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Category: Friends In The West

Nigerian Church Leader Calls for Gov’t Protection After Gunmen Kill Pastor, Abduct His Wife

(CBN) A Nigerian pastor was reportedly killed and his wife abducted for ransom by unknown assailants Sunday evening while traveling on a highway where being attacked by criminals has become a common occurrence.

The Punch reported Jeremiah Omolara, the pastor of Living Faith Church in Romi New Extension, a suburb of Kaduna state, was shot and killed when the attackers ambushed his vehicle on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway.

In addition to Omolara’s wife, the couple’s son was also in the vehicle. He was able to escape, according to news reports.

The assailants are demanding a ransom in the amount of more than $138,000 for the pastor’s wife.

Omolara’s murder and his wife’s abduction were confirmed by Rev. Joseph Hayab, chairman of the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Hayab urged the Nigerian government to tighten security in the state, according to to the Daily Post Nigeria.

He also told of how kidnappings in the Kaduna are on the rise, especially the abduction of clergy.

“Just last week a clergyman was attacked in Kasuwan Magani,” Hayab explained. “The security man was killed immediately as they struggled to find their way into the house. Thank God, the gunmen could not gain entrance into the room.”

He also added the daughter of a Baptist pastor was recently abducted and the kidnappers are demanding a huge ransom.

“Now the Living Faith Church pastor was killed along Kaduna-Abuja in the presence of his wife, who was later abducted,” Hayab told the newspaper. “That tells you that the new trend is to attack us in our homes or in our churches or on the roads. We are just not safe anywhere and we are asking the same question we have been asking: ‘Where are our security agencies?’”

“Are we being told tactically that we should defend ourselves?” he continued.

Nigerians at risk are often told by authorities to become vigilantes and protect their own villages.

“If we start defending ourselves, it means that we no longer have security or we no longer have government. Or is this government only for those they love and they don’t care about others?”

“We don’t want a situation where we will be forced to think of how to protect ourselves, we believe that government is there to protect us,” Hayab concluded.

As CBN News has reported, hundreds of Christians have been killed in Nigeria by radical Islamic militias, including the Fulani herdsmen.

“Nigeria is now the deadliest place in the world to be a Christian,” explained attorney Emmanuel Ogebe. “What we have is a genocide. They are trying to displace the Christians, they are trying to possess their land and they are trying to impose their religion on the so-called infidels and pagans who they consider Christians to be.”

Source: Voice of the Persecuted



Christian women’s conference in Cuba goes ahead despite pastor being threatened if so

By Cara Bentley

A Cuban pastor has been threatened because his church was hosting a women’s conference. 

Alain Toledano Valiente is a leader in the Apostolic Movement, an unregistered Protestant denomination in Cuba. 

The pastor was summoned to a police station on Wednesday, where he was told by the station commander that if his church went ahead with a planned women’s event starting on Thursday, called Deborah 2019, he would be charged with the crime of disobedience and would risk imprisonment.

Toledano Valiente received the summons on his 25th wedding anniversary and was told to present himself to the police at 10am the next day.

He wrote on Facebook: “Today we are celebrating 25 years of marriage, my wife and I, and this is the gift of the Cuban government, a policeman at my door and a summons for tomorrow…In my 47 years in Cuba I have learned something, they never come at all good, there are always traps, threats, blackmail, etc. Let everyone know about this new threat to my freedom. I ask above all for your prayers, God cover our lives, and my family who was last threatened, shalom”

The pastor went to La Motorizada Unit 3 Police Station on Thursday and was interrogated for almost three hours by the unit commander.

Toledano Valiente said the church would go ahead with the two-day Deborah conference for Christian women and posted pictures of the event on social media. 

In July, Toledano Valiente was stopped by government agents and blocked from boarding a flight to the US to attend the Ministerial on International Religious Freedom. He is still officially banned from leaving Cuba and his right to move freely within the country is also restricted.

“It looks like the regime is planning to invent criminal charges to bring against me in order to imprison me, just as they have done in the past with other pastors,” Toledano Valiente told Christian freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide. 

“I have had to deal with the fury and the hatred of the communist regime in many different ways and I think now I have to deal with dirty tricks on their part. I continue to be prohibited from travelling and I don’t think they are interested in freeing me. This is the price I have to pay in this country. I have had to cancel many national and international events because of this restriction. They want to suffocate me, trying to pin me down into a tight space to eliminate both my voice and myself, a pressure that wants to destroy both the church and me.”

CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: “Concerns that weakened protections for freedom of religion or belief in the new constitution indicated a harder line from the new government appear to be validated. There is no justification for stripping religious leaders, who have committed no crime, of their right to travel or to arbitrarily ban churches from holding special religious events. 

“We call on the Cuban government to immediately cease its harassment Alain Toledano Valiente and other church leaders and to allow these peaceful religious events and initiatives to take place without interference from the state.”

 Pastor Alain attended the conference which finished on Saturday. It’s also been reported that three Christian women from Mexico were barred from attending. 

Source: Premiere



China: Old Churches Demolished, New Ones Not Approved

Defrauded by the CCP, congregations of state-approved churches are left with nowhere to worship after they agree to tear down their dilapidated buildings.

by An Xin

To stop the spread of religion, the CCP is not shying away from deception and manipulation of believers, fooling them into losing their churches for good. Even if the authorities’ actions go against the decisions that they had taken themselves.

Like in a county of the central province of Henan, where the government stopped issuing permits for the reconstruction of demolished or relocated churches, despite an active order issued last year. The document, titled Key Tasks and Divisions of Labor of Phase Three of Units Directly Under the County Government, stipulates: “Apart from the reconstruction of demolished and relocated buildings or reconstruction on the original site for safety reasons, suspend approvals of religious venues.” The government is still refusing to approve the permits for state-run Three-Self churches that were promised to be rebuilt in new locations or on the original site after they were demolished because of their dilapidated state.

This is not an isolated case – state-approved congregations are losing their churches across the country and are left with no place practice their faith.

Churches tricked into demolition

According to a Three-Self church member from the eastern province of Zhejiang, in June 2017, the county government demolished an officially-approved Three-Self church under the pretense of “rebuilding the old city.” Before the demolition, the authorities reached an agreement with the director of the church, promising to complete the approval process for rebuilding the church within one year.

Believers gathered outside the church before its planned demolition.

Two years have passed, but the approval for the construction of the new church has not been issued, despite the church director’s repeated requests.

In Ningde city in the southeastern province of Fujian, the director of a Three-Self church has repeatedly applied to the local government, asking to build a new church because the current one was too small to fit all congregation members.

Finally, in June last year, the local Religious Affairs Bureau agreed to the construction of a new church. The old church had to be demolished, and the new one would be built on the same site, the Bureau’s officials promised. First, though, approvals had to be obtained from other government departments.

Hoping to have a new, larger church, the congregation agreed to the demolition, and the construction of the new church began. However, the process was soon stopped because the government claimed that the church’s documentation was incomplete. If the construction were not halted, officials threatened to destroy the building equipment on the site.

Work came to a halt after the government obstructed the construction of the new church’s foundation.

“From the time we applied until now, we’ve negotiated with the government at least ten times. They use aerial photography; and as soon as construction work begins, personnel from the relevant departments come to intervene and halt the process,” one of the church’s believers said. “The director of the church went to various departments to request approvals, but they kept passing the buck and shifting responsibility back and forth. The Religious Affairs Bureau had agreed that the new church could be built, but now they say that there is a new policy and that construction work must be stopped.”

The believer added that people of faith have to be very careful when opposing the government. “The campaign to ‘clean up gang crime and eliminate evil’ is implemented now. We don’t dare to argue with the government, lest they accuse us of ‘gathering a crowd and making a disturbance’ and punish us under the pretext of the campaign,” the man explained.

Churches kept in disrepair to stop their growth

A Three-Self church in Fujian’s Longyan city applied for reconstruction because the building has become derelict, dangerous for the congregation to meet. But the government created innumerable obstacles, intentionally making it impossible for the church to get necessary permits.

Last August, the church director brought all necessary documentation and a written application to a government department to apply for reconstruction, but officials said that the “construction is prohibited” and that “no one dares to give you approval,” refusing the application on the grounds that the church’s “documentation is useless.”

“I don’t know how much I’ve spent on travels to get the approval. I asked the Construction Bureau, the Planning Bureau, and the Land and Resources Bureau, but it was fruitless. They told me that Xi Jinping’s policies are too strict now; no matter what connections I use, it’s useless,” the director of the church said helplessly.

Since the church was too dilapidated and was in danger of collapsing at any time, the director decided to start building the new church without the permit. But the local law enforcement repeatedly blocked construction work and threatened to tear down whatever had been built. Due to the repeated obstructions, the construction was forced to stop.

Last November, a Three-Self church in Fujian’s Zhangping city was identified as a “dilapidated building” after having fallen into disrepair over the years. The director of the church applied to the local government to rebuild the church on the original site. Although all of the church’s documentation was in order, the approval was refused on the grounds that “the road is narrow and firetrucks cannot pass through” and that the church “cannot be too close to a residential area.”

The interior of the Three-Self church in Zhangping city that has applied for a reconstruction permit but was denied.

According to local government insiders, Religious Affairs Bureau officials want to keep the church in its current state, so it doesn’t grow too quickly or recruit too many believers.

“This is what the Communist Party always does. The CCP is materialistic and atheistic; it is the archenemy of Christianity,” said a local preacher, adding that the government doesn’t approve to reconstruct churches to restrain the development of Christianity.

Source: Bitter Winter



Foreign Christians Arrested on Charges of ‘Converting’ in Nepal

Leave evangelizing to Nepali church, Christian leader advises foreigners.

Hindu temple Changu Narayan, Bhaktapur, Nepal. (Wikipedia, Jean-Pierre Dalbera)

By Our South Asia Correspondent 

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on Wednesday (Aug. 7), sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

On Monday (Aug. 5), Subedi told Morning Star News that Cho had been released from hospital care.

“Though he was out of hospital, he was feeling dizzy this morning also,” Subedi said. “His health is still not good. He does not want to go back to the hospital, because he does not have much money left. He does not have insurance cover to pay his bills.”

In Nepal on a business visa, Cho was also charged with misuse of visa.

The charge of “attempting to convert” under Section 158 (1) of the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

Cho and two other foreigners working separately from him were found involved in conversion activity in Pokhara, in central Nepal, Raj Kumar KC, spokesperson of the District Police Office in Kaski, reportedly said.

Police arrested Cho for allegedly distributing leaflets and Bibles in the Barachi area of Kaski District, in Gandaki Pradesh Province, KC told the Kathmandu, Nepal-based news outlet Republica. The police spokesman said officers also arrested two Japanese nationals, Jehovah’s Witnesses unaffiliated with Cho, in the Ratna area of the same district on the same charges.

KC reportedly said their arrest shows that “some foreigners do not come with good intentions,” and that they would be charged with proselytizing.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief [IPPFoRB], told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projected as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible – it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be and must not be a criminal offense.”

The Nepal Christian Society has hired an attorney for Cho, he said.

U.S. Citizen Charged

Earlier, in Basgadhi of Bardiya District, police on June 21 arrested U.S. citizen Bradley Navarro Anagaran on a charge of possessing Christian literature, according to the RLFN.

When local pastor Hira Singh Sunar went to the police station to inquire about his arrest, officers arrested him as well, according to an RLFN statement. Both Anagaran and Pastor Sunar were charged with “attempting to convert,” it stated.

Anagaran was found with two discipleship leaflets designed for use within a church circle, Christian sources said.

“Apart from the literature on discipleship, police have confiscated a few pairs of reading glasses from his backpack, which means that the police did not find him distributing the literature to anybody,” Khanal of the IPPFoRB said.

The two Christians were moved from district headquarters of Gulariya to Bansgadhi police station. They were released on bail on July 3, and Anagaran has returned to the United States, but he must return for a hearing at the end of this month and every court date thereafter, Subedi of the RLFN said.

“I personally don’t know how he will be able to do that, as it is a great financial burden to travel every time for his court date from the United States to Nepal,” Subedi told Morning Star News. “The court procedures in Nepal take several years and are tiresome.”

A team from the Nepal Christian Society in Kathmandu, including Khanal, went to speak with local officials.

“We met with about 60 local pastors and mobilized prayer, as well as formed a task force,” Khanal said. “We met Bradley and Sunar inside the jail and comforted them. We met the police inspector who arrested Bradley, the deputy superintendent of police, chief district officer and the prosecuting attorney to discuss how the charges in the case could be minimized, for there was no ‘conversion attempt’ in the case at all.”

After the initial order for a week’s remand ended, police kept them in custody while extending the investigation for no apparent reason, sources said.

“Both Bradley and Sunar were being kept in a miserable condition while in custody,” read an RLFN newsletter. “They were treated as criminals even though they had not committed any crime.”

The Rev. Mukunda Sharma, spokesperson of the RLFN, was a part of the team visiting the duo in jail. He urged human rights and diplomatic officials to support them.

Khanal issued a plea for foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from doing anything that will land them in legal trouble. He said that sharing the gospel where there are already local churches should not be taken up by Christians from other countries.

“Their role can be to inspire, educate and train local churches if they really want the bring the gospel to the people,” he said. “Let the local church in their local language share the gospel.”

As the Nepal Christian Society is taking up an increasing number of legal cases, he asked that the international Christian community pray for those accused under Nepal’s new criminal code.

An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.

Targeting Christians

Pastor Sagar Baiju, a senior Christian leader in the country, said that such incidents make it clear that government officials, police and politicians are targeting Christians.

“Unless this new law is revoked, such incidents will continue to increase in Nepal,” Baiju told Morning Star News. “When I travel to foreign counties, I carry my identity with me – and my identity is that I am a Nepali, but apart from being a Nepali, I am a Christian, so I always carry my Bible with me. How is it a crime, when foreign tourists come to Nepal to tour the country or to visit their friends and carry their Bible in their hands?”

People of other religions erect huge tents, gather in large numbers and use loud sound systems for worship, and the lawmakers do not question them, he said.

“All the schools in Nepal have their morning devotions according to the faith that the school authorities follow,” he said. “In schools run by Hindus, they make the children perform Saraswati Vandana [a common Hindu mantra] in their morning devotion, and nobody objects to it. Then why is it a crime, if a Christian school makes the children say The Lord’s Prayer in the assembly? Why are objections raised and Christians ghettoized as criminals?”

There is a need for Christians to unite and raise the issue with a single voice, he said.

“A hospital owned by a Hindu has a big Hindu temple inside the premises,” he said. “They are free to write Hindu scriptures on the walls of the hospital and nobody objects. But if a Christian hospital has a Bible inside the hospital or a Bible verse hung on any wall, we are accused of preaching our religion, and the authorities running the hospital are in trouble.”

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

) – A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on Wednesday (Aug. 7), sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

On Monday (Aug. 5), Subedi told Morning Star News that Cho had been released from hospital care.

“Though he was out of hospital, he was feeling dizzy this morning also,” Subedi said. “His health is still not good. He does not want to go back to the hospital, because he does not have much money left. He does not have insurance cover to pay his bills.”

In Nepal on a business visa, Cho was also charged with misuse of visa.

The charge of “attempting to convert” under Section 158 (1) of the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

Cho and two other foreigners working separately from him were found involved in conversion activity in Pokhara, in central Nepal, Raj Kumar KC, spokesperson of the District Police Office in Kaski, reportedly said.

Police arrested Cho for allegedly distributing leaflets and Bibles in the Barachi area of Kaski District, in Gandaki Pradesh Province, KC told the Kathmandu, Nepal-based news outlet Republica. The police spokesman said officers also arrested two Japanese nationals, Jehovah’s Witnesses unaffiliated with Cho, in the Ratna area of the same district on the same charges.

KC reportedly said their arrest shows that “some foreigners do not come with good intentions,” and that they would be charged with proselytizing.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief [IPPFoRB], told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projected as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible – it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be and must not be a criminal offense.”

The Nepal Christian Society has hired an attorney for Cho, he said.

U.S. Citizen Charged

Earlier, in Basgadhi of Bardiya District, police on June 21 arrested U.S. citizen Bradley Navarro Anagaran on a charge of possessing Christian literature, according to the RLFN.

When local pastor Hira Singh Sunar went to the police station to inquire about his arrest, officers arrested him as well, according to an RLFN statement. Both Anagaran and Pastor Sunar were charged with “attempting to convert,” it stated.

Anagaran was found with two discipleship leaflets designed for use within a church circle, Christian sources said.

“Apart from the literature on discipleship, police have confiscated a few pairs of reading glasses from his backpack, which means that the police did not find him distributing the literature to anybody,” Khanal of the IPPFoRB said.

The two Christians were moved from district headquarters of Gulariya to Bansgadhi police station. They were released on bail on July 3, and Anagaran has returned to the United States, but he must return for a hearing at the end of this month and every court date thereafter, Subedi of the RLFN said.

“I personally don’t know how he will be able to do that, as it is a great financial burden to travel every time for his court date from the United States to Nepal,” Subedi told Morning Star News. “The court procedures in Nepal take several years and are tiresome.”

A team from the Nepal Christian Society in Kathmandu, including Khanal, went to speak with local officials.

“We met with about 60 local pastors and mobilized prayer, as well as formed a task force,” Khanal said. “We met Bradley and Sunar inside the jail and comforted them. We met the police inspector who arrested Bradley, the deputy superintendent of police, chief district officer and the prosecuting attorney to discuss how the charges in the case could be minimized, for there was no ‘conversion attempt’ in the case at all.”

After the initial order for a week’s remand ended, police kept them in custody while extending the investigation for no apparent reason, sources said.

“Both Bradley and Sunar were being kept in a miserable condition while in custody,” read an RLFN newsletter. “They were treated as criminals even though they had not committed any crime.”

The Rev. Mukunda Sharma, spokesperson of the RLFN, was a part of the team visiting the duo in jail. He urged human rights and diplomatic officials to support them.

Khanal issued a plea for foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from doing anything that will land them in legal trouble. He said that sharing the gospel where there are already local churches should not be taken up by Christians from other countries.

“Their role can be to inspire, educate and train local churches if they really want the bring the gospel to the people,” he said. “Let the local church in their local language share the gospel.”

As the Nepal Christian Society is taking up an increasing number of legal cases, he asked that the international Christian community pray for those accused under Nepal’s new criminal code.

An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.

Targeting Christians

Pastor Sagar Baiju, a senior Christian leader in the country, said that such incidents make it clear that government officials, police and politicians are targeting Christians.

“Unless this new law is revoked, such incidents will continue to increase in Nepal,” Baiju told Morning Star News. “When I travel to foreign counties, I carry my identity with me – and my identity is that I am a Nepali, but apart from being a Nepali, I am a Christian, so I always carry my Bible with me. How is it a crime, when foreign tourists come to Nepal to tour the country or to visit their friends and carry their Bible in their hands?”

People of other religions erect huge tents, gather in large numbers and use loud sound systems for worship, and the lawmakers do not question them, he said.

“All the schools in Nepal have their morning devotions according to the faith that the school authorities follow,” he said. “In schools run by Hindus, they make the children perform Saraswati Vandana [a common Hindu mantra] in their morning devotion, and nobody objects to it. Then why is it a crime, if a Christian school makes the children say The Lord’s Prayer in the assembly? Why are objections raised and Christians ghettoized as criminals?”

There is a need for Christians to unite and raise the issue with a single voice, he said.

“A hospital owned by a Hindu has a big Hindu temple inside the premises,” he said. “They are free to write Hindu scriptures on the walls of the hospital and nobody objects. But if a Christian hospital has a Bible inside the hospital or a Bible verse hung on any wall, we are accused of preaching our religion, and the authorities running the hospital are in trouble.”

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Source: Morning Star News



Iraq: intimidation of Nineveh Plain Christians

Iraqi Christians asked us to pray for the town of Bartella, a predominantly Christian town in the Nineveh Plains, east of Mosul, where Christian communities are facing growing intimidation and threats from ethnically Shabak militias.

Bartella was among the towns from which thousands of Christians were forced to flee in August 2014 as Daesh (Islamic State) violently seized control of the area. In late 2016 the area was ‘liberated’ from Daesh control. While some towns have seen significant numbers of Christian returnees, comparatively few have returned to Bartella due to ongoing security fears. 

Bartella has long had a Shabak minority (Shi’a Muslim) which now seems to be seeking to extend its control through a campaign of violence and intimidation. A Shabak militia, Popular Mobilisation Unit Brigade 30, controls Bartella and the surrounding area. Popular Mobilisation Units are state-sanctioned militias that contributed significantly to the area’s liberation from Daesh.

On May 13, two elderly Christians, a mother (89) and daughter (69), were violently assaulted in their home. Jewellery and other valuables were stolen and both women were hospitalised. The police arrested two suspects. Christians view the incident as part of a systematic campaign against Christians which aims to change the area’s demographic composition.

Although there are legal protections against the sale of land from one ethnic community to another, religious and political Christian leaders increasingly complain that properties of Christians have been fraudulently or forcibly appropriated. They also note a rapid growth in the establishment of Islamic institutions in Bartella and nearby towns.

In July, Iraq’s Prime Minister ordered the integration of the Popular Mobilisation Units into Iraq’s regular army. Members of Brigade 30 rejected this order and in recent days have staged violent demonstrations. National army and police personnel have withdrawn after being attacked. High-ranking Shabak leaders have accused Christians of collusion with the Prime Minister in making this order, which will weaken the Shabaks’ current level of autonomy. Shabak leaders have used highly threatening language and have promised “rivers of blood” if they are forced to cede areas currently under their control.

Source: Middle East Concern