Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – June 29th 2022 (excerpts)

Christian Vietnamese family forced out of home

Barnabas Fund, 24 June 2022

A Christian family in Vietnam’s Nghe An province have been forced from their home village for refusing to re-convert to a local animist religion.

The local authorities on 4 June voted to expel them from their home village in Ky Son district, confiscated their livestock, a plough, and wood for building a house, as well as cutting off electricity supplies for a week.  The family home was also attacked with stones.

A child was denied a birth certificate without which they may be unable to access healthcare or attend school.

The family has sought refuge elsewhere, requesting help from central government to resolve the ongoing issues.

In a report to the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, 26-year-old Xong Ba Thong said his family, his parents and younger siblings converted to Christianity in 2017 after hearing evangelistic radio broadcasts.

He explained that in 2019 local authorities told the family that “it was against the law to follow another religion”.

The family applied to join the Vietnam Evangelical Church General Assembly, a legally recognised religious group, and their application was approved in April 2022.

According to Thong, “they said the law has no effect here, in this province.”

The family are from the Hmong ethnic group who suffer the worst persecution in Vietnam.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – June 15th 2022 (excerpts)

Attack on Assyrian Christian family in Turkey

Barnabas Fund, Jun. 13, 2022

An Assyrian Christian family were attacked in a village in Mardin, Turkey, after a church service on Sunday 5 June.

The service in Mor Gevargis Church was the first held in the building in almost 100 years. The renovation of the church was started in 2015 by the Assyrian Ancient Foundation.

After the service the Yilmaz family – the only Assyrian family who live in the village – were attacked at their home by a group of 50 Muslims.  The family were entertaining visiting clergy officiating at the service at the time.

The attackers were led by a Muslim family with whom the Yilmaz family have had a long-standing dispute over land.

The mob attacked the home with stones, sticks and other weapons.  They then set fire to wheat being grown on lands belonging to the Yilmaz family.  None of the family were injured, and the fire was eventually extinguished after witnesses alerted the police.

Some members of the Muslim family were arrested in connection with the incident. 

Cengiz Yilmaz said, “But we are not afraid. We will continue to stay here.” He accused the attackers of choosing the day of the church ceremony to re-open the land dispute.

The tiny remnant Christian community in Turkey, including a small number of converts from Islam, still bears the trauma of the genocides of the early 20th century, in which at least 3.75 million believers were killed by Ottoman Turks.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – June 1st 2022

(excerpts)

Christians attacked after blasphemy allegation

Barnabas Fund, 24 May 2022

Several Christians were injured and homes destroyed by a mob of Muslims in Bauchi State, Nigeria, after a Christian woman was accused of blasphemy in a WhatsApp message.

The woman, Rhoda Jatau, had shared a video in which a Ghanaian convert from Islam protested the killing of a Christian student Deborah Samuel (who was stoned and clubbed to death in Sokoto State after allegedly insulting Muhammad) and allegedly made disparaging remarks about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.

A group of young Muslims people searched for Jatau after Friday prayers on 20 May, but she had already been moved to a safe location.

The Muslims then attacked the Christian community, injuring several Christians including the pastor of a local church.  They tried to burn down the church building but, being unable to get access, set fire to adjacent buildings.

The mob also looted Christian shops and businesses, as well as setting more fires.

Bala Mohammed, the governor of Bauchi State, has ordered security forces onto the streets in an attempt to preserve order.  “My administration has a special regard for peace and religious tolerance and I will not fold my arms to allow unpatriotic people cause trouble in any part of the state,” he said.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – May 18th 2022

(excerpts)

Iranian-Armenian pastor – 10 years’ imprisonment

Barnabas Fund – 10 May 2022

An Iranian-Armenian pastor has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for running a “house church” in Tehran.  Anooshavan Avedian was also sentenced to 10 years of “deprivation of social rights” – restrictions on his employment, for example – on his release from prison.

Two church members, Abbas Soori and Maryam Mohammadi, both converts from Islam, were also sentenced to 10 years’ deprivation of rights and a 2-year ban on travelling abroad or joining any social group, 2-year exile from Tehran province, and fined £1,400.

Anooshavan was convicted of, “establishing and leading an illegal group aimed to disrupt the security of the country through educational and propaganda activities contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam”.

The three were arrested after a raid on the house church in August 2020, held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, and subjected to solitary confinement and interrogation.

Other church members were forced to sign documents promising not to attend further house church meetings or make contact with any other Christians.

Farsi-speaking Christians are converts from Islam – that is, apostates – and punishable according to Islamic law.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – May 4th 2022

(excerpts)

Afghan Christians at risk of death for apostasy

Barnabas Fund, 26 April 2022

The annual report of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has argued that Christians in Afghanistan are still at risk.

Since the August 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover, the threat to Christians – all considered apostates from Islam – has increased.

USCIRF has recommended that the US Government designate Afghanistan a “Country of Particular Concern” saying “Christian converts are among those who practice their faith in hiding due to fear of reprisal and threats from the Taliban and separately from the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).”

Taliban have gone door-to-door searching for Christians.

“One leader of a house church network received a threatening letter in August from Taliban militants.”

Taliban rule also places believers at greater risk of violence and death at the hands of their neighbours, including even friends and family.

Since mid-2021 the Taliban have said that Christians must leave, re-convert to Islam, or face death.

Western governments have also largely failed in assisting Christians who have fled for their lives from Afghanistan and need safe places to re-settle.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – April 20th 2022

Algerian church forced to close

Barnabas Fund, 19 April 2022 (excerpts)

A church in the port city of Béjaïa, Algeria, has been closed with immediate effect.

The provincial governor issued an administrative closure order on 21 March, communicated to the Aouchiche church leaders on 6 April, to stop worship meetings.

The church has more than 300 members and belongs to the officially recognised group of Protestant churches in Algeria.

Aouchiche is the seventeenth such church to be closed by the authorities since November 2017.

A 2006 ordinance stipulates that permission must be obtained before a building is used for non-Muslim worship. 

Several churches have been closed under this ordinance in recent years.  The licensing commission established at the time has yet to grant a single licence.

On 2 February, the governor of Tizi Ouzou province filed a case against the pastor of the church in Ait Atteli with the aim of closing the church.

No date for a court hearing has been scheduled yet.

Pray for Algerian church leaders to persevere in the face of increasing threats to churches.  Ask that the campaign of church closures will cease, for those churches closed to be re-opened, and that Christians are able to live in peace and freedom.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – March 30th 2022

(excerpts)

50 Nigerians killed and 100 abducted in Kaduna

Barnabas Fund, 29 March 2022

At least 50 people were killed and more than 100 abducted, including a church minister, when nine villages in northern Kaduna State, Nigeria were attacked late on 24 March and into the early hours of 25 March.

A church and homes were razed, around 30 vehicles set on fire and cattle stolen during the assaults on the 9 communities.

Former Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed Makarfi, said the violence was especially distressing as it came soon after more than 30 Christians were killed on Sunday 20 March in attacks on 4 villages in southern Kaduna State by suspected Fulani militants.

Makarfi, a Muslim, said both atrocities were a “stark reminder of the perilous times we seem to be in”.

“They are as abhorrent as they are condemnable,” he added.  “No group or individual should be allowed the latitude to reduce human life to this or any other level of insignificance.”

He urged government and security agencies to come up with a new strategy to end the violence.  “It is my earnest prayer that we don’t witness this again in the state,” added Makarfi.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – March 16th 2022

Believers in authority in Christian-minority lands  (excerpts)

Barnabas Fund, 15 March 2022

On 4 March Priya Rajan, a 28-year-old Christian woman, was sworn in as the mayor of Chennai (Madras), India’s fourth largest city and the state capital of Tamil Nadu.

This is Mayor Rajan’s first official post, and she demonstrates a genuine desire to help and serve the people of her community.

Similarly, last month saw the appointment of a Christian, Boulos Fahmy Eskandar, as the head of Egypt’s highest court. 

Remember in prayer Mayor Rajan and other believers called to positions of authority in Christian-minority contexts.

In January 2021 another Christian, Listyo Sigit Prabowo, was appointed as National Police Chief of Indonesia.

It is to the credit of India – and to any country where Christians are a minority – when Christians are able to seek and to hold high office.

We are called to pray for “all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2), but we must particularly remember our brothers and sisters called to such positions in Christian-minority contexts.

We can pray that the Lord will grant them wisdom, keep them safe, and make them witnesses of Him as they serve their nations and their communities.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – March 2nd 2022

Christians driven from their home in Laos

(excerpts)

Barnabas Fund, 25 February 2022

Villagers drove a Christian family of twelve from their home in southern Laos in anger at the family’s practice of a “foreign” religion.

On 9 February the family home in Savannakhet province, was burned down in the attack.  Tensions were already apparent after the family’s father died on 4 December 2021. Villagers physically prevented the family from using the village cemetery for the burial.

The family had also been evicted from the village in 2017. “They don’t want us here. They say they don’t like the religion of a foreign country.”

An official for the district gave assurances that a police investigation into the incidents was underway but suggested that their “initial information is that this is a personal conflict, not a religious one”.

Other Christians pointed out that the village chief had participated in the attack at the funeral and lamented the lack of response from local authorities.

“The police always side with village authorities and other villagers too, so we have nowhere else to turn for help.”

Christians have been the victims of similar attacks in rural areas of Laos, a communist state with a predominantly Buddhist population. 

The country’s Law on the Evangelical Church, approved and signed into law in December 2019, gives Lao Christians the right to conduct services and preach throughout the country and maintain contacts with believers outside Laos.

Barnabas, Mission Partners of Castle Street, Missions

Barnabas Update – February 16th 2022

Egypt upholds religious freedom for Christians

Barnabas Fund, 11 February 2022

(excerpts)

The improved situation of Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt is an encouragement to Christians across the world.

That improvement was underlined with the appointment of a Christian, Judge Boulos Fahmy Eskandar, as President of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). No Christian has ever before been appointed to this position.

The SCC has truly significant powers, with the authority to judge whether or not Egypt’s laws and regulations are constitutional.

The appointment demonstrates the commitment of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to treating Christians as equal citizens.

President al-Sisi has already taken a courageous stand for religious freedom, for example in repealing Ottoman-era restrictions on the building of churches.

His government has worked steadily to legalise churches – 2,162 out of 3,730 applications from churches for licences have been approved – while congregations are allowed to worship in unlicensed church buildings pending completion of the licensing process.

The appointment of Judge Boulos is unusual in an Islamic context, where it is not expected that Christians or other non-Muslims will rise to positions of power and authority.

Yet in Egypt there is enthusiasm for the appointment.  Moushira Khattab, a Muslim and leader of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, described it as “historic” and “a giant move” for equal rights.