What are hives, the common skin condition that gives you itchy, red bumps?



The itchiness of hives or urticaria can severely affect people’s quality of life, particularly if symptoms last or antihistamines don’t work.
from www.shutterstock.com

Rodney Sinclair, University of Melbourne

Have you ever wondered who buys those huge boxes of antihistamines prominently displayed all year round in your local pharmacy? If antihistamines were just used for hay fever, you’d think sales would be good in spring, but pretty mediocre for the rest of the year.

Many of the antihistamines sold in Australia are actually for hives, or what doctors call urticaria. Hives produces multiple red, raised bumps (or wheals) that are incredibly itchy. Hives occurs all year round.




Read more:
Common skin rashes and what to do about them


The condition is really common, with a Korean study showing around 22% of people can expect to have it at some time in their life.

Some people also get angioedema, where small blood vessels leak fluid into the tissues, causing spectacular swelling. If the swelling affects your throat and airways you can suffocate.

Fortunately, for the vast majority of people, hives comes and goes in a couple of weeks. While you can feel pretty miserable when you have it, antihistamines work well to control the rash and itch. Suffocation is exceptionally rare.

When hives won’t go away

If you are unlucky enough to still have hives after six weeks, it’s likely to persist six months, six years or even 26 years later.

This is what dermatologists call chronic urticaria, which affects about 1% of the population (around 250,000 Australians). The itch, sleep disturbance, swelling and rash associated with it severely impair people’s quality of life. Of all skin diseases, chronic urticaria seems to worsen your mood and disrupt day-to-day living the most.

One antihistamine tablet is usually enough to control hay fever. But people with chronic urticaria may need two, three or sometimes four tablets a day to control their itch. Even that may not be enough to stop the wheals.

What causes hives?

So what causes hives? If your hives go away within six weeks, you probably had them because of a delayed reaction to a viral infection. Sometimes this acute condition is caused by an allergic reaction to a medication; an antibiotic allergy is a common cause. Occasionally a food allergy causes hives.

What about chronic urticaria, when hives last more than six weeks? Doctors don’t know the exact cause. While patients often suspect a food allergy, doctors rarely find a food trigger.

We don’t know exactly what causes hives, seen here as raised, red bumps or wheals.
from www.shutterstock.com

But we know autoimmunity is involved, when the body’s immune system targets itself.

Most patients with chronic urticaria have antibodies against their own immune system. In particular, these antibodies target molecules critical to a normal allergic response (immunoglobulin E, or IgE, and its receptor).




Read more:
Explainer: what are autoimmune diseases?


When antihistamines don’t work

If antihistamines don’t help, there are other options.

Medications that specifically target IgE and get to the root cause of urticaria autoimmunity are now available, provided you meet all the special criteria. Only dermatologists are allowed to prescribe this medicine on the PBS.

To date, omalizumab has been the most effective treatment for chronic urticaria patients who don’t respond to antihistamines. It’s given as an injection under the skin every four weeks. Unfortunately symptoms in fewer than 50% of patients are completely controlled.

A new drug ligelizumab, which is still in clinical trials, is showing promise, according to international research we were involved with published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, this experimental drug, which also targets IgE autoimmunity, is only available in Australia as part of a clinical trial.




Read more:
Randomised control trials: what makes them the gold standard in medical research?


The Conversation


Rodney Sinclair, Professor of Dermatology, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Common skin rashes and what to do about them



File 20180308 30983 e4u830.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
What’s that rash? Here’s what to look for to diagnose a common skin complaint.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

H. Peter Soyer, The University of Queensland and Katie Lee, The University of Queensland

This article is part of our series about skin: why we have it, what it does, and what can go wrong. Read other articles in the series here.


Everyone has had the unpleasant experience of a rash on the skin – pink, red or purple, flat or bumpy, itchy, scaly, pus-filled, or just plain unsightly. This variety isn’t surprising, because the skin is a complicated organ.

Infections, allergic reactions, immune system problems and even bad reactions to medication can all manifest as a rash.

Here are a few of the most common types.

Drug allergy

Almost every prescription medication available can cause a rash as a side effect, and more than 80% of those are “exanthematous drug eruptions”, meaning a widespread rash accompanied by other symptoms such as headache, fever and feeling generally unwell.

This rash usually appears within two weeks of starting a new medication, as a widespread, symmetrical rash with pink-to-red spots that are flat or elevated and firm, and that might join together in patches.




Read more:
Common lumps and bumps on and under the skin: what are they?


This type of rash is a hypersensitivity reaction, in which the attacking soldiers of the immune system (called “T-cells”) detect the drug and try to clear it from the body by releasing inflammatory proteins.

Exanthematous drug eruption.
DermNet New Zealand.

Very rarely, a drug can cause a severe and life-threatening rash called “toxic epidermal necrolysis” where the skin begins to peel off in sheets. It’s more common in Han Chinese people with a specific genetic variant, and requires intensive care or burn unit treatment.

Most drug eruptions go away within a week once the patient stops taking the problem medication, or within several weeks in protracted cases. In the meantime, or if the drug is essential, steroid creams (which reduce inflammation) and emollient (softening) moisturisers can bring some relief.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by direct skin contact with a substance to which the person is allergic. The immune system’s T-cells overreact to the allergen and release proteins that call more immune cells to the area, making it red and swollen.




Read more:
Why does Australia have so much skin cancer? (Hint: it’s not because of an ozone hole)


It’s often itchy and can be blistered or dry but bumpy. The reaction is often delayed by 48-72 hours, so it can be difficult to determine exactly what caused the reaction. It should also die down by itself over a few days, as long as the allergen is no longer on the skin.

Contact allergies can develop suddenly after years of exposure to an allergen. Jewellery containing nickel, fragrances in lotions, household cleaners, preservatives in hair products, and latex in gloves or condoms are common sources. A dermatologist can carry out a patch test to determine whether a substance is the allergen, by applying it to a small patch of skin.

Severe contact dermatitis from a drug patch.
Dr. Khatmando

Active dermatitis is treated with emollient moisturisers and steroid creams, or with oral steroids or drugs to suppress the immune system if very severe. Further episodes can be prevented by becoming aware of the sources of the allergen, reading labels carefully, and using gloves to handle allergen-containing products.

Eczema

Atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema (often just called eczema) is very common in children from three months old onwards, but appears in adults too, often with hay fever and asthma.

Atopic dermatitis features patches of intensely itchy red skin, sometimes with blisters and weeping patches. Children often have open sores and scabs, because it’s so itchy that it’s hard to refrain from scratching.

Over time the skin becomes thickened and rough from frequent scratching and rubbing. Childhood atopic dermatitis tends to improve as the child grows up, but may continue. Far less commonly, atopic dermatitis can also appear first in adulthood.

Atopic dermatitis is very common in children, but often improves as they get older.
DermNet New Zealand

Atopic dermatitis is a disease of the immune system, in which
structural defects in the skin barrier make it easier for irritants to penetrate into the skin. This throws the delicate balance of the microbial community on our skin out of whack, causing the immune system to go into overdrive. Triggers include stress, sweating, coarse fibres in clothing, inhalation of allergens such as pollen, irritants such as soap or perfumes, and eating food we’re allergic to.

Steroid creams can help treat a bad flare of atopic dermatitis, but shouldn’t be used constantly. In very severe cases, immunosuppressant drugs are prescribed. Ongoing control of atopic dermatitis often includes using emollient moisturisers to combat dry skin, keeping cool, avoiding hot water or irritants, and reducing allergens such as dust mites in the home.

For severe cases that don’t respond to these methods, the drug dupilumab has just been approved for use in Australia. This drug blocks a specific cell receptor to prevent immune cells from detecting two overactive inflammatory proteins.

Atopic dermatitis can have a big impact on quality of life, due to insomnia from the constant itchiness, and restrictions on clothing, body products, pets or activities. Its presence on prominent parts of the body like the face and hands can also reduce self-esteem. Evening sedatives to improve sleep and psychotherapy can help reduce the impact on everyday life.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another chronic immune disorder. It can start at any age and can be lifelong, and is usually present as red plaques (raised or thickened skin) with well-defined edges and silvery-white scales, ranging from a few millimetres to several centimetres across. The overactive inflammation can also damage the joints and lead to psoriatic arthritis.




Read more:
The skin is a very important (and our largest) organ: what does it do?


Often the plaques feel itchy or sore, and because psoriasis is long-lasting and can appear prominently on highly visible parts of the body, it often comes with severe psychological effects.

Psoriasis lesions are raised, red and often have white scales.
DermNet New Zealand

Psoriasis is caused by too many new skin cells being produced and moving up to the surface of the skin too quickly. It’s not known exactly why, but there’s usually an overabundance of inflammatory messenger proteins in the skin.

It can be triggered or aggravated by a streptococcal infection such as tonsillitis, smoking, hormonal changes such as menopause, and some medications. Genetics play an important role in susceptibility to psoriasis and also in what treatments are effective.

Chronic plaque psoriasis, the most common form, can be very resistant to treatment. Small areas can be treated with creams containing steroids, coal tar, or vitamin D. If a lot of the body is covered by plaques, oral immunosuppressant drugs are used, or phototherapy, which uses targeted UV light to destroy over-active immune cells. Moderate sun exposure sometimes improves psoriasis, but sunburn can worsen it – a tricky balance in Australia’s high-UV environment.

These treatments can usually improve the plaques, but it can be very difficult to clear it completely. There are several new drugs coming onto the market for severe psoriasis that hasn’t responded to other treatment.

Tinea

Tinea, or ringworm, is not caused by worms at all but a fungal infection. Tinea is usually named according to the body site it’s on, but the same few kinds of fungus can cause tinea in many parts of the body and it can be spread from one part of the body to another, such as by scratching or using a contaminated towel.

Tinea pedis, on the foot, is an important type because spores can live for weeks in communal showers and changing rooms, making it a common source of infection that can then spread to the trunk, arms and legs (tinea corporis) or groin (tinea cruris, or jock itch). Cats, dogs and other animals are a common source of ringworm fungus, but many types can be spread between people too.

The fungus continues to spread further out while the inner area heals, forming a distinctive ring shape.
Grook Da Oger

Typically, tinea spreads in a circular or oval patch, often healing in the middle so that it appears to be a red scaly ring of infection. Sometimes it can also become a fungal abscess that looks like a boil, feels boggy, and has pustules.

On the feet it can look like ringworm circles, patchy fine dry scales on the sole, blisters on the instep or a moist, red peeling area between the toes (athlete’s foot).

In the groin, it can have a scaly, red raised border and be extremely itchy.

Tinea is diagnosed by microscopic examination and laboratory culture of skin scrapings. It’s usually treated with antifungal creams, or oral antifungal drugs if it persists. It can become chronic in the warm, moist folds of the body.

Shingles

Shingles is a famously painful, blistering rash caused by the reactivation of chicken pox virus, varicella-zoster virus, usually years or decades after the original infection.

The virus lies dormant in nerves near the spine and migrates down the sensory nerve to the skin when it is reactivated, but it’s not known why the virus is reactivated. Some possible triggers are radiotherapy, spinal surgery, other infections, or cancers.

Shingles forms a painful, blistered red rash along the line of a sensory nerve.
Fisle

Shingles starts with pain in the skin that is often described as burning or stabbing, followed in one to three days by a rash of raised red bumps that become blisters and then crust over. The rash is usually confined to a narrow arc of skin, along the sensory nerve that was harbouring the virus.

Patients often have a fever, headache and swollen lymph nodes. Recovery takes two to four weeks but the pain can persist after the rash has healed, called post-herpetic neuralgia.

If it’s caught within three days of onset, antiviral medication can reduce the severity of symptoms and length of the infection. Otherwise, treatment consists of powders or solutions to dry out the rash, as well as pain relief and rest.

The ConversationAustralians aged over 70 are eligible for a free zoster vaccine, which reduces the risk of shingles by half.

H. Peter Soyer, Professor of Dermatology, The University of Queensland and Katie Lee, Research assistant, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Man-Made Earthquakes Becoming Common


I guess it was only a matter if time before our meddling with the earth via fracking became a major problem, or perhaps better put, a bigger problem. Man-made earthquakes are now a reality, but this article suggests they have been around a lot longer than fracking.

For more visit:
http://www.geek.com/science/man-made-earthquakes-are-becoming-a-real-problem-1576464/

Suspected Islamists Burn Down Two Homes in Ethiopia


Two thatched-grass structures belonged to evangelist who received threats.

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 21 (CDN) — A Christian near Ethiopia’s southern town of Moyale said suspected Islamic extremists on March 29 burned down his two thatched-grass homes.

Evangelist Wako Hanake of the Mekane Yesus Church told Compass he had been receiving anonymous messages warning him to stop converting Muslims to Christ. The Muslims who became Christians included several children.

“Inside the house were iron sheets and timber stored in preparation for putting up a permanent house,” said Hanake, who is in his late 30s. “I have lost everything.”

The incident in Tuka, five kilometers (nearly three miles) from Moyale in southern Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, happened while Hanake was away on an evangelistic trip. A neighbor said he and others rescued Hanake’s wife and children ages 8, 6 and 2.

“We had to rescue the wife with her three children who were inside one of the houses that the fire was already beginning to burn,” said the neighbor, who requested anonymity.

Church leaders said neighbors are still housing Hanake and his family.

“The family has lost everything, and they feel fearful for their lives,” said a local church leader. “We are doing all we can to provide clothing and food to them. We are appealing to all well wishers to support Hanake’s family.”

Hanake said he has reported the case to Moyale police.

“I hope the culprits will be found,” he said.

An area church leader who requested anonymity told Compass that Christians in Moyale are concerned that those in Tuka are especially vulnerable to a harsh environment in which religious rights are routinely violated.

“The Ethiopian constitution allows for religious tolerance,” said another area church leader, also under condition of anonymity, “but we are concerned that such ugly incidents like this might go unpunished. To date no action has been taken.”

Tuka village, on Ethiopia’s border with Kenya, is populated mainly by ethnic Oromo who are predominantly Muslim. The area Muslims restrict the preaching of non-Muslim faiths, in spite of provisions for religious freedom in Ethiopia’s constitution.

Hostility toward those spreading faiths different from Islam is a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia and neighboring countries, area Christians said, adding that they are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies generally respect freedom of religion, but occasionally some local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

According to Operation World, nearly 40 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliates with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim. The remainder are Catholic (3 percent) and ethno-religious (3.7 percent).

 

Jimma Violence

In Jimma Zone in the country’s southwest, where thousands of Christians in and around Asendabo have been displaced as a result of attacks that began on March 2 after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating the Quran, the number of churches burned has reached 71, and two people have reportedly been killed. Their identities, however, were still unconfirmed.

When the anti-Christian violence of thousands of Muslims subsided by the end of March, 30 homes had reportedly been destroyed and as many as 10,000 Christians may have been displaced from Asendabo, Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha.

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org

China Keeps Church Leaders from Public Worship Attempt


Police put pastors under house arrest over weekend, before detaining at least 160 on Sunday.

DUBLIN, April 11 (CDN) — Police in China held “about two dozen” pastors and elders of Beijing’s Shouwang Church under house arrest or at police stations over the weekend to keep them from attending a Sunday worship service in a public location, according to Bob Fu of the China Aid Association.

Three top leaders of the church remain in jail and several others are under strict surveillance after  hundreds of Chinese police yesterday cordoned off the walkway to a third-floor outdoor meeting area adjacent to a property purchased by the church in Haidian district, Beijing, and arrested at least 160 members of the 1,000-strong church as they tried to assemble.

The church members were bundled into waiting vans and buses to prevent them from meeting as planned in the public space, Reuters and The Associated Press (AP) reported, and most had been released by today.

Church leaders claimed officials had pressured their landlords, forcing them out of both rented and purchased locations and leaving them no choice but to worship in the open.

“The government cornered them into making this decision,” Fu said, adding that the church had initially tried to register with the government. “They waited for two years, and when the government still denied them registration, they tried to keep a low profile before finally deciding to buy the Daheng New Epoch Technology building.”

Shouwang is a very unique church, he said.

“Most members are well-educated, and they include China’s top religious scholars and even former government officials, which may be a factor in the government’s response to them,” he said.

As one of the largest house churches in Beijing, Shouwang is unique in insisting on meeting together rather than splitting the congregation into smaller groups meeting in several locations, Fu said. Zion church, for example, may have more members than Shouwang, but members meet in smaller groups across the city.

“This is based on the founding fathers’ vision for Shouwang Church to be a ‘city on a hill,’” as stated in the Bible in Matthew chapter five, Fu explained. “So they’ve made a conscious decision not to go back to the small-group model. Either the government gives them the keys to their building or gives them written permission to worship in another location, or they will continue meeting in the open.”

Police arrested anyone who showed up to take part in the service, AP reported.

 

‘Most Basic Necessity’

Church leaders last week issued a statement to the congregation explaining their decision to meet outdoors.

“It may not be the best decision, but at this time it is an inevitable one,” the statement said, before reminding church members that the landlord of their premises at the time, the Old Story Club restaurant, had come under government pressure and repeatedly asked them to leave, while the previous owners of the Daheng New Epoch Technology building, purchased a year ago by the church for 27.5 million RMB (US$4.2 million), had refused to hand over the keys. (See, “Church in China to Risk Worshipping in Park,” April 7.)

The church had already met outdoors twice in November 2009 before officials gave tacit consent to move to the Old Story Club restaurant. Officials, however, again prevented Shouwang Church from meeting in May and August of last year.

Fu said it was common for government officials across China to pressure landlords into revoking leases for house church groups.

“For example, right now I know of at least two churches that were made ‘homeless’ in Guangzhou this week, including one church with at least 200 members,” he said.

Shouwang’s statement pointed to Article 36 of China’s Constitution, which grants every citizen freedom to worship, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by China, which states that every citizen has the right to observe his religion or belief “either alone or in community with others and in public or private.”

For this reason the church planned to meet outdoors until officials granted legal, written permission to worship in an approved location – preferably at the building purchased by the church.

The document also advised church members not to resist if they were held under house arrest or arrested at the Sunday venue.

“Objectively speaking, our outdoor worship must deliver this message to the various departments of our government: attending Sunday worship is the most basic necessity for Christians in their life of faith,” the statement concluded.

The number of Protestant house church Christians in China is estimated at between 45 and 60 million, according to Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Rural Development Institute, with a further 18 to 30 million people attending government-approved churches.

Report from Compass Direct News
http://www.compassdirect.org

Life on Hold for Egyptian Christian Arrested for his Faith


Unresolved charge of ‘defaming religion’ leaves him in perpetual limbo.

CAIRO, Egypt, December 16 (CDN) — An Egyptian who left Islam to become a Christian and consequently lost his wife, children and business is waiting to see if the government will now take away his freedom for “defaming” Islam.

Ashraf Thabet, 45, is charged with defaming a revealed religion, Article 98f of the Egyptian Penal Code. The charges stem from Thabet’s six-year search for spiritual meaning that eventually led him to become a Christian. During his search, he shared his doubts about Islam and told others what he was learning about Jesus Christ.

Local religious authorities, incensed at Thabet’s ideas, notified Egypt’s State Security Intelligence service (SSI), which arrested and charged him with defamation. If found guilty, Thabet would face up to five years in jail. But because prosecutors have made no move to try the case, Thabet lives in limbo and is subject to a regular barrage of death threats from people in his community in Port Said in northeast Egypt.

“I don’t know what is going to happen in the future,” Thabet said. “They’re making life hard for me. I can’t get back my computer. I can’t get back anything.”

 

Searching

Thabet said that before his search began he was a committed Muslim who did his best to observe its rules, including those for prayer and fasting.

“I wasn’t an extremist, but I was committed to praying and to reading the Quran,” Thabet said. “I went to the Hajj. I did the usual things. I followed the Quran for the most part.”

Despite his efforts, Thabet admitted that his understanding of God was based on fear and routine, nearly rote obedience.

“There was no spiritual relationship between myself and God,” he said. “In general I was always cautious about my relationship with God. I didn’t want to do anything wrong.”

Thabet started looking at Christian Web sites, but his real interest in Christianity began when he watched the film, “The Passion of the Christ” in 2004.

“When I watched ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ I was very touched by Jesus’ story, and I wanted to read more about Him,” Thabet said. “So I asked a friend how I could know more about Jesus, and he told me, ‘The Bible.’”

His friend, a Christian Copt, did not get him a Bible until a month later because, Thabet thinks, he was afraid of being accused of proselytizing. Thabet began reading the Bible, which had a powerful impact on him, especially the Sermon on the Mount.

“I felt inside myself that these were the words of God,” he said. “The Bible tells people to give and to give out freely, so these words couldn’t be the words of a human being or a [mere] person, because human beings are inherently selfish.”

Thabet was also struck by the lives that the early followers of Jesus led, especially their willingness to lose everything, including their lives, for Christ.

The final factor that led Thabet to become a Christian came from Islam’s “Ninety-Nine Names of Allah,” attributes of God according to the Quran and tradition. In the names, God is called a “healer” a “resurrecter” and “just.”

“I started to compare all these characteristics with the characteristics of Jesus, and I saw that Jesus had a lot of the characteristics that God had, not only the human characteristics, being just and being kind, but there were similarities in the supernatural characteristics, like that He raised people from the dead,” he said. “In the Quran only God could raise people from the dead. I noticed that Jesus could raise people from the dead, and that He could heal people. Once I started to notice
the similarities between God and Jesus, I started believing that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Thabet said he cared about others “going the right way,” so he started having conversations with Muslim friends.

At first, people respected Thabet or tolerated what was seen as an awkward curiosity. But after he told his friends they were “only Muslim by inheritance,” they started to turn against him. They asked him what he was going to be if he wasn’t going to be a Muslim.

“I told them I started to read about Christianity, and I was starting to believe in it, and that’s when they brought the elders to talk to me,” he said.

The meeting didn’t go well. The Islamic leaders were unable to answer his questions and ended up yelling at him. Then they reported him to the SSI.

 

Arrest

The SSI summoned Thabet and questioned him on his doubts about Islam.

Thabet said by the time he was done with the interrogation, the SSI officer looked almost sick and told him not to talk to anyone else in Port Said about religion.

“I don’t encourage you to talk about these things with people or to open up these types of discussions, because it will just provoke people and make them angry,” the officer told him, according to Thabet.

Two days later, Thabet said, the SSI ordered him to report for more questioning, this time with an officer who specialized in religious issues and countering missionaries. The officer wanted to know what made him start to doubt Islam. He asked specific questions about what Web sites he had been on and what books he had read, and whether he had been baptized.

Thabet said that at the time of his questioning, he was still struggling with his new beliefs. Part of him wanted something that would restore his faith in Islam, so he went to Internet chat rooms for religious discussion.

“A part of me wanted to feel that I was wrong, that there was an answer to my questions,” he said. “I was looking for someone who would say ‘No, no, this is how it is,’ and that I would regain my trust back or not have any more doubts. But none of the people I talked to could answer me. They didn’t say anything to any effect.”

Thabet said he was always respectful, but Muslims found his questions provocative and became increasingly angry.

Eventually police came for Thabet. On March 22 at 3 a.m., he said, 11 officers from the SSI cut the power to his home, kicked down his front door and assaulted him in front of his crying wife and children.

Thabet quickly pulled away from the fight, once he realized they were officers from the SSI. The men swarmed over Thabet’s home, seizing his computer and every book and CD he owned. They took him to jail.

Authorities interrogated Thabet non-stop for 12 hours, took a break and then interrogated him for seven more, he said.

Initially he was held for 15 days. Then authorities ordered he be held for another 15 days. Then they extended it again. Thabet said he spent the entire time in solitary confinement, and he wasn’t informed of the “defamation of religion” charge against him until the end of 132 days in jail. He said he was not tortured, however, and that his interrogators and jailers were largely civil.

There was more hardship waiting for him at home. Muslim leaders in his neighborhood convinced his wife to divorce him and take his 10-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.

“They gave her the money to file for a divorce, a car and another person to marry,” Thabet said, adding that the Muslim leaders had offered him money too if he would stay in Islam. “In the beginning they tried to bribe me to come back to Islam, but I refused.”

Thabet has only had a few brief moments with his children since he was arrested, mainly when his soon-to-be ex-wife came to their home to gather a few belongings. If she goes through with the divorce, according to Egyptian law it is likely Thabet will lose all parental rights to his children, including any right to see them.

In Egypt and most other Muslim-majority countries, leaving Islam is considered ample grounds for termination of parental rights. Thabet said the religious leaders consider him “lost to Islam” and are trying to “save” his wife and children.

He filed a report with police about the Muslim leaders bribing his wife – and about another man who swindled money from him – but police ignored both reports, he said.

Kamal Fahmi of Set My People Free to Worship Me, a group headquartered in Cairo dedicated to raising awareness about the problems faced by Muslims who become Christians, said that under Islam, “Muslim converts don’t have the right to exist.”

Arrests like Thabet’s are common in Egypt.

“It is a tactic used to intimidate people and scare them from leaving Islam and taking alternative beliefs or moral codes,” Fahmi said.

In Islam as it is most often practiced in Egypt, merely expressing doubt about Islam is considered wrong, Fahmi said. Questioning any of its claims is considered blasphemy and is punishable by imprisonment under a variety of charges in Egypt; it is punishable by death in some other countries.

“Saying, ‘I don’t believe in Muhammad,’ is considered defaming Islam,” Fahmi said. “Saying, ‘I don’t believe in Islam as it is not true,’ can lead to death [murder], as you are considered an apostate,” Fahmi said. “Even rejecting the Islamic moral codes can lead to the same thing. Criticizing any of the sharia [Islamic law] is considered blasphemy.”

 

The Future

Thabet said he is uncertain what the future holds. He was released on Aug. 1 but, because he has the defamation of religion charge over his head – with no indication of when the case could go to court – he is unable to work and cannot even obtain a driver’s license.

His savings are almost depleted, forcing him to borrow money from a Muslim friend. He is concerned about re-arrest and receives death threats on a regular basis. He is too afraid to leave his apartment on most days.

“There are a lot of phone threats,” Thabet said. Noting he had been baptized three years ago, he said he has received phone threats in which someone tells him, “We are going to baptize you again with blood.”

On numerous occasions while talking in Internet chat rooms, he has been told, “Look outside the window, we know where you are,” Thabet said.

In recent days Muslims are angry at converts and at Christians in general, he said. “They’re very worked up about religious issues.”

He said he wants to leave Egypt but admits that, at his age, it would be very hard to start over. And if he stays in Egypt, he said, at least he will have a chance to see his children, however brief those encounters may be.

Since Thabet was released from jail on Aug. 1, authorities have seized his passport and summoned him four times for questioning. He said he thinks the SSI is trying to wear him down.

“Everyone is telling me that they [the government] want to make my life hard,” he said. “The problem here in Egypt is the religious intolerance that is found in government ministries. The intolerance has reached a point where they can’t think straight. Their intolerance makes them unaware of their own intolerance.”

Report from Compass Direct News

Christian Jailed in Ethiopia Accused of Desecrating Quran


Constitution flouted as he is jailed for two months in Muslim area without court appearance.

NAIROBI, Kenya, October 7 (CDN) — A Christian in Ethiopia’s southern town of Moyale has been languishing in jail for two months after his Muslim business partner accused him of writing “Jesus is Lord” in a copy of the Quran, local church leaders said.

Tamirat Woldegorgis, a member of the Full Gospel Church in his early 30s, was arrested in early August after the Muslim co-worker in the clothes-making business the two operated out of a rented home discovered Woldegorgis had inscribed “Jesus is Lord” on some cloth, area Christians said.

Woldegorgis returned from a break one morning to find that the inscribed words had been cut out of the piece of cloth, the sources said. He then had the words set in the machinery of their tailoring business for inscription on clothing material, only to find later that the inscribed plates were removed from the machinery as well, they said.

The Muslim associate, whose name has not been established, then went to a nearby mosque with the accusation that Woldegorgis had written “Jesus is Lord” in the Quran itself, sources said. Angry sheikhs at the mosque subsequently had Woldegorgis arrested for desecrating the book sacred to Islam, they said.

Other sources said, however, that Muslims accused Woldegorgis of writing “Jesus is Lord” on a piece of wood, on a minibus and then on the wall of a house. As he has not been brought to court, the exact charges against him are not yet known. Woldegorgis denies all accusations, and area Christians insisted he is innocent.

A church leader who requested anonymity told Compass that Christians in Moyale are concerned that Woldegorgis, a married father of two from Hagarmariam village, has not been granted a trial after two months in jail. He said that two days after Woldegorgis was arrested, two friends inquired about him at the Moyale police station; authorities responded by jailing them for two weeks.

“The Ethiopian constitution allows for religious tolerance,” said the church leader, “but to date Woldegorgis has not been taken to court. He is still in a police cell, which is quite unusual for an Ethiopian national, and given constitutional provisions.”

Jijiga, capital of Ethiopia’s Somali Region, has the largest court in eastern Ethiopia, and Christians fear that Islamic principles govern it. In Ethiopia’s federal state system, each state is autonomous in its administration, and most of those holding government positions in Somali Region Zone Five are Muslims.

“We fear that our brother might be taken to Islamic court in Jijiga for trial, which will further threaten his life,” the church leader said. “Where is justice for our brother being in prison without been tried?”

Sources also said that authorities are offering to release Woldegorgis if he will convert to Islam. Woldegorgis is physically weak but strong in his faith, the church leader said, adding that he needs food and other material assistance, as well as an attorney.

Sources said Woldegorgis has been jailed in Zone Five of Ethiopia’s Somali Region, a predominantly Somali area. Moyale, located on Ethiopia’s border with Kenya, is divided between the predominantly Muslim Zone Five and Zone Four, which is populated mainly by ethnic Oromo, with each zone having distinct administrative and judiciary systems. Preaching non-Muslim faiths is not allowed in Zone Five, in spite of provisions for religious freedom in Ethiopia’s constitution.

Hostility toward those spreading faiths different from Islam is a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia and neighboring countries, they said. Christians are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies promote freedom of religion, but occasionally local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2009 International Religious Freedom Report. According to the 2007 census, 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliate with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim.

Report from Compass Direct News

Police Keep Indonesian Church from Worship Site after Attack


Bekasi officials unable to persuade HKBP congregation to relocate to alternative venue.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, September 23 (CDN) — Following attacks on their church leaders on Sept. 12, a West Java congregation on Sunday (Sept. 19) faced a wall of security officers blocking them from worshipping on their property as authorities tried to coax them to meet at another venue.

Hundreds of security force officers sealed off the street leading to their open-air worship site in Ciketing, near Bekasi, a week after suspected Islamists stabbed Batak Christian Protestant Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP) elder Hasian Sihombing and struck Pastor Luspida Simanjuntak with a wooden block. At the Pondok Timur location where the church had gathered to walk three kilometers (less than two miles) to Ciketing on Sunday, an official in a police vehicle announced through a loudspeaker that the Bekasi government requested they worship at the former office of a community organization.

When Compass arrived at the Pondok Timur area, there were 1,500 regular police and public order security police officers standing by, some forming ranks in front of the Nurul Hulda Mosque 500 meters away.

The official on the loudspeaker read a decree by Bekasi Mayor H. Mochtar Muhammad stating that security problems in the Mustika Jaya area were caused by the HKBP worship in Ciketing – where Islamists have staged protests in spite of a mayoral decree granting the congregation the right to worship there – and that in order to guard against further incidents, the church was no longer to hold services there.

“From now on, HKBP will hold its worship services in the [former] Organization & Political Party Building [the auditorium in back of several buildings occupied by different political parties] on Charil Anwar Street in Bekasi City,” he said.

The new mayoral decree dictating where the church was to worship was the product of a Sept. 15 meeting of the West Java governor, the Jakarta area military commander, Jakarta area police, the general secretary and the director general of the Ministry of the Interior, and the Department of Religion, he said.

“We invite the HKBP members to climb aboard the seven buses that we have prepared to take them to the [former] Organization & Political Party [OPP] building,” the official said to the congregation, which had gathered outside the Pondok Timur area building they had used for worship before authorities sealed it in June.

The HKBP congregation ignored the invitation. Muhammad Jufri, head of the Bekasi municipal legal department, then invited the congregation to board the buses. No one responded.

A few minutes later the Rev. Pietersen Purba, district head of the HKBP Pondok Timur District, along with two other pastors and two lawyers, requested that the congregation be allowed to worship at the open-air site on their property in Ciketing. Authorities denied the request.

An argument ensued between Bekasi officials and HKBP leaders.

“For our common good, both government and congregation, and in accordance with the decision of the coordinating meeting, we have prepared a temporary worship place at the former OPP building,” said Jufri, of the Bekasi legal department. “Because of this you may worship there, and while you are worshipping the municipal government guarantees your safety.”

Pastor Purba responded by requesting security for their current location.

“I am surprised that we are forbidden to worship on our own property,” he told authorities. “Our services there were sanctioned by a letter from the mayor that allows us to worship in Ciketing. We are the victims – my pastor was beaten. Are we not citizens with the right to worship in this country? Because of this we ask that the police help us with security so that we may worship in Ciketing. The congregation and I desire to worship there.”

HKBP lawyer Saor Siagian asked a policeman to open the way toward their property in Ciketing; the officer refused.

Jufri then began to read the mayor’s new decree aloud, but he had spoken only a few sentences before one of the HKBP lawyers, Sahala Pangaribuan, interrupted him.

“Sir, if you want to read, do so, but don’t prevent us from walking,” Pangaribuan said.

Jufri continued reading the entire decree.

“We heard what you read,” Pastor Purba replied, “but we don’t easily believe our beloved government, because we remember the case of HKBP Jatimulyo, Bekasi, which was sealed by the government, and then promised facilities for a place of worship. Now it has been five years, and the promise is still unfulfilled.”

The argument lasted another 30 minutes, and the congregation gave up on its request to meet in Ciketing. They were granted 10 minutes to pray in their former Pondok Timur building and additional time for congregational discussion, which was led by the national secretary general of the HKBP, the Rev. Ramlan Hutahayan.

At press conference later that day, Hutahayan said that freedom of worship was fundamental.

“We hope that every citizen will have the right to construct houses of worship to praise and glorify God together,” he said.

Bekasi officials have offered the former OPP building as a temporary venue for worship and two alternative locations on land zoned for general and/or social purposes: one owned by P.T. Timah and one belonging to the Strada Foundation. Thus far the congregation has not approved of these alternatives because they are far from their homes.

At a press conference with other Christian leaders, the head of the Jakarta Christian Communication General Forum, Theophilus Bela, said a statement by the Jakarta provincial police chief that the Sept. 12 attack on the church leaders was a “purely criminal act” was hasty.

“After arrests and investigation, it has been shown that this is not a pure criminal act, but an organized scenario with the Islamic Defenders Front as the field command,” Bela said.

He and other Christian leaders criticized government officials for closing churches and revoking church building permits that had already been approved.

“They have been passive in the face of anarchy and terrorist acts that have been done in the name of religion by groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, the Betawi-Rempug Forum, the Islamic Congregation Forum, the Congress of the Indonesian Muslim Community, and so on,” he said.

Report from Compass Direct News

Homosexual activist speaks at ‘Christian’ festival in UK


Leading homosexual activist Peter Tatchell appeared at the Greenbelt festival on 28 August to speak about “the struggle for queer freedom in Africa,” reports Christian Concern for our Nation.

Greenbelt, a controversial ‘Christian’ festival, drew over 21,000 visitors this year. The festival is sponsored by Christian Aid, CMS, the Church Times, the Church Urban Fund and the Mothers Union.

Prior to the weekend, Mr. Tatchell had told Ekklesia that he was “looking forward” to the weekend and that, while not a Christian himself, “we have more in common than divides us”. In his talk he spoke about homosexual rights and the church, and accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” with the persecution of homosexuals in Africa.

Anglican Mainstream encouraged people to boycott Greenbelt because of Mr. Tatchell’s presence on the programme. Spokesman Lisa Nolland said that “Greenbelt, ‘the UK’s largest Christian festival’, is sending out a sub-text that is totally at odds with a Christian understanding of sexuality by including Peter Tatchell on its programme.”

“Young people who attend Greenbelt and hear Peter Tatchell are given false assurance that Peter Tatchell is the sort of person they should be listening to. Greenbelt has enough respect for Peter Tatchell as a public figure to place him on the platform …….thus, there is a de facto legitimisation of the plausibility of his views across the board.”

Mr. Tatchell is well known for his view that the age of consent should be lowered to 14 for homosexuals. On his website he states that if children under 14 have consensual sex, and if there is no greater than a three year age differential, there should not be a prosecution.

Mr. Tatchell is also a strong advocate of pornography which he believes is good for people. In his book “Safer Sexy: The Guide to Gay Sex Safely” he writes approvingly of sadomasochism, bondage, infidelity, orgies and public cruising for sex.

On 12 April 1998 Mr. Tatchell was prosecuted for leading an OutRage! protest which disrupted the Easter sermon by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, with Mr. Tatchell forcing his way onto the pulpit to denounce what he claimed was George Carey’s opposition to legal equality for homosexuals.

Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern for our Nation said: "We wholeheartedly support the statements of Lisa Nolland and the brave stand that Anglican Mainstream has taken. We are living in a time when the church at large has been deeply compromised by a failure to stand for the truth of the gospel and has allowed itself to be strongly influenced by current fashionable political trends."

Report from the Christian Telegraph