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Christian Widow Driven from Home in Central Uganda

Hard-line Muslims give her one day to recant.

Islamist threats compelled Sharifa Kasozi Nakamate to flee her native Kirinda in central Uganda. (Morning Star News)

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A widow in central Uganda has fled her homestead after receiving Islamist threats when she arranged for a pastor to bury the body of her husband, sources said.

Local leaders on July 11 gave Sharifa Kasozi Nakamate, of Kirinda in Wakiso District, one day to recant her Christian faith or leave her homestead, she said.

After the burial of her husband, Hajji Salimu Kasozi, who died on June 15 at age 65, she began receiving threatening text messages from the clan leader, she said.

“It is now clear to the clan that you and your deceased husband abandoned Islam, since Hajji was buried by Christians,” clan leader Musa Hamisi told her in one text message, according to Nakamate. “We are giving you a few days to recant the Christian faith or face the wrath of being an apostate.”

Among the hard-line Muslims who gave the 49-year-old Nakamate the ultimatum was her son, 29-year-old Alamanzan Basudde, she said.
“I realized my life was now in danger, so I sought refuge at the church,” she told Morning Star News.

She has since relocated to another area, where the church rented a place for her to live and conduct a small business. The church, unidentified for security reasons, has reported the threat to the local council of Kirinda.

“We know it will be very difficult for Nakamate to return to her house,” the church pastor told Morning Star News. “She is so much distressed at the moment.”

Nakamate secretly put her faith in Christ in October 2018. Her husband was Christian in name only, neither worshipping with other secret Christians nor attending mosque prayers, sources said.

When he died, area Muslims refused to bury him on grounds that he habitually ate pork and drank alcohol in public, she said.
“I decided to run to the church, and the pastor came and buried my husband,” said Nakamate, who also has two adult daughters.

The Muslim community’s response to the burial came as a surprise, she said.

“I never expected such thing to happen to me,” she said in anger and disbelief. “I have lost everything that I did in developing the homestead for more than 30 years of our married life, only to lose everything just like that because of following Jesus.”

The church is also concerned for the fellowship’s security. A member received an anonymous text message that read, “Please let Nakamate return to her religion to avoid any negative repercussion of your church.”

Kirinda is located in the Masajja Division of Wakiso district.
The pastor said the church is uncertain what to do next.
“We need prayers as we continue discipling Nakamate to be rooted in the Christian faith,” he told Morning Star News by telephone.

Nakamate said she fears Muslims will discover her new living quarters.

“Two days ago a Muslim from my home village came and bought items from me,” she said. “I am afraid that she will go back and spread news of my new place of residence. This new place is not safe for me.”

The threats to her safety constitute the latest of many cases of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population, but with high concentrations in eastern areas of the country.

Source: Morning Star News

UK aid budget should help persecuted Christians around the world, Tory MP says

By Press Association

The UK’s aid budget should be used to help persecuted Christian communities around the world, a Tory MP has said.

Rehman Chishti, the MP for Gillingham and Rainham, led the call for greater use of the multibillion-pound budget to help Christians as MPs debated the Bishop of Truro’s recent report on persecution overseas.

MPs also raised concerns over abuse targeted at them after they voted against same-sex marriage and abortion reform in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Chishti said: “Greater use of our aid to persecuted Christian communities around the world is something we should seriously consider.”

He added: “As somebody who is a passionate supporter for international development aid, shouldn’t that now be targeted to support persecuted Christian communities around the world?”

This comes after a review into the Foreign Office’s response to persecuted Christians was released last week.

Tory former minister and Christian MP Andrew Selous raised an example of a Nigerian refugee camp where Christians were refused access to food because of their faith.

He said: “It is really important that Dfid, if it is involved in helping those refugees, makes sure that British aid is going to everyone who needs it regardless of their faith and that sort of discrimination is not allowed to happen.”

Former minister Sarah Newton said persecution against Christians is “primarily a phenomenon of the global poor”.

The Tory MP for Truro and Falmouth said: “To understand why the review is justified we have to appreciate that today the Christian faith is primarily a phenomenon of the global south.”

She added: “Western voices that are quick to speak out for the world’s poor cannot afford to be blind to this issue.”

Conservative and Christian MP Fiona Bruce (Congleton) said there is a need to “call out” those who criticise MPs for expressing their “biblically-based beliefs”.

She said: “I and many others in this place have been the subject of some really unpleasant abuse, particularly on social media, during the past week simply for speaking out in this place and voting on biblically-based beliefs on, for example, abortion and marriage.”

Christian DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) broke down during his speech after he was praised for his work in helping persecuted Christians. He was comforted by party colleagues before finishing his remarks.

Foreign minister Alan Duncan said the Government will accept all the recommendations of the Bishop of Truro’s report.

He said: “We are too reticent about discussing Christian persecution, and I think we must overcome this mindset. The evidence justifies a much louder voice.”

He said freedom of religion or belief will be put “at the heart” of Foreign Office “culture, policy, and operations”, and that diplomats will be given guidance on how to reflect these values.

Mr Duncan said the Government will examine whether adopting the label “Christophobia” will help address the issue.

He added: “We will respond immediately to any atrocity, including genocide, and we will continue our work to impose sanctions on the perpetrators of religious or faith based persecution.”

Sir Alan also said all Foreign Office staff will undergo mandatory training where it is relevant to their jobs.

Source: Premier

There are 200 Asia Bibis in Pakistani jails

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo with William and Pascale wards of Iraq at the 2019 International Religious Freedom awards US State Dept/Flickr

US State Department reports on religious freedom around the world

By John Sandeman

The Christian world prayed hard, and Asia Bibi – imprisoned in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy arising from a dispute over drinking water – was released when that nation’s Supreme Court upheld her innocence.

But citing “civil society reports” about Pakistan, the US State Department says there are “at least 77 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges, at least 28 of whom had received death sentences, although the government has never executed anyone specifically for blasphemy”.

“A grassroots movement for religious freedom is beginning to take hold around the world …” – Sam Brownback
According to Voice of the Martyrs, the situation is worse, with its partners in Pakistan reporting there are more than 200 similar cases of imprisonment.

A real danger to religious freedom

Eighty per cent of the world’s population lives in a nation where religious freedom is restricted. That’s only one stat highlighted at a special three day event – the ‘Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom‘ – hosted by the US State Department. Their 2018 Report on Religious Freedom includes updates on every country in the world.

While persecution of Christians is getting worse, “The ministerial’s concerns are broadly ecumenical, ranging from the minority Cao Dai in Vietnam to Jews in Yemen,” the Wall Street Journal reports. It even includes nonbelievers such as Rafida Bonya Ahmed, a secular humanist whose husband was killed by machete-wielding Islamists in Bangladesh because of their views. She was severely wounded in the attack.

A major push for religious freedom by the US Government was announced at the Ministerial. “We will not stop until we see the iron curtain of religious persecution come down; until governments no longer detain and torture people for simply being of a particular faith or associated with it; until people are no longer charged and prosecuted on specious charges of blasphemy; until the world no longer believes it can get away with persecuting anyone of any faith without consequences,” promised Sam Brownback, US Ambassador at large for Religious Freedom.

“A grassroots movement for religious freedom is beginning to take hold around the world … Pakistan released Asia Bibi after their supreme court upheld her acquittal of blasphemy charges. And as Secretary [Mike] Pompeo said, Uzbekistan, for the first time since 2006, is no longer a Country of Particular Concern.”

Here are some country reports from the US State Department’s survey:

Pakistan: Media reported that a Lahore district judge sentenced two Christian brothers from Lahore – Qaisar and Amoon Ayub – to death on December 13 for insulting the Prophet Mohammed in articles and portraits posted on their website in 2010. The brothers had been in Jhelum Prison since 2014.

In January, authorities in Lahore arrested two young Christian cousins, Patras and Sajid Masih, for alleged blasphemy after protestors threatened to burn them and their family home with gasoline.

Family members said Patras Masih had been framed for blasphemy on social media when he took his mobile phone to a repair shop, while media said he got into a dispute with Muslim youths over a cricket match.

Two men had fabricated a recording of what was termed blasphemous speech and attempted to use it to extort money. Sajid Masih was severely injured after jumping from the fourth floor window of an FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) interrogation room. According to media reports, he said police tortured him and ordered him to sexually assault his cousin, and he leaped out the window to escape. Patras Masih remained in custody, and many Christian families fled the neighbourhood.

In October, police arrested a Muslim man in Sadiqabad, Khanewal District, Punjab, who claimed to be the “11th Caliph.” Police arrested the man and charged him with blasphemy after videos of his statements circulated online. At year’s end, he was awaiting trial.

Courts again overturned some blasphemy convictions upon appeal, after the accused had spent years in prison. On March 13, Punjab provincial judges acquitted Christian school director Anjum Sandhu of blasphemy after an Anti-Terror Court (ATC) sentenced him to death in 2016. According to media reports, two men had fabricated a recording of what was termed blasphemous speech and attempted to use it to extort money from Sandhu. When Sandhu went to police to register a complaint of extortion, police had demanded more money from Sandhu and brought a blasphemy case against him.

According to NGOs and media reports, individuals convicted in well-publicised blasphemy cases from previous years – including Nadeem James, Prakash Kumar, Taimoor Raza, Mubasher, Ghulam, and Ehsan Ahmed, Sawan Masih, Shafqat Emmanuel, Shagufta Kausar, Sajjad Masih Gill, and Liaquat Ali – remained in jail and continued to await action on their appeals.

In February, an ATC convicted 31 individuals for their role in the 2017 killing of university student Mashal Khan for alleged blasphemy. The ATC sentenced the primary shooter to death, five others to life in prison, and 25 individuals to four years’ imprisonment.

The Peshawar High Court later suspended the sentences and released on bail the group of 25 individuals.

Nigeria: There were incidents of violence reflecting tension between different ethnic groups involving predominantly Muslim Fulani herders and predominantly Christian farmers.

Scholars and other experts assessed that ethnicity, politics, and increasing competition over dwindling land resources were among the drivers of the violence, but religious identity and affiliation were also factors. In January and May, Fulani herdsmen attacked several villages in northern Benue State, resulting in the deaths of more than 200, mostly Christian, Tiv farmers.

During the year, clashes between farmers and herders in Adamawa and Taraba States resulted in more than 250 deaths.

In June, Fulani herdsmen attacked several villages in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area (LGA) of Plateau State, killing approximately 200 ethnic Berom farmers. The following day, Berom youth set up roadblocks and killed dozens of Muslim passersby.

In March the Nigerian Interreligious Council (NIREC), which includes the nation’s most influential religious leaders and addresses interfaith collaboration, met for the first time in five years.

United Arab Emirates: In January, a court sentenced a Dominican woman and her child’s Yemeni biological father to a suspended one-month jail term and deportation for violating the country’s interpretation of sharia by engaging in extramarital sex. Police and courts continued to enforce laws against sorcery.

In February, the Federal Supreme Court upheld an 18-month jail term against someone identified in the press as “an Arab man” for charges of witchcraft, fraud, and trying to coerce sex from a woman.

There were reports of government actions targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, designated by the government as a terrorist organisation, and individuals associated with the group.

Within prisons, the authorities required Muslims to attend weekly Islamic services.

In Abu Dhabi, some Christian clergy reported difficulties visiting Christian prisoners and raised concerns about lack of worship space for incarcerated Christians. They reported that when they were granted prison access, they were permitted to take Bibles to the prisoners.

Indonesia: The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and the right to worship according to one’s own beliefs but states citizens must accept restrictions established by law to protect the rights of others and to satisfy “just demands based upon considerations of morality, religious values, security, and public order in a democratic society.”

In separate incidents, four persons received prison sentences ranging from 16 months to five years for violations of blasphemy laws.

In Medan, a court sentenced an ethnic Chinese woman to 18 months in prison after she complained about the loudspeaker volume of a neighbourhood mosque.

In Aceh, authorities continued to carry out public canings for sharia violations, such as selling alcohol, gambling, and extramarital affairs.
In July, the Constitutional Court dismissed a petition brought by members of the Ahmadi Muslim religious community to revoke the blasphemy law.

In Aceh, authorities continued to carry out public canings for sharia violations, such as selling alcohol, gambling, and extramarital affairs. The governor issued a directive to end canings in public, over the strong objections of others in the government and society. The directive remained in effect, but no districts enforced it, due in part to the arrest and detention of the governor.

Some local governments imposed local laws and regulations restricting religious freedom, such as local regulations banning Shia or Ahmadi Islamic practice.

Ahmadi Muslims again reported incidents of forced conversion and discrimination.

Media and human rights groups reported in December that Jakarta’s Prosecution Office launched a smartphone app called Smart Pakem allowing citizens to file heresy or blasphemy reports against groups with what the government considers unofficial or unorthodox religious practices.

Source: Eternity News

Cuban Officials Forbid Church Leaders to Attend Religious Freedom Event

written by Michael Ireland

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (ANS) — Authorities in Cuba on Sunday (July 14) refused to allow the national presidents of two Christian denominations to board their flight to Washington, D.C., for a religious freedom event, sources said, according to Morning Star News.

The Rev. Moises de Prada Esquivel and the Rev. Alida Leon Baez, both members of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches of Cuba (AECC, Alianza de Iglesias Evangélicas Cubana) were slated to represent the organization as members of its executive board at the event.

Cuban officials blocked the departure from Cuba of the Rev. Alain Toledano Valiente. (Facebook)

They were notified at Havana’s José Marti International Airport that they would not be allowed to travel to the U.S. capital because Cuban State Security had blocked their departure from the country, according to an AECC press statement.

Morning Star News said Cuban authorities reportedly denied other evangelical leaders permission to travel to the United States. Officials earlier refused to renew the passport of the Rev. Dariel Llanes, president of the Western Convention Baptist Church of Cuba (Iglesia Convención Bautista de Cuba Occidental), reportedly to keep him from attending the meeting in Washington. Immigration officials also reportedly blocked the Rev. Alain Toledano Valiente of the Prophetic Apostolic Movement (Movimiento Apostólico Profético) from leaving the country.

The incidents were the latest in a campaign of repression against the evangelical Christian community in Cuba.

On Friday (July 12), State Security agents forcibly detained independent journalist Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre following his visit to the offices of human rights watchdog group Ladies in White in Havana.

The Camaguey-based reporter and advocate of religious freedom, who is married with an infant daughter, has since been held incommunicado by authorities, according to advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Fernandez Izaguirre, an active member of a network of unregistered charismatic Christian churches, has reportedly been working with the predominantly Roman Catholic Ladies in White to document violations of freedom of religion and belief, a right enshrined in the Cuban constitution.

The jailed journalist’s friends and family have been unable to contact him since his arbitrary detention, and his mobile phone appears to have been disconnected, according to CSW.

Anna-Lee Stangl, head of advocacy for CSW, appealed to authorities for Fernandez Izaguirre’s release.

“CSW holds the Cuban government responsible for the well-being of Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre,” Stangle said. “We call on the authorities to release him immediately.”

Morning Star News said Evangelical leaders suspect mounting pressure on Christians – and on the AECC in particular – is rooted in their outspoken opposition to proposed constitutional changes aimed at legalizing homosexual marriage in Cuba. A new Cuban draft constitution approved in 2018 by the National Assembly of People’s Power replaced a clause defining the family as “a union between one man and one woman” with “a union between two persons…with absolutely equal responsibilities.”

Backlash from Cuba’s Christian community forced authorities to delete the new language, but constitutional framers specifically avoided re-inserting the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. That left the door open to approve homosexual marriage through the new Cuban Family Code, set to be ratified within two years.

Christians fear it also practically guarantees that the campaign of repression against outspoken Christians will continue.

“In Cuba, there is no real freedom of expression or of worship,” a veteran evangelical pastor who requested anonymity told Morning Star News. “Any person who openly opposes the established system is looking for problems.”

Were the government to listen to the voice of Protestant Christians on the issue and maintain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, there would be a possibility for resolution, the pastor said.

“But given the fact that the daughter of Raul Castro, (LGBT activist Mariela Castro Espin) is the force behind the constitutional change, I think it very unlikely that the government will back down from its intentions,” he said.

The AECC, composed of Protestant churches choosing not to identify with the regime-friendly Cuban Council of Churches, counts 1 million members among its affiliate denominations, a number that represents nearly 10 percent of the country’s 11 million population.

Source: ASSIST News

Eight wounded in Islamic State car bombing outside church in Syrian city

Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for detonating a car bomb in front of a church in north-east Syria on 11 July.

Reports said at least eight people were injured in the blast in the city of Qamishli, which is held by the Kurdish YPG militia.

Fires broke out after Islamic State detonated a car bomb outside the church in Qamishli, Syria

Earlier that day, a bomb killed 11 civilians, including children, in the Syrian city of Afrin, on the border with Turkey. Many others were wounded, some seriously, in the explosion at an entrance to the city.

One report said the bomb was planted in a diesel fuel tanker left in a residential area of Afrin and that many homes were damaged in the explosion and subsequent fire.

Afrin, which is north of the capital Aleppo, was held by the Kurdish YPG until 2018 when it was seized by Turkish-backed militia.

Source: Barnabas Fund