May 26 2018

Ingo Breuer

Indian Christians Continue to Suffer as Modi and the BJP Mark 4th Year in Power

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Attacks on Christians Rise 232% Under BJP-Led Government

05/26/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) marks the fourth anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ascension to power with continued concern over the deterioration of religious freedom in India. Since their rise to power, attacks on religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have dramatically increased, leading many to fear for the future of religious minorities in India.

On March 26, 2014, Prime Minister Modi and the BJP-led government rose to power in a landslide victory in the 2014 national elections. Founded on a Hindu nationalist platform, many minorities feared that the rise of the BJP and its leader, Prime Minister Modi, would lead to increased hostility against their communities. Four years later, many of those fears have been realized.

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, incidents of persecution against Christians in India have increased from 147 in 2014, 177 in 2015, 250 in 2016, to now 351 in 2017. This marks a 232% increase in documented incidents of persecution faced by Indian Christians under the Modi administration.

These attacks ranged from physical assaults, to church vandalism, to social boycotts against Christians, to even the murder of Christian leaders. Many of these attacks were reportedly carried out by members of radical Hindu nationalist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), or the Bajrangdal, emboldened by the “tacit approval” of the current government. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tacitly supported these groups and used religiously-divisive language to further inflame tensions.”

In 2018, ICC conducted a survey of 1,000 Indian Christians regarding the current administration and issues of religious freedom. Of those surveyed, 84.45% said that minorities are less protected under the current administration of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP-led government. In states where anti-forced conversion laws are in force, and often abused by Hindu radicals to attack Christians, 77.24% of Christians reported experiencing discrimination seven or more times in the last year.

“There is a sense of impunity,” Dr. John Dayal, spokesperson for the United Christian Forum, told ICC. “It has been a painful four years for the Christian community.”

“State impunity is aggravating the issue, as is the officials’ collusion in harassment and repressive laws severely curb Freedom of Religion and Belief,” Dr. Dayal continued. “The leadership of Modi and the BJP has led to violence that has bruised both the constitution and psyche of the country.”

Pastor Santhosh Kumar Shiypuri, a recent survivor of an attack by Hindu radicals, said, “We have been forced to stop several house churches in and around Kanpur. In most cases, the police favor the Hindu radicals as the government both at the state and national levels are pro-Hindu political parties.”

William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Today marks the end of another difficult year for Christians in India. Religious intolerance and hostility continue to rise as the BJP-led government fails to confront radical Hindu nationalist groups that perpetrate much of the violence against India’s religious minorities. If India is to continue to be considered one of the world’s leading secular democracies, this trend cannot and must not continue.”

For interviews with William Stark, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press

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May 18 2018

Ingo Breuer

Assyrian Christian Lands Forcibly Seized in Northern Iraq

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Authorities Again Petitioned to Protect the Rights of Minorities

05/17/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Kurdish Muslim brothers built an illegal home on the land of an Assyrian Christian in northern Iraq’s Brefka village. According to the Assyrian Aid Society, one of the brothers, Omar Karem, is the head of the Peshmerga Forces in the region. The land-grabbing case took place on April 20, 2018 and was reported in writing to the local authorities on May 2, 2018. There has since been no change on the ground.

The letter to the local authorities was written by a local leader and two villagers. The letter reads, “This action is a violation of the villagers’ rights and human rights. It is an infringement on our lands by these transgressors and this is disrespectful to the law. Thus, we ask you to consider our claim for the purpose of removing the excess [illegal homes] on our village lands. Also we ask for a site detection and to establish the village border and remove all the abuses.”

The illegal seizure of Christian lands in this region has been ongoing since 1991, according to the Assyrian Aid Society (AAS). They estimate that approximately 180 acres of Assyrian-Christian land has been seized by their Muslim neighbors. “Land has been taken in different places in the village, especially near the river Khabour and near the school. In 2005, Mr. Barzani sent [a
delegation] to visit the village. They promised to return the land back to Assyrians in one year, but nothing has happened until this moment,” said the Assyrian Aid Society.

Instead, the following year, the Muslim tribal leaders took more land and asked for $600,000 to prevent the land grab, according to AAS. Kurdish Muslims also forcibly prevented Christians from bringing water from the Khabour river to their apple orchards. Most Christians in the village completely lost their agriculture in 2015, when unknown militants burned their farmland, depriving the community of thousands of dollars of income.

Ashur Sargon, President of Assyrian Aid Society—Iraq, said, “[This] land grab is a sample case showing how Assyrian Christians are indigenous peoples of Iraq… There [are] around 58 cases for land grabs recorded in the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Most of them still their owners are suffering without any real reaction or solutions from the KRG… Now it is the last chance to stop land grabbing actions for these cases.”

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The forced seizure of Assyrian Christian lands in northern Iraq is an all too common occurrence that has been taking place for decades. They are targeted by Kurdish Muslims because they are a vulnerable minority group that owns fertile farmland. Often, the authorities are either negligent in righting this wrong or complicit in its execution. The failure of neighbors and authorities to protect the rights of minorities has broken community trust and furthered the decline of Christianity in Iraq. Unless tangible steps are taken to protect the rights of Christians, many will simply leave.”

For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press

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May 15 2018

Ingo Breuer

Suicide Bombings at Three Churches in Indonesia Kill 13

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Bombings Marked as the Deadliest in Indonesia Since 2002

05/14/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on May 13, bombings at three churches in Surabaya, East Java, killed 13 and wounded more than 40 shortly before Sunday services.

The explosions took place at Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church (STMB), Surabaya Pentecostal Church (GPPS), and the Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church (GKI). According to East Java Police, the first explosion took place at STMB. The second and third explosions followed five minutes apart.

Jakarta Post noted that attempted attacks were also reported at two other churches – Saint Jacob’s Church in West Surabaya and Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral. However, the bombs failed to explode.

A family of six – a father, mother, two sons, and two daughters – belonging to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a group linked to the Islamic State, is behind the suicide bombings. They recently returned from war-torn Syria, where they lived in an area controlled by the Islamic State.

National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian confirmed that the father of the family initially brought his wife and two daughters – 12-years-old and 9-years-old – to GKI before making his way to Surabaya Pentecostal Church.

The bomb blast at STMB was carried out by the two brothers – 18-years-old and 16-years-old – who carried a lap-bomb with them on their motorcycle.

The bomb attacks are the deadliest in Indonesia since the 2002 Bali bombings, which left more than 200 people dead and hundreds more injured.

Pastor Yonathan Biantoro, one of the pastors of Surabaya Pentecostal Church, told ICC, “Honestly I am really sad about this. We as members of this church really hope that we would have a peaceful environment when we are in our devotion. We want the government to protect us with our constitutional rights and we are concerned about our religious freedom. I believe there is not a religion that would allow its followers to kill each other. We will however not be intimidated by the bombing. We still love them and forgive. We hope they will not do this ever again.”

Three of his church staff members passed away on Monday due to severe burns.

“They try to create fear in us, instead we grow, trust, and hope in Him. God is still in control, our churches united in prayers and believe God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The gate of hell and its power cannot conquer His church,” Budi Setiawan, National Superintendent of Assembly of God Indonesia, shared with ICC.

The executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid, called for the government to take swift action and to bring whoever was responsible to justice.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The terrorist attacks at the three churches in Indonesia are pure evil. ICC strongly condemns the reprehensible acts of violence against innocent lives. The use of minors as suicide bombers is sickening and shows the absolute disregard for humanity in radical ideology. Our hearts break for the victims, knowing the horror they have experienced at their houses of worship, and we urgently ask for your prayers for Indonesia.”

For interviews with Gina Goh, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press

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May 10 2018

Ingo Breuer

Three Korean-American Detainees Freed and Returned Home

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Accompanied Them Back from North Korea

05/10/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on May 10 at 2:40 a.m., three Korean-American detainees held by North Korea safely returned to the United States, accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song’s release comes at a time when the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea are expected to meet next month in Singapore. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang on Monday to straighten out details for the summit and the prisoners were then freed and allowed to return home with him. The three appeared to be in good health when they were greeted by President Trump on Thursday.

Reuters reports that the three former prisoners were Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul, who was detained in 2015 and sentenced in 2016 to 10 years’ hard labor on spying charges; Kim Sang-duk, also referred to as Tony Kim, who taught for a month at the Western-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before his arrest in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught at PUST and was detained last year for ‘hostile acts.’

According to various media sources, all three are Christians, with Kim Dong-chul and Kim Hak-song once serving as pastors, though it is not confirmed whether their arrests are linked to their faith.

On the Facebook campaign page Free USA 3, Tony Kim’s family expressed appreciation for all of the support that they have received. “We are very grateful for the release of our husband and father, Tony Kim, and the other two American detainees. We want to thank all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home. We also want to thank the President for engaging directly with North Korea. Mostly, we thank God for Tony’s safe return.”

“While we rejoice that these three men have safely returned home,” Suzanne Scholte, chair of North Korea Freedom Coalition, told ICC, “we should not forget the fact that they were unjustly detained and that there are many other innocent people being unjustly held by the North Korean regime.”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “The release of Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song shows the goodwill of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of the imminent US-NK summit. However, this goodwill must also be extended to his own people – the 25 million North Koreans. They should be able to live free in their country, not denied their fundamental rights by the government. Pyongyang’s ongoing human rights violations should not go unnoticed as the international community deals with the regime.”

For interviews with Gina Goh, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press

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