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March 2017 Persecution Magazine

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WWW.PERSECUTION.ORG<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

PERSECU ION<br />

Hill<br />

Hero<br />

Rep. Chris Smith<br />

(New Jersey) has<br />

spent 36 years<br />

fighting for the<br />

persecuted!<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Table of Contents<br />

In This Issue:<br />

HEROES ON THE HILL<br />

14 | Rep. Chris Smith<br />

ICC interviews Congressman Chris Smith<br />

on his defense of religious freedom.<br />

PAKISTAN<br />

18 | Victory in the Midst of <strong>Persecution</strong><br />

A recent judgment in favor of two Christians<br />

accused of blasphemy in Pakistan provides<br />

a small, yet complicated, ray of hope for<br />

Pakistan’s Christian community.<br />

IRAQ<br />

22 | Home at Last<br />

ICC completes construction of homes for 10<br />

displaced Iraqi Christian families.<br />

INDONESIA<br />

24 | A Paradox of Religious Freedom<br />

Indonesian pastors must work<br />

underground despite “religious freedom.”<br />

VIETNAM<br />

26 | Christian <strong>Persecution</strong> in Vietnam<br />

Vietnam’s Montagnard Christians, one of<br />

the country’s most brutalized groups, are<br />

learning to report incidents of persecution.<br />

KENYA<br />

28 | Testimonies from Mandera<br />

Survivors of al-Shabaab attacks in<br />

northeastern Kenya share their experiences<br />

months after suffering great loss.<br />

Regular Features<br />

3 Letter from the President<br />

A few words from ICC’s president, Jeff<br />

King, on the promise and hope of home,<br />

life, and freedom.<br />

4 World News<br />

A snapshot of the persecution that<br />

impacts our brothers and sisters daily, in<br />

every corner of the world.<br />

8 Your Dollars at Work<br />

Learn how your gifts are providing<br />

comfort, relief, Bibles, education and<br />

vocational training to the persecuted.<br />

12 West Watch<br />

Faith under siege in the Western world.<br />

14<br />

23<br />

19<br />

27<br />

29<br />

2 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


President’s Letter<br />

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

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

I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place<br />

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

where I am.”<br />

- John 14:1-3, NIV<br />

Home is such a simple concept for most, but for too many Christians from Iraq<br />

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

are in refugee camps in other regions. Still many more are refugees in their<br />

own countries.<br />

Driven out of their homes by ISIS, hundreds of thousands of Christians have lost<br />

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

last two years has been in a derelict building or in even in worn out, threadbare,<br />

burning hot, then freezing cold, tents.<br />

Jeff King, President<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

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

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

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.<br />

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

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

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<br />

apartments to live in (1 Peter 2:11).<br />

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

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.<br />

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,<br />

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<br />

exist and the other is that God has forgotten you and doesn’t love you.<br />

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

and thank Him for the spot you find yourself in.<br />

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<br />

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.<br />

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

reach this point that is close to magic.<br />

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<br />

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

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

As always, your donations will be used efficiently, effectively, and ethically.<br />

I promise!<br />

Jeff King<br />

President<br />

International Christian Concern<br />

www.persecution.org<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

3


News<br />

ISIS Leader Converts to Christianity<br />

after Trying to Kill TV Ministry Worker<br />

1 | MIDDLE EAST According to the Gospel Herald, a<br />

well-known leader from the Islamic State converted to<br />

Christianity after meeting up with a television ministry<br />

worker. The ISIS leader was watching one of Dr. Michael<br />

Youssef’s Christian television programs when he had the<br />

idea to call into the show, with the intention of killing<br />

whoever had the misfortune of picking up the call.<br />

The ISIS leader requested a meet-up with the ministry<br />

worker and, soon enough, the two were face-to-face as the<br />

ministry worker shared the hope of the Gospel. Following<br />

their discussion, the ISIS leader reportedly had a dream in<br />

which God was further revealed to him, confirming the<br />

truth that was discussed during this exchange.<br />

The ISIS leader has since given his life to Christ and<br />

abandoned his ties with radical Islam. Furthermore, upon<br />

a second meeting with the ministry worker, this new<br />

believer revealed his original intentions. Youssef (pictured),<br />

the host of the program, has testified to the man’s<br />

renewed life, referring to him as a “brother in Christ.”<br />

1 6<br />

4<br />

5<br />

2<br />

3<br />

Sudanese Court Frees Imprisoned<br />

Pastor Facing Death Sentence<br />

2 | SUDAN After much prayer and international outcry on<br />

his behalf, Pastor Kuwa Shamaal was recently released<br />

from prison. Pastor Shamaal was imprisoned with three<br />

other Christians who were all held on similar charges such<br />

as espionage, gathering false news, waging war against<br />

the state, and inciting violence. Some of these charges<br />

carry the potential for the death penalty as the maximum<br />

sentence.<br />

Pastor Shamaal was initially arrested on December<br />

18, 2015, but released a few days later before he was<br />

rearrested in May 2016. The international human rights<br />

community has condemned the arrest of Shamaal and the<br />

three other Christians, calling the charges against the men<br />

groundless.<br />

The four men were arrested in connection to a receipt,<br />

which showed that one of the men provided financial support<br />

to assist a Darfuri burn victim who was injured during<br />

2013 demonstrations. The evidence for these charges<br />

is weak and certainly not<br />

grounds for the death penalty<br />

by most standards.<br />

Thankfully, Shamaal was<br />

among a few Christian<br />

leaders who have been<br />

released from prison in<br />

Sudan due to international<br />

pressure in recent years.<br />

At the time of writing,<br />

Pastor Shamaal’s fellow<br />

inmates are still suffering<br />

in prison. ICC, along with<br />

the international community,<br />

continues to pray and<br />

advocate for their release.<br />

7<br />

Teenage Girls<br />

Released<br />

from Prison in<br />

Ethiopia<br />

3 | ETHIOPIA In<br />

the predominantly<br />

Muslim town of<br />

Babile, Ethiopia,<br />

four Christian<br />

teenage girls were<br />

recently released<br />

from prison after<br />

being detained for<br />

sharing their faith<br />

with a group of<br />

Muslim friends.<br />

Word spread about<br />

the religious discussion<br />

to the Muslim<br />

friends’ parents and<br />

eventually reached<br />

the local Muslim<br />

officials. The girls<br />

were taken in for<br />

“painting a bad<br />

image of Islam”<br />

and the prosecutor<br />

initially requested<br />

a jail sentence of 15<br />

years.<br />

Thankfully, the<br />

girls were released<br />

after several months<br />

of complicated court<br />

dealings.<br />

However, family<br />

and friends<br />

are concerned for<br />

the girls’ safety.<br />

Unfortunately, their<br />

concerns are justified<br />

as the girls have<br />

been the targets of<br />

death threats and<br />

threats of mob violence.<br />

While all are<br />

happy that the girls<br />

are no longer behind<br />

bars, there is a long<br />

way to go until they<br />

can return to normalcy.<br />

4 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


St. Mark’s Cathedral — Cairo, Egypt<br />

A nun looks on in the aftermath of a Sunday<br />

morning bombing that killed 28 parishioners,<br />

primarily women and children, on December 11.<br />

Cairo Church Bombing Kills at Least 28<br />

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.<br />

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

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

protest the most devastating attack on Egypt’s Christians in recent years.<br />

Christians Imprisoned for “Witchcraft”<br />

5 | NEPAL Toward the end of 2016, four Christians in<br />

Nepal were sentenced to a five-year prison term under<br />

charges of witchcraft. The charges arose when a mentally<br />

ill woman voluntarily reached out to a church, seeking<br />

assistance. The Christians in the church prayed for healing<br />

for the woman which was the basis for the witchcraft<br />

charge. This is just one of several instances of Christians<br />

being persecuted by the law in Nepal, many of which were<br />

due to Nepal’s new anti-evangelism laws.<br />

Although Nepal is technically a secular nation, the<br />

country is plagued with religious restrictions and Christian<br />

persecution continues to grow, partially due to rising<br />

Hindu nationalism.<br />

Boy Beaten for<br />

Drinking Water<br />

from Mosque<br />

Fountain<br />

6 | PAKISTAN<br />

An online video<br />

recently surfaced<br />

of a Christian boy<br />

in Pakistan being<br />

beaten in public for<br />

drinking water from<br />

a fountain in a public<br />

facility within a local<br />

mosque. The boy<br />

cried out in pain as<br />

he was beaten with<br />

sticks by a group of<br />

Muslim men.<br />

This case is<br />

representative of<br />

countless incidents<br />

where Christians in<br />

Pakistan are treated<br />

as second-class citizens<br />

by the Muslim<br />

majority.<br />

Jakarta Governor Tried for Blasphemy<br />

7 | INDONESIA In December 2016, the trial began<br />

for the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja<br />

Purnama, commonly referred to as “Ahok,” who is on<br />

trial for blasphemy. Ahok initially received backlash<br />

following a speech he delivered, commenting that rival<br />

politicians were misusing the Quran to their political<br />

advantage. In response to the alleged blasphemy, many<br />

Muslims gathered in the streets in protest, with some<br />

calling for legal action and others calling for violence.<br />

Ahok has spoken out to defend himself, saying that it<br />

was never his intention to insult Islam, but rather to<br />

prevent an unfair election by informing Muslim voters<br />

that it was permissible for them to cast a ballot for a non-<br />

Muslim candidate.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

5


News<br />

1<br />

4<br />

3<br />

5<br />

2<br />

6<br />

Massachusetts Pastor Faces Possible<br />

Fine for Overseas Comments on<br />

Homosexuality<br />

1 | UNITED STATES Pastor Scott Lively of Springfield,<br />

Massachusetts, is being sued by a Ugandan LGBT rights<br />

group, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), for comments<br />

that he allegedly made while in their country against<br />

homosexual behavior.<br />

The group alleges that Lively’s speech amounts to<br />

crimes against humanity, asserting that his public remarks<br />

led to violence and discrimination against Uganda’s<br />

LGBT community. They also allege that Lively “conspired”<br />

to persecute LGBT Ugandans.<br />

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel,<br />

a non-profit that is representing Lively, says of the case,<br />

“After 100 hours of depositions and 40,000 pages of documents,<br />

SMUG has no evidence whatsoever connecting<br />

Lively to any act of so-called ‘persecution.’ SMUG has<br />

always claimed it was not trying to hold Lively liable for<br />

his speaking and writing. Yet the more SMUG writes,<br />

the more obvious it becomes that SMUG wants to punish<br />

Lively for his beliefs. This is clearly a vendetta against<br />

Lively for speaking<br />

about homosexuality<br />

and God’s design for<br />

the family in Uganda.”<br />

Liberty Counsel<br />

filed a brief to oppose<br />

this lawsuit in district<br />

court in December of<br />

2016.<br />

The Alien Tort<br />

Statute states that non-<br />

US citizens can bring<br />

suit in US courts for<br />

violations of US laws<br />

overseas. This is the<br />

first time that a suit<br />

has been brought<br />

under the Alien Tort<br />

Statute for persecution<br />

on the basis of sexuality.<br />

If found guilty,<br />

the legal implications<br />

could result in a precedent<br />

of prosecuting<br />

American citizens who<br />

are outspoken about<br />

their beliefs overseas<br />

if opposing entities file<br />

suit.<br />

Although this case<br />

is treading new ground<br />

in its prosecution of<br />

US citizens overseas,<br />

it is part of an ongoing<br />

trend which discriminates<br />

against religious<br />

leaders and business<br />

owners who speak<br />

openly about certain<br />

subjects in a way<br />

that conflicts with the<br />

mainstream media.<br />

Police Offensive<br />

Against Civil<br />

Rights Lawyers<br />

Continues<br />

China Admits to Detaining Activist<br />

2 | CHINA Weeks after Jiang Tianyong mysteriously<br />

went missing, the Chinese government has finally<br />

admitted that they are responsible for his disappearance.<br />

Although it is required by law that authorities<br />

notify the family within 24 hours when someone is<br />

detained, at the time of writing, Jiang’s family has still<br />

yet to receive contact, despite the government’s claims<br />

that they issued two notices. Rather, a state media<br />

report confirmed his detention.<br />

According to the report, Jiang is being held on<br />

charges of “illegally possessing documents classified<br />

as state secrets” and “illegally disseminating state<br />

secrets to overseas [sources].” However, Jiang’s wife<br />

believes that the charges are unfounded and that her<br />

husband was likely tortured into a confession.<br />

Jiang is a widely known human rights advocate<br />

in China who has worked alongside many notable<br />

figures in the field of human rights. Due to Jiang’s<br />

participation in several high-profile cases, Jiang lost<br />

the right to openly practice law nearly a decade ago.<br />

However, not one to be easily deterred, Jiang continued<br />

in his efforts to shed light on China’s abuses by<br />

providing legal counsel to victims of human rights<br />

violations.<br />

This is not the first time that Jiang has disappeared<br />

on account of the Chinese government. He has been<br />

detained at least three times, in 2011, 2012 and 2014,<br />

because of his role in exposing the Chinese government.<br />

6 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Mother of Former Islamic Leader Attacked for Converting<br />

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

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

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<br />

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

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

they leave Islam in Muslim-majority communities.<br />

Youssef Lamei (right) operated his shop in Alexandria, Egypt,<br />

for decades and was known throughout the local community.<br />

Christian Shopkeeper Murdered in Egypt<br />

4 | EGYPT On January 2, Youssef Lamei, a Christian shopkeeper, was<br />

brutally murdered by an Islamic radical outside of his own shop in the<br />

bustling Montazah District of Alexandria, Egypt.<br />

Youssef was known to be both peaceful and accommodating<br />

to local Muslims by closing down his shop during the month of<br />

Ramadan and the five daily Muslim prayers. However, this did not<br />

prevent his attacker from yelling out “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”)<br />

and slitting his throat while Youssef’s son was inside the shop.<br />

The man responsible for the attack was arrested and taken into<br />

police custody two days later.<br />

A nurse treats one of the many Christians injured by Hindu<br />

radicals who attacked believers during Christmas celebrations.<br />

Christians Attacked Celebrating Christmas<br />

5 | INDIA In the weeks leading up to Christmas, two separate groups<br />

of Christians were attacked by suspected Hindu radicals while celebrating<br />

the holiday. During the first attack, 30 Christians were gathered<br />

in a home, singing Christmas carols, when radicals stormed into the<br />

home and began beating them. Furthermore, the attackers accused the<br />

Christians of forcing conversions during their celebrations. In a similar<br />

attack, 20 Christians in another village were ambushed by radicals<br />

who began beating them with wooden clubs. Several of the Christians<br />

involved in the attacks were forced to go to the hospital as a result of<br />

their injuries.<br />

Two Injured in Philippines Church Bombing<br />

6 | PHILIPPINES On November 27, an improvised explosive device (IED)<br />

detonated at the entrance of Our Lady of Hope Church in the Philippines as<br />

congregants were leaving after Sunday mass. The IED was triggered remotely<br />

through a cellphone detonator. The service during which the attack took place<br />

was the first Sunday of the Advent celebration.<br />

Much of the explosion was deflected by a car which happened to be parked<br />

in front of the church at the time, undoubtedly saving many churchgoers from<br />

injury. However, even with the protection provided by the parked car, two<br />

people were injured during the attack and were taken to a local hospital.<br />

Although the Philippines is relatively peaceful on the global scale of persecution,<br />

this act of terrorism is cause for concern for the local Christian community.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

An IED explosion during a Sunday mass in the<br />

Philippines raises concerns for Christians.<br />

7


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

Displaced Iraqi<br />

Christian Opens<br />

Copy Shop<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

A<br />

fter ISIS attacked Qeraqosh in<br />

2014, militants forced thousands of<br />

Christians to flee. Many are still struggling<br />

to survive, as they have been unable to find<br />

work. ICC has assisted numerous families<br />

by starting small businesses, allowing them<br />

to achieve a sustainable income to provide<br />

for themselves and their families.<br />

Samer lives with his wife, 18-year-old<br />

daughter, and 16-year-old son. They fled<br />

Qeraqosh in June 2014 when ISIS attacked<br />

for the first time. They returned to Qeraqosh<br />

after three days and stayed there from June<br />

until August, living in constant fear. Life<br />

was very difficult for the family. They had<br />

to sleep on the house’s rooftop because there<br />

was no electricity, and water was limited<br />

until the community dug wells.<br />

On August 6, 2014, the family fled from<br />

Qeraqosh for the final time to Akre in the<br />

Kurdistan region. They stayed in a church<br />

hall for a year before moving to Erbil, Iraq.<br />

In the year since moving to Erbil, Samer has<br />

been unable to find a sustainable source of<br />

income. ICC funded a microfinance project<br />

to help Samer establish a copy business that<br />

he can operate outside of a local library.<br />

Samer’s son accompanied his father and<br />

ICC to purchase the equipment because he<br />

is very familiar with technology. They carefully<br />

found the lowest prices and were able<br />

to purchase the supplies in one day. Supplies<br />

included a laminator, camera, laptop, photocopiers,<br />

a color printer, generator, and extra<br />

batteries.<br />

The shop will help Samer support his family<br />

and send his children to school.<br />

Many displaced Christians in Iraq desire<br />

to return home, but continued fighting<br />

between the government and ISIS has<br />

restricted their movement home. Even if<br />

they are able to return home, the destruction<br />

will be catastrophic. ICC continues searching<br />

for ways to support Iraqi Christians<br />

upon their return.<br />

8 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Beds for Korean<br />

Students<br />

Suffering Wives & Children<br />

J<br />

angdaehyun School is a Christian boarding<br />

school for North Korean (NK) defector<br />

students and South Korean students who are<br />

interested in the reunification of Korea. The<br />

students had been using old bunk beds that<br />

were donated by a former school principal.<br />

They had been experiencing difficulty sleeping<br />

on the worn down beds.<br />

When ICC heard about the needs of<br />

these students, we immediately took action<br />

by donating 12 bunk beds to the school.<br />

These beds were purchased and delivered in<br />

September 2016. All of the students excitedly<br />

helped to set them up.<br />

Many of these students come from broken<br />

families and have had traumatic experiences<br />

while escaping from North Korea. However,<br />

with the assistance of the boarding school<br />

and the donation from ICC, the students can<br />

enjoy more comfortable living conditions in a<br />

Christian environment.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

More Radios for<br />

Fulani Victims<br />

Community Rebuilding<br />

I<br />

n the last few years, several rural communities<br />

along the Jos Plateau in Nigeria have<br />

been brutally attacked by Fulani terrorists.<br />

Most of these attacks take place late at night in<br />

Christian communities, which usually results<br />

in the destruction of the victims’ property and<br />

the killing of their Christian family members.<br />

ICC was made aware of these incidents and a<br />

local representative was sent to investigate the<br />

situation and provide assistance. In mid-2016,<br />

20 sets of Baofeng walkie-talkie radios were<br />

purchased in the US and shipped to Nigeria and<br />

were then delivered to the villagers. The radios<br />

were so effective, ICC purchased a second<br />

round for additional communities.<br />

A radio training session was given to the representatives<br />

of each village on how to operate<br />

the radios which was followed by a trial run.<br />

The Christian villagers are now able to<br />

notify and warn each other of any approaching<br />

terrorist threats.<br />

Small Business<br />

for Survivors<br />

Suffering Wives & Children<br />

O<br />

n <strong>March</strong> 27, 2016, a suicide bomber<br />

attacked Gulshan e-Iqbal Park in<br />

Lahore, Pakistan. The bomber detonated a few<br />

meters away from one of the busiest sections<br />

of the park, the children’s swings. That day,<br />

many Christian families were gathered at the<br />

park to celebrate Easter. The explosion killed<br />

21 Christians and seriously injured another 45.<br />

Many families still struggle to survive, having<br />

lost their breadwinner to either death or injury.<br />

In April, ICC provided short-term aid to<br />

41 bombing victims, including food packages,<br />

transportation money for travel to and<br />

from the hospital, and a year of schooling for<br />

children who lost siblings in the explosion.<br />

Several families, however, needed longerterm<br />

assistance. ICC recently purchased autorickshaws<br />

for four families and shop supplies<br />

for another family. Despite the debilitating<br />

injuries, these Christian families now have a<br />

stable source of income for the future.<br />

9


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

New Textile<br />

Business Helps<br />

Vietnamese<br />

Refugees in<br />

Thailand<br />

Hand of Hope<br />

V<br />

ietnamese Christians face incarceration,<br />

torture, and execution in their<br />

land because of their religion; thus, they are<br />

forced to flee and seek asylum in neighboring<br />

countries so that they can freely practice<br />

their religion. However, these same Christian<br />

refugees seeking asylum in Thailand also<br />

experience discrimination from the Royal<br />

Thai Government, especially in Bangkok,<br />

Thailand. Even though these victims are recognized<br />

as refugees by the United Nations<br />

High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),<br />

they are seen and treated as illegal immigrants<br />

as they are denied the ability to work and sent<br />

to prison if they do find work. This situation<br />

has made it difficult for persecuted Christians<br />

in the area to live since they are not able to<br />

return home because of their religion and they<br />

are not being allowed to support their families<br />

in a new country.<br />

ICC was made aware of the situation these<br />

Hmong refugees were facing as foreigners<br />

and persecuted Christians, and decided to support<br />

these vulnerable families by empowering<br />

their women. ICC partnered with Boat People<br />

SOS (BPSOS) and a project was developed to<br />

help the refugees earn a stable income without<br />

the fear of being threatened, persecuted,<br />

or incarcerated. As a result, a group of 15<br />

Hmong Christian women are now able to use<br />

their artistic sewing skills to develop products<br />

that they can sell to the public, giving them<br />

the ability to provide for their families in an<br />

otherwise difficult situation.<br />

This project entailed the purchase of sewing<br />

machines for each of the registered women,<br />

the purchase of raw materials, the rent for a<br />

safe space for them to work, and the transportation<br />

of the finished goods to their corresponding<br />

selling locations. In addition to the<br />

goods purchased and produced, the women<br />

also received training on how to use the<br />

equipment, how to sell the goods, and the<br />

logistics of their production. Currently, these<br />

women are making and selling T-shirts with<br />

embroidered pocket designs, canvas bags with<br />

handmade designs, pillows, notebooks with<br />

henna designs, and Christmas decorations.<br />

Furthermore, all profits from the sales of these<br />

handmade products go back to benefit the<br />

women, which helps them to generate income<br />

and strengthen their self-worth as Christian<br />

women who are able to contribute to the<br />

financial support of their families.<br />

ICC’s partners have witnessed great success<br />

in the implementation of this project and<br />

they expect to have more Hmong Christian<br />

women registered into the program in the<br />

coming months. ICC hopes to contribute and<br />

help more Hmong families in the upcoming<br />

projects as well because these Christian victims<br />

are seeking freedom and protection in a<br />

foreign land where they have found hostility<br />

instead.<br />

This type of support and empowerment can<br />

only be accomplished through God’s provision<br />

by allowing donors to contribute to such<br />

causes that impact the persecuted Christian<br />

community. Persecuted Christians are continually<br />

encouraged and strengthened through<br />

our prayers and generosity.<br />

10 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Your Dollar$ at Work<br />

Food Aid to Joy in Jesus Church<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

O<br />

n <strong>March</strong> 23, 2014, three gunmen covering their faces in balaclavas (face masks) attacked<br />

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

were injured. Although the perpetrators were never linked directly with any of the known terrorist<br />

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

When ICC learned about the incident, we immediately responded by sending a local representative<br />

to investigate the situation and provide assistance to the victims. We then purchased<br />

several food packages and delivered them to six families that were directly affected by the<br />

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

discover any other struggles that these victims were facing.<br />

Thanks to generous donors, ICC was able to respond and serve these brothers and sisters in<br />

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

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

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

other persecuted Christians in the community.<br />

Providing Relief for Yazidi IDPs<br />

Community Rebuild<br />

I<br />

SIS militants have victimized many Christians and other religious minorities across Iraq.<br />

Among those communities, Yazidis are the most severely targeted by ISIS. The systematic<br />

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

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

men caught by ISIS are immediately executed. ISIS fighters also take Yazidi women and girls<br />

as prizes of war, rape them, and force them into sexual slavery.<br />

As a result of ISIS attacks, thousands of Yazidis have become internally displaced persons<br />

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

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

JHK representatives used ICC’s funds to purchase relief packages containing necessities such<br />

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

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

attention to sing their favorite songs, play games, and embrace the volunteers.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Attacked Pastors Receive Bibles<br />

Bibles to the Persecuted<br />

I<br />

n the Jhabua District of Madhya Pradesh, India, pastors experience extreme persecution in<br />

the form of beatings, vandalism, and the destruction of Christian literature, especially Bibles.<br />

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

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

and more villagers are becoming Christians, pastors need the appropriate tools to help new<br />

believers develop their faith.<br />

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

and further their ministry. They overwhelmingly stressed the importance of the replacement of<br />

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

determine the appropriate translation for the pastors and then purchased 240 Bibles. The Bibles<br />

were distributed among the eight pastors who have since given them to Christian families<br />

throughout their villages.<br />

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

to remain faithful through persecution.<br />

11


est<br />

atch<br />

FFRF Wants Polling Places Out of Houses of Worship<br />

The Freedom From Religion Foundation<br />

(FFRF) has now issued complaints to<br />

two municipalities, Palm Beach County,<br />

Florida, and Washington County, Arkansas,<br />

stating that polling locations located in houses<br />

of worship may influence votes and cause<br />

non-religious voters to feel uncomfortable.<br />

The group requested that the counties move<br />

their polling locations to secular locations.<br />

The complaint stated, “As our country<br />

becomes more religiously diverse, Christian<br />

images and iconography are increasingly<br />

seen by man as symbols of political intimidation.<br />

Selecting churches as polling places<br />

can serve to unduly influence voters to vote<br />

in a particular way that they might not otherwise.<br />

This is especially true if the voters<br />

themselves are promoting or demonizing a<br />

particular side of an issue.” The complaint<br />

continued to say that viewing religious displays<br />

may cause voters to feel like outsiders<br />

in their polling places. It is not clear whether<br />

either county replied to the demands of the<br />

FFRF or acquiesced to their demands.<br />

Atheist Group FFRF Urged<br />

Trump to Scrub References<br />

to God from Inauguration<br />

The atheist activist group Freedom<br />

From Religion Foundation (FFRF)<br />

issued a plea to President Donald Trump<br />

prior to his inauguration, asking him<br />

to remove any Christian elements from<br />

his inauguration in January. In addition<br />

to requesting the removal of the prayer<br />

portion of the ceremony, the group also<br />

requested that he remove the words “so<br />

help me God” from the traditional inaugural<br />

oath.<br />

The group’s complaint stated, “The ‘so<br />

help me God’ tradition violates the spirit<br />

of our secular Constitution in the very act<br />

of promising to uphold it. The Constitution<br />

prohibits rather than mandates religious<br />

oaths. In its altered, religious form, the oath<br />

has become a symbol of the disregard many<br />

in our nation have shown for our secular<br />

constitutional principles. Reciting the presidential<br />

oath in its original form would be<br />

an important symbolic step toward divorcing<br />

American politics from religion.”<br />

It is unknown whether there was any<br />

response from Trump’s transition team.<br />

Georgia Pastor Refuses to Turn Over Sermons to Government<br />

I<br />

n 2014, Dr. Eric Walsh was fired from<br />

his position at the Georgia Department<br />

of Public Health after sermons he had previously<br />

delivered surfaced, which included a<br />

traditional Christian view of sexuality. When<br />

the state was made aware of these sermons,<br />

it demanded that Dr. Walsh submit all of his<br />

sermons and notes dating back to when he<br />

was just 18 years of age.<br />

He has since refused to comply with this<br />

order and the Family Research Council has<br />

created a petition in support, which states,<br />

“I stand with Dr. Eric Walsh’s freedom to<br />

believe and live according to his deeplyheld<br />

beliefs. The demand that he hand over<br />

his sermons, sermon notes, and all pastoral<br />

documents including his Bible represents a<br />

S<br />

tudent choirs from Wake County, North<br />

Carolina, were forbidden from participating<br />

in the yearly Nativity performances<br />

this year following a complaint from the<br />

Freedom From Religion Foundation. The<br />

complaint stated that the choirs’ exclusive<br />

focus on a Christian holiday was unconstitutional<br />

as it would be an endorsement of a<br />

single religion. The county acquiesced, banning<br />

the choirs from participating.<br />

The complaint stated, “The whole purpose<br />

of the event is to display and honor<br />

nativity scenes, which highlight an exclusively<br />

Christian aspect of the holiday season,<br />

rather than a secular Christmas celebration.<br />

Students are intentionally brought to the<br />

government intrusion into the sanctity of the<br />

church, pastor’s study, and pulpit.”<br />

The petition has amassed approximately<br />

40,000 signatures.<br />

School Choirs Banned from Nativity Celebrations<br />

church to be exposed to hundreds of depictions<br />

of the Christian legend of Jesus’ birth.”<br />

A school district spokesman stated, “No<br />

one was particularly happy with the outcome<br />

of this. Some schools had been participating<br />

for several years.”<br />

12 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Atheist Group Seeks Ban on<br />

Shoebox Gifts to Children<br />

T<br />

he<br />

atheist group American Humanist<br />

Association (AHA) has been working<br />

since 2014 to end the ministry of<br />

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of<br />

Samaritan’s Purse that provides gifts and<br />

the Gospel during the Christmas season to<br />

the children of developing countries. The<br />

lawsuit was filed in 2014 and the decision<br />

appealed in February 2016. The AHA’s lawsuit<br />

states that public school children should<br />

not participate, as it is a violation of the US<br />

Constitution’s Establishment Clause.<br />

“As taxpaying citizens with children in the<br />

school district, these families object to their<br />

schools supporting the efforts of Christian<br />

missions to convert children in developing<br />

countries. Pressuring students to participate<br />

in religious programs in their public schools<br />

flies in the face of the separation of church<br />

and state that the Establishment Clause<br />

demands,” the lawsuit stated.<br />

A spokesman from Samaritan’s Purse<br />

stated, “Operation Christmas Child welcomes<br />

anyone to participate in this annual<br />

Christmas project for children in need<br />

around the world. We do not make determinations<br />

on individuals or groups that do<br />

or do not choose to participate each year.”<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

Sam Alito: Religious Freedom<br />

May be In Greater Danger<br />

than Free Speech<br />

I<br />

n<br />

a recent speech at the Federalist<br />

Society’s national convention of lawyers<br />

in Washington D.C., US Supreme Court<br />

Justice Samuel Alito stated his belief that<br />

religious freedom might be “in greater danger”<br />

than the right to free speech.<br />

In his remarks, he commented on a specific<br />

case in Washington State that was<br />

appealed to the Supreme Court in which<br />

a pharmacy was required to provide abortifacient<br />

drugs despite their religious convictions<br />

against such prescriptions by a<br />

state law. The law allowed for pharmacies<br />

to make referrals to other pharmacies for<br />

numerous reasons except religious protections.<br />

The ensuing lawsuit was heard by the<br />

US Court for the Ninth Circuit which unanimously<br />

required the pharmacy to stock the<br />

abortifacient. The case was then appealed<br />

to the Supreme Court in which a majority<br />

of justices refused to hear the case, meaning<br />

the circuit court’s opinion stands.<br />

Alito went on to explain that the pharmacy<br />

was willing to refer clients to other<br />

pharmacies for these drugs, but that there is<br />

“strong evidence” that the law was crafted<br />

to “rid the state of those troublesome pharmacists<br />

who objected to these drugs on<br />

religious grounds.”<br />

Commander Under Fire for<br />

Stating Jesus’ Influence<br />

T<br />

he<br />

Military Religious Freedom<br />

Foundation (MRFF) recently issued a<br />

letter of complaint demanding that an Air<br />

Force commander receive punishment for<br />

stating that his faith in Jesus Christ affects<br />

his decision-making capabilities.<br />

The Incirlik Air Base in Turkey published<br />

the interview of Air Force Lt. Col. Michael<br />

Kersten. When asked about his influences,<br />

Lt. Col. Kersten replied, “As a Christian,<br />

my example is to be like Christ. He is my<br />

guide and affects all of my decisions. He<br />

teaches to do all things as unto the Lord, and<br />

I believe this is synonymous with integrity<br />

first and excellence in all we do.”<br />

The complaint asserts that Kersten violated<br />

military rules and “willfully and definitively<br />

violated [Air Force Instruction] 1-1<br />

with his sectarian Christian proselytizing<br />

statement.” An Air Force official responded<br />

that they uphold service members’ rights to<br />

practice their religion, yet the MRFF has<br />

now submitted a second complaint. The Air<br />

Force has not responded as yet.<br />

Court Ruling to Remove<br />

Ten Commandments Upheld<br />

A<br />

n<br />

appeals court hearing upheld a lower<br />

court order to remove a monument<br />

containing the Ten Commandments on the<br />

property of city hall in the New Mexico<br />

city of Bloomfield City. The appeals court<br />

ruled that the display is an unconstitutional<br />

endorsement of Christianity by the local<br />

government, stating, “Bloomfield has not<br />

undertaken sufficiently purposeful, public,<br />

and persuasive actions to secularize the<br />

monument’s previous ‘principal or primary’<br />

religious message. The city has never<br />

explicitly said this monument was not for<br />

religious purposes, nor that it was exhibited<br />

only for its historical significance.”<br />

The monument was erected in 2011 following<br />

the passage of a resolution allowing<br />

private citizens to place historical displays<br />

at the city hall. The monument was proposed<br />

by a former city council member four<br />

years prior, approved by the city council,<br />

and paid for with private dollars.<br />

13


HERO<br />

ON THE HILL<br />

ICC interviews a nineteen-term<br />

congressman and champion of<br />

international religious freedom on<br />

why he fights for the persecuted.<br />

By Nate Lance<br />

Congressman<br />

Chris Smith (NJ)<br />

This is the first<br />

article in a<br />

new quarterly<br />

series ICC is<br />

launching in<br />

<strong>Persecution</strong><br />

magazine to<br />

highlight the<br />

work of members of Congress<br />

or government personnel from<br />

across the political spectrum who<br />

are making exceptional efforts on<br />

behalf of the persecuted Church.<br />

These “Heroes on the Hill”<br />

often serve the persecuted for<br />

years without public recognition,<br />

yet all over the world prisoners<br />

of faith are set free and persecutors<br />

are held to account because<br />

of their courage to speak and act<br />

on behalf of religious minorities.<br />

Rep. Chris Smith has served<br />

the state of New Jersey for<br />

more than 30 years since his<br />

election to the US Congress in<br />

1981. Driven by his faith, he<br />

has for decades been a leader<br />

on issues of human rights and<br />

religious liberty. He is the chairman<br />

of the Global Human Rights<br />

Subcommittee as well as the<br />

co-chairman of the Commission<br />

on Security and Cooperation in<br />

Europe and the Congressional-<br />

Executive Commission on China.<br />

He is also incredibly active on<br />

Capitol Hill and is “tied for second”<br />

out of 435 members of the<br />

House for authoring bills which<br />

become law. His dedication was<br />

instrumental in getting the US<br />

government to declare acts by<br />

ISIS against Christians and other<br />

religious minorities in Iraq and<br />

Syria a genocide, and he has<br />

recently been working to pass the<br />

Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief<br />

and Accountability Act to provide<br />

aid to the affected area.<br />

What sparked your passion<br />

for helping persecuted<br />

Christians around the<br />

world?<br />

There is no doubt it comes from<br />

my own faith. I’m a Catholic.<br />

I’m a strong believer. I believe<br />

in the importance of working<br />

with Evangelicals and across<br />

the spectrum of Christianity and<br />

other faiths. I got very involved<br />

with combatting anti-Semitism<br />

during my first term and then<br />

I read a couple books. I read<br />

Tortured for Christ by Richard<br />

Wurmbrand, which was a strong<br />

Congressman Smith visits with Christian families during<br />

a recent trip to Erbil, Iraq.<br />

14 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


“ICC is an effective advocate for the persecuted Church; they make<br />

sure the voiceless have a voice in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. I<br />

have been honored to work with them for several decades to protect<br />

the fundamental right of religious liberty. Sadly, there is so much<br />

more work still left to do; people of faith and goodwill cannot rest as<br />

we seek to address the immense challenges facing Christians around<br />

the world today.”<br />

– CONGRESSMAN CHRIS SMITH OF NEW JERSEY<br />

appeal for people in the West<br />

to speak out for the persecuted<br />

Christian. I also read God’s<br />

Smuggler by Brother Andrew,<br />

who fearlessly smuggled Bibles<br />

into the former Soviet Union.<br />

Are there any specific areas<br />

you are especially concerned<br />

about?<br />

I just returned from a trip<br />

to Erbil, where some 70,000<br />

Christians and some Yazidis have<br />

escaped ISIS. [The Christians<br />

there] are wonderful people who<br />

love Christ and are really committed<br />

to their faith, but have<br />

been inadequately served by the<br />

Obama administration and by<br />

the international community at<br />

large… That has to change.<br />

For three years I’ve chaired<br />

nine congressional hearings; the<br />

tenth I’ll hold in early <strong>2017</strong> to<br />

say that they need humanitarian<br />

assistance right now. They do<br />

get some from private charities,<br />

but it’s not enough.<br />

Secondly, we need to hold the<br />

perpetrators of these terrible<br />

atrocities to account…we’ve<br />

held ad hoc tribunals in the<br />

past and that needs to be set up<br />

immediately.<br />

And third is to provide refugees<br />

a category called P2 status.<br />

Currently, Christians are not<br />

given the interview necessary<br />

to relocate to the United States.<br />

What a gross oversight that is!<br />

And yet, it’s the reality on the<br />

ground, so there’s no durable<br />

solution for them if they want to<br />

go back. Many want to go back,<br />

but as we’re seeing increasingly,<br />

it is not safe to go back, especially<br />

in the near time, so the<br />

safety valve would be for some<br />

to come to the United States.<br />

This legislation would give them<br />

the necessary interview to come<br />

here.<br />

Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, of<br />

course ISIS, all of these radical<br />

Islamist groups pose an<br />

existential threat to Christians<br />

in particular, but also to pious<br />

Muslims. And I’ve actually been<br />

to places like Jos, Nigeria, where<br />

Boko Haram has gone on killing<br />

sprees, blowing up churches,<br />

and taking full credit for it… and<br />

literally dragging people out<br />

and killing them if they refuse to<br />

convert from Christianity…<br />

The other big existential<br />

threats are the communists in<br />

China. If anyone thinks that<br />

China [is no longer] a gross<br />

cruel dictatorship [and not] a<br />

democracy, they need to have<br />

their head examined! They have<br />

gotten worse under Xi Jinping.<br />

He is in a race to the bottom with<br />

North Korea when it comes to a<br />

myriad of human rights abuses<br />

including religious freedom…<br />

Believers are singled out, even<br />

those [in] the officially recognized<br />

Three Self Movement.<br />

Looking Forward<br />

ICC concluded the interview by<br />

thanking Congressman Smith for<br />

his efforts and discussing future<br />

initiatives with his staff. Sadly,<br />

members like Congressman<br />

Smith who do consistent work on<br />

behalf of the persecuted are few<br />

and far between.<br />

If you live in the US and would<br />

like your congressman to get<br />

involved, call his or her office<br />

and ask them to reach out to<br />

International Christian Concern!<br />

National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol<br />

features statues of prominent Americans.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

15


ICC’S<br />

THE BRIDGE<br />

THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE ON THE PERSECUTED CHURCH<br />

THE CHURCH, GOVERNMENT LEADERS, & NGOS<br />

UNITING TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF THE PERSECUTED<br />

JUNE 2-3, <strong>2017</strong><br />

Breaking the Chains of<br />

North Korea<br />

Saddleback Church<br />

Los Angeles, CA<br />

www.thepersecutionconference.org<br />

www.thepersecutionconference.org


The Bridge is an annual conference for the persecuted<br />

Church where the Church, government leaders, nongovernmental<br />

organizations (NGOs), and ministries unite<br />

to break the chains of the persecuted.<br />

This year, we will focus on the prison state of North<br />

Korea (DPRK). The incredible increase in high-level DPRK<br />

defectors, along with the massive stream of news from<br />

the outside world flowing into North Korea, represent<br />

cracks in the foundation of the prison state. We<br />

are calling the Church together to pray, and<br />

to also work proactively with NGOs<br />

and the US government,<br />

to bring down the<br />

world’s evil<br />

regime.<br />

For the latest info:<br />

www.thepersecutionconference.org<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

17


Victory<br />

in the Midst of <strong>Persecution</strong><br />

A recent judgment in favor of two Christians accused of<br />

blasphemy in Pakistan provides a small, yet complicated,<br />

ray of hope for Pakistan’s Christian community.<br />

By William Stark<br />

“<br />

At 6:00 a.m. I heard my<br />

brother and wife crying<br />

out as they were dragged<br />

out of their house near<br />

the brick kiln by their<br />

hair,” Iqbal Masih told<br />

International Christian<br />

Concern (ICC). “In<br />

about 15 or 20 minutes,<br />

a mob of thousands had<br />

gathered at the brick kiln, shouting that they wanted<br />

to kill my brother and his wife.”<br />

In November 2014, Pakistan’s Christian community<br />

witnessed one of the most brutal instances of persecution<br />

in recent memory at a brick kiln located in<br />

Kot Radha Kishan. The violence that came to shock<br />

both the nation of Pakistan and the international community<br />

was, as is often the case, sparked by the country’s<br />

notorious blasphemy laws and is often referred<br />

to as the Kot Radha Kishan case or incident.<br />

Motivating this murderous mob was the rumored<br />

accusation that Shehzad Masih (Iqbal’s younger<br />

brother) and his wife burned pages of the Quran,<br />

an act widely considered blasphemous in Pakistan.<br />

Unfortunately, for Shehzad and his wife, extrajudicial<br />

killings of those accused of blasphemy are all too<br />

common. In fact, more than 60 individuals have been<br />

murdered after being accused of blasphemy since the<br />

18 PERSECU ION.org<br />

MARCH <strong>2017</strong><br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN


Kot Radha Kishan has become<br />

infamous in Pakistan as the scene of<br />

one of the country’s most brutal and<br />

shocking instances of persecution<br />

— a couple beaten and burned alive<br />

at the city’s brick kiln by a mob of<br />

thousands.<br />

PERSECU ION.org<br />

INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

19


A Small, Complicated Victory<br />

In rare form, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan<br />

convicted 13 men for the brick kiln murders two<br />

years after the incident. Five were sentenced to<br />

death for their role in inciting a mob via mosque<br />

loudspeakers.<br />

laws were added to the country’s penal code.<br />

“They stoned Shehzad and his wife, then<br />

they broke their legs and beat them until they<br />

were unconscious,” Masih told ICC. “The<br />

mob put them over holes on top of the brick<br />

kiln where the flames were coming out. They<br />

were so badly beaten that they were unable to<br />

get away from the flames.”<br />

Both Pakistan and the international community<br />

were shocked by these brutal murders and<br />

many of those involved, especially the local<br />

religious clerics who had stoked the mob’s<br />

rage using sound systems at local mosques,<br />

were quickly arrested.<br />

Following the arrests, many Christians,<br />

including members of the victims’ family, did<br />

not believe justice would be done in this case<br />

because of the religious identity of the victims<br />

and the rumored blasphemy accusation. Often,<br />

cases against individuals or groups accused<br />

of attacking religious minorities drag on at<br />

a glacial pace. In the meantime, the accused<br />

perpetrators are released on bail and allowed<br />

to harass the religious minorities bringing the<br />

charges until they are dropped.<br />

This unfortunate truth is exemplified in<br />

the results of the case against those accused<br />

of burning down Joseph Colony, a Christian<br />

neighborhood in Lahore. Despite a wealth of<br />

photo and video evidence showing individuals<br />

engaged in the attack and destruction of Joseph<br />

Colony, many of the accused have been either<br />

acquitted or released on bail as the trial drags<br />

on. This stands in stark contrast to the speedy<br />

conviction and death sentence handed down<br />

to the Christian individual whose blasphemy<br />

accusation initially set off the riot.<br />

Fortunately, in the case of the brick kiln<br />

murders, the family’s doubts in Pakistan’s justice<br />

system were proven wrong. On November<br />

23, 2016, over two years after the murders,<br />

an anti-terrorism court officially sentenced<br />

13 men connected with the violence. Of<br />

those, five were sentenced to death, including<br />

Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor,<br />

Muhammad Hanif, and Hafiz Ishtiaq, a local<br />

prayer leader. The harsh punishments were<br />

given to these five individuals specifically<br />

for their hand in making announcements over<br />

mosque loudspeakers that incited the mob that<br />

attacked and killed the Christian couple.<br />

According to the Express Tribune, the convictions<br />

handed down in November represented<br />

the first time a case of such nature has been<br />

decided in the favor of a religious minority in<br />

Pakistan, whether it be a Christian, Hindu, or<br />

Ahmadi.<br />

“Civil society has been very consistent<br />

on monitoring the developments of the Kot<br />

Radha Kishan incident and the resulting judgment<br />

that has come,” Peter Jacob, Executive<br />

Director at the Center for Social Justice told<br />

ICC. “There wasn’t a big response to the judgment<br />

because it involved death sentences for<br />

five people, but it was generally welcome that<br />

justice in some form had been done.”<br />

When asked how this case was decided in<br />

favor of religious minorities, Jacob credited<br />

both Pakistan’s Supreme Court and vigilant<br />

civil society.<br />

“This judgment has come after the intervention<br />

made at the Supreme Court level. The<br />

court at district level was able to deliver this<br />

judgment because there was oversight by the<br />

Supreme Court and civil society did not stop<br />

monitoring.”<br />

Despite the eventual victory the Kot Radha<br />

Kishan judgment represents, these sort of<br />

victories are often complicated for Pakistan’s<br />

Christian community. Months after the murder<br />

of Shehzad and his wife, a branch of the<br />

Pakistani Taliban bombed two churches in<br />

Youhanabad, a Christian-majority neighborhood<br />

in Lahore. Following these <strong>March</strong> 2015<br />

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ombings, Christians poured<br />

into the streets in protest,<br />

enraged by the bloody scenes<br />

at their churches.<br />

In the midst of the protests,<br />

two Muslims rumored<br />

to be involved in the church<br />

bombings were lynched and<br />

killed by the Christians. In the<br />

weeks that followed, police<br />

arrested over 100 Christians<br />

from Youhanabad, often for<br />

little more than their identity<br />

as Christians from the<br />

neighborhood. Following<br />

the arrests, reports of torture<br />

by police seeking to hone<br />

in on the identities of those<br />

involved in the lynching were<br />

common.<br />

The Kot Radha Kishan<br />

judgment has spread fear<br />

among many of the Christian<br />

families of those accused of<br />

the Youhanabad lynching<br />

because they feel that their<br />

loved ones will also be sentenced<br />

to death, regardless<br />

of the evidence, in a sort of<br />

tit-for-tat judicial maneuver<br />

to satisfy both Pakistan’s<br />

Muslim and Christian communities.<br />

“We are worried for our<br />

children when we<br />

think and listen about<br />

the convictions in the<br />

Kot Radha Kishan<br />

case,” Sugran Bibi,<br />

mother of one of the<br />

accused, told ICC.<br />

“My son was not<br />

present at the lynching,”<br />

Bibi continued.<br />

“The police arrested<br />

him from home<br />

seven months after<br />

the incident. Almost<br />

two years have<br />

passed and we don’t<br />

see any hope of our child<br />

returning home.”<br />

Regardless of the implications<br />

the Kot Radha<br />

Kishan judgment has for<br />

the Christians accused of<br />

the Youhanabad lynching,<br />

it should still be marked<br />

as a victory for Pakistani<br />

Christians.<br />

For Christians living in<br />

Pakistan, change comes<br />

slowly and is often complicated.<br />

Consistently ranked<br />

among the most persecuted<br />

Christians in the world,<br />

officially ranked fourth on<br />

Open Door’s World Watch<br />

“We are worried<br />

for our children<br />

when we think<br />

... about the<br />

convictions in the<br />

Kot Radha Kishan<br />

case.”<br />

– MOTHER OF IMPRISONED SON<br />

List, the lives of Pakistani<br />

Christians are widely<br />

defined by the discrimination<br />

and injustice they<br />

endure because of their faith.<br />

Amidst the intense persecution<br />

and discrimination of<br />

Christians in Pakistan, a ray<br />

of hope came out of one of<br />

Pakistan’s most hot-button<br />

issues, the country’s blasphemy<br />

laws. It is small and<br />

complicated victories like<br />

this that will eventually start<br />

to turn the tide for Pakistan’s<br />

Christians and may someday<br />

promise a brighter and<br />

freer future.<br />

Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, Pakistan, that was<br />

burned to the ground, stands as a stark reminder of the continued injustice<br />

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

acquitted over 100 suspects charged with perpetrating this act on “insufficient<br />

evidence,” despite ample photographs and video footage of the event.<br />

Asia Bibi<br />

In June 2009, Asia Bibi was<br />

accused by Muslim coworkers of<br />

blaspheming against the prophet<br />

Muhammad. As is often the case,<br />

this false accusation was made<br />

against Asia to settle a personal<br />

score following a dispute between<br />

Asia and her coworkers over the<br />

use of a watering bowl.<br />

Although false, the blasphemy<br />

accusation came to radically<br />

change both Asia’s life as an individual<br />

and Pakistan as a nation.<br />

In 2010, Asia was formally sentenced<br />

to death by the Session’s<br />

Court in District Nankana, Punjab.<br />

In October 2014, the Lahore High<br />

Court confirmed Asia’s death sentence.<br />

In July 2015, Pakistan’s<br />

Supreme Court decided to review<br />

Asia’s death sentence, but then<br />

indefinitely adjourned on October<br />

13, 2016, after one of the justices<br />

recused himself from the case.<br />

Widely considered the most<br />

famous case of blasphemy, Asia’s<br />

case has seen many dramatic<br />

moments including the assassination<br />

of two major government<br />

officials advocating on behalf of<br />

Asia. It remains to be seen what<br />

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will do<br />

with Asia’s case, but there is hope<br />

that one day she will be released.<br />

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21


Home at Last<br />

ICC completes construction of homes for 10<br />

displaced Iraqi Christian families living in<br />

tents for two years.<br />

One of the families’ tents<br />

that they lived in for two<br />

years after fleeing ISIS<br />

violence.<br />

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Top Left: One of the tents that<br />

families lived in for two years<br />

after fleeing ISIS violence.<br />

Bottom Left: A family that ICC<br />

has followed for the past year<br />

shows appreciation for their new<br />

home - a permanent structure on a<br />

church’s property.<br />

Below: After two years of living<br />

in tents on a church’s property,<br />

Christian families began moving<br />

into the newly constructed<br />

homes just before Christmas and<br />

the first snow.<br />

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23


Indonesia is a country with great<br />

ethnic and religious diversity. It is<br />

the world’s most populous Muslim<br />

nation. In fact, 90 percent of its<br />

250 million citizens are Muslim.<br />

At the constitutional level,<br />

Indonesia has created a framework<br />

guaranteeing freedom of religion<br />

for all government-recognized religions:<br />

Islam, Christianity, Hinduism,<br />

Buddhism, Confucianism, and Judaism. Followers<br />

of these religions, according to national laws,<br />

should be able to freely practice their religion.<br />

If you only examine the surface, you will come<br />

to the conclusion that Huffington Post did when<br />

it said that Indonesia practiced a more “liberal,<br />

pluralistic brand of Islam.”<br />

Go beyond the surface and look at recent<br />

history in Indonesia though, and you will not<br />

see a pluralistic society, but country that vigorously<br />

oppresses Christianity and other faiths,<br />

sometimes with extreme violence.<br />

A growing movement of radical Islam<br />

is exerting more and more influence in<br />

Indonesian affairs, including politics. Such<br />

entanglement has not only empowered the<br />

spread of extremism but has increased attacks<br />

and the suppression of religious minorities.<br />

The Setara Institute for Democracy and<br />

Peace in Indonesia recorded a 33% increase<br />

in cases of religious violence between 2014<br />

and 2015. They also noted that in 2016,<br />

Indonesia’s freedom level fell to a new low<br />

with “more rights violations committed by<br />

the government and local administrations.” A<br />

report by Indonesia’s National Commission on<br />

Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found that the<br />

most frequent violators of religious freedom<br />

are regional administrations, and that the number<br />

of complaints being filed against them are<br />

rapidly increasing.<br />

How is this happening in a democratic<br />

country that guarantees religious freedom?<br />

“Because,” as the Setara Institute argues,<br />

“no one dares draw a line and recognize<br />

Feature Article<br />

A Paradox of<br />

Religious Freedom:<br />

Pastors Working Underground<br />

in a Religiously Free Society<br />

By Daniel Harris<br />

religiously-inspired incitement for what it is,<br />

let alone condemn it or take measures to stop<br />

it.” The absence of accountability in upholding<br />

religious freedom, especially by the government,<br />

destroys religious minorities while<br />

encouraging extremism’s spread.<br />

The coordinator for the faith freedom desk<br />

at the National Commission on Human Rights<br />

for Indonesia (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi<br />

Manusia) said, “The three main factors fueling<br />

the violations [of religious freedom] are the low<br />

level of understanding of government officials<br />

about human rights principles, the inability of<br />

regional leaders to deal with intolerant groups<br />

and the implementation of regional laws that<br />

often contradict higher laws.”<br />

Ahok and Religious<br />

Extremism in Action<br />

The recent case against Jakarta’s first<br />

Christian governor is a perfect example of this.<br />

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as<br />

Ahok, became the governor of Jakarta when<br />

Joko Widodo left the office to run for president<br />

in 2014. It was a significant step for Indonesia.<br />

Ahok is an ethnic Chinese and a Christian. His<br />

term would stand as a litmus test for religious<br />

and racial tolerance in Indonesia.<br />

Immediately, hardline Muslim organizations<br />

such as The Islamic Defenders Front<br />

(FPI) demanded his removal from office. They<br />

insisted that a Christian could never govern<br />

Muslims. But Ahok was popular with the<br />

people as he worked hard to tackle corruption<br />

and Jakarta’s crippling traffic problems. He<br />

should have easily won his bid for re-election<br />

this year, but one short statement taken out<br />

of context stifled his victory. During one<br />

campaign speech, Ahok challenged voters to<br />

vote their conscience and not allow Muslim<br />

leaders to scare them into voting for a Muslim<br />

by using particular verses from the Quran.<br />

Anti-Ahok Muslim groups edited his statement<br />

so it appeared that Ahok condemned the<br />

Quran itself rather than political manipulators.<br />

That video led to hundreds of thousands of<br />

protesters flooding Jakarta’s streets, calling for<br />

Ahok’s imprisonment and even death.<br />

Ahok is now on trial for “blasphemy.” The<br />

sentence carries a five year prison term and<br />

few are ever acquitted.<br />

Rather than support a fair investigation,<br />

the government offered little assistance to<br />

Ahok. The president barely acknowledged<br />

the 200,000+ person protests shutting down<br />

the capital. The police blatantly supported the<br />

Muslim crowds by supplying them with water,<br />

a stage, and a sound system. In Ahok’s trial,<br />

few cared that most of the “witnesses” were<br />

not even present for Ahok’s speech.<br />

The Setara Institute, a non-governmental<br />

organization that conducts research and<br />

advocacy on democracy, political freedom,<br />

and human rights in Indonesia, summed up<br />

Indonesia’s imagined religious freedom versus<br />

the unfortunate reality: “Indonesia’s spineless<br />

political leaders have allowed extremists to<br />

seize the momentum and foment religious<br />

hatred against the governor – who happens to<br />

be an ethnic Chinese Christian – for more than<br />

a month without challenging the substance or<br />

methods of their arguments.”<br />

Technically, blasphemy laws apply to all<br />

of Indonesia’s protected religions. The issue<br />

is not the absence of laws regarding religion,<br />

but that those laws are disproportionately used<br />

against Christians. In Ahok’s case, the leader<br />

of the organization that launched the protests<br />

demanding Ahok’s imprisonment openly<br />

mocked Christianity during several of his<br />

speeches. His speeches insulted Christianity<br />

so much that even Muslims are calling for his<br />

trial on the charge of blasphemy. The government<br />

has yet to press charges.<br />

The political tension has spilled into the<br />

public sphere, stressing an already tenuous<br />

relationship between Muslim Indonesians and<br />

ethnic or religious minorities. Many Christians<br />

are afraid for both their religious freedom and<br />

their lives. They should be.<br />

Jihad<br />

Ahok’s case and the lack of government<br />

protection is not a new story in Indonesia. The<br />

Saudis and Gulf states starting pouring money<br />

into Indonesia in the 1970s to radicalize the<br />

country’s Muslims. Their efforts came to fruition<br />

around 1998 when the country’s Muslims<br />

went on a massive jihad against Christians.<br />

From 1998 to 2003, Christians suffered greatly<br />

as their churches and homes were burned to the<br />

ground and they were raped and murdered.<br />

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Two large churches in<br />

Indonesia had their buildings<br />

shut down by local government<br />

officials. They now gather outside<br />

the presidential palace and hold<br />

their services in an act of protest.<br />

Although the government did not launch<br />

an official investigation, an unofficial report<br />

found that 2,244 people (both protesters and<br />

Christians) died, 168 were raped, and 1,604<br />

shops were destroyed. These statistics were<br />

only in Jakarta, however. The violence spread<br />

to other parts of the nation, including Java,<br />

Sulawesi, and Maluku and lasted until around<br />

2004. ICC has heard reports that as many as<br />

10,000 Christians actually died and approximately<br />

1,000 churches were burned down<br />

across the nation.<br />

That period of extreme anti-Christian violence<br />

is especially relevant today because it<br />

underlines the government’s lax stance against<br />

extremism. Shortly before the outbreak of violence<br />

in 1998, Human Rights Watch stated,<br />

“Not only have [government officials]<br />

expressed no sympathy for the victims or made<br />

any effort to explain to the public the causes<br />

and consequences of the economic crisis, but in<br />

some cases, they have tried to deflect blame for<br />

the economic crisis onto prominent members of<br />

the ethnic Chinese community.”<br />

Recalling the political climate of 1998,<br />

The Economist noted, “At best, Ahok’s persecution<br />

represents a blow to the rights of all<br />

Indonesian minorities...At worst, the risk of<br />

communal bloodshed like that of two decades<br />

ago is closer.”<br />

So What?<br />

Since then, the increasing trend of Islamic<br />

extremism threatening both religious and ethnic<br />

minorities has sent many Christian pastors<br />

underground, an irony in a country proud of its<br />

religious diversity.<br />

Islamic radicalism seems to be on the rise<br />

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in Indonesia. Cases of violence and persecution<br />

against Christians are increasing and the<br />

government appears ill-prepared or unwilling<br />

to uphold basic religious freedoms. This is a<br />

deadly combination driving Christian pastors<br />

underground. ICC asked several pastors why<br />

they are working underground in a country<br />

that guarantees freedom of religion. One pastor<br />

responded, “Freedom of religion? Yes, but it is<br />

only in theory. In practice, it [doesn’t exist].”<br />

The pastors shared that in the last few<br />

months, radical Muslims have bombed a<br />

Christian church and forced Christians to<br />

abandon their places of worship. The government<br />

did little to stop the radical groups. In<br />

fact, in some cases they have helped them. At<br />

a Christmas service in Bandung, for example,<br />

the government positioned police officers<br />

outside of a church to protect congregants<br />

from radical Muslims. Instead, the officers<br />

helped the Muslims chase away the Christian<br />

participants. In Aceh Province in October<br />

2015, an angry mob destroyed three churches<br />

after which the local government destroyed<br />

seven more.<br />

The government justifies destroying churches<br />

because they contend that the churches do<br />

not have the correct licenses. Procuring the<br />

correct licenses at the local level in Indonesia<br />

is a complicated process requiring scores<br />

of signatures from community leaders and<br />

government officials. The process is so complicated,<br />

according to unconfirmed reports<br />

received by ICC, that most religious institutions<br />

do not have the correct licenses, including<br />

mosques. This means that some members<br />

of radical Islamic groups that destroy unlicensed<br />

churches are probably members of an<br />

unlicensed institution themselves.<br />

Double standards as evidenced by licensing<br />

have led pastors to determine that they are<br />

not protected by the law, because extremists<br />

are allowed to operate freely outside the law.<br />

Openly practicing one’s faith can mean death.<br />

As one pastor told ICC, “The reason why I<br />

reach out underground is more for the safety<br />

of the converts. If I do it openly I will not only<br />

endanger the lives of these people but also the<br />

ministry and the ministers themselves.”<br />

Speaking Out<br />

Despite the government’s silence, some<br />

groups are boldly asserting the importance<br />

of religious freedom. During Christmas, a<br />

dangerous time for Christians in Indonesia,<br />

the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia,<br />

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), pledged to help protect<br />

Christians as they attended Christmas Eve<br />

services. Christians need moderate Muslims<br />

like NU to make their voices heard over the<br />

growing rhetoric of radicalism and the government’s<br />

reluctance to protect religious freedom.<br />

One pastor told ICC, “My fear is that moderate<br />

Muslims will keep silent and thus give<br />

more room for the radicals to grow. My fear is<br />

that, in the end, the government will oblige the<br />

radical’s demand, leading Indonesia in a different<br />

direction.” When moderates remain silent,<br />

minorities must hide their beliefs in exchange<br />

for their safety. Indonesian Christians hope for<br />

the support of moderate Muslims to protect<br />

them from religious extremism and a stagnant<br />

government. An irony indeed.<br />

ICC supports underground pastors like<br />

these in Indonesia who are risking their lives<br />

to share the Gospel.<br />

25


Feature Article<br />

Christian <strong>Persecution</strong> in Vietnam:<br />

A church gathers<br />

for service in rural<br />

Vietnam. Montagnard<br />

Christians have faced<br />

more persecution than<br />

many other Christians<br />

groups in the country.<br />

“Just last month, they murdered my<br />

father in order to arrest me because<br />

they believe that I will return to<br />

Vietnam to attend my father’s funeral.<br />

I was supposed to return because I<br />

loved my father deeply. But for my<br />

safety my mother asked me not to<br />

return. I was so scared of returning<br />

home even though I really wanted to.”<br />

By Daniel Harris<br />

This tragic story belongs to<br />

a Montagnard Christian from<br />

Vietnam who fled the country<br />

to escape government agents<br />

seeking to arrest him for his<br />

Christian activities. When he<br />

escaped their grasp, they murdered<br />

his father, hoping he would return for the<br />

funeral so that they could arrest him.<br />

Montagnard Christians are the forgotten<br />

heroes and victims of a failed war. Also<br />

known as the Dega/Degar, they are a predominantly<br />

Christian ethnic group that lives<br />

in the highlands of Vietnam, Cambodia,<br />

and Laos. When US troops were fighting in<br />

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Feature Article<br />

Montagnard Victim Testimonies<br />

Vietnam, Montagnards fought<br />

alongside them and subsequently,<br />

many of them converted to<br />

Christianity. Now they are hunted<br />

like animals by their own<br />

communist government.<br />

Christians, such as the one<br />

quoted above, are forced to flee<br />

their homes to escape Vietnamese<br />

government agents who track<br />

them down for interrogation and<br />

execution.<br />

Desperate to suppress the<br />

Montagnard people, nothing<br />

has been out of bounds for the<br />

Vietnamese authorities. They<br />

have used illegal arrests and<br />

detainment, brutal torture, rape,<br />

and even murder. There are even<br />

reports of forced sterilization<br />

campaigns.<br />

One example of persecution<br />

includes an extensive campaign<br />

to shut down churches among<br />

Montagnard communities. In<br />

2015, Human Rights Watch<br />

reported, “Official Vietnamese<br />

media makes it clear that such<br />

government actions are part of<br />

a high-level policy to eliminate<br />

‘evil way’ religions such as De<br />

Ga Protestantism and Ha Mon<br />

Catholicism practiced by some<br />

ethnic Montagnards…”<br />

Official state media has reported<br />

waves of “search and hunt”<br />

operations designed to “deal seriously”<br />

with core religious leaders.<br />

There are reports of public<br />

forced recantations in which<br />

hundreds of Montagnards were<br />

forced to recant their faith in<br />

front of fellow villagers. “Mobile<br />

trials” are held in Montagnard<br />

villages to convict and imprison<br />

followers of Christianity. Many<br />

Montagnards report experiencing<br />

torture because of their faith. A<br />

recent report describes one pastor’s<br />

martyrdom:<br />

“Around 7:30 a.m., the public<br />

security agents came to Pastor<br />

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“His death resulted from the multiple injuries<br />

inflicted by the beatings which came as a result of<br />

his refusal to give up his faith.”<br />

A Christians<br />

processional<br />

moves through the<br />

streets of Vietnam.<br />

A choir sings<br />

during a church<br />

service in Vietnam.<br />

Thanh’s (name changed for security)<br />

house and ordered him to<br />

report for investigation. Pastor<br />

Thanh was interviewed for the<br />

whole day on the [practice of<br />

Christianity] in his village.<br />

The interrogation [was focused<br />

on convincing him to give up<br />

Christianity].”<br />

“[On his refusal], the secret<br />

police got mad … and used various<br />

tools to beat him up. They<br />

beat him in the ribs, chest, and his<br />

abdomen. They also slapped his<br />

face and [repeatedly punched] his<br />

head. Consequently, he felt pain<br />

while breathing and he got seriously<br />

sick due to internal injuries.<br />

While they were beating him, he<br />

fell unconscious.”<br />

“He passed away around 9:30<br />

a.m. (two weeks after his detention)<br />

in 2016. His death resulted<br />

from the multiple injuries inflicted<br />

by the beatings which [came as<br />

a result of his] refusal to [give up<br />

his faith].”<br />

Secrecy is the greatest asset of<br />

Vietnam’s secret police. When<br />

their activities are recorded and<br />

broadcast to the world, they often<br />

withdraw. For that reason, ICC is<br />

involved with training Vietnamese<br />

community members how to<br />

record and report cases of persecution<br />

to government and human<br />

rights agencies.<br />

Reports, like the one above that<br />

came from this project, expose<br />

Vietnam’s relentless and violent<br />

persecution of Montagnard<br />

Christians and gives them a<br />

way to defend themselves and a<br />

chance to finally end decades of<br />

brutal persecution.<br />

27


TESTIMONIES<br />

from Mandera<br />

Survivors of al-Shabaab attacks in northeastern Kenya share their<br />

experiences and conditions months after suffering great loss.<br />

By Sandra Elliot and Michelle King<br />

Most people<br />

don’t realize<br />

that al-<br />

Shabaab<br />

has consistently<br />

targeted<br />

Christians<br />

with deadly<br />

attacks for<br />

years. Most people remember the Westgate<br />

Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, during<br />

which militants killed 67 and wounded<br />

175, but al-Shabaab’s smaller, more consistent<br />

attacks have focused on Christian<br />

populations in particular.<br />

Mandera, a town in the northeast corner<br />

of Kenya bordering Ethiopia to the north<br />

and Somalia to the east, has been targeted<br />

repeatedly by al-Shabaab. The most recent<br />

attacks occurred in October 2016.<br />

On October 6, 2016, al-Shabaab launched<br />

a calculated attack on Mandera, killing six<br />

Christians. Within hours, al-Shabaab’s military<br />

operations spokesman proudly claimed<br />

responsibility for the slaughter of the six<br />

innocent men.<br />

Eighteen days later, militants struck<br />

Mandera once again, this time targeting<br />

a guesthouse known to host Christians.<br />

Among the 12 killed were two high school<br />

theater members who were visiting Mandera<br />

as part of their high school drama team.<br />

These are only two of the most recent<br />

al-Shabaab attacks on Christians in northeastern<br />

Kenya. They have become infamous<br />

over the years for intercepting buses and<br />

attacking quarry workers in their sleeping<br />

compounds.<br />

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Feature Article<br />

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

ICC has worked with numerous victims<br />

of al-Shabaab attacks, like Maina, John,<br />

Shillah, and Pastor John, to bring encouragement,<br />

financial support, food, and medical<br />

assistance.<br />

Maina Justus<br />

In July 2015, for example, al-Shabaab<br />

militants attacked a housing complex<br />

of quarry workers, most of whom were<br />

Christians. They killed 13 people.<br />

Maina Justus was one of the victims who<br />

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INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN<br />

survived the incident, but was severely<br />

wounded.<br />

“As usual, we had come back from work<br />

in the quarries, had supper, and slept. That<br />

night we had no electricity,” Justus told<br />

ICC. “At around 2:00 a.m., we heard two<br />

loud explosions at the gate. Then, shortly<br />

after, the door to our sleeping hall was shot<br />

and opened. It dawned upon us that the al-<br />

Shabaab has attacked,” he added.<br />

Amidst the fear and chaos, quarry workers<br />

ran for their lives in all directions.<br />

Unfortunately, not all were able to escape<br />

and some even died in their sleep.<br />

John Muriuki<br />

John Muriuki, another victim, was asleep<br />

when the attack began. While escaping, John<br />

was shot multiple times in his hands, permanently<br />

deforming them. He is no longer able<br />

to work because of his condition.<br />

“It has been a long journey for me,” he<br />

recently told ICC. “The pain in my hands is<br />

extremely unbearable and I can’t sleep well. I<br />

29


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

have suffered for a long time since I was shot<br />

in July 2015.”<br />

“My wife is doing manual work at farms to<br />

buy food and medicine. It pains me to see her<br />

struggle alone to provide for our family,” John<br />

explained to ICC, “Life has not been easy but<br />

we know that one day it shall be good because<br />

as long as we are alive we are capable of<br />

changing our situation.”<br />

This year, ICC developed and implemented<br />

a project to help the seven families that<br />

were victims of last year’s Mandera attacks.<br />

ICC built seven cow sheds and gave each of<br />

the families a dairy cow, so that they could<br />

sell the milk and make a sustainable living.<br />

The income earned from these cows has<br />

helped the families pay for school expenses<br />

for their children, provide food, and cover<br />

other basic needs.<br />

Meshack Otieno<br />

Meshack Otieno is another victim of al-<br />

Shabaab violence. On December 21, 2015,<br />

he was riding the bus to get to work in<br />

Mandera when al-Shabaab attacked. Otieno<br />

briefly escaped when militants herded the<br />

primarily Christian passengers off the bus,<br />

but he didn’t get far. Gunmen found him in<br />

the bush and shot him.<br />

Otieno’s death left his widow and four<br />

children with no source of income. Shillah<br />

Otieno had the desire to work, but no<br />

opportunities to do so. ICC met Shillah<br />

shortly after her husband’s death and was<br />

able to start a beauty salon. We could not<br />

“Losing a husband is<br />

a tragic thing that I<br />

would not even wish<br />

to happen to the<br />

wives of al-Shabaab,”<br />

confessed Shillah. “It<br />

is a tragedy that we<br />

would not [have] been<br />

able to overcome but<br />

God has been really<br />

good to us.”<br />

replace what was stolen from her, but ICC<br />

was able to build a beauty salon so that<br />

she could maintain a stable income source.<br />

God used ICC to help Shillah to find a<br />

renewed devotion to the Lord despite her<br />

circumstances.<br />

“Losing a husband is a tragic thing that I<br />

would not even wish to happen to the wives<br />

of al-Shabaab,” confessed Shillah. “It is a<br />

tragedy that we would not [have] been able to<br />

overcome but God has been really good to us.<br />

We continue to ask for your prayer support as<br />

we look forward to <strong>2017</strong> and the rest of our<br />

lives,” she told ICC.<br />

Pastor John Njaramba<br />

In July 2016, al-Shabaab attacked another<br />

bus carrying Christians and killed six people.<br />

Among the dead was Pastor John Njaramba,<br />

who militants shot in the head.<br />

“It is now six months since my husband<br />

was brutally killed. It is still fresh and painful,<br />

but we are coping on well by God’s<br />

grace,” Freshia Njaramba told ICC, “He was<br />

such a friendly and vigorous missionary in<br />

God’s vineyard. His death was a big blow to<br />

our lives and the church.”<br />

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Pastor Peter Wagura survived the<br />

same attack that claimed the life of John<br />

Njaramba. He has endured the pain of<br />

losing his friend more privately as he has<br />

a responsibility to lead the church during<br />

these hard times.<br />

“It hurts me every day and every time I<br />

remember my friend John,” he told ICC.<br />

“Being a pastor to many people I sometimes<br />

lack confidence to cry with, hurt with, and<br />

pray with.”<br />

Pastor Peter feels the weight of persecution<br />

in his country as he continues<br />

to lead the flock there. To share in his<br />

burdens, ICC provided medical assistance<br />

and funding for Christian literature so that<br />

he can continue his ministry. While the<br />

gesture may seem small, he is thankful<br />

because such relief has helped him maintain<br />

extraordinary humility and leadership<br />

in his ministry. And, despite all that he has<br />

suffered, Pastor Peter is optimistic about<br />

his nation.<br />

“I am seeing great hope in Mandera,”<br />

Pastor Peter expressed, “I am seeing many<br />

churches and even Bible schools coming<br />

up in the city, I will soon personally<br />

go there to train pastors and meet with<br />

Muslim leaders. God will make a way for<br />

this country.”<br />

It is difficult to imagine such hope.<br />

Mandera’s Christians wake up every day<br />

knowing there’s a group of people nearby<br />

constantly targeting them for attacks, yet<br />

they persevere. ICC understands that as the<br />

Body of Christ, we have a responsibility<br />

to uphold each other, especially those who<br />

are suffering. Mandera’s Christians need<br />

such relief more than ever. Al-Shabaab<br />

has promised a war against Christians, and<br />

they have already followed through on<br />

their threat.<br />

As you pray for Mandera, pray for God’s<br />

love to outshine al-Shabaab’s hatred. Pray<br />

that Christians in Kenya will endure. Pray<br />

that families will heal from the losses<br />

already dealt out. Pray for the enemies<br />

themselves and that they would come to<br />

Christ. Finally, pray that Christians living<br />

in Mandera will find renewed strength<br />

tomorrow morning as they wake up to<br />

persecution.<br />

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ICC provided goods for Shillah Otieno and her children immediately following the murder.<br />

ICC then gave Shillah a beauty parlor to provide a sustainable income for her family.<br />

The Njaramba family received goods after their father and husband, Pastor John, was<br />

killed in an al-Shabaab attack.<br />

31


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