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Algeria: Warning from government to parents: If you see your child forgiving, happy…they may be Christians

By Mark Ellis –

Believers in Algeria

In Algeria, about 95 percent of the population follows Islam and less than two percent are Christians. The government bans conversion from Islam to Christianity, regulates non-Muslim worship, and enforces blasphemy laws, which can be used as a cudgel against followers of Jesus.

“Church growth has been strong in my country, but recently churches have been subject to a government crackdown, with several being closed,” one Christian leader told SAT-7. “Every three months our church holds a baptism, sometimes for more than 100 people.”

When government officials got wind of the baptisms, they reacted swiftly. “Then the government closed our own church, along with four others. But the more problems the church faces, the stronger it grows,” he told SAT-7.

House churches have been growing so fast, government officials recently released this incongruous warning:

“If you see your child suddenly forgiving, jolly, happy, listening to you, not arguing, talking about not hating, these are signs that they might be going to an underground church. This is a threat to your family.”

The possibility that any government would be suspicious about happy children who mind their parents is tragically ironic, and any attempt to turn parents against their children would be sad and deeply flawed.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

SAT-7 urges prayers for the persecuted believers in Algeria, especially the children. “Pray for their protection, that they will grow in Christ, and find other believers with whom to fellowship. Pray that through divine intervention, they will be protected from heresies and welcomed into underground churches where they will be safe, and where they can learn and grow in Christ.”

Source: Godreports



British Muslim leaders call for UK to give Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi asylum

by  Zelda Caldwell

Britain hasn’t offered the Pakistani Christian a safe haven out of fears of “unrest,” say her supporters

 

Three British imams have called on the British government to offer asylum to Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman recently freed after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy.

The BBC reported that the three prominent Muslim leaders, Qari Asim, Mamadou Bocoum and Dr. Usama Hasan, have written a letter to British Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking that Bibi be offered sanctuary in the UK.

Since the announcement of her acquittal on October 31 by Pakistan’s Supreme Court, thousands of extremists have joined in protests in Pakistan’s cities, raising concerns for Bibi’s security.

Bibi is believed to be in an undisclosed location outside of Islamabad, after the Pakistani government denied rumors that she had left the country.

“We are confident that action to ensure Asia Bibi and her family are safe would be very widely welcomed by most people in Britain, across every faith in our society,” read the letter, which was also signed by Members of Parliament.

“If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged,” it continued.

The letter from the imams follows reports that the British government had refused Bibi’s appeal for asylum out of fear of civil unrest from angry Muslim extremists.

Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association said that while British leaders had offered to help they had stopped short of offering a safe haven, reported The Telegraph.

“Britain was concerned about potential unrest in the country, attacks on embassies and civilians, said Chowdry.

“They have not offered automatic asylum, whereas several countries have now come forward. They won’t be coming to Britain. The family will definitely not be coming to Britain,” he said.

He said Britain was “being helpful,” but that it was “an enduring shame that a country with such a lauded history of helping refugees and asylum seekers, that when the Asia Bibi case has come before them, they haven’t been as generous as they have for many victims in the past.”

Bibi was convicted in 2010 for insulting the prophet Muhammad during an argument with her neighbors in which she was beaten with sticks almost to the point of unconsciousness and later arrested and jailed. In its ruling overturning her death sentence last month, the judges wrote that the case against Bibi violated an important tenet of Islam by failing to respect the faith of Christians.

“The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had declared that Christians, all of them, were his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant,” read the ruling.

Bibi’s case had prompted international condemnation of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis were among those who called on the government to reverse the sentence.

The case has sparked clashes between hardline Muslims and more moderate politicians in Pakistan. In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and the Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, were both murdered for calling for Bibi’s acquittal and for the reform of the blasphemy laws.

Source: Aleteia



CHINA : Pastor of Guangzhou House Church Detained

Pastors and Churches Continue to Face Harassment from Local Authorities

 

Screen grab of footage of the demolition by local Authorities, of Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen city in northern Shanxi Province earlier this year. Photo courtesy of a church member

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pastor Huang Xiaoning from Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church (GBRC) was detained for five days by the police for ‘disrupting public services’ on November 10.

According to Father Francis Liu on Twitter, Pastor Huang decided to fast and pray inside the police station for the five-day duration. He is the fourth pastor in China who has been detained for ‘disobedience’ regarding the latest regulations on religious affairs published last February.

China Aid also reported that the next morning, a few police officers were stationed outside of the church to discourage members from attending worship. Church members also found the church’s door being sealed off a day prior without proper procedure or documentation.

GBRC has repeatedly refused to shut down the church or join a state-sanctioned church as previously requested by the authorities and, as a result, faces constant harassment and threats from the local authorities.

On the same day, officials from the United Front Department, Religious Affairs Bureau, and Public Security Bureau also raided Huozhou Church in Shanxi province. They dispersed the churchgoers and posted a disbandment notice on the church’s door after claiming that Chinese citizens’ “freedom of religious belief” is not “freedom of [conducting] religious activities.”

In a video shared by Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness, government officials are seen inside the house church reading out the Christians’ alleged violations according to the latest religious affairs regulations.

Some suspect that the house church was targeted because its leadership recently signed a joint statement expressing dissatisfaction with the Chinese government.

In response to these cases, Pastor Wang Yi from Autumn Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, who is also often persecuted, shared, “We need to repeatedly tell the ones in power that to disrupt Sunday worship and disband churches is the evilest crime in this world. If this crime does not cease, this regime is essentially cultivating God’s wrath and judgment, until the whole country is impacted and overturned overnight. And how do we inform them? It is to tell them that we are willing to go into police stations, detention centers, and prisons. We are willing to sacrifice our lives for this, because we truly hate to see the whole nation under great disaster. Lord, have mercy on this nation, and give us the courage to disobey [the government].”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Disturbance of church services and detention of Christians are becoming much more frequent as the Chinese government continues its campaign to crack down on Christianity. Every week, as we freely attend our Sunday worship, China is stopping more churches from gathering. Its notorious violations of human rights, however, will not go unnoticed. The world is paying attention and Beijing will never succeed in its scheme to control the Church.” 

Source: International Christian Concern

 



‘Next time we will not survive’ – Middle East Christian refugee

The arrival of IS was only the “tipping point” of a trend already gathering pace as Christians experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future”, according to a report last year by three Christian charities. (Photo: World Vision)

As many as 80% of Syria’s Christians have left their country since the start of the civil war in 2011, while 50% of Iraq’s Christians have been uprooted since 2006, according to a report produced by Christian charities Open Doors International, Served and Middle East Concern in June last year. The arrival of IS was only the “tipping point” of a trend already gathering pace as Christians experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future”, the report said.

Lebanon received the most refugees and in December 2016 the advocacy group ADF International heard some of their stories, which they have now shared with World Watch Monitor. In the snippets below, the interviewees are referred to by their initials alone, to preserve their safety.

“We lived in Mosul [northern Iraq] until 2005 [when] bullets were shot into our home. Between June and July, 2005, terrorists tried to kidnap our son three times, but he was able to escape,” said S. H., a Christian father of five, adding that after this he moved with his family, including three disabled children, to Qaraqosh, 30km southeast of Mosul.

Three months after Islamic State arrived there, on 6 August 2014, the family fled again. “They gave us three options: conversion, death or jizya [a special tax for non-Muslims],” said S. H., adding that this time they fled to Lebanon – because “it is Christian and Arab-speaking”.

Another man, a 43-year-old father of two girls, identified by his first initial, N., fled to Lebanon in February 2015 after IS gave him 24 hours written notice to leave Baghdad, his job and his home, or he and his family would be killed.

“My relatives – my cousin and his grandparents – were killed by bombings at their home, because they didn’t want to quit their job or convert. Colleagues of mine were kidnapped. Some were freed for US$16,000, others were killed. They were told they must deny Jesus or they would be killed,” he said.

It is difficult to assess how many people have been killed by IS but mass graves were found last week, some of which contained thousands of bodies.

‘Christians must not be alive’

For 70 years another Christian family, identified as S. and H.K., had resided in the city of Hasakah, northeast Syria, where they lived at peace with their Muslim neighbours, S. told ADF. All that changed with the arrival of Islamic State.

“Our neighbours joined IS [and the group] used [them] to communicate with us [that we had] three options: convert, leave, or die. They burned our farm at night to kill us, but we were not there. We escaped, going from village to village. We have two brothers, but now we don’t know anything about them. We have had no contact since we fled,” S. said.

A 71-year-old Catholic Christian, identified as H. S. H., recalls how he and his brother fled Aleppo, Syria on 27 December 2013, to find refuge at his farm in Raqqa, only to find further danger. “Our taxi driver was shot in the neck. My brother and I were assaulted and then locked up in the chicken stag pen, a dark room. We were locked up for three days. This was the last time I saw my brother. Our captors wanted to know if we were the owners of the farm. They stole my money. My neighbours later told me that this was IS,” he said.

“We were fed dog food, and they told me that Christians must not be alive. We were told: convert to Islam, or be killed. They told me if I converted, they would give the farm back to me. The jizya was also an option. But some of my neighbours, who were Armenian, were killed after paying jizya.”

He said he was able to escape when the Syrian army attacked IS, with the help of his Muslim neighbours, and that he fled to Lebanon as he had heard the UN could help him. “I have waited three years. The UN has not helped me directly. I had an interview at the French embassy; they told me it would take 20 days to get back to me. It has been two months,” he said.

At the time of the interview he lived with friends in Beirut and had survived three heart attacks. “I do not want to go back to Raqqa or Aleppo,” he said. “I have had too much trauma and could never go back. I don’t want to remember what happened. It is too difficult.”

Psychological trauma

The same is true for a Chaldean Christian family from Batnaya, northern Iraq. They had not been able to flee because of illness in the family, when IS entered the town in August 2014. Militants came to their house repeatedly, threatening to rape and kill them if they would not convert or if they called on anyone for help.

“After 22 days, IS took our whole family into El Sharkat prison in Mosul and stole everything we had,” the 63-year-old father, identified as G. H. G., said.

“[They] separated my 14-year-old son and me from my wife, daughter and our handicapped child. I thought they would kill my son and me, and I did not know what would happen to my family. After four days they took my son and me to another prison, in Kirkuk, where we were for five days until they released us. In the meantime, [my wife] had been released from prison because of our handicapped child. She took our daughter and our handicapped child to a church in Kirkuk. This is where we were reunited.”

Fearing for their lives, they fled to Beirut, but he said his daughter has psychological trauma and that they will never go back: “We escaped death by a miracle … Next time we will not survive.”

Source: World Watch Monitor



Pastors and worshippers assaulted and threatened in Sri Lanka

Young Sri Lankan worshippers. Photo credit: Facebook page of Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

Christians have been targetted in three recent incidents of persecution in Sri Lanka, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.

In Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka, around 7:40 am on 21 October soon after the Sunday service had started, three people forced their way into a church demanding the pastor leave the service to speak to them outside.

When an elderly female member of the congregation, owner of the building in which the church meets, went to speak with them they shouted at her and attempted to assault her. The pastor intervened and was struck. The attackers left when the pastor said he would call the police.

In another confrontation, a leader of a church in Passara, central Sri Lanka, faced angry villagers at a community hall on 20 October, where they called for local officials to stop the construction of a church building. In a rare move, the local official supported the pastor, telling villagers that it was his right to worship.

On 15 October, church leaders in Bulathkohupitiya, around 40 miles east of Colombo, were summoned to the local police station after two Buddhist monks made false accusations against a pastor. They demanded he stop holding church services and a local government official supported their calls for an end to Christian worship. The pastor refused to give in to their demands and the police recording officer convened a meeting for a later date. At the time of writing, it is not known whether the church has been ordered to halt services, or if any charges have been made against the pastor.

Christians make up eight percent of the population of Sri Lanka, but face frequent persecution and local opposition, which is often led by Buddhist monks. Christians have also been attacked in the north-east of Sri Lanka where there is a Hindu majority. Opposition to church meetings is often justified by a false, but widely believed, perception that churches in Sri Lanka are legally required to register to hold services.

Source: Global Christian News