Last month, government officials destroyed a church in Henan, China, while parishioners were beaten and forty church members were arrested. The causation of the demolition came about because the church was deemed an illegal structure, and the government claimed that the church had failed to pay a road usage fee. The church’s pastor was detained under “false charges of assaulting a police station, limiting the freedom of others, and attacking a village representative,” for which he has not been formally arrested for, but is being held in a detention center. Over the recent years, the persecution of Christians in China has greatly increased.
06/14/2017 China (Catholic News Agency) – From the third-story window of a barren government office building where he now squats as a refugee, Nasir Abdul is watching his city being destroyed.
Nearly every day for the past three weeks, the Philippine military has pounded the lakeside town of Marawi with rockets and bombs as it tries to wipe out militants linked to the Islamic State group in some of the fiercest urban combat this volatile region has seen in decades.
And on nearly every one of those days, Abdul has stood at the window and watched, unable to turn away from the deadly spectacle unfolding just a mile (a kilometer and a half) away.
As plumes of thick, black smoke wafted above the city’s minarets again Friday — a day of intense skirmishes in which the army lost 13 marines — Abdul stood transfixed with dozens of other displaced residents. Two helicopter gunships had just finished strafing the city, and now people were pointing toward a Vietnam-era attack aircraft circling overhead.
The plane, an OV-10 Bronco, turned and dove straight down on the city center, firing off two bombs before suddenly pulling up its nose and spiraling away. Moments later, blasts shook the city and more smoke billowed skyward.
“It feels impossible that this is happening,” the 45-year-old Abdul said, as the sound of gunfire crackled in the distance. When “I see the bombings, I can’t help but cry. I can’t help but think what’s happening to my relatives, my family, my business, my house.”
Three weeks after a new alliance of Islamic militants tried to seize this town in their boldest attack yet, large chunks of downtown have been reduced to ruins. Militants remain holed up in several pockets scattered around the city center, along with at least 100 civilians, including hostages the army says are being used as human shields. There is no electricity, and most of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants have fled.
The military says the death toll includes at least 138 militants, 58 government troops and 29 civilians — among them a teenager shot Friday as he sheltered inside a Marawi mosque.
But the fighting is so intense, it’s impossible to fully recover bodies to get an accurate casualty toll.
“It hurts to watch because we know people are dying with every bomb,” Abdul said. “We know a lot of people are buried under that rubble.”
The conflict in Marawi has raised fears that the Islamic State group’s violent ideology is gaining a foothold in this country’s restive southern islands, where Muslim separatists have fought for greater autonomy for decades.