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.
Christian families lose everything in Bangladesh
Barnabas Fund, 30 March 2021
Many Christian families lost their shelter and what little possessions they owned when fire engulfed a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on 22 March.
The United Nations refugee agency said 11 people died in the inferno and 560 were injured. Up to 45,000 refugees were displaced as the flames ripped through sections of the densely packed camp, destroying shelters.
Cox’s Bazar is home to nearly one million mainly-Muslim ethnic Rohingya amongst whom are a few hundred Rohingya Christian converts from another background; all fled their homeland in Myanmar (Burma) to escape persecution at the hands of the army.
The homeless Christian families are now living in temporary shelter and Barnabas is providing for their immediate needs of food, clothing, and cooking utensils. We will also be providing them with new homes to replace those destroyed in the fire.
The isolated Rohingya Christian community in Cox’s Bazar is doubly-persecuted. Having fled persecution in their homeland, the Christians are persecuted by an extremist minority among the Rohingya Muslim refugees in the camp.
Saudi convert to Christianity faces problems
Barnabas Fund, 15 March 2021
A Christian convert in Saudi Arabia faces two court cases as well as threats of violence against him and his family.
The convert, named only as “A”, appeared in court on 11 March 2021 on charges of trying to convert Muslims. The charges arose from a restaurant conversation in 2020, in which he allegedly discussed his own conversion to Christianity.
A second court case, scheduled for 26 March, concerns alleged financial misconduct relating to assistance “A” gave his sister, also a convert to Christianity, for her and her children to flee Saudi Arabia.
The sister’s husband has threatened violence against “A”’s wife and son, who may be vulnerable to attack should “A” be imprisoned.
“A” has already spent time in prison and suffered flogging for his faith in Christ and for helping his sister leave the country.
No Saudi Christian convert from Islam is known to have been executed in recent times, but some have been murdered by their families. The number of Saudi nationals who are Christians is unknown.
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.”