October 23, 2001
If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).
CHRISTIANS KILLED, CHURCHES BURNED
Persecution of Pakistani Christians continues. Beatings of Christians by Muslim mobs, and the burning and vandalizing of churches and a Christian school are reported. When one minister tried to stop a gang of Muslims from burning his church, he was viciously beaten. In Rawalpindi five Christian families were dragged from their homes and savagely beaten during anti-American protests.
The government of Pakistan has said it will back the United States in a war against terrorism. However, Islamic extremists in the country are protesting the decision and threatening to help the Taliban. The extremists have also been targeting Christians for other unusually harsh treatment. The situation looks ominous and could even escalate into civil war.
Many Muslims consider all Christians to be sympathizers and supporters of the U.S., regardless of their nationality.
In Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and across the Islamic world, many Christians are terrified. They are living in fear and intimidation, facing the prospect of widespread massive and violent reprisals from angry Muslims if America and its allies continue to attack Afghanistan, according to The Barnabas Fund UK. "They cannot understand why these (church and political leaders in the West) have not spoken up on their behalf, or come to their defense," according to The Barnabas Fund organization. Its international director remarked, "The situation is extremely serious and demands urgent attention. Never in living memory has the situation for Christian minorities in the Islamic world been so precarious."
INDONESIAN POLICE FIRE WARNING SHOTS AT PROTESTERS
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN)
Indonesian police have fired warning shots, teargas and a water cannon to disperse around 400 Muslim protesters near the U.S. embassy in Jakarta. The action, which took place after demonstrators began to rattle the barbed wire fence around the closed embassy, is a sign the government will clamp down on anti-U.S. violence. Police told Reuters that blanks were used and that none of the protesters appeared to be injured. Several radical Islam groups have decried the attacks in Afghanistan and called for a holy war against the U.S. Around 200 members of an Indonesian radical Islamic group staged a vigil outside the embassy overnight Monday. More supporters joined them Tuesday. Because many Muslim groups consider all Christians to have taken sides with the U.S., believers in that country are especially vulnerable to Muslim attacks now.
Indonesia's largest militant group, the Jihad Army, threatened to attack Americans as part of a "jihad" or holy war following the strikes. "This shows that the U.S. is clearly a nation that has made an enemy of Islam and this is a very dangerous position for America," said Ja'far Umar Thalib, the head of the Jihad Army, on Monday. "God willing, this will raise the worldwide solidarity of the Islamic people, especially the Islamic people of Indonesia, in facing America as the biggest enemy of the Islamic people," he said.
In its first statement since the attacks, the Indonesian government urged the coalition to limit strikes and try to avoid hurting and killing innocent people. The government also called on Indonesians to stay calm in the wake of brewing violence against American nationals by militant Islamic groups in Indonesia.
Indonesia's top security minister Bambang Yudhoyono echoed his calls, saying the government would crack down on those who broke the law. Indonesia's largest Muslim group, the 40-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama, also urged Indonesians not to target foreign nationals.
Indonesia is the world's largest Islamic country under a secular government. More than 80 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim. Rising radicalism has overshadowed Indonesia's moderate Muslim majority, allowing more militant groups to voice their opinions.
AID WORKERS SAFE BUT SCARED, FATE UNKNOWN
(Afghanistan)--Meanwhile, the fate of the eight foreign aid workers held in Afghanistan is unknown as the US and Britain continue their military actions on that country. Four Germans, two Americans and two Australians were arrested along with 16 Afghan nationals on August 3rd. These Shelter Now International workers are being held in Kabul charged with preaching Christianity as they were building shelter for refugees. If convicted they could face the death penalty. Pray for the workers safety.
There have also been other reports from US and European news agencies that the Taliban has offered to release the workers, or to decrease their expected punishments, in exchange for a cease-fire, but these reports are unconfirmed. If this is true, fears that the workers will become hostages may become reality. The prison in which they are being held is just outside Kabul, the site of many of the military targets.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Reuters are reporting that the aid workers are still safe. The lawyer representing two Australians and six other foreign aid workers on trial in Afghanistan on charges of spreading Christianity says they are safe but scared, after the US military strikes at targets around Kabul.
Atif Ali Khan says he has applied for a visa to return to Kabul to present his defense.
However, he says his return will now depend on how long the attacks go on.
"I did speak to Kabul and I was assured that they are safe, that they are physically alright, although they are scared by what has happened," Mr. Khan said.
The eight, including Australians Diana Thomas and Peter Bunch, two Americans and four Germans, have been held in a detention center for more than two months.
They could face the death sentence for converting Muslims to Christianity, as stipulated by strict Taliban rules.
Mr. Khan says death sentences are unlikely. The judges have indicated that they will not let the attacks influence the outcome of the trials.
The fate of the 16 Afghan citizens arrested at the same time under the same charges remains unknown. No date has been announced for the trial of the Afghanis for preaching Christianity. The Taliban has given no indication that they will let them go. Another 35 Afghan citizens who were working for US-based relief organizations were also arrested during September. The penalty for converting to Christian faith, or for encouraging others to do so, is death under Islamic law, which is the prevailing law under the Taliban. In Afghanistan, trails are conducted by counsels who examine evidence and testimonies from witnesses and determine the likelihood of guilt, and then the accused are brought in to explain their actions or to argue the evidence. Sentences typically are carried out immediately after the trial.
CRACKDOWN ON CHRISTIANS INTENSIFIES IN SAUDI ARABIA
Six more Christian men - four Ethiopians, an Eritrean and a Filipino- have been arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, as the crackdown on believers escalates, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). This brings the summer's total to 15, according to reports from a human rights agency, Middle East Concern. CSW also reports that they believe one reason for the continued arrests of ex-patriate believers is an attempt to track down Saudis sympathetic to Christians.
Of the 15, two have been released, including a Filipino who was deported after having spent two days in a coma in a Jiddah hospital as a direct result of the appalling conditions in which he was held, said Richard Chilvers, CSW spokesman. The remaining 13 have been denied consular access, although some have been permitted to see their families. Another man has now been held for 10 weeks, and sources report his Indian consulate has never been officially notified of his arrest.
Mervyn Thomas, a CSW executive, said that CSW appeals for "tolerance in calling for the immediate release of these men, whom we believe to be prisoners of conscience." Thomas added that, according to Saudi law, its citizens must be Muslim, but officials have said that ex-patriate non-Muslims are free to worship in private, as reported by Absolute News Service.
SUDANESE POLICE TORTURE CONVERT STUDENT
Family Maintains Virtual House Arrest
by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, October 8 (Compass) -- A Sudanese student who converted from Islam to Christianity was severely beaten and tortured by security police in Khartoum two weeks ago, apparently at his own family's instigation.
Mohammed Saeed Mohammed Omer Omer confirmed to Compass today that his uncle had threatened to kill him on September 19, just three days before he was arrested off a Khartoum street.
Omer's family had become determined to force the young convert to stop attending church and meeting with Christians, a local Christian said. Security officials picked him up on September 22, as he was returning from a personal discipleship appointment with a local pastor.
"He was tortured and beaten," the source said, "and he lost three fingernails pulled out with pliers." The convert reportedly was forced by security police to sign papers promising not to attend any church or Christian gatherings again. Omer has refused, however, to renounce his faith in Christ.
Omer became a Christian last December, while studying economics in an Indian university near New Delhi. When his parents were informed by some of their son's Sudanese acquaintances in India that Omer had "abandoned the way and faith of Islam," they ordered him to return home.
To punish him for his decision, Omer's family told him they planned to publicly disown him by cutting off his share of the family's wealth as soon as he returned, in the presence of the entire family and a lawyer. Since he was dependent totally on their financing, Omer saw no other choice, and caught an Ethiopian Air flight back to Sudan on July 17.
But as soon as he arrived, his family confiscated his return ticket and passport, threatening to turn him over to the security police if he did not recant and return to Islam. Omer persisted, however, in attending church services and other Christian meetings in Khartoum over the next two months.
After his uncle's death threat, Omer moved away from home to live with a friend. But since his arrest and torture, he remains under virtual house arrest by his family, who try to monitor his telephone calls and limit his use of the Internet.
"Right now he is recovering," a local source said. "But he does not know what to do next."
TURKISH CHRISTIAN'S SLANDER CASE DELAYED AGAIN
Police Witnesses Fail to Appear in Diyarbakir
by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, October 5 (Compass) -- Criminal court hearings against a Turkish Christian accused of insulting Islam were delayed again yesterday in Diyarbakir, where the defendant faces a possible jail sentence of six months to one year if found guilty.
Police officers failed to appear yesterday morning before the Diyarbakir Criminal Court of First Instance, despite a court summons to testify in the case against Kemal Timur, 32. Accordingly, the presiding judge postponed the case for another four months, until February 5, 2002. Yesterday's continuance of Timur's case was the fourth postponement in a total of five hearings scheduled since the trial opened last January. The latest postponement was caused by the failure of several key witnesses to show up. Timur is being tried on charges of calling the prophet Mohammed a "sorcerer" while distributing New Testaments on May 1, 2000, in front of a high school in Diyarbakir, the largest city in southeastern Turkey. A former Muslim who converted to Christianity nearly five years ago, Timur has testified under oath, "I certainly did not say such things."
Last December, seven months after Timur made the alleged comment, he was served notice that a court case had been filed against him under Article 175 of the Turkish penal code. The statute prohibits the slander of God, the prophets, the holy books or an individual believer.
According to the defendant, the officers had threatened him repeatedly to stop giving out Christian Scriptures in the city. He has been stopped and detained at least eight times while doing such distribution, he told Compass. However, such distribution of purely religious literature without political intent is completely legal under Turkish law, so no charges were pressed against him and he was released.
Timur was baptized in June of 1997 and officially changed his religion from Muslim to Christian on his national identity card a year ago. He attends a small Turkish Protestant church in Diyarbakir.
"This is a very stressful time for me, and for my family," Timur told Compass yesterday from Diyarbakir, regional capital of Turkey's troubled southeast. The region has been wracked by 15 years of separatist conflict between the Turkish military and Kurdish insurgents. During that time, more than 30,000 people have been killed, at least a million villagers have been uprooted, and the local economy was ravaged.
Married with three small children, Timur has not been able to find full-time work for the past two years in Diyarbakir, where unemployment hovers above 70 percent and the per capita income is $1,000, a quarter of the national average.
LAOTIAN GOVERNMENT CRACKS DOWN ON CHRISTIANS
Government efforts are increasing to close churches and force Christians to renounce their faith. Seven Christian teachers in Savannakhet province have been told they will lose their jobs unless they sign renunciation papers. Other Christians were told that they must leave the country because Lao citizens are not Christians. It is estimated that at least 21 Christians are imprisoned for their faith in Laos at this time.
U.S. CHURCHES BEING AUDITED BY THE IRS FOR POSSIBLE VIOLATIONS
American churches are being confronted with increased scrutiny of their political activities. Under pressure from anti-religious groups, the IRS is investigating churches which participated in, held or supported political statements or hosted political candidates. Several churches from around the country are reporting that they have been called for audit by the IRS to explain political activities. Other non-profit organizations with known political activities are not being audited.
"There's a tremendous chill on the pulpits in America and on their pastors to not speak out on issues that may be considered political," said Colby May, director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a public-interest law firm that defends religious liberties. Federal tax laws prohibit non-profit organizations from publicly participating in political activities, or supporting specific parties or candidates. There is a gray area surrounding so-called soft-money which is used to produce ads which speak about political issues but do not recommend or condemn a candidate or issue. Many pastors are afraid to speak out against even legalized gambling and abortion for fear of threatening their churchs tax-exempt status. Many are afraid to even address such issues as part of Bible study or small group activities.
In 1995, for the first time in history, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of a legitimate church for allegedly engaging in political activity. The Binghamton, N.Y., Church at Pierce Creek had run a single newspaper ad in 1992, in essence urging readers to not vote for Bill Clinton because he supported abortion issues. Other churches are now under investigation throughout the country.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog organization, has issued statements warning churches not to do anything "smacking of political activity, including handing out voter guides from the Christian Coalition, or inviting a candidate to speak from the pulpit" or risk losing their tax-exempt status.
PERSECUTION NEWS is a non-regular periodic service of Foot of the Cross Publications. Articles are copied from various sources, including Newsweek, Australian Broadcasting Corp, Compass Direct, Religious News Today and FridayFax and others as noted with each article. Persecution News is published for the sole purpose of disseminating information about persecution of Christians around the world, and subscriptions are free. To subscribe / unsubscribe, please respond with your e-mail address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (IDOP) is coming
up Sunday November 4, 2001. Thousands of churches throughout the world will be remembering, praying for and calling public attention to the persecuted Christians by participating in IDOP activities on that day, and for weeks beforehand.
With the many current news stories about Christians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and other places, there has never been a better time to bring persecution to the attention of the world.
Read the book of Esther during the month of September in preparation for IDOP activities.
Write letters to the editor of your local paper, pass out copies of this newsletter to others in your community, contact Voice of the Martyrs for information about having a special presentation in your community, obtain a presentation packet from VOM and show the video to your church.
Even wearing a Christians Still Die t-shirt can have an impact in informing others about persecution activities.
Last year, many Christians hung mini Christmas lights, made by imprisoned Christians in China, on their front window and lit them for the world to see as a show of support for the persecuted brethren on IDOP. You might even write to your local paper saying that you are going to do this and why.