Prince Charles praises persecuted Middle Eastern Christians

December 9, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

U.K., December 5, 2018: Prince Charles has praised the “extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness” of Middle Eastern Christians enduring persecution.

Speaking at a special Advent service for persecuted Christians at Westminster Abbey on 4 December, the Prince said he had been “deeply humbled” by meeting Christians from the Middle East “who, with such inspiring faith and courage, are battling oppression and persecution.”

He claimed that, “Coexistence and understanding are not just possible … they are confirmed by hundreds of years of shared experience. Extremism and division are by no means inevitable …

“In this season of Advent, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who himself knew exile, injustice and suffering, I can only assure you of our steadfast support and most heartfelt prayers as you take forward your works of restoration, justice and healing, so that God’s will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

His words of encouragement for Middle Eastern Christians came days after the Archbishop of Canterbury called on the UK government to do more to aid Christian communities in the region facing “imminent extinction”.

– global christian news

Hundreds more Iraqi Christian-owned homes stolen in areas liberated from Islamic State

December 4, 2018 by  
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Iraq, November 27, 2018: An investigation by an Iraqi television network has uncovered the theft of at least 350 Christian-owned homes in Iraq.

The empty properties of hundreds of Christians who have fled the country have been occupied or seized. The problem is particularly serious in the historical Christian heartlands of the Nineveh Plain surrounding the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Church organisations have tried to intervene, but one Christian leader in Baghdad told journalists, “In some cases, our intervention has led to restitution; in others, nothing could be done. We ran up against powerful people.”

Properties have been transferred under false names and sold on. Many Christian properties had already been seized by Islamic State terrorists when they overran Mosul and the Nineveh Plains in 2014.

The Iraqi government is now rebuilding and restoring churches destroyed and damaged during the group’s three-year occupation of Mosul – around 40 churches were damaged and 15 destroyed – but even if Christians brave enough to return have a place to worship, many no longer have a home to go back to.

– barnabas persecution update

‘Slaughtered like animals, burned to death’: pastors tell Nigerian President Buhari of massacres

December 2, 2018 by  
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Nigeria, November 29, 2018: Nigerian church leaders met with President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this month, but condemned the “evil” massacre of Christians and the falsehoods surrounding it.

Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria, said that he delivered a report to Buhari on November 6, describing the killing of 646 Christians in Plateau state alone between March and October of this year.

“The devastation in terms of massacre of lives and destruction of property is unimaginable. Pastors and members in their thousands have been killed in cold blood, either shot dead or slaughtered like animals or burned to death. Houses and businesses have been burned or looted and farmlands have been destroyed,” he said, speaking of the years of suffering the church has suffered.

Thousands of other Christians have been massacred in the country since the start of 2018, prompting ongoing outcry from watchdog groups, demanding that the Nigerian government do more to protect citizens.

“The narrative has been that these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes,” Datiri said in his report, as shared by Morning Star News.

“All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil.”

“After the attacks, it is the Fulani herders that settle and graze their cattle on the farms of the victims,” he continued.

“The proficiency and mode of operation in all of these attacks, as testified by the surviving victims, leaves us in no doubt of the complicity of the military being used as hired mercenaries by the Fulani militias. On this, we are disappointed, and sadly so, that the government has not delivered on her constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property.”

As evidence he pointed to the heavily armed militants with sophisticated guns, including AK-47’s, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades, that have been killing Christians.

A very similar point was made in August by Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman of the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law, who told The Christian Post that the government and many news organizations are spreading such a false narrative.

Umeagbalasi told CP at the time that all the evidence, including the great disproportion in the number of Christians killed, and reports of churches being converted for Islamic purposes, show that the thousands of deaths are not simply the result of farmer-Fulani hersdsmen clashes.

“How many Muslim farmers are being killed by Fulani herdsmen? How many Muslim homes have been destroyed or burned? The answer is in the negative. It has nothing to do with herdsmen-farmer clashes. It is false,” he added.

“We don’t like to use the [term] ‘Fulani herdsmen’, we like to use ‘Fulani jihadists,’ who are under the guise of herdsmen.”

In his statement to Buhari, Datiri further pointed out that as many as 38,000 Christians were forced to flee to camps for displaced people, with 30 church buildings and 4,436 Christian homes destroyed in the state, all in the space of half a year.

The Church of Christ in Nigeria president accused Nigerian military forces of not only failing to contain the radicals, but of being complicit in some of the attacks.

“Are we to believe that the armed forces sent to keep peace go with the instructions to protect them?” he asked. “The implication is that they protect the aggressors and leave the victims mercilessly helpless.”

On his part, Buhari did not dispute the statistics of violence in Plateau state, but said that the different communities must live together in harmony.

“It is not all Muslims that are against Christians, and neither are all Christians against Muslims,” the president said. “In our security arrangement, the police are in the frontline in making sure that communities irrespective of ethnic or religious bias live together in peace.”

– christian post

US Congress passes bill to relieve Christians, Yazidis in Iraq and Syria

November 29, 2018 by  
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U.S., November 28, 2018: The US House of Representatives passed Tuesday H.R. 390, a bill titled “Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act,” which seeks to assist with the rebuilding of the Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria.

Having also passed the Senate, the bill now will go to President Donald Trump, who has indicated he is willing to sign it.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 47 members of Congress. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) was the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bill. The bill was passed unanimously in the House Nov. 27.

H.R. 390 would provide funding to entities, including those who are faith-based, that are assisting with the humanitarian, stabilization, and recovery efforts in Iraq and Syria to religious and ethnic minorities in the area.

It would also direct the Trump administration to “assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force these survivors to flee” the area, as well as identify potential warning signs of violence against religious or ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Additionally, the bill will support entities that are conducting criminal investigations into members of the Islamic State who committed “crimes against humanity and war crimes in Iraq,” and will encourage foreign governments to identify suspected Islamic State perpetrators in security databases and security screenings to assist with their capture and prosecution.

The Senate unanimously passed a slightly amended version of the bill Oct. 11.

“The fact that this bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously shows that the American response to genocide transcends partisanship and that there is enormous political will to protect and preserve religious minorities in the Middle East, including Christians and Yazidis, who were targeted for extinction,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson upon the bill’s passage. Anderson testified at a congressional hearing about the bill.

“We thank Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill’s author, and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), its lead cosponsor, for their leadership in partnership with Knights of Columbus on this important bill,” he said.

Smith noted that “over-stretched groups on the ground” have been “fill[ing] the gap” in providing aid to survivors of Islamic State. He said that so far, Aid to the Church in Need has contributed more than $60 million, and the Knights of Columbus more than $20 million, to the region’s response.

The bill took 17 months to pass, Smith told CNA, and was introduced three separate years. Smith was able to visit Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, and he said he found the work the archbishop was doing there to be inspiring. The congressman said that it was important to include faith-based entities among those receiving funding under the bill.

Since Islamic State came to power in the region, the Christian and Yazidi populations have been decimated, Warda explained to CNA. And even though Islamic State is no longer in power and the area has been liberated, the region’s Christians are still struggling due to the conflict.

Many people have not been able to rebuild their homes, and a lack of job prospects cause people to leave even though the situation is largely safe, said Warda. In order to provide long-term security for the region’s Christians, he said that there needs to be an emphasis on economic opportunities for young people.

“I’m a shepherd there. I have to really speak to my people there and tell them that it’s safe. It’s safe to be and to prosper at the same time,” he said. “So, providing jobs. Helping and really realizing some of the economical projects for the young people, to help them stay and prosper in the area.”

Many of the area’s Christians fled to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. While Warda said that he would love to work on luring them back to Iraq, he conceded that this task is “really difficult.”

Another effort to ensure long-term safety for religious minorities will require a cultural shift, Warda explained. The deaths or displacement of Christians and Yazidis are considered “collateral damage” by the government, said Warda. This mentality resulted in “the majority of the persecution” faced by those groups.

He laid blame on the public school curriculum used in Iraq, which provides no information at all about religious minority groups in the country.

“There’s nothing about Christians,” he explained, noting that non-Muslims are described as infidels, and conspiracy theories about these groups abound.

Warda was particularly pleased with the inclusion of support for the criminal prosecution of Islamic State members who committed genocide. This, he said, will ensure that “history will not be written by people like ISIS. For the first time, the victims of this genocide will be able to tell their story and to provide history from their side.”

The ability for these groups to have their stories heard will be a way to ensure that this genocide and displacement does not happen again.

“Unless you tell Muslims that there’s something wrong in the way that you teach Islam, the history will repeat itself,” the bishop explained. Even though Islamic State was defeated, “the ideology is still there.”

“Writing the history from the side of the victims; it would help the other (side) to realize ‘okay, never again,” he said.

– cna

Canadian church threatened with losing charity status for revoking woman’s membership over same-sex relationship

November 27, 2018 by  
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Canada, November 27, 2018: Activists in Canada are petitioning the government to remove a church’s tax-exempt status because it removed a woman from its membership roll after learning that she’s in a same-sex relationship.

Kimberley Mills lost her membership at Calvary Baptist Church in Oshawa, Ontario, after it was discovered that she was in a relationship that was, according to a letter quoted by local media, in “disobedience to the Scriptures.”

After hearing about the church’s actions toward Mills, Mac Moreau, a political activist in Oshawa, launched a letter-writing campaign to the Canada Revenue Agency earlier this month demanding that the government entity review Calvary Baptist’s status as a charity.

“Charities that allow their resources to be used for activities that promote hate and intolerance shouldn’t receive benefits from the Canadian government — benefits that all Canadians contribute to,” stated Moreau on Facebook.

Calvary Baptist Church sent The Christian Post a statement on Monday explaining that while they “love and care for everyone” church membership is based on “a voluntary association of like-minded individuals who share a commitment to the teachings of the Bible.”

“Those who choose to become members of Calvary Baptist Church share our theological and doctrinal beliefs and agree to live in accordance with those beliefs,” church leadership said.

“When an individual ceases to hold those beliefs or live in accordance with them, as has recently happened, that individual may be removed from membership but always remains welcome to attend our services and other programs.”

Some viewed the news of Calvary Baptist’s membership decision regarding Mills and the possibility of the church losing its charitable status over the decision as further evidence of Canada’s growing hostility toward churches that oppose homosexuality.

“Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has already placed an ideological litmus test (which includes LGBT issues as well as abortion) as a prerequisite for gaining access to the Canada Summer Jobs Program, and soon enough LGBT activists will turn their attention to those churches (and other religious institutions) that still hold to the traditional biblical teaching on sexuality,” a LifeSiteNews blog argued last week.

“LGBT activists will soon demand that governments strip charitable status from any church or institution that disagrees with their ideology of sexuality, and will accuse any politician who declines to do so of being a homophobe or a transphobe.”

Dany Morin, spokesperson for the CRA, emailed CP on Monday explaining that due to confidentiality provisions in the Income Tax Act, the agency cannot comment on whether a particular charity is or is not being audited.

“The CRA’s actions can only be made public when an audit results in a charity being revoked, annulled, suspended, or penalized,” Morin explained. “The CRA posts such cases in its list of charities. This provides transparency to Canadians regarding the decisions of the CRA with respect to charities.”

Morin also explained to CP that if “a charity restricts access to its premises or its programs in any way, the nature of the restriction must be clearly linked to the benefits provided by the charity.”

“For example, a charity operating a woman’s shelter would be justified in restricting access to its programs and facilities to women; while a charity operating a community center would generally be required to make its facilities open to the public at large,” noted Morin.

“If the CRA identifies noncompliance as a result of an audit, it uses an education-first approach where possible. This means the CRA will generally give a charity the chance to correct its noncompliance through education or a compliance agreement before it resorts to other measures such as sanctions or revocation. It’s important to note that the facts of the charity’s case will determine which compliance approach the CRA will take.”

– christian post

Mosul begins reconstruction of churches destroyed by ISIS

November 22, 2018 by  
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Iraq, November 9, 2018: Iraqi churches destroyed in the three year occupation of Mosul by the terror group Islamic state are now being rebuilt and restored by the govenrment of Iraq .

The governor of the historically strongly Christian region of Nineveh said that the reconstruction of dozens of churches was beginning. Around 40 churches were damaged and 15 of these were completely destroyed.

Christians living in the region continue to face danger in this northern section of Iraw due to the proximity of Kurdish militia.Christians have begun cautiously returning to the western district of the city. As they start to rebuild their homes and lives, the Iraqi government has taken on the responsibility to repair Christian places of worship. Nineveh Municipality has announced that work is “soon” to begin on the ancient church of al-Tahira, the largest in the city.

More than 75 per cent of Iraq’s Christian population left the country due to anti-Christian violence after the Gulf War, which intensified after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. A mass exodus also took place after the IS conquest of the historically-Christian region in 2014.

The continuing presence of Iran-backed Shia militias in northern Iraq, the ongoing threat of terrorism and the refusal of many local Iraqi Muslims to coexist peacefully means returning Christians do not feel safe.

– global christian news

Bulgarian Parliament revises proposed rules that could have forced churches to close

November 20, 2018 by  
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Bulgaria, November 20, 2018: The Bulgarian parliament is revising controversial draft amendments to a national religion law that critics say would have asserted state control over churches and ministries and could have resulted in the closure of evangelical Christian schools and congregations.

Following protests last week from faith groups, parties in Bulgaria’s Parliament are working to revise amendments that were proposed to the Balkan nation’s Religious Denomination Act, according to the Sofia Globe.

The proposed law would have required Bulgarian citizens who want permission to preach to complete their theological education in Bulgaria or at a foreign school approved by the Bulgarian government.

The proposal would have also made it so only Eastern Orthodox and Muslim institutions recognized by the government would be able to train clergy and run faith-based schools in the country.

The law would have banned religious activities from taking place outside of buildings designated for religious activity and would have made it so only religious groups with 300 people or more would be granted legal status.

Additionally, the amendments would have required foreigners looking to preach to do so in the presence of a Bulgarian-ordained minister. As well, foreign donations to churches would have needed government approval.

The proposed draft amendments, which passed on first reading in October, received immense backlash from many Christians across denominational lines who believe that the amendments threaten the freedom of local churches and the independent nature of the training of church leaders.

Critics feared that the law would force churches and institutions to “close or face unbearable and discriminatory burdens.”

Along with evangelicals, Baptists and Catholics, the majority Orthodox community has also voiced concern with the proposed law, which supporters say intends to crackdown on the spread of radical Islam.

Thousands of Christians took the streets in cities across the country to protest the law last week.

“We will continue the protests and prayer meetings in Bulgaria until the suggested changes to religious laws are completely withdrawn or until we see realistic proposals which guard religious freedoms and the right to a belief of everyone in Bulgaria.” the Rev. Teodor Oprenov, pastor at First Baptist Church in the nation’s capital of Sofia, told the Transform Europe Network.

According to the Sofia Globe, the revised bill eliminates the proposed ban on foreigners conducting religious services without the approval of the government.

Reportedly, the revised version would allow foreigners with a short-term residence to conduct services while a foreign cleric in Bulgaria on travel would have to notify the government of his presence.

The revision also eliminates a rule that would have made it so that only Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim minority would be eligible for state subsidies.

Additionally, the revised version of the bill will allow for foreign donations to religious groups.

Although the proposal to change the Religious Denomination Act was an attempt by parliamentary parties to deal with the spread of radical Islam in Bulgaria, faith organizations and alliances at both the national and international levels have raised concern about the implications such a law would have on religious freedom rights of Bulgarians.

“The proposed law legalizes state interference in the affairs of religious communities, which invariably comes at the expense of religious freedom,” World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Bishop Efraim Tendero said in a statement this month. “At a time when governments worldwide face the challenge of strengthening freedoms while maintaining security, we call on Bulgaria and other democratic countries to lead by example and to strengthen the right to religious freedom rather than to weaken it.”

The bill has been tabled for further review before a second reading. No date has been set for the second reading, the Sofia Globe reports.

– christian post

Armed men kidnap four Catholic priests in Nigeria

November 15, 2018 by  
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Nigeria, November 13, 2018: Four Catholic priests, returning from an annual class meeting, last month have been kidnapped in Warri, Delta State, southern Nigeria.

The catholic priests; Rev. Fr. Anthony Otegbola of Abeokuta Diocese, Rev. Fr. Joseph Idiaye of Benin Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Victor Adigboluja of Ijebu Ode Diocese and Rev. Fr. Obadjere Emmanuel of the Diocese of Warri, “were going back to Ekpoma between Agbor and Umutu in Delta State, these fierce-looking and heavily armed men suddenly burst out of the bush and started firing at our bus… unfortunately, four of our brothers were whisked away to an unknown location,” according to a priest in the bus who asked to remain anonymous.

The Police in Delta state confirmed the kidnap but will not give any more details. There has not yet been any claim of responsibility or ransom demand for the clergy.

This kidnap of clergy is the second in two months. Christopher Ogaga, another priest at the Emmanuel Catholic Church, Oviri-Okpe in Okpe Council Area of Delta State was kidnapped early September in the state and his abductors had made a demand of 15 million Naira (over £30,000)

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, described the kidnapping of clergy as “barbaric, dehumanising and shameful.” He recalled that Benue State in central Nigeria is yet to recover from “the killing of two Catholic priests and 17 worshippers by herdsmen in Mbalom, Gwer East Local Government Area of the state earlier this year.”

The Governor called on, “Nigerians to rise in condemnation of persistent attacks on innocent people, particularly the current spate of violence against the clergy.”

Kidnapping of Christian clergy has become a lucrative business for gangs in southern Nigeria, especially between Delta and Edo and Kogi states of the southeastern and middle regions of the country. Churches and Christian organisations have been forced to pay millions of Naira in ransom. Some kidnap attempts have ended tragically with the deaths of pastors.

The continuous persecution of the Church and Christian communities both from radical Islamic groups like Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen continue to add the the challenges churches face in the country of about 200 million people with sharp divide between over 50 per cent of the population who are Christians mostly in the southern part of the country and 30 per cent Muslims in the north and animists making 20 per cent of the population.

– global christian news

Police in Uzbekistan arrest teenage Christian converts and set up TV “show trial”

November 13, 2018 by  
Filed under newsletter-world, World

Uzbekistan, November 6, 2018: Police in Uzbekistan arrested 43 converts to Christianity from Islam, including a number of teenagers, and later tried to get them to appear in court in front of TV cameras in an apparent show trial.

The converts were arrested at the beginning of October while they met at a camp around 50 miles from the capital Tashkent. They were held for between eight to nine hours, until 2 a.m., and then released. The police opened investigations against all of the adult converts. The twelve teenagers were not charged.

Police put considerable pressure on a number of the arrested converts, even attempting to recruit some to work for the police as informers. Several were forced into giving incriminating written statements against the organisers and leaders of the gathering. The converts face charges of “illegal assembly” and potential fines of up to the equivalent of $2,500 (£1,900) if found guilty.

The first court hearing was arranged for 18 October, but was postponed by the judge. At the re-arranged hearing on 23 October many of the Christians facing charges refused to enter the courtroom because there were cameramen and TV journalists present, and they did not wish to be part of a show trial. The judge again postponed the hearing, which was eventually held on 30 October.

Ahead of the trial, a Christian pastor contacted Barnabas and asked for prayer for the converts, “that Jesus would give them wisdom and courage and the right words at the trial.”

The presiding judge ordered the TV journalists not to film the trial proceedings, but they were permitted to film the verdicts. All the Christians charged were found guilty, but only received minimum fines, equivalent to between $75 – $500 (£57 – £380). Police subsequently promised to reduce the fine for any of the converts who agreed to be interviewed for TV.

– barnabas persecution update

Over 3,000 Egyptian churches still waiting for licenses 2 years after landmark law

November 6, 2018 by  
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Egypt, November 5, 2018: More than 3,000 churches and church-affiliated buildings are still awaiting legal recognition from the Egyptian government nearly two years after the passing of legislation hailed by some as positive step for religious freedom in the Muslim-majority country.

According to an October report from the Coptic-founded news outlet Watani International, only 340 out of 3,730 applications from unlicensed churches seeking legal status and building permits have been granted in the wake of a 2016 law meant to provide an avenue for Christians to legally build and renovate churches.

Although the law was said to have made it easier for Christians to renovate churches, many feared it gave too much power to local governments to deny church construction.

After over a year, the Egyptian Cabinet has granted some churches legal status in three different waves over the course of 2018, with the latest coming on October 10 when the cabinet approved the applications of 120 churches.

In April, 166 churches and church-affiliated buildings were granted legal status. In September, 220 more were approved.

Human rights activists have criticized the new Egyptian law because of the fact that it “allows governors to deny church-building permits with no stated way to appeal,” “requires that churches be built ‘commensurate with’ the number of Christians in the area” and “contains security provisions that risk subjecting decisions on whether to allow church construction to the whims of violent mobs.”

The international Christian aid agency Barnabas Fund also reported on the over 3,700 churches that still await legal recognition and notes that before the 2016 law, it was extremely hard for churches to be given an official license or approval to build or renovate a church property.

“These latest approvals are a third batch, indicating modest progress is being made. But churches which have been given official status, or those with applications awaiting approval, still face sometimes violent local opposition,” a Barnabas Fund report states. “This can occur even when congregations have been meeting in the same building for years.”

In July, there were three days of public protesting from locals opposing the legal status of two churches in the town of Sultan Basha in Upper Egypt with many Coptic villagers having to lock themselves in their homes for safety.

According to Watani International, there wasn’t any police intervention in the three days of the protest. Protestors are said to have chanted “Never a church in our midst.”

Barnabus Fund reports that over 300 Muslims in the town of al-Kumeira forced the closure of a church after it was granted legal status from the government in April.

Egypt ranks as the 17th-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2018 World Watch List.

Last Friday, yet another attack was launched against Egypt’s Coptic Christian community when seven were killed and at least 19 were injured by gunmen who attacked buses coming from a nearby desert monastery after a baby’s Baptism. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State.

The attack nearly mirrors an attack that occurred last May on a bus near the same monastery in which just under 30 Coptic Christians were killed. That attack was also claimed by IS.

Copts have also been targeted in multiple church bombings in the last two years, including the Palm Sunday church bombings in April 2017 and the Cairo church bombing in December 2016.

– christian post

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