Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Church Building in Cuba Demolished – November 18th 2020

Morning Star News, November 15, 2020

Authorities in Cuba have demolished a church building and are blocking other churches from re-opening after the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

“Today the government is blocking the re-opening of some of our temples, which we closed due to the pandemic, based on the argument that they’re illegal, when 90 percent of our churches are illegal because they don’t offer us a pathway for making them legal,” Pastor Julio C. Sánchez said.

The church obtained legal status, and thus the right to negotiate with officials, before the onset of the regime of Fidel Castro in 1959 halted legalizing new churches.

“The reality is that this is part of a government campaign against the church, because we have made a front against its agenda of establishing gender ideology and other laws openly contrary to Christian principles.”

Accusations against evangelicals in state-controlled media are constant and growing, portraying them as extremist, homophobic, anti-development and used by anti-government groups, he added.

To demolish the sanctuary, police who arrived early in the morning had to remove more than 30 Christians who had gathered there to pray and did not hesitate to use violence.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Jihadists behead more than 50 in Mozambique – November 18th 2020

Barnabas Fund, 10 November 2020

Islamic militants turned a village football pitch in northern Mozambique into an execution ground where they beheaded more than 50 people between Friday, 6 November and Sunday, 8 November.

In one attack, gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed into Nanjaba village on 6 November, firing weapons and setting homes alight. Two villagers were beheaded and several women were abducted.

Christians who refuse to deny Christ are amongst the victims. The attacks are amongst the worst seen, in recent years. Desperate people are flooding in to the Christian mission stations for protection.

More than 2,000 people have been killed and about 430,000 left homeless in the region since 2017. The militant Islamist organisation, known locally as Al Shabaab (not the Somali-based group), is linked to Islamic State and has effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Fulani pastor brings hope – November 18th 2020

World Watch Monitor, October 19, 2020

The disproportionate presence of ethnic Fulani among Islamist militants wreaking havoc in the Sahel and West Africa has led to a stigmatisation of the Fulani generally, says a Protestant pastor from Burkina Faso.

In April security forces went into Djibo, a town in the northern part of Burkina Faso and killed 31 unarmed Fulani men. The men were rounded up after their IDs had been checked.

A former inhabitant of the village told Radio France Internationale the security forces “go to the villages where these people grew up and look for their relatives. The relatives don’t support terrorism, they are living in their villages. But they detain these people who they see as complicit in terrorism”.

“There is not a very good view of the Fulani,” said Adama, himself Fulani and a pastor in central Burkina Faso who asked not to be identified by his real name for security reasons.

“They are regarded as militants taking part in jihadi attacks, causing trouble in the Sahel region. But that is not all that there is to it. Not all Fulani are terrorists and not all terrorists are Fulani. We, the Fulani, are also the image of God and one first needs to see that”.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Egypt grants 100 new church licences – November 04th 2020

Barnabas Fund, 26 October 2020

After a five-month break during the Covid-19 crisis, the committee overseeing the licensing of churches in Egypt approved 100 new registrations when they met again on 19 October.

The new batch is made up of 45 churches and 55 affiliated service buildings. The Cabinet-affiliated committee, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, last met in May when it granted 70 licences.

This, the 17th batch of licences to be approved, brings the number of churches granted official recognition to 1,738 out of the original 3,730 that applied for registration.

A total of 1,992 churches are still waiting to be granted licences under the Law for Building and Restoring Churches, introduced in September 2016.

A number of churches were already registered before the new law was brought in.  It is illegal for Christians to worship in an unlicensed church building in Egypt, but until the committee began work in early 2017 it was extremely difficult to obtain a licence.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Churches Under Pressure in Belarus – November 04th 2020

Forum 18, 21October 2020

Violence against people taking part in the ongoing protests, public events to pray for Belarus and for violence by the regime to end have increased.

For example, Catholics organising and participating in prayer events in the street in Minsk and other towns have been and continue to be accused and. The same charges are also brought against people organising and participating in peaceful political protests against the regime. Many Protestants participate in such protests.

Regime officials are hostile towards followers of beliefs they see as a threat and the regime maintains a network of KGB secret police and religious affairs officials to ensure compliance.

Restrictions include: restrictions on who can hold meetings for worship and where they can be held; difficulty of opening places of worship, and excessive charges for confiscated places of worship still owned by the state; strict controls on foreign citizens who exercise their freedom of religion and belief; prior compulsory censorship of religious literature; arbitrary and unpredictable denials of religious broadcasting; and obstruction of the freedom of religion and belief of death-row prisoners and their families.

As one Belarusian Protestant commented, “they have created conditions so you can’t live by the law. We would need to close half our churches in order to operate technically in accordance with the law”.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Churches Attacked amid Protests in Nigeria – November 04th 2020

Morning Star News, 23 October 2020

Protests against police brutality in Nigeria that grew into generalized unrest over poor government took on a religious dimension this week with attacks on Christians and church buildings.

Following peaceful protests that began earlier this month against torture and killings by Special Anti­Robbery Squad forces, Christian leaders in Plateau, Kano and Kogi states led prayer walks of thousands of Christians in appeals for peace.

Suspected Muslim agitators took advantage of the chaos to attack churches, sources said. In Kogi state, following a prayer walk, Christians praying inside the Dunamis Christian Centre were attacked by suspected Muslim antagonists.

Friday Adah told Morning Star News by text message. “A peaceful prayer walk seeking God’s help for our country, Nigeria, for God to restore peace and love, was suddenly met with undue force as Christians were beaten and shot at with guns by Muslim mobs.”

Also on October 19 near Jos, suspected Muslim agitators opposing church prayer walks damaged the building of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Bukuru.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Beaten Christians Tonsured, Paraded in India – October 14th 2020

Morning Star News, October 6, 2020

After beating and parading Pastor Raj Singh along with four other Christians in eastern India, Hindu extremists were tonsuring them to further ridicule them when one cut the pastor’s head.

“While shaving my head, the razor cut my skull, and blood oozed out,” Pastor Singh said of the Sept. 16 attack in Jharkhand state. “A man standing nearby pointed out the cut and asked the man shaving my head to be careful, to which he promptly answered back saying, ‘This Christian should be grateful that I am only using the razor on his head and not on his neck.’”

After shaving their heads, the mob tied garlands of old shoes and slippers around their necks and continued parading them from one area of Bherikudar village, in Simdega District, to another. The Hindu extremists told them to chant “Jai Shri Ram [Victory to god Ram]” and, when the Christians did not comply, beat them with wooden sticks, he said.

“Some of us chanted, to escape the beating from time to time,” Pastor Singh said. “Whoever did not chant was immediately beaten by sticks. They also had long wooden handles of large iron picks with which they hit us.”

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Swiss hostage killed by Islamist extremists in Mali – October 14th 2020

World Watch Monitor, October 6, 2020

A Swiss missionary – kidnapped from Timbuktu in northern Mali in January 2016 – was killed only weeks before other hostages were freed by Islamist extremists, in an apparent prisoner-hostage swap negotiated by the new transitional government in Mali.

The Swiss Foreign Ministry expressed its sorrow that Beatrice Stockli, a single woman in her late forties, was “apparently killed by kidnappers of the Islamist terrorist organization Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslim (JNIM) about a month ago”.

The Swiss authorities say they will do all they can to find out details of exactly how she died, and to return her body, or her remains, to her family.

The missionary settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.

She had led an austere life in a popular district of Timbuktu – but known to be frequented by armed jihadist groups – and used to sell flowers and hand out Christian material.

She was taken from her home before dawn on 8 Jan. 2016 by armed men in four pickup trucks, according to confidential sources.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Pakistani Christian Acquitted of Blasphemy – October 14th 2020

International Christian Concern, October 6, 2020

The Lahore High Court has acquitted Sawan Masih, a Christian man sentenced to death under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Masih was convicted in March 2014, just over a year after he allegedly committed blasphemy.

On March 8, 2013, Sawan Masih was accused by his Muslim friend, Muhammad Shahid, of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during a conversation on March 7. According to Shahid, Masih said, “My Jesus is genuine. He is the Son of Allah. He will return while your Prophet is false. My Jesus is true and will give salvation.” The incident allegedly took place in the primarily Christian neighbourhood of Joseph Colony, located in Lahore.

The next day, March 9, local mosques recounted the accusation against Masih over their PA systems, inciting mob violence. A mob of more than 3,000 enraged Muslims attacked Joseph Colony, looting and burning Christian homes, shops, and at least two churches. Amid the violence, Masih was handed over to the police.

On March 27, 2014, he was sentenced to death in a trial held in the Lahore Camp Jail due to security concerns.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the Lahore High Court decided that the prosecution had failed to establish that Masih had committed blasphemy. The court went on to acquit Masih, reversing his death sentence, and ordered his release.

Missions, The Persecuted Church Across the World

Iran: Christian convert faces propaganda charge – September 30th 2020

Middle East Concern, September 29, 2020

Iranian Christians are thankful that a new charge against convert Ebrahim Firouzi has been rejected through lack of evidence and the case closed.

In 2013, Ebrahim was arrested and sentenced to 1 year in prison and 2 years of internal exile for “propaganda against the regime by establishing and organising Christian gatherings” and “having contacts with anti-revolutionary networks outside Iran.”

In March 2015 he was retried and sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison on charges of “acting against national security by gathering and collusion.”

In November 2019, after completing the consecutive prison sentences, Ebrahim started serving the 2-year period of exile near the border with Pakistan. On 12 March he was notified that his exile had been extended by 8 months for violating its terms, and an additional 3 months for failing to appear for a daily signing in.

On, 27 September, Ebrahim had to appear before the prosecutor in Rask to answer a charge of “propaganda against the state,” carrying a prison sentence of 3 to 12 months. Thankfully, on 28 September, the prosecutor closed the case against him for lack of evidence.