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Monthly archives: May, 2017

Thailand: Pakistani Christian seeking asylum dies in notorious detention centre


On Saturday, 27th May 2017, 10am local time, Pakistani Christian, Ejaz Masih, better known as Ejaz Paras, lost his life in the notorious Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) in Bangkok, Thailand. He was arrested in June 2016 at his home near Seacon Square in Bangkok Thailand. His brother-in-law and sister in law were also arrested.

The 36 year old father of 3 (aged 11, 8 and 1 year old) had been inside the Immigration Detention Centre since his arrest. Mr. Ejaz’s death is the 3rd death inside the IDC, whereas dozens have died outside after going through the arduous asylum process which take years.

In communication with Ejaz’s family, our correspondent learned his wife had tried to bail her husband out, but authorities denied his bail. The IDC has been preventing bail for people from countries of concern, such as Pakistan, Syria and others including Sri lanka, after a terrorist attack took place at a Buddhist Shrine in Bangkok which killed 15 people in 2015. The Immigration Police reacted by closing bails for all detainees which previously had been the only way for refugees to be emancipated from the brutal incarceration inside Thailand’s notorious IDC.

Ejaz had been in Bangkok for over 3 years. He came with his extended family, including his in laws, when his wife’s cousin, Qaisar Ayub Bhatti, was accused of blasphemy. Mr. Bhatti, who was a Masters graduate in Computer Science, came to Thailand to seek asylum with UNHCR Thailand after he wrote what was consider blasphemous content by hardliners on a website he owned. The UNHCR scheduled his asylum interview date in 2019. Frustrated by such a long delay, he decided to go back to Pakistan. When he landed in Pakistan, he was tracked by the police and arrested for blasphemy. Currently, Bhatti is in Chakwal Central jail awaiting his trial. Ejaz Paras faced similar threats and had also been chased by zealots. Since Bhatti had been immediately arrested, Ejaz was afraid to go back to Pakistan and face further persecution.

Ejaz had a history of heart disease. In October 2016, he began suffering chest pains and was taken to hospital where he stayed for 8 days. Shackled to the bed, he was allowed a single visit with his children. They were grateful as this it was impossible at the IDC as they would not be allowed to visit their father. Upon his return to the IDC, Ejaz was asked to pay the hospital bills but he didn’t have a single penny with him. As a punishment for nonpayment, Ejaz was transferred to solitary confinement. A local priest helped to pay the hospital bills then Ejaz was sent back to the main cell, commonly known as Room #3.

On Saturday morning (May 27 2017), around 10am, Mr. Ejaz and other detainees were taken from their cell to an area designated for exhaustive exercise. All detainees are required to take part.

During the exercise, Mr. Ejaz complained to the prison guard of having severe chest pains and asked for immediate medical intervention. The prison guard ignored his plea as he thought that Mr. Ejaz is making excuses to avoid the exercise.

Seeing that his situation is getting worse, other detainees gathered 2000 Thai Baht so that Ejaz could be taken to the hospital. The officer denied every request and all detainees were sent to their cell where about 160 of them are incarcerated.

Ejaz went to the washroom to take a bath. Afterwards, he dressed and stepped outside the washroom, but immediately fell unconscious and urinated in his clothes. His tongue fell outside his mouth and he started to convulse. Seeing this, fellow Christians carried him away from washroom and a crowd gathered around him. The Immigration officers saw this in the CCTV camera fixed in the IDC cell and instantly sent a team, anticipating that a prison fight had broke out.

When the officers saw Ejaz convulsing in pain on the ground, they dragged him outside the cell and were not convinced he needed medical attention. After some time, they starting preparing the paper work to take him to the Hospital. However, since they delayed and allowed him to lay on the floor for 3 hours and the young father had already passed away before help was obtained. Later, his body was taken to the Police General Hospital and the autopsy revealed that he died of a heart attack.

Such a heartbreaking story. This young father’s death may have been prevented had the Immigration officers showed compassion. Instead, the officers acted ruthlessly with no value for his life, a human life. This Christian brother died leaving his wife and children behind to suffer in this ruthless environment.

We trust that he would be with God as Ejaz had complete trust in our savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” This brother indeed died as a martyr and has finished his race to be with our savior, Jesus Christ. He would be in the bosom of father Abraham. Revelation 14:13 states that, “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes.” Says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor for their deeds will follow them.”

His body now needs to be sent back to Pakistan for burial which could cost an estimated $500 – $600. The family also needs moral and financial support as they find it hard to make the ends meet. Please uplift this family in prayer. Help to support them if you are able and pray that the children will one day find a better future.

Please pray for persecuted Christian families suffering in Thailand. Pray the Thai government will soften their hearts towards them. And pray the UNHCR will find a way to speed up the unbearably long process of their asylum cases.


29 Slaughtered Coptic Christians, Including Children, Were Asked by IS to Deny Faith in Jesus but Refused


According to a chaplain, Friday’s massacre of 29 Coptic Christians who were on their way to a monastery in Egypt occurred after Islamic radicals marched them off the bus one by one and asked them to deny their faith in Jesus Christ.

(Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Relatives of victims of an attack that killed at least Coptic Christians on Friday react at the funeral in Minya, Egypt, May 26, 2017.

A priest identified as Father Rashed, a chaplain for one of the groups comforting the survivors of the attack, said in an article in Breitbart News on Sunday that 10 masked Islamic State militants did not simply open fire on the bus on its way to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor.

Instead, the IS radicals apparently stopped the bus, made the victims walk out, and asked each of them, including the children, whether they were Christians.

Rashed explained that the victims “were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them — even the children — refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.”

Friday’s attack, at the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, was another devastating blow to Egypt’s minority Copts, who in the past year have suffered a number of massacres at the hands of radicals, including Palm Sunday church bombings that killed 46 believers.

The Coptic church has warned that despite the government’s efforts, however, IS radicals, who on Saturday took responsibility for the slaughter, “damage Egypt’s image and cause Egyptians a great deal of pain.”

The Vatican’s Pope Francis also highlighted in his speech at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday that the Christians were killed specifically for their faith.

“The victims, amongst which were also children, were killed after having refused to renounce their Christian faith,” the Roman Catholic Church leader said.

The pontiff, who visited Egypt last month and called for peace, prayed that God “may welcome these courageous witnesses, these martyrs, in his peace and convert the hearts of the terrorists.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, who in his election campaign vowed to eradicate IS, condemned on Friday the “merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt,” which he said “tears at our hearts and grieves our souls.”

“Wherever innocent blood is spilled, a wound is inflicted upon humanity,” Trump’s statement read. “But this attack also steels our resolve to bring nations together for the righteous purpose of crushing the evil organizations of terror, and exposing their depraved, twisted, and thuggish ideology.”

IS has been killing Christians specifically for their faith throughout Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Islamists have murdered Christians for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus on numerous occasions.

One Christian pastor from Syria, identified as Pastor Edward, told The Christian Post earlier this year that the country is getting “torn apart,” with evil “all around us.”

“There was a man named George who chose not to be hidden by his Muslim neighbor when extremists came looking for Christians. He told his mother Jesus said, ‘If you deny me I will deny you.’ And he was killed. His mother was not even allowed to bury his body,” Edward recalled.

Source: The Christian Post

100 Christians detained, 10 years after Eritrea put Patriarch under house arrest

Patriarch Antonios before his house arrest. (Photo: Human Rights Concern Eritrea)

The Eritrean government has stepped up its campaign against Christians, arresting almost 100 in the past month.

The arrests come as Christians in the repressive East African country mark ten years since government officials placed the Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch under house arrest and incommunicado, and 15 years since the forced closure of many churches.

Patriarch (Abune) Antonios, who turns 90 in July, is diabetic and family and friends fear he is not receiving adequate medical treatment. The location of his incarceration remains .

He was taken on 27 May 2007, and on the same day the government installed Bishop Dioskoros of Mendefera in his place, violating the Church’s constitution. (The Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch is traditionally appointed by Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope, for life.) Although he died in 2015, no new successor has been appointed.

Patriarch Antonios’ relationship with the government had deteriorated in 2006 when he refused to excommunicate 3,000 members of the Medhane Alem Orthodox Sunday School revival movement, and demanded that the government release imprisoned Christians accused of treason. In January 2007 the regime moved to strip the Patriarch of his title, confiscating his vestments, his sceptre and other sacramental items. However, he is still recognised as canonical patriarch by the Eritrean Churches in Diaspora and by Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Some Christians meet in secret since the government passed a law shutting down many churches

Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been at particular risk since a 2002 law was passed prohibiting Churches other than the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and also Sunni Islam. However, as the Patriarch’s incarceration shows, members of permitted Churches are also at risk if they criticise the regime.

At a vigil in London earlier this month, Dr Berhane Asmelash, Director of Release Eritrea, said: “Our government started arresting Jehovah Witnesses. At that time, we said nothing because we felt they deserved to be persecuted. Then they started to persecute the handicap[ped], the ex-fighter handicapped. Some of them were shot. At that time we said nothing because we weren’t one of them … I was in Eritrea when our government started to arrest journalists and some political prisoners, and we said nothing – because we thought they were all the same. Then, in 2002, they started to shut churches and arrest Christians and we thought our government was going to release them. But after 15 years things are getting worse.”

Eritrea is one of the most difficult countries to be a Christian, say researchers

Elizabeth Chyrum of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea said: “Sixty thousand Eritreans flee their country every year – more than from any other African country – and yet the world’s media … continues to call them “migrants”, shutting its eyes to [Eritrea’s] imprisonment without trial, torture, persecution of believers, and, above all, lifetime National Service for every young man or woman over 18 years of age, condemned to endless years in the armed forces, or “slave”.

The fresh wave of arrests took place earlier this month in the days leading up to Eritrea’s Independence Day, 24 May. Many Christians find themselves under added scrutiny around the time of Independence Day celebrations because they are reluctant to participate in ceremonies that go against their conscience.

A source told World Watch Monitor that 49 Evangelicals were arrested outside the capital, Asmara, on Sunday (21 May) at a post-wedding celebration called a Hamauti . A Hamauti takes place a week after the wedding at the home of the newly-weds and enables the parents-in-law, friends and other relatives to eat, sing, dance and pray together. The couple, Tedro Negel and his wife, in their late 20s, were among those arrested.

On Wednesday 17 May, security officials arrested more than 35 Christians from their homes in Adi Quala, a market town some 16 miles (25 km) from the Ethiopian border in the country’s Southern Region. They are being held in different cells in the local police . The arrests came after security officials with representatives of the Orthodox Church started a compulsory house-to-house search on 15 May.

A group consisting of an Orthodox Church official, an assistant, a local administration officer and a security official visited all the homes in Adi Quala. They told the residents they were verifying food vouchers, but when residents presented their vouchers, the officials insisted that all family members assemble and indicate whether they were Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or members of the Orthodox Church, Lutheran Church, Catholic Church or Pentecostal Church. The next day the security officers went door to door in Adi Quala to arrest all who indicated that they were Pentecostals.

A source told World Watch Monitor that similar searches were conducted in several parts of the Central Region, adding: “Those who identified themselves as Pentecostals in the Central Region have not been arrested but the level of fear amongst the believers has greatly increased.”

On Tuesday 9 May, officials arrested 10 Christians from a home in Ginda, north-east of Asmara. The ten – four women and six men – are being held at the Ginda Police Station. Sources said neighbours had reported to local leaders in the town that Christians were holding meetings there.

Since the 2002 law, members of outlawed churches have taken to meeting in secret in people’s homes, but are targeted by the authorities. Over the past 15 years, countless homes have been raided and local sources estimate that hundreds of Christians are being held for long periods in Eritrea’s prisons, while thousands have been held for shorter periods.

The charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide has listed at least 28 Christians who have died during their incarceration or shortly after their release as a result of their harsh treatment in prison or of the withholding of medical treatment to religious prisoners. Christians who have been imprisoned recount facing torture, hard labour and being held in filthy conditions and given insufficient food. Some have been held in metal shipping containers – and although researchers at the charity Open Doors International said they are not aware of any Christians currently held in shipping containers, journalists and opposition politicians are held in those. They continue to face extreme heat during the day, freezing temperatures at night, and a lack of oxygen, hygiene and privacy.

Many Christians who are jailed are released only after admitting to having broken the law that prohibits Christians from gathering outside registered and recognised groups. Sources explain that, depending on the prison head at each location, prisoners are asked to sign one of two agreements. Either they promise not to engage in unlicensed religious activities, which many are happy to sign, or they are asked to renounce their allegiance to Christ. Those who refuse to sign can be held for years, even decades.

Eritrea is ranked as the tenth most difficult country in which to be a Christian, according to the Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Kenya’s prayer train: A commute of prayers and songs

The daily journey to work can be a stressful, exhausting or plain boring experience. It may not be to everyone’s tastes but one husband-and-wife team of preachers in Kenya believes the time is best used for spiritual upliftment and has transformed a Nairobi commuter train into a prayer session.

All images by Tobin Jones.

Self-styled pastor Helen Wangui Tiphy, a secretary in a government office, believes she plays a vital role in helping commuters cope with their problems.

“Many of the people travelling in the morning are jobless, others are discouraged. We decided to give them the word of hope.”
“You can see someone has many problems, but when we preach the word, you can see the person getting better and getting healed. There is power in prayer, that is what we believe,” she says.

She is joined by her husband, businessman Joseph Tiphy Gachuhi, who has the grand title of bishop.

He believes prayer can help ease Kenya’s sharp ethnic divides.
“When people pray together they become brothers and sisters. There isn’t that separation of different tribes. They love one another.”
“And because of this, they’ll remove their tribal affiliations and they’ll instead use God as a force that brings them altogether,” Mr Gachuhi says.

With some 1,200 people killed after disputed elections in 2007, the couple are praying that the polls due in August will pass off peacefully.
“We’re praying for the elections in Kenya. For God to give us peace and to give us God-fearing leaders who believe in the lord. We’re praying to God that there won’t be any bloodshed in the nation of Kenya,” Mrs Tiphy says.

The train, which takes about an hour to get from Kikuyu, north of the capital, Nairobi, to the city centre, fills up with workers, schoolchildren and those looking for jobs as it nears its destination.
Commuters take up every available space but the conductor just manages to squeeze past and collect the train fare.

The prayer sessions started in 1998 when a group of Christians travelling to work together on the train decided to start a group and received permission to use the first carriage to worship, pray, and sing.
Ever since, the carriage has been used both in the mornings and evenings for this purpose. They call it the “Fellowship Coach”.

Mrs Tiphy says that if she sees someone who is capable, she gives them “a chance to pray a little and stand on their own”.
“There are people who started from nothing and now are ministers.

The group tries to create a schedule for who will preach and when, but it is fairly open to whoever is capable and wants to stand up in front and lead the group.

Source: BBC

Egypt: Christians killed in bus attack

Egyptian Christians request prayer after gunmen attacked a bus and other vehicles carrying Coptic Christians. According to a statement by the Governor of Minya, 28 are so far confirmed dead (including two children) and 23 have been wounded in the attack which took place on Friday morning, 26th May.

The bus was on a desert road near Al Idwa in the north-west of Minya Governorate and was taking Coptic Christians to visit the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor 135km (85 miles) south of Cairo, from Minya province when their bus came under fire..

The bus was in a small convoy of vehicles which was stopped on a desert road by a group of around 10 gunmen wearing military uniform. The gunmen fired at the bus and other vehicles with automatic weapons and then drove away from the scene in three vehicles.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for this atrocity.

The attack comes during a three-month nationwide state of emergency declared by President Al-Sisi on 10th April, after Palm Sunday attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches in Tanta and Alexandria which left 47 dead. A range of other attacks have been carried out this year against Christian communities and Egyptian security targets by militants claiming allegiance to Daesh (IS).

Minya Province Bishop Makarios said many of the victims were shot at point blank range, the New York Times reported.

He said that children had been on the bus and were among the dead, adding that a pick-up truck in the convoy carrying workmen at the monastery was also targeted.

Minutes after President Sisi’s speech, the White House released a statement of support from Mr Trump.

“This merciless slaughter of Christians in Egypt tears at our hearts and grieves our souls,” he said.

“America stands with President Sisi and all the Egyptian people today, and always, as we fight to defeat this common enemy,” he added.

Copts make up about 10% of Egypt’s population of 92 million.

The Palm Sunday attacks prompted President Sisi to declare a three-month nationwide state of emergency and promise to do whatever was necessary to confront jihadist militants, most of whom are based in northern Sinai.

But many Copts complain that the Egyptian authorities are not doing enough to protect them, says the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Cairo.
There is now a real sense of fear, and a feeling of being hunted, she adds.

Source: Middle East Concern, BBC.