Christian girl ‘very distressed’ after being forced to live with Muslim families

Christian girl ‘very distressed’ after being forced to live with Muslim families

A five-year-old girl from a Christian was left ‘very distressed’ after she was fostered to two Muslim families, encouraged to learn Arabic and had her Christian cross taken away.

After the two placement by Tower Hamlets council in east London, the girl returned home where she told her birth mother that Christmas and Easter are ‘stupid’ and European women are alcoholics, according to a report in The Times.

And she refused to eat what had been her favorite meal spaghetti carbonara because it contained bacon.

According to The Times, the child sobbed and begged not to have to go back to her foster home, where her present career wears a burqa, covering her face entirely, outside the home.

She told her social worker: ‘They don’t speak English.’ Her own family had opposed the placements.

Local authorities are obliged in law to give ‘due consideration to a child’s religion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background’ when they go into care.

A friend told the newspaper: ‘This is a five-year-old white girl. She was born in this country, speaks English as her first language, loves football, holds a British passport and was christened in a church.

‘She’s already suffered the huge trauma of being forcibly separated from her family. She needs surroundings in which she’ll feel secure. Instead, she’s trapped in a world where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar. That’s really scary for a young child.’

In April this year, an Ofsted inspection at Tower Hamlets Council found ‘widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection’

The Department for Education said: ‘When placing a child in a foster home, the local authority must ensure that the placement is the most appropriate way to support [the child’s] welfare. A child’s background is an important consideration in this decision.’

A council spokesman said: ‘We are unable to comment on individual cases. In every case, we give absolute consideration to our children’s background and to their cultural identity. All our foster carers receive training to ensure they are fully qualified to meet the needs of children in their care.’

Bangladesh Closes Down 200 Christian NGOs with New Regulations

Bangladesh Closes Down 200 Christian NGOs with New Regulations

According to local Christian groups working in Bangladesh, the government has closed down 200 Christian NGOs operating in the country with a law passed last year. The Foreign Donations Regulation Bill, passed in October 2016, was meant to be a check on terrorist cells receiving funds from outside Bangladesh. The bill was passed in wake of the Holey Artisan Bakery and Café attack last year in Dhaka. Unfortunately, the restriction on funding religious activities has created a problem for many Christian NGOs who have had to shut down due to their inability to secure funding.

08/08/2017 Bangladesh (Mission Network News) – FMI’s Bruce Allen recently reported that the Bangladeshi government has indirectly shut down 200 operating Christian NGOs since the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Bill, 2016 (FDRB) was passed into law October 2016.

The crackdown on NGOs comes in response to Bangladesh’s major terrorist attack last year.

At the beginning of last month, the country marked its first anniversary since the Holey Artisan Bakery and Café in Dhaka was attacked by Islamic extremists. At least 20 people were murdered in the tragedy, including foreigners.

Despite a previous increase in terrorist activity, this strike was the first major terrorist attack Bangladesh had experienced in years. Nevertheless, it was a ringing gong that awoke the country to the dangers within its borders.

And what many may not realize is that funding for terrorist activities was once able to enter Bangladesh under the disguise of foreign aid. To counter this elusive funding scheme, Bangladesh’s government has made it harder for NGOs in the country, particularly religious ones, to receive foreign aid.

Now, under the FDRB, in order for an NGO to receive foreign funds and perform activities, NGOs much register with NGO Affairs Bureau (NGOAB). What the FDRB essentially does is it gives the NGOAB the ability to decide which NGOs can receive funding or not.

While the NGOAB does have a list of requirements and/or violations that can either grant or cancel an NGO’s ability to register with the NGOAB, one of the most influential of these is the fact that NGOs cannot “[make] derogatory comments about the Constitution and constitutional institutions’ of Bangladesh, including the Offices of the President, the Prime Minister, the Parliament, or the Supreme Court…” according to the Library of Congress.

The ambiguous “derogatory comments” give leeway for the NGOAB to decide which NGOs’ registrations can be canceled, even without seemingly hard and incriminating evidence. However, according to FMI’s Bruce Allen, there seems to be an approval sweet-spot for certain types of religious NGOs.

“If you’re an organization, even if you’re a Christian mission agency or NGO, providing non-religious services such as a hospital or relief work [and] things like that, and your services are available to anyone in Bangladesh, then you’re able to continue to operate in Bangladesh,” Allen shares.

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Local Authorities in Upper Egypt Prevent Christians from Holding Sunday Worship

Local Authorities in Upper Egypt Prevent Christians from Holding Sunday Worship

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on Sunday, August 20, police in Ezbat Al-Forn, located in Egypt’s Minya governorate, prevented local Christians from accessing a building they were using to hold Sunday worship. Father Botros Azeez, the priest who travels to Ezbat Al-Forn on a weekly basis to officiate Sunday worship, was also kept off the church premises by security forces who cordoned off the area.

“On Sunday morning, at 6:00 a.m., we were surprised when we found that security forces were cordoning the area and surrounding our church and prevented us from entering it,” Karam Fawzy, a Christian resident of Ezbat Al-Forn, told ICC. “When we stood in the street chanting, ‘Kyrie Eleison’ (Lord have mercy), the police dispersed us by force and arrested some of us. They also prevented Father Botros Azeez, our church’s priest, from entering the village.”

The building, used as a de facto church, is a small house owned by the Bishopric of Minya. It is located within a Christian-majority neighborhood in Ezbat Al-Forn, where approximately 400 Coptic families reside, and has been used for worship for more than four years.

The security officials claimed that the Christians were refused access to the church because they had no permit to practice religious rites in the house. Police officials, represented by Brigadier General Mohamed Salah, filed a report to that effect, citing complaints reported against the Christians by local Muslims in Ezbat Al-Forn.

The Abu Qurqas Diocese, the diocese in charge of the Ezbat Al-Forn area, issued a statement saying that the house in question was in fact a church that had been used for worship for years under the watch of local police who never reported it as a violation of the law. The statement went on to say that Ezbat Al-Forn’s Muslim community had also never objected to the operation of the church because of its location among Coptic homes. The statement concluded by claiming that Egyptian law includes no stipulation that leading worship requires any permit.

Last week, Bishop Anba Macarius, Bishop-General of Minya and Abu-Qurqas, issued a statement in which he protested against local security authorities who refuse to reopen churches that have been closed for years ‘due to security concerns.’ In his statement, he pointed out that the Minya parish alone includes 15 such churches and 70 other villages where there are no churches at all.

William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The forced closure of the church in Ezbat Al-Forn is another example of how authorities use Egypt’s church building laws and regulations to persecute the country’s Christian community. The fact that Christians were prevented from using a building they had openly used for worship for years only a week after church leadership complained about the closure of churches clearly shows the arbitrary and punitive way in which authorities apply the church building laws and regulations. Clear reforms must be made to Egypt’s church building laws and regulations if Christians are to truly be able to exercise their religious freedom rights. Until then, local authorities will continue to use these vague laws and regulations to close churches and prevent worship whenever and wherever they please.”

Christians in India Mark 9th Anniversary of Country’s Worst Anti-Christian Violence

Christians in India Mark 9th Anniversary of Country’s Worst Anti-Christian Violence

International Christian Concern (ICC) and India’s Christian community are marking the ninth anniversary of the 2008 anti-Christian Orissa riots, widely considered to be the worst incident of Christian persecution in India’s independent history. Despite the passage of nine years, the lives of many Christians affected by the violence remain shattered by fear and injustice.

On August 24, 2008, anti-Christian mob violence swept across the Kandhamal District of India’s Odisha State, then known as Orissa, after Christians were wrongly blamed for the assassination of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati. After three months of violence, at least 91 Christians were killed, many hacked to death by axes and machetes, and at least three Christian women were gang raped. Additionally, nearly 56,000 people were displaced, forced to flee into the forests, as mobs burned down more than 5,600 houses, 300 churches, and other Christian institutions.

“We are still in terror, not feeling safe,” Pastor Pradeep Nayak, a Christian survivor of the 2008 violence, told ICC. “At every corner of the market, we feel something is going against Christians.”

“It was [the] most terrifying day of my life,” Pastor Raj Kishore, a Christian who survived the violence, told ICC. “I saw big flames and thick smoke coming out of a neighboring village. We had to run away knowing that the next target [was] our village. We walked 40 kilometers through the thickest forest in the dark night with my 20-days-old son and my wife to reach a town nearby.”

“Kandhamal is peaceful, but there is no peace in Kandhamal,” Suranjan Nayak, General Secretary of the Christian Jankalyan Samiti Kandhamal, told ICC. “On the date, Lakshmanananda was assassinated, all the churches were provided with security. This means there is still a threat to Christians.”

Many Christians displaced by the violence have been unable to return to their home villages due to threats and a lack of government assistance. “So many people are not able to return to their own homes as they are not able to build back their houses,” Suranjan Nayak explains. “During the government survey, many were still away from their villages and were not recorded, hence they were not able to get government compensation to reconstruct their houses.”

William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “It has been nine years since Christians in India experienced the worst anti-Christian violence the country has seen in its independent history. Many of the victims of this terrible violence have yet to receive justice due to discrimination and poor police work following the riots. In many cases, Christians driven from their homes by mobs in 2008 are still unable to return to their villages unless they agree to convert to Hinduism. The Indian government must do more to provide justice to these victims and must take greater steps to rebuild the lives that were devastated by this violence nine years ago.”

Hindu Leaders Blame Nepal’s Church Growth on Greed

Hindu Leaders Blame Nepal’s Church Growth on Greed

The former Hindu monarchy of Nepal boasts one of the fastest growing Christian populations. Hindu critics claim money and greed are driving the growth, but Christians say the country’s caste system makes Christ’s message of equality especially appealing.

Hindu shaman Purna Bahadur Praja told The Guardian that people in the Chepang region turned to Christianity for assistance after the 2015 earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and left thousands of others homeless.

“[A]fter the earthquake, they got Bibles, rice, clothes, blankets, money to build churches. Pastors were getting motorbikes. … They spend the whole time emailing foreigners to ask for money,” Praja said.

Another Hindu priest told The Guardian that well-funded foreign organizations are “using the money to promote Christianity,” helping sick church members and only providing post-earthquake aid to Christians.

While the disaster certainly created a need for humanitarian assistance, it also increased opportunities to share the gospel. Christian groups say many conversions were sincere and most ministries helped everyone, regardless of their faith.

“Christians did some of the church reconstruction after the earthquake but they have done more for the general public, [from] emergency relief to reconstruction,” said pastor Tanka Subedi, co-chairman of the Nepal Christian Society and the leader of Nepal’s Religious Liberty Forum.

The end of Nepal’s monarchy in 2008 and the establishment of a secular government allowed more freedom of religion in the country, although freedom is not absolute. By 2015, Christians numbered more than 1 million, about 3.8 percent of Nepal’s 28.5 million people, according to the World Christian Database.

Conversions of low-caste Hindus, known as Dalits, are driving the growth, according to The Guardian. Dalits suffer discrimination, deprivation, and abuse in Hindu culture due to their lowly status.

“It’s not surprising that Dalits are converting en masse, or that Christian groups would be doing work within this community,” said International Christian Concern’s William Stark, noting the Dalits are the most marginalized, least educated, and neediest people in the country.

The common “false narrative” of inducement or exchange for conversion to other religions pervades Southeast Asia, not just Nepal, Stark said, and Hindu nationalists often promote the idea. While he acknowledged instances of such behavior aren’t impossible, he insisted they are rare, noting that Dalits are drawn to Christianity because it validates their human worth.

“The message of the gospel—that everyone is equal, everyone is loved by God, and God’s sacrifice was for everyone—is attractive especially to people of a Dalit background,” Stark said.

ISIS threatens Pope Francis: ‘We will be in Rome’

ISIS threatens Pope Francis: ‘We will be in Rome’

ISIS’ latest propaganda film threatens Pope Francis with fighters seen stamping on a bust of Jesus, defacing pictures of the pontiff, and vowing to come to Rome.

The video was filmed largely in the Philippines where the jihadists are waging a war with government forces for control of Marawi city. It shows militants ransacking a church, destroying its decorations and setting the building on fire.

An English speaking narrator directly threatens Pope Francis, saying: ‘Remember this, you kuffar [an offensive term for non-Muslims] – we will be in Rome, we will be in Rome, Inshallah [god willing]’.

Focusing on the fight between Christianity and Islam he goes on: ‘After all their efforts, it would be the religion of the cross that would be broken.’

He adds: ‘The crusaders’ enmity toward the Muslims only served to embolden a generation of youth.’

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The desire among extremist Islamists to conquer Rome dates back to the religion’s origins where fighters attempted to conquer the Byzantine Empire, reaching the edges of the Italian capital but never capturing it fully.

As ISIS’ territory and power are eroded in the Middle East, their Philippine branch is engaged in a fierce battle after they captured the city of Marawi.

Christians are being used as human shields as government forces try to recapture the city and those who remain are being used as sex slaves or killed.

The fighting is now entering its fourth month and the length of the size is causing concern about the strength of the jihadists in the mainly Catholic the southern Philippines.

Despite a sustained bombing campaign from President Duterte’s armed forces, the Islamists have a grip on the city and most of the 200,000 inhabitants have fled.

Thousands rally for gay marriage in Australia ahead of national vote

Thousands rally for gay marriage in Australia ahead of national vote

Thousands of people rallied for marriage equality in Australia’s second-biggest city of Melbourne on Saturday ahead of a postal survey on same-sex marriage which could lead to its legalization.

Australia is one of the only developed English-speaking countries not to have legalized same-sex marriage, despite strong popular support and the backing of a majority of lawmakers.

Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, of the opposition Labor Party, called on the conservative Liberal Party-led government to do more to ensure the debate did not turn ugly ahead of the postal survey next month.

‘I’m particularly calling on the prime minister of Australia to speak out against any bile or hate speech that we might see in this campaign,’ he told the rally.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week urged supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage to show mutual respect as their campaigns turned increasingly vitriolic.

Rally organizer Anthony Wallace from activist group Equal Love said 15,000 people attended the event, making it one of the largest gay rights rallies in Australian history. Police declined to estimate the size of the crowd.

A rally is an annual event, which this year began and ended at the Victorian State Library, where a mass same-sex wedding ceremony was held.

Australians will vote over several weeks from mid-September in the non-compulsory postal ballot on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is supported by 61 percent of Australians, a 2016 Gallup opinion poll showed, but the issue has fractured the Turnbull government and damaged his standing with voters, now at a six-month low.

Bible belonging to WWII Scottish war-hero ‘The Tartan Pimpernel’ makes historic homecoming

Bible belonging to WWII Scottish war-hero ‘The Tartan Pimpernel’ makes historic homecoming

A Bible belonging to a heroic Scottish Christian minister of the Second World War has been returned to his former church.

The Rev Dr. Donald Caskie was known in WWII as the ‘Tartan Pimpernel’, remembered for helping save more than 2,000 lives during the war.

Now his nephew, Tom Caskie, has gifted the Reverend’s Gaelic Bible to the Scots Kirk in Paris, the church Donald led when Germany invaded France in 1940, according to the Church of Scotland.

This Bible was used by the reverend at the time, who used the Gaelic language to hide sensitive information from the enemy, Tom said. Caskie had denounced the Nazis from his pulpit and had to flee when the Germans invaded.

But instead of seeking safety in the UK, Donald remained on mainland Europe and instead went to Marseille, France where he lived a double life, running a Seaman’s Mission and secretly helping British and Allied soldiers through the mountains and into Spain.

He was later recruited by British Intelligence to continue in his work protecting the military there.

Caskie was eventually betrayed and subsequently arrested by the Nazi-aligned Vichy police. They had him banished from Marseille, but his work continued when he went to Grenoble, where as a university chaplain he secretly helped allied soldiers, seamen and airmen escape.

The Reverend narrowly escaped a death sentence from the Gestapo and was a prisoner of war before returning to Scotland when the war finished, where he died in 1983. The tales of his wartime exploits were documented in Donald’s autobiography, The Tartan Pimpernel, still in print today.

‘Donald was motivated and sustained by his Christian faith,’ said Thomas Caskie.

‘He was a very gentle person and clearly, he loved humanity and would help anyone he could. Donald rejected the chance of personal safety and risked his life time and again to ensure others could be safe and free.’

Thomas inherited the Bible from his father, who had received it from his brother, Donald.

‘When I heard that the Scots Kirk wanted to install a permanent memorial to my uncle, I thought it was more appropriate that the Bible lived there rather than anywhere else,’ he said.

The Rev Jan Steyn, 56, the current minister of Scots Kirk, was delighted with the gift.

‘I gladly accepted it and as the inscription in the front of the Bible indicates, he acquired it while still in Paris,’ he said.

‘Its return marks a homecoming after more than 50 years.’

Catholic priest says he downloaded child porn to get revenge of God for poker losses

Catholic priest says he downloaded child porn to get revenge of God for poker losses

A former Catholic priest who downloaded child porn images says he did so to get revenge on God for his gambling losses.

Kevin Gugliotta, 55 from New Jersey, was arrested in September 2016 and was sentenced up to two years in jail on Thursday after being charged with 20 counts of child porn and 20 counts of disseminating images of children in sexual acts.

He pleaded guilty to one count of dissemination in return for the 39 other counts being dismissed, according to the Miami Herald.

But it is the excuse Gugliotta gave that has really raised eyebrows.

He told probation officers before his hearing he had uploaded the images to get back at God because he felt God was attacking him for his poker losses in tournaments.

‘That was a surprising thing in the court, for sure,’ a fellow priest and friend told WNEP. ‘People do things under stress they wouldn’t normally do.’

‘That was his reason. He’s not happy that’s how he felt, as the judge indicated. There are other ways to handle issues and handle anger, said defense attorney Jim Swetz, according to WNEP.

Formerly a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, he has now been dismissed. Father Gabriel Costa from the Archdiocese said he had used the time as a retreat to get right with God.

Prosecutor Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said: ‘No matter what he says why he did it, he still admits he did it and that’s the important thing as a prosecutor.’

She added: ‘The idea that this person is now thankful and sorry for his actions, that’s fine. However, we can’t reach out to these victims. There are children out there who have been harmed greatly by the fact he sat and downloaded and watched on multiple occasions.’

Gugliotta apologized in court for his actions and has agreed to be on probation for five years and register as a sex offender for 25. As part of his probation, he will not be allowed to gamble and police will be able to search his electronic devices at any time.

Christians under pressure: Nepal to seal hardline crackdown on evangelism and blasphemy

Christians under pressure: Nepal to seal hardline crackdown on evangelism and blasphemy

Nepal’s president will approve a bill next week sealing the country’s hardline attitude towards evangelism and set it on course for similar blasphemy rules to Pakistan.

The law, passed by the Nepali Parliament earlier this month, will criminalize religious conversions and ban ‘hurting religious sentiment’ – a clause similar to that used to prohibit insulting another’s religion elsewhere in the region.

Bidhya Devi Bhandari is expected to sign the act, giving legal force to a clause in Nepal’s new constitution barring religious conversion.

Human rights activists fearing a crackdown on minorities are calling for the legislation to be changed. They warn it will be used to target Nepal’s fringe religions including Christians.

Last year eight Christians were arrested and charged with attempting to convert children after they handed out leaflets about Jesus to school pupils.

Kiri Kankhwende, spokeswoman for the religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), warned there would be more similar cases with the new bill’s introduction.

‘It gives this a legal force it didn’t previously have,’ she told Christian Today.

‘Even the very fact of talking about your faith could be criminalised,’ she went on, adding Christians particularly among Nepal’s minority groups are worried.

‘It portrays conversion as something done to somebody by someone else and overlooks the fact people make a choice,’ she said.

‘It is part of a really worrying trend in the region.’

In neighboring India, six states have now passed anti-conversion laws that have been used to target Christians.

‘The lesson from India is that anti-conversion laws not only restrict the rights of an individual to adopt a religion of their choice but also put religious minority communities at risk of hostility and violence,’ Kankhwende said.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, a Christian legal outfit, warned the vaguely defined terms in laws banning insulting another’s religion can be used ‘to harass minorities’.

Tehmina Arora, legal counsel and director of ADF India, an expert in human rights law, said: ‘Every person should have the right to live out their faith freely.’

She added: ‘Nepal risks to return to a totalitarian society in which individual rights are being severely curbed.

‘The fundamental right to religious freedom includes the practice and sharing of a belief. The president should veto this new bill and allow her citizens to enjoy basic human rights. No one in Nepal should have to fear persecution because of their religious convictions.’

In an interview with Christian Today, local pastor Tanka Subedi said Christians were being arrested and beaten without reason.

‘For the last two years we have been unsure about how long the doors will be open for us to practise our faith freely. We were not expecting this level of harassment,’ he said.

‘Christians were arrested and beaten without reasons,’ he added. ‘Political leaders are accusing Christian for converting by paying money.’

Pastors are afraid to take Bibles and literature with them in their ministry because there is a danger police will accuse them of trying forcibly to convert others simply by having a Bible in their possession.

‘Children are traumatised,’ he said.