Rome (AsiaNews) Dozens of Christian men and women have died in 2004 because of their faith in Christ. Death struck them in Iraq, a country where Islamic fundamentalists have bombed churches and decapitated 'infidels'; in Indonesia, where Christians have been murdered in the streets or shot down by snipers; in China, where the bodies of bishops have been returned to their families after years of detention and silence; in Hindu India, Muslim Pakistan and Muslim Bangladesh, where Christians have been attacked and some lynched for blasphemy; in Vietnam, where Montagnards are oppressed for their faith.
It is very likely that the number of martyrs is greater were it not for countries like North Korea and Laos that are too isolated for anyone to know the harsh conditions in which Christians live.
This year, the 13th Day of Prayer and Fasting in Memory of Missionary Martyrs, which is celebrated on March 24, falls on Good Thursday. For the occasion, AsiaNews is publishing a list of some of the Christians killed in Asia in 2004 because of their faith.
The Day of Memory was established in 1993 by the Missionary Youth Movement of the Pontifical Mission Societies to honour the memory of Oscar Romero, Archbishop San Salvador who was gunned down in 1980 for his Christian witness and commitment to the poor and social justice.
Gani Mondo, who converted from Islam 15 years ago, was killed in Jamalpur district (140 km north of Dacca) on September 18. Islamic fundamentalists are thought to be responsible since he had his throat cut.
On September 11, the Vatican announced the death of Mgr John Gao Kexian, 76, unofficial Bishop of Yantai, who had been taken by police in October 1999 and imprisoned in northern China. In fact, Bishop Gao died on January 24, 2005, in a hospital in the city of Bingzhou (Shandong province). His body was cremated and buried the day following his death in the presence of police officers. He died without any religious comforts and his body was not blessed. No relative or faithful were allowed to attend the burial.
On August 28, Fr Job Chittilappilly, 71, a Syro-Malabar Catholic priest, was killed in his parish church, Our Lady of the Graces, in Thuruthiparambu, Kerala (south-western India). A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu fundamentalist group, admitted killing the clergyman for his "anti-Hindu activities". Father Chittilappilly was involved in pastoral work with the poor, but had been threatened by Hindu fundamentalists who told him to stop visiting Hindu families.
Samuel Malatinggi, 56, head of the Christian community in the village of Maranatha, was killed on January 21 during clashes with residents from Sidondo, a nearby Muslim village.
On March 27, John Christian Tanalida, a 27-year-old Christian, was shot dead at point blank by an unknown assailant in Poso City.
Also in March, Rosia Pilonga, a 41-year old Christian intellectual and Dean of Law at the Siontuwunu Maroso University, was shot and wounded. He died a few days later.
Freddy Wuisan, 25, a Protestant clergyman, was killed on March 31, shot by two gunmen in front of his wife in his Membuk Church in Poso.
On July 18, Susianti Tinulele, 29, a clergywoman from the Effata Church, was shot to death by an unknown assailant whilst she was finishing the Sunday sermon in her church in Poso.
On October 13, Sakeas Tesa, 54, and Yahua Yuta Jama, 45, were killed with swords by unknown attackers in a street of Jono Oge, a predominantly Christian village in Palu province.
On November 5, the police found the decapitated head of Carminalis Ndele, the 48-year-old Christian village leader of Pinedapa, Poso Pesisir district, Central Sulawesi. A note was found nearby. It read: "The order is to take 1000 heads". This has led locals to believe that he was killed by Islamic extremists.
On March 22, an Assyrian couple, Ameejon Barama and his wife Jewded, were killed, their throats cut, at their home in the neighbourhood of Dora, Baghdad.
On June 10, Janan Joseph was murdered at home in the Christian neighbourhood of al-Mansour, Baghdad.
On June 20, the body of Raymond Farouq Simun, 22, was found; his body mutilated, head and legs cut off. He had been abducted three days earlier.
On July 11, an armed group entered the house of Christian family in Baghdad. Raneed Raad, 16, and her sister Raphid, 6, were killed. The family, who are well known in the area, had previously received threats.
On August 1, 12 Christians were killed (60 injured) in six separate terrorist attacks against five churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul.
On August 31, three young women in their twenties Tara Majeed Betros Al-Hadaya, Taghrid Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betros and her sister Hala Abdul-Massih Ishaq Betroswere slaughtered in the village of Bartella, near Mosul.
On September 1, Nisan Sliyo Shmoel, 43, was wounded in an attack against the Niniveh Governatorate. On leaving the hospital he was killed by terrorists.
On September 2, two brothersKhaled, 32, and Hani Boulos, 28known for their activism in defence of the Christian minority in al-Mayasa district, were gunned down by a terrorist commando
On September 15, the decapitated bodies of two Assyrian Christians from MosulFiras Moufaq Putros and Ramon Farouq Shimounwere found. A terrorist group named 'The Brigades of Salaheddin al-Eyobe' claimed responsibility for the double murder.
On October 5, the decapitated and charred body Fadi Shamoon, a 15-year-old Christian, was found near Mosul.
On October 21, Layla Elisa Kakka Essa, 30, was killed on her way home in Mosul. She had started working as a translator ten days before.
On October 25, in the same Mosul neighbourhood, four terrorists entered an Assyrian home in Mosul and killed Nasrin Shaba Muras, 42, a mother of three.
On November 2, a Christian family was ambushed by unknown armed men in Baghdad's Dora neighbourhood. The father, Alaa' Andrawis, 39, and his 10-year-old son, were shot dead.
On November 8, three Christians were killed in a terrorist attack against St Matthew Church, also in Baghdad's Dora neighbourhood.
On December 2, the decapitated body of Antar Khanno, 29, was found in Mosul. He had been abducted two weeks earliera one million ransom had been demanded.
On December 8, terrorists killed Ra'ad Augustine Qoruaqos, a well-known surgeon and university professor from Ramadi, as he was attending to his patients in hospital.
On December 19, Fawzi Soorish Luqa, 43, and a friend were kidnapped and then murdered by a terrorist commando. They owned a hall used for celebrations in Baghdad.
Javed Anjum was a young, 19-year-old Catholic man. He died in May in a Faisalabad hospital from injuries sustained under torture inflicted by a teacher and a few students in a madrassa. They demanded he convert to Islam and make the kalma or profession of faith, but he refused.
On May 24 Samuel Masih, 32, of Lahore, was stabbed to death by a policeman who was holding him in custody. The young Christian man had been in jail since August 23, 2003, on 'blasphemy' charges, accused of leaving some garbage near the wall of a mosque. The police officer claimed he had the right to kill a 'blasphemer'.
Nasir Masih, 21, resident of Sheikhupura (Punjab), died on August 19 from injuries he sustained under torture inflicted by the police. He had been falsely accused of theft. His body showed 12 wounds in the different parts of the body.
On Good Saturday and Easter Sunday (April 10 and 11), tens of thousands of Montagnards, who are mostly Christian, demonstrated in Buon Ma Thuot, capital of Daklak province, calling on the government to respect their religious freedom and give them back their lands.
On Easter Sunday, they had come together to celebrate Moak Hrue Yesus Kgu Hdip (Happy Day: Christ has risen). The army violently stopped their demonstration, beating participants, women and children included.
Ten people died: Sut Mdrang, 57; Dha Prong, 54; Emap, 50; Ea Tieu, 28; Ega, 22; Ebung, 12; Krang, 7; Pu Hue, 6; and Niet, 3.