Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Christians increasingly kidnapped in Egypt

In the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, the persecution of Christians in Egypt continues to gain force, with an increased number of kidnappings in recent months.  The Christian Science Monitor reports:
More than 100 people have been kidnapped for ransom in this marginalized region in the last two and a half years, nearly all of them Christians, according to activists and church officials. And there has been a sharp increase in kidnappings in the months since Aug. 14, when hundreds were killed as police broke up two sit-ins supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Children killed in Damascus

As the civil war in Syria drags on innocent blood continues to be shed:
Mortar shells damaged the Primary Christian School St. John Damascene yesterday in the district of Al-Qassaa in Damascus, killing 5 children and wounding 27 others. Another rocket hit a school bus in Bab Touma, a suburb in Damascus predominantly Christian, injuring 5 students. In the same area, a mortar shell hit St. Cross Church, already hit in past days and another damaged the St. Cyril Church. Three other people were killed by a rocket, always in the center of the capital [more].

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Israeli government destroys church property

On the morning of October 28th the Israeli government destroyed a building in east Jerusalem belonging to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem:
Israeli security forces and bulldozers arrived at the house at 5:00 am (0300 GMT) on Monday with a previously unseen demolition order, claiming it had been built without a permit, according to its residents -- a family of 14.
But Tawwal said the property, on Jerusalem's southeastern edge close to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, had been standing since before 1967, when Israel seized Arab east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
"We didn't receive any orders for the demolition" beforehand, Tawwal added.
Describing the situation, the family who had been living in the building, said:
They turned up at 5 in the morning. They forced us to go out of our house. They took our cell phones away and forbid us from letting anyone know. We stood there and watched as the bulldozers demolished the house [more].
Though this is the first ecclesial property destroyed by the government, there may be more in the coming days:
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said on Tuesday that the city was starting proceedings for the mass demolition of Palestinian homes in other parts of east Jerusalem.
 His Excellency Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem called the destruction "an act of vandalism that infringes international law."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Protestant pastor murdered in Nepal by man over whom he was praying

In Phattepur, Nepal, a 36-year old year Protestant pastor named Debalal was murdered by a man named Kumar who called him at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of October 26th to pray with him.

Answering the call, Debalal made the 30-minute journey to pray with with Kumar:
He was in fact called in the middle of the night, by Kumar, a 29-year-old man, who had requested the presence of Debalal for a healing prayer. Kumar had been ill for several months and Debalal in the past had prayed for him. Debalal ran to visit the sick. As he was praying, the man suddenly attacked him and cut his throat with a "khukuri", a typical Nepalese knife with a curved blade. Debalal shouted and asked for help but was left to bleed to death. The police arrested the perpetrator of the homicide [more].
The murder is itself horrendous, but it is made worse by the fact that Debalal had prayed with and visited Kumar several times in the past.

Bodies of slaughtered Christians in Syria thrown down a well, Nunciature struck

Following the largest massacre of Christians in Syria since the beginning of the civil war, two mass graves have been found outside the city of Sadad in which thirty Christians were buried:
Discovered dead in a well in Sadad were the remains of six members of one family including Matanios El Sheikh, 85, his wife, Habsah, 75, their daughter, Njala, 45, and grandsons Ranim, aged 18, a first-year university student, and his 16-year-old brother Fadi, in class XI at school.

Reports state they were thrown down a well on October 26th along with the boys’ paternal grandmother, 90-year-old Mariam.
Their funerals, which took place Monday, November 4th, came as a community, whose town dates back to 2000BC, begins to grieve the loss of those being described as “martyrs” by Church leaders.
The atrocities took place during a week-long occupation of Sadad by the Al-Nusra Front and Daash, rebel forces who, according to Church leaders, held 1,500 families as “human shields” in a bid to stop Government troops retaking the village [more].
In the midst of the ongoing war, the Nunciature of the Holy See to Syria in Damascus was struck by an explosive this morning at 6:30 a.m. local time:
The bomb was aimed at the third floor, where the sleeping quarters of the Nuncio Mgr Mario Zenari, his secretary Fr Giorgio, and the sisters working at the residence are located.
"Thank God no one was hit," Fr Giorgio told AsiaNews. The mortar round destroyed part of the roof, including the eaves of the building and part of the facade.
Archbishop Zenari is one of the few diplomats who never left his post in the past two years of civil war [more].
The Vatican Information Service, when announcing the attack on the nunciature, noted that this is not an isolated attack on ecclesial properties:
In an interview with Vatican Radio the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Mario Zenari, explained that the repercussions were limited to minor material damage, partly because the mortar attack occurred at 6.35 this morning, before the employees enter to work. He added that this type of incident occurs on a regular basis in Syria; for instance, last Saturday the convent of the Franciscan Fathers in Aleppo was struck by two or three rockets which caused minor damage to the roof but fortunately caused no casualties. The same occurred in other parts of old Damascus last week, and rockets have fallen near to the nunciature on other occasions, causing residents, especially children, to flee [more].

Monday, November 4, 2013

185 Eritrean Christians arrested

185 Christians were recently arrested for attending a prayer meeting in the Eritrean city of Maitemenai:
It’s believed the Christians had gathered in the suburb of Maitemenai to pray about the worsening exodus of Eritreans from the country.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights reports thousands of Eritreans are fleeing their country every month, despite an alleged ‘shoot-to-kill policy’ targeting those who try to leave.
Eritrea is currently detaining up to 1,500 Christians because of their faith. Many others face harassment [more].

Muslim Brotherhood youth attack Coptic church

On November 1, following Friday prayers in the el Aziz Bellah mosque, a group of Muslim youth connected with the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the nearby church of the Virgin Mary in the Egyptian city of Zaytoun, on the east of Cairo:
On arriving in the square in front of the Church they are seen tearing down a banner from the front of the church and covering the façade with graffiti insulting the patriarch, the Copts and the Armed Forces .

Local sources said that every Friday after the midday prayer, the Islamists always pass in front of the church hurling insults and anti-Christian slogans . To avoid problems Christians bar the doors of the building. Near the church there is the el- Aziz Bellah mosque, whose faithful militate in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood [more].

A book you should read

In his new book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, John L. Allen, Jr. discusses what he says "is in many ways the greatest story never told" (243).  This is, he admits, a bit of an exaggeration because the real "problem in the global war on Christians is not that no one is reporting what's happening.  It's rather that far too few people are paying attention" (27).

Despite various news outlets reporting on instances of Christian persecution, most people in the West (and throughout the world) are unaware that:
  • 100,000,000 Christians "worldwide presently face interrogation, arrest, torture, or even death" (4);
  • 100,000 Christians were killed per year between 2000 and 2010 (4);
  • since the death of Jesus, 70,000,000 Christians have been killed for their faith in Christ;
  • of those, 45,000,000 - 50% - were killed in the 20th century [the 1900s] (32-33); 
  • between 2006 and 2010, Christians were persecuted in 139 countries (34);
  • 80% of religious persecution today is against Christians (9); and,
  • in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, Christian persecution has increased 309% since 2003 (36).
Throughout The Global War on Christians Allen relates individual instances of such persecution and provides an overview of the current situation in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, often even breaking down his overview by country.

As I read the book I knew many of the stories already because I had either written about them on this blog or at Persecution Watch.  I felt conflicted, both because I knew so many of the stories and because there were many more I did not know.  He is right to describe this war as "the world's best-kept secret" (15).

Longtime readers of his column in the National Catholic Reporter will be aware of Allen's ability to cut to the heart of an issue, to separate and distinguish with clarity and objectivity.  He brings this same skill to The Global War on Christians, repeatedly examining questions to determine where the war is being fought:
The mere fact that Christians are harmed someplace does not ipso facto mean they were harmed because they are Christian.  It's equally fallacious both to dismiss religion as a casual factor and to privilege it over to others.
At the same time, a one-sided focus on the motives of the perpetrators of violence can also produce a badly skewed picture.  When someone is threatened or harmed, there are usually two questions to ask: First, what are the motives of the attackers?  Second, did the victim make choices that placed himself or herself at risk, and if so, why (13)?
These two questions must be asked in examining this war because, as Allen rightly notes, "to ignore threats against Christians because they're not explicitly is, therefore, to miss the forest for the trees" (14).  It is clarity of thought that has gained Allen the respect of many.

Throughout the book, Allen discusses why the war on Christians is so little known, what it is and what it isn't, and what forms it takes in various places.

We might well ask why he decided to write this book when so many others have not written on this important reality.  The answer is quite simple: "there's something so precious about faith in Christ and membership in the church that, when push comes to shove, ordinary people will pay in blood rather than let go" (21).  Allen has told their stories well.

Why should you read this book?  Because the truth is always important to investigate and because "the stories of the martyrs have a deep spiritual resonance, and when people are exposed to them, they often come away changed" (266).

Spanish priest murdered in Panama "in broad daylight"

The sixty-seven year old Father Aníbal Gómez was murdered Wednesday outside the home of the retired Bishop of Colon:
According to police reports, the priest’s body was found bound with plastic ties, beaten and stabbed. The housekeeper said that she tried to call for help but that the aggressors knocked her unconscious.
Gómez had been living in Panama for 20 years. He officiated mass at the María Madre de Dios parish in the former Fort Davis and was the director of the Academia Santa Maria in Colon for many years [more].
His Excellency the Most Reverend José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, O.S.A. lamented the murder:
It happened in broad daylight, we all have to reflect and we must all work together to stop the violence and murders that are taking place [more].

After massacre of Syrian Christians, Archbishop calls for prayers and begs for help

The Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, has called for prayers for the Syrian Christians following an attack on the city of Sadad in which 45 Christians were killed and half of the city destroyed by "armed men and terrorists."

On the blog of The Orthodox Church on which he gave the above summary of the destruction, he pleads:
3000 people were held hostage, and we cried out to world, and no-one heard us, except for the minority which came to our aid, and stood in solidarity with us.  Where is the Christian conscience?  Where, the Syriac conscience?  Where is the human conscience?  Where are my brothers, the metropolitans, priests, and friends? Where… where? And no-one answers… except for a few.  There is a lump in the throat and burning in the heart for all that’s happened in my metropolitanate and its poor suffering people which no sooner did it flee to a place of refuge, then left from there empty-handed, and after all this, to where, I don’t know…
The attack is the "largest massacre of Christians" in the Syrian civil war thus far.  Speaking with Fides News Agency, the Archbishop said:
45 innocent civilians were martyred for no reason, and among them several women and children, many thrown into mass graves. Other civilians were threatened and terrorized. 30 were wounded and 10 are still missing. For one week, 1,500 families were held as hostages and human shields. Among them children, the elderly, the young, men and women. Some of them fled on foot travelling 8 km from Sadad to Al-Hafer to find refuge. About 2,500 families fled from Sadad, taking only their clothes, due to the irruption of armed groups and today they are refugees scattered between Damascus, Homs, Fayrouza, Zaydal, Maskane, and Al-Fhayle.