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Threats of anti-Christian attacks over Christmas amid arrests, violence and murder

Country/Region: India, South and East Asia, Pakistan, Lao, People's Democratic Republic, China, Iran, Middle East and North Africa

 Christian children in India may be in danger this Christmas
Christian children in India may be in danger this Christmas

A sequence of threats, arrests and violence in India, Pakistan, Laos, China and Iran signal grave danger for Christians throughout the world over the Christmas period.

The festive season of Christmas and the Western New Year is a time when Christian minorities often face increased persecution and violence as they attempt to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and this year looks set to be no exception.

Murder in India to "create climate of fear among Christians"

The murder of Christian activist Rabindra Parichha in Kandhamal District, Orissa State, India, has been interpreted as "a strategic move by extremists to create a climate of fear among Christians" in the run-up to Christmas. This was the verdict of Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

Rabindra was found dead on 16 December; the circumstances of his murder are as yet unknown.

Meanwhile in Kandhamal, extremists have called for a bundh – strikes and protests – to coincide with the Christmas period, 24-27 December. The same group had called for a similar strike in December 2007, which precipitated anti-Christian attacks in which five Christians were killed and hundreds of houses torched. The violence resumed in August 2008 and continued for two-and-a-half months. More than 90 people died and thousands were injured. Around 6,000 homes were burnt down, and over 56,000 people were displaced; many are yet to return home.

Christians in Kandhamal have not celebrated Christmas openly since then but were planning to do so this year. Amid the latest security concerns, however, a senior church leader in Kandhamal said that the celebrations had been cancelled, and church-run schools, hostels and orphanages closed down.

Barnabas Fund's Co-ordinator for India said that the Christmas season has been used to target Christians in Orissa for the last three years. He added, "With the killing of Christian activist Rabindra Parichha we could assume an escalation of violence against Christians during this Christmas season."

Terrorist threats in Pakistan

Intelligence reports have warned that terrorists are planning to target Christian gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Lahore, Pakistan. The report described security at all 433 churches in the city as "inadequate" and named 20 churches as "sensitive".

Police have met with Christian leaders to discuss security measures; 2,000 police officers will be deployed to protect churches in the city, with snipers on the rooftops of those most vulnerable to attack. Police officers and Christian volunteers will perform searches with metal detectors at the entrance, and there will be extra security and patrols during services.

Arrests in Laos

Eight church leaders were arrested on 16 December for holding a Christmas service in Boukham village, Laos. Four were placed in handcuffs and wooden stocks. After two attempts by a senior church leader to obtain their release, one of the detainees was set free upon the payment of a fine. The other seven were asked to admit to being guilty of flouting the village's law by conducting a Christmas worship service; the local authorities said it violated the hiit, the traditional spirit cult of the village. The Christians declared their innocence, citing the Lao constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. They were held in detention, and all seven were placed in wooden stocks.

Christmas crackdown in China

In China, the authorities broke up a public Christmas celebration staged by an unregistered church ("house church") and allegedly beat Christians in attendance at the event.

The Xintan Village Church set up for the Christmas gala on a stage in the village square on the evening of 13 December. They were playing Christmas music, which was abruptly silenced when uniformed police cut the electricity. A scuffle ensued in which worshippers were allegedly pushed and punched, leaving five injured. Sound and music equipment was damaged.

The church said the local government had authorised the event, but an official said that the Christians were asked to cancel because regulations forbid outdoor worship, and Buddhists in the community had complained.

History repeating in Iran?

Last Christmas, the Iranian authorities launched a crackdown on Iran's house church movement in which more than 70 Christians were arrested. There are indications of a repeat this year; Christians in seven cities have been interrogated by the authorities, while police have been gathering information about Christian-owned businesses across the country.

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    • Pray for a Christian family in Kandhamal in Orissa state, India, who have been left devastated after their home was destroyed for the third time by Hindu extremists. The Digals of Budruka village were among hundreds of Christian families to lose their home in the horrendous anti-Christian violence of December 2007. They returned two months later and rebuilt their house, but in August 2008 the attacks resumed, and their second home was also destroyed. After receiving financial aid from the government they were able to rebuild it again this year, but in April it was wrecked once more, shattering their hopes of returning to their village to cultivate their land. Pray that the Lord will comfort them in their distress and provide them with a peaceful dwelling-place and secure home (Isaiah 32:18). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 17 hours ago

    • The landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s general election in May sparked alarm for Christians and other minorities in the country. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. It has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. The BJP has introduced “anti-conversion” laws in a number of states, which are used to prevent legitimate Christian evangelism. Prior to the general election, the BJP pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end proselytising if elected. Pray that the BJP will rule justly and that the rights and freedoms of all Indian citizens will be upheld. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka facing attacks from Buddhist extremists, who have forced the closure of numerous churches. In an apparently positive move, the government has created a Religious Disputes Unit to address conflicts between different groups and combat attempts to create religious discord. But many Christians and Muslims believe that Buddhist extremists are allowed to operate with impunity and that the new unit will not solve the problems faced by non-Buddhists. A cap on the building of places of worship has also been announced, and this seems to serve the Buddhist lobby, which is opposed to expanding Christian activity. Pray for protection for Christian congregations and that their ministry and mission will not be further impeded. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Sep 2014 00:00

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

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