Is Finland About to Make Christianity Illegal? Christian Lawmaker Facing Fines and Prison

02-18-2020 – Dale Hurd

 

Rohingya Christian refugees abducted, attacked in Bangladesh

By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2020

At least 22 Rohingya Christian families were attacked, a Christian pastor and his 14-year-old daughter were abducted, and a Christian church and school were vandalized in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area, which is home to thousands of refugees who fled ethnic and religious persecution in neighboring Myanmar, according to Human Rights Watch.

A large group of men beat up residents, vandalized homes and looted personal property soon after abducting Taher, a Rohingya Christian pastor, and his daughter, in the Kutupalong Camp 2, the group said in a statement urging authorities in Bangladesh to provide protection.

The attack took place on Jan. 27 by machete-wielding Muslim Rohingya men on a Christian community, Radio Free Asia reported.

At least 12 Rohingya Christians were injured and hospitalized and the affected families were relocated to a United Nations transit center.

A police case has been filed against 59 alleged assailants. A group of Muslims also filed a separate complaint later, alleging that the violence was the result of Christians assaulting a Rohingya Muslim man.

Taher’s wife, Roshida, said her husband may have been killed and her daughter converted to Islam. “No one can give me any clear information, but my relatives told me that my daughter has been forced to convert to Islam and marry,” she said, according to HRW.

Some camp residents suspect that the attackers are linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed group whose representative denied and condemned the attacks on Christians, according to Benar News.

“The ARSA … attacked us, the Christians. They looted our houses, and beat up many Christian members. At least 12 Christians have been undergoing treatment at different hospitals and clinics,” a Christian identified only as Saiful was quoted as saying.

Saiful said most of the believers in the camp converted to Christianity in Myanmar and that he and his family crossed into Bangladesh from Baulibazar in Myanmar’s Maungdaw district in 2007.

About 1,500 Rohingya Christians have been living in refugee camps with more than 700,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar military began its campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017.

A Christian Rohingya told HRW that camp officials “try to avoid our queries.” Another said a police officer told him that if they wanted to be safe they should “go to the moon.”

In a report on his visit to Bangladesh as the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee said in January that Rohingya Christians were “in a most difficult position.”

“They told me they were persecuted due to their religion by the Myanmar Government while they lived in Rakhine, and now they face hostility and violence from a small number of other camp residents. This worries me.”

HRW has urged the Bangladesh authorities to “urgently locate Taher and his daughter and bring those responsible to justice.”

“The government should also act immediately to protect all vulnerable groups in the country’s refugee camps, including religious minorities like Rohingya Christians.” (Click to Source)

 

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Iranian Christian convert fears execution if deported for giving wrong answers on Bible quiz

By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2020

A 38-year-old Christian convert, who says he would face imprisonment, execution and separation from his British wife and daughter if deported to Iran, has once again applied for asylum to the U.K.’s Home Office, as his appeal was earlier rejected because he wasn’t able to name Judas as the betrayer of Jesus at an immigration hearing.

Reza Karkah from Bradford, who fled Iran for the U.K. in 2003, said if he’s deported, Iranian authorities would punish him for his conversion to Christianity, said the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting his case.

At an earlier immigration hearing, Karkah found it difficult to understand the 150 questions he was asked, including his favorite passage from the Bible, and identifying the betrayer of Jesus and the denomination into which he was baptized, according to The Times (of London). Unable to answer some of the questions correctly, his application was rejected as the judge was not convinced he was a real Christian.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, stressed, “Reza Karkah is the real deal. A courageous man transformed by the gospel and the hope of the Lord Jesus Christ. At stake here is not just the life of Reza, but also his equally brave yet vulnerable wife, and their beautiful daughter.”

If he is deported, his wife, Leigh Riley, would find it difficult to look after their 4-year-old daughter, Rosie, Karkah said. “I am afraid that my daughter will think I have abandoned her if I was deported.”

“I feel weighed down and that my life is on hold. Knowing that I could be snatched off the street makes me nervous about leaving the house. We pray each time we go out that Jesus will have mercy on us. I now have a new life and a new hope. To think that this could be taken from me in a moment is horrible.”

Leigh, who was born in Yorkshire, said, “When I was down and out on the streets, meeting Reza changed my life. He was the first person who was kind to me. Now we are a family and I am a mother to a beautiful four-year-old daughter. I don’t even want to think about what they might do to my husband if he was returned to Iran. You hear such terrible stories.”

In its judgment in 2018, the Home Office said that he would not be exposed to “a real act of persecution” if he was deported.

Williams argued that the Home Office often fails to properly understand “the nature of Christian faith or the scale of the challenges faced by Christians in Iran.” Converting from Islam is illegal in Iran and punishable by death.

Karkah’s initial bid for asylum was rejected in 2004, making him homeless, addicted to drugs and a petty criminal. That’s when he met Leigh. A year later, they converted to Christianity as a result of a local church’s outreach program.

After being baptized, Karkah quit drugs and is now an active member of a church. He has not committed any crime over the last five years.

“The people at the soup kitchen spoke to me about Jesus Christ, the Bible and the need for salvation,” Karkah recalled. “They were kind and compassionate giving us access to a doctor, sleeping bags and clothing. I found hope, we both became Christians. Since then our lives have completely changed. My wife is unrecognizable from the disheveled, broken and abused woman I met in 2012.”

Last year, the Home Office said it would take a second look at another Iranian Christian’s asylum claim after the department first denied the application, arguing that Christianity is not a peaceful religion.

The department faced international criticism for attacking Christianity as a violent religion in a letter stating their reasons for denying the Christian convert’s asylum application. (Click to Source)

 

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Elderly pastor brutally beaten, mocked by Hindu extremists: ‘I am ready to die for Christ’

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2020

Hindu extremists in Andhra Pradesh, India, brutally beat an elderly pastor and verbally abused his wife amid escalating tension over the presence of a Christian church in their community.

Morning Star News reports that Pastor Eswara Rao Appalabattula was attacked by a group of Hindu extremists after he pleaded with them to stop building a wall meant to block people from attending worship services at his home in L.B. Patnam village, Andhra Pradesh.

“They wanted to build a wall right in front of the church and ban us from using the path,” Appalabattula told Morning Star News. “I pleaded with them to not do so. But the group of at least six neighbors, both male and female, punched me in my stomach several times and pushed me to the floor.”

They picked up a wooden pole and started beating his hands repeatedly with it, he said. Doctors later told him his hand had been fractured.

“I was lying there on the floor screaming for help,” he said. “My wife came running and begged them to stop beating me — it was traumatic.”

That same month, a Hindu priest led a group of extremists to the pastor’s home, where they threatened to kill his wife, Karuna Appalabattula, as she was doing chores outside.

“I did not go to fight with them but I was panicked,” Karuna Appalabattula told Morning Star News. “I did not know what to do. I asked them, ‘What is this you are doing? Why are you after us?’”

The Hindu priest picked up a large log of wood and came running toward her, she said.

“He kept screaming that he would kill me,” she said. “I was crying for help. But their priest abused me in extremely foul language. They called me names they would never use for a mother, wife, sister or any female member of their families. He called me a Christian prostitute and warned me that he would kill my husband.”

When the pastor informed a police official of the abuse his family had endured, he was told to resolve the matter himself.

“They told me that, ‘Your God has to protect you — when your God is not protecting you from your attackers, what can we do staying here?’” the pastor said. “I told them that it was my God who had been protecting me, if not I would not have been alive in front of you.”

The Hindu extremists were reportedly angered by the presence of a church in their village and intimidated worshipers to discourage them from gathering. Pastor Appalabattula said the Hindu villagers had stopped worshipers from coming to services throughout January.

“They would threaten and abuse them in foul language and not let them even park their motorbikes in the area,” he said. “Even before they stop at the church, they are chased and sent away.”

“My wife and I witnessed drug and alcohol addicts, and the sick, come to Christ, and then they had refused to be a part of Hindu rituals in the village.”

Because of the ongoing persecution, youths and Christians from neighboring villages who used to come to their home daily for worship and hours of fellowship are too fearful to come now, the pastor said.

“They were like our own children,” she said. “I would prepare meals and feed them. We sang and worshiped together … We both are very old and weak and are in need of prayers and support.”

Pastor Appalabattula said they are going through a very difficult time.

“I am ready to die for Christ. But the ministry we had started here has come to a sudden halt,” he said. “Not even four members are gathering for Sunday worship. The believers have been very scared, and nobody dares to come and see us.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Over 1,400 incidents of persecution against Christians in India have been reported since the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party rose to power, according to an initiative of ADF India.

Recently, it was reported that Hindu extremists in southern India beat Christian children during a worship service before filing a false police complaint against the congregation.

International Christian Concern, an advocacy organization based outside of Washington, D.C., said it often receives reports of rapes, communal violence, forced conversion charges and other abuses committed against Christians in the Hindu-majority country.

“Cases such as these are becoming commonplace in India and are largely fueled by rhetoric of BJP and other [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] officials,” ICC Advocacy Director Matias Perttula said. “They show a clear indication of the decline of religious freedom and an increase in the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities.” (Click To Source)

 

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Pregnant woman and baby among 30 killed, burned to death by Boko Haram

By Samuel Smith, CP Reporter – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2020

Boko Haram militants are suspected to have burned and killed no less than 30 people and abducted others Sunday night as the extremist faction continues to terrorize northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

A spokesperson for Borno Gov. Babagana Umara Zulum told CNN that at least 30 people, including a pregnant woman and her baby, are now dead after suspected Boko Haram militants set sleeping travelers on fire in the Auno village of the Borno state.

The travelers were camping out in the village for the night as they missed a 5 p.m. curfew in the state capital of Maiduguri, about 10 miles away.

Sources reported to Vanguard that while most counts say that at least 30 have died, the death toll could be as high as 40. That would include the death of six militants.

According to the state government, militants burned 18 vehicles. Some of the destroyed vehicles included trucks loaded up with food to be taken to the markets the following day.

State government spokesman Ahmad Abdurrahman Bundi told AFP that militants stormed Auno village with trucks and mounted weapons. The militants killed, looted and burned.

Village resident Shehu Tanko told CNN that the bodies of the pregnant woman and her baby were among the corpses recovered.

“They burn everywhere. The fire was still on till this morning,” Tanko explained. “We are still looking for many people around here.”

A source told Vanguard that the pregnant woman was likely raped before she was burned to death and that the baby’s head was crushed.

Boko Haram is an Islamic militant insurgency responsible for killing tens of thousands and displacing millions in the last decade-plus.

The terrorist group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2016 but soon splintered after Islamic State leadership tried to replace Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.

Although the Nigerian government claims to have defeated Boko Haram militarily, Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province continue to carry out attacks in Borno.

“We have to be brutal in telling the truth. I am pushed to the wall to say the truth. Since I was inaugurated as governor of Borno State, Boko Haram has attacked Auno six times,” Zulum said in a statement, according to Vanguard. “Another thing is that the military has been withdrawn from Auno town. I am not undermining the capacity of the military but we have made repeated appeals for the military to establish their unit in Auno.”

Gov. Zulum recently gave a guest lecture at the National Defence College in Abuja in which he detailed the challenges of the Boko Haram insurgency in the Borno state. Zulum alleged that the insurgency is responsible for making 59,311 orphans and 59,213 widows.

Boko Haram over the years has abducted hundreds of school girls. The group has also abducted pastors and others in attempts to raise funds through ransom payments.

Last month, Boko Haram executed Rev. Lawan Andimi, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s chapter in the Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

Andimi was kidnapped in early January and was seen in a ransom video praising God before his death.

Also in January, the Islamic State released a propaganda video purporting to show the killing of a Nigerian Christian university student by a child soldier. In December, the Islamic State faction claimed to have killed 11 Christian aid workers in Nigeria in retaliation for the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In a statement Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared that the Nigerian government is “combating frontally the dreadful activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.”

Buhari and his administration have faced international scrutiny over their inability to thwart extremist attacks by Boko Haram, ISWAP and radical Fulani herdsmen in the country’s Middle Belt.

Last December, the U.S. State Department listed Nigeria for the first time on its special watch list for countries that engage or tolerate severe religious freedom violations. Nigeria was placed on the list because of the “lack of effective government response” to increasing violence. (Click to Source)

 

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Christians are being captured and killed across the globe: ‘World Watch List’ takes you inside the crisis

‘An unparalleled glimpse into the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian’

FEBRUARY 10, 2020

Millions of Christians across the globe live in perpetual fear that they will be punished, harmed — or even killed — for merely practicing their faith.

Worldwide persecution continues to be at a fevered pitch, with varying degrees of affliction for those who openly embrace the Bible.

This tragic reality is more than evident in Open Doors USA’s latest “World Watch List,” an annual report that offers “an unparalleled glimpse into the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian.”

According to the stunning 2020 report, more than 260 million Christians live in places where there is a high level of persecution, amounting to one-in-eight Christians worldwide.

 

 

Islamic Group Beheads Kidnapped Pastor After He Refused to Renounce Faith

By Pamela Geller – on 

The father of eight was murdered in accordance with Qur’an 47:4 — Islamic ritual slaughter.

Will the islamophobia never end?

BOKO HARAM EXECUTES BRETHREN PASTOR IN NORTHEAST NIGERIA

CHRISTIAN LEADER IN ADAMAWA STATE SOUGHT RESCUE BUT ENTRUSTED HIS FATE TO GOD.

By Our Nigeria Correspondent
JOS, Nigeria, January 21, 2020 (Morning Star News) – The Rev. Lawan Andimi had a treasured life – loving family, an affectionate congregation, respect from his colleagues.

The kidnapped district chairman of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN) in Michika County, in northeast Nigeria’s Adamawa state, had stated in a video that he trusted in God should he lose his life to Islamic terrorists of Boko Haram. The rebel militants executed the father of eight children on Monday (Jan. 20), the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) confirmed today.

Ahmad Salkida, a Muslim journalist who has been a primary means for Boko Haram to release information, reported in a tweet today that the group beheaded Pastor Andimi on Monday afternoon.

Boko Haram’s journalist – their primary means to release information — hasn’t been arrested?

“To break some news items can traumatize. I’m battling with one of such. Reverend Andimi, abducted by #BokoHaram was executed yesterday,” Salkida tweeted. “Rev. Andimi was a church leader, a father to his children and the community he served. My condolences go to his family.”

CAN President Samson Ayokunle today confirmed in a comment to the Nigerian newspaper the Daily Post that Pastor Andimi had been executed.

Pastor Andimi had said in a Boko Haram video released by Salkida on Jan. 5 that he hoped to be reunited with his wife, children and colleagues.

“If the opportunity has not been granted, maybe it is the will of God,” he said. “I want all people close and far, colleagues, to be patient. Don’t cry, don’t worry, but thank God for everything.”

Pastor Andimi, who also served as chairman of CAN’s local chapter, was kidnapped on Jan. 2 when Boko Haram attacked two Christian communities in the area.

In the video released on Jan. 5, the pastor called on church leaders to speak out for him and urge Adamawa Gov. Ahmadu Fintiri to intervene to secure his release.

“I have never been discouraged, because all conditions that one finds himself is in the hand of God,” Pastor Andimi said in the video.

Strongly Worded Statement
CAN President Ayokunle said in a press statement that the execution of Pastor Andimi was “gruesome, unfortunate and a shame on the federal government,” according to Nigerian newspaper The Nation.

“What has become of intelligence-gathering of our security agencies?” Ayokunle said in the statement. “Is this government and the security agencies still claiming that the war against these criminals in religious garments has been won despite all the killings? Is the government sincere in fighting these terrorists or merely paying lip service to the war against the insurgency? Is there any hope that our security is guaranteed under this government?”

CAN’s director of legal and public affairs, Kwamkur Vondip, reportedly said in a statement that the church did “everything within her reach to secure the safe release of this pastor gentleman but it was not possible because they didn’t have the military power to do so,” according to The Nation.

“Just last Sunday, a clergyman, Rev. Denis Bagauri, was murdered by unknown gunmen in his residence at Mayo Belwa of Adamawa state,” Vondip reportedly said. “The church views the unabated kidnappings, extortions and killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians as shameful to the government that each time boasts that it has conquered insurgency.”

In the strongly worded statement, Vondip said it was reprehensible and saddening that each time the government claims the defeat of Boko Haram, more killings are committed.

“In the light of the current developments and the circumstantial facts surrounding the prevailing upsurge of attacks against the church, it will be difficult for us to believe that the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari is not colluding with the insurgents to exterminate Christians in Nigeria, bearing in mind the very questionable leadership of the security sector that has been skewed towards a religion and region!

“Is that lopsidedness not a cover-up for the operation of the insurgency? If not, why couldn’t the well-equipped security agents of Nigeria get this man killed rescued?”

Vondip urged the government to ensure the release of Leah Sharibu, kidnapped from a high school in Dapchi, Yobe state in February 2018, and hundreds of other victims of Boko Haram and splinter group the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP).

“A government that cannot protect the governed is a failed government,” Vondip said. “Can the government tell us what they did since Rev. Andimì cried out to them for help?…If the security agencies claim the terrorists are operating outside the country, why is it possible for these hoodlums to invade the country, kill, maim, burn and kidnap without any convincing checks on the part of the security agencies?

“Since the government and its apologists are claiming the killings have no religious undertones, why are the terrorists and herdsmen targeting the predominantly Christian communities and Christian leaders?

“If the security agencies are not living up to the expectations of the government, why hasn’t it overhauled them with a view of injecting new visionary ones into the security system?”

He said that as long as the government refuses to act, the crimes will continue.

“We are almost losing hope in government’s ability to protect Nigerians, especially Christians who have become endangered species under its watch,” he said.

Ayokunle called on the international community to come to the aid of Nigeria, “especially, the Nigerian church, so that we might not be eliminated one by one.”

President Buhari, in a statement to the Daily Post, said security forces were working continuously to secure the release of hostages and appealed for Nigerians not to see terrorist attacks and plans as a religious fight or persecution of Christians.

“Not seeing terrorists as they should be is exactly what they wish to divide Nigerians,” Buhari said in the statement. “Nigerians must continue to be united in ensuring that they do not subscribe to the terrorists’ message of division. Unfortunately, some leaders and politicians seek to make political capital from our religious differences.

“As we fight Boko Haram on the ground, so too must we tackle their beliefs: stability and unity in face of their hatred is itself a rejection of their worldview. This government shall never tolerate religious intolerance. We clearly and unambiguously restate our support for the freedom to practice whichever belief you wish. The politicization of religion – as forbidden by the constitution – has no place in Nigeria.”

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan. (Click to Source)

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

Photo: The Rev. Lawan Andimi called for help on video released on Jan. 5, 2020. (Screenshot from video, Morning Star News)

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A Global Catastrophe: “260 Million Christians Experience High Levels of Persecution”

by Raymond Ibrahim

  • Dictatorial paranoia continues to make North Korea (#1) the worst nation. “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot.” — World Watch List 2020, Open Doors.
  • Otherwise, as has been the case in all statistics and reports on the global persecution of Christians, not only does “Islamic oppression” remain the chief “source of persecution” faced by Christians in seven of the absolute ten worst nations, but 38 of the 50 nations composing the list are either Muslim majority or have a sizeable Muslim population.
  • The targeting of Christians around the world has become more widespread than ever. Part of this is because “persecution against Christians has taken a technological turn.” ….in India (#10) — where “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences” — “the government plans to introduce a national facial recognition system. Similarly, China (#23)….” — World Watch List 2020, Open Doors.
  • Perhaps the most disturbing trend is that the number of persecuted Christians continues to grow year after year….
  • Will this trend ever stop and reverse, or will it continue to get worse — and possibly even spill into those nations that, for now, enjoy religious freedom and equality?

 

The global persecution of Christians has reached unprecedented levels: “260 million Christians experience high levels of persecution” around the world, notes the recently published Open Doors World Watch List 2020, an annual report that ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted for their faith.

Additionally, “2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s 8 Christians killed every day for their faith”: “9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked,” and “3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned.” (Note: All quotes in this article are from the World Watch List 2020 report.)

Dictatorial paranoia continues to make North Korea (#1) the worst nation. “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot.”

Otherwise, and as has been the case in all statistics and reports on the global persecution of Christians, not only does “Islamic oppression” remain the chief “source of persecution” faced by Christians in seven of the absolute ten worst nations, but 38 of the 50 nations composing the list are either Muslim-majority or have a sizeable Muslim population.

The overwhelming majority of these Muslim nations are governed by some form of shari’a (Islamic law). It is either directly enforced by government or society or, more frequently, both, though societies — family members in particular — tend to be more zealous in its application. Brief summaries of the seven Muslim nations making the top ten follow:

  • Afghanistan (#2) is “an Islamic society where Christianity exists in secret.” Not only is it “illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam,” but family members are often first to attack or kill them.
  • In Somalia (#3), “conversion to Christianity is regarded as a betrayal”; ” family members and clan leaders will harass, intimidate and even kill” converts. Al Shabaab, “the youth,” an Islamic group, slaughters Christians “on the spot when discovered.”
  • In Libya (#4), “There is no freedom of speech, no equal treatment of Christians, no recognition of the church and no churches being built.”
  • Pakistan (#5) “is afflicted by numerous radical Islamic groups,” which “regularly target” churches. More generally and in the eyes of both government and people, “Christians are regarded as second-class citizens. Also, the country’s anti-blasphemy laws are disproportionately applied against the Christian minority — making it difficult and dangerous to live out one’s faith in public.”
  • In Sudan (#7), “the government has arrested or intimidated many Christian leaders, and numerous churches have been demolished. Extremists have attacked Christians, especially in the Nuba Mountain region, where thousands of Christians have been killed or displaced.”
  • In Yemen (#8), civil “war has allowed radical Islamic groups to expand their operations in certain areas, leading to Christians being abducted and killed. Open church activities are forbidden and leaving Islam is forbidden. Muslims who decide to follow Jesus could face the death penalty.”
  • In Iran (#9), which “is governed by Islamic law,… the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted…. [I]t is illegal to produce Christian literature or hold church services in Farsi. Converts from Islam face persecution from the government.”

Some notable trends are also on the rise. Christians in sub-Saharan Africa are “increasingly under threat from Islamic extremist groups”:

In Burkina Faso (No. 28, a rise of 33 spots from 2019), long-known for its religious tolerance, Christians say they are in a fight for survival. Dozens of Catholic priests have been killed, and Protestant pastors and their families have been killed or kidnapped by violent Islamic militants. In Mali (No. 29), the president said in late 2018 that his country’s existence is under threat because of Islamic jihadists. Central African Republic (No. 25) is in constant upheaval partially due to the fighting of rebel Islamic militants, many of whom target Christians. And Cameroon (No. 48) faces violence in the north—still a stronghold of Boko Haram [which, along with Muslim Fulani herdsmen, are slaughtering Christians in Nigeria, #12].

Militant Islam has also arisen in unexpected areas. “In Sri Lanka (No. 30, up from 46 in 2019) 250 people died and more than 500 were injured in attacks on Catholic and Protestant churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.” Maldives (#14)—popularly recognized as a beautiful island nation and tourist destination—is a bastion of shari’a:

The Maldives’ constitution requires all citizens to be Muslim. Conversion from Islam means that someone can be stripped of their citizenship and punished under Shariah law. Even foreign workers who are Christians are closely watched, which makes church life extremely difficult and practically non-existent. Churches are outlawed, and openly carrying the Bible is illegal. The country is so tightly controlled by Islamic law that there is not even a Bible fully translated into the native language of most citizens of the Maldives.

Algeria worsened by five sports — going from #22 last year to #17 in 2020 — due to “the seemingly systemic closure of Protestant churches. In some of these cases, Christians were forcibly expelled by police in the middle of church services. Pressure from family also remains high, particularly for Christians who were previously Muslim.”

Aside from “Islamic oppression,” the targeting of Christians around the world has become more widespread than ever. Part of this is because “persecution against Christians has taken a technological turn.” For example, in India (#10) — where “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences” — “the government plans to introduce a national facial recognition system. There were at least 447 verified incidents of violence and hate crimes against Christians in India… There is fear that more tracking could increase these attacks.”

Similarly, China (#23) — which seeks to make all religions, including Christianity, “fall in line with their interpretation of communism” — is “rolling out a country-wide Social Credit System (SCS) by which authorities plan to reward ‘good’ citizenship and punish ‘bad'”:

Already, one community has reportedly decided to add penalties for those who “illegally spread Christianity.” It’s easy to see how surveillance technology could be used in tandem with the SCS to make everyday life very difficult for anyone the Chinese government deems insufficiently “Chinese” — including Christians.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend is that the number of persecuted Christians continues to grow year after year: “260 million Christians experience high levels of persecution,” says the new 2020 report. This represents a 6% increase from 2019; then, 245 million Christians were persecuted — and that was a 14% increase from 2018, when 215 million was the number.

Will this trend ever stop and reverse, or will it continue to get worse — and possibly even spill into those nations that, for now, enjoy religious freedom and equality? (Click to Source)

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China Just Escalated Their Brutal Persecution Of Christians To An Entirely New Level

 

Be very thankful that you don’t live in China.  Approximately one out of every seven people on the entire planet lives in China, and it has become one of the most dystopian societies that the world has ever seen.  Surveillance cameras, government spies and facial recognition scanners are everywhere, and the totalitarian “social credit score” system that is currently being rolled out is an absolute nightmare.  And the Chinese government is not content to simply control how people behave.  They also want to literally control what people believe, and the ongoing crackdown on the Christian faith has been absolutely brutal.  Over the past several years, scores of pastors have been arrested, countless underground churches have been shut down, and thousands of Bibles have been burned.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for Chinese officials, and so they have now taken things to an entirely new level.

When the communists first came to power in China, it was a very dark time for Christians.  But underground churches started blossoming even in the midst of the persecution, and eventually there were a few decades where the national government more or less tolerated unsanctioned gatherings.  Today, it has been estimated that there are more than 100 million Christians in China, and it is being projected that China may actually have more Christians that any other nation on the planet by the year 2030.

Needless to say, the communists don’t like any threats to their power, and they see this underground movement as a very serious threat.

Under the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the persecution of unofficial churches has steadily escalated.  This year they actually tried to ban Christians from gathering on Christmas, and a series of new regulations has just been introduced that requires “total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times”…

A new mandate entitled “Administrative Measures for Religious Groups” has been approved by the CPC and is comprised of six chapters and 41 articles dealing with the organization, functions, offices, supervision, projects and economic administration of religious communities.

The new rules also seek to ensure that religious leaders support, promote and implement total submission to the Chinese Communist Party at all times.

So what does that sort of “submission” look like?

Well, in some cases officials have required churches to take down pictures of Jesus and replace them with pictures of President Xi Jinping.

Yes, this is how twisted things have become in China.

The new regulations also require all churches to “spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in all of their activities…

According to International Christian Concern, Article 5 of the new ordinance reads that “religious organizations must adhere to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, observe the constitution, laws, regulations, ordinances and policies, adhere to the principle of independence and self-government, adhere to the directives on religions in China, implementing the values ​​of socialism …”

In addition, Article 17 specifies that all religious organizations “must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party” in everything they do.

Any church that does not go along is likely to be raided and shut down at any time.

For example, Pastor Wang Yi once led one of the most important underground churches in all of China, but his church was raided and he was arrested.

And now we have learned that he has just been sentenced to nine years in prison…

Wang Yi, a leader in one of the most well-known Christian congregations in China, has been quietly sentenced to nine years in prison, according to a statement on the website of the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu Municipality.

The sentencing is the latest incident in an ongoing crackdown on organized religion in China. Early Rain Covenant Church, which Wang founded in 2008, attracted about 500 followers and was considered one of the most influential “underground churches” in China, operating independently of the state.

According to Chinese officials, Pastor Yi received such a harsh sentence for “subverting state power”.

Of course it isn’t just pastors that are being arrested.  Countless numbers of ordinary Chinese citizens have been swept up during the raids, and many are never seen or heard from again.

One Chinese Christian woman told the Los Angeles Times what happened to her when she was interrogated…

Li Chengju glared at her prison interrogator as he pressed her to renounce her Christian church and condemn her pastor.

Her captor warned she would not be so lucky as the pastor, who was locked in secret detention but at least might get a day in court.

“Look at you. You sweep the floors at church,” the interrogator said. “You think you’re getting a trial like your pastor? You don’t qualify.”

The way that the Chinese are treating their citizens is absolutely reprehensible, and unless they completely change course we should not be conducting any trade with them at all.

Sadly, the “five-year plan” that was launched in 2018 to indoctrinate churches all over China is not even halfway done…

The government calls its campaign “Sinicization” — a euphemism for turning faith into a tool for indoctrination in Chinese Communist Party ideology. The official five-year plan, issued in 2018, calls for inserting “patriotic education” and “socialist core values” into churches, revising the Bible and using church sermons to enforce party leadership and reject foreign influences.

The persecution of Christians is likely to get even worse in China, and this comes at a time when Christian persecution is on the rise all over the world.  This is something that many of us have been anticipating because of the times in which we live, but it is still horrifying to actually watch it happen.

As I close this article, I would like to share a message from Pastor Wang Yi that was posted on Facebook after he was arrested.  May his words inspire all of us to live every moment and to be the people that we were created to be…

“I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.”

“Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.”

“Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.”

“Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.”

“Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.”

– Pastor Wang Yi, “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” (Click to Source)


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The Exodus: Christians Fleeing Gaza, Fearing Persecution

by Elizabeth Blade

A 60-year-old Christian from Gaza is now living on the streets of Nazareth but says he prefers to stay there than to go back to Gaza, where he had lived his entire life.

Kamal Tarazi fled the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic group considered a terrorist outfit in Israel, seized control of the enclave, ousting its previous government, officials from Fatah.

“The moment they took control, they started persecuting us, ruining our churches and forcing Christians to convert to Islam”, the 60-year-old Christian recalls.

The Turning Point

It was then that Tarazi decided to organise demonstrations against the movement, uniting Christians and Muslims alike. The calls to act didn’t move the masses, but they did anger Hamas.

“I was jailed several times. Do you know what a Hamas prison is? It is pure torture”, he explains, adding that the Islamic group decided to keep him alive to avoid depicting themselves as persecutors of the local Christian population, something that could potentially anger the international community.

After two months in prison, Tarazi had had enough. Shortly before Christmas, he applied for a permit that would allow him to cross the border into Israel and then travel to Bethlehem – located in the West Bank – to attend a series of religious ceremonies.

Once the permit was given and the border was crossed, Tarazi vowed he would never go back, and he is not alone.

Gaza’s Christian community has been steadily declining over the years. Before Hamas came to power in 2007, Christians made up some 3,500 people in the Strip. Now, however, there are no more than 1,300 and Tarazi says the actual number is even lower.

“I am sure there are no more than 500 Christians left in Gaza and it is just part of the general trend”, he explains.

Over the years, many Gazans decided to flee the Strip, unable to cope with the difficult security and economic situation.

In 2018 alone, some 35,000 Gazans fled the Strip and Tarazi says the number of those who have left since 2007 surpassed 200,000 people.

“For Gaza, with its total population of 1.8 million, this number is significant”, he continues.

The Comeback

Despite promises he would never go back fearing for his life, Tarazi decided to give it a try in 2014, shortly before Israel started its operation Protective Edge aimed at putting an end to the continuous rocket barrage emanating from the Strip and targeting Israel’s southern communities.

“I missed my family and wanted to see how they were doing”, he says. But when he came home, he found an empty place.

“My wife and daughter left the flat where we used to live and moved in with my parents-in-law. As for my house, Hamas turned it into a warehouse, where they kept rockets and various ammunition”, he goes on, adding that he wanted to flee again but the Islamic group wouldn’t let him do so, imprisoning him for several months.

That, however, didn’t silence Tarazi and every time he was out of prison, he gathered crowds sending a clear message to Hamas: “Bidna Naesh” – Arabic for “we want to live”.

Similar protests have been staged by other peace activists but just like in the case of Tarazi, they too were silenced.

Hamas’s Days Numbered?

But Tarazi says the policy to silence those who oppose the Hamas regime cannot continue for too long. “Christians and Muslims live well together in Gaza but both are tired of this organisation that kills and damages everything around them. Their days are numbered”, he warns, adding that the situation in Gaza is explosive.

In Gaza, where 75 percent of the population lives in poverty, the unemployment rate is 52 percent, and the average salary is less than $20 a day, some 68 percent of Palestinians describe their situation as either bad or very bad, according to a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.

Leaving for good

“My situation was so bad and I was so desperate to leave that at some stage I tore my clothes off in public and wanted to set myself ablaze”, Tarazi recalls, adding that Hamas prevented him from doing so. To hush him they finally gave him a permit to leave Gaza, five years after his return.

“Initially I went to Bethlehem and from there to a church in Nazareth that gave me shelter for some time, until one day they asked me to pay for the accommodation they provided me with, which of course I couldn’t afford, and that pushed me to the streets of Nazareth, where I currently live”, he continues.

With winter approaching, no money in his pocket, and no Israeli job permit, Tarazi relies on the aid of charity organisations.

But help won’t come as Israel lacks relevant bodies that could take care of Tarazi’s needs.

“Israel has organisations that take care of African refugees and NGOs that help Palestinians with mainly legal advice but none of them will be able to provide him with housing, medication or even food”, explained a representative of Gisha, a non-profit organisation that protects the freedom of movement of Palestinians.

Tarazi, mewanwhile, continues to stroll along the streets of Nazareth, hoping that ordinary citizens will show more empathy.

Sputnik reached out to a number of other NGOs and aid organisations but none was able to help. Hamas hasn’t responded to a request for comment by the time of publication. (Click to Source)


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