ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS SPIKE AS HINDU NATIONALISTS TAKE CONTROL IN INDIA
The Christian minority of India is very concerned about its future in India following the election of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP), as the next national government of India. At the centre of the NDA is Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister, and his Hindu nationalist party BJP. Christians are distressed knowing BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda, an ideology that seeks to create a purely Hindu India. As a matter of concern, Andhra Pradesh, a state located on India’s eastern coastline, has seen the highest number of attacks (41) on Christians in India in 2013.
In Andhra Pradesh State which has the highest Christian population in India, there seems to be an orchestrated hate campaign by Hindu radical groups. Brutal attacks on the Christian leaders falsely accused of forcible conversion have seemed to increase since the general elections. Pastor Christopher from Hyderabad told of a gruesome incident that shook him and his entire congregation to the core. Bethel Gospel Church, where Pastor Christopher preaches, was set on fire by unknown assailants suspected to be connected to Hindu radical groups. The anti-Christian activists carried out the attack during the early morning hours to inflict maximum damage to the church.
The church was burnt to ashes, everything inside the church including carpets, musical instruments, speakers and chairs, utterly destroyed. “We are living in fear,” the pastor said. “There have been continuous threats from the Hindu radicals. We Christians are treated as second class citizens in this country.” During his 15 years of service, Pastor Christopher has been threatened by the Hindu radicals on many occasions. Once he was threatened to stop all church activities or else they would “chop him into pieces.” But Christopher also believes if an increase in persecution is to be India’s future, he hopes this situation will unite the Indian church.
In another incident more than 30 youths belonging to the Hindu radical group Hindu Vahini barged into a Christian home during a prayer meeting in Marepalli village. These youths were shouting Hindu nationalist slogans as they attacked the small Christian community. Pastor Devaraju, the leader of that community, was verbally abused by the youths with vulgar language. In an interview, Pastor Devaraju describes what it is like to be a pastor in a state where most of India’s anti-Christian attacks take place. “Surviving as a pastor in India at the hands of Hindu radicals is every day a challenge. There is no guarantee that I will come back home if I go for gospel work,” he says.
In another incident, the Rev. B. Rajarathnam and his wife, both of whom belong to a Mennonite Brethren Church, were attacked by Hindu radicals in Chadurupally village. During a Hindu festive, more than 15 assailants, likely connected to Hindu radical groups, stormed into the pastor’s house and started beating him and his wife. During the attack, the pastor’s wife, who is in her 60s, fell to the ground unconscious after being punched and slapped multiple times. Onlookers took her to the hospital for treatment immediately following the attack. The attackers also demolished a wall of the pastor’s home, causing serious damage to the house.
“There is increasing trouble emerging for the Christian community with Modi as prime minister,” Rajarathnam says. “It is a matter of deep distress for Christians. There is huge discrepancy when it comes to delivery of justice for religious minorities in this country, and with Modi as prime minister, India will become an even more unsafe place for religious minorities,” the Rev. Ronald John, a Christian leader in India, says. The Christian community as a whole fears that it will only get worse under the new Government. Foreseeing the coming threat, many Christian leaders have urged their followers to pray for the future of India’s Christians. They are praying—are you?
PROPOSED CANADIAN CHRISTIAN LAW SCHOOL FACES WIDESPREAD OPPOSITION
Trinity Western University (TWU) president Bob Kuhn says the ongoing opposition by many in the legal community to its planned law school makes him question how much freedom evangelical Christians really have to express their faith in public. Much of the outcry has focused on a clause in the university’s community covenant that forbids people from engaging in “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Critics charge this discriminates against present and future students in same-sex relationships—a claim that TWU has strongly rejected. That opposition is widespread and appears to be growing.
The Law Society of Upper Canada executive recently voted 28-21 to deny Trinity Western law graduates the right to practice in Ontario. A day later, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society voted 10-9 to accredit the school, but only on condition that it drops this policy. After the British Columbia Law Society had voted 20-6 to endorse the law school, Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan countered with a campaign urging his colleagues to petition the society to hold a special meeting and conduct a second vote. More than 1,300 letters were received, more than twice the minimum needed.
Law firms in Vancouver and Toronto also petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to overturn the provincial government’s decision in December to approve the law school on grounds that its policies discriminate against “sexual minority students.” Yet for all the focus on denouncing the covenant, Kuhn believes their opponents’ real goal is to silence all Christian dissent on matters that they regard as settled public policy such as same-sex rights. “This is about a country that is questioning its need to be pluralistic, to adopt anything other than a homogenous view,” says Kuhn. “To me it’s a matter of grave concern that people are being encouraged to think in narrow-minded, single-dimensional ways.”
Kuhn, himself a lawyer, is troubled that lawyers who have sworn to uphold the rule of law—including Charters on religious freedom — refuse to examine the issue impartially. “It’s immaterial what their personal views are. It’s not a matter of personal preference,” he says. Ruth Ross, formerly executive director of Christian Legal Fellowship, suspects these people would still allege that the law school will be a breeding ground of discrimination, even if the “sexual intimacy” provision in the covenant did not exist. “Reading some of the submissions of those who oppose accreditation,” she says, “there’s almost a presumption based upon a potential future realization of an event that has yet to present itself.”
“The idea that Trinity’s law school graduates aren’t really qualified is not going to get them very far” says Justin Cooper, executive director of Christian Higher Education Canada. “Are they going to give a ‘religious test’ to every Muslim and Hindu graduate of a law school who may hold similar values? “If you can find a way to discredit the institution, then you cast a big shadow over its reputation and actual right to exist.” Ross worries this mindset could ultimately cast a shadow over all people of faith. She says. “What’s to say that having membership in a church who holds the Biblical position on marriage would deny you access to accreditation in a professional body? Where does this end?”
Over the past two months an outbreak of foot and mouth disease has occurred among North Korean livestock. This is a very serious disease that can devastate the nations supply of pigs, cattle, goats and other cloven-hoofed animals. The latest reports are that it continues in the North but there is no clear knowledge of the extent. Soon after the first cases occurred, South Korea offered help in eradication and prevention but the North has not responded. South Korea sustained a devastating outbreak several years ago and works very hard to prevent more. In addition to the threat to the meat supply there is growing concern over the food supply in general.
Except for those who have the special privilege of living in Pyongyang, people throughout the country are struggling. The provision of rice and other staples through the Public Distribution System has ceased. Last year, many people received rations from the special stores set aside for the military–which were often mouldy and full of bugs–but even that is not being provided this year resulting in a great deal of dissatisfaction. At the same time, Choco-pies and Ramen noodles provided through South Korean companies at the Kaesong Industrial Park are the basis for a whole separate economy.
The government’s efforts to assure agricultural bounty through the use of the military continues to backfire breeding corruption and hardship and a new class conflict. Soldiers being detailed to important construction projects are taking the food they need from the general populace. Food is not the only problem the people face as efforts to stem defection increase. More families face internal exile because of family members who have crossed illegally into China while those who do so legally are under pressure to report on any defectors that they hear about. North Korea is sending teams of security agents into China to search out and arrest North Koreans who have escaped into the country.
SUDANESE CHRISTIAN WOMAN SENTENCED TO DEATH FREED AFTER WORLD WIDE OUTCRY
Sudanese Christian, Meriam Ibrahim has been freed from prison. Her situation sparked international outrage releasing a collective outcry from people and authorities around the world, when the 27-year-old mother was accused of “apostasy” and imprisoned—along with her toddler son—even though she was eight months pregnant. Meriam was given the opportunity to renounce Christianity but she refused, maintaining that she had been raised as a Christian and was never a Muslim. Meriam, who was shackled with heavy chains, gave birth to a daughter in prison, while her husband, Daniel Wani—a Christian and an American citizen—worked to free her from the impending death sentence.
Sudan’s news agency said “The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the previous court ruling.” Amnesty International reported it had received over 980,000 signatures on an online petition condemning the imprisonment, and urging freedom for Meriam. Daniel’s brother, Gabriel—a resident of America—remarked upon hearing the report, “If it’s true, it is great news.” He added that Daniel would likely want to bring Meriam and their children to America “as soon as he can.” There are reports that Meriam’s half-brother in Sudan had vowed to kill her if the court’s death sentence was not carried out.
In late breaking news Ibrahim has been re-arrested after being driven to the airport in a US Embassy car with her family. She has been returned to the US Embassy pending resolution of a dispute between Sudan and South Sudan over her travel documents. Sudan claims that Ibrahim was released on the condition that she remains in Sudan. She told BBC Arabic that her ‘future is in the hands of God’, and that she just wants to spend time with her young family. Despite the emergency travel documents issued by the South Sudanese authorities being confirmed as genuine, Sudanese officials have accused her of forging the travel documents. A Sudanese foreign ministry official told the BBC that Ibrahim is Sudanese and should not have been using another country’s travel document, stamped with a U.S. visa.
NEW PRAYER MOVEMENT SPRINGS UP AMONGST KURDISH CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ
The Kurds, who have one of the longest cultural histories in the Middle East, are an ethnic group originally from Kurdistan, which today is divided into Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Kurdish culture however has remained “distinctly different from all others found around it.” Indeed, today, tens of thousands of Kurds identify as Christians, although thousands have been fleeing their homeland recently in the wake of militant Islamic attacks. As a result of the attacks more than 500,000 refugees have flooded into the Kurdish part of Iraq. Heresh Stwne, a news anchor with Kurdistan TV, was quoted as saying Kurds no longer want to be part of Iraq.”
But God is at work in the situation. As turmoil in the country has increased, an exciting new prayer movement has grown up amongst the people.” Fabian Grech who is a leader within with the Mesopotamia House of Prayer said , “In the last couple of weeks, there’s been a rise of prayer meetings all over the city. People are opening their homes for prayer and praying with their neighbours. The local churches have been opening their buildings for prayer in the morning. It wasn’t like that before. So we are seeking God’s face for our country. The prayers are filled with faith and passion—big prayers.”
Brunei has become the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law, an example of a deepening religious conservatism in the country. Brunei has a population of about 400,000 people and nestles between two Malaysian states on Borneo Island. It relies on oil and gas exports for its prosperity, with annual per capita income of nearly A$50,000 It is the first country in east Asia to adopt sharia law at a national level. Run by Sultan Bolkiah, 67, Brunei has no national elections, but any discontent has been assuaged by high, tax-free incomes and benefits like free education and health care.
The sultan, said by diplomats to have become more religious, announced the introduction of sharia as a “great achievement”. Residents of the country dominated by Malay Muslims now face conviction by Islamic courts for offences like pregnancy outside marriage, failure to perform Friday prayers, and propagating other religions. A second phase comes into effect in 12 months time covering theft and alcohol consumption by Muslims, punishable by whipping and amputations. The death penalty, including by stoning, will be introduced in the final phase a year later for offences including adultery, sodomy and insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad. Most of the laws will also apply to non-Muslims.
U.S.A. SUPREME COURT RULES PRAYER BEFORE PUBLIC MEETINGS IS CONSTITUTIONAL
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of the town of Greece, New York—that Christian ministers would be allowed to pray prior to their town meetings. In the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, the ruling came down 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy delivering the Court’s opinion, with Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas concurring. Kennedy read: “The Court must decide whether the town of Greece, New York, imposes an impermissible establishment of religion by opening its monthly board meetings with a prayer. It must be concluded… that no violation of the Constitution has been shown.
“In Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, the Court found no First Amendment violation in the Nebraska legislature’s practice of opening its sessions with a prayer delivered by a chaplain paid from state funds,” he continued. “The decision concluded that legislative prayer, while religious in nature, has long been understood as compatible with the Establishment Clause. As practiced by Congress since the framing of the Constitution, legislative prayer lends gravity to public business, reminds lawmakers to transcend petty differences in pursuit of a higher purpose, and expresses a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society.”
MASSIVE UPRISING BY MEXICAN WOMEN CANCELS DEBATE TO LEGALISE ABORTION ON DEMAND
In what media are calling an “unprecedented decision,” the Congress in the Mexican state of Guerrero has cancelled the debate to pass a bill to legalize abortion-on-demand up to 12 weeks. The bill, which was proposed by Guerrero’s left-wing governor Angel Aguirre, caused outrage within the Mexican society, causing thousands of pro-lifers to take to the streets in several cities around Guerrero. Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Mexico’s Primate Archbishop, asked for prayers for Governor Aguirre during his Sunday homily and published an article in his archdiocese’s weekly newsletter, in which he condemned abortion.
The action “only generates more violence by assassinating innocent children,” he said, in a state already “slaughtered by hunger, impoverished and pillaged by those responsible for common welfare.” The bill, which was to have been voted on, would have allowed abortion-on-demand for the first trimester, and up to nine months when “the product” suffered from deformities, in the case of rape, or if it allegedly posed a danger to the health of the mother. The proposed law would also violate physicians’ conscience rights by compelling pro-life doctors to refer women to an abortionist.