Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NJ coach can't pray

A federal court has ruled that a public school football coach is constitutionally prohibited from even respectfully acknowledging the student-led prayers of his team.Marcus Borden is the head football coach at East Brunswick High School in New Jersey. He wanted to bow his head when his team members asked the blessing over their pre-game meal and to join the team in kneeling when they pray in the locker room. But his school district had a policy prohibiting any faculty or staff participation in any student-initiated religious activity. He sued to overturn the policy. The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey struck down the policy as unconstitutional on several grounds. The court found the restriction was overly broad and vague and that it violated Coach Borden's freedoms of speech, religion, association, due process,and academic freedom.But the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently disagreed, arguing that "a reasonable observer would conclude that Borden was endorsing religion when he engaged in these acts."The court also said that it does not matter that Borden's intentions were to demonstrate solidarity with his team, not to promote any specific religion. The judges wrote, "We must consider whether a reasonable observer would perceive his actions as endorsing religion, not whether Borden intends to endorse religion." The court used the First Amendment's Establishment Clause which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" as the basis for their decision forbidding Borden to join in his team's student-initiated prayers.
As in the days of Noah...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Students proclaim 'take-your-Bible' day:Rally in support of teacher ordered to hide Good Book

Students at the Mount Vernon, Ohio, school district have called a 'take-your-Bible-to-school day" tomorrow in support of a popular teacher who has been ordered to keep his Bible hidden while students are in his classroom.Coach Dave Daubenmire of Pass The Salt Ministries and Minutemen United, who is acting as a spokesman for teacher John Freshwater, told WND the campaign has been organized by students using cell phones, text messaging and e-mails."It's for both middle school and high school," Daubenmire told WND, with plans for students to not only carry their Bibles, but to wear Christian-themed T-shirts.WND reported just one day earlier when the dispute arose, with orders from school officials for Freshwater to hide his Bible from students and Freshwater's decision to not comply.School Board president Ian Watson told WND the Bible was just part of a "tapestry" of issues the district was dealing with, but he said he could not provide details on other factors. He did admit that the order for Freshwater to remove the Bible from his desk, where he's kept it for more than two decades while teaching in the district, was prompted because of contacts from some district parents. But again, he declined to elaborate. Daubenmire, however, said the Bible is an important part of Freshwater's life, to the point he carries it with him when he parachutes into forest fire zones during his summer work as a smokejumper in the American West.He also has worked to smuggle Bibles into China, Daubenmire said.In an interview with WND, Watson accused Freshwater of "going public" with issues the school "is in discussions with attorneys at this stage.""We just asked him that the Bible not be on top of his desk during his teaching hours," Watson told WND. However, he also admitted that the school had no formal prohibitions on personal items on teachers' desks.When asked how the school arrived at a ban on Freshwater's personal Bible being on his own desk, Watson said, "I do not know how to answer."The verdict on a forums page in the local Mount Vernon News was siding pretty much with Freshwater."It is his Bible and [he] has every right to keep it with him. End of story," said the first commenter among a long list submitted anonymously."He should be allowed to have his Bible on his desk. It's sad that this country is trying to remove God from everything and we are suppose (sic) to be a Christian country," said the second person in line."Are you kidding. Let's put more effort into removing guns from schools, before we chase after Bibles," said the third."Stand firm, Mr. Freshwater! I was in a class of Mr. Freshwater's approx 20 years ago. I remember the Bible being on the desk. He never taught from it nor preached for it. So why … ask him to remove it now?" said another.
Freshwater held a news conference yesterday to confirm he was not planning to follow the school dictate, and Daubenmire said local counsel was being arranged should the teacher need legal representation.Daubenmire has had his own experience with such perspectives, having been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1999 for praying with his football teams while coaching in Ohio.The school also told Freshwater to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from a collage in one location in his classroom, a demand Freshwater agreed to fulfill.But he said the district must prove to him how it can order him to remove his personal Bible from his desk without infringing on his God-given and First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion. "John Freshwater has sounded the alarm and we have hope that his cause will not die for a lack of a second from the church leadership in Mount Vernon," said Jim Harrison, national director of Minutemen United."This is an incredible opportunity to right some historical misconceptions about the church and state relationship in our great nation," Harrison said.Daubenmire said the school's demand amounts to an ongoing viewpoint discrimination, since a Muslim woman would not be ordered to hide her head covering from students' view.The district's formal statement on the dispute said: "The Mount Vernon Schools today directed one of its middle school science teachers to remove from his classroom the 10 Commandments he had displayed and to remove his Bible from his desktop while students were in his room. The Mount Vernon Schools has not taken this action because it opposes religion, but because it has an obligation under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to protect against the establishment of religion in the schools. As a public school system the district cannot teach, promote or favor any religion or religious beliefs."Daubenmire said, however, the school's demands go far beyond making sure it doesn't "establish religion" and reaches the level of a "continuous purging of Christianity."In an earlier commentary for WND, Daubenmire framed the issue as a rampant attack singling out Christianity."Please notice that the attack on religious freedom in America is on Christianity. No one is trying to silence the religious freedom of Muslims or atheists or humanists. Quite the contrary. We are told to 'understand' Muslims, to be sensitive to the atheists and to tolerate the humanists and their various denominations of 'isms' (environmentalism, feminism, secularism, socialism, communism), which we teach openly in our schools.""Our rights are God-given rights. They are not 'constitutional' rights," he continued."Take some time and read the U.S. Constitution. You will see that it does not grant any rights to anyone. Instead, while setting up the federal government, the document (the first ten amendments) also prohibits the government from interfering with various aspects of human freedom. The first ten amendments limit what the government can do. They shouldn't be called the Bill of Rights; they should be called the Bill of Limitations."Instead of claiming constitutional rights, citizens of the U.S. should proclaim their God-given rights, he said.

As in the days of Noah....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Muslim Radicals Kill Three Christians and Wound Dozens in Southern Ethiopia:Group Vows to Eradicate Christians from the Province

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has just learned that Muslim radicals killed three Christians and wounded dozens more on March 3, 2008, in the province of Nensebo in Southern Ethiopia. To date, eight of the wounded have been taken to the town of Awassa in a neighboring province for hospitalization, while those who were seriously wounded were taken to Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. Among the wounded are a police officer and a Christian whose hand was cut off by the radical Muslims. According to ICC sources, Muslim radicals recently made a covenant to wipe out Christians from the Muslim-dominated province of Nensebo. As part of their agreement, they vowed to destroy churches in the area and threatened to attack any Christian group that does missionary work.Christians and Muslims in Ethiopia had been living peacefully together until the arrival of Wahhabi Islam from Saudi Arabia. The spread of Wahhabism, fueled by financial support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, is radicalizing Muslims who are in turn increasingly hostile towards Christians. Previous attacks by Muslim radicals have taken place further west in Ethiopia. This most recent attack occurred in the South, showing an increasing spread of Muslim radicalization throughout the country. ICC would like to ask concerned parties to contact Ethiopian Embassies in their respective countries and call for the protection of Christians in Nensebo and other Muslim-dominated areas of the country, who are facing increased attacks from radical Muslims.
Ethiopian Embassies:
USA:(202) 364-1200
Canada:(613) 235-6637
UK:(020) 7838 3897

As in the days of Noah....

ICC Releases Annual Hall of Shame Report:The World’s Ten Worst Persecutors of Christians

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has just released our annual Hall of Shame report on our website. The Hall of Shame is our list of the world's 10 worst persecutors of Christians based on news reports from the previous year. We publish this annual report to bring attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the globe.While ICC believes in religious freedom for all religions, our mission is especially to help Christians. There are more than 200 million Christians worldwide who live in countries where there is overt social or governmental anti-Christian hostility. This hostility is expressed in various forms, from harassment, job discrimination, and imprisonment, to rape, torture, and assassination.Even though Christians are one of the largest religious groups persecuted for their faith, their plight is almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media. It is troubling that a human rights issue of this magnitude is so often ignored.In the period covered by this report (December 2006 - December 31, 2007), Christians continued to experience severe persecution for their faith on an alarming scale. Several trends of note were:
1. A crackdown on house churches in China in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics,
2. A continuing campaign by radical Muslims to exterminate Christians from Iraq, and
3. An escalation of radical Hindu attacks against Christians in India, which culminated at the very end of 2007 with a series of mob attacks on Christians villages in the state of Orissa.
The countries on the list are: North Korea, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan, Eritrea, Egypt, India, Laos, and Indonesia.Jeremy Sewall, Policy Analyst for ICC, said, “It is our hope that this Hall of Shame report will help motivate persecuting countries and leaders to take concrete action to uphold religious freedom for all their citizens. In the meantime, we hope that this report will be a useful tool for policymakers and fellow advocates to put even greater pressure on those countries that continue to flagrantly violate the most fundamental human right of religious liberty.”
Please click here to view the report.
As in the days of Noah...

Communist Rulers Target Christian Schools in Kerala, India:State body seeks to ban worship, religious inscriptions in private educational institutions

NEW DELHI(Compass Direct News)-Communists and Christians can be best of pals in defending against the onslaughts of Hindu nationalism, but their differences over Christian educational institutions surge to the fore where the leftists rule-as has just happened in Kerala state.A government body in the southern state of Kerala has recommended banning of religious worship and use of religious inscriptions on the walls in private schools that receive assistance from the state, a move that is believed to be targeted at Christian institutions, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper on February 11.The newspaper reported that recommendations of the Kerala Education Rules Reforms Committee (KERRC) are being seen as a move to curtail the religious freedom enjoyed by minority communities, mainly Christians, under the constitution. Article 30 of the Indian Constitution grants the right to religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.Schools run by Christian groups in Kerala hold regular prayers, including Catholic mass, and walls abound with quotations from the Bible. School buildings and premises are often used for religious conventions.The KERRC has also recommended that classes with religious instruction be given only to students who have permission from their parents to participate. It also has suggested that religious teaching be substituted with moral science classes to teach students the values of honesty and non-violence.The committee has further proposed that private schools appoint teachers only from a list prepared by a free agency with statutory powers. This move, Christians fear, might lead to the discrimination of teachers from religious minorities.Christians form close to 20 percent (6.05 million) of Kerala’s population of 31.8 million, with a segment within the state’s Christian community regularly voting for communist parties.But since 2006, church leaders in Kerala have issued 10 pastoral letters against the Communists, which are read out in churches, in an apparent attempt to discourage church members from supporting them.The Asia News agency on February 11 reported that Paul Thelakat, spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod and editor-in-chief of Satyadeepam (Light of Truth), said that the recommendations are an attempt “to bring political control” and the “party’s agenda into the school system.”“We stand for the right of private schools to hire their own teachers as a guarantee of their autonomy,” Thelakat told Asia News. “Any eventual restriction on this freedom is a violation, especially for religious minorities. We Christians want our teachers in our schools because it is the only way to preserve and protect the Christian culture and faith."Kerala’s education minister, M.A. Baby, denied the charge, telling The Tehelka weekly, “The government wanted to bring in more transparency by making these schools answerable to local self-governments. Such an action would not curtail any right of the minorities.”Christian leaders in Kerala complain that since the Left Democratic Front state government led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) came to power in 2006, it has been trying to gain control over their educational institutions to promote atheism in the name of reforms.Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) – himself hailing from Kerala state – told Compass that Communists have been targeting Christian institutions since they first came to power there in 1957. Most recently, in October 2006 the state government enacted the Kerala Professional Colleges or Institutions Act to regulate private, self-financing, professional educational institutions run by minorities.
Common Enemy
Such conflicts come in contrast to the common ground that Christians and communists in India share: not only a united defense against the ideological enemy of Hindu nationalism (Hindutva), but concern for the poor.While defending themselves against Hindutva forces brings Christians and communists together at the national level, said Dr. John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, he noted that “both Christians and communists serve the poor and the marginalized.”The Left front parties, which lend external support to the ruling federal coalition, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), are believed to be behind the nomination of India’s president, Pratibha Patil, who is known for her stand against “anti-conversion” laws brought in by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Hindu extremists commonly cite such laws to harass Christians with false charges of “fraudulent conversion.”Patil, former governor of Rajasthan state, rejected an anti-conversion bill passed by that state’s legislature, ruled by the BJP. She first returned the bill in April 2006, saying it was unconstitutional, and when the BJP resent the bill to her later in May 2006, she sat on it until she referred it to the president on June 20, 2007. The next day, she resigned as governor to run for president.Communist parties decided to support the Congress Party-led UPA because of its secular image and opposition to the Hindu extremist BJP. Secularism in India means equal treatment of all religious communities and affirmative action for their weaker segments, as opposed to detachment of religion from the state, as in the West.The four main parties of India’s Left front are CPI-M, Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and All India Forward Bloc, which together have 59 members in Parliament.Communists in 2005 also introduced an education policy regulating religion in West Bengal, another state ruled by a Left front.Then-state education minister Kanti Biswas made it mandatory for missionary schools affiliated with the primary and secondary boards of education to follow government rules in appointing Christian heads if they wished to continue receiving state funds, reported The Telegraph on October 4, 2005.West Bengal has 515,150 Christians out of the total population of 80.1 million, according to the 2001 Census of the Government of India.Communists also rule the northeastern state of Tripura, but no steps to regulate minority-run institutions has been taken. Legislative elections in Tripura are underway with the Congress Party as the main opposition. Results are expected on Friday (March 7).There are 102,489 Christians out of the total population of 3.1 million in Tripura, according to the 2001 Census of the Government of India.

As in the days of Noah...

Christians Forced to 'Reconvert' in Himachal Pradesh, Despite New Anti-Conversion Law

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has has received reports of Christians being forced to convert back to Hinduism from the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, where an "anti-conversion" law was recently passed that prohibits forcible conversion. Nevertheless, the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came into power two months ago, does not appear to see any problem with forcible "reconversions" of Christians to Hinduism.At least 60 Christian families were reportedly "reconverted" by organizations linked to the BJP in the last week alone, which, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), is the tip of the iceberg.The EFI said in a statement that one Pastor Ram Lal and his wife were reconverted in a ceremony organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) on February 27 in the Rampur area of Shimla district.The extremists first tried to induce Pastor Lal by offering Rs.15,000 ($400) a year in exchange for preaching Hinduism, instead of Christianity. But after he refused to do so, they threatened to kill him or put him behind bars by lodging a false complaint. Under duress, he finally underwent a ritual to convert to Hinduism."It is better for me to die than to leave Jesus. But I was under so much pressure," the release quoted Pastor Lal as saying to the Christian Legal Association (CLA).Pastor Lal’s “reconversion” came just days after over 60 families were "reconverted" to Hinduism at a ceremony in the Satyanarayan Temple in Rampur, and one day before RSS and VHP extremists approached other Christians, asking them to install idols of Hindu gods in their homes. But, these families did not heed their demands, and as a result the extremists "reconverted" them forcibly, said the release.The atmosphere in Rampur area was "very tense" at press time.
From Deception to Force
Extremist groups started a reconversion drive in Himachal Pradesh about a year ago. However, what began as a deceptive movement last February under rule of the Congress party has now turned overtly forceful with the BJP's coming to power late last December.In March 2007, a fact-finding team of the All India Christian Council (AICC) recorded testimonies of Dalit families who said they were made to sign papers not knowing that the papers were documents requesting “reconversion” to Hinduism in Sirmaur district on March 21, 2007, according to a report in Hindi language daily Punjab Kesari.Prior to the reconversion drive, the extremists launched a virulent anti-Christian campaign to suggest that missionaries were alluring poor Hindus to Christianity. In 2005, the local edition of a Hindi language daily, Dainik Jagran, carried a series of articles highlighting allegations made by extremists against Christians, as highlighted in ICC’s press release on May 15, 2007 (Deceitful Propaganda Led to Himachal Pradesh Anti-Conversion Law).
Law that Bans Forced Conversion Doesn't Prohibit Forced Reconversion?
Himachal Pradesh has a special law banning conversion by the use of "force, inducement or fraudulent means." But the law excludes "reconversions" implicitly by stating that a conversion by unfair means shall not be recognized as such. Extremist groups, who are linked to the governing party, assert that Christian organizations give financial benefits for conversions, and thus conversions to Christianity do not count as true conversions.The anti-conversion law was passed by the Congress party, which claims to respect religious freedom. However, in the face of the December 2007 elections which Congress was afraid of losing to the radical BJP, the party switched positions on the issue of conversion to try to win back votes. The BJP still defeated the Congress.Despite the hypocrisy of the "anti-conversion" laws, there are sections in the Indian Penal Code concerning hurting religious feelings and creating animosity among religious denominations that could be applied against the forced reconversions. However, the police, under pressure from the government, hesitate to file cases against extremist groups linked to the ruling party."Complaints are filed only against Christian preachers, and that without evidence of conversion by unfair means, but no action is taken against the Hindu extremists who openly force Christians to convert. What would you call it, if not hypocrisy?" asked Tehmina Arora, general secretary of the CLA.There are less than 8,000 Christians in Himachal Pradesh, according to the Government of India's figures.

As in the days of Noah...

ERITREA:The Release of Prisoners

On last February 7, 2008 it was reported that an unspecified number of Christians from the underground Eritrean Faith Missions Church, were imprisoned in the city of Agordat.However, 35 Christian men and women were reported to be released by Eritrean officials on February 16th.Eritrean officials then commenced to release Christian prisoners in Assab who had been in jail for six years!There are hopes that the Eritrean government will next release the remaining thousands of Christians who are in jail because of their faith.Praise God for this miraculous release of imprisoned Christians.
Pray that the Holy Spirit’s presence will fill Eritrea and the remaining Christians will be released soon.
Pray that upon being released, the Christian prisoners will offer forgiveness to their persecutors.
As in the days of Noah...

AZERBAIJAN:Pastor Imprisoned in bad health

In 1992, Saur Baleen became the first Christian convert from Islam in his rural village of Aliabad, Azerbaijan.Since that time, he has also become the first pastor in the Zapata region and started a small Baptist church on his property.However the government would not recognize his church and repeatly denied him registration.Pastor Balaev and ten of his church members lost their jobs because of their new faith, and the government has consistently blocked his efforts to start a small business. Open Doors report he was jailed on false charges in May 2007, tried, and sentenced to two years in prison for alleged “ violence against a state representative when carrying out official duties”. The court ignored the lack of any evidence showing that it was Pastor Balaev who caused the scratches and bruises on the Azerbaijan state representative.Since his detention, Pastor Balaev has had two heart attacks and is now experiencing kidney pain. His wife, children, and family are asking for our prayers during this extremely difficult time.
Pray that Pastor Balaev’s health will dramatically improve, that his sentence will be reversed, and for his swift release from prison.
Pray that Pastor Balaev’s family and church will stand strong and stay faithful through these difficult times.
Pray for all of the Muslim background believers in Azerbaijan as they experience extreme pressure from the police, and local Islamic authorities.
As in the days of Noah...

INDIA:Pastor Severely Beaten

For the last eight years, Pastor P. Vijay has been faithfully serving the Pedda Reddy Village, Nizamabad District, in Andhra Pradesh.On last February 17, Pastor Vijay was on his way to church on his bicycle when a local shop keeper intercepted him and commenced to strike him. Pastor Vijay immediately fell down upon impact, but once he recovered he sought out the shop keeper seeking to know why he would do such a thing. Pastor Vijay’s was then grabbed by the collar and severely beaten by the shop keeper and some of his Hindu activist friends. Police have so far refused to file any charges against the attackers.
Pray for the complete physical and mental healing of Pastor Vijay from this violent and completely unprovoked attack.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will blanket the state of Andhra Pradesh and protect the Indian Christians, and awaken the inner desire of Hindus to know Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Pray that Indian Christians will patiently persevere the repeated injustices being perpetuated against them, and will forgive their attackers.
As in the days of Noah...

VIETNAM:The Devoted Degar Christians

In October 2004, devoted Degar Montagnard Christians prayed fervently for Christian persecution to come to an end in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Instead, government forces broke up this prayer vigil and commenced to kill, injure and imprison many Degar Christians, according to a report by BosNewsLife. Forty one year old Kpa Kloh, was one the Degar Christians that was arrested on that fateful day. Since his arrest and imprisonment, Kpa Kloh has been repeatedly tortured, beaten, and given electrical shock treatments by Vietnamese security police. On February 10th, Kpa Kloh died as a result of this constant and brutal torture. He leaves behind his wife R’mah and six beautiful children.
Pray for Kpa Kloh’s wife and children as they mourn the death of this Christian martyr.
Pray that the Degar Montagnard Christians will find solace and peace in remembering that Christ suffered also.
Pray that the other Degar Christian prisoners understand that it was only Kpa Kloh’s physical, temporal body that died—not his spirit.
Pray that the Degar Montagnard Christians’ prayers will be answered and Christian persecution will soon come to an end all over Vietnam.

As in the days of Noah....

Victims of Anti-Christian Orissa Attacks Arrested, Blamed for Violence

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has learned that, in what seems like an attempt to cover up religious persecution and protect the perpetrators, the Orissa state police in India have arrested a Christian, claiming he is a "key accused for engineering" the violence against Christians in Kandhamal district during this past Christmas season.On February 24, the police arrested Iber Naik, from Kandhamal's Barakhama village, on charges of being the "kingpin" of the violence that began last Christmas Eve and lasted for around 10 days. This is despite the fact that the majority of the victims were Christians who were attacked by Hindu mobs.The violence, described by Christian leaders as India's worst-ever anti-Christian violence, resulted in the destruction of more than 700 houses and close to 100 churches, besides the killing of six Christians.As a result of the attacks, some Christians retaliated. One Hindu was reportedly killed and a few houses belonging to Hindus were burned down. Naik is being held responsible for taking part in the death of the Hindu person in an alleged mob killing.However, Global Council of India's Dr. Sajan George told ICC that it was a well-known fact that the slain Hindu died in an "inferno while indulging in arson and looting of Christian property. "Naik was arrested in a village in Bolangir district, near his hometown of Barakhama, reported the United News of India (UNI) agency on February 26. Naik denied having any role in the riot, added the agency.Tehmina Arora, general secretary of the Christian Legal Association (CLA), told ICC that the police had earlier arrested two associates of Naik, identified as Prakash Naik and Digal, after they went to the local police station to lodge a complaint of attacks on their houses and church. The police arrested them instead of registering their complaint."Christian leaders and attorneys from across various denominations, along with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, are providing legal assistance to the victims," Arora said. She added that numerous Christians in Kandhamal were facing false charges. The Orissa state government has been trying to shift people's attention away from the role of Hindutva fundamentalists ever since the violence started. The Orissa state government claimed that the violence was caused by Maoists and the trouble was not due to religious conversion, The Tribune newspaper reported on January 6. The government had earlier attributed the violence to "ethnic disturbances," according to a report in The Times of India daily on December 28.In contrast, the report of a fact-finding team of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), which visited Kandhamal from January 6 to 8, said that an anti-conversion campaign had created an "atmosphere of prejudice and suspicion against the Christian community and Christian priests and organizations.""The role of the Sangh Parivar (family of organizations linked to India's chief Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS) activists and the anti-conversion campaign in fomenting organized violence against the Christian community deserves close scrutiny. This is especially urgent in view of the official explanation to the effect that the recent incidents in Orissa are largely of an ethnic nature rather than motivated by an anti-minority intent," added the report.The Orissa government has set up a judicial commission, headed by a retired judge, Basudev Panigrahi, to probe the violence. The commission is expected to begin its investigation soon.Orissa has been hostile to Christians for many years. Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two underage children were burnt to death by a mob of Hindutva extremists in January 1999 in the state.
As in the days of Noah....

Pastor Killed, Wife in Seriously Injured in Attack - National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka

On past February 17, Pastor Neil Edirisinghe, of the House Church Foundation, was gunned down by two assailants outside his home in Ampara, Sri Lanka. According to a report by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), "Pastor Edirisinghe was engaged in the Lord's ministry in Ampara for many years. The attackers also shot his wife in the stomach. At last report, she was in the hospital in critical condition. Their two-year-old son who received a minor injury in the attack is also suffering from trauma." NCEASL added the motive for the attacks was believed to be in response to Pastor Edirisinghe's ministry. The Voice of the Martyrs is assisting the family during this difficult time. Pray for peace and comfort for Pastor Edirisinghe's family. Pray for a speedy recovery for his wife and child and for them to rely on the great Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 107:2
As in the days of Noah...

Muslim Politician Beats, Sics Dog on Christian Employee

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has learned that a local Muslim politician, Mr. Hamza Butt, kidnapped and savagely beat a Christian government employee, Yousaf Masih, on February 6, 2008, because of a story in the local newspaper alleging that he was treating Masih poorly. Masih, a 30-year old Christian from Ghoreshah Gala Kumharan, near Gujranwala, was absent from duty for three days due to the death of one of his uncles, according to a local source. However, a local newspaper reported that Masih had left his job because Butt was treating him unfairly due to his religion. This so angered Butt, Mayor of the Union Council #: 91/55, that he reportedly took Masih to his office and commanded his dog to attack his Christian employee after beating him with the help of his two office staff members, Mr. Kashif and Mr. Mushtaq. Masih was then admitted to the District Headquarter Hospital in Gujranwala in an unconscious condition. Shockingly, the medical staff at the hospital at first refused to give Masih first aid after receiving an anonymous telephone call. They only ended up agreeing to provide medical care on the condition that Masih would not ask for his medical reports. The victim's family attempted to file a case against the Mayor at the local police station, but the police refused their application. A few days after the incident, Masih's brother said,"We have forgiven the accused and shall not go for any legal proceedings."He refused further comment on the issue. Yousaf Masih was discharged from the hospital, but is still undergoing medical treatment. Masih is a father of four children.

As in the days of Noah...

BURMA:Myanmar,Where the Church Suffers in Silence

Burma (AsiaNews)Myanmar, where the Church suffers in silence:Testimony from a Christian in Burma shows the pain of the denial of religious freedom in restricting it to only Sunday service. Full Story.
As in the days of Noah...

CHINA:21 Major House Church Leaders Sent to Labor Camp in Shandong at the Same Time

China (ChinaAid) 21 Major House Church Leaders Sent to Labor Camp in Shandong at the Same Time:249 Christian leaders were detained on December 7, 2007, as they gathered together for leadership training. 21 of the most senior house church leaders were sentenced by the Linyi City Re-education through Labor Commission to labor camps from 1 year and 3 months to 3 years. Full Story.
As in the days of Noah....

CUBA:Castro's Resignation Impact on Christian Prisoners Unknown Yet

Cuba (BosNewsLife)Cuba's Castro Resigns; Impact on Christian Prisoners Unknown Yet-Cuba’s ailing Fidel Castro, one of the world's longest serving leaders, officially resigned Tuesday, February 19, but it was not immediately clear what impact that decision would have on political and religious prisoners, including Christians, held across the Communist island. Full Story.
As in the days of Noah....

PAKISTAN:A Christian Man Loses Eye Over Attempts To Rectify Muslims' Morals

Pakistan (BosNewsLife) A Christian man loses eye over attempts to 'rectify' Muslims' morals:The incident took place after the Christian residents of the village put up opposition to a couple of Muslim men who used to harass Christian girls on their way home from Church after Sunday services. Full Story.
As in the days of Noah....

GAZA:Gunman Attack YMCA Offices

Gaza (BosNewsLife) Gunman Attack YMCA Offices; Christians Concerned- Over 14 masked gunmen forced their way into offices and exploded a library of the Young Mens Christian Association (YMCA) in Gaza, which runs Christian youth hostels and social programs, Israeli media reported Friday, February 15. Full Story.
As in the days of Noah...

Christian Cleared of Blasphemy Charges Fired from Job, Facing Death Threats

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) http://www.persecution.org
has learned that Anwar Masih, 35, a Christian resident of Shahdara, a town next to Lahore, was fired from his job in November 2007 and continues to receive death threats from religious fanatics even though the Lahore High Court declared him innocent of blasphemy charges in December 2004. Masih reportedly asked his formerly Christian neighbor, Chaudhary Naseer, why he had grown a beard (a symbol of radical Islam) and converted to Islam in August 2003. They exchanged hard words, and some time later Naseer alleged that Masih made insulting remarks against Muhammad and other saints of Islam. As a result, police arrested Masih and took him to jail in November 2003. In an interview, Masih told ICC that he was charged under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code for making derogatory remarks against the prophet Muhammad on November 29, 2003. Section 295-B (Defiling, etc., of Holy Quran) was added to the Pakistan Penal Code in the 1980s by General Zia ul Haq, who was then the military dictator of Pakistan. The law assigns the penalty of life imprisonment for anyone convicted of blasphemy. The Lahore High Court acquitted Masih from the blasphemy charges on December 24, 2004. However, Masih still faces discrimination for his Christian faith and receives death threats for simply being charged with insulting the prophet Muhammad. His life is still in danger. Sadly, this is too often the case for anyone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, regardless of whether they are exonerated of such charges.Masih said that soon after his release from jail, he took shelter in Lahore with a Christian NGO and went underground due to the fear of being murdered by Muslim fanatics. Masih burst into tears when he told ICC that he was unlikely to be able to stay with his children for much longer. Masih said that he restarted his career as a technician in a local factory in August 2005. However, he was fired from that job in November 2007 when the factory administration found out about the charges he had faced. He said the factory administration was threatened with deadly consequences by unknown persons for employing a "blasphemer," who demanded that they fire him immediately. Anwar Masih still lives in hiding and moves from one village to another because he fears for his life. With tears in his eyes, he said, "I want peace of mind, to live with my family without any fear and educate my children, but religious extremists do not allow me...I do not have happiness in my life."Masih told ICC that he is ready to go anywhere and work at any job to earn something for his family. He is even willing to do sanitation work since he has been jobless for more than three months. Masih has four daughters in school and one son. His children also face discrimination and are at risk of being sent out of school because Masih cannot afford their tuition. Masih declared that blasphemy laws were unjust and demanded their repeal. According to data collected by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, 892 individuals were charged under the blasphemy laws from 1986 to December 2007.

As in the days of Noah....

Spurned Suitor Triggers Violence in Nigeria:Muslim man responds to young Christian woman’s refusal with ‘blasphemy’ accusation.

YANA, Nigeria-(Compass Direct News)A Muslim man’s frustrated desire to marry a young Christian woman resulted in him accusing her of “blasphemy,” triggering violence in this town in Bauchi state on February 2 that left one person dead, seven Christians hospitalized and destroyed five churches. The Rev. Garba Gaius, pastor of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) congregation to which the young woman belongs, told Compass that Paitence Yusuf was at home the night of February 1 when she learned that a young man was asking her to meet him outside.She went out to meet with him, and he told her he wanted to befriend and marry her. Surprised at what she was hearing, Rev. Gaius said, Yusuf sharply declined his offer. As she walked back into her house, the man, whose identity has not be disclosed, told her, “I beg you in the name of God and his apostle, Muhammad, to please accept me as your boyfriend,” Rev. Gaius said. He said Yusuf looked the man in the face and replied, “You are pleading in the name of a person I do not know. Jesus I know, but Muhammad I do not know.”The Muslim man left, Rev. Gaius said, gathering friends and neighbors that night to tell them that Yusuf had blasphemed Muhammad.“The following morning, the Muslim man took a group of other Muslims to the house of Yusuf, where they confronted her on the allegation of blasphemy against Muhammad,” Rev. Gaius said. Sensing that the Muslims intended to kill her, Yufus escaped to the town’s police station, he said, where she was kept in protective custody.“The band of Muslims went after Yusuf to the police station and demanded that she be released to them to be killed in accordance with sharia [Islamic law] for blasphemy,” Rev. Gaius said. “The police declined to release her, and there and then they attacked the police men on duty and burnt down the police station.”Police defending the station fired into the crowd, killing one man in his 20s. Shortly after, hundreds of Muslims took to the streets armed with guns, machetes, cudgels and clubs, attacking Christians and injuring many of them, Rev. Gaius said. Five churches – Rev. Gaius’ own ECWA church, a Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), an Apostolic Church, a Roman Catholic Church, and a Church of Christ in Nigeria – were destroyed, along with homes belonging to Christians, he said. The number of people displaced by the violence reportedly reached 1,000.Rev. Gaius said such problems have become common, with area Muslims using young Christian women as pretexts for attacking Christians. At the same time, he said, Muslim officials are increasingly making it difficult for area churches to obtain land.Yusuf, an orphan, is still in protective police custody, the pastor said. She had been living with foster parents in Yana, working with an adult education program.
Muslims Try to Stop Violence
Adamu Shehu, a staff member of the pathology department at Shira General Hospital and a resident of Angwan Turankayi in Yana town, told Compass that he witnessed the burning down of two churches by his fellow Muslims.“I saw that ECWA Church was set on fire, and they were also trying to set the pastor’s house on fire,” Shehu told Compass. “I and Sarkin Dungu, and also other Muslims in the Angwa, tried to put out the fire, but they attacked us, and I was stoned in the process. Then Sarkin Dungu insisted that our fellow Muslims should not burn the church, but they said, are we not Muslims? Why are we stopping them from burning the church?” Shehu said he too learned that the rioting was triggered by an encounter between a Muslim and a young Christian woman. “I learned it was a misunderstanding between a young Muslim and a Christian girl that sparked off the riots,” he said.Shehu said he saw Christians brought to the hospital for treatment. “Seven Christians were injured,” he said. “Those brought to the hospital at Shira were one man and six women.”[[[[[[[[[[[Shehu said it was wrong for fellow Muslims to have attacked Christians for no just cause. “We are all creation of God, and if we are created by God, it therefore means that Muslims must be prepared to live in peace with people of other faiths, including Christians,” he said. “We did not create anybody, and we cannot therefore say we cannot live in peace with others.”Shehu identified three catalysts to recent Muslim attacks on Christians in northern Nigeria: undisciplined Muslim youths, politicizing of religion and drunkenness and drug abuse by many Muslims.“Lack of parental training has led to what we now see,” he said. “How can someone’s child attack others without provocation? Muslim parents must learn how to inculcate godly discipline in their children.”Local politicians have brought about some of the problems as they have used Muslim youths to perpetuate some atrocities, he said. “These youths are the thugs being used to cause religious conflicts in Nigeria. Politics is indeed poisonous to our existence.” Drug abuse and drunkenness among Muslim youths has made it easier for authorities to get young people to do their bidding, he added. “A lot of our youths are engaged in drunkenness and taking of hard drugs,” he said. “Taking of drugs by Muslim youths has contributed to such atrocities. The surprising thing is that some of our Muslim leaders give support to such acts of indiscipline.” Shehu added that the Feb. 2 incident has caused local leaders to reflect on religious tensions, and that they have met at least three times on how they can be resolved. “The government and our leaders must encourage dialogue and tolerance among all peoples irrespective of religious persuasions,” he said.“We Muslims must also endeavour to instill discipline in our youth and encourage peaceful co-existence. ”]]]]]]]]]]]Police have said they are working to bring those involved in the incident to courts to face justice.
PS:Thank God there are still many,many muslims like Adamu and Sarkin that tried to stop the violence on an innocent man....Let's pray for protection for them and their families and that the light of the Truth will shine in their hearts soon....
As in the days of Noah...

One Dead, Two Injured in Attack on Christians in Nigeria:Muslim youths use machetes on students, set aflame police station, over ‘blasphemy’ claim.

SUMAILA, Nigeria-(Compass Direct News)A policeman was killed and two Christian teenagers were injured in this town in Kano state on Friday (February 8) when Muslim high school students went on a rampage over claims that a Christian student had written a “blasphemous” article on the prophet of Islam, Muhammad.Killed at the local police station after the attack on students at Government Secondary School-Sumaila, was Inspector Jibrin Garba, also a Christian. One of the injured minors who suffered knife and machete wounds, Ahmadu Inuwa, said the accused Christian student, Ashiru Danlami, could not possibly have written the alleged English-language article as he could hardly speak in English, much less write in the language. Inuwa said school authorities had established this fact.The Rev. Samaila Kogo of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), from Sumaila, told Compass his investigations showed that Muslim students wrote and published the blasphemous article as a pretext for attacking Christian students. This strategy, he said, is used in schools across northern Nigeria to force Christian students out of schools.“The school authority investigated the claims of Muslim students and found that Danlami was actually not guilty of the accusations leveled against him, but because of the desire of the school authority to maintain peace they sent Danlami away from the school just to please the Muslim students,” Kogo told Compass.Rev. Kogo said that Danlami had been suspended from school in an attempt to defuse the planned attack of Christian students, but it was not aborted. Rather, he said, the plan received the backing of area Muslims.“In spite of the suspension of Danlami from school, the plan to attack Christian students there went on, and this forced all these Christian students to flee from the school,” Rev. Kogo said. “It was at this point that the school authority and the police met and decided that the Christian students be called back to school with an assurance that nothing would happen to them.”Nevertheless, only two of the 57 Christian students who had fled threats dared to return to the school, he said. Inuwa and Isiaku Dogo – final-year students with only a few months to graduate – felt they needed to be in class to prepare for finals. Muslim students assaulted them with knives and machetes. Having injured the two Christian students, Christian sources said, the Muslim students went directly to the town’s police station, where they killed the Christian police officer and burned down the police station.Inuwa was receiving treatment in Kano city, while Dogo was being treated in his home village of Gani town.The incident was the second instance of Muslim violence in the area in less than three months. During local council elections in the state last November, Muslims attacked Christians in Gani town in the Sumaila Local Government Council area, killing one person because a Christian candidate contested councillorship elections for the first time.
Victim Admonished
The Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, Kano state secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Compass that the police divisional officer (DPO) of Sumaila had told CAN that the police had advised the school to suspend Danlami as a pre-emptive measure knowing that he had not written the “blasphemous” article.“The DPO told us that he advised that the Christian student be suspended from the school for security reasons, but not that the student actually committed the crime of blasphemy,” Rev. Dangora said. “The DPO said this was to curtail the desire to use it as an excuse to attack other Christian students.”School authorities had established that Muslim students were responsible for writing the article so that they could justify attacking Christian students, he said. Consequently, Principal Alhaji Shehu Umar on Thursday (February 7) addressed Muslim students, urging them to learn to live in peace with Christian students. This was not taken kindly by the Muslim students, Rev. Dangora said, as they suspected Umar was trying to douse their plan to attack Christian students.Pressure to indefinitely suspend Danlami, according to his classmate Inuwa, initially came from school and town Muslims to punish the student even after school authorities had established his innocence.The letter suspending Danlami from school, addressed to his parents, does not indicate the real motive of defusing tensions with Muslims. “This is to write and refer to the above subject matter in respect of your ward Ashiru Danlami for indefinite suspension for violating the school rules and regulations after serving him with series of warnings,” states the letter obtained by Compass. “He is to be accompanied by his parents/ guardian for further discussions on the date stated above unfailingly.”The letter does not state what date Danlami’s parents are to accompany him to the school for discussions. It is signed by the school’s vice principal on behalf of a disciplinary committee.
Strategy to Deprive Education
Rev. Dangora concurred with Rev. Kogo that it is no longer a secret that charging students with “blasphemy” of Muhammad has become a common ploy by Muslim students and their Islamist backers in northern Nigeria in order to shut out Christians from public schools. He cited attacks on Christian students in various schools in the state.“This same story was used in Government Secondary School-Gwarzo, where Christian students were attacked and forced out of school in October last year,” Rev. Dangora said. “It was also used at the Government Secondary School-Kura, three years back, and also in Government College-Tudun Wada Dankadai last year, and now the same story is being peddled in Government Secondary School-Sumaila.”He said there are no more Christian students in these schools. “There is no doubt that this is a strategy being used by the Kano State government to keep children of Christians away from public school,” Rev. Dangora added.Rev. Dangora said the ploy to keep Christian students out of schools would hurt Christians in the state as many of them are poor and cannot afford to educate their children in private educational institutions. He called on the Nigerian government to save Christian students from becoming endangered and being denied education that is important to their well-being.
As in the days of Noah...

Prospects for Peace Increase in Poso,Indonesia:Report cites grounds for “cautious optimism” in Christian-Muslim relations

DUBLIN-Early on the morning of October 29, 2005, extremists waylaid four teenage girls in Poso, Indonesia. They beheaded Theresia Morangke, Alfita Poliwo and Yarni Sambue, while Noviana Malewa, the only survivor, sustained serious injuries and still bears the scar of a deep machete wound to her face and neck.The incident was one of the most shocking in a long series of brutal attacks by Muslim extremists against Christians from 2002 to 2005 in the province of Central Sulawesi.Extremists claimed the attacks were carried out in retaliation for bloody massacres against Muslim communities during violent conflict in the region from 1998 to 2002.The beheadings sparked outrage throughout Indonesia and led to a police manhunt resulting in the arrest of several of the main perpetrators. Some of these men – including Slamet Rajarjo, alias Hasanuddin – gave testimony that led to more arrests and the disbanding of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist cells operating in the districts of Palu, Poso and Poso Pesisir.Following the arrests there are grounds for “cautious optimism,” according to a January report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), as Christian and Muslim communities, aided by government initiatives, work towards reconciliation. The Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, a key peace activist during the conflict, said progress has been made but there is still much work to be done in breaking down barriers of hatred and mistrust between the two communities.“It’s true that the situation has improved, in the sense that we’ve had no murders or mysterious shootings in the past year,” Damanik told Compass. “But I’m more concerned about the new community policing system. There is now a police post in every village, with seven to eight police officers. If we only have security when they are present, it’s not genuine security. A sense of security must come from within the community.”According to Damanik, Christians and Muslims are once again visiting each other, taking part in society events or wedding celebrations, although the change is slow and gradual. “I’ve been surprised to find that some Christian children, even those born after the conflict ended, associate ‘bad people’ with ‘Muslims,’” he said. “Mostly though, Christians have gotten wiser; they can tell who is a terrorist and who is not. After all, not all Muslims are extremists.”
‘Cautious Optimism’
The ICG report warned of ongoing JI activity in Poso, fed by simmering resentments against police, high unemployment and a lack of vocational training for young Muslims, who were identified as potential recruits.ICG recommended setting in place a number of vocational training programs and livelihood initiatives to provide skills and employment for men and women who might otherwise be drawn to terrorism.ICG described “grounds for cautious optimism” due to increased reconciliation efforts, including the establishment of several vocational training programs in Poso. At first the programs were only available to Muslim “potentials.” But as initiatives got underway, Syarifudin Odjobolo, the director of a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), insisted that the same training be offered to Christians.When Christians proposed a number of livelihood projects, Odjobolo steered one group away from a pig-raising project – offensive to Muslims – and suggested fish farming instead. This project dovetailed perfectly with a Muslim fish-trading initiative proposed by former Poso terrorist Andi Bocor, who turned himself in to police in November 2006.The government also made individual cash grants of 10 million rupiah (US$1,084) available to 125 Muslims who had served time in prison for violence during the conflict. In November 2007 Christian ex-prisoners demanded equal treatment, and in January 85 Christians were given 2.25 million rupiah (US$244) each, the ICG noted.The central government also provided 17 billion rupiah (approximately US$1.8 million) to build a Muslim university in Poso Pesisir, near the site of prominent Muslim leader Haji Adnan Arsal’s al-Amanah boys’ school, due to open in April.Authorities initially approached Arsal and asked him to shut down his own schools and join the university board. Following loud protests from moderate Muslims, however, this idea was dropped. Arsal responded by merging the boys’ and girls’ schools into a single legal entity, the Pesantren Amanatul Ummah, which currently caters to about 60 students.The central government also provided unspecified funding for the extension of a Protestant theological school in Tentena. The new Christian University of Tentena is still under construction, and only 20 percent of the necessary staff had been recruited.
Long Road to Peace
ICG described Poso as being “quieter and safer” since the January 2007 raids. Police have since identified the perpetrators of all sectarian crimes committed since a 2001 Malino peace accord was signed. Most have been arrested, tried and convicted. ICG believes JI’s Poso subdivision has disbanded, at least temporarily. Damanik thinks otherwise. “I’m not convinced,” he told Compass. “It’s true that, as an organization, they are weaker. But their spirit lingers, and this spirit can easily emerge again. For example, last month a JI prisoner died in Palu prison. When his body arrived in Poso, hundreds of Muslims walked down the road escorting the coffin.”Asked how remaining grievances could be addressed, Damanik said memories of the conflict would always be there. “They are part of history, impossible for us to forget,” he said. “People in Poso rarely talk about their grievances in public. But when I talk to people in private, I can still see sadness in them, even glimpses of resentment. We need to look to the future.”The Poso conflict was unique, Damanik added. “Unlike Ambon, Papua or even Aceh, only a few alleged perpetrators on one side of the conflict have been sentenced to death – that is, [Catholics Fabianus] Tibo, [Dominggus] da Silva and [Marinus] Riwu. If this is not addressed, it’s a time bomb that could explode at any time.”Regarding the Muslim terrorist trials, Damanik said justice was not served at all. “They received a maximum of 20 years in jail. This is a sharp contrast with the Tibo case,” he said. “Even I struggle with this. I resigned from my position as head of the Central Sulawesi Protestant Church after the executions. We can only learn not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. The government has sponsored a Muslim university and a Christian university in Muslim and Christian districts. Why label everything under a certain religion? Aren’t we asking for trouble?”The Poso conflict was not originally sectarian, Damanik explained, but because of the religious affiliations of those involved it eventually came to be seen as a religious conflict. As for the way ahead, “We need to emphasize people’s freedom to choose and follow their own religion,” he concluded. “If we could all respect one another’s freedom of religion, for example being sensitive when delivering speeches or sermons, it would defuse many conflicts.”
Claims of One-Sided Justice
In 2001, police sentenced Tibo, da Silva and Riwu for inciting Christian militias to murder Muslims in Poso – including those at the Walisongo school – in May and June 2000. Protests from local Christians and international human rights organizations delayed the executions for several years. Christians asked why none of the few Muslim perpetrators arrested and sentenced for their part in the violence were awarded the death sentence, while Muslims demanded that police identify and punish 16 other men allegedly involved in the massacres.Authorities finally executed Tibo, da Silva and Riwu on September 22, 2006, sparking riots in the streets. Christian villagers seized and murdered two Muslim fish traders, and on September 30 a bomb exploded outside Kawua church in Poso. Six more bombings followed during Ramadan.On October 16, extremists shot and killed the Rev. Irianto Kongkoli, head of the Central Sulawesi Protestant Church, who had campaigned for a stay of execution for Tibo, da Silva and Riwu.Later investigations revealed that Kongkoli was the initial target of a shooting at Effatah Church in Palu in July 2004. In that incident, the Rev. Susianty Tinulele, invited to replace Kongkoli as speaker at the last minute, was killed instantly. Several teenagers in the church were also injured.
Crackdown on Terror
To prevent further uproar, the Indonesian government sent in troops and police reinforcements and began an intensive manhunt that resulted in the May 2005 arrests of several of the main perpetrators, including Hasanuddin, Lilik Purnomo (alias Arman or Haris) and Irwanto Irano. Purnomo (Haris) immediately confessed his involvement in several key attacks against Christians, including the schoolgirl beheadings, the shooting of Tinulele, and the shooting of Ferry Silalahi, an attorney who defended Damanik when he was charged with alleged illegal weapons possession. (See Compass Direct News, “Rinaldy Damanik to be released in November,” September 29, 2004.)As interrogations continued, it became evident that Tanah Runtuh was the hub of operations for many attacks against Christians. Police soon formed a wanted list of 29 men, most of whom were JI members.Police tried for several fruitless months to convince men on the wanted list to surrender, offering generous incentives such as reduced sentences. When that failed they carried out two violent raids on Tanah Runtuh on January 11 and 22, 2007. The raids resulted in 13 deaths, enraging the Muslim community, who responded by killing a policeman. More than 20 men were arrested on January 22 – but only two were on the wanted list. Others escaped into the jungles of Sulawesi. Police however seized an extensive weapons arsenal from homes in Tanah Runtuh, ICG reported in late January 2007.
Disputes Exploited by TerroristsCentral Sulawesi burst into figurative flame in 1998 following land disputes between Christian and Muslim communities. An influx of Muslims escaping conflict in the neighboring Maluku islands, or arriving from Java to join the conflict, meant Central Sulawesi became a fertile recruiting ground for radical groups such as JI and Mujahidin KOMPAK, renamed Mujahidin Kayamanya in 2004.One of the bloodiest incidents in the Central Sulawesi conflict occurred in 2000, when Christians attacked the Walisongo Muslim boarding school in Poso, killing 70 people – both school children and adults. Arsal, the prominent Muslim leader, established two schools to cater to the surviving students – the Ulil Albab school for girls in a housing estate named Tanah Runtuh, southwest of Poso city, and the al-Amanah school for boys about nine kilometers away in the town of Landangan.After the massacre, JI approached Arsal and offered to work with him. In June 2000, JI began sending experienced trainers – including Afghanistan veterans – to train Poso fighters in a jungle camp.After the Malino peace accords were signed in December 2001, with Arsal and Damanik both acting as signatories, JI took 10 trainees and formed a special operations unit to continue their work in Poso, according to ICG.The directors of JI saw Central Sulawesi as a potential source of funding and recruits, especially since key issues from the earlier conflict remained unresolved.As police investigations later showed, JI members taught students in both of Arsal’s schools, while Tanah Runtuh became a storage depot and center of operations for the JI division based in Poso.JI members befriended disaffected youth in local mosques, inviting them to study classes and eventually offering military training to the most promising students. Some of these students were sent to train alongside similar organizations in the Southern Philippines before returning to join JI wakalahs or subdivisions in Poso and Palu.The Poso subdivision, under the direction of Hasanuddin, was responsible for selecting the four schoolgirls of Poso as a “gift” to celebrate Idul Fitri – a day of dedication to Allah at the end of Ramadan, the annual Muslim month of prayer and fasting, generally held in October.

As in the days of Noah....

Saturday, April 19, 2008

District bans 'John 3:16,' promotes demonic leer:Court filing seeks elimination of penalties for Christian art

A court in Wisconsin has been asked to suspend immediately a policy in the Tomah Area School District that bans Christian symbols in students' artwork, but allows Hindu, Buddhist and satanic representations.The motion was filed yesterday by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has taken on the case of a student identified by the initials A.P.The ADF launched a lawsuit on the student's behalf after a teacher refused to give him a grade on a project because his work included "John 3:16" as well as "As a sign of love".The school district, however, openly acknowledged and publicized various pieces of art representing Buddhism, and Hinduism as well as several demon faces that appeared satanic.The school defended its actions:"Respect for the beliefs of a diverse student population … requires that the district treat all students equitable and fairly regardless of their faith," it said in a website statement."To meet our responsibilities, students are required to follow the rules of conduct for their classrooms and the instructions that their teachers give them for class assignments. While the district respects all students' religious freedoms, those freedoms are not a license for students to force the school to display religious messages of their choosing…"The ADF said the teacher's grading policy banned depictions of "blood, violence, sexual connotations, [or] religious beliefs."But in practice it was a discriminatory policy, the ADF said in a court motion seeking an immediate injunction against the school."Allowing demonic depictions by some students while prohibiting Christian religious expression in artwork by others is a blatant violation of the Constitution," said David Cortman, senior ADF legal counsel.The lawsuit was filed late last month after the student's artwork was rejected, then he was told he had signed away his First Amendment rights at the beginning of the semester in order to participate in the class.The ADF's motion noted: "While penalizing A.P.'s religious express, defendants prominently displayed in the school's hallway a large painting of a six-limbed Hindu woman riding a swan figure...Elsewhere, on a hallway bulletin board, there hangs a drawing of a robed sorcerer."The law firm said the district displays artwork reflecting Hindu, Buddhist and satanic themes all over."It is displayed in classrooms (including the very classroom where district officials met to reiterate to A.P. that his Christian religious expression warranted no constitutional protection)," the law firm said.The lawsuit names as defendants the school district, administrator Robert Fasbender, assistant principal Cale Jackson, and faculty members Julie Millin and Margi Genrich."The fact that the student was not only refused a grade on the project, but given two detentions creates "a draconian atmosphere...that evinces a manifest hostility toward Christianity," ADF said.No such "waiver" of the student's First Amendment rights is applicable, either, the firm said."A waiver for First Amendment rights will be found only on the basis of clear and compelling evidence that the party understood his rights and intentionally relinquished or abandoned them," the law firm argued."At the time he signed the policy, A.P. had no idea that it would be so restriction of religious expression in the class...And the facts show that at the time that A.P. signed the policy, he did not think that including something like a small cross, or a simple scripture verse reference, would be subject to censorship…"Further, the student is a minor and was denied the opportunity "to seek advice from counsel" before being required to sign, ADF said."An incredible fact in this case is that in the very same room in which defendants Jackson, Millin, and Genrich conducted their parent-teacher conference with A.P. and his family-and reiterated their policies banning student religious express in class assignments-defendants displayed student drawings of the Greek goddess Medusa; a demonic figure with horns, scales, and protruding tongue; several demonic masks; and a drawing of the Grim Reaper, holding a scythe," ADF said.The injunction is needed immediately because of the passing of time and loss of grades for the student, the law firm said."Here, the school permits some religious expression in its classrooms and hallways, so long as it is not Christian religious expression," the ADF said.
As in the days of Noah...

Street preacher claims police harassment:'I got the distinct impression they wanted me to move'

A man who wants to spread the word about Jesus in his town of Alma, Ark., says he was intimidated by officials from the local school district as well as police officers when they approached him on a public sidewalk and told him to find another place to preach.Daniel Guyeski, who told WND he feels called to preach to his community, said a vice principal from Alma High School first warned him against speaking on the sidewalk, then two police officers approached him and made a suggestion."I got the distinct impression they wanted me to move," he told WND. He said he felt intimidated and left, instead of continuing his gospel message.Police officials confirmed to WND they contacted Guyeski, but that he was on a public sidewalk and was doing nothing wrong.Police Chief Russell White did, however, tell WND that there were "issues" with Guyeski and his office had been contacted by a nearby police department in Fort Smith about the preacher.Guyeski said when police confronted him they also accused him of having issues with a girlfriend in Fort Smith, but he explained that that issue must concern someone else because he is married and lives in Alma.Guyeski told WND he was preaching on the public sidewalk across the street of Alma High School when an assistant principal approached him and told him to move down the road, to a location near a fire station, and he complied.Then, however, he told WND that officers from Alma's police department approached him, demanded his identification and then after the vice principal approached the group, told him, "You need to find a better time and place to preach.""I was just doing some open-air evangelism," he said.He said the vice principal warned him, "If I let you come and do that, I have to let everybody come and do that.""They didn't want me out there. They were trying to make a claim I was standing on school ground while I was on the sidewalk in front of the fire station parking lot," he said. Principal Jerry Valentine told WND that the school assumes it owns the property up to the street, including the sidewalk."He was on school property," Valentine told WND. "My assumption was that it was school property. I'll check with my superiors. I may be wrong."He said Guyeski was told to get off of the sidewalk which the school believes it owns, and move onto city property.Chief White said Guyeski was on a public sidewalk, but officers approached him because he was "waving his arms.""We asked him to not impede with traffic," he said, and school officials said they, "did not want him on campus."But White also suggested there were other issues, noting that "those same officers had contact with him that night." Guyeski explained the officers approached him at a library and asked him for his home address.And White said his office "had had a call from another agency," and identified that as Forth Smith police. Guyeski said after officers questioned him about the Fort Smith issues, he called that police department and was told there was nothing going on.Guyeski said he was in consultations about legal representation over the situation.WND reported earlier when two members of The Gideons International were arrested while handing out Bibles on a public sidewalk near a Florida school over complaints from the school. The charges eventually were dropped.

As in the days of Noah...

China escalates Bible crackdown:Bookstore owner re-arrested after being cleared of original counts

The Chinese owner of a bookstore near the 2008 Olympics complex in Beijing has been re-arrested and detained, only about a dozen weeks after he was cleared of allegations of illegally publishing Bibles and Christian literature due to "insufficient evidence," according to a new report from Compass Direct.As WND reported earlier, Shi Weihan was released in January after being taken into custody shortly after Thanksgiving 2007 during police raids on his home and office.China Aid Association then reported the fact he was released, along with several others, although the government offered no explanation for his case.An American friend, businessman Ray Sharpe, had told WND at the time of the earlier arrest that Shi is a businessman who also works as a travel agent, and had gotten governmental permission to publish some Christian book titles.Compass Direct now is reporting that the 37-year-old father of two was re-arrested on March 19 and is being held without any communication with his family, according to reports from his wife, Zhang Jing.Compass said she had gotten no word on her husband's condition and is prohibited from bringing him food or clothing. Since he has diabetes, she is "very concerned" about his health, Compass reported.Compass cited an Asia Times Online report that said Shi and his Holy Spirit Trading Co. were accused, again, of printing Bibles and Christian literature without government permission."Believers across China report a shortage of Bibles and other Christian resources. The China Christian Council (CCC) claims that Amity Press, the only legal publisher of Bibles in China, is producing enough Bibles to meet the demand. The Council, however, puts the total number of Protestant believers in China at only 16 million – including only the members of government-approved churches – whereas a survey carried out by the East China Normal University in 2005 and 2006, published in February 2007, stated that China had 40 million Protestants," the Compass report said.Some estimates on the total number of Christians in China rise as high as 130 million. The fact is, Compass said, "In some areas, house church members still take turns reading the only available copy of Scripture."
The report said Shi's arrest "appears to be part of a crackdown on religious groups that the government fears could raise dissident voices during" the coming Olympics. WND reported earlier on a "blacklist" of people and groups of people China has been targeting specifically because of the coming publicity that will accompany the Olympic Games in August. Those targeted include religious leaders. WND also documented a report that China would ban Bibles from its Olympic village for athletes. Chinese officials denounced that report, but have maintained on the Olympics website a demand that visitors to the Games bring no more than a single Bible with them.The case involving Shi has gotten considerable attention at least partly because he is the father of a U.S. citizen.Sharpe told WND questions were directed to both the Chinese government and the U.S. embassy because the man's daughter, Grace Shi, 7, is a U.S. citizen,and was forced last fall into hiding with her Chinese mother and 11-year-old sister. Sharpe, who said he was able to confirm information about the family because he lived for a number of years in China, told WND Shi is a life-long resident of Beijing, but was arrested then "in his Christian literature bookstore in a high-class business tower near the Olympics Village."
He said Shi's younger brother and Shi's wife, Jing Zhang, also were taken into custody but were released after questioning.The daughter, Grace, is an American citizen because she was born during the family's visit to the U.S. in 2000. She and her older sister, "Lily," were distraught because they witnessed the raid on their home, Sharpe said.WND previously has reported on China's apparent crackdown on Christians and Christianity in advance of the 2008 Games, including the expulsion of more than 100 foreign Christians in China in just a 90-day period, the biggest assault on the presence of Christianity in China since 1954.

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