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« Reply #240 on: December 25, 2008, 10:59:23 PM »

Buddhist Clerics Take Christians Captive
Added: Dec 22nd, 2008 7:46 AM

Monks hold converts in pagoda to forcibly turn them back to Buddhism.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (Compass Direct News) -- Buddhist clerics and local council officials are holding 13 newly converted Christians captive in a pagoda in a southeastern mountainous district of Bangladesh in an attempt to forcibly return them to Buddhism.

A spokesman for the Parbatta Adivasi (Hill Tract) Christian Church told Compass on condition of anonymity that "the plight of the Christians is horrifying."

Local government council officials in Jorachuri sub-district in Rangamati district, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) southeast of Dhaka, are helping the Buddhist monks to hold the Christians against their will, he said.

"The 13 tribal Christians were taken forcefully to a pagoda on Dec. 10 to accept Buddhism against their will," he said. "They will be kept in a pagoda for 10 days to perform the rituals to be Buddhists – their heads were shaved, and they were given yellow saffron robes to dress in."

All the captive Christians are men between 28 and 52 years old, he said. They became Christians around four months ago at various times in the country, which has a Buddhist population of 0.7 percent. Muslims make up nearly 90 percent of the Bangladeshi population, with Hindus accounting for about 9 percent, according to government figures.

According to the source, two Buddhist clerics, Pronoyon Chakma and Jianoprio Vikku, and two local council members, Vira Chakma and Rubichandra Chakma, were behind the anti-Christian activities along with nine other Buddhist leaders.

"It’s the first time they have taken 13 Christians to the pagoda to make them Buddhist – this is how they plan to make Buddhists of all the converted Christians in that area," he said. "The pagoda has little capacity to accommodate them; otherwise they would hold captive more than 13 people."

The Christian leader said Buddhist leaders and local council officials have warned Christians to return to Buddhism or be evicted, saying, "You cannot live here – you have to leave this place with your family members because you became Christians. Those who became Christians cannot live in this predominantly Buddhist area."

Fearing for their lives, the source said, some area Christians have gone into hiding.

Mogdhan Union Council Chairman Arun Kanti Chakma, the source said, warned that Christian converts would be ostracized, beaten, and – assuming they returned to Buddhism only to return to Christianity – killed.

"The chairman threatened to beat the Christians unless they change their faith to Buddhism," he said. "The chairman also threatened, ‘If you become Christian again, we will not keep you alive.’"

In another mountainous neighborhood in the Khaokhali area near Jorachuri, about 50 recently converted Christians have been cut off from all communications. They are barred from going to Rangamati town and are living in isolation.

"Those captors and other influential Buddhists leaders are threatening other converted Christians that they will face the same consequences as the 13 captives are facing," the source said. "They are warning us, ‘All of you should be reconverted to Buddhism in the same way.’"

About 400 people in the district have become Christians over the past year. Like Buddhists, Christians make up less than 1 percent of the Bangladeshi population of 153.5 million.

Christians in the district have not informed police, fearing that any police action would infuriate terrorist groups among the tribal people of the area. The source said terrorist groups have been known to put the lives of Christians in jeopardy at the slightest provocation.

"We did not inform police because underground terrorist groups of those tribal people would get riled up by any kind of police action, and our life would come to a sticky end," he said. "If we tell police, it will create more problems."

In addition, he added, the threatened area lies in hills surrounded by nearly impassable mountain terrain, making access unlikely for police action against the captors.

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« Reply #241 on: December 27, 2008, 01:50:09 PM »

Tajikistan Churches Facing Closure In New Year
Added: Dec 26th, 2008 1:31 AM

DUSHANBE/BUDAPEST -- A major Christian rights group warned Tuesday, December 23, that many churches in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan in 2009, if a new draft law requiring them to re-register under restrictive conditions is adopted by parliament.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that the legislation will also impact the Muslim community in the country, as many mosques may be forced to close down.

Proposed legislation outlining the plans was reportedly send to parliamentarians for approval last month by autocratic President Emomali Rahmon, a former cotton farm boss, not known for tolerating dissent. His People's Democratic Party holds virtually all seats in parliament.

The draft text reportedly enforces state controls over the activity of religious organizations, limits religious education and imposes government censorship over religious literature. “If passed, all of Tajikistan’s religious organizations will be obliged to re-register either as 'religious organizations' or as 'religious communities', the latter having no legal status,” CSW said. “Many may lose their legal status and some could face closure due to harsher criteria for registration,” the group added.

WIDESPREAD CONCERNS

Tajik human rights have expressed concerns over President Emomali Rahmon’s unusual decision to send this draft religion law to parliament himself, CSW added. “Normally draft laws are sent to parliament by the government, and the previous draft religion law was sent only by the government’s Religious Affairs Committee.”

Forum 18, another rights group, said some analysts interpret this as an indication of the political importance of this new law. The Tajikistan Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has reportedly expressed concern at “the vagueness of many of the articles” and details in the draft law, pointing out that interpretation will therefore fall on local authorities.

It added that OSCE commitments "are quite clear" when it comes to the issue of religion and freedom of conscience. CSW Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert said she fears “this draft law falls short of internationally accepted standards regarding freedom of religion and belief." She said that CSW has urged legislators to reconsider the text of "this restrictive draft law". In addition, she said, the international community should "speak out against a trend in Tajikistan" and the region as there have been "many similar laws being proposed across Central Asia in recent months."

CHRISTIANITY THREAT?

Christianity and other religious groups have often been seen as a threat to the power base of autocratic leaders in Tajikistan and other areas, BosNewsLife monitored.

The current president has been was elected chairman of the Supreme Council of Tajikistan in 1992 after the country's first post-Soviet leader, Rahmon Nabiyev, was forced to resign.

Emomali Rakhmon - now in third term as president - was elected president in 1994 and re-elected in 1999 when his term was extended to seven years.

In 2006 he won a third term in office in an election which international observers said was neither free nor fair. Opposition parties boycotted the vote, reportedly dismissing it as a "Soviet-style staged attempt at democracy."

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« Reply #242 on: December 27, 2008, 01:51:26 PM »

Pakistan: Policeman Tortures, Paralyzes Christian
Added: Dec 26th, 2008 1:53 AM

Disabled Christian waits in 9-year legal limbo, sent to prison for 'kidnapping.'

ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News) -- A Pakistani Christian boy's quarrel with a Muslim policeman's son has led to his father's imprisonment, torture, paralysis, and five-year prison sentence.

The father's health condition has become so fragile that he was temporarily released from prison and sent to a Faisalabad hospital on Sunday (Dec. 21). Emanuel Masih, 43, is now in stable condition, his attorney told Compass.

Masih, of Faisalabad, a father of six and a former street sweeper, is trying to commute his prison sentence after police officer Omer Draz tortured him and had him imprisoned on trumped-up charges originating from a quarrel between their sons nine years ago.

The situation began in 1999 when his son Saleem, 9 at the time, was involved in a dispute with Draz's son at the childrens' Muslim-majority elementary school. The next day to protect Saleem, Emanuel Masih and his brother-in-law Amin Masih accompanied Saleem to a bus station, along with Saleem's brothers, to subdue the police officer. Draz, however, attacked Saleem and Emanuel Masih's other sons.

Following the incident Draz conspired with his housecleaner Zaniran Bibi, a Christian, to have Emanuel Masih arrested. She claimed that Emanuel Masih was responsible for the kidnapping of her son, who had gone missing some time earlier.

There was no evidence to link Emanuel Masih to the kidnapping, his attorney said.

Police arrested Emanuel Masih along with Amin Masih, who was also falsely implicated in the kidnapping, without possibility of bail. The two men were tortured for a month, according to a report from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) advocacy group.

Draz had a regular routine of torture for Emanuel Masih and his brother-in-law: He gathered them together, dragged them outside the police station and beat them with iron rods. A month of these beatings paralyzed Emanuel Masih's arms and legs.

"They took (them) to a private house and beat them there," said CLAAS lawyer Akbar Durrani to Compass. "They used a separate house because they are afraid of the courts."

Emanuel Masih was then sent to judicial lock-up since he was too weak to attend a court hearing. The prison superintendent was so surprised at his condition he called on Emanuel Masih's younger brother, Jabar Masih, to provide him physical care.

Emanuel Masih is also illiterate. Due to his injuries he could not work and had to rely on donations from charity groups. He has regained partial use of his legs but still cannot use his arms. He has been unemployed since 1999.

The two men were eventually released on bail. In the intervening nine years, Emanuel Masih and Amin Masih continued to attend court hearings. But on May 24 they were arrested and given a five-year prison sentence along with a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$320). Lawyers appealed the decision in September at a Faisalabad court.

Trying to get out

Emanuel Masih could be released from prison due to an article in Pakistan criminal law that requires proper facilities for an incapacitated person. If they are not available the prisoner can be released without a court order.

In September Durrani filed a petition of release to Pakistani Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, who is in charge of the country's internal security. Without the use of his arms, Emanuel Masih could not survive in prison unless Amin assisted him.

"His brother-in-law feeds and washes him," Durrani said. "That's why he has been able to survive until now."

Gupta requested a medical examination of Emanuel Masih, which declared him incapacitated. The final decision to let him go rests with the jail superintendent, who received the report from the home secretary in early December.

Faisalabad is located in Punjab, near the Indian border. Radical religious elements in Punjab have become active in carrying out Islamic terrorist acts outside Pakistani borders. Two of the nine identified gunmen in the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai that killed 188 and injured 293 were from this city of 2.6 million.

On Wednesday, Dec. 17, Muslims set fire to a church in a nearby village as its parishioners were decorating for Christmas. The attackers left behind a letter telling the Christians they would be damned to hell if they did not become Muslims, according to International Christian Concern.

Parish priest Yaqoob Yousaf has called for security forces to arrest the culprits quickly, for fear of similar attacks on the congregation during its Christmas Day services.

Pakistan: Policeman Tortures, Paralyzes Christian
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« Reply #243 on: December 27, 2008, 01:52:56 PM »

China Launches Christmas Crackdown On Christian Worship
Added: Dec 26th, 2008 4:01 AM

BEIJING, CHINA -- Christians in several parts of China were behind bars on Christmas Day after a police crackdown on worship services and Bible study, a Christian advocacy group said Thursday, December 25.

In one of the latest incidents, officials of the country's main law enforcement agency, the Public Security Bureau (PSB), raided a house church Christmas party in Yucheng county of Henan province on Christmas Eve, detaining nine Christian women, said US-based China Aid Association (CAA), which has close contacts with the believers.

They, "were reenacting the nativity [scene] on the street, and police charged the women with “organizing illegal religious activities. " The women, including Yue Zengyun who led the group, are currently being held at Detention Center of Yucheng County,” CAA told BosNewsLife. "The PSB officers demanded the family members pay a fine for the women to be released," the group said.

BIBLE STUDIES

The raid came after authorities in Anhui province reportedly seized a house church building and a related school in Dianlong village providing Bible studies the previous day.

Tensions in began December 22 when security forces of several agencies and Religious Affairs officials interrupted a Bible training gathering affiliated with the house church in Dianlong village , arresting 19 students and two pastors, CAA said. They were released several hours later after they were interrogated, "forcibly photographed and videotaped" the group said, adding that several books were confiscated.

The next day, December 23, authorities forced church leaders Zhu Jianguo and Cheng Donglai to send the students home and "read a statement of the government in which they claimed they were notified that Cheng Donglai illegally ran a school, then pronounced the school abolished," CAA said in a statement. "Government officials also announced that they would demolish or sell the building used for the Bible training."

SELLING BUILDING

Officials allegedly photographed and videotaped all materials at the site and threatened church members that anyone touching the materials would be in punished. "The County Bureau of Religion posted sealing tape to shut off the house church building," CAA explained. Both church leaders reportedly expect to be summoned by local police soon.

Earlier in on December 21, a house church in Yili city in China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region, was reportedly banned. "Pastor Xie Xianhua, who leads the church, was warned he could face arrest if he continued his house church service," CAA said, adding that it is still investigating the case.

The latest raids are viewed as a setback for rights activists who had urged China to improve religious rights after the recent Beijing Olympic Games. China's government has denied human rights abuses, saying it only targets "illegal groups" and what it considers as "dangerous sects". It says China's up to 130 million Christians are free to worship with the state-backed churches.

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« Reply #244 on: June 19, 2009, 11:26:04 PM »

Concerns Over Detained Egypt Priest Amid Attacks
Posted on: 2009-05-20 06:11:01
By Worthy News Middle East Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- Representatives of Egypt's Christian minority, already rocked by several attacks in recent weeks, continued their attempts Wednesday, May 20 to obtain the release of a priest they say was sentenced to five years hard labor for crimes he did not commit.

Mattaos Wahba, a priest of Archangel Michael Church in the area of Kerdasa in Egypt's Geza region, was sentenced in October on charges of conducting a marriage between an ex-Muslim and a Christian with false documents, said The Free Copts, an advocacy group and website for Egyptian Christians, known as Copts

However the convert, Mariam Nabil, told a popular television show, A Daring Question last month that "Father Mattaos" was innocent as he did "not have any role" in getting her forged Christian identification papers. I did not know him then, as this took place in 2004 and I got married in 2006, according to a translation provided by The Free Copts.

Nabil she saw no other option than providing forged Christian documents. I have the right to have an ID card that reflects my true religious affiliation. [But] The Egyptian government does not give Muslims who convert to Christianity a legal alternative to get these papers. Had I been a Christian who wanted to convert to Islam, I would have had all the help I needed. But, because I am leaving Islam they put hurdles in my way, she added.

DIFFICULT CASE

Church representatives said it was difficult to see for priests to control papers during a marriage ceremony. The Free Copts and lawyers hope the television interview will boost Wahba's changes of being released. However it comes at a time of mounting tensions in this predominantly Muslim nation, which saw two attacks earlier this month,

On May 10 a small homemade bomb exploded in Cairo near Saint Mary Church, the Coptic community considers a holy site, police said, reportedly interrupting a wedding and a Bible study held in the historic building.

While nobody was injured, the device damaged a car and a second one was found and detonated by police in the same area near a Coptic church in the northeast of Cairo, investigators said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility reported. Earlier on May 2 three Muslims repeatedly stabbed Coptic Christian Girgis Yousry, 21, as the army conscript was leaving the gates of the church of Saint Mary in the area of Minya in Upper Egypt, Christians said.

The violence reportedly left him with serious injuries to internal organs, and he was taken to the district hospital, where he was still receiving treatment Wednesday May 18. There has been growing concern about Islamic extremism and against Copts, who comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million strong population.

Coptic Christians are also suffering under a recent decision by the government to slaughter the country's estimated pigs because of Swine flu, although no single case of the disease has been reported so far, rights groups and United Nations officials said. While consuming pig meat is despised by Muslims, many Copts are involved in the industry.

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« Reply #245 on: June 19, 2009, 11:30:28 PM »

Burma Military Involved In Massive Rape And Discrimination, investigators claim
Posted on: 2009-05-23 08:02:30
Worthy News Staff

RANGOON, BURMA (Worthy News)-- United Nations officials on Saturday, May 23, remained concerned over the situation of Burma's political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as Christian rights investigators reported fresh evidence of "human rights violations" by the ruling military in the country.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife it just returned from a three-week trip to the region with the 'Free Burma Rangers' group to investigate widespread the Burma's military involvement in widespread "rape, religious discrimination and land confiscation in Kachin State", an area of the Kachin ethnic group, including many Christian believers.

In a detailed report of the visit to the Kachin, CSW quotes the testimony of a 21 year-old Bible school student who was "raped and strangled by two Burma Army soldiers."

After describing her ordeal, the student told CSW she had heard that one of the soldiers had raped many girls, but had never been brought to justice. Every woman should be careful. My experience is an example for other girls I want justice to be done.

REBEL GROUP

CSW said it also met representatives of the rebel Kachin Independence Organisation a day after the military government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, ordered it to surrender its arms and soldiers "to Burma Army control."

In addition, CSw said met a Chin pastor, now in Malaysia, who "had been forced" by Burmas military government to deliver a speech at a public rally "denouncing human rights campaigners and claiming to enjoy complete religious freedom."

It comes at a time when observers said the military government is concerned about world opinion as the U.N. Security Council in a unanimous statement expressed concern about the "political impact" of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi charging her with violating the terms of her house arrest.

Christians among the Karen, another ethnic group fighting for more autonomy and human rights, say they would accept Aung San Suu Kyi as Burma's leader as she is seen as a voice of reconciliation, BosNewsLife learned.

BURMA DENIES

Burma's foreign minister, Nyan Win, has denied allegations that the government had framed its case against Aung San Suu Kyi.

In an interview published Friday, May 22, in the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar he suggested the incident could have been created by the opposition to attract international attention, the Voice of America (VOA) network reported.

Burmese authorities have accused Aung San Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her six-year house arrest for allowing American John Yettaw to stay at her house for two days after swimming to her lakeside residence on May 3.

Burma Military Involved In Massive Rape And Discrimination, investigators claim
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« Reply #246 on: June 19, 2009, 11:31:34 PM »

Belarus Evangelical Church Faces Imminent Eviction By Security Forces
Posted on: 2009-06-02 05:35:04


Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Europe Bureau Chief

MINSK/BUDAPEST (Worthy News-- There was uncertainty about the future of one of the largest evangelical churches in Belarus Tuesday, June 2, after authorities ordered it to abandon its building in the capital Minsk.

New Life Church confirmed that it received a letter from the Property Maintenance and Repair Department (PMRD) of the Moscow District of Minsk demanding that the church leaves its current complex not later than Monday, June ,1 or face forcible eviction.

The church needs to undertake necessary measures not later than June 1, 2009 to transfer the legal documents for its building and sign the deal of the buildings transfer and also vacate it, the letter said. In case the church does not, the Department will have to undertake necessary measures to settle the case in accordance to the current legislation.

In an interview, the head of PMRDs legal department, Ludmila Bulyga, suggested that the eviction could be carried out by security forces. They (the church) need to vacate the building and the land since it was never zoned for religious usage. The courts ruling will be carried out by the courts officers, who have the full right to use law-enforcing agencies, she said.

MOUNTING CONCERN

Human rights groups have expressed concerns about the situation, saying it could mark another stage in alleged wide spread persecution of devoted Christians in the former Soviet republic.

The events... are likely to have a major impact on religious freedom throughout Belarus, said Stuart Windsor , National Director of Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide. If New Life Church is forced to shut its doors, the hundreds of other churches across the country who have been denied the right to register will have real reason to fear the same fate, Windsor warned.

The CSW official urged the European Union to intervene at a time when it just launched its Eastern Partnership initiative which is meant to promote respect for human rights in countries including Belarus. The EU, he said, should make it absolutely clear that the religious liberty of the members of New Life Church must be defended and upheld.

New Life Church, which comprises over a thousand active members, has been the target of repeated government fines and attempts to shut it down since it was established in the early 1990s, according to local Christians.

LEGAL BATTLE

The latest ruling comes as part of a legal battle with the Minsk City Executive Committee which has been ongoing since 2005 after the church purchases a former cowshed to accommodate its growing congregation.

In addition, recent aid from the Netherlands was halted by authorities, the church said. In 2006, thousands of Belarusian Christians of different denominations across the country joined members of New Life Church in a hunger strike which lasted 23 days and resulted in hospitalization of several people involved in the hunger strike.

It comes amid international concerns over the policies of President Aleksandr Lukashenko who critics say has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means.

Critics link the reported crackdown on New Life and other evangelical groups to government restrictions on freedom of religion as well as limitations on freedom of speech and the press and demonstrations. Lukashenko has denied wrongdoing.

Belarus Evangelical Church Faces Imminent Eviction By Security Forces
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« Reply #247 on: June 19, 2009, 11:33:01 PM »

Gambia Prosecution Delays Appeal Detained British Missionary
Posted on: 2009-06-10 07:14:28
By Worthy News Africa Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos


BANJUL, THE GAMBIA (Worthy News)-- The appeal of a frail British missionary detained in The Gambia on what Christians describe as "trumped up" charges of "sedition" has been delayed after prosecutors failed to attend a scheduled hearing and prison authorities did not produce him in court, Worthy News learned Wednesday, June 10.

David Fulton, 60, wanted to appeal against an additional conviction for forgery on May 25 but the proceedings were adjourned until Tuesday, June 16, his church said.



"We have news that the appearance on the 25th May did not take place. The new lady magistrate ruled that both the prosecution and Dave must be present at court on the 16th June," said the Westhoughton Pentecostal Church in the town of Bolton, United Kingdom.

Fulton and his wife Fiona, 46, had initially received sentences of one year's imprisonment with hard labor in December 2008, after pleading guilty to "sedition" on the advice of a lawyer, who claimed this would ensure more lenient sentences.

Shortly after that hearing, David Fulton was given an additional three years for pleading guilty to forgery, apparently in the hope of receiving the usual sentence of a fine.

SEDITION CONVICTIONS

The Fultons, who are held separately, are now appealing against their sedition convictions, and Mr. Fulton will also be contesting a new charge of impersonating an army official, confirmed Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a Christian rights group that has been closely monitoring the case.

Their supporters have linked the sedition charges to the missionaries' alleged involvement in criticizing the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who rights groups say believes in witchcraft and has led the tiny African nation with an iron fist.

Among the court's arguments was an apparent e-mail exchange in which David Fulton allegedly wrote: "This country is sinking fast into a morass of Islam, many people are safe and standing for Christ, but they are the minority".

Officials defended the punishments. "I found the offenses of the accused party to be very shocking and they have shown no respect for the country, the government and the president of the republic," said Judge Edrissa Mbai at the time. "I will send a clear message to the offenders."

HEALTH CONCERNS

The trial comes amid international concern about David and Fiona Fulton's health.

CSW said it has learned that David Fulton has recently recovered from an illness brought on by 102 days of solitary confinement in a cell with no lighting, and no access to exercise, at a high-security prison outside the capital Banjul . "His prescribed hard labour duties now include climbing coconut trees, stripping their bark and physically carrying fifty kilogram bundles."

The group said that Fiona Fulton has been put on "lavatory cleaning duties" and is "reported to be unwell emotionally and physically, and to have clearly lost weight."

CSW Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris told Worthy News in a statement that his group was concerned about the missionaries' health. "It is vital that Mr. Fulton receives a fair hearing on June 16, that the Fultons' previous convictions for sedition are urgently reviewed, and that Mrs Fulton receives the medical attention she so clearly needs.

MISSIONARY ACTIVITIES

Dave Fulton and his wife Fiona from the town of Torquay in Devon, England, have been in The Gambia since 1996 carrying out missionary activities that included working among soldiers and terminally ill people, their church said.

"Dave is a chaplain to the Gambian service men and women and is in charge of the chaplaincy of the airport. In the last few years he has led many service personnel to the Lord. For the army he has trained seven chaplains, one for each barracks."

He recently also began preaching in outposts and villages only accessible by boat, a ten-day trip, every month. "But by Gods grace he sees many people receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour," said Westhoughton Pentecostal Church. "Fiona trained with others in the church to look after terminally ill people and spends time visiting women in their homes and in hospital."

David Fulton, 60, became a missionary after a controversial past that included leaving the British Army and becoming an armed robber. However Fulton said that while he was jailed,he "found God", and his wife, a prison visitor. Following his release, the Christian couple moved to The Gambia, where they eventually adopted a girl, Elizabeth, now two, who is currently staying with friends. Their other children, Iona, 20 and Luke, 17, are in the United Kingdom.

WITCH CRAFT

Working as Christian missionaries is a challenge in the predominantly Muslim nation where just three percent of the over one million people consider themselves Christians, with just over half of those being Roman Catholic, according to church estimates. Evangelicals are a tiny minority reportedly gathering in mainly small church congregations.

Believe in witchcraft has apparently also made it difficult for Christians and other minorities. Earlier this year, some 1,000 people accused of being witches in The Gambia were locked up in secret detention centers and forced to drink a dangerous hallucinogenic potion, according to human rights organization Amnesty International. At least two people died, Amnesty said.

The group reported that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh invited "witch doctors" from mainly neighboring Guinea -- to the West African nation following the death of his aunt.

Jammeh, a former soldier who has ruled The Gambia since leading a military coup in 1994, is reported to believe that witchcraft was involved in her death, according to Amnesty.

Gambia Prosecution Delays Appeal Detained British Missionary
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« Reply #248 on: June 19, 2009, 11:33:54 PM »

Egypt Again Detains Christian Brothers; Believer Kidnapped
Posted on: 2009-05-31 15:08:00


By Worthy News Middle East Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- Two Christian brothers were behind bars again Sunday,May 31, just weeks after being released from an Egyptian prison where they wereheld for a year on false charges of murdering a Muslim in Mallawi, Upper Egypt.

Refaat and Ibrahim Fawzy Abdo were re-arrested May 20, as part of an "intimidationcampaign" against Egyptian Christians, known as Copts, their lawyer and observers said.

The two were initially detained for allegedly killing a Muslim duringan attack on Abu Fana monastery in Egypt in May 2008, despite a lack of evidence,Christians said.

Advocacy groups reportedly fear the Interior Ministry will working with law enforcement officialsto keep them detained, force a confession and make the Copts look guilty in the Abu Fana attack.

SECURITY FORCES

Egyptian security forces can incarcerate people without reason according to provisions in criminallaw and Christians have expressed concerns the two brothers will be prosecuted outside the mainjudicial system.

News of the detention came after reports that 21-year-old Mina Basily was abducted from his home inthe town of Alexandria by four Muslim men on May 6. Middle East Christian Association said Muslims armed with swords, sticks and knives broke into the Basily family's home, assaulted Mina and forced him into a car parked outside.

Neighbours who witnessed the kidnapping were reportedly too fearful to intervene. Police allegedlyinitially refused to file an official report of kidnapping.

Local Muslims reportedly told police that Mina was kidnapped because of his relationship with a Muslim girl but the claims could not be independently confirmed. Rights investigators said the girl's family is hiding her from officials. Mina was reportedly handed over to the police but has been pressured to convert to Islam, Christians said.

Christian groups have expressed concerns over what they view as growing pressure on the country'sChristian minority.

Egypt Again Detains Christian Brothers; Believer Kidnapped
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« Reply #249 on: June 19, 2009, 11:35:29 PM »

Pakistan Taliban Threatens To Kill, Rape, Non Muslims
Posted on: 2009-06-15 15:09:46
By Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A loose Pakistan-based umbrella group of factions linked to the militant Taliban organization has threatened to kill or rape all non-Muslims to enslave their children and take away their properties, unless they meet tough conditions.

In a letter, seen by Worthy News Monday, June 15, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said non-Muslims should embrace Islam, or pay an Islamic tax known as 'Jaziva Tax' to Muslim rulers, or leave Pakistan forever, if they don't want to be harmed.

If the infidels rejected this suggestion they, would be killed and they would be responsible for it, wrote TTP leader Muslim Khan.

And, "The women of these disobedient infidels would be enslaved and raped according to [an Islamic ritual] Muta," he said.

Under Muta a Muslim man can, in theory, marry a woman for several hours and after having gotcha146 can divorce again by saying three times "I divorce you". The children conceived would be converted to Islam, enslaved and forced to work for TTP, the group added in the letter.

The letter was received May 27, by residents in the Jafferia Colony neighborhood of Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab.

CHRISTIANS THREATENED

While TTP mentioned specifically Muslim Shiites for allegedly not observing Islam, the letter was also seen as a direct threat to Christians and other religious minorities in Lahore and elsewhere in the country, where militants have attempted to establish strict Islamic rule.

A 15-member committee representing the complex where the letter was received, including Shiites and Christians, approached local police to intervene, but there was apparently no increased security Monday, June 15.

Police said in a statement they had taken measures according to resources available and that special security was provided at houses of worship of religious minorities.

The latest letter came amid a government-led military crackdown on Islamic militants.

Just days earlier the TTP threatened Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) leaders, saying they would face dire consequences if a military offensive is not discontinued immediately.

In a letter to the PPP Information Secretary Fouzia Wahab, the TTP warned that the country's leadership would be targeted if the operation against them is not stopped, Pakistani media reported.

Pakistan Taliban Threatens To Kill, Rape, Non Muslims
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« Reply #250 on: June 19, 2009, 11:36:38 PM »

Yemen Christian Expatriates Review Security Following Killings
Posted on: 2009-06-16 03:26:56


By Worthy News Middle East Service

SANA'A, YEMEN (Worthy News)-- Christian expatriates in Yemen, including missionaries, were reviewing their security arrangements Tuesday, June 16, following confirmation of the murders of at least three kidnapped foreigners by suspected Islamic militants, a Christian group with close knowledge about the situation said.

Middle East Concern (MEC) also told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife that South Koreans were worried they may be forced to leave the country which would have an impact on several Christian ministries.

They fear the murder of the South Korean might lead the Korean government to change the status of their current warning against travel to Yemen from 'advisory' to 'binding', MEC added.

This would effectively make [Yemen] a closed country for South Korean nationals. This currently [already] applies to travel to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

There had been confusion about the fate of the nine foreigners kidnapped last week during a picnic in the northern Saada province. Bodies of three women were found Monday, June 15, in the Safra district, to the east of where the group was seized Friday, June 12, by suspected Islamic militants.

WOMEN IDENTIFIED

The women were identified as Rita Stewjab, 25, Amita Julie, 25, both of whom were German nurses, and 22-year-old Youvet Singhum, a South Korean teacher, according to Saba news agency. She was named in South Korea as Eom Young-Sun, 34.

However there were conflicting reports about the other missing hostages, including a German doctor and his wife, their three children, and a British engineer. One report said all nine hostages were dead, while another report quoted officials saying two children had been found alive.

Worldwide Services Foundation, a Dutch aid group helping with medical care in the province, said in a news release on its Web site that the missing hostages belonged to its team.

It said they had been working at a hospital in the north of Yemen, largely devoted to prenatal and maternity care. "The news of the killing of the three women will be a shock also for the local people, with whom a warm relationship exists that has been strengthened by the humanitarian efforts of so many years," Worldwide Services said.

In Seoul, Foreign Ministry spokesman Choe Jong-hyun said the government "cannot contain its anger and shock" at the slayings, The Associated Press news agency reported.

BLAMING MILITANT

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping and killings, but Yemen officials blamed Houthi militants. The rebel group denied any involvement and accused Yemen authorities of trying to tarnish its image. Rebels loyal to a Zaidi Shi'ite cleric, Hussein al-Houthi, have been fighting government loyalists in Saada province since 2004.

In addition, there have been increasing protests in southern provinces of Yemen, some of which have become violent, MEC said. These are generally motivated by a feeling that the federal government in Sana'a is not giving some of them a fair share of national resources. In view of these developments many expatriate Christians working in Yemen have been reviewing their security arrangements.

Yemen, the ancestral homeland of the leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group, Osama bin Laden, had long been a haven for Islamic militants and was the scene of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.

The country is also the Arab world's poorest nation and one of its most unstable making it fertile territory for al-Qaida and other Islamic militants to set up camp, analysts say. The latest reported kidnappings of foreigners came as the government announced a crackdown on militants.

RING BROKEN

Yemeni authorities broke up an al-Qaida ring operating in two provinces, a security source told the Saba news agency this week.

The ring was operating in Sana'a and Mareb provinces, and was plotting fresh terrorist attacks, Saba news agency quoted the source -- who sought anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media -- as saying. The ring was responsible for previous attacks in Yemen, Saba said.

The operation came only days after the arrest of Hassan Hussein bin al-Wan, a Saudi national who arranged financing for al-Qaida in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He was caught in Mareb not far from Sana'a, the country's capital.

PRAYERS URGED

As the crackdown reportedly continued, MEC said Christians in Yemen urged prayers from fellow believers for the families and colleagues of [killed hostages] Anita, Rita and Young-Sun that they will know the comfort of Jesus.

In addition Yemeni Christians pray that the perpetrators will be convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the forgiveness, love and true life offered by Jesus and that All expatriate Christians in Yemen will know the Lord's guiding and protecting at this time," MEC explained.

They also hope South Korea will not force its nationals to leave that country, the group added.

Yemen Christian Expatriates Review Security Following Killings
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« Reply #251 on: June 19, 2009, 11:37:42 PM »

 Pakistan Christian Student "Too Ugly" To Study Science
Posted on: 2009-06-17 12:38:47


By Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan

MIANWALI, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A talented Christian student has been denied admission to Science studies at a girls high school in Pakistan because the Muslim school principal regards her as "too ugly" to participate, her father said Wednesday, June 17.

Abdullah Masih said the female principal of the Government Girls Mian Shahbaz Sharif High School in the Pakistani city of Mianwali told his 14-year-old daughter Uzma Noreen: "Your ugly face is not fit for Science studies."

The principal, who is also a science teacher and known only as Sofia, declined to discuss the situation in details, but made clear she had not changed her opinion about the Christian sudent.

DAUGHTER DEVASTATED

Masih, 42, told Worthy News and its news partner BosNewsLife that his daughter was devastated. "Besides humiliating my daughter" the principal "also wrecked her educational career, he added in a telephone interview.

He said his daughter was punished for her Christian faith as she apparently scored most points of students participating in "the final examination of class eight" a key condition for Science studies in class nine.

"Her name was at the top of the list of students to whom admission in Science subjects was granted...Now she is rejected merely for being Christian," Masih claimed. "She was also told she is an ugly Christian girl and therefore her face does not appear to be fitting for Science studies
in higher classes."

This is no isolated incident, rights groups suggest. In recent months and years, several Christian students have reportedly been forced to leave educational institutions in Pakistan because of their faith.

Pakistan Christian Student "Too Ugly" To Study Science
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« Reply #252 on: June 19, 2009, 11:38:44 PM »

Egypt Court Bans 'Christian' On Ex-Muslim's ID Card
Posted on: 2009-06-17 08:48:58
By Worthy News Middle East Service with Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos

CAIRO, EGYPT (Worthy News)-- For the second time, an Egyptian court has rejected a Christian convert's request to change his religious affiliation on his identity card in a ruling described by criticsas "a severe blow" to freedom of religion of ex-Muslims.

Judge Hamdi Yaseen reportedly rejected the application of Maher Ahmed Al-Motasem BellahAl-Gohari to change his religious affiliation from Muslim to Christian, citing Islamicand public order concerns. Egyptian identity cards must report the faith of the holder.

Al-Gohari, whose last name has also been spelled as El-Gohary, and his daughter Dina 12, livein hiding and "in continuous fear" since "radical Islamists" incited mobs to kill Al-Goharifor his apostasy, Coptic Christians said.

"The disappointing verdict [Saturday, June 13] by the High Administrative Court in Cairo...dealt asevere blow to freedom of religion to Muslims who would like to come out of Islam and convertto Christianity," said United Copts of Great Britain in a statement seen by Worthy News WednesdayJune 17.

'RELIGIOUS SETBACK'

The group, which has close ties to Egyptian Christians, most of them known as Copts, said the rulingwas a setback "in a country that persistently and relentlessly claims to be secular and to apply 'civil Laws'."

I am disappointed with what happened and shocked with the decision, because I went to great lengths and through a great deal of hardship, Al-Gohari said in published remarks.

Judge Yaseen's verdict was based on the Islamic law, Shari'a, which prohibits conversion of Muslimsto any other religion and disruption to public order," according to trial observers.

Complicating the legal procedure was that Egypt's constitution has two "paradoxical statements", United Copts of Great Britain said. "Article two stipulates that Islamic Sharia, which prohibits conversions to any other religion is the main source of legislation..." But Article 46 of the constitution says "the state guarantees 'freedom of religion'," the group explained.

"ISLAMIST RADICALS"

"In todays court case, again, the converts to Christianity in Egypt have fallen victims to the Egyptian government appeasement to Islamist radicals to say the least," it added.

Al-Gohari's defense team said they would appeal the ruling. His case follows Mohammed Ahmed Hegazy the only other Muslim-born convert in Egypt known to have requested such the religious affiliation change on his identity card.

The Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo rejected Hegazy,'s request last year saying hehad not followed "proper legal" procedures and that he could not convert "to an older religion."

Hegazy had said he wanted to raise his future child as a Christian.

Christians comprise at least 10 percent of Egypt's mainly Muslim population of over 83 million, according to United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates, although Coptic groups suggest that number may be higher.

Egypt Court Bans 'Christian' On Ex-Muslim's ID Card
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