• NEWS | Church Attack Continues in Indonesia

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Another Catholic community is now under attack in Indonesia in a climate of increasing cases of violence and abuse against religious minorities.

    The Parish of the Sacred Heart in Pugeran, in the South of Yogyakarta was targeted early yesterday morning by three different groups of unknown assailants on motorcycles. The attack took place during the first morning Mass: the authors, dressed in black with their faces covered by masks, broke through the parish gates shouting "Allah is great".

    The incident coincides with the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and prayer which officially began today in Indonesia, although it started on June 28th in most Muslim countries.

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  • NEWS | Malaysia’s Highest Court Upholds A Ban On Allah In Christian Bibles

    Malaysia's top court weighed in Monday on the country's longstanding fight over the word "Allah," saying non-Muslims cannot use it to refer to God. But the government said hours later the judgment applied only to one newspaper at the center of the case, adding still more confusion to a deeply divisive debate over religious freedom in the Muslim-majority country.

    In a 4-3 ruling, the Federal Court upheld a government ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims in a case against The Herald, a Catholic Malay-language weekly. The court did not elaborate on the implication of its ruling, but the government issued a tersely worded statement saying it only applied to The Herald and that Malaysian Christians can still use the word Allah in churches.

    The government statement appeared to be an attempt to diffuse tensions in the nation of 29 million people, including a large non-Muslim minority that has often complained that it is treated unfairly in jobs and education and is denied full freedom of religion.

    Government officials declined to clarify whether the ban would apply to Bibles and other published texts, as appeared to be the case in last year's ruling by the Court of Appeals that banned The Herald from using Allah. The church had asked the Federal Court to overturn the ban, but the court decided not to hear the challenge, declaring that the lower court's decision had been correct.

    Earlier this year, 300 Malay-language Bibles containing the word Allah were seized by Islamic authorities from the office of a Christian group.

    "We are disappointed. The four judges who denied us the right to appeal did not touch on fundamental basic rights of minorities," said the Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald.

    He said the ruling would have a chilling effect on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the constitution.

    "It will confine the freedom of worship," he said. "We are a minority in this country, and when our rights are curtailed, people feel it."

    The law doesn't clearly stipulate the penalty for violating the ban, but it appears that a newspaper using the term would lose its publishing license.

    The government says Allah should be reserved exclusively for Muslims, who account for nearly two-thirds of the population, arguing that if other religions use the term, it could confuse Muslims and lead them to convert away from Islam.

    Christian leaders deny this, arguing that the ban is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language have long used the word in their Bibles, prayers and songs. Christians make up about 9 percent of the population.

    "This is a sad state of affairs that shows how far and fast religious tolerance is falling in Malaysia," said Phil Robertson, a spokesman for New York-based Human Rights Watch. "The Malaysian government should be working to promote freedom of religion rather politically exploiting religious wedge issues."

    The controversy has provoked violence in Malaysia.

    Anger over a lower court ruling against the government ban in 2009 led to a string of arson attacks and vandalism at churches and other places of worship. The 2013 judgment by the Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

    An umbrella group of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches in Malaysia said Christians will continue to use the word Allah in their Bibles and worship, saying the court ruling was only confined to the Catholic newspaper.

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  • NEWS | The War on Christians

    For at least three reasons, the contemporary persecution of Christians demands attention: It is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.NewscomThe Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that Christians are suffering persecution in more places today than any other religious group; between 2006 and 2012, Pew says, they were targeted for harassment in 151 countries—three-quarters of the world’s states. Similar findings are reported by the Vatican, Newsweek, the Economist, and the 60-year-old Christian support group Open Doors. Most people in the West are unaware of these facts, though that may be changing.

    A few cases do get press coverage—the desperate plight of Meriam Ibrahim, for instance, who gave birth in a Sudanese prison just the other day. She was raised a Christian, but after officials learned that her long-absent father was a Muslim, she was sentenced to death for apostasy—for leaving Islam. And since in Sudan a Muslim woman may not be married to a Christian, her marriage to her American husband was declared void, and she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to 100 lashes to be administered before her execution. These punishments will be dropped if she renounces her Christian faith, which she steadfastly refuses to do.

    Another case receiving attention is North Korea’s sentencing of a South Korean missionary, Kim Jong-uk, to life with hard labor. On May 30, he was convicted of espionage and trying to start a church. North Korea also still holds Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor on charges of trying to use religion to overthrow the political system.

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  • NEWS | Christians Seeking Food Rations Attacked by Mob in India

    NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Ten Christians in India’s Chhattisgarh state whose faith cost them their food rations were hospitalized last week after a Hindu extremist mob attacked them for objecting to the discrimination, sources said.

    One of the Christians fell unconscious and two women were among those hospitalized in the attack on about 100 Christians on June 16 in Sirisguda, Bastar town, Jagdalpur, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

    “I received a hard blow on my head, and thereafter a couple of extremists started to jump on me, beating me up with sticks, punching and kicking me all over my body and my head and telling me I deserve to die because I am a Christian,” Aitu Mandavi, who fell unconscious and remained in a coma for two days, told Morning Star News.

    Christians from 52 families from the Brethren, Bastar and Bethsheba churches at about 1 p.m. approached the food inspector in Jagdalpur, about 40 kilometers (24 miles) far from their village, to inquire about the denial of two months of food rations. Two government officials went to the village to appease local leaders. Hindu extremists chased the two officials from the village, however, and later filed a false complaint at Badanji police station against Christians for attacking Hindus, Christian leaders said.

    “The manhandling of the government representatives by the villagers is evidence of the level of impunity that the perpetrators enjoy,” attorney Tehmina Arora of Alliance Defending Freedom-India told Morning Star News. “The intentional victimization of the 52 families using the public distribution system on account of their faith is inhumane.”

    Instigated by the Hindu extremists, at about 3 p.m. a large mob brandishing sticks and stones attacked Christians gathered at the office of the food inspector, sources said.

    “The extremists shouting Hindu slogans suddenly rushed in and started beating the Christians with sticks and stones, punching and kicking whomever they could catch,” the Rev. Bhupendra Khora told Morning Star News.

    The attacked Christians, including women and children, started to run in different directions to avoid the attack, but the Hindus struck them while spewing verbal abuse, victims said.

    Besides his head injuries, Mandavi’s left hand was broken, his right elbow was fractured, his sternum was severely injured, and he sustained abrasions on his legs and bruising all over his body. The other nine Christians sustained injuries to their heads, hands and legs, as well as abrasions.

    The extremists dragged two women, identified only as Aiti, 40, and Kari, 45, to the ground and stood on them as they hit their genitals.

    “ADF-India denounces these actions that affect the civil liberties of the religious minorities in the country,” Tehmina said.

    The unconscious Mandavi was initially denied treatment, but after police intervention he was admitted to the district hospital, and the other nine injured Christians were admitted to the local hospital.

    The village head had denied the food rations to the 52 low-income Christians families, sources said.

    “The local Christians have been discriminated based on their faith for the past several months,” pastor Khora said. “It has been very difficult for them to live without the rations being allowed to be distributed to them.”

    Attorney Songsingh Jhali said the village head continued to bully area Christians after the attack.

    “The next day after the incident, the village head called a public meeting where it was sternly resolved that no entry should be given to an outsiders in the village – and that everyone in the village should embrace Hinduism or their lands would be seized,” Jhali said.

    The Christians, however, refused to be bullied into renouncing their faith.

    “They may kill us, but we are not going to leave Jesus who loves us,” one Christian told Morning Star News.

    Police have filed a First Information Report against the assailants, but at press time no arrest had been made.


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  • BREAKING NEWS | Meriam Released from al-Shareed Police Station

    In the latest development in what is amounting to a game of legal hopscotch—with the freedom of an innocent woman and her family as the stakes—Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a 27-year-old mother and wife to an American citizen, has reportedly been released from police custody in Khartoum. Meriam was arrested Wednesday on two criminal charges after trying to leave the country with husband, Daniel, and two children, Martin and Maya. Photo: Meriam Ibrahim with her husband Daniel Wani (left), and two sons, after her release from the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison on June 23rd.

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    The Sudanese mother condemned to die for refusing to renounce her Christian faith has been set free, according to her attorney.

    Meriam Ibrahim's release came after her sentence was overturned by an appellate court.

    Ibrahim, who was jailed along with her toddler son, was forced to give birth to her second child, a daughter, while in prison.

    The case drew outrage from the international community. Protesters recently gathered outside the White House to demand action by the Obama Administration.

    The day after the protest, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying that the United States condemned her imprisonment.

    "She and the children should be reunited at home with her family rather than held in prison on charges of apostasy," Kerry said, calling Sudan to repeal it's anti-human rights laws.

    He also suggested that Sudan repeal any Islamic laws that go against basic human rights.

    There is no word of reaction from the White House to Ibrahim's release.

    Her husband was born in South Sudan before it gained it's independence from Sudan and has dual citizenship with the United States. He was living in the United States but visited Sudan in 2011, met Meriam and married her there.

    Meanwhile, Ibrahim's lawyer, Elshareef Ali, said her husband is elated over his wife's release.

    "We are very, very happy about this - and we're going to her now," Ali told the BBC. "They have released her... she's on her way to home."

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  • NEWS | No information about the situation of 7 arrested Christians

    HRANA News Agency – Ehsan Sadeghi, Nazi Irani, Maryam Asadi, Ali Arfa`, Vahid Safi, Enayat Safi and Amin Mazloumi, the new converted to Christianity are in uncertain condition.

    According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Ehsan Sadeghi, Nazi Irani, Maryam Asadi, Ali Arfa`, Vahid Safi, Enayat Safi, Amin Mazloumi and another person were arrested during a raid by security forces to a church in southern Tehran, on Friday April 18.

    According to this report, some new converted to Christianity, were arrested by security forces who were equipped with handgun and radio, in a very insulting manner, in Eastern day, at the house of Ms. Asadi. Security forces has investigated the house and confiscated some books and pamphlet.

    These eight new converted to Christianity three of whom are Afghan citizens are still in uncertain situation and under arrest of a military organization.

    According to HRANA’s reporter, after the follow up of their families to intelligence service and police they have told that theirs arrest was carried out by a military related organization and until their interrogations finishes they could not have any contact with them. They have also been told that they should not publicize this issue and should not have interview with any “stranger”.

    The source of HRANA has reported that the families of Asadi and Mazloumi could talk with their children.

    Summoning, kidnapping, arresting, persecution, harassment and heavy sentences of new converted to Christianity, has risen dramatically after the Islamic Republic leaders, especially Ayatollah Khamenei warned about the increase of home churches and hundreds of new Christians have insulted and arrested by security forces since then.

    During past years even the accepted churches were closed under the pressure of intelligence service and security organizations.

    Few years ago, the supreme leader of Iran, in a speech in Qom, called the home-churches as a “threat” for the society and stated, “the enemies are using different ways from spreading the lust and envy, spreading network of home-churches to different types of theosophy to instable the believes of the people and specifically the youth. These are done after studies and forecast of enemies and their goal is to unsecure the Islam in society”.

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  • NEWS | Boko Haram Raids Remote Christian Village, Slays 15, Burns Church, Market, Homes

    Kano, Nigeria (CNN) -- Nearly 20 suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on market vendors in Nigeria, killing 15 people in Borno state, witnesses say.

    They also burned a local traders market, several homes and a church, said residents who survived the Sunday attack on the remote Christian village of Daku in the district of Askira Uba.

    This is the latest raid in northeast Borno state near Chibok, where militants from the Islamist group shocked the world when they kidnapped nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls two months ago.a"The gunmen looted food items and money left by traders while fleeing the attack," eyewitness and resident Andrew Musa said of Sunday's violence. "They pursued people who attempted to flee into nearby bushes and shot them."

    "We recovered 15 bodies from the bushes after the attack, including that of the village chief," he added.

    In neighboring Yobe state on Sunday, gunmen on motorcycles stormed a mosque in Gumsa village during prayers and abducted the local chief, residents said.

    "The gunmen burned the police station and a telecommunications mast in the village before fleeing into the bush with the chief," resident Kaka Bunu said.

    Boko Haram has terrorized Nigeria's Borno state in recent years, in an effort to create an Islamic state.

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  • NEWS | 2 Christians Kidnapped in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

    CAIRO (AP) — Masked armed men, suspected to be Islamic militants, kidnapped two Coptic Christians in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in two separate incidents, and clashes between Egyptian security forces and Islamist supporters of deposed president in the capital left one policeman dead on Monday, officials said.

    The abductions come as Egypt's designated Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab is finalizing lineup of new cabinet due to swear in, following the election of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former defense minister and military chief.

    El-Sissi's ouster last year of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi — and the subsequent crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood — garnered him strong support among Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population.

    Still, Christians have continued to be targeted by Islamic militants either as retaliation for their support to el-Sissi or for the sake of hefty ransoms. Coptic organizations have reported dozens of abductions since Morsi's July 3 ouster — most in the south, where large concentrations of Christians are located near strongholds of Islamic groups.

    In the northern Sinai — where about 10,000 Copts live — the military has been waging an offensive against Islamic militants who have escalated attacks and suicide bombings against police and military since Morsi's removal.

    Security and church officials said Monday that in the north Sinai city of el-Arish masked gunmen snatched Wadie Ramses, a prominent surgeon who runs the city's first private-owned hospital around midnight Saturday after they opened fire on his vehicle, wounding him in the leg. Hours later, they demanded a ransom of 10 million Egyptian pounds ($1.4 million).

    On Monday, a Christian merchant named Gamal Shenouda was abducted near his house in el-Arish in daytime, but no ransom demand had been made yet. Security officials said that authorities are investigating, officials said.

    A church official based in el-Arish said that the abductions have caused a state of panic among Christians in northern Sinai, with some considering leaving the area. Last year, dozens of families abandoned their homes in the nearby Rafah town near borders with Gaza Strip, after attacks by extremists on Christians there.

    All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the security concerns.

    Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said security forces clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo's May 15 suburb in fighting that killed a policeman. The violence began when police set up a checkpoint to stop a group of Brotherhood followers suspected of burning police cars and other violence, the ministry said.

    Egypt has waged a heavy crackdown on Morsi's supporters for the past 11 months, killing hundreds and jailing thousands. Egyptian authorities branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization last year. The group denies it uses violence and has kept up its protests against the post-Morsi government.

    Authorities stepped up their confiscation of the Brotherhood's assets on Sunday, when police seized a number of supermarket chains in the capital owned by a deputy Brotherhood leader and a wealthy businessman who allegedly supports the group.

    Meanwhile, state TV reported that the swearing of new cabinet in will take place on Tuesday and that it will not include the Information Ministry, the government body that for decades has overseen state media, keeping them to a close government line supporting official policies and rallying support for the leadership.

    The move is in line with the newly adopted constitution, which calls for an "independent institution" to regulate media and press.

    After the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, activists and free media advocates called for abolishing the ministry and state media. The transitional military council that took power after Mubarak's removal initially agreed to the move, but then reinstated the ministry.

    Egypt's new parliament — which is to be elected within months— has a mandate to pass legislation that will regulate the work of the new media body.

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  • NEWS | Hundreds of protesters joined together in front of the White House to protest

    Hundreds of protesters joined together in front of the White House to protest the hanging of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian mother sentenced to death for her faith in Sudan. “Let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of Christians in Sudan who must continue to live under the government of al-Bashir. Meriam is one of many, and long after her case has faded from public memory, there will be countless others who must live with the same fear of persecution.” – Isaac Six, Advocacy Director, International Christian Concern

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