Persecution Update

Pakistan: Taliban Militants Force Burqa on Christian Women’s School
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS—A Pakistani official in the northern district of Swat has urged female teachers and students to don Islamic garb, citing threats from Taliban extremists, according to an article that has appeared in a regional newspaper. Extremists in Swat have conducted a campaign of Islamization in the district against all things deemed un-Islamic since early July 2007, when a government crackdown on militants at the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad triggered violent reactions nationwide.

“Due to continuous threatening letters from the Taliban directing female staff and students to wear burqas…the Executive District officer has instructed [them] to comply with the orders,” the Daily Mashriq article stated. The order may affect Christians at the Catholic-run public high school in Sangota. The all-girls school had already closed down for a week in September 2007 after being threatened with suicide attacks for supposedly converting students to Christianity.

India: Pastor Kidnapped Twice, Nearly Killed
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS—Pastor Mark Jaikumar was recovering recently in a private care facility in Bangalore, Karnataka state, India, after being kidnapped and blindfolded and overhearing Hindu extremists’ plans to kill him. This was his second abduction in one week.

Pastor of the Divine Gospel Church in Chelekere village, Bangalore, Jaikumar was kidnapped from the church compound on August 25. “They kept cursing and mocking the Christian faith in filthy language and told each other that all my conversion activities would end once they killed me,” he told Compass. He managed to escape after a commercial bus he and one of the kidnappers had gotten on broke down.

Three days earlier, the pastor had been kidnapped from an orphanage he was visiting. “They kept cursing the Christian faith and made allegations of converting the orphans. Then they tore my shirt and tried to strangle me, while one of the attackers took a big stone to crush my head,” he said. The headlights of an approaching vehicle beamed onto them, and the assailants fled.

Eritrea: Christians Tortured to Death
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS—Eritrean authorities tortured a woman to death in September 2007 for refusing to recant her Christian faith, the fourth such killing in less than a year.

Citing Christian sources in the East African nation of Eritrea, Open Doors said in a statement that it has confirmed that 33-year-old Nigisti Haile was killed for refusing to sign a letter recanting her faith. Held at the Wi’a Military Training Center 20 miles south of the Red Sea port of Massawa, Haile was one of 10 single Christian women arrested at a church gathering in Keren who have spent 18 months under severe pressure.

Eritrea outlawed indepen -dent Protestant churches in May 2002, closing their buildings and banning them from meeting even in private homes. Haile was a member of a Rhema church, an independent Protestant group, according to Open Doors. Before her arrest, according to the organization, Haile worked for a relative while studying to complete high school-level education.

In February 2007, Magos Solomon Semere died under torture at the Adi-Nefase Military Confinement facility outside Assab, four and a half years after the Eritrean regime jailed him for worshiping in a banned Protestant church. According to one source, the 30-year-old Semere died “due to physical torture and persis -tent pneumonia, for which he was forbidden proper medical treatment.”

In October 2006, two other Christians died under torture for holding a religious service in a private home south of Asmara.

In August 2007, Open Doors became aware that the 10 Christian women arrested earlier were separated from other prisoners and taken to the Wi’a military center, where they underwent torture for refusing to recant.

On August 19, ten members of the Full Gospel Church were arrested as they gathered in a house in Kahawata, a suburb of Asmara, sources said. On August 12, Leul Gebreab, 35, a pastor at the evangelical Apostolic Church, was arrested in Asmara.

Amnesty International said the detainees from the Full Gospel Church are believed to be held without charge or trial in the Karchele security prison, together with dozens of other pastors and members of banned evangelical churches.

More than 2,000 Eritrean Christians are imprisoned in Eritrea. All have been denied legal counsel or trial, with no written charges filed against them. Amnesty reported that most of the more than 2,000 imprisoned Christians have been held for more than two years in harsh conditions, with little or no medical treatment.

“Members of evangelical churches have been subjected to arrest, torture and coercion by the security forces to try and force them to deny their faith,” Amnesty reported.

Since May 2002, Eritrea has officially recognized only Islam and the Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Christian churches. At the same time, Amnesty noted, religious persecution has also affected the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

India: Hindu Extremism Increasing
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS—Christians rallied in Karnataka’s capital of Bangalore, India, in September 2007 to protest a growing number of Hindu extremist attacks on church meetings in Mysore district and other areas.

“The Global Council of Indian Christians [GCIC] is in possession of concrete evidence of a conspiracy of the Hindu extremists allegedly belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] and the Bajrang Dal, who plan to launch a serial attack against Christians in HD Kotte and different parts of Mysore,” organization president Dr. Sajan K. George told Compass.

He said Pastor Yeravasan Kalla Suresh of Ebenezer Full Gospel Church in HD Kotte is in “grave” danger. Two Bangalore-based extremists have been holding meetings in different parts of Mysore, George said, indoctrinating young people in hateful propaganda. “The anti-Christian attacks are alarmingly increasing day by day,” George said. “There have been 70 reported cases of attacks against Christians in the last 18 months.”

Bangladesh: Christian Villagers Again Beaten, Threatened
COMPASS DIRECT NEWS—Islamic radicals in a Bangladesh village have meted out more beatings and death threats to Christians after a special police force meant to offer protection for three months withdrew after only a week.

The Islamic extremists in Durbachari village, Nilphamari, have continued their violence against Christians. Moreover, a national newspaper has clearly named—and thus targeted—the Rev. Albert Adhikari as a key advocate for Christians in the area.

Muslim villagers had seized a local Christian, known only as Hatem, in July 2007. They beat Hatem, a fruit salesman, and questioned him about his conversion from Islam before binding him with ropes and leaving him in a food storage area overnight.

When Hatem’s friends phoned the village chairman in the morning and asked for help, the chairman intervened and Hatem was released. Adhikari later visited Hatem and found him lying in bed, covered with bruises.

On July 12, Adhikari and a local Christian known only as Sanjoy visited several Christian homes in the area to assess the situation and encourage the believers.

Later that night, as Sanjoy prepared to return home, Christians in the village phoned him and warned him not to return by his usual route, as Muslim villagers were lying in wait armed with sticks and other homemade weapons. Forewarned, Sanjoy took a longer route and arrived home about two hours later.

On Sunday (July 15), Adhikari learned that nine people carrying guns and other weapons had visited the home of another Christian in Durbachari, issuing death threats. Thankfully, the believer, known only as Barek, had taken shelter elsewhere in the village and escaped injury. That same day the Inkelab, a Bengali daily newspaper, published an article calling for a ban on the activity of Christian individuals, churches, and nongovernmental organizations throughout Bangladesh.

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