Christmas marked by hostility for many Christians

Published 06 January 2012
Christmas 2011 was not so much a time of peace and joy but violence and hostility for many Christians around the world, the international director of Barnabas Fund has said.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is asking Christians to pray for believers who experienced attacks, intimidation or detention during the festive season.

Christmas Day attacks on churches in Nigeria killed at least 50 people. Islamic militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were condemned by the international community and reported widely in the media.

Lesser known acts of violence over Christmas include an acid attack on a church leader in Uganda. Umar Mulinde had acid thrown in his face outside his church in Kampala on Christmas Eve, causing severe burns to the right side of his face, neck and arms.

It is believed that Mulinde, a former Muslim sheikh, was attacked because of his conversion and open stand against the introduction of Kadhi – or Sharia – courts in Uganda.

In India, around 20 Hindu extremists attacked Christians in Karnataka State as they gathered for a meal on Christmas Day.

The attackers forced their way into the home where the meal was being held and started to beat up the group of Christians, which included women and children.

According to Barnabas Fund, some of the victims were seriously wounded.

In Kandhamal, in Orissa State, the home of a young Christian couple was burned down on Christmas Eve as they attended a Christmas celebration in their village.

In Mangalore, a nativity scene was set on fire, and in Karnataka, a prayer hall was damaged by extremists.

Barnabas Fund has received reports of disruptions to church services in China. In Langzhong city, dozens of police officers broke up an unofficial Christmas Day service being held in a public square.

Police reportedly fired tear gas at the worshippers and detained three of them.

In Beijing, more than 30 members of Shouwang Church were detained by police for taking part in a public Christmas gathering.

The church made international headlines last year after more than 100 members were detained when it tried to hold open-air services.

Authorities also detained around 50 members of unregistered churches in Dongyang, in Zhejiang Province, as they met to plan their Christmas gathering. The pastor and his son were reportedly beaten by the authorities.

In Iran, authorities raided a Christmas service in Ahwaz. They rounded up the congregation, which included children attending the Sunday school, and detained them. Many of the group were interrogated before being released but the senior pastor, his wife and two other church leaders were taken into custody.

Although the pastor's wife has since been released, there has been no news of the other three. The children were said to have been left severely distressed by the incident.

International Director of Barnabas Fund, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, said: "Once again, for many Christians around the world, the Christmas season has been a time not of peace and joy but of violence and hostility."

He called upon Christians to pray especially for believers in northern Nigeria.

"Boko Haram's track record of violence makes it all too likely that they will follow up this threat with a religious cleansing of the North," he said.

"Please pray urgently for the protection of Christians in Northern Nigeria at this time."


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