Category : Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Christian Today) It is as if prayer is a crime: Egypt’s Christians appeal for help after church closures

Following the closure of a number of churches in recent weeks, Coptic Christians in the south of Egypt have renewed calls on local authorities for an end to discrimination.

Two churches in two separate villages in the southern province of Minya have been shut down by the authorities, a statement by the Minya diocese said.

It said worshippers were harassed at both churches and pelted with rocks at one of them.

‘We have kept quiet for two weeks after the closure of one of the churches, but due to our silence the situation has worsened … it is as if prayer is a crime the Copts must be punished for,’ said the statement, which was released on Saturday.

A third church was closed following rumors of a pending attack, but the diocese said no attack has taken place since and the church remains closed.

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Posted in Coptic Church, Egypt, Middle East, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Violence

[Premier] Three Christian converts appeal Holy Communion lashes

Three Christian converts each facing 80 lashes for drinking alcohol during Holy Communion are due before an Iranian court to challenge their sentences.

They were arrested on 13th May 2016 and charged with “acting against national security”, alongside Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor once sentenced to death for apostasy.

Miles Windsor from Middle East Concern, an organisation which defends the religious freedoms of Christians, told Premier Christian Radio: “Do be praying that these men would be acquitted, that they will be freed.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) Philip Jenkins–When does faith become fraudulent?

Should truth in adver­tising laws apply to religious claims? Should governments be in the business of defining authentic miracles? Which pastors are genuine, and which are fakes?

However fanciful such questions might seem, all these issues are very much alive in contemporary Africa. The Christian upsurge of the past half century has been marked by widespread claims of healing and miracles, often in the context of charismatic revivals and crusades. As in any such great awakening since apostolic times, a number of wild and bizarre claims have been made, and there is some evidence of active fraud. Every society has its own versions of Elmer Gan­try, people who use religious deception as a money-making tool. The question then arises of who is meant to regulate or suppress such outbreaks.

One early attempt oc­curred in Nigeria in 2004, when the National Broad­casting Commission tried to prohibit anyone from showing “unverifiable” miracle healings on television.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Africa, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Theology

[Christian Times] China shuts 'unofficial' Christian churches ahead of G20 summit

Chinese authorities are banning “illegal” and “unofficial” churches in preparation for the G20 summit, which will be held in Hangzhou.

Many heads of state will arrive in the city for a two-day meeting in September. Authorities say closing the churches in Hangzhou was meant for safety purposes.
One unofficial Protestant church that has existed for 40 years in the city’s Jianghan district and has around 2,000 members received a warning about the “illegal gatherings” they were apparently holding. The religious affairs bureau instructed it to “reform its illegal gathering activities,” according to Radio Free Asia.

Along with the notice came officials who took down a large cross on a church wall.

The church, which has since then been prohibited from meeting together, sought counsel from lawyer Li Guisheng.

Li said authorities have attempted to convince the church to become part of the Three-Self church, but they continually refused. Their refusal could be the reason behind the ban on church meetings, Li said.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[CT] Canon Andrew White suspended in dispute over alleged payments to rescue ISIS sex slaves

By Ruth Gledhill
The Vicar of Baghdad was suspended by the charity he founded amid an investigation into alleged payments used to rescue Islamic State sex slaves, according to The Times.

Canon Andrew White, 52, who was ordered to leave Iraq at the end of 2014 by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over fears for his safety, has continued working in the Middle East and worldwide to help Christians, Yazidis and other minorities fleeing ISIS.

He was suspended after the Charity Commission launched an investigation into the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, the charity he set up in 2010 when he was Vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad.

Last October Canon White posted a notice on Facebook where he said: “Want to know what we are doing to help the Yazidi sex slaves?”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

Sudan: Massacre in Heiban as Nuba ”˜genocide’ enters its sixth year

By Elizabeth Kendal at Lapidomedia
At 6 pm on 1 May, two Sudanese Air Force MiG fighter jets attacked residential areas within Heiban town in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan, killing six children, three from one family.

The dead children were named as: Nidal Abdolrahman Ibrahim (12), Ibrahim Abdolrahman Ibrahim (10), Jihan Abdolrahman Ibrahim (5), Hafez Mahmud (10) Kuku Dawli (4), and Yusif Yagoub (4).

Despite an almost complete news blackout, the ”˜Heiban Massacre’ is not an isolated incident.

The Government of Sudan’s genocidal jihad against the non-Arab and mostly non-Muslim peoples of Sudan’s ”˜New South’ ”“ Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile ”“ continues a campaign that has just entered its sixth year.

For the Christians of the Nuba Mountains, it is the second ‘genocide’ in a generation.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[NYT] Decapitated Churches in China’s Christian Heartland

..people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China, reflecting the tighter control of society favored by President Xi Jinping.

In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi urged the ruling Communist Party to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means,” and he warned that religions in China must “Sinicize,” or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.

In recent decades, the party had tolerated a religious renaissance in China, allowing most Chinese to worship as they chose and even encouraging the construction of churches, mosques and temples, despite regular crackdowns on unregistered congregations and banned spiritual groups such as Falun Gong.

Hundreds of millions of people have embraced the nation’s major faiths: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity. There are now about 60 million Christians in China. Many attend churches registered with the government, but at least half worship in unregistered churches, often with local authorities looking the other way.

But Mr. Xi’s decision to convene a “religious affairs work conference” last month ”” the first such leadership meeting in 15 years ”” suggested that he was unhappy with some of these policies. People familiar with the party’s discussions say it intends to apply some lessons from the campaign in Zhejiang to rein in religious groups across the country.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[LM] Official: Pakistan’s blasphemy law is ”˜manmade’ – and promotes ”˜religious vigilantism'

It is not known what prompted the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) publicly to announce a U-turn in the blasphemy law.

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, announced in January that if formally requested by the government, the CII would be prepared to review the controversial law.
The recent judgment of the three-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the case of Mumtaz Qadri has had a salutary effect. Mumtaz Hussain Qadri was an official bodyguard of the Governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, when he assassinated him in 2011, deeming him a blasphemer for criticizing the blasphemy law and expressing support for Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who had been sentenced to death in a blasphemy case.

The sentence against Qadri was upheld by the High Court. The bold observations made in this judgment include that the blasphemy law was a manmade law and any criticism or comment about its reform could not be termed as a blasphemous act. It went on that no one could be allowed to take the law into their own hands ”˜as a door would open for religious vigilantism that would deal a mortal blow to the rule of law in the country in which divergent religious interpretations abound, and tolerance stood depleted to an alarming level’.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[WWM] The impact of Christians leaving the Middle East

..Before 2011, Syrian Christians comprised around 8-10% of a 22 million population, notes the report, though 40-50% of those Christians have since left. Meanwhile, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but estimates now range from 200,000 to 500,000.

“Approximately 30-35 million Christians worldwide are members of Middle Eastern church families, but only 15 million of these reside in the Middle East,” it adds. “While there is a high level of emigration, there are also many Christians committed to staying in their countries.”

Why are they leaving?

International Christian organisations have been trying to “source the support needed to stem a growing sense of hopelessness”, it says, but “increased poverty is one of many factors encouraging emigration”.

Increased marginalisation is another factor. “In many countries Christians face increasing marginalisation, and perhaps nowhere is this strain felt as strongly as in Syria and Iraq,” the report states. “Whoever has the ability to leave is leaving. The Christians have a greater sense of insecurity because they cannot integrate into the changing scenery. Other community members could integrate into the new social scene, but not the Christians.

Read it all and the report, ‘Hope for the Middle East’, compiled by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Served and the University of East London is here

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[WWM] Khartoum keeps 5 Christian leaders under daily surveillance

Sudanese authorities have, apparently against their own law, continued to keep two church leaders incommunicado since mid-December, with no official charges yet filed against them; recently Sudan has also increased the number of church leaders who must report every day to its security services.

Telahoon Nogosi Kassa Rata, a leader of Khartoum North (Bahri) Evangelical Church, and Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour of the Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) continue to be detained, even though Sudanese law says that 45 days after arrest a detained individual should either be presented before court or released. It is now 120 days since Rata’s arrest on 14 December, and 115 days since Taour’s arrest.

Initially Rata’s detention was suggested to be “on religious charges”, but sources close to the case have hinted the Christian activist is now being investigated for espionage, a charge Sudan has eventually resorted to before, after prolonged detentions of Christians.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[BBC] Why many Christians in China have turned to underground churches

.. today, according to some estimates, there are more Christians in China than Communist Party members. Up to 100 million will be celebrating across China this Easter weekend.

But what it failed to destroy, the Party still wants to control. So, an officially atheist government effectively runs its own churches and controls the appointment of its own priests.

Like Pastor Wu Weiqing from Beijing’s Haidian Church.

“We have to remember first of all we are a citizen of this country,” he says. “And we are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. That comes second.”

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[WWM] Hundreds killed in Nigeria attacks

On the night of Feb 21, at least 500 people were killed in the mainly Christian area of Agatu in the central Benue state of Nigeria. That’s according to local sources, although the figure could rise even higher – due to continuing violence and the fact that locals and relief workers still cannot get full access to the area due to security concerns.

Eleven days after bands of Muslim Fulani nomads launched systematic attacks on local communities, they still occupied at least six villages they’d seized, confirm relief and media workers – the first who managed to reach the area. Local media report that spokespeople for the herdsmen’s association told the police chief their action was provoked by the Agatu people killing “10,000” cows.

Members of this first mission said they saw no dead cattle at all. One of the team, carrying an amateur video camera, captured disturbing evidence of the human deaths, however, and sent this report, voiced by WWM staff.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[Guardian] Magistrate sacked over religious opposition to same-sex couples adopting

A Kent magistrate who publicly opposes adoption by same-sex couples on religious grounds and sits in the family courts has been sacked for serious misconduct.

The decision to remove Richard Page, 69, following an interview he gave on BBC television last year, was authorised by both the justice secretary, Michael Gove, and the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.

Page, who had been on the bench for 15 years, had only a month more to serve as a justice of the peace, according to the Christian Legal Centre, which has supported him.
[Page] continued: “In the case of same-sex couples adopting children, it has only been a relatively short time that same-sex couples have been able to adopt and foster, and therefore there has not been time for a proper analysis to be carried out into the effects such placements have on the children’s educational, emotional and developmental wellbeing.

“As a magistrate I have to act on the evidence before me and, quite simply, I believe that there is not sufficient evidence to convince me that placing a child in the care of a same-sex couple can be as holistically beneficial to a child as placing them with a mum and dad as God and nature intended.

“I am surprised that this lord chancellor should seemingly pander to the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[RNS] China’s efforts to mold Christianity in its own image draw resistance

..what cannot be disputed is the budding friction between the state and Chinese Christians: Over the past two years, Chinese authorities ”” citing building code violations ”” have torn down more than 1,200 crosses from churches across the country, destroyed several churches, and rounded up Christian activists.

There has been some resistance. Chinese Christians in Zhejiang either rebuilt or replaced some of those crosses after the authorities tore down the originals, and other worshippers hung small crosses outside the windows of their homes or from car mirrors.

More intriguingly, provincial branches of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, two of the three government-approved Christian organizations in China, sent letters to party leaders condemning the crackdown on Christian symbols.

Against this backdrop of alleged persecution and violence, Chinese Christians and government leaders eye each other warily, both sides unsure of what the future of Christianity in the Middle Kingdom might be..

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Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution

[Bishop Michael Lewis] Aden: Killings at the Mother Teresa Home

At least 15 people have been killed at the Mother Teresa Home in Aden, including four of the nuns. On Friday 4 March armed intruders raided the compound, where 70 or 80 old people, many found destitute on the streets, have for years been in the care of the Missionaries of Charity. One nun survived. Her sisters who died came from India, Kenya, and Rwanda. Also killed were Yemenis and Ethiopians who helped at the home or guarded the premises.

Doubtless the murderers are from the pernicious ultra-fundamentalist fanatical puritan strand of Islam that encompasses IS or Da’esh and takes inspiration from the Wahhabi sect. Their actions will be met with revulsion by true Muslims, especially native Adenis, whose respect for the works of charity and service by Christians in their city is great.

Hearing of these killings in the middle of the season of Lent, those of us who have often visited the sisters and prayed with them will reflect that all Christians are called to walk with Christ the way of the cross, and that that Way is none other than the way of glory and the gate of heaven.

We join Bishop Paul Hinder, the Christians of the Yemen, and all who know God to be the God of mercy and compassion in praying for the eternal repose of the souls of these faithful departed servants of the Lord.

+ Michael Cyprus & the Gulf

Read it all [h/t Anglican Ink] and there is a BBC Report here

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Religious Freedom / Persecution