When John Huss was being put to death he was led to the suburbs of Constance to be burned at the stake. When he reached the place, wearing the paper “cap of blaspheme” he fell on his knees and began to chant Psalm 31. He looked steadfastly towards heaven and chanted verse 5: “Into thy hands O Lord! Do I commit my spirit, Thou hast redeemed me, O most good and faithful God.” When he finished quoting those words his persecutors put a chain around his waist and tied him to the stake. Huss responded to the chain with these words: “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake; why then should I be ashamed of this old rusty one?”
It is good to understand what John Huss was saying. In the midst of fierce and fatal persecution he lifted his thoughts heavenward and contemplated the greater suffering Christ had endured for him. …
ICC Note: It appears that this spokesperson for North Korea knows where his paycheck comes from. Fortunately, added to the original report are some of the tweets and reports on the Internet on the well-documented abuses carried out by the North Korean regime against Christians. And let’s not discount the personal testimonies of those who have risked their lives to escape from North Korea.
By staff reporter, Barcelona
07/27/2015 North Korea (Evangelical Focus)
The representative of Cultural Relations of North Korea with Foreign Countries, the Spaniard Alejandro Cao, has denied the fact that Christian believers are being persecuted under the regime of Kim Jong Un. Joel Forster (@joelfwal), editor of Evangelical Focus, asked Cao on Twitter about Christians being persecuted in North Korea. The regime’s delegate responded: “It is absolutely false. The problem in the world is that there are enlighted people like you who believe themselves to be representatives of God or even God”. In several other tweets, the representative of the Asian regime threw more personal attacks (“you are not a religious person but an activist of the USA”) and pointed at evangelical Christians: “You take advantage of drug addicts and homeless people to force them to become evangelists in exchange of a plate of soup.”
When asked about the possibility of the existance of a God who would make justice to those people suffering under the North Korean regime, Cao mockingly responded: “He [God] seems to be arriving late. We have been here for 70 years, and many more to come”. Cao is an official “special delegate” of the North Korean regime and has been the contact which has allowed some journalists to enter the hermetic country, always under strict vigilance. He has appeared on several tv and radio broadcasts defending the atrocities of his “beloved leader” Kim Jong Un and his predecessors, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. Therefore it is not a surprise that the special delegate defined the regime as “the closest to an ideal human society. Without drugs and prostitution. Where values are above money”.
Forced conversions are occurring not only in Africa or the Middle East, but to Christians in multiple states across Mexico. Tragically, for many Christian families in Mexico, the violation of their religious rights has not only cost them their personal security, but also the right to educate their children, and the right to maintain their own property. Speak up for our persecuted brothers and sisters today. Learn how: http://ow.ly/Q9j9l
‘There is No Solution Except Jihad in the Path of Allah’: Leader of Somali Terror Group Al-Shabaab Sends out Chilling Call for Fresh Wave of Terror Attacks Across East Africa
ICC Note: The leader of al-Shabaab has encouraged Muslims in East Africa to help the cause of Jihad and “kill evil Christians”, according to reports. According to emails, Ahmed Omar Abu-Ubeyda, the new leader of al-Shabaab, encouraged Muslims from Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Central African Republic to join the terror group. Al-Shabaab is notorious for committing countless atrocities against civilians in Somalia and Kenya, often specifically targeting Christians. In the attack on Garissa University in Kenya on April 2, al-Shabaab led an assault on the college campus, sparing Muslims while specifically murdering Christians. The Somali-based terror organization was also responsible for the deadly attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013.
By Jay Akbar
7/27/15, Kenya (Daily Mail) – The leader of Somali terror-group Al-Shabaab has urged Muslims in east-Africa to rise up against the ‘evil Christians’.
In an online statement obtained by MailOnline, Ahmed Omar Abu-Ubeyda told them to ‘migrate to the lands of Jihad’ and seek out battlefields all over the world.
He also welcomed the people of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and the dangerously unstable Central African Republic to come to Al-Shabaab’s terror training camps.
Ubeyda was appointed the group’s leader in September 2014 after Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike.
The extremist has made his first public statement since becoming the terror group’s chief in the new report called ‘Eid greetings to the Muslim ummah [community]’.
He justified Al-Shabaab’s cross-border attacks on Kenya in the hate-filled document by saying they were revenge for the ‘oppression and humiliation’ Muslims are facing in his own nation.
A recent report details the extent to which Pakistani Christian and Hindu girls are forced into marriages with Muslims and then pressured to convert. According to the report, over 1,000 women from religious minority groups are abducted, raped, and forcibly married to their rapist as they are forcibly converted to Islam. This issue remains widespread in Pakistan and begets international attention.
7/28/2015 Pakistan (Christianity Today) – Every year, at least 1,000 Pakistani girls are forced into Muslim marriages and made to convert to Islam, according to a new report.
The ‘Forced Marriages and Inheritance Deprivation‘ report from the Karachi-based Aurat Foundation claims that between 100 and 700 Christian girls, and around 300 Hindu girls, are married forcibly each year and forced to convert to Islam.
It quotes statistics from the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan (MSP), which says that an additional 1,791 forced conversions took place between 2000 and 2012. More than 600 of those converted were originally Christians.
Director of the Aurat Foundation, Mahnaz Rehman, explained to Fides news agency that forced conversion and marriage is common in Pakistan, but is largely ignored by police and civil authorities.
Women face significant discrimination, particularly on a religious basis, she added. Those who are forced to marry are often threatened and pressurised by their husband and his family to declare that their conversion was voluntary, even if the case is taken to court.
When MSP first released its statistics last year, its investigation found that forced marriages usually follow a similar pattern: girls, often between the ages of 12 and 25, are abducted, made to convert to Islam, and then married to the abductor or an associate. If a complaint is filed, then “girls are held in custody by the abductors [until the hearing] and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence,” the Aurat Foundation states.
“These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime.”
However, many forced marriages go unreported because “women are considered and treated as repositories of family honour, whose defiance or disobedience is tantamount to public shame and humiliation,” and it is also often used as a cover for human trafficking.
ICC Note: The rate of persecution worldwide has risen dramatically according to organizations that monitor religious freedom around the globe. It is estimated that one in every ten Christians of the 2.2 billion Christians suffers some form of restriction or persecution. The crimes range from death and torture to general social exclusion and political restrictions.
07-27-2015 (The Guardian): Christians are facing growing persecution around the world, fuelled mainly by Islamic extremism and repressive governments, leading the pope to warn of “a form of genocide” and for campaigners to speak of “religio-ethnic cleansing”.
The scale of attacks on Christians in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America has alarmed organisations that monitor religious persecution, with most reporting a significant deterioration in recent years.
On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said he was dismayed “to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus”. He went on: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
At Easter, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the leader of the Anglican church, spoke of Christian “martyrs”. Christians were living under persecution in almost half of the 38 Anglican provinces worldwide, he said this month. “They fear for their lives every day.”
The Prince of Wales has described threats to Christians in the Middle East as “an indescribable tragedy”.
According to David Alton, a crossbench peer who campaigns on religious freedom, “some assessments claim that as many as 200 million Christians in over 60 countries around the world face some degree of restriction, discrimination or outright persecution”. That is about one in 10 of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world. Christianity remains the faith with the most adherents.
“Whatever the real figures the scale is enormous. From Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt to North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos, from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, from Cuba, Colombia and Mexico to Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan, Christians face serious violations of religious freedom,” Alton said. Persecution ranged from murder, rape and torture to repressive laws, discrimination and social exclusion.
ICC Note: The article focuses on the specific persecution in four different countries around the world. Each nation has its own forms of religious restrictions. In Egypt, Copts are often excluded from society and socially targeted for their beliefs. In Pakistan, blasphemy laws target Christians and end many believers in jail or on death row. In China the surveillance and communist atheist repression is very real but is also a driving force for the growth of the church. In Israel, there have been aimed and specific acts of terrorism and vandalism against churches in the historic land.
07-27-2015 Egypt/Pakistan/China/Israel (The Guardian):
Egypt: ‘It pushes you to feel disengaged’
As a boy growing up in a country where football is a national passion, Mina Fayek joined a youth programme at a local sports club in the wealthy Cairo neighbourhood of Heliopolis. He started training, but one day he overheard his coach make an offhand remark: no Christians would join the first team, or make it to the championships
“My parents and I knew this is not going anywhere, and I had to choose another game,” Fayek, 26, a software engineer and blogger, recalled. He tried handball and basketball, two sports seen as more acceptable for Egyptian Christians to play.
Fayek, an affable young man, believes his social status shielded him from the worst forms of persecution inflicted on poorer Egyptian Christians. Instead, he was subject to a more subtle form of discrimination: the sense that the highest echelons of power and status in his country were off limits because of his religion.
During his 13 months of compulsory military service, he trained soldiers and officers in computer skills. As a Coptic Christian, he knew he could never serve in the intelligence branch. No Christians sit on the supreme council of armed forces.
“It pushes you to feel disengaged from your country,” Fayek said. “How could someone maintain his love for his country – and be passionate about building it – while at the same time he can’t be whatever he wants to be, whether a military commander or a police commander.”
Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, with the Copts widely estimated to be about 10% of the population. The exact figure is a matter of dispute, with the government and Coptic church offering varying estimates. In spite of a history of cooperation between the church and the Egyptian state, Copts today say they face both official discrimination and the threat of violent attacks by militants.
ICC Note: This report demonstrates the length to which Zhejiang provincial authorities are going in order to carry out their campaign of cross removals and church demolitions. The monks taking part in this confrontation should think twice about their involvement on the side of the government, particularly when Chinese authorities elsewhere in China are persecuting Buddhists.
By Yang Fan
07/27/2015 China (Radio Free Asia)
Officials in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang sent in monks to burn incense and chant Buddhist scriptures as a “provocation” as Christian believers faced off with a government-backed demolition gang intent on removing a large cross from the roof of their church, church members told RFA on Monday.
The monks came in and chanted prayers, burning incense at the door of the Jinjia’er church in Zhejiang’s Huzhou city, where believers had been staging a sit-in in the hope of blocking access by the demolition gang for several days, a church follower who asked not to be named told RFA.
“We are Protestant Christians, so by sending monks to chant sutras they were trying to get us riled up,” the Jinjia’er congregant said. “They blocked the main door, and they were detaining anyone who got physical with them on public order charges.”
“They were trying to make us angry so that we would retaliate against them. They think that anyone who opposes the government is a traitor, or someone trying to overturn the Communist Party,” he said.
President Xi Jinping warned Communist Party ideologues earlier this year that the development of religion in China, which is already closely controlled by an army of religious affairs officials, should be “independent of foreign influence.”
Citing the rapid expansion in Christian believers after churches began to re-open in the wake of the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Xi has described religion is a tool that can easily be used “by hostile foreign forces.”
By Todd Daniels and Sandra Eliott
07/27/15 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “There is horrible and uncontrolled violence and chaos [that is] leaving non-Muslim minorities like the Christians [in] fear for their lives…”
Joseph Kassab, President of Iraqi Christians Advocacy And Empowerment Institute (ICAE), explains that only two options remain for Christian in the region: either submit to the violence or flee to Kurdistan and neighboring countries.
The current generation has grown up in a world where Iraqi land is bloodstained and war-torn. Nevertheless, Iraq was once the home to some of the most tolerant and ethno-religiously diverse cultures in the world. The fabric of coexistence stitched together both monotheists and polytheists in an ancient land held dear by all living upon it. Yazidi shrines neighbored Christian sites and Mosques shared a land marked with tombs of Jewish prophets.
Sadly, we now face a new reality of sectarian hatred and radical jihadists that are intent on erasing all cultures other than their own.
Many forget that the Middle East was the birthplace of Christianity and, until recently, a large number still lived there. In 1947 Iraq was home to approximately 4.5 million Christians; in 2003 the figure stood close to 1.5 million. Today, however, the number of Christians in Iraq has tragically fallen to less than 200,000, with perhaps another 150,000 in the Kurdistan region.
Still more tragic are the conditions in which these 200,000 live. The majority of remaining Christians live in Baghdad, where recently, four Christian men were kidnapped by Islamic extremists.
Dr. Bashar Ghanem Al Akrawi, Saad Galyana Shaba, Qais Abd Shaya and Saher Hanna Sony were all kidnapped within two weeks of each other in early July. The former two were rescued and are well, while the latter two were both killed by their captors, despite their families having paid ransoms for their lives.
These types of abductions among other forms of criminality are sectarian based and carried out by powerful and armed militias. Christians have likewise had their homes and household goods stolen from them by means of falsified documents and government corruption.
These people face a dim lit future.
A Chaldean Patriarch in Iraq recently told Asia News that Christians are “fully fledged citizens of the state, and for hundreds and hundreds of years they have contributed to its civilization and its culture.” He appealed to the government authorities to protect the lives and property of these citizens in Baghdad.
Joseph Kassab contrastingly explained to ICC that this is not a problem that the Iraqi government will be able to easily resolve as the government itself is fragile and corrupt.
“There is no hope in this country”
Iraqi Christians, among other minorities, are suffering under dire circumstances with little to no help. Soon enough, their ancient presence in Iraq will no longer be. Bernan Petros, a Christian originally from Bartella, Iraq, told Rudaw News, “There is no hope in this country. We have no hope here. We are so tired of this situation, and now we are thinking of leaving–all Christians together–to seek another place in Europe.”
This is exactly what will happen unless the Western church acknowledges the reality of what is happening in the Middle East and acts to change it. There is an urgent need for security and aid, but even more important are the tools to restart life. If families are to choose to stay in Iraq they will require sources of income and opportunities for their children. These will be the building blocks for a new future.
We must realize that this is a war being waged against religious freedom, not just Iraqis. It is a war to drive out those who don’t adhere to the radical beliefs of ISIS or other extremists.
How many more fathers, sons, husbands and brothers need to be kidnapped and murdered before we stop turning a fearful blind eye to atrocity?
ICC Note: Almost four months after the April 2 attacks on Garissa University, where al-Shabaab terrorists spared Muslim students and specifically targeted and killed Christian students, survivors of the attack recall in horror the events that unfolded that day. In the aftermath of the attack, the students explained how several Christians now fear living on campus, and that tensions have been heightened between Muslim and Christian students. Simon Kande, the chairman of FOCUS, has asked for prayers of healing and protection, while also praying to remain a powerful witnessing community for Christ at Garissa University.
By Krish Kandiah
7/25/15, Kenya (Christian Today) – “I heard gun shots at 5.50am and I managed to hide in the wardrobe for one and a half days. When I was rescued I found out my roommates did not survive. Because of my tiny wardrobe space, I was unable to walk for two weeks after that but I thank God for sparing my life” – Elsie Karemi.
The world was shocked when news of a massacre on a Kenyan university campus broke over the Easter weekend this year. What wasn’t widely reported was that many of the victims, like Elsie, were members of an evangelical student ministry called FOCUS.
The ministry began in the late 1950s, started by Christian faculty at the University of Nairobi. It is now working in 144 universities and higher education colleges. There are 68 staff, including 32 interns, and in total there are 42,000 students in the movement.
Garissa is in Northern Kenya and is the only university campus in that region. The FOCUS group there had 250 students involved, meeting for Bible study, prayer and praise. Like all the student Christian Unions in Kenya they hold their own Sunday services. In a Muslim dominated area both Muslims and Christians wake up early to pray. It was normal custom for CU members to meet at 5am for daily morning devotions.
ICC Note: Nearly four months after al-Shabaab’s deadly assault on Kenyan Christians in Garissa, Kenya on April 2, local Christians remain fearful of further attacks. The Garissa University attack claimed 148 lives while injuring dozens more. During the attack, the insurgents spared Muslim students and specifically targeted and murdered Christians. Due to continued threats, many Christians no longer find it safe to live and worship in Garissa. In the face of fear and uncertainty though, some Christians refuse to leave their churches and homes in Garissa, risking their lives and safety in the face of potential future attacks.
By Nima Elbagir and Antonia Mortensen
7/26/15, Kenya (CNN) – Christians have come under repeated attacks in North Eastern Province in Kenya at the hands of Al-Shabaab militants who have killed hundreds.
It’s sunrise over the Tana River. Traffic starts to flow over the bridge and morning rush hour begins. What looks like the beginning of a normal workday here has a much darker undertone. Most of the commuters are day laborers, people going into their offices, but also many Christians who are too scared to sleep inside Garissa town. They have decided to move themselves and their families across to the other side of the river to safety.
We met Esther as she was crossing the bridge on foot on her way to work. She is a mother of three and a Christian. When we ask her why she decided to move her and her family out of town she tells us: “It is because of Al-Shabaab that I moved out of Garissa. You can be shot anytime while you are walking. Even when we’re at home they can just come from the bush.”
In April this year, hundreds of students at Garissa University in northern Kenya came under attack when Al-Shabaab militants from across the border in Somalia raided dormitories at the college. Separating Christian students from their Muslim classmates, the raiders killed 147 and wounded dozens more. Today, the university stands empty.
Christians in North Eastern Kenya have come under repeated attacks by Al-Shabaab militants.
Recently, Hindu nationalist organizations have escalated their efforts to convert Christians and other religious minorities to Hinduism. These efforts at proselytization are part of an ongoing campaign by Hindu nationalists against Christians. In violation of India’s constitution, Hindu nationalists have steered government welfare benefits away from Christians, pressuring them to convert to Hinduism in order to receive benefits. As Christians are disproportionately found in the poor Dalit class, the decision to stand firm in their faith exacerbates their economic misery.
7/27/2015 India (Christian Post) – A Hindu nationalist organization has converted 39 people from Dalit Christian families to Hinduism in a controversial ceremony aimed at making them eligible for a government benefits program.
“We are moving ahead with our initiative and more families from other religions will be reconverted to Hinduism soon. We are being approached by many people who want to come back to their original faith,” said Viswha Hindu Parishad Alappuzha District Chief Prathap G Padickal, according to the Times of India.
The “ghar wapsi” programme in Kerala’s Alappuzha district previously oversaw another 30 Dalit Christians convert to Hinduism in December 2014.
The Dalits, known as the “untouchables,” make up India’s lowest caste, and are eligible for certain government benefits if they identify as Hindus
International Christian Concern, which reports on persecution taking place in India, noted that Christians from such low caste backgrounds are often soft targets for Hindu nationalists, who are seeking to take advantage of the stipulation in the government benefits program and lure people of other faiths into Hinduism.
“In most cases, people from low caste backgrounds are afforded government stipends and advantages, but these stipends and advantages are denied to low caste people who are registered as Christians or Muslims in India,” ICC noted. “In many cases the allurement o these government stipends and advantages are enough to convince people to convert to Hinduism.”
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has agreed to hear an appeal filed by Asia Bibi regarding her blasphemy charge, which is punishable by death. Until the Court has heard the appeal, Bibi cannot be executed. Bibi’s case is one of the most high profile stories of religious freedom abuses emanating out of Pakistan. Despite both international and internal calls for reform, the prevalence of intolerance and extremism in Pakistan has stifled any meaningful efforts to reform the country’s infamous blasphemy laws.
7/27/2015 Pakistan (Gatestone Institute) – Pakistan’s authorities appear to have found a solution to at least one of their problems in the international arena: Aasiya Noreen — or “Asia Bibi” — a 50-year-old Christian woman and mother of five, who has been on death row for six years for allegedly insulting Muhammad.
Instead of executing Asia Bibi and further advertising to the international community that theirs is a savage and backwards nation — and instead of releasing her and provoking millions of angry Muslims to turn on the government and accuse it of supporting “apostasy” — Pakistan’s authorities appear to be letting time, wretched conditions, severe maltreatment, and beatings slowly kill her.
Recent reports state that she is deathly ill and “so weak she could hardly walk.” Mission Network News says that Asia Bibi has “internal bleeding, abdominal pain, and is vomiting blood. If she does not receive immediate medical care, she could die.”
China Aid President Testifies at Congressional-Executive Commission on China Hearing on Religious Persecution In China
ICC Note: ICC cooperates with China Aid, specifically in support of the persecuted church in China. This article details the testimony of China Aid president Bob Fu before Congress.
By Rachel Ritchie
07/24/2015 China (China Aid)
China Aid president and founder, Bob Fu, gave his testimony concerning religious freedom in China yesterday to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington, D.C.
Fu gave several recommendations during the hearing, titled “Religious with ‘Chinese Characteristics’: Persecution and Control in Xi Jinping’s China,” including the following for the United States Department of State:
• “The U.S. State Department should strongly consider posting an officer at the U.S. Embassy in China with the sole responsibility of reporting religious freedom and related human rights abuses in China, including the areas of Tibet and Xinjiang.”
• “The State Department should make an official public statement condemning this forced demolition of crosses and churches in Zhejiang and other areas of China. So far neither Secretary Kerry nor the spokesperson have issued even a public statement condemning this large, brutal, shameful campaign.”
• “The State Department should raise, publicly and at all levels of exchange with the Chinese government, the cases of prisoners of conscience, especially the China 18 and others. And I know you had led the campaign to urge President Obama to meet with the daughters of the China 18 multiple times. I think the excuse [of] not meeting with these family members in China is that it could pose a danger or [is] a potential threat. But how about here in the United States; there is no threat.”
Others that spoke at the hearing, led by Congressmen Chris Smith, (R-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), included Anastasia Lin, actress, human rights advocate and Miss World Canada 2015; Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress; and Losang Gyatso, service chief of Voice of America’s Tibetan service.
Fu’s full testimony, below, and the testimony of the other witnesses, along with a video of the hearing can be found here.
U.S. State Dept. Bars Christians from Testifying about Persecution: Muslim Persecution of Christians, May 2015
ICC Note: The U.S. State Department has reportedly barred some Christians from testifying on Christian persecution occurring in predominantly Muslim countries, including Nigerian Governor Jonah David Jang. Last year, after the U.S. Institute for Peace invited different Nigerian governors from northern majority-Muslim states for a conference, Governor Jang, the only Christian, had his visa denied by the State Department. According to Nigerian human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, this is due to the anti-Christian bias that exists within the State Department and U.S. government as a whole. This ignorance and refusal to acknowledge Christian persecution in Nigeria may have serious implications for U.S. aid designed to assist Nigeria in combating Boko Haram.
By Raymond Ibrahim
7/24/15, Washington, D.C. (Gatestone Institute) – During the height of one of the most brutal months of Muslim persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department exposed its double standards against persecuted Christian minorities.
Sister Diana, an influential Iraqi Christian leader, who was scheduled to visit the U.S. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.
She was to be one of a delegation of religious leaders from Iraq — including Sunni, Shia and Yazidi, among others — to visit Washington, D.C., to describe the situation of their people. Every religious leader from this delegation to Washington D.C. was granted a visa — except for the only Christian representative, Sister Diana.
After this refusal became public, many Americans protested, some writing to their congressmen. Discussing the nun’s visa denial, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said: