Compass Direct News and Summaries for April 2012

 

Source:         www.compassdirect.org

Date:             May 1, 2012

CHINA

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO ERADICATE HOUSE CHURCHES

April 25 (Compass Direct News) – China’s government is engaged in a three-phase campaign to eradicate Protestant house churches, according to a statement released Friday (April 20) by the China Aid Association (CAA). The government’s strategy was clearly outlined in a document released last September during a training class for “Patriots in the Christian Community” run by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, according to an unnamed CAA source. From January through June of this year, the document called for local authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of house churches nationwide and create dossiers on each of them. In phase two, for the following two to three years, authorities would strongly encourage unregistered churches to affiliate with the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM); and in phase three, to be completed within 10 years, churches refusing to comply would be shut down, according to the CAA. Officials would also ban the words “house church” and all reports on house churches from websites and other media and replace the term with “house gatherings” – a term that would refer to groups meeting in sites affiliated with the TSPM. In a recent random survey conducted by the CAA’s source in several provinces, over 95 percent of house church leaders said they had already felt the impact of these investigations, while 85 percent said local religious affairs departments had already created a dossier for their group. “Since the beginning of 2012, we have noticed an increase in the frequency of persecution,” the CAA said in a press statement. “In addition to the continuing persecution of Shouwang Church in Beijing, the number of similar cases has risen 20 percent over last year and has spread into other areas, including Christian education, publication and bookstores.”

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EGYPT

COURT SENTENCES YOUNG CHRISTIAN FOR ‘INSULTING ISLAM’

April 6 (Compass Direct News) – In a show of partiality to Muslims who go unprosecuted for like offenses against Christianity, a juvenile court in Egypt on Wednesday (April 4) sentenced a Coptic Christian teenager to three years in prison for allegedly insulting Islam. Gamal Abdou Massoud, 17, denies the charges. The court claimed that he posted cartoons on his Facebook account in December that mocked the Islamic religion and its prophet, Muhammad. The court also claimed that he distributed the pictures to other students. After the incident came to light, Muslims in Assuit, where Massoud lives, rioted. They fire-bombed his home and burned down at least five other Christian-owned homes in several Assuit villages. Massoud’s family left their village. The sentencing was considered significant not only because it violates the free speech clauses of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Egypt is a signatory but also shows another area where justice is executed unequally between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. When Muslim public figures violate Egyptian laws related to insulting Christianity, which happens often, the laws are ignored, Coptic Christians said. But when Christians are accused of violating the same laws against Islam, they pointed out, even a minor is usually punished to the full extent of the law. The court also held Massoud responsible for inciting the riots. No one responsible for burning down any of the homes has been charged.

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EGYPT

MUSLIM ASSAILANTS ESCAPE PROSECUTION

April 20 (Compass Direct News) – A recent “reconciliation meeting” between members of a Muslim mob that attacked a Christian-owned school in Egypt and school administrators was nothing less than an attempt at legalized extortion, the director of the school said. In exchange for peace, members of the sword-wielding mob that stormed the school last month without provocation – and held two nuns hostage for several hours – initially demanded in the meetings that the school sign over parcels of land that include the guesthouse the Muslim extremists attacked. Magdy Melad, manager of the Notre Dame Language Schools in Aswan Province, told Compass that despite the risk of more attacks, he refused the assailants’ demand. Out of fear of future violence, however, he said he agreed not to prosecute any of the hundreds of people who attacked his school. On March 4, about 1,500 villagers chanting Islamic slogans and brandishing swords and knives surrounded the guesthouse at the privately run, public language school in the village of Abu Al-Reesh. The mob accused nuns trapped inside of building a church in the guesthouse and threatened to burn them out unless they surrendered. The formal reconciliation meeting took place on March 25. The school still owns the guesthouse, but it has essentially been stripped bare – and government officials have ordered Melad not to use it.

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EGYPT

CHRISTIAN’S SIX-YEAR SENTENCE UPHELD

April 27 (Compass Direct News) – A judge in Upper Egypt has upheld a six-year prison sentence for a Coptic Christian wrongly convicted of “blasphemy” against Islam and inciting sectarian strife, his lawyer said. The judge in Assuit on April 5 refused to strike down a sentence delivered to Makarem Diab, 49, of the town of Abnoub in Assuit Province. The charges stem from an argument that Diab had in February with Abd Al Hameed, a fellow employee at Deer Al Gabrawy Prep School. The charges against Diab were inflated, according to his lawyer, Ahmed Sayed Gebaly. On Feb. 29, in a 10-minute court hearing with no defense attorney present, a judge sentenced Diab to six years in prison for “insulting the prophet” and “provoking students.” Diab received an appeal hearing on March 16, but Al Hameed instigated a massive riot by a large throng of Muslim attorneys outside the courthouse, according to Gebaly. The lawyers became so enraged that they burst into the courtroom during the hearing and assaulted Diab’s attorneys. They also blocked access to the courtroom. The judge upheld the six-year sentence but immediately scheduled an appeal hearing. Gebaly said the judge upheld the sentence out of fear.

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INDIA

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS BEAT, MOCK CHRISTIANS

April 12 (Compass Direct News) – Islamic extremists in India attacked a Christian prayer meeting in West Bengal state, beating a 65-year-old widow and other women less than a month after they helped drive a young woman out of her home and village for her faith. Islamists in Nutangram, Murshidabad district forced their way into the home of Gaffar Shaike on March 30 as 11 Christians from Believers’ Church were gathered for lunch and worship. In the same area of Nutangram on March 9, Islamic extremists drove 22-year-old Rekha Khatoon out of her village because she dared to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name in the predominantly Muslim village; her parents helped the Islamists to beat her nearly unconscious. In the March 30 incident, initially seven extremists led by Mohammed Aanu Shaike stormed into the home, said Pastor Bashir Pal, pastor of the village Believer’s Church. Eventually a mob of about 100 Islamists gathered and charged into the house entryway, which is 72 feet long and eight feet wide, shouting anti-Christian slogans and threatening to murder them as they pushed, kicked and slapped them. The son of Muslim extremist Ahammed Shaike, Mohammed Kuran, beat 65-year-old widow Moyazan Bewa, Christians present said. On April 5, Mohammed Aanu Shaike threatened to kill Aimazan Bibi after he found her talking to a Muslim woman on the street, the pastor said. The Muslims have since ostracized the Christians, prohibiting them to buy and sell in the area and keeping them from using the public bathroom and water well, he said. The extremists have sternly told all shopkeepers not to sell anything to the Christians, and at press time they were all complying with the order.

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INDIA

HINDU VILLAGERS ATTACK MOURNERS ***

April 27 (Compass Direct News) – Hindu extremists trying to stop the burial of a convert to Christianity last week in Chhattisgarh state beat a pastor and other Christians, including children and two 60-year-old women who fell unconscious, sources told Compass. Jaikant Pawar, 31, of Balgal village, Kanker district, died on April 20 en route to a hospital; an asthma sufferer, he had complained of chest pains. When more than 40 Christians at the family’s house were taking his body out for burial, Hindu villagers who had surrounded the house stopped them. At least 10 Christians sustained injuries and received medical treatment, sources said, adding that the attack went on for more than six hours. The assailants accused the Christians of having poisoned Pawar. At about 2 a.m. that night, the Hindu extremists told the Christians to remove the body from the village or be killed, sources said. The Christians carried the body to the Bande police station about 10 kilometers (six miles) away, but police were unwilling to register a First Information Report, they said. After pressure from area Christian leaders and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, the district collector and police investigated, source said. The officials summoned the attackers, who then falsely accused the Christians of beating them. Police warned the villagers not to disturb the Christians again and worked out an agreement in which the body was allowed to be buried in Balgal. On Wednesday (April 25), however, area Christians began to receive threats, according to Christian support organization Open Doors. “Withdraw your complaint or face dire consequences, to the point of losing your lives,” they were warned, according to an Open Doors press statement.

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INDIA

BRIEFS: RECENT INCIDENTS OF PERSECUTION 

Tamil Nadu, India, April 30 (Compass Direct News) – About 100 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers led by A. Raja and another identified only as Chidambaram on April 21 beat 15 Christians for proclaiming Christ in Paganeri, Shivagangai. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the Hindu extremists beat them, burned their Bibles and tracts, seized their vehicle key and destroyed their megaphone. The Christian group, led by an evangelist identified only as Jessudoss from Kandanur, had gone to the area in a van fitted with a megaphone; they filed a complaint at the Paganeri police station against the attackers, but officers took no action, according to the GCIC. The Christians then went to the Deputy Superintendent of Police, who immediately sent officers to the site; they helped arrange an agreement between the assailants and the victims with the help of the village head, and the Hindu extremists returned the vehicle key to the pastor. Later that same evening, however, the BJP members returned and beat Jessudoss, the GCIC reported. They told Christians they would not hesitate to attack them again.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists staged a protest in front of Hebron Church in Mahadevapura on April 19, demanding action against a pastor for alleged attempts to forcibly convert schoolchildren, sources said. Intervening to defuse tensions, Mahadevapura police detained pastor Victor Babu for questioning. Rajashekara Reddy filed a complaint against the pastor for “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings” under Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code. The complaint accused the pastor of preaching to 32 schoolchildren under the guise of organizing a summer camp for them. Police inspected the church premises and illegally confiscated Vacation Bible School materials, including hymnbooks.

Jammu and Kashmir – A Muslim mob on April 17 beat a Christian couple from New Delhi and a young local woman in North Kashmir’s Bandipora town for distributing Christian pamphlets in the area. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that the Rev. Mafford Maharaj Singh and his wife, Kusum Singh, of Grace Upon Grace Church, along with Sammena Bano, were distributing gospel tracts in Urdu and sharing their faith in a local market when a mob gathered, beat them and dragged them to the head of the local mosque, who handed them over to police. The police filed a complaint against the Christians for allegedly “promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, birth, residence,” which is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, according to the EFI. The Christians reportedly told police they were not doing anything unconstitutional or illegal. The mob had alleged that the couple offered 100,000 Indian rupees (US$1,870) to persons willing to convert to Christianity and that the New Testaments they were distributing contained money as inducement to convert. Bano was released after questioning, according to the EFI. The agency reported that the couple was released on bail, despite the local bar association and other groups protesting and preventing attorneys from appearing. An attorney from the Srinagar High Court, however, filed the bail application on behalf of the couple on April 23, and the couple was released late that night, the EFI reported.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists in Dharmapuri on April 16 accused a pastor of forceful conversion and filed a complaint against him of violating Government Order 746 and 747, which bans propagation of other religions near the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams temple and 19 other Hindu temples across the country. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that a pastor identified only as Ahron and another church member were distributing pocket calendars when the Hindu extremists began verbally abusing him, took items from the pastor and took him to the local police station. On April 17 the extremists staged a strike and demanded the arrest of the pastor. Police investigation was underway at press time, the EFI reported.

Andhra Pradesh – Police on April 16 arrested a pastor identified only as Samuel for trespassing on a cemetery in Yellamma Banda, Hyderabad after Hindu extremists filed a complaint against him. The All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that the pastor had decided to upgrade the public graveyard and on April 5 had submitted a memorandum to a local official, as well as approached the municipal commissioner through a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), requesting permission. He sought to construct a fence, install lights and construct a small cabin in the Yellamma Banda graveyard. After receiving verbal approval from MLA Bhiksa Yadav, the pastor and his co-workers began leveling the surface of the cemetery. On observing this activity, Hindu extremists filed a complaint against the pastor for illegally encroaching on public land, according to the AICC. At around 1:30 a.m., officers arrested Pastor Samuel for illegal trespassing. At around 7 a.m., about 50 pastors met with MLA Yadav, who promised to intervene with the sub-inspector of police and other authorities. AICC representative Moses Vattippali told Compass that the pastor was released on bail on April 18 after the intervention of the area AICC leaders.

Tamil Nadu – On April 12 in Dalmiya Puram, Trichy, an intruder disrupted a prayer meeting and stabbed a Christian, severely injuring him. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that an intruder entered a prayer service led by Pastor Y.S. John of the Indian Pentecostal Church and told him to stop the meeting immediately. The pastor’s nephew, John Britto, tried to calm the intruder, but the enraged extremist drew a sword and struck Britto, nearly cutting off his left hand, GCIC reported. Britto received hospital treatment, and a complaint was filed against the assailant at the Dalmiya Puram police station. No arrests had been made at press time.

Andhra Pradesh – Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Kakinada, East Godavari on April 12 tied and stabbed a pastor’s son, as well as beat the pastor and his wife. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists went to the home of the pastor, identified only as Ratnababu, and urgently asked for him. When his son, Madhu, opened the door, the RSS members pounced on him, stuffed his mouth with cloth and tied his hands and legs. One of the Hindu extremists sprinkled chili powder in Madhu’s eyes, and they lacerated his ankle and other parts of his body, according to the GCIC. Then they started beating the pastor and his wife. The Hindu extremists had a gas can for setting fire to the house, but a neighbor who heard the cries of the pastor’s wife arrived, and the extremists fled, the GCIC reported. Madhu and others identified the assailants and named them in their complaint, registered at the hospital where he received treatment, but police filed a case against “unknown persons.” Pastor Ratnababum, who has served the Christu Asinadu Prarthana Mandir church for 15 years, had previously received several death threats and survived three attempts to burn his church building, according to the GCIC. RSS members have manipulated the police into arresting the pastor two times in the last six months, according to the GCIC. An attorney has petitioned the Andhra Pradesh High Court to stop the violation of religious rights and personal safety of the pastor and his family. The GCIC also reported that callous indifference of officials against the violence has traumatized the 500-plus church members.

Tamil Nadu – On April 11 in Emapur, Villupuram district, a mob led by a Hindu extremist identified only as Balaji beat a pastor and pressured his landlord to evict him from his home. The Global Council of Indian Christians reported that the pastor, identified only as Caleb, was on his way to preach in the village when the extremists began verbally abusing him and then severely beat him. The church had been meeting at the pastor’s rented home.

Karnataka – A police inspector in Mangalore beat a pastor on April 8, alleging forceful conversion. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that on Easter morning the inspector, identified only as Janardhan, accused the pastor, identified only as Rajesh, of forceful conversion, beat him and warned him to vacate his rented house or face harm. After the intervention of area Christian leaders, the inspector apologized to the pastor, who remained in his home, according to the GCIC.

Uttar Pradesh – On April 7 in Maharajganj, Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh beat Christians after barging into a large gathering of healing prayer. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that at about 8 a.m., the armed extremists entered into the “Festival of Deliverance” meeting of Maharajganj Baptist Church (MBC), where 4,000 people had gathered, and accused them of forceful conversion, verbally abusing and beating them. Besides striking the Christian leaders, the extremists targeted a convert from Hinduism, Ambika Prasad, who had provided the church with land, an MBC member told EFI. About 10 enraged extremists with iron rods took part in the violence, injuring pastor Ram Chander, Vish Prasad and his wife, Ambika Prasad, and others, according to the EFI. Police soon arrived and restored order. The Christians filed a First Information Report against the attackers, and police arrested four extremists, but they were released the same day without any charges, according to the EFI.

Tamil Nadu – After learning that children at a crisis center had attended church services in Akkarapettai village, near Nagapattinam, intolerant Hindus tore up Bibles and gospel literature at their homes. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that after town Hindus learned that there was a noticeable drop in the number of people attending a Hindu festival, they found out that many villagers were attending church services. On April 2 the enraged Hindus went to a government school and announced a reward for children with Christian literature in their homes. With this ruse, they were able to harass the children who admitted to having Christian books, summoned their parents, verbally abused them and threatened to expel them from the village if they continued to go to church, according to the EFI. The next day, the assailants searched the Christians’ houses and searched for Christian literature; they tore Bibles and other literature and threatened the residents, the EFI reported. They also threatened leaders of SUSHASYA, the Scripture Union’s center that ministers to children in crisis. The Hindus asked one family to vacate their house after they openly said they were worshipping Jesus, and they also locked 12 Christian houses for three days before police intervened, the EFI reported. One person identified only as Mahalaxmi and three other families filed a police complaint against the attackers, and police protection was provided. Some fearful Christians, however, are staying away from the village, where the assailants are threatening further harm, according to the EFI.

Orissa – Hindu extremists repeatedly attacked a Catholic priest, threatening to murder him in Gudayagiri, Khnadhamal. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that on March 29, extremists led by Manoj Nayak and others dug up a road to a grotto shrine but stopped after a priest identified only as the Rev. Sisisrkant asked them to stop, saying it would destroy the grotto. The next day, however, the same party arrived with a bulldozer and began to dig up the road. The Hindu extremists verbally abused the priest, and one, Deepak Nayak, began strangling him, kicked him and threatened to kill him, according to the GCIC. On April 4, when the priest was on his way to Gudayagiri, another Hindu extremist, Manoj Nayak, caught hold of the priest by the throat and pushed him. Two days later, Hindu extremist Rabindra Nayak threatened to kill the priest, reported the GCIC.

Karnataka – Police on March 28 arrested a pastor and three church members after Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh beat them and filed a complaint against them of forceful conversion in Gadag. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that a pastor identified only as Mallikarjun and four church members were distributing tracts to some people when the extremists, led by area leader Ravi Bagle, began to beat them. They dragged the five Christians to a police station. After intervention by area Christian leaders, four church members were released at about 11 p.m. without charges. The pastor, however, was charged with abetment and harboring persons hired for an unlawful assembly (sections 107 and 157 of the Indian Penal Code), according to the GCIC. After further area Christian leaders’ intervention, he was released on bail at 1:30 a.m.

Uttar Pradesh – Rampur police and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) on March 24 disrupted the Yeshu Mahatsava Convention (Celebration of Jesus Christ) in Chadidiha after the VHP filed a complaint of forceful conversion against the organizers. The Catholic Christian Forum reported that despite procuring permission from the associate district magistrate to conduct the convention, police shut it down over VHP allegations that forced conversions was taking place. Fearing a possible backlash from the community, Sub-Inspector R.P. Saroj arrived at the venue and withdrew the permission he himself had granted, ordering all stalls to be removed. VHP District Chairman Omprakash Singh accused Christian workers of converting people by enticing them with money.


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KENYA

EXPLOSION AT CHRISTIAN MEETING KILLS BOY, WOMAN

April 3 (Compass Direct News) – An 8-year-old boy died today from injuries after suspected Islamic extremists on Saturday (March 31) threw a grenade into a Christian revival meeting near Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa that instantly killed a woman and injured at least 30 people. Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said Islamic extremists from the rebel al Shabaab militia in Somalia were suspected of carrying out the deadly blast, although the group has not claimed responsibility. The government, which began military operations against al Shabaab in Somalia last October, today issued a warning of a possible attack by al Shabaab during Easter celebrations in Kenya this weekend. The meeting, organized by the Mtwapa Pastors’ Fellowship, brought together 500 Christians from 16 denominations at the Kandara event site in Kilifi County, 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Mombasa. It began on Friday and would have continued through Sunday were it not for the attack. “Someone inside a moving Nissan vehicle threw a hand grenade towards the podium where the preaching pastor, the Rev. Daniel Mwendwa of the Miracle in the Village Church, was ministering, and there was a group of singers close by,” said eyewitness Harrison Tembo Chome, pastor of the Holy Jerusalem Church. “Everything came to a standstill. There was wailing and immediately the police, the army and ambulances arrived.” Three people have been arrested in relation to the explosion, but it was not clear what relation they had with al Shabaab, if any.

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KENYA

GRENADE ATTACK ON CHURCH KILLS ONE

April 30 (Compass Direct News) – A grenade explosion yesterday killed a 27-year-old university student at a church in Nairobi and injured 16 people, sources said. Kelvin Walumba was killed after a man pretending to be a worshipper at God’s House of Miracles International Church in the Ngara area of Nairobi threw three grenades as the service was concluding; only one of the grenades exploded. A security guard said the assailant, who after running out into the street fired three pistol shots into the air, appeared to be of Somali origin. Islamic extremists from al Shabaab rebels in Somalia have embarked on a series of attacks in Kenya after the Kenyan military invaded Somali territory last fall in an attempt to quell al Shabaab violence at Kenyan tourist destinations. Speculation that the attack stemmed from a land dispute appeared to be untrue, as the dispute with the church was resolved in court last year, a church leader told Compass. Church leaders said four members of the church are in critical condition: Leonida Mbogo, Julia Mumbi, Ezekiel Muthini and Shalom Koronge. Mbogo sustained serious injuries to her leg, which was broken. A Sunday school teacher said one of her students, a boy identified only as Jessy, was receiving hospital treatment for injuries and is in stable condition. A choir member from the church today told Compass said she had just come back to the site to see the aftermath of the attack. “Last night I did not sleep,” she said.

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LAOS

OFFICIALS CONFISCATE CHURCH BUILDINGS

April 6 (Compass Direct News) – Lao officials on Thursday (April 5) confiscated and sealed a church building in southern Laos after holding a two-day seminar warning against religious belief, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). Besides sealing the church building in Khamnonsung village, Saybuly district, they also warned that other unrecognized churches in the district in Savannakhet Province would soon be shut down. Local Communist Party official Saysamorn, along with Saysana, district deputy chief of police, and Bountha, district head of religious affairs, ordered all villages to attend the seminar, held from Tuesday through Thursday (April 3 to 5) and entitled “Tricks of the Enemy.” In northern Laos, officials in Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang provinces recently ordered Christians in several villages to renounce their faith or face expulsion, according to HRWLRF reports. On March 2, some 20 officials, including district police officers, Communist Party members and village security forces, summoned pastor Khamla of Dongvieng village, Viengphuka district in Luang Namtha Province, and sharply rebuked him for believing in Christianity. After interrogation, officials ordered Khamla to give up his faith within five days or “be cast out of the village.” On Feb. 18, the chief of Hueygong village, in Pakoo district of Luang Prabang Province, ordered 10 Christian families in the village, a total of 65 people, to give up their faith or face expulsion.

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MALI

KIDNAPPED SWISS CHRISTIAN FREED AMID UNREST

April 27 (Compass Direct News) – Separatist Islamist rebels released a Swiss Christian woman kidnapped by a private militia on April 15 amid political turmoil in Timbuktu, Mali, according to a Swiss foreign ministry statement. Armed members of the militant Islamic group Ansar Dine handed Beatrice Stockly to Swiss diplomats on Tuesday (April 24), Reuters reported. Before rebels captured Timbuktu on April 1, most Westerners had reportedly left due to fears of being kidnapped and passed on to Al-Qaeda cells. The terrorist group’s North African branch, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has been holding Westerners for millions of dollars in ransom payments from previous kidnappings in recent years. Stockly, a Christian social worker in her 40s, had refused to leave Timbuktu, 705 kilometers (439 miles) northeast of the capital, when it fell to Tuareg rebels and Islamist extremists. She was in good health “considering the circumstances,” according to the Swiss foreign ministry statement. Ansar Dine militants took custody of Stockly after a shootout with an unidentified private militia that had seized her and wanted to sell her to AQIM. Ansar Dine, which has imposed sharia (Islamic law) in areas under its control in the north, then handed Stockly to the Swiss government without demanding a ransom, according to Agence France-Presse. Stockly is reportedly safe in Burkina Faso.

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NIGERIA

SUICIDE BOMBER TARGETS CHURCHES IN KADUNA

April 9 (Compass Direct News) – Churches celebrating Easter services were the targets of a suicide bomber who killed at least 38 people yesterday in Kaduna city in northern Nigeria, sources said. Security personnel at one of the church buildings blocked the bomber, believed to belong to the Boko Haram Islamic sect, who then decided to detonate his explosives in the street at a nearby motorcycle taxi center, the sources said. Dozens of people were injured in addition to those killed. The bombs damaged the buildings of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Good News church and the All Nations Christian Assembly, besides blasting off roofs from homes and hotels and destroying vehicles. Located on the same street, Gwari Road, are the Redeemed Christian Church of God and an Assemblies of God church. Luka Binniyat, a Christian resident of the city, told Compass that law enforcement agents believed the ECWA church was the primary target. “Richard Markus, a detective, mentioned that the bomber’s main target was the ECWA Good News church a few meters from the scene of the bomb blast,” Binniyat said. “He tried forcing his way past, but the security man stood in between him and the blockade. He even pushed him a ways before some policemen manning the gate of the church rushed down to the scene.” Boko Haram (literally, “Forbidden Book,” translated as “Western education is forbidden”) has targeted state offices, law enforcement sites and some moderate mosques in its effort to destabilize the government and impose a strict version of sharia (Islamic law) on all of Nigeria, but Kaduna resident Stanley Yakubu said that Christians are one of its main targets. “The truth is that there is a deliberate effort to silence or eliminate the Christians in the north,” he said.

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NIGERIA

BOMBERS ATTACK CENTER IN CHRISTIAN AREA OF JOS

April 25 (Compass Direct News) – One person was killed and nine others were injured last night after suspected Islamic extremists attacked a TV viewing center in a Christian area of Jos where a crowd had gathered to watch soccer. At about 10:15 p.m. at the viewing center, one of many such establishments popular in Nigeria for watching soccer matches, attackers drove past the site and threw an explosive device at hundreds of Christians watching the match, eyewitnesses told Compass. Medical personnel at nearby Janvak Hospital were treating four of the injured under strict supervision of police and other security agents. The bombing marks the second time in two weeks that the Christian area has been attacked. During Easter celebrations, Islamic extremists were also suspected of detonating a bomb a few meters from the center that injured five Christians. Various churches in the Tudun Wada area of Jos commonly use the site as a base for evangelistic campaigns aimed at social venues in the area. Christian and Muslim communities live in close but separate quarters of the Tudun Wada area of Jos, and the attacks have heightened tensions between them. The area comprises eight churches.

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PAKISTAN

WOMAN ACCUSED OF ‘BLASPHEMY’ ILLEGALLY HELD IN JAIL

April 10 (Compass Direct New) – The mother of a 6-month-old girl has been wrongly jailed for more than a month, as Pakistani authorities have failed to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 14-day period against the young Christian woman falsely accused of “blaspheming” the prophet of Islam, her attorney said. Shamim Bibi, 26, of village Chak No. 170/7R Colony, in the Fort Abbas area of Bahawalpur district, was charged under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s “blasphemy” statutes after neighbors accused her of uttering remarks against Muhammad. She was arrested on Feb. 28. Speaking ill of Muhammad in Pakistan is punishable by life imprisonment or death under Pakistan’s internationally condemned blasphemy laws. Her lawyer, Mahboob A. Khan, said police were supposed to register a charge sheet within 14 days of filing the First Information Report under the Code of Criminal Procedure. Police say that they have forwarded the charge sheet to the prosecution department, but there has been nothing from them either, he said. “The judicial process is painfully slow, and it’s even slower in such sensitive matters,” Khan said. “I just hope the judge realizes the gaps in the case, and even if he does not muster enough courage to quash the case, he should at least set her free on bail.”

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PAKISTAN

CHRISTIAN ACQUITTED OF ‘BLASPHEMY’ CHARGE

April 17 (Compass Direct News) – A Pakistani Christian falsely charged with “blasphemy” after rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys has been cleared of the charge. Dildar Masih, a 27-year-old father of two young children, was acquitted on March 26 after prosecutors failed to produce any evidence against him, he said. “I was produced in court three times during the case proceedings, but not one accuser ever turned up at the hearings,” Masih told Compass by phone. His nephew, Ihtesham (also known as Sunny), had gone out to fetch ice when Muslim boys from a nearby madrassa (religious school) beat him for refusing to convert to Islam in village No. 68 AR Farmwala, in Khanewal district’s Mian Channu area in Punjab Province, on June 10, 2011. Seeing the attack from a distance, Masih shouted and rushed to the scene, rescued his nephew and then went to his work as a painter. Soon after the incident, a Muslim mob of about 55 led by village prayer leader Qari Hasnain besieged Masih’s house and ordered his father, Yousaf Masih, to hand over “the blasphemer” to them. Masih said that during his imprisonment, he stood by his faith that Jesus would free him from the false charge and that he would be able to return to his family. “I prayed a lot … This was the only other thing I did in prison besides having food and sleeping,” he said.

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SUDAN

SOUTHERN CHRISTIANS FEAR FORCED REPATRIATION

April 6 (Compass Direct News) – Christians from South Sudan who have until Easter Sunday (April 8) to try to become citizens of Sudan or be deported fear authorities will use the occasion to rid the country of Christianity, church leaders said. More than 500,000 citizens of southern ethnic origin who have been living in Sudan for decades – some of them born there – will be considered foreigners after Sunday. Human rights organizations have called on Khartoum to grant them more time to either leave or apply for citizenship. Christian leaders expressed concern that local media such as the daily Al Intibaha newspaper have been stoking hatred against predominantly Christian southern Sudanese, describing them as “cancer cells in the body of Sudan, the land of the Arab and Islam,” and calling on the government to deport them. “The local media are becoming very hostile toward us who are still in the north,” one Christian told Compass by phone on condition of anonymity. Banners have appeared in Khartoum streets calling on the government and Muslims in general to harass and expel southern Sudanese, some of whom are also Muslims. South Sudan seceded from Sudan in a referendum last July 9. The government of Sudan has begun issuing national numbers to designate citizens of Sudan, denying the designation to Sudanese of southern origin. Without a national number, southern Sudanese have no citizenship rights to work or education. Churches in Sudan have already suffered losses in numbers as many members prepare for forced repatriation, Christian leaders said. “We are monitoring the situation and praying to God to protect us,” said a church leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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SUDAN

SOUTHERN CHRISTIANS TRAPPED IN HOSTILE NORTH

April 19 (Compass Direct News) – As tensions between Sudan and South Sudan turn into military combat on the border, predominantly Christian citizens of southern origin trapped in Sudan fear the Islamic government and Muslims in general will turn on them, sources told Compass. Officially foreigners though many of the half million southern Sudanese in Sudan have never lived anywhere else, the ethnic southerners have been granted another 30 days as of April 8 to register or leave the country. But the government has forbidden hundreds of ethnic southerners from boarding planes for Juba, saying they require documents from the southern capital in order to leave. South Sudanese Christians were surprised to learn that all flights and land routes to South Sudan were closed to them on April 9, with no information forthcoming on when they would be allowed to leave, sources said. The precarious legal status of the southern Sudanese has fostered more concrete hostilities. In Khartoum, an Islamic mob with a bulldozer threatened to demolish a Bible school on April 9, saying it was located on land that should be returned to “the land of Islam” because southern Sudanese were no longer legal citizens. Claiming that Gerief West Bible School was located “in the land of Islam of our grandfathers,” some 100 angry Muslim extremists brandishing clubs had first threatened to take over the school on March 30, a school employee said. The mob threatened to harm students and staff members, he said. 

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SUDAN

BIBLE SCHOOL, CHURCH BUILDINGS ATTACKED ***

April 26 (Compass Direct News) – Christians faced increased hostilities in Sudan over the past few weeks, culminating in an attack on a Christian compound in Khartoum by a throng of Muslim extremists armed with clubs, iron rods, a bulldozer and fire. The assailants on Saturday (April 21) set fire to the Gerief West Bible School and the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) building; they also damaged three other places of worship and other buildings in the same compound, sources told Compass by telephone. Also damaged were a clinic, a home for the elderly, classrooms and living quarters. Christian support organization Open Doors reported that authorities held the mob back about a kilometer from the compound, but the assailants dispersed and found their way back early in the afternoon. All the Bible school’s office equipment, library books and students’ personal belongings were destroyed by fire, according to Open Doors. Some students, staff and members of some of the churches were beaten, according to Philip Akway, a pastor and former general secretary of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church; SPEC clergyman John Tau’s right hand was wounded, while deacon John Bouth sustained a chest injury. In addition, last week three churches in Khartoum were warned that their buildings would be demolished if they continued services, according to Open Doors. Previously hostilities against Christians had flared on April 6, when police rushed into a Sudanese Church of Christ compound in Omdurman, outside Khartoum, and forced the congregation to stop worshipping, Christian sources said. Police said that it was Friday and therefore only Muslims could pray, and that the mosque service must not be interrupted by the “songs and praises of the infidels,” a source said.

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TURKEY

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RECORD SLIDES

April 9 (Compass Direct News) – Sentiment against Christians in Turkey has persisted long enough for a U.S. religious rights monitor to recommend it as a “Country of Particular Concern,” and pastor Orhan Picaklar knows such anti-Christian hostility first-hand. Picaklar, of Agape Church in Samsun, lives in the Black Sea region, a bastion of Turkey’s unique Islamic-imbued nationalism. “We have been here for 10 years, and people here still treat us like cursed enemies,” Picaklar said. Picaklar’s son received death threats on Facebook last September, and a man in his early 20s caused minor damage to Picaklar’s church building last month. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) last month recommended that Turkey be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern,” among Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, for religious freedom violations. The report cited the government for “systematic and egregious limitations” on religious freedom, stating that Turkey, “in the name of secularism, has long imposed burdensome regulations and denied full legal status to religious groups, violating the religious freedom rights of all religious communities.” Restrictions that deny non-Muslim communities the rights to train clergy, offer religious education and own and maintain places of worship have led to their decline and in some cases their disappearance, the report stated. Religious restrictions in Turkey have not increased in the last year, but the report stated that continued legal discrimination against non-Muslim groups was a dangerous trend. Turkish officials called USCIRF’s recommendation to the U.S. Department of State “null and void.”

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TURKEY

ATTACKED PASTOR JOINS IN MEMORIALS FOR SLAIN CHRISTIANS

April 18 (Compass Direct News) – After a memorial service for three Christians who were murdered in Malatya, Turkey five years ago today, an Istanbul pastor who was attacked over Easter weekend said he’s experienced hostility from Muslims nearly all his life. Semir Serkek, 58, pastor of Grace Church in Istanbul’s Bahcelievler district, said he personally knew Turkish converts to Christianity Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske, who were brutally murdered by five young men in the southeastern city of Malatya on April 18, 2007. Serkek was alone at Grace Church on April 7 finishing preparations for the next day’s Easter celebration when, at around 9 p.m., he heard frantic pounding at the door, he said. Opening it, he found four men in their late teens who claimed they had questions and demanded to enter. They threatened to kill him if he didn’t recite the Islamic testimony of faith, he said. “This is a Muslim neighborhood, what business does a church have here?” they asked. Finally one of them kicked Serkek in the chest, casting him down the entrance steps to the ground. The Muslims ran away laughing, Serkek said. Born to a Syriac Christian background family in the southeastern city of Mardin, Serkek said that while the violence surprised him, he has known verbal abuse since childhood and especially since he started serving God and began openly sharing his faith 35 years ago. “I’ve been verbally abused for being a Christian many times, but this was the first time I was hit, so this was surprising and made me sad,” he said. 

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