Former Muslim Sheikh in Eastern Uganda Attacked for Embracing Christianity

November 30, 2016 | Posted in Persecution | By

 

Malik Higenyi has been unable to return to his home. (Morning Star News)

Malik Higenyi has been unable to return to his home. (Morning Star News)

By Morning Star News East Africa Correspondent

NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Muslim villagers in eastern Uganda on Nov. 23 destroyed the maize crops of a former Islamic sheikh (teacher) in eastern Uganda who was beaten unconscious after revealing his faith in Christ, sources said.

The day before his fields were destroyed, 30-year-old Malik Higenyi of Bufuja village, Butaleja District, received threatening messages on his mobile phone, he told Morning Star News.

“Be informed that you risk your life and that of the entire family if you happen to come back to your house,” read one anonymous text. “We curse you and your family. You are an apostate according to Islamic law, and you deserve to die.”

Higenyi, who along with his wife and two children secretly embraced Christ on April 16, made an open confession of faith at his church on Nov. 13. News of his confession reached a mosque in nearby Lubanga village immediately, sources said.

“Before reaching my house, suddenly I was attacked by three people,” he told Morning Star News. “They started shouting, saying I am a disgrace to the Muslim fraternity of Lubanga mosque.”

Higenyi suffered a head wound and a broken bone in his right hand.

“The attackers hit me with a blunt object, and I fell down and did not know what happened from there,” he said. “I just found myself at Bufuja health center.”

Relatives ostracized him, and Local County 1 Chairman Walubi Mailadi supported their opposition to his conversion, sources said. Fearing attacks, he and his family have been unable to return to their thatched-roof home.

The family received Christ when a local pastor (name withheld for security reasons) visited his home and discipled him the following months.

Since Higenyi’s public confession, Muslims from Lubanga mosque have been holding meetings to discuss his punishment, and after Friday prayer meetings they have issued harsh statements against apostates, sources said.

Higenyi and his family are now without a home and have taken refuge at an undisclosed location.

“Please pray for Higenyi’s family at this difficult time, for they are emotionally troubled,” the pastor told Morning Star News.

The attacks are the latest in a series of aggressions against Christians in eastern Uganda. On Oct. 20, 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, 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.

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 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.

© 2016 Morning Star News. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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Woman in Uganda Beaten Unconscious for Attending Church Service

September 26, 2016 | Posted in Persecution | By

arabic letter n 300NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – A Muslim in Uganda beat his wife unconscious for attending a church service on Sept. 18, 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, in Eastern Uganda’s Budaka District.

“When I arrived home, my husband shouted at me as an ‘infidel,’ and then and there started hitting me with a metallic object,” Baluka told Morning Star News. “I fell down, only to find myself in a hospital bed.”

Neighbors said they arrived and rescued Baluka, who was bleeding from head and leg injuries as her husband continued to hit her.

“We found Baluka unconscious, and we were able to overpower the husband’s brutal attack,” a resident who requested anonymity told Morning Star News.

They took her to a Budaka District hospital, where she remained until Thursday (Sept. 22).

“I have become an enemy to my husband, and my parents will not receive me either just for attending the church,” she said. “I feel disowned and helpless.”

She had visited the undisclosed, area church with a female friend. The church pastor, whose name also is withheld for security reasons, said she has become a Christian.

“She was among those who were prayed for in the church service, and on Thursday she mentioned to me that the very Sunday when she was prayed for, she felt convicted in her heart that she was a sinful lady, and that immediately a heavy burden rolled away,” the pastor said. “She is now being discipled to be rooted in the Christian faith.”

Baluka has taken refuge at a site away from her home, he said, adding that she needs prayer for emotional and physical healing.

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 to another, but Christians in eastern Uganda are suffering continual attacks by non-state figures.

© 2016 Morning Star News. Reprinted with permission.  

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Christians massacred in Central African Republic

September 20, 2016 | Posted in Persecution | By

300-bangui-central-africa-repuby Morning Star News/East Africa correspondent

NAIROBI, Kenya, (BP) — Muslim militants slaughtered 26 civilians in a predominantly Christian village in the Central African Republic on Friday (Sept. 16), the worst violence in the embattled country in months, sources said.

Rebels from the former Seleka group attacked the village of Ndomete, about 220 miles north of the capital city of Bangui, at 8 p.m. and went door-to-door killing Christians, a source in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo told Morning Star News.

Fighting between Seleka, officially disbanded in 2013, and Christian “anti-Balaka” militias has increased in the past year, but government and U.N. officials said Friday’s attack targeted civilians. Violence between Muslim and Christian militias hit nearby Kaga-Bandoro, where the Central African Republic’s U.N. peacekeeping mission reportedly quelled the violence over the weekend, but an area Christian leader cast doubt on the country’s ability to bring order.

“If the government is not going to beef up the security, then we are going to defend ourselves,” he said. “We shall not keep quiet as our brothers are dying.”

Hostility between Muslims and Christians worsened in 2013, when Seleka deposed then-President Francois Bozize and installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim. Djotodia announced the disbanding of Seleka in September 2013, but the rebels have since rampaged throughout the country, killing Christians and political enemies, leading to the formation of Christian militias to counter them.

Human Rights Watch has documented executions, rape and looting by ex-Seleka fighters. On May 28, 2014, rebels killed 11 people in a grenade and shooting attack at the Church of Fatima in Bangui.

In February former prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president, bringing hope that political and religious conflict would subside, but rebel and militia fighters are still active outside the capital.

Morning Star News is a California-based independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide. Used by permission.

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Russian anti-evangelism law ends a ministry

September 2, 2016 | Posted in Persecution | By

Ruth and Donald Ossewaarde

Ruth and Donald Ossewaarde

by Diana Chandler

ORYOL, Russia (BP) — Missionaries Donald and Ruth Ossewaarde always suspected their Gospel ministry in Oryol, Russia, wouldn’t last when they began in 2002, he told Baptist Press by telephone from his home in the central Russian town of 320,000.

But he had not expected to be among the first people arrested under Russia’s new law prohibiting organizations from evangelizing outside church walls and without a government permit.

Two weeks after police interrupted Ossewaarde’s Sunday morning Bible study in his home with 15 students, arrested him and fined him 40,000 rubles, about $600, the Independent Baptist missionary said he will leave the country amid veiled threats against his life, even though he has appealed the charges against him.

“I really think that the political situation in Russia has reached a point where they are going to, one way or the other, they’re going to get rid of me,” he told BP. “So I really decided to end my operations here. It’s sad because there are people here that really enjoy what we do. It’s a big part of their life.”

Ossewaarde has conducted street evangelism, distributed printed materials and held weekly Bible studies and prayer meetings in his home. He has ended those outreaches, is awaiting a court date for his appeal, is trying to sell his apartment and house, and is making plans to return to the U.S.

“I’m very sad,” he said. “This is a dream that I’ve been living for 22 years since the first time I visited in 1994. It took a year or two for me to realize God was calling me to come over permanently, because I had just been making visits. In 1996 I realized this was my calling.”

As an Independent Baptist, he travelled the U.S. for several years to raise financial support among churches for the mission before moving to Ukraine in 1999 and Oryol, Russia, three years later.

“This has been my life, what I’ve lived for,” he said. “I guess we expected from the beginning that this wasn’t going to last. I guess we were surprised that it lasted as long as it did. But now it just seems like the window and the door of opportunity is finally closing.”

He has referred his Bible study participants and others to the Russian Baptist Church.

“But still,” he said of the Christians, “they’re just devastated.”

Ossewaarde was arrested Aug. 14 and forced to attend a hearing in the city’s Railway District Court that same day, with the representation of a court-appointed attorney who advised him to accept the verdict, pay the fine and leave the city, because anything might happen to him and his family, according to a press release on Ossewaarde’s website.

His wife has already returned to Illinois, where their home congregation Faith (Independent) Baptist Church is located in Bourbonnais.

“I didn’t feel that she was safe [here] after … I had a thinly veiled threat against myself and my wife so I just figured it was time for her to go home,” he said. “I want to complete the appeal process. If I can successfully challenge this it will make it easier on other missionaries that would probably otherwise be prosecuted.”

Ossewaarde was charged under Article 5.26, Part 5 of the new religion law for holding religious services in his home, advertising services on bulletin boards in nearby neighborhoods, and failing to give authorities written notification when he began his religious activities. He has hired private attorneys.

“What we have in our favor … is the way they wrote the law is very ineffective in accomplishing what they wanted to accomplish,” Ossewaarde said, clarifying that the law passed July 20 limits missionary activity by religious organizations in particular, and he operates independently of any group. “They wanted to make all missionary activity illegal. The law as written doesn’t apply to me, and that’s why I believe that we will win this appeal. But long term, obviously they can write another law that says missionary activity is just plain outlawed. I certainly consider myself a missionary.”

Five others had been arrested under the law as of Aug. 22, Forum 18 reported, including another Baptist who was fined 5,000 rubles; a Hare Krishna, acquitted; a Protestant, fined 50,000 rubles; a Pentecostal, who was to appear in court Aug. 29, and a Seventh-day Adventist, who was awaiting a trial date.

Ossewaarde had enjoyed religious freedom before the new law, although the Russian Orthodox Church held a religious monopoly of sorts.

“All other religious movements are looked at as foreign and suspicious and I’ve heard people say to each other that if you go to a foreign religion meeting that you’re not patriotic,” he said. “Anybody other than an Orthodox Christian is referred to as a sectarian or cultist. Up until recently, we had complete freedom to be able to distribute literature, talk to people on the street. We were even able to put literature in mail boxes.”

Ossewaarde first evangelized in Russia during a 1994 visit there after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The first time I came over with a group of evangelists and pastors, we had two weeks of meetings and we just had thousands of people that responded to the Gospel invitations and it was very exciting back in those days,” he said. “We just thought there was going to be a great revival. It was going to sweep across Russia. And Russia and America were going to become great friends and it was just going to be a wonderful thing. And that great promise that we all hoped for just didn’t come to pass.”

Russia is now stressed economically, and political leaders blame America for the decline, Ossewaarde said.

“It’s a constant stream every day of anti-American and anti-foreign propaganda,” he said. “For them to go after a foreigner like me is good propaganda.”

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.

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Libya ‘chaos’ makes it one of world’s most dangerous places to be a Christian

August 12, 2016 | Posted in Persecution | By

An anti-Gaddafi rally in Libya, 2011. Flickr / CC / Mojomogwai

An anti-Gaddafi rally in Libya, 2011. Flickr / CC / Mojomogwai

By World Watch Monitor

It’s five years this month since Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya was overthrown when rebels stormed his compound and he went into hiding. However, despite high hopes, the ongoing anarchy there now makes it “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian”, according to a new report by Open Doors International, whose World Watch Research team monitors such developments.

The Church in Libya, made up almost entirely of foreign nationals, was never entirely free to worship during Gaddafi’s reign, notes Libya: Freedom of religion in the land of anarchy, but it says the situation for Christians is now much worse.

“The anarchic political and security condition in contemporary Libya has created [an] environment conducive for radical Islamic groups to persecute Christians blatantly and violently with absolute impunity,” says the report, authored by World Watch Research analyst Yonas Dembele.

Open Doors estimates that of an estimated 25,000 Christians in Libya, only 150 are Libyan nationals, who belong to underground “house” churches, due to the difficulties of practising Christianity when being ethnically Libyan is considered synonymous with being Muslim. Many of the rest include migrants from other African countries on their way north, many of those hoping to eventually cross into Europe.

The dangers of being a Christian – native or otherwise – are exacerbated by a growing climate of intolerance of other faiths than Islam, the report notes.

“The persecution against Christians is not only being perpetrated by organized Islamic militant groups. Christians face harassment and persecution in their everyday life from ordinary Libyans as well,” it states.

A 29-year-old Nigerian Christian is quoted as saying: “I’ve had some scary interactions with men on the street.… One day I was attacked because I was wearing a cross. The men said I should have covered it.”

An Egyptian Copt is also quoted. Amgad Zaki, 26, describing his ordeal at the hands of one Islamist group, Libyan Shield, says: “They shaved our heads. They threatened to sever our heads in implementation of Islamic Sharia, while showing us swords…. They dealt with us in a very brutal way, including forcing us to insult our [former] Pope Shenouda…. I was taken to clean a bathroom, and the man pushed my head inside the toilet and sat on me…. I was dying every day, and at one point I thought death is better than this…. [We were] flogged, forced to take off [our] clothes in cold weather and stand at 3 a.m. outdoors on floor covered with stones.”

Dembele adds that in a single incident, around 100 Egyptian Christians were arrested for allegedly proselytizing, leading “some to argue that there is intent to ‘fully eliminate the presence of Christians’.”

After the three mass summary killings of Christians in Libya last year, during which at least 49 Christians from Egypt and Ethiopia were beheaded and shot, Amnesty International quoted a Nigerian Christian as saying Libya was a country where Christians “shouldn’t come”.

Amnesty’s report said: “Christian migrants and refugees in Libya are at particular risk of abuse from armed groups aiming to impose their own interpretation of Islamic law. People from Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt have been abducted, tortured, unlawfully killed and harassed because of their religion.”

A ‘ray of hope’

The report ends on a positive note, suggesting the formation in January of a “Unity Government”, backed by the UN, provides a “ray of hope” that “at least a semblance of law and order” can be restored.

However, Dembele says it is “important to be cautious as to whether any form of government in Libya will take up the issue of protecting Christians seriously”, warning that “a policy of appeasement may well be employed by the new government, tacitly if not explicitly, in order to gain the support of some radical groups”.

In conclusion, Dembele says: “While the current trend seems to indicate that the second Libyan civil war is almost over, it could take years for Libya to emerge from its current state of chaos. In all likelihood, the most ardent jihadists will continue some form of insurgency and attempt to derail the peace and transition process.

“With the end of hostilities among the major armed factions and a decline in the intensity of the conflict, there is a cause to be optimistic and to expect that atrocities perpetrated against Christians in Libya will come to an end or, at least, become increasingly less likely to happen.

“At the same time, there is reason for caution: Islamic militant groups will no doubt have much influence in the young Unity Government and in the process of creating a new and more permanent political order. That brings with it the risk that a more permanent, institutionalized and state orchestrated form of persecution against Christians could become the new norm. The nature and content of the constitution that will be adopted in the transitional process could be very decisive in this regard.

“Any hope for an improvement for Christians is contingent upon the political and security condition in the country improving. Hopefully, the Unity Government formed in January 2016 will be able to assert more and more authority and restore law and order in the country. If this happens – even though it would not necessarily guarantee freedom of religion for Christians in Libya – such a state of affairs could help Christians become less vulnerable to the most egregious forms of persecution. However, in the long run, it will be the nature of the permanent political and constitutional order emerging from the current peace and transition process that will be the most decisive factor for the freedom of religion of Christians in Libya.”

©2016 World Watch Monitor. Reprinted with permission.

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