Latest news > Newsdesk - 23 November 2017

Newsdesk - 23 November 2017

23 November 2017



IRAQ – Shia militias open Muslim schools in churches

Iran-backed Shia militias are opening Muslim schools in churches and religious centres, notably the Imam Khomeini School – named in honour of Iran’s Supreme Leader – in the town of Bartella in October 2017.

Two other Shia Muslim schools are currently under construction in Bartella and “sectarian graffiti” drapes the streets and public buildings. Before Islamic State (IS) captured Bartella in 2014, the majority of the town’s 40,000 residents were Christian, but although the town was liberated from IS in October 2016, the Christian residents feel they cannot return.

Islamic State attempted to remove evidence of Christianity from historically Christian towns near Mosul by destroying and vandalising churches – pictured is a church in Qaraqosh

A Christian representative in the Kurdish Parliament criticised the actions of the Shia militias as “a flagrant injustice done to Christians” and described it as the “Shiafication of the Nineveh Plains,” historically the Christian heartland of northern Iraq.

Shia forces in formerly Christian towns in northern Iraq are “systematically trying to change the Christian demography of these places,” reports a local Christian.

Christians in Iraq and Syria have long felt abandoned by the international community. Now Iraq’s dwindling Christian community face another threat to their nearly 2,000-year existence from the very armed groups who claim to be “liberating” Christian towns and villages.




PHILIPPINES – Civilians murdered in Marawi siege “nearly all Christians”

The civilians murdered during the five-month Marawi siege were “nearly all Christians,” according to Amnesty International, which has compiled a detailed report with multiple eyewitness accounts of Filipino Christians being murdered for their faith.

Christians captured when jihadists seized Marawi city in Mindanao in May 2017 were forced to build bombs; others were murdered for refusing to convert to Islam

“During the conflict, militants regularly targeted civilians and carried out numerous extrajudicial executions. The civilian victims were nearly all Christians, and most – if not all – were targeted because they were not Muslim. Militants often gave civilians a de facto religious test prior to killing them; they were asked to recite the Shahada, which is an expression of Muslim faith, or to respond to Muslim greetings,” the report states.

The “vast majority” of those held hostage were also Christians. They were “made to do forced labour, and reportedly served as human shields … hostages were also forced to make improvised bombs, fight and loot, and were used as sex slaves.”

From Amnesty International here



INDONESIA – Ahok accuser convicted of hate speech

The Muslim man who first accused the Christian former governor of Jakarta of “blasphemy” and posted a deliberately edited video online has been sentenced to 18 months in jail. Buni Yani “selectively edited” a speech by “Ahok” Tjahaha Purnama – in which the Christian politician refuted Islamist claims that the Quran does not allow non-Muslims to govern Muslims – and posted it on Facebook in 2016, along with comments which triggered mass protests by Islamists and calls for Ahok to be charged with “blasphemy.” Ahok was subsequently tried and jailed for two years.

A district court in West Java ruled last week (14 November) that Buni Yani’s editing of the video breached cyber laws and his comments against Ahok on social media constituted hate speech.

One lawyer for the Christian former governor, who had been on course to secure re-election until the “blasphemy” allegation surfaced, stated, “In light of this ruling, Ahok should not have been punished at all.”

From Asia News here



SUDAN – Government continues programme of persecution against Christians

An independent report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released earlier this month has highlighted the ongoing programme of anti-Christian persecution being undertaken by the Sudanese government.

Since the predominantly Christian South Sudan seceded in 2011, almost 50 church buildings have been demolished, partially demolished or threatened with demolition. “Sudanese authorities have arrested almost 200 Christians … Half of these arrests occurred as Christians protested government efforts to demolish or expropriate church properties.”

Sudanese authorities demolish church buildings as part of a campaign to rid the country of its Christian presence

Such actions are “part of a broader campaign to shrink the space available for Christians to practice their faith. The Sudanese government justifies this persecution by misleadingly arguing that with South Sudan’s secession, there are no more Christians.”

The report also notes, “The [Sudanese] government tolerates the use of humanitarian assistance to induce conversion.” However, as Barnabas Fund has previously reported, the government colludes in this practice by barring churches from distributing aid to Christian refugees, who have then been forced to recite the Islamic creed, the shahada, in order to receive food aid – effectively amounting to forced conversion to Islam.

From USCIRF here