Wednesday, 27 November 2013


A document published by the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Army of the People (FARC-EP) in July this year illustrates the degree of repression the guerrilla group exercises over populations under its control, including strict restrictions on religious freedom. 

The ‘manual for coexistence’, published by Colombian newspaper El Colombiano, includes strict restrictions on religious freedom in the region of Putumayo, where the 32nd Front maintains control.

It states that ‘Evangelical chapels may only be built in municipal capitals,’ and ‘Pastors and priests will only hold their masses in the churches in the municipal capitals.’ According to El Colombiano, priests and pastors in the heavily rural Putumayo region who have attempted to conduct ministry outside of the municipal capitals have come under threat or been forced to flee.

The manual’s restrictions on religious practice are in line with other reports received by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The FARC-EP, a left wing guerrilla group which took up arms in the 1960s and is currently in the midst of an ongoing peace dialogue with the government, has targeted religious groups and leaders since its inception and is believed to be responsible for the targeted assassinations of hundreds of church leaders over the past fifty years. These include the murders of Reverend Manuel Camacho in the Guaviare region in 2009 and Pastors Humberto Mendez and Joel Cruz Garciain Huila in 2007; all three pastors reportedly defied FARC-EP restrictions on preaching and evangelism. Around 150 churches are believed to be shut down and religious activity forbidden in south-eastern Colombia in zones under FARC-EP control.

recent report published by CSW’s partners, the Colombian Council of Evangelical Churches Commission for Restoration, Life and Peace, compiled and analysed ten years of work documenting human rights violations committed against Protestant Christians. The report found that over the past decade, the FARC-EP was responsible for 184 documented cases of religious intolerance. 

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW is not surprised at the content of this manual as it is very much in line with what Colombians living in FARC-EP-controlled zones have been telling us for more than a decade. We continue to be concerned that the FARC-EP actively restricts the fundamental rights, including religious freedom, of the very people it claims to defend. The fact that this document was published and circulated only three months ago, but almost a year after the Colombian government and the FARC-EP entered into a formal peace dialogue raises questions once again about how any peace agreement will affect the civilian population. Respect for the fundamental human rights, including freedom of religion and conscience, enshrined in Colombia’s constitution and international covenants, alongside justice for victims, must be the foundation of any peace agreement. We call on the FARC-EP to eliminate all restrictions on freedom of religion or belief in areas under its influence with immediate effect.”

Monday, 25 November 2013


Two Vietnamese Catholics, whose arrest sparked mass protests in My Yen parish, Nghe An Province last month, were sentenced to six and seven months’ imprisonment respectively on 23 October.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has been informed that their families were not allowed to attend the closed-door trial, which lasted around three hours.

Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Khoi were arrested on 27 June and later charged with “disturbing public order”, following an incident that occurred on 22 May, when men believed to be plainclothes police officers stopped and searched Catholics visiting a shrine and attending Mass at a church in Nghi Phuong Commune. As the police officers did not show any identification, there was confusion among the crowd as to their identity, and some people reportedly believed them to be robbers.

It is unclear exactly why Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Khoi were arrested: some sources say they were arguing with the plainclothes officers; others say they were simply being used as scapegoats for the unrest. 
Members of the Catholic community and Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, the Bishop of Vinh, petitioned for their release. In response, the local district chief issued a paper promising that the two men would be released on 4 September. When this promise was not upheld, several hundred petitioners surrounded the District Office and the military arrived to dispel the crowd, armed with guns, batons, tear gas, and guard dogs. According to CSW’s sources inside the country, police and soldiers beat petitioners with electric batons smashed religious icons in the area. Between 21 and 40 people were injured. 
Following the attacks, Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop appealed for “international support and solidarity”. 

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “These sentences come as a huge disappointment to the Catholic community in Nghe, who have been petitioning for the release of Hai and Khoi for over four months. In the process, Vietnamese Catholics’ right to freedom of religion or belief has been severely restricted and the community has been subject to constant intimidation and harassment. The fact that the two men were tried in a closed-door trial is of particular concern. CSW calls on the Vietnamese government to release the two men, to halt all attacks on religious minorities in Vietnam and lift restrictions on their religious freedom.”


Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling on the international community to facilitate and guarantee an official referendum on Abyei’s future after an unofficial plebiscite resulted in 99.9% of participants voting to join with South Sudan. 

On 31 October, 98% of registered Ngok Dinka voters participated in an unofficial vote, termed the “Peoples’ Referendum”, which was organised by the Ngok Dinka General Conference. In accordance with the stipulations of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the Sudanese civil war and a subsequent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), voting was open to the nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms and all permanent residents of the Abyei Area. However, permanent residents from the Arab Misseriya tribe refused to participate in the referendum.

According to the CPA, the Abyei referendum should have occurred in tandem with South Sudan’s referendum on independence, which took place on 9 January 2011. However, it was postponed due to ongoing disagreements between Khartoum and South Sudan over voter eligibility. The nomadic Arab Misseriya tribe, which accesses certain pasture-lands in Abyei for part of each year, wish to be accorded full voting rights in the referendum. However, according to the CPA’s Abyei Protocol and the international legal ruling of the PCA, only the Ngok Dinka and permanent residents may vote.

Despite lacking official recognition, the plebiscite is a significant indication of the desire of the Ngok Dinka people to exercise self determination. In a statement issued on 1 November, the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) announced its support for the referendum, calling on the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN) and the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to formally recognise its outcome.

A referendum was scheduled to take place last month in accordance with a 2012 Proposal by the AU’s Abyei mediator, Thabo Mbeki, with voting limited to the Ngok Dinka and permanent residents of Abyei. The Mbeki Proposal also contains provisions protecting the rights of others living in and migrating through Abyei. The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) is on record as stating that if the issue is still unresolved by early December, steps would be taken to endorse the Mbeki Proposal as final and binding.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “This truly is a significant moment for the Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms.  After decades of war and over two years of stalling they have finally had their say, and the resounding result cannot be disregarded. The international community in general, and the AU in particular, must either recognize the results of this referendum or facilitate an official one without delay, while proactively countering any attempts to disrupt it. Alternatively, if the December deadline also elapses, the AU, supported by the UN, must begin the process of endorsing the Mbeki Proposal as final and binding immediately and speedily. In addition, as many of Abyei’s residents who were displaced by fighting in the area are slowly returning, international humanitarian assistance must be increased as a matter of urgency.”

IRAN: Mostafa Bordbar released from prison and Pastor Saeed Abedini was moved to the notorious Rajal Shahr Prison in Karaj.

Iranian Christian Mostafa Bordbar was released from prison on 3 November, following a successful appeal against the 10 year prison sentence he received on 31 July 2013.

His release comes almost three months after he was imprisoned in Evin Prison on charges of being a member of an “anti-security organisation” and “gathering with intent to commit crimes against Iranian national security.” An appeal court cleared him of all of charges on 30 October.

Mr Bordbar was arrested on 27 December 2012, along with 50 other Christian converts who had gathered to celebrate Christmas in a house in northern Tehran. They were detained, interrogated for several hours and were forced to hand over personal details, including Facebook and e-mail addresses and passwords. Most of the group was released; however, Mr Bordbar and Vruir Avanessian, an Armenian-Christian Pastor, were arrested. Pastor Avanessian was “temporarily” released on 10 January after posting bail of $60,000. 

In other news, on 3 November, Pastor Saeed Abedini, the dual American/Iranian citizen and Christian convert imprisoned for eight years on political charges in January 2013, was moved to the notorious Rajal Shahr Prison in Karaj. The American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that Mr Abedini has been placed in Ward 3 of the prison, which is known to house some of the most violent prisoners in the country. 

Mr Abedini’s transfer comes after he was placed in solitary confinement in May for taking part in a peaceful protest with other prisoners against the mistreatment of inmates at Evin Prison. Mr Abedini has suffered health challenges following regular beatings whilst in prison, but has been denied adequate medical care. 

Finally, an Iranian opposition website has reported that Abdolfattah Soltani, the prominent Iranian human rights lawyer who started a hunger strike on 2 November, has been moved from Evin Prison, although the details of his whereabouts are unclear. Mr Soltani began the hunger strike on his 60th birthday to protest the lack of medical care given to fellow prisoners, despite suffering from serious digestive and stomach complications himself. 

Mr Soltani was arrested in September 2011 on charges of “being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “interviewing with media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.” In January 2012, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, exile and a 20-year ban on his legal practice. The sentence was later reduced to 13 years by an appeals court.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW commends the Iranian judiciary for clearing Mr Bordbar of charges that essentially amounted to a restriction of his right to adopt a faith of his choosing, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is party. However, the constant mistreatment of Saeed Abedini is entirely unacceptable, amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under article 7 of the ICCPR.  As with many other Christians, Pastor Abedini was jailed on the basis of illegitimate political charges.  He should not be detained alongside violent prisoners and the Iranian regime will be held accountable for any deterioration in his physical well-being. Moreover, the habitual withholding of adequate medical attention from prisoners is in violation of article 10 of the ICCPR.  CSW urges Iran to review the sentences of all who have faced unjust political charges and to treat every prisoner with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity, in accordance with its international obligations.”   


Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomes the decision by the US State Department to formally designate Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, and its off-shoot organisation Ansaru, as a “foreign terrorist organisation” (FTO).

The designation directs US law enforcement and regulatory agencies to block business and financial transactions with Boko Haram, and to investigate and prosecute suspects associated with the organisations.

A State Department statement said, “These designations are an important and appropriate step, but only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach by the Nigerian government to counter these groups through a combination of law enforcement, political, and development efforts, as well as military engagement, to help root out violent extremism while also addressing the legitimate concerns of the people of northern Nigeria.”

Previously, the US government had designated three leaders of Boko Haram as terrorists, but had stopped short of designating the group as a terrorist organisation. Boko Haram is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nigerians and has attacked military, federal, UN, Christian and Muslim targets as part of its armed insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the north of the country. During 2012, Boko Haram victims included the citizens of 15 nations. Earlier in 2013, Ansaru kidnapped and murdered seven international construction workers. CSW has campaigned for FTO designation as an important step towards disrupting the financial and strategic capabilities of the group, which has claimed links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and to the Somali terrorist group al Shabaab.

Reverend Yunusa Nmadu, CEO of CSW Nigeria, said, “We welcome the long awaited designation of Boko Haram and its splinter group Ansaru as FTOs. We hope that this singular action will help to expose the individual and corporate sponsors of these terrorist groups, and assist in bringing about peace and safeguarding lives and properties.”

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We too welcome the decision to designate Boko Haram and Ansaru as terrorist organisations, for which we have long campaigned. Boko Haram and Ansaru not only represent a threat to Nigeria's national security and unity, but also through their links with AQIM and al Shabaab they have long constituted a threat to both regional and international peace and security. We are hoping that the designations will provide an important impetus to international support for the Nigerian government in its efforts to bring an end to this deadly insurgency."
Pakistan ( Capital :  Islamabad)
Population : 180 million people

Official Languages : Urdu Language, English Language

Location  : South Asia, It borders the Arabian Sea, India, Afghanistan, Iran and China.

Religion  : The state religion in Pakistan is Islam, which is practiced by about 95-98% of the people of the nation. The remaining 2-5% practice Christianity,Hinduism  and other religions.


1.     The homeless Christians in Pakistan especially Joseph Colony (internally displaced persons) as Pakistani Refugees are being denied refugee status when they cross Pakistani’s borders.

2.     Divine protection over all the churches, pastors and the community

3.     Pray for journalist in Pakistan since they stand a chance of spreading the happenings in Pakistan, they are being targeted for interfering with campaign to intimidate and persecuted Christians and if caught they receive a death threat.

4.     Pray for Christians in poverty as they suffer lack of status and right  and cant get a job and make money to support their families and regularly suffering from the injustice that comes packaged with the abuse of Pakistani’s blasphemy law and for God’s intervention to issues relating to it’s natural consequences.

5.     Pray for Christians who are forced to convert from Christianity to Islam or face death so that the Lord will strengthen them against all odds.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it - 1 Corinthians 12:26