Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (May 27, 2011)
1. Nigerian Church Leaders Call for Probe into Election Violence
Islamic attacks on churches reflected religious dimension of political conflict, Christians say. By Lekan Otufodunrin
LAGOS, Nigeria, May 3 (Compass Direct News) � Christian leaders have called for an investigation into political violence that targeted churches and Christian homes, with at least one clergyman saying yesterday that Islamic attacks following federal elections were premeditated. Pastor Emmanuel Nuhu Kure in Kafanchan, Kaduna state reportedly said at a press briefing in Minna, Niger state that the religious component of the political violence should not be discounted. �How come the Muslim fighters . . . were neatly surrounding the walls of the Anglican Cathedral, and the Yoruba Baptist pastor�s house and setting them on fire while shooting, without any resistance, if it was not premeditated and planned?� Pastor Kure said. Christians suffered many casualties in Kaduna state after supporters of Muslim presidential candidate Muhammudu Buhari lost the April 16 federal election to Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian. Over the weekend Christian leaders in northern Nigeria called for a federal probe into the violence, saying more than 200 church buildings were burned. �The violence was both political and religious, because Christians, our churches and property, were the main targets for the destruction by the perpetrators of the violence,� the chairman and secretary of the northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria said in a press statement. Bishop Jonas Katung, national vice president of the North Central Zone of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, said in a statement that seven Christians were killed and 65 churches were either burned or damaged in Katsina state; 28 Christians were killed in Bauchi state, while 78 church buildings and other properties were set ablaze; in Gombe state, 38 Christians were killed, 17 church buildings and 27 houses were burned; in Zamfara state, five church buildings and one pastor�s house were burned; in Jigawa state,17 churches were burnt in Hadeija and seven in Jahun, he said.
2. Some Wary of Black-Listing Egypt for Rights Violations
Human rights activists, clergy believe designation would be counter-productive. By Wayne King
CAIRO, Egypt, May 5 (Compass Direct News) � Placing Egypt on a U.S. State Department list that penalizes countries for their lack of religious freedom would be a mistake, according to some Egyptian human rights activists and Christian leaders. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its annual report on April 28, recommending that Egypt be placed on the list of �Countries of Particular Concern,� or CPCs. While many in Egypt agree with the report�s assertion that religious persecution and sectarian violence are serious issues in Egypt, some said the designation would be counterproductive and would give the burgeoning government a black eye before it has a chance to address the issues. �We don�t think it is helpful to add Egypt to any black list this year,� said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. �It sends a negative message that Egypt is worse off this year now that it is not being ruled by a dictator.� Other rights advocates, as well as clergymen, agreed with Bahgat that placing Egypt on a blacklist would be counterproductive, although they would not comment for the record. Bahgat said that although there is no evidence that the number of attacks has increased from this time last year, there have been �qualitative changes� in the attacks that he finds �very disturbing,� including the demolition in March of church building in Sool village.
3. Mentally Ill Christian Charged with �Blasphemy� in Pakistan
Christian families flee area after Muslim mob threatens them. By Brian Sharma
LAHORE, Pakistan, May 6 (Compass Direct News) � Police in Chichawatni, Sahiwal district have charged a mentally ill Christian with �injuring religious feelings� under Pakistan�s widely condemned blasphemy laws. Three families related to 25-year-old Babar Masih � the only other Christian families in the area � have fled their homes after a Muslim mob threatened to harm them, relatives of the accused told Compass. Police in Chichawatni, Punjab Province registered the blasphemy case against Masih on Monday (May 2) after arresting him at about 10 p.m. that night; the young man�s own family handed him over to police because a large number of Muslim clerics had gathered outside their house and demanded that he be turned over to them so that they could �do justice� by killing him, relatives said. His brother, Amjad Masih, told Compass that Babar Masih has suffered a mental illness for the past six or seven years typified by fits of unprovoked rage, abusive language and lack of concern for food and clothing. Masih was charged under Section 298 of Pakistan�s blasphemy statues for �uttering words . . . with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings� and Section 298-A for �use of derogatory remarks . . . in respect of holy personages.� Attorney Khurram Shehzad Maan of the European Center for Law and Justice�s office in Pakistan said that the complainant clearly states in the First Information Report that Babar Masih was addressing the stars as he allegedly cried out against the prophet and holy personages of Islam, Maan said. �It means that the police must have come to know since the beginning that Babar was not a sane person, who was addressing stars, and also Babar never meant to injure feelings of any Muslims,� Maan added. Police were not available for comment at press time.
4. Vietnam Tries to Portray Cult Gathering as Christian
Military forcibly disbands amassed Hmong attracted to messianic sect. Special to Compass Direct News
HANOI, Vietnam, May 6 (Compass Direct News) � The government tried to portray several thousand Hmong followers of a sub-Christian messianic cult as orthodox Christians while the military forcibly disbanded their gathering yesterday and today. The cult members recruited from orthodox Christian groups � vulnerable to false teaching in a country where Christians cannot print their own Bibles and are subject to other restrictions � had gathered for religious reasons in Muong Nhe district, Dien Bien Province, but it turned into a confrontation before local defense forces disbanded them, bolstered by Vietnam People�s Army reinforcements hastily dropped in by helicopters. Sources in Muong Nhe told Compass today that several thousand Hmong who had initially gathered to wait for the ushering in of a new Hmong kingdom had been sent or taken back to their home areas, but that some 3,000 remained. A source said that about 50 Hmong followers, including the purported �messiah� and another top leader, fled into the forest but were captured by the military. The two leaders were said to have been severely beaten by the military. One Compass source said that no one had been killed in the military action, contrary to one published report. A Vietnam expert said government information, foreign press agency reports, and an unnamed diplomat quoted in an Agence France-Presse report on events in Muong Nhe district contain information that wrongly impugns the entire large Hmong Christian movement.
5. Islamic Extremists Attack Churches in Cairo, Egypt
As chaos grows, Christians increasingly vulnerable. By Wayne King
CAIRO, Egypt, May 9 (Compass Direct News) � At least 12 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded when members of a conservative Muslim movement attacked two churches and surrounding Christian-owned homes and businesses in a poor section of Cairo on Saturday (May 7). Salifis, a hard-line Islamic movement with extremist tendencies, set fire to one of the two church buildings, leaving most of it gutted. The arson attack on the Virgin Mary Church in Imbaba was one of many recent assaults on Coptic Christians by members of the Salafist movement, and the second time in two months that a church building in the country has been set ablaze. The first attack started early Saturday evening (May 7) at St. Mina Church in Imbaba after a rumor spread that a Coptic woman who allegedly converted to Islam was being held in the church against her will. Clergy members of St. Mina allowed a group of Islamic imams into the church building to search for the woman, and the imams declared to the gathering Muslims that the woman wasn�t in the building, according to witnesses at the scene. Reports of who struck the first blows were contradictory, but the Salafist crowd was not dissuaded by the imams� report, and by 8:30 p.m. the fight had started. Ramses Roushdy, 43, was injured in the attack. He said a piece of glass went into his eye from an exploding Molotov cocktail while he was defending his father, a lay leader in the church. After unsuccessfully trying to push through the barricades, the mob went to the Virgin Mary Church, an undefended building a 10-minute walk from St. Mina. A few men were in the building when it was attacked. All escaped except for one, Salah Aziz, the church attendant. A group of youths trying to extinguish embers from the fire discovered his body in a side room of the sanctuary that was used a baptismal, said the Rev. Mittias Ilias, head priest of the Virgin Mary Church.
6. Nigerian Pastor�s Wife, Children among Christians Killed in Attack
Islamic extremists target Christian village near Bogoro, Bauchi state. By Obed Minchakpu
KURUM, Nigeria, May 10 (Compass Direct News) � As she lay on the ground after being shot and then slashed with a machete, Dune James Rike looked into her husband�s tear-filled eyes and asked, �Is this the end between us, so we shall not be together again?� Pastor James Musa Rike told Compass he held the hands of his dying, 35-year-old wife and told her, �Hold on to your faith in Jesus, and we shall meet and never part again.� Muslim extremists who attacked Kurum village, in the Bogoro local government area of Nigeria�s Bauchi state, had already killed two of their children in a rampage that began Wednesday (May 4) at midnight. Rike, pastor of a Church of Christ in Nigeria congregation in Kurum, next heard the cries of his 13-year-old daughter, Sum James Rike, who lay mortally wounded a few yards away. �She told me that the Muslim militants told her they would kill her and �see how your Jesus will save you,�� he said. The girl told her father that she responded by telling them that Jesus had already saved her, and that by killing her they would only be making it possible for her to be with Him. Pastor Rike prayed for her as she died. Shooting and setting homes on fire, the Muslim extremists killed 12 other Christians in the attack. Bauchi police reported 16 dead � one man, three women and 12 children. Pastor Rike and his son survived the attack, and his adopted daughter, Whulham James Rike, was injured and receiving treatment at the General Hospital in Bogoro, along with five others. The assailants set more than 20 houses ablaze before leaving the village, police said.
7. Indonesian �Blasphemy� Law a Weapon for Radical Islam
Rarely-used law in �moderate� nation could provide alternate force against Christians. By Sarah Page
DUBLIN, May 12 (Compass Direct News) � On Feb. 8, a large mob in Indonesia gathered outside a courthouse in Temanggung, Central Java, chanting �Kill, kill!� after judges awarded Antonius Richmond Bawengan, a Roman Catholic, the maximum five-year sentence for blasphemy. By nightfall some 1,000 people had rampaged through the town burning vehicles, two churches and a church-run school, injuring nine people in the process. Three days later, prosecutors in Jakarta sentenced Murhali Barda, a regional leader of the hard-line Front Pembela Islam (FPI or Islamic Defenders Front) to only five-and-a-half months in prison and fined him the equivalent of 10 US cents for orchestrating an attack on a Protestant church in which two Christians were seriously injured. These events provide a snapshot of the rising fanaticism that has seriously damaged Indonesia�s reputation as a moderate Islamic nation. �The real root of the country�s religious intolerance is the 1965 Blasphemy Law,� wrote Armando Siahaan in a recent Jakarta Globe report. Many observers agree that the 1965 law and associated legislation, coupled with a lack of political will to curb hard-line groups, are to blame for the steep climb in religious violence. �The FPI have established fear in so many hearts, including the courts and the government, that we all feel it would be less troubling to just �let it go,�� a local Christian leader who requested anonymity told Compass. �In religious cases, the radicals pressure the judges and let them know when they�re not happy with a verdict.�
8. Villagers in Bangladesh Beat Christian for Defending Girls
Young Muslims who routinely harass female Christians mount assault. Special to Compass Direct News
LOS ANGELES, May 12 (Compass Direct News) � Muslim villagers beat a 22-year-old Christian man last month for defending Christian girls against routine harassment and bullying, sources said. Sipon Mondol was beaten on April 20 while returning to his native village of Nittanandapur from Gangni, Meherpur district, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of the capital city of Dhaka, his father said. On April 15, at a cultural event to celebrate the Bengali New Year, Poresh Mondol said his son had defended Christian girls against the slurs of a group of young Muslim men in an exchange that led to a gang fight. The Mondol family informed the parents of the young Muslim men, and village elders assured the Christians that they would resolve the long-standing problem, telling them that such harassment would not happen again, he said. �After the complaint, though, those Muslim boys became more predatory,� he said. �He was severely beaten. He was treated in the hospital for one day and released on April 21.� Gangni Police Inspector Motiur Rahman told Compass that authorities were taking the proper steps in response to the Christians� complaint but had so far arrested only one of the seven Muslim suspects.
9. Pakistan�s �Blasphemy� Laws Pose Growing Threat
Not even children are exempt from possibility of triggering Islamic rage. By Damaris Kremida
ISTANBUL, May 13 (Compass Direct News) � Pakistan�s notorious �blasphemy� laws can put even children at risk, and Christians say the days when they could teach their offspring pat answers to protect them from accusations of disparaging Islam or its prophet seem to have passed. A 30-year-old Pakistani woman who grew up in Lahore said her Christian parents taught her formula answers to keep from falling prey to accusations under the blasphemy statutes, such as �I am a Christian, I can only tell you about Him.� Now radical Islamists have begun influencing Pakistani society, and parents teach schoolchildren not to discuss religion, she said. �We just tell children, �Don�t talk about religion in school.� This is shaky ground now.� Thousands of Pakistanis who think and believe differently than mainstream Muslims are at risk of being slandered under the blasphemy law. Personal vendettas from neighbors, co-workers and rivals are the most common reasons blasphemy law cases are filed, according to Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute�s Center for Religious Freedom. �There are more victims from mobs and vigilantes than from the government itself, but the government bears responsibility because it does not protect the victims,� he said. Pakistan is moving increasingly towards a state driven by fear of extremists, where even moderate politicians make conservative choices to appease Islamist threats, according to Sara Taseer Shoaib, daughter of Punjab Province Gov. Salman Taseer, who was murdered for his opposition to the blasphemy laws. �Pakistan is definitely becoming more right-wing and extremist when it comes to religion,� she said. �
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