News from the Frontlines of Persecution

Apr 3rd, 2012 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

COMPASS DIRECT NEWS Summaries

News from the Frontlines of Persecution

March 2012 Released April 2, 2012

Copyright 2012 Compass Direct News

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CHINA

DRIVE TO RELEASE RIGHTS ATTORNEY PUSHES FORWARD

March 30 (Compass Direct News) – Confirmation this week of China’s assertion in December that human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng is alive and serving out a prison sentence is key as efforts continue for his release, a human rights attorney said. Gao, a Christian whose advocacy for religious minorities led to his conviction in 2006 for “subversion,” is serving a previously suspended sentence of three years in Shaya County Prison in Xinjiang region in western China. The government had informed Gao’s brother on Dec. 29 that he was detained at the remote Shaya prison, according to an urgent petition by Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Freedom Now to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, but officials had refused the family’s request to visit the prisoner. Chinese officials granted permission for Gao’s brother, Gao Zhiyi, to visit the rights attorney on Saturday (March 24), The Associated Press reported this week. Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now, told Compass that confirmation of Gao’s imprisonment was important, as “it was not a foregone conclusion that he was alive, given the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] record for reporting on the whereabouts and health” of detainees. “The United States has worked publicly and privately for Gao’s release, but we’re looking for the White House, specifically the president and vice president, to get involved, and so far this has not happened,” Genser said. “We’re pushing hard, but so far we’re not getting a positive response.”

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EGYPT

ISLAMISTS USE RUMORS TO ATTACK CHRISTIANS

March 5 (Compass Direct News) – Tensions remain high in an Egyptian village where as many as 5,000 mostly Salafi Muslims went on a rampage over a false rumor that a church was holding a girl against her will in order to convert her back to Christianity. Dismissing media reports of 20,000 rioting Muslims, sources told Compass that between 2,000 and 5,000 hard-line Muslims, most of them from the Salafi movement, last month harassed Christian villagers in Meet Bahsar in the Nile Delta, attacked a church building to “save” the girl, damaged a priest’s house and then destroyed his car. The girl was not in the church building. She reportedly said her father, a Coptic convert to Islam, treated her poorly and that she had fled of her own accord, and that after hearing reports of the attacks, she contacted police. The Salafis have used such rumors to incite other attacks. In January, Salafists terrorized Christians of a village in northern Egypt after an unsubstantiated rumor spread about a video recording of an affair between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman. The Muslims in Sharbat forced numerous Christians to abandon their property in informal but binding “reconciliation councils,” though a parliamentary commission overturned their rulings last month, and most of the evicted Christian families have returned home.

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EGYPT

COURT SENTENCES PRIEST FROM ATTACKED CHURCH BUILDING

March 7 (Compass Direct News) – A priest in Egypt was sentenced this week to six months in jail for a minor construction violation at his church building, while no one in a mob that burned the same structure down has been arrested. The Rev. Makarious Bolous of the Mar Gerges Church in Aswan was sentenced on Sunday (March 4). Bolous said the ruling, coupled with the absence of prosecution against those who burned down the church building, is clear evidence of persecution and a legal double standard between Christians and Muslims. The lower court that made the ruling also fined Bolous 300 Egyptian pounds (US$50). He remained free Tuesday (March 6) awaiting appeal. Local government officials said the building was 2.5 meters taller than what they had approved on a series of architectural drawings for the church building. On Sept. 30, 2011, some 3,000 villagers set fire to and then demolished the Mar Gerges building and razed four nearby homes and two businesses, all Christian-owned. The tension in El Marenab village began the last week of August, when Muslim extremists voiced anger over the renovations at Mar Gerges. On Oct. 9, thousands of people marched through the streets of Cairo in protest over that and other attacks on Christians, a demonstration that turned into a blood-bath after counter-protestors opened fire and soldiers ran over protestors with riot-control vehicles. Of the 27 people killed, at least 23 were Christians.

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EGYPT

NUNS TRAUMATIZED AFTER SCHOOL ATTACK

March 16 (Compass Direct News) – Two nuns in Upper Egypt faced “unimaginable fear” – with one later hospitalized over the emotional trauma –when 1,500 Muslim villagers brandishing swords and knives trapped them inside a guesthouse last week and threatened to burn them out. The next day, the assailants frightened children at the school; attendance has since dropped by more than a third. Accusing the nuns of building a church at the site, the throng on March 4 chanted Islamic slogans as they surrounded the guesthouse of a privately run, public school in the village of Abu Al-Reesh, in Aswan Province. Two nuns, volunteer teachers at Notre Dame Language Schools, barricaded themselves into the school’s guesthouse for about eight hours. The women were “terrified,” said Magdy Melad, director of the school. School workers hid a third nun from the mob in a separate building on the campus out of fear that the mob would attack her as well. From three mosques near the school, people began shouting over loudspeakers in minarets, summoning more Muslims to surround the guesthouse. The two nuns suffered cuts and bruises in the attack, and one fainted during the ordeal. The women were taken to a Catholic church in Aswan, except for one, who suffered what Melad characterized as a “major” nervous breakdown and had to be transported on March 8 to Cairo, where she was hospitalized.

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 EGYPT

SALAFIST LEADERS CELEBRATE DEATH OF COPTIC POPE

March 23 (Compass Direct News) – As Christians across Egypt continued to mourn the loss of Pope Shenouda III this week, Islamist leaders of the Salafist movement issued a litany of insults, calling the late leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church the “head of the infidels” and thanking God for his death. The vitriol indicated the level of hostility the Salafists, who now make up 20 percent of Egypt’s parliament, have toward Christians. In a recorded message released on the Facebook page of one leading Salafi teacher, Sheik Wagdy Ghoneim, the sheik celebrated the pontiff’s death. “We rejoice that he is destroyed. He has perished,” Ghoneim said on Sunday (March 18), the day after Shenouda died at the age of 88. “May God have His revenge on him in the fire of hell – he and all who walk his path.” After the cleric issued his statement, several others followed suit, releasing insults throughout the week. Bishop Mouneer Anis, head of the Episcopal and Anglican Diocese of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, said that insulting people after their death is considered one of the rudest things someone can do in the Middle East. Anis, a close friend of the pontiff, told Compass the comments and actions were “very sad.” Most Muslims in Egypt did not share Ghoneim’s sentiments. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic group in the country, issued a statement expressing his condolences over the Coptic pope’s death.

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INDIA

PARENTS, ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS BEAT YOUNG WOMAN

March 20 (Compass Direct News) – A young woman was thrown out of her home this month for daring to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name in a predominantly Muslim village in India’s West Bengal state, and then her parents helped Islamic extremists to beat her nearly unconscious. The attack on Rekha Khatoon, 22, took place on March 9 in Nutangram, Murshidabad. “I boldly told those who beat me up that I may leave my parents, but that I will not leave Jesus,” Khatoon said. “Jesus has healed me, and I cannot forget Him.” In a village where hard-line Muslims have threatened to kill the 25 families who initially showed interest in Christ, leaving only five frightened Christian families, Khatoon was returning from worship with Believers Church at Al Hamdulillah Hall when her parents and Muslim extremists attacked her, she said. The mob also harassed the Christian woman who encouraged Khatoon to trust Christ as Lord, Aimazan Bibi, said Bashir Pal, pastor and founder of the village Believers Church. “On the same night, Rekha Khatoon’s father, Nistar Shaike, and about 20 Muslim radicals surrounded Aimazan’s house, shouted anti-Christian slogans, threatened to harm her and her family and falsely accused her of ‘luring’ Rekha to convert to Christianity,” Pastor Pal told Compass.

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INDIA

RECENT INCIDENTS OF PERSECUTION

March 29 (Compass Direct News) – Police arrested five Christians on March 25 in Dhanegaon, Chhinwara, after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked them and accused them of forceful conversion. A source told Compass the extremists barged into the Sunday worship service of Bharatiya Pratna Bhawan (India Prayer Hall), beat pastor Harichand Varti and church members Santaram Parteti and Mayram Padame, and dragged them to the police station. Pastor Varti’s back was seriously injured, and his hands were cut, the source said. Senior Pastor Rajkumar Narad rushed to the police station to file a complaint, but police took him into custody and later also charged Pastor Varti and two church members with “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” At press time area Christian leaders were taking steps to get them out on bail.

 West Bengal – State police arrested seven Christians on March 15 in Asansol, Branpur after anti-Christian elements attacked them. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that the opponents of Christianity suddenly surrounded five pastors – Weleston Kisku, Animesh Das, Nripen Das, Satyanarayan Soren and Rajesh Das – and two unidentified Christians as they distributed gospel tracts and verbally and physically mistreated them. Police took the seven Christians to the station and later released them without charges. Soon a group of Kora tribal people filed a police complaint against the Christians of forceful conversion and luring people to Christianity by offering food and clothes, according to the EFI. Police summoned the Christians back and charged them with promoting enmity and hurting religious feelings. The next day, a judge rejected their appeal for bail and sent them to the Dulal Mandal jail, where they remained at press time.

Madhya Pradesh – Police in Jabalpur detained eight Korean Christians on March 15 after Hindu extremists filed a complaint against them of luring people to convert to Christianity. A source reported that Hindu extremists from the Dharma Sena (Religious Army) also accused them of distributing pamphlets with objectionable materials in them and took the Christians to Adhartal police station. Hindu extremist leader Arvind Baba complained that the Koreans were offering huge sums of money to people to convert to Christianity. The Koreans denied the accusations. After police investigated, the Christians were released without charges.                                     

New Delhi – Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal on March 12 attacked a prayer meeting in Kalkaji, New Delhi and made false allegations that Christians were desecrating idols and making insulting remarks about their gods and goddesses, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). Jagdish Dey of the Apostolic Faith Church (AFC) was leading a prayer meeting at the residence of a church member attended by six women and a few children when the extremists stood at the door of the house and started taking photographs, according to the EFI. After the final prayer, the extremists forcefully entered the house and dragged Dey out to the street, where about 30 armed extremists waited to beat him, but the women kept Dey from them. Police arrived and took Dey into custody, where area AFC pastor Bobby Chellappan and the Rev. Jobby Prasannan soon arrived, as did 50 Hindu extremists who threatened to hurt the Christians and pressured police into forcing Dey to promise to stop the prayer meetings. “It was a false allegation against us – we do not talk about other people’s religion, nor teach people to talk ill against any other faith,” Chellappan told the EFI. The Hindu extremists have also kept the Christians from using the public water pump and have pressured landlords to evict them, Prasannan told the EFI. In a similar incident the next day, the extremists disrupted a women’s prayer meeting led by another AFC pastor, Blessy Bobby, and ordered the Christians to cease the meeting or face harm, according to the EFI.

Madhya Pradesh  State police on March 11 arrested a pastor and another Christian after Hindu extremists disrupted their Sunday worship in Multai, Betul district. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that extremists from the Bajrang Dal stormed the house church, stopped worship and accused pastor Motilal Gujare of forceful conversion. Pastor Gujare’s brother, a zealous Hindu extremist, instigated his co-religionists to break up the worship due to a personal grievance he had against the pastor, according to the EFI. Multai police arrived and arrested Pastor Gujare and Prakash Masih for “uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person.” The Christians were sent to jail and were released on bail on March 15.

Karnataka – State police in Ankola, Uttar Kannada on March 4 arrested a pastor after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh disrupted a worship service, beat him and other church members and accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists barged into the Sunday worship of New Life Church, beat pastor K. Manohar, his wife Lavanya and other church members and took the pastor and his wife to police, accusing them of forceful conversion. The Christians were detained till late evening, and after area leaders’ intervention, Pastor Manohar’s wife was released without charges, but he was charged with hurting religious feelings and was sent to jail, according to the GCIC. At press time area Christian leaders were working to get the pastor released.

Karnataka  On March 3 in Vijayanagar, Bangalore, Hindu extremists accused Christians of forceful conversion and ordered them to halt a prayer meeting. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists forcefully entered the prayer meeting led by two women identified only as Parimala and Padmavathi of Mahima Prarthana Mandira. Police officers arrived, verbally abused the Christians and then ordered them to report to the police station the next day. Officers detained the Christians the following day, but after area Christian leaders’ intervention, they were released without a First Information Report being filed against them. GCIC also reported that the two women had to give a statement in writing that they wouldn’t visit houses and distribute tracts, and that they would not lead prayer vigils.

Assam  Hindu extremists in Gophur on March 3 beat a Christian worker for his faith. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists beat evangelist Santosh K. Jose, put a garland of sandals on him and paraded him through the village. Jose sustained severe injuries and was taken to his native Kannur, Kerala state, for treatment and rest.

Madhya Pradesh – On Feb. 28 Dasrath Mandari expelled his Christian wife, Satwantin Mandari, from their home and village in Tuthuly, Kanker, because of her faith in Christ. A source told Compass that Hindu extremists had warned him that they would ostracize the family if his wife continued to believe in Christ, and he cast her out that same night. The community strictly prohibited her from returning home unless she returned to Hinduism. The homeless Christian was staying with a Christian family in Kanker.

 Madhya Pradesh – The parents of a 23-year-old woman, along with community members, chased her from her home and village because she refused to renounce Christ. A source told Compass that Hindu extremists Patel Singh, Jalam Singh and Raja Ram and one identified only as Iswar pressured Mingaro Bhai’s parents, Dasu Ram and Sadhini Ram, to throw her out. The convert from Hinduism took shelter with another Christian in Kanker and filed a complaint against the attackers on Feb. 13 in Dudhada Chowki Thana. Officials summoned her on Feb. 24 to tell her she could proceed with the complaint against her attackers, including her parents, in a higher court, but at press time Bhai had not done so.

Madhya Pradesh  On Jan. 19 in Modi, Thana Antagar, Kanker, Hindu extremists stopped a Christian from beginning her new job because of her faith in Christ. A source reported that the Madhya Pradesh government appointed Shrimati Sambhai of a Gospel for Asia church as a pre-school teacher, but the village head, Dhanuram Behari, and community leader Hiralal Behari persuaded the state to revoke her appointment because of her Christian faith. She filed a police complaint in Sarpanch Amodi on Feb. 18, to no avail. Area Christian leaders were intervening, but at press time the Christian was still not allowed to take her post.                                     

Madhya Pradesh – Hindu extremists in Terra Gowndi, Dhamtari, on Jan. 18 ostracized a Christian convert from Hinduism and pressured him to leave the village. A source told Compass that the extremist threatened to throw Om Prakash Sahu out of the village if he did not renounce Christ, and they also threatened his parents with harm if they did not bring him back to Hinduism.

 

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