By BosNewsLife News Center
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– BosNewsLife’s October 27-November 3 newsweek was marked by reports of deadly attacks against Christians, church closures, detentions, a violent storm and saying farewell to one of the news agency’s own giants.
On Saturday, October 27, news emerged that a Christian worker was without his wife and five children as Pakistani police sent him to jail on “false” charges of “blasphemy” against Islam. Sweeper and cleaner Barkat Masih, who converted from Hinduism to Christianity, was detained October 1 in the eastern city of Bahawalpur after a dispute with co-workers, explained Pakistan-based advocacy group World Vision in Progress (WVIP).
Christians and non-believers were also uncertain about their future in the former Soviet nation in Ukraine, where on Sunday, October 28, BosNewsLife watched how anti-government voters in the western region expressed concern that the party of President Viktor Yanukovych claimed victory in parliamentary elections.
Sunday’s vote was overshadowed by the jailing of the country’s top opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Her fans and others said the disputed outcome would lead to more social tensions and split Ukraine, a view that was later confirmed by international observers who questioned the fairness of the ballot.
While in Ukraine, they still talk, in Nigeria Islamic militants choose violence to make their point. On Monday, October 29, BosNewsLife’s Paul Jongas reported that tensions remained high in Nigeria’s volatile city of Kaduna after a suicide bomber drove his vehicle packed with explosives into a Catholic church. Initial reports said at least four worshipers died, but that death toll soon rose to seven.
Nearly 100 were injured in the blast that also triggered deadly reprisal attacks, in which at least two people died.
Monday, October 29, was also the day that crowds said farewell to leading Dutch evangelical journalist Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife’s larger-than-life Senior Special Correspondent and editor-in-chief of the Netherlands’ influential evangelical monthly paper ‘Uitdaging’ (Challenge), its website uitdaging.nl and news site manna-vandaag.nl. He was burried in his Dutch town of Zeewolde after a funeral service that included the song ‘Abba Father’, whom he loved.
Leijenaar, who put BosNewsLife on the world map with widely quoted Middle East stories, passed away too early at age 59 after suffering a heart attack.
Yet in this turbulent times, world attention also shifted to the United States where on Tuesday, October 30, crisis-trained chaplains of the organization founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham rushed to devastated regions in the United States as the death toll of super storm Sandy climbed to at least 39.
Additionally, “Millions are without power, thousands are in shelters, and countless others are cut off from their families and loved ones,” the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) told BosNewsLife in a statement Tuesday, October 30. It said that the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains are “now en route to the areas devastated” by super storm Sandy, which tested both America’s human and spiritual resolve.
Not far from America, the leader of a major network of independent churches was awaiting an answer from Cuba’s leadership Wednesday, October 31, after urging the government to let him leave the Communist island with his family after years of imprisonment and reported harassment.
Evangelical Pastor Omar Gude Perez of the Apostolic Movement wrote an open letter to authorities saying he was unable to build a future as he served almost three years of a six-and-a-half year prison sentence on “trumped up” charges” of “falsifying documents”.
A spiritual storm was also reported in Iran where a court sentenced an evangelical pastor, his wife and two other church workers to one year imprisonment each because they were involved in evangelism and converted from Islam to Christianity, Iranian Christians and rights activists told BosNewsLife Wednesday, October 31.ities saying he was unable to build a future as he served almost three years of a six-and-a-half year prison sentence on “trumped up” charges” of “falsifying documents”. There has been no known reply yet, at a time when Havana and Washington are claiming to try to improve relations.
The pastor of the Assemblies of God (AOG) church in Ahwaz city, Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife Shahnaz Jeizan and defendants Naser Zamen Dezfuli and Davoud Alijani were reportedly convicted October 15 for “converting to Christianity, inviting Muslims to convert, and propagating against the Islamic regime through promoting Evangelical Christianity”.
Later this week, on Friday, November 2, news emerged from Iran that two of the seven Christians from the evangelical Church of Iran movement were jailed following last month’s raid on a house church have been released after being forced to post bail of tens of thousands of dollars.
“Roxana Furughi was freed Thursday, November 1, when she paid $25,000,” said Firouz Khandjani, a council member of the ‘Church of Iran’. Her release came after fellow believer Bijan Haghighi was released October 25 after posting his bail of a similar amount, Khandjani told BosNewsLife.
Iran wasn’t the only country raiding international concern in the Middle East this week: An influential Christian legislator wants the European Union to pressure Egypt to change its “anti-Israel course” after the country’s president attended an anti-Semitic prayer service.
Dutch Europarlementarian Peter van Dalen of the ChristianUnie (ChristianUnion) party told BosNewsLife Thursday November 1, that he is worried that Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi participated in a live-televised prayer for the destruction of Jews.
Minorities also face troubles in the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, where many Christians in the country’s most conservative Muslim province of Aceh are without their own places of worship this weekend. Authorities closed down nine church buildings as part of a reported wider crackdown on “illegal” religious services in the heavily Islamic nation.
Indonesian Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi defended the action saying the congregations operated illegally. “It was a permit matter, so it’s actually not closures,” he told surprised media. Similar closures are also reported elsewhere in the country.
Yet amid the weather, political and spiritual storms, Christians around the world continued to worship this week, including even in Iran. There are least 100,000 evangelical believers in that Islamic nations, church groups say, while some put that number several times higher.
(With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, Paul Jongas in Abuja, Nigeria, and correspondents and reporters in the United States, Asia and the Midde East. Budapest-based BosNewsLife is Central and Eastern Europe’s first Christian online news agency.)