Pastor Umar Mulinde, 37, was a sheikh (Islamic teacher) in Uganda. He was committed to his Islamic faith, studying the Qur’an and other Islamic books. His life was transformed when he gave his life to Jesus Christ after hearing the gospel when he was a university student. After powerfully encountering the love of Jesus Christ, Pastor Umar became involved in preaching the gospel to Muslims. His knowledge of the Qur’an enabled him to openly debate against Islam. He was also open in his opposition to the Sharia law in Uganda.
His outspokenness and conversion from Islam drew criticism from many Muslims, including a leading Islamic leader in Uganda who began calling for Pastor Umar’s death.
According to Compass Direct News, Pastor Umar was attacked after he finished conducting a week-long revival meeting. A man called his name, and when the pastor turned to talk to him, he poured acid on the pastor’s face. The attacker shouted, “Allahu Akbar!” as he fled the scene of the attack. The acid burn affected 30% of the pastor’s face and blinded one of his eyes (above). Due to the severity of the damages, the pastor was taken to Israel where he is currently receiving medical treatment.
Speaking to ICC from Israel, Pastor Umar said, “The persecution because of the name of the Lord is real and it is happening to different people around the world. Those who have their freedoms, [should] be supporting [the persecuted] because people are persecuted for Christ. …The enemy is very determined. The believers should also be determined to raise the flag and defend the name of the Lord.”
Please keep Pastor Umar and his family in your prayers. Please pray for recovery for the pastor. The pastor and his wife have six children, the youngest being three-year-old twin boys. The pastor’s wife is currently with him in Israel. Please pray for their children as they are without their parents while their father undergoes treatment.
Christians Fear Sharia will be Foundation of New Constitution
Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Muslim Brotherhood leader will be installed as speaker of Egypt’s new parliament after Islamists swept the popular vote in the country’s elections last week, raising fears among Christians and secularists that new laws heavily influenced by Sharia may soon be instituted.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party nominated its Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatni as the speaker of the newly-elected lower house of parliament on Monday. Following the third and final phase of Egypt’s elections that ended last week, the Brotherhood is projected to secure 232 seats, or 46 percent, of the 498 elected parliament seats. The extremist Salafists’ al-Nour Party, which follows the strict Wahhabi doctrine of Islam and opposes equality with non-Muslims, won 113 seats, or 23 percent of the overall vote. The lower house, known as the People’s Assembly, is the most important body in Egypt’s bicameral system.
Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many Christians and moderates fear that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, which will greatly restrict the rights of non-Muslims.
“The power of the article in the constitution often depends on where it’s placed. Currently, article one is about citizenship and equality, while article two is about the Islamic religion. That will soon change,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “The Salafists are talking about banning alcohol and monitoring tourism. They’re going to take the country toward a very dark time. We’re going backwards; we’re not going forward at all… Some Christians will leave the country, some will stand up, and some will leave it as it is, trusting in God.”
Meanwhile, the Brotherhood has pulled away from the popular opinion that Egypt’s new parliament should immediately replace the military-appointed government, raising concerns that the Brotherhood is tacitly allying with the military for political gain. Alliances formed by the Brotherhood will likely set the agenda of the new parliament, including its appointment of an assembly to draft the constitution. The military has made clear its intention to influence the process and has opted for autonomy from parliament oversight. Nonetheless, the military may be the only force in Egypt stalling the country’s complete transition into an Islamic state governed by Sharia law.
“Somewhere between two-thirds and 80 percent of Egyptian Muslims support radical Islamist parties. Only the army, which is eager to suppress moderates but would rather make deals than fight the Islamists, stands in the way of radicalization,” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center in Herzliya, Israel.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In May 2011, Salafists were responsible for attacking two churches and killing twelve people, mainly Christians, in Cairo. The same group now holds one-fourth of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament and there is no evidence to suggest that violence committed by the Salafists will cease. Instead, Salafists will be eager to push the country toward Islamism and, in doing so, will target Christians, liberals, and women demanding rights. The question remains: will the Muslim Brotherhood be driven by Salafists toward radicalism or will they continue to appease the West and liberals by appearing moderate? In either case, continuing attacks on Christians are inevitable.”
It took thirty years for Jasem (whose name has been changed for security reasons) to surrender his life to Christ, but when the decision was made, there was no turning back. For Jasem, and his devoted wife, Rabiha, following Jesus in war-torn Iraq would result in years of isolation and hardship. Denounced by family, shunned by orthodox churches, and watching a daughter barely survive an attempted murder because of her conversion, they fled their homeland, but only to live in dire poverty as refugees. All the while, their faith could not be shaken as they sought to obey Scripture and fulfill the purpose God has for their lives.
Over thirty years, Jasem had steadily developed a close friendship with a Chaldean priest in Mosul. The priest, familiar with Iraq’s religious tensions and the cultural stigma against conversion from one religion to another, did not pressure Jasem to convert, but simply brought to light Gospel truths and encouraged Jasem to read the Bible for himself. “You should study all religious texts, including the Bible,” Jasem recalls the priest telling him. “Or, how else do you know where truth lies?”
Over the years, Jasem’s admiration of Christianity grew, which was more a result of the Christ-like example of the priest than anything else. For the most part, however, he kept his interest in Christianity to himself. Being from a Sunni Muslim background, he was afraid of the accusations he would face if caught straying from Islam. But, it would not be long until Jasem would have to decide if he and his family would remain Muslim or defy cultural norms and put their very lives in danger by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
In 2003, Rabiha, Jasem’s much younger wife from a Shia background, had a dream that she was sick. She longed for water, but nothing could quench her thirst. There she lied for three days waiting for death. When all hope was lost and her last breaths were upon her, a Christian approached and offered her a drink. “This is the Living Water which only Christ can give,” the Christian said. Rabiha drank and was healed.
Rabiha explained her dream to the priest and learned that Jesus called Himself the Living Water in the Bible. Jasem, who had been shying away from fully committing his life to Christ, viewed his wife’s dream as an undeniable sign from God. Soon after the dream, Jasem, Rabiha, and their eldest daughter, Ala’a, decided to follow Jesus.
Although they were now Christian, the family could not practice their faith openly. They knew they would be in grave danger if their newfound faith became known. Moreover, no church would allow them to attend services, afraid they would put the whole congregation at risk if they allowed former Muslims to join the congregation.
In 2007, Jasem and Rabiha decided to take another step of faith by pursuing their desire to be baptized before a body of believers. The priest referred them to a church in Jordan, but the journey proved more difficult than anticipated. Unable to cross the border into Jordan, they went to Turkey instead. Even in Turkey, however, churches they approached refused to baptize them. “For fifteen days we didn’t sleep. We were traveling from car to car, bus to bus, searching,” Jasem said. “But, no one would baptize us. We asked for help, but no one took us in.” Tired and defeated, Jasem and Rabiha returned home only to find greater hardships awaiting them.
They soon learned that their dear friend, the priest, had been murdered just blocks from their house only days before. They began hearing rumors that they would be next. Their pictures had been posted in neighborhood mosques denouncing them as apostates and offering a reward for their murders.
Hiding in obscure hotels and plotting their escape, a family relative eventually found them. With a knife and gasoline, he entered their hotel room, but only found Ala’a present. Pinning Ala’a to the ground, he poured petrol over his cousin’s body from the neck down and lit her on fire. “I’m doing this because you’re a Christian and you’re going to have to marry a Christian now,” Ala’a, who was only fourteen at the time, recalls him saying.
Returning to the room from an outdoor latrine, Ala’a’s younger brother Muhammad found his unconscious sister on the floor and sought help. Ala’a was confined to a hospital bed for a month before she and her family could flee Mosul to Erbil and later to Turkey for refuge.
“[Our nephew] would have tried to kill the entire family if we had been home,” Ala’a’s father told ICC. “Thankfully, our 12-year-old son was not in the room also or he would be dead.”
Upon arrival in Turkey, the family finally found a church that baptized them and took them in as their own. The churches they had sought in the past were all Assyrian or Chaldean orthodox, who sometimes frown upon evangelistic activity and converts to the faith. In Erbil, the family was introduced to a Protestant church for the first time and found a home among an Evangelical international community of Eritreans, Ethiopians, Middle Easterners and others in Turkey.
Recently, Jasem, Rabiha, and their four children moved to a western country after waiting three years in Turkey as refugees waiting to immigrate. Not permitted to work in the country, the children at times succumbed to begging on street corners for food. To make matters worse, Jasem has been in a wheel chair since 1987 after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Iran-Iraq war. He is missing a leg and the other is severely mangled.
In partnership with a local Christian organization that is assisting refugees, ICC was able to help with some of the family’s expenses. When ICC offered to assist with additional medical treatment for the children, the parents said the money was no longer needed. “Yes, that used to be a problem,” Rabiha told me. “But after the pastor prayed over our children, they have not had that problem anymore. We don’t need the money now.”
Please pray for the family as they settle into their new home and begin a new life in a western country.
Washington, D.C. (January 13, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the high-profile trial of a Coptic Christian billionaire will not convene tomorrow as previously announced in what appears to many Egyptian Christians and liberals to be an Islamist attempt to belittle Egypt’s championed secular leader.
Head of the Free Egyptians political party and Christian telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris was scheduled to appear in court tomorrow after being charged for “blasphemy and insulting Islam” on Monday for reposting a cartoon of a bearded Mickey Mouse and a veiled Minnie Mouse on Twitter. Naguib Ghobrial, Sawiris’ lawyer, wrote in a press statement on Thursday that Cairo’s District Attorney has yet to set a trial date, according to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. Among the group of Islamist lawyers who filed the lawsuit against Sawiris was Mamdouh Ismail, a former member of Islamic Jihad who has been known to represent accused terrorists and was himself arrested for complicity with al-Qaeda.
The Muslim Brotherhood, who is set to win more than forty percent of the votes in Egypt’s parliamentary elections, joined the ultraconservative Salafists in backing Ismail’s lawsuit and led a nationwide campaign to boycott products and services offered by Sawiris’ companies. Many Egyptian Christians and liberals believe Islamists rallied the nationwide outcry to discredit Sawiris and his secular Free Egyptians Party.
“Sawiris is one of the biggest supporters of the Egyptian liberal parties,” Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC. “What the Islamists are trying to do is break him down. They are trying to scare him. This type of news will hurt him in Egypt. The [Muslim] Brotherhood is among those behind the war on Sawiris.”
In response to the heated reaction, Sawiris later tweeted, “I apologise for those who don’t take this as a joke, I just thought it was a funny picture; no disrespect meant. I am sorry.”
Sawiris is a champion of secularism and has publicly opposed the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the prospect that Islamists will draft a new constitution influenced by Sharia law. Sawiris’ Free Egyptian Party, in alliance with secular political parties known as the Egyptian bloc, is expected to win nine percent of seats in Egypt’s lower house of parliament.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The Muslim Brotherhood has made efforts in recent months to tone down extremist rhetoric in order to reassure Egyptian liberals and Christians, as well as western nations, who fear that the Brotherhood’s ideology and agenda is not consistent with democratic principles and human rights. However, the Brotherhood’s support for Mamdouh Ismail, the Salafists, and other radicals in condemning Naguib Sawiris is one more example that any attempt made by the Brotherhood to appear moderate is merely a façade. Sadly, the voices of Egypt’s secular-minded youth who ignited the country’s revolution have not been heeded as Islamists rise to power and stomp on the very freedoms many revolutionaries had fought so dearly to defend.”
Few people can imagine what it would be like to live in a world of eternal warfare. Just try to imagine living your entire life in constant fear of being captured, tortured, killed, or driven from your home. Imagine what it would be like to systematically lose members of your family — your husband, your wife, your parents, or your children. Imagine that on top of all of this you must also live with the knowledge that your faith in Jesus Christ has made you stand out as a special enemy in the eyes of a violent government regime, a regime that sees you as a virus in need of eradication.
This “imagined” scenario is in fact reality for the tribal Christians of Burma (Myanmar). Caught up in the world’s longest running civil war (over 60+ years), Christians from ethnic groups such as the Chin and Karen have found themselves singled out for attack in a conflict that long ago took on religious dimensions.
When Burma’s civil war began in the late 1940’s, its origins seemed primarily political, with different cultural groups such as the Chin and Karen promised their own land, only to be forgotten and subjugated. The war continues today because many of these ethnic groups have not given up hope of at the very least securing basic human rights. To this end, they continue to wage a guerilla war against the brutal Burmese regime. However, the religious dimension to the war developed when Burma’s government, which has for decades been ruled by a military dictatorship, officially embraced Theravada Buddhism and started actively discriminating against other faiths. Today the military is comprised almost entirely of Buddhists, and promotion to senior military ranks is impossible without first converting.
The consequences of this conflict for the tribal people of Burma, and especially for Christians, have been disastrous.
- According to Operation World, three thousand Christian villages have been burned down in the last ten years alone.
- Churches are routinely attacked and tight controls are placed on Christian activity.
- In November, assailants suspected of being sanctioned by the Burmese government tossed grenades into a Kachin Christian orphanage, killing ten people, including several orphans.
- Rape is commonly used by the military as a tool of suppression.
- Children are forced into becoming soldiers or sent to clear fields of land mines, leaving countless maimed for life.
- Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee across the borders into Bangladesh and Thailand, living in dangerous conditions as refugees.
The list of atrocities goes on and on.
Yet out of this profound history of violence there are small signs that change may be in store. The leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been released from house arrest and told that her party will be allowed to participate in elections. The media is being censored less and a few political prisoners have been freed, while others have had their sentences reduced. For the first time in decades, Western nations are considering re-establishing ties and reducing sanctions. Still, reports of large scale offensives by the Burmese military continue to emerge and most fear that these fledgling changes are only temporary.
For our part, we ask that you join us in praying not only for our Burmese brothers and sisters in Christ suffering daily persecution, but that the light of the gospel will be spread throughout the nation. We know of no greater transforming power than that of Christ, and for some time ICC has sent brave pastors willing to secretly travel across Burma to spread the good news and plant churches. Pray also for the next generation of Christians in Burma, some of whom have found refuge in ICC’s orphanages, that they will have the joy of experiencing an end to the conflict that has so terribly plagued their parents and their grandparents before them.
A fierce battle is going on in the spiritual realm whether we realize it or not. The devil uses every opportunity to kill and destroy. The world doesn’t understand the spiritual forces that are behind suicide attacks, rape, torture or other forms of persecution, but as believers, we know that our enemy is not flesh and blood.
We know that Muslims are not our enemies — they are simply men and women who have been deceived by the devil. To varying degrees, they have given themselves over to be tools in his hands. We also know that Satan’s primary goal is to take as many people as he can with him to hell. That is why the Church of Jesus suffers persecution. The church is here to save; the devil is here to destroy.
A recent letter by members of a radical Islamic group in Somalia epitomizes this battle. In the letter, members of Al-Shabaab warned church leaders to stop preaching the gospel to Muslims. Al-Shabaab, who has publicly announced its intention to rid Somalia of Christians and is responsible for killing many Christian converts from Islam, is now threatening to target Christians who preach the gospel among Somali Muslims living in Kenya. As you read the excerpt from the letter, please pray for protection for the targeted Christians. Also pray for God to bring the persecutors into His kingdom.
Here is the excerpt from the letter:
We would like also to send a message to the mission organizations and the local Kenyan Christian Churches to stop the Christianization they have not only in Nairobi, but also in the refugee camps.
They have to stop their harmful ideologies that they are preaching to the Muslims. It is our knowledge that some Somali Muslims are already affected by this cancer of Christianity and we are in trace of that persons and we call them back to Islam or they will be under the sword of the mujahedeen.
In addition to that, there are those who translate, distribute, and preach this non-sense to the Somalis. We have now the knowledge of so many people involved in this cursed work, but we target these men and will, Insha Allah, be brought before justice and be taken back to Somalia to be tried and given their share of justice before the law of Allah and before the Mujahedeen.
We will soon, Insha Allah, strike the cursed Seventh-day Adventist Church’s headquarters if they do not stop using the Somalis to Christianize other Somalis, not excluding [those] who put Somali translated Bibles in their sites and who are proud to Christianize the Somali people. In closing, we ask Allah to help us to make his purpose reign.