Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Uzbekistan - Harassment increases

26 January 2006

Following the banning of Protestant activity in north-western Uzbekistan, a higher educational institute in the regional capital, Nukus, has resumed its harassment of Protestant students. Four female medical students came close to being expelled from their institute in the regional capital Nukus this month, and were removed from their student residence. However, the rector of the Nukus branch of the Tashkent Paediatric Medical Institute, Oral Ataniyazova, categorically denied that the four students were to be expelled, telling Forum 18 that 'the only thing we are concerned about is the students' knowledge, certainly not their religious beliefs.'

Students at both the medical institute and the Berdah Karakalpak State University have long faced official hostility from university authorities due to their religious beliefs, at times at the behest of the National Security Service secret police. The only Christian activity permitted in the region
is at the Russian Orthodox parish in Nukus.

27 January 2006

Fines for unregistered and hence illegal religious activity have been massively increased, from 5 to 10 times the minimum wage to 50 to 100 times the minimum wage, Forum 18 News Service has found. Uzbekistan bans all unregistered religious activity and places obstacles in the way of registration attempts, against the international human rights standards the country has freely agreed to. The steep rise in fines was introduced by changes to the Criminal and Administrative Codes brought in last month. So far, religious communities have not experienced any increase in fines, but after the launch of an intense campaign of inspections of religious activity in the capital Tashkent, religious minorities are worried. "Here in Uzbekistan, inspections of activity never happen just like that -- generally their aim is to close down churches," a Baptist leader told Forum 18. "We are praying that the current inspections will not result in church closures."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More on Hindu anti-Christian convention in Gujarat, Dangs District


(A full RLP will be devoted to this issue in early February, but it is so serious that urgent prayer is needed now, before the event - EK.) 'The Lord... frustrates the ways of the wicked'. Psalm 146:9

Hindu nationalists are preparing to stage a massive Hindu festival in Dangs district, southern Gujarat (northwest India). This Shabri Kumbh Mela festival from 11-13 February is aimed at Hinduising the tribal population of Dangs. The main outcomes of the Shabri Kumbh Mela will be: the creation of new mythology that Hinduises Dangs; the creation of a site in Dangs for Hindu pilgrimage and tourism; massive 're-conversions' (coerced conversions) to Hinduism and Hindutva (Hindu nationalism); the destruction and Hinduisation of tribal culture; stirring up intense hatred against Christians with the real prospect of violence against them; shattering tribal solidarity; and devastation of the delicate, 'protected' forest environment. Hindu militants are distributing vicious anti-Christian propaganda and (according to one report) fixing flags to Christian homes so they can be identified. A central slogan for the event is 'Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao' (Hindus arise, throw out the Christians). One investigative team recently reported, 'We could see the fear written on the face of most of the Christians we met.'

From Open Doors - India, Eritrea

India: At this time last year, Noor Jehan Ahmed, 55, lived peacefully in the village of Nagaon, in the northeastern state of Assam, where her extended household of 29 people form a Christian enclave within the predominantly Muslim community. This peaceful co-existence dissipated when a Muslim father, angry over his daughter's relationship with a Christian man, hatched a conspiracy accusing Ahmed of forced conversion. Her family was shattered and she spent two months in prison. Court cases are still pending and the community is now clearly divided on religious lines. Read More

Please join us in prayer for:

- An abundance of courageous Christian leaders in India just like Noor Jehan Ahmed, who has political connections in Congress.

- The division in the village to end peacefully.

- For Noor Jehan's family home, that was burned, to be quickly rebuilt.

- For God's presence to bring them comfort during this difficult time.

Eritrea: The government-controlled Holy Synod of the Eritrean Orthodox Church last week served formal notice to Abune Antonios that he is no longer the patriarchal head of the nation's largest religious body. According to Compass Direct, Patriarch Antonios immediately rejected the notice, announcing that he was excommunicating or suspending those who signed his arbitrary dismissal order. Since last August, when the Eritrean government stripped Antonios of his ecclesiastical authority and forbade him to administrate the affairs of the church, the patriarch has remained under virtual house arrest at his residence in Asmara. Sources confirmed to Compass that if the patriarch continues to challenge the government, -orchestrated takeover of his church, most people expect him to be arrested soon.
Read More

Please join us in prayer for:

- Greater awareness around the world of the desperate situation our brothers and sisters are facing in Eritrea.

- Protection for Chirstians and a bold faith to stand firm against their government’s attempts discourage them worshipping Jesus Christ.

- That Antonios will not be jailed but instead be reinstated in his position as the patriarchal head of the Eritrea’s largest religious body.

- Comfort and peace for our many jailed brothers and sisters as well as their families who suffer at what their loved ones are enduring. Pray that God will soon set these prisoners free.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Prayer Requests - Uzbekistan, India

"Uzbekistan: A "documentary" televised regionally in Uzbekistan last summer has left entire communities convinced that a Protestant congregation is an "extremist" group worse than fundamentalist Islam according to Compass Direct. Entitled "Zalolat" (Disaster), the 22-minute "expose" sensationalized a police raid last June against the Full Gospel Church in Urgench, capital of Khorezm province in northwest Uzbekistan. Interspersing scenes from the raid with interviews with local police, judicial and Muslim officials, the program represented Pastor Ruzmet Voisov and his congregation as "Christian extremists" guilty of breaking the laws of Uzbekistan and trying to destroy national stability. "After people saw this program," one Uzbek Christian in the region told Compass, "some of them told us, "The Wahhabis are much better than you." Read More

Please join us in prayer for:

- Courage for Uzbek Christians to worship and fellowship together

- The truth about this deceitful documentary to be made known

- This documentary, that it will not be successful in deterring Muslims from learning more about the Christian faith

India: A number of key Christian leaders recently called on the Indian government to ban or strictly supervise a massive Hindu "reawakening" event to be held in the tribal district of Dangs, Gujarat state, February 11-13. At least 500,000 Hindus are expected to attend. Rights groups fear the event may unleash a wave of violence against tribal Christians and animists. Hindu extremist groups have organized the event and expect it to generate enough momentum to trigger thousands of Christians to turn “back to the Hindu fold.” They have also published materials calling for the destruction of the Christian faith in the same way that the Hindu god Ram destroyed the demon Ravana in the Hindu scriptures.

Please join us in prayer for:

- Protection for Christians during and after the “Reawakening” event

- Christians to stand firm against Hindu proselytizing

- God to confound the purposes of this entire event

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

News Items from Open Doors USA

Open Doors USA:

Three Chinese Christians Sentenced to Prison for Bible Distribution

On November 8, 2005, thirteen months after their arrest, Rev. Cai Zhuohua and two members of his family received sentences of up to three years in prison for distributing Bibles and other Christian literature. Rev. Cai, the leader of six Beijingarea house churches, his wife, and her brother were accused of "illegal business practices" after authorities discovered more than 200,000 Bibles and other pieces of Christian literature in a storage room managed by Cai.

The case, according to a Chinese government newspaper, is the most serious case of foreign religious infiltration since the founding of the People's Republic of China. Yet during the trial, the judge refused to admit any arguments about religious issues. He claimed it was strictly an economic crime. Consequently, Cai's lawyers argued that Cai and his family could not have been engaged in "illegal business activities" because all of the literature was being given away. The three also revoked their written "confessions" that were composed from interrogation records because they had been forced to sign them under threat of torture.

Two Schoolgirls Shot in Indonesia

INDONESIA (Compass) Just 10 days after the beheading of three Christian teenage girls, unidentified assailants shot two senior high school students in Indonesia's Poso district. The two girls, both 17 years old, were admitted to the hospital in critical condition. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on security forces to hunt down the perpetrators, but Indonesians are skeptical -- a significantly increased security presence after the beheadings failed to prevent this second attack, and numerous other violent crimes against Christians in Poso remain unsolved.

Number of Christian Prisoners Doubles

ERITREA (Compass) The number of Eritrean Christians confirmed to be jailed for their religious beliefs has recently shot up to a total of 1,752. That’s nearly double the documented count just six months ago, and many believe the actual number of prisoners could be even higher. Most of these prisoners are members of independent churches, but an increasing number of key leaders within the officially registered churches are also being arrested. Held in prisons, military camps, and police stations across the country, Eritrea’s Christian prisoners include 26 full-time ministers whose personal bank accounts have been frozen by the government, causing significant additional hardship for their wives and children.

Christian Attorney and Pastor Rescue Man from Certain Death

NIGER STATE (Compass) When police learned that Sardauna Anaruwa Sashi had become a Christian, they arrested him and began beating him with their batons. Bludgeoned into a stupor and at the point of death, Sashi was left in a prison cell for four days. Then, with the help of an attorney, Sashi’s pastor was able to rescue him from certain death at the hands of the police. Since his release, however, Sashi has received several death threats from Muslims in the town. Sashi knows the town’s Muslims will never relent in their efforts to kill him, but he refuses to recant. He states, “Even though I have had to face difficulties almost on a daily basis, I will never renounce my Christian faith, even if it means I have to die.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Voice of the Martyrs - Ethiopia

The Voice of the Martyrs Canada:

An evangelist named Aman was returning from a church service in Meki, 134 km south of Addis Ababa, on January 1 when a group of Muslims surrounded him. According to VOMC sources in Ethiopia, one member of the group began hitting Aman with a large stick and continued to pound on his body until people passing by intervened. Aman was taken to a hospital in Shashemene, where he remained unconscious for two days. At last report, Aman was still in intensive care.

Pray Aman's mind and body will be fully restored so that he can continue to share Christ with his friends and neighbors. Pray that the attackers will recognize their guilt and turn to Christ for forgiveness. Ask God to comfort Aman and those who are close to him.

Monday, January 16, 2006

From Compass Direct - Eritrea

Compass Direct:

Asmara security police arrest 40 Protestant Christians in past two weeks.

At least 40 pastors, elders and leading laymen from five of Eritrea's banned Protestant churches have been arrested from their homes or offices in the past two weeks in the capital of Asmara. Starting early on the morning of December 22, security police began tracking down leaders of the Church of the Living God, along with clergymen and elders in the Full Gospel, Rema, Hallelujah and Philadelphia churches. One Church of the Living God pastor escaped shortly after his arrest, and police have arrested a member of his church board and one of his parishioners. Police also raided a music shop run by members of the Philadelphia Church, jailed all 15 people present, and shut down the store. The music shop was the main source of Christian materials, music tapes and books for Protestant evangelicals in Asmara.

Friday, January 13, 2006

News Items - Uzbekistan, California

(From Forum 18)

11 January 2006



Despite launching a sweeping new crackdown on all aspects of religiouslife in the capital Tashkent - involving many state agencies checking upon religious leaders, the finances and activity of religious communities and the places where they meet - the Deputy Head of the cityadministration has vigorusly denied that this is anything more than routine. "No special measures are being deployed," Anvar Ahmedov assuredForum 18 News Service. "There is no campaign against religious believers."

But religious believers are worried, especially as the measures are also designed to halt all unregistered religious activity (which the authorities regard as illegal) and come on top of already tight controls.

Officials "will control everything except our thoughts and our personal life," one Christian told Forum 18 from Tashkent.

Which is no doubt what the folks at Calvary Chapel are thinking. In a story in today's USA Today, Calvary Chapel is suing the University of California, where officials are unilaterally determining that courses with explicitly Christian content are not valid. I find myself wondering what these folks would have done in the day when reading the Bible was an expected part of school curriculums in the US and Canada. And I wonder if Islamic and Jewish students who attend madrasahs and yeshivas undergo the same scrutiny?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

News Items: Indonesia, Laos, India

(Source: Open Doors)

Indonesia: The Indonesian government has established a new Security Operation Command to investigate violence in Central Sulawesi following a New Year's Eve bomb explosion in Palu that killed eight people and injured 56 others. The bomb exploded in a marketplace in a Christian area at 6:30 a.m. as residents were buying pork for their festive meals. Pork is offensive to Muslims, and the bombing of what locals call a "Christian market" where the meat is sold may point to Islamic terrorists. Human rights groups immediately called for an independent investigation, but the government responded with the new Security Operation Command, which planned to send 1,100 police reinforcements and an unspecified number of soldiers to Poso and Palu.
Read More>>

Please join us in prayer for:

- A just investigation into the bomb attack
- The Security Operation Command will not protect corrupt police who have been complicit in attacks against Christians
- The Christians involved to forgive and not retaliate
- Holy Spirit to comfort those families who lost loved ones and complete healing for those who were injured

Laos: An itinerant evangelist, pastor and father of four children was brutally murdered in southern Laos the week before Christmas, according to Compass Direct. The body of Aroun Voraphorn was found on December 23, abandoned on a jungle road near his home village of Huaysiat. His wife last heard from him on December 18, when he told her by telephone that he would arrive late for his youngest daughter's birthday party as he was buying a birthday cake. Religious motives for the killing cannot be ruled out, as in 1996 the evangelist had been imprisoned for his faith. At a funeral service on Christmas Eve, his wife Metta Voraphorn pleaded with Christians in Laos to continue preaching the Gospel fearlessly as her husband had done.

Please join us in prayer for:

- Continued courage and comfort for the Voraphorn family
- Provision for the Voraphorn family
- That Lao Christians will continue to meet and worship despite this attack
- For an unbiased investigation into Aroun’s death and that the attackers will be brought to justice

India: Police decided yesterday to allow a make-shift Hindu temple but banned Christians from worshipping at a nearby house church following a conflict that led to Hindu fundamentalists attacking four people. Hindu extremists had set up the temple near the house church in Umarkote village, Orissa state, in October 2005. They then complained to police that the house church worship was disturbing their own rituals. On Friday, December 30, the extremists attacked three women who had come to the house for a weekly prayer and fasting meeting and warned them to stop attending services. They also slapped a church member, Samraj Rai, who had come to warn the women, and damaged his motorbike. Police interrogated the pastor and other church members regarding accusations that they were forcibly converting Hindus but declined to register the Christians’ complaint over the assault.

Please join us in prayer for:

- International attention be drawn to perversion of justice within the Indian police departments
- Local Christians to be able to worship freely in Umarkote village
- Encouragement for Samraj Rai and the women who were attacked

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

BELARUS: Baptists demand end to "persecution" of family

By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

The congregation of a Baptist Church in Bobruisk, in eastern Belarus, has called for an end to the "persecution" of members of the Yermalitsky family, who host the church's services in their home. The family has faced a series of fines and other harassment from state officials, much of which has been personally orchestrated by Aleksandr Markachev of the town administration. Markachev has defended his actions to Forum 18 News Service, claiming that "a private home is not designated for religious worship," and that "their services are illegal." He also alleged that the church services caused the risk of a fire and health problems, but dismissed Forum 18's suggestions that if church members believed they were at risk of fire or health problems they could choose not to attend. The congregation has also called for worship services to be allowed to take place freely, and the cancellation of fines imposed on the Yermalitsky family.

An official of the town administration of Bobruisk [Babruysk] in Mogilev [Mahilyow] region in eastern Belarus, has defended a series of fines imposed on a Baptist family which hosts a church in its home, in the latest in a series of escalating moves against the Yermalitsky family. "A private home is not designated for religious worship," Aleksandr Markachev told Forum 18 News Service from Bobruisk on 5 January. "Their services are illegal as they refuse to register their church and abide by the law." The congregation, like other congregations of the Baptist Council of Churches, refuse on principle to register with the state authorities in post-Soviet countries.

Markachev, who has personally led much of the harassment of the congregation, insists that the church must comply with the religion law, which against international human rights standards makes registration compulsory. He also alleged that church services in his home risked causing a fire and health problems. Markachev dismissed suggestions that if church members believed they were at risk of fire or health problems they could choose not to attend.

However, Markachev denied that the authorities are restricting the rights of the church members, insisting that he maintains "excellent relations" with the church's pastor, Aleksandr Yermalitsky.

While refusing to discuss the specifics of successive fines on the Yermalitsky family on the grounds that "the courts are independent", he insisted the authorities are right to bring the family "to responsibility". Asked what the authorities will do when the church continues to worship, as it has promised to do, Markachev said further legal cases will be inevitable. He rejected absolutely all suggestions that church members' rights to profess their faith freely are being violated, insisting that a number of registered churches exist locally that believers could attend.

Pastor Yermalitsky was reluctant to discuss the pressure on his church. "We're going to take our complaints to the procuracy here and the courts," he told Forum 18 from Bobruisk on 5 January. "We want to resolve these problems here at home."

The Yermalitsky family in Bobruisk has long faced pressure for its religious activity. After religious literature he was displaying at a street library was confiscated in September 2005 (see F18News 15 November 2005
http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=688), Aleksandr Yermalitsky was summoned to a meeting with Markachev at the town administration, where the official insisted that Pastor Yermalitsky register the church. The Baptists told Forum 18 that Markachev threatened to use all "levers" at his disposal to "close down" the house where the church meets, which is also where the family lives.

On 21 November the Lenin district court of Bobruisk fined Yermalitsky 145,000 Belarusian Roubles (442 Norwegian Kroner, 56 Euros, or 67 US Dollars) under Article 193 of the Code of Administrative Offences, which punishes founding and leading an unregistered religious congregation. However, on 25 November the case was cancelled, and two days later the confiscated literature was returned.

In the evening of 25 November, as a prayer meeting was underway, Markachev led a nine-strong group of town officials and police in an inspection of the Yermalitsky's home. Among the officials were a Fire Inspector, a member of the Commission for Children, a doctor from the Hygiene Service, the Education Department and the local police officer. Those attending the prayer meeting were detained for an hour. On 28 November, in the wake of the raid, Yermalitsky's wife Lyudmila was summoned to the Hygiene and Epidemiological Centre "for verification of the technical conditions". An official of the Emergencies Service visited the house the following day. Late on 1 December the basement of the house was broken into and items stolen.

Markachev of the town administration again summoned Yermalitsky on 6 December to a meeting also attended by Mikhail Kovalevich, deputy head of the town administration, who the Baptists accuse of being "the main inspirer" of the harassment they have faced. Yermalitsky was again threatened at the meeting that things would "end badly" for him if the church continues to violate the law. The following day Markachev and five other officials again visited the Yermalitsky home for an alleged "fire inspection". When the family protested that such an inspection had already been carried out on 29 November, officials maintained that had been "insufficient".

On 12 December, Yermalitsky was summoned to the Emergency Situation Department where Senior Inspector Yuri Migas fined him administratively 28,000 Belarusian Roubles (85 Norwegian Kroner, 11 Euros or 13 US Dollars) for allowing his house to be remodelled for use as a place of worship without approval of the plans.The following day, the pastor was summoned to the police, where Senior Lieutenant A. Malakhov warned him that the church had to register according to the demands of the religion law. Another police officer warned him: "Either you register or the church will not be allowed to exist at this address."On 27 December, Lyudmila Yermalitskaya was fined 580,000 Belarusian Roubles (1,767 Norwegian Kroner, 223 Euros or 270 US dollars) under Article 167 part 1 of the administrative code, which punishes violations of the law on religious and other gatherings with fines of up to 150 times the minimum monthly wage or imprisonment of up to 15 days. Officials claim that children were present "against their will" and "in the absence of their parents", something banned by the country's religion law. The average wage in Belarus is estimated to be between 100 and 150 US Dollars per month.

Markachev of the town administration insisted to Forum 18 that nine children had been present without their parents during the service raided on 25 November. Repeatedly asked by Forum 18 whether these children had been present without the knowledge of their parents and against their wishes, he declined to answer.Church members claim "suspicious vehicles" are regularly outside the house. In a 1 January 2006 statement, they call for appeals for their congregation to be able to meet freely for worship, an end to the "persecution" of the Yermalitsky family and the cancellation of the fines.

For more background information see Forum 18's religious freedom survey at

A printer-friendly map of Belarus is available at

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Faith on the rise in the Middle East

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 359 - Wed 04 Jan 2006


(By Neal Youngquist)

'After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.' ' (Matthew 2:1,2)

Though Jesus came as a witness to first the Jews, it was wise men (or astrologers) from the east who risked their lives and fortune to pay honour to the 'King of the Jews'. One would expect priests or rabbis or members of the Sanhedrin to take special note of his coming. But it was uncircumcised Gentiles who discerned the appearing of a single star in the great expanse of the heavens to herald the birth of the Messiah.

These wise men were forerunners of today's believers in the Middle East. Arabs, Persians and other ethnic groups daily exercise their faith in Christ with often great consequence of personal cost. Their minority status throughout the region places them under various forms of intimidation from threat to peril and even loss of life.

Much maligned by their 'brothers' for their belief in Christ, many are treated as heathens, second-class citizens, and outcasts from their families and culture. A life of secret faith, worship in the underground church and isolation becomes the norm for Christians in difficult lands such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

One's Christian faith even becomes a primary issue in the midst ofwar. Within conflict-ridden Iraq, faith in Christ can often be mistaken as tacit support for Western ideals. Such a dangerous assumption leads to potentially devastating consequences, placing Christians squarely in the sights of suicide bombers and assassins. For many, the only alternative is to flee for safer haven in neighbouring countries.

Despite these hardships, Christ the Bright Morning Star is rising in the hearts of those who seek true peace and 'water of life' (Revelation 22:16,17). Recently, after a clear presentation of the gospel, Christ was revealed as the Son of God to over 50 followers of Islam. Similar reports are appearing on a more frequent basis throughout the region.

Just as the star of Bethlehem was miraculously discovered by wise men of ages past, so Christ today is revealed to 'truth seekers'through dreams, visions and Divine intervention. In the midst of uncertainty, despair and peril, many believers, old and new alike, brightly 'shine like stars in the universe' (Philippians 2:15) to the praise and glory of God.


* Divine protection for believers living in societies with hostile attitudes and actions against the Christian faith, and especially for wisdom and courage for church leaders serving in oppressive environments. (Mark 13:11; Proverbs 1:33)

* Efforts to disciple new believers, that they will be firmly rooted and strengthened in the faith and able to discern and withstand the deceit and schemes of the evil one. (Colossians 2:6-8)

* The witness of expatriate Christians (mostly Filipinos and Indian nationals) serving the region in various professions; may these 'tentmakers' know when they can witness in word and deed to their employers and local co-workers. (Colossians 3:22-25)

* the impact of Christian media in print, radio and television, and that creative and sensitive media development will promote an understanding of Christianity and the gospel message. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)