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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive pageMap reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE for the Map Legend.
In the 80’s and 90’s Christians fled Turkey during the conflict between the state and a Kurdish rebel group. Now, many are returning back to their homeland but facing much opposition when trying to get their land and belongings back. One of the more notable disputes is that of a an ancient monastery, which many Muslims argue was built on a Mosque, even though it was thought to have been built nearly 170 years before Mohammad was born. Christians say they face many obstacles to their belongings and life. The author of the article states, “the growing legal uncertainties over both the monastery and other land rights issues, the future of Turkey's Syriac Christians may be in doubt.”
For the pre-dominantly Christian Kachin people of Northern Burma, there are no signs that Burma has become anything resembling a democracy. Warfare still rages across the area as Burmese troops recently fired into a refugee camp near the border with China, killing a 7-year old boy. In the past, the predominantly Buddhist military has demonstrated outright disdain for Christianity which was labeled by the then military government as the “c-virus.”
In a long running saga, the GKI Yasmin church of Bogor, Indonesia, continues to refuse pressure by Islamist groups and the local government to move its location. Churches all over the Bogor area (a city just south of Jakarta, the capital) have come under increased pressure by radical Muslim groups in recent years to close their doors and vacate the premises whenever they attempt to move out of small house gatherings. The case of GKI Yasmin is one of the most famous cases and continues despite the fact that Indonesia’s supreme court ruled the church had a legal right to remain in its current building.
“I thank the mission for this meaningful help. This help will really help us provide for our needs.”
Christians leaving mass were assaulted by Salafis—a radical group that follows the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam found in Saudi Arabia—in the Beni Suef governorate of Egypt on Monday, the Assyrian International News Agency reports. Five Christians were reportedly hospitalized and two vehicles were torched in the attack. Long suppressed under authoritarian rule, Egypt’s revolution gave jihadists unprecedented freedoms that were never thought possible under former President Hosni Mubarak. As a result, Egypt’s Christians have increasingly become the victims of radical mob violence. At least 60 Christians have been killed by either extremists or the military since the country’s uprising in early- 2011.
Two houses were raided in Tehran and four Christians were detained by Iranian security forces on October 26 and 28, the Committee of Human Rights Reporters reports. The arrests were only the latest in recent weeks in what appears to be a crackdown on Christian worship in the country. On October 12, for example, seven Christians were arrested at a house church gathering in Shiraz. Two more Christians from Shiraz have since been arrested, adding to an estimated 40 Christians who were arrested in September in the same city. Ahmed Shahid, the UN Special Rapporteur, said that “more than 300 Christians have been detained in Iran” since mid-2010.
Timar Shahzadi, a 14-year-old Christian girl, was kidnapped in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 22, the Pakistan Christian Post reports. Timar’s abduction follows the kidnappings of Shumaila Bibi, a young Christian woman from Faisalabad, on September 24 and of Rebecca Masih, a young Christian health worker from Sukkur, on October 2. Kidnappings of girls and women from religious minority communities are often accompanied by acts of extreme violence, including rape, beatings, and other forms of physical and mental abuse. If the women are fortunate enough to escape, they are often sought out by their kidnappers and given few legal rights in court.
More often than not, however, they are never seen again.
Despite the government’s official endorsement of religious freedom, Sri Lanka’s religious minorities have faced numerous violations of those freedoms over the past decade.
Christians in Central Asia have suffered intense investigation, raids, beatings and fines from authorities in the last few weeks. From the beating of an elderly woman in Turkmenistan to a masked police search of a church in Kazakhstan, Christians are concerned at the increase of attention from authorities. This article summarizes many of the most recent incidences in these Central Asian countries.
Charged in Uzbekistan with teaching the beliefs of the “banned religious organization Isa-Masih [Jesus Messiah]”, Protestant pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov has been in prison in Kazakhstan, where his refugee request has so far been denied. A few years ago he and his family escaped to Kazakhstan, fearing their lives were in danger in Uzbekistan. Though the UN Committee Against Torture states that he should gain refugee status due to the danger of sending him back to Uzbekistan, authorities in Kazakhstan are still threatening to extradite him. If he is in fact extradited, he could face up to fifteen years in prison. His wife, who hasn't seen him since his arrest in August says, “We want him freed.”
Four Iranian Christians who were arrested in December 2011 for “converting to Christianity” and “inviting Muslims to convert”, among other charges, were given a four year prison sentence on October 15 at a trial in Ahwaz, Mohabat News reports. Other Christians arrested at the same time are awaiting their trial. In this article, Mohabat News recounts the raid on the Assembly of God church in Ahwaz and details the trail of the four believers.
Barkat Masih, a Christian convert from Hinduism, was detained on October 1 for allegedly insulting Islam in Pakistan, World Vision in Progress reports. After a dispute with coworkers, Masih was sent to jail on "false" charges of "blasphemy" against Islam, the rights group said. Blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment in Pakistan. “At least 15 people are known to be on death row over blasphemy allegations and at least 52 people have been killed while awaiting trial on similar charges,” BosNewsLife reports.
Reverend Fadi Jamil Haddad, the Greek Orthodox priest of St. Elias Church in Qatana, located outside Damascus, was found dead after his kidnapping on Friday, Assist News reports. While Syrian news agencies blamed the murder on “terrorists”, it is unclear who is responsible and what the motivation was. Syrian agencies reported that the priest had gunshot wounds to the head and Fides, the official Vatican agency, quoted a colleague as saying the priest had been "horribly tortured".
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has urged UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron to raise concerns over religious intolerance in Indonesia during the country's presidential visit to the UK on Wednesday, Christian Today reports. Indonesian churches have increasingly been victimized by discriminatory policies and outright violence in recent weeks. On Sunday, for example, unknown assailants set fire to the Madele Pentecostal Church in the city of Poso, in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi. Two weeks ago, nine churches in Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island in Indonesia, were forced to close following pressure from Islamist hardliners. And, in September, GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor was ordered to close its doors and relocate to another location. "Indonesia’s remarkable transition from authoritarianism to democracy over the past decade and its tradition of pluralism and religious harmony deserve to be recognised,” said Andrew Johnston, CSW’s Advocacy Director. “But these achievements are being increasingly undermined by rising Islamist extremism, violence against religious minorities, [and] discriminatory laws which are open to abuse.”
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A Malaysian singer was accused of insulting Islam for singing a Christian song with the lyrics “all races in this country hope in you, Jesus,” the Malaysian Insider reports. “Can a singer sing any song even if (it) hurts the feeling of others?” said Syed Hassan Syed Ali, the secretary general of Perkasa, a Malay Supremacy organization. “Malays, who are Muslims, do not put their hope in Jesus!” While Perkasa boycotted the musician, Senator Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon responded by saying it is Perkasa’s right and that freedom of speech must be defended. “[Perkasa] can boycott as they like. It’s a free country,” Tsu Koon said. The complaints were the latest accusations of “offending Islam” in Malaysia and across the Islamic world in an ongoing debate over the limitations of free speech when religion is insulted.
Pakistan’s oppressive blasphemy laws continue to be a topic of hot debate. In August, Rimsha Masih, a 14 year old Christian girl accused of burning pages from the Quran, spent nearly three weeks in prison before being released on bail. She is scheduled to appear in a juvenile court in early November. Asia Bibi, a Christian mother, has been imprisoned for several years now and remains on death row for allegedly offending Muslims. In this article, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that combating hate speech, which is prevalent in Pakistan’s school curriculum, including textbooks, is a step toward reforming blasphemy laws. “Much is said about the influence of madrasas in the country, but far greater numbers of children come into contact with negative messages about non-Muslims… in regular school textbooks,” CSW reports. “Reform in this area will directly affect how Pakistan’s future generations respond to blasphemy accusations.”
“Despite the praise that Burma (Myanmar) has attracted this year for its recent reforms, the Christian minority there continues to be persecuted,” Barnabas Aid reports in this prayer update for Christians in Burma. According to a recent report, there have been more than 40 incidents of ill-treatment or torture, and 24 official complaints of religious freedom violations and other human rights abuses. “These include the intimidation and harassment of pastors and other Christian workers, sexual violence, forced labour, closure of churches and disruption of worship services,” reports Barnabas Aid.
After refusing to participate in occult rituals declaring their adherence to traditional beliefs, the homes of about 50 Christians in Laos have been threatened to be destroyed by local authorities and village chiefs, Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom reports.
“At first the Sunni rebels offered us a choice: join us or leave. When we refused, they turned on us. Our neighbours!” a Syrian Christian refugee in Lebanon told The Spectator. “They would shout: ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave.’” Other Christian refugees, fearful of an Islamist political takeover if President Assad is overthrown, shared similar concerns. Many Syrian Christians have chosen not to take sides—at least publicly—but are afraid of what their country’s future has in store.
While claiming, “censorship has been abolished” in Azerbaijan, authorities confiscated 120 items of religious material, as well as a vehicle from three Baptists. The event occurred after it was discovered that the three had shared their belief in a nearby village. Finally, five months later the vehicle has been returned. However, the case is still open against the three and their religious material has not been returned.
At the end of September a family was stopped at the border of Azerbaijan when they were on their return from Russia. The family was held for more than six hours as secret police searched the car, questioned them and had them fill out paperwork. The family had their religious material and vehicle confiscated. This is the most recent incidence, but it caught the attention of the OSCE who has criticized Azerbaijan for their Religion Laws, which do not meet human rights standards.
ICC assists persecuted couple who recently converted from Islam.
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ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.