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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

Kayla Koslosky

Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

A caravan of some 4,000 immigrants is headed toward the United States from Honduras and President Trump is threatening to close the southern border if the Mexican government fails to stop them.

According to the Associated Press, the Mexican government deployed additional police to its shared border with Guatemala on Thursday after the Casa del Migrante shelter in Guatemala reported that hundreds of Hondurans had already arrived there.

AP reports that Mexican officials will not let the Hondurans enter as a group and that they will need to have official documentation to enter into Mexico from Guatemala.  

If the Hondurans, who are reportedly fleeing violence and poverty in their country, do not have a passport or visa, Mexico’s ambassador to Guatemala has said that they will be deported. 

Mexican officials have also said that the migrants could also have the option to apply for refugee status, but this would require a 90-day approval process.

As the caravan nears the United States, President Trump has fired off several warnings on Twitter.

The President wrote, “I am watching the Democrat Party led (because they want Open Borders and existing weak laws) assault on our country by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose leaders are doing little to stop this large flow of people, INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS, from entering Mexico to the U.S.”

Trump then threatened to cease aid provisions to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, given that they have let the caravan proceed through their countries to the U.S. 

The President wrote, “In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!”

Trump then pointed fault at weak immigration laws enacted by Democrats saying, “The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA. Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border. All Democrats fault for weak laws!”

Fox News reports that the caravan started last Friday from San Pedro Sula which is the second-largest city in Honduras. San Pedro Sula is also reportedly considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. When the caravan began AP estimates that there were around 160 people. The caravan is now hosting an estimated 4,000 Hondurans.  

Photo courtesy: Filip Gielda/Unsplash

After releasing pastor Andrew Brunson just days ago, Turkish authorities detained another U.S. missionary.

According to Middle East Concern, missionary David Byle, who has been preaching in Turkey for 18 years, was arrested in Ankara on Saturday by the Anti-Terror Police Department.

Byle was reportedly released Sunday afternoon, soon after he was interrogated. The missionary was then ordered to leave the country within the next 15 days.

"[We] have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support, not only from believers here in Turkey, but from literally all around the world. It means a lot to us and encourages us greatly to know we're not alone, that we're a part of such a great family, God's family," Byle and his family shared in a message.

The Christian Post reports that Byle has been arrested several times while he has been a missionary in Turkey. 

In 2007, Byle was arrested and held for three days by Turkish authorities for carrying Christian literature, but since the literature did not insult Islam, he was let go.

Byle was arrested for a second time in 2016, this time he was detained for eight days and told that he would be deported.

Byle’s deportation order was soon temporarily blocked in February 2017, because officials could not prove that he was a “director, member or supporter of ‘terrorist organizations’” as they suspected.

Byle's most recent arrest came just one day after North Carolina pastor Brunson was released by Turkey after being held for nearly two years. 

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom commissioner, hopes that Brunson's release will send a firm message to Turkey.

He said, "While we are relieved by today's decision on Pastor Brunson's unjust detention, we remain concerned for the Turkish people because numerous religious communities, such as the Greek Orthodox community and the Alevis, continue to face discrimination and restrictions on registration and ownership of property."

Photo courtesy: Enes Aktas/Unsplash 

TIZI-OUZOUAlgeria, October 18, 2018 (Morning Star News) – Authorities in Algeria sealed shut a church site on Tuesday (Oct. 16) even after Christian leaders complied with orders to meet building codes, sources said.

In Azaghar village near Akbou, about 185 kilometers (114 miles) east of Algiers in Bejaia Province, Kabylie Region, eight policemen sealed shut the doors of the Church of Jesus Christ, pastor Ali Benkhelat told Morning Star News.

Government officials had ordered the closure in February after local administrators visited the 300-member church’s worship site in December 2017 and January, he said.

“After their visit to our place of worship, they asked us to provide another emergency exit door and fire extinguishers, which we have done,” Pastor Benkhelat said. “We even had to close the premises for three weeks for different development work. If they let us work until today, it’s because they had nothing to reproach us for.”

The five-year-old church is a legal entity by virtue of its affiliation with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), but the government order stated that its building was originally meant to be used for a poultry business. Christian leaders said it was clean and never had chickens in it.

Police first went to the building owner, Da Amar, at 4 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 15) and asked him to go to the police station at 5 p.m., which he did, Pastor Benkhelat said. The officer on duty told Amar, who makes the building available to the church free of charge, that police would close the building the next day on orders from Bejaia provincial officials.

“This after having reminded him of a notification which had been delivered to him on Feb. 18, 2018, and in which he had been informed of the closure of the premises for reasons of nonconformity,” Pastor Benkhelat said.

Besides citing lack of an emergency exit and fire extinguishers, the Feb. 18 order mentions use of the building to receive foreign pastors as being against Law No. 11-08 of July 25, 2008, as a reason to stop using the building, “under pain of making a decision to close the premises within 15 days.” 

After Amar called Pastor Benkhelat on Monday (Oct. 15), the church leader immediately made contact with EPA President Salah Chalah, who arrived from about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away with EPA Vice President Youcef Ourahmane on Tuesday (Oct. 16).  

The owner, pastor and EPA representatives went to the Akbou police station to try to get the closure order reversed.

“We presented the necessary documents, including the affiliation of the church to the EPA, but unfortunately their decision only obeyed an order issued by the head of Bejaia Province,” the EPA’s Pastor Ourahmane said.

The closure order this week was issued by a new Bejaia Province head who took office on Oct. 1, the Christian leaders said.

“It was ordered to proceed with the closing of the premises of the church with the sealing of the main entrance door,” Pastor Benkhelat said. “A brigade of eight gendarmes thus appeared around 11:30 and proceeded to execute the established order.” 

The sealing of the church building comes amid a rash of church closures in the past year in Algeria. Three churches closed in Oran have since been allowed to re-open, but church buildings closed in Maatkas, Tizi-Ouzou Province, in May, and in Riki on July 11 remain shut, Christian leaders said. The Riki church, near Akbou, continues to hold worship services in the open air outside their closed premises.

On May 26 authorities ordered the closure of a church building in Ait-Mellikeche, also in Bejaia Province.

In addition to orders to close Protestant places of worship, Algerian authorities are trying to block evangelical activity in the country, Christian leaders said. In Oran Province, pastor Rachid Segheir visits provincial offices weekly to appeal for the reopening of his bookstore, which was closed and sealed by police in Oran city.

All churches affiliated with the EPA have been visited by investigators and ordered to comply with requirements for non-Muslim places of worship or face closure.

A 2007 executive decree requires all non-Muslim places of worship in Algeria to register with the state, according to the U.S. State Department, but a government freeze on new EPA members has kept churches from registering.

Idir Hamdad

At the same time, the case of a Christian previously acquitted of frivolous charges again surfaced this month.

Idir Hamdad, a 29-year-old convert from Islam, had been acquitted on July 8 of importing unauthorized (Christian) items without a license, but a prosecutor is appealing the decision.

Algeria ranked 42nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Zenad Nabil/Unsplash