Accusations could carry serious consequences for believers

In Sudan, an Islamic leader is telling
the government to take action against
 Christians who share the Good News. (Image courtesy Open Doors)

Sudan (MNN) ― An Islamic leader is telling Sudan’s government to take action against Christians.

Ammar Saleh, the chairman of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, slammed his government last week for not taking decisive action against Christian missionaries, who he claims were operating “boldly” in Sudan.

According to independent media agency The Sudan Tribune, Saleh appealed to local authorities and the community to take a stand against “Christianisation” and find a long-term solution to what he views as a massive problem.

He says his government’s efforts in this regard are timid compared to missionaries’ efforts and claims 109 people have converted from Islam to Christianity in Khartoum. Saleh says these figures are growing in a “continuous” and “scary” fashion.

Dykstra says there are two sides to this coin.

“The bad news is that he wants to put more pressure on the government and the army to crack down on the Christians there,” he explains. “But the good news is that many there are coming to Christ.”

Despite persecution, Open Doors is seeing the Body of Christ in Sudan grow.

“It’s been difficult for them obviously, but they are growing in numbers,” states Dykstra.

In addition, a member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Adam Mudawi, claims the NCP has information indicating that the Orthodox Church in Ombadda is hiding a large cache of weapons.

Mudawi also accuses the church of exploiting poor people by giving them financial support and assistance if they convert to Christianity.

According to Open Doors, Sudanese Christians have seen a dramatic increase in pressure over the past few months. Churches are being forced to close, and foreign workers are being kicked out of the country.

Given this tense atmosphere, Mudawi’s accusations may have serious consequences for Christians in Sudan.

“We need to pray for Christians, especially those that are being marginalized around Khartoum,” says Dykstra. “We also need to pray that there will be peace.”

To help Sudanese Christians cope with growing persecution, Open Doors recently held two Standing Strong Through the Storm seminars. These seminars teach Christians how to relate to persecution and how to pray for one another.

A total of 13 different denominations were represented at the two seminars.

“The focus was to advance church unity, and many of the people who attended really appreciated the seminars,” Dykstra says.

“It was a blessing that nobody was targeted or they weren’t broken up.”

Persecution in Sudan has moved the country from #16 on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List to #12 in 2013.

Keep praying for Christ-followers in Sudan. Pray that their faith will remain strong. Praythat  the Gospel goes forth no matter what.

Posted in ammar saleh, apostasy, conversion, jerry dykstra, khartoum, odm, persecution, Sharia Law, south sudan, standing strong through the storm, sudan | 1 Comment

Pastor Arrested in Iran as Farsi Language Church Contemplates Closure

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) — Rev. Robert Asserian, a pastor at the Central Assemblies of God (AoG) Church in Tehran, was arrested this week while conducting a prayer meeting at the church.

Human rights agency Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a news release it has also received reports that the church may be forced to close by the end of June due to continued pressure from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

CSW said security forces are reported to have raided Asserian’s house and confiscated some of his belongings, including his computer and books. They then made their way to the church, where Asserian was leading a prayer meeting. He was arrested and taken to an unknown location.

CSW said the Iranian human rights organization Article 18 reported that on May 19, church leaders informed the congregation that they would soon make an important decision about the future of the church.

A local source said, “The pressure has become unbearable, they (the authorities) constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.”

A final decision is expected later this week.

CSW s aid pressure on Iranian Christians has intensified in recent years, with churches and their members being targeted. The AoG Church in Tehran was one of few churches that offered services in Farsi. In 2009, it was ordered to end Farsi services on Friday, a day off for Iranians, and only permitted to hold services in Farsi on Sundays.

However, sources have confirmed that the Iranian authorities have now ordered the ending of Farsi services on Sunday, giving church leaders the option of conducting Sunday services in Armenian or facing closure. CSW said this news has caused church leaders to evaluate their options, with serious consideration being given to closure.

CSW’s Advocacy Director, Andrew Johnston, said in a news release, “We are deeply concerned for the welfare of Rev. Asserian and urge the authorities to make his whereabouts known. The continued and sustained pressure by the Iranian regime on churches in Tehran has boxed them into a corner to such an extent that they can no longer function.”

He added, “W e renew our call for the Iranian government to honor its national and international obligations, in particular Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of religion or belief, and the right, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit http://www.csw.org.uk.

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Persecution in Kazakhstan

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) — A Protestant pastor in Kazakhstan’s capital city of Astana has been imprisoned.

According to a story by Felix Corley for Forum 18 News Service, Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev faces criminal charges of harming health.

On May 19 he was ordered held for two months pre-trial detention.

Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, with its smaller part west of the Ural River in Eastern Europe.

Kashkumbayev, who leads Grace Church in Astana, was arrested on May 17, church members told Forum 18. Astana Police told the local media on May 18 that Kashkumbayev was taken to the city’s Temporary Isolation Prison.

Forum 18 said police added that Kashkumbayev’s charges carry a punishment of restrictions on freedom, or imprisonment of between three and seven years. They said the criminal case had been opened in Oct. 2012 “for causing considerable harm to the psychological health” of a church member.

In Oct. 2012, Forum 18 reported, after raiding the church, detaining and questioning members, and taking literature and money, police told the local media that the alleged “harm” was caused by church members being “g iven hallucinogens to drink.”

Forum 18 said the alleged “hallucinogens” were local red tea used as a non-alcoholic communion wine.

Forum 18 added that police questioning at that time ranged far beyond the alleged “harm” they were reportedly investigating.

Forum 18 said prosecutors have long been seeking to punish the leaders of Grace Church, but their reasoning remains unclear.

In addition, Forum 18 reported, Baptist leader Aleksei Asetov was jailed for three days in early May, for refusing to pay a fine equivalent to 18 months’ average local wages. The fine was levied for meeting for worship without state permission.

He told Forum 18 he will not pay the fine, as he should not be punished for meeting for worship with his friends.

In other news, imprisoned atheist writer Aleksandr Kharlamov remains under investigation in a psychiatric hospital in the commercial capital of Almaty.

Forum 18 reported that Yevgeni Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law said “the case is even more urgent as the man is not only in pre-trial detention, but now undergoing forcible psychiatric examination.”

For more information about Forum 18, go to http://www.forum18.org

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Bangladesh — Islamist protest leaders arrested in wake of Dhaka siege

Prime Minister claims opposition used Islamist demands to destabilise government


Cattle market in Dhaka, pictured in 2008.
(W Jackson for World Watch Monitor)

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on May 17 alleged that the opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was responsible for a conspiracy to topple the government from power, using recent violent protests which have rocked Bangladesh, led by Hefazat-e-Islam.

“The opposition party tried to use Hefazat (the pan-Islamic umbrella organisation) to get into power, but if there’s public support and people stand beside us, no conspiracy can work, [whether] national or international,” she said.

But a senior BNP leader alleged that her decision to ‘ban’ political rallies in Dhaka for the next month is a ploy to prepare the ground for imposing a state of emergency.

“They have banned rallies and meetings to repress the opposition. All they are left with is to impose a state of emergency,” MK Anwar said on Monday 20 May as Sheikh Hasina’s decision ran into stiff criticism even from within her own ruling Awami League.

A spokesman for Hefazat-e-Islam (Protectorate of Islam) has pledged a halt in its mass protests, but continues to accuse Christian missionaries of “targeting” poor people and “putting pressure on them to be converted”.

In the wake of the arrest of three Hefazat leaders on Sunday (May 19), Maulana Ashraf Ali Nizampuri told World Watch Monitor the Islamic group had “no plans” for further protests.

“Many of our leaders have been arrested and a ripple of fear of arrest is passing through our leaders, so we [already] postponed a country-wide strike planned for May 12,” he said.

The three Hefazat leaders arrested on May 19 were charged with murder, theft and possession of explosives, after the group led a siege of the capital Dhaka on May 5, during which at least 11 people were killed.

US-based Human Rights Watch said on May 11 the precise number of deaths was “unclear, with figures ranging from the official government figure of 22 deaths nationally to Hefazat’s estimate of thousands”. Independent news sources estimated the number killed as approximately 50, including several law enforcers.

Background
In April, Hefazat activists had organised the country’s largest political gathering in decades to publish a 13-point charter of demands, including the introduction of a blasphemy law to punish those who desecrate Islam and its prophet Muhammad.

Four bloggers were arrested in April for allegedly writing defamatory and anti-Islamic elements in their blogs. According to existing Bangladeshi law, anyone convicted of defaming a religion on the Internet can be jailed for up to 10 years.

The issue of blogging had become an issue after a group of online activists took to Dhaka’s streets in February to demand the death penalty for the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh), Abdul Kader Mullah. He had been given a verdict of life imprisonment on February 5 for committing mass murder, rape, looting, and other crimes against humanity during Bangladesh’s war of liberation against Pakistan in 1971.

Tens of thousands protested in the area of Shahbagh in central Dhaka, considering this (one of three possible verdicts) too lenient. They demanded that all war criminals should be given the highest punishment: a death sentence.

Before the Dhaka siege, Sheikh Hasina had clarified the government’s position on the banning of religious conversion and the other demands of Hefazat.

“Everybody in Bangladesh has religious freedom,” Hasina said, addressing a press conference at her official residence the night before the siege.

The Bangladesh constitution says that every citizen has the right to “profess, practice and propagate” any religion, and that every religious community and denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

However, Hasina said that forcefully converting people from one religion to another is an offence punishable by law and she promised that the government was monitoring the actions of foreign organisations.

“The law enforcers are keeping watch on NGOs [non-governmental organisations] that are allegedly converting people by taking the advantage of poor people,” said Hasina.

Nevertheless, despite promising no more mass protests, Nizampuri of Hefazat-e-Islam continues to accuse Christian missionaries of “targeting” poor people and offering them money to “pressure them” into changing religion.

“Most Christian missionaries are converting people by offering money among the poor people to give them a leg-up,” he said. “Once the poor people take money, the missionaries put pressure on them to be converted. That is why we are protesting – to stop missionaries converting [people].”

However, Bangladeshi pastor James Saberio Karmoker said Hefazat’s accusations were only propaganda.

“Christian missionaries are not converting people forcibly,” said Rev. Karmoker, who is general secretary of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh.

“It is Hefazat propaganda. Conversion is not an event in which missionaries give money and people are converted. It is a long process. When faith in Christ grows in people through a long process of propagation, when they proclaim to have faith in Christ, only then do we go through the formalities of conversion. Conversion cannot be done forcefully; otherwise there would be a riot.”

Sheikh Hasina has been leading a secular government in the Muslim-majority country since 2009.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) removed Bangladesh from its Watch List after the convincing victory of Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League in the 2008 general election. Her centre-left party is considered to promote secular policies and to be favourable towards the rights of minorities. Hasina’s announcement to implement reforms for religious freedom was another reason Bangladesh was removed from the Watch List.

Of Bangladesh’s 152.5 million people (UN, 2012), Muslims comprise around 88% with the remaining percentage a mix of Christian (1%), Buddhist and Hindu.

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Nigeria adds curfew to state of emergency

(Cover photo: Boko Haram. Story photo:
Burned out homes. Images courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

Nigeria (MNN) ― Nigeria’s military is striking back against the insurgency of the Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has battled the government since 2009 in an effort to impose Islamic law on majority-Muslim northern Nigeria. It’s been a bloody fight. More than 3,000 people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, including hundreds in government counter-insurgency operations.

With the recent uptick in violence, the military imposed a 24-hour curfew in 11 parts of the northeastern city of Maiduguri, the home base of the Boko Haram.

A state of emergency is also currently in force in Adamawa, Yobe, and Borno states. Brittany Tedesco is the Africa Director for Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions. She explains, “The curfew is from 6 in the morning till 6 in the evening. That, as you can imagine, is really affecting their work.”

On Friday, U..S Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Nigerian army to show restraint and not violate human rights as it pursues the militants. However, the rebels are not so circumspect.

Christian Aid-supported Missionary Crusaders Ministries in Nigeria have had to respond to the constant threat. Ministry leader Gabriel Barau writes, “In as much as our missionaries remain committed to sharing Christ with the unreached, we need your prayers and support.” Just last month, says Tedesco, “Terrorists set fire to three of the homes/mission bases of the missionaries that [Barau] is working with.”

Discouragement is one major challenge. Fear is another. The attacks were personal. “The missionaries are currently staying at the mission school of missions until [Barau] can provide accommodation for them. On top of that, there’s the follow-up and the discipleship that he provides to new believers.”

Barau is scrambling to get the survivors of the fire resettled, Tedesco adds. “Thanks to help of our donors, Christian Aid was able to send some funds to rebuild these homes/mission bases.

Each simple home, which doubles as a place for cell group meetings and discipleship of new converts, costs $3,500. The need is especially urgent now as the rainy season is about to begin and will halt construction.

Since 1983, Barau has trained and sent out missionaries to share Christ with the unreached of Nigeria. The ministry has grown, in spite of the harassment and persecution coming from the Boko Haram. Despite being targeted, prayer cover has been their mainstay. Tedesco says, “None of these missionaries have been harmed. There are 183 missionaries working with this ministry. None of them has been harmed or killed.”

Many of their mission fields are located in the country’s Muslim northern region, where the majority of Boko Haram attacks have occurred. However, Tedesco says, “This ministry is committed to moving forward despite the danger that they’re in right now. They’ve reached two new tribes with the Gospel.”

Safety IS a concern. Christian Aid has been working closely with this ministry to help them relocate their headquarters. “The headquarters office that they’re renting is located in Adamawa state, where Boko Haram has been striking repeatedly.” The project has been a long time in coming when the risk of attack is imminent.

Still, God has been faithful. Tedesco says, “We are in the home stretch, praise the Lord! Right now, all we need is the windows, the doors, and flooring.” The team will move into this office as soon as the roofing is completed.

Please pray for wisdom for Gabriel Barau as he leads the work of Missionary Crusaders Ministries, and pray that terrorized Nigerians will experience a return to peace in their homeland. “Continue to pray for the Lord’s hand on this ministry, to give discernment to the ministry leader as to how to move forward in the safest possible way, and also just for protection for these brave missionaries who are risking it all to remain on their fields.”

Posted in Boko Haram, Christianity, gospel, islam, missionary, Nigeria, western education is forbidden | Leave a comment

Iranian Christians face ‘systematic persecution and prosecution’

Iran’s human rights record questioned in run-up to June elections

by Steve Dew-Jones
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani greets his wife Fatemah
 after his release from prison in September 2012.
Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with some damning verdicts on the country’s human rights record.
Reports from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) cite evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution” of Protestants and Christian converts, as part of a widespread violation of international laws.
As national elections draw near (voters go to the polls on June 14), Iran is under increasing international pressure to improve its human rights record or face continued sanctions – sanctions ICHRI says are impacting the welfare of the Iranian people.
In its April report, A Growing Crisis: The Impact of Sanctions and Regime Policies on Iranians’ Economic and Social Rights, ICHRI says that, rather than damaging the Iranian regime, sanctions resulting from Iran’s nuclear program have “brought about a severe deterioration in the ability of the Iranian people to pursue their economic and social rights”.
‘Systematic persecution’
Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, noted in September 2012 that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, while at least 41 were detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in February that Iran “refuted” the UN’s claim of an increase in discrimination towards religious minorities, claiming “all people of Iran regardless of their religion or ethnicity enjoy equal citizenship rights”.
However, ICHRI’s January report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, based on interviews with 31 Iranian Christians between April 2011 and July 2012, claims that, “despite the Iranian government’s assertions that it respects the rights of its recognised religious minorities, the Christian community in Iran faces systematic state persecution and discrimination”.
This view is supported by Mansour Borji, advocacy officer for human rights initiative Article18.
“Sometimes the phrase ‘systematic persecution’ is used so loosely that it sounds like a cliché. However, in the case of Iran’s persecution of Christians, it fits the criteria,” Borji told World Watch Monitor.
“Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, severe restrictions on worship services in Farsi language, a ban on the publication of Bibles and Christian literature in Farsi, threats and harassment of evangelical church leaders, and continued attempts to confiscate church properties – these are all pieces in the puzzle.
“In a nutshell, there is a systematic attempt to deprive churches of membership, literature, leadership training and development, communion with other Christians around the world, and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the international covenants that Iran is a signatory of.”
Christians in Iran
The Cost of Faith states that Iranian Protestants face the “most severe” restrictions on religious practice and association, through “arbitrary” arrests and detentions, state execution and extrajudicial killings.
The number of Christians in Iran was recorded by the World Christian Database in 2010 as fewer than 300,000 (0.36% of the population). “Ethnic Christians” from predominantly Armenian (100,940) or Assyrian (74,000) descent comprised the majority of this figure, while 25% (fewer than 70,000) were Protestants, the bulk of which are understood to be converts from Muslim backgrounds.
It is impossible to know the precise number of Christians in Iran due to the perils of professing a Christian faith (particularly for those from Muslim backgrounds), but the figure seems likely to be significantly larger than recorded. Some Christian organisations, such as Iranian Christians International, claim the number of converts alone could be as high as 500,000.
Many Christians in Iran attend underground house churches, which have grown in popularity since 2001. ICHRI attributes this to “growing repression”.
“Theoretically, Protestants, along with Armenians and Assyrians, are among the Christians recognised in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. In practice however, they have been persecuted and discriminated against, and have faced significantly more aggressive government restrictions and human rights abuses than ethnic Christian groups,” states The Cost of Faith.
Freedom of religion
Iran fails to comply with a number of laws set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, according to ICHRI, including Article 18, which obligates all countries to safeguard freedom of religion.
In a speech to mark the launch of the UK’s FCO report in April, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that all citizens have certain “unalienable rights”, which are “universal” and not an attempt to spread Western values. These rights, he said, include freedom of religion.
The report states that this freedom is “broad” and “encompasses not only the freedom to hold a belief but also the freedom to share it”.
Iran’s appreciation of this freedom comes under serious scrutiny in both reports through a number of examples of Christians in Iran who have been arrested and detained, “often without fair trial or legal representation” (FCO).
Last September’s release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who had been sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010, is hailed in the FCO report as a “rare positive outcome following sustained pressure from the international community”.
However, Alistair Burt, FCO Minister with responsibility for Iran, said the arrest “should not have taken place” and called on Iran to “respect the religious freedom of its citizens”.
Pastor Nadarkhani was re-arrested on Christmas Day, but released on January 7. In March, photographs of a man being hanged were attributed as evidence of the pastor’s death, but these were later refuted.
A number of other Iranian Christians remain in what the UK’s FCO labels “harsh conditions” in prison, including Pastor Behnam Irani, who is said to be in ill health; Farshid Fathi, who after 15 months in detention was sentenced last year to six years in prison; and Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born American pastor who in January was jailed for eight years.
After his incarceration, Abedini’s wife Naghmeh Shariat Panahi told World Watch Monitor that she feared she wouldn’t hear her husband’s voice for the duration of his imprisonment unless the international community fought for his release.
The Cost of Faith claims the bulk of arrests of Iranian Christians are “arbitrary” and political, rather than because of any crime committed.
The most common charges, according to the report, include “propaganda against the regime”, “acting against national security”, “contact with a foreign enemy or anti-regime group” and “colluding with enemy foreigners”.
Iranian law
Apostasy remains “uncodified” in the Iranian constitution, which according to the The Cost of Faith creates a loophole that could lead to the legal prosecution of Christian converts.
“The Iranian constitution explicitly instructs judges to utilize Islamic legal sources where crimes and punishments are not covered by the code, leaving the door open for the continued practice of relying on jurisprudence that holds apostasy to be a capital crime,” ICHRI stated.
In his latest report in March, the UN Special Rapporteur called on Iran to improve its human rights record by putting a stop to “continued widespread systemic and systematic violations of human rights”, including discrimination against Christians.
“Christians should not face sanctions for manifesting and practising their faith,” said Dr. Shaheed. “Christians are reportedly being arrested and prosecuted on vaguely-worded national security crimes for exercising their beliefs, and the right of Iranians to choose their faith is increasingly at risk.
“Christian interviewees consistently report being targeted by authorities for promoting their faith, participating in informal house-churches with majority convert congregations, allowing converts to join their church services and congregations, and/or converting from Islam. A majority of interviewees that identified themselves as converts reported that they were threatened with criminal charges for apostasy while in custody, and a number of others reported that they were asked to sign documents pledging to cease their church activities in order to gain release.”
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Letters for persecuted, orphaned teen

Hernan and one of his sisters
(Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

Colombia (MNN) ― A teenage boy, Hernan, and his siblings face an unknown future because their parents wouldn’t back down from sharing Christ.

Two years ago, Hernan’s father was ministering God’s love to the people of Colombia, and many came to know Christ.

When Colombian rebels tried to recruit new believers to their cause, they were turned down. The rebel group saw Hernan’s father and his ministry as a threat, so they killed him.

After Hernan’s father died, his mother carried on the ministry. The rebels were still angered and killed her on January 7 this year.

Hernan at the time was not a Christian and wanted to take revenge on the rebels who killed his parents. But Open Doors USA worked with Hernan in their program for the persecuted church. Hernan’s heart was changed, he accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized.

Currently, Hernan is in charge of his two younger sisters: Rosmy, 9, and Jaqueline, 7. They temporarily live with their older brother and an aunt and uncle.

One month after their mother’s death, the kids were visited by Open Doors staff. The staff told Hernan, “We’ve come to learn what your needs are and to tell you that Christians all over the world know your names and are praying for you.”

“I give thanks from the bottom of my heart to know this,” Hernán said. “My little sisters are going through a particularly difficult time.”

Open Doors wants to uplift Hernan and his siblings especially as they try to figure out future unknowns. You can write a letter of encouragement to Hernan through Open Doors. Click here to learn more.

Please pray for Hernan and his family. Pray for their faith to grow in Christ and for their witness.

Posted in colombia, murder, open doors usa, orphan, parents, persecution, rebels, siblings, teen | Leave a comment

China: Tight State Controls on Religious Education

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

CHINA (ANS) – China does not allow religious communities to run schools for children, even though regulations do not forbid the provision of religious education to minors. Nor is religious education provided in state schools.
China schoolchildren busy studying


According to Magda Hornemann of Forum 18 News Service (www.forum18.org), for students beyond school age, only state-approved religious groups affiliated with China’s five state-backed monopoly faiths are allowed to apply to set up institutions for the study of their faith or training of clergy.

“Such rights extend only to the five state-sponsored faith structures, for Buddhism, Taoism, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity and Islam. Individuals are implicitly excluded from founding religious educational establishments, whether on a profit or not-for-profit basis,” said Hornemann.
“Religious groups not officially permitted by the state – including the Vatican-loyal Catholic Church, unregistered Protestant house churches, or those that are slightly tolerated – including Protestant denominations like Seventh-day Adventists which maintain some self-identity within the state-approved Protestant body, or the tiny Chinese Orthodox Church – have no possibility for formal religious education.
“Restrictions are especially tight in Tibet and Xinjiang. The state limits the number of such institutions and their size. Establishing new colleges is cumbersome and long drawn out, even when successful.”
Hornemann stated that their curricula must include “politics” and “patriotic” education, as defined by the state.
“The state also discourages religious activity on general university campuses. These restrictions reflect the authoritarian state’s desire to control religious groups, including by intervening in the training of their leaders and the level of education of their members,” Hornemann concluded.
For analyses of other aspects of freedom of religion and belief in China, see: www.forum18.org/Analyses.php?region=3  .
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Boko Haram ‘on verge of seizing control of Borno State’ after pastor’s death

President’s ‘state of emergency’ decree fails to stop murder of Borno State CAN Secretary

Rev. Faye Pama Musa, CAN Secretary for Borno,
was killed in his home by suspected Boko Haram members.
Borno State in Northern Nigeria has been teetering on the brink of a takeover by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, warned its Governor, Kassim Shettima, a few days before the declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan of a “state of emergency” in Borno and two neighbouring provinces.
The President’s declaration on Tuesday (May 14), which also applies to Yobe and Adamawa States in the country’s troubled North East region, was followed shortly after by the murder of the Secretary in Borno of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Faye Pama Musa.
Musa, head of REME Assembly in Maiduguri (the Borno State capital) and Chairman of the state’s Pentecostal Fellowship, was reportedly shot at close range by two suspected Boko Haram members in his house, in the presence of his daughter, who pleaded with them to spare her father’s life.
A few days before, Borno’s Governor Kassim Shettima had briefed visiting Senators and military advisers in a confidential security meeting on May 7, and warned them Boko Haram was close to seizing power in the state.  
Shettima also said: “Underneath the mayhem of Boko Haram, beneath the madness lies the underlying cause, which is extreme poverty and destitution which have permeated all spectrums of our society.
“Only and until we address some of these issues, believe me, the future is very bleak for all of us as the current crisis is just an appetizer of things to come. Very soon the youths of this country will be chasing us away.”
Reuters quoted Senator Abdul Ahmed Ningi as saying: “What the governor said was frightening. He informed us there is a possibility that this state will be taken over by Boko Haram … that they have the ability to do whatever they wanted here. I had thought Boko Haram had been subdued to some extent.”
On May 14, CAN Chairman in the state, Reverend Titus Pona, who confirmed Musa’s death, said the Christian community in the state capital last week received a death threat from an unknown group to kill or kidnap a pastor, but it was dismissed.
“We never thought that the rumour could turn out to be true, and we’d told the Governor that our area was safe,” Pona told reporters in Maiduguri.
“Of course, there were no killings around this area before and where I am living has also been seen as safe, until they started killing people again. It is very unfortunate that they came to attack an innocent man.
“Our prayer and hope is that the amnesty declared by the President would help to fish out [those responsible] and bring them to justice for the innocent lives they have taken.”
The Governor promised in a condolence message to CAN that the perpetrators would be brought to justice and that Musa’s family would be provided for.
President Jonathan has announced a ‘state of emergency’ in Borno.
The National President of CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor, and Rev Felix Omobude of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, condemned Musa’s murder and called for improved security following Shettima’s admission that Boko Haram were on the verge of seizing control of the state.
Oritsejafor called for the dissolution of the committee created by the federal government to negotiate with Boko Haram and other violent groups in the country, saying “no reasonable agreements can be reached with terrorists”.
President Jonathan announced controversially last month that an amnesty was being considered with Boko Haram.
Christian organizations and leaders responded almost universally negatively to this idea.
“Why should they be given amnesty?” said Rev. Joshua Ray Mains, Bauchi State Secretary. “Are we congratulating them for the people they have sent to their early graves, or are we encouraging them to continue with their acts so that other groups can take advantage of the amnesty and continue to disrupt the peace of the country?”
However, Bishop Matthew Kukah, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, supported the amnesty, saying in his Easter message it would bring the country closer to a new dawn.
“To reject amnesty is to place oneself at the same level as these miscreants,” he said. “An offer of amnesty is not the same as a declaration of amnesty. An offer of amnesty brings the penitent to the table as a first step. Amnesty is a process, not a destination. The offer of amnesty will not solve all our problems, but it will bring us closer to a new dawn.”
The declaration of emergency across the three states, and the resulting mass deployment of military has been welcomed by many groups in the country.
However, the Progressive Governors’ Forum had earlier “implored Mr. President to be consistent with the combination of dialogue and mediation which he has already set in motion, and [hold back from] action on the planned declaration of State of Emergency in the affected states, which we believe would be counter-productive”.
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Suspected Boko Haram Gunmen Kill Christian Leader in Borno State, Nigeria

Pastor had refused to leave, saying God had called him to his people

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

JOS, NIGERIA (ANS) – Gunmen believed to be members of the deadly Islamic extremist Boko Haram group yesterday (Tuesday, May 14, 2013) killed the Rev. Faye Pama Musa, secretary of the Borno state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). He was 47.
The Rev. Faye Pama Musa, slain at his home by suspected Islamic extremists on Tuesday (May 14) (Photo courtesy of CAN)

According to the Nigeria correspondent of Morning Star News (http://morningstarnews.org), the gunmen reportedly followed the long-time Christian leader from his church building, where he was holding an evening Bible study, to his house in the Government Reservation Area in Maiduguri, and shot him dead there, said the Rev. Titus Dama Pona, chairman of CAN’s Borno chapter.

“Rev. Faye Pama was killed last light,” Pona said this morning by phone from Maiduguri, the state capital. “I am right now with his family, and they are still consulting on what next to do.”
Morning Star News went on to say that the assailants reportedly dragged the pastor from his home and shot him outside, in front of this daughter, who had followed them out pleading for his life. Pama was the father of three children.
Senior pastor of a Pentecostal church, Rhema Assembly, Pama often spoke out against persecution of Christians in Borno state, epicenter of Boko Haram attacks in northeastern Nigeria. He had been involved in ministry leadership for more than 26 years.
Boko Haram continues its suspected killing
spree in Nigeria



“The shooting happened within an hour of President Goodluck Jonathan declaring a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, allowing the government to send more troops and take other special measures to try curbing violence by Boko Haram,” said the Morning Star Nigeria correspondent.

“The group has reportedly killed more than 4,000 persons since 2009, and the state of emergency comes after a gun battle between the military and Boko Haram in Baga, Borno state last month that some say took more than 100 civilian lives.
In a 2007 interview, Pama had said that he would not leave Borno state in spite of the danger to his ministry and life from Islamic extremists.
“I am an indigene of Borno state, and God has called me to work among my people,” he said. “I believe that the best people who reach a people with the gospel are those who understand the culture of these people.”
Pama believed that only by showing love to Muslims could they be won to Christ, “and not through fighting.”
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan speaks to the media during a visit to This Day newspaper in Abuja April 28 (Photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)



An outspoken critic of the marginalization of and discrimination against Christians, Pama began preaching first with a Pentecostal ministry in Maiduguri, the Word of God Mission, in 1996, before he left to start Agape Ministries and planted Rhema Assembly, which has an associate pastor and about 200 members.

He once served as secretary of Borno state’s chapter of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria.
“President Jonathan had also imposed a state of emergency in 2011 on 15 areas within four states in embattled northern Nigeria, with little success. Boko Haram, which the Borno governor says threatens to take control of the state, seeks to destabilize the federal government in an effort to impose strict sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria,” said the Morning Star News correspondent.
“Boko Haram has attacked Christians particularly in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, destroying Christian-owned businesses as well as harming churches. Many Christians have fled as displaced persons or become refugees in Cameroon.”
Suspected members of the Islamic extremist group also attacked a police barracks on the outskirts of Bama Town, Borno state early on Sunday (May 12), according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (www.csw.org).
CSW reported that insurgents arrived shouting “Allahu Akbar [God is greater]” before launching explosives and fuel bombs, and the army dispersed them before lives were lost. The previous week, according to CSW, some 200 Islamic militants attacked Bama Town, killing 47 people.
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