Barnabas Fund, 23 June 2022 (excerpts)
A new draft of Tunisia’s constitution does not name Islam as the North African country’s state religion.
In May 2022 Sadaq Belaid, a legal expert appointed to oversee the drafting process by Kais Saied, President of Tunisia since 2019, said that the aim of the change was to combat Islamist extremism.
The new draft, submitted to President Saied on 20 June, will be voted on in a referendum on 25 July.
“80% of Tunisians are against extremism and the use of religion for political ends,” said Belaid earlier this month.
“If you use religion to engage in political extremism, we will not allow that,” he added.
President Saied confirmed after receiving the draft, “The next constitution of Tunisia won’t mention a state with Islam as its religion, but of belonging to an umma which has Islam as its religion.”
“The umma and the state are two different things,” the president explained. Umma is the global Muslim community or international Islamic world.
The population of Tunisia is 98% Muslim but the country has since 2014 had a guarantee of freedom of religion.
The Christian community includes some Tunisian converts from Islam and their children.
Local Tunisian churches are not prevented from functioning but have no legal status so cannot own property. Converts from Islam are stigmatised by the majority Muslim community and may be rejected by Muslim relatives.
Barnabas Fund, 21 June 2022 (excerpts)
Islamist militants raided a Christian village in northern Mozambique on 17 June, beheading one resident.
The raid by terrorists linked to Islamic State is the first in recent years in Nampula province.
IS has also claimed responsibility for the “beheading of several Christians” in raids across Cabo Delgado province, to the north of Nampula.
The militant Islamic State-affiliated organisation Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado in 2017.
The province has been termed “the Land of Fear” owing to brutal violence meted out against both Christians and moderate Muslims.
Beheading, skinning and cutting off the limbs of their victims are the group’s typical methods, with one expert commenting, “What they do to the people they capture and kill I have never seen anywhere in Africa.”
In late 2021 Mozambican, Rwandan and South African forces had started to drive the Islamists back. However, the Islamist insurgency now appears to be spreading.
In December a pastor in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado was abducted and decapitated by Islamists, who then ordered his widow to carry the head in a sack to a district police station and report the murder.
Voice of the Martyrs, 23 June 2022 (excerpts)
Sahid and his wife, Memona, have 6 children and live in a small Hindu village in Pakistan. In April 2022, a Hindu religious leader and one of Sahid’s relatives confronted Sahid and Memona about their Christian faith. The religious leader questioned why the couple had not attended Hindu festivals or participated in Hindu prayers.
The leader and Sahid’s relative threatened them to renounce their faith in Christ, but they remained firm. Around 2 weeks later, their home was set on fire, and the 2 youngest children were killed. When they notified the police, the authorities tried to pressure them to claim the fire was an accident.
All Pakistani Christians face difficulties, discrimination and persecution because of their Christian identity. Some take great risks to witness to Muslims, baptize converts and gather them into churches, and many Christians are working tirelessly to equip, encourage and educate Christian youth. Some boldly share the gospel and distribute God’s Word in Muslim neighbourhoods and cities, some of them home to extremists like Taliban.
Approximately 98 percent of Pakistanis are Sunni and Sufi Muslims. There are roughly 4 million Pakistani Christians, nearly 2 percent of the nation’s population.
Christians converts from Islam and Pakistanis born into Christian families are persecuted by their communities, Islamic extremist groups and the government.
Voice of the Martyrs, Jun. 09, 2022
After becoming a prominent, active leader of his church, Kalithas received threats from Hindu extremists in his community. They warned that he would face severe consequences if he continued his bold witness in the village.
On Dec. 16, 2021, four men came to his home and started kicking his gate. Kalithas rushed toward them, asking why they were destroying his property. The men threw alcohol in his face and started beating him. When he fell to the ground, three men held him down while the fourth struck his head with an iron rod.
After the men fled, villagers rushed Kalithas to the hospital. He remained in a coma until he died on Dec. 20. Pray that the four men who killed him are brought to justice and also come to know Jesus. Pray for Kalithas’ family and pray that villagers who hear his story will also put their trust in Christ.
The island nation of Sri Lanka, off the eastern coast of India, is still rebuilding from a civil war between Buddhist and Hindu factions that ended in 2009. The government has put significant efforts into resettling those displaced during the conflict between the majority-Buddhist Sinhalese population and the Hindu Tamil separatists.
There are strong churches in the country as well as parachurch organizations that provide Bible training, theological education and missions training. Churches in Sri Lanka are actively sending missionaries to other countries in South Asia.
Barnabas Fund, Jun. 10, 2022 (excerpts)
Hundreds of homes in a historic Christian village in Myanmar have been burned down in a renewed attack by the military (Tatmadaw).
More than two thirds of the estimated 500 homes in Chan Thar were destroyed on 7 June, the second raid on the village in a month. On 7 May at least 20 homes were set on fire by troops, causing thousands of residents to flee.
In the latest raid the army bombarded Chan Thar with artillery shells before soldiers went from house to house setting them on fire.
“The villagers were seen crying as they witnessed their homes go up in smoke,” said a local source.
Chan Thar and the historic communities of Chaung Yeo and Monhia are known as Bayingyi villages where inhabitants are descended from Christians who settled in the area in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
On 20 May the army burned down almost all the 350 homes in Chaung Yeo, forcing hundreds of its Christians to flee.
The military, seizing power in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2021, has for many years persecuted the country’s Christian minority, estimated to make up 6.2% of the population.
International Christian Concern, June 14, 2022
War erupted in the South Caucasus on 27 September 2020 when Azerbaijan and Turkey launched a joint military operation named Operation Iron Fist into the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). A truce was brokered by Russia 44 days later which ceded significant parts of Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
During those forty-four days, Azeri and Turkish-paid Syrian mercenaries published multiple accounts and footage demonstrating possible war crimes against the local community. Following the truce, Turkey entered a peacekeeping role alongside Russia. Nevertheless, Turkey demonstrates biased support to Azerbaijan, who persists in violating the truce’s terms and the basic principles of human rights.
The dynamics of this conflict are deeply complex but have strong religious freedom implications impacting the future of Karabakh’s local community. The strategic planning by Turkey and Azerbaijan show an intent of mass extermination, thereby genocide, of Karabakh’s Armenian residents because of their combined faith and ethnic identity.
These identities are important to the Pan-Turkic ideology driving Azerbaijan and Turkey’s activities in Karabakh. This ideology is hidden behind highly symbolic language. Tactics used to promote this ideology include erasing Christianity from the historical memory of Karabakh, dehumanizing local residents, dismantling their identity, and using a variety of impression management manoeuvres to limit the ability of international observers to name this war for what it is: genocide.
Church in Chains, 26 May 2022 (excerpts)
Christians from Britain and elsewhere joined together for an online vigil to mark the 20th anniversary of the closure of churches by the Eritrean government in May 2002.
The decision to close all churches – apart from the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches – marked the beginning of the persecution of Christians in Eritrea which has continued ever since.
Church in Chains has joined with Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Eritrean Orthodox Church in the UK, Human Rights Concern-Eritrea and Release Eritrea in an annual vigil outside the Eritrean Embassy in London since 2005. The event moved online in 2020 (due to Covid-19).
The Church in Chains rep led the event and introduced participants. An Eritrean pastor spoke about the churches in Eritrea while an Eritrean human rights activist spoke about Christian prisoners including his own pastor, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel. There are currently an estimated 200 known Christian prisoners in Eritrea.
The Human Rights Concern-Eritrea rep spoke about the desperate suffering of Eritrean refugees including victims of trafficking while the Christian Solidarity Worldwide rep spoke about the Tigray crisis in neighbouring Ethiopia (in which Eritrean army conscripts are fighting). Each topic was followed by prayer.
During the vigil, a joint letter from the five organisations to the Eritrean Embassy in London calling for the unconditional release of every prisoner of conscience was posted to the embassy’s Facebook page and vigil participants were encouraged to do likewise.
Voice of the Martyrs, May 26, 2022 (excerpts)
After putting her trust in Jesus, Sumi received a New Testament. Her younger brother noticed it and told their Hindu father, who shouted at Sumi and threatened her with a knife. He told her to leave her Christian faith or leave his house.
When Sumi left, her father burned her clothes, Bible and other Christian literature. Her pastor let her stay at the church for 15 days before she returned home. Eventually, her father and other villagers emotionally abused her for leaving Hinduism.
The persecution kept Sumi from completing high school. Today, 21-year-old Sumi works odd jobs in Kathmandu and attends church in a nearby city. Pray for her to form strong relationships with other believers and make peace with her father and other family members.
The government of Nepal is taking an increasingly strong stand against religious conversion. Despite the 2015 constitution that guaranteed religious freedom, Parliament passed a bill in 2017 criminalizing conversion to Christianity.
There is a small, visible Christian community in Nepal, but believers experience opposition from extremists among the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Marxist groups. Christians face harassment and beatings from local Hindu nationalists who envision Nepal becoming a “pure” Hindu nation.
Voice of the Martyrs, May 26, 2022 (excerpts)
Christians in Oaxaca state recently celebrated baptism to proclaim their faith publicly despite ongoing opposition from their community. In the past few years, members of the community have openly opposed the Christians, making false accusations against them, calling them thieves, destroying their homes and shooting at them randomly.
Because of this hostility, the Christians planned a baptism celebration, expecting members of the community to oppose or prevent the gathering.
However, the Christians held the service publicly and the pastor preached the gospel openly, baptizing many new believers in obedience to God’s Word without opposition from the community.
Praise God for the believers’ bold obedience in the midst of a hostile community. Pray that their faithful witness will lead others in their community to faith in Christ.
Specific areas within southern Mexico have a high concentration of indigenous minority groups. These minority communities, which maintain a separate identity and language, are systematically oppressed by local authorities.
Christians among them are persecuted by Marxist and animist groups as well as village leaders.
These communities are remotely located and difficult to reach. Despite persecution, the number of Christians has continued to grow in these areas.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide – 13 May 2022 (excerpts)
CSW condemns the murder of Deborah Yakubu, a student in Sokoto state, northwest Nigeria, who was lynched on 12 May, following an unproven blasphemy allegation.
Ms Yakubu was a Level 200 Home Economics student and a member of the Evangelical Church in her home state of Niger. She was accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammed in a WhatsApp group chat, where she reportedly expressed frustration at the discrimination experienced by Christian students. There are also unconfirmed reports that she had rejected the advances of a Muslim student, who later made the allegation.
Video footage circulating on social media shows an unconscious and bloodied Ms Yakubu being stoned, beaten, and then immolated in a pile of tyres by a predominantly male mob who chanted “Allahu Akbar,” and continued to stone her and fuel the flames. In a video, a young man claims responsibility for Ms Yakubu’s murder, which he describes as good and justified. The college authorities had hidden Ms Yakubu in the security room following mounting threats to her life. However, her killers had dragged her out and burnt the building after killing her.
The Sultanate Council of Sokoto state “condemned the incident in its entirety” and “urged the security agencies to bring perpetrators of this unjustifiable incident to justice.” The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Mathew Kukah also condemned the murder “This matter must be treated as a criminal act and the law must take its course.”