody making complaints to the scale that the complainant is making should be able to hide behind a ban and then publicly discuss the cases online.”

As Christian Headlinespreviously reported, Yaniv has also been in the news this week for requesting to host a “topless” pool party for LGBT youths 12 and over at a public pool. The request also stipulated that parents would be banned from attending the event.

On Tuesday, a young woman came forward and shared messages between her and Yaniv from five years ago, when she was 14 and Yaniv was 27. In the messages, which were shared by The Post Millennial, Yaniv made overtly sexual comments about the girl’s body, asked for tips about going into the women’s restroom, and asked for pictures of her used feminine hygiene products. Yaniv responded to these allegations by sharing a tweet which said Info Wars had learned some of the tweets attributed to Yaniv were not authentic.

Yaniv continues to argue that the discrimination cases are legitimate and that the defendants violated the British Columbia Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Code. On Tuesday Yaniv tweeted, “I’m female. Im a woman. Im not a man. Im as entitled to EVERY service a female is entitled to and any such refusal is a violation of the BCHRC and the CHRC.

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Officials in Cuba Forbid Church Leaders to Attend Religious Freedom Event

Cuban officials blocked the departure from Cuba of the Rev. Alain Toledano Valiente. (Facebook)

MEXICO CITY (Morning Star News) – Authorities in Cuba on Sunday (July 14) refused to allow the national presidents of two Christian denominations to board their flight to Washington, D.C., to attend a religious freedom event, sources said.

The Rev. Moises de Prada Esquivel and the Rev. Alida Leon Baez, both members of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Cuba (AECC, Alianza de Iglesias Evangélicas Cubana) were slated to represent the organization as members of its executive board at the event.

They were notified at Havana’s José Marti International Airport that they would not be allowed to travel to the U.S. capital because Cuban State Security had blocked their departure from the country, according to an AECC press statement.

Cuban authorities reportedly denied other evangelical leaders permission to travel to the United States. Officials earlier refused to renew the passport of the Rev. Dariel Llanes, president of the Western Convention Baptist Church of Cuba (Iglesia Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental), reportedly to keep him from attending the meeting in Washington. Immigration officials also reportedly blocked the Rev. Alain Toledano Valiente of the Prophetic Apostolic Movement (Movimiento Apostólico Profético) from leaving the country.

The incidents were the latest in a campaign of repression against the evangelical Christian community in Cuba.

On Friday (July 12), State Security agents forcibly detained independent journalist Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre following his visit to the offices of human rights watchdog group Ladies in White in Havana.

The Camaguey-based reporter and advocate of religious freedom, who is married with an infant daughter, has since been held incommunicado by authorities, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Fernandez Izaguirre, an active member of a network of unregistered charismatic Christian churches, has reportedly been working with the predominantly Roman Catholic Ladies in White to document violations of freedom of religion and belief, a right enshrined in the Cuban constitution.

The jailed journalist’s friends and family have been unable to contact him since his arbitrary detention, and his mobile phone appears to have been disconnected, according to CSW.

Anna-Lee Stangl, head of advocacy for CSW, appealed to authorities for Fernandez Izaguirre’s release.

“CSW holds the Cuban government responsible for the well-being of Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre,” Stangle said. “We call on the authorities to release him immediately.”

Evangelical leaders suspect mounting pressure on Christians – and on the AECC in particular – is rooted in their outspoken opposition to proposed constitutional changes aimed at legalizing homosexual marriage in Cuba. A new Cuban draft constitution approved in 2018 by the National Assembly of People’s Power replaced a clause defining the family as “a union between one man and one woman” with “a union between two persons…with absolutely equal responsibilities.”

Backlash from Cuba’s Christian community forced authorities to delete the new language, but constitutional framers specifically avoided re-inserting the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That left the door open to approve homosexual marriage through the new Cuban Family Code, set to be ratified within two years.

Christians fear it also practically guarantees that the campaign of repression against outspoken Christians will continue.

“In Cuba, there is no real freedom of expression or of worship,” a veteran evangelical pastor who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “Any person who openly opposes the established system is looking for problems.”

Were the government to listen to the voice of Protestant Christians on the issue and maintain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, there would be a possibility for resolution, the pastor said.

“But given the fact that the daughter of Raul Castro, (LGBT activist Mariela Castro Espin) is the force behind the constitutional change, I think it very unlikely that the government will back down from its intentions,” he said.

The AECC, composed of Protestant churches choosing not to identify with the regime-friendly Cuban Council of Churches, counts 1 million members among its affiliate denominations, a number that represents nearly 10 percent of the country’s 11 million population.

Christian Widow Driven from Home in Central Uganda

Islamist threats compelled Sharifa Kasozi Nakamate to flee her native Kirinda in central Uganda. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBIKenya (Morning Star News) – A widow in central Uganda has fled her homestead after receiving Islamist threats when she arranged for a pastor to bury the body of her husband, sources said.

Local leaders on July 11 gave Sharifa Kasozi Nakamate, of Kirinda in Wakiso District, one day to recant her Christian faith or leave her homestead, she said.

After the burial of her husband, Hajji Salimu Kasozi, who died on June 15 at age 65, she began receiving threatening text messages from the clan leader, she said.

“It is now clear to the clan that you and your deceased husband abandoned Islam, since Hajji was buried by Christians,” clan leader Musa Hamisi told her in one text message, according to Nakamate. “We are giving you a few days to recant the Christian faith or face the wrath of being an apostate.”

Among the hard-line Muslims who gave the 49-year-old Nakamate the ultimatum was her son, 29-year-old Alamanzan Basudde, she said.

“I realized my life was now in danger, so I sought refuge at the church,” she told Morning Star News.

She has since relocated to another area, where the church rented a place for her to live and conduct a small business. The church, unidentified for security reasons, has reported the threat to the local council of Kirinda.

“We know it will be very difficult for Nakamate to return to her house,” the church pastor told Morning Star News. “She is so much distressed at the moment.”

Nakamate secretly put her faith in Christ in October 2018. Her husband was Christian in name only, neither worshipping with other secret Christians nor attending mosque prayers, sources said.

When he died, area Muslims refused to bury him on grounds that he habitually ate pork and drank alcohol in public, she said.

“I decided to run to the church, and the pastor came and buried my husband,” said Nakamate, who also has two adult daughters.

The Muslim community’s response to the burial came as a surprise, she said.

“I never expected such thing to happen to me,” she said in anger and disbelief. “I have lost everything that I did in developing the homestead for more than 30 years of our married life, only to lose everything just like that because of following Jesus.”

The church is also concerned for the fellowship’s security. A member received an anonymous text message that read, “Please let Nakamate return to her religion to avoid any negative repercussion of your church.”

Kirinda is located in the Masajja Division of Wakiso district.

The pastor said the church is uncertain what to do next.

“We need prayers as we continue discipling Nakamate to be rooted in the Christian faith,” he told Morning Star News by telephone.

Nakamate said she fears Muslims will discover her new living quarters.

“Two days ago a Muslim from my home village came and bought items from me,” she said. “I am afraid that she will go back and spread news of my new place of residence. This new place is not safe for me.”

The threats to her safety constitute the latest of many cases of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, but with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

Pregnant Mother among Five Christians Slain in North-Central Nigeria

National Mosque in Abuja, Nigeria. (Wikipedia)

JOSNigeria (Morning Star News)

A pregnant mother of two children was among three Christians killed by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in north-central Nigeria the night of July 14 and morning of July 15, sources said.

Margaret Wakili, a 27-year-old member of the Baptist Church in Ancha village, Plateau state, was slain on her farm at about 10 a.m. on July 15, area residents told Morning Star News.

The herdsmen attacked the Christian communities of Ancha, Tafigana, Kperie, Hukke and Rikwechongu, killing the three Christians and burning down 75 houses and two church buildings, according to area residents Patience Moses, Zongo Lawrence and Chinge Dodo Ayuba.

Ancha village was the scene of an attack two years ago, when Fulani herdsmen killed 22 Christians, all members of the Baptist Church in the village.

Moses told Morning Star News by phone that Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked the villages on the night of July 14 and the early hours of July 15. In Tafigana village, Bassa County, she said, they killed Thomas Wollo, 46, and his son, Ngwe Thomas Wollo, 7.

“Both of them were ambushed and killed in Tafigana village as they were returning to their home after attending a church program at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Tafigana, at about 8:30 pm,” she said.

Lawrence, of Miango town, told Morning Star News that the herdsmen beheaded the elder Wallo after killing him. He said attacks on Christian communities in the area have heightened, with one village or another attacked nearly every day.

“We have been experiencing daily attacks by these Fulani herdsmen in our communities, most especially on Sundays during worship hours or Thursdays when church activities are held,” he said.

Lawrence said that 75 houses with food stores and two church buildings were burned down.

“The herdsmen destroyed farm produce worth millions of naira, and a lot of domestic animals were killed in the two villages,” he said.

The attacks on the farms occurred on July 14 as Christians were in worship services in the villages, he said.

Ayuba, another resident of the area, confirmed that Wollo and his son were killed on July 14.

“The attacks by the herdsmen continued on Monday morning with another village, Ancha, attacked, and a woman killed,” Ayuba said. “As a people, we are continuously under attack, and nobody seems to be hearing our cries for help, while killing of our people has now become a routine.”

Two other area Christians were killed in prior attacks. On July 7 in Kperie village of Kwall District, also in Bassa County, the herdsmen ambushed and killed a Christian identified as Ezekiel Audu, 25, at about 9 pm., Moses said.

“Christian residents said Audu was riding his motorcycle in company of his friends when they were ambushed and shot by the herdsmen,” she said. “He was a member of ECWA [Evangelical Church Winning All] church in Kperie village.”

Prior to the July14-15 assaults, the herdsmen also attacked Hukke and Rikwechongu villages, destroying crops on farms belonging to Christians.

On May 3 at about 10 p.m., the herdsmen had attacked the same two villages, killing a Christian identified as 63-year-old Di Zere. Zere was killed in his room when the herdsmen broke into his house as he and his family were sleeping. His corpse was burnt, and his 10-year-old daughter sustained gunshot wounds.

Lawrence said Fulani herdsmen have killed 17 area Christians this year.

“We are left without rescue,” he said. “Houses were burnt and razed down, alongside many churches. Farm produce has been destroyed, while many with gunshot wounds are currently in hospitals. Hundreds of our people have been killed by the Fulani herdsmen in the past three years.”

Enugu State Shooting

In southeastern Nigeria’s Enugu state, Fulani herdsmen shot and wounded a Catholic priest and one of his parishioners on Wednesday (July 17), sources said.

The Rev. Ikechukwu Ilo of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, in Numeh, was shot as he and Chika Egbo drove along the Numeh-Nenwe Highway in Nkanu East County at about 7 p.m., according to a church press statement.

The statement from the Catholic Church quotes the priest as saying that those who attacked them were armed herdsmen.

“As we drove towards the village, the Fulani killer herdsmen, who spoke both in English and Fulani languages, opened fire, trying to force us to stop,” Ilo said. “Seeing that we were not ready to cave in to their intimidation, they started raining bullets on our vehicle at close range, and in the process, shot me at my ankle and shoulder while the other victim was shot in her leg and waist.”

The Rev. Benjamin Achi, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, told Morning Star News by phone that the attack on the priest and parishioner was carried out by Fulani herdsmen.

“Fr. Ilo and the woman with him are currently receiving treatment at a Catholic Church health facility, the Annunciation Specialist Hospital, Emene, Enugu state,” Achi said.

Police also on Friday (July 19) confirmed the attack.

“The Enugu state command of the Nigeria Police Force through its operatives are investigating the attack on a priest identified as Rev. Fr. Ikechukwu Ilo of St. Patrick Parish, Numeh on Wednesday July 18, 2019, along the Numeh axis of Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State,” police spokesman Ebere Amaraizu said in a press statement.

There is a history of attacks on Catholics in the state. In October 2016, herdsmen kidnapped two priests as the clergymen carried out pastoral duties in their local parishes. One of the kidnapped priests, the Rev. Aniako Celestine of St. Joseph Catholic Church, in Ukana, Udi County, was kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen while carrying out pastoral duties in the town of Ezeagu.

The second kidnapped priest, the Rev. Chijioke Amoke of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Onicha Enugu Ezike in Igboeze North County, was also kidnapped by armed herdsmen, diocesan officials reported.

Another Catholic priest, the Rev. Lazarus Nwafor, in August 2016 was killed by herdsmen when they attacked Attakwu town in Enugu state. The Rev. Callistus Onaga, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, stated then that Nwafor was cut several times in the attack by the herdsmen on the Attakwu Christian community in Nkanu West County.

Such attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen have adversely affected churches and crippled productive activities in the area, church leaders say.

Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.

Son of sheriff’s deputy arrested in connection with historically black church fires: report

Son of sheriff's deputy reportedly arrested in connection with fires at historically black churchesCops on Thursday were investigating if hate was the motive in the case of a man arrested Wednesday in connection with several intentionally set fires that burned down three historically black churches in the past two weeks, police said.

Holden Matthews, 21, faces three counts of simple arson of a religious building on the state charges. Federal investigators are looking into whether hate motivated the fires. Matthews is the son of St. Landry Parish Deputy Roy Matthews.

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana. 

Holden Matthews, 21, was arrested Thursday, April 11, 2019, in connection with suspicious fires at three historic black churches in southern Louisiana.  (Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal via AP)

The first fire took place last month at the St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre on March 26. The second happened April 2 at the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, while the latest came two days later at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas.

After observing the crime scenes and speaking with investigators, Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., told The New York Times that the “method of each burn is notably the same.”

CHINESE OFFICIALS BURN BIBLES CLOSE CHURCHES, FORCE CHRISTIANS TO DENOUNCE FAITH AMID ‘ESCALATING’ CRACKDOWN

FILE: Firefighters and fire investigators responding to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, La. 

FILE: Firefighters and fire investigators responding to a fire at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Opelousas, La.  (Leslie Westbrook/The Advocate via AP)

The three churches of predominantly black congregations were empty at the time of the blazes, and no injuries were recorded. The NAACP has labeled the church burnings “domestic terrorism” and racially motivated.

At a Thursday news conference, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said the threat to the community “is gone now.” He also called the fires “an attack on our God and our religion.”

Lousiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said “these were evil acts.”