The dangers facing Afghan Christians
Barnabas Fund, 24 August 2021 (excerpts)
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan creates great danger for Afghan Christians, all of them converts from Islam or the children of converts.
If caught by the Taliban, they are very likely to be killed. Although the Hanafi school of sharia, which predominates in Afghanistan specifies death only for adult sane male apostates from Islam, the Taliban’s track record of an ultra-strict interpretation of sharia means it is very likely they will kill all apostates – men, and women, and children too.
But if Christians join other Afghans desperate to flee for various reasons, will they reach a safe haven?
American forces decide who may flee the country by air. Christians must make themselves known in order to be considered for evacuation. If they are not accepted, this leaves them and their families highly vulnerable to being attacked and killed by the Taliban.
All their family members’ names and contact details must be sent in advance on a list to the Americans. The reason for their vulnerability must also be stated – so Christians will have to reveal that they are Christians. Those accepted for evacuation must not go to the airport until called or they will be turned away.
After the deadline of 31 August, any Christians still waiting at the airport will run the risk of being exposed as the Taliban takes control.
It appears that most Afghan Christians will need to make their way overland across a border somehow.
Barnabas Fund is working hard, through Operation Safe Havens, to enable Afghan Christian families to reach safety.
Pastor’s son killed in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 13 August 2021 (excerpts)
Local authorities have demolished a church building in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, leading to the death of Ezekiel Bitrus, the son of a pastor.
The Borno Geographic Information System (BOGIS) conducted the demolition on 5 August as church members gathered to protest.
It is alleged that the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) accompanying the BOGIS demolition group then opened fire on the protesters, killing 29-year-old Bitrus and injuring five others.
29-year-old Ezekiel Bitrus was allegedly shot and killed by Borno State’s Civilian Joint Task Force while protesting against the demolition of a church building
It is further alleged that the CJTF had confiscated the phones of church members in order to prevent documentation of the demolition process or the subsequent shooting.
The CJTF operative accused of shooting Bitrus has been arrested as part of an investigation ordered by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum.
False narratives used against Indian Christians
Barnabas Fund, 26 July 2021 (excerpts)
A police directive, issued by the Superintendent of Police in the state of Chhattisgarh, India, to keep “consistent watch” on Christians demonstrates the “false narratives” used against Christians by radical Hindutva nationalist groups.
Chief among the false narratives are that Christians – and Muslims – are engaged in forced conversions of Hindus and adherents of other traditional Indian religions.
Second is the false accusation that Christians are supporters of the Communist Party of India – as Christians provide help and education to tribal communities and low-caste “untouchables”.
Thirdly, Christians are accused of undermining Indian values by promoting an undesirable Western culture.
Furthermore, Christians are accused of eating beef and therefore taking part in the slaughter of “sacred” cows.
The false narratives are given legitimacy by the governing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which views evangelistic and missionary activity as “a security threat” with the potential to “destabilize the nation”.
An Indian legal expert has argued that “a ban on conversion motivated by any sort of gain is in effect a ban on all conversion”, and that anti-conversion laws nullify India’s constitutional commitment to freedom of religion.
18 killed by suspected Fulani Islamist militants
Barnabas Fund, 13 July 2021 (excerpts)
Eighteen Nigerians were killed in Christian-majority southern Kaduna State when suspected Fulani Islamist militants stormed two villages in Zangon Kataf Area. 9 villagers died and houses were destroyed in Makarau on 11 July in an assault that began at around 5 p.m.
“These attacks are too much for us to bear, no one is safe in our communities,” said a resident. “Nobody can go to his farm now.”
Residents of Warkan were asleep when a large number of gunmen swept into the village at 2 a.m. on 9 July, killing 9 villagers and razing houses. Many others were injured. “The entire village is in confusion,” said a resident. “The destruction by the suspected Fulani is unbelievable.”
The attacks were condemned by the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC), which called on the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari and State Governor Nasir El-Rufai to protect people from the “incessant killings” and said the growing insecurity has made it almost impossible for farmers to go to their farms and people to go about their daily lives.
They also called on the good people of Nigeria and the Christian body as a whole to rise up and pray for God’s intervention to touch the hearts of those that have given themselves to killings, kidnapping, rape, maiming and the destruction of properties to have a rethink and stop.”
Messianic believers in Israel celebrate
Barnabas Fund, 22 June 2021 (excerpts)
Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled to grant tax-deductible donation status to a not-for-profit organisation of Messianic Jews.
The organisation, Yachad, runs a congregation of Messianic believers (Jewish followers of Jesus). It has made repeated attempts to be awarded status as a public institution, but the Knesset Finance Committee, led by ultra-Orthodox Moshe Gafni, steadfastly refused.
In October 2020 Yachad appealed against the latest rebuttal as their submission was denied on the grounds of being involved in “controversial” activity.
On 15 June, the High Court of Justice ruled in Yachad’s favour, ordering the Knesset Finance Committee to award the non-profit status known as “section 46”.
The ruling established that the Finance Committee’s decision to refuse tax-exempt status was founded on a false assumption that they had the authority to take into consideration that a non-profit organisation is engaged in “controversial” activity. The judges declared that the committee had “overreached in its authority”. Judge Isaac Amit concluded that the committee’s decision was based on “feelings, beliefs and opinions, and not on any factual basis”.
Persecuted Christians and Croatian scholarships
Barnabas Fund, 14 June 2021 (excerpts)
Croatia has been inundated with 5500 applications for scholarships set aside for young, persecuted Christians from developing countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
The government has earmarked about £172,000 to enable young persons persecuted for their Christian faith to pursue undergraduate and graduate university studies in Croatia.
The aim is that they will acquire knowledge and then return to their own countries better equipped to contribute to shaping their communities along democratic and tolerant lines.
The initiative was the result of an amendment to the state budget submitted by independent MP Marijana Petir that was accepted in November 2020.
The proposal was opposed by some NGOs, who claimed that humanitarian aid should not be given on a discriminatory basis.
In response to this criticism of help being allocated exclusively to Christian students, Petir responded that “unfortunately, they are the most persecuted religious group in the world”.
In places where impoverished Christians are too poor to access tertiary education, many are offered scholarships by Islamic sources to study for free in Muslim-majority countries or at Islamic institutions; this results in many conversions to Islam.
Christian villagers terrorised in Pakistan
Barnabas Fund, 20 May 2021
At least 8 Christians were left with fractured bones after the small Christian community of a village in the Punjab, Pakistan, was terrorised by a Muslim mob of around 200 people.
The incident has now been reported to the police and a case has been registered against 66 people who are accused. Church leaders and elders from the Muslim community have worked together to restore peace to the area.
The incident began on 14 May when a Muslim man, named Khalil, accused Mangta and two other Christians cleaning the entrance of the village church of throwing dust at him.
After this altercation Khalil and five other men returned to attack the Christian men with weapons, leaving all three with injuries.
The following day (15 May) the 200-strong mob launched an attack on Christian homes.
“They were armed with glass bottles, stones, axes, batons and bricks,” said Mangta. “Others used stairs to climb to our roofs and started breaking our furniture. We pleaded to spare the women but the attack continued for half an hour.”
A woman who was among the victims reported, “They broke the locks, grabbed our hair and pulled us out one by one. Young girls were assaulted and left with torn clothes.”
Local church minister, Khalid Mukhtar, said, “The weakness on the part of the administration encourages such attacks on religious minorities. The culprits are usually let off scot-free. Religion is used to settle personal scores.”
Terrorists kill four Christian farmers in Indonesia
Barnabas Fund, 17 May 2021
Islamist terrorists from the East Indonesia Mujahideen have killed four Christian farmers in Central Sulawesi province where they were working in a coffee plantation on 11 May and were attacked by five men wielding swords.
According to a police spokesman for Central Sulawesi, the attack was reported by a fifth farmer who escaped. Farmers from the village had informed police that wounds to their necks were noticed on two of the victims. There were unconfirmed reports that one had been beheaded.
The farmers recognised one of the perpetrators as being a member of East Indonesia Mujahideen. University of Indonesia intelligence analyst Stanislaus Riyanta said that East Indonesia Mujahideen comprises ten members. The Mujahideen leader Ali Kalora, who has affirmed allegiance to Islamic State, is being hunted by police.
“They are increasingly pressed because they are hunted by the task force team, police and military personnel, so they killed the local people,” Riyanta explained.
The group is thought to have been set up in 2012. East Indonesia Mujahideen’s operations are confined largely to Central Sulawesi province.
Home to the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia has seen a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years.
Jihadists seek out and kill two Nigerian Christians
Barnabas Fund, 30 April 2021
At least two Christians were sought out and killed by jihadists who invaded a town in Nigeria’s northern Yobe State on 23 April. Around 2,000 residents of Geidam fled their homes after members of Islamic State West Africa Province took control of the town, looting and burning stores.
“Everybody is running away because the insurgents have started killing people who are Christians and those with Western education,” said a resident.
“So far they have killed two Christians and two Muslim school teachers. They went to their homes and slaughtered them,” said another local.
One of the murdered Christians was a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All. The church secretary said they were struggling to recover his body for burial. “Our members at Geidam are now displaced,” he said. “We need your prayers.”
The death toll from the attack was unknown at the time of writing; however, at least eleven residents died when a projectile hit two adjoining homes, killing all occupants, as the jihadists fought to take over the local army base.
The jihadists dropped leaflets around the town, calling for the establishment of an Islamic state. “We are fighting unbelievers; Christians and any other person or group going against the teaching of Islam even if they are Muslims,” the leaflets stated.
Pastor released from prison in Laos
Barnabas Fund, 13 April 2021
The pastor of a church in Savannakhet, Laos was released from prison on 9 April, three days after being convicted of “creating disorder” and “disrupting unity”.
Sithon Thippavong was arrested in March 2020 after being accused of conducting church services without permission.
He was finally convicted on 6 April 2021 and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment; but released on the grounds that he had already been detained for a year prior to his conviction.
Thippavong, who was also fined £310, was arrested after refusing to sign a document renouncing his Christian faith.
“We prayed for Pastor Sithon for more than a year now,” said a Christian in Laos. “We’re very excited that he’s alive … but now he’ll be happy to be able to serve God again.”
There are about 150,000 Christians in Laos. Christians are subjected to harassment and violence despite the constitutional guarantee of “the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religion” and official recognition of Christianity alongside Buddhism, Islam and Baha’i.
In December 2020 seven Lao Christians, evicted for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, were denied permission to rebuild their demolished homed in Salavan province.