By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)— Triumphs amid trials marked BosNewsLife’s November 4-November 10 newsweek with a Pakistani evangelist managing to distribute Bibles in areas hit by reported Islamic violence, the Middle East’s largest Christian community embracing a new leader, while in Africa Christians died in attacks.
The week began with BosNewsLife’s Joseph DeCaro and Stefan J. Bos reporting that Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabab uses converts from religious Christianity to Islam to carry out attacks against churches in neighboring Kenya.
Officials said the strategy is part of what Islamists call a “holy war”, or Jihad.
The announcement came as Kenya’s Red Cross said Sunday, November 4, that a blast at a church inside a police compound in the eastern town of Garissa killed police officer Julius Mukonzi who also served as the pastor, and injured at least 13 others.
Elsewhere, Christians in Tanzania were struggling to find a place to worship Sunday, November 4, after Islamic militants attacked Christians, torched at least three churches and damaged other Christian properties in the East African country’s largest city, officials said.
Police said they have detained 122 followers of the Islamist separatist group ‘Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation’ (UAMSHO) who were allegedly involved in the riots in Dar es Salaam.
Yet, that same day there was cause for celebration in Northern Africa, as Egypt’s Coptic Christians chose a new leader. Bishop Tawadros, 60, succeeds late Pope Shenouda with a mission to shepherd one of the world’s oldest Christian communities.
At Cairo’s Grand Cathedral of St. Mark, the final choice came down to a young boy Sunday, November 4, led to the altar where three names had been placed in a jar. Blindfolded, to let what Copts believe is the hand of God guide him, he reached for a paper that would reveal the next pope.
Human rights activists later told BosNewsLife they welcomed the announcement, though they acknowledged that he faces an uphill battle as attacks against churches left dozens dead since last year’s ouster of previous president Hosni Mubarak and there are concerns about the new Islamic leadership.
Last month, tensions also rose when a Muslim mob in the village of Ezbet Marco surrounded its only Coptic Church, barring Copts from neighboring villages from entering, Christians said.
Two Copts reportedly received fractured limbs in the ensuing scuffle.
There were problems in other heavily Islamic nations too, including in Pakistan where on Monday, November 5, there was fresh concern about an abducted Christian young woman who was reportedly forced to marry a Muslim man while a pastor was told he would remain behind bars on charges of “blasphemy”.
Rebecca Masih, a 22-year-old Christian nurse, was abducted on her way to work in Sindh province before being forcibly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man on October 2, according to local Christians.
Yet, Justice Naamatullah Phulpoto rejected requests of Rebecca’s father Younis Masih and his lawyer, Mukesh Kumar, to return the girl to her Sukkur city home. Advocacy group International Christian Concern said she is “among hundreds of Christian women and girls that have been abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and forced into marriage over the past several years.”
News of Masih’s apparent kidnapping came while Christian pastor Karama Patras failed in his attempt to be released on bail after being accused of “blasphemy against Islam.”
Patras was detained after police took him into what they called “protective custody” when a Muslim mob attacked his home last month in Sanghla Hill in central Punjab province following a prayer meeting.
Imams had reportedly urged crowds to punish the pastor because he answered a question what meet offered during the Islamic sacrifice feast Eid-Ul-Adha’s meant to Christians.
Patras reportedly gave a Biblical answer, apparently quoting Corinthians 10:28-29: “But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness. “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?”
On Tuesday, November 6, world attention moved towards the United States, where President Barack Obama was re-elected, defeating his Republic challenger Mitt Romney. Obama’s victory led to mixed reactions from former-Communist nations where especially devoted, active, Christians have been persecuted for decades.
A key official of financially troubled Hungary said he believes his nation will soon sign an International Monetary Fund-led deal on billions of dollars in financial assistance to help the country nation overcome its deepest economic crisis in years.
Deputy prime minister Tibor Navracsics told BosNewsLife he expects an accord on an IMF and European Union loan of nearly 20 billion dollars within months, despite mounting tensions with the organizations over demands for more austerity measures.
Yet he also told the news agency that he hopes re-elected president will focus more on Central and Eastern Europe than during his previous term.
“Economic relations and upgrading the strategic positions of Central Europe,” are important at a time of growing Russian influence, Navracsics argued. “I think the Central European nations now somehow vanished in the eyes of the American foreign policy,” he complained.
“The American foreign policy think tanks and analysts think that Central Europe is in a safe and dry place and it’s not in danger of a possible Russian influence. We sometimes think differently.”
Hungary and other ex-Soviet-satellite states were occupied for decades by Russian forces till the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.
There was some positive news for churches in the Czech Republic on Thursday, November 8, as the Czech parliament approved a plan to return billions of dollars in church properties that were confiscated by the previous Communist regime.
Under the legislation, churches will receive lands, properties and compensation worth some $7 billion over a period of 30 years.
And while active Christian faith often leads to opposition in this world, at least one man defied the odds this weeks in an area of Pakistan known for Islamic opposition.
In BosNewsLife report published Saturday, November 10, a leading Pakistani evangelist said he was able to massively distribute Bibles in impoverished isolated villages where he claimed people “are hungry” for “God’s Word” despite mounting “persecution” by Islamic militants.
Haseeb Masih of the Punjab-province based Save Pakistan Ministries (SPM) group also told BosNewsLife that at least hundreds of villagers responded to his call to “give their heart to Jesus Christ.”
Another triumph in the trials of Christian life.
(Budapest-based BosNewsLife is Central and Eastern Europe’s first international Christian online news agency. With additional reporting from Africa, Asia, Middle East, the United States and Central and Eastern Europe).