NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslims in a village in eastern Uganda last week killed Christians’ pigs and tore down their church building, sources said.
A Muslim mob demolished the building of the 450-member Nalugondo Church of Uganda building at about midnight on April 12, shouting, “We cannot live together with neighbors who are infidels. We have to fight for the cause of Allah,” according to area sources. Nalugondo village is near Bugade, Mayuge District, 93 miles east of Kampala.
Two days earlier, sources said, a group of Muslims slaughtered a church lay leader’s pigs, a key source of income. Singing praises to Allah and shouting, “Allah only is to be worshipped, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the group led by area Muslim Kambo Daudo killed Samuel Kijali’s pigs at 4 p.m. on April 10, as Kijali’s wife watched helplessly.
A few weeks before the slaughter, Kijali had received text messages on his phone saying that church members must stop raising pigs.
“Let this be known to your church members that pigs are extremely unholy and an abomination before Allah, very outrageous and shameful,” one text read. “They are haram [forbidden] and unlawful as our holy Quran does prohibit them.”
Muslims also sent a text message to church member Kamaala Yokosani – “We are soon coming for the heads of your pigs” – before killing eight of his pigs on April 5, sources said. Yokosani was elected chairman of the Bugade zone in May 2015, and then later he began raising pigs.
A Christian witness said a Muslim neighbour of Yokosani, 60-year-old Kupoota Amisi, went to his home with about 15 other Muslims.
“I saw Amisi with a group of people enter Kamaala’s farm with knives, only to hear the following day that his pigs had been killed,” the witness said.
About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. Muslims have come to outnumber Christians in Nalugondo village.
“It is quite difficult to resist these militant Muslims, because they have outnumbered us the Christians and are accusing us that we are defiling their faith,” Kijali said.
The church’s 450 members are now without shelter as the rainy season descends, sources said. Musical instruments, more than 500 plastic chairs and other property weredestroyed, a church leader said.
© 2016 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission
(World Watch Monitor) – An Indian pastor and his pregnant wife were assaulted and their church set on fire on Sunday evening (17 April) after they refused to praise a Hindu god.
Pastor Dinbanhu Sameli, 30, and his wife, Meena, 26, seven months pregnant, lead a church in the troubled Bastar district of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh.
Two young men approached the pastor outside his home next to his church at around 7pm, initially asking for prayer, claiming they were from a nearby Methodist church. But they later brought out a sword which they held to the pastor’s neck, and demanded the couple shout the phrase, “Jai Shri Ram” (Victory to the god Ram).
“Where is your Jesus?” the two men demanded; Sameli replied “We believe that he is with us”. When asked “Why don’t you believe in Ram?” husband and wife remained silent.
When the couple refused to do praise Ram, and also refused to stamp on a Bible, the two men took a litre of petrol and set fire to the church, including musical equipment.
Sameli said he “felt fear in his heart” with the sword on his shoulder, but “prayed that God would save him”.
As the church burned, the couple fled and filed a report with the police.
But local media then blamed the incident on the local Methodist pastor, and also erroneously reported that the couple had been doused in petrol and set alight.
The incident took place in the remote village of Karanji, in the Tokapal area of the sprawling Bastar district, which has seen several recent incidents of anti-Christian violence at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists. Last year, the couple told World Watch Monitor, a gang of people from a militant Hindu group, Bajrang Dal, came on two tractors, shouted “Jai Shri Ram” in front of the church, and wrote the same slogan on its front wall, on both the sides of the main door.
In 2014 and 2015, 93 organised attacks on Christians were reported in Chhattisgarh, which is ruled by the Hindu nationalist party, the BJP. Between January and April 2016 there have been 49 reported incidents in Chhattisgarh, 116 in total in central India, including many cases where pastors were beaten.
In July 2014, the village of Belar, also in Bastar, passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities.
In October 2014, the high court of Chhattisgarh state asked the state government to ensure that anti-Christian resolutions passed by village councils would not infringe religious freedom. A Christian organisation challenging the local resolutions said at the time that the court order was “only a minor relief.”
“This [latest] incident cannot be seen in isolation from what is happening here,” Arun Pannalal, president of Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), told World Watch Monitor.
“[That] the police have registered [a report] against ‘unknown miscreants’ is laughable,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “In a small town, police [are] well informed. Police [are] trying to protect them.”
“Tokapal is a very small place, where everybody knows everybody. Police registering [a report] against unidentified persons itself is an indication that police [are] trying to downplay the incident and protect the accused,” Pannalal was quoted by the Times of India as saying.
Pannalal told World Watch Monitor “the police officers who have failed to protect our fundamental rights should be suspended immediately and [investigated] for dereliction of duty.”
Sameli assured WWM contacts who phoned him on Thursday 21st April that police are now working with him on the case.
Recent incidents involving minority Christians
Between January and April 2016 there have been 49 reported incidents -14 in April alone – in Chhattisgarh, ruled by the Hindu nationalist party the BJP. Over ther same time there have been 116 in total in central India, although these include women tortured by their husbands for their faith, other beatings of pastors, and a case of villagers not allowing a Christian to be buried.
On 17 March, the Municipal Corporation of Raipur, the state capital, gave a demolition notice to a Pentecostal church, saying it had been built on land to which it had no right. Ten days before, the church had been vandalised by Hindu fundamentalists during Sunday worship, and worshippers beaten up.
Over a thousand Christians staged a sit-in under the banner of CCF the next day, and the demolition order was withdrawn.
In February, a pastor was beaten during a prayer meeting, while two months earlier a group of activists from Bajrang Dal demolished a venue where people were celebrating the establishment of a church in Korba.
In 2014 and 2015, 93 organised attacks on Christians were reported in Chhattisgarh.
©2016 World Watch Monitor. Reprinted by permission.
(Morning Star News) – A government-backed demolition team in Henan Province, China last week buried a Christian couple alive as they tried to protect their church building, killing the wife, according to China Aid.
Ding Cuimei and her husband, Li Jiangong, on Thursday (April 14) stepped in front of a bulldozer the demolition company had sent to destroy Beitou Church in Zhumadian in order for an area business interest to take over the property, according to China Aid.
“Though the church leader managed to escape, the wife had suffocated to death by the time she was freed,” China Aid’s Bob Fu said in a press statement.
Fu said one member of the two-member crew was heard to say, “Bury them alive for me. I will be responsible for their lives,” and then the bulldozer sent Ding and Li into a pit and covered them over with soil. Li was able to dig his way free, while Ding suffocated.
Local police said the two crew members had been detained while a criminal investigation team from the public security bureau looked into the incident, according to China Aid.
“Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” Fu said. “This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church’s members.”
Area Christians told China Aid that various area government departments declined to oversee the demolition, and that Li said police were uncommonly slow to arrive after a report of the murder was filed.
Government personnel are pressuring Li to suppress facts of the incident, according to China Aid.
© 2016 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Late one morning in northern India last month, pastor Ram Prakash, 42, was riding his motorcycle home when he noticed men on three motorcycles shouting obscenities as they followed him.
The pastor had just visited four Christian families that day, March 24, praying with them at their homes in Karoate village, Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh state. Having had Hindu extremists set his home on fire two weeks earlier, he could easily guess that those following him were radical Hindus.
The men gave chase, and one of them hit the back of his motorcycle, sending Pastor Prakash to the ground and severely injuring his leg. Yelling at him to stop telling people about Jesus, the radical Hindus got off their bikes and began to kick and beat him.
“I tried to get up, but I could not because of the throbbing pain in my right leg,” he told Morning Star News. “The Hindu extremists surrounded me, yelled at me, and they told me never to set foot again in their village and accused me of making people believe in Jesus and telling them not to eat food offered to the idols but rather to eat beef.”
As Pastor Prakash writhed with broken bones in his lower right leg, the assailants phoned local Hindu extremist leaders, and another eight men arrived who helped mock, push, slap and kick him, with one saying, “So finally, we are able to get hold of the Christian man who has been roaming around converting people to Christianity.”
When a passer-by asked the assailants what the matter was, they told him that Pastor Prakash had had an accident, he said. As onlookers began to gather, Pastor Prakash said, one recognized him and called his brother, who soon arrived with seven other Christians.
Police arrived 30 minutes later and took Pastor Prakash in for questioning and then to a local hospital. The severity of his injuries required that he be transferred to the district hospital. Besides the broken bones in his leg, he sustained cuts on his head and hand as well as abrasions over all his body, he said.
“The police are under the pressure of the Hindu extremist group, and they are reluctant to register a case against the attackers,” said the pastor’s brother, whose name is withheld for security reasons.
The assailants submitted a complaint to police, accusing Pastor Prakash of luring people to convert to Christianity by offering to pay them to erect a church building.
“The accusation they levied against the pastor is completely untrue,” area Christian leader Santosh Kumar told Morning Star News. “People decided to follow Christ under their own free will.”
Previously, on the night of March 9, about 25 Hindu extremists armed with clubs had turned up at his hut and told him to leave his village, the pastor said. They said they would no longer allow him to hold worship services or talk about Jesus, and they threatened to seize his land if he continued to do so.
Pastor Prakash, who has been ministering in the area for 15 years, and his brother told the Hindu extremists they could not carry out such threats, and the Hindu extremists began to beat them, leaving his brother with a severe cut on his head and his wife with minor cuts.
The assailants then set the pastor’s hut on fire, destroying its roof and items inside, including beds and chairs, he said.
Police arrived, took the pastor’s brother to the hospital for treatment and registered a First Information Report against the attackers.
“Because of the constant persecution that we are facing here and in the surrounding areas, many are hesitant to come to the church now,” Pastor Prakash said.
Family Locked In
In West Bengal state in eastern India, a new convert to Christianity showed deep faith after he and his family faced opposition from his parents, the rest of the village and Hindu extremists.
Bahadur Chand Sarel, a church leader in Paschim Medinipur District, said the entire village of Gurudpal turned against Kisna Sarel, 37, after he recently put his faith in Christ. On March 6, Hindu extremists locked Sarel and his family inside their home for more than 12 hours.
After locking Sarel, his 5-year-old and 7-year-old children and his wife in their home from 1 p.m. to after 1 a.m., the Hindu extremists took Sarel out and kicked, punched and beat him with sticks in the wee hours, he said.
“They blocked the village entry and harassed the Christian family,” Chand Sarel told Morning Star News. “They told him never to go to the church again but to perform all the Hindu poojahs[offerings to gods] and rituals, and then beat him up.”
A villager phoned Chand Sarel, who informed police, and officers rescued the Christians, he said. Kisna Sarel’s head, chest and other areas of his body were injured, and he received hospital treatment.
“I am not worried about anything,” the new convert told Morning Star News. “I have Jesus, and even if they take my life, I will still follow Jesus.”
Kisna Sarel and his family go to another village about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from their home for worship.
“However, the villagers are closely watching Kisna Sarel’s movement and threatened to harm him if he and his family ever go to church again,” Chand Sarel said.
After the village head submitted a letter to police explaining his regret and giving assurances that it would not happen again, police decided not to register a complaint. Entry into the village for any outsider, however, is still strictly prohibited.
(c) 2016 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
An Islamist group in Indonesia has, in front of a local police commander, sealed off a brand new church, torn down its sign and demanded that the local mayor cancel its permit. The Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, a heavily-populated commuter city to the east of the capital, Jakarta, only opened on 7 March.
The Islamic Forum Community (FUI) and other Islamist organisations have been protesting since the church obtained its permit in July 2015, claiming its leaders had used false identity cards to get it.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has started an appeal on the church’s behalf, and asked for supporters to send letters to ten top Indonesian leaders, including the President. The AHRC added that it will write a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The AHRC noted that local law enforcement agencies failed to intervene on the church’s behalf, leaving the congregants in “fear and uncertainty”.
The FUI complained that the church had been built in a community where the majority are Muslims and where Islamic boarding schools also exist. However, the Bekasi mayor refused to annul the church’s permit, saying it had fulfilled all the legal requirements necessary for construction. Indonesia’s Minister of Religion supported the mayor’s decision.
“Despite this, law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation,” wrote the AHRC in its letter of appeal.
The AHRC called upon the local police to “take a strong stance” against the FUI and “ensure that the government guarantees protection to the Santa Clara congregation to practise their religion”.
“Furthermore, the government should revise the law on the establishment of worship places without any discrimination among the various religions and beliefs that exist in Indonesia,” the letter concluded.
“In the last decade, the existence of intolerant vigilante groups has become a serious problem in Indonesia,” wrote the AHRC in its letter to supporters. “More importantly, the country’s law enforcement does not seem to be willing or committed to enforcing the law against such groups, despite their actions being in violation of the right to freedom of religion and belief guaranteed in the 1945 Indonesian Constitution. Article 29, Paragraph 2 requires the State to ‘ensure the freedom of every citizen to choose their own religion and to worship according to their religion and belief itself’.”
Indonesia is No. 43 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List, which ranks the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
The current events in Bekasi are all too familiar for Christians in the Jakarta area.
In March 2013, the Batak Protestant Church, also in Bekasi, was torn down almost immediately after it had been built. Again, protesting Muslims claimed the church’s leaders had falsified signatures to obtain a permit.
Meanwhile, about 70 kilometres away in Bogor – also a commuter city outside Jakarta – another church continues to hold open-air Sunday morning services next to a main road, because its city mayor is afraid to insist that a Supreme Court order is carried out.
In April 2010, Bogor’s Taman Yasmin Indonesia Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) was sealed and padlocked by order of the mayor of Bogor and the city government. According to a national paper, he claimed that the previous sub-village head had falsified community signatures and that the church brought trouble with local Muslim neighbours. Later he said that the church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.
In December 2010, the Indonesian Supreme Court affirmed the church’s constitutional right to freedom of worship; however the mayor refused to reopen the church. The Indonesian Ombudsman’s Office also urged the Bogor city administration to withdraw its later 2011 decree annulling the church’s construction permit.
GKI Yasmin’s congregation has resorted to conducting services on the pavement in front of their former church for more than two years. Then they moved to a monthly service in front of the Presidential Palace, alternating with services in other premises. In September last year, the church held its hundredth service outside the palace. A church leader told World Watch Monitor that number has now increased to 115 services.
©2016 World Watch Monitor reprinted with permission.