ISIS-linked militants behead police chief, take Catholic priest, worshipers hostage in philippines

May 25, 2017 by admin  
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Philippine, May 24, 2017: A Catholic priest and a number of worshipers have been taken hostage after Islamic State-linked militants besieged the southern Philippine city of Marawi and beheaded a police chief there.

Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena told The Associated Press that the militants forced their way into the Marawi Cathedral and seized Catholic priest Fr. Chito Suganob, 10 worshipers and three church workers. The Philippine Star reported that the church was also burned by the militants.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said in a statement that Chito was not a threat to anyone.

“At the time of his capture, Fr. Chito was in the performance of his ministry as a priest. He was not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilized conflict,” Villegas said.

The violence erupted in the Asian nation Tuesday after the army raided the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, a commander of the Abu Sayyaf militant group who has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, according to AP. He is on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said when the militants called for reinforcements, around 100 gunmen entered Marawi, a mostly Muslim city of 200,000 people, and carried out further assaults. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial rule for 60 days in the entire Mindanao region of 22 million people and vowed to be “harsh.”

“I warned everybody not to force my hand into it,” Duterte said. “I have to do it to preserve the republic.”

Duterte also threatened to expand martial rule nationwide if conditions worsen.

“We are in a state of emergency,” Duterte said Wednesday. “I have a serious problem in Mindanao and the ISIS footprints are everywhere.”

“If I think that you should die, you will die,” Duterte warned in declaring martial rule while noting that law-abiding citizens would be kept safe. “If you fight us, you will die. If there is open defiance, you will die. And if it means many people dying, so be it.”

The Philippines president revealed that a local police chief who was stopped at a militant checkpoint was beheaded.

Villegas called for prayers for the abducted priest and his parishioners as the crisis unfolded.

“We beg every Filipino to pray fervently for Fr. Chito and for other hostages. As the government forces ensure that the law is upheld, we beg of them to make the safety of the hostages a primordial consideration,” he said.

“The CBCP is alarmed by reports that ISIS flags now flutter over Marawi. We are fully aware that most Muslims are peace-loving. Salam is a greeting of peace. We are also aware that ISIS has claimed responsibility for many of the atrocities in territories they have occupied elsewhere in the world,” Villegas further noted. “… We call on the occupiers who claim to worship the same God that we all do not defile His name by bloodshed.”

- christian post

Cairo, 48 jihadists on trial for attacks on Coptic churches

May 24, 2017 by admin  
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Egypt, May 22, 2017: The Egyptian public prosecutor has sentenced 48 (presumed) militiamen or Islamic State sympathizers (SI) for ties with the three attacks on Coptic churches in recent months, where dozens of people died . Defendants must appear before the magistrates of a military tribunal. To date, 31 of these are imprisoned under a custodial order. The remaining ones are still on the run.

In total, since last December, at least 75 members of the religious minority (about 10% of the total population) have been killed by Islamic fundamentalists. These include the victims of the explosions at churches last month and the faithful who died in the context of the attack on the Coptic cathedral of St. Mark in Abassiya, Cairo, in December.

In the hours after the attacks, Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] claimed responsability and threatened more violence against the minority in the country.

The escalation of violence had also made many fear the cancellation of Pope Francis’s apostolic journey in Egypt, scheduled for late April. However, the pontiff wanted to respect the initial program by meeting with the president of the Republic al-Sisi, the great imam of al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayeb, and celebrated a mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful.

In a statement published  yesterday, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek claimed that some of the suspects were ring leaders within local IS cells. Recently, they had spawned some cells in Cairo and in the southern province of Qena, with the specific aim of striking the Coptic churches. The militants, the magistrate adds, would also be responsible for the deaths of eight police officers at a checkpoint in the Egyptian western desert in January.

The Islamic State has threatened new attacks against the Coptic Egyptians, one of the oldest Christian communities outside the Holy Land. In the country of the Pharaohs, one of the most populous Muslim nations in the world, the minority is subject to cyclical wave of attacks.

In response to confessional violence, President al-Sisi proclaimed the state of emergency for three months.

- asianews

Christian refugees from Nineveh caught between waiting to return and call for a papal visit

May 23, 2017 by admin  
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Iraq, May 23, 2017: Our identity belongs to “our land” and only when “we’re back in our homes can we say that we’re happy again and at peace.” Meanwhile, “our children take part in camp activities”, which keeps alive the desire to return to Karamlesh, said Naseem Kuder Sulaiman, a 47-year-old engineer who spoke to AsiaNews.

His village in the Nineveh Plain was seized by the Islamic State group in the summer of 2014. As he waits for work to be completed allowing him to return to “my home and my land”, he urges Pope Francis to “visit Iraq” because it “would strengthen the local Church and make us not feel forgotten.”

Naseem is married to 42-year-old Wafaa Quruaqos Toma, a housewife. The couple have four children: Sulaiman, a 15-year-old middle-school student; San, 12, also in middle school; Sizan, 7, attending elementary school, and three-year-old Rahaf, who goes to kindergarten. They fled their home and property on the night of 6 August 2014, as Islamic State (IS) militias moved into the Nineveh Plain after taking over Mosul in June.

After that, they lived for a long time in a structure rented by the Iraqi Church in Erbil and have been able to overcome difficulties and limitations thanks to the work of Fr Paul Thabit Mekko, a 41-year-old Chaldean priest from Mosul, who runs the Eyes of Erbil refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, where hundreds of thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis found refuge after the rise of the Islamic State group.

The facility hosts 140 families, about 700 people in all, divided in 46 mini-apartments, plus a hall for holding and handing out aid, a kindergarten, as well as elementary and a secondary school.

After the Iraqi army, backed by Kurdish militias, launched an offensive against the IS, scores of villages in the Nineveh Plain were freed. Now fighting is centred on the western sector of Mosul, where IS forces continue to resist.

In contrast, Karamlesh and many other towns and villages in the Nineveh Plain have started the slow and arduous work of reconstruction, as witnessed by the Palm Sunday Mass in a church devastated by IS militias.

Over the past few weeks, the Chaldean Church has catalogued the damages caused by the Sunni extremist group: 241 homes torched, 95 homes destroyed, and 431 homes looted. After the inventory was finished, Christian leaders began reconstruction, starting with the houses that had suffered the least damage.

However, resources are limited, funds are lacking and material is scarce. That is why no one has been able to return to Karamlesh on a permanent basis, though there is hope that they will do so soon.

“It is hard to wait,” Naseem said. “It is tiring and unnerving. Fleeing was hard and waiting does not help. We all live in one room in a flat we share with another family. As you can imagine, there are pressures on us, big and small.”

Getting back your identity goes through “returning to our homes,” he explained. Afterwards, the issue of coexistence with Muslims will be addressed, although Islamic radicalism has “changed a lot of things and mistrust towards Muslims has increased. Yet, we hope to find good will on their part, a real desire to live without discrimination, without [the] aggressive attitudes” of the past.

For the future, refugees just want to go home, have peace and rebuild infrastructures and services. Today, people live and survive through the help of the Church “without which we would never have done it. The Church has done a great deal at this time,” Naseem said.

For him, “Despite the suffering, or rather because of what we suffered, our faith has become stronger and stronger. That’s what matters to us.” Christians in the West and the world should “act, as in the past, to contribute to this new phase of reconstruction, so that Christians can continue to stay in Iraq.”

What he does wish for is for Pope Francis to visit these lands marred by terrorism and violence. “We Eastern Christians have great esteem for religious leaders. We appeal to the Holy Father: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, for his presence here would have positive effects. We are waiting for you because we are brothers. We shall continue to stay here if you stand with us.”

- asianews

Russia’s persecution of Christians intensifies; Putin can’t be trusted, experts warn

May 22, 2017 by admin  
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Russia, May 20, 2017: Some Christian foreign policy experts are warning that despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated mutual interest in combating radical Islamic extremism, he cannot be regarded as a defender of Christians amid his country’s crackdown on non-Russian Orthodox denominations.

George Barros, a former congressional staffer for former congressman Steve Stockman of Texas, who sat on the subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, underscored Russia’s persecution of religious groups that don’t recognize the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, which dominates religious life and is strongly allied with President Vladimir Putin, in Providence foreign policy journal on May 12.

Amid polls showing Putin’s favorability numbers and rising support for Russia among Americans, Barros said, “[p]erceptions that Russia is a defender of Christendom in an increasingly secular world are not based in reality.”

“Any discussion concerning the relationship between Christianity and Russia cannot fail to take into consideration the Russian Orthodox Church, which dominates practically all aspects of Christianity in Russia,” Barros said, asserting that Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, is believed to be a former KGB agent.

Mark Tooley, president of the Washington-based Institute on Religion & Democracy, told The Christian Post in an interview this week that from a strategic perspective, the United States collaborates on some issues with unsavory governments.

Yet, “it would be unwise for Americans, Christian or otherwise, to be enthusiastic about Putin who has basically subverted Russia’s nascent democracy and has established himself as a strongman and certainly should not be a political model for American Christians,” Tooley said.

American Missionary Baptist Pastor Donald Ossewaarde, who has been a missionary to Ukraine and Russia since the late 1990s, according to his website, told the Baptist Press in late April that he anticipates the repression of religion in Russia “to continue to get worse” and doesn’t “see any sign of the Russian government having a change of heart.”

Last year, Putin signed the Yarovaya law that bans all missionary activities in residential areas and requires Christians who want to share their faith with others, even on the internet, to obtain authorization documents from a religious association. It also imposes a fine of $75 to $765 if the violator is a Russian citizen, and a fine of up to $15,265 in case of an organization, while foreigners would be deported, The Christian Post has reported.

Ossewaarde was recently fined under the Yarovaya law for operating a Bible study in an unregistered church in Oryol. Similarly, citing the Yarovaya law, in December 2016 a Russian court ruled that 40 Bibles the Salvation Army was distributing had to be destroyed. In parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine, photographs show Ukrainian evangelical Pastor Aleksandr Khomchenko who was allegedly beaten by authorities in an attempt to convert him.

The Orthodox Church is “on a roll” and “emboldened,” Ossewaarde said, highlighting their success in the past few months in using the government to shut down religious groups.

On April 20, the Supreme Court of Russia ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses were an extremist group, and permitted the government to freeze their bank accounts and seize their assets, a decision condemned by the United States and the European Union.

Yarolsav Sivulskiy, spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, like Ossewaarde, does not think conditions will improve, telling Newsweek on Wednesday the group has “no big hope” in the appeals process they are undertaking unless “the political wind will change somehow.”

“Even within Eastern Orthodoxy,” Barros continued, “Orthodox Christians who don’t adhere specifically to the ROC are persecuted. A Russian court ordered for the only Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Russia to be demolished at the expense of the Ukrainian diocese, and ROC clergy condone the Kremlin’s war in eastern Ukraine as a type of ‘orthodox jihad’ against Ukrainian Orthodox apostates who do not recognize the one true and ‘rightful’ Eastern Orthodox patriarchate — the Moscow Patriarchate.”

Such behavior of both the Russian government and state church “should be intolerable and eye-opening,” Barros added. “As keepers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, American Christians owe it to be vigilant observers and not fall for Moscow’s honeycomb narratives manufactured with decades of Soviet disinformation experience specifically designed to resonate with foreign audiences.”

Tooley reiterated his point that Putin has been deceptively portrayed as a friend of Christianity and persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying, “He could superficially look like a champion of Christianity if you don’t appreciate his cynical manipulation of religion for his own political purposes and for further aggrandizing his authoritarian regime.”

Last week, evangelist Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelist Association held the first ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians in Washington, D.C. after deciding not to hold the event in Moscow following Russia’s crackdown on evangelism.

The Russian Orthodox Church had announced last March that they would be a co-sponsor of the world summit, being an ally in combating global persecution of Christians, but Graham made the decision to move it to the U.S. following the adoption of the Yarovaya law.

- christian post

‘Iraqi Christians are infidels who must be killed or converted,’ says Shia cleric

May 21, 2017 by admin  
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Iraq, May 21, 2017: About 200 Christian families in Iraq have filed a lawsuit against the head of the country’s Shia Endowment for inciting sectarian violence against the Christian minority by saying in a video that Christians should be converted to Islam or killed.

“Either they convert to Islam, or else they are killed or they pay the jizya [a tax on non-Muslims],” said Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi, who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, in a sermon, according to a YouTube video uploaded by Middle East Monitor.

Declaring Christians to be “infidels and polytheists,” Al-Mousawi called for “jihad” against them. “Jews and Christians” must be fought and killed if they do not accept Islam, he went on to say.

The cleric is being compared to the Islamic State terror group, which is also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, which had asked Christians in Iraq’s northern provinces in 2014 to covert, flee or be killed. As a result of that warning, about 100,000 Christians had to flee at the time.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently met with Iraqi Christians during a visit to Jordan.

“People are divided from their children and families and have no idea what will happen. One woman has children in both Germany and the Netherlands, but has been refused entry to both so she doesn’t know when or if they will ever be reunited,” Welby said. “Young men are vulnerable to being recruited to extremist causes because their community and networks have been stripped away.”

Since 2003, as many as 1.5 million Christians, or close to 75 percent of all followers of Christ in Iraq, have fled the country, according to Josef Sleve, an Iraqi Christian lawmaker.

“The number of Christians living in the country now stands at between 500,000 and 850,000,” Sleve told Anadolu Agency earlier this month. “This means that over the past 14 years, some 1.5 million Christians have emigrated to other countries.”

IS has said it wants to wipe out Christians, and has beheaded, executed, tortured and enslaved thousands of people within its captured territory, which extends into Syria and other regions.

However, some Christians are now returning to their homes on the Plains of Nineveh in Iraq, and three major church groups have come together to rebuild more than 12,000 houses that were destroyed or damaged. The Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church have formed the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee to plan and supervise the rebuilding of the houses.

Security forces backed by a U.S.-led international coalition last year took back several cities in Iraq from IS and liberated eastern Mosul in December. They are now trying to liberate the western parts of the city.

In an interview with Fox News earlier this year, Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the “vicar of Baghdad,” said the “time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited.”

He added, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help. And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot — food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”

- christian post

Pro-Ahok rallies, signs of an Indonesian ‘new nationalism’

May 19, 2017 by admin  
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Indonesia, May 17, 2017: Hundreds of torchlight processions have been held in support of Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama across Indonesia after he was sentenced to two years in jail.

In Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Semarang, Surabaya and other major Indonesian cities, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians joined the wave of peaceful protests in solidarity with the former governor of Jakarta, a Christian who was convicted of blasphemy in a trial that has caused tensions and controversy across the country.

Torchlight processions are seen as an opportunity for civil society groups in modern Indonesia to show their political commitment to justice and pluralism in opposition to radical Islamist movements.

Ahok was the first ethnic Chinese to become governor on 19 November 2014, when his predecessor Joko Widodo resigned after he was elected president. He was also the first Protestant to occupy the strategic post of governor of Jakarta, following in the footsteps of Henk Ngantung, a Catholic who was governor in 1964-1965.

For his supporters, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is not just a “fighter for democracy” but also a reference and model for every public servant performing his or her duties on behalf of the population.

In his two years, he made radical changes and improved the quality of life in Indonesian capital: new bus system, river clean-up, anti-corruption fight, new green areas and sporting venues.

Ahok’s conviction has deeply shaken many Indonesians. Many have slammed the sentence, which they believed was influenced by the country’s divided politics.

“Last week’s peaceful demonstrations were in support of a government official moved by a spirit of service to the people. However, Ahok has been politically and legally forced away from his people,” said Prataman, speaking to AsiaNews. The businessman in North Jakarta is concerned about the economic consequences of the situation in Indonesia.

However, spontaneous protests after the sentence have reawakened a feeling of unity among moderate Indonesians.

“Torchlight processions are a positive reaction to show our feelings, core principles and shared ideas and protect our nation,” said Gunawan, a businessman in Denpasar in Bali, who also spoke to AsiaNews. “We, the good people of Indonesia, have to act ourselves despite our different political and religious beliefs, and join forces to defend the country.”

According to Tjahjono, a businessman in East Jakarta, Ahok’s case has triggered a wave of nationalism and unity that is new among civil society groups in modern Indonesia. He calls it a “new nationalism”.

Around the world, Indonesians have always been regarded as tolerant. However, in some quarters, that tolerance has decreased considerably.

“Spontaneous initiatives such as torchlight processions have not caused anxieties, but rather generated great sympathy and empathy from all parties, regardless of religion and ethnicity,” he added.

In recent months, Indonesia has been alarmed by episodes of Islamic radicalism and sectarianism, linked to short-term agendas of politicians.

The country is still learning to work its way through its young democracy in a pluralistic society. In this regard, some Catholics have criticised the Church for its silence in the Ahok case.

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia recently issued an official statement clarifying its political position.

In the statement, the Commission reiterated its support for pluralism and strongly criticised religious polarisation and the manipulation of religious sentiments for political ends.

The statement calls on the authorities to be independent and not influenced by social pressures in exercising their function so as to ensure equal treatment of citizens.

Yesterday, in a closed-door meeting with religious leaders, Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed concern over the recent episodes of sectarianism.

He urged his compatriots not to participate in demonstrations that undermine national unity and promised hard punishment for those people or movements that promote ethnic and religious hatred.

Widodo again emphasised the importance of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, noting that it must be exercised within the law and based on the principles of Pancasila.

The president also noted that he had ordered army and police leaders to pursue anyone who tries to provoke tensions and cause social segregation.

- asia news

Two jailed Christians pardoned amid Sudan persecution

May 18, 2017 by admin  
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Sudan, May 17, 2017: A pastor and another Christian unjustly imprisoned in Sudan are free after presidential pardons, but their release came just days after the government destroyed the last Christian place to worship in Soba al Aradi, a suburb of the capital Khartoum.

The May 11 release of Sudan Church of Christ (SCOC) pastor Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor of Omdurman and Christian activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla of Darfur ended 10-year prison sentences the two had been serving since December, 2015. The men were wrongly accused of espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, Morning Star News reported.

In what is considered a systematic attack on Christian churches, the government on May 7 destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ in Soba al Aradi. It’s the latest incident in a string of 12 churches the government has demolished in the community since 2011, Morning Star News reported May 8. The loss of the church established in 1989 and most recently used by three congregations leaves no place for Christians to worship in the town.

International religious liberty advocates, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Middle East Concern (MEC) and Jubilee Campaign, praised God for the release of Tawor and Abdumawla. The groups continue to advocate for Christians in Sudan who have been increasingly persecuted since the 2011 secession of South Sudan.

“We welcome the release of Reverend [Abdelrahim] and Mr. Abdumawla, and are pleased they are finally able to return to their families after 17 months in detention,” CSW chief executive Mervyn Thomas said. “However, their case highlights our profound concerns regarding the rule of law in Sudan and the politicization of the criminal justice system by the National Intelligence and Security Services, which pursued the case against them. We continue to call for the government to review and reform the powers of this body and to end the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities on spurious grounds.”

Freedom for the two ends a case that began in 2015 and involved two others who were previously released. SCOC head of missions Kwa (also spelled Kuwa) Shamaal and Czech aid worker Petr Jasek were both jailed on charges including espionage, waging war against the state and gathering false news information, as well as inciting hatred between classes. Shamaal was acquitted and released in January; Jasek received a presidential pardon in February.

The arrest of the four was related to their support of a financial campaign that raised $5,000 for the medical care of Darfur student Ali Omer, injured and burned during a student demonstration in 2013, CSW said. The government claimed the money was in reality support for rebel activity in the South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur regions.

In its campaign against Christian churches, Sudan ordered in June 2016 the destruction of at least 25 churches, claiming they were built on government-owned land or land zoned for residential or other uses. Churches targeted include SCOC, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Jehovah Witness and Pentecostal congregations. Similarly situated Muslim mosques are allowed to remain standing, Christians told Morning Star.

“There is a nearby mosque in the area where the (Soba al Aradi SCOC) church building was destroyed, but it was not demolished,” Morning Star anonymously quoted a source May 8. In late April, the Khartoum Bahri Administrative Court rejected a case brought jointly by the churches to have the demolition order overturned, CSW said.

On April 3, a member of the Bahri Evangelical Church was stabbed to death while peacefully demonstrating against government efforts to confiscate and sell the church and its school, according to reports. Younan Abdullah, an elder of the church that is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), died of stab wounds, World Watch Monitor reported May 2. A second church member and stabbing victim survived.

On April 26, police and an armed mob occupied the church compound and school, including houses and offices, MEC reported April 27. During the takeover, police arrested and detained for 12 hours the wife and three young children of SPEC guard Azhari Tambra while he was away from home. The family’s belongings were destroyed and they were not allowed to return to their home, MEC said.

The religious freedom advocacy group Open Doors ranks Sudan fifth on its 2017 World Watch List of countries with the most severe Christian persecution. Sudan has been a U.S. State Department County of Particular Concern since 1999 because of its human rights violations and treatment of Christians.

- br now

Catholic priest stabbed during mass in Mexico city cathedral

May 17, 2017 by admin  
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Mexico City, May 17, 2017: A Mexican priest was stabbed in the neck while he was saying mass in Mexico City’s cathedral Monday, May 15 evening.

Witnesses say it looked like the attacker’s intention was to slit his throat.

Father Miguel Angel Machorro remains in critical condition, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico said.

The attacker, who was caught as was trying to run away, identified himself as a U.S. national. Mexican authorities identified him as John René Rock Schild, 35. The man said he is an artist and refused to offer any information that could incriminate him, Mexico City prosecutors said.

At a news conference, a lawyer of the archdiocese, Armando Martínez, said they needed more information to draw any conclusions.

“We cannot talk about terrorism, we cannot talk about motives because we obviously have no significant facts,” he said.

The stabbing took place in front of dozens of worshipers at the Mexico City cathedral, Latin America’s largest and a popular tourist draw on the landmark Zocalo square.

In a radio interview Tuesday morning, archdiocese spokesman Hugo Valdelomar provided some details of the attack.

“After celebrating mass at the high altar, Father Miguel came down [to the pews] to bless worshipers with holy water and when he turned to walk back to the altar, the man stops him and tries to slit his throat,” he said. “He grabbed his neck and tried to slit his throat.”

Valdemar said that Father Miguel sustained serious wounds near the jugular vein and the lung and was bleeding profusely.

“We almost lost him right there,” he said.

The spokesman said that the attacker showed extreme coldness and declared he was not a Muslim nor did he belong to any Islamic movement. He noted that when the man was arrested he reserved his right to testify — “that means that he is not so crazy either, shall we say,” Valdelomar said.

- matters india

Sudan: Church not only demolition in Sudan capital – Commissioner

May 16, 2017 by admin  
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Sudan, May 14, 2017: The Commissioner of Jebel Awliya locality has denied that the demolition of the church building in south-east Khartoum earlier this month is part of a discrimination campaign against Christians.

The recent actions of the authorities to purge the Soba El Aradi district of illegal buildings did not affect the Sudanese Church of Christ alone, Commissioner Jalaleldin El Sheikh El Tayeb said in a press statement on Thursday.

He strongly denied that the demolition of a church building in Soba Aradi targeted Christians, and pointed to the decision of the Khartoum state Land Department in 2012 to remove all illegal buildings in Soba Aradi.

Other religious and educational institutions are affected as well, he said. The removal order included 12 mosques and Koran schools, three churches, and two schools.

According to the commissioner, the authorities have planned a housing project for more than 7,000 people in Soba Aradi.

Bulldozers

On Sunday 7 May, police and the Khartoum Land Protection forces, backed by security agents, arrived at the church of the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Soba Aradi district with bulldozers.

The security agents held two pastors for several hours. “They were only released after they forcibly signed a pledge not to photograph the site after the demolition of the church,” lawyer Dimas James Marajan told Radio Dabanga.

“The action is entirely illegal and unconstitutional. It was carried out without prior notification or a removal order by the Ministry of Physical Planning in Khartoum State, which is the body responsible for such decisions,” the lawyer said.

The US Chargé d’Affaires ad interim visited the site of the church a few days after it was bulldozed to rubble. He expressed the hope that this was “an isolated incident”, and called for “a speedy inquiry”.

Sharia

After the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, President Omar Al Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of the Sharia (Islamic law). Reports of persecution of Christians in Sudan increased. The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted to build new churches in the country, pointing to the return of many mainly Christian South Sudanese refugees to their own country.

The Sudan Democracy First Group stated in a recent report about the growing discrimination against Christians in the country that “An additional layer of discrimination becomes visible, when taking into account that large proportions of Sudanese Christians are originating from the conflict zones in the Nuba Mountains. Security forces have thereby additionally labelled their religious communities as a security threat.”

Sudan’s treatment of Christians and other human rights violations saw it designated a Country of Particular Concern by the US State Department since 1999, and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2015 report.

- all africa

Christian who had returned to Al Arish murdered, as Islamic militants establish “police force” in the region

May 15, 2017 by admin  
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Egypt, May 7, 2017: Gunmen have shot dead a Christian man inside a barbershop in Egypt’s northern Sinai, security officials said on Sunday — the latest attack on Christians in the turbulent region contested by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.

The late Saturday killing in the coastal city of el-Arish came one day after IS warned it would escalate attacks against Christians. IS claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday through a brief report on its Aamaq news agency.

The officials identified the victim as 50-year-old Nabil Saber Ayoub.

He is at least the seventh Christian in northern Sinai to be killed by suspected IS militants in recent months. The killings have forced hundreds of Christians to flee the region.

At least 75 others have since December been killed in IS attacks targeting three churches, one in Cairo and two to the north of the Egyptian capital.

IS is currently spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai, where security forces have been battling militants for years.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.

- ny times

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