Steel on Steel - Donald McElvaney (July 30, 2011)
1. Imprisoned Lao Pastor �Extremely Weak,� Family Says
Two church leaders in prison; conditions improve for expelled Katin Christians. By Sarah Page
DUBLIN, July 8 (Compass Direct News) � A Lao pastor imprisoned six months ago for holding a �secret meeting� has lost weight under harsh prison conditions and is extremely weak, according to his family. Police arrested Wanna and fellow pastor and inmate Yohan, both identified only by a single name, on Jan. 4 along with several other Christians in central Laos�s Khammouan Province. Prison authorities have repeatedly told the men that they will �walk free� as soon as they sign documents renouncing their faith, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) said in a press statement today. Wanna is the pastor of an unregistered church in Nakoon village, Hinboun district, while Yohan pastors a similar church in nearby Tonglar village. Hinboun district police arrested Wanna, Yohan and nine others at gunpoint on Jan. 4 and charged them with holding a �secret meeting� after they celebrated Christmas without prior approval. Police then loaded the Christians onto a truck and took them to Khammouan provincial prison in Takkhet City. In Katin village in Ta-Oih district, Saravan Province, conditions for a group of Christians expelled from the village last year have vastly improved since the beginning of the dry season in February, when the group resorted to begging for food. �They�re still living at the edge of the jungle, but they�re in good health, with a good supply of rainwater and food from the jungle,� an HRWLRF spokesman said. �Each family is now growing rice on a few hectares of land near their settlement. But they will need a supply of rice every month until their first harvest matures in mid-September.�
2. Churches in Nigeria Shuttered, Reduced with Uptick in Terrorism
Christians flee northern city as Boko Haram is said to be planning massive assault. By Obed Minchakpu
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, July 13 (Compass Direct News) � Christians in northern Nigeria�s Borno state, already forced to abandon worship services due to attacks by Islamic sect Boko Haram, are bracing for a massive assault to commemorate the death of the extremist group�s leader at the end of the month. In Maiduguri, about 540 miles northeast of the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Christians are streaming out of the city. Churches are shutting down as many of their members have lost their lives in attacks that have not ceased even after security agencies were enlisted to confront the assailants. Compass witnessed most church buildings were shuttered and guarded by soldiers and police in Maiduguri. Some churches bold enough to open were compelled to reschedule their worship services in order to outmaneuver militants who knew that most services start at 10 a.m. Church leaders said The Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) in Maiduguri�s Bulunkuttu area and the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) in the Gomari area have seen attendance at worship drastically reduced � from 2,250 to 759 for the Living Faith Church, and from 500 to 240 for the COCIN body. Members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram have claimed responsibility for these church bombings and other attacks. Moreover, the Islamist sect that has declared jihad on the Nigerian government is reportedly expected to launch a terrorist offensive at the end of this month, the two-year anniversary of the death of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf. Religious freedom analyst Elizabeth Kendal writes in her Religious Liberty Monitoring blog that in June 2010, Boko Haram formalized its links with Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb. Kendal notes that terrorism analyst Yossef Bodansky predicts this development could lead to the emergence of large-scale terrorism, including suicide bombings, heretofore unknown in Nigeria.
3. Pakistani Muslims Convicted for Beating Christian to Death
Court gives life sentences to three men who killed merchant for refusing to convert to Islam. By Jeff M. Sellers
LOS ANGELES, July 22 (Compass Direct News) � Three Muslims convicted of killing a Christian in Pakistan�s Punjab Province for refusing to convert to Islam last year have been given life sentences, according to attorneys for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) in Pakistan. The Sessions Court in Mian Channu on July 7 convicted Ghulam Rasool, Amjad Iqbal and Kashir Saleem of torturing and killing Rasheed Masih on March 9, 2010, and sentenced them to life in prison, which in Pakistan is 25 years. The court also ordered each convict to pay 100,000 rupees (US$1,153) to Masih�s family. A fourth suspect, Muhammad Asif, was acquitted. �The ECLJ also plans to file an appeal in the Lahore High Court concerning the acquittal of the fourth defendant,� said Asif Aqeel, director of the Lahore-based, ECLJ-supported Community Development Initiative. �The callous treatment by the police presented lots of challenges in proving that Masih was killed by the defendants. However, extensive work by our legal team in Pakistan and in the United States resulted in a conviction for the three defendants in this case.� Aqeel said Masih�s brother, Asi, said that Muslim businessmen were jealous of Rasheed Masih�s success as a potato merchant in Mian Channu, Khanewal district because he was a Christian. When the 36-year-old victim met with the defendants at their farmhouse to discuss business, they asked him to convert to Islam. When he refused, the four Muslims beat him to death with iron rods, Aqeel said. The Rev. Iqbal Masih of the Mian Channu Parish of the Church of Pakistan told Compass last year that Rasheed Masih was a devoted Christian, and that both he and his brother Asi had refused the Muslims� pressure to convert to Islam. The Muslims had been threatening both brothers for six months before the murder, according to Asi Masih.
4. Funeral Held for Christians Killed in Suleja, Nigeria Bombing
Church leader makes urgent call for government to restore order. By Obed Minchakpu
ABUJA, Nigeria, July 19 (Compass Direct News) � Members of a church in Suleja, Niger state, on the northern outskirts of this Nigerian capital city, culminated a week of fasting and prayer on Saturday (July 17) with a memorial service for three Christians killed in a bombing by an Islamist sect. Muslim militants from the Boko Haram threw a bomb into the building of the All Christian Fellowship Mission church on July 10 as members were leaving a Sunday worship service, authorities said. At the funeral service for the three Christians that were killed, the Rev. William Okoye, general overseer of the church, lamented the lack of security in Nigeria. Members of Boko Haram are reportedly expected to launch a terrorist offensive at the end of this month, the two-year anniversary of the death of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram has declared a jihad on the government in a bid to impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on the country. The explosion marks the third time this year that bombs have targeted institutions in Suleja, just outside the political heart of the nation. The first explosion occurred early in the year at the Suleja office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, killing more than 25 persons. A second bombing took place during a political party�s rally, killing several persons, including elementary schoolchildren. Church member Christopher Ogbu told Compass he lost his wife, Ifeanyiwa Justina Ogbu, in the explosion. �I have now been transformed into a widower, as my wife has been killed here,� Ogbu said.
India Briefs: Recent Incidents of Persecution By Mahruaii Sailo
Orissa, India, July 25 (Compass Direct News) � Hindu extremists on July 14 summoned three Christian families of Missionary Grace Fellowship and demanded that they abandon Christ or face a social boycott in Lathikata, Banapur. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a Christian woman identified only as the wife of Sarat Naik declared before the intolerant Hindus and others that she and other Christians were prepared to undergo persecution, but that under no circumstances would they abandon Christ. She said relationship with Christ had transformed their lives, according to the GCIC. Area Christian leaders were reportedly taking steps to help the Christians.
Uttar Pradesh � In what appeared to be a premeditated attack, state police arrested five pastors and a Christian woman after Hindu extremists stormed into their prayer meeting on July 13 in Bighapur, Unnoa, and accused them of forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that at about 11 a.m., 70 Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal attacked the meeting organized by Pastor A.B. Singh, Pastor Ganga Prasad and another identified only as Pastor Robert. Officers and extremists threatened the pastors, later arresting Pastor Prasad and Christians Om Prakash, Desh Kumar, Vinod Kumar, Prem Shankar and a woman identified only as Uma. They were released on bail at about 7 p.m. the same evening.
West Bengal � In Midnapur, Hindu extremists on July 10 seized St. Priscilla School, beating the Rev. Nathan Hazre, owner of the school, and his wife, Sabitha Hazre, while accusing them of forceful conversion. A source told Compass that the extremists removed all Christian devotional items. Led by Dr. Sushil Mahanty, the intolerant Hindus told the Christian family that they would burn them to death in the same manner that Australian Christian worker Graham Staines and his two sons, ages 10 and 6, were killed in Orissa state in 1999. In January the extremists had threatened school Principal Daniel Barik. Fearful Christians filed a police complaint, but officers had taken no action at press time.
Chhattisgarh � Hindu extremists on July 3 disrupted the Sunday worship of a Believers Church in Pali, Korba, tearing up Bibles and gospel literature and beating Pastor Sunil Masih as they accused him of forceful conversion. The Rev. Ravi Paksh, secretary of the Korba Christian Forum, reported that the extremists from the Bharatiya Janata Party forcefully entered the worship meeting at about 11:30 a.m. The extremists took the pastor and other Christians to a police station, where the Christians told police that they had not been converted by force or fraud and attended church services willingly. Officers detained the pastor for about six hours, and after area leaders� intervention, he was released without charges.
Uttar Pradesh � An enraged mob on July 3 beat Pastor John C.V. Samuel and his wife, accusing the pastor of forceful conversion, in Manpuri. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported the incident took place when Pastor Samuel of Assembly of God�s Church, his wife and other Christians were about to attend a burial service for Anil Saxena, who had attended the church for two years and had committed suicide after an argument with his father. The mob rushed the pastor and his wife and accused them of being the cause of Saxena�s death. Saxena�s wife intervened, telling the assailants that she and her late husband went to the church of their own free will and nobody had forced them, and she called police. Officers arrived and rescued Pastor Samuel and his wife, taking them to Pushpanjali Hospital, Agra. Area Christian leaders filed a police complaint, but no actions had been taken at press time.
Chhattisgarh � Hindu extremists in Dhantulsi on July 2 attacked a Christian�s wedding reception and subsequent worship service, beating those at the gatherings and leaving their food in ruins. The Rev. Abel Varghese, area pastor and coordinator of Althea Indian Mission, told Compass that about 60 extremists beat women and children among those they attacked after barging into the wedding reception of tribal Christian Dhurau Kachalam. They also burned Christians� vehicles. The Christians submitted a complaint to Kanker police, but the extremists continued threatening them, telling them to either stop Christian activities or leave the area. Sources said police pressured the Christians to withdraw their complaint and refused to take any action on their behalf.
Orissa � In Bendoguda, Malkangiri, Hindu radicals at midnight, June 28, destroyed a church building under construction. About 25 Christian families belonging to the Koya tribe were trying to build a worship center from their meager savings on a small piece of land donated by a Christian named Aitu Podiami. Hindu extremists had also attacked the same group of Koya tribal Christians in November 2010; at that time, with intervention from the Global Council of Indian Christians and the area sub-collector, a peace agreement between the communities had been reached. The Hindu extremists last month violated the agreement, and the village head has been pressuring tribal Christians to refrain from complaining to police about the incident. �
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