Thursday, February 26, 2009

Press Conference Today in Washington, D.C. Regarding Human Rights in China

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Bob Fu, President and Founder of ChinaAid, former Chinese political prisoners Wei Jingsheng, Harry Wu, and Rebiya Kadeer; Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China, as well as other Chinese human rights activists, will join Congressman Christopher Smith (NJ-4th), GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (IN-6th), Congressmen Frank Wolf (VA-10th) and Joe Pitts (PA-16th) leading human rights advocates in Congress, at a press conference Thursday regarding U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s controversial remarks over the past week indicating a retreat on the priority of human rights issues in U.S.-China relations.Traveling in China last weekend, Clinton met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders, while failing to meet with dissidents during her stay.She has been criticized by human rights groups for publically announcing that U.S. concerns about human rights abuses in China must not interfere with cooperation on the economic crisis, global warming and other issues. The press conference is open to all media and individuals concerned with human rights in China.
Details on the press conference are as follows:
Congressmen Chris Smith, Mike Pence, Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts along with Bob Fu of ChinaAid and Chinese human rights activists
When: Thursday, February 26 at 11 a.m.
Where: Cannon House Office Building Terrace (corner of Independence and New Jersey), Washington, D.C.
Information: Contact Jeff Sagnip (609) 585-7878 of Congressman Chris Smith’s office.
"It’s disheartening to hear Secretary Clinton’s remarks that human rights issue will be a 'non-interference' factor to other so-called crisis issues – the economy, environment and security, implying somehow that universal human rights or human lives are irrelevant or have nothing to do with the ‘three big items.’ On the contrary, a country disrespecting and disregarding of its own citizens' basic rights and value will make the U.S. and the world less prosperous, more polluted and less safe." – Bob Fu, ChinaAid
As in the days of Noah...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prisoner Alert:Gulsher Masih

Location: Pakistan
Arrested: October 2008
Days Imprisoned:133
Gulsher Masih is in prison in Pakistan, charged along with his daughter, Sandul Bibi, with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the “blasphemy” law. The Voice of the Martyrs contacts report that Sandul found pages of the Quran on the ground picked them up and handed them to her Muslim neighbor. As a result, she and Gulsher were falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9 a large crowd of Muslims attacked Gulsher’s home throwing stones and firing guns. They were shouting, “Kill Gulsher and his daughter Sandul.”Gulsher and Sandul were arrested after a mob from the local mosque surrounded their house.Loudspeakers from different mosques broadcast accusations that Christians had disgraced the Quran, calling Muslims to attack and burn their homes.The angry crowd threw stones at Gulsher’s home. Christians believe Gulsher and Sandul were targeted and arrested because they were aggressively winning Muslims to Christ. If convicted, Gulsher faces at least four years in prison. Gulsher, Sandul and their family greatly appreciate your prayers during this challenging time. Also write a letter of encouragement to Gulsher’s daughter, Sandul Bibi, who is being held at the same prison.
To see how you can help Gulsher,you can click on the link below:
As in the days of Noah...

Pakistani Christians Carry Quilts for Refugees from the Swat Valley...

Pakistani Christians walk along a street as they carry quilts to be donated to refugees from the troubled Swat Valley in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. In the last few months, Swat has largely fallen to militants who have beheaded opponents, burned scores of girls' schools and banned many forms of entertainment. Gun battles between security forces and militants have killed hundreds, while up to a third of the valley's 1.5 million people have fled.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
As in the days of Noah...

Pakistani Christians Pray for Civilians in the Swat Valley

Pakistani Christians pray for civilians from the troubled Swat Valley in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009. In the last few months, Swat has largely fallen to militants who have beheaded opponents, burned scores of girls' schools and banned many forms of entertainment. Gun battles between security forces and militants have killed hundreds, while up to a third of the valley's 1.5 million people have fled.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
As in the days of Noah...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunni Victory Brings Hope to Christians in Iraqi Province

The Assyrian Christian population in a northern Iraqi province expressed hope for a better future under the province’s newly elected Sunni government, which has pledged to respect the rights of minorities and allow them to have a voice in the political process.In Nineveh province, a region heavily populated by Christians and other minority communities, the Sunni-Arab Al-Hadba party wrested control of the province from the Kurdish party by an impressive 48.5 percent of votes.Chaldo-Assyrian, Yezidi, Shabak, and Turkmen minority communities in Nineveh province say they expect significant changes under the new leadership. The leader of the Al-Hadba party, Athil Al-Nujeifi, is the brother of Osama Al-Nujeifi, an outspoken minority rights advocate in Iraq’s parliament."The minorities are an important part of the Nineveh province and they should enjoy all the rights they are entitled to," Osama Al-Nujeifi said, according to Assyrian International News Agency."We believe the minorities have to participate in the political sphere, in the provincial council and all the local institutions. This is important for us and we believe we will be able to accomplish it."Since December 2005, the Nineveh province has been governed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Under the Kurdish government, minority communities have been terrorized and oppressed by extremists.Last October, at least 14 Assyrian Christians were murdered which led to a fearful exodus of more than 15,000 Iraqi Christians out of the city of Mosul. Although initial reports speculated militants of Al-Qaeda affiliated were behind the anti-Christian campaign, suspicion later largely pointed to Kurdish Peshmerga forces.The Al-Hadba party was openly critical of the Kurdish party during the election campaign, telling it to stop dominating a province where Kurds make up only about 25 percent of the residents.For years, Assyrian Christians and other minority groups have asked for an autonomous state under the federal central government where minorities could govern themselves and work without fear of persecution. The idea was in conflict with Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) plans to annex the region.Minority groups hope that under the Sunni-Arab Al-Hadba party their vision can become a reality."We support local and legal police forces to be set up, and we reject any kind of militias. Assyrians should have Assyrian policemen in their areas, locals from the same area," said Osama Al-Nujeifi, according to AINA. "If there is a formal request from the ministry of interior for such local police forces we will be happy to make it happen. We do not want to have any militias, especially militias who are attached to political groups and who are used to impose political agendas, such as the Kurdish attached militias."Iraq’s Christian population has been under extreme pressure from Muslim terrorists since the U.S.-led offensive in 2003. Within less than eight years, the Christian population has fallen to half of what it was prior to the Iraq war. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that although Christians make up only three percent of Iraq’s population, they now account for nearly half of those fleeing the country.
By Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

As in the days of Noah...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ban on Christian speech outlawed,again:City had used unconstitutional restriction against evangelist

Officials in Ithaca, N.Y., have agreed again not to enforce an ordinance limiting the speech rights of Christians after they were caught ignoring a court order that banned the restriction.The Alliance Defense Fund, which won the previous case against the city, said the new development came this week in the form of a consent judgment signed by U.S. District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby.The issue was litigated a second time because the city ignored the court order banning the ordinance and applied the rule against the plaintiff in the latest case, Jim Deferio.City police officers last summer told Deferio he would not be allowed to talk about his Christian faith at Ithaca Commons, even after they were presented with a court order that prohibited then from enforcing the unconstitutional "noise" limit."Police officers cannot overstep their authority, defy a court order, and illegally suppress Christian speech," said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. "An ordinance already declared to be unconstitutional cannot continue to be enforced by city officials, and we are pleased this is recognized by the court."The court judgment said the city was "permanently enjoined from applying a twenty-five foot (25') standard in the enforcement" of its municipal code limit "or any other ordinance or policy against anyone in any public place engaged in unamplified speech that can be heard at a distance of twenty-five feet on the public streets, public sidewalks or public ways in the City of Ithaca."Further, the city is required to "inform and train all current and future police officers...on a regular basis, that they may not apply a twenty-five foot (25') standard in the enforcement of any city noise ordinance against anyone in any public place engaged in unamplified speech."Attorneys' fees of $13,000 and "nominal damages" of $4,000 were awarded to the plaintiff.The original 1999 dispute, involving Kevin Deegan, was settled early in 2008, according to ADF officials. The resolution included a court order prohibiting officials "from enforcing a municipal code that ... restricts sounds on public streets, sidewalks, or paths that can be heard from 25 feet."Deferio was in Deegan's accustomed spot on the commons, "doing a little preaching of his own.He, too, was approached by police officers who told him he'd have to stop, since he was violating the same city ordinance their predecessors had invoked against Kevin," the ADF said."The next week, Kevin went back to the spot with Jim, and the two of them were approached by police, citing the same law. Kevin produced a copy of the federal court order authorizing him to exercise his rights, but the officers told him-incredibly-that the order didn't apply to them-only to the specific officers who had confronted Kevin years earlier," the ADF reported.The ADF then filed an action on behalf of Deferio.The non-profit group said the original limits "would outlaw even such everyday sounds as the clicking of boots, small children playing, a ringing cell phone, and normal-decibel conversations.""Ithaca Commons is a traditional public forum bustling with the sounds of recreation,celebration, commerce, demonstration, rallies, music, poetry, speeches, and other expressive activities," the group explained.ADF-allied attorney Bob Genant served as local counsel in the lawsuit Deferio v. City of Ithaca.
As in the days of Noah...

2 more arrested in massacre of Christians:Suspects in deaths of trio killed at publishing house

Two more men have been charged in connection with the deaths of three Christians at a publishing house in Malatya, Turkey, including a former volunteer worker at the business, according to a new report. WND has reported on the case since a widow of one of the slain Christians created a tidal wave of reaction in mostly-Muslim Turkey by expressing forgiveness for the attackers. Five individuals earlier were named as suspects in the attack at the Zirve Publishing Co. office in Malatya April 18, 2007. All five already have appeared in court to answer counts stemming from the deaths of Tilman Geske of Germany and Turkish nationals Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel. Authorities reportedly have said the three met several Muslims for a Bible study, then were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit.According to Compass Direct, which has been documenting the case, a Turkish court in its most recent hearing charged a former volunteer worker as well as a former journalist suspected of having ties to a group that allegedly tried to engineer a political coup.Compass reported the arrests added to evidence that the murders were the result of a plan to create chaos in the nation, instead of just an attack by so-called troubled youth.One new suspect is Varol Bulent Aral, 32, who was accused of instigating the murders. The report said Aral has been linked to Ergenekon, a "ultranationalist" affiliation of leaders from various industries, including the nation's mafia.Also accused was Huseyin Yelki, 34, a Turk who had volunteered for Zirve, officials said.Two others, Mehmet Gokce and Murset Kocadag, are suspected but not yet arrested in the case, the report said.Named earlier as defendants were suspected ringleader Emre Gunaydin, Salih Guumler, Cuma Ozdemir, Hamit Ceker and Abuzer Yildirim.They have been in jail for the past 18 months awaiting court proceedings.The report said the Ergenekon organization previously was blamed for murders of other high-profile Christians.Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the population in Turkey, have been subjected to numerous attacks in recent years. In 2006, a Turkish teen shot to death a Roman Catholic priest as he prayed in his church. Two other priests were attacked the same year. Early in 2007 came the death of Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.When the publishing house attack became known, Geske's widow, Susanne, responded in a way that hit the front pages of the nation's largest newspapers."Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do," she said, echoing the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23.34), according to a letter Christians in Turkey wrote to the worldwide church, released through Voice of the Martyrs."In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne [Geske] has changed lives," said thet letter. "One columnist wrote of her comment, 'She said in one sentence what 1,000 missionaries in 1,000 years could never do.'"Titled "A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna," the letter was publicized shortly after the slayings by Voice of the Martyrs, the ministry organization that works with persecuted Christians.VOM noted that 2,000 years earlier, this location of Christians was addressed in Rev. 2:8-11: "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write… 'Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.'"The letter told of a Bible study planned that morning involving the three Christians and apparently five Muslims who had been invited."No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story," the letter said."The young men got guns, bread knives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible study, around 10 o'clock," the letter said. "Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman's hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours."
As in the days of Noah....

Calif. Professor Mocks Student after Speech on Marriage; ADF Sues

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sued the Los Angeles Community College District on Wednesday after a professor censored and threatened to expel a student following a speech about marriage and his Christian faith."Public institutions of higher learning cannot selectively censor Christian speech," said David French, senior counsel for ADF. "This student was speaking well within the confines of his professor's assignment."On Nov. 24, 2008, Los Angeles City College speech professor John Matteson interrupted and ended Jonathan Lopez's presentation mid-speech, calling him a "fascist" for speaking about his faith, which included reading the dictionary definition of marriage and reciting two Bible verses.Matteson told the other students they could leave if they were offended.When no one left,Matteson dismissed the class. Refusing to grade the assigned speech,Matteson wrote on Lopez's evaluation, "Ask God what your grade is."
By Jennifer Mesko
As in the days of Noah...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pastor in Saudi Arabia Flees Death Threats:Religious police, others warn key figure in expatriate church to leave.

LOS ANGELES-(Compass Direct News)A prominent foreign pastor in Saudi Arabia has fled Riyadh after a member of the mutawwa’in, or religious police, and others threatened him three times in one week.Two of the incidents included threats to kill house church pastor Yemane Gebriel of Eritrea. On Wednesday (Jan. 28), Gebriel escaped to an undisclosed city in Saudi Arabia. A father of eight who has lived and worked as a private driver in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, Gebriel told Compass that on Jan. 10 he found an unsigned note on his vehicle threatening to kill him if he did not leave the country. On Jan. 13, he said, mutawwa’in member Abdul Aziz and others forced him from his van and told him to leave the country.“There was a note on my van saying, ‘If you do not leave the country, we will kill you,” Gebriel told Compass by telephone.“Three days after that,Aziz said, ‘You’re still working here, why don’t you go out of the country?” Aziz, another member of the mutawwa’in and a policeman had waited for Gebriel shortly after 9 p.m. A sheikh at a Riyadh mosque, Aziz raged at Gebriel for about five minutes, accusing him of being a Christian and trying to change the religion of others, said a Christian source in Saudi Arabia. “He finished by telling Yemane to get out of the country or ‘measures’ would be taken,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons. He said Gebriel was in genuine danger of losing his life. “In meeting with me on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 15, Yemane himself was clearly very frightened,” said the source. That night (Jan. 15), Gebriel told Compass, four masked men – apparently Saudis – in a small car cut off the van he was driving. “They said, ‘We will kill you if you don’t go away from this place – you must leave here or we will kill you,’” he said. Gebriel subsequently took temporary refuge in a safe house in Riyadh, and after consulting with consular officials from four embassies on Tuesday (Jan. 27), the pastor was whisked away to another city the following day.In 2005, the religious police’s Aziz had directed that Gebriel be arrested along with 16 other foreign Christian leaders, though diplomatic pressure resulted in their release within weeks. “No doubt Sheikh Abdul Aziz is still burning,” said the local Christian source. “Nor may such type of death threat be possibly idle words. The current situation and circumstance remind me very much of the machine-gun murder of Irish Roman Catholic layman Tony Higgins right here in Riyadh in August 2004.”
Raids Feared
Gebriel, 42, led a church of more than 300 foreign-born Christians, though because of work obligations only a little over 150 are able to meet regularly in his villa for Friday worship. He fled without his family, as his wife and children had managed to relocate in Egypt in August 2007. Gebriel and three others started the house church in Riyadh 10 years ago, the local source said, and only a few months ago the pastor handed leadership over to others in the church. “But right now the entire church is very frightened,” the source said. “They are expecting a raid one Friday shortly – just like in 2005. The congregation doesn’t even know yet that we have whisked Yemane away from them as well as from the religious police.”In April and May of 2005, the mutawwa’in arrested 17 pastors – two Pakistanis, two Eritreans (including Gebriel), three Ethiopians and 10 Indians. None were deported after their release.“Are there signs that 2009 might prove to be such a year again? I think so,” the source said. “Every three or four years, there is a clamp-down in Riyadh. It seems that we should expect 2009 to be a year of repression. However, the underground church here is far better placed than heretofore to manage any such persecution.”The Saudi regime has reportedly begun to restrain the mutawwa’in, which historically has acted as a virtual vigilante force enforcing the kingdom’s Sunni Islamic social codes as volunteer agents of the semi-autonomous Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice. The U.S. Department of State’s 2008 International Religious Freedom Report noted that abuses by mutawwa’in have continued. “Mutawwa’in (religious police) continued to conduct raids of private non-Muslim religious gatherings,” the report states. “There were also charges of harassment, abuse, and killings at the hands of the mutawwa’in, or religious police. These incidents caused many non-Muslims to worship in fear of, and in such a manner as to avoid discovery by, the police and mutawwa’in.In the past year, mutawwa’in sometimes have not respected the Saudi policy of allowing private worship for all, including non-Muslims, according to the report. Religious police are not allowed to mete out punishment, but in the past year the Saudi government has investigated several incidents in which the mutawwa’in were accused of violating restrictions on that and other activities, according to the state department report. The mutawwa’in still wear no uniforms, but the report notes that they are now required to wear identification badges and can act only when accompanied by police. They are authorized to monitor the practice of non-Muslim faiths, display or sale of pornography, alcohol production, distribution or consumption, and adultery, homosexuality and gambling, among other violations.While Saudi law forbids public practice of any religion besides Islam, foreigners are generally allowed to worship privately if their congregations do not grow too large. With the Quran and sayings of Muhammad (Sunna) as its constitution, Saudi Arabia enforces a form of sharia (Islamic law) derived from 18th-century Sunni scholar Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab that calls for the death penalty for “apostasy,” or conversion from Islam to another faith, although the state department’s report notes that there have been no confirmed reports of executions for apostasy in recent years.Saudi Arabia’s ruling monarchy restricts media and other forms of public expression, though recently authorities have tolerated criticism of the mutawwa’in and the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice. “The government-controlled press frequently criticized mutawwa’in activity,” the report adds.
As in the days of Noah...

Sri Lankan Parliament to Vote on Anti-Conversion Laws:Draft ‘Bill for the Prohibition of Forcible Conversions’ enters final phase

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka(Compass Direct News)The Sri Lankan Parliament may soon enact laws designed to restrict religious conversions.A standing committee assigned to consider a draft “Bill for the Prohibition of Forcible Conversions” presented its report to Parliament on Jan. 6, suggesting minor amendments that clear the way for a final vote in February. The provisions of the bill criminalize any act to convert or attempt to convert a person from one religion to another religion by the use of force, fraud or allurement. Those found guilty of breaking the law could be imprisoned for up to seven years and/or fined up to 500,000 rupees (US$4,425).The Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero, a member of the Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya party (JHU or National Heritage Party), first proposed the draft in 2004. While the JHU claims the bill is designed to stop unethical conversions, civil rights groups and Christian churches say it will infringe on the constitutional rights of freedom of religion and legitimize harassment of religious minorities.Buddhists form a 70 percent majority in Sri Lanka, with Roman Catholics constituting 7 percent and Protestant Christians only 1 percent of the population.After the first reading of the bill in Parliament in August 2004, 22 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the draft legislation.The Supreme Court determined the draft bill to be valid except for clauses 3 and 4(b), which it deemed unconstitutional. These clauses required any person who converted or participated in a religious conversion ceremony to report to a government official and prescribed punishment for failure to report such conversions.The draft was then referred to a parliamentary standing committee for further review. In its report, presented to the House on Jan. 6, the committee made a few amendments to the original draft in keeping with Supreme Court recommendations. The most notable amendment was the deletion of the need to report conversions and the punishment prescribed for not reporting them.These amendments paved the way for the draft bill to be passed by a simple majority vote when it is presented for a final reading in Parliament this February. Chief Opposition Whip Joseph Michael Perera, however, has requested a two-day debate on the draft bill on grounds that it would affect all religions.
Fulfilling Campaign Promises
The JHU, founded and led by Buddhist clergymen, made anti-conversion legislation a cornerstone of its debut election campaign in 2004, when it won nine seats in Parliament. With the possibility of an early general election this year, the bill has become a matter of political survival for the JHU.At a press briefing on Jan. 7, Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thero, a Buddhist monk and Member of Parliament representing the JHU, called on all political parties to vote in favor of the bill.“People expected us to fulfill two goals,” he said. “One was to end unethical conversions and the other was to liberate the country from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. That is why we entered politics.” Ven. Medhananda Thero added that the purpose of the bill was to protect all major religions in the country from fundamentalists and unethical conversions. Sri Lanka’s Christian community and civil rights groups have strongly objected to the draft legislation. Far from stemming alleged forced conversions, they claim the bill will become a weapon of harassment through misapplication, limiting the fundamental rights of thought, conscience and religion. These rights include the right to adopt a religion and the right to practice, observe and teach religion. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) said in a recent press statement that, “It is our gravest concern that this bill will grant legal sanction for the harassment of religious communities or individuals, and offer convenient tools of harassment for settling personal disputes and grudges, totally unrelated to acts of alleged ‘forced’ conversion.”
Banning Compassion
According to Section 2 of the draft bill, the offer of any temptation such as a gift, cash or any other gratification to convert or attempt to convert a person from one religion to another is punishable with up to seven years of prison and a maximum fine of 500,000 rupees (US$4,425) – equal to approximately three years’ wages for the average Sri Lankan citizen.Sri Lankan Christians have repeatedly expressed concern that key sections of the draft bill are open to wide and subjective interpretation that could criminalize not only legitimate religious activity but also legitimate social action by faith-based organizations or individuals.“A lady who heads a charitable trust caring for orphans asked if she could be charged under this law, since she is a Christian and some of the children she cares for are not,” a lawyer told Compass. “Many people will now think twice before helping the poor or needy, for fear of being accused of committing a criminal act.”Ironically, on June 4, 2008, in his address to the new Sri Lankan ambassador to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI had acknowledged the Sri Lankan government’s appreciation of the Catholic Church’s charity work in the country. “Such action is a concrete example of the Church’s willing and prompt response to the mission she has received to serve those most in need,” he said. “I commend any future measures which will help guarantee that Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies can continue to care for the sick, the young and the vulnerable regardless of ethnic or religious background.” He went on to assure the government that “the Church will continue in her efforts to reach out with compassion to all.”On Jan. 8, at his traditional New Year meeting with all ambassadors to the Holy See, the pope appeared to be addressing concerns over anti-conversion legislation.“The Church does not demand privileges, but the full application of the principle of religious freedom,” he said. He also called on Asian governments to ensure that “legislation concerning religious communities guarantees the full exercise of this fundamental right, with respect for international norms.”Since the first draft anti-conversion bill was presented to Parliament in 2004, the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka, NCEASL and Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka have repeatedly called for an alternative solution based on inter-faith dialogue with fair representation of all religious communities. “Enactment of laws to regulate something as intrinsically personal as spiritual beliefs will not contribute towards resolving disagreements and promoting religious harmony,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director of the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission. “On the contrary, it will create mistrust and animosity.”
As in the days of Noah...

Secretary threatened after daughter mentions Jesus:'I don't know what I am supposed to have done wrong'

A school secretary whose daughter mentioned Jesus to a classmate now is facing discipline, including the possibility of dismissal from her position, for having sent an e-mail to friends from her home computer asking for prayer about the issue.The case is developing, according to a report in the London Daily Mail, for Jennie Cain, a receptionist at Landscore Primary School in Crediton, Devon.Her daughter, Jasmine, age 5, attends the school and recently was scolded by a teacher for talking about God and her faith, the report said. She was in tears after the discipline, the paper said.Cain, who has worked at the school part-time since 2006, said after her work shift was completed-as a parent-she went to talk with teacher Sharon Gottelier about the situation.She then was summoned to the office of Principal Gary Read the next morning, where she was told "how he wasn't happy about her making statements about her faith," Cain told the paper.After meeting with Read, Cain went home and e-mailed a prayer request about the situation to some friends at her church, and soon she was notified of the pending discipline for her statements in the e-mail."I felt embarrassed that a private prayer e-mail was read by the school-it felt like someone had gone through my personal prayer diary," she told the paper. "I feel my beliefs are so central to who I am, are such a part of my children's life."I do feel our beliefs haven't been respected and I don't feel I have been treated fairly. I don't know what I am supposed to have done wrong,' she said. She reported she doesn't know how the school got a copy of her e-mail.Christian Institute spokesman Mike Judge said children should be allowed to discuss religion without interference from teachers, the report said.Cain said she now is being investigated for professional misconduct, and Read has confirmed the school's board of governors is involved.It is the second incident of Christians being disciplined or threatened by employers in the U.K. over issues of prayer in just the last few weeks.It was just days ago WND reported a Christian nurse in Britain had been threatened with dismissal for offering to pray for her patients' recovery.A report from the Christian Legal Centre said the nurse, Caroline Petrie, later was restored to her position.As WND reported, Petrie was suspended and faced further discipline because her employer claimed she failed to show a "personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity" when she suggested the prayer.
To read more from the Daily Mail,go to:
As in the days of Noah...

Persecution in 2009

International-Persecution will probably continue to intensify in the year 2009, as nations struggle through economic troubles and the Untied States inaugurates a new president."I think this is an extremely volatile time, and I think Christians around the world are more and more subject to persecution in the name of false gods and false philosophies," said Carl Moeller of Open Doors."Of course we're not prophets, but we do sense that there will be an increasing amount of tension, an increasing amount of violence against Christians, increasing to a fever pitch in some parts of the world like the Middle East."Moeller said the world should particularly watch the countries of Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, and India. Although the violence has thankfully abated in recent days, Christians in Orissa have been suffering severe persecution at the hands of Hindu radicals in the latter half of 2009.The country of Nigeria is also showing signs of serious religious division. "Nigeria...has a very extended line of demarcation religiously between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north, and all along that line. Sort of like a California grassfire,there have been explosions of violence," Moeller explained. Free countries are able to support and stand up for persecuted Christians around the world, not only because their citizens have the freedom to do so, but also because many of them have the economic ability to do so. Moeller is concerned that the current economic instability could interfere with this support."As governments are increasingly faced, worldwide, with turning inward to domestic issues, their economy, and helping to prop up industries, and to create some sort of stability economically at home, they're going to be less and less available to turn the world's attention on totalitarian governments and their treatment of the minority religions like Christians," he said."Frankly, as western governments are less and less able to economically intervene on behalf of those persecuted minorities, or even militarily if the case arose, that's going to expose more Christian communities to a greater amount of persecution in the years to come."However, Moeller is hopeful that the administration of Barak Obama is willing to work for religious liberty. He anticipates that Open Doors will "have the opportunity to help shape some of that discussion," he said."We believe that there is an openness to that in the new administration," Moeller said."If you remember the civil forum that Pastor Rick Warren had, he brought up the question of religious liberty around the world. And Barak Obama had a response that said, 'We would pursue and support those who will be persecuted around the world and pursue those forces that would persecute them.'"Moeller is thankful for the Bush administration's commitment to religious liberty. "There's never been as open and positive an administration towards religious persecution specifically than the Bush administration," he said."The Bush administration took a great deal of heat because it took a positive approach, a pro-active approach to promoting Christian rights within the context of persecution around the world."Overall, Moeller believes that Christians will always live with persecution because the Bible teaches that persecution will only worsen as time goes on."The Bible tells us that there will come a time that people will kill Christians and persecute Christians and think they're doing God's work," he said."Around the world, in the Middle East and places like Iran, in North Korea, and in Africa, and in Nigeria, Christians are being killed, and people think they're doing the work of benefiting society by ridding their culture of the Christians.""So unfortunately, as Brother Andrew likes to say, our work is increasing, because we have many more places around the globe where Christians are subjected to extreme persecution-everything from harassment, denial of basic human rights, all the way to torture and martyrdom."
As in the days of Noah...

Christmas Day massacre in Congo brings fear

Uganda-International Christian Concern reports members of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, killed 400 Christians celebrating Christmas in Congo.One of the attacks killed 150 people in Farajde City. Another source claims 75 deaths occurred during a separate attack in Duru. Other attacks near Sudan left more than 250 people dead. Thousands from that region sought refuge with churches. There are scattered reports that the LRA was abducting children to use as soldiers.ICC sources say the LRA denies responsibility for the attacks on December 25th and in the days following.However, the violence was so fierce that church leaders are asking the Congolese Government to take steps to protect people from the attacks.
Pray for their safety and ask God to provide for their needs.
Pray that believers will be able to act as the hands and feet of Christ during this crisis.
As in the days of Noah...

India's bloodshed provides ministry opportunity in year to come

International-2008 was a year of ups and downs for many believers. Glenn Penner with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says one of the good things in their ministry was the expansion into some tricky parts of the world.Growth requires funding, and despite the economic downturn, God not only met their budget needs, but exceeded them. The timing of surplus couldn't be better.Global food shortages combined with financial and natural disaster hit many churches hard. Persecution increased in many places, but Penner says the greatest challenge this year came in India.Upheaval throughout the country has exacted a severe price from the church.Although the Christian community is no stranger to persecution, it has endured its most trying and testing time in its 2,000 years of history.Rioting and harsh retribution for the murder of a Hindu leader in August cost hundreds of believers their lives.The unrest continued to spread, and homes, churches and schools associated with Christians were burned.Threats kept many churches on guard and derailed public celebrations of Christmas.Christmas Day in India was relatively peaceful, and Penner believes it could be simply because authorities are finally responding to the terror threats. There's hope that the worst of the campaign has burned itself out, but in areas where there has been violence, the region remains tense.Penner says their work will not only continue in 2009, but they have plans to expand."Pray for our brothers and sisters.It is what they ask for, first and foremost.Then we're involved with doing advocacy work on their behalf, writing on their behalf, writing to those who are in prison, helping to provide Bibles and legal aid for those that are going through trial, and helping to take care of the families."Part of their focus in 2009 will be responding to church leaders in India. Their plea: "We need to know how to respond Biblically.This is something Voice of the Martyrs focuses on, what we call a 'Biblical theology of persecution'-teaching church leaders, in particular, what the Bible teaches about persecution and then passing it on." That means teaching and resourcing more church leaders to be prepared for what's to come in 2009.
Click here if you can help.
As in the days of Noah...

INDIA PERSECUTION WATCH:"The Elephant in the Room:A bad choice for Obama transition team"

Dealing with terrorism in India is being called President-elect Barack Obama's first foreign-policy test.As we saw in Mumbai, political and religious divisions in the world's largest democracy make our disagreements seem tame by comparison.So when Obama named economist Sonal Shah to his transition team, the unifier invited division.From India to the United States, Hindus, Muslims and Christians criticized her appointment, alleging that she has links to Hindu militants.News of Indian American groups' protests was the top story on the Times of India's Web site for days.A statement from Shah denying her critics' allegations, posted on the Web site of Asian Americans for Obama, and the blog postings that followed didn't do anything to quell the hostile response from within the Indian American community.Who is Sonal Shah? She is a former Goldman Sachs vice president and now leads the global development team of, the company's philanthropic arm. She has won awards as co-founder of Indicorps, a U.S.-based nonprofit that enables Indian Americans to work on development projects in India. However, following the 2001 earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat, Shah was a relief coordinator for Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) America, according to reports in Indian newspapers.VHP in India is a Hindu extremist group that has been tied to violence against the country's Christian and Muslim minorities.The worst violence against India's Christians came in August, after a VHP leader was killed in the state of Orissa. Although Maoists immediately took credit for the killing, the VHP blamed Christians. Hindu mobs went door to door, killing Christian families, raping women, and burning homes and churches. The government reports that 54,000 Christians are still homeless, more than 10,000 are now living in refugee camps, and 118 are dead as a result.The headlines are heartbreaking: "Christian woman burnt to death by rampaging VHP mobs in Orissa;" "Hindu extremists burn one nun alive, rape another." Every day brought fresh reports of violence against Christians. The response from leaders of the VHP and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Stop converting Hindus, and the violence will end.In Gujarat in 2002, a similar Hindu uprising targeted Muslims after a train carrying Hindus caught fire.In the end, more than 1,000 people were killed and 100,000 were displaced. The U.S. State Department reports that the BJP-led government did little to stop the violence. Other reports suggest that the BJP didn't stop it because the party engineered it.Sangh Parivar is a family of Hindu nationalist organizations united in favor of Hindu supremacy in India. It includes the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which VHP is an offshoot. The BJP is the political party of these groups.The University of Chicago's Martha Nussbaum has described the RSS as "possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy." Google RSS and its affiliates, and your jaw will drop.Everyone from Amnesty International to our State Department has warned about these outfits.Shah has tried to distance herself from VHP in India by saying VHP America is different. VHP America's Web site suggests otherwise: It clearly states that it shares the ideals of VHP India.Shah has said her politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by these groups. But she has spoken at youth conferences for groups outside India that support the RSS and VHP. And, according to several Indian newspapers, she has strong family ties to the RSS and didn't once denounce the violence against Christians and Muslims.Shah also claims to have done only charitable fund-raising to help earthquake victims in Gujarat through VHP America.But why did she choose VHP when the Red Cross and other relief agencies also were on the scene?Shah should condemn the VHP and its actions soon. If she doesn't, keeping her on - or, more ominously, giving her a post in the new administration - would send the message that the president-elect does not think the VHP is a radical organization. And this is a president-elect who is trying to "change" the image of the United States in the Islamic world with a foreign policy more sensitive to Muslim concerns.I doubt that this makeover should include condoning an organization that supports terrorism aimed at Muslims and Christians.
By Rick Santorum

As in the days of Noah...

Iraq: USCIRF Recommends Designating Iraq as Country of Particular Concern, Calls for Ensuring Free and Fair Elections,Focusing on Plight of Most Vuln

WASHINGTON-The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends that Iraq be designated as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), in light of the ongoing, severe abuses of religious freedom and the Iraqi government's toleration of these abuses, particularly abuses against Iraq's smallest, most vulnerable religious minorities.[1] "The lack of effective government action to protect these communities from abuses has established Iraq among the most dangerous places on earth for religious minorities," said Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer.While there has been some reconciliation beween Shi'a and Sunni Iraqis, concerns remain regarding attacks and tense relations between these groups. The situation is especially dire for Iraq's smallest religious minorities, including ChaldoAssyrian and other Christians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Yazidis. These groups do not have militia or tribal structures to protect them and do not receive adequate official protection. Their members continue to experience targeted violence and to flee to other areas within Iraq or other countries, where the minorities represent a disproportionately high percentage among Iraqi refugees.Marginalized legally, politically, and economically, they are caught in the middle of a struggle between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central Iraqi government for control of northern areas where their communities are concentrated."The combined effect of all this has been to endanger these ancient communities' very existence in Iraq," Gaer said.The marginalization has been felt in elections, too.In the January 2005 elections, many non-Muslims in Nineveh governorate were disenfranchised due to fraud, intimidation, and the refusal by Kurdish security forces to permit ballot boxes to be distributed.Most recently, the provincial elections law passed in late September 2008 by the Iraqi parliament was, at the last minute, stripped of Article 50, a provision that would have guaranteed a set number of seats in provincial councils to minorities. Although an amendment was later adopted, it set aside fewer seats than the original provision, leading minority leaders to denounce the law.The Commission urges the incoming U.S. administration to take steps designed to ensure:
--safe and fair provincial elections;
--security and safety for all Iraqis;
--the prevention of abuses against religious minorities is a high priority;
--the KRG upholds minority rights;
--U.S. financial assistance is refocused;
--religious extremism is countered and respect for human rights is protected; and
--the situation of internally displaced persons and refugees is addressed effectively.
For the full text of the Commission's December 2008 report on Iraq, please click here
To read more go to:
As in the days of Noah....

Bethlehem’s Forgotten Christians

The little town of Bethlehem famously characterized in the renowned Christmas carol captured millions of hearts with its tranquil imagery of Christ’s birthplace.But the Bethlehem that I visited last Christmastime evoked a somewhat different sentiment.Last December I found myself visiting Christians on both sides of the conflict in the Middle East.I traveled across Israel, visiting Golgotha and the Garden Tomb, the Damascus Gate, the Dome of the Rock, and Netanya’s rocky coast overlooking the Mediterranean. Reaching Bethlehem,I witnessed the city’s tranquil outer layer-beautiful historical landmarks such as the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherd’s Fields-and an equally striking inner layer of turmoil and pain.Going beyond the tourist sites, I found what I perceived to be the real story of today’s little town of Bethlehem-that of the men and women who are walking in the steps of Christ today, regardless of which side of the conflict they find themselves on.
The Last of the Christians
The drive from Jerusalem to Bethlehem is a winding one, through craggy hills covered in rocks. The road snakes through deep ravines, past tiny patches of civilization, and random buildings constructed and abandoned during the years of conflict. The sun shines across stone fields, revealing an uncannily beautiful landscape.My first stop in Bethlehem is Bethlehem Bible College, a well-respected Bible College providing an opportunity for students from a myriad of backgrounds to gain a quality education.I mingle with the students and explore the classrooms.A narrow door opens onto the roof of Bethlehem Bible College, where I look out over hundreds of whitewashed buildings dotting the hillside.I hear the Muslim call to prayer being broadcast over dozens of loudspeakers at the pinnacle of dozens of mosques.And slowly I begin to catch a glimpse of the day-to-day challenges that Palestinian Christians must feel.The Muslim presence permeates this land.The Institute for Middle East Understanding estimates that about 93% of Palestinians are Muslims, leaving an estimated 6% who are Christians.In the Occupied Territories,however, it is estimated that Palestinian Christians comprise perhaps less than 3% of the population. Islamic neighborhoods abound, and extremism is ever present.It must be hard, I begin to think, when your national identity is so closely intertwined with a particular religious affiliation.The Palestinian Christians I speak with feel misunderstood.They are the last of the dwindling minority of Christians on the West Bank.They are not Muslims, but they are Palestinian.They do not support the extremist attacks, but they often feel that they are treated unjustly by the Israeli army.And for many Palestinian believers, the wall around their city feels like a prison...
By Kristin Butler
Contributing Writer
To read more go to:
As in the days of Noah...

Egyptian Muslim Refuses to Give Child to Christian Mother:Court grants custody of 3-year-old to woman, but police refuse to enforce order.

ISTANBUL(Compass Direct News)Egyptian authorities have refused to hand over a 3-year-old girl to her Christian mother even after a court granted her custody in a legal battle with her Muslim ex-husband.Mervat Reszqallah of Tanta, 60 miles north of Cairo, was granted custody of her toddler daughter, Barthenia, by Judge Emaad Eldean Abedelhamed of the Court of Tanta on Aug. 7. Police, however, have refused to implement the court’s decision to take the child from her father.“Many times the police have ignored this decision, because they see the aspect of religion,” said human rights lawyer Naguib Gobrail, who said police favor the Muslim father. Fady Farhaat Labbib converted to Islam in May of 2006 in order to divorce Reszqallah and marry another woman. He applied for custody of Barthenia in order to raise her as a Muslim. This has kept the police from doing their duty, said Gobrail.“The police insisted that the daughter must follow the father, because they are afraid she will eat pork, drink wine, go to the church and be educated in the Sunday school,” he said.Police recently summoned Reszqallah to the Tanta police station, where she spent five hours waiting for Labbib to hand over Barthenia in accordance with a police order. Gen. Ramzy Taleab had ordered Labbib to the police station, but police reportedly did nothing on Reszqallah’s behalf when Labbib refused to hand over the child. Gobrail said that the incident was a stunt to convince Reszqallah that police were doing their best.“They made this order only to make the mother happy,” said Gobrail. Gobrail said he plans to meet with Moushira Khattab of the Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood to discuss the welfare of children in mixed-religion custody battles.Khattab, a former ambassador from Egypt to various African and European countries, was not available for comment.Reszqallah recently returned from Lebanon, where she appeared on a Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation television program to talk about her situation. Gobrail said he hopes the publicity will lend weight to her case.“Media can sometimes be a pressure on the authorities in Egypt, to make them ashamed,” said Gobrail.
As in the days of Noah...

SPEECHLESS:"Christian TV Special Being Stifled"

The American Family Association (AFA), a pro-family group based in Mississippi, has encountered resistance in its attempts to air a television special called Speechless: Silencing the Christians.According to the website, the majority of Americans get their information about the homosexual movement from Hollywood and the secular news media-outlets that deliver what AFA says is a message "tainted by pro-homosexual propaganda."That is why the pro-family group produced the 14-episode Speechless series that initially aired on the INSP Network, and then put together a one-hour special based on the series. AFA is now buying prime-time slots on the nation's television stations to present that special to provide factual, Christian-based information on the topic. But the pro-family group reports it has run up against blatant "silencing" of that message. "There's a real threat to our First Amendment and free-speech rights because Christians are being shut down and shut out and shut up by the very people who say they champion freedom of speech," asserts AFA president Tim Wildmon. For example, WSXY in Columbus, Ohio, has refused the air the program. WSPA in Greenville, South Carolina, aired it, but then ran an apology from the station manager. And in Grand Rapids, Michigan, WOOD-TV agreed initially to air the show Monday evening, then bumped it to Wednesday, then proposed to run it on Saturday afternoon-and now has cancelled it entirely. WOOD-TV general manager Diane Kniowski told The Grand Rapids Press that the station made a "fair offer" to AFA, but received no response regarding the Saturday airing. "Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else's fight," Kniowski stated. "Ours was a fair offer and we are removing ourselves from this matter." Wildmon sees outright irony in what is happening."It's ironic that the very issue we're bringing up-that Christians are being rendered speechless when they talk about this issue-is actually happening to us when it comes to the program itself,"he observes.Why are stations responding that way? According to Wildmon, they are reacting to complaints from homosexual activists about airing Speechless."The stations are just giving us the runaround,"he says."They've heard from a few of the homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered supporters out there-and so they haven't heard massively from our folks yet."But the AFA president predicts they will. He argues that the TV special simply tells the truth-and he urges people to visit, where segments of the show can be viewed. Wildmon also encourages people in cities where the show is scheduled to contact their local TV station and voice their support for airing it.
By Charlie Butts and Jody Brown

As in the days of Noah...

Church in Gaza Caught in the Crossfire

Pauline Ayyad is the widow of Rami Ayyad, a bookstore owner with the Palestinian Bible Society who was tortured and killed. She is not allowed to leave the Gaza Strip. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors)
Israel-A tiny church in the Gaza Strip has been caught in the crossfire of an "unprecedented amount of violence against the Palestinian people," said Carl Moeller of Open Doors. "It's extremely distressing news for obvious reasons," Moeller said."Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, and obviously, escalation of violence is not something that we are seeing as at all constructive to bringing peace to the region."The Baptist church in Gaza was located right across the street from a police station that was targeted by the Israelis for bombing.The church is now destroyed, with its windows blown out as well as other damage."It brings back a lot of poignant memories for me, how joyous the time was when we were there to dedicate that building, brother Andrew, myself and others, but now it's obviously right there in the center of a great deal of destruction,"Moeller said."The people in the Christian community there have been meeting in small groups in homes."The Christians have described to Open Doors some of the horrors they are experiencing as their city is bombed.Some, including the workers with the Palestinian Bible Society, have fled to the West Bank.The church's pastor,Pastor Hanna,has fled the Middle East. Out of about 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip, there are only a few hundred Christians left."It's remarkable how much that the church is facing there," Moeller said."And yet the Christians continue to pray; they continue to cry out to God; and when they can, reach out to their neighbors with comfort."Politically, Palestinian Christians are not accepted by Israel or by their own community. The Christian community, Moeller explained, is a "humanitarian and religious group caught in the crossfire of a political and military situation.""They have no place at the table," he said."By Israel's standards, they're Palestinians; and by the Hamas and the radical Islamist standards, they're outsiders because they're Christians. So they really are literally caught within the crossfires of both sides."This leaves the church in a precarious position, and it desperately needs support from Open Doors."It's very difficult, and of course now with the military operations impossible, to directly get material aid to the believers there," Moeller said."But because of the precarious nature of the church-how fragile it is and how vulnerable it is to be snuffed out even at this time-we must get the material resources that the Christians there need just to survive-the food, clothing, and medical care that they desperately need."
As in the days of Noah...

Pakistani Police Violate Trust of Christian Residents:Police Assault, Steal, Demand Bribes from Christian Neighborhood

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC)
has learned that plainclothes police entered a Christian neighborhood in Pakistan and violated their office of trust by physically abusing residents, demanding bribes, rifling through their belongings and stealing items of value.In response, the residents staged a protest the next day at the District Police Officer's building. ICC was able to attend this protest.According to interviews with residents, police arrived in the neighborhood of "Maryam Town" on December 11th in two official vehicles from the Sargodha Police Department.They forced their way into at least two Christian residences and began smashing domestic appliances and other valuables without provocation.The police continued their vandalism spree by confiscating cell phones, a licensed gun and other household valuables. They physically assaulted the women in these households and stole their purses, which contained cash, jewelry and pricey cosmetics.On an even more alarming note, one resident said, "Those ruthless policemen arrested and took with them an innocent Christian youth, Imran Masih, without any allegations." He was only released after neighbors paid the officers 1,000 Pakistani Rupees (US $12.82).When young Christian men tried to stop the policemen, residents said that the officers savagely assaulted the Christian youths with their clubs.A crowd of Christian residents of Maryam Town responded by gathering in front of District Police Officer (DPO) Dr. Usman Anwer's office to protest the violence.Before dispersing peacefully,Christians urged the DPO Dr. Anwer to take immediate and stern action against the policemen involved.In an interview with ICC, Anwer condemned the police officers' actions and pledged to look into the matter and bring the attackers to justice. By the time of writing he had issued directives to the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Sargodha to probe into the matter in detail and report to him as soon as possible.Samuel Wallace, ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, said, "This group of police officers completely violated their charge to protect the innocent and uphold law and order. To their shame, they have behaved instead like the very criminals they should be putting in jail."
Please contact the Pakistani embassy in your country and ask them to protect the rights of Christians and all religious minorities.
Pakistan Embassies:
(202) 243-6500,
Canada: (613) 238-7881,
UK: 0870-005-6967,
As in the days of Noah....