US admits fewer refugees

The United States, under President Trump, has admitted 40% fewer Christian refugees in the past year, US broadcaster NBC News has reported.

As the Trump administration has implemented stricter policies on immigration and refugees, almost 11,000 Christians looking for a safe place to go were reportedly refused entry to the US. Christians from the Middle East who have been living in the US for years have also been affected, with dozens of Iraqi Christians in detention centres and facing the possibility of deportation.

“[This] suggests that the president has no real interest in religious persecution or the tenets of religious freedom,” Mary Giovagnoli, director of Refugee Council USA, told NBC.

World Watch Monitor

Rwanda churches closed

About 8000 official and unofficial churches, as well as 100 mosques, have been closed in Rwanda for failing to comply with health, safety, and noise regulations. This includes four in 10 congregations belonging to a nationwide association of 3300 Pentecostal churches.

And authorities indicate such shutting down of houses of worship in the East African nation will continue until congregations meet the strict requirements of a new law adopted by Rwanda’s parliament on July 27.

The latest requirement: Pastors must now have a degree in theological education from an accredited school. The law also prohibits church leaders from urging their followers to fast for lengthy periods – like Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness – in order to better secure God’s blessing; authorities claim this is a form of starvation.

Christianity Today

Child raped, strangled

A nine-year-old girl from an Indian family that had recently converted to Christianity was gang-raped and murdered on August 5 in Punjab state. Anjali Masih was playing with her friends in the city of Gurdaspur, near the Pakistan border, when a group of men lured her away by showing her a guava. She was then gang-raped and strangled with a telephone wire.

Local Christians told World Watch Monitor that there has been a rise in anti-Christian feeling in the area, which is predominantly Hindu and Sikh, since a number of families converted to Christianity.

India has seen a wave of anti-Christian violence in recent years, with a notable increase since Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014.

World Watch Monitor

Persecution rising in Pakistan

Christians in Pakistan are preparing for more violent persecution against them in the wake of former cricket star Imran Khan, who represents the PTI party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, being elected Prime Minister.

PTI is a centrist political party in Pakistan founded in 1996 by former national cricket captain and current Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was sworn into office as Pakistan’s prime minister on August 18. He has vowed to support strict blasphemy laws that could mean heightened violent persecution against the country’s Christians.

Khan has been urged to stop the persecution of Christians in Pakistan, with critics accusing him of being part of the “same old extremism”, according to Tom Parfitt, writing for the British daily newspaper Express. But, according to Open Doors, Khan has not positioned himself as a champion for minority groups and religious freedom. In fact, he seems keen to ensure that Pakistan remains a strongly Islamic republic.


Kenyan Christians killed

Al-Shabaab terrorists murdered two Kenyan Christians travelling on a bus on September 14 after they refused to recite the shahada Islamic creed. The terrorists flagged down a bus travelling to the north-eastern city of Garissa and ordered the passengers to produce their identity cards. They separated three “non-local” (assumed to be non-Muslim) passengers and asked them to recite verses from the Quran and say the shahada Islamic creed. Recitation of the shahada is considered conversion to Islam.

Two passengers who refused, a boy called Joshua who assisted the bus driver and a labourer from the town of Masalani, 100 miles south of Garissa, were tied up and then murdered.

In 2014, 28 Christians travelling on a bus in Mandera country, north-east Kenya, were singled out and killed by Al Shabaab jihadists. As in this recent attack, passengers were separated and those thought to be non-Muslim were ordered to recite the shahada.

Kenya is around 80% Christian and 10% Muslim. Most of the country’s Muslim population, many of whom are ethnic Somalis, live in the north-east of the country. The Somali-based terror group Al Shabaab has repeatedly targeted Kenyan Christians.

Barnabas Fund

Second Jerusalem embassy

Amid the furor over President Donald Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earier this year, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, an evangelical Protestant, more quietly made the same move the same week.

It was a signal of greater pro-Israel sentiment among Latin America’s growing Protestant population. Both the Central American nation and neighboring Honduras – which has also pushed to relocate its embassy – now boast Protestant populations of more than 40%.

The rise of Pentecostal traditions across the region has brought Christian Zionism with it; Guatemala’s ambassador said her country would be “blessed” through its support for Israel.

Christianity Today

Indian Christians charged

Police in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have charged more than 270 Christians with “spreading lies about Hinduism and drugging people to try and convert them to Christianity”.

Christians in Jaunpur district said on September 10 that the move showed religious bias and was an attempt to terrorise Christians. Police in the district filed the charges against 271 Christians of a Pentecostal church after being directed to do so by a local court.

The court directive followed a complaint lodged by activist group Hindu Jagran Manch that Christians were propagating misinformation about the Hindu religion and attempting to convert people during Sunday services. The Hindu group said it went to court after the Christians refused to stop conducting Sunday prayer services despite repeated warnings.


Attacks in Nigeria

Christians in Nigeria have called on their government to respond to a surge in attacks by Fulani herdsman, such as a Mbalom church shooting that killed nearly 20 people.

Protestant and Catholic organizations launched unprecedented public protests, including one in May to correspond with a mass burial for recent victims, and demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari stop the violent cattle owners, who are mostly Muslim.

Fulani attacks, mostly occurring in the “middle belt” between Nigeria’s predominantly Christian south and predominantly Muslim north, have begun to outpace violence by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, whose own death toll has eclipsed ISIS’s.

Christianity Today

Copts hold funerals in street

Coptic Christians in various parts of Egypt have been left with no choice but to hold funeral services in the streets because of the closure of their churches.

Coptic news site Watani reported on a street funeral recently in the village of Dimshau Hashim, where the houses of Copts came under attack by a mob protesting against Copts gathering to pray in one of the Copt’s homes, since there is no village church.

According to World Watch Monitor’s local source, around the same time a funeral service for a Coptic woman was held in the streets of the village of Abu Greer, as again there is no church in the village, nor any nearby.

Similarly, in Asyut governorate Copts in Qasr Haidar held a street funeral after the village church was closed following protests by Muslims. In the same governorate, a funeral service of a Coptic man was held outside St Moses Church in the town of Dairout. The church was closed 20 years ago and since then the Christian community has not been able to receive a permit for its re-opening.

World Watch Monitor

Bibles finally cleared in Sudan

The Sudanese government has cleared a shipment of Bibles believed to have been held in Port Sudan for six years. The Arabic-language Bibles were transported to the capital, Khartoum, after years of appeals by church leaders, a local source told World Watch Monitor.

“Since 2011, government customs officials have delayed the clearing of several shipments of Arabic Bibles via Port Sudan, without explanation,” the source said, adding that it had left Bibles decaying in shipping containers at the port while the approximate 2 million Christians in the country were facing a serious shortage of Bibles and teaching materials.

Sudan is fourth on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. It is also a “country of particular concern” for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan advisory body.

In 2011, Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, said he wanted to adopt a

“100%” Islamic constitution after the Christian-majority south had voted to secede. Since then, foreign missionaries have been expelled, churches confiscated or demolished, and leaders harassed and arrested.

World Watch Monitor