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Christians Killed in Attacks in Coastal Region of Kenya
Amid ethnic and political conflicts, religion also appears as factor in killings.

By Our East Africa Correspondent
NAIROBI, Kenya, July 9, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Two Christians near Kenya’s coast were killed Monday night (July 7) following attacks by suspected Islamic extremists over the weekend on two predominantly Christian villages that left more than 30 people dead, sources said. 

In the attack Monday night, the assailants arrived at Covenant Church, three kilometers north of Hindi, just after the close of a Bible study; as those in the study fled, two men, Joseph Kangethe and Kenda Masha, opted to hide in the building, a source told Morning Star News. Kangethe and Masha died when the attackers set fire to the building, said the source, whose identity is undisclosed for security reasons.

A Catholic church building in the village of Gamba, in neighboring Tana River County, was also razed the same night. Gamba is about 46 kilometers (28 miles) from Mpeketoni, a predominantly Christian town where gunmen killed at least 57 people in a June 15 attack. 

On Saturday night (July 5), gunmen attacked both Gamba and the village of Hindi, which is in Lamu County. In Hindi, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mpeketoni, 15 to 20 assailants with guns and knives killed at least 13 people, area sources told Morning Star News. Among the dead Christians was Ken Mangara, a 12-year-old student at Kibiboni primary school, and Kenya Kazungu, in his 30s, who was found in a pool of blood with a Bible on his back, the source said.

One survivor of the attack in Hindi said the assailants told non-Muslims to leave the area.

“The attackers talked in Somali and Kiswahili [Swahili, Kenya’s national language], saying non-Muslims should get out, and if not they should convert to Islam,” she told Morning Star News.

Another survivor, a Christian whose husband was killed, fled to Mpeketoni, where she told Morning Star News the assailants torched several homes and a church building in Hindi and shot their weapons as little as possible to limit the sound of gunfire during the four-hour operation. 

“I was removed with my daughter from the house while the attackers tied my husband to the bedside before setting the house on fire,” she said. “The attackers, who spoke mainly in Somali, targeted non-Muslims, whom they tied with ropes before slitting their throats.” 

Among those who died when their homes were set ablaze was Steve Gichohi, who worked with a local Christian ministry group, sources said.

At 1 p.m. a government vehicle, a Land Cruiser pick-up truck, arrived in Mpeketoni from Hindi with 13 bodies, the source said. 

“The bodies that arrived at Mpeketoni had their throats slit, with their hands tied behind their backs,” he said. 

In the attack on Gamba on Saturday night (July 5), armed gunmen freed at least one Muslim prisoner suspected in last month’s massacre in Mpeketoni, sources said. Somalia’s Islamic extremist Al Shabaab rebels took responsibility for the June 15 attack on Mpeketoni, though Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed it on “local political networks.” 

In the raid on the police station in Gamba, the gunmen freed three other Muslim prisoners and killed five non-Muslims who would not recite the Islamic conversion creed, sources said.

“They were eight in the prison cell,” said a source who visited the area. “The attackers asked if there were Muslims. Three said yes. The three were removed from the cell, and thereafter the others were killed with gunshots.”

The assailants killed at least one police officer in the raid and reportedly killed three other people in the course of hijacking their truck. A spokeseman for the Interior Ministry told Reuters that at least 20 people were killed in the Gamba area attack.
 
Suspicions for the weekend attacks fell on the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a separatist group claiming political and economic discrimination that the Kenyan government has banned as a “criminal gang” dominated by Islamic extremists. MRC head Randu Nzai Ruwa, however, denied the group’s involvement in the attack, according to Reuters. Al Shabaab, which has carried out retaliation killings in Kenya for its involvement in African Union forces fighting the rebels in Somalia, took responsibility for the killings in the two villages, though government officials were skeptical.

Police said motives for the killings could be conflicts over politics, religion and land.

A note scrawled on a small blackboard from a school, found near a crossroads in Hindi, suggested the assaults came in retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.

“You invade Muslim country, and you want to stay in peace,” it read. “Kick Christians out [of] coast.”

A police spokesperson told reporters that a phrase on the blackboard indicated support for opposition leader Raila Odinga.
  
Eyewitness said that in both Hindi and Gamba, some attackers had their faces covered, while others were in military uniform. The Gamba group used automatic rifles as they stormed the police station. They first asked the officer on duty for the prisoner transferred from Mpeketoni. When he became suspicious and declined to respond, they immediately opened fire and killed him, sources said. 

Police described the confrontation as a “fierce shoot-out.”

Kenya’s Christians have suffered other violence recently. On March 23, gunmen entered a Sunday morning worship service in Mombasa County and sprayed the congregation with bullets, killing at least seven Christians and leaving several others in critical condition. Two heavily-armed men wounded more than a dozen of the 200-member Joy in Jesus Church in the Likoni area of Mombasa, where a mosque said to have ties with the Somali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab has caused tensions.

No one has taken responsibility for the attack, which reportedly involved a third gunman outside the church building shooting at Christians fleeing the attack. Church leaders suspected Islamic extremists had carried it out in reprisal for a raid by armed police on the Masjid Musa Mosque (now Masjid Shuhada, or “Martyrs Mosque”) on Feb. 2, in which more than 100 Muslims were arrested and at least two were killed; most of those detained have been released.

Suspected Islamic extremists likely killed Lawrence Kazungu Kadenge, 59, an assistant pastor at Glory of God Ministries Church, in the Majengo area of Mombasa on Feb. 2 for sharing his faith near the Musa mosque and alerting authorities to security threats, sources said. Some youths reportedly raised the black flag of Al Shabaab at the mosque that day, when the raid by authorities touched off riots.

On Oct. 19, 2013, suspected Islamic extremists in Mombasa killed pastor Charles “Patrick” Matole of Vikwantani Redeemed Gospel Church following riots associated with the same mosque. Matole had received death threats. The murder came a few weeks after rioting in Mombasa by Muslims enraged at the killing of sheikh Ibrahim Omar and three others on a road near Mombasa (see Morning Star News, Oct. 7, 2013).

Photo: Tana River in county of the same name in Kenya. (Morning Star News via Wikipedia)

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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this is hate speech-what prove do u have such that u say they were christians...this is incitement ..FUCK UP WITH YOUR RUMOURS 
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Christians Killed, Church Buildings Destroyed in Sudan’s Bombing of Civilians 
Four children, elderly woman among 10 dead in Nuba Mountains.

By Our Sudan Correspondent
JUBA, South Sudan (Morning Star News) – Sudan’s bombing of civilian targets in the country’s Nuba Mountains in the past two months has killed at least 10 Christians, sources told Morning Star News.

Four children and an elderly woman were among the victims of bombings in Sudan’s South Kordofan state as part of the regime’s plan to rid the country of Christians, mostly black ethnic Nuba, in an effort to render it solely Arabic and Islamic, Sudanese Christians say. 

Church leaders and aid workers told Morning Star News that Sudan’s bombings of civilian areas in its war with the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) killed 14-year-old Abdo al Nour and Abdel Rahman Hassan, 15, in the village of Um Serdiba on June 13. In the same area on May 20, according to the sources who requested anonymity, a Sudanese Air Force bombing killed 30-year-old Kimmia Calals of the Sudanese Church of Christ, leaving her nursing child motherless. 

On June 17 in Tabalo village, a Sudanese bomb from a Russian-made Antonov plane killed Yasin Salah, 16, and another minor, Ado al Sawaq, the sources said. On June 11 in the same village in Um Dorain County, 80-year-old Amira Ballula was killed when a plane dropped a bomb on her house in the village of Tabalo, they said. 

The bombers targeted two church buildings belonging to the Sudanese Church of Christ on June 18 in Um Dorain. The aerial bombardment also destroyed eight boreholes that provided water, a source said. 

He said the bombers do not differentiate between civilians and military installations.

“They just bomb randomly on civilians, who are innocents,” he said. 

Christians in Um Serdiba, El Nugura, Tabalo, Alabu, and Tangal scattered to bushes and caves as the aerial bombardment continued from morning to evening.

“Dozens of people have died [since fighting broke out in June 2011] as a result of the attacks,” said an area source, estimating that Christians accounted for about 40 percent of the civilian fatalities. 

In Um Serdiba, the Sudanese Air Force bombed another church of the Sudanese Church of Christ, sending church members running into mountain caves. Over three weeks, the Sudan Air Force destroyed three church buildings.   

The bombing of civilian targets in South Kordofan state in May targeted the region’s only hospital and damaged an orphanage school and a relief agency, sources said. In Um Serdiba on May 18, Sife El Deen Ibrahim, 40, was killed immediately when a bomb from an Antonov jet hit the Christian’s house, an area church member requesting anonymity told Morning Star News.

Ibrahim left a widow and four children, ages 12, 15, 17 and 20, who were dependent on him for their livelihood, she said.

In Kauda, Antonov planes dropped bombs on the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization (NRRDO), the only humanitarian organization in South Kordofan, in late May, sources said. On May 29, bombing destroyed an orphanage school in Kauda, they said. 

Since South Sudan split from Sudan in a 2011 referendum, Nuba people in Sudan’s South Kordofan state believe the government’s goal of quashing rebels is also meant to rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has said post-secession Sudan will adhere more exclusively to Islam and Arabic culture.

Thousands of civilians have taken refuge in Nuba Mountain caves in South Kordofan, which borders South Sudan. The Nuba people have longstanding complaints against Khartoum – including neglect, oppression and forced conversions to Islam in a 1990s jihad – but as Sudanese citizens on the northern side of the border, they were never given the option of secession in the 2005 peace pact between northern and southern Sudan.

The rebels in the Nuba Mountains were formerly involved with the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) forces fighting Khartoum before the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Fighting between Sudan and South Sudan broke out in June 2011, when Khartoum forcefully attempted to disarm the SPLA-N in South Kordofan by force rather than awaiting a process of disarmament as called for in the CPA. When the CPA was signed in 2005, the people of South Kordofan were to vote on whether to join the north or the south, but the state governor suspended the process.
 
Photo: Civilian bombings have driven thousands into caves in Nuba Mountains. (Diocese of El Obeid)

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?    

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© 2014 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News. 

Find Morning Star News at http://morningstarnews.org

Tweet: https://twitter.com/morningstarnewz/

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
 
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Swedish Midwife Sues State over Dismissal for Refusing to Aid in Abortions
Lawsuit seeks compensation for damages and discrimination.
 
By the Editor
June 30, 2014 (Morning Star News) – A Scandinavian rights group has filed suit against the Swedish government on behalf of a Christian woman who was fired for refusing to perform abortions.

Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers, a Non-Governmental Organization that describes itself as dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights and human dignity, states in the lawsuit that Jönköping County Council in Sweden supported three different hospitals’ withdrawal of midwife work from Swedish Christian Ellinor Grimmark. 

The council “set up an obligation to perform abortions as a condition for employment as a midwife,” the rights organization states, according to LifeNews.com. “This is a requirement that puts persons of a certain religion or other beliefs in a discriminatory position.”

The lawsuit seeks 80,000 Swedish kronas (US$11,655) in compensation for damages and 60,000 Swedish kronas (US$8,740) in compensation for discrimination. 

Roger Kiska, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom Europe, which supports the lawsuit, said ADF is confident that the Swedish courts will rule in Grimmarks’ favor.

“In a civil society in this day and age, it is shocking that we are denying one of the most fundamental of human rights, the right to conscience,” he said, according to LifeNews. “A society has truly lost its way when it excludes someone from the healthcare profession merely because they want to bring human life into the world rather than destroying it.”

Hospital officials in the southern town of Eksjö had promised to extend Grimmark’s contract until she refused to participate in abortions last year. The Jönköping County Council’s decisions constituted interference with the exercise of Grimmark’s right to freedom of conscience and religion under the European Convention on Human Rights, according to Ruth Nordström, head of Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers and CEO of Provita, which has supported Grimmark.

Grimmark, of Tenhult, told Morning Star News that she had prepared for work as a midwife with the understanding that the primary responsibility would be to help deliver babies. She was aware that hospital work in Sweden could conflict with her convictions, but she hoped for an employer who would honor freedom of conscience, she said.

Sweden has no comprehensive and clear legal and policy framework regarding freedom of conscience, Nordström said. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR, formally European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), offers protections that are legally binding in Sweden, she said.

The Scandinavian rights organization’s Reinhold Fahlbeck said that “if this case is brought to the European Court of Human Rights, Sweden will lose,” according to LifeNews.com. “There is a proper consensus among the Council of Europe member states to allow freedom of conscience for health care workers regarding abortion and euthanasia, and the scope for national deviations is very small in this case.”
 
Since 1975, between 30,000 and 38,000 abortions have been performed per year in Sweden, Catharina Zätterström of the board of the Swedish Association for Midwives told Morning Star News. 

“In Sweden, health care professionals don’t have the possibility to rely on conscientious objection,” she said. “The Swedish midwifery competence area is sexual and reproductive health, which includes abortion care. Wherever you work as a midwife, you can meet a woman who is going to have or has had an abortion.”

Sweden’s 1975 abortion law entitles women to have an abortion on demand up to the end of the 18th week of gestation. For an abortion after that point, a woman must apply to the Social Board of Health and Welfare, with permission granted only if she has exceptional reasons, Zätterström said. After the end of the 21st week of gestation, abortions are no longer allowed.

Grimmark’s case has sparked debate in Sweden. Nordström said a 2010 resolution should greatly affect how the European Court of Human Rights interprets the ECHR articles. European case law protecting freedom of conscience is strengthened by Council of Europe resolution 1763 on conscience for health care workers and protection of freedom of conscience in health care among member states in Europe, she said.

Resolution 1763, which the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly adopted on Oct. 7, 2010, stipulates that “No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human fetus or embryo, for any reason.”

Photo: Roger Kiska of ADF. (Scandinavianhumandignityaward.org)
If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?    

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© 2014 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News. 

Find Morning Star News at http://morningstarnews.org

Tweet: https://twitter.com/morningstarnewz/

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Meriam Ibrahim Released from Custody after Attempt to Leave Sudan
Elements within government attempting to charge mother of two with ‘fraudulent’ travel documents.

By the Editor
June 26, 2014 (Morning Star News) – The Sudanese mother of two detained at a Khartoum airport on Tuesday (June 24) after her death sentence for apostasy was overturned on Monday was released today, and foreign governments are pressuring Sudan to permit her to travel outside the country, according to various sources.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim reportedly left a Khartoum police station with her husband, dual U.S.-South Sudanese citizen Daniel Wani, her newborn daughter and toddler son, but she could face charges of forging travel documents, punishable by up to seven years in prison. Her attorneys deny that her travel documents are forged or fraudulent.

Ibrahim was reportedly released on bail.

At the U.S. State Department’s daily press briefing, Marie Harf said Ibrahim has all travel documents necessary to enter the United States but needs exit permission from Sudan.

“We are in communication with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure that she and her family will be free to travel as quickly as possible,” Harf told reporters. “And from our perspective, Meriam has all of the documents she needs to travel to and enter the United States. It’s up to the Government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country. As I said, we’re working with them on that right now.”

Ibrahim and her family face dangers from relatives and other Muslims who have vowed to kill her for leaving Islam, though she says she was raised as a Christian and never practiced Islam. Asked if she was hopeful that Ibrahim and her family could leave the country today, Harf said she did not want to make predictions.

“We’re hopeful that she’ll be able to get out soon,” she said. 

Harf declined to comment on the nature or propriety of Ibrahim’s travel papers.

A top Sudanese official, Abdullahi Alzareg of Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the BBC that Ibrahim was using “emergency South Sudanese papers” even though she is a citizen of Sudan, along with a U.S. visa. A South Sudanese official has reportedly vouched for the legitimacy of the documents. Alzareg said Ibrahim would need to get a passport and exit visa in order to leave the country.

A spokesman for the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C., Seif Yasin, told FoxNews.com that Ibrahim’s travel papers were “fraudulent” and that she could leave Sudan “whenever the legal procedure comes to an end.”

“It is regrettable and disturbing that some elements attempted to bring Meriam to the U.S. by issuing her an entry visa on a fraudulent traveling document obtained from a foreign country (for a woman the whole world knows ... is [a] Sudanese national ),” Yasin said in a statement. “That is inexcusable and unnecessary violations for all laws and regulations, including U.S. ones. The same legal system that protects her right and secures her freedom is capable of guaranteeing her right to leave the country whenever the legal procedure comes to an end.”

While the U.S. State Department views her denial to travel as temporary, Yasin’s statement seems to indicate that Sudan regards what may have been merely the wrong kind of document as “fraudulent.” Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), meantime, is also portraying what appeared to be a hastily planned attempt to leave the country – with the aid of attorneys and U.S. officials – into a criminal matter.

“The airport passport police arrested Abrar [her Muslim name] after she presented emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese Embassy and carrying an American visa,” says a post on the NISS website. “The Sudanese authorities considered [the action] a criminal violation, and the Foreign Ministry summoned the American and South Sudanese ambassadors.”
 
More than 40 NISS agents confronted Ibrahim and her family, accompanied by the U.S. vice-consul and a member of her legal team, at the airport on Tuesday (June 24). Muslims claiming to be Ibrahim’s relatives initially accused her of leaving Islam, and a man claiming to be her brother told a Sudanese newspaper that he tipped off police about her departure.

Experts suspected elements within NISS objected to her release and that there was disagreement within the government about her case. 

Ibrahim was released from prison in Sudan on Monday (June 23), less than two months after Morning Star News broke the story of false charges of apostasy against her that set off a firestorm of international protests.

Ibrahim, who gave birth to her daughter, Maya, in prison on May 27, had received a sentence of death by hanging for allegedly leaving Islam after a Muslim claiming to be a relative accused her of  marrying a Christian man – the crime of “adultery” under Islamic law for which she was also sentenced to 100 lashes.

Sudan’s state news agency reported that the country’s Court of Cassation on Monday (June 23) canceled the death sentence against Ibrahim, who has been in prison with her son since February, after defense lawyers presented their case. Witnesses for the defense had been prohibited from testifying during the trial.

Human rights advocates said Sudan must ensure protection for Ibrahim and her family, as Islamists clamored for her death throughout the trial. Ibrahim has maintained that her Sudanese father was Muslim but disappeared when she was 6, and that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Having never been a Muslim, she could not be guilty of apostasy, she testified.

A woman claiming to be Ibrahim’s mother and a man who claimed to be her brother attended court hearings, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).

“However, Meriam did not recognize either of them, and they contradicted each other concerning Meriam’s father and could not answer simple questions relating to Meriam’s upbringing, leaving their claims and statements open to question,” according to MEC.

International media, Western embassies and human rights groups urged her release when Ibrahim’s death sentence was confirmed after she refused to recant her faith on May 15.

Christian Solidarity Wordwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said in a press statement that the advocacy organization welcomed the decision to release Ibrahim on bail but continue to be deeply concerned for her welfare.

“Mrs. Ibrahim and Mr. Wani’s extended detention (despite the provision of credible evidence by relevant officials from the South Sudanese embassy that negates every allegation leveled against them), violates Sudan’s criminal procedures as well as article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory,” Thomas said.

Photo:  Meriam with family after her release on June 23. (Shareif Ali Shareif)


If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?   

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© 2014 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News.
Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA.
 
 
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But even the Jahovah Witnesses aren't that extreme when you leave. They only sign you up on the Southern Baptist mailing list. 
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Copt Convicted of ‘Blasphemy’ in Egypt for ‘Liking’ Facebook Page
Severity of sentence shocks Christian community, free speech advocates.

By Our Middle East Correspondent
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 25, 2014 (Morning Star News) – A young Christian man in Upper Egypt accused of blaspheming Islam for “liking” a Facebook page was sentenced Tuesday (June 24) to six years in prison, shocking the Coptic community and other Facebook users. 

Judge Hazim Hany of Armant Criminal Court found Kerolos Shouky Attallah, 29, of Al-Mahamid village near Luxor, guilty of violating two articles of the Egyptian Penal Code – Article 98F, defaming a divinely revealed religion, and Article 176, inciting sectarian violence.

Attallah was charged for “liking” an Arabic-language Facebook page administered by an anonymous group of Christian converts known as the Knights of the Cross. His attorney, Mohamed Ahmed Abd-Alaal, said Attallah did not make any comments on the site, share any of the postings or upload anything to it. Attallah promptly removed his name from the page once he realized the Facebook page offended some Muslims. 

The guilty verdict and the severity of the sentence came as a surprise, said Safwat Samaan, chairman of Nation Without Borders, a human rights and development group headquartered in Luxor.

“The sentence today was a shock not just to Kerolos but to everyone who uses Facebook in Egypt,” Samaan said. “Any person who uses Facebook in Egypt and presses ‘Like’ on any page … can be put into prison for six years.”

Abd-Alaal told Morning Star News that the cause of Islamist anger in Al-Mahamid wasn’t a satirical cartoon about the Salafi movement but religious extremism and oversensitivity. 

“Nobody could upset Christ or Muhammad by these comments; the accusation came out of nowhere,” said Abd-Alaal, a Sunni Muslim.

The Knights of the Cross Facebook page was designed to provide Arabic-speaking converts from Islam – many forced to live alone and in hiding – a cyber-place to encourage each other and safely discuss the Bible. Members also post essays about Christian apologetics and entries about perceived errors and conflicts in the Koran. 

The number of years in prison Attallah received for each charge will be released within 30 days. An appeal is planned for next month. 

It is unknown what day Attallah “liked” the Knights of the Cross Facebook page. Attallah obtained a cell phone sometime in May and started his own Facebook page soon thereafter. Days later, Muslims in his village became aware that he had “liked” the offending page, and by May 28, they printed and distributed leaflets demanding vengeance against him. One leaflet read, “You will not be men if you don’t kick him out of your village,” according to Samaan.

The Muslims tried to attack Attallah at his home the next day, but security authorities intervened by arresting Attallah. Authorities did not arrest any of the Muslims involved in the attack or those who incited it with the leaflets. Up until the day before the sentencing, Muslims were intermittently attacking Christian-owned homes and businesses, using the Facebook site as an excuse.

Human rights activists regard courts in and around Luxor as predisposed against those accused of committing blasphemy, human rights activists have said. Area Christians are disproportionately accused of committing blasphemy, and sentences are severe and swift while evidence, testimony and legal procedure that would exonerate the accused are ignored.

“When Copts are accused of blasphemy, the courts have to act as fast as they can,” Samaan said. “But when Copts are kidnapped, Copts’ land is stolen, or Copts are being killed … the law is not used at all.”

Historically, Samaan said, judges in Luxor Province in Upper Egypt have been very aggressive in prosecuting blasphemy cases, handing down sentences well above statutory limits.

Exacerbating the problems Attallah has to endure is his family’s financial situation. The legal fees have been ruinous, Samaan said. Also, in most prison systems across the Middle East, families are expected to bring food to augment the rations prisoners receive. On a recent visit to the prison, Attallah’s father brought him three bottles of water and a bag of potato chips.

“When will they stop persecuting Christians?” Samaan said. “When will the Copts stop paying the price and being sacrificed for every revolution? When will the Copts stop being a scapegoat and a target for every extremist in the country?”

Photo: Kerolos Shouky Attallah. (Nation Without Borders)

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© 2014 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News. 

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Sudan Detains Meriam Ibrahim after Cancelling Death Sentence
Family detained at airport.

By Our Sudan Correspondent
(Updated June 24) JUBA, South Sudan, June 23 2014 (Morning Star News) – National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents today detained Meriam Yahia Ibrahim at the Khartoum airport, 24 hours after her death sentence for alleged apostasy was cancelled, according to her attorney.

More than 40 security agents reportedly detained her along with her husband, Daniel Wani, 22-month-old son and newborn daughter.

“She has no proper documents to travel, but NISS did not officially disclose the reason for detaining her,” her attorney told Morning Star News. ““They were arrested today at Khartoum International Airport as they were about to board the aircraft.”

Experts suspected elements within NISS objected to her release and that there was disagreement within the government about her case. A Sudanese foreign affairs official told the BBC she would be freed “soon.” She has been denied access to her legal team.

Though Sudanese, Ibrahim was using emergency South Sudanese papers with a U.S. visa to travel, the official told BBC. Her husband, a South Sudan national, also has U.S. citizenship.
 
Ibrahim was released from prison in Sudan on Monday (June 23), less than two months after Morning Star News broke the story of false charges of apostasy against her that set off a firestorm of international protests.

Ibrahim, who gave birth to her second child in prison on May 27, had received a sentence of death by hanging for allegedly leaving Islam after a Muslim claiming to be a relative accused her of marrying a Christian man – the crime of “adultery” under Islamic law for which she was also sentenced to 100 lashes.

One of her attorneys, whose name is withheld for security reasons, confirmed that she was released at 2 p.m.

“The court has served us with a letter stating that she is now free of charges,” he told Morning Star News. “Thank you for your work on the case. We knew we were going to win the case.”

Sudan’s state news agency reported that the country’s Court of Cassation canceled the death sentence against the 27-year-old Christian, who has been in prison with her toddler son since February, after defense lawyers presented their case. Witnesses for the defense had been prohibited from testifying during the trial.

Human rights advocates said Sudan must ensure protection for Ibrahim and her family, as Islamists have clamored for her death throughout the trial. She will likely seek asylum in another country on grounds of religious persecution.

Ibrahim has maintained that her Sudanese father was Muslim but disappeared when she was 6, and that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Having never been a Muslim, she could not be guilty of apostasy, she testified.

A woman claiming to be Ibrahim’s mother and a man who claimed to be her brother attended court hearings, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). 

“However, Meriam did not recognize either of them, and they contradicted each other concerning Meriam’s father and could not answer simple questions relating to Meriam’s upbringing, leaving their claims and statements open to question,” according to MEC. 

International media, Western embassies and human rights groups urged her release when Ibrahim’s death sentence was confirmed after she refused to recant her faith on May 15. Among those advocating for her release was Christian Solidarity Worldwide, whose chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, released a statement asserting that Sudan must now protect her from Islamist vigilantes.

“We are delighted to hear that Mrs. Ibrahim and her children have been released into the care of her husband and that the unjust, inhumane and unwarranted sentences have been annulled,” Thomas said. “However, we remain appalled by the threats and hate speech that has been aired seemingly unhindered against Mrs. Ibrahim and her lawyers and urge the international community to hold the Sudanese authorities to account for her safety and that of her lawyers.”

Another woman raised as a Christian and falsely accused of apostasy in Sudan has been released after she recanted when threatened with the death sentence last month, sources told Morning Star News. Authorities had detained Faiza Abdalla, 37, in the town of El Gadarif on Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia, on April 2 as she was trying to obtain her identification number at an official building.

Immigration/Citizenship police questioned her about her religion and arrested her on suspicion of leaving Islam. She is the mother of eight children.

Photo: Meriam Yahia Ibrahim in wedding photo posted on Facebook.

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Boko Haram Attacks Relentless in Wake of Kidnapping of Girls in Nigeria
Christians begin to defend themselves as trust in army falters.

By the Editor
July 8, 2014 (Morning Star News) – After a massacre in which members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram group last month dressed in Nigerian Army fatigues, Christian leaders believe elements in the military must be complicit in the often-unchallenged attacks on Christians. 

In the wake of the group’s kidnapping of more than 300 high school girls, Boko Haram has launched continuous attacks, some of them resulting in dozens of fatalities, on predominantly Christian areas of northeastern Nigeria. As trust in the Nigerian military falters, Christians have reportedly begun trying to arm themselves in defense.

“In Ataggara, Southern Senatorial Zone of Borno state, Boko Haram attacked and were repelled by the community,” three Christian leaders wrote on June 10 in Nigerian newspaper The Guardian, describing a June 1 insurgent assault that killed nine church guards posted at a worship service. 

Community leaders went to military officials in Pulka to report the attack and were assured that a unit would protect the town’s people, wrote church leaders Pogu Bitrus of Chibok, the Rev. Ibrahim Dauwa of Gwoza and the Rev. James Yaga, also of Gwoza. 

“The following day some people appeared in Nigeria Army issue in nine armored personnel carriers bearing the colors and insignia of the Nigerian Army,” the wrote. “They announced to the villagers that they had come to assess the security situation. When the people gathered to hear them, the men that came in armored personnel carriers and in Army uniform opened fire and killed over 250 men, women and children.”

The assailants pursued those who fled into the bush and butchered them with knives or shot them to death, they wrote. 

“We are aware that the Nigerian military is a deeply divided fighting force,” they wrote. “As the Ataggara case above illustrates, when some Muslim commanding officers and others receive reports from our communities, they pass such reports to Boko Haram, who come in Nigerian Army issue uniforms to perpetrate pogroms in our communities.”

Suspected members of Boko Haram, an insurgent group that seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) throughout Nigeria, reportedly undertook an equally insidious ruse on June 4 in Barderi, on the outskirts of the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. Pretending to be a few of the itinerant preachers common in Nigeria, the Islamic extremists gathered villagers for a homily on “the righteous path” at about 9:30 p.m. witnesses told Agence-France Presse (AFP).

After villagers had gathered, another set of insurgents joined the false preachers, and they opened fire on the crowd, the witnesses said. At least 45 men, women and children were killed.

Boko Haram members had assaulted four villages in Gwoza District the previous day in violence that community leaders said may have resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Enumerating attacks that killed from 2 to 46 people in each of nearly 50 other villages from mid-May to mid-June, the three church leaders noted that the violence took place where Christianity is the dominant faith.

“We want to place on record that all the communities mentioned above are predominantly Christian,” they wrote. “Why are we being attacked now? The answer lies in the result of the 2011 presidential election. It is on record that the Middle Belt, which the Southern Borno State Senatorial Zone is a bona fide part of, voted massively for President Goodluck Jonathan; a fact that enabled the sitting president to succeed at the polls in 2011. Going towards 2015, Boko Haram, on behalf of the oligarchic North, wants to decimate and displace our communities so that we would be less of a factor.”

Additionally, observers say Boko Haram violence is meant to destabilize the government not only by showing it cannot contain attacks but by sowing religious conflict. As Christians seek arms to defend themselves against an insurgency that some say already has superior weapons to those of the Nigerian military, a plea by the three church leaders for the president to arm Christians belies how desperate churches have become.

“Our most profound prayer to President Jonathan, which we want other Nigerians and the international community to pressure him to accede to, is that he should arm our communities,” the three church leaders wrote. “If we have access to arms and ammunition like Boko Haram, we would have a sporting chance of defending our lives, dependents and property.”

Suspected Boko Haram members launched another massive attack at the end of the month near Chibok, where the high school girls were kidnapped on April 15, spraying a church service in Kwada village with bullets on June 29 before burning homes. Scores of Christians were killed there and in neighboring Kautikari, and five church buildings in the villages were destroyed.

In Abuja, the Nigerian capital, a Boko Haram bomb attack on a shopping mall at the Emab Plaza on June 25 killed 24 people. Area witnesses told Morning Star News that the mall includes a Christian bookstore and several Christian-owned stories. Though some Muslims were killed, Boko Haram sought to maximize Christian fatalities, as bombers timed the explosion for 4 p.m., 15 minutes after many Muslims had left for the 3:45 p.m. prayer time at a nearby mosque.

“The bomb was targeted at the mall because there is a Christian bookshop where there were Bibles, Christian literature and videos are sold,” said a resident who requested anonymity. “Also, all the shops that sell computers and ICT accessories are owned by Christians.”

Shortly after the explosion, the Rev. Musa Asake, national secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), told Morning Star News, “It is unfortunate that there is a deliberate attempt to annihilate Christians at all cost.” 

Besides Abuja, in the country’s center, Boko Haram has also attacked other parts of Nigeria. In Owerri, Imo state in the country’s southeast, authorities thwarted an attempt to bomb the Living Faith Church, a Pentecostal church.

On 14 June, Boko Haram members gained entrance to the church and planted bombs the night before more than 15,000 worshipers would attend services the following day. Vigilant security guards reportedly alerted police and soldiers, who arrested six of the insurgents.

Moses Oyedele, pastor of the church, confirmed the bombing attempt. 

“Yes, there were some Boko Haram men who were arrested in my church by security agents as they were planting bombs in the church,” he told Morning Star News. “The bombs were detonated and evacuated by the security agents. We thank God for His intervention.”

Imo Gov. Rochas Okorocha said in a press statement that authorities averted a massive disaster. 

“The bombs had the capacity to go within a 500-meters range, and it would have been a disaster if they had exploded, as the church where it was planted is located at a densely populated area of the state,” he said.

The three church leaders from Chibok and Gwoza writing in The Guardian note that high-ranking Muslim officials are disingenuous in stating that the Boko Haram insurgency is devoid of a Muslim extremist agenda.

“In 2012, in a widely publicized video recording that is easily accessible on the Internet, Abubakar Shekau … announced the mission statement of his sect,” they wrote. “Among other things, he said, ‘This war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers. It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight.’”

Photo: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. (Wikipedia)


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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Sudanese Authorities Demolish another Church Building
Advance notice came previous day – during worship service.

By Our Sudan Correspondent
JUBA, South Sudan, June 30, 2014 (Morning Star News Morning Star News) – Authorities in North Khartoum demolished another church building today, just a day after giving verbal notice during the congregation’s worship service, sources said.

Bulldozers demolished the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Thiba Al Hamyida area of the city as church members watched, with security personnel threatening to arrest them if they tried to block their efforts, church members said.

There were about 70 security personnel armed with guns and tear gas, they said.
 
“They wanted to beat us or throw tear gas on us,” said one member on condition of anonymity. No one was injured during the demolition, they said.
 
Authorities came to the worship service on Sunday morning (June 29), ordering the 430-member congregation to leave the building as soon as possible in order for them to demolish it, but there was no further explanation, said the Rev. Kwa Shamal, pastor of the Sudanese Church of Christ.

When Shamal and other church leaders went to the North Khartoum commissioner to inquire about the demolition, office director Abdel Aziz Omer told them the government had planned to destroy it since 2012, the pastor said. Shamal told Morning Star News that the church, which began in 1983, has documents showing it owns the land, but Aziz Omer said the land was designated for a hospital.

“They did not want us to ask many question on why they were demolishing our church,” the pastor told Morning Star News. 
 
The government refuses to grant any compensation, and the congregation will be forced to worship in tents on the roadside, he said.

“We will have to pray in a makeshift tent next Sunday,” he said. 

A nearby mosque on the same square was allowed to stand, church members said.

“Even if they destroy this church building, our God is still good all the time,” a church member said. “We the believers are the real church. We are asking you to continue to pray for us because of the great challenge we are facing.” 

On Feb. 17, bulldozers accompanied by local police and personnel from the National Intelligence and Security Services destroyed the Sudanese Church of Christ building in the Ombada area of Omdurman, across the River Nile from Khartoum, with any advance notice.

Officials gave no reason for the demolition except that, as it was located in a “Muslim area,” the 300-member church was not wanted there, a church member said. Another source, a church leader, confirmed to Morning Star News that authorities destroyed the building and confiscated the land without warning.

The orders came from the Ombada locality, or city council, sources said.

Following the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese, but officials did not offer that basis in this case. Harassment, arrests and persecution of Christians have intensified since the secession of South Sudan, when President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language.

Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians (see Morning Star News).

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and in April 2013, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended the country remain on the list.

Many foreign Christians have been expelled from the country, and others have fled.

Photo: Remains of Sudanese Church of Christ in North Khartoum. (Morning Star News)


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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Lao Christians Charged with Murder after Praying for Sick Villager
Authorities initially arrest pastor, four others over burial dispute.

By the Editor
June 29, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Eager to stop the spread of Christianity, authorities in a village in Laos have charged a pastor and four church members with murder after they prayed for a sick woman who later died, area sources said.

The deceased, a mother of eight grown children in Savannakhet Province identified only by her surname of Chan, had been ill for two years with an unknown condition. Various kinds of healers and doctors in Saisomboon village, Atsaphangthong District, had treated her without success, area residents told a representative of Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). 

“Mrs. Chan came – in April – to Kaithong, the leader of the Saisomboon village church, to be prayed for, and she apparently became well for a short time,” the HRWLRF representative, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Morning Star News. “She then embraced the Christian faith. Then, she suddenly passed away on June 21. The police authorities charged Kaithong as well as the other four Christians/leaders who were present at the funeral of murder because she passed away.”

Her eight sons and daughters, four of whom are married, also began to embrace Christianity, he said, and four other families in the village had already put their trust in Christ.

“I believe that authorities are trying to find every way they possibly can in order to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area,” the HRWLRF representative said.

The pastor, a woman identified only as Kaithong, and the four others were arrested on Tuesday evening (June 24) and were being held in handcuffs with their feet in stocks, he said. Along with the pastor, four church members identified only as Puphet, Muk, Hasadee and Tiang were detained at Bouthong sub-district police station, directed by Atsaphangthong District police. 

Initially they were arrested only over a burial dispute. On the day Chan died, her sons and daughters secured permission from the Saisomboon village chief to organize a Christian burial ceremony and to bury her on their own personal property, as Christians are denied burial rights in the Saisomboon village cemetery. When the time came to gather for mourning on Sunday evening (June 22), however, the village chief, along with the village’s Communist party secretary, reversed the decision.

The officials banned the mourning gathering as well as the burial ceremony unless her children signed an affidavit to recant their Christian faith; they refused and maintained their intention to carry out a Christian funeral. 

On Sunday evening (June 22), Christians came from Donpalai, Huey and Bungthalay and other nearby villages to attend the mourning service, but authorities forbade it. The next day, the leader of Saisomboon village church, Kaithong, filed an appeal of the prohibition with the Atsaphangthong District chief. The Christians from nearby villages continued to provide support for Chan’s sons and daughters and to await the outcome of the appeal. 

By Tuesday (June 24), the body of the deceased had begun to decompose. At around 2 p.m. that day, village police and military personnel went to the deceased person’s house, where a gathering was underway, and arrested Kaithong along with Puphet, leader of the Donpalai village church. 

About 20 minutes later, authorities returned to the gathering and arrested Muk, leader of Huey village church, Hasadee, leader of Bungthalay village church in Palansai District, and Tiang. 

A half later, the village chief led Buddhist monks and relatives of Chan into her house and conducted a Buddhist funeral ceremony, before taking her body to the village cemetery, the HRWLRF representative said. Christians at the gathering left Chan’s house, he said, and went home.

Buddhists make up more than 57 percent of the population of the Communist country, according to Operation World. About 35 percent of the population adheres to indigenous religions, and only 3.4 percent of the population is Christian.

The five accused Christians have been transferred to Atsaphangthong District’s prison. 

The incident in Saisomboon village follows a May 20 declaration by the chief of Saisomboon village that three female students had forfeited their right to an education because they had become Christians. The girls, identified only as Nut, 14, and 15-year-olds Noi and Net, were told that they would not be permitted to take exams. Kaithong appealed that case with the Atsaphangthong District education chief, who was negotiating with the Liansai School director seeking permission for the three students to take their exams, according to HRWLRF.

HRWLRF urged the Lao government to respect religious freedom as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Laos in 2009, upholding the right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18). Any form of coercion impairing freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the ICCPR, the HRWLRF representative said.

The rights organization also urged the Lao government “to punish the village Saisomboon village chief and other officials who acted illegally in obstructing the funeral service according to Mrs. Chan’s religious affiliation, and in arresting Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee, and Tiang.” 

HRWLRF demanded the immediate release of the incarcerated Christians.

Photo: Lao village structure. (HRWLRF) 


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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Daughter of Poisoned Christian in Uganda Strangled to Death
Muslim extremists threaten to kill former sheikh but instead attack 12-year-old girl.

By Our East Africa Correspondent
NAIROBI, Kenya, June 26, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Hassan Muwanguzi, poisoned earlier this year in Uganda by Muslim relatives, did not expect the Muslim extremists who threatened to kill him on June 16 to murder his 12-year-old daughter.

Muwanguzi did not recognize the four men who appeared at his door that evening and forced their way into his home in Katira, outside Mbale in eastern Uganda, with one shouting, “Today we shall kill you – you have been a trouble-maker and are not respecting our prophet’s religion.”

A former Muslim sheikh who converted to Christianity in 2003, Muwanguzi knew that Muslims are taught to spare females in attack, especially one as young as the daughter in his sitting room. He rushed to lock himself in another room.

His wife and other children were not at home. He heard the cries of his daughter, Grace Baruka, as they began strangling her, and when he came out of the room’s doorway that opened to the sitting room, they seized him, he told Morning Star News.  

“They hit me with a blunt object, and I fell down,” he said. “I just woke up and saw neighbors surrounding me while wailing, saying that my daughter is in critical condition.” 

The neighbors had taken Grace to a clinic in Katira, but upon arrival she was declared dead, an area church leader told Morning Star News.

Muwanguzi, who lost his first wife and job as a schoolteacher shortly after his conversion, was hospitalized on March 31 in Mbale after a Muslim aunt who called a family gathering in Kadimukoli village, Budaka District, allegedly put insecticide in his tea as relatives were upset at his conversion to Christianity. He has received advanced treatment for the poisoning and has largely recovered, but the toxicity can last for months. 

“I am regretting why I survived the poisoning,” he said, weeping. “God could have allowed me to die. My daughter has died, and I am now mourning for her death as well have pain all over my body.”

Muwanguzi, who remarried and has three surviving children, has fled the area with his family.

“Will my wife handle all these struggles?” he said. “It was better for me to die than to be alive seeing all these problems. I feel abandoned.” 

Muwanguzi suspects the attackers could be related to Muslims who opposed the Christian school he started in the predominantly Muslim area.

Following his conversion in his early 20s in 2003, Muwanguzi’s family immediately kicked him out of their home, and enraged Muslims beat him, he said. His first wife left him that same year, and he lost his job as a teacher at Nankodo Islamic School, near Pallisa.

Even so, he opened a Christian school, Grace International Nursery and Primary School, at Kajoko, Kibuku District, 27 kilometers (16 miles) from Mbale; the area’s population of 5,000 people is predominantly Muslim.

Incensed by his boldness, an Islamic teacher, sheikh Hassan Abdalla, in 2011 filed a false charge that Muwanguzi had “defiled” his daughter, a minor. Together with his Muslim countrymen, Abdalla filed a case at the chief magistrate’s court in Pallisa-Kalaki, and a warrant for Muwanguzi’s arrest was issued on April 1, 2011.

Muwanguzi was arrested and released on bail after nearly a month. He said the Muslims filed the false charges because he had opened the Christian school against the wishes of the Muslim majority. More than a quarter of the school’s 235 children came from Muslim homes, with the consent of their Muslim parents, he said.

Area Muslims resorted to witchcraft to try to get him to close down the school, and when that didn’t work, they tried to discourage parents from bringing their children to the school, accusing it of converting Muslim children to Christianity by teaching Christian Religious Education, he said.

When his accuser failed to appear in court on multiple occasions, the judge finally found the accusations were false and dropped the case in May 2012, he said.

A few weeks after he was acquitted, the owner of the land denied having sold it to Muwanguzi, and he received a court order to close down the school. In June 2012, he said, Muslim sheikhs, imams and relatives burned down his house for having converted to Christianity.

Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.

Photo: Flag of Uganda. (Wikipedia)


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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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Commentary & Analysis
Christians in Vietnam Church Center Beaten, Locked Up in Massive Raid
Authorities show brazen disregard for law, religious rights.

By Our Vietnam Correspondent
June 24, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Blaring police loudspeakers awoke Bible school students at a Mennonite church center in southern Vietnam at about 11 p.m. the night of June 9, a prelude to a night of violence and detention that would seriously injure 20 people.

Police called for the owner of the compound in Binh Duong Province to let them in for an “administrative search.” Five minutes later, police dropped into the compound from neighboring roofs and broke through the front gate “as if it were a raid on terrorists,” according a witness.

The crowd of police, local defense forces and plainclothes officers and “citizens” numbered from 300 to 500, according to the center’s pastor, Nguyen Manh Hung. Many of the 76 Christians present were beaten, punched and kicked before being loaded onto three trucks and hauled to a police lockup for interrogation. They were released the following morning. 

Night attacks on the church compound, however, continued the next three nights and sporadically since then with the intent of terrorizing the Christians. The original raid was largely directed by the chief of police of Ben Cat, unidentified only as Major Hoa. A detailed 14-page church report described his conduct throughout as “consistently crude and abusive.”    

The Vietnam Evangelical Mennonite Church is one of many unregistered church organizations in Vietnam. It has suffered more persecution than most because its leader, the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang, has long been an outspoken advocate for religious and other freedoms and for defenseless, oppressed ethnic minority Christians. He has been previously arrested, abused and jailed and has often been viciously vilified and slandered in state media. Another Mennonite church group that does not bring up government abuses of religious freedom received government registration in 2007. 

Following the government demolition of the Mennonite Center in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City in December 2010 in a contested city renovation project, pastor Quang reestablished his center in Binh Duong Province’s Ben Cat City, in Thai Hoa, Ward 6. His decision to tone down his confrontational advocacy only increased his time to supervise the expansion of Mennonite congregations countrywide. The group claims about 5,000 followers.  

The new center in Ben Cat has thus become a very busy place. It is the church headquarters and serves as a school for various kinds of training, from summer Bible school for young children to theological training for senior leaders.

According to Vietnam’s restrictive laws, local officials must be notified of any overnight guests, whether staying in a home, an institution or a hotel. The Mennonites have learned to abide by this regulation but have sometimes notified officials of an event with an estimated number of participants and then submitted the exact list of names after the participants arrive, when precise information is available. In this case students arrived on June 9, and the report would have been submitted June 10. 

“The excuse for the raid against sleeping Christians was checking for unregistered residents,” said one prominent pastor in Vietnam. “The overwhelming force and brutality used was aimed at terrorizing especially the young among the Christians to dissuade them from association from the Mennonite church.”  

The female prisoners, including some young ethnic minority teens, were kept separately in a locked room at the police station. When the frightened girls began to sing Christian songs to comfort each other, the lights were turned out and men came into the room, wildly hitting anyone in their way. 

When the 76 people arrested were released in the morning, they discovered 20 among them had injuries serious enough to require medical attention. When they tried to leave the center to find treatment, however, police stopped and prevented them from doing so.  

On the night of the raid, several vehicles brought people with bricks, stones and sticks to the site. These were employed to break windows, doors and roof tiles of the recently built compound. During the 10 nights following the raid, gangs continued attacking the center, sometimes pelting it with bricks and stones and sometimes with rotten eggs and dead birds; they also shot rubber bullets at it. The rooms at the front of the building had to be vacated.  

Electricity and water was cut in the neighborhood. With more people arriving at the center for other events, more than 150 people in the center were left without lights and water.  

During daytime, all coming to compound were stopped and searched. Some had cell phones and motorbikes confiscated. All persons leaving the center were followed. This severely disrupted other events scheduled to take place at the center.  

Summonses called for 52 students and some key leaders to appear before officials for interrogation. Students were terrorized during questioning and harangued with slander about pastor Quang and Mennonites. Some were forced to sign false reports that would allow police to add criminal charges to the original administrative ones. When at dusk police dismissed the young women following interrogation, police told them they were not responsible for their safety, while at the same time preventing the girls from using public transportation to return to the center.   

Those with cell phones began receiving threatening calls regularly. Leaders also received anonymous calls telling them to “get out of town or else.” 

Pastor Quang, very conversant in Vietnamese law, was mocked when he pointed out to his interrogators their many violations of Vietnam’s encoded due process. 

Finding no opportunity for redress at the local level, Mennonite leaders agreed also to petition Vietnam’s highest authorities about the flagrant abuses of their rights under Vietnamese law. They addressed a June 12 “petition of accusation” signed by 58 Mennonite church leaders, to the minister of Public Security and to the head of the Peoples’ Investigative Bureau. It details five major charges against local police, including entering without a warrant, arresting and abusing children, using guns to terrorize defenseless students and pistol-whipping people within the holy confines of a church building.  

The Mennonites reported the events to the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, which informed them it could not do much but “would follow the situation.” A nearby Catholic church agreed to provide safe haven for Mennonite victims of persecution if needed. They also appealed to other house churches in Vietnam and to sister churches in the United States and Canada to intercede on their behalf. They have tried to inform United Nations agencies. They also agreed to seek local legal help, though such is rarely effective in Vietnam, where the Communist Party owns the government, including the legal system.

Pastor Quang, who has not reported the physical abuse he has frequently suffered during interrogations, explained why he was going public to seek redress on this occasion. 

“The police of Binh Duong Province severely humiliated older pastors, young evangelists, women and even children, teachers, young people as well as myself – falsely accusing us and abusing us for failing to register residence,” he said. “They coarsely and roughly humiliated our church while our people were silent, law-abiding, non-resistant. And after their brazen misdeeds, they did not apologize but continued to falsely accuse and terrorize us, with no regard for the truth. The pictures and reports we have sent tell the true story.”            

Though such systematic and sustained persecution of Christians is no longer very common in Vietnam, it regrettably still occurs. In this case, it is believed that authorities are upset that this Mennonite group did not succumb to earlier heavy pressure and persecution but continues to grow and expand. They were further upset that pastor Quang recently declined on principle to sign a kind of “contract of cooperation” the government presented to him. 

As well, Ben Cat was a hot spot during recent anti-Chinese demonstrations in May, which some Vietnamese seized as an opportunity to protest the weakness and corruption of their own government. Some demonstrators also severely damaged foreign owned factories. Paranoid authorities, operating with extreme vigilance, may have worried that the Mennonite center was attracting too many people in light of pastor Quang’s erstwhile freedom activism.

But none of this can remotely justify such crude use of overwhelming force and official lawlessness against a religious group doing religious activities. This local government action is prime exhibit of government practices contributing to the growing tide of deep dissatisfaction with the authoritarian communist state.       

Photo: Christians at church center reenact aspect of police raid. (Morning Star News)

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?    

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Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
 
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Sudanese Mother on Death Row, Meriam Ibrahim, Released from Prison
Sentence canceled, charges dropped, attorney says.

By Our Sudan Correspondent
JUBA, South Sudan, June 23, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Meriam Yahia Ibrahim was released from prison in Sudan today, less than two months after Morning Star News broke the story of false charges of apostasy against her that set off a firestorm of international protests.

Ibrahim, who gave birth to her second child in prison on May 27, had received a sentence of death by hanging for allegedly leaving Islam after a Muslim claiming to be a relative accused her of marrying a Christian man – the crime of “adultery” under Islamic law for which she was also sentenced to 100 lashes.

One of her attorneys, whose name is withheld for security reasons, confirmed that she was released at 2 p.m. today.

“The court has served us with a letter stating that she is now free of charges,” he told Morning Star News. “Thank you for your work on the case. We knew we were going to win the case.”

Sudan’s state news agency reported that the country’s Court of Cassation canceled the death sentence against the 27-year-old Christian, who has been in prison with her toddler son since February, after defense lawyers presented their case. Witnesses for the defense had been prohibited from testifying during the trial.

Human rights advocates said Sudan must ensure protection for Ibrahim and her family, as Islamists have clamored for her death throughout the trial. She will likely seek asylum in another country on grounds of religious persecution.

Ibrahim has maintained that her Sudanese father was Muslim but disappeared when she was 6, and that she was raised a Christian by her Ethiopian Orthodox mother. Having never been a Muslim, she could not be guilty of apostasy, she testified.

A woman claiming to be Ibrahim’s mother and a man who claimed to be her brother attended court hearings, according to Middle East Concern (MEC). 

“However, Meriam did not recognize either of them, and they contradicted each other concerning Meriam’s father and could not answer simple questions relating to Meriam’s upbringing, leaving their claims and statements open to question,” according to MEC. 

International media, Western embassies and human rights groups urged her release when Ibrahim’s death sentence was confirmed after she refused to recant her faith on May 15. Among those advocating for her release was Christian Solidarity Worldwide, whose chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, released a statement today asserting that Sudan must now protect her from Islamist vigilantes.

“We are delighted to hear that Mrs. Ibrahim and her children have been released into the care of her husband and that the unjust, inhumane and unwarranted sentences have been annulled,” Thomas said. “However, we remain appalled by the threats and hate speech that has been aired seemingly unhindered against Mrs. Ibrahim and her lawyers and urge the international community to hold the Sudanese authorities to account for her safety and that of her lawyers.”

Another woman raised as a Christian and falsely accused of apostasy in Sudan has been released after she recanted when threatened with the death sentence last month, sources told Morning Star News. Authorities had detained Faiza Abdalla, 37, in the town of El Gadarif on Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia, on April 2 as she was trying to obtain her identification number at an official building.

Immigration/Citizenship police questioned her about her religion and arrested her on suspicion of leaving Islam. She is the mother of eight children.

Photo: Meriam Yahia Ibrahim in wedding photo posted on Facebook.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?    

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© 2014 Morning Star News. Articles/photos may be reprinted with credit to Morning Star News. 

Find Morning Star News at http://morningstarnews.org

Tweet: https://twitter.com/morningstarnewz/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MorningStarNews

Morning Star News is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that relies solely on contributions to offer original news reports of persecuted Christians. By providing reliable news on the suffering church, Morning Star News’ mission is to empower those in the free world to help and to encourage persecuted Christians that they are not forgotten or alone. For free subscription or to make tax-deductible donations, contact editor@morningstarnews.org, or send check to Morning Star News, 24310 Moulton Parkway, Suite O # 157, Laguna Hills, CA 92637, USA. 
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please LORD JESUS and thank YOU!
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