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WORLD WATCH~FALL OF 2013~
1 year ago
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WORLD WATCH: GOVERNMENTS THAT PERSECUTE CHRISTIANS~ 
 
1 year ago

#34 - Jordan

Rated as - Moderate in Persecution

Rank: 34
Score: 48/100
Leader: King Abdullah II
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Main Religion: Islam
Population: 6.5 million (320,000 Christians)

Christian Persecution in Jordan
*Representative photo used to protect identity.


A Jordanian Islamic law court has annulled the marriage of a former Muslim because of his conversion to Christianity.

The North Amman Sharia Court in April dissolved the marriage of Mohammad Abbad, on trial for apostasy, or leaving Islam.

The 40-year-old convert fled Jordan with his wife and two young children in March after another Christian convert's relatives attacked Abbad's family in their home, and his father demanded custody of Abbad's children.

"Marriage depends on the creed [religion], and the apostate has no creed," a May 22 court document stated, detailing reasons for the April 22 annulment. According to the document, Judge Faysal Khreisat had, "proven the veracity of [Abbad's] apostasy."

Jordan's penal code does not outlaw apostasy, and the country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was given force of law in the country in June 2006.

But Islam, Jordan's official religion, forbids conversion to another faith. Jordanian Sharia (Islamic law) courts that rule on family law have convicted converts of apostasy, stripping them of all legal rights.

"I can't win this case as long as I insist that I converted to Christianity," Abbad wrote after arriving in a European country where he has applied for asylum.

Abbad and his 10-year-old son were violently attacked in their home, when relatives of another convert, staying with Abbad, stormed the house. Abbad suffered injuries to his head and chest, and was bleeding in his right eye, according to medical reports from Jordan University Hospital.

When Abbad went to the police station the same day to file a complaint he found his father there, demanding custody of Abbad's son and 11-year-old daughter.

Testifying before Khreisat the next day (March 24), Abbad refused to convert back to Islam. According to court records, Khreisat ordered Abbad to be jailed in Amman's Jweideh Prison for one week for "contempt of court."

1 year ago

Christian Persecution in Bahrain
*Representative photo used to protect identity.

In general, this mainly Shia-Islamic country is comparatively tolerant. This is also the case in terms of religious freedom, because of its international position in banking and trade. There are several Christian bookshops and Christian hospitals. A considerable number of expatriate Christians work and live in Bahrain and are relatively free to practice their faith in private places of worship, but proselytizing Muslims is illegal.

As the number of compounds is limited, dozens of congregations must use the same building. They are not allowed to advertise their services in Arabic but they can in English.

After the King's visit to the Vatican, he allocated a plot of land to the Catholic Church in Awali in 2011 to build a compound which also includes a place of worship and administrative offices. It would become the Gulf's largest Catholic Church and the Vatican's headquarters of the region. Observers explain this move as a PR campaign to appease the West amidst the government's violent crackdown on internal political turmoil.


Within the country and region however, the church construction project led to considerable negative media attention: there were calls to destroy all church compounds in the region. Part of the negative reaction was related to Shiite frustration as a result of the destruction and lack of funding of Shia mosques, though there was a clear anti-Christian element as well.


Most of the protests came from the hardline Sunni camp: more than 70 clerics signed a petition stating that it is prohibited to build churches in the Arabian Peninsula the birthplace of Islam. The building project has been stalled as a result and it is unclear if it will be restarted. This underlines the increasing influence and self-confidence of hardline Sunni groups who are a major support base for the monarchy in a time when Shiites demand more and more political rights.

1 year ago

Christian Persecution in China

Chinese Christians are sharing their faith on Weibo, China's giant, state-regulated, social network and some are beginning to challenge the censorship by speaking out against religious persecution.

When Christian band Rainbow Come appeared on China's equivalent of "The X Factor," Christians turned to social networking to drum up votes for the band so their music could reach more Chinese.

Within a few days, thousands of votes had been posted for Rainbow Come, according to China's Gospel Times, enough to propel them to a leading position in the seventh round of "Chinese Dream" on Zhejiang Television. Such is the power of social networking even in China, which has officially banned Facebook and Twitter.

In the place of these established but unregulated sites, the Chinese authorities have permitted Weibos microblogs. From its inception in 2009, China's leading microblog company, Sina Weibo, now boasts 400 million users, and the number is rising. Rival companies also lay claim to hundreds of millions of subscribers.

According to the China Internet Network Information Centre, 40 percent of the population of China are now Internet users, and most of these are microbloggers. To put that in perspective, there are more microbloggers in China than the populations of Britain, Germany, France and the United States combined, by some margin.

1 year ago

Christian Persecution in Azerbaijan

Censorship of religious materials is highly restrictive in Azerbaijan. All religious materials (literature, audio and video) produced in and imported into Azerbaijan must receive special approval from the State Committee, which also decides on the number of copies each title may be printed or imported. In December 2011, Criminal Code Article 167-2 specified this in great detail.

Though at first it looked like sacred books (e.g. Bible, Koran) would be exempted, believers report that since 2008 even these books were banned. Border controls (even in the airport) were made stricter to ensure that no uncensored books would be imported. Religious materials are often confiscated at entry or departure.

Religious materials sent by mail are also checked. They are all directed to the International Post Office in Baku. The recipient needs to pick up the materials sent to him, but before he can do so, each title needs to be approved by the State Committee first. Only after approval can he receive the materials.

No printing house or photocopy shop in Azerbaijan will (re)produce religious materials (especially those in Azeri) without written permission from the State Committee. It is too risky for them. Very rarely is such permission granted. Most of the time, the answer is negative or doesn't come at all.

The State Committee pro-actively searches for bookshops breaking the censorship regulations on religious materials. Each shop needs a license to sell these materials. Though there are a few shops who proceed without such a license, their number is declining.

The requirement of repeated registration and the highly restrictive censorship make life for believers in Azerbaijan rather difficult. Officially, fewer and fewer churches exist. More and more groups find themselves in the 'illegal' circuit with all possible consequences (e.g. raids, detentions, confiscations, fines, etc.). Despite the increased pressure, the Church continues its work and is slowly growing.

1 year ago


*Representative photo used to protect identity.

Youseff had been searching for the truth since he was a schoolboy. "When I still was at school, I wanted to know the 'true' religion. I started reading Koran and the Bible to see which of them would speak to me," Youseff shares

"After ten minutes of reading the Koran, I got scared. I also did not agree with a lot of the Koran's teachings on what was acceptable. On the other hand I loved to read the Bible, I could read the Bible for three hours at a time."

He met a missionary and this man shared the gospel with him and helped him understand more about it. Youseff still wanted to understand more about the Koran too. "I went to speak to one of the leaders of the local mosque. This man told me however that I shouldn't question God." After reading the Bible more and speaking with the missionary, Youseff turned to Jesus.

Right after this he had to pass through some tough times. "When I told my mother that I had become a Christian, she told me to leave the house. I had to stay at a friend's house." Later he was able to return home again. Because of his conversion Youseff lost all his friends he had before that.

He visited an international church, but because of the police force he had to stop going there. "I was invited to a house group."

Youseff started sharing about his new faith. He spoke to his family and one aunt became a Christian.

Some of his friends came back to him. "Only a few did ask me to tell more about my faith. One is particularly interested. I am sharing a lot with him, I can see how he is slowly changing."

Youseff hopes that in future he will have his own apartment where he will be able to invite other Christians to pray and study the Bible together.

It is important to pray for Youseff. That he might be an example to his family, that they will see the truth through his life. Pray also for his friend that is interested in his new faith and pray for the apartment he wants to have to meet with other Christians.

1 year ago




"Every week we wondered 'What if it's this week?' Yet every week, we turned up for church."

Speaking just after her return from the funeral of a 9-year-old, Sally Gatei was in a reflective mood.

"I told the team I didn't need counseling, but I'd not been back to the building for a few days, since it happened. When I did go back to the church, my heart was pounding. You think 'You're alright, you're strong,' but I am going to get some counseling now."

Gatei was in the room when a grenade exploded at St. Polycarp, of the Anglican Church of Kenya. The explosion killed the boy, and injured eight other children. Sally's own son had been in there too, only three minutes before.

John who himself is recovering from a stroke that has left him wheelchair-bound, is struggling alongside his parents, Jane and Patrick Maina, to come to terms with their loss. "John had celebrated his birthday only the day before. He'd asked for two cakes, one to share with friends after church on Sunday. That never happened. My son wheeled me to the church service, then left for Sunday school," lamented Patrick.

Church leaders were quick to appeal for non-retaliation.

"This is a cruel provocation, but I appeal to Christians not to feed violence with violence, either in word or deed, because we are called to overcome evil with good," said Archbishop Wabukala of the Anglican Church of Kenya. He and Bishop Joel Waweru of the Nairobi Diocese prayed with the children admitted to the Children's Ward.

"This is not a religious war, but is a definite indicator that we do have enemies of the body of Christ," added Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, a member of the Parliament for Starehe.

*Information from WorldWatchMonitor.org

11 months ago

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555 Challenge

Week 41

 

#42 - Malaysia

Rated as - Moderate in PersecutionMalaysia's Flag Rank: 42
Score: 45/100
Leader: Prime Minister Najib Razak
Government: Federal constitutional monarchy
Main Religion: Islam
Population: 29.3 million (2.9 million Christians

Pray for Christians in Malaysia

*Representative photo used to protect identity.

Malaysia is a country aiming strongly to preserve what it perceives as national and cultural heritage. Being Malay is seen as being a Muslim. Citizens with other ethnic origins, such as Chinese or Indian, can be Buddhist, Hindu or Christian, but Malays have to be Muslim.

Moreover, Islamist rhetoric and action have made it into politics. Relying on Islam also gains votes - but it is more than that. In the eyes (and words) of Prime Minister Najib Razak, Islam will always 'supersede' politics. In fact, he called on the people, "to protect Islam, the faith of its followers, its teachings, Islamic law and infrastructure" and to avoid disunity and exploitation of the "enemies"'. His statement came amid the country's celebration of Ramadan in August 2012, and a reported attempt by two Europeans to teach their Christian faith in Penang state. The Penang Islamic Religious Council was urged to take appropriate action against the non-Muslim foreign tourists who share their faith in the country. In a separate speech, Najib warned that greater liberalism is a threat to the country. "Pluralism, liberalism? All these 'isms' are against Islam, and it is compulsory for us to fight these," he said to more than 10,000 Islamic leaders, days before the Muslim feast began. Consequently, Najib's support of human rights also has limits, saying the rights should fall, "within the boundaries set by Islam."

All Malaysians are allowed to convert, except the Malay people, which of course is contradictory, as they are the majority in the country. Another qualification for conversions to other faiths is that one has to have reached the age of maturity.

Given these strict rules, it is almost impossible for a Malay Muslim to convert to Christianity. Proselytizing Muslims is forbidden. In five states - Perak, Malacca, Sabah, Terengganu, and Pahang - conversion is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or jail term. In Pahang, convicted converts may also be punished with up to six strokes of the cane.

Pray for Malaysia Share Malaysia's Struggle Give to Persecuted Christians

11 months ago

#44 - Tajikistan

Rated as - Moderate in Persecution

Tajikistan's Flag Rank: 44
Score: 42/100
Leader: President Emomali Rahmon
Government: Republic
Main Religion: Islam
Population: 7.1 million (73,600 Christians)

Pray for Christians in Tajikistan

*Representative photo used to protect identity.

Open Doors estimates the number of Christians at slightly more than 1% of the population. Officially, there is freedom of religion, but on a local level, people who become Christians face threats, beatings, arson attacks and other forms of persecution from mullahs, local authorities, neighbors and relatives. Tajik identity is associated with being Muslim. Consequently, changing religion brings great shame on the family. The indigenous Tajik church is a young church; half of the population of Tajikistan is under 18 years of age. The official import of Scriptures and Christian literature is strictly restricted.

In July 2012, another law came into force prohibiting Tajik citizens from going abroad in order to receive religious education, preach and teach religious doctrines or to establish ties with foreign religious organizations. Though this law is aimed at every religion, including minority Muslim groups, Christians are greatly affected by it. There is no domestic Bible school or religious training center in the country. Any learning course on local or church level must be reported to the local authorities. Another restriction typical for Central Asian countries is the requirement to obtain permission for printing or importing any religious materials. The responsible authority is the Committee for Religious Affairs, which in most cases does not give permission or relies on alleged procedural flaws.

The government also tightly controls the importation and distribution of religious literature. Religious organizations were required to submit copies of all literature to the Ministry of Culture for approval one month prior to delivery. Under the Law on Freedom of Conscience, religious associations may import an unspecified "proper number" of religious materials. In the past, officials have not permitted large shipments of books by Christian organizations. Violence is a means the government rarely relies on, but every now and then, there are raids against churches, Christians are physically harmed or even have to leave their villages. This is the case for Muslim Background Believers (MBB's) especially.

In the meantime, the situation for the Christian minority in Tajikistan is unlikely to improve. The regime puts heavy pressure on all "deviating" groups.

10 months ago


*Representative photo used to protect identity.

Born into a devout Muslim family, Erna* grew up learning the Quran in East Java, Indonesia. "Since I was in elementary school, the reason for me to read the Quran was so that I could understand the religion better," claims Erna. Erna said that religious teachers taught that Islam was the perfect religion, as it is taught in Arabic, and that Muslims were not allowed to learn about other religions. However, as she grew older, her curiosity towards other religions besides Islam began to grow.

After graduating from high school in 1995, Erna applied to study at a university in Jakarta. Erna moved to Jakarta to pursue her studies, and stayed in a boarding house close to her campus. With the new found freedom she had being away from home, Erna decided to buy a Bible, and read the whole book.

The more she read the Bible, the more she began to understand it. It was then that Erna decided to join her Christian friends at a weekly Christian campus fellowship, and with the encouragement of her friends, began to attend church. "I was never afraid to ask my Christian friends about the things I read in the Bible. It was them that encouraged me to join the fellowship and to attend church," says Erna.

It wasn't long before she recognized that the Bible was the truth she had been looking for all along. Erna made the decision to continue studying the Bible, but had not yet made the decision to follow the faith. When her family found out about her encounter with Christianity, her family gave her a big copy of the Quran, and encouraged her to read it hoping that it would lead her back to Islam. Erna however, had already made up her mind to leave Islam. Considered a disgrace, she was then expelled by her family.

A few years later, Erna made the decision to give her heart to the Lord, and was baptized. She says that she still tries to keep in touch with her family but to no avail. "I believe my family knows about my baptism. We've not spoken to each other for a long time. I always try to communicate with them until now, but they always ignore me. But that is fine, I understand that it is the price that I have to pay" Erna smiled.

Erna, now married with 2 children, works with her husband to reach out and bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians. She is also very involved in women's ministries to help Muslim Background Believers (MBB's) and Christians to understand and interact with their Muslim neighbors.

*Name changed for security reasons

Kakistan
10 months ago


One of the consequences of the restrictive law on religion that was signed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev on October 13, 2011 was the requirement that all religious groups should re-register before October 25, 2012.

One day after this deadline has passed, the full consequences of this move became visible. The number of religious groups allowed in the denominations has been shortened dramatically from 46 to 17. A third of all religious groups in Kazakhstan have been shut down. Subjects of faiths such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity were allowed to re-register. About a third of the protestant churches will be closed down.

It is important to note that the numbers mentioned do not include the already large number of congregations that have either refused to go for registration out of principle, or have been unsuccessful in obtaining registration despite their intention to do so.

All activities of religious groups that do not have registration with the authorities are strictly illegal. Worship or prayer meetings of unregistered groups can and will be raided; participants and leaders will be interrogated, detained and/or fined.

The requirement to re-register with the authorities bears an eerie resemblance to the common practice in Kazakhstan, where six rounds of forced re-registration since 1991 has led to a decline in the number of legal Christian communities in that country.

10 months ago


If you have ever dealt with the loss of a loved one, you know that it is one of the most difficult things to go through. Not only are you grieving their loss, but there are a lot of small details to take care of, as well- funeral arrangements, the reading of a will and even figuring out where to bury them.

Persecuted Christians in Kyrgyzstan have to deal with all of this and then some…

When Bakyt*, a local Kyrgyz believer, was dying of cancer, he was visited by three Moldo (Muslim leaders) from the local mosque. "If you do not leave your faith in Jesus," they told him, "we will not allow your family to bury you in the local cemetery."

After he passed away, his Christian brothers were forced to change his burial location three times! Each time they faced resentment from the local representatives of the mosque, and were prohibited from burying him.

After two years, this situation has brought a great deal of bitterness and sorrow to his family, relatives and friends. “I never thought that there would be no place in our homeland to bury my husband,” his widow Sarah* later said.

Kyrgyzstan continues to see ongoing cases of church persecution, especially during the last couple of years. One of the most visible forms of persecution is a common pressure from society toward church members who are burying their Christian relatives.

A blatant case happened last year in one of the villages in the south of Kyrgyzstan. It was awful case of the exhumation of a Christian’s corpse after local Muslims found out that the buried person had become a Christian believer before his death. In the end, representatives from the local mosque forced relatives of the deceased Christian to bury him outside the village cemetery.

Historically, in Kyrgyzstan and other countries of the former Soviet Union, community facilities and institutions, such as cemeteries, are set up separately, based on ethnic principles. There is a cemetery for Kyrgyz people, usually called the Muslim cemetery; the cemetery for Russians is called the Christian graveyard. There is still another cemetery for Koreans, and so on.

So the problem is that when a Kyrgyz person becomes a believer in Christ, and then dies, Muslims will not allow his/her relatives to  bury him/her in the cemetery reserved for Kyrgyz people, who are traditionally Muslim. But at the same time, because the person who died is an ethnic Kyrgyz, the Russians do not allow the person to be buried in the Christian cemetery.

So the church’s question in Kyrgyzstan remains: "Where can we bury our Krygyz Christians?"

Despite the fact that a Kyrgyz Christian has died physically, he and his fellow Christians continue to be under the pressures of persecution for putting his faith in Christ!

8 months ago
North Korea

There is no other country in the world where Christians are so fiercely persecuted because of their faith. Like other North Koreans, Christians live under one of the most oppressive regimes in recent history. They have to deal with corrupt officials, horrific policies, natural disasters, diseases, and starvation. On top of all this, they must hide their decision to follow Christ.

The regime is anti-Christian for two main reasons:

  1. All other religions are seen as harmful to North Korea's Juche ideology, which stresses the importance of man's self-reliance. Because the people are forced to worship their leaders, there is simply no room for other gods.
  2. Christianity is the religion of North Korea's enemies. Christians are seen as spies of the "imperialist Americans" and the "treacherous South Koreans." North Koreans are told that Christians use religion to poison their "glorious nation." As a result of this, the church has been completely pushed underground. It consists of 200,000 - 400,000 believers. Of these, between 50,000 - 70,000 are held in Nazi-like concentration camps and prisons.

"Christians have to teach their children the principles of the gospel without using words such as God, Jesus or the Bible," shares Chin Ho, a Christian from North Korea. "They make up stories with Christian values. Once the children are old enough to keep their faith secret, the parents explain to them the full gospel. This usually happens when the children are between ten and fifteen years old."

Despite being the most difficult place to be a Christian, the underground church in North Korea continues to grow- even in the prison camps.

*Names, photographs and other information have been changed for security purposes
Share This Story North Korea

8 months ago
Somalia

After many years of anarchy, elections last September paved the way for greater stability and growth in Somalia. The decreased violence, coupled with increased successes in the internationally supported fight to drive out al Shabaab Islamist insurgents, greatly improved the atmosphere in Somalia. This did not necessarily bring freedom for the church, but it did bring some welcomed consistency, and created "space" for increased discipleship - albeit still under great secrecy.

However, the atmosphere is changing rapidly.

The newly installed Somali government is increasingly challenged in its efforts to maintain stability. It was expected that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would stamp out notorious clan politics, corruption and the "stubborn Islamist insurgency" of al Shabaab. But observers say his inexperienced government lacks funds and also the authority to get the job done. Additionally, in the absence of clear instruction from the provisional constitution, the government is battling to find a way to divide power between the center and the regions.

Al Shabaab, in what they called their "Ramadan Offensive", went to great lengths to warn the government of President Mohamud not to underestimate the insurgents' power and influence. The month of fasting saw several attacks in Mogadishu.

The Somali constitution continues to see Islam as the sole religion in the country, and the Quran and the Sunnah as the main source of the law within the country.
Share This Story Somalia

8 months ago
Syria

Hanna is a Christian woman living in Damascus with her husband and two young daughters. In spite of the war, she and her family have chosen to remain in Syria, where she works at a local school. She shares what daily life is like in Damascus:

It's snowing in Damascus now. It's rare that it snows. We don't have much to warm ourselves; there is a lack of oil and gas, and there are electricity fallouts that last for hours and hours. Yesterday, I was at home with my daughter and we just wore all the clothes we could find. But we don't complain, because we think of our fellow Syrians that are living on the streets now. It breaks my heart if I think of the children that fled with only their summer clothes on them. We would love to go there and help them, but traveling to the area they live in is far too dangerous.

Christmas was not a time of celebration for us this past year. How can we celebrate when people around us are suffering? We had some special prayers in church, but we didn't have any decorations. Having Christmas decorations outside the church would have provoked the terrorists to attack us.

It has been quiet the last week; we only rarely hear the sounds of bombs anymore. It is what we have been praying and fasting for, but I feel strange- I don't know why. It's like this is the silence before the storm, and they are waiting to suddenly attack us.

Last week, I went to the market to get some hats, socks and candy for the kids in our church. Normally we would buy them some games, but toys are way too expensive now. At least they will have something to keep them warm, that's more important than toys in this situation. I want to give those gifts to the children and hope that they will know that Jesus still loves them, no matter what's going on around us. Please keep praying for us.

*Names, photographs and other information have been changed for security purposes   Share This Story Syria

8 months ago
Iraq

The body of Salem Dawood Coca was found in his truck on the 8th of July, one month after he had been abducted. Salem was a 63 year old water truck driver known for his kindness. He left behind his wife and three children. Since his truck was rigged with explosives, the police believe that he was killed after he had refused to do a suicide bombing. A fieldworker says that this suicide bombing wasn't the only thing the kidnappers tried to force Salem into: "I believe that they also wanted to force him to convert to Islam and attack Christians, which this man very bravely refused. This man seems to have stood for his faith until the last moment."

The kidnappers had contacted Salem's family, saying that Salem was a 'Christian infidel,' but didn't demand a ransom. According to the same fieldworker, this shows that the kidnappers' intention was to intimidate and scare the Christians of Nineveh. Sadly, this isn't the first incident indicating this. "Muslim extremists often come from the outside with the clear goal of driving the Christians away," shares the field worker. "An example is the kidnapping and killing of the former Archbishop of this area, Paulos Faraj Rahho, that happened three years ago. Despite these incidents, Christians are unashamed to wear the cross in what Muslims feel should be an Islamic state.

*Names, photographs and other information have been changed for security purposes

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