PERSECUTION WATCH: APRIL – MAY 2017
Somalian family attacked in their sleep
Terrorists wound father, kill wife and son
Islamic extremists in Somalia shot a Christian family as they slept, seriously wounding the husband and killing his wife and 11-year-old son.
The militants broke into the family’s home in Afgoi, about 30k from Mogadishu, at dawn. According to Morning Star News, at least four armed men carried out the attack in February, shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allahhu Akbar (Allah is greater)” and saying, “We cannot allow the defiling of our religion with a foreign, Western religion.”
The husband, Suleiman Abdiwahab, a convert from Islam, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his chest. The couple’s two daughters, 13 and 7, and their 9-year-old son escaped out of a back door and have found shelter in another town.
The attackers were identified as Al Shabaab rebels, who have been fighting the government for over ten years.
Egypt ‘consistently failing’ to protect Christians
Amnesty International has blasted Egypt for the horrific attacks on Christians that have caused families to flee for their lives.
The human rights group says the Egyptian government is “consistently failing” to protect Christians against a series of “terrifying” attacks in North Sinai. Around 150 Coptic Orthodox families have fled the area of Al-Arish after murderous raids by armed extremists.
In response, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi insists that he is doing all he can to ensure Muslims and Christians are treated equally under the law. The President reacted to the accusations at an interfaith event for senior Muslims, Copts and Catholics at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, one of Egypt’s top Islamic colleges.
Since December, around 40 Christians have been murdered in Egypt – 29 in a suicide bombing by Islamic State at a cathedral in Cairo. The other killings have mainly been in North Sinai, leading hundreds of Christians to leave the region. President Al-Sisi has said that “all necessary measures” must be taken to help resettle them.
Ugandan evangelist jailed on trumped-up charges
Police in eastern Uganda arrested an evangelist after a Muslim accused him of kidnapping his adult daughter.
The woman had taken refuge with the preacher, Hassan Muwanguzi, after leaving Islam. Her father, Nghangha Mubakali, not only accused him of kidnapping but of making a human sacrifice of his daughter.
From his prison cell, Muwanguzi told Morning Star News that Namusisi Budadu Biryeri had sought safety with him after her father beat her for becoming a Christian in 2015. Muwanguzi, a lay leader with the Church of Uganda, says: “I am falsely charged and being threatened by many Muslims who want to kill me, because of the message that has gone all over that I am kidnapping and sacrificing people’s lives in the name of converting them to Christianity.”
A former Islamic teacher himself, and long persecuted, Muwanguzi was leading a Bible study this February with ex-Muslims when armed police officers arrested him. Biryeri has confirmed Muwanguzi’s story to the police.
Pray for persecuted believers
Christians are now recognised as the most persecuted religion on earth. Each issue we can only print a small selection of cases, but urge readers to find out more and join or start a prayer group for the persecuted Church.
Campaigning organisations include:
- Barnabas Fund (see the insert in this paper)
- Release International
- Open Doors
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- British Pakistani Christian Organisation
CHINA RAMPS UP ANTI-CHRISTIAN PROJECT
Chinese Christians are being forced to choose between their faith and the law thanks to a new crack-down on religious activity.
A new Chinese policy of ‘Sinicization’ has increased the persecution of Christians to a level not seen since Mao, according to China Aid.
President Xi Jinping has encouraged government departments to pursue “the path of Sinicization”. Under this policy, the government assumes that foreigners use religion to undermine state authority, and so the Communist Party is forcing religious groups to conform to its ideology, according to China Aid’s 2016 Annual Persecution Report.
Sinicization has led local government departments to identify unregistered house churches and threaten them with closure unless they join the government-monitored Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
In addition, the persecution of individual Christians has increased. This paper has highlighted a few cases of individuals (most recently‘ Christian lawyer imprisoned and tortured’ – HEART Feb-Mar 2017), but between 2015 and 2016, China Aid found that the number of persecution cases rose 20 per cent. In addition, 148 per cent more people were detained, there were 11 per cent more arrests, 30 per cent more people were sentenced, and the number of people experiencing abuse soared by 69.5 per cent.
The alarming trend is expected to worsen this year as further regulations are introduced to regulate religious activity.
European court bans religious symbols
Crossed out? A new European ruling bans religious symbols at work
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has agreed that businesses can stop workers wearing religious symbols.
The ruling includes wearing political and philosophical badges or slogans as well as religious clothing and jewellery like headscarves and crosses. The judges concluded that employers would not be discriminating, so long as particular religions or causes were not singled out.
The judgment resulted from an appeal by two Belgian Islamic women who lost their jobs for refusing to take off their headscarves. After losing their cases in Belgium, they hoped the ECJ would take a different view.
A spokesperson for Christian charity ADF International told Premier Christian Radio that the ECJ’s decision conflicted with the European Court of Human Rights judgements on freedom of religion in the workplace.
This ruling came within a few days of the BBC’s criticism of a Christian MP for marking Lent with an ash cross on her forehead (see National news).
Mother and son go missing in Iran
Did watching online Christian channels put missing converts in danger?
A Christian mother and son with ‘health issues’ remain missing three weeks after being arrested by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC confiscated Bibles and theological books from their home.
According to Mohabat News, Anousheh Reza-bakhsh and her son Soheil Zagarzadeh Sani were taken from their home in Iran’s north-western province on 20 February. They have not been seen since.
It is thought that the pair are imprisoned in the intelligence building of the IRGC, where no information on detainees is given.
Psychology student Sani and his mother converted to Catholicism and were baptised in Istanbul last year. It is thought that Sani studied Christian training online and viewed Christian satellite TV channels, which may have been tracked by intelligence officers.
A Facebook page has been created in support of the two converts, also known as ‘Veronika’ and ‘Augustine’, and other Christians in Iran. Open Doors ranks Iran as the eighth worst country in the world for persecuting Christians.
Sudanese given 12 years for ‘spying’
Sudan’s President Omar Bashir has pardoned a Czech for so-called espionage (reported in HEART in 2016), but his two Sudanese assistants have been sentenced to 12 years.
The Czech aid worker’s life sentence for filming the life of Christians in Sudan has been overturned, but Pastor Hassan Abduraheem and student Abdulmonem Abdumawla remain in jail. They are accused of “abetting espionage” and “inciting strife between communities and spreading rumours undermining the authority of the state”.
Petr Jašek had been detained in Sudan since December 2015, but has now returned to Prague. Lawyers for the Sudanese men have lodged appeals.
Since the mainly Christian South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, the Sudanese authorities have redoubled their efforts to force Islamic conformity on previously Christian areas.