Air Force general attacked because he urges believers to pray at lunch

Attorney Michael Weinstein, who “trolls” open Christians on military bases, is now attacking Brigadier General John Teichert, newly installed wing commander at Edwards Air Force Base, because his personal website calls for Christians to pray at lunchtime for the United States.

Weinstein called for a military investigation of the “disgraceful, illegal and brazen promotion of (Treichert’s) personal flavor of his weaponized version of Christianity.”

Weinstein is the leader of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which contrary to what the name suggests suppresses — not defends — religious freedom. Weinstein’s complaint to Defense Secretary James Mattis supposedly represents 41 airmen from Edwards Air Force Base just north of Los Angeles in California.

Gen. John Teichert, under fire for asking for prayer on his personal website.

“General Teichert should be doing time behind prison bars, not commanding a Wing wearing a general’s stars,” Weinstein said, as reported on Fox News. Treichert is a “fundamentalist Christian tyrant and religious extremist predator,” Weinstein says.

Todd Starnes, writing for Fox News, called the allegations “so outlandish they deserve no response.”

“The Air Force appears to be doing exactly what it should upon receiving a complaint from Mikey Weinstein: ignoring him,” First Liberty Institute attorney Mike Berry says. “Like so many complaints by the MRFF, this complaint is vindictive, intolerant and completely without merit. Bigoted demands that an officer be thrown in military prison because he prays for others should be rejected out of hand.”

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation attacks any public display of the Christian faith on military bases, Starnes says. “The group is typically triggered by Nativity scenes and Bibles placed on Missing Man tables.”

The military has guidelines to prevent overt proselytizing in the name of the Air Force, but the controversy stems from the general’s private and personal website.

“Bible-believing Americans should take time to specifically pray for our nation at lunchtime every day,” the website says. It also features a prayer list – including among others President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Congress and the military.

Retired Army Col. Phil Wright, the executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, sees MRFF’s accusations as egregious.

“One of [Weinstein’s] attacks is that [Teichert] is proselytizing, forcing his religion onto someone,” Wright says. “But you have to go to the website. No one is forced to go, and you can turn it off at any moment.

“This general, on his own time, as an expression of his faith, with a non-military website from a non-military computer can state his beliefs.”

When he was in the Air Force, Weinstein suffered psychological harassment, including swastikas drawn on notes to him and anti-Semitic slurs said to him. There were two violent incidents of hazing against him, one of which left him hospitalized, according to Wikipedia.

John Teichert

His 2005 case against the Air Force for failing to curb proselytizing was dismissed by U.S. District Judge James A. Parker because “not a single plaintiff” could testify to suffering the things alleged in the suit.

In 2009, Weinstein again vented against “fundamentalist Christians” alleging they were responsible for a hostile environment that led to the Fort Hood shootings at the hands of Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

In 2011, radio host Michael Savage derided Weinstein when the civil rights lawyer tried to eradicate quotes from Christian military strategists and the Christian Just War Theory. “”What Weinstein doesn’t know was if it was not for the warrior mentality of the Christians he hates so much, who rescued his ancestors from the ovens of Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, (he) wouldn’t be here plaguing the United States of America,” Savage said.

Weinstein

In 2012, Weinstein sued former chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt for issuing an imprecatory prayer that he equated to a fatwa. It was another suit dismissed by the judge.

Weinstein describes himself as a “Jewish agnostic” who, despite his doubts about God’s existence, still prays three times a day in Hebrew.

Jews in Green, a Jewish military support group, has rubbished his claims of pervasive anti-Semitism in the military, saying that such charges are baseless.

Nevertheless, Weinstein still keeps rankling Christians with trumped up charges.

“During the Obama administration, Weinstein once bragged about having a hot line to the Pentagon,” Starnes says. “It’s beyond time for the Trump administration to disconnect the number.

“It’s time to put a stop to these vile and hateful attacks on Christian members of our military. Demanding that a general be imprisoned because he prays? Calling him an extremist predator? Outrageous!”

Michael Ashcraft pastors the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys.

Police in India Demand Money to Release Falsely Accused Christians, Sources Say

Christians arrested for praying in their home.

Pastor Biswas Das as police take him into custody. (Morning Star News)

Pastor Biswas Das as police take him into custody. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABADIndia (Morning Star News) – About an hour before midnight on July 31, three policemen and a Hindu neighbor barged into a Christian woman’s house in northern India and ordered her and her husband to either give them money or go to jail.

The couple was immersed in prayer with their children and two other Christians in their home in Uttar Pradesh state’s Sarai Gunja village, in Jaunpur District. They worshipped in their house every night, and they had been fasting for three days, said the Christian woman, Anita Rajak.

The officers told them they couldn’t pray in their house and had come to arrest them, Rajak told Morning Star News.

“We are praying in our own house,” she told them. “Why would there be an arrest for praying inside one’s own house?”

One of the officers gave her two choices, she said: “Either you let us take your husband into custody and we will register cases against you all, or you pay the penalty so there will be no case.”

The 31-year-old mother of four said she asked them to show an arrest warrant, but they told her to shut up and hand over the money. When she said she had no money, they took her husband, Pappu Rajak, and another Christian to their Jeep, calling her a “prostitute Christian” and her husband a pimp when she tried to stop them.

Three times she called an emergency police helpline, she said, each time receiving assurance that police were on their way. No one came.

“I told my children to continue praying and headed to the police station in the morning at five,” she said. I had no idea in which police station they had kept my husband, but on my way I kept calling all the Christian brothers in our circle.”

The brethren warned her that she would be arrested, but she continued on.

“It was the Lord who gave me the strength and courage to speak up before the authorities,” Rajak said.

Some Christian friends volunteered to stay at the police station with her until police released the two Christians, she said.

“They had beaten my husband on his face and back while he was in custody and pushed him several times,” Rajak told Morning Star News. “They took their signatures on some documents, regarding which no information was given to us, and warned that my husband will go straight to jail if we continued praying.”

A key impetus for the persecution may have been a Hindu family converting to Christianity after their daughter was healed five months ago.

“A Hindu family brought their daughter possessed by evil spirits, my husband and I prayed for her and she was freed,” Rajak said. “The entire family decided to follow Christ and joined us for worship regularly, but the Hindu neighbors accused us, saying we forcefully convert people, and they beat my husband severely.”

Such hostilities toward Christians have increased since Hindu nationalism, which seeks to purge the country of all non-Hindu faiths, gained wider acceptance after the ascent to power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom.

“Though such ideas have been around for some time, it was only when the Baratiya Janata Party [BJP] of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power in 2014 that they gained wider acceptance,” ADF notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Today, politicians publicly announce that the time has come to care more about the rights of the majority than the minority. As the national elections loom next year, the political rhetoric has only intensified.”

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 The Geneva Statement on Human Rights at www.ImHumanRight.org.

Lump Sum for Release

About 55 miles north, in Mirzapur, police also demanded money from Christians after Hindu extremists on July 23 stormed into the house of pastor Bharat Lal, where more than 20 pastors from surrounding villages had gathered for training.

Pastor Biswas Das was speaking at the training session, which took place the same day the former chief minister of the state, from the BJP, was expected to arrive in the area by helicopter.

At about 8 a.m., as the pastors had their eyes closed for the opening prayer, at least 20 Hindu extremists gathered outside Pastor Lal’s home. The extremists had assembled to welcome the BJP leader but went to Pastor Lal’s house after getting word that a Christian pastor lived nearby, Pastor Das said.

“The mob kept increasing from 20 to over 50 in just a few minutes,” Pastor Lal said. “They were shouting ‘Jai Sri RamJai Sri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],’ and that they will not allow conversions.”

Pastor Das told Morning Star News that the assailants manhandled him.

“They snatched away my Bible, held me by my collar and pushed me,” Pastor Das said. “I did not utter a word. I was in police lock up for over six hours without food or water.”

A source who requested anonymity told Morning Star News that police demanded a lump sum from Christians to release Pastor Das.

“There was a threat from the police that they will register cases imposing sections with harder punishments,” the source said. “Pastor Das was targeted, as he is not a local person.”

A native of Odisha’s Gajpati District, Pastor Das moved to Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad District with his family of four in 2011 following a call to serve among the rural pastors.

Dinanath Jaiswar, a volunteer aid to endangered Christians, told Morning Star News that area police routinely demand money from Christians.

“In every case, once police receive a complaint against Christians, they grab it as an opportunity to extort money by threatening them, saying, ‘Settle this outside the police station by bribing the police officers, or let them book cases and rot in jail,’” Jaiswar said. “Sadly, it is how most police officers are dealing with the cases against Christians.”

When pastors are jailed, Jaiswar and his team of volunteers rush over to keep cases from being registered, he said.

“It is sad that now it has become a trend that complaints given to the police authorities are ignored, and the innocent victims are arrested basing on the complaints filed by Hindu extremists,” Jaiswar said. “Added to the trauma and beatings, pastors undergo imprisonment for days to weeks. They will eventually come out clean, but their families go through the most difficult phase. It is heart-wrenching that some can’t even provide for themselves.”

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

Fight to read Bible in public hits Britain

St. Paaul's Cathedral, LondonSt. Paul’s Cathedral, London

A British religious-rights organization that has focused on relief of persecuted Christians in Muslim lands has a new fight on its hands – fighting for the right to read the Bible in public in England.

Ironically, Coote was reading from the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapter 5 which includes the verses: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matthew 5:10-12, KJV)
In each of the videos the police justify their actions by stating that the cathedral staff have asked them to move on those reading from the Bible because the public precinct in front of St Paul’s cathedral is owned by the church. However, in this second video the police officer tells the cathedral staff: “I am of the opinion that this chap isn’t causing any breach of the peace. This chap isn’t impeding anyone. I am happy for him to stay here.”

The police officer, however. stands his ground and replies: “This chap is reading from the Bible. I feel it would be remiss of me to move him on in a place of worship.”

The Barnabas Fund points out that freedom to read the Bible in public was one of the very first aspects of freedom of religion to be legally established in England. In 1537, just a year after Tyndale had been burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English, King Henry VIII issued a royal decree making it legal to read the Bible publicly. Then on Sept. 5, 1538, his chief minister Thomas Cromwell issued in the king’s name specific injunctions to clergy to place an English Bible in every parish church in the country, ordering them: “That ye shall discourage no man privily or apertly from the reading or hearing of the said Bible, but shall expressly provoke, stir, and exhort every person to read the same, as that which is the very lively word of God, that every Christian man is bound to embrace, believe and follow if he look to be saved.”

The group has launched an online petition to protest the erosion of basic religious freedoms that seem to be diminishing as Britain goes multicultural, with a notable rising population of Muslims.

Egypt security forces stop attempted church suicide bombing – state television

Coptic church
Reuters/Mohamed Abd El GhanyWomen pass by a Coptic church that was bombed on Sunday in Tanta, Egypt, April 10, 2017.

Egyptian security forces have thwarted a suicide bomb attack on a church just outside of Cairo, state television said on Saturday.

A militant wearing a suicide vest was prevented from approaching a church in Qalyubiyah, a governorate north of Cairo, and detonated the vest about 250 metres from the church, killing himself but no one else, state news agency MENA reported.

A spokesman for the health ministry said that a foreign object had exploded leading to the death of one person but no injuries, without elaborating on whether it was an attempted attack on the church.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt’s large Christian minority in recent years, including two deadly bombings on Palm Sunday in April 2017 and a blast at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.

The most recent attack came last December, when a gunman fired on worshippers at a Coptic Orthodox church in a Cairo suburb, killing 11 in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

The country has fought an insurgency led by Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 – although no official death toll has been released to date.

We’ll close one church every week, Indian Christians told

Christian villagers in a rural district of India’s Maharashtra state have been told that one church will be closed down every week because they have been “destroying” local tradition and culture by “luring” others to convert to Christianity.

Since June, over a dozen houses belonging to Christians have been attacked by local extremist groups across five villages within Gadchiroli district.

Christians in the villages of Halwar, Tekla, Bharagad, Kospundi and Alenga have also been told that if they pursue with Christianity, they will be cut off from local water supplies and will no longer have access to government-subsidised groceries.

The latest incident took place on Sunday, 5 August, in Kospundi, when a local Christian, Gallu Kowasi, was badly beaten by locals demanding he renounce his faith.

According to a trusted local source, the extremists are being “propelled” by the government in the name of a law on self-governing in tribal areas: the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act of 1998.

Several Christians have received death threats or have been threatened with expulsion from their village, while new converts to Christianity face being ostracised from both their family and local community.

“If one person in the family is converted to Christianity, the rest of the family unites with the village and all of them immediately socially boycott that person,” World Watch Monitor’s source explained.

“The new Christian convert will be given no job in the village and no-one will come to help him with his work. The social boycott is just the start. Thereafter the new convert is threatened constantly to leave his faith; he can be easily attacked and his house attacked.”

Fifteen houses were vandalised in protest against the building of a church in Halwar village (World Watch Monitor)

Most of the attacks on Christian homes took place at the end of June in protest at the construction of a new church in Halwar village.

On 27 June, the church construction was forcibly brought to a halt by a mob and a public meeting was called, during which the Christians were told to renounce their faith or leave the village.

Following the meeting, 15 houses belonging to Christian families were attacked.

The Christians of Bharagad village filed a complaint with police, but the authorities took no action. Instead, the Christians later received letters warning them against making any further complaints.

After three Christian families in Koskundi village went to the police, a mob of around 100 people gathered round the police station, demanding the Christians be thrown out of the village.

Military-Backed Forces in Burma Beat Two Youth Pastors, Sources Say

Burma army personnel. (Wikimedia)

YANGONBurma (Morning Star News) – Burmese army-backed militia beat two youth pastors in northern Burma (Myanmar) last week, detaining one of them overnight at the force’s base, sources said.

At the home of one of the Christians in Kachin state, members of the army-based Border Guard Force (BGF) on Tuesday (July 31) kicked and beat with rifle butts the two members of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) after the Christians asked them to stop destroying villagers’ homes.

The BGF members were damaging and destroying homes of predominantly Christian Kachin people, including the fence of the home of one of the youth pastors, while clearing drains in Sadon village, Waingmaw Township, sources said.

The BGF troops hit the two ethnic Kachin youth pastors, Mading Zaidan Bawm Ying and Lagyi Naw Awn, with rifle butts and also beat Bawm Ying’s wife, the sources said. Bawm Ying’s injuries were evident.

“His mouth was injured, and blood came out from his mouth as he was punched and hit,” the Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, secretary of the KBC, told Morning Star News. “His face was bruised. His wife was also dragged and beaten by the soldiers.”

Militia members regularly abuse civilians, but this assault drew attention because it involved the church leaders, he said.

Bawm Ying’s wife told Kachin News Group that the BGF destroyed villagers’ fences while they were working on the drains. She said that the soldiers punched and hit Bawm Ying when he tried to stop them from demolishing fences at their home.

“I told them not to beat him,” she reportedly said. “I was dragged and punched twice in my jaw. They also punched Pastor Lagyi Naw Awn, who came to handle the case. Two soldiers held my husband against the wall, and their leader punched him wholeheartedly. I saw him vomiting blood.”

The militia members took Bawm Ying to the militia base and held him until the next day (Aug. 1) after KBC officials intervened with the BGF for his release.

“We negotiated, and the pastor was released the next day,” Samson told Morning Star News. “We asked the militia’s leaders to make sure that the soldiers don’t use guns to attack civilians in the future. So, their leaders promised that they won’t do this again.”

Samson said that the BGF soldiers are ethnic Kachin loyal to the Burma army and have been known to beat residents with guns.

Christian ethnic minorities have long suffered in Burma, where the government has recognized the special status of Buddhism and promoted it as a means to consolidate support. The Burma military routinely occupies churches and summons entire congregations for interrogation, according to a report the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released in December 2016.

The Burma army and the Kachin Independence Organization’s military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), have been fighting since 2011 following the breakdown of a bilateral ceasefire. An escalation of fighting in Kachin state that began late last year targeted civilian sites.

In December 2016 two ethnic Kachin pastors, also members of the KBC, were arrested by Burmese government troops and sentenced in October 2017 to more than four years in prison on false charges of unlawful association and spying. They spent several months in prison before they were released in April under a government amnesty.

Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian.

Nursing Body Removes Restrictions Against UK Nurse Fired for Speaking About Her Faith With Patients

DARTFORD, Kent — A nursing regulatory body in the United Kingdom that sets standards for conduct and investigates complaints regarding an entity’s fitness to practice nursing has lifted restrictions against a nurse who had been fired from her job at a local hospital for telling patients about her faith.

Sarah Kuteh, a Roman Catholic who has worked as a nurse for over 15 years, was accused in 2016 of having “unwanted discussions” with patients at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, as well as violating conduct guidelines regarding speaking about religion with patients.

Part of Kuteh’s job included collecting and reviewing assessment questionnaires that included an inquiry about the person’s religion. If the person left the question blank, sometimes she would ask why, and would proceed to talk about her own faith.

“I discuss my religion with the patient and how I have found Jesus Christ and how much peace I have, especially when patients come to me feeling really, really devastated sometimes,” she outlined in a video released by the group Christian Concern. “I have had to reassure them on the basis of the joy and peace I have found in the Lord.”

“I explained to [my supervisor] that this only comes about when I have to go through the questionnaire with the patient, because on the questionnaire there’s an area where the patient has to state their religion and that could prompt a conversation,” she said.

And after receiving a letter providing instruction about the issue, “I’d always say to the patient or ask the patient if they were comfortable, and most of them were,” Kuteh explained.

However, as three patients complained in the months that followed, Kuteh was investigated, suspended and then fired. According to the Telegraph, one patient said they were provided a Bible but did not want it, and another said that Kuteh was “preaching” at them.

“I was walked out of that hospital after all I had done during all my years as a nurse and I was told I couldn’t even speak to any of my colleagues,” Kuteh said. “All I had done was to nurse and care for patients. How could it ever be harmful to tell someone about Jesus?”

The NHS Trust defended the firing, telling reporters, “We have a duty to our patients that when they are at their most vulnerable they are not exposed to unsolicited beliefs and/or views, religious or otherwise. We feel we have acted appropriately in this case.”

An employment tribunal upheld her termination in April 2017. Kuteh went on to find a new job at a nursing home, but was subject to a number of restrictions and conditions, and had to work under supervision. Darent Valley Hospital had reported Kuteh to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) upon her dismissal, as it questioned her “fitness” to remain in the nursing profession.

According to The Daily Mail, the NMC reviewed Kuteh’s case earlier this year, but determined that Kuteh could potentially “put patients at unwarranted risk of emotional harm, bring the profession into disrepute, and breach a fundamental tenet of the profession.”

However, last month, a panel within the NMC said that there were “no issues” with Kuteh’s “clinical practice,” opining that she had also made “significant progress.” Her supervisor at the nursing home further told the NMC that Kuteh is “a kind, caring, honest, friendly nurse” and “a valuable member of the team.”

The BBC additionally reports that Kuteh acknowledged she shouldn’t have given her personal Bible to a patient when working for Darent Valley Hospital, but should have rather used a Bible from the chaplaincy.

Therefore, the NMC lifted the restrictions and impositions on Kuteh’s work as a nurse, stating, “It is in the public interest to return an otherwise experienced and competent nurse into practice.”

Kuteh’s attorneys with the Christian Legal Center expressed satisfaction with the outcome, remarking in a statement, “We are delighted that Sarah Kuteh is once again able to practice nursing without restrictions. But for the question on the pre-op assessment questionnaire, these conversations would not have taken place. Without proper investigation, she was fired and her long career as a nurse put under threat.”

“Those who know Sarah recognise what a caring, hard-working nurse she is, and the professionalism she brings to her job. Although it’s disappointing that she was ever penalised for her actions—which were wholly motivated by compassion—we rejoice that Sarah is once again free to bring her skill and expertise to her role as a nurse,” said Chief Executive Andrea Williams.

Guns to the Gospel The Winds of Megiddo by [Duke, George C] Just A Missionary

The Holy Spirit Baptism was their only hope

A refugee at the Bidi Bidi camp.

Every morning when Achol Kuol wakes up, she borrows a Bible from her neighbor and reads a verse to comfort herself before she meets others in an open-air church rigged from timber. They sing, dance and speak in tongues during the service. Some who feel filled with the Holy Spirit scream and jump—not with joy, but remorse.

Confessions flow as they recall the ones they killed in the civil war back home in South Sudan. They cry out, lamenting ordeals they endure at night. Others weep in prayer as they ask God for forgiveness.

“I can’t sleep unless I keep on praying,” said Kuol, 38, a mother of five. “I always have nightmares. In my dreams I go back to my old village and I see how my friends were shot dead. They keep on calling me, ‘Achol! Achol! Achol!’ And I would wake up screaming.”

For thousands of South Sudanese here in the world’s largest refugee camp, the search for healing from recent horrors involves a quest for God. Saddled with post-traumatic stress disorder in many cases, refugees are often encouraged by camp counselors to attend church as a pathway to healing.

“Many refugees usually go to church because it’s the only likely place in the camp where they can get help to recover from the trauma,” said Gabriel Mayen, a trauma counselor at Bidi Bidi. “The church gives them new hope, which is important to refugees and any person who has experienced trauma.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, broke into civil war in late 2013 when troops loyal to then-Vice President Riek Machar clashed with forces loyal to President Salva Kiir. The conflict spread quickly into an ethnic clash as the two leaders were representing two major tribes. Christianity is the majority religion in South Sudan.

As a result, thousands have been killed, 2 million have been displaced in South Sudan, and another 2 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries. More than 1 million have fled to Uganda.

This camp, known as Bidi Bidi, is home to more than 250,000 people. Here, dozens of churches have cropped up and are becoming increasingly popular as the traumatized seek a foundation to put their lives back together.

Kuol’s husband was murdered in June last year when government soldiers attacked her town of Yei in southwest South Sudan. She fled with her children, arriving at Bidi Bidi three days later. One child died from hunger during the journey.

“I passed through a difficult time,” she said. “God saved me from death, and I had to accept him. In God I find peace, and I don’t have nightmares … though the memories of the killings still haunt me.”

More than 30 churches spread across the camp are headed by South Sudanese pastors, according to Ugandan officials. Many church leaders, including pastors, bishops, priests, evangelists and others, moved with their South Sudanese congregations into exile when civil war erupted.

“When these church leaders arrived at the camp, they began their own churches,” said Deng Bol, a refugee teacher and representative. “We have different denominations. Refugees have options here. If they want to go to Catholic or Protestant churches, they can go.”

Pastor John Deng of Christ Ministry Church fled South Sudan in 2016. He said his church is bringing together members of warring tribes, the Nuer and Dinka, and fostering cooperation across tribal lines. The church also provides emotional healing if one loses a family member at the camp or back home in South Sudan, he said.

“The church has played a vital role in unifying the people of South Sudan who had hated each other,” he said. “We are happy that people are living peaceful in the camp away from home.”

Peace can be elusive at Bidi Bidi. Those traumatized by torture, rape and other violence often bring vengeful habits with them, Mayen said. Many drink alcohol in excess and become violent, he said.

“Some even take machetes and attack other refugees,” he said.

Spiritual warfare is a theme heard often around the camp. During a recent worship service, Deng warned the people of South Sudan that civil war in their country will not end until they turn to God and ask for forgiveness. Quoting from Proverbs 6:16-19, Deng said his home country was already under curse.

“Our country is cursed,” he said. “The only hope we have is heaven. It’s written that shedding someone’s blood is the work of the devil, and anybody who is killing people is doing the work of the devil. We need to kneel down and ask God for forgiveness if we want him to bring peace in our country.”

The new churches make a point to offer hope. When rebel soldiers attacked Yei town last year in the middle of the night, Akur Piok and her husband escaped in different directions. Since then they have not once seen each other. Piok escaped with three of her children, leaving behind two.

“I’m traumatized,” she said as she walked toward the church. “I don’t know if my children and husband are still alive or dead. I have many problems. It’s only God who can solve them. I want to go and sing, worship and pray so that God can be the answer to my problems.”

Deng agreed. In his view, only God can solve the daunting challenges these refugees face.

“If you see them praying and crying, they have a reason: These refugees have problems,” he said. “They have no food to eat. No hospitals to take their families when they are sick, and their children are not going to school. The only hope they have is God.”

Kuol, a Dinka tribeswoman, credits God with sustaining her desire to live, despite her overwhelming troubles. Her church has helped her focus on the future rather than the past, she said. Her plans include a church wedding to her Nuer prayer partner.

“I don’t know where I would have been without God,” Kuol said. “I would have died a long time ago. I have so many problems that I sometimes think of committing suicide. But God always comes to my rescue.” 

Christians in Iran Seized from Homes, including Violent Imprisonment of Pastor

Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (Wikipedia, Ehsan Iran)
Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (Wikipedia, Ehsan Iran)

(Morning Star News) – Three Christians in Iran were arrested from their homes today and yesterday following the violent arrest of pastor Yousef Nadarkhani on Sunday (July 22), according to advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).

Pastor Nadarkhani, a convert from Islam like the others arrested, was awaiting a summons to begin a 10-year prison sentence after his appeal of a conviction for “propagating house churches” and promoting “Zionist Christianity” was upheld in May.

“Around 10 police officers arrived at the house and physically assaulted Yousef’s son when he opened the door to them,” MEC reported. “Both Yousef and his son were tasered, despite offering no resistance. The manner of their arrest was probably an attempt to intimidate the Christian community, but their friends report that the church has not given in to fear.”

Pastor Nadarkhani was sentenced on July 6, 2017, along with fellow converts from Islam Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Mohammadreza Omidi and Saheb Fadaie. Mossayebzadeh was arrested from his home today, and Omidi and Fadaie were arrested from their homes yesterday evening (July 24), according to MEC.

Pastor Nadarkhani ad Omidi were also sentenced to two years of internal exile, according to MEC.

“Both will serve this sentence in the south of Iran, far away from their families in Rasht,” the group reported in a press statement.

The three Christians arrested today and yesterday have been taken to Evin Prison in Tehran to join Pastor Nadarkhani, who has been put in a “quarantine” ward normally reserved as a form of punishment, according to MEC.

“Please pray that the Lord will comfort and strengthen those arrested and their families and that the Christian community in Iran will trust the Lord and not be intimidated,” MEC’s statement read, also requesting prayer that “Iranian authorities will treat converts and other religious minorities with respect, and that they and their families will not be wrongly and aggressively handled.”

The four Christians were arrested in Rasht on May 13, 2016 during a series of raids by security agents on Christian homes, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). They were sentenced by Judge Ahmadzadeh, head judge of the 26th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, who is accused of miscarriages of justice and is subject to financial sanctions in the United Kingdom, according to CSW.

“Their appeal hearing on 13 December 2017 took place before Judge Hassan Babaee and Judge Ahmad Zargar, both of whom are alleged to have played prominent roles in the crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran,” CSW said in a press statement.

Judge Zargar, a Hojjatolislam (clerical position immediately below an ayatollah), was among several Iranian officials deemed responsible or complicit in serious human rights violations in 2012, according to CSW. He was also one of six judges accused in 2014 of lacking judicial impartiality and overseeing unjust trials of journalists, lawyers, political activists and members of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, the group reported.

“The national security charges leveled against these men were spurious, and their sentences are excessive, amounting to a criminalization of Christian practice,” CSW Chief Operating Officer Scot Bower said in the press statement. “We are calling for the unconditional release of Pastor Nadarkhani, and for his sentence and those of Mr. Omidi, Mr. Mossayebzadeh and Mr. Fadaie to be quashed.”

Pastor Nardarkhani was also arrested in 2009 after going to his children’s school to question Islam’s exclusive place in religious education for children, which he said was unconstitutional. He was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, a decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2011.

On Sept. 8, 2012, he was released from prison following his acquittal on apostasy charges but was found guilty on charges of evangelizing. He returned to prison on Dec. 25, 2012 to complete a three-year sentence for evangelism and was released on Jan 7, 2013.

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to change one’s religion and the freedom of religion. Furthermore, Article 23 of the Iranian Constitution states that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Iran ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

five Christian youths to hang for death of one Fulani herder show about the farmer–herdsmen conflict in N. Nigeria?

Five Christian youths were recently sentenced to death by hanging for killing a Fulani herder, himself alleged to have killed 48 people. The five are from Adamawa state in north-east Nigeria, one of the three states most severely hit by the Boko Haram insurgency. Many fled Boko Haram, only to be targeted again, this time by mainly Muslim Fulani herders, responsible for more violence than Boko Haram over the past three years. Dr. Atta Barkindo*, who has researched the area widely, analyses some of the root causes behind the inter-ethnic, inter-religious conflict.

1) Breakdown of rule of law and order

At first sight, the failure of the Nigerian security services has left families and communities vulnerable to herdsmen’s attacks. This has then created a culture of impunity, completely eroding any trust communities have for their government and security services. If anything, the government and security services are seen as complicit in crimes against mainly Christian communities.

So, for example, when Fulani herdsmen attacked Dong, Adamawa (in December 2017), a Nigerian Air Force helicopter belatedly bombed the entire village. Locals said 86 people were killed during the attack, and those involved in burying the victims said that 51 had gunshot or machete wounds. Definite figures are hard to give, as many villagers fled into the bush.

Young people in that area realised that the government, far from defending them, could even exacerbate the situation. As a result, they realised they would have to defend themselves and their communities. The five men convicted are seen as belonging to one of these militia groups.

2) Lack of trust in security services leads to emergence of ‘defence’ militias

The failure of the rule of law, and lack of trust in the security services (police and military), has led to the emergence of ethnic militia groups keen to defend their families and communities. That verdict shows that the government is keen to demonstrate that people are being held accountable for crimes committed. It is also intended to ensure that this verdict will deter future perpetrators, and, above all, show that the government is not willing to allow ethnic militia groups to undermine the role of the security services, whose constitutional responsibility it is to protect lives and properties.

Historical context for violence

The historical context of the farmer–herders conflict is marked by political domination of members of one religious group over the others. Following the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate in 1804 and the consolidation of Islamic rule in Adamawa province, Numan Federation (about 30 miles from the state capital Yola) has remained the only territory that is not completely under Islamic rule. Its population remains predominantly Christian, but over the years there has been massive internal migration and the settlement of Hausa-Fulani Muslims in Numan; the migrants increasingly appear to dominate the political and economic sectors of the area. Now there are agitations for the creation of an Islamic emirate out of the territory, presided over by Hama Bachama (the current chief of Numan).

Recent killings, and the sentencing of these five young men, is an effort to intimidate a predominantly Christian population into submission. Again, the verdict should also be interpreted beyond the classic conflict between farmers and herdsmen over access to natural resources. This is because some regions, particularly the Local Government Areas of Ganye, Toungo and the border areas that stretch into Cameroon, have a vast spread of environmental resources that could feed millions of cattle.

Yet, the Fulani herders have mostly refused to move to those areas, although some have.

Why is Numan of paramount interest to the mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani?

Numan is the major area of Christianity in Adamawa state, and the major voice of opposition – politically and religiously – against predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani domination in the state. Lawyers from Numan, for instance, are the leading voices against keeping the state’s name Adamawa (“sons and daughters of Adamawa” – a Fulani ruler who conquered and ruled over the indigenous tribes). They have called for a return to the name Gongola state (named after Gongola River). Consequently, the threats, the intimidation and the drive to marginalise Numan is an agenda to silence the only voice of opposition in the state.

Additionally, the verdict against the five men should be understood in the context of the wider persecution of Christians in the Middle Belt region and beyond; it says a lot about the justice system in Nigeria. It is dominated by a particular religious group – non-Christians who are already tilted towards the support and implementation of a particular religious agenda. The system is designed to punish, exclude and marginalise Christians into submission.

Again, the traditional, military and security hierarchies are controlled by non-Christians. In Adamawa state, for instance, all traditional institutions (except places such as the Numan Federation) are controlled by Muslims, and there is an unwritten rule (which does not exist in the Nigerian constitution) that traditional chiefs in some areas must be Muslims.

This conflict is further exacerbated by the continuous migration and settlement of Hausa-Fulani Muslims within the Numan Federation and other territories. The uncontrolled migration, political domination and suppression exhibited by the Hausa-Fulani against indigenous tribes that are predominantly Christian has increased the level of tension and conflict.

The intention of the elite is to send a strong message to other communities that Islam appears to be here to stay, and there is little point in resistance.

Nothing new

The efforts of the Muslim elite to use political power to dominate, control and suppress Christian-majority territories is not new in northern Nigeria. For instance, in the central state of Benue, before the implementation of the anti-grazing law in November 2017, there was an announcement in newspapers, on TV, and across other media outlets asking people to attend the public hearing of the bill. Fulani representatives, however, refused participate in it. But when the bill was passed, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) publicly declared that the state would remain ungovernable if the law was implemented.

Pattern of takeover

The strategy of the mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani always appears to follow the same pattern: migration, settlement, occupation and control through forceful conversion, abduction, deception and early marriage and then the demand for an independent chiefdom.

Recently, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state announced that three chiefdoms in a predominantly Christian area of southern Kaduna – Kauru, Kagarko, Kajuru and Lere Chiefdoms – will all be renamed emirates, bringing them under an Islamic principal. This was staunchly rejected by the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU).

The demand for a separate chiefdom is also seen in Jos, Plateau state, where this week almost 100 people died in ethnic and religious violence. Even some southern Nigerian states such as Ekiti, Ondo and Enugu have already faced the herdsmen’s attacks.

As the country moves towards elections in 2019, there are fears that President Muhammadu Buhari may use the ongoing violence as an excuse to cancel the process and remain in power.