Persecution Watch: Aug – Sept 2017
ISIS hold 100 Christians hostage in Philippines
Brothers Abdullah and Omar Maute, co-founders of the Maute Islamist terror group
Since an ISIS proxy terror group called the Maute group invaded Marawi on the island of Mindanao on 23 May, an estimated 350,000 people have run for their lives, a hundred Christians have been captured and many women have been forced into sex slavery.
The government has recovered some areas of the city from Maute control, but the Philippine army has suffered severe losses. Christians have been taken as human shields as the fighting continues, and the desecration of a church was shown on ISIS media.
The hostages include a Roman Catholic priest, Father Teresito Soganub, according to the Daily Mail. President Rodrigo Duterte has imposed martial law across the southern third of the country to tackle the crisis, and has vowed to destroy the extremists.
By early July, 70 government soldiers, 27 civilians and 290 militants had been killed in the conflict and many neighbourhoods reduced to rubble.
Pakistani family sold twice into slavery
A father of five children has been duped into signing away his family’s freedom and future.
Nadeem and his wife are bonded brick kiln labourers in Pakistan. Like many other Christian workers, their debts to their employer keep them enslaved to the back-breaking work.
Three years ago, Nadeem and his family were sold by his first employer to another brick kiln owner who treated them very badly. Then they were sold on again, for the cost of their debt. Nadeem, as he is illiterate, ‘signed’ the agreement with a thumbprint, unaware that he was committing his family to even worse conditions.
His new boss wants all five children, aged three to ten, to work in the kiln. This means the children will never go to school and the family can’t attend church as they are forced to work on Sundays.
No peace in CAR
Attacks on Christian communities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have continued, despite the government signing a peace agreement with 13 rebel groups in Rome on 19 June.
On 21 June, the house of a pastor in Bria, around 350 miles north-east of the capital Bangui, was torched. Barnabas Fund reports that “many churches are still being burned down and Christians are fleeing… Several pastors have already paid the price.”
Reprisals on Muslims by so-called Christian ‘anti-balaka’ groups have also continued; church leaders have repeatedly condemned the violence on both sides.
Bloodiest Ramadan in recent history
This year’s Muslim fast of Ramadan was the most violent in recent times, according to a leading campaign group.
Wreckage of a bus after 29 pilgrims, including many children, were slaughtered during Ramadan
On 26 May, as Ramadan was about to start, jihadists attacked buses carrying Egyptian Christians to a monastery, killing 29 – some of them young children. During the rest of the month-long fast, jihadists killed more than 1,600 people.
Although for many Muslims Ramadan is a time of self-denial and fasting, for others it is a time of jihad, Barnabas Fund claimed.
“Some Islamic teachings imply that those killed in jihad during Ramadan will gain double rewards in paradise. Mohammed and the first Islamic army conquered Mecca in 630AD during Ramadan, and this has led some jihadi groups, such as the Taliban, to declare jihad obligatory at this time,” they told supporters in an email.
Some Islamic teachings imply that those killed in jihad during Ramadan will gain double rewards in paradise
Surprisingly, the majority of those killed this year were actually Muslims, either because they were liberal or because they belonged to different sects of Islam (or even different jihadi groups).
Incarcerated pastor eats insects, mice and frogs
In the country of Vietnam, pastors imprisoned for their faith are facing dire conditions.
Those on trial are rarely given legal defence, and the length of their sentences are almost irrelevant as labour camps can extend them indefinitely for very little reason, like failing to get up on time or finish a task.
Christian Aid Mission (CAM) reports that many church leaders have left Vietnam rather than submit to government demands.
Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, imprisoned in 2011, has been in solitary confinement since October 2016. He suffers from sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure and inflammation of the stomach, but has received no medical treatment, according to his wife. When released from solitary, prisoners can no longer walk or stand due to the small cell size.
Prison food is sparse and pastors who don’t have any outside support go hungry. One pastor, whose family is not allowed to visit him any more, eats insects, mice, frogs – whatever he can catch.
MPs denounce Christian persecution and fearful media
MPs from all parties have declared that cultural sensibilities have no place when it comes to the worldwide persecution of Christians. They have demanded that more is done for their plight and dealt a blow to political correctness by condemning the Western media’s failure to report attacks for fear of giving offence.
Twenty-one MPs from all parties met at Westminster Hall on Tuesday 4 July to discuss a motion tabled by MP Jim Shannon of the newly powerful DUP.
In a televised debate they agreed that Christian persecution is not new but is getting worse, according to Premier Christian Radio. The conclusion was that the government is working to help persecuted Christians, but not enough is being done.
MP Patricia Gibson (SNP) said: “The freedom of religion to worship God should be an absolute right… to compromise on religious freedom is a threat to all the freedoms of that particular society.
“Western media do not cover stories for fear of disturbing cultural sensibilities. In the area of religious freedom there is no room for cultural sensibilities.”
Recently elected MP David Linden, also SNP, criticised the state-sponsored human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and said: “In the case of Saudi Arabia the British Government isn’t just turning another cheek, they are turning a blind eye.”
Christian ministers working in the Foreign and Commonwealth office as well as the Department for International Aid said they would work together to take a more serious approach to religious persecution.
Mark Field, Minister of State for the Foreign Office, stated that £758,000 is being spent on freedom of religion projects, which includes work in Pakistan and Iraq.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, commented: “An amazing thing happened today: Christian MPs put aside cultural sensitivities and boldy expressed their disgust and concerns about the millions of Christians facing persecution across the globe.”
Children will grow up behind bars after Eritrea crackdown
Protesters from Britain and Ireland joined Eritreans in a vigil at the Eritrean Embassy in London on 18 May
Eritrea has arrested 200 Christians in house-to-house raids, in a tough crackdown which is tearing children from their parents. Young children and a baby who were too young to be left behind are among those arrested and it is feared they could spend their childhood in a prison cell.
The east African country is turning into a ‘giant prison’ reports campaign charity Release International.
At least 30 older children have been left without parents or guardians, and many Christians have gone into hiding.
Tough new line
Eritrean Christians around the world are fasting and praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Release International partner Dr Berhane Asmelash, who was himself arrested and tortured, says the single-party state is arresting evangelical and Pentecostal Christians because in addition to Islam, the only Christian denominations allowed are Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox. He said, “They are arresting people for their beliefs, not for their actions.”
Genuine asylum seekers
Eritreans have been among the thousands of refugees cramming into boats to attempt to reach Europe’s safer waters, although authorities have to distinguish between these genuine asylum seekers and those who are simply seeking a more prosperous future. A UNHCR report has stated that 7 out of 10 refugees are economic migrants (Daily Mail 4 July).
Austria acknowledges ISIS slaughter as genocide
Austria has joined the growing list of countries which officially names ISIS attacks on Christians in Iraq and Syria as genocide.
Its National Council passed a resolution on 7 June, following a similar resolution by the European Parliament. It also calls for the UN Security Council to recognise the genocide, and for the perpetrators to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
Austria is committed to working with the EU to combat radicalisation, and is calling for safe zones and corridors to protect victims in Iraq and Syria.
A petition against the genocide can be signed at aclj.org
Hindu mob forces Christians to sign away right to worship
Christians were forced to sign an agreement to stop their services after a vicious mob attack.
The police in Odisha State, India, made a deal with the Hindu aggressors to end the violence – without the participation of the Christians.
Then the Christians in the tribal village of Abasing were bullied into signing the agreement. Thus Sunday worship services ceased after the 18 June attack.
Pastor Samuel Karjee told Morning Star News: “I can’t tell you how dry and barren we feel. Our hearts yearn to pray and worship together.”
About 30 Hindu women broke into the house where the congregation had been worshipping for six months, dragging the 12 Christians outside, where over 300 Hindus were waiting to attack them. Pastor Karjee said: “They have beaten us with sticks and lathis, kicked us and used foul language against women believers.”
Four Christians who were injured were forced to sign the document.
Christians refuse to convert, lose water rights and crops
Christian families in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have been prevented from drinking water from the village well. Villagers attempted to make the Christians denounce their faith and return to Hinduism by beating them with sticks and cutting off their water supply.
Officially, an agreement was reached between both sides to end the dispute, but the water issue was never resolved and the Christians have lost their crops.