Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Priests attacked by mob in Pakistan

A Catholic priest and six Church employees were beaten by a mob on Catholic property in Karachi that has been seized illegally:
The Church is seeking help from the authorities after “land mafia” attacked two priests and several parishioners at a Catholic school in Karachi on Monday. 
Father Pervez Khalid, one other senior priest and six Church workers were assaulted by a group 70 people on April 16 after entering the playground of Cardinal Cordeiro High School which has been seized by land grabbers. 
One parishioner in his forties was taken to hospital after receiving several heavy blows.
The trouble began on Sunday when local residents informed Church authorities that people were demolishing a wall at the school which is situated in Karachi’s Korangi town. 
Other men were seen marking out a piece of ground measuring about 2,000 sq m. 
“We went to see where they made the illegal plot markings next day when about 70 men arrived and ordered us to leave. They even damaged the car of a priest who had land documents,” said Fr Khalid of Karachi’s Good Shepherd Parish [more].

Vietnamese priest in coma after beating

On April 14, 2012, Father Nguyen Van Binh was beaten by a mob sent by police in the town of Thuy Tien Xuan.
According to reports, shortly after midnight the thugs cut the electricity of the center, then they started throwing stones and objects to scare the children. A neighbor, on condition of anonymity, said that "they hit the altar of the Madonna. A child was carried away" and when he tried to rebel "they took him repeatedly slapping him in the face". Later "at least 200 policemen arrived" to help the mob destroy the Agape Family centre.

After learning of the attack, Fr. Nguyen Van Binh immediately ran to the orphanage but was struck several times by police with batons. He suffered severe head injuries (pictured) and fell into a coma. At first he was transported to hospital in Chuong My, then transferred to a hospital Vietnamese-German structure in Đức Viet, in a life-threatening condition. Faithful were also wounded in the attack. In the early afternoon of April 14, the priest returned to the Hanoi Archbishop's Curia, to be treated "strictly in private" [more].

Catholic radio broadcasts blocked in Guinea Bassau

Following a military coup on April 13, 2012 in Guinea Bassau, Catholic radio broadcasts have been blcoked.

Christians beaten mocked by Muslims in India

On March 30, 2012, seven Muslims forced their way into the home of Gaffar Shaike in the Indian town of Nutangram where eleven Christians were gathered for prayer.
Gaffar Shaike said the extremists called them pagans as they kicked, slapped and pushed the Christians, adding that they reprimanded him and his wife for dismissing several warnings from them to stop leading prayer meetings in their house. A year ago, the extremists had burned Shaike’s crops for his faith in Christ, he said.

“I asked the radicals why they barged into my house and why they were not allowing us to pray in my own home,” Shaike said, adding that the extremists were so blinded by fury that they only continued beating them, calling them pagans and threatening to continue doing so until they returned to Islam.

“We want freedom to worship Jesus in our home,” he said.

As the extremists mocked and otherwise verbally abused the Christians, a mob of about 100 Islamists gathered and charged into the house entryway, which is 72 feet long and eight feet wide, shouting anti-Christian slogans and threatening to murder them as they pushed, kicked and slapped them.

When the Christians tried to flee, the extremists blocked their way. The son of Muslim extremist Ahammed Shaike, Mohammed Kuran, beat 65-year-old widow Moyazan Bewa, Christians present said [more].

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Iranian Christians charged with apostasy

Twelve Christians in Iran have been tried for apostasy of Islam and now await the verdict.
Twelve Christians stood trial Easter Sunday in Iran, where they were called “apostates” in a courtroom and tried on multiple charges, according to sources close to Iran’s Christian community.   
The Christians had been acquitted on the same charges, including “crimes against the order,” a year ago in Bandar Anzali, a city on the Caspian Sea. The group was first arrested when authorities found them drinking wine while taking communion, according to sources. 
“It ultimately illustrates that being a Christian is illegal in Iran. No matter how clear or how open a pastor and a church may be, Christians are being brought to trial just for being Christian,” said Jason DeMars, director of the Present Truth Ministries advocacy group who is in daily contact with the Evangelical Christian community in Iran.
No verdict has yet been issued in the case [more].

Pastor attacked in Turkey

Semih Serkek, a Protestant Pastor in the Turkish city of Istanbul, was attacked on Easter by Muslim youths.
immediately after an Easter service. “They were three people around the age of 18. They wore [prayer caps] on their heads. They forced the door open and said they were going to kill me unless I recited the ‘Kelime-i Şahadet’ [Islamic confession of faith]. I received a severe blow to my chest,” Serkek told the Daily News. The attacks were not coincidental, according to Serkek, who had also served as a mentor to the three victims slain in the Malatya Zirve Publishing House incident in eastern Turkey [more].  

Iranian officials destroy church and cemetery

In the Iranian province of Kerman, government officials have destroyed a Christian church and a 200-year old cemetery.
The news service of a cultural heritage organization quoted Mohammad Mehdi Afzali, head of public relations in the Cultural Heritage organization of Kerman as saying, "Destruction of this cemetery was conducted as part of a project by the municipality and Cultural Heritage organization, to release lands around Ghal'e-Dokhtar and Ghal'e Ardeshir". 
"After the reports and photos of this destruction were published by news services, a team of experts of the Cultural Heritage office of Kerman was sent out to the cemetery to prepare an expert report" he added. 
Of course, Mr. Afzali denied this report in an interview with the pro-regime news service, IRNA on Wednesday [more]!

Chapel confiscated in Laos

In February, officials in Laos confiscated a Catholic chapel in the Savannakhek province, forcing the faithful to worship outside on Holy Saturday and without a priest.
On Saturday, three local Catholics were arrested and questioned by security officials after they removed a closure notice which was posted on the main door of the chapel by government officials in February. 
The faithful had also gathered outside the chapel to celebrate Palm Sunday.
Sister Seusy said priests from elsewhere are still being prevented from providing pastoral services for local Catholics [more].

38 killed by car bomb in Nigeria

On Easter Sunday, a suicide car bomber killed 38 people in the Nigerian city of Kaduna and damaged two local churches.
The explosion damaged the nearby All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church as churchgoers worshipped at an Easter service, the possible target of the bomber. Witnesses said it appeared the explosive-laden car attempted to go into the compound of the churches before it detonated, but was blocked by barriers in the street and was turned away by a security guard as police approached. 
"We were in the holy communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church," Pastor Joshua Raji said [more].
Boko Haram is suspected in the attack.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tunisian given 7 years in prison for posting pictures of Muhammed on Facebook

Egypt isn't the only place where people are jailed for posting pictures of Muhammed on Facebook.

Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji, both from Tunisia, have been sentenced to seven years in prison
for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad on Facebook, in a case that has fueled allegations the country’s new Islamist leaders are gagging free speech.
The two men had posted depictions of the prophet naked on the social networking site, the justice ministry said, inflaming sensitivities in a country where Muslim values have taken on a bigger role since a revolution last year [more].

Egyptian teen given 3 years in jail for posting pictures of Muhammed on Facebook

Back in January I shared with you the story of 17-year old Gamal Abdou Massoud, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail for posting images of Muhammed on Facebook.

He has now been sentenced to 3 years in jail:
An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced a 17-year-old Christian boy to three years in jail for publishing cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, actions that sparked sectarian violence. 
Gamal Abdou Massoud was also accused of distributing some of his cartoons to his school friends in a village in the southern city of Assiut, home to a large Christian population and the hometown of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda. 
“Assiut child’s court ordered the jailing of Gamal Abdou Massoud … for three years after he insulted Islam and published and distributed pictures that insulted Islam and its Prophet,” the court said in a statement seen by Reuters. 
The cartoons, published by Massoud in December, prompted some Muslims to attack Christians. Several Christian houses were burned and several Christians were injured in the violence [more].

Hindus attack Christians in Karnataka

On March 28, 2012, Mallikarjun Sangalada, a Protestant pastor in the Mundargi Gadag region of the Indian state of Karnataka, and four others, were beaten by a group of Hindu extremists:
On Wednesday, March 28, the Pastor went to a prayer meeting at the house of a believer in Dhoni, about 15 kilometers from his village. After the prayer meeting, the Pastor, along with four other believers, began distributing some leaflets inviting locals to a Christian community festival. This made some Hindu fundamentalists very angry and attacked and beat them without mercy. Then they dragged the five to the police station in Mundargi, denouncing them for "forced conversions from Hindus to Christianity" [more].

Hindu woman forced to convert to Islam

Rinkel Kumari, a 19-yeard old Hindu woman from Mirpur Mathelo in the Pakistani province of Sindh, has appealed to the supreme court in Islamabad.
The drama of Rinkel Kumari, a student of Mirpur Mathelo, a small village in the province of Sindh, began the evening of February 24: A handful of men seized her and delivered her a few hours later into the hands of a wealthy Muslim scholar, the man then called her parents, warning them that their daughter "wants to convert to Islam."

Nand Lal, the girl's father, a teacher of an elementary school, accused Naveed Shah, an influential Muslim, of kidnapping his daughter. The man has the "political cover" provided by Mian Mittho, an elected National Assembly Member, suspected of aiding and abetting. After identifying the perpetrators of the kidnapping of his daughter, he was forced to leave the area of origin to escape the threats of people affiliated with the local mafia. The father found refuge and welcome in Gurdwara in Lahore, in Punjab province, with the rest of his family.

As often happens in these cases, even the judiciary is complicit: a local judge ordered that the girl should be given to the Muslims, because her conversion is "the result of a spontaneous decision" and also stated the marriage was above board. A claim that was repeated on February 27, at the hearing before the court, after which the girl was "renamed" Faryal Shah.
This claim of her "spontaneous" conversion from Hinduism to Islam Kumari vigorously denies.  Addressing the supreme court, she said, "In Pakistan there is justice only for Muslims, justice is denied Hindus. Kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school] ... kill me."

Kuwaiti man arrested for blaspemy on Twitter

An unidentified man in Kuwait has been arrested on the charge of blasphemy for tweets he published on his Twitter account:
The man, whose name was not disclosed, defamed the Islamic faith and slandered the Prophet Mohammad, his companions and his wife, the ministry said in a statement issued on state-run news agency KUNA. He is being interrogated ahead of court proceedings. 
The ministry "regretted the abusing of social networks by some individuals to offend basic Islamic and spiritual values, vowing to show zero tolerance in combating such serious offences," it said in the statement [more].

Burmese army ransacks church

From Christian Solidarity Worldwide:
On 13 March the Burma Army ransacked Sin Lum Pang Mu Baptist Church in Pang Mu village, located in Bhamo district.  
According to Reverend Jangmaw Gam Maw, pastor of Pang Mu Church, soldiers from the 33rd battalion of the Burma Army’s 88th Infantry Division burned bibles, destroyed church property, and stole a video player, loudspeakers and villagers’ belongings. The soldiers claimed that the property belonged to a Kachin Independence Army outpost. They also took money from the church donation boxes [more].

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Christian photographer killed in Mosul

Four days after his abduction, Salmon Dawoud Salman, a 45-year old Christian, was shot nine times at close range by his kidnappers.

Chinese police desecrate grave of priest with sledgehammer

On March 19, 2012 Chinese police destroyed the tombstone of Father Joseph Shi Liming, a priest of the "underground" Church in China, with a sledgehammer who taught in the clandestine seminary in Baoding.  The day marked the 100th anniversary of his death in a car accident.

The faithful in China are saying, "Beijing is even afraid of the dead."

Christian family expelled from Egyptian town

After living in Amriya for nearly twenty years, Nabil Gergis and his family - who are Coptic Christians - has been expelled from the Egyptian town where the majority of residents are Muslim.  The cause of his expulsion is a sex tape purported to show his brother with a Muslim woman.

From the Associated Press:
Angry residents in the conservative, Muslim-majority town held protests and set fire to the Gergis family businesses. None of the attackers was prosecuted. Instead, a committee of tribal elders, local lawmakers and security officials ordered the 11 members of the Gergis family — the brother, Nabil and others — to leave town.


The incident erupted in late January, when the explicit video allegedly showing Nabil Gergis' brother with a Muslim woman circulated on residents' cell phones. The brother, who is married, has denied any affair.

Any sex outside of marriage is a lightning rod for controversy in the Muslim world, where a woman's chastity is vociferously protected by her family. That a Christian man might have an affair with a Muslim woman only further fanned the flames.

The rumors sparked widespread protests by Amriya residents, who are mostly tribal and deeply traditional. Angry residents set fire to three stores owned by the Gergis' family, which were under their homes. Some Muslim residents tried to help, but were outnumbered by the ultraconservative rioters.

Police showed up hours later and instead of investigating the attack called in the brother for questioning, Gergis said.

With tempers still high, local officials and tribal leaders held a series of meetings and decided to order the expulsion of the entire Gergis family. A Muslim family who had fired shots in the air during the protest to protect their property were initially told they must leave too, but were later allowed to return.

Amriya police argued that they could not guarantee the Gergis family's safety in the face of angry protesters, according to security officials and the Gergis family. Last week, with the family gone, their homes were robbed of cash and other belongings they had to leave behind, Gergis said [more].

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More on the Grand Mufti's words

Over at his online Coffeehouse, Brian - a friend who is more knowledgeable in things of the Middles East than I - cautions against an over-reaction to the recent calls of Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to "destroy all the churches".
Among other things, Brian notes that the Grand Mufti's call would violate Article 2 of the Kuwaiti Constitution, as Yousef Al-Shayeji, Secretary General of Democratic Platform, said. Even so, I don't think we such simply dismiss his words.
In an effort to correct the Grand Mufti's words, Dr. Bader Al-Dehani, Deputy Chairman of Kuwait Graduates Society, said:
It is inimical to democratic principles that revolve around values, tolerance, mutual respect and preservation of freedom to demolish any mosque, church or other places of worship.
If this is true, why are Christians not already to freely and publicly practice their faith in Kuwait and in other Muslim countries? Why are they only allowed to practice their faith - in his own words - according to the permissions provided in the Constitution?
I am grateful for the many denouncements of the Grand Mufti's words, but where are the calls for the full, public, and authentic legal extension of the freedom of religion to Christians?
While it is true that in some places in the Muslim world Christians are granted some freedom. The government of Qatar recently approved the building of a Maronite Catholic church in Abu Hammour. Even so, this very permission demonstrates a lack of full and public freedom of religion for Christians in Muslim countries.
As another example, if we look at the Grand Mufti's Saudi Arabia, his words simply could not be followed because of one simple fact: there are no churches in Saudi Arabia, despite there being many Christians. As Father Alexander Lucie-Smith writes in the Catholic Herald:
The Grand Mufti and all who think like him need to be challenged. Religious freedom is something we claim of right, not of privilege. The freedom of Christians to pray, to meet, to organise, to own buildings – these are non-negotiable.
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in speaking of common misunderstandings of Christians about Muslims and of Muslims about Christians, recently said of Christians in the Middle East, "You cannot deny that they are the target of a kind of opposition. I have been in the Middle East for many years and what I felt was that Christians feel they are second-class citizens in countries where Muslims are the majority."
The Prince of Jordan, Hassan Ibn Talal, recently spoke at a conference that focused on the theme, "Christianity in the East: To Where?" He said, in part, "The Arab Christians are Arabs, and are the pioneers of thought and Arab revival."
Summarizing the Prince's remarks, Father Samir Khalil Samir, S.J. said, "Prince Hassan asked for the meeting to stop this exodus [of Christians] and to ask Christians very clearly to remain." But if this is to happen, if Christians are to remain, Father Samir said, "The conditions to remain is to be recognised by the constitutions as true citizens, having the same rights of citizenship and true equalities as everybody."
I hope and pray that these conditions are being recognized for Christians in Muslim countries, but at the moment I don't see it happening.
The Grand Mufti's words come several months after Salem Abu Al-Futouh, an Egyptian Muslim cleric said that Islam will conquer Rome:
The Prophet Muhammad told us that Islam would spread. He told us about the Islamic conquest of Constantinople - Turkey of today - and indeed, it was conquered. He also told us about the conquest of Rome, which is Italy. People find this strange. "How can we conquer Italy?" they say. "We are too weak." You should consider the number of Muslims in that great Christian center - another person converts to Islam every day. Check on the Internet how many people want to convert to Islam in the very heart of that papal center of Christianity, on their own turf.
Brothers and sisters, Islam spread by means of the power of Allah, because it is the religion of Truth. When a Westerner whose heart is not filled with the hatred of Islam, someone who has not been raised on the hatred of Islam, begins to contemplate all the religions, he finds no other religion that respects human rights, and is in keeping with equality, justice, freedom, and democracy.
How he can claim that Islam respects human rights (despite the numerous restrictions placed on women in Muslim countries) and is in keeing with equality and justice (while treating Christians, at best, as second class citizens and refusing to allow them the free practice of their faith) is beyond me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "Destroy all the churches"

You won't likely learn about this in the main stream media, but this past Thursday the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, called on Muslims in Kuwait to do whatever is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region."

Not only is the Grand Mufti the supreme Islamic leader in Saudi Arabia, he is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (an Islamic scholarly association) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.

The situation in Kuwait where only Islam can legally be practiced will soon likely grow much more serious, especially since a Kuwaiti Parliamentarian, Osama Al-Munawer, has already called " to ban the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state," according to Arabian Business. Another member of the Kuwaiti Parliament, Mohammed Hayef, said his country "already has an excessive number of churches compared to the country’s Christian minority."

The Washington Times ran an editorial on Friday in which the editorial staff wrote:
If the pope called for the destruction of all the mosques in Europe, the uproar would be cataclysmic. Pundits would lambaste the church, the White House would rush out a statement of deep concern, and rioters in the Middle East would kill each other in their grief. But when the most influential leader in the Muslim world issues a fatwa to destroy Christian churches, the silence is deafening.
Get Religionist Mollie asks the same question:
Can you imagine the coverage if, say, the Pope or some other major religious leader called for similar destruction? Even if it were a minor Christian or Jewish figure using such rhetoric, one imagines it would receive tremendous coverage.
Lest anyone think the Grand Mufti's words should not be troubling, it should be noted as The Washington Times goes on to say,
This is not a small-time radical imam trying to stir up his followers with fiery hate speech. This was a considered, deliberate and specific ruling from one of the most important leaders in the Muslim world. It does not just create a religious obligation for those over whom the mufti has direct authority; it is also a signal to others in the Muslim world that destroying churches is not only permitted but mandatory.

Nigerian government meets with Boko Haram

The government of Nigeria met last week with leaders of Boko Haram to discuss an end to the growing violence against Christians by the Muslim terrorist group.
"BH (Boko Haram) has mentioned a conditional ceasefire but it wants all its members released from prison. The government sees this as unacceptable but is willing to release foot soldiers," a traditional leader and civil rights activist involved in the talks told Reuters, asking not to be named. 
"It is the first time a ceasefire has been mentioned, so it is a massive positive, but given the lack of trust a resolution is still a way off," he added [more].

Friday, March 16, 2012

Christians fleeing northern Iraqi refuges

The New York Times has published a good article describing the decline of Christianity in Iraq as Christians flee their refuges taken up in the north of the country:
Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation, are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them [more]. 

Policemen rapes Christian girl

During the night of 7/8 March, a Pakistani policemen raped a 14 year old Christian girl, even as an another man bound and gagged her grandparents in another room.  Reports are calling the girl "Kiran" to protect her identity.

From Asia News:
 Nawaz Wahla, a law enforcement official, along with an accomplice Mehboob, a milkman, jumped the fence and broke into the house. According to the newspaper The Express Tribune reports they tied up the grandparents and repeatedly raped the girl, at gun point. 
Once she had escaped, Kiran released the grandparents who have accompanied her to the hospital for medical treatment, however, neither the doctors nor the police wanted to bring relief to the Christian girl, or take action to catch the perpetrators of violence. Only the official opening of the investigation, initiated by a diligent judge allowed the detention of Mehboob - the accomplice - while Nawaz has so far eluded capture.

Boko Haram threatens eradication of Christianity in northern Nigeria, followed by attacks

On March 4, 2012, Boko Haram threatened the eradication of Christianity in northern Nigeria, saying "we will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won’t be able to stay."

A spokesman told that over the coming weeks Boko Haram "will launch a number of attacks, coordinated and part of the plan to eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country."

The spokesman also warned of a plot to kidnap Christian women, saying, "we are going to put into action new efforts to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women" to hold them for ransom.

On March 7, 2012, Boko Haram gunmen shot and killed Adamu Ahmadu, a customs official, after they stormed his home in Potiskum.  They killed others with him, as well.

On March 11, 2012, an explosion at the gate of St. Finbar's church in Jos has killed at least ten people (including the attacker who drove a car loaded with explosives) and wounded several others, just ten minutes after Mass began.  Boko Haram is suspected in the attacks, which regrettably led to retaliatory vandalism and violence, killing another ten people.

His Excellency the Most Reverend Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, called upon the faithful to "overcome evil with love, overcome evil with good, and then to allow God to take control of the situation, while at the same time asking God’s men to something urgently to bring this to a final conclusion"

On March 15, 2012, Reuters posted an excellent Factbox and summary of Boko Haram.

This year alone, Boko Haram is responsible for at least 300 deaths.

And still Boko Haram is not among the U.S.'s suspected terror groups even though Boko Haram's spokesman calls their activities a "campaign of terror."  Why?

Catholic land seized in Vietnam

Government officials in Vietnam have seized land belonging to the Redemptorists, whose spokesperson told Asia News:
We have already sent three petitions, with all the evidence to the legal committee of the people and all those responsible, but so far we have not received any response from any office. Meanwhile , the properties of which we are the legal owners, has been violated.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Two Christians kidnapped in Pakistan

Two Christians were recently kidnapped in Karachi:
Thirty residents of the village of Kot Meerath in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab brutally tortured Seema Bibi, a Christian woman, and paraded her through the streets because of her “anti-Islam” views. Police have made 26 arrests [more]

7 American missionaries attacked by 200 Muslims

Seven Presbyterian missionaries from America were recently attacked by at least 200 angry Muslims in Bangladesh:
Police arrested two teachers and a student from an Islamic seminary in Madarganj, 200km (120 miles) north of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, following the attack.  
At least 200 angry locals chased the missionaries’ car and threw stones at it, leaving three with cuts from broken glass, the district police chief said [more] 

Sawiris still faces charges of contempt of Islam because of tweets

Back in mid-January, Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian Christian, posted pictures of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnnie Mouse with a face veil, which led to his being charged with contempt of Islam.

A court in Cairo recently dismissed this charge, though Sawiris still faces two similar charges because of the same images.

Egyptian Christian sentenced for contempt of Islam

Makram Diab, an Egyptian Christian, was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of a charge of contempt of Islam:
An Egyptian court has sentenced a Christian man to six years in prison on charges of showing contempt for religion and insulting the Prophet Mohammed, reported the semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram on Thursday.

The court, in the southern Egyptian province of Assiut, said that Makram Diab, a school employee, had made offensive remarks against Islam's prophet, according to the report.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Christians stone on Temple Mount

In Jerusalem this past Sunday morning, a group of Christian pilgrims were stoned atop the Temple Mount by a group of 50 Palestinian Muslims:
A mob of some 50 Palestinian Muslims stoned a group of Christian tourists atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Sunday morning. Three of the Israeli police officers who acted to protect the Christian group were wounded by the stone-throwers. 
Police arrested 11 Palestinians, several of them minors, for their role in the attack.
The attack is believed to have been instigated by the former Muslim mufti of Jerusalem, Ekrama Sabri [more].

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kidnapped priests released

You may recall that Fathers Joseph Mackwey and Sylvester Mogga were kidnapped from St. Josephine Bakhita parish in Rabak on January 15th in Sudan.  I am delighted to pass on the happy news that they were released January 30th.  At the time of their release they were in good condition.

Hindus attack Catholic college in Karnataka

After St. Joseph Angel in Karnataka, India failed to fly the Indian flag on a national holiday on January 27th, a group of angry Hindu adherents attacked the college, beating students.  Following the attacks, the rector of the college, Father Melvin Medonca, was arrested:
During the attack. Fr. Melvin Mendonca, director of the institute, and Fr. Anil D'Mello local superior of the Jesuits, tried to calm the crowd, which broke into the school, disrupting classes. The police were present but did nothing to stop the attackers. Students from the school had to form a shield to defend their rector, but were beaten by security agents before the extremists. To avoid accidents, the priest turned himself in to agents. Under pressure from the radicals, the police forced the priest to walk the distance to station on foot under a shower of verbal abuse, anti-Christian slogans and intimidation. Without any reason, the agents detained Fr. Melvin at the station only releasing him at 9 in the evening after nine hours of interrogation [more].

A look at Boko Haram

On January 31st, Reuters' Faith World published a special report on "Nigeria's Boko Haram - between rebellion and jihad."

Noting an increase in attacks by Boko Haram, Joe Brock asks:
Is Boko Haram just the latest in a long list of violent spasms in Nigeria, or is it the next battalion of global jihadists, capable of thrusting Africa's most populous nation into civil war? 
The answer to that is not simple. There is evidence - some of it detailed in this story for the first time - that elements of Boko Haram have received training from foreign militant groups, including North Africa-based al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM [more]).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Irish Bishops warns of secularist advance and is accused of inciting hatred

His Excellency the Most Reverend Philip Boyce, Bishop of Raphoe, has been accused of inciting hatred following a sermon he preached in Knock:
The gardai have confirmed to former Fine Gael election candidate John Colgan that they have prepared and forwarded a file to the DPP after he made allegations that the address by Dr Boyce was in breach of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989. 
The homily, entitled: "To Trust in God" was delivered to worshippers during a novena at the Marian shrine in Co Mayo last August and subsequently reported in the media, including The Irish Times, under the headline: "'Godless culture' attacking church, says bishop." 
Mr Colgan, a retired chartered engineer and economist from Leixlip, Co Kildare, referred in his formal complaint to two key passages in Dr Boyce's homily which he believes broke the law. 
One of the passages referred to the Catholic Church in Ireland being "attacked from outside by the arrows of a secular and godless culture". 
A second passage, which was included in the complaint, stated: "For the distinguishing mark of Christian believers is the fact they have a future; it is not that they know all the details that await them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness." 
Mr Colgan, who was a leader in the 'Campaign to Separate Church and State' in the late 1990s, said in his complaint: "I believe statements of this kind are an incitement to hatred of dissidents, outsiders, secularists, within the meaning of the [Incitement to Hatred] Act, who are perfectly good citizens within the meaning of the civil law. The statements exemplify the chronic antipathy towards secularists, humanists etc, which has manifested itself in the ostracising of otherwise perfectly good Irish citizens, who do not share the aims of the Vatican's Irish Mission Church" [more].
It is a sad day when one is accused of hatred simply for speaking the truths of Catholic faith.

Christians in Saudi Arabia face deportation

Saudi Arabian authorities recently raided a home in Jedda during a religious service conducted by Ethiopian Christians and have detained 35 people, most of whom are women and three of whom were strip searched.

The 35 Christians now face deportation on charges of "illicit mingling," though no law defines that meaning.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kidnapped Christian back with her family after 10 years

A fifteen year old Christian girl by the name Nadia Bibi was kidnapped in 2001 and forced to marry a Muslim man, Maqsood Ahmed, who beat her and tried to have her convert her parents to Islam.  Thanks be to God, Nadia is now home with her Christian family, but her story is not unique in Pakistan.
After 10 years in December 2011, Nadia found the strength to escape, returning home to her parents. However Maqsood returned with a group of armed men, threatening to kill and kidnap Nadia’s younger sister. The family then fled and turned to the NGO CLAAS (Center for Legal Aid Assistence and Settlement) that protects Pakistani Christians. CLAAS has arranged to host Nadia and her sister in a hidden place, starting a new criminal case against Maqsood.

Commenting on the ten years in which she was forcibly separated from her family, Nadia said:
Maqsood made my life miserable. I was afraid of being killed because Maqsood knew I was not happy with him. I felt totally helpless and I was very confused. Maqsood is inhumane, he has ruined my life. Now I have regained hope and even faith.

The Church Persecuted in 2011

Writing for The Catholic Thing, George J. Marlin summarized the most serious acts of anti-Christian violence that occured throughout the world in 2011.  Be sure to read it.

Sisters discriminated against by Muslims in Bosnia

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Bosnian Sister Ivanka Mihaljevic, the Provincial Superior of hte Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King, spoke of an increasing discrimination and verbal abuse of religious women in Bosnia.

Due to increasing fears and verbal abuse from Muslims who are imigrating from Saudi Arabia and with whom the Sisters must conduct business, they now only leave their convents in groups of at least two.

Sister Mihaljevic said:
A recent example occurred when one of the Sisters wanted to buy bread.
“Although the loaves were in plain sight, the proprietor claimed he was out of bread,” Sister Ivanka said. “But he simply did not want to sell it to a Catholic nun.”
“Again and again, we are made to feel unwelcome, even though this is our home.”
By contrast, Sister Ivanka emphasized, native Bosnian Muslims are “peaceable,” and are often ashamed of the behavior of their extremist co-religionists who are migrating to the country.

Christians fearful after Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis gain 73% of seats

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis have won 73% of the seats in the lower house of the Egyptian parliament, which has many of the Christians yet remaining in Egypt scared.

Speaking for the Egyptian Catholic Church, Father Rafik Greiche said, "The victory of Islamist parties scares Christians but expresses the will of the Egyptian people."

According to Father Greiche, the victors have said "Christians and religious minorities would have the same rights as Muslim citizens. It is therefore premature to made good or bad predictions."  We will see.

Kidnappers demand $185,000 for release of two priests

The two priests recently kidnapped in Sudan are being held in the border town of Wadakona.  The kidnappers have now demanded 500,000 Sudanese pounds, the equivalent of 185,000 USD.

Two churches bombed in Nigeria

The Evangelical Church of West Africa and Our Lady of St. Lauretto Catholic Church in Fadaman Mada in the state of Bauchi were bombed Monday morning about 5:00 a.m.  No one was injured and little damage was done to the buildings.

Boko Haram kills at least 215 in latest attack in Nigeria, 35,000 flee

The Islamic group Boko Haram orchestrated a series of attacks in the Nigerian city of Kano that have killed at least 215 people:
At least a dozen explosions and gunfire rang out around the city, the second largest in the country, located in the Muslim north: attackers targeted police stations, immigration offices, the headquarters of the secret services, but also homes. The chaos led police to declare a curfew for the more than 10 million inhabitants.
Boko Haram ordered Christians to leave the north of Nigeria.

Following the imposition of a curfew, security in the city has been heightened:
"The police were on a stop-and-search today and in two of the checkpoints, the Boko Haram members on sighting the checkpoints abandoned their vehicles and ran," a high-level police officer told Reuters, asking not to be named.
"The vehicles were later checked and the cars were loaded with explosives. Two brand new Hilux open pick-up vans were also found packed with explosives in the Bompai area of Kano."
We can be thankful more people were not killed.

His Excellency the Most Reverend John Namazi Niyiring, Bishop of Kano, told the Agenzia Fides the city is still in shock:
The attackers seemed well trained and wore camouflage uniforms like those used by the Mobile Police Force. This misled some civilians that directed themselves towards the terrorists, believing them to be policemen, and were killed without mercy.
Reuters reports that Boko Haram has killed 935 people since 2009, yet the group is still not on the U.S. terror list.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, some 35,000 have fled since Friday's attacks.
Indonesian authorities recently interrupted and forced a prayer service to end at the Indonesian Christian Church in Bogor.  The service was interrupted by at least 70 members of the Muslim Communication Forum Forkami and the Islamic Reform Movement Garis.

Claiming the Indonesian Christian Church lied on its application for a building permit, Diani Budiarti, Mayor of Bogor, closed the church.  Though his decision was overturned by the courts, the church has not yet been allowed to reopen.

The Jakarta Post reports that
The police that had been on guard around the house, about 1 kilometer from the disputed church building, did not stop the commotion until the church service ended at 9:30 a.m. The police later dispersed the radical groups, identified as Forkami and Garis, and evacuated the churchgoers.

“We have to use the house of a church member for the service … We have no where else to go to worship,” church spokesperson Bona Sigalingging said Sunday.
Since 2008, the congregation has not been allowed to worship in its church and has been forced to worship in homes.

Catholic schools in Indonesia attacked by Muslim group

Three Catholic schools were attacked in Indonesia on January 19th by Muslims in response to a post on a social networking site in which someone claiming to be Rudi Yohanes said he was "anti-Islamic."  It seems both the name and the profile of Yohanes are not authentic and the actual identity of the poster is not known.

Asia reports a few details of the attacks:
According to local sources, 25 extremists forced their way into Pangudi Luhur 1 Junior High School Thursday of last week where they vandalised the school’s property. At the time, a group of students was involved in extracurricular activities. The school, which is run by the Brothers of Christian Instruction of Ploërm (FIC), suffered damages, including eight broken windows.

On the same day, the Stela Duce 2 Catholic School, which is run by the nuns of Saint Charles Borromeo, was also attacked by young fundamentalists. This was followed by another attack, against the St John Bosco Catholic High School, also in Yogyakarta.
The schools were closed following the attacks but are now reopened.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Egypt's Christian continue to live in fear

The Washinton Times reported Wednesday that Coptic Christians in Egypt fear Islamists' rise as attacks against them increase following former Preside Mubarek's demise:
The Christian community in Egypt has dwindled since the birth of Islam about 1,400 years ago, but Minya remains one of the Egyptian cities with a large population of Coptic Christians, making up about 40 percent of its more than 2 million inhabitants. Copts, an Anglicized Arabic word for Egyptian, share many theological beliefs of Roman Catholicism. 
Minya also is a stronghold of Gemaa Islamiyya, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that attacked Coptic Christians, government agencies and tourists throughout the 1990s. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the hard-line Salafist al-Noor party are the most popular parties here among Muslims. 
Behind the quiet and quaint facade of Abo Korkas, Christian residents who live amid a labyrinth of dirt roads say they are worried. 
Peace was long a pillar of this town until a group of men who are believed to be Salafi Muslims set fire to the homes of Christians like Ms. Hanna's and smashed stone walls, leaving 10 properties in soot-stained rubble.
For Egypt's Christians, the recent uprising have not been good:
During the revolution, many Christians thought a new government would help quell repressive tactics and create opportunities for equal rights, but the ongoing political turbulence has not improved the situation for Christians. 
One of the main concerns plaguing this village is the lack of a proper security network that might help prevent more attacks. Police have largely been absent from Egypt's streets since they were withdrawn in January 2011, after deadly clashes with protesters. 
"See this?" asks lawyer Amir Sabry, pointing to a herd of horses, donkeys and cows being led alongside Egypt's Agricultural Road, which heads north into Cairo. "They are headed home from the fields because at night there are thieves." 
Michael Mounir, a Coptic Christian political leader and president of the Al-Hayat Party, says Christians are not used to living without protection. 
"They're living under constant fear and repression," he said.

Archbishop encourages prayer to entrust Nigeria to Mary amid threats of continued violence

His Excellency the Most Reverend John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, addressed a pastoral letter to his faithful in which he warned of text messages
that threaten the existence of plans by some Muslim groups to massacre Christians in the North on a specific night. Many people have been seriously shaken by such utterances. Given the experience of the past, it is understandable that one would not dismiss such texts as empty threats. We cannot take chances with what has become a matter of life or death.
While encouraging his faithful to count on the protection of the civic authorities - which he says Christians have a right to expect - Archbishop Onaiyeken also said Christians in the north of Nigeria must "be vigilant and security conscious all around us: in our homes, places of work and above all in our places of worship."

He also instructed two prayer to be prayed at the conclusion of each celebration of the Holy Mass: a Prayer for Nigeria in Distress and the Memorare.

Two priests kidnapped in Sudan

Aid to the Church in Need reports that two priests, Father Joseph Wakwey and Father Sylvester Mogga, in Sudan were kidnapped on January 20, 2012 from the rectory of St. Josephine Bakhita parish in Rabak, which is south of Khartoum.
His Excellency the Most Reverend Daniel Adwok Kur, Auxiliary Bishop of Khartoum, reports Aid to the Church in Need,
criticized the Government of Sudan for appearing to brush off the kidnappings and saying that the abductors are “foreigners” who cannot be controlled.  
The bishop added, “Innocent people are not there to be brutalized and the authorities must be called to account for what is going on.”
The Agenzia Fides reported the kidnappers said the two priests would be released on January 17th, but as of the 18th they had not been freed, which also reports that
the kidnappers belong to a Shiluk militia, which attacked the parish, because according to them, an officer of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was hiding, SPLA is the movement that fought for the independence of South Sudan and is currently in power in the new State.
According to the Vatican Insider, Bishop Adwok also condemned the increase of kidnappings in the region.
A meeting was to have been held yesterday afternoon to negotiate the release of the two priests, who are still alive and are being held in the border region between North and South Sudan.

Christmas Day mastermind arrested, and escaped

Nigerian authorities recently arrested Kabiru Sokoto at a Borno state governor's mansion.  Sokoto is believed to have planned the Christmas Day bombings at five churches in northern Nigeria by the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, according to a report from the Associated Press.

His arrest, however, did not last long; authorities were transferring Sokoto from a police station in Abuja to one in Abaji when they were attacked and Sokoto escaped.

Archbishop calls for release of Bishops and priests held by Chinese government

In an interview with Asia News, His Excellency the Most Reverend Savio Hon Tai-fai, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, spoke of the persecution of Christians in China, saying.  He said:
The news of arrests, disappearances, detention in forced labour camps or house arrest of bishops or priests, is quite damaging for China. If these people have done something wrong, please send them to court, not to prison or isolation. This mode does not solve any problems and damages China’s international image.
Archbishop Savio Hon recently called for the release of nine Bishops and priests currently held by the Chinese government, eight of whom are part of the "underground" Church that it is not recognized by the government.  China refuses to acknowlege their captivity.

Nigerian Bishop issues pastoral letter

The Agenzia Fides reports that His Excellency the Most Reverend Matthew Hasah Kukah, Archbishop of Sokoto, has written a pastoral letter following the Christmas Day bombings and subsequent threats by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

Archbishop Kukah has proposed three steps for Christians to follow:
  1. Prayer for the country of Nigeria;
  2. Solidarity among all believers, both Christians and Muslims; and, 
  3. Religious leaders should condemn violence and corruption.

Iranian pastor faces death for refusing to renounce Christianity

Yousef Nadarkhani, a Protestant pastor of the Church of Iran, was arrested 2009 and charged with the crime of apostasy, of rejecting the Islamic faith, and convicted of the charge in September 2010.  He was sentenced to death.

On December 30, 2011, Nadarkhani refused to reject his Christian faith for the third time and so be released from his sentence, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

2011 worst year for Christians in India

The Christian Today reports on a study released January 13, 2012 by the Catholic Secular Forum which describes the year 2011 as the worst year for Christians in India.

The study, titled Rising Anti-Christian Violence, focuses on 250 specific incidences using evidence from sources, including government records and "categorizes the nature of the crimes with the list including death and murder, grievous injuries, rape/molestation, destruction of churches/houses and Christian property, desecration of bibles/religious articles, Christians jailed and arrested, church workers insulted/threatened, foreign missionaries deported, and more."
The report also lists the most dangerous Indian states for Christians:
Karnataka heads the list of top 10 persecution states, followed by Orissa where half a dozen martyrs died for refusing to yield their faith. Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Jammu & Kashmir follow the list. 

Pakistani Bishops call for change in laws to protect Christians

A Catholic member of the Pakistani parliament, Michael Shind, is speaking out against the unacceptable treatment of Christians in his country, largely as a result of the country's anti-blasphemy law.

The Vatican Insider summarized the situation in Pakistan (emphases original):
Children raped and tortured, families extorted, abuse and violence taking place at the expense of terrified victims who remain silent: this is the reality of what is happening to the Christian community in some suburban quarters of Karachi, Southern Pakistan’s biggest city and the capital of the Sindh province.
The Agenzia Fides recently reported that
In 2011, because of the "black law" (composed of the articles 295b and 295c of the Penal Code), at least 161 people were indicted and 9 were killed with extrajudicial executions, the victims of blasphemy accusations. Such accusations, said a Muslim lawyer recently, anonymous for security reasons, "are false in 95% of cases".
In the same article, the Agenzia Fides summarized the findings of the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding the situation in Pakistan during the year 2011:
The year 2011 saw the killing of high profile personalities, such as the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer and the Federal Minister for minorities, Shabhaz Bhatti, "murders committed by religious extremist groups infiltrated in the police force", notes the Commission. "The state played an ambiguous role to appease the religious extremism and remained a silent spectator of such killings" is what is underlined. "This government's ineptitude - the text continues - has favored forced conversion to Islam of girls from minority religious groups: in total, in 2011, about 1,800 girls between Hindus and Christians, were forced to convert to Islam, with means such as kidnapping and rape".
The Report, recalling the 161 indicted and 9 killed for "blasphemy", notes that "the government has not made any progress on the draconian blasphemy law, which has cost many lives". "Authorities -it states - have taken on, in secret, a paternalistic attitude towards the militant groups. The courts have proven to be friends of the militants and terrorists. In many cases the terrorists were released by the courts, under the guise of formal or procedural deficiencies". The text also mentions hundreds of "honor killing" deaths, the increase in sectarian violence in Karachi (1,800 deaths in 2011) and Baluchistan (225 deaths, more than 6,000 missing).
In light of this, Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan issued a statement to the Pakistani government's Federal Ministry for Human Rights calling for  "changes in the Constitution and laws and policies to ensure the restoration of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights to minorities."
At the same time, the commission also condemned the Pakistani government's recent seizure of Christian lands in Punjab, which some 2,000 Christians recently protested.

Two missionaries convicted by Sharia court in India

Father Jim Borst, an 80-year old Dutch priest, and Chander Mani Khanna, a Protestant pastor, have been convicted by a Sharia court in Kashmir, India of so-called "forced-conversions," announced the Deputy Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Maulana Mohammad Nasirul Islam, though the Sharia court has no official standing in India.

The statement from the Sharia court declared:
It has been proved beyond doubt that the accused pastor along with other accomplice Jim Borst has been involved in religious conversions.
The fate of Borst and Khanna is yet to be decided by the Sharia court.

5 myths about anti-Christian persecution

Writing last week in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen address five myths about anti-Christian persecution that is well worth a read and much consideration.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fr. Barron on Christian persecution

Pakistani government bulldozes Church buildings

This morning Punjab officials in Pakistan ordered several families to leave the building in which they slept at 6:30 a.m. and proceeded to demolish every building on a piece of property owned by the Church, including seven houses and a church.

The families are now homeless.

His Excellency the Most Reverend Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore, can prove ownership of the property since 1887 and has accused the government of "land-grabbing."

4 Christians killed when fleeing northern Nigeria

Following the recent order given to Christians living in northern Nigeria to return to the south by the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, four Christians were shot dead yesterday at a gas station as they sought to flee the north.

20 Pentecostals attacked in India

In the Indian city of Anekal (near Karnataka), a group of armed Hindus attacked 20 Pentecostal Christians over false accusations of forced conversions.

Archbishop's residence attacked in Kirkuk

Two gunmen from Baghdad opened fire on the residence of the Archbishop of Kirkuk, killing two.  One person has been arrested and Archbishop Sako and his aides were unharmed.  Police suspect the intended target of the attack was Jala Niftaji, a member of Parliament who lives nearby.

Leaders urged to stop anti-Christian violence in Orissa

The Orissa Province of India has been a place of much persecution of Christians for years and two more Christians were arrested on Tuesday.  From Asia News:
Yesterday, at 4.30 am (local time), the police stopped Baliguda Junus Pradhan, president of the NGO Jana Kalyan Samaj Christians; accused of links with local Naxal Maoists. A few hours earlier, police had arrested the pastor Raikia Sukadeb Digal, of the Baptist Church Danekbadi for alleged proselytizing and forced conversions of Hindus.

Of the three assassinations mentioned by the president of the GCIC, the most recent is that of Christian activist Rabindra Parichha, who bled to death after his throat was slit by unknown assailants on December 15, 2011. At the time of his discovery, which occurred in the town of Bhanjanagar, the had also been body shot in the abdomen [more].

Persecutions in Laos

In the Communist nation of Laos, authorities of the village of Boukham arrested seven Christian leaders on December 16, 2011 and put them in the stocks for violating the traditional customs of the villagers even though Christianity is protected under the Lao constitution.  They were finally released on December 30, 2011 and fined.  The village officials are in violation of the law.

In the village of Huey, a deceased Christian woman was refused a Christian burial by village leaders on Christmas Day.

In the village of Natoo, village leaders on December 21, 2011 ordered 47 Christians - the only Christians in Natoo - to renounce their faith in Christ or be expelled from the village.

Pope: Religious freedom expresses the most fundamental reality of the person

In an address to the ambassadors accreditd to the Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI recently warned of the growing persecution of Christians throughout the world.  He said, with my emphases:
In this perspective. it is clear that an effective educational programme also calls for respect for religious freedom. This freedom has individual, collective and institutional dimensions. We are speaking of the first of human rights, for it expresses the most fundamental reality of the person. All too often, for various reasons, this right remains limited or is flouted. I cannot raise this subject without first paying tribute to the memory of the Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death. Sadly, we are not speaking of an isolated case. In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes. At times they are forced to leave the countries they have helped to build because of persistent tensions and policies which frequently relegate them to being second-class spectators of national life. In other parts of the world, we see policies aimed at marginalizing the role of religion in the life of society, as if it were a cause of intolerance rather than a valued contribution to education in respect for human dignity, justice and peace. In the past year religiously motivated terrorism has also reaped numerous victims, especially in Asia and in Africa; for this reason, as I stated in Assisi, religious leaders need to repeat firmly and forcefully that “this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction”.[4] Religion cannot be employed as a pretext for setting aside the rules of justice and of law for the sake of the intended “good”. In this context I am proud to recall, as I did in my native country, that the Christian vision of man was the true inspiration for the framers of Germany’s Basic Law, as indeed it was for the founders of a united Europe. I would also like to bring up several encouraging signs in the area of religious freedom. I am referring to the legislative amendment whereby the public juridical personality of religious minorities was recognized in Georgia; I think too of the sentence of the European Court of Human Rights upholding the presence of the crucifix in Italian schoolrooms. It is also appropriate for me to make particular mention of Italy at the conclusion of the 150th anniversary of her political unification. Relations between the Holy See and Italy experienced moments of difficulty following the unification. In the course of time, however, concord and the mutual desire for cooperation, each within its proper domain, prevailed for the promotion of the common good. I hope that Italy will continue to foster a stable relationship between Church and State, and thus serve as an example to which other nations can look with respect and interest.
On the continent of Africa, to which I returned during my recent visit to Benin, it is essential that cooperation between Christian communities and Governments favour progress along the path of justice, peace and reconciliation, where respect is shown for members of all ethnic groups and all religions. It is painful to realize that in different countries of the continent this goal remains distant. I think in particular of the renewed outbreak of violence in Nigeria, as we saw from the attacks against several churches during the Christmas period, the aftermath of the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, the continuing instability in the Great Lakes region and the humanitarian emergency in the countries of the Horn of Africa. I once again appeal to the international community to make every effort to find a solution to the crisis which has gone on for years in Somalia.

Commenting of the Holy Father's address, the Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See, His Excellency Mordechay Levy, said, " I think the Holy Father saw the light in the window, and he encouraged the lights to be stronger, and I think that’s very much welcomed by us."

Let us pray that this light in the window becomes a great flame.


The director of the Pakistani Bishops' comission on Justice and Peace, Peter Jacob, expressed gratitude for the Pope's remembrance of Shabaz Bhatti:
Let me welcome the speech and the mention of Shabaz Bhatti by the Holy Father.  Most people, especially the Christians in Pakistan, they will appreciate keeping not only the reference but the memory of this great leader alive.

Egyptian Christian charged with contempt of Islam because of a tweet

Naguib Sawiris, a Coptic Christian in Egypt, has been charged with contempt of Islam for tweeting a cartoon some Muslims find offensive.  What was so offensive about the cartoon?  It showed Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse with a face veil.

Boko Haram has supporters in government, military and security forces

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has warned that the threat posed by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram may be more serious than initially thought because it has supporters both within the government - in every branch - and within the military.
President Jonathan warned:
Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won’t even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house.
Speaking with Agenzie Fides, he warned that the present situation is worse than that of the civil war that lasted from 1967-1970:
 During the Civil War, we knew and could even know on which side the enemy came from... but the challenge we face today is more complicated.
Following an order from Boko Haram for Christians to leave the north of Nigeria, His Excellency the Most Reverend Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos, does told Agenzia Fides he does not think Christians in the north are fleeing at the moment, but he does have fears for the future:
"At the moment I do not think there is a massive movement of Christians from the north, except in areas where several people were killed, in which the frequency of violence was very intense," said Bishop Kaigama. "In these areas the Christians, especially those from the south, as the Ibo people, are deeply anxious and are preparing to return to their home areas".

Archbishop Kaigama is also worried because even the Muslims who live in the south are affected by the climate of violence. "I have just returned from a visit in southern Nigeria. Even there, the Muslims, who are from the north, are deeply concerned and are preparing to return to the north". "It is, in my opinion, a very dangerous development."

Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, warned President Jonathan that the present state of affairs is "beyond your powers" in a video posted on YouTube.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cardinal Okogie: We will not run away, this is our homeland

His Eminence Anthony Olobunmi Cardinal Okogie, Archbiship of Lagos, recently gave an interview to The Vatican Insider following the recent bomb attacks in Nigeria on Christmas Day and Boko Haram's recent order for Christians to leave Northern Nigeria in which he reflects on the present difficulties.

Asia Bibi's lawyer threatened with death

The lawyer of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman condemned to death for blasphemy, have also been threatened with death for seeking to prove Bibi's innocence.

The Vatican Insider has a piece coverning the circumstances of Bibi's conviction.

6 Christians killed in Nigeria, 10 wounded

In the northern Nigerian city of Gombe, armed men entered the Deeper Life Christian Ministry Church and opened fire, killing 6 and wounding 10 on January 6th.

The attack occured only a few days after the Islamic militant group Boko Haram told Christians to leave the north of Nigeria.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

As Christians increase, so does persecution

The Economist has a brief piece surveying the growth of Christianity throughout the world and the concurrent increase of persecution of Christians.

As a cursory overview, we are given these facts:
But moving from the jaded north to the dynamic south does not portend an easy future. In Nigeria scores of Christians have died in Islamist bomb attacks, targeting Christmas prayers. In Iran and Pakistan Christians are on death row, for “apostasy”—quitting Islam—or blasphemy. Dozens of churches in Indonesia have been attacked or shut. Two-thirds of Iraq’s pre-war Christian population have fled. In Egypt and Syria, where secular despots gave Christianity a shield of sorts, political upheaval and Muslim zeal threaten ancient Christian groups. Not all Christianity’s woes are down to Muslims. The faith faces harassment in formally communist China and Vietnam. In India Hindu nationalists want to penalise Christians who make converts. In the Holy Land local churches are caught between Israeli encroachment on their property and Islamist bids to monopolise Palestinian life. Followers of Jesus may yet become a rarity in his homeland.
There is, however, according to the author, some reason to hope things may be improving:
There are signs of change. The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation has, with American encouragement, toned down its bid to outlaw “blasphemy” in various UN resolutions. It also condemned the attacks in Nigeria. But more Muslim leaders need to accept that changing creed is a legal right. On that one point, the West should not back down. Otherwise believers, whether Christian or not, remain in peril. 

Coptic Christians more concerned about the next Patriarch than the next President

Ahramonline has an interesting article exploring the views of Coptic Christians in Egypt to the upcoming presidential election, and a few other circumstances as well.

Of particular interest are these words:
And while the nation is busy debating the pros and cons of potential presidential runners, these two women, like others present at the Coptic Cathedral on Christmas Eve, said that for them the greater concern is who will be the next patriarch, rather than president.

"Whoever comes would still not do us full justice, because the mentality of looking at Copts as lesser citizens than the Muslims has not changed and any president would not want to offend the majority," said Mariana. "We are hoping things will get better but we know it is a long way to go before things do get better."

Friday, January 6, 2012

The exclusion of Catholics

Writing at the Mirror of Justice, Robert George passes on a note from one of his former students who is questioning the place of faithful Catholics in society if same-sex "marriage" is, as many claim, simply inevitable.

The student asked his professor at law school:
...if the SSM advocates are right and opposition to SSM becomes analogous to racism in our society, what will happen to Catholics and others whose views on SSM cannot and will not change? Are they to be excluded from public office, political and judicial appointments, or places of trust and responsibility within private institutions (e.g., law firm partnerships)? I posed the question to him because I was curious to hear his response, since he is generally a kind and reasonable person who seemed open to other viewpoints.
He found the response unsettling:
Well, they [Catholics and others] will either have to change their views or be treated in the same way that white supremacists and the segregationist Senators were treated. They were excluded from the judiciary entirely for decades because of the South's views on race.
These days are coming folks, and anyone who says differently knows neither history nor the present situation.

In Pakistan: "Go away or we will kill you and your family"

In the Pakistani city of Lahore, Ilias Bhatti, 36, a Catholic banker, has been threatened with death - and he death of his family - if he does not leave the city.

Muslims have already set fire to his care and threatened next to set fire to his house.  Even his daughter has been threatened with kidnapping.

Three acts of violence in India

In the Indian Province of Mangalore three incidents of violence against Christians have recently taken place.

On December 28th, a nativity scene was burned in the city of Karnataka.  On the same day, in the city of Haleyangad, about a dozen assailants threw stones at a Protestant hall and broke its windows, three motor bikes, and surveilance cameras.

On Christmas Day in Karnataka, 15 Christians were attacked while eating dinner, leaving one with a broken leg.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teenager sentenced to 15 days in jail and Christian homes burned after Facebook images of Muhammed

After images of the Prophet Muhammed were posted on his Facebook page, an Egyptian teenager has been sentenced to fifteen days in jail, even though Gamal Masoud, a Coptic Christian, may not even have been aware the images were posted.

Massoud, 17, could be charged with "contempt of Islam" because the images may offend Muslims.

Angered over the images, a group of Muslims burned down Christian homes while chanting "Allahu akbar" until they were stopped by security and military forces.  Fearful of further violence, many Christians have fled.

Boko Harams orders Christians to leave the north of Nigeria

His Excellency the Most Reverend John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, has asked Nigerians to ignore a recent threat made by the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram responsible for the deaths of at least 200 people following a series of five bomb attacks at Christian churches on Christmas Day.

Following President Goodluck Jonathan's declaration of a state of emergency, a spokesman for Boko Haram demanded, under threat of death, Christians to leave the north of Nigeria.  The "southerners" in the north have three days to return to the south.

Noting that Boko Haram does not speak for all Muslims, Archbishop Onaiyekan said:
First of all, I think I will be right to say that Boko Haram does not represent the authentic voice of the Muslims of Nigeria. The leaders of Islam in Nigeria have clearly disowned them. So, I do not know what has given them the feelings that they can speak on behalf of all Nigerian Muslims, or northern Muslims, let alone giving instructions to them to do anything.
He also said,
I believe firmly that, whatever desire to drive a wedge between Christians and Muslims may be, the fact is that the attack has rather brought us together since Muslims have been showing us expressions of condolences and sympathy, and they have been condemning what has happened. 

Nigerian President declares state of emergency following Islamic attacks against Christians

After visiting St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla just outside the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency following the recent bomb attacks - a series of five - by Muslims against Christians on Christmas Day that left more than 200 people dead.

As part of the emergency efforts, parts of Nigeria's borders will be closed and a counter-terrorism taskforce will be established.

Following President Jonathan's (who is a Christian from the south of Nigeria) election last April violence errupted leaving more than 500 people dead.