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March 2017 Persecution Magazine

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MARCH 2017

PERSECU ION

Hill

Hero

Rep. Chris Smith

(New Jersey) has

spent 36 years

fighting for the

persecuted!

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Table of Contents

In This Issue:

HEROES ON THE HILL

14 | Rep. Chris Smith

ICC interviews Congressman Chris Smith

on his defense of religious freedom.

PAKISTAN

18 | Victory in the Midst of Persecution

A recent judgment in favor of two Christians

accused of blasphemy in Pakistan provides

a small, yet complicated, ray of hope for

Pakistan’s Christian community.

IRAQ

22 | Home at Last

ICC completes construction of homes for 10

displaced Iraqi Christian families.

INDONESIA

24 | A Paradox of Religious Freedom

Indonesian pastors must work

underground despite “religious freedom.”

VIETNAM

26 | Christian Persecution in Vietnam

Vietnam’s Montagnard Christians, one of

the country’s most brutalized groups, are

learning to report incidents of persecution.

KENYA

28 | Testimonies from Mandera

Survivors of al-Shabaab attacks in

northeastern Kenya share their experiences

months after suffering great loss.

Regular Features

3 Letter from the President

A few words from ICC’s president, Jeff

King, on the promise and hope of home,

life, and freedom.

4 World News

A snapshot of the persecution that

impacts our brothers and sisters daily, in

every corner of the world.

8 Your Dollars at Work

Learn how your gifts are providing

comfort, relief, Bibles, education and

vocational training to the persecuted.

12 West Watch

Faith under siege in the Western world.

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23

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27

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President’s Letter

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My

Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that

I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place

for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be

where I am.”

- John 14:1-3, NIV

Home is such a simple concept for most, but for too many Christians from Iraq

and Syria it has turned into only a memory. Many have fled to Europe while others

are in refugee camps in other regions. Still many more are refugees in their

own countries.

Driven out of their homes by ISIS, hundreds of thousands of Christians have lost

their homes and many are living in the Erbil area. For many, their “home” for the

last two years has been in a derelict building or in even in worn out, threadbare,

burning hot, then freezing cold, tents.

Jeff King, President

International Christian Concern

We were able to help a few of these Christian refugees settle into new compact, but comfortable, homes in Erbil (see pg. 22).

The gratitude and relief on their faces as we gave them their new homes was at the same time heartbreaking and a blessing.

Yesterday, a dear friend called to tell me that he had lost his job. As we spoke, he remarked that he’s really longing for home.

His true home. You remember Jesus told the disciples that He must depart to prepare a place for us and would return when

“everything was ready.” That place He’s preparing is our true home and the North star of your heart and what it aches for.

You see we too are adrift, homeless, and stateless, but we don’t feel it as acutely as the refugee because we have houses and

apartments to live in (1 Peter 2:11).

I once heard an old preacher who taught young pastors say, “Preach to broken hearts because there’s one in every pew!”

If you are one of those broken hearts, I want to let you in on a spiritual secret that I reminded my old friend of last night.

When you’ve taken one of life’s shots to the gut is when the devil’s whisperings get into your soul. They leave you desperate,

panicked, turning in circles, and in great fear. Remember, he’s a roaring lion! The devil’s great lies are that he (Satan) doesn’t

exist and the other is that God has forgotten you and doesn’t love you.

If you are presently broken and in great pain, I want you to try something: stop trying to escape! Rather, embrace your circumstances

and thank Him for the spot you find yourself in.

This doesn’t make any worldly sense and you will have to do this by faith at first, but thank Him repeatedly for the growth the

pain will bring to you and let the pain drive you close to Him rather than driving you to a panicked desire to flee your cage.

Thank Him over and over until your heart starts to overflow and thankfulness truly comes. Something happens when you

reach this point that is close to magic.

You will be set free! Not from all the pain, but from the fear, panic, and despair. He is close to the broken-hearted and knows

your pain. Once you run on the fuel of trust, gratitude, and God’s presence, it will break Satan’s power.

Please join me as we bandage and build His persecuted Church - your suffering brothers and sisters.

As always, your donations will be used efficiently, effectively, and ethically.

I promise!

Jeff King

President

International Christian Concern

www.persecution.org

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3


News

ISIS Leader Converts to Christianity

after Trying to Kill TV Ministry Worker

1 | MIDDLE EAST According to the Gospel Herald, a

well-known leader from the Islamic State converted to

Christianity after meeting up with a television ministry

worker. The ISIS leader was watching one of Dr. Michael

Youssef’s Christian television programs when he had the

idea to call into the show, with the intention of killing

whoever had the misfortune of picking up the call.

The ISIS leader requested a meet-up with the ministry

worker and, soon enough, the two were face-to-face as the

ministry worker shared the hope of the Gospel. Following

their discussion, the ISIS leader reportedly had a dream in

which God was further revealed to him, confirming the

truth that was discussed during this exchange.

The ISIS leader has since given his life to Christ and

abandoned his ties with radical Islam. Furthermore, upon

a second meeting with the ministry worker, this new

believer revealed his original intentions. Youssef (pictured),

the host of the program, has testified to the man’s

renewed life, referring to him as a “brother in Christ.”

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Sudanese Court Frees Imprisoned

Pastor Facing Death Sentence

2 | SUDAN After much prayer and international outcry on

his behalf, Pastor Kuwa Shamaal was recently released

from prison. Pastor Shamaal was imprisoned with three

other Christians who were all held on similar charges such

as espionage, gathering false news, waging war against

the state, and inciting violence. Some of these charges

carry the potential for the death penalty as the maximum

sentence.

Pastor Shamaal was initially arrested on December

18, 2015, but released a few days later before he was

rearrested in May 2016. The international human rights

community has condemned the arrest of Shamaal and the

three other Christians, calling the charges against the men

groundless.

The four men were arrested in connection to a receipt,

which showed that one of the men provided financial support

to assist a Darfuri burn victim who was injured during

2013 demonstrations. The evidence for these charges

is weak and certainly not

grounds for the death penalty

by most standards.

Thankfully, Shamaal was

among a few Christian

leaders who have been

released from prison in

Sudan due to international

pressure in recent years.

At the time of writing,

Pastor Shamaal’s fellow

inmates are still suffering

in prison. ICC, along with

the international community,

continues to pray and

advocate for their release.

7

Teenage Girls

Released

from Prison in

Ethiopia

3 | ETHIOPIA In

the predominantly

Muslim town of

Babile, Ethiopia,

four Christian

teenage girls were

recently released

from prison after

being detained for

sharing their faith

with a group of

Muslim friends.

Word spread about

the religious discussion

to the Muslim

friends’ parents and

eventually reached

the local Muslim

officials. The girls

were taken in for

“painting a bad

image of Islam”

and the prosecutor

initially requested

a jail sentence of 15

years.

Thankfully, the

girls were released

after several months

of complicated court

dealings.

However, family

and friends

are concerned for

the girls’ safety.

Unfortunately, their

concerns are justified

as the girls have

been the targets of

death threats and

threats of mob violence.

While all are

happy that the girls

are no longer behind

bars, there is a long

way to go until they

can return to normalcy.

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St. Mark’s Cathedral — Cairo, Egypt

A nun looks on in the aftermath of a Sunday

morning bombing that killed 28 parishioners,

primarily women and children, on December 11.

Cairo Church Bombing Kills at Least 28

4 | EGYPT On December 11, the bombing of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt, led to the deaths of at least 28 people and wounded many more.

The suicide bomber, who had ties to ISIS, detonated the device during a Sunday morning service. The blast primarily struck women and children.

In response, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-day period of national mourning as the Christian community gathered to mourn and

protest the most devastating attack on Egypt’s Christians in recent years.

Christians Imprisoned for “Witchcraft”

5 | NEPAL Toward the end of 2016, four Christians in

Nepal were sentenced to a five-year prison term under

charges of witchcraft. The charges arose when a mentally

ill woman voluntarily reached out to a church, seeking

assistance. The Christians in the church prayed for healing

for the woman which was the basis for the witchcraft

charge. This is just one of several instances of Christians

being persecuted by the law in Nepal, many of which were

due to Nepal’s new anti-evangelism laws.

Although Nepal is technically a secular nation, the

country is plagued with religious restrictions and Christian

persecution continues to grow, partially due to rising

Hindu nationalism.

Boy Beaten for

Drinking Water

from Mosque

Fountain

6 | PAKISTAN

An online video

recently surfaced

of a Christian boy

in Pakistan being

beaten in public for

drinking water from

a fountain in a public

facility within a local

mosque. The boy

cried out in pain as

he was beaten with

sticks by a group of

Muslim men.

This case is

representative of

countless incidents

where Christians in

Pakistan are treated

as second-class citizens

by the Muslim

majority.

Jakarta Governor Tried for Blasphemy

7 | INDONESIA In December 2016, the trial began

for the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja

Purnama, commonly referred to as “Ahok,” who is on

trial for blasphemy. Ahok initially received backlash

following a speech he delivered, commenting that rival

politicians were misusing the Quran to their political

advantage. In response to the alleged blasphemy, many

Muslims gathered in the streets in protest, with some

calling for legal action and others calling for violence.

Ahok has spoken out to defend himself, saying that it

was never his intention to insult Islam, but rather to

prevent an unfair election by informing Muslim voters

that it was permissible for them to cast a ballot for a non-

Muslim candidate.

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News

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2

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Massachusetts Pastor Faces Possible

Fine for Overseas Comments on

Homosexuality

1 | UNITED STATES Pastor Scott Lively of Springfield,

Massachusetts, is being sued by a Ugandan LGBT rights

group, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), for comments

that he allegedly made while in their country against

homosexual behavior.

The group alleges that Lively’s speech amounts to

crimes against humanity, asserting that his public remarks

led to violence and discrimination against Uganda’s

LGBT community. They also allege that Lively “conspired”

to persecute LGBT Ugandans.

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel,

a non-profit that is representing Lively, says of the case,

“After 100 hours of depositions and 40,000 pages of documents,

SMUG has no evidence whatsoever connecting

Lively to any act of so-called ‘persecution.’ SMUG has

always claimed it was not trying to hold Lively liable for

his speaking and writing. Yet the more SMUG writes,

the more obvious it becomes that SMUG wants to punish

Lively for his beliefs. This is clearly a vendetta against

Lively for speaking

about homosexuality

and God’s design for

the family in Uganda.”

Liberty Counsel

filed a brief to oppose

this lawsuit in district

court in December of

2016.

The Alien Tort

Statute states that non-

US citizens can bring

suit in US courts for

violations of US laws

overseas. This is the

first time that a suit

has been brought

under the Alien Tort

Statute for persecution

on the basis of sexuality.

If found guilty,

the legal implications

could result in a precedent

of prosecuting

American citizens who

are outspoken about

their beliefs overseas

if opposing entities file

suit.

Although this case

is treading new ground

in its prosecution of

US citizens overseas,

it is part of an ongoing

trend which discriminates

against religious

leaders and business

owners who speak

openly about certain

subjects in a way

that conflicts with the

mainstream media.

Police Offensive

Against Civil

Rights Lawyers

Continues

China Admits to Detaining Activist

2 | CHINA Weeks after Jiang Tianyong mysteriously

went missing, the Chinese government has finally

admitted that they are responsible for his disappearance.

Although it is required by law that authorities

notify the family within 24 hours when someone is

detained, at the time of writing, Jiang’s family has still

yet to receive contact, despite the government’s claims

that they issued two notices. Rather, a state media

report confirmed his detention.

According to the report, Jiang is being held on

charges of “illegally possessing documents classified

as state secrets” and “illegally disseminating state

secrets to overseas [sources].” However, Jiang’s wife

believes that the charges are unfounded and that her

husband was likely tortured into a confession.

Jiang is a widely known human rights advocate

in China who has worked alongside many notable

figures in the field of human rights. Due to Jiang’s

participation in several high-profile cases, Jiang lost

the right to openly practice law nearly a decade ago.

However, not one to be easily deterred, Jiang continued

in his efforts to shed light on China’s abuses by

providing legal counsel to victims of human rights

violations.

This is not the first time that Jiang has disappeared

on account of the Chinese government. He has been

detained at least three times, in 2011, 2012 and 2014,

because of his role in exposing the Chinese government.

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Mother of Former Islamic Leader Attacked for Converting

3 | UGANDA On December 8, Muslim relatives of a former Islamic sheikh attacked his 60-year-old mother for converting to Christianity. The

former sheikh, Malik Higenyi, publicly proclaimed his conversion to the Christian faith last year, and was beaten unconscious by disapproving

relatives and expelled from his village shortly thereafter. Later, when his mother went to visit her son as he recovered from his injuries, she also

received Christ after listening to his testimony. Unfortunately, she was met with similar consequences and received both a head injury and a broken

hand during her attack. While Muslims and Christians generally live in peace in Uganda, Christians sometimes face violence or isolation when

they leave Islam in Muslim-majority communities.

Youssef Lamei (right) operated his shop in Alexandria, Egypt,

for decades and was known throughout the local community.

Christian Shopkeeper Murdered in Egypt

4 | EGYPT On January 2, Youssef Lamei, a Christian shopkeeper, was

brutally murdered by an Islamic radical outside of his own shop in the

bustling Montazah District of Alexandria, Egypt.

Youssef was known to be both peaceful and accommodating

to local Muslims by closing down his shop during the month of

Ramadan and the five daily Muslim prayers. However, this did not

prevent his attacker from yelling out “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”)

and slitting his throat while Youssef’s son was inside the shop.

The man responsible for the attack was arrested and taken into

police custody two days later.

A nurse treats one of the many Christians injured by Hindu

radicals who attacked believers during Christmas celebrations.

Christians Attacked Celebrating Christmas

5 | INDIA In the weeks leading up to Christmas, two separate groups

of Christians were attacked by suspected Hindu radicals while celebrating

the holiday. During the first attack, 30 Christians were gathered

in a home, singing Christmas carols, when radicals stormed into the

home and began beating them. Furthermore, the attackers accused the

Christians of forcing conversions during their celebrations. In a similar

attack, 20 Christians in another village were ambushed by radicals

who began beating them with wooden clubs. Several of the Christians

involved in the attacks were forced to go to the hospital as a result of

their injuries.

Two Injured in Philippines Church Bombing

6 | PHILIPPINES On November 27, an improvised explosive device (IED)

detonated at the entrance of Our Lady of Hope Church in the Philippines as

congregants were leaving after Sunday mass. The IED was triggered remotely

through a cellphone detonator. The service during which the attack took place

was the first Sunday of the Advent celebration.

Much of the explosion was deflected by a car which happened to be parked

in front of the church at the time, undoubtedly saving many churchgoers from

injury. However, even with the protection provided by the parked car, two

people were injured during the attack and were taken to a local hospital.

Although the Philippines is relatively peaceful on the global scale of persecution,

this act of terrorism is cause for concern for the local Christian community.

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An IED explosion during a Sunday mass in the

Philippines raises concerns for Christians.

7


Your Dollar$ at Work

Displaced Iraqi

Christian Opens

Copy Shop

Community Rebuild

A

fter ISIS attacked Qeraqosh in

2014, militants forced thousands of

Christians to flee. Many are still struggling

to survive, as they have been unable to find

work. ICC has assisted numerous families

by starting small businesses, allowing them

to achieve a sustainable income to provide

for themselves and their families.

Samer lives with his wife, 18-year-old

daughter, and 16-year-old son. They fled

Qeraqosh in June 2014 when ISIS attacked

for the first time. They returned to Qeraqosh

after three days and stayed there from June

until August, living in constant fear. Life

was very difficult for the family. They had

to sleep on the house’s rooftop because there

was no electricity, and water was limited

until the community dug wells.

On August 6, 2014, the family fled from

Qeraqosh for the final time to Akre in the

Kurdistan region. They stayed in a church

hall for a year before moving to Erbil, Iraq.

In the year since moving to Erbil, Samer has

been unable to find a sustainable source of

income. ICC funded a microfinance project

to help Samer establish a copy business that

he can operate outside of a local library.

Samer’s son accompanied his father and

ICC to purchase the equipment because he

is very familiar with technology. They carefully

found the lowest prices and were able

to purchase the supplies in one day. Supplies

included a laminator, camera, laptop, photocopiers,

a color printer, generator, and extra

batteries.

The shop will help Samer support his family

and send his children to school.

Many displaced Christians in Iraq desire

to return home, but continued fighting

between the government and ISIS has

restricted their movement home. Even if

they are able to return home, the destruction

will be catastrophic. ICC continues searching

for ways to support Iraqi Christians

upon their return.

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Beds for Korean

Students

Suffering Wives & Children

J

angdaehyun School is a Christian boarding

school for North Korean (NK) defector

students and South Korean students who are

interested in the reunification of Korea. The

students had been using old bunk beds that

were donated by a former school principal.

They had been experiencing difficulty sleeping

on the worn down beds.

When ICC heard about the needs of

these students, we immediately took action

by donating 12 bunk beds to the school.

These beds were purchased and delivered in

September 2016. All of the students excitedly

helped to set them up.

Many of these students come from broken

families and have had traumatic experiences

while escaping from North Korea. However,

with the assistance of the boarding school

and the donation from ICC, the students can

enjoy more comfortable living conditions in a

Christian environment.

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More Radios for

Fulani Victims

Community Rebuilding

I

n the last few years, several rural communities

along the Jos Plateau in Nigeria have

been brutally attacked by Fulani terrorists.

Most of these attacks take place late at night in

Christian communities, which usually results

in the destruction of the victims’ property and

the killing of their Christian family members.

ICC was made aware of these incidents and a

local representative was sent to investigate the

situation and provide assistance. In mid-2016,

20 sets of Baofeng walkie-talkie radios were

purchased in the US and shipped to Nigeria and

were then delivered to the villagers. The radios

were so effective, ICC purchased a second

round for additional communities.

A radio training session was given to the representatives

of each village on how to operate

the radios which was followed by a trial run.

The Christian villagers are now able to

notify and warn each other of any approaching

terrorist threats.

Small Business

for Survivors

Suffering Wives & Children

O

n March 27, 2016, a suicide bomber

attacked Gulshan e-Iqbal Park in

Lahore, Pakistan. The bomber detonated a few

meters away from one of the busiest sections

of the park, the children’s swings. That day,

many Christian families were gathered at the

park to celebrate Easter. The explosion killed

21 Christians and seriously injured another 45.

Many families still struggle to survive, having

lost their breadwinner to either death or injury.

In April, ICC provided short-term aid to

41 bombing victims, including food packages,

transportation money for travel to and

from the hospital, and a year of schooling for

children who lost siblings in the explosion.

Several families, however, needed longerterm

assistance. ICC recently purchased autorickshaws

for four families and shop supplies

for another family. Despite the debilitating

injuries, these Christian families now have a

stable source of income for the future.

9


Your Dollar$ at Work

New Textile

Business Helps

Vietnamese

Refugees in

Thailand

Hand of Hope

V

ietnamese Christians face incarceration,

torture, and execution in their

land because of their religion; thus, they are

forced to flee and seek asylum in neighboring

countries so that they can freely practice

their religion. However, these same Christian

refugees seeking asylum in Thailand also

experience discrimination from the Royal

Thai Government, especially in Bangkok,

Thailand. Even though these victims are recognized

as refugees by the United Nations

High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),

they are seen and treated as illegal immigrants

as they are denied the ability to work and sent

to prison if they do find work. This situation

has made it difficult for persecuted Christians

in the area to live since they are not able to

return home because of their religion and they

are not being allowed to support their families

in a new country.

ICC was made aware of the situation these

Hmong refugees were facing as foreigners

and persecuted Christians, and decided to support

these vulnerable families by empowering

their women. ICC partnered with Boat People

SOS (BPSOS) and a project was developed to

help the refugees earn a stable income without

the fear of being threatened, persecuted,

or incarcerated. As a result, a group of 15

Hmong Christian women are now able to use

their artistic sewing skills to develop products

that they can sell to the public, giving them

the ability to provide for their families in an

otherwise difficult situation.

This project entailed the purchase of sewing

machines for each of the registered women,

the purchase of raw materials, the rent for a

safe space for them to work, and the transportation

of the finished goods to their corresponding

selling locations. In addition to the

goods purchased and produced, the women

also received training on how to use the

equipment, how to sell the goods, and the

logistics of their production. Currently, these

women are making and selling T-shirts with

embroidered pocket designs, canvas bags with

handmade designs, pillows, notebooks with

henna designs, and Christmas decorations.

Furthermore, all profits from the sales of these

handmade products go back to benefit the

women, which helps them to generate income

and strengthen their self-worth as Christian

women who are able to contribute to the

financial support of their families.

ICC’s partners have witnessed great success

in the implementation of this project and

they expect to have more Hmong Christian

women registered into the program in the

coming months. ICC hopes to contribute and

help more Hmong families in the upcoming

projects as well because these Christian victims

are seeking freedom and protection in a

foreign land where they have found hostility

instead.

This type of support and empowerment can

only be accomplished through God’s provision

by allowing donors to contribute to such

causes that impact the persecuted Christian

community. Persecuted Christians are continually

encouraged and strengthened through

our prayers and generosity.

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Your Dollar$ at Work

Food Aid to Joy in Jesus Church

Community Rebuild

O

n March 23, 2014, three gunmen covering their faces in balaclavas (face masks) attacked

Joy in Jesus Church in Likoni, Mombasa. At least seven were killed and several others

were injured. Although the perpetrators were never linked directly with any of the known terrorist

groups in the area, they were carrying AK-47 rifles and pistols like members of al-Shabaab.

When ICC learned about the incident, we immediately responded by sending a local representative

to investigate the situation and provide assistance to the victims. We then purchased

several food packages and delivered them to six families that were directly affected by the

attack. Additionally, each family was interviewed and medical reports were collected in order to

discover any other struggles that these victims were facing.

Thanks to generous donors, ICC was able to respond and serve these brothers and sisters in

Christ during a vulnerable time. These victims were able to see God’s hand and provision to

remind them that although they may be persecuted, they are not forgotten. ICC continues to

communicate with the victims of this church and is actively looking for ways to serve them and

other persecuted Christians in the community.

Providing Relief for Yazidi IDPs

Community Rebuild

I

SIS militants have victimized many Christians and other religious minorities across Iraq.

Among those communities, Yazidis are the most severely targeted by ISIS. The systematic

attacks against Yazidis are so serious that the United Nations declared ISIS’s actions against this

community a genocide in August 2016. Considered pagans by ISIS’s followers, most Yazidi

men caught by ISIS are immediately executed. ISIS fighters also take Yazidi women and girls

as prizes of war, rape them, and force them into sexual slavery.

As a result of ISIS attacks, thousands of Yazidis have become internally displaced persons

(IDPs) and relocated to makeshift IDP camps. In recognition of their suffering, ICC partnered

with Joint Help for Kurdistan (JHK) to provide 70 relief parcels to the JHK camps.

JHK representatives used ICC’s funds to purchase relief packages containing necessities such

as powdered detergent, shampoo, soap, salt, sugar, oil, rice, and tea. JHK representatives also

brought sweets to share with the children who, in spite of the trauma, fought for the camera’s

attention to sing their favorite songs, play games, and embrace the volunteers.

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Attacked Pastors Receive Bibles

Bibles to the Persecuted

I

n the Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh, India, pastors experience extreme persecution in

the form of beatings, vandalism, and the destruction of Christian literature, especially Bibles.

Because the pastors often live in poverty, they cannot afford to purchase replacements. Without

Bibles, it proves difficult for the pastors to continue with evangelism and discipleship. As more

and more villagers are becoming Christians, pastors need the appropriate tools to help new

believers develop their faith.

ICC interviewed eight pastors in the Jhabua District to see how they could best serve them

and further their ministry. They overwhelmingly stressed the importance of the replacement of

Christian literature, especially Bibles, in Hindi. ICC worked with the Bible Society of India to

determine the appropriate translation for the pastors and then purchased 240 Bibles. The Bibles

were distributed among the eight pastors who have since given them to Christian families

throughout their villages.

Radical Hindu groups will always be a threat for Christians, but these Bibles encourage them

to remain faithful through persecution.

11


est

atch

FFRF Wants Polling Places Out of Houses of Worship

The Freedom From Religion Foundation

(FFRF) has now issued complaints to

two municipalities, Palm Beach County,

Florida, and Washington County, Arkansas,

stating that polling locations located in houses

of worship may influence votes and cause

non-religious voters to feel uncomfortable.

The group requested that the counties move

their polling locations to secular locations.

The complaint stated, “As our country

becomes more religiously diverse, Christian

images and iconography are increasingly

seen by man as symbols of political intimidation.

Selecting churches as polling places

can serve to unduly influence voters to vote

in a particular way that they might not otherwise.

This is especially true if the voters

themselves are promoting or demonizing a

particular side of an issue.” The complaint

continued to say that viewing religious displays

may cause voters to feel like outsiders

in their polling places. It is not clear whether

either county replied to the demands of the

FFRF or acquiesced to their demands.

Atheist Group FFRF Urged

Trump to Scrub References

to God from Inauguration

The atheist activist group Freedom

From Religion Foundation (FFRF)

issued a plea to President Donald Trump

prior to his inauguration, asking him

to remove any Christian elements from

his inauguration in January. In addition

to requesting the removal of the prayer

portion of the ceremony, the group also

requested that he remove the words “so

help me God” from the traditional inaugural

oath.

The group’s complaint stated, “The ‘so

help me God’ tradition violates the spirit

of our secular Constitution in the very act

of promising to uphold it. The Constitution

prohibits rather than mandates religious

oaths. In its altered, religious form, the oath

has become a symbol of the disregard many

in our nation have shown for our secular

constitutional principles. Reciting the presidential

oath in its original form would be

an important symbolic step toward divorcing

American politics from religion.”

It is unknown whether there was any

response from Trump’s transition team.

Georgia Pastor Refuses to Turn Over Sermons to Government

I

n 2014, Dr. Eric Walsh was fired from

his position at the Georgia Department

of Public Health after sermons he had previously

delivered surfaced, which included a

traditional Christian view of sexuality. When

the state was made aware of these sermons,

it demanded that Dr. Walsh submit all of his

sermons and notes dating back to when he

was just 18 years of age.

He has since refused to comply with this

order and the Family Research Council has

created a petition in support, which states,

“I stand with Dr. Eric Walsh’s freedom to

believe and live according to his deeplyheld

beliefs. The demand that he hand over

his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral

documents including his Bible represents a

S

tudent choirs from Wake County, North

Carolina, were forbidden from participating

in the yearly Nativity performances

this year following a complaint from the

Freedom From Religion Foundation. The

complaint stated that the choirs’ exclusive

focus on a Christian holiday was unconstitutional

as it would be an endorsement of a

single religion. The county acquiesced, banning

the choirs from participating.

The complaint stated, “The whole purpose

of the event is to display and honor

nativity scenes, which highlight an exclusively

Christian aspect of the holiday season,

rather than a secular Christmas celebration.

Students are intentionally brought to the

government intrusion into the sanctity of the

church, pastor’s study, and pulpit.”

The petition has amassed approximately

40,000 signatures.

School Choirs Banned from Nativity Celebrations

church to be exposed to hundreds of depictions

of the Christian legend of Jesus’ birth.”

A school district spokesman stated, “No

one was particularly happy with the outcome

of this. Some schools had been participating

for several years.”

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Atheist Group Seeks Ban on

Shoebox Gifts to Children

T

he

atheist group American Humanist

Association (AHA) has been working

since 2014 to end the ministry of

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of

Samaritan’s Purse that provides gifts and

the Gospel during the Christmas season to

the children of developing countries. The

lawsuit was filed in 2014 and the decision

appealed in February 2016. The AHA’s lawsuit

states that public school children should

not participate, as it is a violation of the US

Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

“As taxpaying citizens with children in the

school district, these families object to their

schools supporting the efforts of Christian

missions to convert children in developing

countries. Pressuring students to participate

in religious programs in their public schools

flies in the face of the separation of church

and state that the Establishment Clause

demands,” the lawsuit stated.

A spokesman from Samaritan’s Purse

stated, “Operation Christmas Child welcomes

anyone to participate in this annual

Christmas project for children in need

around the world. We do not make determinations

on individuals or groups that do

or do not choose to participate each year.”

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Sam Alito: Religious Freedom

May be In Greater Danger

than Free Speech

I

n

a recent speech at the Federalist

Society’s national convention of lawyers

in Washington D.C., US Supreme Court

Justice Samuel Alito stated his belief that

religious freedom might be “in greater danger”

than the right to free speech.

In his remarks, he commented on a specific

case in Washington State that was

appealed to the Supreme Court in which

a pharmacy was required to provide abortifacient

drugs despite their religious convictions

against such prescriptions by a

state law. The law allowed for pharmacies

to make referrals to other pharmacies for

numerous reasons except religious protections.

The ensuing lawsuit was heard by the

US Court for the Ninth Circuit which unanimously

required the pharmacy to stock the

abortifacient. The case was then appealed

to the Supreme Court in which a majority

of justices refused to hear the case, meaning

the circuit court’s opinion stands.

Alito went on to explain that the pharmacy

was willing to refer clients to other

pharmacies for these drugs, but that there is

“strong evidence” that the law was crafted

to “rid the state of those troublesome pharmacists

who objected to these drugs on

religious grounds.”

Commander Under Fire for

Stating Jesus’ Influence

T

he

Military Religious Freedom

Foundation (MRFF) recently issued a

letter of complaint demanding that an Air

Force commander receive punishment for

stating that his faith in Jesus Christ affects

his decision-making capabilities.

The Incirlik Air Base in Turkey published

the interview of Air Force Lt. Col. Michael

Kersten. When asked about his influences,

Lt. Col. Kersten replied, “As a Christian,

my example is to be like Christ. He is my

guide and affects all of my decisions. He

teaches to do all things as unto the Lord, and

I believe this is synonymous with integrity

first and excellence in all we do.”

The complaint asserts that Kersten violated

military rules and “willfully and definitively

violated [Air Force Instruction] 1-1

with his sectarian Christian proselytizing

statement.” An Air Force official responded

that they uphold service members’ rights to

practice their religion, yet the MRFF has

now submitted a second complaint. The Air

Force has not responded as yet.

Court Ruling to Remove

Ten Commandments Upheld

A

n

appeals court hearing upheld a lower

court order to remove a monument

containing the Ten Commandments on the

property of city hall in the New Mexico

city of Bloomfield City. The appeals court

ruled that the display is an unconstitutional

endorsement of Christianity by the local

government, stating, “Bloomfield has not

undertaken sufficiently purposeful, public,

and persuasive actions to secularize the

monument’s previous ‘principal or primary’

religious message. The city has never

explicitly said this monument was not for

religious purposes, nor that it was exhibited

only for its historical significance.”

The monument was erected in 2011 following

the passage of a resolution allowing

private citizens to place historical displays

at the city hall. The monument was proposed

by a former city council member four

years prior, approved by the city council,

and paid for with private dollars.

13


HERO

ON THE HILL

ICC interviews a nineteen-term

congressman and champion of

international religious freedom on

why he fights for the persecuted.

By Nate Lance

Congressman

Chris Smith (NJ)

This is the first

article in a

new quarterly

series ICC is

launching in

Persecution

magazine to

highlight the

work of members of Congress

or government personnel from

across the political spectrum who

are making exceptional efforts on

behalf of the persecuted Church.

These “Heroes on the Hill”

often serve the persecuted for

years without public recognition,

yet all over the world prisoners

of faith are set free and persecutors

are held to account because

of their courage to speak and act

on behalf of religious minorities.

Rep. Chris Smith has served

the state of New Jersey for

more than 30 years since his

election to the US Congress in

1981. Driven by his faith, he

has for decades been a leader

on issues of human rights and

religious liberty. He is the chairman

of the Global Human Rights

Subcommittee as well as the

co-chairman of the Commission

on Security and Cooperation in

Europe and the Congressional-

Executive Commission on China.

He is also incredibly active on

Capitol Hill and is “tied for second”

out of 435 members of the

House for authoring bills which

become law. His dedication was

instrumental in getting the US

government to declare acts by

ISIS against Christians and other

religious minorities in Iraq and

Syria a genocide, and he has

recently been working to pass the

Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief

and Accountability Act to provide

aid to the affected area.

What sparked your passion

for helping persecuted

Christians around the

world?

There is no doubt it comes from

my own faith. I’m a Catholic.

I’m a strong believer. I believe

in the importance of working

with Evangelicals and across

the spectrum of Christianity and

other faiths. I got very involved

with combatting anti-Semitism

during my first term and then

I read a couple books. I read

Tortured for Christ by Richard

Wurmbrand, which was a strong

Congressman Smith visits with Christian families during

a recent trip to Erbil, Iraq.

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“ICC is an effective advocate for the persecuted Church; they make

sure the voiceless have a voice in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. I

have been honored to work with them for several decades to protect

the fundamental right of religious liberty. Sadly, there is so much

more work still left to do; people of faith and goodwill cannot rest as

we seek to address the immense challenges facing Christians around

the world today.”

– CONGRESSMAN CHRIS SMITH OF NEW JERSEY

appeal for people in the West

to speak out for the persecuted

Christian. I also read God’s

Smuggler by Brother Andrew,

who fearlessly smuggled Bibles

into the former Soviet Union.

Are there any specific areas

you are especially concerned

about?

I just returned from a trip

to Erbil, where some 70,000

Christians and some Yazidis have

escaped ISIS. [The Christians

there] are wonderful people who

love Christ and are really committed

to their faith, but have

been inadequately served by the

Obama administration and by

the international community at

large… That has to change.

For three years I’ve chaired

nine congressional hearings; the

tenth I’ll hold in early 2017 to

say that they need humanitarian

assistance right now. They do

get some from private charities,

but it’s not enough.

Secondly, we need to hold the

perpetrators of these terrible

atrocities to account…we’ve

held ad hoc tribunals in the

past and that needs to be set up

immediately.

And third is to provide refugees

a category called P2 status.

Currently, Christians are not

given the interview necessary

to relocate to the United States.

What a gross oversight that is!

And yet, it’s the reality on the

ground, so there’s no durable

solution for them if they want to

go back. Many want to go back,

but as we’re seeing increasingly,

it is not safe to go back, especially

in the near time, so the

safety valve would be for some

to come to the United States.

This legislation would give them

the necessary interview to come

here.

Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, of

course ISIS, all of these radical

Islamist groups pose an

existential threat to Christians

in particular, but also to pious

Muslims. And I’ve actually been

to places like Jos, Nigeria, where

Boko Haram has gone on killing

sprees, blowing up churches,

and taking full credit for it… and

literally dragging people out

and killing them if they refuse to

convert from Christianity…

The other big existential

threats are the communists in

China. If anyone thinks that

China [is no longer] a gross

cruel dictatorship [and not] a

democracy, they need to have

their head examined! They have

gotten worse under Xi Jinping.

He is in a race to the bottom with

North Korea when it comes to a

myriad of human rights abuses

including religious freedom…

Believers are singled out, even

those [in] the officially recognized

Three Self Movement.

Looking Forward

ICC concluded the interview by

thanking Congressman Smith for

his efforts and discussing future

initiatives with his staff. Sadly,

members like Congressman

Smith who do consistent work on

behalf of the persecuted are few

and far between.

If you live in the US and would

like your congressman to get

involved, call his or her office

and ask them to reach out to

International Christian Concern!

National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol

features statues of prominent Americans.

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15


ICC’S

THE BRIDGE

THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON THE PERSECUTED CHURCH

THE CHURCH, GOVERNMENT LEADERS, & NGOS

UNITING TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF THE PERSECUTED

JUNE 2-3, 2017

Breaking the Chains of

North Korea

Saddleback Church

Los Angeles, CA

www.thepersecutionconference.org

www.thepersecutionconference.org


The Bridge is an annual conference for the persecuted

Church where the Church, government leaders, nongovernmental

organizations (NGOs), and ministries unite

to break the chains of the persecuted.

This year, we will focus on the prison state of North

Korea (DPRK). The incredible increase in high-level DPRK

defectors, along with the massive stream of news from

the outside world flowing into North Korea, represent

cracks in the foundation of the prison state. We

are calling the Church together to pray, and

to also work proactively with NGOs

and the US government,

to bring down the

world’s evil

regime.

For the latest info:

www.thepersecutionconference.org

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17


Victory

in the Midst of Persecution

A recent judgment in favor of two Christians accused of

blasphemy in Pakistan provides a small, yet complicated,

ray of hope for Pakistan’s Christian community.

By William Stark


At 6:00 a.m. I heard my

brother and wife crying

out as they were dragged

out of their house near

the brick kiln by their

hair,” Iqbal Masih told

International Christian

Concern (ICC). “In

about 15 or 20 minutes,

a mob of thousands had

gathered at the brick kiln, shouting that they wanted

to kill my brother and his wife.”

In November 2014, Pakistan’s Christian community

witnessed one of the most brutal instances of persecution

in recent memory at a brick kiln located in

Kot Radha Kishan. The violence that came to shock

both the nation of Pakistan and the international community

was, as is often the case, sparked by the country’s

notorious blasphemy laws and is often referred

to as the Kot Radha Kishan case or incident.

Motivating this murderous mob was the rumored

accusation that Shehzad Masih (Iqbal’s younger

brother) and his wife burned pages of the Quran,

an act widely considered blasphemous in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, for Shehzad and his wife, extrajudicial

killings of those accused of blasphemy are all too

common. In fact, more than 60 individuals have been

murdered after being accused of blasphemy since the

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Kot Radha Kishan has become

infamous in Pakistan as the scene of

one of the country’s most brutal and

shocking instances of persecution

— a couple beaten and burned alive

at the city’s brick kiln by a mob of

thousands.

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19


A Small, Complicated Victory

In rare form, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan

convicted 13 men for the brick kiln murders two

years after the incident. Five were sentenced to

death for their role in inciting a mob via mosque

loudspeakers.

laws were added to the country’s penal code.

“They stoned Shehzad and his wife, then

they broke their legs and beat them until they

were unconscious,” Masih told ICC. “The

mob put them over holes on top of the brick

kiln where the flames were coming out. They

were so badly beaten that they were unable to

get away from the flames.”

Both Pakistan and the international community

were shocked by these brutal murders and

many of those involved, especially the local

religious clerics who had stoked the mob’s

rage using sound systems at local mosques,

were quickly arrested.

Following the arrests, many Christians,

including members of the victims’ family, did

not believe justice would be done in this case

because of the religious identity of the victims

and the rumored blasphemy accusation. Often,

cases against individuals or groups accused

of attacking religious minorities drag on at

a glacial pace. In the meantime, the accused

perpetrators are released on bail and allowed

to harass the religious minorities bringing the

charges until they are dropped.

This unfortunate truth is exemplified in

the results of the case against those accused

of burning down Joseph Colony, a Christian

neighborhood in Lahore. Despite a wealth of

photo and video evidence showing individuals

engaged in the attack and destruction of Joseph

Colony, many of the accused have been either

acquitted or released on bail as the trial drags

on. This stands in stark contrast to the speedy

conviction and death sentence handed down

to the Christian individual whose blasphemy

accusation initially set off the riot.

Fortunately, in the case of the brick kiln

murders, the family’s doubts in Pakistan’s justice

system were proven wrong. On November

23, 2016, over two years after the murders,

an anti-terrorism court officially sentenced

13 men connected with the violence. Of

those, five were sentenced to death, including

Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor,

Muhammad Hanif, and Hafiz Ishtiaq, a local

prayer leader. The harsh punishments were

given to these five individuals specifically

for their hand in making announcements over

mosque loudspeakers that incited the mob that

attacked and killed the Christian couple.

According to the Express Tribune, the convictions

handed down in November represented

the first time a case of such nature has been

decided in the favor of a religious minority in

Pakistan, whether it be a Christian, Hindu, or

Ahmadi.

“Civil society has been very consistent

on monitoring the developments of the Kot

Radha Kishan incident and the resulting judgment

that has come,” Peter Jacob, Executive

Director at the Center for Social Justice told

ICC. “There wasn’t a big response to the judgment

because it involved death sentences for

five people, but it was generally welcome that

justice in some form had been done.”

When asked how this case was decided in

favor of religious minorities, Jacob credited

both Pakistan’s Supreme Court and vigilant

civil society.

“This judgment has come after the intervention

made at the Supreme Court level. The

court at district level was able to deliver this

judgment because there was oversight by the

Supreme Court and civil society did not stop

monitoring.”

Despite the eventual victory the Kot Radha

Kishan judgment represents, these sort of

victories are often complicated for Pakistan’s

Christian community. Months after the murder

of Shehzad and his wife, a branch of the

Pakistani Taliban bombed two churches in

Youhanabad, a Christian-majority neighborhood

in Lahore. Following these March 2015

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ombings, Christians poured

into the streets in protest,

enraged by the bloody scenes

at their churches.

In the midst of the protests,

two Muslims rumored

to be involved in the church

bombings were lynched and

killed by the Christians. In the

weeks that followed, police

arrested over 100 Christians

from Youhanabad, often for

little more than their identity

as Christians from the

neighborhood. Following

the arrests, reports of torture

by police seeking to hone

in on the identities of those

involved in the lynching were

common.

The Kot Radha Kishan

judgment has spread fear

among many of the Christian

families of those accused of

the Youhanabad lynching

because they feel that their

loved ones will also be sentenced

to death, regardless

of the evidence, in a sort of

tit-for-tat judicial maneuver

to satisfy both Pakistan’s

Muslim and Christian communities.

“We are worried for our

children when we

think and listen about

the convictions in the

Kot Radha Kishan

case,” Sugran Bibi,

mother of one of the

accused, told ICC.

“My son was not

present at the lynching,”

Bibi continued.

“The police arrested

him from home

seven months after

the incident. Almost

two years have

passed and we don’t

see any hope of our child

returning home.”

Regardless of the implications

the Kot Radha

Kishan judgment has for

the Christians accused of

the Youhanabad lynching,

it should still be marked

as a victory for Pakistani

Christians.

For Christians living in

Pakistan, change comes

slowly and is often complicated.

Consistently ranked

among the most persecuted

Christians in the world,

officially ranked fourth on

Open Door’s World Watch

“We are worried

for our children

when we think

... about the

convictions in the

Kot Radha Kishan

case.”

– MOTHER OF IMPRISONED SON

List, the lives of Pakistani

Christians are widely

defined by the discrimination

and injustice they

endure because of their faith.

Amidst the intense persecution

and discrimination of

Christians in Pakistan, a ray

of hope came out of one of

Pakistan’s most hot-button

issues, the country’s blasphemy

laws. It is small and

complicated victories like

this that will eventually start

to turn the tide for Pakistan’s

Christians and may someday

promise a brighter and

freer future.

Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan, that was

burned to the ground, stands as a stark reminder of the continued injustice

and inequity of the country’s blasphemy laws. In January, a Pakistani court

acquitted over 100 suspects charged with perpetrating this act on “insufficient

evidence,” despite ample photographs and video footage of the event.

Asia Bibi

In June 2009, Asia Bibi was

accused by Muslim coworkers of

blaspheming against the prophet

Muhammad. As is often the case,

this false accusation was made

against Asia to settle a personal

score following a dispute between

Asia and her coworkers over the

use of a watering bowl.

Although false, the blasphemy

accusation came to radically

change both Asia’s life as an individual

and Pakistan as a nation.

In 2010, Asia was formally sentenced

to death by the Session’s

Court in District Nankana, Punjab.

In October 2014, the Lahore High

Court confirmed Asia’s death sentence.

In July 2015, Pakistan’s

Supreme Court decided to review

Asia’s death sentence, but then

indefinitely adjourned on October

13, 2016, after one of the justices

recused himself from the case.

Widely considered the most

famous case of blasphemy, Asia’s

case has seen many dramatic

moments including the assassination

of two major government

officials advocating on behalf of

Asia. It remains to be seen what

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will do

with Asia’s case, but there is hope

that one day she will be released.

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21


Home at Last

ICC completes construction of homes for 10

displaced Iraqi Christian families living in

tents for two years.

One of the families’ tents

that they lived in for two

years after fleeing ISIS

violence.

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Top Left: One of the tents that

families lived in for two years

after fleeing ISIS violence.

Bottom Left: A family that ICC

has followed for the past year

shows appreciation for their new

home - a permanent structure on a

church’s property.

Below: After two years of living

in tents on a church’s property,

Christian families began moving

into the newly constructed

homes just before Christmas and

the first snow.

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23


Indonesia is a country with great

ethnic and religious diversity. It is

the world’s most populous Muslim

nation. In fact, 90 percent of its

250 million citizens are Muslim.

At the constitutional level,

Indonesia has created a framework

guaranteeing freedom of religion

for all government-recognized religions:

Islam, Christianity, Hinduism,

Buddhism, Confucianism, and Judaism. Followers

of these religions, according to national laws,

should be able to freely practice their religion.

If you only examine the surface, you will come

to the conclusion that Huffington Post did when

it said that Indonesia practiced a more “liberal,

pluralistic brand of Islam.”

Go beyond the surface and look at recent

history in Indonesia though, and you will not

see a pluralistic society, but country that vigorously

oppresses Christianity and other faiths,

sometimes with extreme violence.

A growing movement of radical Islam

is exerting more and more influence in

Indonesian affairs, including politics. Such

entanglement has not only empowered the

spread of extremism but has increased attacks

and the suppression of religious minorities.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and

Peace in Indonesia recorded a 33% increase

in cases of religious violence between 2014

and 2015. They also noted that in 2016,

Indonesia’s freedom level fell to a new low

with “more rights violations committed by

the government and local administrations.” A

report by Indonesia’s National Commission on

Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found that the

most frequent violators of religious freedom

are regional administrations, and that the number

of complaints being filed against them are

rapidly increasing.

How is this happening in a democratic

country that guarantees religious freedom?

“Because,” as the Setara Institute argues,

“no one dares draw a line and recognize

Feature Article

A Paradox of

Religious Freedom:

Pastors Working Underground

in a Religiously Free Society

By Daniel Harris

religiously-inspired incitement for what it is,

let alone condemn it or take measures to stop

it.” The absence of accountability in upholding

religious freedom, especially by the government,

destroys religious minorities while

encouraging extremism’s spread.

The coordinator for the faith freedom desk

at the National Commission on Human Rights

for Indonesia (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi

Manusia) said, “The three main factors fueling

the violations [of religious freedom] are the low

level of understanding of government officials

about human rights principles, the inability of

regional leaders to deal with intolerant groups

and the implementation of regional laws that

often contradict higher laws.”

Ahok and Religious

Extremism in Action

The recent case against Jakarta’s first

Christian governor is a perfect example of this.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as

Ahok, became the governor of Jakarta when

Joko Widodo left the office to run for president

in 2014. It was a significant step for Indonesia.

Ahok is an ethnic Chinese and a Christian. His

term would stand as a litmus test for religious

and racial tolerance in Indonesia.

Immediately, hardline Muslim organizations

such as The Islamic Defenders Front

(FPI) demanded his removal from office. They

insisted that a Christian could never govern

Muslims. But Ahok was popular with the

people as he worked hard to tackle corruption

and Jakarta’s crippling traffic problems. He

should have easily won his bid for re-election

this year, but one short statement taken out

of context stifled his victory. During one

campaign speech, Ahok challenged voters to

vote their conscience and not allow Muslim

leaders to scare them into voting for a Muslim

by using particular verses from the Quran.

Anti-Ahok Muslim groups edited his statement

so it appeared that Ahok condemned the

Quran itself rather than political manipulators.

That video led to hundreds of thousands of

protesters flooding Jakarta’s streets, calling for

Ahok’s imprisonment and even death.

Ahok is now on trial for “blasphemy.” The

sentence carries a five year prison term and

few are ever acquitted.

Rather than support a fair investigation,

the government offered little assistance to

Ahok. The president barely acknowledged

the 200,000+ person protests shutting down

the capital. The police blatantly supported the

Muslim crowds by supplying them with water,

a stage, and a sound system. In Ahok’s trial,

few cared that most of the “witnesses” were

not even present for Ahok’s speech.

The Setara Institute, a non-governmental

organization that conducts research and

advocacy on democracy, political freedom,

and human rights in Indonesia, summed up

Indonesia’s imagined religious freedom versus

the unfortunate reality: “Indonesia’s spineless

political leaders have allowed extremists to

seize the momentum and foment religious

hatred against the governor – who happens to

be an ethnic Chinese Christian – for more than

a month without challenging the substance or

methods of their arguments.”

Technically, blasphemy laws apply to all

of Indonesia’s protected religions. The issue

is not the absence of laws regarding religion,

but that those laws are disproportionately used

against Christians. In Ahok’s case, the leader

of the organization that launched the protests

demanding Ahok’s imprisonment openly

mocked Christianity during several of his

speeches. His speeches insulted Christianity

so much that even Muslims are calling for his

trial on the charge of blasphemy. The government

has yet to press charges.

The political tension has spilled into the

public sphere, stressing an already tenuous

relationship between Muslim Indonesians and

ethnic or religious minorities. Many Christians

are afraid for both their religious freedom and

their lives. They should be.

Jihad

Ahok’s case and the lack of government

protection is not a new story in Indonesia. The

Saudis and Gulf states starting pouring money

into Indonesia in the 1970s to radicalize the

country’s Muslims. Their efforts came to fruition

around 1998 when the country’s Muslims

went on a massive jihad against Christians.

From 1998 to 2003, Christians suffered greatly

as their churches and homes were burned to the

ground and they were raped and murdered.

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Two large churches in

Indonesia had their buildings

shut down by local government

officials. They now gather outside

the presidential palace and hold

their services in an act of protest.

Although the government did not launch

an official investigation, an unofficial report

found that 2,244 people (both protesters and

Christians) died, 168 were raped, and 1,604

shops were destroyed. These statistics were

only in Jakarta, however. The violence spread

to other parts of the nation, including Java,

Sulawesi, and Maluku and lasted until around

2004. ICC has heard reports that as many as

10,000 Christians actually died and approximately

1,000 churches were burned down

across the nation.

That period of extreme anti-Christian violence

is especially relevant today because it

underlines the government’s lax stance against

extremism. Shortly before the outbreak of violence

in 1998, Human Rights Watch stated,

“Not only have [government officials]

expressed no sympathy for the victims or made

any effort to explain to the public the causes

and consequences of the economic crisis, but in

some cases, they have tried to deflect blame for

the economic crisis onto prominent members of

the ethnic Chinese community.”

Recalling the political climate of 1998,

The Economist noted, “At best, Ahok’s persecution

represents a blow to the rights of all

Indonesian minorities...At worst, the risk of

communal bloodshed like that of two decades

ago is closer.”

So What?

Since then, the increasing trend of Islamic

extremism threatening both religious and ethnic

minorities has sent many Christian pastors

underground, an irony in a country proud of its

religious diversity.

Islamic radicalism seems to be on the rise

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN

in Indonesia. Cases of violence and persecution

against Christians are increasing and the

government appears ill-prepared or unwilling

to uphold basic religious freedoms. This is a

deadly combination driving Christian pastors

underground. ICC asked several pastors why

they are working underground in a country

that guarantees freedom of religion. One pastor

responded, “Freedom of religion? Yes, but it is

only in theory. In practice, it [doesn’t exist].”

The pastors shared that in the last few

months, radical Muslims have bombed a

Christian church and forced Christians to

abandon their places of worship. The government

did little to stop the radical groups. In

fact, in some cases they have helped them. At

a Christmas service in Bandung, for example,

the government positioned police officers

outside of a church to protect congregants

from radical Muslims. Instead, the officers

helped the Muslims chase away the Christian

participants. In Aceh Province in October

2015, an angry mob destroyed three churches

after which the local government destroyed

seven more.

The government justifies destroying churches

because they contend that the churches do

not have the correct licenses. Procuring the

correct licenses at the local level in Indonesia

is a complicated process requiring scores

of signatures from community leaders and

government officials. The process is so complicated,

according to unconfirmed reports

received by ICC, that most religious institutions

do not have the correct licenses, including

mosques. This means that some members

of radical Islamic groups that destroy unlicensed

churches are probably members of an

unlicensed institution themselves.

Double standards as evidenced by licensing

have led pastors to determine that they are

not protected by the law, because extremists

are allowed to operate freely outside the law.

Openly practicing one’s faith can mean death.

As one pastor told ICC, “The reason why I

reach out underground is more for the safety

of the converts. If I do it openly I will not only

endanger the lives of these people but also the

ministry and the ministers themselves.”

Speaking Out

Despite the government’s silence, some

groups are boldly asserting the importance

of religious freedom. During Christmas, a

dangerous time for Christians in Indonesia,

the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia,

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), pledged to help protect

Christians as they attended Christmas Eve

services. Christians need moderate Muslims

like NU to make their voices heard over the

growing rhetoric of radicalism and the government’s

reluctance to protect religious freedom.

One pastor told ICC, “My fear is that moderate

Muslims will keep silent and thus give

more room for the radicals to grow. My fear is

that, in the end, the government will oblige the

radical’s demand, leading Indonesia in a different

direction.” When moderates remain silent,

minorities must hide their beliefs in exchange

for their safety. Indonesian Christians hope for

the support of moderate Muslims to protect

them from religious extremism and a stagnant

government. An irony indeed.

ICC supports underground pastors like

these in Indonesia who are risking their lives

to share the Gospel.

25


Feature Article

Christian Persecution in Vietnam:

A church gathers

for service in rural

Vietnam. Montagnard

Christians have faced

more persecution than

many other Christians

groups in the country.

“Just last month, they murdered my

father in order to arrest me because

they believe that I will return to

Vietnam to attend my father’s funeral.

I was supposed to return because I

loved my father deeply. But for my

safety my mother asked me not to

return. I was so scared of returning

home even though I really wanted to.”

By Daniel Harris

This tragic story belongs to

a Montagnard Christian from

Vietnam who fled the country

to escape government agents

seeking to arrest him for his

Christian activities. When he

escaped their grasp, they murdered

his father, hoping he would return for the

funeral so that they could arrest him.

Montagnard Christians are the forgotten

heroes and victims of a failed war. Also

known as the Dega/Degar, they are a predominantly

Christian ethnic group that lives

in the highlands of Vietnam, Cambodia,

and Laos. When US troops were fighting in

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Feature Article

Montagnard Victim Testimonies

Vietnam, Montagnards fought

alongside them and subsequently,

many of them converted to

Christianity. Now they are hunted

like animals by their own

communist government.

Christians, such as the one

quoted above, are forced to flee

their homes to escape Vietnamese

government agents who track

them down for interrogation and

execution.

Desperate to suppress the

Montagnard people, nothing

has been out of bounds for the

Vietnamese authorities. They

have used illegal arrests and

detainment, brutal torture, rape,

and even murder. There are even

reports of forced sterilization

campaigns.

One example of persecution

includes an extensive campaign

to shut down churches among

Montagnard communities. In

2015, Human Rights Watch

reported, “Official Vietnamese

media makes it clear that such

government actions are part of

a high-level policy to eliminate

‘evil way’ religions such as De

Ga Protestantism and Ha Mon

Catholicism practiced by some

ethnic Montagnards…”

Official state media has reported

waves of “search and hunt”

operations designed to “deal seriously”

with core religious leaders.

There are reports of public

forced recantations in which

hundreds of Montagnards were

forced to recant their faith in

front of fellow villagers. “Mobile

trials” are held in Montagnard

villages to convict and imprison

followers of Christianity. Many

Montagnards report experiencing

torture because of their faith. A

recent report describes one pastor’s

martyrdom:

“Around 7:30 a.m., the public

security agents came to Pastor

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN

“His death resulted from the multiple injuries

inflicted by the beatings which came as a result of

his refusal to give up his faith.”

A Christians

processional

moves through the

streets of Vietnam.

A choir sings

during a church

service in Vietnam.

Thanh’s (name changed for security)

house and ordered him to

report for investigation. Pastor

Thanh was interviewed for the

whole day on the [practice of

Christianity] in his village.

The interrogation [was focused

on convincing him to give up

Christianity].”

“[On his refusal], the secret

police got mad … and used various

tools to beat him up. They

beat him in the ribs, chest, and his

abdomen. They also slapped his

face and [repeatedly punched] his

head. Consequently, he felt pain

while breathing and he got seriously

sick due to internal injuries.

While they were beating him, he

fell unconscious.”

“He passed away around 9:30

a.m. (two weeks after his detention)

in 2016. His death resulted

from the multiple injuries inflicted

by the beatings which [came as

a result of his] refusal to [give up

his faith].”

Secrecy is the greatest asset of

Vietnam’s secret police. When

their activities are recorded and

broadcast to the world, they often

withdraw. For that reason, ICC is

involved with training Vietnamese

community members how to

record and report cases of persecution

to government and human

rights agencies.

Reports, like the one above that

came from this project, expose

Vietnam’s relentless and violent

persecution of Montagnard

Christians and gives them a

way to defend themselves and a

chance to finally end decades of

brutal persecution.

27


TESTIMONIES

from Mandera

Survivors of al-Shabaab attacks in northeastern Kenya share their

experiences and conditions months after suffering great loss.

By Sandra Elliot and Michelle King

Most people

don’t realize

that al-

Shabaab

has consistently

targeted

Christians

with deadly

attacks for

years. Most people remember the Westgate

Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, during

which militants killed 67 and wounded

175, but al-Shabaab’s smaller, more consistent

attacks have focused on Christian

populations in particular.

Mandera, a town in the northeast corner

of Kenya bordering Ethiopia to the north

and Somalia to the east, has been targeted

repeatedly by al-Shabaab. The most recent

attacks occurred in October 2016.

On October 6, 2016, al-Shabaab launched

a calculated attack on Mandera, killing six

Christians. Within hours, al-Shabaab’s military

operations spokesman proudly claimed

responsibility for the slaughter of the six

innocent men.

Eighteen days later, militants struck

Mandera once again, this time targeting

a guesthouse known to host Christians.

Among the 12 killed were two high school

theater members who were visiting Mandera

as part of their high school drama team.

These are only two of the most recent

al-Shabaab attacks on Christians in northeastern

Kenya. They have become infamous

over the years for intercepting buses and

attacking quarry workers in their sleeping

compounds.

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Feature Article

John Muriuki stands next to his mother with both of his arms bandaged after being shot during an al-Shabaab attack.

ICC has worked with numerous victims

of al-Shabaab attacks, like Maina, John,

Shillah, and Pastor John, to bring encouragement,

financial support, food, and medical

assistance.

Maina Justus

In July 2015, for example, al-Shabaab

militants attacked a housing complex

of quarry workers, most of whom were

Christians. They killed 13 people.

Maina Justus was one of the victims who

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN

survived the incident, but was severely

wounded.

“As usual, we had come back from work

in the quarries, had supper, and slept. That

night we had no electricity,” Justus told

ICC. “At around 2:00 a.m., we heard two

loud explosions at the gate. Then, shortly

after, the door to our sleeping hall was shot

and opened. It dawned upon us that the al-

Shabaab has attacked,” he added.

Amidst the fear and chaos, quarry workers

ran for their lives in all directions.

Unfortunately, not all were able to escape

and some even died in their sleep.

John Muriuki

John Muriuki, another victim, was asleep

when the attack began. While escaping, John

was shot multiple times in his hands, permanently

deforming them. He is no longer able

to work because of his condition.

“It has been a long journey for me,” he

recently told ICC. “The pain in my hands is

extremely unbearable and I can’t sleep well. I

29


John Muriuki shows x-rays of his injuries which deformed his arms, preventing him from the physical labor he used to do.

have suffered for a long time since I was shot

in July 2015.”

“My wife is doing manual work at farms to

buy food and medicine. It pains me to see her

struggle alone to provide for our family,” John

explained to ICC, “Life has not been easy but

we know that one day it shall be good because

as long as we are alive we are capable of

changing our situation.”

This year, ICC developed and implemented

a project to help the seven families that

were victims of last year’s Mandera attacks.

ICC built seven cow sheds and gave each of

the families a dairy cow, so that they could

sell the milk and make a sustainable living.

The income earned from these cows has

helped the families pay for school expenses

for their children, provide food, and cover

other basic needs.

Meshack Otieno

Meshack Otieno is another victim of al-

Shabaab violence. On December 21, 2015,

he was riding the bus to get to work in

Mandera when al-Shabaab attacked. Otieno

briefly escaped when militants herded the

primarily Christian passengers off the bus,

but he didn’t get far. Gunmen found him in

the bush and shot him.

Otieno’s death left his widow and four

children with no source of income. Shillah

Otieno had the desire to work, but no

opportunities to do so. ICC met Shillah

shortly after her husband’s death and was

able to start a beauty salon. We could not

“Losing a husband is

a tragic thing that I

would not even wish

to happen to the

wives of al-Shabaab,”

confessed Shillah. “It

is a tragedy that we

would not [have] been

able to overcome but

God has been really

good to us.”

replace what was stolen from her, but ICC

was able to build a beauty salon so that

she could maintain a stable income source.

God used ICC to help Shillah to find a

renewed devotion to the Lord despite her

circumstances.

“Losing a husband is a tragic thing that I

would not even wish to happen to the wives

of al-Shabaab,” confessed Shillah. “It is a

tragedy that we would not [have] been able to

overcome but God has been really good to us.

We continue to ask for your prayer support as

we look forward to 2017 and the rest of our

lives,” she told ICC.

Pastor John Njaramba

In July 2016, al-Shabaab attacked another

bus carrying Christians and killed six people.

Among the dead was Pastor John Njaramba,

who militants shot in the head.

“It is now six months since my husband

was brutally killed. It is still fresh and painful,

but we are coping on well by God’s

grace,” Freshia Njaramba told ICC, “He was

such a friendly and vigorous missionary in

God’s vineyard. His death was a big blow to

our lives and the church.”

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Pastor Peter Wagura survived the

same attack that claimed the life of John

Njaramba. He has endured the pain of

losing his friend more privately as he has

a responsibility to lead the church during

these hard times.

“It hurts me every day and every time I

remember my friend John,” he told ICC.

“Being a pastor to many people I sometimes

lack confidence to cry with, hurt with, and

pray with.”

Pastor Peter feels the weight of persecution

in his country as he continues

to lead the flock there. To share in his

burdens, ICC provided medical assistance

and funding for Christian literature so that

he can continue his ministry. While the

gesture may seem small, he is thankful

because such relief has helped him maintain

extraordinary humility and leadership

in his ministry. And, despite all that he has

suffered, Pastor Peter is optimistic about

his nation.

“I am seeing great hope in Mandera,”

Pastor Peter expressed, “I am seeing many

churches and even Bible schools coming

up in the city, I will soon personally

go there to train pastors and meet with

Muslim leaders. God will make a way for

this country.”

It is difficult to imagine such hope.

Mandera’s Christians wake up every day

knowing there’s a group of people nearby

constantly targeting them for attacks, yet

they persevere. ICC understands that as the

Body of Christ, we have a responsibility

to uphold each other, especially those who

are suffering. Mandera’s Christians need

such relief more than ever. Al-Shabaab

has promised a war against Christians, and

they have already followed through on

their threat.

As you pray for Mandera, pray for God’s

love to outshine al-Shabaab’s hatred. Pray

that Christians in Kenya will endure. Pray

that families will heal from the losses

already dealt out. Pray for the enemies

themselves and that they would come to

Christ. Finally, pray that Christians living

in Mandera will find renewed strength

tomorrow morning as they wake up to

persecution.

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ICC provided goods for Shillah Otieno and her children immediately following the murder.

ICC then gave Shillah a beauty parlor to provide a sustainable income for her family.

The Njaramba family received goods after their father and husband, Pastor John, was

killed in an al-Shabaab attack.

31


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Kot Radha Kishan has become

infamous in Pakistan as the scene of

one of the country’s most brutal and

shocking instances of persecution

— a couple beaten and burned alive

at the city’s brick kiln by a mob of

thousands.

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