Throng of about 90 attacks prayer meeting of 80.
NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A pastor in eastern Uganda and eight other Christians are missing two weeks after a Muslim mob attacked a church prayer meeting, locked the congregation in, beat several members and raped 15 women, sources said.
The approximately 90 Muslims broke into the evening prayer meeting of Katira Church of Uganda, in Katira village, Budaka District at about 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 and beat them with clubs and sticks, area sources said. Previously Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation, villagers said.
At the evening service, about 80 members were present, and among those who escaped before the doors were locked was a Christian who heard one of the assailants shout, “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity,” a church leader said.
Pastor Moses Mutasa had been outside questioning some visitors unknown to the church when several others arrived shouting, “Away with the pastor,” and he fled, said the Rev. Musa Mukenye, who oversees several churches in the district’s Iki-iki County.
“We do not know what has happened to our pastor, Moses Mutasa,” Pastor Mukenye told a meeting of local officials, police and other security officers. “He might have been killed or has been kept hostage.”
The assailants locked about half of those in attendance inside the building, beat the men and tied them up while they raped women, said a church elder stationed outside the building who escaped. About 50 men and 30 women had attended the prayer meeting, and most of those locked inside were women, sources said.
Muslim assailants positioned outside the church building also beat men and raped women as they tried to escape, a church elder said.
“Women’s clothing was found inside and outside the church building,” he said.
The abused women received treatment at a clinic in Katira.
Police arrived about two hours after the assault began, sources said. Several church members were also injured as they were trampled in the rush to get out of the building. Much church property was damaged, especially chairs.
The assailants were Muslims from the area, which is predominantly Muslim, sources said.
When police arrived, the attackers fled. Two days later, church members found leaflets accusing the pastor of converting Muslims and threatening more attacks, villagers said.
On the morning after the attack, some church members intent on retaliating gathered, and as tensions mounted police intervened, convening a meeting with Christian, Muslim and local political leaders on Jan. 22.
Christians were planning to destroy the village mosque in order to send a message that they were not cowards, but Pastor Mukenye pleaded for them to adopt an attitude of forgiveness, and they refrained, he said.
Pastor Mukenye told Morning Star News that Christians should leave justice to authorities.
“This act is evil, and police should not relent until the attackers are arrested and charged in a court of law,” he said.
The assault was the latest in a series of incidents of persecution against Christians in eastern Uganda. On Jan. 2 Islamic extremists ambushed a church leader in eastern Uganda after a sheikh they had sent to assassinate him at a Dec. 4 church service instead became a Christian, sources said.
At a New Year’s celebration in Bugayi village in Pallisa District, Muslim relatives of a young woman who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service coerced her into taking poison, she said. On Christmas Day, Muslims in eastern Uganda beat Christians at a worship service and wrecked the home of a single mother on Christmas Eve, sources said.
On Dec. 8, relatives of a former Islamic teacher attacked his 60-year-old mother for becoming a Christian, wounding her head and breaking her hand, sources said. Aimuna Namutongi sustained a deep cut on her forehead. She and her son, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi, were trying to gather cassava at 10 a.m. on the homestead he had been forced to abandon in Bufuja village, Butaleja District, after Muslim relatives threatened to kill him if he returned.
Higenyi, whom Muslim relatives had beaten unconscious on Nov. 13 after he publically confessed having embraced Christianity, managed to escape the fury of those who arrived at his farm on Dec. 8 while he and his mother were trying to harvest something to eat, he told Morning Star News.
Namutongi became a Christian after visiting her ostracized, injured son on Nov. 26 and listening to his faith journey, a local source said. He has continued to receive threatening messages, he said.
On Oct. 20, 2016, Muslims in Kobolwa village, Kibuku District gutted the home of a Christian family for housing two boys who had been threatened with violence for leaving Islam. Stephen Muganzi, 41, told Morning Star News that the two teenaged boys sought refuge with him on Oct. 16 after their parents earlier in the month learned of their conversion, began questioning them and threatened to kill them. The two boys, ages 16 and 17, had secretly become Christians nearly seven months before.
On Sept. 18, 2016, a Muslim in Budaka District beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service, sources said. Hussein Kasolo had recently married Fatuma Baluka, 21-year-old daughter of an Islamic leader in a predominantly Muslim village, undisclosed for security reasons.
On Aug. 10, a Christian woman in eastern Uganda became ill after she was poisoned, she said.
Aisha Twanza, a 25-year-old convert from Islam, ingested an insecticide put into her food after family members upbraided her for becoming a Christian, she told Morning Star News. She and her husband, who live in Kakwangha village in Budaka District, put their faith in Christ in January 2016.
In Busalamu village, Luuka District, eight children from four families have taken refuge with Christians after their parents beat and disowned them for leaving Islam or animism, sources said. The new-found faith of the children, ages 9 to 16, angered their parents, who beat them in an effort to deter them from sneaking to worship services, and on June 29, 2016 the young ones took refuge at the church building, area sources said.
About 85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim, with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another, but Christians in eastern Uganda are suffering continual attacks by non-state figures.
© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.
Once-thriving church shuttered
NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – Months after Hindu extremists and police attacked a revival meeting in northern India and shut down a church, one pastor is in hiding, and officers prohibit another from praying with members of the scattered congregation in their homes.
Members of the once-thriving church, where evangelistic events used to draw crowds of 5,000 people, either have to travel long distances to worship or are meeting secretly in homes.
Hindu extremists attacked the evangelistic meeting at the church site in Sitaram Purwa, Sitapur District, on Sept. 18, accusing pastor Rameshwar Mishra of “witchcraft” for serving Communion bread and wine, the 41-year-old church leader told Morning Star News. Four police officers later joined in the assault.
Days before the event, when the pastor informed police of court permission to stage it, police officers told him to cancel the revival and began disparaging him in coarse language for leaving Hinduism, he said. Pastor Mishra, who became a Christian in 2009 and helped found the church four years ago, said the officer in-charge became so angry that day, Sept. 14, that he jailed him. After obtaining the church leader’s personal, church and baptism documents, the officer let him go but warned him not to evangelize, he said.
The pastor said God told him to proceed with the event, which drew 3,500 people.
“The police patrolled on that Saturday [Sept. 17], warning the villagers not to attend the meeting,” he said.
As a worship leader sang an hour into the scheduled five-hour event, a Hindu extremist identified only as Babblu was already present with 15 to 20 cohorts, and some of them took the singer aside and began to assault him, rupturing his eardrum, the pastor said. Some of the assailants also caught hold of the singer’s sister and struck her, to a lesser degree, before Pastor Mishra arrived.
The four police officers arrived and joined the Hindu extremists, kicking and hitting Pastor Mishra, whose clothes were torn in the assault, he said. The officer in-charge of the police station arrived soon after, followed by a bus full of policemen called in to disperse the crowd.
Police took Pastor Mishra to the Reusa police station, where officers further disparaged him. The officer in-charge threatened to keep him in custody for two weeks and to beat him until he worshipped Hindu gods and goddesses, the pastor said.
Pastor Mishra replied that he would not leave Christ even if the officer killed him.
With serious internal injuries, Pastor Mishra was freed on Sept. 23; he still does not know the official charge against him, or whether the 500 rupees (US$7.34) he paid a lawyer went toward a fine or an attorney’s fee.
A few days later, he filed a counter case against Babblu and 15 police officers, including the station officer in-charge, for brutality. Having spent about 12,000 rupees (US$175) in payments to an attorney to file it, he is upset that no hearing has taken place and there has been no movement on the case, he said.
Meantime, Reusa police repeatedly approached a church co-pastor who goes by the single name of Mahesh and told him to persuade Pastor Mishra to settle out of court with the attacking officers. He was unable to persuade Pastor Mishra to settle out of court, so the police officers filed a false case against Pastor Mahesh of hooliganism under the “Goonda Act,” after the term for a hired thug or “goon,” Pastor Mishra said.
Pastor Mahesh immediately obtained bail and was not arrested.
For a week Pastor Mishra continued to visit people in their houses to pray with them, but patrolling police daily announced that “anybody found praying inside their houses would not be spared,” he said. Not wanting to endanger members of the congregation, Pastor Mishra fled to a different village. He visited Pastor Mahesh regularly before leaving permanently in early October.
Police continue to prohibit Pastor Mahesh from praying with members of the congregation in their homes, according to Pastor Mishra. Pastor Mahesh and his wife have not left the area, but they can minister only to people 40 to 150 kilometers (24 to 93 miles) away.
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, the hostile tone of his National Democratic Alliance government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against non-Hindus has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack Christians, religious rights advocates said. India ranked 15th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of the countries where Christians experience the most persecution.
Now in hiding in another area, Pastor Mishra said that fear still reigns in his village, and he feels bad for his congregation. He is now ministering to people in his area of refuge.
© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission
by Steve Gaines
MEMPHIS (BP) — Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land.
What are Southern Baptists to do?
Trump won the election. In doing so, he earned the right to serve for the next four years as President of the United States. Consequently, it is incumbent upon every Bible-believing Christian to pray that the Lord will bless and guide him and his family in the coming days and years.
The Bible is clear that we Christians are to pray for our leaders.
The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (NAU)
Paul also says in Romans 13:1, 7, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God…. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (NAU)
When the Jewish High Priest, Ananias, ordered one of his servants to strike the apostle Paul for what Ananias considered an irreverent statement made by Paul, Paul retaliated by calling Ananias a “whitewashed wall” (i.e. a hypocrite). But when Paul learned that Ananias was the High Priest, he immediately apologized citing Exodus 22:28. The Bible says in Acts 23:5 — And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'” (NAU)
Likewise, the apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:17 — “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” (NAU)
If these verses mean anything, they mean that all Christians, including all Southern Baptists, should pray for President Trump and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, and refrain from criticizing and slandering them personally.
Does this mean we cannot disagree with President Trump’s policies or actions? Of course not.
But as followers of Jesus, when we disagree with anyone’s actions and/or words, we must do so without being mean-spirited and without maligning them personally. It is incumbent on all our SBC leaders to set such a standard of maturity for all Southern Baptists with genuine, Spirit-filled behavior.
As of today, Mr. Trump is President Trump. He will serve in the highest office of political authority in our nation. The moment Donald Trump assumed that office, he deserved our sincere prayers and genuine support. We must grant all people, including elected officials, dignity, because: 1. they are created in God’s image, and 2. Jesus died for their sins.
Exactly how should we pray for Donald and Melania Trump?
— Pray that their hearts will be like channels of water in the hands of the Lord and that He will turn them wherever he wishes (cf. Proverbs 21:1).
— Pray that God will instruct them and teach them in the way that they should go and guide them with His eye upon them (cf. Psalm 32:8).
— Pray that they will walk in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and that God will surround them with favor as with a shield (cf. Psalm 5:12).
Ask the Lord to lead you as you sincerely pray for them.
Southern Baptists, we must set the example for others by living biblically as citizens of God in a secular world. We must pray for and genuinely respect both the office of the President of the United States, and the man in that office, Donald J. Trump.
Steve Gaines is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church.
By World Watch Monitor
Two Egyptian Coptic Christians found dead in their bed on 6 January – the traditional Christmas celebration for Copts – were murdered because of their faith, according to the brother of the dead woman.
Police said robbery was the motivation for the deaths of Gamal Sami, 60 and his wife, Nadia, 48 but her brother, Magdy Amin Girgis – the first person to reach the crime scene – told World Watch Monitor nothing was taken from the couple’s home.
Magdy found his sister still wearing her jewelry after the double killing, and nothing missing.
He’d visited the house in Minufiyah, northern Egypt, after being alerted by the couple’s son, Kirolos, who works out of the area and who had been trying to contact them on their mobile phones.
Worried, Kirolos contacted Magdy at 11am and asked him to visit the couple’s home. Magdy, who’d had dinner with the couple only the night before (5 Jan) when they’d planned their Christmas visit to the Mar Girgis church in their village, said “[Kirolos] was very worried about them. I told him that I was with them yesterday evening and they were fine.”
Magdy decided to try phoning his sister and her husband, but they did not answer so he immediately headed to their home.
No one answered the door but he managed to get in with the help of a carpenter. He told WWM he found the couple, both stabbed, with their throats cut and “drenched in blood,” still on their bed. On looking around their home he said he thought the murderers had come through an abandoned property behind his sister’s and then entered by breaking a window on the stairs.
The bodies of the couple were transferred to Tala hospital morgue for an autopsy. Later the same day their funeral, attended by many, was held at Mar Girgis Coptic Orthodox church amid tight security. They were buried at a family cemetery in Tukh Dalakah village.
Gamal ran a shop selling mobile phones from the first floor of the couple’s home, while Nadia worked for an insurance company in Tala. As well as Kirolos, the couple also had a married daughter, Marian.
The murders followed another deadly attack on a Coptic Christian only three days earlier. Youssef Lamei was murdered in Alexandria on 3 January by an alleged “professional” killer. The attack on the couple bore similarities with Lamei’s murder, according to reports.
The main suspects for the double killing are two men known only as Mohammad M and Abd al-Aziz Q, according to the police. It is understood that the two men did not know their victims.
The village where the couple lived, Tukh El-Dalkah, near Tala, is mainly Christian with three churches. (All cancelled their Christmas services to mark their grief at the double murder).
However it’s reported that the area, about 70 miles (110km) south of Alexandria, has many Salafist villages. Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population.
©2017 World Watch Monitor, reprinted, with permission.