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.
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.
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 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.