Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007

[ ] Pact Spares Evangelicals In Chiapas, Mexico From Expulsion
[ ] Turkey Jails Four Street Evangelists
[ ] Hindu Extremists In India Target Christian State Official
[ ] Northern Nigerian Christians Wary Of New Muslim President
[ ] Christian Lawyers In Vietnam Could Get Harsh Sentences


Local political bosses in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico, who had voted to expel 65 Christians from a small town near here grudgingly signed an agreement yesterday to let the evangelicals stay. Evangelical attorney Esdras Alonso Gonzalez told Compass the town bosses (caciques) of Los Pozosand other "traditionalist Catholics," who practice a mixture of Tzotzil Mayaritual and Roman Catholicism, showed up armed with a plan for the Christians to pay for religious festivals, plus fines for past refusal to contribute. The evangelicals' refusal to help pay for and participate in the festivals, which include drunken revelry and what they regard as idolatrous adoration of saints, was the original reason the town officials voted to expel them last Dec. 23. "The caciques' attitude was that they wanted the brothers to sign another document obligating them to contribute funds for past festivals and the fines they had supposedly accumulated," Alonso said. "But the state government did not allow it." [CD]


Police jailed four Christian street evangelists in Istanbul for "missionary activity" this week, even as government officials openly defended the right of all religious groups to carry out evangelistic work in Turkey. Officials released U.S. citizen David Byle this evening, more than 48 hours after he was arrested along with a Korean and two Turkish Christians, his wife said. Christian sources maintained that Turkey plans to deport the Korean believer, though further details remain unknown. The four men were detained Wednesday afternoon (April 25) while sharing their faith with passersby at a park in Istanbul's Taksim district. The arrests occurred in the midst of tense national debate over the legitimacy of Christian missionary activity, sparked by the gruesome killing of three Christian men in southeastern Turkey last week. "Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations," Niyazi Guney, Ministry of Justice director general of laws, reportedly commented only a day after the murders. [CD]


Hindu extremists in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh have brought the incidence of Christian persecution to an unprecedented high, including a slander campaign against the state's chief minister, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, a Christian. Sam Paul, public affairs secretary of the All India Christian Council, said at least one anti-Christian incident occurs per day. Paul believes that the rising number of attacks on Christians is linked to a campaign against Chief Minister Reddy by Hindu extremist groups. "Hindu extremists are accusing the chief minister and the state government ruled by the Congress Party of having a 'Christian' agenda," Paul told Compass. Theyare trying to ensure that "the chief minister is branded as a supporter of Christian missionaries trying to convert Hindus by the use of force and allurement." [CD]


Christians fear that persecution especially in predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria will increase following the election on Saturday of Muslim Umaru Musa Yar'Adua as president. As governor of Katsina state in northern Nigeria, Yar'Ardua imposed sharia (Islamic law) and presided over a system of deliberate denial of land for building churches, as well as government agencies that arbitrarily closed some churches, Christian leaders told Compass. Major political parties in Nigeria nominated only Muslims from the north as part of an unwritten agreement among leaders that the presidency would alternate between north and south. The Rev. Bulus Polit of the Evangelical Church of West Africa in Jos told Compass that between the two Muslim presidential candidates, Yar'Adua's opponent was the more hard-line Muslim who would have presented greater problems to Christians in the country. [CD]


Following the March 29 sentencing of Father Nguyen Van Ly to eight years in prison for distributing "material harmful to the state," two Protestant lawyers charged with the same "crime" are expected to face equally harsh sentences in what Human Rights Watch has called the harshest crackdown in 20years. Attorney Nguyen Van Dai, a 38-year-old member of the main Hanoi congregation of the legally-recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) since 2000, was arrested on March 2. According to Pastor Au Quang Vinh of the Hanoi church, a second lawyer, 27-year-old Le This Cong Nhan, was also arrested in early March. She had just completed a doctrine course for new believers at the same church in preparation for baptism. Authorities have prohibited Dai's wife, Khanh, from visiting him, and her home phone and cell phone services have been cut. A Christian source also said that police have been trying to incite neighbors against her. [CD]

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