Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (July 1, 2011)
OFFICIAL CHURCH MEMBERS �ADMONISH� SHOUWANG GROUP
June 16 (Compass Direct News) � Police last weekend detained a further 16 members of Beijing�s Shouwang house church and placed several more under house arrest, while members of China�s government-approved churches have gone to police stations to �admonish� detained house church members, according to a statement issued yesterday by church leaders. Of those detained, police held two in protective custody in hotels, beginning on Friday night (June 10), while another 14 who turned up at Shouwang�s designated outdoor worship site on Sunday morning (June 12) were taken away and sent to 10 police stations. Of those detained Sunday morning, 13 were released by midnight while the last was released the next day. The church reported that members of government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches had in the previous two weeks come to many local police stations to �educate� and �admonish� detained Shouwang congregants, urging them to leave Shouwang and join TSPM churches. The number of people turning up to the outdoor venue has dwindled as members of the highly educated and influential church face consequences in their personal lives. Towards the end of May, the church was shocked by the departure of Pastor Song Jun, fellow minister Jian Lijin, and deacons Ji Cheng and Yuan Yansong, who left because they disagreed with plans to continue outdoor worship, a source reported. While some house churches also disagree with Shouwang�s approach, claiming their �confrontation� with the government can only bring harm for house churches in general, others have chosen to stand in solidarity with them. On May 11, 17 pastors or church workers from almost 20 house churches in six Chinese cities delivered a petition to the National People�s Congress, China�s top legislature, asking for the keys of Shouwang�s property and a more favorable law governing religious freedom, China Aid Association reported.
AUTHORITIES EXPEL SHOUWANG CHURCH MEMBER FROM BEIJING
June 29 (Compass Direct News) � Chinese authorities detained a member of one of Beijing�s largest unregistered churches on Monday (June 27) and sent him to his home town in Shandong Province, sources said. Three officers from Beijing�s Dongsheng police station detained the Shouwang church member at about 5 p.m. while he was at a market to get a mobile phone fixed, they said. They handed him over to a Shandong office based in the capital, which sent him to his hometown that evening. He was the second member of the church to be expelled from the city since authorities allegedly compelled the owners of the church�s rented facility to stop leasing to the congregation in April, forcing them to meet outdoors the past three months. The Shouwang member expelled on Monday notified the church yesterday that his identity card was confiscated, and he was warned not to return to Beijing before July 1, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. The first church member detained was arrested on May 8; he had already been forced to quit his job as an instructor at an international school for children under 3 years old, and as he had lived at the school office, he also lost his lodging. In a press statement, Shouwang church leaders said yesterday, �The forced expatriation by Dongsheng Police Station and Haidian Public Security Bureau has constituted a complete contempt for and a flagrant violation of the law, in effect depriving a citizen of any guarantee of the most basic of foundational existential rights.�
BELEAGUERED CHURCH TO PROVIDE LEGAL AID TO MEMBERS
June 30 (Compass Direct News) � Leaders of the troubled Shouwang house church in Beijing have established a legal committee to assist church members facing arrest or house arrest, the loss of employment or homes and forced relocation to their home towns. The unregistered church has described the forced relocation of one church member to Shandong province as �a flagrant violation of the law,� and Shouwang�s leaders last week formally established a committee of legal experts within the church charged with collecting evidence of �citizens of faith being forced to leave their jobs or being evicted because of their religious belief.� For the past three months, Shouwang church members have committed to meet in a public square in Zhongguancun, northwestern Beijing, in response to repeated attempts by the government to deny them access to a permanent worship venue. On Sunday (June 26), police arrested 15 people who showed up at Shouwang�s designated outdoor worship venue, including several from other house churches. Many church leaders remained under permanent house arrest, while scores of church members were detained in homes or hotel rooms, according to a China Aid Association (CAA) report. The CAA also claimed that officials pressured the management of the Beijing office of World Vision to dismiss employee and church member Xia Xiao, a claim that World Vision refutes. �World Vision has fired no one and has come under no pressure to fire anyone,� World Vision spokesperson Cynthia Colin said in a press statement. �The staff member in question has in fact been working as normal out of her office this week.�
MUSLIM MOBS ATTACK CHRISTIAN HOMES, THREATEN PRIEST
June 27 (Compass Direct News) � Enraged Muslims burned down several Christian-owned homes, surrounded a church building and threatened to kill a priest last week in two unrelated incidents in Upper Egypt. On Saturday (June 25) in Awlad Khalaf village, just outside Sohag, 240 miles (386 kilometers) south of Cairo, local Muslims attacked Coptic Christian Wahib Halim Atteyah, robbed him of 32,000 Saudi Riyals (US$8,530), and bulldozed his home along with the other structures on his property, according to local media. The group then raided six other Coptic-owned homes and burned them to the ground. Villagers had begun circulating a rumor that Atteyah was constructing a church building on his property. Atteyah and another Coptic Christian, Ihab Na�eem, were later arrested for allegedly repelling the attack with firearms, a charge Atteyah said was untrue. Two Muslims accused of setting houses on fire also have been arrested. In a previous incident on Thursday (June 23) in Beni-Ahmed al-Gharbiya village near the town of Minya, 136 miles (220 kilometers) south of Cairo, a group of Salafi Muslims surrounded the Church of St. George and demanded that the Rev. Gorgy Thabet leave the village or they would kill him and hold Muslim prayers in the church building. Security police kept the mob from breaking into the church building, then removed the priest from the village. It was not known if there were any injuries in the incident.
HOSTILE RHETORIC TURNS UP HEAT ON CHRISTIANS
June 22 (Compass Direct News) � Increased public statements against Christianity in Iran have intensified pressures on Christians, sources said, but at their core they reflect Islamic leaders� dismay with the growth of house churches and may signal dissension within Iran�s leadership. �The reality is most of the house churches are so hidden that the government can�t do anything, and they know it,� said a regional expert who requested anonymity. �They just see how the house churches are still growing.� Some sources told Compass the comments may indicate a power struggle between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This bodes ill for Christians and minorities in general, they said. �When there is conflict in the government and division, then all the minorities will have a hard time,� said another Christian Iranian who requested anonymity. In May, Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi said authorities have not done enough to quench the growth of Christian house churches, considering the �massive funding� the government has spent toward that end. Today Mohabat News reported that Hojatoleslam Tarashioon of the Mehdi Seminary in Qom claimed that �the enemies of Islam� are providing US$50,000 a year to some house churches. �This cult in recent years has become active, and today they work under the pretext of cultural and educational centers and have expanded their activities in several provinces,� Tarashioon said, according to Mohabat. Experts believe public attacks on Christians resulted in the arrest of more than 120 Iranian Christians between December.
GOVERNMENT PLANS NEW CRIMINAL CODE FORBIDDING EVANGELISM
June 2 (Compass Direct News) � Five years after it abolished Hinduism as the state religion, Nepal is working on a new criminal code forbidding a person from one faith to �convert a person or abet him to change his religion.� Article 160 of the proposed code also says no one will be allowed to do anything or behave in any way that could cause a person from a caste, community or creed to lose faith in his/her traditional religion or convert to a different religion. Offenders could be imprisoned for a maximum of five years and fined up to 50,000 Nepalese rupees (US$685). Nepal�s Christian community, which has no representation in the Council of Ministers or in parliament, was caught unaware of the new criminal law in the offing. �We have not heard of this,� said Lokmani Dhakal, general secretary of Nepal Christian Society. �We need to look into this.� Nepal last weekend failed to complete a new constitution providing for religious freedom, thanks to a protracted battle for political power. Once the only Hindu monarchy in the world and now the youngest federal republic, Nepal was to have unveiled the document by midnight on Saturday (May 28).
PASTOR, CHURCH OFFICIAL SHOT DEAD
June 10 (Compass Direct News) � Muslim extremists from the Boko Haram sect on Tuesday (June 7) shot and killed a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) pastor and his church secretary in Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria�s Borno state. The Rev. David Usman, 45, and church secretary Hamman Andrew were the latest casualties in an upsurge of Islamic militancy that has engulfed northern Nigeria this year. The Rev. Titus Dama Pona, pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All in Maiduguri, told Compass that Pastor Usman was shot and killed by members of the Boko Haram near an area of Maiduguri called the Railway Quarters, where the slain pastor�s church is located. Pona said Christians in Maiduguri have become full of dread over the violence of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) on northern Nigeria. �Christians have become the targets of these Muslim militants � we no longer feel free moving around the city, and most churches no longer carry out worship service for fear of becoming targets of these unprovoked attacks,� Pona said. The Rev. Logan Gongchi of COCIN�s Kerang congregation in Jos, Plateau state, told Compass that area Christians were shocked at the news. �We knew him to be very gentle, an introvert, who was always silent in the class and only spoke while answering questions from our teachers,� Gongchi said. �He had a simple lifestyle and was easygoing with other students. He was very accommodating and ready at all times to withstand life�s pressures � this is in addition to being very jovial.�
CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES NEAR TOWN DISAPPEARING
June 14 (Compass Direct News) � In two villages in Bauchi state�s Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, most area Christians have been displaced. In Mdandi village, scores of armed, hard-line Islamists � avoiding the surrounding Muslim villages � descended on Mdandi on March 27, destroyed the Christians� homes and drove them out, former residents said. The attack on Mdandi was preceded by an assault on Feb. 10. �On their first attack, we fought back, defending ourselves and our families,� said Luka Zafi, pastor of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) congregation in the village. �They left and returned the second time with more of them, and all armed with guns. We ran out of the village, and they destroyed our two church buildings and our houses.� A Compass visit to the village found Muslim Fulani nomads had taken it over and were using it to graze their cattle. The marauders were believed to have been Islamists from other parts of Bauchi state collaborating with local Muslims and Fulani herdsmen. Muslim extremists also attacked Gumel, another Christian village in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, in February � leaving two Christians dead, destroying three church buildings, burning more than 50 houses and displacing more than 300 residents. Killed in the Feb. 5 attack was COCIN church elder Mallam Riga Ubandoma. A 14-year-old girl, Numkwi William, died from a snake bite while fleeing from the assailants. Ishaya Magaji, 65, pastor of the displaced Gumel COCIN church, told Compass that all 166 members of his church have been displaced. �We cannot return to the village � not only because our houses have been destroyed, but because the Muslims have taken over the village and are using the place as a grazing field for the Fulani Muslims in the area,� Magaji said.
POLICE RELUCTANT TO PROSECUTE ATTACK ON CHURCH
June 1 (Compass Direct News) � Armed Muslims disrupted the worship service of a church outside Lahore on Sunday (May 29), cursing the congregation, smashing a glass altar and desecrating Bibles and a cross, Christian leaders said. Police initially tried to protect the leader of the Muslim intruders, the nephew of a former Member of the Punjab Assembly (MPA), and instead of making arrests eventually pressured Christians to accept an apology from the accused, they said. Pastor Ashraf Masih of Numseoul Presbyterian Church in Lakhoki Kahna village told Compass that Muhammad Shoaib, nephew of former MPA Mansha Sindhu, entered the church building accompanied by four men armed with rifles and pistols and started cursing the congregation for �disturbing the peace of the area by worshipping on loudspeakers,� though the congregation was using loudspeakers only inside the church building. Police were reluctant to register a case on the incident until the pastor told police that their colleagues had witnessed the damage done to the church building, that journalists had also photographed the site, and that unless officers registered the case they would block the main road in protest. After negotiating with Christian representatives, Sindhu agreed to make Shoaib publicly apologize. A local newspaper quoted a police official as saying that Shoaib had not carried a weapon and had not desecrated Bibles. The police superintendent declined to answer calls from Compass about why the former legislator�s nephew had apologized if he was innocent and why police hadn�t registered vandalism charges.
POLICE TORTURE SISTER OF CHRISTIAN WHO ELOPED
June 13 (Compass Direct News) � Sheikhupura police this month tortured a young Christian woman into revealing the whereabouts of the legal team helping her family after an influential Muslim family kidnapped her and her sister, sources said. Police also helped the Muslim family beat relatives of the Christian woman on court premises and attacked the offices of the organization trying to help her family, they said. The Community Development Initiative (CDI) was providing legal assistance to the family of Sajid Ashraf Masih, whose elopement with a young woman from the Gujjar family in Sheikhupura last month led the influential Muslims to kidnap Masih�s sisters, said Asif Aqeel, executive director of CDI. Gujjar family members kidnapped Rakhel Ashraf on May 13; they released her on May 17 but forcibly took her 17-year-old sister Maryam Ashraf that day. CDI had helped the family negotiate the release of the two Christian sisters and also made efforts for the return of the runaway couple in order to avert religious conflict in Ghazi Minara village, outside Sheikhupura in Punjab Province. On June 1, police took Rakhel Ashraf into custody and tortured her into revealing the location of the CDI office in Lahore, Aqeel said. CDI lawyers managed to negotiate the safe return of the Gujjars� daughter, Saleha, on the condition that they would stop harassing the Christians and also withdraw all cases registered against them. But Saleha�s husband is still in hiding, and a divorce process is underway.
FAMILIES FLEE AFTER ANOTHER BOGUS �BLASPHEMY� CHARGE
June 15 (Compass Direct News) � At least 10 Christian families in a village in Pakistan�s Punjab Province have fled their homes after a throng of area Muslims accused a Christian of blaspheming Islam on Friday (June 10). Yousaf Masih of village No. 68 AR Farmwala, in Khanewal district�s Mian Channu area, told Compass that his brother Yaqub�s grandson, 8-year-old Ihtesham (also known as Sunny), had gone out to fetch ice when Muslim boys from a nearby religious school started harassing him. Masih said that his son Dildar Masih, a 26-year-old father of two boys ages 3 and 2, was going to his work as a painter when he saw the Muslim boys thrashing his nephew. �Dildar rushed towards them and rescued Sunny from their attack,� Yousaf Masih said. �Sunny told him that the boys were beating him because he would not recite their Kalma, at which Dildar rebuked the boys for forcing Sunny to renounce his religion. He then asked Sunny to return home and left for his workplace.� Some 60 Muslims led by village prayer leader Qari Hasnain claimed Dildar Masih had blasphemed Islam by abusing the Kalma. The village�s mosque loudspeakers began urging �all the faithful to find the blasphemer and punish him,� but Dildar Masih was caught unaware when the Islamic throng arrived at the house he was painting. �They pounced on him like tigers,� his elderly father said. �They slapped him, kicked him, and my poor son didn�t even know why he was being tortured.�
MILITARY, MILITIAS KILL CHRISTIANS IN SOUTH KORDOFAN
June 17 (Compass Direct News) � Military intelligence agents killed one Christian, and Islamic militants sympathetic to the government slaughtered another last week after attacking churches in Sudan�s embattled South Kordofan state. Christian sources said a Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) Intelligence unit detained Nimeri Philip Kalo, a student at St. Paul Major Seminary, on June 8 near the gate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in Kadugli�s al Shaeer area and shot him in front of bystanders. Kalo and other Christians were fleeing the town after Muslim militias loyal to the SAF attacked and looted at least three church buildings in Kadugli, they said. Armed conflict in Kadugli broke out between southern and northern militaries on June 6 after northern forces seized Abyei last month. On June 8, Islamic militants loyal to the SAF slaughtered a young Christian man by sword in Kadugli Market, the sources said. Adeeb Gismalla Aksam, 33, was a bus driver whose father is an elder with the Evangelical Church in Kadugli. The Islamic militias were heard shouting Allahu-akbar (God is greater) as they began shooting at a Roman Catholic Church building the same day. No one was hit by the bullets shot at the building from the outside, but SAF agents arrested the Rev. Abraham James Lual in front of his congregation. Authorities took him to an unknown location and tortured him for two days, a priest said. The SAF and Islamic militias on June 8 also set fire to buildings of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and the Sudanese Church of Christ in Kadugli, sources said. �The churches and pastors were directly targeted,� said the Rt. Rev. Bishop Andudu Adam Elnail.
CHRISTIAN, VISITING LEPERS BEATEN, JAILED
June 20 (Compass Direct News) � A Catholic and two Hindu visitors with leprosy in Karnataka state were freed on bail on Tuesday (June 14,) two days after they were beaten by suspected Hindu extremists and arrested on charges of forcible conversion. Police arrested the Catholic, retired Indian Army Cpl. Henry Baptist Robey, and two visitors from Tamil Nadu state, Ram Moorthy and another identified only as Mani, from Robey�s house in Bangalore while they and others were celebrating Pentecost on Sunday (June 12). �All the leprosy patients who had come for the prayer function told the police that they were Hindu, and that they were not being converted, but the police still registered a complaint against us,� Robey said. Circle Inspector Hanumantharayappa acknowledged to Compass that two of the accused were Hindus. �They brought others from Tamil Nadu state to Bangalore not just for food ,� the inspector said. �They were paid for that, that�s what the complainants said.� Dr. Sajan K. George of the Karnataka-based Global Council of Indian Christians, who reported the incident, said he had petitioned the National Human Rights Commission against the filing of charges against Robey. �The tragedy of the whole thing is that, though the very leprosy patients repeatedly told the police that they visit and receive their gifts every year and that there are no conversions as had been alleged, the police did not pay any heed,� George said.
June 7 (Compass Direct News) � State police on June 5 arrested Christians based on a false complaint by Hindu nationalists of forcible conversion in Doddamma Layout, Hulimavu village, Bangalore. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that at around 10 a.m. police disrupted the worship of an Indian Pentecostal Church home fellowship and arrested Pastor Manjunath Venketappa Naik. Later that morning, officers returned to the house and took Naik�s wife to the Hulimavu police station, along with their minor children and six Christian women, for questioning. With GCIC intervention, the Christians were released the same day at around 2:30 p.m. without being charged. � BW
Jharkhand � Hindu extremists in Karivadhi village, Garwah district of Jharkhand threatened three Christian families who had converted from Hinduism in the village, warning them to stop following Christ or be severely beaten. Pastor Arjun Karmagi, field coordinator of Gospel Echoing Missionary Society, told Compass that the extremists threatened to force the families of the Christians, Raghuvir Chowdhary, Purnima Devi and Mahendra Chowdhary, to the Ganges River in Banaras city to reconvert them back to Hinduism. The Christians fled the area and are now in hiding. � MS
Jharkhand � Hindu extremists beat five Christian families for their faith in Christ on May 28 in Laherbanjari, Palamu district. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that a week earlier about 20 Hindu extremists had threatened Pastor Sanjay Choudary of the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society, warning him to stop leading worship meetings or be beaten. Christians filed a complaint, and police on May 28 visited the area. Immediately after the police left, the enraged extremists appeared and started beating the five Christian families, including the women. One woman, Mala Devi, suffered internal injuries and was hospitalized at Sadar Hospital. Another Christian woman, Kalavati Devi, was reportedly still missing. The Christians fled their houses and at press time were still in hiding. � MS
Uttar Pradesh � Hindu extremists in Bhopura, Sahidabad on May 19 threatened Pastor Sanju Mahananda of the Believers Church, telling him to stop construction of his church building. A Believers Church representative told Compass that Pastor Mahananda was constructing a pastor�s residence/prayer hall when the extremists appeared and threatened to demolish it if he continued building. Christians stopped the construction work but filed a police complaint. � MS
Chhattisgarh � Hindu extremists in Jangir, Champa district on May 20 attacked a Christian because of his faith. A source told Compass that the extremists had threatened a Christian convert from Hinduism who goes by a single name, Tarzan, on Feb. 20 for following Christ and singing gospel songs. They warned him to stop his Christian activity or face harm. Led by Jharu Ram Manohar, the extremists on May 20 attacked him for continuing to follow Christ, beating him, destroying his house and keeping him from using the village pond. The next day the extremists filed a police complaint against him for �misbehavior.� The Christian filed a counter-complaint against the extremists, but no action has been taken by the police at press time. � MS
June 17 (Compass Direct News) � Three U.S. citizens along with two unidentified men from Kottayam district were detained on June 13 by Alappuzha police after a Hindu extremist group filed a complaint against them of forcible conversion in Thrikkunnappuzha. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the extremists accused the Christians of distributing pamphlets and conducting health lessons to promote Christianity. On interrogation, the U.S. citizens � Diana Jean, Shirley Lewis and Catherine Heather of Pennsylvania � said they were tourists and were not involved in any forcible conversion activities. Alappuzha police reportedly said they had no evidence the Christians were trying to forcibly convert anyone, but that their tourist visas did not allow them to attend prayer meetings. A district police official told Compass that the Christians were released without charges but were told to leave the area, and the U.S. tourists agreed.
Uttarakhand � An irate mob in Bellparao, Nainital, on June 12 barged into the marriage reception of a convert Christian couple from Sikhism, Suresh Chand and Aarti Shan, accused them of not following Sikh rituals and damaged property worth 60,000 rupees (US$1,315). At about 5 p.m, the Sikh mob led by Dr. Baldev Singh, a relative of Chand, arrived and began calling the Christians infidels, damaging furniture, decorations, sound equipment and food, reported Evangelical Fellowship of India representative Amitabha Sarkar. Police arrived and arrested Chand�s father, Dharam Chand, his elder brother Amarjit Chand and local pastor Rajendra Singh, detaining them overnight supposedly as a safety measure. Officers released the Christians without charges the next morning. The next day, Sikhs took Dharam Chand and his family to the Sikh temple and forced them to perform Sikh rituals to reconvert back to Sikhism.
Madhya Pradesh � Police in Raghatgarh Sagar on June 8 detained Pastor Daniel Masih after Hindu extremists filed a complaint against him of forceful conversion. Officers took him to a police station, questioned him on his activities and held him for about 11 hours, reported area Pastor Uday Roa. Pastor Masih leads an independent house church, and about four families attend his meetings regularly. The next day, police summoned the pastor to the station again and forced him to put in writing that he would leave the area. The pastor refused, and police told him that if anything happened to him, they would not be responsible. The pastor was said to be living in constant fear. �
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