Gurdeep Singh
Gurdeep Singh attacked along with his brother Pastor Gurjeet Singh in Amritsar District Punjab state India on April 18 2024 (Credit: MSN)

Four men from a Sikh traditional warrior order have attacked a pastor and another Christian with swords and knives in the northern state of Punjab, for leading church worship in their village.

The Nihang Sikhs, who are permitted to carry such weapons, attacked Pastor Gurjeet Singh and his younger brother Gurdeep on 18 April in Sultanwind village in Amritsar, according to Morning Star News. The Sikhs had previously warned the men not to lead church services or convert people to Christianity.

Protecting his head with his arm, Pastor Singh suffered severe cuts to his hands and arms and almost lost his thumb. Gurdeep sustained deep cuts on his head, hands and arm. Both needed surgery for their wounds.

Punjab introduces bill to ban child marriages

Punjab Assembly building in Lahore Pakistan.
Punjab Assembly building in Lahore Pakistan. (Credit Sunni Person Creative Commons)

A bill intended to outlaw child marriage has given hope to Christians, because it could prevent forced marriages and conversions.

There have been many cases of girls from minority religion backgrounds being abducted by Muslims and forcibly married and converted.

Christian Daily International-Morning Star News reports that on 25 April the government of Pakistan’s most populated province submitted the draft of the Punjab Child Marriage Restraint Act 2024, which would raise the legal age for marriage for both boys and girls to 18 years; previously it was 16 for girls.

Muazzam Mazhar
Muazzam Mazhar, accused of kidnapping and forcibly marrying Roshni Shaqeel (Credt: Christain Daily International/Morning Star News)

The bill would mean that anyone who marries a girl or boy under 18 or arranges such a marriage – including parents or guardians – would face two to three years in prison and a fine of between 100,000 and 200,000 Pakistani rupees.

Religious freedom advocates are hopeful that the law change will protect minor girls from sexual exploitation but are calling for the law to be equally applied to girls belonging to minority religions.

The bill comes too late for Roshni Shaqeel, a 13-year-old Christian Punjabi girl who was kidnapped by a Muslim on 13 March.

On 25 March, the Lahore High Court rejected Roshni’s mother’s attempt to reclaim her daughter, and instead sided with Muazzam Mazhar, the 28-year-old who abducted Roshni and forcibly converted her to Islam and married her.

Slaughter continues in central states

Every month sees the murder of Christians in Nigeria, particularly in the central states.

On 19 April, Fulani herdsmen attacked residents of a predominantly Christian village in Plateau state as they slept, killing 12 Christians.

Rev. Manasseh Ibrahim
Rev. Manasseh Ibrahim ECWA pastor killed in Kaduna state Nigeria on April 23 2024.

Morning Star News (MSN) reports that the Fulanis attacked without provocation, and most of the victims were women and children who were unable to escape.

On 12 April in the same state, over 50 Fulani herdsmen attacked unarmed residents in the predominantly Christian Kopnanle village, killing ten people. The victims included a baby strapped to her mother’s back, who was killed by the same bullet as her mother. The same attackers slaughtered about 20 other Christians in surrounding communities.

According to Christian Daily International and MSN, scores have been killed in Benue state in the first six months of this year, including two killed on 28 April by Fulani herdsmen who had killed five Christians the previous day in another part of the state.

Even south-eastern Nigeria is not immune. On 28 April, Fulani herdsmen killed at least six Christians, including children, in a raid on the predominantly Christian Ugwujoro Nimbo village in Enugu state. Seven others suffered machete injuries.

In Kaduna state on 23 April, Rev Manasseh Ibrahim was ambushed by armed ‘bandits’, who shot and killed him as he travelled to minister to church members in northern Kaduna. Ibrahim was a pastor with ECWA [Evangelical Church Winning All] Church in Gure. On 20 April, Fulani herdsmen killed a Christian in Entepka village in Benue state, after killing two others two days earlier.

Release International reports that Nigerian troops have opened fire on some students protesting at the lack of military protection for Christians and is calling for an inquiry.

Nigerian authorities have acknowledged that two students were shot but claim they were hit by stray bullets. Other sources say more students were wounded, and that the army twice opened fire on civilian protesters within one week.

Christian village attacked

Four people died in the Christian village of Mangina in Beni in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 18 April when anti-government rebels attacked their village. The members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) also raided homes, burned motorcycles and stole livestock. The attack was the second time in April that the ADF targeted the Christian community in North Kivu.

Islamists burn Christian homes

Islamic fundamentalists set fire to some of the homes and shops of Coptic Orthodox Christians in Al-Fawakher village in Minya Governorate on 23 April. The attackers also tried to stop Christians from escaping their homes as the fires took hold. However, there are no reports of anyone being killed.

Village and church demolished

A church and village in Nagorno-Karabakh have been razed to the ground.

St John the Baptist Church in Nagorno-Karabakh’s Susa area, and a village known in Armenian as Karintak and in Azeri as Dasalti, were demolished by Azerbaijani authorities last winter. The Christian Post reports that both had significant Armenian heritage. A large mosque is now under construction on the site of the church and the village, and it is thought that a new settlement for Azerbaijanis will be built.

The area came under Azerbaijani control after ethnic Armenian forces were defeated in November 2020. Over 100,000 displaced Armenians had to flee the region. Human rights group Christian Solidarity International has accused Azerbaijan President Aliyev of ethnic-religious cleansing.

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