Friday, 12 April 2013

Christians are persecuted

Just before I went to Katoomba Easter Convention this year I saw this tweet and image by Ricky Gervais.

Don't get me wrong, some Christians are jerks and sometimes their claims of persecution is exactly what this quote is saying. Sometimes I wonder how these Christians would react to a paper cut caused by turning pages in their Bibles. (Luckily most Bible pages are really soft so they don't cut fingers, but they are easily ripped when turning quickly. Now you know.)

While at Katoomba Easter Convention this year we were shown this video by Open Doors.

Now that can be all bit moving* - but that happened in 2008. Five years later surely it is not that bad? Surely now, the only persecution that Christians face is just someone presenting them with some arguments and some challenging questions?

To be fair to the quote in Gervais' image at the top, most of these following stories are not caused by secularists. If you haven't noticed by now, I was just using that as in intro to move onto my main point, which is that Christians are persecuted and that we shouldn't minimise this as Christians who say we are persecuted when we really we aren't or as secularist or atheists who say Christians are not persecuted at all.

To make the point that Christians are persecuted I am going to list some news stories from the past 10 days. After that I don't think any further comments are needed. 

It should be noted that this isn't every story from the past 10 days. Some of the events mentioned in the news articles took place before April, but sometimes it takes a little bit for news to filter out of areas to online news sources. Another reason why this list shouldn't be considered extensive or exhaustive is that in some of the places these events take place there really isn't a stable internet connection, a free press to report and their minority numbers are not significant to the countries news. So the fact that some of these news stories made it to the Internet (in English as well) at all is sometimes remarkable.

So these are only some of the events that have been reported in the last 10 days:  

(I bet also, due to the length of this list, it will wash over most people who read this. But remember these are real stories impacting real people).


11 April 2013 - Iranian Christians Face Captivity, Persecution
The story of imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini is focusing attention on the treatment of Christians in Iran". Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour are co-authors of a new book called "Captive in Iran. Rostampour described how they were put in a prison basement. "There was a dirty and dark cell in the basement and they threatened us [with] physical torture. They said that, 'You need to give us all the information that we need, otherwise we will beat you until your womb is blood.'"
6 April 2013 - Iran Says It Deals With House-Churches in Islamic Cities!
In one case, a government supported paper, Khorasan, quoted Bahman Amiri Moghaddam, the Police Chief of Khorasan-Razavi province, as claiming that his "forces have dealt with a group of people who had formed a network of house churches in Mashhad and will prosecute anyone who has been involved in this."


10 April 2013 - Pakistani Christian freed after death sentence
A Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan has been freed by an appeals court, but Muslim-Christian strife continues to flare up in the volatile Islamic nation.
5 April 2013 - Traumatized families struggle to get their lives back together
[about events from 9th March] Over 100 houses were ransacked and torched, according to Zohra Yusuf of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, while the inhabitants fled for their lives, their children in tow. Police put the number of houses set aflame at 25. Windows were smashed and burned, valuables were looted – not a single house in the colony was spared. The mob destroyed everything. And yet the city’s police force failed to protect the residents of the colony, instead taking refuge in a warehouse nearby.
(The next three are on the same story)

7 April 2013 - Cell-phone music sparks attack by mob
A mob of Muslims, apparently angered by Christian youths playing music on their phones from the back of a rickshaw taxi, responded by attacking residents of the mostly Christian Francis Colony section of Gujranwala, near Pakistan’s city of Lahore.
3 April 2013 - Muslim mob targets Christian locality in Gujranwala ‘for disrespecting Islam’
In a renewed attack on minorities, a violent Muslim mob attacked a Christian locality in Gujranwala on Wednesday, damaging shops, houses and vehicles belonging to the local Christians following a clash between the youths of the two communities last night, Pakistan Today has learnt.
3 April 2013 - Islamic Horde Attacks Christian Area of Gujranwala, Pakistan
Only a few hours after Pakistan’s Supreme Court rebuked Punjab Police for only observing arsonists and other assailants in Lahore’s Joseph Colony rioting last month, police allowed Muslims to attack Christians of Francis Colony in Gujranwala, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Lahore, sources said. Two of the injured Christians were seriously wounded.


10 April 2013 - Never too old to be fined
Two grandmothers in their late seventies were among seven Baptists fined in early April for participating in an unregistered religious meeting in a private home in the town of Ayagoz in East Kazakhstan Region, according to the verdicts seen by Forum 18 News Service


12 April 2013 - Coptic Christians: The minority who are an easy target in tough times
The Egyptian military’s crackdown on Coptic Christian protesters 18 months ago was one of the most chilling attacks on the country’s Christian minority in recent years.
As protesters marched against the burning of a church, the army rammed the demonstrators with an armoured car and opened fire into the crowds. State television whipped up anti-Christian sentiment, calling on “honest Egyptians” to help quell the Christian “mobs”.
A total of 29 people, mostly Copts, were killed in the incident. Some observers believed the army was trying to divert anger against the generals who took power after Hosni Mubarak was toppled.
The latest spasm of religious violence in Egypt is raising some concern about the fate of the approximately eight million Christians in the Islamist-led nation.
9 April 2013 - Coptic pope’s criticism of president marks trend in Egypt, where no one is above the fray
Egypt’s Coptic Christian pope delivered an unprecedented direct criticism of the Islamist president Tuesday after a mob attack on the church’s main cathedral, saying he had failed to protect the building and warning that the country is collapsing.
7 April 2013 - Christian Killed in Attack on Coptic Mourners in Egypt
Coptic Christians attending a funeral service here today for four Copts killed two days earlier in an anti-Christian rampage were in turn attacked themselves by at least 200 Muslim rioters.
Almost three dozen Coptic Christians suffered injuries in the attack, and one was thought to have been killed; Mahrous Hanna Ibrahim reportedly died from gunshot wounds.
4 April 2013 - Abducted Coptic child found
Qalyubiya and Sharqiya security authorities freed a Coptic child who was abducted on Sunday from in front of the Father Paula Church in Shubra al-Kheima.
The prosecution heard the testimony of the church pastor who filed a report with the police after shots were heard outside the church before the child was kidnapped following the Sunday Holy Mass. The child's father did not file a report about the incident reportedly after receiving threats from the kidnappers that they would kill the child if the police intervened.


10 April 2013 - The evil of human trafficking in Sinai
On 1 April Amnesty International (AI) released a report entitled 'EGYPT/SUDAN: refugees and asylum seekers face brutal treatment, kidnapping for ransom, and human trafficking'. (Index: AFR 04/001/2013). AI is appealing that Egypt and Sudan should 'make urgent and concerted efforts to stop asylum-seekers and refugees being kidnapped from camps in Sudan, forcibly transported to Egypt, and being severely abused in the Sinai desert'. Reporting on a typical case, AI writes, 'On 22 January 2013, two Eritrean women living in the Shagarab camps set out to go to church, but did not arrive at their destination. Camp residents believe they were kidnapped.'


11 April 2013 - Sudan President’s amnesty ‘for all prisoners’ releases Christian woman
It has been a little more than a week since Salwa Fahmi Suleiman Gireis, a 64-year old Sudanese accountant has been released from prison on Tues 2nd April. She was detained without charge for 7 weeks by the Sudanese security services, following arrest from her home in Khartoum. Amnesty International had called Ms Fahmi a ‘prisoner of conscience,’ held solely for her peaceful work with a religious organisation.
8 April 2013 - Sudan uses Shari'a against its own Christians
Although the Sudanese government has deported hundreds of Christian foreigners, ethnic South Sudanese — who make up the majority of Christians in Sudan — have been officially classified as aliens since the 2011 split. As strangers in their own land, they must obtain new permits for existing churches, but since the Sudanese government has been unwilling to grant them, it began closing, or even destroying churches it now claims were illegally built.
The follow up links at the bottom of this short article gives a better context, but those link to stories before April 2013.


11 April 2013 - Again, Boko Haram kills 5 teachers, 6 others in Borno
Five teachers, four members of the Borno State Feeding Committee, BOFC, and two others persons, including the son of a reverend father, were killed yesterday in separate attacks in Borno State by suspected members of the Boko Haram Islamic sect.
The Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF) has questioned the rationale behind the plans to grant amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect, which have killed about 4,000 people, destroyed churches and ruined many businesses.
According to him, "over 1,000 Christian businesses have been ruined by the dreaded Islamic group, while 77 churches belonging to TEKAN and the Evangelical Church of Christ Winning All (ECWA) closed down either because they were destroyed or were no longer safe to worship there.
There is also this opinion piece on this issue: Does Boko Haram deserve amnesty?

9 April 2013 - Seven dead in central Nigeria attack
Clashes between rival ethnic groups in central Nigeria killed seven people at the weekend, the latest flare up in a conflict that has left at least 66 people dead in three weeks, the military said Tuesday.
He said the suspected gunmen were members of the mostly Muslim Fulani ethnic group, made up largely of nomadic herdsmen.
The Fulani have been blamed for scores of attacks on Christians in the state, who are mainly farmers.


4 April 2013 - India Police Investigate Murder Of Seminary Rector K.J. Thomas
Police in India's southwestern city of Bangalore continued searching Thursday, April 4, for murder suspects after the priest and rector of a major Catholic seminary was found beaten to death.
India has seen widespread attacks against Christian leaders and devoted church members at a time when Hindu hardliners try to halt the spread of Christianity, rights groups say.


8 April 2013 - Nepal Agrees to Find Places for Christians To Bury Their Dead
Until now, Christians have had to buy their own land with their own money, but their tombs “were frequently desecrated and burial plots seized. In many places, land is so scarce that a single tomb might contain up to 10 bodies.”

North Korea

8 April 2013 - North Korean tantrum
As many as 100,000 believers are thought to worship secretly. Possessing a Bible, saying the words God or Jesus, and meeting together are all offences punishable by death. VOM reports estimate that of the hundreds of thousands incarcerated in labor and concentration camps, about 30,000 are Christians.


8 April 2013 - Pastors released after arrest for 'spreading Christian religion'
Three Christian pastors in Lao have been released from prison after being arrested on 5 February on charges of "spreading the Christian religion".


2 April 2013 - Bekasi's District Chief Fails to Find Solution for Religious Intolerance Cases
Bekasi's district head has failed to come up with a solution for a group of pastors, representing the district's beleaguered Christian community, over the spate of forced closures and demolition of churches by the local Public Order Agency. 


2 April 2013 - Grave concerns after Christian leader dies in police custody
A Vietnamese church leader reportedly died in police custody on 17 March after being severely beaten and possibly electrocuted.


4 April 2013 - Heavy fines follow police raids and confiscations
Two Baptists in Azerbaijan's north-eastern Zakatala [Zaqatala] District - Pastor Zaur Balaev and Hinayat Shabanova – have been given heavy fines to punish them for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The fines are equivalent to more than a year's wages for a local manual labourer. Pastor Balaev – who is caring for his wife who is suffering with cancer - has already served a prison term for his faith. Shabanova's husband - Pastor Hamid Shabanov – has similarly been imprisoned. Their religious community has been seeking in vain for state registration - or permission to exist - since 1994, the longest known period for any religious community in Azerbaijan.


3 Arpil 2013 - Black, white forces exist, Turkish military says
The Turkish General Staff confirmed for the first time yesterday the existence of a special operational team dubbed “the Black and White Forces” during the 62nd session of the Zirve murders trial.
The involvement of a shadowy Special Forces team was revealed in the testimony İlker Çınar, one of the suspects prosecuted in relation with the killings of three missionaries at the Zirve Publishing House, a small Christian publisher located in Malatya on April 18, 2007. The crime had been committed with an unprecedented level of violence as the missionaries were tied up before their throats were slit.

* Yes I know that there have been reports that it wasn't the brother but a member of the police that killed Fatima, but that still doesn't really help. It perhaps makes her death motivated more by institutional than personal reasons...


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