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Author Topic: Christian Persecution Around the World  (Read 36755 times)
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2007, 03:23:46 PM »

Eritrea: Christian Dies in Military Jail

An Eritrean Christian died in prison last week, four and a half years after the Eritrean regime jailed him for worshipping in a banned Protestant church.

From the southern port city of Assab, local Christians confirmed the death of Magos Solomon Semere on Thursday (February 15) at the Adi-Nefase Military Confinement facility just outside Assab.

According to one source, Semere, 30, died “due to physical torture and persistent pneumonia, for which he was forbidden proper medical treatment.” He had reportedly endured a long period of severe illness in the months prior to his death.

A member of the Rema Church, Semere had first been jailed in the fall of 2001, when he was arrested for evangelizing and starting meetings for worship with six other Christians.

“The government gave hard-labor work punishment to believers for preaching the gospel and starting fellowships,” a Christian once jailed in Assab with Semere told Compass. “If they persisted, they would be kept imprisoned for ‘violating’ the government law.”

Semere had been released after 18 months in prison, only to be re-arrested three months later with a large group of Protestants caught worshipping together in July 2002.

When Semere became seriously ill, the source said, he was told to sign a statement renouncing his faith in order to get medical treatment. “He refused to do so,” his former jailmate said, “but three other people signed, and they got released.”

Semere had been engaged to marry shortly before his July 2002 arrest, but he was refused permission to see his fiancée again during his years in prison.

Despite all the government warnings delivered to Semere, his former fellow prisoner said, “Magos was determined to obey the Lord rather than men.”

Semere’s death is the third known killing of a Christian for his faith since last October. On October 17, 2006, Eritrean security police tortured two Christians to death, two days after arresting them for holding a religious service in a private home south of Asmara. Immanuel Andegergesh, 23, and Kibrom Firemichel, 30, died from torture wounds and severe dehydration in a military camp outside the town of Adi-Quala,

Crackdown in Assab

Assab, near the facility where Semere died, was targeted for one of the first major crackdowns against Protestant Christians by Eritrean security forces five years ago.

Three months later, in May 2002, the government categorically outlawed all churches not under the umbrella of the Orthodox, Catholic or Evangelical Lutheran denominations.

In the initial police raids in Assab on February 17, 2002, 133 congregants attending Sunday morning worship services at the city’s Full Gospel, Rema and Word of Life churches were arrested. Although all were released the next day, the 74 soldiers among them were rearrested two weeks later.

Refused contact with their families, the soldiers were punished with severe floggings and other forms of extreme torture for months, often kept in tiny dark cells. Most still remain jailed without charges, subjected to hard labor without any hope of release.

Since then, dozens more soldiers and other Christians from Pentecostal and charismatic churches caught worshipping in homes or small groups in and around Assab have been jailed. At least 130 Christians are believed to be imprisoned now in Assab’s military and civil prisons for refusing to sign documents recanting their faith.

Ten More Arrested

On Sunday (February 18) afternoon security police in Asmara arrested 10 Eritrean Christians who were visiting a private home in the Teravelo district of Asmara to congratulate a new bride and groom after their wedding.

Seven members of the Medhan Alem renewal movement, a Sunday School ministry within the Eritrea Orthodox Church, and three members of the Full Gospel Church were taken into custody. The newly married couple, who were just concluding their honeymoon, were not jailed.

The occasion was described by Christians in the capital as “a normal social visit of friends, not for the purpose of having worship or other church activities.” Six of the 10 new prisoners are women.

More than 2,000 Eritrean citizens are known to be jailed under severe mistreatment in police stations, military camps and prisons in at least 14 cities and towns solely for their religious beliefs.

Although most of those jailed are Christians, a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses and leaders of the Muslim community have also been imprisoned incommunicado for a year or more without judicial charges.

For the past 18 months, the regime of President Isaias Afwerki has extended its religious repression to interfere openly in the internal affairs of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, deposing its patriarch and taking over the church’s administrative and financial controls.
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2007, 03:24:51 PM »

India Militants Massively Attack Bible College; Christians Injured

"Many Christians" were injured when hundreds of suspected Hindu militants on Wednesday, February 28, raided a Christian college in the Indian state of Orissa and beat staff members and students, investigators told BosNewsLife.

"Around 500 radicals forcefully entered the campus of Believers Church Bible College and their office" located in the city of Brajarajnagar in Orissa's Jharsuguda district, said Sajan George, the national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which represents churches and mission groups.

"They injured many of the" staff and students during the beatings and attacked everyone in the complex "one by one" he and other GCIC representatives said. Only about five police officers reportedly arrived at the scene, but they "became the silent spectators of the continued atrocities" as militants continued their beatings and ransacked the complex, GCIC investigators claimed.

It was not immediately clear how many people were victims of the attack, but the complex is large and reports suggested that at least several dozens were injured. "The situation prevailing there is totally beyond control and tense at present," George told BosNewsLife in a statement. He said GCIC representatives managed to reach police officials who "assured us to give absolute and sufficient protection."

NO ELECTRICITY

He said the campus was currently without electricity as the militants "disrupted the electric supply by disconnecting and cutting all the electric wires." He said the GCIC was informed that law enforcement officials and other authorities were to take "statements of the injured persons and carry out medical examinations" in the campus.

GCIC also "comforted the victims [who are] believers" and said it had urged Christians in the state and around the world to pray for the injured.

The attack came on the heels of violence on February 18 against five young men studying at a Bible college run by mission group Gospel for Asia (GFA) in the Indian state of Maharashtra. They were reportedly recovering from "severe injuries" after they were beaten by an angry anti-Christian crowd. Two of the students were listed in "critical condition."

The attack in Orissa has underscored concerns of more violence against evangelical Christians in the troubled state. Orissa made world headlines in 1999 when Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two sons Timothy, 9, and Philip, 7, were burnt alive in a station wagon at Manoharpur village in Orissa's Keonjhar district. He had been working in Orissa among the poor and especially for people suffering from leprosy since 1965, and later with his wife, who survived. (With BosNewsLife reporting and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2007, 03:25:52 PM »

Fire Damages Christian Training Center in Southern Sudan

A significant section of a Christian training center in volatile southern Sudan has been destroyed by fire, the group that runs the center confirmed Wednesday, February 28.

Open Doors, an advocacy group supporting Christians persecuted for their faith, told BosNewsLife that although nobody was killed or injured in last week's blaze, the "damage was significant." The group said flames reached the sleeping and wash facilities of students as well as the kitchen of the center. The 160 students, who managed to safe most of their personal belongings, are now spending the night in the center's class rooms, Open Doors said.

"We are thankful that nobody was killed or injured and that not all buildings of the complex was destroyed," said Open Doors Spokesman Jeno Sebok in a statement to BosNewsLife. "Although the fire came as a shock for the teachers and students, they have been trusting God who controls the situation. They saw no reason to panic," he added.

It was not immediately clear why the fire broke out, but it came at a sensitive time in southern Sudan where Christians are still recovering after more than two decades of civil war.

FORCED ISLAMIZATION

Human rights groups say that the policy of forced Islamization launched by the government based in northern Sudan resulted in "virtual genocide" of non-Muslim Sudanese peoples in the southern part of the troubled nation. The second civil war broke out in 1983, almost ten years after a previous civil conflict ended. Famine-related effects resulted in over four million people displaced and, according to rebel estimates, more than two million deaths over a period of two decades.

A shaky 2005 peace treaty granted southern rebels opposing Islamization autonomy for six years, after which a referendum for independence is scheduled to be held. The separate conflict, which broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, resulted in at least 200,000 deaths and nearly two million displaced, according to estimates. Since 2005, peacekeeping troops have been struggling to stabilize the situation in Sudan, which faces large refugee influxes from volatile neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia and Chad.

Open Doors and other groups are supporting Christians who have reportedly been in the crossfire of religious strife in the region. Christians comprise roughly five percent and those following indigenous beliefs 25 percent of Sudan's predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 41.2 million people, according to estimates. Most Sunni Muslims live in the north of the country, while Christians are mostly living in the south and the capital Khartoum.
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« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2007, 03:27:02 PM »

India: 'Anti-Conversion' Laws Linked to Higher Persecution

Himachal Pradesh state approves the latest so-called ‘Freedom of Religion’ law.

With the governor of Himachal Pradesh approving an “anti-conversion” bill last week, India now has seven states with legislation banning unregistered or unethical religious conversions -- to the glee of Hindu extremists who arbitrarily invoke them to quash Christian growth.

On February 20, Governor Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje gave his assent to the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2006, which was passed in the state assembly by the Congress Party last December 30.

The seven Indian states with anti-conversion legislations, known as Freedom of Religion Acts, are Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Hindu extremists commonly use anti-conversion legislation to falsely accuse Christians of converting people through force or allurement; thus they justify attacks on Christians or deflect prosecution away from themselves by pressing charges of “forcible conversion” without any evidence.

While anti-conversion laws were enforced in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (before they were divided into two separate states) in 1967 and in Orissa in 1968, the legislation in Rajasthan state, which passed in the state assembly in April 2006, is still awaiting governor’s assent.

Arunachal Pradesh and Gujarat also have passed such laws in 1978 and 2003 respectively, with their governors’ approval, but they have not been implemented as rules have yet to be framed.

According to procedures laid down in the India Constitution, a bill cannot become a law until the state governor signs it. After governor’s assent, a state government can frame rules and implement the law.

Tool of Hindu Nationalism

Christians and political analysts in India link the enactment of anti-conversion laws to the Hindu nationalistic agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parent organization of numerous Hindu extremist groups.

The BJP uses anti-conversion law as a tool to institutionalize the ideology of Hindu nationalism, known as Hindutva, which envisions a “Hindu nation” where the religious minorities are allowed to live but in subordination to the majority community.

Christianity, according to Hindutva, is a “Western religion” brought to India mainly under the British colonial rule. The BJP also claims that missionaries are part of an international conspiracy, mainly stemming from the United States, to convert and overtake India.

The Hindu extremist party accuses Western missionaries of using material bribes or force to convert poor and illiterate people in India.

In less than one year, the BJP, which was ruling at the federal level till April 2004 and is still in power in some states, has enacted an anti-conversion law in Rajasthan and made the existing laws more stringent in Madhya Pradesh (July 25), Chhattisgarh (August 3) and Gujarat (September 19). Governors in those states, however, have not given their assent to any of these bills.

Recently the BJP said it would bring an anti-conversion law to the northern state of Uttarakhand, formerly known as Uttaranchal, if it is voted to power in the assembly elections that took place on February 21; results from the polls are still awaited.

Himachal Pradesh is the first Congress Party-ruled state in recent years to enact an anti-conversion law. The Congress Party, which rules the federal government through the United Progressive Alliance, maintains that it is “secular” – a term that, in common usage in India, means equal treatment of all religious communities.

Dr. Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, said the Himachal Pradesh law betrays the promises of the Congress Party to address the needs of minority faiths across India.

“This law severely undercuts the fundamental right to freedom of religion, particularly for exploited Dalits and tribals,” D’Souza said. “The assent of the governor amounts to an endorsement of the discrimination and persecution against religious minorities in Himachal Pradesh state.”

Creating Persecution

Christians assert that the incidence of persecution is higher in states where anti-conversion laws are in force.

Most recently, on February 8 extremists allegedly belonging to the RSS beat an evangelist of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, accused him of conversions and forced him to the police station in Devasari village in Chhattisgarh’s Sarguja district. The Kusmi police station filed a complaint against him under the state anti-conversion law, and the court remanded him to custody – while no complaint was filed against the extremists for attacking him.

In Himachal Pradesh state, where the law is yet to be implemented, two anti-Christian incidents were reported soon after the passing of the bill.

A large number of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) extremists on January 21 gathered outside the house of Pastor Timuhias Behal in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district, demanded that he close down his Peniel Prarthana Bhawan orphanage and move out of the area. On January 18, extremists from the same group pressured two residents of the Last Resort drug-rehabilitation center in Khokhan village to file false complaints against a pastor and three Christian workers.

Last year, two members of the National Commission for Minorities, Harcharan Singh Josh and Lama Chosphel Zotpa, acknowledged that Hindu extremists frequently invoke the anti-conversion law in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh as a means of inciting mobs against Christians or of having them arrested without evidence. They reported this finding after a visit to the state June 13-18.

Dubious Intentions

According to Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, “Freedom of Religion” laws are misnamed.

“Their intention is just the reverse,” he said. “They deny the people the freedom of faith.”

These laws encourage extremist groups such as the RSS and VHP to target Christians and their educational institutions, he said, adding that in Madhya Pradesh it has become “impossible” for Christian workers to even visit rural areas.

Christians complain that the anti-conversion laws define “force,” “fraud” and “inducement” vaguely, which can paralyze Christian social and evangelistic service by exposing Christian workers to false charges.

For instance, Section 2(b) of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act terms “divine displeasure” – a key component of the gospel message – as “force.” Section 2(d) labels an “inducement” the offer of “any gift or benefit” – thus criminalizing Christ’s command to feed, clothe and give drink to the needy. Section 2(b) vaguely defines as fraud “misrepresentation or any other fraudulent contrivance.”

Section 4(1) of the Act requires any person wishing to convert to another religion to give a prior notice of at least 30 days to district authorities; failure to do so can result in a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$23). Yet, “no notice shall be required if a person reverts back to his own religion” – in a society that largely assumes that to be born in India is to be born Hindu.

Section 3 states that a person who is converted by any unfair means shall not be considered converted. According to Section 5, an offense under Section 3 – which includes conversion “by the use of force or by inducement or by any other fraudulent means” – is punishable with imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine up to 25,000 rupees (US$570).

In case of conversion of a minor, woman, Dalit or tribal (aboriginal) person, the imprisonment can extend to three years and the fine up to 50,000 rupees (US$1,140).

Election Issue

Before elections, the BJP has raised the issue of Christian growth and consequent need to ban “forced” conversions in order to divide voters along religious lines.

On February 10, The Indian Express daily quoted Himachal Pradesh state BJP chief Jairam Thakur as saying that, had the Congress Party government not enacted the anti-conversion law, the issue could have become his party’s “major poll plank” in assembly elections in 2008.

Another such example can be seen in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagamin government in Tamil Nadu state, which enacted an anti-conversion law in October 2002 to woo the BJP as an ally.

The law was repealed in May 2004, a month after the BJP was defeated in national elections.
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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2007, 03:28:03 PM »

Iraq: Kurdish Christian Child Convicted of Murder

Convert girl to appeal five-year sentence for killing uncle.

A Christian child has been sentenced to five years in juvenile detention in Northern Iraq for fatally stabbing her Muslim uncle while he beat her for converting to Christianity, her lawyer said.

Judge Satar Sofe convicted 14-year-old Asya Ahmad Muhammad of murder at the trial’s first hearing on February 7 in Dohuk’s juvenile court. Muhammad’s defense lawyer appealed the ruling on February 17, questioning Sofe’s conclusion that the killing had been intentional.

“The court should consider Maria’s [Muhammad’s Christian name] case unintentional killing because she didn’t intend to kill her uncle,” Akram Mikhael Al-Najar told Compass.

The lawyer said Muhammad’s five-year sentence was light, considering that Iraq’s penal code invokes the death penalty for committing murder.

“Since her uncle provoked her and kicked and abused her, the court appreciated these situations and decreased her punishment,” Al-Najar said.

The lawyer expects the Kurdish regional Court of Cassation, northern Iraq’s highest court, to rule on the appeal within three months. Even if the appeal is turned down, Al-Najar told Compass that Muhammad could be released after serving only three quarters of her five-year sentence.

Muhammad stabbed her paternal uncle with a kitchen knife last July when he came to her family’s kitchen utensil store on the outskirts of Dohuk and began beating her, her mother and younger brother.

Sayeed Muhammad’s Muslim family claimed that he attacked his relatives in order to restore “honor” supposedly lost because his female in-laws were working in public. But Asya Muhammad’s father and lawyer said that the real motive for the attack was religious.

Asya Muhammad’s father, Ahmad, told Compass that his brother had previously tried to murder him five times, angered by his conversion to Christianity.

In the wake of Sayeed Muhammad’s death, Asya Muhammad’s grandparents called for her father to be killed. External mediators later convinced the grandparents that Asya Muhammad’s father had nothing to do with his brother’s death, leading the elderly couple to demand their granddaughter’s death and a large sum instead.

Upon hearing these threats, Asya Muhammad’s parents and siblings went into hiding. Her mother and three younger brother’s have now returned home, though her father continues to reside at an undisclosed location.

Lawyer Al-Najar said that the family is no longer afraid of being attacked. “But if Maria was released from jail, she would be in danger, of course, and she would have to live far from those terrorists [her grandparents],” Al-Najar told Compass.

A Muslim cleric in Mosul, Asya Muhammad’s grandfather attended the February 7 hearing with his wife to testify against his granddaughter. The elderly cleric was present last year when his granddaughter grabbed a store knife and plunged it into her uncle’s chest while he was tearing at her hair.

Asya Muhammad’s lawyer said that if her appeal is rejected, she will finish out her sentence in Dohuk’s juvenile prison. Al-Najar described her situation in jail as “good,” saying that she has the opportunity to study and take computer courses.

But one Christian in Dohuk told Compass that Asya Muhammad’s situation is far from ideal. As the only female minor in the prison, the source said it was uncertain whether jail officials would allow her to attend classes at the all-male school.
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« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2007, 03:29:00 PM »

Uzbekistan: Police Seek Missing Pastors of 'Unregistered' Churches

Leaders who refused to sign statements face imprisonment for absence at court hearing.

Salavat Serikbayev, 32, and Makset Djabbarbergenov, 26, did not make their court date on Monday (February 26) in the regional capital of Nukus to face charges of leading an unregistered religious meeting. The pastors declined to make public the reason for their absence from court.

“Police have come to my house twice to take me by force this week,” said Serikbayev, who was not at home on either occasion. Djabbarbergenov was also absent when police came to his home to arrest him on Wednesday (February 28), Protestant sources told Compass.

Both pastors face certain imprisonment for the duration of the trial if they attend the next hearing on Monday (March 5), Serikbayev said. The pastor said that Uzbek law gives police the right to jail criminal suspects who fail to attend their court hearing.

Serikbayev, pastor of Bethel Church in the village of Muinak, and Djabbarbergenov were among 18 pastors detained during a January raid in the village of Kaskol-2 near Nukus.

Uniformed police led by two officials from the city prosecutor’s office burst into an informal gathering of church leaders from Nukus area’s various Protestant denominations at 7:30 p.m. on January 15. Abbat Utemuratov and Umirbai Kudaibergenov, assistants to the Nukus prosecutor, had the group video-taped before hauling the Christians to the police station.

The pastors were subjected to racial slurs and verbal abuse in police custody and told to write out and sign statements that the meeting had been a Christian gathering.

Uzbek law forbids unregistered religious meetings. Protestant denominations along with all other non-Muslim and non-Orthodox religious groups have been denied registration in Karakalpakstan, essentially outlawing their existence.

Serikbayev said that pastors who signed the statements were quickly released, while he, Djabbarbergenov and several others who refused were held past midnight.

Previous Imprisonment

During the following two weeks Serikbayev was twice called into the prosecutor’s office. The second time, he said he was notified that a case had been opened against him for “holding illegal meetings” and “inciting religious separatism.”

Articles 216 and 244 of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code prescribe five and three years imprisonment for each crime respectively. According Serikbayev, Djabbarbergenov is only charged under article 216.

“The police investigation report says that I was leading the meeting and that Makset was helping me,” Serikbayev said. “But we were just eating plov [an Uzbek national dish], and we didn’t have any religious literature with us.”

Nukus prosecutor’s assistant Utemuratov was unwilling to comment on the case when contacted by religious freedom watchdog Forum 18. Utemuratov said that his colleague Kudaibergenov was handling the investigation, but Kudaibergenov hung up each time he was contacted, Forum 18 wrote in a February 22 article.

The first convert from Christianity to Islam in his home town of Muinak when he became a Christian in 1994, Serikbayev is no stranger to persecution. In 1999 he spent four months in jail for his religious activities, as well as trumped up charges of taking another man’s wife.

He said his jailors discriminated against him as a Christian during his imprisonment, refusing to allow him to receive food from his family. At the same time, his wife was fired from her job because of the notoriety of his situation.

The pastor said that if he were arrested again, it would be especially hard on his wife and five children, between the ages of 11 months and 10 years.

But despite his previous experiences, Serikbayev said that he was not worried. “Worrying is when you lose your appetite and can’t sleep,” the pastor said. “I’m just praying and asking God what his will is.”
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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2007, 03:29:58 PM »

Cuba Christian Activist Biscet "Trusts God" Amid Prison Abuses

One of Cuba’s most prominent Christian prisoners, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, has said he has been forced to watch abuses "that threaten the decorous behavior of a civilized society" but stressed he trusts God to one day end his "unjust sentence," in a letter published by BosNewsLife Saturday, March 3.

Dr. Biscet, a Christian pro-life activist and medical doctor who opposes abortion and the death penalty as well as the Communist regime, was sentenced to 25 years on April 7, 2003, in a massive crackdown on human rights activists across the island.

He earlier received a three-year jail term on charges of "disrespecting patriotic symbols" including hanging a Cuban flag upside down during a news conference.

Human rights group Amnesty International and other organizations consider Dr. Biscet, who also heads the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, a prisoner of conscience. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has reportedly called him a "crazy little man.''

VERY DIFFICULT

In a letter to his wife obtained by BosNewsLife, Biscet, 46, said it has been "very difficult for common prisoners to serve a prison sentence, all the more so for a man of peace confined for exercising his right to freedom of thought."

He explained that during "all these years in prison: he witnessed "ignominious things" he was unable to describe "due to their perversity; acts that threaten the decorous behavior of a civilized society." However despite the apparent difficult situation in the in the maximum security Prison Combinado del Este in Havana, Dr. Biscet stressed he was not giving up his Christian faith.

"I am not frightened nor will I go back a step in regards to my ideas. I am here by my own free will to condemn and not to retract myself and will serve this unjust sentence until God in the Highest puts an end to it," said Dr Biscet who has apparently been pressured by authorities to give up his Christian faith and human rights views.

"Everything has been so excessive and arbitrary that, the tribunal that condemned me, did not pronounce the sentence until three days after the trial had concluded," he also wrote his wife. "At that moment I felt their disloyalty to justice. I am convinced today of the fear they felt when they convicted an innocent man and put him to live with the scum of society," Dr. Biscet added.

HEALTH CONCERNS

His wife, Elsa Morejon Hernandez, told BosNewsLife in a statement that as a registered nurse she was concerned about the prison conditions.

"The prison cell where he is forced to live is unfit for long term confinements, " she said. "No human being [can] escape illness. [The prison] is full of humidity, whitewashed walls [and] lacking a mattress. [There is also] no light nor ventilation or a chair to sit on."

In addition she noticed during rare family visits "excessive noise, little privacy, restricted family contact, a hostile environment, as well as other factors that place at high risk his health and life."

Morejon Hernandez, said the apparent poor prison conditions have impacted the health of her husband. He suffers of a "total deterioration of his dental health, recurring infections treated with antibiotics and painkillers, and symptoms of high blood pressure, a condition [he] endured for many years that is treated with…tablets," she said, adding that his family provides him with all medication.

LOSING EYESIGHT

"He is progressively loosing his eyesight and has pain in his joints. More than 100 prisoners found in his prison subdivision consume the same food rations that are taken to his cell," his wife noticed. "Like my husband, the prisoners subsist thanks to the foodstuff brought to the penitentiary by their families since prison food is unsuitable for human consumption."

Dr. Biscet, she said, is only "sporadically taken outside in the sunlight and, once a month, he is allowed to go out to walk in the open air."

In the past she has also expressed concerns about her own physical health because she is Dr. Biscet’s wife and the daughter of an ex-political prisoner. She has reportedly been attacked various times by government controlled mass media, who called her "wife of a counter-revolutionary chieftain…"

Cuban authorities have consistently denied reports of human rights abuses. Castro has also refused to recognize the word "dissidents" saying the at least dozens of political and Christian prisoners in the Communist island are "mercenaries of the United States" and against his revolution. (With reports from Cuba).
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« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2007, 03:30:49 PM »

China Gives Activist's Mother Two Years Imprisonment

The elderly mother of a well known Chinese church activists remained behind bars Thursday, March 1, after a Chinese court sentenced her to two years imprisonment, representatives confirmed.

US-based advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with reportedly persecuted believers in China said Beijing house church activist Hua Huiqi's 77-year-old mother, Shuang Shuying, was sentenced by Beijing Chongwen District People's Court on February 26 on charges "of willfully damaging public and private property."

CAA told BosNewsLife in a statement that the court "only spent an hour hearing this case" before making the ruling. Efforts by the defense team were allegedly hampered by the timing of the court hearing. "Since the trial date was set on the first working day after the Chinese New Year period, her lawyer was not able to collect any evidence to defend her," CAA said.

Shuang was arrested last month when she walked to Beijng's Chongwen district office to seek information about the whereabouts of her son, pastor Hua Huiqi, who was detained January 26. Hua is an active house church Christian in Beijing, CAA said.

“OPPRESSED PEASANTS”

"He has been passionately serving the ministry and assisting lots of persecuted Christians and oppressed peasants," the group claimed. The Chinese Communist government had been "seeking opportunities to take revenge against this family for their active support of the oppressed," CAA said.

"We are shocked by the injustice done to this elder Christian lady," said CAA President Bob Fu, a former coworker of Hua. "it definitely represents a new low...in China and especially in Beijing itself, which is the host city of 2008 Summer Olympics."

Chinese officials were not immediately available for comments, but China's Communist government has denied human rights abuses. It says Christians are free to worship in the official state-run churches. However human rights groups claim that most Christians prefer to worship outside government interference. They often gather in what are known as 'house churches' as they are often held in homes of believers.
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« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2007, 03:31:55 PM »

Iranian Imam Receives Christ Via Satellite TV, Escapes Country

Four More Imams Are Underground Believers

 One of the top Islamic leaders in Iran accepted Christ and left the country after facing death threats and imprisonment, according to an Iranian pastor living in the U.S.

“This man has been watching Christian TV programs for the past two years,” said Pastor Elnathan Baghestani, founder of Iran for Christ Ministries. (www.iranforchrist.com) Pastor Baghestani and his wife provide Christian programming to the Mohabat Network satellite, which broadcasts 24/7 into Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.

The imam called one of the phone counselors connected to Iran for Christ Ministries and prayed to receive Christ in early February. “The man has been watching Christian TV programs for the past two years,” Baghestani said. “He said he has believed since he began watching the programs but his salvation was sealed through his confession.”

“This man knows all the verses of the Qur’an by heart,” he added. “After he began watching, doubt began in his heart about the Islamic faith.” The man spent nine months in prison after he questioned the violence of radical Islam. Following his release from prison, he faced numerous death threats and escaped the country.

Several other religious leaders may follow suit. “He knows four other high-ranking imams that are in the same condition and want to leave Iran,” Baghestani said.

While it is illegal to own satellite dishes in Iran, many hide them on their roofs or other locations on their property. “They arrest people for having satellite dishes because they know the Christian programming is effective,” Baghestani noted.

The imam who fled left everything behind. “His salary was 700,000 of their monetary units every month,” Baghestani said. “He was honored and respected, but when the gospel came to him he lost everything,” he noted. “Now he is a poor refugee in a foreign country.”

“God is shaking the foundation of Islam in Iran,” Baghestani said. “We have been praying for some of the main government officials to come to Christ and God is answering us,” he reports. “I pray God will open more doors for us to send the gospel to the Middle East.”
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« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2007, 03:33:01 PM »

Vietnam Detains House Church Leader

There was mounting concern Monday, March 5, about the whereabouts of a key leader of an indigenous house church in Vietnam's Central Highlands after Vietnamese security forces reportedly raided a village and detained several Christians.

In a statement to BosNewsLife, the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which represents the predominantly Christian Degar-Montagnard community in the region, said about 100 Vietnamese government soldiers and police "entered and sealed off" the village of Buon Moak in Dak Lak province on February 17.

"The soldiers and police then arrested two of our Christian brothers Y-Ja Nie, 55 and Y-Tuc Buonya, 44, because they are Christians who refused to join the government recognized church," MFI said.

The group claimed that both "were taken to the prison facility in the district of Mdrak," in Dak Lak province. While Y-Tuc Buonya was released February 23, "Y-Ja Nie was sent to the prison facility in Buonmathuot because he is the preacher of [the] house church at his village of Buon Moak," MFI said.

TORTURE APPARENTLY USED

"Given the Vietnamese government’s track record of using torture against such prisoners it is thus feared this preacher will be maltreated and their families are extremely distressed," the group claimed.

Several Degar-Montagnard Christians have reportedly been tortured in seperate incidents, several human rights groups say. "These prisoners continue to suffer abuses and are subjected to torture, including electric shock treatment, beatings as well as being withheld food and medical care," MFI explained.

"The authorities continue to persecute members of the Christian House Church movement who refuse to join the government recognized church. In many cases authorities have beaten prisoners causing deliberate internal organ damage and a number of prisoners have already died in custody or soon after their release from prison."

HUNDREDS BEHIND BARS

At least hundreds of Christians, including about 350 predominantly Christian Degar-Montagnards, are believed to be behind bars across the Communist-run country. Vietnamese officials have denied wrongdoing saying Christians are free to worship in government backed churches.

However many Christians apparently refuse to worship there, saying the churches are not Christ-centered, but focused on the state's Communist doctrine. The United States removed Vietnam from its list of 'countries of particular concern' regarding religious rights violations, a move that was condemned by human rights groups.

The reported crackdown on Degar-Montagnards have been linked in part to anger among authorities about their Christian activities and support for American forces during the Vietnam War. Many are also said to have been persecuted for trying to flee to nearby Cambodia. (With reports from Vietnam).
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« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2007, 03:33:52 PM »

China Detains Dozens Of Christian Leaders, Group Says

Dozens of Christian leaders, including three church officials from South Korea, were detained by Chinese security forces Tuesday, March 6, as part of an apparent government crackdown on independent Christian groups, representatives said.

China Aid Association (CAA) said in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife that the arrests happened when "local police raided a house church Bible study in Wancheng District, Nanyang city [of] Henan province."

CAA said 34 "Chinese Christian leaders and three church leaders from South Korea were taken to the police station for interrogation."

In published remarks, eyewitnesses said the raid happened in the afternoon when Christian leaders of the Chinese House Church Alliance "were having their Bible study with three pastors from South Korea."

PUBLIC SECURITY BUREAU

Police officers from China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Nanyang city "broke into the house of worship which is the home of pastor Dong Quanyu who is the vice-President of Chinese House Church Alliance," CAA said.

"We urge the Chinese government to immediately release these innocent Chinese and Korean church leaders," said Pastor Bob Fu, the president of CAA.

China has consistently denied human rights abuses, saying it is only cracking down on "dangerous sects" or "unauthorized meetings." Church representatives and human rights groups have linked the apparent crackdown to concerns within the Communist Party of China about the spread of Christianity in the country.

MORE CHRISTIANS

Recently Chinese officials admitted there were at least 130 million Christians in China, even more than previous international estimates of roughly 80 million believers.

There were some hope that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who was appointed in 2003, would allow more democratic reforms, including more religious rights and freedom of expression.

However during China's annual parliamentary session which started Monday, March 5, he focused on "promoting social harmony, protecting the environment and reduce energy consumption," as part of attempts to strengthen the party base. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from China).
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« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2007, 01:04:51 PM »

Court orders preacher into 'exile' 
Evangelical punished despite government's claim of 'religious tolerance'

A Christian leader under persecution for his faith has been ordered exiled by the Uzbekistan government, after prosecutors alleged he was preaching without government authorization, a new report from Voice of the Martyrs has revealed.

The organization, which advocates on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, said Pastor Dmitry Shestakov was sentenced at a court hearing just days ago to four years in exile.

"This is an example of what our Uzbek brothers and sisters face in their country," said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for VOM. "This is a government that says they give their citizens religious freedom, but that is clearly not the case."

The report follows by just a week a report of another instance of persecution in Uzbekistan, also documented by VOM. In that case, police officers were dispatched to break into the meeting of a church in Qarshi and confiscate literature. They also demanded to know who was providing funds for the meetings and why people chose to be Christian.

The Uzbek government has a formal policy that "religious toleration and forbearance have always been and remain to be the most important component of the state policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan."

But the latest incidents, including the Shestakov decision, appear to disprove that.

"According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts in Uzbekistan, the location to which he will be exiled has not been determined. It is not clear if his family will be able to go with him," said the organization founded by a man who endured prison and punishment for his belief in Christ.

Pastor Shestakov had been arrested in a raid of his congregation in Andijan in January, officials said.

"Uzbekistan's Religious Affairs Committee claims Shestakov, an evangelical pastor, is not an authorized leader of any officially recognized religious organization in Uzbekistan. They describe him as an 'imposter' leading an underground group identified as 'charismatic Pentecostals' engaged in proselytizing under Shestakov's leadership," VOM officials confirmed.

That conclusion was delivered by the government even though the church he works with is affiliated with the Full Gospel Church, which is documented as a registered church.

"Our prayers will continue to be with our brother as he faces this sentence, and we pray that the gospel work in Andijan will continue and grow," Nettleton said.

At least one earlier persecution incident was documented by a VOM source in Uzbekistan with a camera.

The organization said in the Qarshi case, police officers arrived with video cameras to record the service, but Pastor Sergei Shandyyayey didn't panic and just continued the worship.

"After the service finished, the officers shut the doors and began to question the believers gathered there, especially asking why they had become Christians," VOM said.

According to the U.S. State Department, Uzbekistan is a "country of particular concern" because of its persecution of Christians, including multiple raids that have been conducted in recent months.

In one case, officers raided a church in Tashkent, confiscating video and audio recordings as well as books and Bibles, and taking several young people to police headquarters. One member, Risto Dyachkov, was convicted of violating Uzbekistan's "religion law" and fined, Voice of the Martyrs said.

In another case Christians who happened to be in a café and were discussing their faith were ordered to admit that they were not authorized to hold such a meeting.

Judges have concluded in their decisions that national law does not allow unregistered religious groups to operate, so any musical equipment, books, literature or other items that are confiscated are not returned. That, authorities concluded, was "material evidence."

Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.

It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.

He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.

The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.
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« Reply #27 on: March 22, 2007, 12:30:18 PM »

Minister beaten for praying for the sick
Authorities ignore complaint, so doctors refuse to treat victim

A pastor from Good Shepherd Community Church who traveled to a nearby region to pray for the sick was beaten by an anti-Christian mob, and since police then refused to accept his complaint, the area's doctors would not treat him, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs about persecuted Christians.

The attack happened to Pastor Reginald Howell, who had traveled from his home region in India to the nearby city of Hanumangarh in Rajasthan. Voice of the Martyrs sources there reported that he was visiting Christians in the area as well as praying for the sick.

Then the attackers found him.

"He was beaten with an iron rod and suffered severe injuries on his back," the persecution report said. "The police refused to register his complaint and as a result, doctors denied him treatment."

More and more such incidents are being reported in Indian states even as they adopt various pieces of "freedom" legislation concerning religion.

"Rajasthan State has a so-called 'Freedom of Religion Bill' that is used as a tool in the hands of fundamentalists to harass Christians," said the VOM contacts, who report on the various attacks, discriminations and persecutions of Christians because of their beliefs.

"The cases of anti-Christian attacks in this area keep increasing, and the State Administration turns a blind eye to the persecution," they said, according to The Voice of the Martyrs.

VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton said the problem is getting worse.

"The situation for our brothers and sisters in India is deteriorating," he said. "But God is faithful, and even in these difficult times with so much persecution, the church there is growing. We are thankful for the courageous example of Indian Christians."

Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.

It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.

He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.

The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.
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« Reply #28 on: March 22, 2007, 12:33:44 PM »

 Nigeria teacher dies 'over Koran'

Secondary school pupils in north-eastern Nigeria have killed a teacher after apparently accusing her of desecrating the Koran, police say.

The teacher, a Christian, was attacked after supervising an exam in Gombe city. It is not clear what she had done to anger the students.

The authorities, concerned that communal unrest could break out, have ordered all the city's schools to shut.

Similar accusations sparked riots in neighbouring Bauchi State last year.

At least 15,000 people have been killed in religious, communal or political violence since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999.

'Restored calm'

Nigerian police say students beat the teacher to death outside the school compound after she had been invigilating an exam.

The students had apparently accused her of desecrating the Koran, though it is not clear exactly what she had done.

The police arrived at the scene to restore calm and say their intervention stopped a riot.

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says violence based on such accusations is not new.

Last year, in Bauchi State, a rumour swept the city that a Christian teacher had also desecrated the Koran, which prompted riots in which at least five people were killed.

In fact, the teacher had confiscated the Koran from a pupil who was reading it in class.

Religious differences have long been used to justify all kinds of violence in Nigeria, our reporter says.

In reality it is often fuelled by ethnic or political conflicts and competition for resources, which can be fierce, given that so many people live in poverty, he says.
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« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2007, 03:06:11 PM »

Pakistani Christians assaulted at Muslim festival

Christians in Pakistan continue to face harassment by Muslims, who are upset over the boldness of many believers. A spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs says a team of Pakistani Christians was beaten recently as they handed out gospel tracts at a Muslim festival.



The four-member team of evangelists distributed more than 13,000 tracts before a mob of more than 100 Muslims attacked and beat them. VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton explains that the evangelists were in hostile territory. "The best way to describe it," says Nettleton, "is sort of a revival meeting for radical Muslims."

According to the VOM spokesman, speakers at the Muslim festival were "trying to incite people to be better Muslims, trying to incite people to jihad." But Christians at the festival who were "telling people about Jesus and encouraging them to follow Christ" was "obviously was seen as a threat," says Nettleton.

After being beaten, the evangelists were taken to a police station, where they were detained and questioned before being released. VOM provided medical care for the evangelists afterwards.

Despite the harassment and beating often faced by believers in many Muslim nations, Nettleton says Christianity continues to flourish. "It's very difficult to be a Christian in some of these places, but the exciting thing is to see Christians who are being such a bold witness for Christ," he shares.

The VOM spokesman cites the incident involving the evangelists at the festival as an example of that dedication. "Even knowing that they were taking a great risk, knowing even that their lives were in danger, still they chose to be at this Muslim festival -- and they chose to be actively witnessing for Christ there," he says.

Nettleton is hopeful the Pakistani Christians' efforts at the festival were not in vain. "We don't know what's going to happen with those tracts," he says. "We pray that the Lord will use those to reach some of these hearts and to change their hearts for Him."
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