Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (June 27, 2011)
1. Pastor, Church Official Shot Dead in Nigeria
Muslim militants of Boko Haram blamed for killings in Borno state. By Obed Minchakpu
JOS, Nigeria, June 10 (Compass Direct News) – Muslim extremists from the Boko Haram sect on Tuesday (June 7) shot and killed a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) pastor and his church secretary in Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state. The Rev. David Usman, 45, and church secretary Hamman Andrew were the latest casualties in an upsurge of Islamic militancy that has engulfed northern Nigeria this year. The Rev. Titus Dama Pona, pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All in Maiduguri, told Compass that Pastor Usman was shot and killed by members of the Boko Haram near an area of Maiduguri called the Railway Quarters, where the slain pastor’s church is located. Pona said Christians in Maiduguri have become full of dread over the violence of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) on northern Nigeria. “Christians have become the targets of these Muslim militants – we no longer feel free moving around the city, and most churches no longer carry out worship service for fear of becoming targets of these unprovoked attacks,” Pona said. The Rev. Logan Gongchi of COCIN’s Kerang congregation in Jos, Plateau state, told Compass that area Christians were shocked at the news. “We knew him to be very gentle, an introvert, who was always silent in the class and only spoke while answering questions from our teachers,” Gongchi said. “He had a simple lifestyle and was easygoing with other students. He was very accommodating and ready at all times to withstand life’s pressures – this is in addition to being very jovial.”
2. Police in Pakistan Torture Sister of Christian Who Eloped
Sheikhupura officers attack office of legal team helping Christians fight false charges. By Murad Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan, June 13 (Compass Direct News) – Sheikhupura police this month tortured a young Christian woman into revealing the whereabouts of the legal team helping her family after an influential Muslim family kidnapped her and her sister, sources said. Police also helped the Muslim family beat relatives of the Christian woman on court premises and attacked the offices of the organization trying to help her family, they said. The Community Development Initiative (CDI) was providing legal assistance to the family of Sajid Ashraf Masih, whose elopement with a young woman from the Gujjar family in Sheikhupura last month led the influential Muslims to kidnap Masih’s sisters, said Asif Aqeel, executive director of CDI. Gujjar family members kidnapped Rakhel Ashraf on May 13; they released her on May 17 but forcibly took her 17-year-old sister Maryam Ashraf that day. CDI had helped the family negotiate the release of the two Christian sisters and also made efforts for the return of the runaway couple in order to avert religious conflict in Ghazi Minara village, outside Sheikhupura in Punjab Province. On June 1, police took Rakhel Ashraf into custody and tortured her into revealing the location of the CDI office in Lahore, Aqeel said. CDI lawyers managed to negotiate the safe return of the Gujjars’ daughter, Saleha, on the condition that they would stop harassing the Christians and also withdraw all cases registered against them. But Saleha’s husband is still in hiding, and a divorce process is underway.
3. Christian Communities near Town in Nigeria Disappearing
Islamist attacks drive Christians from two villages in Bauchi state; two Christians dead. By Obed Minchakpu
TAFAWA BALEWA, Nigeria, June 14 (Compass Direct News) – In two villages in Bauchi state’s Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, most area Christians have been displaced. In Mdandi village, scores of armed, hard-line Islamists – avoiding the surrounding Muslim villages – descended on Mdandi on March 27, destroyed the Christians’ homes and drove them out, former residents said. The attack on Mdandi was preceded by an assault on Feb. 10. “On their first attack, we fought back, defending ourselves and our families,” said Luka Zafi, pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation in the village. “They left and returned the second time with more of them, and all armed with guns. We ran out of the village, and they destroyed our two church buildings and our houses.” A Compass visit to the village found Muslim Fulani nomads had taken it over and were using it to graze their cattle. The marauders were believed to have been Islamists from other parts of Bauchi state collaborating with local Muslims and Fulani herdsmen. Muslim extremists also attacked Gumel, another Christian village in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, in February – leaving two Christians dead, destroying three church buildings, burning more than 50 houses and displacing more than 300 residents. Killed in the Feb. 5 attack was COCIN church elder Mallam Riga Ubandoma. A 14-year-old girl, Numkwi William, died from a snake bite while fleeing from the assailants. Ishaya Magaji, 65, pastor of the displaced Gumel COCIN church, told Compass that all 166 members of his church have been displaced. “We cannot return to the village – not only because our houses have been destroyed, but because the Muslims have taken over the village and are using the place as a grazing field for the Fulani Muslims in the area,” Magaji said.
4. Pakistani Families Flee after Another Bogus ‘Blasphemy’ Charge
Christian falsely accused after rescuing 8-year-old nephew from Muslim boys. By Murad Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan, June 15 (Compass Direct News) – At least 10 Christian families in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab Province have fled their homes after a throng of area Muslims accused a Christian of blaspheming Islam on Friday (June 10). Yousaf Masih of village No. 68 AR Farmwala, in Khanewal district’s Mian Channu area, told Compass that his brother Yaqub’s grandson, 8-year-old Ihtesham (also known as Sunny), had gone out to fetch ice when Muslim boys from a nearby religious school started harassing him. Masih said that his son Dildar Masih, a 26-year-old father of two boys ages 3 and 2, was going to his work as a painter when he saw the Muslim boys thrashing his nephew. “Dildar rushed towards them and rescued Sunny from their attack,” Yousaf Masih said. “Sunny told him that the boys were beating him because he would not recite their Kalma, at which Dildar rebuked the boys for forcing Sunny to renounce his religion. He then asked Sunny to return home and left for his workplace.” Some 60 Muslims led by village prayer leader Qari Hasnain claimed Dildar Masih had blasphemed Islam by abusing the Kalma. The village’s mosque loudspeakers began urging “all the faithful to find the blasphemer and punish him,” but Dildar Masih was caught unaware when the Islamic throng arrived at the house he was painting. “They pounced on him like tigers,” his elderly father said. “They slapped him, kicked him, and my poor son didn’t even know why he was being tortured.”
5. China’s Official Church Members ‘Admonish’ Shouwang Group
Another 16 arrested on Sunday; house churches petition for greater religious freedom. By Sarah Page
DUBLIN, June 16 (Compass Direct News) – Police last weekend detained a further 16 members of Beijing’s Shouwang house church and placed several more under house arrest, while members of China’s government-approved churches have gone to police stations to “admonish” detained house church members, according to a statement issued yesterday by church leaders. Of those detained, police held two in protective custody in hotels, beginning on Friday night (June 10), while another 14 who turned up at Shouwang’s designated outdoor worship site on Sunday morning (June 12) were taken away and sent to 10 police stations. Of those detained Sunday morning, 13 were released by midnight while the last was released the next day. The church reported that members of government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches had in the previous two weeks come to many local police stations to “educate” and “admonish” detained Shouwang congregants, urging them to leave Shouwang and join TSPM churches. The number of people turning up to the outdoor venue has dwindled as members of the highly educated and influential church face consequences in their personal lives. Towards the end of May, the church was shocked by the departure of Pastor Song Jun, fellow minister Jian Lijin, and deacons Ji Cheng and Yuan Yansong, who left because they disagreed with plans to continue outdoor worship, a source reported. While some house churches also disagree with Shouwang’s approach, claiming their “confrontation” with the government can only bring harm for house churches in general, others have chosen to stand in solidarity with them. On May 11, 17 pastors or church workers from almost 20 house churches in six Chinese cities delivered a petition to the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, asking for the keys of Shouwang’s property and a more favorable law governing religious freedom, China Aid Association reported.
6. Sudanese Military, Militias Kill Christians in South Kordofan
Two dead, two others tortured on day when at least three church buildings are attacked. Special to Compass Direct News
KHARTOUM, Sudan, June 17 (Compass Direct News) – Military intelligence agents killed one Christian, and Islamic militants sympathetic to the government slaughtered another last week after attacking churches in Sudan’s embattled South Kordofan state. Christian sources said a Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Intelligence unit detained Nimeri Philip Kalo, a student at St. Paul Major Seminary, on June 8 near the gate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in Kadugli’s al Shaeer area and shot him in front of bystanders. Kalo and other Christians were fleeing the town after Muslim militias loyal to the SAF attacked and looted at least three church buildings in Kadugli, they said. Armed conflict in Kadugli broke out between southern and northern militaries on June 6 after northern forces seized Abyei last month. On June 8, Islamic militants loyal to the SAF slaughtered a young Christian man by sword in Kadugli Market, the sources said. Adeeb Gismalla Aksam, 33, was a bus driver whose father is an elder with the Evangelical Church in Kadugli. The Islamic militias were heard shouting Allahu-akbar (God is greater) as they began shooting at a Roman Catholic Church building the same day. No one was hit by the bullets shot at the building from the outside, but SAF agents arrested the Rev. Abraham James Lual in front of his congregation. Authorities took him to an unknown location and tortured him for two days, a priest said. The SAF and Islamic militias on June 8 also set fire to buildings of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Sudanese Church of Christ in Kadugli, sources said. “The churches and pastors were directly targeted,” said the Rt. Rev. Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail.
7. Christian, Visiting Lepers Beaten, Jailed in India
Suspected Hindu extremists attack him and Hindu visitors as police watch. By Vishal Arora
NEW DELHI, June 20 (Compass Direct News) – A Catholic and two Hindu visitors with leprosy in Karnataka state were freed on bail on Tuesday (June 14,) two days after they were beaten by suspected Hindu extremists and arrested on charges of forcible conversion. Police arrested the Catholic, retired Indian Army Cpl. Henry Baptist Robey, and two visitors from Tamil Nadu state, Ram Moorthy and another identified only as Mani, from Robey’s house in Bangalore while they and others were celebrating Pentecost on Sunday (June 12). “All the leprosy patients who had come for the prayer function told the police that they were Hindu, and that they were not being converted, but the police still registered a complaint against us,” Robey said. Circle Inspector Hanumantharayappa acknowledged to Compass that two of the accused were Hindus. “They brought others from Tamil Nadu state to Bangalore not just for food ,” the inspector said. “They were paid for that, that’s what the complainants said.” Dr. Sajan K. George of the Karnataka-based Global Council of Indian Christians, who reported the incident, said he had petitioned the National Human Rights Commission against the filing of charges against Robey. “The tragedy of the whole thing is that, though the very leprosy patients repeatedly told the police that they visit and receive their gifts every year and that there are no conversions as had been alleged, the police did not pay any heed,” George said.
8. Hostile Rhetoric Turns Up Heat on Iranian Christians
Anti-Christian statements said to reflect leaders’ dismay with house church growth. Special to Compass Direct News
LOS ANGELES, June 22 (Compass Direct News) – Increased public statements against Christianity in Iran have intensified pressures on Christians, sources said, but at their core they reflect Islamic leaders’ dismay with the growth of house churches and may signal dissension within Iran’s leadership. “The reality is most of the house churches are so hidden that the government can’t do anything, and they know it,” said a regional expert who requested anonymity. “They just see how the house churches are still growing.” Some sources told Compass the comments may indicate a power struggle between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This bodes ill for Christians and minorities in general, they said. “When there is conflict in the government and division, then all the minorities will have a hard time,” said another Christian Iranian who requested anonymity. In May, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi said authorities have not done enough to quench the growth of Christian house churches, considering the “massive funding” the government has spent toward that end. Today Mohabat News reported that Hojatoleslam Tarashioon of the Mehdi Seminary in Qom claimed that “the enemies of Islam” are providing US$50,000 a year to some house churches. “This cult in recent years has become active, and today they work under the pretext of cultural and educational centers and have expanded their activities in several provinces,” Tarashioon said, according to Mohabat. Experts believe public attacks on Christians resulted in the arrest of more than 120 Iranian Christians between December and January. †
For more information concerning the persecution of Christians around the world, please contact:
Compass Direct at www.compassdirect.org
Frontline Fellowship at www.frontlinefellowship.net
Christian Freedom International at www.christianfreedom.org
Jihad Watch at www.jihadwatch.org
Open Doors at www.opendoorsusa.org
The Voice of the Martyrs at www.persecution.com
Gospel for Asia at www.gfa.org
Voice of the Copts at www.voiceofthecopts.org
Barnabus Aid at www.barnabasfund.org
Christian Solidarity International at www.csi-int.org
Smyrna Ministries International at www.smyrnaministries.org