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Christmas and New Year violence against ...

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Christmas and New Year violence against Christian minorities in Asia, Africa and the Arab world

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Christmas and New Year violence against Christian minorities in Asia, Africa and the Arab world

Country/Region: Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia

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Christmas is meant to be a season of peace and goodwill. However for Christians in many parts of the world this did not occur. A spate of threats and violence against Christian minorities has marked the Christmas and New Year season just past.

 

Anti-Christian persecution is often focused on Christian festivals, and the last few weeks have seen attacks in at least eight countries, both around the Western Christmas Day on 25 December and the Eastern Christmas Day on 7 January. Tension was particularly high this season in Shia contexts (e.g. Iran and parts of Iraq) because the main Shia festival of Ashura, which moves with the Islamic calendar each year, almost coincided with Christmas, falling around 27 December.

The Western New Year on 1 January is also a frequent focus of anti-Christian violence, as it is believed by many in other parts of the world to be a Christian festival.

The following overview includes only reported incidents that were apparently timed deliberately to coincide with Christmas or New Year events. At least six Christians were killed in Egypt and three in Iraq.

December 16 – Iraq: Two car bombs were detonated near churches in Mosul causing extensive damage, wounding nearby schoolchildren and killing at least three Christians. The minister of one of the churches said “Words cannot describe what has happened ... but we will pray in the streets, in homes, in shops. God is everywhere, not just in churches.”

December 17 Iran: A meeting of 70 converts from Islam to celebrate Christmas and New Year was raided by 15 police officers, and two leaders were arrested.

December 18 Indonesia: A new church building in Bekasi Regency, near the capital Jakarta, which was almost finished and scheduled to be ready by Christmas, was attacked by a mob of motorcyclists (men, women and children) who came armed with kerosene. Despite the damage, police and government authorities urged the church minister not to cancel the planned Christmas service.

December 23(?) Iraq: On or before this date Christians in Basra were warned by Shia Muslims that they were not to celebrate Christmas in any way apart from attending church. This was owing to the main Shia celebration during the Islamic month of Muharram, which in 2009 began on 18 December, with the climax celebration around 27 December.

December 23 – Iraq: Two churches were damaged in separate bomb attacks in Mosul, killing at least three people. Iraqi Christians saw the December bombings as timed to coincide with the Christmas season. A senior church leader later said in his Christmas service, “My dear people, your attendance to the church is the best gift you provide to our new born Child at Christmas regarding the dangerous situation of our city Mosul.”

December 24-25 – Pakistan: A massive government security operation protected Christians attending Christmas services. In some areas, other Christmas celebrations were scaled down or cancelled on police advice because of security concerns. Intimidating text messages had been circulating threatening Christians with “a special gift at Christmas”, which led to the increased security precautions.

December 25 – Iraq: A mob of armed Shabaks (a Kurdish minority group) attacked the Christian-majority town of Bartilla, near Mosul in northern Iraq. They took over the entry check-point for more than five hours and tore down Christmas decorations in the shops. They also tried to enter a church in the middle of the market to perform the Ashura self-flagellation ritual inside the building. The church was successfully defended by its security guards, but four Christians including a policeman received gunshot wounds.

December 25 – Zimbabwe: A cathedral in Harare and three churches were raided by police. Police burst into a communion service in the cathedral, beat up worshippers and forced them out of the building.

December 25 – China: Police arrested several elderly Christians in Korla City, Xinjiang province, as they gathered to celebrate Christmas. A 71-year-old woman was thrown roughly against a police car. In another incident, police raided the home of an ailing Christian woman who is confined to her bed. They seized Bibles and other Christian literature and publicly burned them in a bonfire outside her home.

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    • “The cathedral in Damaturu now has only about 40 members instead of 450 members. The church in Potiskum now has only about 15 members instead of 500 members… the southern part of [Yobe state] is still very dangerous and most of the churches here have closed down.” A senior church leader in Nigeria wrote to Barnabas Fund in August about the impact on the Church of Boko Haram’s violence. Nevertheless Christians were still holding worship services every Sunday, discipling the young people and even commissioning pastors. Praise God for such perseverance, and pray that a Christian presence and witness may remain in north-east Nigeria. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

    • Heavenly Father, we pray to You for our Christian brothers and sisters in north-eastern Nigeria, who are so vulnerable in the face of attacks by Boko Haram militants. We remember especially those who used to live in Madagali, in Adamawa state, until their town was seized by Boko Haram two months ago. We think of those who were betrayed into the hands of Boko Haram by their neighbours pointing out Christian homes or places where Christians had hidden. We bring before You those who saw their menfolk beheaded, and women forcibly converted to Islam. We cry out to You to intervene and bring an end to the murderous attacks by Boko Haram. We pray for all the thousands of Nigerian Christians who have suffered in similar attacks that they will not lose hope or faith in You, but will know Your peace which passes understanding. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Pray for a pastor in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania whose home was attacked on 17 May; two of his children were injured. When he went to report the incident to the police, he was falsely accused of raping a young woman who had left Islam to follow Christ. The pastor had taken her into his home, along with four other converts, after she was thrown out by her family; it was they who made the accusation against him. He has faced much opposition because of his fruitful outreach to Muslims, and several failed attempts have been made to frame him with false accusations. Pray that the sovereign Lord will help him and that he will not be disgraced (Isaiah 50:7-9). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Oct 2014 00:00

    • A church on Mafia Island, part of the Zanzibar archipelago, was attacked on 9 May by around 80 young Muslim men armed with arrows and knives. The church members, who are mainly converts from Islam, had gathered for their weekly overnight prayer session when the attackers appeared, shouting “death to ritad’i” (those who leave Islam). They set fi re to the church, leaving the interior in ruins, and then went in search of the pastor, but he was not at home. The incident followed a bomb blast at another church in Mwanza in mainland Tanzania on 5 May, in which a worker at the church rest house was critically injured. Pray that the authorities will effectively address the increasing incidence of attacks against churches. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Cry out to the Lord for the many Christian victims of kidnapping by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Remember especially the more than two hundred teenage girls who were taken from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state, on the night of 14 April. A video released in May showed eight of the girls speaking about their ordeal; they plead for their release, and one says, “I never expected to suffer like this in my life.” It is believed that they have been divided into at least four groups and that most of them are being held in camps outside Nigeria. They are hungry, while some are unwell and need medical attention. Pray for their safe release and for that of other kidnapped Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Oct 2014 00:00

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