Persecution Brief: Nuns Attacked in Egypt; House Church Raided in China

Reports of several cases of open persecution against members of minority Christian communities around the world emerged recently, including several cases involving countries or citizens forbidding Christians to worship, either in official or house churches.

Egypt - A mob of some 1,500 villagers in Upper Egypt reportedly attacked a group of nuns earlier this month who taught at a local school, accusing them of wanting to start a church. Two of the three nuns barricaded themselves in a guest house which was stormed by the mob, who brandished swords and knives, according to media reports. The nuns, volunteer teachers at Notre Dame Language Schools, remained trapped for eight hours before authorities helped to escort them out amid curses and attempted attacks from the mob. They reportedly suffered cuts and bruises in the attack, and one fainted during the ordeal.

The next day, the assailants reportedly returned to the school where the nuns taught and scared children, causing the attendance to drop by more than a third immediately after. Notre Dame Language Schools enrolls about 560 students, roughly 360 of the students are Muslim, the rest being members of the Coptic Christian minority.

China - A house church in west China's region of Xinjiang has been raided by Chinese authorities Sunday, March 18 and over 70 members were put into custody, reported China Aid. The place, Pastor He Enjun's home, is where the congregation's had been meeting for nearly two decades. Sunday, 10 policemen and Domestic Security Protection agents reportedly burst into the room, announcing that the meeting was an "unapproved, illegal meeting," and photographed every participant before taking them into custody. Some were not released for two days, the human rights agency reported. The police also reportedly confiscated Bibles, hymnals, notebooks, Christian education DVDs, and other church materials, but refused to provide a receipt for the confiscated items as required by law.

Indonesia - Two men gunned down with lead bullets a church in Indramayu in West Java, on March 16, causing damage to the construction but no injuries. The men opened fire at the Protestant church Gereja Kristen Indonesia, part of an institution known as the Yasmin Church, which has been experiencing continuous persecution in this Muslim-majority country. The alleged perpetrators were arrested within a few hours of the attack, according to local reports.

Iraq - The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Matthew in Baghdad was one of the targets in a string of bombings Tuesday, although it remains unclear if the building was targeted specifically as a Christian place of worship. Iraqi Muslim extremists have been blamed for the series of attacks in several cities and towns across the country that killed at least 52 people.

World - A new report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was launched this week, listing a number of countries where egregious violations of religious liberties were noted. Among these was Saudi Arabia, as well as two countries struggling to establish democratic governments -- Iraq and Egypt. The report also listed Turkey, which has been seeking to join the European Union for years, but continuously turned down, with human rights violations in the country being one of the major concerns. Turkey, which is also a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, "fails to legally recognize religious minority communities," the report claims.