Punjab Christians demand the ‘right to pray’ in church

June 28, 2018 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Pakistan, June 27, 2018: Christians in a small village in Punjab are demanding the right to pray in their own church, two years after district authorities shut it down.

The local community, about 40 families in all, complain that the Full Gospel Assemblies Church in Nayya Sarabah, a village in Toba Tek Singh district, was sealed because of opposition by Muslims.

“Last month the police had us sign a document with which we had to agree to build a new church in a different place,” Rev Samuel Taskeen reports to AsiaNews. “They forced us to remove all religious symbols from the present building and to use the church only as a residence and conduct prayers in our own homes, until the construction [of the new church] is completed.”

At present, they pray at the homes of the faithful or in other locations. But to end the impasse and regain possession of their place of worship, Christians have a filed a writ petition to a higher court.

The last Christmas and Easter services were held in the home of Rafaqat Masih, counsellor of the Christian Union for Minorities. His uncle donated the 177 square metres where the church stands.

Rev Taskeen reports that “the man had no children and now the district commissioner claims that his land had been purchased with a ban on commercial or religious use. This is why we want to present the writ petition to the Lahore High Court because the Toba Tek Singh district administration is biased.”

According to a police document, dated 31 May, “the church was built without a certificate of non-opposition. This has caused tensions between Muslim and Christian communities.”

However, Shahzad Munshi, a Christian and a former member of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, accuses the district commissioner of discrimination.

“He is waiting for church clearance from the police when in fact he has the authority to call the police anytime. Surprisingly, the authorities have no objections to a mosque, a nearby plot reserved for a second mosque and a madrasah (Islamic school) that is under construction.”

“Now they have withdrawn from finding a new place for the only church in the village. Praying is our fundamental right. This is a complete violation of the spirit of the Constitution and of our human rights. Pakistani Christians are being treated as criminals in their own homeland.”

– asia news

Pakistani Christian beaten to death by police who tried to blackmail him

June 26, 2018 by  
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Pakistan, June 26, 2018: A Pakistani Christian was beaten to death after he confronted police officers who tried to extort money from his family. Waqas Masih, 25, was killed on 29 May in the courtyard of his uncle’s home in the Punjab.

Three policemen stormed the house and accused Waqas and several members of his family of being drug dealers. They stated they had come to raid the house to search for narcotics. According to reports, the three policemen have a reputation in the neighbourhood for blackmailing the poor and vulnerable.

Waqas confronted the officers and a scuffle broke out. The policemen then threatened to file false charges against the Christians.

When Waqas tried to run, the officers chased after him. He was punched, kicked and beaten to death with rifle butts. When his cousins tried to intervene the police threatened them. They left Waqas’ body in the street and then told his uncle that he should check on him, because he was “pretending” to be hurt.

The officers were eventually arrested after the Christian community announced they planned to protest. But at the time of writing, Waqas’ family are being pressured to agree to a “reconciliation” by police.

– global christian news

Nine years in prison for Asia Bibi

June 17, 2018 by  
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Pakistan, June 15, 2018: A Pakistani Christian woman who was imprisoned under her country’s blasphemy laws has been remembered on the ninth anniversary of her captivity.

British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) held a gathering on Thursday in honour of Asia Bibi and presented a narration of her arrest and the incident leading up to her blasphemy conviction.

Young boys held signs saying, “Asia Bibi Pakistani Christians are with you,” and “We are praying for Asia Bibi.”

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of BPCA told Premier’s News Hour Bibi has been the victim of intense persecution.

“She spoke about the wonderful sacrifice Christ made of his life for us and asked the simple question, ‘What has Mohammed done for you?’ For that, this torture, this beating, this isolation, attempts to assassinate her…

“We’ve never heard of such animosity that would result in, in essence, the whole country being against her. It has been really awful; she’s been separated from her five children for the whole period of that time.

Chowdry said it’s very unlikely she’ll be set free, but all her supporters are still praying for a miracle.

In an interview from 2015, Bibi’s husband Ashiq talked about her decision to stand firm in her faith.

He said: “Asia believes she will be set free and her face is unquestionable, unshakeable! She is extremely proud of her Christian faith and would never deny the God.

“We have received offers of asylum in several western nations, and I will not regret leaving Pakistan, the land of my ancestors, as we have seen too much animosity here. We will leave with no regrets.”

BPCA has launched a new petition in hope of bringing more awareness of the mistreatment of Bibi.

Chowdry added: “The nation of Pakistan must now release this innocent woman before her health fails her – she has suffered enough through no fault of her own.

“Moreover the pernicious blasphemy laws of Pakistan have to be terminated they serve no purpose in modern day society and are not even sanctioned by the Quran. Moreover what divine being would need man-made laws for protection?”

– premier

Seventeen detained in raid on prominent Chinese house church

June 14, 2018 by  
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China, June 13, 2018: Police raided a church in Sichuan province, China, detaining 17 Christians, including the pastor and his wife, prior to a memorial prayer session.

Dozens of officers stormed the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu on Monday 4 June, reportedly to prevent a service marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square shootings. Police said the church was not approved or registered and had no right to organise religious activities.

Up to 200 Christians, including children, had been detained in an earlier raid at the church on 12 May, prior a memorial for the 10th anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake which killed 87,600 people. The church had been a centre for aid for earthquake victims.

The US State Department said in a statement following the May raid: “We are deeply concerned by the Chinese government’s reported harassment of the Early Rain Covenant Church.” It added that the US government joined members in mourning the victims of the disaster.

The church is one of the most prominent “house churches” in China, with around 700 Christians meeting in a converted office space each Sunday. In 2009, the authorities attempted to clampdown on its services, but Pastor Wang Yi, a former human rights lawyer, appealed eviction charges, causing them to be withdrawn.

A church member said it was the first time the church had been raided on the day of the Tiananmen anniversary itself.

– global christian news

Pakistan Christian girl kidnapped, converted and married to Muslim

June 12, 2018 by  
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Pakistan, June 06, 2018: A teenage Pakistani Christian from Punjab has been kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married to a 25-year-old Muslim man.

Local Muslim women known to Ribqa Masih’s family, tricked the teenager into accompanying them on a trip to Sahiwal on 9 April. Instead of returning within two hours, as they had claimed they would, they took Riqba to the town of Depalpur, around 30 miles east, where she was forcibly converted to Islam and compelled to marry a 25-year-old Muslim man, who is reported to be disabled.

Ribqa’s father, who works as a labourer, spotted his daughter being driven away in a car and tried to halt the vehicle. But two men traveling in the car got out and threatened him with guns. Ribqa’s abduction has been reported to police, but at the time of writing no arrests have been made.

Pakistani Christian girls are very vulnerable to kidnap, forced conversion and marriage, and authorities rarely intervene. A report compiled by a Pakistani NGO in 2014 estimated that every year, at least 700 Christian girls and young women and 300 Hindu girls and young women in Pakistan suffer similar abuse.

– global christian news

Ahead of China-Vatican dialogue, a five-year plan to Sinicize the Church under the party

May 31, 2018 by  
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China, May 31, 2018: The Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics (PA) and the Council of Chinese Bishops (BCCC) have launched a “Five-Year Plan of Development for the Sinicization of the Catholic Church in China”. The plan was approved by acclamation in the Fourth Joint Meeting of the two national bodies, held last week, attended by the leaders of the two organizations, neither of which are recognized by the Holy See.

In his address to the gathering, Yu Bo, vice director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, explained that ” The 4th coalition meeting is to implement deeper the spirit of the Ninteenh National Congress of the Communist Party in October 2017 and the spirit of the National Conference on Religious Work in April 2016, and to focus on the deliberations of a five-year plan to advance sinicization of the China Catholic Church”.

The “sinicization” of religions and of the Chinese Catholic Church has been a constant theme since 2015, when President Xi Jinping took part in a meeting of the United Front (the body that should oversee all the non-communist realities of China) . It involves:

a) increasing assimilation of Chinese culture into religious expression, eliminating “foreign influences”;

b) “independence from foreign influence” (which means to do without the mandate of the Holy See for episcopal ordinations);

c) submission to the Party because it must “guide” religions and must “hold firmly the role of leadership in all religious activities”.

No details of the 5-Year Outline were mentioned in the May 22 news release of the CCPA-BCCCC website. Even in the previous three coalition meetings, which have been devising contents for the Sinicization of the China Catholic Church, the CCPA-BCCCC website also gave no details. Some Catholic observers believed it was perhaps not to offend the Vatican, as China and the Vatican is undergoing negotiations and some illicit bishops in the national Church bodies are waiting for the Pope to absolve them.

However, a news report of the “Minzu Bao” (the official journal on religious and ethnic topics) of July 25 2017 on the first coalition meeting offered glimpses. It said the plan will be undertaken through five aspects. Based on a sincized Catholicism, it will

1. take unified action to link up the development of the China Church;

2. understand the history of the China Church;

3. drive theological research of the China Church;

4. pay emphasis on implementation in advancing evangelization and pastoral work;

5. focus on the manifestation of a sinicized China Church in architecture, arts, and liturgy.

The Fourth Common Meeting took place just as ecclesial sources in China and outside the country say that next week there will be a new round of negotiations between China and the Vatican. Last February, rumors had spread that there would be a meeting between the Chinese and Vatican delegations in March, but none took place. It was even rumored that if everything gets set in this early June meeting, another round would take place in late June for the signing of the accord.

In general, Chinese Catholics do not seem optimistic about the signing of the agreement. Violence against the Church has emerged in recent months (ban on minors going to church in Henan, destruction in Xinjiang, etc. …). In addition, on the internet, anonymous bloggers revealed a name list of about 20 bishops that the Holy See appointed before and after the China-Vatican negotiations resumed in 2014, implying the Holy See breached consensus in the negotiations.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post on May 18, Msgr. John Hung Shan-chuan, Archbishop of Taipei, said that the Pope told him that he would not compromise Catholic principles for the negotiations and that the power to appoint bishops must remain in the hands of the pontiff. For this, concludes Msgr. Hung, there is still no final agreement on the dialogue.

The “Sinicization” plan also involves the Protestant Church and was approved last April. Rumors have spread that the Communist Party would like to “rewrite the Bible”. In fact, according to Protestant scholars, this idea is ridiculous, but Christians should pay attention to attempts to re-interpret the Bible, as happened in the recent past in Latin America, when the “Pastoral Bibles”, which tried to re – interpret the Gospel message by bringing it closer to the communist ideology.

– asianews

‘Christ taught you to love me’: Chinese officer mocks Christian as he beats him during interrogation

May 28, 2018 by  
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China, May 28, 2018: A Chinese Christian who was arrested earlier this month for attending a banned church service has detailed the beating and severe mocking he suffered at the hands of a police officer, who told the Christian to “love” him even as he was beating him.

ChinaAid, which monitors the persecution of Christians in the Communist country, released a translation of theology student Song Enguang’s letter on Thursday.

Enguang, who was one of hundreds of Christians taken away by authorities earlier in May for attending a memorial service at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan, released his letter through Wang Yi, the church’s pastor.

As the letter explains, Enguang was initially arrested and taken by police along with his wife, Feng Xiaojing, and fellow Christian Zhu Hong.

The Christian was brought to an interrogation chamber at the station, where he was searched and made to reveal that he is a preacher.

“The officer with the ID number 009008 dragged me to the corner of the room, screaming at me and instructing me to squat. The police with the ID number 075266 took away my glasses. 009008 hit my head. I began to yell, and I begged them to turn on the surveillance camera. They treated me more brutally, pushing me to a secluded interrogation room,” he wrote in his letter.

“They cursed at me loudly and pushed me around, asking me to sit on the iron chair without unlocking [my handcuffs]. Then, one of them removed the handcuffs, pushed me on the chair, and locked me up again. 009008 began to hit my head with his palms and swore at me loudly.”

Enguang said that he continued being moved around the police station and beaten by different officers, before he was finally brought before an officer he said was their leader.

He detailed the conversation and the physical abuse he suffered. The officer demanded that Enguang answer questions about the Bible while beating him.

“He slapped me four times in a row and said, ‘The Book of Matthew, the New Testament, the 6th chapter, verses 38-42.’

“He then said, ‘I see anger in your eyes. Christ taught you to love me. You shouldn’t anger me with your anger. You should move me with your love.’ He slapped once more.”

Later on the violent interrogation continued:

“He slapped me four times more. ‘God created a woman. They ate the forbidden fruit and gave birth to humans. I see anger in your eyes. You should love me.’

“He cupped my face, smiling. He repeated: ‘Christ taught you to love me. You shouldn’t anger me with your anger. You should move me with your love.’

“He slapped me four more times. My face was numb.”

Another part of the exchange included the officer slapping Enguang and making him quote Jesus’ words from Matthew 5 about turning the other cheek after being slapped.

The Christian said that overall he was slapped more than 30 times, but refused to fight back, and instead preached the Gospel to the officers that were abusing him.

“At that moment, I was certain that my Savior existed. He is more of a Lord and a God in times of difficulties. He is the only one I can rely on. God never deserts me,” he wrote.

“He did not save me from the devils, but He comforted me with His words and gave me power, so I could persist. When I was beaten, the scene of Christ being beaten by the soldiers was reenacted in front of me. I began to understood why the apostles began to spread the Gospel again immediately after being persecuted.”

Pastor Wang Yi has said that the Christians will be seeking to take legal action against the officers who carried out the beatings.

– christian post

Son of Christian bombing victim in Indonesia says he forgives killer family

May 20, 2018 by  
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Indonesia, May 20, 2018: An Indonesian Christian, Kurnianto, lost his mother in a spate of suicide bombings that was carried out by the members of one family last Sunday. At her funeral, the son declared he has forgiven the bomber family, which included children.

“On behalf of my mother, I apologize if she made any mistakes during her life, and please pray for her, she is now in heaven,” Kurniato was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post. “And as for the perpetrators, we forgive them and I believe my mother is in the House of the Lord.”

His mother, Lim, was killed in the explosion at Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in East Java’s Surabaya area. The attack was part of a series of suicide bombings done by six members of the family of a person identified as Dita Oepriarto. The family killed at least 13 people and injured over 50.

Dita detonated a bomb at the Surabaya Pentecostal Church, known as GPPS, killing eight people. His two sons carried out the explosion at Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, killing five people; and his wife and daughters killed one person at Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church, known as GKI. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State organization, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Kurnianto’s mother was standing next to the bomber’s motorbike in front of the church when the explosion took place, according to the CCTV footage. “When I saw the CCTV, I don’t know, perhaps it was God’s beautiful plan,” he was quoted as saying. “When Mama arrived at the gate, she did not enter the church [and] she stayed there about five minutes.”

Kurnianto appealed to the public not to “judge any religions, because no religion asks (the believers) to do evil things.”

He added, “We believe the government has done their best for the nation and state. And finally, God please help Indonesia.”

The country’s counter-terrorism squad has arrested dozens of terror suspects in East Java as well as Sumatra, according to The Straits Times.

Just days after the bombings, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, the leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council, the Indonesia-based world’s largest Islamic organization, to stand in solidarity for religious freedom and peaceful coexistence.

“It is quite an amazing thing to see the vice president of the United States and the leader of the largest Muslim organization in the world who is very intent on the promotion of religious liberty and the combating of extremism,” Johnnie Moore, an evangelical communications executive and international religious freedom advocate involved in the meeting, told The Christian Post.

– christian post

7,000 Kachin Christians forced to flee their homes as violence escalates

May 16, 2018 by  
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Myanmar, May 15, 2018: Almost 7,000 people belonging to the largely Christian minority group in Kachin, northern Myanmar, have fled their houses since fighting between the army and a rebel group flared up in early April, according to recent figures from the Red Cross.

“It’s a war where civilians are being systematically targeted by members of Burma Army … [yet] the international community chooses to overlook it,” political analyst and writer Stella Naw told the UK’s Guardian newspaper [on Monday], with international attention on Myanmar focused on the humanitarian crisis facing the country’s Rohingya Muslims.

Thousands of lives have been lost and at least 120,000 people have been displaced in the decades-long conflict between the army and the Kachin Independence Army since the military seized control of the country in 1962.

“It is an invisible war,” said San Htoi, the joint secretary of Kachin Women’s Association Thailand. She told the Guardian that on a recent visit representatives of the United Nations Security Council went only to Rakhine state and “left the country without knowing [about Kachin].”

And according to Thomas Muller, an Asia analyst for Open Doors International, a charity that supports Christians who live under pressure for their faith, it is unlikely the situation will garner more attention “since Myanmar is increasingly coming under economic and political influence from China, its big neighbor.”

“China tacitly supports the large Wa minority in Myanmar, and can effectively veto any inquiry into the situation of any minority, let alone any improvements or measures to bring the civil war to an end,” Muller added.

Following the bombing of a mission school in the state on Saturday, Hkun Htoy Layang of Kachin Relief Fund told Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “It is outrageous that the Burma army targets a Kachin Baptist mission school. We are very concerned that the Burma army is targeting more civilians throughout Kachin State, with impunity.”

Trapped in a Warzone

Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s human rights expert for Myanmar, raised alarm over the increase in violence in Kachin in her March report to the Human Rights Council.

Last week she called for an immediate end to the fighting, saying, “What we are seeing in Kachin state over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately. Innocent civilians are being killed and injured, and hundreds of families are now fleeing for their lives.”

Internally displaced people gather at a church in Myitkyina, Kachin state’s capital, on 10 May.

More than 400 displaced civilians arrived in Kachin’s capital city, Myitkyina, last Wednesday, where there were already more than 4,000 other displaced people, a Red Cross spokesperson told Radio Free Asia.

Many of them have traveled long distances on foot, making their way through the forest, and ending up seeking help at local churches or existing camps for internally displaced people. Others are staying with relatives.

“The local churches are doing their best to accommodate [those] fleeing from the warzones,” a local source told World Watch Monitor on condition of anonymity. “They also donate food and other materials as much as they can to help [but] prices of commodities [have gone] up to five times the usual price.”

Many other displaced civilians are still stranded in the forest or have become trapped in the warzone, hiding out in the jungle without food or water, or unable to leave their villages, according to local newspaper The Irrawaddy.

According to World Watch Monitor’s source, “Civilians in the warzone are threatened to leave their house or be killed; many houses are burnt down by the government soldiers.”

Meanwhile a coalition of humanitarian groups in Kachin told AP that international aid shipments had been blocked by the army and that United Nations agencies and international humanitarian groups had been denied access.

The military restrictions on aid also make access to food and clean water in the camps difficult, according to AP.

The Irrawaddy reported that state-government officials had started rescue operations to help people trapped in the warzone, after more than 300 Kachin youths, joined by an estimated 1,000 other local residents, organized a sit-in protest in Myitkyina last week, calling for the government to act.

The youth movement’s leader, 25-year-old women’s rights champion Sut Seng Htoi, told Reuters: “People lost their trust in the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi because the people from the whole country elected the NLD [National League for Democracy], the civilian government, to avoid wars and fighting.”

In November last year, Myanmar’s Christians expressed hope that the visit of Pope Francis would help bring an end to ethnic conflict in the country, but progress stalled despite a new round of peace talks being announced during his visit.

Background

Majority-Buddhist Myanmar is made up of eight major and eight minor ethnic groups, each of which hoped for autonomy after Burmese independence 70 years ago, but some of the world’s longest-running civil wars still continue there.

Christian encyclopaedia Operation World calls Myanmar “a deeply fractured nation on a political and especially ethnic level.” The conflict zones along the country’s borders are where most of Myanmar’s Christians live, including the Kachin and Karen ethnic minorities, who have faced years of government oppression.

Christian charity Open Doors International estimates there are more than 4 million Christians in Myanmar, constituting 8 percent of the total population. Most of them live in Kachin, where 85 percent are estimated to be Christians, and northern Shan State.

A 17-year ceasefire between the KIA and the Tatmadaw (the combined forces of Myanmar’s army, navy and air force) collapsed in June 2011, since then more than 120,000 people in Kachin state have been displaced.

Myanmar is 24th on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

– christian post

Bomb attacks on three churches: at least eight dead and 38 wounded

May 13, 2018 by  
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Indonesia, May 13, 2018: At least eight people were killed and 38 wounded in a series of explosions that took place around 7 am this morning in three different churches in Surabaya, the capital of the East Java province. Wisnu Sakti Buana, deputy mayor of the city, said the police arrested one of the bombers, who was about to attack the fourth target, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

A suicide attack hit the Catholic church of St. Mary Immaculate in the district of Ngagel (photo). The bomb exploded at the entrance of the parish before the 7.30 mass, while faithful were entering the church. In an initial death toll, a parishioner, a policeman and the bomber died; at least 13 people were injured.

A few minutes later, another explosion occurred at the Diponegoro building of the Christian Church of Indonesia (Gki), also in the centre of Surabaya, where two people died. Within a few minutes, another bomb exploded at the Pentecostal church of Jalan Arjuna, causing the death of one person.

At present the government has not issued any official statement, but East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera has told local media that “the identification of victims is underway.” Chief Inspector of the East Java Police, Machfud Arifin, said that according to preliminary investigations the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers who used motorcycles or cars separately. Analysts fear that other churches in the country could be attacked in the coming hours.

In Indonesia, the most populous Islamic country in the world, Christians represent about 10% of the population. Protestants are 17 million, 7 million Catholics (3% of Indonesians). They are often targets of extremists and terrorists’ threats. On Christmas Eve 2000, bomb attacks on 11 churches scattered across the country killing 13 people and wounded 100. On July 22, 2001, in the parish of St. Anna in Duren Sawit (East Jakarta), a bomb caused five dead and injured a dozen.

– asia news

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