By BosNewsLife News Center
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– The November 11-17 newsweek was marked by reports of Islamic militants attacking churches and, in at least one case, beheading a young Christian man “for leaving Islam”, though believers continued to gather in worship expressing their faith in Christ and in their future.
On Monday, November 12, news emerged that dozens of Christian worship places were destroyed by Islamic extremists in Tanzania and that church leaders are fleeing its heavily Muslim island of Zanzibar.
International Christian Concern, a major advocacy group, said it seemed part of wider persecution of Christians throughout East Africa.
There was political news too as BosNewslife NEWS WATCH, a critical look at especially former Communist nations, reported Tuesday, November 13, that Slovenia’s president had unexpectedly lost Sunday’s first round of presidential elections.
Official results showed President Danilo Turk received roughly 36 per cent of the vote, behind former prime minister Borut Pahor with about 40 per cent. Both men face each other December 2 in the run-off vote for head of state at a time of economic decline in the small eurozone nation.
But in Ukraine, main opposition parties, known as the United Opposition, were less pleased with the elections in their former Soviet nation, BosNewsLife NEWS WATCH monitored.
They have even pledged to impeach President Viktor Yanukovich after European leaders questioned the fairness of the October 28 parliamentary poll.
The announcement came at the start of an international gathering on Ukraine’s future in neighboring Hungary Wednesday, November 14.
The United Opposition, led by jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party, has demonstrated in the capital Kiev against what they view as fraudulent elections.
Half-a-world away, two stories shook Asia Wednesday, November 14, with a BosNewsLife investigation showing that Indian tribal Christians and their relatives are denied government scholarships for education in a violence-plagued district of India’s eastern state of Orissa.
Authorities in Kandhamal District refuse to issue documents needed for local Christians to study at schools,
colleges and universities under a government program aimed at supporting disadvantaged people in this mainly Hindu society, local Christians and church leadets said.
It came as a further setback in a region where at least over 100 people have died in anti-Christian violence since Christmas 2007, reported BosNewsLife’s Santosh Digal from the area.
That wasn’t all that day: in neighboring Pakistan a court refused to rule on whether to dismiss a controversial case against a mentally challenged Christian girl who has been charged with “blasphemy against Islam.”
Rimsha Masih, 14, was detained from a suburb of Islamabad on August 16 after a neighbor accused her of burning pages containing verses from the Koran, viewed as a holy book by Muslims.
Despite international pressure, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) said it “reserved its verdict” on an application seeking to dismiss the case, which was launched by Rimsha’s accusers under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
Rimsha and her family remain in hiding fearing death threats, after the girl was released on bail September 8, Christians told BosNewsLife.
Tensions also rose Thursday, November 15, in Indonesia, where Christians revealed that Muslim protesters have prevented a Protestant church from holding its Sunday service in the country’s West Java province after similar incidents elsewhere in this heavily Islamic nation.
The Batak Society Christian Church of Philadelphia in Bekasi district canceled its service after a “Muslim mob” stopped them from worshiping, its church leader said.
“They were there an hour or so before we were to start our service,” said Reverend Palti Panjaitan in published remarks. “They brought loudspeakers and played very loud music. They also threatened us.”
Sometimes churches are involved in controversy. That was the case on Friday, November 16, when the United Nation Yugoslav war crimes court in the Dutch city of The Hague acquitted on appeal two Croatian generals who were earlier sentenced last year to long prison sentences for war crimes.
The acquittal of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac came after overnight prayer vigils and demonstrations in Croatia, which is mainly Catholic.
An appeals court of the UN tribunal said Friday, November 16, there was not enough evidence to convict Gotovina, the most senior Croatian military officer charged with war crimes during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s, reported BosNewsLife NEWS WATCH.
Gotovina, who was commander in the Split district of the Croatian army, had been jailed for 24 years. Markac, a Croatian police commander who was serving an 18-year sentence, also saw his sentenced overturned.
Serbia has condemned the sentence saying the court has lost its credibility.
Yet, expressing different views isn’t easy in countries such as Iran where forces of the cyberpolice in charge of controlling the Internet raided the home of a Christian convert who evangelized through social networking websites, including Facebook, and also detained two fellow believers, Iranian Christians revealed Friday, November 16.
News about the raid on the home of Alireza Ebrahimi, who became a Christian three years ago and is known as a cyber evangelist, emerged just days after another Iranian blogger died in police custody.
Ebrahimi wasn’t at home during the recent raid in Gorgan city, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) north east of capital Tehran, reported Iranian Christian news service Mohabat News.
His home was also twice raided in May when security forces confiscated his personal belongings including a laptop, articles, notes and books related to Christianity, Iranian Christians said.
However two other Christians, identified as Saeed Mirzaei and Sadegh Mirzaei, were reportedly detained in separate rates in the area on charges of “propagating against Islam” and “actions against national security.”
It came amid calls for an investigation into the death of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti, with opposition website Kaleme reporting that 41 prisoners at Iran’s feared Evin prison said in signed testimony that believe he was tortured at a police station.
Beheshti, 35, died earlier this month while in custody of Iranian officials.
Christians have also expressed concerns about torture of evangelical believers. The evangelical Church of Iran said one of its recently detained devoted Christians was freed, but only on a massive bail of some $25,000 In local currency.
Five other recently arrested members of the evangelical house church movement remain behind bars, however, a church official, Firouz Khandjani, told BosNewsLife Saturday, November 17.
His release came after fellow believers Bijan Haghighi and Roxana Furughi were freed October 25 and November 1 after paying $25,000 each, he added.
There has been a massive crackdown reported on evangelical Christians in recent weeks, and Khandjani said at least dozens of Christians remain behind bars following police raids.
Expressing faith in Christ also carries a high price in Somalia where local Christians said Islamic fighters of the militant al-Shabab group have beheaded a devoted believer for “leaving Islam”.
Witnesses said Saturday, November 17 that Farhan Haji Mose, 25, was murdered Friday, November 16, in the troubled African nation’s coastal city of Barawa.
He was the fourth Christian known to have been beheaded since September last year, according to a BosNewsLife count.
Yet, Christians continue to worship, including in the Middle East, where BosNewsLife monitored reports from Syria and Israel ahead of what promised to be a turbulent week for churches and individual believers around the world.
(Budapest-based BosNewsLife is Central and Eastern Europe’s first international Christian online news agency. With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Santosh Digal in India, BosNewsLife’s Joseph DeCaro in the United States and BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center)