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A Christian woman collects her food package from Barnabas Fund
As the Syrian government agrees to allow aid agencies into the areas worst affected by the conflict, Barnabas Fund is continuing to get help to many of the neediest Christians.
We have been working for many months directly through Christian partners on the ground to get aid to the Christians worst affected by the crisis.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have been able to send funds totalling over £220,000 to provide emergency aid; we are currently helping approximately 20,000 needy Christians in Syria, providing food, medicine, money for rent, and other essentials.
You can help by sponsoring a Christian family for just £18 a month.
Our regular support for Christians in Syria, especially refugees from Iraq, which has been established for many years, has continued throughout the conflict. Since the uprising started last March, we have provided over £400,000 to fund food packages for thousands of Christian families, plus other needs.
The UN estimates that there are one million people in need of assistance in Syria, and that the figure will probably increase after further assessments.
The Syrian government this week agreed to grant visas to staff from nine UN agencies and seven international NGOs, who will initially be based in four cities worst affected by the fighting: Homs, Deraa, Idlib and Deir al-Zour.
The beleaguered Christian community in Syria continues to suffer as a result of the conflict between President Assad's troops and anti-government forces. Christian buildings, including a church-run orphanage, have been damaged, and many Christians have been forced to flee their homes. Some are struggling to pay the rent or even to feed their children.
In particular need are the many thousands of families who have left the embattled city of Homs. One of our partners in Syria met a young Christian woman who moved to Damascus with her children and parents after her husband was kidnapped in January. They have no idea where he is.
This church-run orphanage was severely damaged in the violence
Despite a two-month-old nominal ceasefire, the violence is unrelenting, and the infiltration of jihadists, who have been wreaking havoc across the country, is making the country look more like Iraq by the day. Christians in Syria fear that their future may be the same as their Iraqi counterparts, who suffered such intense anti-Christian persecution following the fall of Saddam Hussein that hundreds of thousands of them were forced to leave their homeland.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
It is a significant and welcome development that Syria has agreed to allow humanitarian workers into the country, and I pray that they will be able to help many people whose lives have been torn apart by this conflict. We are very grateful that through the generosity of our supporters and the hard work of our contacts in Syria, we have been able to get aid to thousands of Christian families throughout the crisis. The need remains great, so please help us to continue this vital ministry.
If you would like to help Christians affected by the crisis in Syria, please send a one off donation to the Middle East Fund (project 00-1032). regular donation of £18 a month using our secure server.OR a
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).
If you prefer to send a cheque by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference Middle East Fund (project 00-1032).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/1032 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
Video footage of a convert from Islam to Christianity being slaughtered by Muslims has been shown on Egyptian TV in an alarming depiction of the threat posed to religious freedom after the Arab Spring.
|Barnabas Fund's latest campaign in defence of religious freedom|
The graphic incident, which is reported to have taken place in Tunisia, was aired on a programme called Egypt Today. The footage shows a young man being held down by masked men with a knife to his throat. One man chants a number of Muslim prayers in Arabic, mostly condemning Christianity. The man holding the knife to the Christian convert's throat begins to cut amid cries of "Allahu Akbar" ("god is great"). It takes him two minutes to sever the head.
The Egypt Today presenter was visibly distressed by the scenes. Then, referring to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, who together hold the majority of seats in the country's parliament, he asked, "How are such people supposed to govern?"
The footage of this brutal beheading is the latest alarming indication of the violent threat to religious freedom in the post-Arab Spring order. That movement, which was initially heralded as a victory for democracy and freedom, has been hijacked by Islamists for whom those values are meaningless.
Islamists, who were restrained under the deposed Arab dictators, now dominate the political arena, and their influence is spreading through Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Kuwait and Syria.
Religious freedom in the region is under severe threat, and Christians, especially converts from Islam, are extremely vulnerable.
Last month, a leading figure in Egypt's Salafi movement, Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami, said:
Is it the right of the Muslim to convert to Christianity or another religion? Of course this is not a right; this is a matter that Sharia has clearly addressed, according to the agreed upon hadiths. It is impermissible, for any reason, for a Muslim to leave the community. Of course, you cannot coerce any infidel to enter into Islam [Quran 2:256] – except for the apostate. It is impossible to let the apostate remain in [a state of] apostasy, deeming it a form of "freedom."
The "agreed upon hadiths" to which Burhami refers include the following command regarding apostasy: "Whoever leaves his religion, kill him."
The Kuwaiti parliament passed a bill on 3 May that would make insulting key Islamic figures and the Quran punishable by death. But it required the approval of Kuwait's ruler, Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, before becoming law, and he rejected the bill on Wednesday (6 June).
Barnabas Fund has been campaigning for many years for the abolition of the Islamic apostasy law, which specifies the death sentence for an adult male Muslim who chooses to leave Islam.
This is not merely a professional matter for Barnabas Fund's International Director, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo; it is extremely personal. As a convert from Islam to Christianity himself, he is, according to Islamic law, deserving of the death penalty for his decision to follow Christ.
Dr Sookhdeo said:
To be beheaded for your faith in this day and age is utterly abhorrent. I will not rest from campaigning against this barbaric law, and call upon people of every faith and none to play whatever part they can to defend religious freedom, including the freedom to choose your faith, which is one of the cornerstones of a civilised society.
For more information about Dr Sookhdeo, visit his website: http://patricksookhdeo.com/
Parents who force their children to marry will face jail sentences under tough new laws after warnings that 8,000 young women a year in Britain are pushed into marriage without their consent.
A leading family lawyer says polygamy within the Muslim community in the UK is "rife" as the former wife of Pervez Choudhry tells the BBC that she didn't know the former Conservative party leader on Slough Borough Council was still married.
A convert from Islam to Christianity gives ethical and Biblical reasons why Christians should take a stand against the lucrative and seemingly growing halal certification trade in South Africa.
Christian women and girls in Pakistan are vulnerable to attack
A 13-year-old Christian girl was gang-raped in Pakistan and members of her family beaten up, causing a pregnant aunt to lose her babies.
The attack on the teenager from Narowal happened on 29 March. She was kidnapped as she walked past one of the alleged offender's house, drugged and taken to nearby fields where she was raped by three men. The Christian girl said that she was unable to cry out because her assailants stuffed cloth in her mouth.
She was found in the fields the following morning by her family, who had been searching for her since she went missing.
Police initially refused to register a case, urging the family to reach a settlement with the accused. But they refused, and around ten days later a rape case was lodged; a medical examination of the schoolgirl establishing that she had indeed been raped. The police have, however, already declared one of the accused, who is a retired inspector's son, innocent.
The incident has affected the teenager deeply; she has not returned to school and says she never wants to go back.
On 8 May, in an apparent attempt to put pressure on the family to withdraw the complaint, one of the suspects, along with his father, the retired inspector, and four other men broke into their home and beat them up. A pregnant member of the family gave birth the next day to two stillborn baby girls; their deaths are believed to have been caused by the attack. Other female members and children were also beaten up.
A case has been registered against the six suspects, who are accused of causing an abortion, assault on a woman, trespass, abetment, rioting and rioting armed with a deadly weapon. The police have not, however, arrested any of them.
The investigating officer in both cases, Sub Inspector Sarwat Hakeem, said that the 13-year-old girl had gone to the fields with the men of her own free will and had had consensual sex with one of them. He also dismissed the family's complaint that the two unborn babies had died as a result of their mother being beaten up.
The family is now coming under further pressure from the accused, who are trying to claim ownership of a plot of land that the Christians own and are in the process of building on. The claim has forced them to stop construction work.
Christians in Pakistan are frequently denied justice, and Christian women are particularly vulnerable to attack by Muslim men, with whom the police and judiciary often side.
A suicide car bomber killed at least 18 people and injured more than 40 others in an attack on two churches in Bauchi state, Northern Nigeria, on Sunday 3 June.
The attack took place in Yelwa Tudu, about seven miles from the state capital, at about 9.20am, just as worshippers were leaving after the first service of the day. Most of them were talking with each other and were caught off guard.
The bomber forced his car in among a group of Christians, trying to break through a security barricade and reach the church buildings. The bomb exploded as the car hit the barrier. An eye-witness, Grace Luka, said:
I was about to come out when I saw the car... Then suddenly, there was a loud explosion, followed by a ball of fire and smoke.
One of the pastors said:
We heard a blast that shook the entire church building. People started running helter-skelter for their lives. I managed to come out only to discover that it was a case of suicide bombing.
The casualties, some of them with severe burns, were taken to a hospital in the capital. One of the two church buildings on the site was badly damaged, and cars parked there were engulfed by the flames. The bomber was among those killed, along with a policeman and some of the churches' volunteer guards.
Security was tight at the scene. The day before the bombing, the authorities had learned that there would be multiple attacks on churches in and around the state capital. Security personnel were deployed at probable targets, including the compound in Yelwa, where they erected the barrier at the entrance.
But even these precautions failed to prevent further carnage among the vulnerable Christians of Northern Nigeria, who are being subjected to a relentless series of violent attacks. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which wants to establish an Islamic state in the Muslim-majority North, declared "war" on Christians in March and threatened to eradicate them from parts of the country. Since then a number of attacks on churches have left dozens dead. On Monday, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the Bauchi blast.
The pastor of one of the Yelwa churches, Mbaningo Godia, asked Christians not to retaliate in any way but to pray to God for peace.
Supporters of a separatist Islamist movement attacked churches and other Christian property in violent riots in Zanzibar.
Hundreds of members of the Association for Islamic Mobilisation and Propagation (UAMSHO) clashed with police during protests, which started in the capital, Stone Town, an historically important tourism centre, on Saturday 26 May, then spread to other areas over the ensuing days.
They torched a number of churches, including one in Mpendae and one in Tomondo; a Christian centre in Bububu was also set alight. An Assemblies of God church in Kariakoo was damaged and a senior church leader’s vehicle burned.
One minister whose church was attacked said rioters invaded the building, poured petrol over it and set it ablaze, reinforcing the fire with burning tyres.
The Islamists, who were armed with clubs, machetes and iron bars, also torched homes and bars, destroyed transport and communication systems, and blocked roads.
Zanzibar Commissioner of Police, Mussa Ali, said:
The rioters were threatening people’s lives by torching churches and blocking roads… We couldn’t tolerate them as they were destroying government and people’s properties.
Despite police and witness statements to the contrary, UAMSHO has denied having any part in the violence. But on Monday 28 May, 30 members of the group arrested in connection with the riots appeared at court charged with illegal assembly and causing unrest.
The Islamist group had launched the riots in protest against the arrest of senior members of its movement. UAMSHO is strongly opposed to the government and has called for a referendum on Zanzibar’s independence from mainland Tanzania.
Analysts say the Islamist group has been gaining support since Zanzibar’s main opposition Civic United Front party formed a government of national unity with the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous, predominantly Muslim archipelago.
Zitto Kabwe, mainland Tanzania opposition MP, said:
We should never allow a few disgruntled people to plunge us into chaos over religion so as to achieve their own political goals.