Egyptian Christians fear Islamist victory in presidential elections

May 25, 2012 by  
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Egypt, May 16, 2012: Christians in Egypt fear an Islamist victory in the impending presidential elections as the Muslim Brotherhood candidate vows to implement sharia and polls show support for this agenda. 

The Brotherhood, which has previously presented itself as a moderate Islamist party, is now taking a more overtly Islamic stance. Their candidate, Mohamed Mursi, has vowed to apply sharia if elected as president. He said:

We will not accept any alternative to sharia… The Quran is our constitution and it will always be so.

Mursi has gained the backing of a prominent hard-line cleric and TV preacher, Safwat Hegazy, who compared him to the medieval Muslim leader Salah Al-Din, who united the Muslim world, defeated the crusaders and captured Jerusalem. Hegazy said at a campaign rally:

We are seeing the dream of the Islamic Caliphate coming true at the hands of Mohammed Mursi… The people want to implement god’s law.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre, which interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 Egyptians between 19 March and 10 April on their political views, revealed strong support for this agenda.

Six in ten want Egyptian laws to follow the Quran strictly, while around a third want them to conform to Islamic principles but not strictly follow the Muslim holy book.

When asked whether Turkey or Saudi Arabia was the better model for the role of religion in government, 61% said the latter, where an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, Wahhabism, is strictly enforced. 

The Muslim Brotherhood was given a favourable rating by 70% of the interviewees, five per cent down on last year, with the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party receiving the highest rating of the political parties, with over half (56%) expressing a positive opinion of them.

The presidential race is however by no means a foregone conclusion. Former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Moussa is among the frontrunners; the Pew research found him to be overwhelmingly popular, with an 81% approval rating.

Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh also fared well, with 58%. Surprisingly, given his more moderate Islamist stance, Abul Fotouh has won the backing of some hard-line Salafists. He was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood after the revolution because of his insistence that he would run for president. 

The group had initially said that it would not field a presidential candidate but recently changed its position on this. After taking the greatest number of seats in the parliamentary elections, it has found itself largely powerless in the face of the ruling military’s control. The Brotherhood feels it has a right to rule.

Dilemma for Christians

The presidential race poses a great dilemma for the country’s Christians, who have to choose between one of the Islamist candidates and former members of the Mubarak regime. Despite suffering discrimination and persecution under the latter, most would prefer to see one of its contenders win.

George Gamal, a 50-year-old Christian from Imbaba – the scene of a deadly Islamist attack on Christians a year ago – said:

If religion is mixed with politics, this country will be destroyed. It will be an Islamic emirate.

Christians have increasingly been the victims of violent attack since the fall of Mubarak and rise of Islamists within the political sphere. They fear that the country could become a strict Islamic state where their sizeable community of around 8 million people would not be welcome.

Marina Nadi, a Christian business administration student, said that she will not be voting for an Islamist candidate:

The Islamist-dominated parliament has done nothing to allay the Christians’ fears about their future in this country.

Many Christians are backing Moussa, who has advocated a separation of religion and state, while others prefer Ahmed Shafiq, who was Mubarak’s last premier.

Some say that they could live with an Abul Fotouh victory. He has expressed support for a law that would not require official permission for the building of churches or mosques – a matter over which Christians have experienced much discrimination and opposition – and also said that Christians and women should be allowed to run for president.   

The Pew research found that a growing number of Egyptians believe that Islam is playing a major role in the political life of the country: 66% compared with 47% two years ago. And while most interviewees believe that Islam is playing a positive role in the country’s politics, those who say its role is negative has increased significantly, from just two per cent in 2010 to 25% today. 

The presidential elections, which begin on 23 May, will be a further – perhaps decisive – indicator of the extent of the role that Islam will play in Egypt’s future.

– barnabasfund.org

Iranian authorities demand personal details of church members

May 25, 2012 by  
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Iran, May 22, 2012: The Iranian authorities have ordered church leaders to submit a list of the names and National ID numbers of their members, in a move that threatens the security of Christian converts. 

People attending the central Assemblies of God church in Tehran on Sunday 6 May were asked to provide their details following pressure from security officials.

This could be a pre-emptive strike by the authorities: gathering information about Christian converts to later monitor their and the church’s activities, or even to arrest individuals.

It could also be a further attempt to put pressure on believers to stop them from attending church services. Some of the converts are university students or employed by government-run organisations; being known to the authorities as a Christian or especially a convert would undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on their record and prospects.

The church has been under close surveillance for many years, and a number of its members have been killed.

The Ministry of Intelligence demanded a list of the names and personal details of church members 20 years ago but at that time the leaders refused to comply.

In 2009, the church was banned from holding its services in the Iranian national language, Farsi, on Fridays, a measure that has since been imposed on other churches in the capital. 

And more recently, the authorities have closed down discipleship classes for new Christians run by the church on Saturdays for decades. 

The Iranian authorities are constantly deploying different tactics in their efforts to clamp down on the country’s fast-growing Church.

Security officials attend services at established churches to spy on Christians, and are also believed to have installed hidden CCTV cameras in church hallways.

Their campaign of harassment has forced many Christians out of official churches, but they attend house churches instead; these have been powerful and effective communities for the progress of the Gospel, which the Iranian authorities have been unable to stop.

– barnabasfund.org

Kuwait’s ruler blocks parliament’s bid to impose sharia law

May 25, 2012 by  
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Kuwait, May 22, 2012: The Emir of Kuwait has blocked a proposal by the Islamist-dominated parliament to make all legislation comply with sharia law.

Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah was said to be “not in favour” of the proposal to change the country’s constitution to make sharia “the only source” of legislation rather than a major or main source, as the document currently states. His approval is required for any constitutional change.

The proposal was put forward by the Islamic Justice Bloc, which gained a majority in snap elections in February and has since made a number of moves to strengthen Islam. It received the backing of 31 out of the 50 Kuwaiti MPs.

One of them, Mohammad al-Dallal, said:

Our society is a conservative society, a lot of people request that laws comply with sharia. We also do not have a stable political system.

He added that the change could help make law-making less chaotic; political parties are banned in Kuwait, so MPs have to form blocs.

Mr Dallal said:

We must think again about convincing the emir or submitting it again in another format.

Kuwait has a sizeable Christian community, most of whom are expatriates, comprising nearly 14 per cent of the population. Amending the constitution to make sharia the only source of legislation would inevitably make life more restrictive – and perhaps even dangerous – for them.

Blasphemy bill decision

On 3 May, the Kuwaiti parliament passed a controversial bill that would make insulting key Islamic figures and the Quran punishable by death.

This too requires the approval of the emir before becoming law, and he has 30 days to make a decision. His rejection of the sharia law proposal suggests that he may also block this attempt to introduce draconian penalties for blasphemy.

Kuwait is a regional US ally, and the emir may be conscious of the country’s reputation on the international stage.   

The blasphemy bill has attracted widespread criticism from human rights’ advocates. 

Leonard Leo, Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, said:

These penalties are alarming and contrary to international human rights standards … because they jeopardize the lives of individuals that exercise their internationally-guaranteed freedoms of religion and expression.

– barnabasfund.org

One Year of Mamata Govt.: Promises and Performance

May 25, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, May 22, 2012: The Mamata Banerjee government of West Bengal has now completed one year. During the Assembly polls in April-May 2011, which ultimately dethroned the 34-year regime of Left Front, the Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee was crisscrossing the state making promises to the populace, including Muslims who were until then the backbone of the communist parties. After the massive historic win with the heavy support of Muslims, the most deprived community of 30% population of the state pinned high hopes in the lady. It’s time now to check what she has done and what not in one year.

Performance
Mamata had taken oath of chief minister on 19th May 2011. On the eve of the completion of one year, her office couple of days back claimed that the state government has fulfilled 90% of the promises – work of 10 years just in 10 months.

To celebrate the one year the Mamata Government organized a fair ‘Paragati Utsab’ from 19th May 2012 where it showcased its works and projects. Besides, the Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department also provided a chart of performance of Mamata Government.

Urdu Language: The Government passed an Amendment Bill according Urdu status of second official language in the areas having 10% or more Urdu speaking population.

Recognition of unaided Madrasa: Around 1000 unaided Madrasas recognized and rules amended bringing in relaxation in recognition process of unaided Madrasas.

Honorarium for Imam & Muazzin: The government declared package for Imams & Muazzins — monthly honorarium of Rs 2500/- to Imam and Rs 1000 to Muazzin of mosques. Others benefits of Housing, scholarship, health and Vocational/technical training also extended for Imams and their family members to alleviate their condition.

Land for Aliah University: 20 acres of land allotted to Aliah University at new town Rajarhat. Another campus with an estimated amount of Rs 62 cr is being constructed at Park Circus area.

Haj House: Third Haj House was announced by the state Government and 5 acres of land have been allotted at new town Rajarhat for Haj pilgrims only.

Minority Budget: Budget of Minority Affairs & Madrasa Education Department for 2012-13 is Rs 570 cr.

Scholarship & Stipend: Amount of Rs 6552.94 Lac distributed in scholarship & stipend among 16,57,418 Minority Students in the year 2011-2012.

Loan: 15101 persons given loan involving Rs 1055.12 Lac.

Schemes for Free Coaching and vocational training: 12086 Minority students have been trained involving Rs 145.13 lac during 2011-2012 period.

OBC Muslims: The state government has just included 30 more Muslim groups in the Muslim OBC category.

Polytechnic College: Foundation stone laid down for a Polytechnic college at Baruipur in South 24 Parganas district for Minorities.

No doubt, the Mamata government has done some good work in one year. Yet, she has not taken a step towards some big promises which she made in her election manifesto.

Where are the big promises?
In the election manifesto, Trinamul Congress supremo Banerjee had promised some big infrastructural projects, universities and medical colleges. But so far no step has been taken towards them. Some of the big promises are listed below:

10 Medical Colleges
Muslim Universities on the model of Aligarh Muslim University
Muslim Colleges
More Madrasas & Urdu schools
Infrastructure of Minority department

– twocircles.net

Christians, Muslims and Hindus for coexistence without confrontation

May 25, 2012 by  
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Nepal, May 21, 2012: In the past 25 days, tribal groups have brought the country to a halt with strikes and violent demonstrations ahead of 28 May, date when the new constitution will come into effect. Tribals want an ethnically based federal state. The government deploys troops to avoid more clashes between ethnic minorities and Hindus.

Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders have appealed to tribal leaders “to stop immediately violence among ethnic groups and work for peace in the country”. This comes after tribal groups brought the country to a standstill to push for greater protection in the constitution set to come into effect on 28 May. Religious leaders call on tribal and ethnic minorities to respect each other and stress the need to favour a climate of reconciliation after 11 years of civil war.

As the date when the new constitution will come into force, the country’s ethnic groups are trying to shape the new state institutions to their own benefit. For the past week, pro-federalism tribal minorities have clashed in Kathmandu with Hindus opposed to the country’s partition along ethnic lines. Police arrested 50 people.

Yesterday, thousands of tribals, including Newar, began a general strike in the Kathmandu Valley that could spread to the rest of the country.

To avoid further interethnic clashes, the government has deployed troops in the centre of the capital and in high-risk areas.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced today a state of alert. He also said that school and many public buildings would remain closed.

In some cities, multiethnic security teams have been working with police.

Mgr Anthony Sharma, archbishop of Kathmandu, said that because of the general strike, thousands of people are going hungry. In western regions, Himalayan villages are without supplies of food, drugs and drinking water.

“Sectarian violence makes no sense. It has never brought anything good,” he said. “At this historical moment, people of different faiths must be more tolerant and not fight each other.”

Nazrul Huseein, head of the Islamic Federation of Nepal, agrees. “For centuries, the country’s various cultures have lived in harmony. Such coexistence is possible only through peaceful dialogue among various ethnic groups, which politicians must back.”

– asianews.it

J&K: Miscreants try to burn 119 yr old Church

May 25, 2012 by  
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Jammu & Kashmir, May 25, 2012: Suspected Muslim fundamentalists threw a petrol bomb and put fire to the 119-year-old church.

Some unidentified miscreants tried to burn the Holy Family Catholic Church in Srinagar, summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir State, according to information reaching here.

According to Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of Jammu- Srinagar, suspected Muslim fundamentalists threw a petrol bomb and put fire to the 119-year-old church Wednesday evening.

“The Muslim fundamentalists want us to leave the state and since we are a minority we cannot fight them,” the Capuchin prelate told ucanindia.in today.

The diocese covers the entire state.

Bishop Elampassery said the Church people filed a case, but the police advised them not play up such incidents.

On January 28, some miscreants had burnt the motorcycle of the parish priest parked in the veranda of his residence.

– ucanindia.in

Five finger prayer

May 22, 2012 by  
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This is beautiful – and it is surely worth making the 5 finger prayer a part of our lives.

1. Your thumb is nearest you.

So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you. They are the easiest to remember.

To Pray for our loved ones is, as C. S. Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”

2. The next finger is the pointing finger.

Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal.

This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers. They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction.

Keep them in your prayers.

3. The next finger is the tallest finger.

It reminds us of our leaders.

Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and administrators. These people shape our nation and guide public opinion. They need God’s guidance.

4. The fourth finger is our ring finger.

Surprising to many is the fact that this is our weakest finger, as any piano teacher will testify.

It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in pain.

They need your prayers day and night. You cannot pay too much for them.

5. And lastly comes our little finger.

The smallest finger of all which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others.

As the Bible says, “The least shall be the greatest among you.”

Your pinkie should remind you to pray for yourself. By the time you have prayed for the other four groups, your own needs will be put into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.

“God Delights in Prayer and there is no defeat for a person who prays”

– fwd: samuel machado

Catholic rebellion has begun *Indonesia: Historic Christian prayer gathering underway

May 22, 2012 by  
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USA, May 21, 2012: Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on lawsuits filed today against the Obama administration. At issue is the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services edict seeking to force Catholic non-profits to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptive services and sterilization in their insurance plans:

This is a great day for those who believe in religious liberty. Suing the Obama administration for seeking to trash the First Amendment rights of Catholics are 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions from all over the nation.

Among those filing suit are: the Archdiocese of New York; the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; the Archdiocese of St. Louis; the Diocese of Rockville Centre; the Diocese of Dallas; the Diocese of Fort Worth; the Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; the Michigan Catholic Conference (which represents all seven dioceses in the state); Catholic University of America; Franciscan University of Steubenville; and the University of Notre Dame. Entities ranging from retirement homes to publishing houses joined the lawsuits.

There will be more. And depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules next month on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, this may just be the beginning.
Catholics are sending an unmistakable sign to President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, et al. that we will not be obedient. We will not do as we are told. Instead, we will do what is just. The Catholic rebellion has begun.

– catholicleague

Indonesia: Historic Christian prayer gathering underway

 

Indonesia, May 16, 2012: Thousands of the world’s Christian leaders are in Indonesia seeking God’s guidance on how to transform the nations with Christ’s message of love.

It’s a historic prayer gathering in many ways, not the least of which is Indonesia’s decision to host the event. The huge Southeast Asian island nation is home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

“That’s what we are well-known for, but there’s something else taking place in our country,” one Indonesian woman said.

Her words echo a deep desire among Indonesia’s minority Christians to make the name of Jesus Christ famous.

“We are a small percentage of the population, but we are compelled to tell others about Christ,” the woman said.

Winds of Revival
A massive prayer movement is underway, connecting some 500 Indonesian cities with more than 5 million believers.

This week, an hour’s drive south of Jakarta, the capital city, Indonesian churches invited more than 9,000 Christians to take part in the World Prayer Assembly 2012.

“We feel that the epicenter of the world revival is going to be Asia and especially Indonesia,” World Prayer Assembly’s John Robb told CBN News.

Such a large Christian event has never been held in this majority Muslim country.

“We see the WPA as kind of a stepping stone toward the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14: ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,'” Robb said.

For five days, representatives of more than 60 countries will network and strategize on how to bring Christ’s salvation and healing to the nations.

“A new wave is coming so we wanted to catch it, the spirit of prayer, so that we can bring revival to our nation,” Pricilla Abbathurai of India said.

– charismanews

Christian couple acquitted in Lahore over false blasphemy charges *Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine

May 22, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, May 21, 2012: Charged in December 2008, they were initially given life in prison. After four years behind bars, they were acquitted. A Muslim man had accused them in a personal vendetta over a row among children. For the judges, the accusations were a frame-up over a personal dispute.

“The court took a brave decision by releasing the married couple. They were unfairly accused and jailed for a crime they never committed,” said Fr John Mall. The priest from the Diocese of Lahore welcomed the ruling by the High Court that acquitted Munir Masih and his wife Ruqayya for lack of evidence. The parents of six children had originally received a life sentence.

In the first trial held in Kasur in 2010, the court dropped the charge of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, which carries the death penalty. It was clear even then, that the couple was not guilty of any crime. However, they had to wait four years before the second charge was also thrown out.

“No one testified against the couple on the matter of blasphemy,” the couple’s lawyer Chaudhry Naeem Shakir said. The contradictions in the complaint against 32-year-old Munir and his wife were apparent.

Their accuser, Muhammad Yousaf, had said that they had used the Qur’an for exorcism. The court found his story too inconsistent, ruling that it was made only in revenge in a “personal dispute”.

A quarrel between the Christian couple’s children and those of Muhammad Yousaf, from Kasur in Punjab, drove the latter to use the ‘black law’.

Muhammad Yousaf induced his driver, Muhammad Nawaz, to bear false witness and accuse the Masih of blasphemy on the basis of sections B and C of Article 295 of Pakistan’s penal code. Seven other people were also named as witnesses to the crime.

Following the Lahore High Court’s decision, Munir Masih was released on bail. The charges against him were deemed weak from the start. His wife’s release from the Sahiwal Women’s Prison is expected shortly. She should be then reunited with her husband and six children (two boys and four girls).

“The court took a brave decision,” Fr John Mall told AsiaNews. “The blasphemy law is used to settle personal scores, especially in Punjab,” he exaplined. “The Catholic Church has appealed several times to the government to act against its abuse.”

“Many cases of blasphemy have occurred and many acts of violence have been perpetrated against minorities in the area,” said Fr Amir Romail, a priest in Kasur.

In view of this outcome, he said that he hopes to see judges making similar decisions “in other cases where the accused languishes in prison for years waiting for a judgement.”

– asianews

Indonesia: Church attacked with stones, urine

 

Indonesia, May 21, 2012: Leader calls for president to take action on religious discrimination.

A leader of the Batak Society Christian Church (HKBP) of Philadelphia in West Java has urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take action against religious intolerance after radical Muslims were accused of throwing stones and urine at a church congregation.

Reverend Palti Panjaitan said almost 100 Protestants were subjected to hate speeches and murder threats on Thursday during a service to celebrate Ascension Day at a half-built church in Bekasi district.

More than 400 police and military personnel deployed to secure the service had asked church-goers to worship at a government-designated building 10 kilometers from the site to avoid a standoff with a crowd of 300 Muslim protestors.

“That was the time when the group threw stones, bags of urine and ditchwater at us,” said Rev Panjaitan, adding that the congregation had to halt the service because of the incident.

He warned the authorities that hatred between religious communities would escalate “if such religious intolerance is not resolved immediately.”

Rev Andreas Anangguru Yewangoe, chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, accused President Yudhoyono of failing to address the problem.

“It is inhumane. We are tired of facing such incidents,” he said. “If we want this state to be united, the only way is to maintain religious freedom.”

HKBP Philadelphia has been waiting for five years to gain permission to build a church in Bekasi district after submitting an application in 2007.

In December 2009, the district administration issued a letter banning congregations from worshiping on the site but in July last year the Supreme Court overruled the decision, saying the church was eligible for a permit.

HKBP Philadelphia says this has still not been issued, however.

– ucan

Hindu temple vandalized in Pakistan

May 22, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, May 21, 2012: Hindu leaders urged police to put in place better security measures to prevent such incidents.

A historic Hindu temple in Peshawar, Pakistan, which was reopened on the orders of a court last year, was vandalized today, police said.

The attackers burnt pictures and damaged a ‘shivling’ inside Gorakhnath Temple and took away idols from the shrine located within an archaeological complex in Gor Gathri area, leaders of the Hindu community said.

The shrine’s custodian told the media that this was the third attack on the temple in north-west Pakistan in the past two months.

Police officers visited the temple to probe the incident.

Hindu leaders urged police to put in place better security measures to prevent such incidents.

The temple’s custodian told police that he had seen a group of eight men inside the temple when he arrived there at 6.30 pm.

The men started burning pictures and holy books before fleeing with some idols, he said.

Members of the minority Hindu community rushed to the temple.

Footage on television showed burnt papers and utensils lying strewn on the floor of the temple.

The 160-year-old temple was reopened for Hindus last year on the orders of the Peshawar High Court.

It had been closed since Partition.

The temple was reopened after Phool Wati, the daughter of the shrine’s cleric, petitioned the high court.

– outlookindia

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