Displaying items by tag: Christian persecution
Church leader Rev Youssef Ourahmane has been convicted of holding an unauthorised religious assembly and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and a fine equivalent to approximately £600. He is vice-president of the Èglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA), an association of around 45 Algerian churches which have been suffering under a severe crackdown that began in 2017. Many EPA-affiliated churches have been forced to close. In March 2023 a small number of Christian families spent three days in a church compound under Rev Youssef’s supervision. The small church in the compound had been sealed by order of the provincial governor in 2019. The pastor was charged with holding an unauthorised religious assembly and holding worship in a building not permitted for worship. He was convicted in absentia and was not informed of the court hearing or the verdict until mid-September. He has appealed the verdict: a hearing date has been set for 19 November.
British Asian Christians are issuing an urgent call for peace in Manipur as the area grapples with escalating violence and persecution. They are calling on people to join a peaceful protest in London next week. They said, ‘This unified effort, driven by the desire for justice and equality, seeks to shed light on the discrimination faced by Christians in the region.’ They are calling for ‘people of faith or no faith, who have good conscience and are moved by the recent attacks to come together and call for change.’ The violent persecution of Christians, which began four months ago over land rights and jobs, has been brought to the attention of British MPs, and a meeting in Parliament to discuss the situation is scheduled for later this month. Prime minister Modi is accused of ignoring the situation and not doing enough to quell the violence, earning him a vote of no confidence.
In April 2022, Finnish MP and former government minister Päivi Räsänen was declared innocent of all charges over her beliefs on sexuality, but the prosecutors appealed the verdict. The latest trial involves expressions of her Christian faith in a tweet, in a church pamphlet twenty years ago, and in a 2019 radio interview. She is accused under the ‘War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity’ for ‘agitation against a minority group’. She says it is a very important verdict for freedom of speech and religion in Finland, which has consequences across Europe. Räsänen’s tweet challenged her church leadership for sponsoring a Pride event, and included a picture of a Bible verse from Romans. The prosecutor said she wasn’t putting God in the dock, but rather those who interpret what the Bible says: ‘You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about Bible verses that are criminal.’ The court will deliver a verdict by 30 November.
Burkina Faso is shaken by political conflict and military coups. ‘Attacks against Christians are common. Many don’t know if they will survive another day. They see loved ones beheaded, raped or reduced to sexual slavery’, said Father Rouamba. He said that Christians are affected on a daily basis by the appalling actions of Al-Qaeda and IS. Terrorists began targeting Christians in Kompienga Province, east Burkina Faso, around Pentecost this year. ‘If people refuse to convert to Islam, they are forced to leave, but as the roads are blocked, they are left to wander around in the forest with no possessions, and many die due to lack of food. These are real tragedies that are not reported in the media.’ Father Rouamba wants to set up support units, offering spiritual and psychological support. Christians who had, to some extent, abandoned religious practice before the crisis are returning to their faith at a time when terrorists are trying to extinguish Christianity.
On 1 September, new rules came into force to limit all religious activities to official venues only and forbid displaying any religious symbols outdoors. All religious activity must be supervised by the state so that places of worship support the leadership of China’s Communist Party. Release International’s Paul Robinson says the new rules are tantamount to a complete ban on Christianity, but in fact Christianity in China is growing. The number of Christians in China has long surpassed the membership of the Communist Party. ChinaAid said they have not seen the Communist Party as bold as they have been this summer in playing God and twisting how the Gospel is taught. The only correct perspective in the eyes of the Communist government is worship of the state and placing faith in Xi Jinping.
Following the killing of 21 Christians and critical injuries to ten more in the Plateau by Fulani militants, believers are increasingly at risk and calling for action from leaders. The violence erupted when Fulani herdsmen set buildings alight in Heipang, an area where many displaced Christians from surrounding villages have been staying. Masara Kim, a Jos journalist, told a Catholic charity that after setting the houses ablaze, they aimed their assault rifles at those trying to flee from the fires. He said, ‘About half of the victims were burnt beyond recognition. At least five of them were infants. It was a heartbreaking scene to witness. They were given a mass burial in a rain-soaked mass grave. These are poor villagers who do not even have money for food, much less for coffins. There were witnesses, but authorities failed to identify the perpetrators.’
The Allied Democratic Force (ADF), which operates primarily out of the DRC, is a violent extremist group that is gaining power in Central Africa. The known IS affiliate is notorious for targeting Christians in its violent campaigns to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region. A widening recruitment network and an increase in funding overseas contributed to ADF’s bloodiest year yet. While IS lost much of its power and control in Syria and Iraq, its affiliate groups in Afghanistan, the Sahel region, and Central Africa grew stronger. The ADF was listed as one of the worst terrorist groups in 2022. Pray for an end to ADF-led violence in this region. Pray for God to protect Christians throughout the DRC. Pray also for the group’s funding and recruitment network to be cut off.
There are 4.9 million Christians in Kazakhstan in the mostly Muslim population. Since 2011, religious freedom has been restricted as government surveillance and control increases. When somebody becomes a Christian, they risk being locked up by their families, kept from other Christians, verbally and physically abused or cut off from family, community and financial support. The authorities monitor and raid meetings of Christian converts and may arrest and imprison their church leaders. The risk of being forcibly married to a Muslim remains an ongoing risk for women who become Christians|: in rural areas, they are sometimes kidnapped for this purpose. Christian men are pressured by the state, and in the army, a highly controlled environment. It is difficult for Christians to earn a living; authorities can demand bribes from Christian business owners, and some keep their faith a secret. Converts and church leaders particularly risk losing employment.
Over 100 people were arrested in Jaranwala after thousands of Muslims burned churches and vandalised homes. The unrest was sparked by claims that two Christian men tore pages from the Quran. The historic Salvation Army Church was still smouldering on 17 August, one day after the riot. The ruins are surrounded with barbed wire, The situation remains tense. Public gatherings have been restricted for seven days. The men accused of damaging the Quran have been charged with blasphemy, punishable by death. An accusation of blasphemy can result in widespread riots, lynchings and killings. Yassir Bhatti, a 31-year-old Christian, was one of those forced to flee their homes. ‘They broke the windows, doors and took out fridges, sofas, chairs and other household items to pile them up in front of the church to be burnt. They also burnt and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless.’ Videos on social media show protesters destroying Christian buildings while police appear to look on.
Pakistani Christians are crying silently for peace, understanding, and respect for their religious symbols. But their cries are not heard domestically or globally. Christianity has been an integral part of Pakistan's multi-religious society since its inception in 1947 when Muhammad Ali Jinnah promised equal citizenship rights. In 2023 Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against, and targets of hostility and violence. Often the blasphemy law is misused against them, further worsening their situation. A comprehensive strategy that includes improved security measures for religious minorities and educational campaigns to foster tolerance and mutual respect is needed urgently. The government needs to uphold its commitment to religious freedom and safeguard all its citizens, as enshrined in its constitution and in line with international covenants. Pray for the government to reassess its approach toward religious minorities and condemn violence and threats against them. Pray for incorporating religious tolerance and coexistence in the curricula for school and public awareness campaigns.