Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Reverend Robert Asserian, a pastor at the Central Assemblies of God (AoG) Church in Tehran, was arrested yesterday morning while conducting a prayer meeting at the church.  Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has also received reports that the church may be forced to close by the end of June due to continued pressure from the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.

Security forces are reported to have raided Rev. Asserian’s house this morning and confiscated some of his belongings, including his computer and books. They then proceeded to the church where he was leading a prayer meeting. He was arrested and taken to an unknown location.
The Iranian human rights organization Article 18 reports that on Sunday 19 May, church leaders informed the congregation that they would soon make an important decision about the future of the church.  A local source stated that: "The pressure has become unbearable, they [the authorities] constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this."  A final decision is expected later this week.

Pressure on Iranian Christians has intensified in recent years, with churches and their members being targeted. The AoG Church in Tehran was one of few churches that offered services in Farsi. In 2009, they were ordered to end Farsi services on Friday, a day off for Iranians, and were only permitted to hold services in Farsi on Sundays. However, sources have confirmed that the Iranian authorities have now ordered the ending of Farsi services on Sunday, giving church leaders the option of conducting Sunday services in Armenian or facing closure. This news has caused church leaders to evaluate their options, with serious consideration being given to closure.

CSW’s Advocacy Director, Andrew Johnston, said, “We are deeply concerned for the welfare of Rev. Asserian and urge the authorities to make his whereabouts known.  The continued and sustained pressure by the Iranian regime on churches in Tehran has boxed them into a corner to such an extent that they can no longer function. We renew our call for the Iranian government to honour its national and international obligations, in particular Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees freedom of religion or belief, and the right, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0)78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pray for Cuba

Sara Marta Fonseca is a supporter of the Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of prisoners of conscience in Cuba, who peacefully protest each Sunday after attending Mass.

Although Sara Marta is not related to any of the political prisoners, she feels that as a Christian, it her duty to walk with the Ladies in White each week in solidarity with them.

As a result she has been the target of beatings, severe harassment and has her home vandalised and spray-painted multiple times.

You can encourage Sara by writing to her using CSW's Connect & Encourage address book


Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) renews its call for an end to human rights violations in Eritrea, including the abuse of freedom of religion or belief, ahead of the eleventh anniversary of a government crackdown on all but three Christian denominations and the start of mass detentions of Eritrean Christians.
On 15 May 2002, all churches except those belonging to the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran denominations were effectively banned and the era of mass arrests of Christians began. Over 2,000 Christians are currently detained in Eritrea without charge or trial, often in life threatening conditions pending denial of their faith. 
Initially members of independent evangelical and charismatic churches were singled out; however, even permitted churches eventually began to experience persecution.  Orthodox patriarch Abune Antonios has been under house arrest since 2006 for resisting government interference in church affairs, and priests seen as sympathizing with him are detained, harassed forced out of the church or conscripted following the 2005 revocation of clerical exemption by the government. The government has also attempted to seize Catholic schools and projects, and the conscription of seminarians and other church workers is reportedly occasioning a shortage of personnel.
CSW will join six organisations from the UK and Ireland in a protest vigil against human rights abuses in Eritrea outside the Eritrean embassy in London on Thursday 30 May, which will be followed by an evening of prayer for the nation.
Eritrea is one of the world’s most repressive regimes, often likened to North Korea. It is a single party state dominated by a dictatorial president, and the military pervades every aspect of society, including the economy. The regime demands total allegiance, thus Christians are perceived as a threat to national unity due to their ultimate allegiance to a higher being.
Thousands of Eritreans flee their country every year, risking a government shoot-to-kill border policy and at risk of being held hostage in torture camps in the Sinai Desert by abusive people traffickers, pending payment of exorbitant ransoms, or the forcible removal of organs. Many are fleeing military conscription, which can last indefinitely and is mandatory for all citizens aged between 18 and 48 years. The Eritrean security services have been known to pursue or harass refugees in foreign countries through their agents abroad, while countries such as Sudan and Egypt have in the past forcibly returned Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers despite evidence of the severe mistreatment of returnees.
On 6 July 2012 The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted its first resolution on Eritrea, approving the mandate for a Special Rapporteur who will report to the HRC and the UN General Assembly on the human rights situation in Eritrea.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “CSW is pleased to join with the British Orthodox Church, Church in Chains-Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance-Wales, Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, Release Eritrea and Release International to protest the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Eritrean government on its people. We will continue to stand in solidarity and work alongside Eritreans who long for justice until they and their fellow citizens are able to enjoy all of the rights and freedoms enshrined in the nation’s constitution.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.


Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today released a new report on human rights in Burma following a four-week fact-finding visit to the country. The report welcomes signs of political change in the country, including “significantly increased freedom” for media, civil society and political actors, and improvements in freedom of expression in some areas, but warns against “premature euphoria” and highlights “many very grave challenges and concerns, particularly in respect to the protection of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief”.
In addition to visiting the capital, Naypidaw, and Rangoon, Burma’s major city, CSW visited Kachin State, in northern Burma, where a conflict has continued for almost two years, resulting in the displacement of at least 100,000 civilians. CSW also visited a Muslim community near Naypyidaw, three days after an attack by a militant Buddhist mob.
Noting a new “climate of openness” in Rangoon and other cities, the report also notes that “the testimonies provided by internally displaced Kachin people during the visit included some of the worst accounts of human rights violations CSW has ever documented”.
One Kachin former prisoner described the torture he endured during interrogation, including being hung upside down for a day and a night, beaten and attacked with knives. “They put a hand grenade in my mouth and threatened to pull the pin ... then they put a plastic bag over my face and poured water over it,” he told CSW.
The wife of one current Kachin prisoner described seeing her husband after he had been tortured. She told CSW: “He was covered in blood, and his nose was broken...An iron bar was rubbed along his legs. He was forced to engage in homosexual sex ...He was told that as he was a Christian, he should kneel on very sharp stones with his arms outstretched like Christ on the cross...He was beaten on his hands and arms.”
CSW was accompanied for part of the visit by Lord Alton of Liverpool, a member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. Lord Alton and CSW visited Ayela, where a Muslim community had been attacked on 22 March. The madrassa had been completely burned down, and the mosque severely desecrated and damaged. “We Muslims have lived here for 200 years with no problems,” a representative of the community said. “But now there is absolutely no communication with our Buddhist neighbours. We don’t dare greet each other on the street.”
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “Our findings show that while there are some very welcome reforms in Burma, which should be acknowledged and encouraged, there remains a culture of impunity which needs to be addressed. There is an urgent need for protection for religious and ethnic minorities, inter-religious dialogue and peace-building, humanitarian assistance for those displaced by conflict and violence and a meaningful process for political dialogue involving all the ethnic nationalities to end decades of war. The Government of Burma must address these grave concerns as a priority and the international community should develop a clear strategy to promote human rights and genuine democratic reform, counter religious intolerance, promote reconciliation and advocate protection of freedom of religion or belief in Burma. Failure to do so will result in hopes dashed, and further instability, conflict, fear, death and destruction.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.


An Iranian Assemblies of God (AOG) pastor, his wife and two church workers have been returned to jail after their one year sentences for converting to Christianity and “propagation against the Islamic regime through evangelism" were upheld by a High Court on 1 May.
Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh, his wife Shahnaz Jayzan and church workers Naser Zaman-Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani were initially arrested in December 2011, after authorities in the southern town of Ahwaz raided their church’s Christmas celebrations and detained everyone in the building, including children attending Sunday School.
According to Iranian agency Mohabat News, all four were charged with “converting to Christianity and propagating against the Islamic Republic through evangelism”, and were each sentenced to one year in prison by the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz. They were temporarily released, but were summoned to court on 1 May 2013 and re-arrested. Mr Alijani was transferred to Ahwaz’s Karoon Prison to complete his sentence, while Pastor Sabokrooh, Shahnaz Jayzan and Mr Zaman-Dezfuli were taken to Sepidar Prison.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has also been informed that Mostafa Bordbar, a Christian arrested in Tehran in December 2012 and whose case details were obscure, is now confirmed to be detained in Ward 350 of Evin Prison, along with Church of Iran member Alireza Seyyedian and AOG Pastors Farshid Fathi and Saeed Abedini. Pastor Abedini, who had been placed in solitary confinement for taking part in a peaceful protest against prison conditions, has now been returned to Ward 350 after being taken to hospital this week following a further deterioration in his health.
Mohabat News reports that a Christian prisoner in Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz is in urgent need of medical attention. Vahid Hakkani, who was arrested in February 2012 along with eight others during a raid on a prayer meeting, is reported to be suffering from internal bleeding and has been informed by prison doctors that he needs surgery urgently, but so far this has not occurred.
CSW has also learned that in April 2013, Ebrahim Firoozi, who was arrested for a second time in March 2013 and charged with launching and administering a Christian missionary website, distributing Bibles, cooperating with student activists and involvement in actions against national security, was temporarily released from Ward 350 of Evin Prison after 53 days in jail, following a bail payment of approximately 20,000 USD.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “Pastor Sabokrooh and others have been jailed for exercising their right to change their religion and to manifest their new faith both privately and in communion with others.  This right is protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which as a signatory, Iran is obliged uphold. We continue to call on Iran to fulfill its legal obligations by guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief for all of its citizens. We also urge the authorities to ensure that as occurred in the case of Pastor Abdedini, every prisoner in urgent need of medical attention is given access to medical facilities and appropriate treatment.” 
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.


Northern and Central Nigerian states have seen an upsurge of violence in recent weeks. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has also received eyewitness reports stating that the violence that broke out on 3 May in Taraba State, during the burial procession of a high ranking Chief in Northern Nigeria was between local Muslims and Jukun traditionalists rather than Christians and Muslims.
Eye-witnesses to violence that broke out on 3 May in the ancient city of Wukari during the burial procession of Abe Ashumate from the Jukun tribe have described it as a fight between local Fulanis and Jukun traditionalists.
In accordance with Jukun tradition, the bodies of high-ranking chiefs must be carried around the city prior to interment.  Mourners attending the burial of Abe Ashumate allege that fighting broke out after members of the predominantly Muslim Fulani tribe blocked the route to the burial ground and stoned funeral goers, stating that the only permissible gathering was for the Jumat prayers.
Police moved in to quell the violence, reportedly arresting over 30 suspected rioters, and the State Government instituted an on-going 24 hour curfew to prevent violence spreading into neighbouring towns. While the police claim 39 people were killed, residents insist the figure is closer to 100, with 30 more injured.
According to eyewitnesses who spoke to CSWNigeria, some of the victims were beheaded, including a pregnant woman whose legs were also cut off, and the private parts of others had been removed. Around 70 homes and shops were destroyed in the violence along with vehicles and other assets.  Local sources estimate the total cost of the damage at over £4 million.
Other states have also witnessed violence. On 4 May, in Ngamdu, a town on the border between Borno and Yobe States, suspected BokoHaram members armed with guns, knives and machetes are reported to have attacked the homes of two Muslim clerics who were critical of the sect, tying them up before slitting their throats. Two other local men were also killed in a similar manner.
In Plateau State a man from the Berom tribe was killed and beheaded by gunmen who invaded Gyel in Jos South Local Government Area (LGA) on 5 May. On the same day, gunmen attacked an EYN (Brethren) Church in Jilang Village in Maiha LGA, Adamawa State at around 11 am, killing ten people and injuring twelve before attacking the market square, where six people were killed and three injured. Meanwhile, armed men shot and killed a security guard at the Government Secondary School (GSS) in Fadan Kaje, southern Kaduna State, fleeing in a car before security men arrived at the scene. Also on 5 May, four Yoruba traders from Bodija Market in Ibadan City, southern Nigeria who had gone to Borno State to purchase millet products were murdered by gunmen who intercepted the commercial bus in which they were travelling and singled them out on account of their ethnicity. News of the deaths raised tensions in Bodija Market, occasioning its temporary closure and the deployment of troops at strategic locations within the market.
During the early hours of 7 May, Bama Town in Borno State was stormed by around 200 militants disguised in army uniforms, armed with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades, and travelling in a convoy of buses and trucks, who launched coordinated attacks on the local police station, army barracks, magistrate’s court and prison. 22 policemen, 14 prison officials, 13 sect members, three children, two soldiers and one woman are reported to have been killed, and 105 prisoners were freed. On 8 May, Fulani herdsmen attacked Agatu LGA in Benue State, killing several people including women and children.
 About 20 policemen were killed in Assakio Village, Nasarawa State, by a cult known as Ombatse (the time has come).
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “The reports of escalating violence coming in from Northern and Central Nigeria are deeply worrying. Tackling this issue effectively will require a comprehensive and unified effort by state governments and we urge them to work together to disrupt the movements of armed groups and prevent further loss of life. It is also worrying that, Boko Haram increasingly appears to be better equipped and coordinated. Since the security implications of this terrorist group extend beyond Nigeria’s borders, CSW also calls for greater international co-operation and action to identify and disrupt the organisation’s funders, backers and training network.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


Three people were killed and more than 60 injured when a church service inaugurating a new Catholic Cathedral in Arusha, Tanzania was bombed on Sunday 5 May.
The Vatican's ambassador to Tanzania, Archbishop Francisco Montecillo Padilla, and Josaphat Louis Lebulu, the Archbishop of Arusha, were in the church at the time of the attack but escaped unharmed. The Cathedral, which is located in the Olasti district on the outskirts of Arusha, was filled with worshipers at the time of the attack, many of whom were outside the building when the bomb was thrown into the crowd from a motorcycle.
Nine people, including three nationals from the United Arab Emirates, one Saudi and five Tanzanians, have been arrested in connection with the bombing, which was described by President Kikwete as "an act of terrorism." He said that Tanzania was "ready to deal with all criminals, including terrorists and their agents who are based in the country or externally.”
The bombing is the latest in a series of attacks on Tanzania’s Christian community that have occurred this year. In Zanzibar, the murder of a protestant pastor was followed by that of a Catholic priest. Following the murders Church leaders began to receive threatening text messages from a group calling itself “Muslim Renewal”, which claimed responsibility for the killings, added that the killers were “trained in Somalia”, and promised “disaster” during the Easter season. In March, a number of Christians were assaulted and a Pentecostal pastor was beheaded in Buseresere town in Geita Region by Muslims angered by the opening of a non-Muslim butchery. Also in March an evangelist was attacked by unknown assailants in Mara Province.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the dead in this senseless attack. Signs of escalating attacks on Christians in Tanzania are deeply worrying. Although those arrested have yet to be charged, there is undoubtedly an international element to this attack, which if left unchecked, will severely undermine the stability of the nation CSW calls upon the Tanzanian authorities to take decisive action to tackle rising extremism and to ensure that justice is done. Innocent civilians and worshippers are protected from violence and an atmosphere of impunity is not allowed to take hold.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Monday, 6 May 2013


Mr, John Kantiok, was at the scene of yesterday's attack at Fadan Kaje in Zongo Kataf Local Government Area. According to those who were lucky to escaped the assailants. The men came in a private car and parked close to GSS Fadan Kaje, then Came out with their sophisticated guns. The man killed was a security guard at an agricultural project just a few meters away from the secondary school. According to witnesses, when he sighted the assailants, he blew his whistle to alert the community.

That was when they opened fire on him. The other fellow that was with him took cover near a tree. The marauders continued their shooting unabated, shooting anything in sight. Before the nearby security men could come, the killers had left in their car. From the scene, I went to the house to condole with the relations. One thing that got me thinking was that the community members are living together with the Fulanis within the community. And they were escorted out of the community by security agents. Although members of the community reported that most of them left in the night after they learned of the attack. It is pathetic the people cannot sleep with their two eyes closed again. Mr Musa was killed leaving behind his aged parents, wife and children. May His soul rest in peace and may those who carried out this barbaric act met personally with the saving grace of GOD and come to repentance. They must be fished out to face law.

Friday, 3 May 2013


Pastor Saeed Abedini, a convert to Christianity with dual United States/Iranian nationality who was sentenced to eight years in prison in January for “actions against the national security of Iran”, has been placed in solitary confinement.
According to Mohabat News, Pastor Abedini had taken part in a peaceful courtyard protest over the mistreatment of inmates in Evin Prison, where he is currently being held. The protest reportedly angered prison officials, who subsequently put Pastor Abedini and nine other prisoners in solitary confinement. Pastor Abedini had also signed a petition which criticized the lack of medical care for prisoners and the mistreatment of their families during visits. 
Pastor Abedini is reportedly suffering severe internal bleeding as a result of receiving regular beatings in prison and there are concerns his kidneys may not be functioning properly. However, he has been refused medical treatment by prison authorities. Furthermore, family members were turned away from their weekly visit and informed that he was no longer permitted to receive any visitors.
Pastor Abedini was arrested in September 2012 while in Iran on a family visit. On 27 January, he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court Branch 26 in Tehran on charges of ‘planting house churches that are intended to undermine national security.’
Although couched in political terms, the charges against Pastor Abedini are linked to his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Christians in Iran are increasingly facing such charges as a means of justifying arbitrary arrests and extreme sentences.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW is deeply concerned at reports of Pastor Abedini’s deteriorating health, and that he is being held in solitary confinement despite urgently needing medical attention. His case is reminiscent of that of Pastor Irani, who is also being denied adequate medical care for severe health challenges.  We urge the Iranian authorities to provide immediate medical care for Pastor Abedini and Pastor Irani, and to release them and all other prisoners who in reality are being held on account of their faith. The freedom to profess one’s faith is protected in the Iranian constitution as well as in various international treaties to which Iran is signatory, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). We therefore call on Iran to fulfill its legal obligations and uphold this right for all of its citizens.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email or visit
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.