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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 Christians in the village of Gudrikia, Kandhamal district, who lost their church building in the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Orissa state, India. Earlier this year, they planned to rebuild the church, and on 11 March, they took the stones they had bought to the site to start the work. But they were blocked by a group of Hindu fundamentalists, who threatened them. The previous church building had been burnt down, and the land where it once stood is now used by Hindus for farming. The latest incident highlights the ongoing hostility towards Christians in the area. Pray that the Lord will soften the hearts of Hindu extremists in India, and that they will allow Christians to practise their faith in freedom and peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 4 hours ago

    • Pray for Christians and other non-Hindus in India following the landslide victory of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the country’s general election. The BJP is the political wing of a Hindu nationalist movement, Hindutva, which is striving to make India a religiously pure nation. The party has given support to Hindu extremist groups that attack Christians, and states where it holds power have generally experienced a rise in anti- Christian violence. The party was in charge of Orissa state during the horrendous anti-Christian riots of 2007-08. It has also pledged to introduce national legislation to curb “missionary” activity and end “proselytising”; this may be used to restrict legitimate Christian evangelism. Pray that the new government will give equal rights to all India’s citizens and provide effective protection for Christians, Muslims and others from Hindu extremism. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we lift up to You today the heartbroken family of Mary Sameh George, a young Christian woman who was killed in an Islamist attack on a church in Egypt. We pray that You will comfort them and give them Your peace. We thank You that Mary was not ashamed to make her allegiance to You known, even taking the risk of provoking murderous anger against herself. We pray also for the families of three others who were killed in this attack at a church in Ain Shams, a suburb of Cairo, on 28 March. Lord God, may the hostility of Muslim Brotherhood supporters towards Christians in Egypt be restrained. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that as believers in some areas of Egypt continue to be at risk of violence from Islamists, Barnabas Fund is able to provide various kinds of practical help for needy Christians there, especially those most affected by the political turmoil. We are supporting Christian families in Upper Egypt with housing costs, medicines, food and schooling for their children, and 30 Christian students who were on the verge of dropping out of education because of lack of money have received funding to complete their education. Pray for all those receiving this help, that they will also be encouraged spiritually. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Jul 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that the authorities in Egypt are pursuing justice for the Christian community following widespread violence against them by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer. Christians were scapegoated by the Islamists for the downfall of President Mohammed Morsi. On 14 August, mobs torched scores of churches, Christian institutions and private property in what was described as the worst single day of violence against the Egyptian Church since the 14th century. Over 100 Muslims have been charged in connection with the attacks; at the time of writing they were due to stand trial for rioting, attacking citizens and targeting the churches and homes of Christians. Pray that justice will be done and restitution made to churches and individuals who suffered material losses. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Jul 2014 00:00

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