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Monthly archives: November, 2015

UN confirms DR Congo attack

by Maud Jullien
BBC Africa, Kinshasa

A UN general has said that heavily armed insurgents attacked UN and army bases in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last night,

A local non-governmental organisation says at least 38 people were killed, including 15 civilians and one UN peacekeeper.

General Jean Baillaud told the BBC that the ADF-NALU, a Ugandan Islamist group, was suspected to have been behind the attack – the most serious in the area in months.

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Pakistani Police Investigate Fire at Christian TV Station

KARACHI, Pakistan — Police officials said Thursday that they were investigating a fire this week that destroyed the office of a Christian cable television station in this southern port city.

By SABA IMTIAZ

gawahi

Karachi: November 25, 2015. (PCP) A Pakistani Christian Television Channel named “Gawahi” was set on fire by some masked men destroying studios, computers, Bibles, cable network equipment and furniture on night of November 24, 2015.

Employees of the station, Gawahi TV, said the fire at their office was deliberately set.

There have been a number of recent attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan. More than a dozen people were killed in two bombings outside churches in Lahore in March, and Christians in Pakistan are routinely targeted by sectarian militant groups and local criminals.

Last week, a factory was burned, and a mosque owned by the Ahmadis, a Muslim sect considered heretical by Pakistan’s Sunni majority, was attacked over allegations that a factory worker had burned pages of the Quran. Army troops were called in to calm the situation in Jhelum, a city in Punjab Province.

Such acts of violence have continued in Pakistan despite the government’s repeated pledges to safeguard religious minorities, prompting some advocates of religious rights to question the government’s commitment.

The fire at Gawahi TV’s office was reported around 3 a.m. on Tuesday and took nearly two hours to extinguish. By daybreak, the three-room office was a burned-out hulk.

On Thursday, employees who days before had been planning their Christmas broadcast schedule gingerly stepped around large piles of half-burned religious books as they walked through the office. A charred copy of the Bible sat atop the reception desk.

Javed William, whose brother, Pastor Sarfraz William, is the owner of Gawahi TV, said the fire appeared to be a planned attack. “The door locks were cut and the things were not where we had left them,” he said, adding that a security camera system had been destroyed in the fire.

Employees said computers were destroyed or stolen.

“The hard disks are missing,” said Irfan Daniel, an assistant manager. “Someone did this with a lot of thought.”

Javed William said he was not aware of any threats to the organization. “This is not an attack on us,” he said. “It is an attack on Christianity. Whoever did this does not want God’s work to happen.”

Gawahi TV’s religious programming includes recitations of the Bible, Christian hymns and music videos, and is shown on local cable networks in Karachi.

On Thursday, the channel broadcast images of its damaged office, with Pastor William sitting amid the rubble. “A lot of people called and said, ‘We’d protest at one call from you,’ ” Javed William said. “We said our God does not allow us to do this.”

Source:  The New York Times



Christians Face Imminent Expulsion in Mexico

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International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 15, local government officials and community leaders in the village of Mariano Matamoros in Mexico have threatened to expel 158 Christians from the small Chiapas community. The threat comes after years of severe religious freedom violations perpetuated against the Christians, and after a recent farmland raid instigated by community leaders against the small Protestant community which left many without food.

 

Since 2012, Protestant Christians in Mariano Matamoros have suffered severe discrimination, persecution, and gross abuse of their basic human rights, but the October 15 farmland raid left the Protestant community in an especially desperate situation. According to local ICC sources, Protestants have now been given a November 30 deadline to leave the community for failing to “reconvert” to Catholicism. However, according to Luis Herrera, Director of the Coordination of Council of Christian Organizations, the community delegates are using the threat of expulsion as leverage to extract concessions from the Chiapas State government.

 

According to Mr. Herrera, the community delegates of Mariano Matamoros have been demanding that the State Government of Chiapas construct a paved road that leads from Mariano Matamoros to larger cities in Chiapas since 2009. Village leaders have also asked the state government to pay a fine of 1.5 million pesos ($90,857 USD) to cover the fees that the Christians have failed to pay for refusing to participate in village festivals.

 

Furthermore, Mr. Herrera states that authorities at the state level in Chiapas have repeatedly refused to take action in the Mariana Matamoros case. After the recent threat of expulsion by the community leaders, Mr. Herrera placed a call to a high level government official in Chiapas who, upon hearing about the threat, told Mr. Herrera, “Don’t worry, the village leaders will never follow through with their threats.”

 

Isaac Six, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said “For decades, Mexico has ignored rising tensions among religious communities in rural areas of central and southern Mexico. Thousands have been displaced and left homeless, simply because they belonged to a religious minority and refused to make financial contributions to religious festivals they did not believe in. For the State and Federal governments of Mexico to ignore this impending threat to more than two dozen families in Mariano Matamoros is egregious, and we call on authorities to take immediate action by publically denouncing the threat as unconstitutional, ordering local police forces to investigate these threats, and to prosecute those responsible for previous attacks on this small Protestant community.”

 

Source: International Christian Concern (ICC) persecution.org



U.S. cardinal says forces in Mideast intent on eradicating Christians

By Sharyn McCowen Catholic News Service

Cardinal Edwin F. O'Brien, right, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, prays during Mass Nov. 10 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The Mass, marking the 225th anniversary of the Baltimore Archdiocese, was celebrated on the first day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS-MASS Nov. 11, 2014.

Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, right, grand master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, prays during Mass Nov. 10 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. The Mass, marking the 225th anniversary of the Baltimore Archdiocese, was celebrated on the first day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See BISHOPS-MASS Nov. 11, 2014.

SYDNEY (CNS) — When Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien was named grandmaster of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre in 2011, he found himself embroiled in a war a world away from the jungles of Vietnam where he ministered to dying troops as a young priest.

“The forces that are at work now are intent on eradicating the Christian civilization, nothing less,” said the 76-year-old U.S. cardinal, who was in Sydney in October to reach out to the order’s 600 Australian members.

Christians in the Holy Land face “daily horrors,” while “our public is very blase about the whole thing,” Cardinal O’Brien said.

“Unless we face the facts, this radicalism, this extremism, is going to keep spreading,” he told The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney.



Iran says Washington Post reporter Rezaian sentenced to prison

An Iranian court has sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to a prison term, the state news agency said on Sunday quoting a judiciary spokesman, a case that is a sensitive issue in contentious U.S.-Iranian relations.

Jason-Rezaian-crop

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian

The length of the prison term was not specified. “Serving a jail term is in Jason Rezaian’s sentence but I cannot give details,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told a weekly news conference in Tehran, according to IRNA.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not clear why Iran has not given details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian, who Iranian prosecutors accused of espionage.

The foreign editor of the Washington Post, Douglas Jehl, said the newspaper was aware of the reports but had no additional information.

Jehl told Reuters Television the reported sentencing might move the case closer to a final resolution in the judiciary, so it can then go to Iranian leaders. “It’s these senior leaders who have the power to pardon, the power to overturn a verdict, the power to make things right,” he said.

Ali Rezaian, Jason’s brother, criticized the lack of transparency around the judicial proceedings.

“Although we cannot confirm the validity of these reports, we do know that the Iranian judicial process around Jason’s case has been profoundly flawed from the outset,” he said in a statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that Rezaian, who is the Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief and a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen, is being held on “bogus espionage charges,” and also called for his release.

‘LARGER GAME’

On Oct. 11, Ejei said Rezaian had been convicted, without elaborating. He said at that time that Rezaian had 20 days to appeal the verdict.

The Washington Post said last month the verdict, issued soon after Iran raised hopes of a thaw in its relations with the West by striking a nuclear deal with world powers including the United States, was “vague and puzzling”.

It said the vagueness of Ejei’s remarks showed Rezaian’s case was not just about espionage and that the reporter was a bargaining chip in a “larger game”. The Washington Post and his family denounced the espionage charges against Rezaian as absurd.

Influential Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted in September at the possibility that Rezaian could be freed in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials then played down the possibility of such a swap.

Two other U.S. citizens – Christian pastor Saeed Adedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant – also are jailed in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private American investigator, disappeared there in 2007.

Among the charges, Rezaian was accused of “collaborating with hostile governments” and disseminating “propaganda against the establishment”, according to a statement from Rezaian’s attorney, the Washington Post reported in April.

In the indictment, Iranian authorities said Rezaian had written to U.S. President Barack Obama and called it an example of contacting a “hostile government”, the Washington Post said.

Rezaian was arrested in July 2014. His brother said on Oct. 13 that Rezaian had heard of his conviction on Iranian state TV and was depressed and angry about being deprived of information about his case.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom, Lesley Wroughton and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Stephen Powell, Digby Lidstone and Paul Simao)

Source: Reuters