Police refuse to stop Hindu Extremist Attacks in Bihar State, India

March 28, 2017 | Posted in Persecution | By

Hindu extremists disrupted worship at Mahanaim Church in Bihar state on March 19. (Global Christian News)

Hindu extremists disrupted worship at Mahanaim Church in Bihar state on March 19. (Global Christian News)

NEW DEHLI (Morning Star News) – Police in Bihar state this month obeyed Hindu extremist orders not to interfere as they beat a pastor and a Bible college student, sources said.

The Hindu extremists in the eastern state of India lured Assemblies of God pastor Ajay Kumar and a trainee to a marketplace in Begusarai on March 17 by saying they wanted to learn more about Jesus, the pastor said. As Pastor Kumar and the trainee, identified only as Assaryav, reached the Har-Har Mahadev cross-road, the Hindu extremists who had called them arrived on motorbikes, he said.

The two Christians were surprised to learn that the Hindu radicals did not want to learn about Jesus but rather asked the pastor to perform a wedding ceremony of a Hindu man to a Christian woman, Pastor Kumar said. He repeatedly told them he could not marry them in his church.

When they offered him money to officiate the wedding, the Christians suspected the hard-line Hindus were trying to entrap them with the appearance of Christians taking money to fraudulently convert people, he said.

The pastor learned that the hard-line Hindus were members of the Bajrang Dal, youth wing of the Hindu extremist Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), which in turn is part of the radical Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

When the pastor and trainee refused to take the money, the extremists kicked and struck them with their fists on nearly all parts of their bodies. An area policeman ran toward the site of the assault and complied when the extremists told him to “remain out of this and to let them handle the Christians in their own way,” Pastor Kumar told Global Christian News.

The pastor was kicked in his face, ear and stomach. He sustained internal injuries and still has pain in his ear. Assaryav’s thigh was injured.

The policeman left and informed senior officials. The officers arrived and arrested the two Christians rather than the assailants, Pastor Kumar said. Police detained them until after midnight before releasing them on bail.

The Christians were charged with “deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India,” sections 295/295-A of the Indian Penal Code.

“Handing over two books to us, they said that there are a lot of earthquakes and plagues in this area, which is because of people who follow Hindu religion,” the hard-line Hindus’ First Information Report (FIR) reads. “‘If you change your religion,’” the Christians were alleged to have said, “‘your social and economic status will accelerate and our church, A.G. Mission, will give you one Lakh [100,000] rupees right now’…So, please charge them with forceful conversion and for insulting Hindu deities…”

A policeman who requested anonymity told Global Christian News that officers must abide by the dictates of the Hindu mob, as “this is what has been happening these days.”

Pastor Kumar said that his wife and 3-year-old daughter were deeply disturbed by the assault.

Second Church Harassed

Two days later (March 19), Hindu extremists gathered outside the Mahanaim Church building as they finished worship in a village just four kilometers (less than three miles) from the marketplace where the two Christians were assaulted.

Shouting “Stop forceful conversion,” the Hindu extremists verbally harassed 61-year-old pastor Christopher Bhonsle. Members of the 150-member congregation locked the church doors and called police, the pastor said.

About 20 church members remained inside the church building at the time. Demanding they open the door, the Bajrang Dal members accused the Christians of “conversion activity,” Pastor Bhonsle said. Police arrived, heard only the Hindu extremists’ accusations, and took the names, addresses and phone numbers of the Christians, he said.

The pastor said officers “did whatever the Hindu extremists asked them to do,” and entered his house without a warrant, overturning everything inside. The Hindu extremists had been overheard saying, “We will not allow this foreign religion in our country, and if you continue doing this, we will kill you,” and police were searching for foreign currency, Pastor Bhonsle said.

“The search went on for an hour, and when the police could not find anything, they started to scold me for conducting church,” he told Global Christian News.

Police later returned to the pastor’s home and told him that they had pretended to scold him to appease the Hindu extremists, he said.

Pastor Bhonsle said fear has gripped Christians throughout Begusarai District, as police have clearly sided with the Hindu extremists.

Pastor Bhonsle, Pastor Kumar, Assaryav and pastor D. Joshua went to Patna, capital of Bihar, to meet with the chief minister of the state about anti-Christian hostilities on March 20, but the appointment was abruptly cancelled, they said.

The leaders of three churches in Begusarai on March 23 applied with authorities for police protection, and the superintendent of police ordered a police Jeep to be stationed every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday morning in front of the Mahanaim Church building. Police were ordered stationed in front of Pastor Kumar’s church gathering, where 25 people worship in a rented facility, every Sunday morning.

Two other attacks in Bihar were recorded in January and February, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). A pastor from the India Pentecostal Church, associated with India Missions of Kerala, was attacked on Jan. 7 when about 10 people in Buxar attacked him with bricks, injuring his forehead.

The pastor declined to register a complaint with police.

In Hzipur, 10 Hindu extremists on Feb. 10 attacked Pastor Sikander Kumar and other members of Mission India Church after a wedding. Six Christians including a woman were injured in this attack, according to EFI.

Bihar is the third-largest state of India by population. Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) party has been chief minister of Bihar since February 2015.

© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.  


SBC EC President Frank Page meets with Russell Moore, they “Fully Support One Another”

March 13, 2017 | Posted in Southern Baptist Convention | By


ERLC President Russell Moore

ERLC President Russell Moore

NASHVILLE (BP) — Despite a Washington Post article suggesting Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page could ask Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore to resign amid ongoing controversy, the two SBC entity leaders reported a collegial meeting today (March 13) and said they “fully support one another.”

Earlier in the day, amid a social media flurry following the Post’s report, Page told Baptist Press he planned on “bridge-building” with Moore with no anticipation of requesting a resignation.

The Post reporter who broke news the meeting would occur, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, tweeted in clarification less than two hours after her story was published, “Nothing in my story suggests Moore might be fired. SBC dynamics are more complicated. [Plus] the story is complicated (surprise!)”

The meeting between Page and Moore came less than a month after the Executive Committee launched a study of churches’ escrowing Cooperative Program money and two months after Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church announced it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” The EC has received reports of similar actions by other churches.

Churches have expressed concern about alleged disrespectfulness by Moore toward evangelical supporters of President Trump and about a friend of the court brief signed by the ERLC in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.

Following their two-hour meeting at the SBC Building in Nashville, Page and Moore said in a joint statement, “We met as colleagues committed to the same priorities of proclaiming the Gospel to every man, woman, boy and girl while also addressing biblical and Gospel issues on a wide range of topics to a culture that seems to have lost its way — issues ranging from religious liberty and racial reconciliation to Kingdom diversity and the sanctity of human life from the womb to the grave.

“We deepened our friendship and developed mutual understanding on ways we believe will move us forward as a network of churches. We fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists in the years to come. We will collaborate on developing future steps to deepen connections with all Southern Baptists as we work together to advance the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Page and Moore stated.

Prior to the meeting, The Post reported — under a headline that asked “Could Southern Baptist Russell Moore lose his job?” — that a meeting between Page and Moore was to occur March 13. Page declined to discuss specific plans for the meeting with The Post and told Bailey he hoped Moore and his opponents would pursue reconciliation.

Page told Baptist Press he had “requested a private meeting with Dr. Moore” last week and that Bailey apparently became aware of the meeting.

When Bailey called Page on March 12, “I insisted that the meeting with Dr. Moore was a private meeting intended to seek bridge-building strategies,” Page said, acknowledging that “nothing was off the table” in his efforts to facilitate reconciliation within the convention.

“I also informed [Bailey] that I have no authority over Dr. Moore; that is vested in his board of trustees,” Page said, adding his desire for the meeting was “to find bridge-building solutions to an unnecessary divide that has been created across the landscape of our Southern Baptist network of churches.”

Ken Barbic, chairman of the ERLC’s board of trustees, told The Post, “Russell Moore is a Gospel-centered, faithful, and prophetic voice for Southern Baptists.” Barbic and the board “wholeheartedly support [Moore’s] leadership.”

An EC ad hoc committee has begun work to “study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting,” according to a motion unanimously adopted in February by the EC’s CP Committee.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.


Steve McNeil new Indiana Baptists executive director

March 8, 2017 | Posted in Southern Baptist Convention | By

Steve McNeil

Steve McNeil

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (BP) — Steve McNeil has been named executive director of the State Convention of Baptists of Indiana after serving in the role on an interim basis since December 2016, the SCBI announced today (March 8).

“Jeannine and I are totally humbled by the Executive Board’s very affirming vote to become the executive director for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana,” McNeil said upon his selection. “Thank you for each individual’s personal and touching comments as we together take on the challenge of reaching Indiana for Christ.”

McNeil is the seventh SCBI executive director, replacing Cecil W. Seagle who resigned in 2016 after five years of service.

The search committee described McNeil in a press release as a very capable leader with a humble attitude and a willingness to serve, and noted within him a tact and diplomacy necessary to work well with SBCI churches and Southern Baptist agencies.

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, was among those who recommended McNeil for the position. “Steve McNeil has faithfully served the Southern Baptist Convention for almost 40 years,” Rainer said. “His life is a testament of his love for God, his family, and the Church.”

McNeil began serving the SCBI as a team leader in 2006. During his preceding 20 years of service at Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis, the search committee said, he accrued practical leadership experience, built relationships within Indiana and strengthened rapport throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.

In accordance with SCBI bylaws, SCBI executive board chairman David Cullison, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Evansville, chaired the search committee. He was joined by SCBI administrative committee members Jack Elliott, pastor of Gasburg Baptist Church in Mooresville; Darin Garton, pastor of Oak Creek Community Church, Mishawaka; Jamie Murphy, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Indianapolis; Bruce Reynolds, pastor of Old Town Hill Baptist Church, Muncie; Greg Smith, a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Lafayette; and Gary Yochum, ministry coordinator for the SBCI Southeastern Association.

The search committee was united in its choice of McNeil, members said, concluding that it was through God’s providence that a man of McNeil’s caliber and experience was already part of the vision and direction for the SCBI.

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Al Shabaab militants in Somalia Kill Secret Christian, Her Son, Wound Husband

March 7, 2017 | Posted in Persecution | By

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists in Somalia identified as Al Shabaab rebels last month shot to death an underground Christian woman and her son and seriously wounded her husband, sources said.

The family was asleep at their home at dawn in Afgoi, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Mogadishu, when at least four armed men attacked them on or around Feb. 10 shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allah Akbar [God is greater],” and, “We cannot allow the defiling of our religion with a foreign, Western religion,” said family head Suleiman Abdiwahab.

The 38-year-old secret Christian, a convert from Islam, is recovering from gunshot wounds to his chest near the right shoulder.

“The gunmen fired several shots, then destroyed the door with a big metallic object and then were able enter into the house,” Abdiwahab told Morning Star News. “They randomly shot at everyone.”

The assailants killed his wife, 35-year-old convert Faduma Osman, and the couple’s 11-year-old son, Ahmed Suleiman. The couple’s two daughters, 13 and 7, and their 9-year-old son were able to escape out a backdoor and have found safe shelter in another town, sources said.

Neighbors found the three shot family members lying in their blood. Discovering Abdiwahab still alive, they took him to a local hospital, and he was later transferred to Mogadishu for specialized treatment, he said. Afgoi is located in Somalia’s Lower Shebelle Region.

Al Shabaab, which has been battling government forces for more than 10 years, has taken control of farming areas surrounding Afgoi, sources said. Since the beginning of the year the rebels have briefly taken over the city three times, with Somali government forces driving them out each time, they said.

Afgoi is thus under control of the Somali government but is vulnerable to Al Shabaab attacks. The insurgent militants, the Somali cell of Al Qaeda, have retreated from major cities but still control some rural parts of southern and central Somalia. The past few years Al Shabaab has lost ground to government and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping forces.

Abdiwahab, the wounded family head, has been relocated to a shelter in another town, a source told Morning Star News.

“Abdiwahab, due to the blessings of the lord, has survived and is currently recovering from serious gunshot wounds,” he said.

Somalia is second only to North Korea on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.

The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda adhere to the teaching.

Somali law and societal tradition create an atmosphere of hostility toward non-Islamic faiths similar to that created in regimes that execute apostates. The country’s Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) does not explicitly prohibit Muslims from converting to other religions, but leaving Islam remains socially unacceptable in all areas, according to the U.S. State Department’s latest Report on International Religious Freedom (2015).

The PFC provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion but prohibits propagation of any religion other than Islam, and it makes Islam the state religion. All laws must comply with the general principles of sharia (Islamic law), the report states.


© 2017 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.


Cooperative Program escrow study set to begin

March 7, 2017 | Posted in Southern Baptist Convention | By

Rolland Slade announces Feb. 21 to the Executive Committee that the CP committee he chairs voted to appoint a committee "to study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches' either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting." Photo by Morris Abernathy

Rolland Slade announces Feb. 21 to the Executive Committee that the CP committee he chairs voted to appoint a committee “to study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting.” Photo by Morris Abernathy

by David Roach

NASHVILLE (BP) – With an ad hoc committee of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee set to begin its study of churches’ escrowing Cooperative Program money, EC chairman Stephen Rummage says the study was occasioned in part by the notable volume of contacts the EC has received regarding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press the entity is “a servant of our churches” and “happy to work with the Executive Committee.”

Meanwhile, Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, told BP the congregation will conclude its internal study of giving to SBC causes before the convention’s June annual meeting in Phoenix. Prestonwood announced last month it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” Prestonwood plans to continue cooperating with the SBC in some form, Graham, a former convention president, said via text message.

Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.

Rolland Slade, chairman of the EC’s CP Committee told BP today (March 6) the ad hoc study group will include 11 members : Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.; EC vice chairman Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Dave Bryan, pastor of Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang, Okla.; Daniel Carr, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis; B. Scott Davis, pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, N.C.; Dale Jenkins, pastor of Airway Heights (Wash.) Baptist Church; Mike Lawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas; Glynn Rhinehart, a member of First Baptist Church in Youngsville, La.; Hoyt Savage, pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas; and Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas.

The group’s initial meeting, Slade said, likely will occur via conference call. A date for the meeting will be calendared by March 18.

According to a motion unanimously adopted by the CP Committee last month, the study committee will “study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting.”

Slade said in an email the study committee “will discuss ways to discover whether escrowing CP funds is widespread and, if so, the reasons why; then we can begin to develop redemptive solutions to resolve the issues … We’ll likely look at this issue, share our findings with the [EC] officers and the CP Committee and then with the full EC.”

Slade said he will “stress with the group” that “this is first and foremost a Kingdom effort, not an effort to single out an individual, entity or point of view. What affects CP affects the work of Southern Baptists. We must be about sharing the Gospel to the world.”

Rummage told the SBC This Week podcast March 3 the ad hoc committee, and a separate study of SBC entities to be undertaken by the EC officers, is necessary because “a lot of … churches” have “concerns about some of the things that are happening in certain SBC entities. Specifically, some of the actions of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have caused a lot of churches to respond and register concerns.”

Rummage added, “In fact, our Executive Committee staff tells me that they have received more letters, more calls, more emails [from] people who are considering defunding or holding back CP monies” over “this issue” than “from any other issue in memory.”

The ad hoc committee’s study will examine “the way our churches are responding” to all SBC entities, Rummage said, even though discussion of the ERLC “has surfaced most strongly” in recent months.

Roger S. Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations, told BP the EC office has processed dozens of requests over the past year from churches seeking to withdraw from the SBC.

“Pastors seldom call or write the EC offices to express concerns about an entity, so when they do it is notable,” Oldham said in written comments. “Our practice is to refer them to the entity’s leaders or its trustees. In addition to numerous conversations with pastors expressing frustration or even threatening to withhold CP funds this past year, our office processed requests from 49 churches to withdraw from the convention, up from the half dozen or so we usually process in a given year. We grieve each time we send a notice to our entities that a church has voted to leave the convention.”

Moore told BP in written comments, “The ERLC could not do what it does without the sacrificial giving of churches, and there is hardly anything more foundational in our denomination than our Cooperative Program partnership, working together for the sake of Gospel advance.

“As a servant of our churches, we are happy to work with the Executive Committee, and more broadly, grateful to be able to serve our churches daily, whether by answering their questions, providing resources and assistance or standing alongside them in the public square contending for the fundamental issues of life, family and religious liberty,” Moore said.

Rummage expressed hope that churches’ concerns can be resolved.

A decision by Prestonwood to resume CP giving could indicate resolution of “most of the concerns that have been raised by the [Executive] Committee” because Prestonwood appears representative of other concerned congregations, Rummage said.

Graham told BP Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster “is chairing a study committee to evaluate our SBC giving” and the committee has “nothing to report” at present.

According to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile, Prestonwood has given $500,000 through CP each of the last three fiscal years for which data is available. The congregation has given approximately $500,000 each of those years through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $100,000 through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, according to ACP data.

Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.