Christian rights activist in Cuba arrested after his Bibles are confiscated

(PHOTO: TWITTER/ARTE6MISA)

Misael Diaz Paseiro, a Christian rights activist, was arrested last year on charges of “pre-criminal social dangerousness” by the Cuban government. He is a member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front.

Authorities forced their way into Misael’s home where they confiscated two Bibles, crucifixes and rosaries. He was badly beaten by Cuba’s political police on November 4, 2017.

Watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that Misael was told by the police:

“Misael, in addition to being a counter-revolutionary, you are also a Christian,” the police said.

“You should look at us, we are revolutionaries and we don’t believe in your God. Our god is Fidel Castro.”

Upon his arrest, Misael was reportedly denied basic rights in prison, including the right to see a priest and to have a Bible. Because of his mistreatment in prison, his wife Ariana López Roque went on a 19-day hunger strike.

According to CSW, Cuban authorities also prevented a pastor from visiting Misael’s wife during her 19-day hunger strike. She only ended the hunger strike when she was assured that her husband’s rights would be respected while he was in prison.

Mario Barroso, a Cuban pastor and rights activist told the Christian Post that it was not uncommon for people in Cuba to invoke the name of Fidel Castro.

“Invoking Fidel Castro in Cuba helps cover acts of corruption and even crimes. This proves that the followers of [Castro as a God] are not really so adept as Fidel himself but rather at the benefits that are covered by invoking him,” Barroso said.

“Deep down they are imitating Fidel with this behavior since Fidel Castro was like that too: an opportunist, a blackmailer.

“So the believers in Fidel Castro act in the image and likeness of their god, Fidel. They are faithful followers of the evil example of their god.”

The Cuban regime is oppressive toward people who subscribe to organized religion. Cuban Christians are especially vulnerable, as the government has launched a nationwide crackdown against churches and has either seized or demolished 1,400 church buildings. According to the government, the religious structures have not been registered and are therefore illegal.

The war of the Cuban state against religious institutions intensified palpably in 2017 and continues today in various guises. The seizure of Bibles and imprisonment of local pastors and rights activists are but two instances of the religious crackdown in Cuba. There have even been reports of Christians being dragged away as they arrive or leave church.


The World Seems Unconcerned with the Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria

Why Don’t We Care About the Slaughter of Nigerian Christians?

Thousands of Christians are being butchered in Nigeria and whole villages being destroyed. Why are we so unconcerned? Why don’t we care? I believe the biggest reason is that we simply don’t know about what’s happening there. Well, now you know. Here are the facts.

For the last several months, one of my good friends, a Christian missionary serving the poorest of the poor in Nigeria, has been sending me emails with terrifying news. Fulani tribesmen raping and killing villagers. Children being used as Islamic suicide bombers, resulting in scores of casualties. One horrible report after another.

 Yet with each email I received, as I scoured the major news agencies in the West, I found nothing reported. Not a word.

At the same time, Nigerian news sources were ablaze with reports of the latest atrocities.

Today, I saw this shocking headline on Jihad Watch: “Nigeria: Muslims wipe out 15 villages in mass slaughter of Christians, government does nothing.”

The article began with this quote, “Despite several calls to the governor and his deputy, and other security apparatus, the government remained silent as the atrocities continued. The Fulani were able to carry out their deadly attack. They stayed for hours in the vicinity, moving at will, unchallenged.”

How could this be? According to Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, it’s because “Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari clearly has no sympathy for the victims. He shares the world view of the jihadi attackers.”

When I emailed my friend in Nigeria to ask if this was true, she wrote back immediately:

“This article doesn’t state which villages, so I am not sure. It is happening every day. The worst this year was the New Year’s Day massacre, followed by a mass burial of 73 victims. There have been many attacks since then. Villages razed, girls and women raped, men butchered. Cutlasses have been replaced by AK-47’s. The military has, at times, seemed complicit.

“The president only gets upset when there are reprisal killings of Fulani. He himself is a Fulani man and a cattle-rearer. The stated reason is grazing rights. If you object to cows eating your crops, you, your village and maybe surrounding ones will be attacked. It is in every paper, every day. The nation is smoldering. Only Jesus.” (Her closing sentence meant, “Jesus is our nation’s only hope.”)

She also sent me this YouTube link, viewed over 180,000 times at present, in which a Nigerian social commentator who lives in the States blasts the president’s alleged inaction (and, worse still, alleged wrong actions).

The video begins with a clip from a pastor, boldly denouncing wickedness in the government and stating plainly that, “The killing, the killing that is going on in Nigeria shows the irresponsibility of the president called Buhari.”


Chinese Unregistered Church Prevented from Holding Services as Authorities Impose Fine

Xuchang, Henan (China Aid)  Officials imposed a hefty fine on impoverished Christians in China’s central Henan province recently, threatening their future opportunities to hold future services.

The leaders of an unregistered village church in Xuzhou, Henan, were visited by local officials and told them that they owed the government 20,000 yuan ($3,154.20 USD) for building a church without the approval of the religious affairs bureau. They also demanded that the church dismantle its cross and raise the Chinese flag.

Since June, authorities have required government-run Three-Self Churches to display the flag and sing the national anthem at church services.

A Christian woman said the church built its location off of the funding of a few women and is very shabby. On WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, people said that this church’s congregation lives in poverty and cannot afford the fine.

ChinaAid

(Xuchang, Henan—Feb. 13, 2018) Officials imposed a hefty fine on impoverished Christians in China’s central Henan province recently, threatening their future opportunities to hold future services.

The leaders of an unregistered village church in Xuzhou, Henan, were visited by local officials and told them that they owed the government 20,000 yuan ($3,154.20 USD) for building a church without the approval of the religious affairs bureau. They also demanded that the church dismantle its cross and raise the Chinese flag.

Since June, authorities have required government-run Three-Self Churches to display the flag and sing the national anthem at church services.

A Christian woman said the church built its location off of the funding of a few women and is very shabby. On WeChat, a popular Chinese social media platform, people said that this church’s congregation lives in poverty and cannot afford the fine. Since the authorities told the church they wouldn’t be allowed to legally meet unless they pay the fine, it might prevent them from being able to openly gather again.

Additionally, many Christians in Henan speculate that persecution will worsen after Chinese New Year, which begins on Friday. One said, “Whether they are Three-Self Churches or house churches, those who have not been legally registered and obtained a permit will be regarded as an unlawful assembly and banned after Chinese New Year. This is the exact news I just received, but it is still a little better than what is happening in Wenzhou. Wenzhou’s tactic is to demolish [churches and crosses] forcibly, while Henan’s method will be to negotiate with you and let you demolish your church.”

China’s revised edition of the Religious Affairs Regulations went into effect on Feb. 1, placing more restrictions on Christianity, and churches throughout Henan have reported experiencing consequential pressure from the government, rendering their future uncertain.

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


Fiery Ordeal for Pastor, Church, Widower in Jammu and Kashmir State, India

Seema Devi and Pastor Jeewer Joeswa at Christmas Day service. (Morning Star News)

HYDERABAD, India (Morning Star News) – Pastor Jeewer Joeswa wasn’t sure what to think when a massive, chanting Hindu throng in northern India brought the corpse of a Christian woman to his church site – then set the building on fire.

Seema Devi, 23, had put her faith in Christ several months before, after the pastor had offered up healing prayer for her. Now, on Jan. 16, Pastor Joeswa was surrounded by a Hindu mob administering last rites and burning her body on church premises in Sehal Village, in Jammu and Kashmir state.

“A mob of men and women, at least 1,000 in number shouting, ‘Jai Sri RamJai Sri Ram [Hail Lord Ram],’ brought Seema’s body to the church,” Pastor Joeswa told Morning Star News.

The mob alleged that Pastor Joeswa had prayed for Devi and so was responsible for her death, Chittaranjan Tandy, secretary of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, Jammu Region, told Morning Star News. He said that her husband, Rinku Kumar, was kept in police custody for his own security after the mob tried to burn him alive alongside his deceased wife.

“The police from Nowshera police station tried to control the mob, but they put fire on the church building, vehicles of believers parked near the church, church equipment, furniture and every object in sight, including the food grains,” Tandy said.

In the violence at the village in Rajouri District, the mob alleged that Devi and her husband had been forcibly converted, he said.

“There was no forced conversion,” Tandy said. “The couple voluntarily attended the church and accepted Christ. In fact, they had experienced the healing and were strong in faith.”

Destroyed motorcycle of congregation member after attack in Jammu and Kashmir, India. (Morning Star News)

Destroyed motorcycle of congregation member after attack in Jammu and Kashmir, India. (Morning Star News)

Superintendent of Police Popsi Malik told Morning Star News that Devi and her husband had been attending church but were still practicing some Hindu rituals.

“They were in the rudimentary phase, thinking whether to continue as Hindu or Christian,” Malik said. “It was the assumption of the mob that the couple got converted by force. Before her death, the couple were attending their church in Punjab state. People have presumed that he was converted to Christianity forcefully. But that was not true.”

Malik said police brought the mob under control, though not before both Christians and Hindus were injured in the altercation.

Prayer and Witchcraft 

Pastor Joeswa said his congregation had prayed for Devi long before she died on Jan. 15.

“It was months ago, when her mental health was degrading, the church prayed for her and she got healed completely,” he said. “She became an active believer who would never miss a prayer meeting, whether it be on Sunday or weekdays.”

When there was a need to pray for the sick, she would accompany the pastor, his wife and others to pay home visits, he said.

After attending the Christmas Day service, she had gone to her mother’s house, he said.

“After she went to her maternal house, we heard that they forced her to join them in idol worship,” Pastor Joeswa said. “Now I can recall Seema telling me often, ‘Pastor, I share the gospel with my parents. My mum shows little interest, but my papa never listens. Please pray for him. My family worships idols, I want them to know Jesus Christ.”’

Tandy said that during her previous illness, her husband refused to take her to a witchdoctor, known locally as a tantric. Her parents tied her hands and legs with ropes and took her to Pouni village, Reasi District, for treatment from the witchdoctor, he said.

“The driver of the auto rickshaw, a resident of Kangri village, stands as eyewitness to this,” Tandy told Morning Star News. “Our church members were moved hearing the news of Seema being taken to religious places and to a tantric for treatment; many of them tried to go to Pouni village to pray for her.”

Devi’s parents did not allow them in to pray for her, Pastor Joeswa said.

“The tantric had beaten her brutally,” the pastor said. “Ten days after realizing the witchdoctor’s treatment was not working, the parents gave up. They handed Seema to her husband Rinku. Finally, Rinku moved with his wife to Jalandhar [Punjab state] for treatment. She was already in the worst health condition.”

She and her husband had enjoyed fellowship with Pastor Joeswa’s church for nearly eight months, he said. They were visiting the church anew from Jalandhar when he last saw her on Christmas Day.

Quest for Justice 

For four days after the Hindu mob descended on the church property, Christians in Sehal village stayed in relatives’ houses fearing for their lives, Tandy said.

“There was a threat to their lives also,” he told Morning Star News. “With the help of Christian advocacy groups, we joined together as 25 pastors from Jammu region and represented the matter before the chief minister of the state, Mehmooba Mufti. We are praying and hoping for funds to be released for the construction of the church.”

The total loss has been estimated as 2.5 million rupees (US$38,850), he said.

“As pastors in Jammu and Kashmir region, we go through many difficult situations, but God has always made a way,” Tandy said. “It is only by His grace that our people came out alive from the burning church building. We request for prayers. We are hoping our Lord will do a massive work, that He will shake Jammu and save the unbelieving.”

Kumar is safe but in hiding as his life is under threat, according to Police Superintendent Malik.

A First Information Report (FIR) was registered at Nowshera Police Station against the assailants – who came from Kangri, Bhajwal, Sunderbani and Sehal villages – upon receiving a complaint from Pastor Joeswa.

“The police took into custody some eight assailants, but they were released on the same day,” Tandy told Morning Star News.

The cause of Devi’s death has not been revealed, as no one has yet received a post-mortem report, he said.

Area residents said that on Jan. 15 in Jalandhar, she woke up early and completed chores, then suddenly, at 7:30 a.m., she fainted and collapsed to the floor.

“Rinku and their neighbors in Jalandhar thought Seema might have slipped into coma, at first, but she passed away,” Pastor Joeswa said. “She was put through a lot.”

Tandy said local politicians are trying to politicize her death by announcing compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$3,108) to Girdhari Lal, Seema’s father, and a government job for Devi’s sister.

The assailants’ allegations were baseless, he said.

“We prayed as a church for Seema when she was sick, and we are still praying as a chain – hundreds of us have begun praying for the revival of the church, and for safety of Seema’s husband, Rinku, also,” he said.

The hostile tone of the National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (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, up from 15th the previous year, and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Egypt.


Students No Longer Reading Lord’s Prayer Over Loudspeaker at Louisiana School Following Lawsuit

Photo Credit: CNN

WEBSTER PARISH, La. — Students at a public high school in Louisiana are no longer reading The Lord’s Prayer over the loudspeaker each morning following a lawsuit filed by a woman who professes to be a Christian and her agnostic daughter.

Christy Cole and her 17-year-old daughter Kaylee recently told CNN that no one has presented the prayer at Lakeside Junior/High School in Minde since students returned from the holiday break. The Lord’s Prayer had customarily been read over the loudspeaker each morning during the daily announcements, along with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Students had asked their classmates to stand to their feet, but Cole declined to as she identifies as agnostic and doesn’t like messages about God appearing in various forms throughout the school day.

As previously reported, Cole’s mother professes to be a Christian, but still objects to Christianity being promoted in public schools and believes that “praying in public is a sin.” With the aid of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), she filed suit against the Webster Parish School District in December in an effort to put an end to what the legal challenge called “pervasive religious indoctrination.”

“K.C. has felt and feels coerced, both directly and indirectly, to participate in religious activities and expression that did not and do not comport with her personal beliefs,” it stated. “She feels that she has been subjected to unwelcome indoctrination.”

The lawsuit complained that students daily read a prayer over the loudspeaker, and that prayer is incorporated into sporting events and assemblies. It also asserted that Christianity has also been discussed by teachers at times, and that graduation ceremonies are held at local churches

Cole additionally stated that in 2014, eighth grade students were walked to the gym to be introduced to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) group. The school went on lockdown due to a security issue at the time, and one of the representatives of the Fellowship decided to preach to the students. Cole says that a student began crying because they did not want to hear the message, and that her daughter was also upset that she could not leave.

Read the lawsuit in full here.

In its response, the school district denied some claims and affirmed others, while also denying any wrongdoing or unconstitutional behavior.

“A voluntary, student-led, student-initiated prayer was delivered in the mornings at Lakeside, but this practice has been discontinued,” it outlined. “Defendants assert that no prayers occurred at student assemblies, at pep rallies, or at all of the athletic games. … Further answering, Defendants deny that their actions were unlawful or unconstitutional.”

“Defendants deny that any student was taken to the gym to be ‘introduced’ to the FCA,” the rebuttal also stated. “Defendants deny the allegations of fact (that a FCA representative preached to students) contained within paragraph 52 of Plaintiff’s complaint as written and deny that any of their actions were unlawful or unconstitutional.”

Read the response in full here.

Some residents of Webster Parish, being characterized as a community of faith, have expressed support for the practice of student-led prayer in the district.

“You have to realize that our tradition, our belief in God is so ingrained in us and so rooted in us that it’s a part of everything that we do,” Greg Lee, a banker, told CNN. “I would like for my kid to be able to have the right and retain the right to pray and to have prayer in school.”

As previously reported, in 1828, just 41 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, Noah Webster, known as the Father of American Scholarship and Education, wrote, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. … No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”

Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.”

The first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was likewise largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.

“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.

Christian Jailed in Chiapas, Mexico Told to Leave Area in Exchange for Freedom

Las Margaritas, Mexico, where Catholics persecute evangelical Christians. (Noticias de Chiapas)

Las Margaritas, Mexico. (Noticias de Chiapas)

(Morning Star News) – A Christian in Chiapas state, Mexico was summarily jailed for three days the evening of Jan. 7 for refusing to deny his faith and contribute to Traditionalist Catholic festivals, according to an advocacy group.

Local authorities who practice the Traditionalist Catholic blend of indigenous pagan and Roman Catholic rituals also threatened Juan Gabriel Lopez Perez, 28, that he would not be released unless he sold his house and left the area within 20 days, the Coordination of Christian Organizations (COC) said in a statement. When Lopez Perez fell ill two days into his 72-hour sentence and was temporarily released to obtain medical care, his wife was obliged to serve the time in jail in his place, according to the organization.

Authorities in Rancheria El Encanto, Municipality of Las Margaritas, had given Lopez Perez the option of paying a 5,000-peso (US$240) fine or 72 hours in jail. After refusing to pay the fine, he was sent to jail at 7 p.m. for declining to sign a document denying his evangelical faith and agreeing to contribute to the Traditionalist Catholic festivals, which frequently involve drunkenness.

“On Jan. 9, the health condition of the prisoner were getting worse from the climatic conditions, so that in spite of requests for medical attention, it was not possible until night, when it was proposed that another person go to jail in his place, as a doctor had diagnosed the onset of bronchitis,” the COC statement read. “His wife, Eduvina Lopez Santiz, went into the jail at that time.”

After returning from his medical visit, Lopez Perez was sent to another part of the jail complex more insulated from the cold, and his wife decided to remain with him in spite of being given the opportunity to return home, according to COC.

A government official, Jose Avenamar Peres Santiago, had arrived to try to persuade the family to pay the fine “to do away with the problem,” and he urged them to leave their Pentecostal church, according to the advocacy group. Peres Santiago also offered them funds to pay the fine, which they declined on grounds that accepting it would not guarantee that they would not face further persecution for belonging to the Pentecostal church, according to COC.

The incarceration came after area Christians had filed a complaint in December against Traditionalist Catholic authorities cutting their water supply and suspending government benefits and medical services, as well as denying their children the right to remain in school, according to COC.

The organization asserted that Chiapas Gov. Manuel Velasco Coello and his officials on Dec. 14, 2016 had been made aware of the harassment of the Christians in Rancheria El Encanto.

“The lack of attention, and the reluctance of the sub-secretary of Religious Affairs and local authorities to address this problem, resulted in the illegal deprivation of the designated people,” COC stated. “There is still no guarantee of freedom of religion as established in Article 24 of the constitution and as established in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Mexico ranks 41st on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians experience the most persecution.


Christian Convert in Uganda Suffers Sudden Loss of Father, Wife, Children

Munabi Abudallah, obscured for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

Munabi Abudallah, obscured for security reasons. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBIKenya (Morning Star News) – In a village in eastern Uganda, it took no more than a day for Munabi Abudallah to lose his wife and seven children after putting his faith in Christ.

“The Muslims are searching to kill me,” Abudallah, 37, told Morning Star News by phone. “My family members have deserted me. I am spending sleepless nights.”

The former Muslim is in hiding after a few simple inquiries of Islamic and Christian leaders in Tirinyi sub-county, Kibuku District, put him on a short journey to faith in Christ.

About two months ago he asked an Islamic teacher, or sheikh, why Arabic was used during Friday prayers at Kataka mosque in Kataka II village. He did not understand Arabic, he told the sheikh.

“When I questioned the sheikh about the use of Arabic language, he said that Arabic is the language in which Allah communicated his message to prophet Muhammad, hence it should not be questioned,” Abudallah said.

Troubled by this reply, he began asking Christians how their God communicated to them.

“The church pastor said that God is the God of all people who communicates to people in various languages,” Abudallah told Morning Star News. “After several private sessions with the pastor regarding the God of Christianity, it was on Jan. 20 at 4 p.m. when I was convicted that the God of Christianity is a God of love and then decided to put my faith in God’s son, Jesus, for which I received a unique peace that I had not experienced before.”

After departing, he returned home. That evening, with an irrepressible joy in his heart, he shared his experience with his wife, Aisha Namukoli. She became furious, he said.

“My wife shouted at me in front of the children, saying, ‘Kafir, Kafir [infidel]! You are a big shame to the family,’” he said. “She then pushed me out of the house.”

That night Abudallah managed to get back in and slept in the kitchen. Early in the morning he got up and went to see the pastor of a church, undisclosed for security reasons, and told him the hardships he was facing. The pastor prayed for him, and he turned back toward his home.

As he approached his house at about 6 p.m., Abudallah was surprised to see several people, including his father and members of the Kataka mosque. Their anger was evident, he said. He greeted them, and there was total silence.

His father, he said, stood up and said, “You are no longer my son, be cursed forever.”

“He hit me with a walking stick that was in his hand and hurt my left hand,” Abudallah said. “I managed to escape through a banana farm, and after a short while I was at the pastor’s house.”

Abudallah, father of four boys and three girls between the ages of 17 and 3, appeared shaken and in deep emotional pain.

“I need prayers,” he said.

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, with many concentrated in the eastern part of the country.


Muslim Herdsmen, Terrorists Kill Eight Christians in Central Nigeria, Sources Say

ECWA church elder James Nengwe was killed in attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen. (Morning Star News)

ECWA church elder James Nengwe was killed in attack by Muslim Fulani herdsmen. (Morning Star News)

JEBU-MIANGONigeria, (Morning Star News) – Attacks on villages in north-central Nigeria that killed eight Christians in the past two weeks were carried out by Muslim Fulani herdsmen aided by terrorists from Islamic extremist groups, a local pastor said.

The Rev. Sunday Gado Biri told Morning Star News that the assailants also torched 50 houses belonging to Christians, including his own, and his church building was partially burned in the attacks on Zanwra, a suburb of Jebu-Miango near the city of Jos, Plateau state.

“A critical look at these attacks has revealed that it is not only the herdsmen who are attacking Christian communities, as there are terrorists collaborating with them to carry out these attacks,” said the 54-year-old pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Zanwra.

He appealed to the Nigerian government to bring to an end unabated attacks on Christian communities.

“It is unfortunate that the soldiers brought here are not taking decisive actions against the herdsmen,” he said. “When the herdsmen were burning down houses, the soldiers could not stop them. In spite of this, I still want to appeal to the Nigerian government that it should stop these killings.”

In attacks on Zanwra village between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25, the eight Christians were killed in four ambushes on different days, while the houses were destroyed in two separate attacks.

Pastor Biri said one of his church elders, 60-year-old James Nengwe, was slain the evening of Jan. 24 as he tried to escape.

“He was on his way to the military camp just about two kilometers from his house when he was ambushed, shot and killed by the herdsmen,” the pastor said. “In fact, he was just a few hundred meters from the military camp. He decided to take refuge at the military base camp when he saw the herdsmen attacking and burning houses close to his house.”

Zanwra resident Moses Chohu confirmed that armed herdsmen shot Nengwe to death as he fled for safety.

“A Christian community leader, the ward head of Zanwra, Nengwe, was ambushed and shot to death near a military base camp by armed herdsmen as he tried escaping to the military camp,” Chohu told Morning Star News. “Houses in Zanwra village were being burned by the herdsmen when they ambushed Nengwe and killed him.”

Pastor Biri said the attacks have reduced the number of people attending his church services.

“Some of our members have been displaced, and church attendance has drastically dropped,” he said. “Prior to these attacks, church attendance was at about 400 worshippers, but at the moment we hardly have about 200 worshippers during services on Sundays.”

The pastor said Nengwe had a family and was dedicated to the church.

“When the attack on our communities began we constituted a committee to cater for Internally Displaced Persons,” he said. “Baba James was a member of this committee. Recently, there was an attack on this community by herdsmen, and five houses belonging to some members of my church were burned down by the herdsmen. This is the reason we constituted the committee on the IDPs.”

Another Zanwra resident, Patience Moses, 30, told Morning Star News that on Jan. 25, a day after killing village head Nengwe, the assailants attacked again at about 7 p.m.

“All houses around the DTV area [near Zanwra] to the ECWA Church, Zanwra, were burned down,” she said. “The house of the pastor of ECWA church, Rev. Sunday Biri, was burned down, while the church itself was partially burned. Soldiers who were trying to repel the attackers ran out of bullets, and so the attackers succeeded in burning down houses.”

A mini-van carrying persons from Jos to Kwall was ambushed near the ECWA church, Zanwra, and “the driver, the conductor, and one other Christian” were killed and about 20 others injured, Moses said. Police identified two of the Christians killed in the ambush as Danlami of Kwal District and Emmanuel Audu of Jebbu-Miango.

Around 50 houses belonging to Christians were burned, Moses said, including those of Pastor Biri; Dauda Babuje; Jonathan Davou; John Huyep; Danladi Sunday; Sunday Ragwa; Yakubu A.A.; Morris Ragwa; Joro Sunday; Adamu Hunye; Timothy Audu; Audu Hunye; David Saku; Luka Adamu; Infor Aji; Demi Sunday; Damjuma Gah, and two identified only as Maley and Monday.

In the DTV area near Zanwra, the houses of the following Christians were burned down by the herdsmen, she said: Joshua Audu; Saku Leh; Musa Akwa; Paseh; Audu; Shehu Audu; Danlami Gyah; Monday Njwe; Friday Monday; Igya Danlami; Monday Gyah; Uwah Audu; Gbah Gyah; Kuku Gbah; Adeh Njweh; Jonathan Ndeh; Musa Njweh; Ishon Njwe; Yakubu Njweh; Ishaya Barry; Fidelis Barry; Monday Ishaya; Musa Dahro; Christopher Musa; Joshua Musa; Guba Bitrus; and Friday Saku.

Zanwra resident Chohu said attacks on Christian communities in the area began on Jan. 14, when three Christians from Kimakpa village went to Maiyanga village, and herdsmen attacked them as they were returning to Kimakpa at about 6 p.m.

“One of them was killed, the second was injured, while the third escaped unhurt,” Chohu said. Their names were not readily available.

On Jan. 22 three Christians from Kpachudu and Kwall villages who had gone to a mining camp at Telma village were returning at about 6 p.m. when Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed them at Chuvo-Kpara village, Chohu said. The three died in the attack, with the herdsmen chopping off the head of one of them and taking it with them.

“On Jan. 24, at about 7:50 p.m., just about an hour after the ward head was murdered by the herdsmen, they also set afire four houses in Alleh village near Zanwra,” he said. “The houses burnt were those of Christians Dauda Ahmadu, Musa Nengwe, Danjuma David and Sunday Nengwe.”

The ward head, Nengwe, was buried on Jan. 25 at about 10 a.m. in a funeral witnessed by a Morning Star News correspondent, and by evening of the same day, the herdsmen invaded Zanwra village anew, burning more houses of Christians and displacing many of them.

Zanwra residents identified two of the dead as Emmanuel Audu and Danlami.

Matthias Tyopev, spokesman for the Plateau State Police Command, said in a press statement that three people were killed in the Jan. 24 attack.

“Three people were killed and burned by the armed men,” he said. “Eight others sustained various degrees of gunshot injuries. About 20 housing units were also set ablaze. An investigation is ongoing to unravel the remote and immediate causes of these attacks.”

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

Nigeria ranked 14th on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.


Iran sentences Pentecostal pastor’s wife to 5 years in prison for ‘acting against national security’

An Iranian court has sentenced the wife of the former Assyrian Pentecostal Church leader for allegedly “acting against national security” through her efforts in organizing house churches.

Shamiram Isavi was arrested in her home on Dec. 26, 2014 along with several other Christian converts, including her husband Victor Bet Tamraz and her son Ramin Bet Tamraz.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran reported on Monday that Isavi was charged with “acting against national security” for her efforts in organizing home churches, as well as attending Christian seminars abroad and training Christian leaders in Iran “for the purpose of espionage.”

On Jan. 6, Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran found her guilty and sentenced her to five-years in prison.

Some human rights advocates believe that Isavi is being punished for praying with other Christians.

“As far as we know, and based on Mrs. Isavi’s own statements, no evidence has been presented in the case to show that she was engaged in spying or disturbing national security. She has denied all the charges,” said Kiarash Alipour, a spokesman for Article 18, a UK-based organization focusing on Christians in Iran.

“Mrs. Isavi explained during the interrogation that when the Assyrian Pentecostal Church was shut down, she attended home churches and prayed with fellow Christians and discussed the Holy Book. It’s astonishing that a country’s national security could be threatened by a gathering of Christian believers,” Alipour added.

In June 2016, Ahmadzadeh sentenced Isavi’s husband and Christian converts Hadi Asgari and Kavian Fallah Mohammadi to 10 years in prison each, while another convert, Amin Afshar Naderi, received a 15-year prison sentence.

At least 16 Christian converts in Iran have received prison sentences ranging from five to 15 years since March 2017, according to Article 18.

On Dec. 28, the Fourth Chamber of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz handed down seven-year prison sentences to two Christian converts for allegedly forming a group that works against national security and an additional year for “propaganda against the state.”

Iran has been designated by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as one of the five worst countries in the world when it comes to blasphemy laws and treatment of minorities.

In 1975, Iran ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which holds that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” but the Christian community, particularly the converts, still faces systematic state persecution and discrimination due to its growth. The Islamic Republic reportedly views other belief systems, such as those seeking converts, as a threat to the existing Shia order.

In 2013, President Hassan Rouhani vowed during his election campaign that “[a]ll ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice.” But despite his promise, Christians have been routinely charged with national security-related crimes under his administration.

European Court Questions Russia Over Deportations Under Religion Law

(World Watch Monitor)  The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asked for clarification over how Russia applies its religion law to foreign citizens, reports news agency Interfax.

The case that triggered their interest was that of an Evangelical Christian of Indian descent, who was one of the first people to be deported under the law, which came into effect in July 2016.

Viktor Immaneul Mani, who had lived in Russia for 15 years and has a Russian wife and daughter, was deported in February 2017. He had led a church in Naberezhnye Chelny in western Russia and was prosecuted and forced to leave the country following a statement made to police by a local resident who had visited the church and, after the service, took away a book and religious brochures.


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