Boko Haram death-threat ultimatum to pastor
Barnabas Fund, 1 March 2021
Islamist terror group Boko Haram has given the Nigerian government until 3 March to save the life of Pastor Bulus Yakuru, abducted in Borno State on Christmas Eve.
The militants snatched the pastor during a raid on the predominantly Christian village of Pemi, about 20 km from Chibok, in which eleven people were killed on 24 December. The gunmen went on to murder five Christians abducted in the region as a so-called “Christmas present”.
In a video recently released by Boko Haram, Pastor Bulus pleaded with President Buhari, the Borno State Governor, and the Christian Association of Nigeria to intervene to secure his release.
While one of the terrorists stands behind him with a knife, the pastor was filmed saying that his captors gave him an ultimatum on 24 February, threatening to kill him a week from that date.
“If you want me alive, I beg you in your capacity as president, the governor and our local government chairman to save me from this suffering … Please pray for me … Please release me from this pain,” said Pastor Bulus.
Myanmar – shoot, “punish and breakdown” civilians
Barnabas Fund, 16 February 2021
Amid widespread mass protests in Myanmar, a chilling Myanmar Army document was discovered instructing soldiers to “punish and breakdown” ethnic-minority Christians and other civilians deemed to be against the military regime, or even appearing critical of it in social media posts.
The official document lists a sequence of actions that military personnel should take including firing a 12mm weapon at individuals or using a 38mm weapon on groups of civilians. Regional reports show military patrols have escalated from carrying side-arms to automatic rifles.
Christian leaders in the region requested prayer for the people of Myanmar and for a “change of heart” of army and coup leaders. “Please pray for the Karen people in hiding in the jungle,” they asked.
Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen State to take refuge in remote jungle on 1 February, the same day as the Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was ousted in a military coup.
Hindu ceremony on church grounds
Barnabas Fund, 19 January 2021
A significant Hindu religious ceremony to a Hindu deity was held on the grounds of a Christian church in Goa, India.
About 25 people performed the Hindu pooja on 30 December directly in front of the Church’s historic façade, which is also a protected regional monument.
At the time of the incident almost 2,000 Christians were worshipping in the church.
At the time of writing, a First Information Report had not yet been made by the police, which is the necessary first step to police responding to a complaint. The South Goa Police Superintendent said this was due to ongoing investigations.
Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code forbids “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony” and Section 295A, protects all citizens against “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
An Indian Christian leader described the incident as “very insidious”. “There have been several incidents like this in the past. There are also attempts to conduct Hindu worship near or even in these Christian worship places. It is primarily an attempt to reduce and even deny sacred places to Christians and Muslims.”
Christian prayer meetings under police scrutiny
Barnabas Fund, 8 January 2021
Indian police in Uttar Pradesh State have been instructed to keep a watch on prayer meetings after 5 Christians were accused of trying to “unlawfully” convert people to Christianity.
The order was issued by a regional police superintendent after five Christians were brought to authorities by members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a hard-line Hindu group.
The new anti-conversion law prohibits “conversion of religion through: force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or fraud, or marriage”.
The instructions given to police stations were to be aware of prayer meetings in their area and to “act strictly when they are completely sure that conversion is taking place in the garb of prayer”.
Local church leader Harold D’Cuhna said that normal charitable activities of the church are being misconstrued as “allurement to conversion”.
The regional police superintendent also referred to two other cases of “unlawful” conversion in which the accused were Muslims. The implication was that Muslim prayer meetings could be watched by the police as well.
North Korean Christian gives chilling testimony
Barnabas Fund, 24 November 2020
A rare insight into the persecution endured by Christians living under the totalitarian North Korean regime has been given by Sookyung Kang, a Christian who fled her homeland to be able to worship freely without risking her life.
“The North Korea regime tries to control people by idolising and divinising the leaders,” she said. “I believe the Gospel gives freedom to everyone. But the North Korea regime takes away freedom and won’t allow people to think freely.”
Kang explained that officials deny citizens food, sleep and safety in order to force them to focus on getting these basic needs met. “They persecute Christians most harshly. Sometimes they are executed or sent to political prison camps,” she said.
Kang’s uncle was a Christian missionary who “put his life on the line and lived each day as if it was his last”. He was eventually imprisoned and Kang recalled how she began to see the reality of the regime’s repression once she started to visit her uncle in prison to take him food.
In 2011, Kang, then aged 17, escaped to South Korea where she found refuge and was able to worship God freely, without having to risk her life. “I was so thankful for this freedom … My heart was so full of gratitude,” she added.
In November, Christians working in the region described how North Korea has set up “quarantine camps” for Covid-19 patients, where they are deprived of food and medicine, causing many to die of starvation.
Bangladeshi Christians in peaceful protest
Barnabas Fund, 10 November 2020
Bangladeshi Christians, and other minority groups, took to the streets of Dhaka in a 500-strong peaceful protest march on 7 November against relentless Islamist extremist attacks on minority communities.
At least 17 people from ethnic and religious minority communities were killed between March and September this year, with attacks continuing throughout the Covid crisis.
The protesters say that the Islamist attacks against minority communities ‘‘hurt religious feelings’’, and minority leaders claimed that “the government failed to protect them’’.
A placard stating, ‘‘Stop Using Facebook for Community Attack” highlighted the role of social media in persecution-related incidents.
The 1% Christian minority has typically enjoyed greater religious freedom in Bangladesh than in other Muslim-majority countries but violence against Christians, particularly in rural areas, has been growing, with those active in evangelism and converts from Islam particularly targeted.
Sri Lankan pastor threatened by police and monks
Barnabas Fund, 26 October 2020
A Sri Lankan pastor has been forced to stop his ministry after being threatened and intimidated by police and Buddhist monks.
Police visited the pastor on the morning of 18 October and ordered him to report immediately to the local police station.
Obeying the instructions, the pastor went to the police station where he was taken to an office crowded with monks, who issued a series of threats against him. The monks also had the church attendance list in their possession.
The church has endured similar intimidation tactics over the previous five years and prayers are requested for the church, the pastor and his congregation.
Christians make up eight percent of the population of Sri Lanka, but face frequent persecution and local opposition, which is often led by Buddhist monks.
In February 2020, three Christians needed hospital treatment after they were ambushed and attacked by a 50-strong extremist mob, led by three Buddhist monks.
Christian couple face “apostate” Somaliland trial
Barnabas Fund, 13 October 2020
A Christian couple detained for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity” in Muslim-majority Somaliland are to have their case forwarded to court. Police arrested the couple, who have three children, on 21 September after finding Christian material at their home.
A police colonel threatened that “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy”.
The couple’s arrest and detention caused great concern among the small Christian community in Somaliland and many believers are reported to have fled abroad.
Islam is the official religion of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Its constitution states that individuals have the right to freedom of belief. However, the constitution also prohibits Muslims from converting to another religion, bars the propagation of any religion other than Islam and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia (Islamic law).
Eritrea releases 69 Christians on bail
Barnabas Fund, 22 September 2020
The Eritrean government has, at the time of writing, released 69 Christian prisoners, many in long-term detention for their faith without trial.
The authorities are continuing make conditional releases from the Mai Serwa prison, near the capital, Asmara.
According to Eritrean Christian leader, Dr Berhane Asmelash, hopes are rising for further significant releases from among the 300 or more Christians who remain incarcerated in the military jail.
Dr Berhane confirmed that most of the prisoners released so far had been in long term detention for at least a decade. No pastors or other senior Christian leaders known to be in captivity were among those released.
“This is an answer to prayer. Thousands of Christians have been praying for this,” he added. “Many have been in prison for a long time. Many will be homeless with nowhere to go. There is no [state] help in Eritrea. People have souls and minds that will need healing.”
Jihadi attacks in the DRC
Barnabas Fund, 15 September 2020
At least 58 people were killed and 17 kidnapped when Muslim militants attacked two villages in the mainly-Christian north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in early September.
Twenty-three people were murdered on 8 September and another 35 were killed two days later. Large numbers of the population have since fled.
Members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group active in the region for more than two decades, are thought to have carried out the atrocity. The terrorist group had entered the region to escape military action against them in neighbouring North Kivu province.
More than 700 people have been killed in Ituri province since 2017, according to the UN. The north-east region has seen a surge of violence since October 2019, when the army launched a large-scale offensive against the ADF.