Blog – 2016 2nd Quarter
Weekly Commentary June 19-25, 2016
A Christian civil rights leader has been released from jail in Egypt. Pray that his prosecution on terrorism charges will be dropped. The rest of this week’s report (click here to read) is not so fortunate.
Christians were killed in Nigeria, Syria, Thailand (by neglect), and the United States (a minister was killed in a domestic violence case). Christians remained in captivity in China, Egypt, Iran, and Mali. Assaults and beatings of Christians occurred in Egypt, India, Pakistan, and the United States.
Churches were attacked or raided in the Central African Republic, Chile, China, Egypt, India, Jordan, and Syria.
Several of these cases deserve more commentary:
- The story with the largest impact concerned Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin. He has been held in captivity for almost four years, and his limited access to the internet was suspended two months ago. This past week an apology for his stance against the state-sponsored church appeared on his social media account. Consternation and even anger erupted among Chinese Christians, but then opinions cooled as it was realized that there was no proof that he authored the apology.
- In Syria Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II escaped an assassination by a suicide bomber dressed as a priest.
- In India the oppression from the RSS paramilitaries and other Sangh Parivar groups continued.
- Attacks on religious speech occurred in both Canada and the United States, one at a parochial high school (of all places) and one at an air force base. The air force case was particularly offensive because it involved a clear violation of military regulations and because the victim was a civilian.
The world around us continues to change at a fast pace, and so we need to maintain our vigilance. Some of our stories are good indicators of the level of conflict that is brewing today. Please read this week’s report and if you have time at least some of the linked source material within it. And please pray.
Weekly Commentary June 12-18, 2016
In this week’s report (please click here to read it) we have for good news a story of the return of the Bodnariu children to their parents in Norway after a worldwide protest. The children had been seized by the government’s child welfare agency in large part due to the Christian beliefs of the family. At the same time a watchdog group released a report which showed that the huge majority of such seizures were perpetrated against Norway’s immigrants, and suggested that it was a deliberate policy to counter the low birth rates among native Norwegians.
We also have for good news the escape of a Christian convert from captivity in Libya.
Five Christians were listed as killed in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and in a vehicular accident while on a pilgrimage in Albania. An Iraqi archbishop vented his frustrations by saying “Christians are cheap people, you can kill them, they count for nothing”.
This report lists a large number of assaults, beatings, wrongful arrests, and abductions of young Christian women. In Syria an elderly man was forced to convert to Islam by the Islamic State: under sharia [Islamic law] he had the options of conversion, death, and payment of jizya (tribute, often described as a poll tax). His previous jizya payments had impoverished him, and so he was down to two options, poverty being no excuse.
We have our first ever report from Malawi, which describes the growing Islamic radicalization there.
In the Western world, radical secularization has continued its gallop toward whatever end awaits it. The Norwegian situation has already been presented. In Britain the government’s policies have resulted in Christian refugees being denied asylum and Christian college students being denied the right to assemble on campus. In Chile rioting students attacked a church and destroyed a crucifix. And in Spain a cardinal archbishop has been placed under criminal investigation after delivering homilies against the latest offspring of the sexual revolution; if charged and convicted he would face up to 4 years’ imprisonment.
Prayer is needed, but not only that these evils are resolved in a worldly sense. Prayer is needed for reparation – the day before the criminal investigation was opened against him, the Spanish cardinal had called for such after a homosexual group created a blasphemous representation of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Prayer is needed so that we Christians may be strong and wise. Finally, consider the words of a Christian that came after bullets had been fired into his church; he speaks of his Muslim neighbors, but his words could be applied to many others, even to some of no faith at all:
These are terrible times in Pakistan, Christians are not safe and many of us will be killed for our faith. Muslims in this country are brought up hating us – they persecute us as they fear the power and authority of Jesus. But we will continue to show love as Christ commanded and will pray for the word of God to touch their hearts and change their lives
Movie Review – All That Remains June 16, 2016
All That Remains is the first English language movie of Dr. Paul Takashi Nagai, Marina Nagai Midori and their family. This film was produced and directed by Ian and Dominic Higgins, who had previously produced and directed The 13th Day, a film of the Fatima miracles. Released in May 2016 on DVD, it is a beautiful depiction of the search for God, of faith in Him despite all suffering, and of love for others.
Takashi Nagai was born into a samurai family in 1908. His father was a country doctor, and he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps rather than his own desire to be an artist and writer. He was also attracted to medical research, and so he decided to not attend the prestigious medical schools such as at Tokyo, but rather the more Western-oriented school at Nagasaki…click here to read more
Click here for a Today’s Martyrs meditation which makes use of the latest trailer for this movie.
Weekly Commentary June 5-11, 2016
Good news from Iran in this week’s report (click here to read): Maryam Naghash-Zargaran, also known as Nasim, has been granted medical leave from Evin Prison and hospitalized. Once again your prayers have been answered.
A greengrocer in Bangladesh, who is the brother of a priest we have previously reported on, has been murdered.
Three churches in China were desecrated, and a prayer meeting called by the bishop to atone for the desecration was cancelled by police. Incidentally the desecration apparently had nothing to do with the government, which did arrest the suspect.
The usual persecutions have continued in the republics of Central Asia.
Again, please continue your prayers.
Weekly Commentary May 29 – June 4, 2016
We will begin this week’s report with the story of Maryam Naghash-Zargaran, also known as Nasim. The report tells how precarious her health has been in prison in Iran, and how she has now begun a hunger strike in an attempt to get the medical care she has been denied. Please pray very much for her, she is at great risk of death.
Soad Thabet in Egypt was mentioned anonymously in last week’s report. She was publicly stripped naked in an Islamist attack. She has since gone public on radio and television to demand justice from her attackers. What a brave woman!
In Vietnam a military truck deliberately ran over a small group of Christians who were praying in front of a home. Two were killed, including a pastor. At his funeral days later the eulogist asked “Who will take his place?” and 30 young people stood.
Christians were also reported to have been killed in Nigeria and Uganda. Please look over all of the stories on this report and pray.
Our final comment involves a story not in our report. Many readers are a aware of the recent shooting in a zoo of a gorilla named Harambe who had taken possession of a 3 year old child, and the resulting news furor. The Newsbusters website has published an article maintaining that the gorilla story has received six times the coverage of the ISIL beheading of the Coptic Christians in Libya. We decided to conduct our own analysis of contemporary priorities by checking the petitions on the change.org web site; here are the results:
Safer conditions for animals confined in zoos – 18,226 supporters
Make a memorial for Harambe – 15,450 supporters
Justice for Harambe – 490,882 supporters
Support “Harambe’s Law” – 192,948 supporters
Commemorate 21 Martyrs of Libya – 485 supporters
Christians should take a good look at those numbers, and realize their true position in The World.
Call to Prayer May 30, 2016
The Chaldean Patriarch of Bagdad, Louis Raphael I Sako, announced that he has organized an ecumenical prayer service for May 30, 2016. Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Yazidis, and Sabians will be in attendance together. The Patriarch has asked that all Christians throughout Iraq join in a prayer that will be recited at this ecumenical event. It would seem to be prudent and godly that Christians around the globe also share in this prayer.
Prayer for peace in Iraq, Syria and the region
Lord, we have had enough of wars, conflicts and destructions that horrify us, made us look horrible and have destroyed our world.
Killing is nothing more than a deviation from your divine plan for man to enjoy a happy life.
Please Lord, enlighten our political leaders to renew their hearts so that they can overcome their disputes and interests, sustain goodness and love, and be the tools of peace that we need more than anything else, especially in Iraq, Syria and the region.
We want to live a happy and joyful life as brothers and sisters without injustice or war, dead or wounded, displaced persons or migrants, homeless or hungry.
Mother Mary, fill our hearts with peace and love.
Weekly Commentary May 22-28, 2016
A small report has been published this week. The atrocities or tragedies on this report lack worldly uniqueness or ‘newsworthy-ness’, other than four deaths in Syria (including a priest beheaded for praying in his church), one arrest in Sudan, and one reported abduction during a church service in Mexico. Still, twelve Christians are listed as suffering or as witnessing the suffering of others. Each person matters. Each one needs prayer. Thank you.
Weekly Commentary May 15-21, 2016
The major story this week concerns the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has claimed 8 million lives over the past 20 years and which again appears to be growing. This week two church ministers have been reported killed, and a priest wrote a letter to the President stating “at this rate, you could become the President of the dead, cemeteries and mass graves”. Please pray for the people of the Congo.
Christians have also been killed in Pakistan (a 2 year old in a drive by shooting, a 14 year old at the hands of his employer, and a 55 year old nurse who lingered after being critically injured in the 2016 Easter bombing in Lahore), in South Sudan (a nun driving an ambulance shot by soldiers), and in Uganda (a pastor poisoned with insecticide).
Christians have been released from captivity in China, Sudan, and Vietnam. The rest of the report is a long list of captivity, rape, beatings, false prosecutions, and church and cemetery attacks.
Finally we have reports on the situations in India and Lebanon.
Please read this report, and then please pray for each person and for each country. Most people think that the great evils of the World Wars are past history, but the news from the Congo shows this is not so. Please pray, pray, pray…
Weekly Commentary May 8-14, 2016
This week’s report is extremely short. By an extremely odd set of circumstances there were almost no news reports published by our major sources in the first half of this week. In the second half the floodgates opened and our sources were overwhelmed with new accounts of persecution. However, we had too little time available from Wednesday to Friday to respond to this deluge, and so most of it did not make this week’s report. Be prepared for next week!
Weekly Commentary May 1-7, 2016
In this week’s report we have accounts of the killing of named Christians in China, Jamaica, Nigeria, and Uganda, although many more unnamed were killed in Iraq, Nigeria, and Syria. The story from China is particularly horrendous because it involves the likely murder of a pastor by North Korean agents for the crime of encouraging North Korean refugees to return to their country with Christian hope. Americans may find the Iraqi account of interest, since it includes the commitment of American forces to combat there. The Syrian accounts continue the story of the torture of the city of Aleppo.
Christians have been arrested or cited in Australia, China, and India, and their incarceration has been worsened in China and North Korea. A proposed law threatens Christians with arrest in one state in Nigeria. They have been assaulted in India and Uganda, and a possible abduction of a leading clergyman was attempted in Nigeria. Buildings belonging to Christians were damaged or destroyed in India, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, and Tanzania
A Christian convert in the UK who has been repeatedly attacked reported how two disgraced politicians had colluded with his attackers.
One very interesting story comes from Nicaragua. A bishop there has decried the ongoing militarization of the countryside by the government, which is led by former Sandinistas. In particular he complained of a pending purchase of 112 tanks. Once again the Christian Church shows itself as an issuer of prophetic warnings and a critic of worldly leaders who often show a desire for power that lacks correlation with reality. This particular train of events may not lead to anything really bad, but it is better to be forewarned. Prayers lifted to heaven are more pointed if we are better informed.
Call to Prayer May 4, 2016
The Catholic leaders of the churches of Aleppo, Syria, have asked for Masses and prayers to be offered on Sunday, May 8, 2016 for the immediate end of the fighting and killing in and around their city. Yesterday alone 17 children died when missiles hit the obstetrics department in a government controlled hospital. Below are before- and after- photographs of the hospital. The full story on this request may be seen here: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Pastor-of-Aleppo:-Missiles-on-hospitals,-schools-and-mosques.-Call-for-Masses-for-peace-worldwide-37403.html
One leader, Fr. Alsabagh Ibrahim, said “We must all be close to all those who suffer, for those who have experienced violence…for infants, the elderly, the desperate. As a Church we are close not only to Christians, but to anyone who has been struck in his dignity by this violence. This is why I renew my appeal to all of you for your prayers and thank you for the solidarity, your closeness to us, your good will”.
Please consider this prayer request and forward it to anyone who you think would benefit from knowing of it.
Weekly Commentary April 24-30, 2016
This coming weekend is the celebration of the Pascha, the Resurrection of Jesus, among Christians who follow the Eastern Calendar. He is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Sixteen countries are covered by this week’s report. One country, Pakistan, occupies almost one-fifth of it. We have several of the usual stories of sexual assaults and theft. We also have a story that is almost unbelievable to a Western reader. Recall that a young married couple was lynched – burned alive – in November 2014 over false Quran desecration allegations. This week a court hearing regarding prosecution of the perpetrators saw the spectacle of prosecutors physically assaulting Christian witnesses to the crime while they sat in the witness chair in an attempt to force them to recant their testimony. When Christian attorneys objected to these actions the judge overruled the objection.
A convert to Christianity has been beaten to death in Ethiopia; in response two of her sons have followed her into the Faith.
In Syria the city of Aleppo has again come under attack by all sides in the now five year old civil war, including an attack on a Doctors Without Borders facility that likely killed the city’s remaining pediatricians as well as a number of children. Please read the accounts on this week’s report, some of which have apocalyptic overtones.
Now this foul century
Of Christ the 21st
Will prove in massive slaughtering
In time to be the worst
See Aleppo burning
As all the people flee
But on their faces superpose
The face of you or me
See Aleppo Burning
April 29, 2016
Reprinted with permission
Please pray that this poetic warning will be heeded and adverted, for Syria and for the world.
Announcement April 28, 2016
To our readers in and around Connecticut in the United States:
Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the leader of the Melkite Catholics of the city of Aleppo in Syria, will be speaking in New Haven on the continuing Christian genocide and the future of Christianity in the Middle East.
Here is the time and location of this event:
Sunday May 1, 2016
St. Mary’s Church
5 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven CT
This event is co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. Here is the link to their announcement of this event: http://www.kofc.org/en/news/releases/witness-genocide-20160425.html
For a running history of some of the major events in Archbishop Jeanbart’s ministry in recent years, as well as in the lives of other Christians in Syria, click here.
Weekly Commentary April 17-23, 2016
The story in this week’s report (click here to read) which may have the greatest repercussions is the death of Ding Cuimei in Zhumadian, Henan province, China. Ding Cuimei had been helping her husband, Pastor Li Jiangong, defend their church from a demolition crew sent by their local government. The crew leader ordered a bulldozer driver to deliberately bury the couple. Li Jiangong was able to dig himself out but his wife died of suffocation before she could be extricated. According to reports the demolition crew has been arrested by police. Christians across China have been comparing Ding Cuimei’s actions and death to the protestors who died in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The timing of this comparison is critical, as it coincides with President Xi Jinping’s continued accretion of power and adoption of Maoist terminology, and with this week’s Communist party newspaper’s stating that the Central Committee is looking for ‘fresh ideas’ on how to ‘manage’ the nation’s religions.
Four other stories on government interference with religion can be found.
The government of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has issued an education report which proposes reassessments of religious minority preferences in public schools and of the certification of religious schools. Both proposals would almost certainly hurt Christians.
The government of Lahore in Punjab province, Pakistan is in the process of building a new subway. The subway requires a sewage pumping station, and the location it has decided upon for the pumping station is right next to the Anglican cathedral, where their school now stands! One supposes we should applaud them for the honesty of their ecumenical views.
Cathedral Church of the Resurrection, Lahore, Pakistan
In the United States the Georgia Department of Public Health is being sued by Dr. Eric Walsh. In addition to his medical work Dr. Walsh is a part-time minister. He had been hired by the department in May of 2015 and then had the offer of employment revoked several days later, after the department became aware of – rather, hunted down – the contents of the homilies he had delivered in his church. The homilies in question concerned traditional Christian morality. This is an almost unbelievable attack on religious liberty, and shows that the anti-religious among us who want ‘freedom of religion’ emasculated into ‘freedom of worship’ really don’t want freedom of worship either.
The government of Tay Son district, Binh Dinh province in Vietnam attacked a church to seize land it owned for a park.
There are three stories concerning the joint Syrian-Russian liberation of Qaryatain from the Islamic State (ISIL) and the horrors they found there.
Please read these stories and all the others and say a prayer for the people in each, including our enemies.
There is one good story. A church in Luxor, Egypt was threatened by Muslim radicals. The Muslim neighbors came and surrounded the church and prevented an attack. This is the third such episode in recent years at this church. Please pray for these people as well. God love them.
Weekly Commentary April 10-16, 2016
The most unusual story on this week’s report concerns the Mapuche succession movement in Chile. This indigenous peoples movement has been fighting the government for two decades, and has now begun to attack churches as government collaborators, though it would seem without merit. Churches built by previous generations of the Mapuche are now being destroyed. This appears to be just another example of the irrationality that is advancing in our world today. The only saving grace in the story is that the Mapuche radicals appear to be doing everything possible to avoid injuring or killing church workers – so far.
In Indonesia an elderly Christian woman has been caned for selling alcohol. When her province originally introduced sharia (Islamic) law in 2001 the people were told it would only be applied to Muslims. Well, that was then, and this is now.
A Christian has been killed in Pakistan, another had been the victim of an attempted murder in Uganda, and another has been raped in Bangladesh. Several were beaten in India, and over and over we see that “police refused to file a report”.
A priest has been abducted in Sudan, and a patriarch of Antioch has commemorated the third anniversary of the abduction of two bishops in Syria – one his own brother. A former missionary has been released in the Philippines, but several pastors and priests remain imprisoned in Eritrea.
A missionary in Turkey has again been subjected to a deportation order, just the latest of several since 2007. A Uzbek, Murot Turdiyev, showed that he is a very brave man: he attempted to protest to prosecutors the arrest of a fellow Christian despite having been beaten unconscious by police less than a year ago.
Among the remaining stories are two from Scandinavia. The youngest child of a couple accused of being radical Christians for telling their children about sin has been returned to them in Norway, but the other four remain in foster care. A midwife in Sweden is facing the loss of her home after challenging employment discrimination, and has given a spirited defense and a telling description of her situation.
Forty seven Christians are listed on this week’s report. Please say a prayer for each, and please pray for everyone who is tempted to use violence to advance their cause, that they see the pain and suffering that they cause and so see the value in restraint.
Weekly Commentary April 3-9, 2016
This week’s report on today’s martyrs (click here to read) contains more information on those killed and wounded in the Easter terror attack on the children’s park in Pakistan. It also has a report of a young woman’s abduction, forcible ‘marriage’, and escape, and Pakistani criticism of the new Canadian prime minister’s closure of that country’s Commission on Religious Freedom.
This week also saw the commemoration of the first anniversary of the terror attack on Garissa University College in Kenya.
Christians have been released from captivity in China (though with restrictions), India, Nigeria, and Ukraine. In the last case the persecutors were themselves Christians. These reports are outweighed by abductions, or wrongful arrests or prosecutions in China, Ethiopia, and Palestine (briefly). More physical attacks have occurred in India.
The remainder is an unusually large and varied list of government restrictions or plain harassment of Christian practices.
Please pray for each of these people, for their families and friends. Please pray for their societies and nations, which also happen to be our societies and nations. We are all bound together in faith around this globe, so let us think and pray with such closeness in mind.
Weekly Commentary March 27 – April 2, 2016
The greatest of Christian events, the Resurrection of the Savior of the world, was celebrated this week by Christians who follow the Western calendar (Eastern Christians are now into their second week of Great and Holy Lent). We pray that your celebration of the Paschal mystery has been holy and sweet.
In this commentary on this week’s report we will focus on only one story, the attack on a park in Pakistan on Easter Sunday. The Christians of Lahore would often bring their children to the carnival rides late on Easter. They did not know that a suicide bomber had joined them with the intent to kill the children. Many Muslims as well as Christians were killed.
In the following days these Christians carried caskets on their shoulders and anguish in their hearts. One mourner talked honestly of the pain of living after seeing such evil:
“When you have seen death – you have seen children fly into their air whole, and fall back on the earth in slivers and pieces – what have you got to fear?… Something fills you with the knowledge that if you lived through that, you will live through anything God wants you to. And will die from anything God wants to use to take you. I don’t know why God gave me life. I would rather die. I am not afraid, just desperately confused.”
We will end with another mourner, a little boy, who gave the counterpoint to all the Cains of this world:
“Their father’s hand was on one coffin. As photographers crowded around, he screamed: ‘You will not show him to the world this way!’ – because his son’s face was mutilated beyond belief [and because Pakistani coffins contain a small window through which the deceased may be seen]. He kept repeating over and over again: ‘My son died on the rides. He was on the rides. He was on the rides. It was on the rides’…People tried to move away a little boy curled up by the coffin, and to tell him to let them put it in the ground. People were spent from tears and crying, and yet found some energy to dig the graves of their loved ones. The little boy would not let go and wept. I asked the family to let him hold the coffin a little more, and then he looked at me, and we locked eyes before he said, ‘He was my brother after all’.”
Blog – 2016 2nd Quarter