A Coptic priest prays in a chapel of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (Flash 90)

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:10

FIRST THE SATURDAY PEOPLE, THEN THE SUNDAY PEOPLE: Islamic terror groups have had a favorite taunt for several decades which says, first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people. This means of course, first the Jews then the Christians will be targets for terrorist persecution, subjection and elimination.

EGYPTIAN MUSLIMS ATTACK COPTS: Three thousand Salafis gutted the Mar Gerges Church in the Elmarenab village of Aswan, then looted and razed nearby Christian homes and businesses. The attacks started after Muslims held afternoon prayer. “Imams in more than 20 mosques called for crowds to gather and destroy the church and demolish the houses of the Copts and loot their properties,” one source reported. The troubles in Elmarenab began in August when Muslims became angry at renovations to the Mar Gerges church that visibly identified it as a Christian structure from the outside. After Muslims stopped the renovations by blockading the building, a “reconciliation meeting” resulted in the removal of all crosses and bells visible from the outside, but then the Muslims demanded the removal of newly constructed domes that helped support the structure. Muslims claimed all the renovations were illegal because the building was actually a hospital despite the fact the original structure had existed on site as a church for almost a century. The destruction of Mar Gerges is the third church in Egypt in seven months to be destroyed by a Muslim mob; other churches have been looted or attacked, including a New Year’s Eve bombing at the Two Saints Church in Alexandria that left 23 dead and many more wounded. (Worthy News)

THE FORGOTTEN CHRISTIANS OF THE EAST: Both Western governments and Western churches are turning a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. Last Sunday night, Egyptian Copts staged what was supposed to be a peaceful vigil at Egypt’s state television headquarters in Cairo. The 1,000 Christians represented the ancient Christian community of some eight million whose presence in Egypt predates the establishment of Islam by several centuries. They gathered in Cairo to protest the recent burning of two churches by Islamic mobs and the rapid escalation of state-supported violent attacks on Christians by Muslim groups since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February. According to Coptic sources, the protesters Sunday night were beset by Islamic attackers who were rapidly backed up by military forces. Between 19 and 40 Copts were killed by soldiers and Muslim attackers. They were run over by military vehicles, beaten, shot and dragged through the streets of Cairo. State television Sunday night reported only that three soldiers had been killed. According to al-Ahram Online, the military attacked the studios of al-Hurra television on Sunday night to block its broadcast of information on the military assault on the Copts. Apparently the attempt to control information about what happened worked. (J.Post) Fellow Christians have been asked to pray for the restoration of peace between all sections of Egyptian society and for all those who have lost loved ones or been injured in the violence. Pray that the Lord will draw close to them and comfort them in their grief and pain. Intercede for the future of Christians in Egypt. Pray that their rights as citizens will be upheld and that they will be allowed to live peaceful lives in their own homeland.

Older Post: 26 Egyptian Christians Killed in Cairo violence

CHRISTIANS FEAR INCREASING ISLAMIST PRESSURE IN EGYPT: On her first day to school, 15-year-old Christian student Ferial Habib was stopped at the doorstep of her new high school with clear instructions: either put on a headscarf or no school this year. The move by administrators to force a Christian student to don a headscarf was unprecedented. (AP)

NO PAKISTAN OR EGYPT IN US STATE DEPT LIST OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM VIOLATORS: The US State Department has been criticized for “glaring omissions” in its latest list of countries designated as severe violators of religious freedom. In its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, the State Department re-designated eight “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan – the same as listed last year. The term is applied to any country in which the government has engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. The US International Religious Freedom Act (1998) requires the US government to take specific actions, including economic sanctions and diplomatic protests, against CPCs.  Chairman Leonard Leo said the current list continues glaring omissions and called for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to consider six additional countries recommended for designation. These were Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.  Pakistan was omitted despite recognition in the State Department’s report that the country’s laws restrict religious freedom and that the government enforced these restrictions, and also that investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of extremist attacks on minorities are rare. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used against Christians. Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother is currently on death row in Pakistan, having been falsely accused of defiling the name of Muhammad. Egypt has been labeled as a potential CPC for the first time in light of increasing attacks on Christians since the revolution and failure of the government to take action. Mr. Leo said instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically. Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice. Egyptian Christians are concerned that religious freedom will deteriorate further if Islamist parties emerge victorious in the country’s forthcoming parliamentary elections. (Barnabas)

IRAN LEVELS FALSE CHARGES AGAINST PASTOR NADARKHANI TO JUSTIFY DEATH SENTENCE: Fabricated charges of rape and extortion have been leveled against Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in a bid by the authorities to cover up his death sentence for apostasy. Days ago Gholomali Rezvani, deputy governor of Gilan province where Nadarkhani was tried, told the Fars news agency that Nadarkhani was a rapist, an extortionist, a Zionist and was guilty of “security-related crimes.”  The latest charges differ greatly from the recent Iranian Supreme Court ruling that sentenced Nadarkhani to execution by hanging for breaking Islamic law and refusing to renounce his Christianity. (Fox News)

Older Post: Iranian actress sentenced to 90 lashes

RETRIAL ORDERED FOR IRANIAN PASTOR FACING DEATH SENTENCE FOR CHRISTIAN BELIEFS:  Iran’s Supreme Court has ordered a retrial for a pastor sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested in October 2009 and later sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. His attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, and religious rights organizations say Nadarkhani is facing possible execution for apostasy and for refusing to renounce his religion, contradicting reports by Iran state media that have indicated Nadarkhani was found guilty of rape, extortion and security-related crimes. The case reportedly had been referred to Iran’s supreme leader, a move that shows the Islamic republic is feeling pressure in the face of growing international support. Dadkhah said Monday an Iranian court has decided to seek the opinion of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the Islamic republic’s spiritual leader and highest authority. Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice that is monitoring Nadarkhani’s case, said the move was unusual and is part of the “secretive process” within the Iranian judicial system. “Based on these reports, Pastor Youcef is alive and we have reached the highest level of Iranian government,” Sekulow said on Monday. “I don’t believe this would have attained the level of Khamenei without the media attention and the outpouring of support we’ve seen.” (Fox News) Prayers are being answered in the good report that Pastor Youcef is alive and that his case has reached the highest level of the Iranian government. Intercede for him that he will be released and that he, his family and congregation will be free from further religious persecution in Iran.

ATTACKERS CARVE JEWISH STAR INTO BACK OF IRAQI POET IN ST. LOUIS: An Iraqi poet who converted from Islam to Christianity, and who expressed pain over the loss of six million Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, has paid the price for his beliefs.  Over a month has passed since Alaa Alsaegh was criticized over his Arabic-language poem, “Tears at the Heart of the Holocaust,” featured on the “Arabs For Israel” blog. But the poem apparently inspired attackers in St. Louis, Missouri to mark the Iraqi immigrant as a target for hate. Alsaegh was recently trapped between two cars. The attackers then quickly hopped out of their vehicles and pointed a gun at the poet. They pushed his upper body down against the steering wheel, stabbed him and pulled off his shirt to expose his back. Then, with a knife, they carved the Star of David on his back while laughing as they recited his pro-Jewish poem. After the attackers fled Alsaegh was surrounded by witnesses and taken to the local hospital, where his wounds were photographed to be given to police and to the media. The FBI has allegedly opened an investigation into the incident, although a spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment. The crime has not been labeled a “hate crime,” though no explanation has been offered. No arrests have been made in the case. (FrontPage Magazine.)

CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ VICTIMS OF TARGETED KILLINGS AND KIDNAPPINGS: Two Christians were murdered in northern Iraq this month; their deaths came as three kidnapped Christians were released following the payment of a hefty ransom. The body of Emmanuel Hanna Paules was found in Kirkuk. He had been strangled and shot. Another Christian, Bassam Eshoo was shot dead by a group of unknown assailants in the restaurant where he worked in Mosul. Three Christians who had been kidnapped last month, along with a companion, near Kirkuk, were released having been held captive for over a week. A large undisclosed ransom was paid to secure their release. The four were taken hostage by unidentified gunmen while on a hunting trip. Their Land Rover was set ablaze, killing their hunting dogs inside. (ankawa) With new global Islamic upheaval taking place, Christians are paying the price – often with their lives. But because the murder and mayhem takes place in closed societies, the world remains, for the most part, clueless. Pray that such acts will be widely publicized and that countries committing such crimes will come under international pressure to cease persecuting Christian communities and individuals.

COLOMBIAN SOCCER PLAYER SEIZED IN SAUDI ARABIA OVER TATTOO OF YESHUA: A soccer player from Colombia was detained in Saudi Arabia for walking through a mall wearing a shirt that revealed his religious tattoos, including one of Yeshua. Juan Pablo Pino, 24, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr soccer club, was taken into custody in Riyadh last Friday by Saudi moral police after mall customers complained about the tattoos. Pino later apologized for his actions and was released from custody after a team delegate discussed the matter with police. (Fox News)

“But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Matt 5:44

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