Tag Archives: religiousliberty

Compass Direct News: Anti-conversion law passed in Rajasthan state of India

NEW DELHI — The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan state on Thursday (March 20) passed a new “anti-conversion” bill with more stringent and arbitrary provisions than previous legislation that was stalled by objections from the former governor.

The constitutionally questionable bill states that if a society or trust is found to be “contemplating” the use of money for converting people, its registration can be cancelled. Christian groups fear this provision would provide the pretext for numerous complaints against Christian organizations.

The bill also obliges anyone intending to convert to send notice at least 30 days in advance or face a fine of up to 1,000 rupees (US$25). It adds that the same requirement and penalty will not be applied to a person wishing to revert to her or his “original religion.”

Christians note that the bill, like anti-conversion laws in other states, only vaguely defines “force,” “fraud” and “inducement,” clearing the way for spurious attempts to label Christ’s commands to feed the hungry and make disciples as “fraud” or “inducement.”

-Compass Direct News

Ethiopian churches attacked

ISTANBUL — Eight Muslims wielding machetes and knives broke into two village churches in southern Ethiopia earlier this month and began wounding worshipers, instantly killing one Christian. Tulu Mosisa of Kale Hiwot church died after a machete blow nearly beheaded him, according to an eyewitness. Another two members of the Kale Hiwot and Birhane Wongel Baptist churches in the remote village of Nensebo Chebi both lost a hand each in the March 2 attacks, and a 5-year-old boy is still hospitalized after his arm was slashed to the bone. A total of 23 Christians from the two congregations were injured before local militia officers drove off the attackers, who launched what one observer called “a seemingly well-planned,” simultaneous assault midway through Sunday worship services. Located 400 kilometers (240 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa , Nensebo Chebi is a remote village in the Bale Zone of Ethiopia’s predominantly Muslim Oromiya state. Every time the attackers struck someone, Christian survivors said, they shouted “Allah Akbar!” The two Arabic words, meaning “Allah is greater,” are the beginning of the Muslim call to prayer.

-Compass Direct News 

Death of Iraqi Archbishop fuels speculation

ISTANBUL — An Iraqi archbishop kidnapped and held for ransom for 14 days has been found dead in northern Iraq in what appears to be an attempt to force Christians out of the city, church leaders said. The body of Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, Paulus Faraj Rahho, was recovered at approximately 2 p.m. in Mosul , Kirkuk ’s Chaldean leader Louis Sako said. “They found him just a half hour ago, and now they have taken him to the hospital for the analysis,” Sako told Compass Direct News. “We don’t know when he was killed.” A medical examiner at Mosul ’s morgue told The Associated Press that the archbishop’s body showed no signs of being shot. A priest in Mosul told Compass Direct News today that the real motive for impossible ransom demands and the archbishop’s killing was to push the Christians out of the city. “They are pressuring us to leave Mosul and leave our church,” said the priest. “And many families in Mosul are afraid, because if they killed the bishops and priests, then…”

-Compass Direct News

Egyptian court rules against religious liberty

In a blow to religious freedom in Egypt, a Cairo court has ruled against a Muslim convert to Christianity who requested that his religious affiliation be changed. Judge Muhammad Husseini said in a verdict on Tuesday (January 29) that it was against Islamic law for a Muslim to leave Islam, a legal representative for convert Muhammad Hegazy said. “He can believe whatever he wants in his heart, but on paper he can’t convert,” Husseini told the administrative court, according to the member of Hegazy’s legal team. Husseini based his decision on Article II of the Egyptian constitution, which makes Islamic law, or sharia, the source of Egyptian law. The judge said that, according to sharia, Islam is the final and most complete religion and therefore Muslims already practice full freedom of religion and can not return to an older belief (Christianity or Judaism). “What happened is a violation of my basic rights,” convert Hegazy told the US Copts Association following the hearing. “What does the state have to do with the religion I embrace?”

-Compass Direct News

Malaysian government confiscates books

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Adding to the furor over whether non-Muslims have the right to use the word “Allah” in their publications and religious practice, on January 11 online news agency Malaysiakini reported that officials confiscated English-language Christian children’s books because they contained images of prophets. 

The government reportedly said Internal Security Ministry officials confiscated the books because their illustrations of prophets offended the sensitivities of Muslims. Islam, which shares some prophets in common with Christianity, prohibits the portrayal of prophets.  

Enforcement officials of the Publications and Al-Quran Texts Control Department under the Internal Security Ministry, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, reportedly confiscated the books from three MPH bookstores in Johor Bahru, Senawang and Ipoh in mid-December.  The books have been sent to the department’s headquarters in Putrajaya for investigation. Managers of the MPH bookstores reportedly said they will wait for the Internal Security Ministry’s decision on the books. 

In a statement released yesterday (January 17) , the Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia questioned how the books could be offensive to Muslims when they were not meant for them.  

In the strongly worded statement about the seizures, Shastri said government officials “have no right and have overstepped their bounds by confiscating Christian literature.”  He urged the prime minister and his Cabinet to take immediate action to put a stop to such seizures and to “amend administrative rules and regulations especially in the Internal Security Ministry that give a free hand to enforcement officials to act at their whim and fancies.”  

At the same time, the debate over whether non-Muslims can use the word “Allah” in publications and religious practice was stoked when the Internal Security Ministry told the Sun on Wednesday (January 16) that it had confiscated a total of 163 publications comprising 18 titles from bookshops nationwide.  A ministry official told the daily that the seizures were made because the word “Allah” was used in the books. But Deputy Internal Ministry Minister Johari Baharum reportedly said that the ministry did not target Christian books. 

“We do routine checks all year long,” he said. “We don’t only seize Christian books, but other [religious] books as well.”   

The deputy minister said use of the words, “Allah” (Arabic for God), “baitullah” (mosque in Mecca), “solat” (prayer) and “kaabah” (Islamic shrine in Mecca) are exclusive to Islam, according to Gazette PU (A) 15/82 and circular KKDN S.59/3/6/A dated December 5, 1986.  In a letter to the press, Gayathry Venkiteswaran, executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism, argued that “seizing more than the needed copies for investigation while the titles are not banned, denies the right of the people to access the book and is clearly high-handed.” 

The right of non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” in their publications and practice of their religion is being tested in two court cases by the publisher of the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, and the Evangelical Church of Borneo (Sidang Injil Borneo).

 -Jasmine Kay, Compass Direct News  

Also see: 

http://www.bernama.com.my/bernama/v3/news.php?id=203457 

 http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11354 

Kano state government to demolish four churches

KANO, Nigeria — Without discussion or compensation, the Kano state government has unilaterally decided to demolish four churches in this city to make way for roads and a hospital. Two Pentecostal churches and two churches belonging to the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) will be demolished under the northern Nigerian city’s plan. The Rev. Murtala Marti Dangora, secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Kano state chapter, said the road and hospital construction are a guise for demolishing the churches. “The government has refused to discuss with us about the fate of these churches,” Dangora said. He added that during re-election campaigning earlier this year, Kano Gov. Malam Ibrahim Shekarau promised the Muslim community of Ginginya area that he would demolish an ECWA church there in order to build a hospital.

-Compass Direct News

Religious violence in Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria, November 26 – Church leaders said violence over local elections in the Sumaila area this month included a religious element, with Muslims killing one Christian in an attack on a Christian settlement. Eyewitnesses said violence broke out in the Gani electoral ward of Sumaila on November 17 after news reports showed that the Christian candidate for councillor for the Peoples Democratic Party, Zara Gambo, was ahead in the polls, signifying the first ever victory for a Christian candidate in the area. As a result, Muslims attacked Christians in Gani town and in Gani Mission, a Christian settlement in the area, destroying their houses and shops, injuring several of them and killing school teacher Danyaro Bala. Sani Duma, Bala’s brother, told Compass that he believes Muslims killed the church elder in order to cow area Christians into submitting to Islam. “Religion is at the center of this attack on us and the killing of my brother,” Duma said. “The selection of only houses of Christians and their shops for destruction shows clearly that Muslims were out to force us into submitting to their hold on political leadership.”

-Compass Direct News