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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebel Force Attacks Churches in Burma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burma is about 80 percent Buddhist and 9 percent Christian.

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

Coptic Christians Deprived of Home Worship Hall in Egypt

El Amarawy mosque in Minya, Egypt. (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. Gerison Killa (World Watch Monitor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long-running conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History of Persecution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hindu Extremists Accelerate Clampdown on Christians in Uttar Pradesh, India

Pastors in hiding after police, media deployed against them.

Church at worship in Jaunpur District, Uttar Pradesh on Sept. 16 in spite of persecution by Hindu extremists. (Morning Star News)

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Under the influence of Hindu extremists, police and media campaigns against Christians in Uttar Pradesh state, India have mushroomed since one such attack sent a pastor into hiding last month, sources said.

After false media reports of large-scale, fraudulent conversions of Hindus by pastor Durga Prasad Yadav in Jaunpur District went viral in July, followed by false police charges, there have been multiple area reports of disrupted worship meetings, pastors and evangelists arrested and Christian leaders fleeing their homes to avoid arrest, sources said.

Pastor Yadav is a resident of Bhulandih village. On Sunday (Sept. 16), Jaunpur Police blocked all roads to Bhulandih village, keeping worshippers from Bhulandih Church, sources said.

“They have stopped believers and asked them to go back home,” a source said. “Hindu extremist groups are shouting anti-Christian slogans around the churches in many places in Jaunpur. They are threatening believers with severe consequences and asking every believer as to how much money he has been given to convert.”

Christians have been targeted in at least five cases, four of them Jaunpur and one in Pratapgarh District, 58 miles away. Four of the cases erupted on Thursday (Sept. 13).

At least 12 pastors have gone into hiding since then, a source unnamed for security reasons told Morning Star News. Pastor Yadav also remains in hiding, but attendance at his church’s worship services has nearly doubled since Hindu extremists began targeting him and others using state and media machinery, sources said.

Those detained by police told Morning Star News that police are bombarding them with questions, asking them where they got money to carry out conversion activities and ordering them to list all pastors and other church leaders in the area, the sources said.

“Picking up pastors and Christian leaders after midnight, keeping them in police custody for 24 hours, is a technique to mentally harass them and to instill fear in them,” a source told Morning Star News.

A police officer at the Chandwak police station has been suspended and an investigation begun against him because he failed to act against area Christians sooner, according to local newspaper reports.

Sept. 11 Attack

On Tuesday evening (Sept. 11), police detained seven co-workers of Pastor Rajender Chauhan. Police released three of them late that night, while four were arrested and held until they secured bail on Friday (Sept. 14): Ratnesh Kumar, Jiyalal, Rajendra Vishwakarma and Manoj Chauhan.

In its coverage of the arrests, Hindi-language newspaper Dainik Jagran alleged a massive conspiracy of fraudulent conversion in the area, citing police sources who allegedly informed the newspaper that many “influential people” from Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata had called to secure the release of the arrested Christians.

“Procuring bail had become a challenge – there was huge pressure on the Sub-Divisional Magistrate [SDM] by a Hindu mob of about 250 people, shouting slogans of ‘Stop conversions’ inside the Civil Court,” an eyewitness who presented bail papers for the four pastors told Morning Star News. “The media present in the SDM office told the SDM not to sign on the bail orders of the four pastors claiming the allegations to be true against them. And after the SDM signed, they started to shout slogans louder and protested the decision of bail.”

Pastor Rajender Chauhan, who is among those in hiding, has faced constant harassment and opposition for many years. Police detained him in 2003 and in 2007 filed a First Information Report (FIR) against him that left him in jail for four days before he was released on bail. The court case against him is still pending.

“Pastor Chauhan has the second largest congregation in the Jaunpur District, with 5,000 members attending worship service every Sunday, and thus he is being targeted,” said the source on condition of anonymity.

Sept. 13 Attacks

Local police on Thursday (Sept. 13) raided the home of Pastor Gulab Chand in Jaunpur District at 1 a.m. He was arrested on trumped-up charges of fraudulent conversion activities, sources said.

His church, Bharpoor Jeevan (Abundant Life), has close to 600 members.

The next to be targeted was pastor Ravindra Maurya of Karmahi village in Dharmapur block, Jaunpur District. He was observing a fasting prayer event that night when a mob of Hindu extremists attacked his congregation. The congregation, mostly women, faced the assailants and boldly spoke of their faith in Jesus Christ.

The attackers warned the congregation of severe consequences if they continued worshipping and left. Pastor Maurya is serving with Jeevan Marg (Life Way) Charitable Trust.

On the same day in Englisia village in Madiyahu, Jaunpur District, the younger brother of the village chief severely beat Christian leader Ram Milan Gaud, sources said. The attacker warned Gaud against leading worship services in his house church and ordered him to halt them permanently or face consequences, the sources said.

Also on Thursday (Sept. 13) in nearby Pratapgarh District, Pastor Ram Milan along with two pastors visiting him from Mumbai were arrested after police raided his home alleging his involvement in fraudulent conversion activities, sources said.

Pastor Milan, from Aaspur village under the Devsara police station in Pratapgarh, was released along with the others around midnight. The sources said the two Mumbai pastors were ordered to leave the state immediately.

“They travelled all night to reach the airport and took the early morning flight to Mumbai,” a source said.

The incidents followed the media reports of alleged conversions by Pastor Yadav, whose home village of Bhulandih falls under Chandwak police station. Subsequently police picked up Pastor Yadav’s brother, Jai Prakash, for questioning on July 23. A group of Hindu extremists approached the court in early August demanding an investigation, and a case was registered against the pastors and 271 people.

In spite of police initially clearing the Christians of any wrongdoing, the court on Sept. 5 directed officers to investigate anew and file charges. Police later registered a case against Pastor Yadav, 45; Kirit Rai, 50; Jitandra Ram, 40; 250 unidentified Christians, 10 unidentified newly assigned pastors and eight unidentified Christian girls.

The Indian Penal Code sections under which they were charged on Sept. 5 were causing hurt by means of poison, etc. (Section 328), cheating (420), imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration (153-B), defiling a place of worship (295), outraging religious feelings (295-A), criminal conspiracy (120-B) and inducing persons to believe that they will be rendered an object of Divine displeasure (508), under FIR No. 0194.

Charges of forcible conversion are invoked every month in India with the clear intention of intimidating Christians into silence, according to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which undertakes legal advocacy for religious freedom.

“In many places, the intimidation is working,” ADF notes in its campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “It is a sad irony that all this persecution is happening in a country with a rich tradition and legal framework supportive of freedom of conscience and the right to practice, profess, and promote the religion of one’s choice.”

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

Why Now?

The clampdown on Christian leaders and churches in the area coincided with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit to the district on Thursday (Sept.13).

Adityanath, who has openly indulged in hate-speech against minorities, has made his disdain of Christians plain, calling Mother Teresa “a Christian conspiracy to Christianize India.” The state government does not acknowledge the presence of Christians in the area, sources said.

“There is not even a single church building in the Jaunpur and nearby areas, and not a single Christian family, according to government records,” the source said.

There are at least 10 mega-churches in Jaunpur District, with about 25,000 people attending worship services, sources said.

The district has a total of 3,313 villages and five towns, and a population of 5 million, according to government records.

The state’s influence on Indian politics is paramount, as it sends the largest number of Members of Parliament in the country.

“Politically, Purvanchal [the region of eastern Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar state] is a very important field for politics,” a source said. “Influential political cream comes from Purvanchal.”

The source told Morning Star News that authorities have given permission to the administration to “adopt whatever technique they want to, [in order] to stop conversion activity in the area.’

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

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

Nicaragua: Christians attacked, detained and killed as ‘enemies of the regime’

Nicaragua’s president ordered a UN commission to leave the country on 1 September after it criticised the government for alleged human rights abuses committed during its clampdown on anti-government protestors.

In its report, the UN Commission on Human Rights “called on the government to stop the persecution of protestors and disarm masked gangs who it alleges are responsible for killings and arbitrary detentions” and “described the torture and use of excessive force used during interviews with victims and local human rights groups” during months of anti-government protests, reported the BBC.

The government denied the allegations, saying the report was biased, but following the expulsion of the UN team anti-government protestors took to the streets again on Sunday (2 September). In the clashes with pro-government forces at least three more people were injured.

The UN Security Council discussed the situation in Nicaragua yesterday (5 September).

Protestors have called for President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla now in his third term in office, to step down and announce an early election.

Half of the population belongs to the Catholic Church, while around a third of Nicaraguans are Evangelicals.

Forms of repression

Since April more than 300 people have been killed and 2,000 injured in clashes between police and pro-government militias. “More than 1,200 people were arrested or have disappeared with some charged with serious crimes, including terrorism,” reported Al Jazeera.

On 23 August, the bodies of three men were found in Mozonte, 170km north of Managua. Police said the men were all members of a gang and the violence was crime-related, reported national news site 100 Noticias.

However, ABC News identified one of the men as pastor Justo Emilio Rodiguez Moncada, 35, of the evangelical Camino de Santidad church in Managua. The men were found with hands and feet tied and bullets in their heads, making it look like an execution. Relatives said the authorities were only trying to cover up the atrocities of the regime.

Rights groups have highlighted the “excessive use of force by the security forces of the State” and armed third persons and the government’s “systematic ‘shoot-to-kill policy”.

“Other forms of repression include arbitrary detentions, assassinations and even the monitoringof religious activities by infiltrators,” according to Rossana Ramirez, an analyst with Open Doors International’s World Watch Research unit.

Economic pressure is applied too, Ramirez said. On 14 August the daily newspaper La Prensa reported that President Ortega had ordered a 42% cut in funding for Catholic and Protestant institutions. This reduction in the state budget will affect 173 religious institutions, with the Archdiocese of Managua – one of the main opponents of the regime – the most affected.

The Old Cathedral of Managua. (Photo Pedro Pablo via Flickr; CC 2.0)
The Old Cathedral of Managua. (Photo: Pedro Pablo via Flickr; CC 2.0)

A week later the legal advisor of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, Carlos Cárdenas, was forcefully taken from his home on the outskirts of Managua by a group of hooded men, while they threatened to kill his 10-year-old daughter, reported Periodista Digital.

The Episcopal Conference has been acting as a mediator in the national dialogue to end the conflict between Ortega’s government and the opposition. However, talks were suspended in June because of a lack of progress.

Cárdenas was arrested with five other men on charges of committing “acts of terrorism” through its protests.

 

Christian Blogger Under Police Watch After Receiving Death Threats for Pro-Life Tweet

Christian Blogger Under Police Watch After Receiving Death Threats for Pro-Life Tweet

Denise McAllister, Fox News guest and contributor to news site PJ Media, says she and her family have received death threats after she tweeted a pro-life statement.

McAllister says she has been receiving rape and murder threats after she tweeted that “the root of abortion hysteria is women’s unhinged desire for irresponsible sex. Sex is their god. Abortion is their sacrament. It’s abhorrent as women have flung themselves from the heights of being the world’s civilized force to the muck and mire of dehumanizing depravity.”

She says people began to send her threats to her private inbox.

“They are threats outside of Twitter, stating they know where I live,” McAllister told JP Media. “Threats of rape and strangling.”

“My children are very frightened,” she added.

This week, she told her followers she would be taking a break from social media.

“Due to threats against my life, my family is asking that I stay off social media until the situation is resolved,” she said. “I don’t want to, but I need to respect their wishes at this time. I hope to return soon. Keep up the good fight, my friends.”

McAllister also added that she is working with police and her home is under police surveillance.

“I am facing legit death & rape threats because I have dared to call out women who are hysterical about abortion and to challenge them to be responsible and not to elevate sex to the point that they’re willing to kill human life to avoid their responsibilities,” McAllister said.  “How sick is that?”

McAllister isn’t the first blogger to receive threats for her comments.

Earlier this year, Elizabeth Johnston, the Activist Mommy, received threats over her conservative videos, such as one threat that said: “I will find Activist Mommy and burn whoever runs it alive.”

She said Facebook claimed that the threats didn’t violate their community standards.

Church Members Take Gospel to Streets After Chinese Officials Close Church

Church Members Take Gospel to Streets After Chinese Officials Close Church

After the Chinese government shut down a church in Chengdu, members of the house church took the gospel message to the streets.

In a video shared earlier this week, Christopher Gregory, of the China Missions organization, showed members of the church gathering in a public park to sing, pray and share the gospel. Gregory was later arrested and then released.

Gregory told Christian News Network that the church hosted both morning and evening services earlier this week.

“The local authorities shut down a house church in Chengdu last week, so they thought that was the end of it— it wasn’t,” Gregory said on his social media account, adding that police “looked on in bewilderment not knowing what to do.”

“For the first time, people throughout China are saying, “NO!” to what the Communist party wants— control,” he said. “Control over what they can do, what they can believe, where they can go, what they can say.”

“It’s yet another sign something is beginning to take shape here in China, the call for democracy! The call for freedom!”

The video has more than 43,000 views.

According to the organization China Aid, churches must register with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. The Movement is the only authorized Protestant Church in China. Any churches who do not register are considered illegal, and authorities can arrest or jail church members.

Officials can also raid those illegal church buildings. In some cases, church crosses have been removed.

“The government is trying to silence anything relating to Christianity due to the rise of those who claim Christianity as their faith,” Gregory said.

“China is facing inward resistance and they see this growth of believers as a sign of losing their grip on its society.”

“Pray for China,” he said. “Pray for change here. Pray that the gospel reaches into men’s hearts so that the real change can come, then we’ll see a revival in China.”

School Board Decides to Fight Lawsuit After Initially Ordering Students to Paint Over Christian Logo on Football Field

SHREVEPORT, La. — A school board in Louisiana has unanimously voted to fight a lawsuit filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State after it initially instructed the field crew to spray paint over a paid advertisement on the Benton High School football field that includes a Scripture citation and a cross.

Americans United had filed suit against the Bossier Parish School District earlier this year, asserting that “school officials throughout the Bossier Parish School System coerce students into religious practices and subject them to unwelcome religious messages and indoctrination.”

It said that prayers are delivered during school-sponsored events, that those events are sometimes held in churches, and that teachers and others encourage Christianity in the classroom.

However, as the logo features the name “Christ Gym,” as well as a cross and a citation of 1 Timothy 4:8, Americans United took the matter to court. An attorney for the school board advised that the ad should be blotted out for the time being.

“The school board’s legal counsel advised the administration that the logo should be removed pending consultation with the court, as alleged violations had just been discussed with the court,” explained attorney Jon Guice in a statement, according to KTBS-TV.

“The Bossier Parish School Board was unaware of the logo and has not met to discuss the issue,” he outlined. “We understand that a lawsuit has been filed in state court challenging the removal of the logo and that a temporary restraining order has been signed against the Benton Football Booster Club.”

However, the field crew refused help to paint over the advertisement.

“Today on field crew, I was asked to paint over the Christ Fit advertisement on the football field. You have to stand up for Christ no matter what, and we told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” student Jonathan McPherson posted to Facebook. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field. No matter what people say, you have to stand up for Christ even if it can get you in trouble with the school or anyone else.”

Christ Gym owner Billy Weatherall has also expressed objection, noting that he has a signed contract for advertising. He posted a video on social media, advising that he believed it would honor Christ to take a stand.

“God will honor those who honor Him. And guys, let me tell you, I believe it’s not honoring God for me to stand down and tell you that it’s okay, because it’s not. I’m never gonna say it’s okay,” he said. “Christ is everything to me and I will stand on that forever.”

The video has gone viral, generating 26K views as of press time.

Weatherall also posted a reminder to social media that “[t]he enemy IS NOT the booster club, faculty or administration. THE ENEMY IS SATAN!” He pointed to Ephesians 6:11-13, which reads, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

While the ad was painted over for a time, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to fight the lawsuit and to restore the advertisement to the field.

“The vote was unanimous; the logo is going back on the field,” Weatherall wrote. “A huge thank you to this community for standing behind what is right. God always wins!”

As previously reported, some judges believe that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is being misconstrued as courts have been stuck in a rut of bad case law rather than viewing the text in light of the Christian roots of early American history, and the need for the federal government not to establish a national church in the midst of doctrinal disagreements between Puritans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Quakers and others.

“Alexis de Tocqueville understood and described this religiosity well. In his Democracy in America, written in the 1830s after he had spent several years traveling around the country, he said: ‘It was religion that gave birth to the Anglo-American Societies. This must always be borne in mind. Hence, religion in the United States is inextricably intertwined with all the national habits and all the feeling to which the fatherland gives rise,’” U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal wrote in an extensive opinion earlier this month.