Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (May 17, 2011)
1. Suspected Islamists Burn Down Two Homes in Ethiopia
Two thatched-grass structures belonged to evangelist who received threats. By Simba Tian
NAIROBI, Kenya, April 21 (Compass Direct News) � A Christian near Ethiopia�s southern town of Moyale said suspected Islamic extremists on March 29 burned down his two thatched-grass homes. Evangelist Wako Hanake of the Mekane Yesus Church told Compass he had been receiving anonymous messages warning him to stop converting Muslims to Christ. The Muslims who became Christians included several children. The incident in Tuka, five kilometers (nearly three miles) from Moyale in southern Ethiopia�s Oromia Region, happened while Hanake was away on an evangelistic trip. A neighbor said he and others rescued Hanake�s wife and children ages 8, 6 and 2. Church leaders said neighbors are still housing Hanake and his family. An area church leader who requested anonymity told Compass that Christians in Moyale are concerned that those in Tuka are especially vulnerable to a harsh environment in which religious rights are routinely violated. �The Ethiopian constitution allows for religious tolerance,� said another area church leader, also under condition of anonymity, �but we are concerned that such ugly incidents like this might go unpunished. To date no action has been taken.� Tuka village, on Ethiopia�s border with Kenya, is populated mainly by ethnic Oromo who are predominantly Muslim. Hostility toward those spreading faiths different from Islam is a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia and neighboring countries, area Christians said, adding that they are often subject to harassment and intimidation.
2. Egyptian Convert Flees Potential Dangers in Syria
Maher El-Gohary and daughter apply for asylum in France. By Wayne King
ISTANBUL, April 21 (Compass Direct News) � A father and daughter who fled Egypt to Syria after spending two and a half years in hiding for becoming Christians have arrived in France and yesterday applied for asylum there, human rights advocates said. Maher Ahmad El-Mo�otahssem Bellah El-Gohary, 58, had become the target of Islamic ill will in Egypt after he tried to change the religious affiliation on his national identification card from Muslim to Christian. He and his daughter, 17-year-old Dina Mo�otahssem, arrived in Paris from Syria on March 30 after having fled to Damascus on Feb. 22 in the wake of the revolution in Egypt that deposed then-President Hosni Mubarak. The Jan. 25-Feb. 11 protests in Egypt also weakened the Ministry of the Interior, an agency that had harassed El-Gohary and prevented him from leaving the country. El-Gohary had fled to Syria because it was both the fastest and the easiest way to get out of Egypt, but he said he also feared Islamic opposition to converts in Syria and growing political unrest in Damascus. �When we got to the French embassy in Syria, we were so scared because of what was happening in Syria at the time,� he said. Eventually El-Gohary and his daughter hope to gain a visa to the United States and then immigrate.
3. Hindu Extremists in India Beat Pastor Unconscious
Evangelist was traveling with sons from one village to another. By Shireen Bhatia
NEW DELHI, April 22 (Compass Direct News) � Hindu extremists beat a pastor and evangelist unconscious in front of his sons earlier this month in Madhya Pradesh state. Ramesh Devda, 30, from Dhadhniya, Meghnagar district, said he was attacked on April 4 after leading a prayer meeting in Chikklia village. He said he was on his way to Bhajidongra, at the border of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states, by motorcycle with his two sons, ages 10 and 8, to lead another prayer meeting. When he reached Raseda village, he said, suddenly three people on two motorcycles blocked his way, forced him to stop and knocked his motorcycle over. �They were carrying big bamboo sticks and clubs,� he said. �They started beating me, and then they called and three more men came and started to attack me.� He said he was thankful that is sons were spared from beating, though his older son sustained a leg injury in the course of the attack. The Hindu extremists �were angry at me and were threatening to kill me and were warning me not to come to their area again,� he said. Pastor Devda leads congregations in Chikklia, Bhajidongra and Dhadhniya villages. �The people who beat me up do belong to a Hindu fundamentalist outfit, and some believers in Chikklia know them,� he said. �I can recognize them if I see them again.�
4. Charges Fabricated against Six Christians in Bangladesh
Police unable to back accusation of �hurting religious feelings� against health care workers. Special to Compass Direct News
LOS ANGELES, April 26 (Compass Direct News) � A judge has dismissed a case against volunteer health care workers northwest of Bangladesh�s capital city of Dhaka who were charged in March with �hurting religious feelings� after area Muslims objected to distribution of Christian literature at a health camp. The six Christians working at the health camp offering free treatment for poor villagers in Damurhuda, Chuadanga district, some 210 kilometers (126 miles) northwest of Dhaka, were arrested on March 24 and released on bail three days later. Mannan Mridha, pastor in the Way of Peace movement of 490 house churches in northwest Bangladesh, which established the health care camp, said a Japanese volunteer doctor offered Christian leaflets and Bibles to patients; the doctor told patients they were under no obligation to take them, Mridha told Compass. Some area Muslims stirred up area residents against the doctor, and the angry villagers had police arrest six Christian volunteers who worked with him under Section 54 of the penal code, a special power granted to police to arrest anyone on any suspicion. Later police prosecuted the six nationals, but not the foreign doctor, under section 295-A of the penal code for hurting religious sensibilities. Police were unable to file a report backing the charges within the required 15 working days, however, and the judge dismissed the case on April 10. �This incident of harassment is a grim reminder of how vulnerable the Christians here are in Muslim-majority society, though rights of religious freedom and freedom of expression by minorities are ensured in our constitution,� Mridha said.
5. Church Building in Egypt Reconstructed in Time for Easter
Muslim rioters who torched it had declared mosque would be built on site. By Wayne King
ISTANBUL, April 27 (Compass Direct News) � Fewer than 40 days after a mob of Muslim villagers in Egypt left a church�s building in ruins, the congregation celebrated Easter on Sunday (April 24) in a reconstructed building at the same site. The reconstruction of the church building by the Egyptian military gave Christians in Egypt cause to celebrate, but it came during a new outbreak of sectarian violence across the country. The Rev. Balamoun Youakeem, head parish priest for the Church of the Two Martyrs St. George and St. Mina in the village of Sool, located in Helwan 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Cairo, said the reconstruction was finished in �amazing time.� Youakeem said the rebuilding was carried out over the objections of villagers. It was attacked on the evening of March 4, after an imam told Muslim villagers to �Kill all the Christians� in response to a rumor of an affair between a Muslim man and a Christian woman, both married to other people. The rioters set fire to the church and demolished a large part of what was left by hand and with sledgehammers. They then set up a sign declaring the site to be the �Rahmah Mosque� and held a prayer service inside the church ruins.
6. Survey of Christians in India Sets Off Alarm Bells
Church leaders complain of illegal religious profiling in Madhya Pradesh. By Shireen Bhatia
NEW DELHI, April 29 (Compass Direct News) � An attempt by police in India�s Madhya Pradesh to survey the state�s Christian minority came to light this month and left church leaders calling for a federal investigation into alleged religious profiling. Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, called for a National Commission for Minorities probe into the survey, which sought data on where Catholics and Protestants live, their economic status, and details of Christian-operated schools, including sources of income and whether they get foreign funding. Police later withdrew the controversial survey after Christian leaders approached state Director General of Police S.K. Rout, who denied any knowledge of it. �The survey was a mere goof-up by lower-rung officials,� Rout reportedly said. In a statement to the BBC he added, �Though police collect such information periodically to ensure protection to minority communities in the state, the way this survey was ordered was incorrect.� Christian leaders remained largely upset and demanded a central government investigation. �We do not believe the police pretext that they want to know the locations to protect the Christians,� Dayal told Compass. �All these questions about funding of churches and missions are absolutely illegal . . . The blame for all this rests squarely with the chief minister of the state and his home minister, who are acting at the behest of the RSS to which they both belong.�
7. Rioting Muslims Damage Church, Properties in Pakistan
Christian families flee threat of large-scale violence. By Murad Khan
LAHORE, Pakistan, May 2 (Compass Direct News) � Hundreds of Muslims in Gujranwala on Saturday (April 30) attacked Christians� homes, a school and a Presbyterian church building after learning that police had released two Christians accused of �blasphemy� � amid reports of another alleged desecration of the Quran. Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq were released on Friday afternoon (April 29) after a handwriting expert hired by police determined that the latter had not written a threatening note accompanying burned pages of the Quran, police sources said. The two Christians had been taken into protective custody on April 15. On Saturday morning (April 30), however, as news of their release spread, a Muslim claimed that pages of the Quran had been burned in Gujranwala�s Aziz Colony cemetery in Punjab Province. Announcements over area mosque loudspeakers began blaring, and Muslim residents and members of extremist groups began gathering. The mob started rioting and hurling rocks at the houses of Christians, including a school owned by a Christian, Eric Isaac, who was among eight Christians police took into custody for questioning, as well as at a neighborhood church building. At least 18 people � 15 Muslim protestors and three policemen � were injured and had to be hospitalized after police used tear gas and batons to disperse the mob. There were no reports of injured Christians. Around 150 protestors were arrested, with two cases registered against them for attacking Christian property and �creating a law and order situation.� Retired Maj. Timothy Nasir, principal of Faith Theological Seminary in Gujranwala, told Compass by telephone that the violent riots had forced a large number of Christian families to flee. �
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