EGYPT – Al Arish residents told: “Leave tomorrow … or we’ll hang your heads on the top of your houses”
Around 200 Christian families have now fled the northern Sinai town of Al Arish, where six Christians were recently murdered. The mass exodus was not just a response to the immediate killings, but to a concerted long-term effort by Islamists to religiously-cleanse the town.
Seifein Morqos, at 89, the oldest Christian resident, said: “I have lived in Arish for 55 years … We were never threatened or attacked … Then came the Arab Spring in 2011 … We began to see masked Islamist jihadis driving through town with black flags and banners splashed with emblems of swords and Islamic slogans [and] the threats against us Christians and the killings began ... the threats escalated; we got messages that said: Leave tomorrow, you Crusaders, or we’ll hang your heads on the top of your houses ... I left with nothing but the clothes on my back and my walking stick.”
From Wataninet here
PAKISTAN – Illiterate evangelist accused of Quran “blasphemy” released but family still unable to return home
After 30 days in custody, police have released Babu Shahbaz Masih, an illiterate evangelist from Lahore, who was arrested and accused of “blasphemy” in December after pages of the Quran with his name written on them were found in the street. Although he has been cleared of all charges, police have advised 41-year-old Babu, his wife and three children not to return home, as local Muslims are still pressuring police to charge him. Christians accused of “blasphemy” are rarely able to go back to their former lives, even if, as in Babu’s case, charges have been dropped, because of often violent threats from zealous Muslims.
From Barnabas Aid project partners
INDIA – Hindu mob sneak into Christian peace festival in Delhi, beat up pastor on stage and vandalise property
A Hindu mob armed with iron rods, hockey sticks and axes invaded a Christian peace festival in Delhi on 24 February, beat up a pastor on stage, attacked Christians in the crowd and vandalised equipment, including the PA system and cameras. Pastor Emmanuel Masih, the 36-year-old father of three who was beaten on stage, told Global Christian News, “They accused me of carrying out conversion and hit me so much that I started to bleed from my nose and mouth. Soon I was covered in my own blood.” Some of the Hindu attackers disguised themselves among the 1,700 people in the crowd before the assault. Because of the damage to property, the festival had to be cancelled; Delhi police had previously refused to provide protection for the event.
From Global Christian News here
RUSSIA – Protestant pastor first to be deported under draconian Soviet-era anti-terror laws
A Protestant pastor has become the first person to be deported under amended anti-terror laws implemented in July 2016, which introduced sanctions against “foreigners conducting missionary activity”. Pastor Victor-Immanuel Mani, of Indian origin, was deported in February and has now been separated from his Russian wife and young child. He is appealing.
The implementation of the restrictions on what is termed “missionary activity” remain confused at a local level; although they do not prohibit personal evangelism, churches and church leaders have faced charges and a church pastor was the first person prosecuted. Of the 53 prosecutions brought by authorities so far, 29 have been against Christians.
From Forum 18 here