Watchman Newsletter

Persecution Update

Steel On Steel - Donald McElvaney, Mission Barnabus (November 5, 2010)

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  1. Burma�s Ethnic Christians Fear Bleak Future after Election

  2. Police in Sudan Aid Muslim�s Effort to Take Over Church Plot

  3. Christian Family in Bangladesh Attacked, Charged with Crime

  4. Muslim Tortures, Accuses Christian Who Refused Slavery

  5. Muslims in Bangladesh Beat, Deprive Christians of Work

  6. Iraqis Mourn Victims of Massive Attack on Church

  7. Church Building in Israel Set Ablaze

1.    Burma�s Ethnic Christians Fear Bleak Future after Election

Military hostilities against insurgents may result in Christian casualties and persecution.

By Vishal Arora

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, October 22 (Compass Direct News) � With Burma�s first election in over 20 years just three weeks away, Christians in ethnic minority states fear that afterward the military regime will try to �cleanse� the areas of Christianity, sources said. The Burmese junta is showing restraint to woo voters in favor of its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, but it is expected to launch a military offensive on insurgents in ethnic minority states after the Nov. 7 election, Burma watchers warned. When Burma Army personnel attack, they do not discriminate between insurgents and unarmed residents, said a representative of the pro-democracy Free Burma Rangers relief aid group in Chiang Mai, close to the Thai-Burma border. The military seems to be preparing its air force for an offensive, said Aung Zaw, editor of the Chiang Mai-based magazine Irrawaddy, which covers Burma. The FBR source said there are many unarmed Christian residents in zones where Burmese military personnel attack and kill anyone on sight. At least four years ago a secret memo circulated in Karen state, �Program to Destroy the Christian Religion in Burma,� that carried �point by point instructions on how to drive Christians out of the state,� reported the British daily Telegraph in 2007. The junta perceives all Christians in ethnic minority states as insurgents, according to the FBR. Three months ago, Burma Army�s Light Infantry Battalions 370 and 361 attacked a Christian village in Karen state, the FBR source said. In Tha Dah Der village on July 23, army personnel burned all houses, one of the state�s biggest churches � which was also a school � and all livestock and cattle, reported FBR. More than 900 people fled to save their lives.

2.  Police in Sudan Aid Muslim�s Effort to Take Over Church Plot

With possibility of secession by Southern Sudan, church leaders in north fear more land grabs.

By Simba Tian

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 25 (Compass Direct News) � Police in Sudan evicted the staff of a Presbyterian church from its events and office site in Khartoum earlier this month, aiding a Muslim businessman�s effort to seize the property. Christians in Sudan�s capital city told Compass that police entered the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) on Oct. 4 at around 2 p.m. and ordered workers to leave, claiming that the land belonged to Muslim businessman Osman al Tayeb. The church had signed a contract with al Tayeb stipulating the terms under which he could attain the property � including providing legal documents such as a construction permit and then obtaining final approval from SPEC � but those terms remained unmet, church officials said. Church leader Deng Bol said that under terms of the unfulfilled contract, the SPEC would turn the property over to al Tayeb to construct a business center on the site, with the denomination to receive a share of the returns from the commercial enterprise and regain ownership of the property after 80 years. SPEC leaders had yet to approve the project because of the high risk of permanently losing the property, he said, and they have undertaken legal action to recover it. The disputed plot of 2,232 square meters has been used for Christian rallies and related activities. The Rev. Philip Akway, general secretary of the SPEC, told Compass that the government might be annoyed that Christian activities have taken place there for many decades. SPEC leaders said Muslims have taken over many other Christian properties through similar ploys. An unnamed elder said church leaders believe the property grab came in anticipation of the proposed north-south division of Sudan. With less than three months until a Jan. 9 referendum on splitting the country according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, SPEC leaders have taken a number of measures to guard against government interference in church affairs, as many southern Sudanese Christians fear losing citizenship if south Sudan votes for secession.

3.  Christian Family in Bangladesh Attacked, Charged with Crime

Muslim neighbors fabricate attempted murder charge after beating them for their faith.

Special to Compass Direct News

LOS ANGELES, October 27 (Compass Direct News) � Muslim neighbors of a Christian family scheduled to be baptized last month beat them and filed a false charge of attempted murder against them and other Christians, the head of the family said. Foyez Uddin, 62, told Compass that his neighbor Nazrul Islam and Islam�s relatives told him, his wife and his two adult children that as Christians they were �polluting� society and beat them on Sept. 17 in Joysen village in Rangpur district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Dhaka. Islam is a policeman. Islam�s uncle, Abdul Mannan Miah, then filed false charges against Uddin, his family and three others, accusing them of trying to kill Islam�s sister (Miah�s niece), Uddin said by telephone after his release on bail on Oct. 8. Uddin said his family was fishing at his pond on Sept. 17 when eight to 10 Muslim neighbors led by Islam appeared and began speaking abusively about their Christian faith. When he declined their proposal to return to Islam, they beat the Christian family and later vandalized their home, where their Faith Bible Church of God meets. The pastor of the church, Lavlu Sadik Lebio, told Compass that he complained to police of the attack, but officers did not respond. Uddin was arrested for attempted murder the next day, with police filing a report stating that he collaborated with Christians and made defamatory remarks about Islam, he said. The case file states that Uddin�s family and other companions attempted to kill the sister of officer Islam, Jahanara Begum. Uddin said the charge was fabricated on the basis of Begum bleeding from a lanced boil, and that all the accused have witnesses that can testify that they were not even present at the site of the alleged attempted murder. The accused include two recent converts who live 500 kilometers (310 miles) away, driven from the area because Muslims refused to give them work, he said.

4.  Muslim Tortures, Accuses Christian Who Refused Slavery

Land owner falsely charges young man with illicit sex, calls villagers to beat, burn him.

By Jawad Mazhar

SARGODHA, Pakistan, October 29 (Compass Direct News) � A Muslim land owner in Pakistan this month subjected a 25-year-old Christian to burns and a series of humiliations, including falsely charging him with having sex with his own niece, because the Christian refused to work for him without pay. Fayaz Masih is in jail with burns on his body after No. 115 Chitraan Wala village head Zafar Iqbal Ghuman and other villagers beat him, set fire to him and shaved off some of his facial hair on Oct. 3, said the Rev. Yaqub Masih. The village is located in Nankana Sahib district, Punjab Province. Sources said neither Fayaz Masih nor his family had taken any loans from Ghuman, and they had no obligations to work off any debt for Ghuman as bonded laborers. Ghuman, accustomed to forcing Christians into slavery, and 11 of his men abducted Masih from his home at gun-point and brought him to Ghuman�s farmhouse, according to Yaqub Masih and former politician Yousaf Gill, both of nearby No. 118 Chour Muslim village. After the armed men had beaten Fayaz Masih and rubbed charcoal on his face when he declined a final request to work in Ghuman�s fields, Ghuman announced that Masih had had relations with Masih�s 18-year-old niece, Sumeera, and called for everyone in the village to punish him. Some threw kerosene on Masih and alternately set him on fire and extinguished the flames, Gill said. Masih�s sister, Seema Bibi, told Compass that the accusation that Masih had had sex with her daughter Sumeera was utterly false. She said that Ghuman told her daughter at gun-point to testify against Masih in court on Oct. 4, but Sumeera said under oath that Masih was innocent and that Ghuman had tried to force her to testify against her uncle. A judge ruled that Sumeera had not had illicit relations with Masih, and that therefore she was free to go home. Her mother told Compass, however, that since then Ghuman has been issuing daily death threats to her family. In spite of the court ruling that Masih had not had sex with his niece, police were coerced into registering a false charge of adultery against him under Article 376 of the Islamic statutes of the Pakistan Penal Code, First Information Report No. 361/10, at the Sangla Hill police station.

5.   Muslims in Bangladesh Beat, Deprive Christians of Work

Refusing to recant Christianity, victims are attacked on rumors of disrespecting Islam.

Special to Compass Direct News

LOS ANGELES, November 2 (Compass Direct News) � Muslim villagers last month beat a 63-year-old Christian convert and his youngest son because they refused to return to Islam, the father told Compass. The next day, another Christian in a nearby village was also beaten and robbed in related violence in southwestern Bangladesh. Aynal Haque, 63, a volunteer for Christian organization Way of Life Trust, told Compass that his brothers and relatives along with Muslim villagers beat him and his son, 22-year-old Lal Miah, on Oct. 9 when they refused to recant Christianity. The family lives at Sadhu Hati Panta Para village in Jhenaidah district, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Dhaka. At a meeting to which Haque was summoned on Oct. 9, about 500 men and women from several villages gathered. �They tried to force us to be apologetic for our blunder of accepting Christianity and also tried to compel us to go back to Islam. I told them, �While there is breath left in our bodies, we will not reject Christianity.� When we denied their allegation and demand, they beat us severely.� Hearing of the incident in Sadhu Hati Panta Para, the next day (Oct. 10) Muslims in Kola village about five kilometers (nearly three miles) away beat a Christian friend of Haque�s and robbed his seed shop. Tokkel Ali, 40, told Compass that around 20 people arrived at his shop at about 11 a.m. �A huge crowd overran me and started beating me, throwing my seeds here and there,� he said. Ali said he lost consciousness, and the mob scattered his seeds and robbed 24,580 taka along with his bicycle. He said he has not dared filed any charges. �If I file any case or complain against them, they will kill me.�

6.  Iraqis Mourn Victims of Massive Attack on Church

Islamic extremist assault, security force operation leave at least 58 dead.

By Damaris Kremida

ISTANBUL, November 2 (Compass Direct News) � Amid questions about lax security, mourners gathered in Iraq today to bury the victims of Sunday�s (Oct. 31) Islamic extremist assault on a Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad, one of the bloodiest attacks on the country�s dwindling Christian community. Seven or eight Islamic militants stormed into Our Lady of Salvation church during evening mass after detonating bombs in the neighborhood, gunning down two policemen at the stock exchange across the street, and blowing up their own car, according to The Associated Press. More than 100 people were reportedly attending mass. A militant organization called the Islamic State of Iraq, which has links to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, claimed responsibility for the attack. The militants sprayed the sanctuary with bullets. �It appears to be a well planned and strategic attack aiming at the church,� said a local source for ministry organization Open Doors. Iraqi security forces launched an assault on the church building, and it was unclear how many of the 58 people dead they had killed; the militants reportedly began killing hostages when the security force assault began. The dead included 12 policemen, three priests and five bystanders from the car bombing and other blasts outside the church. The Open Doors source reported that the priests killed were the Rev. Saad Abdal Tha�ir, the Rev. Waseem Tabeeh and the Rev. Raphael Qatin, with the latter not succumbing until he had been taken to a hospital. Bishop Georges Casmoussa told Compass that today Iraqi Christians not only mourned lost brothers and sisters but were tempted to lose hope. �It�s a personal loss and a Christian loss,� said Casmoussa. �It�s not just people they kill. They also kill hope.� Memorials were held today in Baghdad, Mosul and surrounding towns, said Casmoussa, who attended the funeral of 13 deceased Christians. �At the funeral there was the Shiite leader, the official spokesperson of the government ministers,� Casmoussa said. �All the discussion was flippant � �We are with you, we are all suffering,� etcetera, but we have demanded a serious investigation. We can�t count on good words anymore. It�s all air. We�ve heard enough.�

7.  Church Building in Israel Set Ablaze

Unidentified arsonist guts bottom floors of Jerusalem ministry center.

By Wayne King

ISTANBUL, November 4 (Compass Direct News) � An unidentified arsonist in Israel set fire to a Jerusalem church building that has long been a focal point for anti-Christian sentiment in a Jewish ultra-Orthodox-leaning neighborhood, church officials said. On Friday (Oct. 29) shortly before 1 a.m., someone broke the basement windows of the Jerusalem Alliance Church Ministry Center and set fire to its bottom floors. An area resident noticed the fire and called the fire department, which arrived 20 minutes later and found the church basement engulfed in flames. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, ventilated the smoke and left after inspecting the rest of the building, said Jack Sara, senior pastor of the church. Smoke and the noise of the blaze had awakened 10 volunteer workers who were sleeping at the church�s overnight facilities. The volunteers, who were visiting Israel from the United States and Denmark, went to a nearby hospital and were treated for smoke inhalation; they were released several hours later, church leaders said. The church building sustained approximately $85,000 of smoke and fire damage. The fire largely gutted the basement and destroyed recent renovations. Sara said he had difficulty understanding how the arsonist could have carried so much hate; whoever set the fire had to know people were inside the church, he said. �He not only intended to burn a room but to kill people,� Sara said. �Whoever did it intended to kill people.� �

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