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PERSECUTION: In Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim afraid for life; also reports from Nigeria, Laos

KHARTOUM, Sudan (BP) — Persecuted Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim is staying at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, for her safety, she told CNN by phone, and is unable to leave the country that in May condemned her to torture and death because of her faith.

Ibrahim also said doctors have told her that Maya, the baby she delivered in May in a Sudanese prison, may never be able to walk because Ibrahim was forced to undergo childbirth with her legs chained.

“Something has happened to the baby,” she told CNN. “I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table. I wasn’t lying on the table.”

Ibrahim remains shrouded in controversy after a Sudanese appeals court overturned her death sentence and released her from prison June 23, only to be rearrested a day later as she tried to leave the country. About 40 Sudanese police officers seized her at the Khartoum airport, accusing her of trying to flee Sudan with falsified papers. She has been released from jail on the latest charge, but has been forbidden to leave the country, according to news reports.

“It’s my right to use the papers and have a South Sudanese passport because my husband is a South Sudanese citizen. He has an American passport and South Sudanese passport. I never forged any papers,” she told CNN.

Ibrahim remains committed to her Christian faith but is afraid for her life and unsure of her next move, CNN reported Tuesday (July 1).

Ibrahim was born to a Sudanese Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox mother, but her father disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old. Though her mother reared her as a Christian, Islamic law asserts she is Muslim by birth because her father was Muslim.

Ibrahim’s marriage to a Daniel Wani, a Christian, is treated as adultery under Islam’s sharia law, leading to the sentence of 100 lashes and death. Authorities reportedly had planned to carry out the whipping, then the execution, after Ibrahim nursed her daughter to age 2. She and her husband also have a 21-month-old son Martin.

Ibrahim’s persecution is the latest evidence of Sudan’s standing as one of the world’s worst violators of religious liberty. The State Department has listed the militant Islamic regime among its “countries of particular concern” (CPC) since 1999, the first year such designations were made by the U.S. government. Eight countries currently are on the CPC list.

Khartoum church bulldozed by law

Members of the Sudanese Church of Christ in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, watched helplessly Monday (June 30) as security forces bulldozed the church, one day after authorities ordered worshippers to vacate the building, Morning Star News reported.

About 70 security personnel armed with guns and tear gas participated in the demolition and threatened to arrest anyone who interfered, witnesses said, but no one was physically harmed.

The church structure was built in 1983 and has documents showing the church owns the land, pastor Kwa Shamal told Morning Star News. Authorities refused to compensate the church for the land and said the location was designated for a hospital.

The congregation of 430 is forced to worship in tents. A nearby Muslim mosque remained.

“Even if they destroy this church building, our God is still good all the time,” a church member told Morning Star News. “We the believers are the real church. We are asking you to continue to pray for us because of the great challenge we are facing.”

Boko Haram continues onslaught in Nigeria

Islamic extremists Boko Haram destroyed four churches and killed more than 30 Christians Sunday (June 29) near Chibok, the town where more than 200 mostly Christian school girls were kidnapped and remain missing, the Associated Press reported.

The Protestant Church of Christ in Nigeria, the Pentecostal Deeper Life Bible Church and the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria were three of those attacked, AP reported.

“They killed dozens of people and burned houses after attacking worshippers,” the AP quoted survivor Mallam Yahi as recounting. At least 30 bodies were recovered but more bodies reportedly were being found.

Boko Haram has launched near daily attacks in and around Chibok since the April kidnapping of 273 schoolgirls, 219 of whom remain captured. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan reported a month ago that the government had located the girls, but that trying to capture them would endanger their lives.

Nigeria leaders are denying Boko Haram’s widely reported June 21 abduction of 60 girls and women and 31 boys from the village of Kummabza, about 100 miles from the Borno state capital of Maiduguri. The New York Times and Associated Press were among news outlets reporting the latest kidnapping and said toddlers as young as 3 had been taken, based on accounts of vigilantes trying to protect citizens from Boko Haram.

Several prominent Nigerians questioned whether the June abductions had taken place, including first lady Patience Jonathan, who claimed the reports were fabricated to discredit her husband’s administration, the AP reported.

Boko Haram has killed hundreds and destroyed nearly 40 churches since the April kidnapping, according to news reports. While official numbers are not available, estimates place the number of killings since April at nearly 1,000.

Laotian Christians arrested after praying for sick woman

Authorities in a Laotian village have charged a pastor and four church members with murder after they prayed for a sick woman who later died, Morning Star News reported Sunday (June 29), based on reports from the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

“I believe the authorities are trying to find every way they possibly can in order to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area,” an HRWLRF representative told Morning Star News.

“Mrs. Chan came — in April — to Kaithong, the leader of the Saisomboon village church, to be prayed for, and she apparently became well for a short time,” the HRWLRF representative said, requesting anonymity. “She then embraced the Christian faith. Then, she suddenly passed away on June 21. The police authorities charged Kaithong as well as the other four Christians/leaders who were present at the funeral of murder because she passed away.”

The HRWLRF has demanded the immediate release of the Christians, who are being held in the Atsaphangthong district prison.

The Lao government ratified in 2009 the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, upholding the right to choose and practice a religion of choice, according to the HRWLRF, but has refused to uphold the covenant. Only 3.4 percent of Laotians are Christian, according to Operation World, compared to 57 percent Buddhist and 35 percent indigenous religion adherents.
Compiled by Diana Chandler, general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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