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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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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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Daily prayer

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  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 12 hours ago

  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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