Thursday, June 29, 2006

ICC: Vietnamese Jail Montagnard Christians

"HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)-- Six Evangelical Christians of Vietnam’s Montagnard Degar minority were facing another tense day Wednesday, June 28, after a court reportedly jailed them on charges of inciting religious unrest and organizing illegal border crossings to neighboring Cambodia.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) quoted an official at the Dak Nong Province People's Court as saying that the men from the Central Highlands region were sentenced to between five and seven years in prison for "violating solidarity policies and organizing illegal migration." The Vietnam News Agency reportedly said that the evangelical Christians from the Montagnard Degar community “incited almost 300 people to protest," apparently against the government. They were arrested as they and 16 others tried to cross the border to Cambodia last October, ABC said. Vietnamese officials claimed the six had planned to either set up an independent state or "flee to Cambodia in groups with an accusation that the Vietnamese state violated human rights and repressed religions." Their names were not released.


In an angrily worded statement obtained by BosNewsLife, representatives of the Montagnard Degar people rejected Vietnam’s accusations. "Vietnam’s repeated allegations that Montagnard Degar people are seeking an independent state are baseless,” said Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI). "The indigenous Montagnard Degar Peoples have suffered decades of persecution by the government of Vietnam, namely; confiscation of their ancestral lands, Christian religious repression, torture, killings and imprisonment..." In addition, "to date over 350 Montagnard Degar prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons for charges involving merely standing up for human rights, for spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia. As part of the Vietnamese Government’s policy Vietnamese soldiers continue with a campaign of brutal repression and religious persecution of Montagnards," claimed MFI, an advocacy groups with close contacts in the Central Highlands. In June 2006, the US State Department continued to maintain Vietnam on its "watch list" of countries it says are the “worst violators” of religious freedom. News the latest detentions came shortly after Reports of the arrest came shortly after earlier this month Secular and Christian investigators condemned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for not doing enough to ensure the safety of predominantly Christian Degar Montagnards returning from Cambodia to Vietnam where they are "detained, interrogated and even tortured."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Open Doors: Algeria, Saudi Arabia

From Open Doors:

"The attacks against African Christians are often direct and brutal. The laws enacted, like those in the following story, can have a devastating effect upon the education and future opportunities for Christians who are barred from receiving proper avenues of education. Pray that like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, they will cling to their faith and receive God’s gifts of wisdom and service.

Algeria:* Two Christian foreign students from sub-Saharan Africa have been expelled from Algeria, and 12 others have been commanded to leave by June 27. Authorities have taken the identity cards and residency permits from several of the students, leaving them without any proof of identity. There was no specified the reason for the expulsion. The students attended a well publicized seminar organized by a well-known Christian organization in March 2006. A new law restricting non-Muslim worship was passed in March 2006, however it will not go into effect until September. Among other provisions of the law, it prohibits any action that “incites, constrains or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or by using to this end establishments for teaching, for education, for health, of a social or cultural nature, or training institutions, or any other establishment, or any financial means.” Punishment is two to five years in prison and a fine. The law will also prohibit Christian activity anywhere outside a state-recognized church building. As one Algerian Christian stated, “If these foreign students receive such treatment, whose faith is known by all, and who have embraced the Christian faith for generations, what will it be like for our own students and for our churches! We who are Christians from Muslim backgrounds only the Lord Himself knows what the future will bring!”

Please Pray:

- For the Lord to move in a miraculous way to prevent this law from ever being fully enforced.

- That God will guide the Algerian authorities to make wise decisions, realizing how many lives and careers could be destroyed by their decisions.

- For these students and everyone affected by this new government policy, and for the Lord to renew and increase their faith, and give them courage and hope for their future.

Saudi Arabia:* Over one hundred Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Filipinos were gathered in the morning for worship in a home in the coastal city of Jedda on Friday, June 9, when a group of Saudi police entered the meeting, wooden clubs in hand. The startled worshippers brought chairs to seat the policemen, who sat and waited for the three-hour worship service to conclude. None used their clubs or physically mishandled the worshippers. “Actually, some muttawa [Muslim religious police] came to this gathering about two weeks before,” a local source told Compass, “but they did not do anything.” But after the June 9 weekly praise and prayer service finished, police arrested four leaders of the group. Typically the Saudi government deports expatriate Christians caught conducting worship meetings in their homes or privately owned villas, forcing their employers to terminate their work contracts. Under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, public non-Muslim worship is prohibited, although members of the royal family insist that Christians are free to worship within their own homes. Last year five East Africans were detained for a month for leading a private Christian worship service in Riyadh.

Please Pray:

- For the men being held who are now facing deportation; pray that the Lord will make known His presence in order to encourage and comfort them, and use them to witness to and bring hope to other prisoners.

- For the men’s prompt release and that God would reassure them that He will provide for them and their families.

-For the Saudi royal family and government officials, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Forum 18 - Russia


Pentecostals, Catholics and Baptists are among religious communities to complain recently of police failure to protect them from attacks or other unwarranted intrusions during services or of police raids to prevent them conducting religious activity - such as giving out religious literature - which they regard as legitimate, Forum 18 News Service notes.

Police failed to respond when 300 Pentecostals in Spassk in Siberia were terrorised by 20 drunken youths who attacked their service in April or when a Catholic service in St Petersburg was disrupted by intruders in late May. Only when church leaders complained did the authorities take belated action. In Ivanovo near Moscow, the FSB security police initiated a raid on a 14 May Baptist evangelisation event at a rented cinema and an investigation is underway over the fact that copies of the New Testament being handed out did not include the name of the publisher. 'We are still trying to find out what will happen,' Pastor Aleksandr Miskevich told Forum 18. 'I can't imagine how they are going to check the authenticity and authorship of the Gospels!'"

Friday, June 23, 2006

Forum 18: Uzbekistan

"20 June 2006

Amid rising government persecution of Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious minorities in Uzbekistan, a Protestant pastor from Andijan [Andijon] faces up to twenty years' imprisonment if prosecutors go ahead with a trial for treason, Protestants have told Forum 18 News Service. Dmitry Shestakov, known as David, who leads a registered Full Gospel Pentecostal congregation in the city, has gone into hiding for fear of arrest. 'It's unclear exactly which article I'm to be prosecuted under,' he told Forum 18 from his place of hiding on 20 June, adding that he has learnt that the Prosecutor's Office might have changed the accusation to one of inciting religious hatred, which carries a five year maximum prison term. 'The one thing I can say with certainty is that the threat of arrest is very real.' An official of the Andijan regional Prosecutor's Office told Forum 18 that the number for the investigator in the case, Kamolitdin Zulfiev, is secret. Were Shestakov to be given a long prison term it would represent a major escalation of moves against religious minorities."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 381

China Aid Association (CAA) <> reports that imprisoned South China Church founder and senior pastor Gong Shengliang (53), who was beaten almost to death by authorities in Jingzhou Prison in June 2003, has once again been the victim of serious intentional, totally unjustifiable violence in custody. According to CAA, authorities at Hong Shan prison, Wuhan, Hubei Province, assigned a prisoner to watch Pastor Gong and report on him. On 21 March this prisoner beat him mercilessly, resulting in some hearing loss and leaving his face so severely swollen and painful that he was unable to move his mouth for three days. The prison authorities then rewarded the abusive prisoner and punished Gong further. Moreover, Christian literature sent to Gong by his family is denied him, and Gong's letters to his family are withheld by the prison.

This news is a reminder that prison conditions in non-Western countries are often very different from those in the West. The most important differences do not revolve around wealth, but around worldview and ideology. Many Westerners don't realise or have forgotten how crucial Judeo-Christian worldview and teachings have been in shaping Western laws and values. In particular, the words of Christ have deeply influenced Western society, providing a good moral foundation. However different societies are built on different foundations and their laws spring from quite different premises. Atheistic Communism cannot find value in the life of an individual. And whereas the gospel of Jesus explains sin and justice while offering grace, redemption and transformation, other religions revolve around works, shame and punishment. In the non-West, human rights are of less concern and justice (and injustice) is generally punitive, not restorative or redemptive.

Christians in non-Western prisons are frequently subjected to appalling hostility and violence. The nations in which they are imprisoned have lamentable human rights records, torture is routine and corruption reigns. Christian prisoners must remain in our prayers always because their physical and emotional suffering can be severe, continual and inescapable. The devil seeks to gain a foothold through despair whereby he will tempt suffering believers to doubt God's presence, goodness and love. Numerous Christians including significant Church leaders are imprisoned in China; nearly 1800 in Eritrea; and an estimated 100,000 in North Korea! Other countries where Christians are in prison on account of their faith include Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and Laos. If these prisoners would only renounce Christ and betray their brethren, then the beatings and torture would end and they could go home to their families. Instead, they choose to be like Moses: 'He thought it better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him.' Hebrews 11:26 NLT


* the Holy Spirit to fill every imprisoned believer with an unshakeable assurance of God's faithful, eternal presence and love.

* for the Spirit of God to empower imprisoned believers to 'wait on the Lord' and find new, supernatural strength in our strength-sharing, promise-keeping God (Isaiah 40:27-31), so they will be able to endure suffering, display faith, extend grace, and keep their eyes fixed on Jesus through every storm.

* God's protection and healing for Christians abused in prison.

* our gracious God to bless all Christian witness in prisons, so that persecutors will be convicted of sin and judgment, godless prisoners will be drawn to godliness and the gospel, and all Christ's witnesses with this high and difficult calling will be lights in the darkest of places and be blessed with the assurance that their struggles are not in vain. 'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, fortheirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Matthew 5:10 NIV

Fax and Write for North Korea

"Open Doors USA is leading a campaign on behalf of the North Korea Freedom Coalition to focus attention on the violent repatriation of North Korean refugees by the Chinese government.

Most of these refugees have fled to China to escape starvation and persecution in their homeland.

In violation of international law, China is seizing these refugees and forcefully sending them back to North Korea where they face torture, prison or labor camps, and sometimes even execution for having fled their homeland.

Please join the
Fax and Pray Campaign to save these North Korean refugees!

By faxing a letter to the Chinese Ambassador, you’ll be making your voice heard on behalf of the thousands of refugees currently hiding in China!

Please join us during the week of June 19-25 to
fax individual letters to China’s Ambassador to the USA, urging China to stop its policy of repatriating North Korean refugees whom they know will be maltreated.

Thank you for your prayers and support! "

Open Doors: Laos, China (North Korea)


Communist authorities in Laos arrested 10 North Korean refugees and two South Korean activists in late May as they attempted to reach safety in neighboring Thailand, a South Korean newspaper reported on June 9. Lao police arrested the first group, consisting of eight refugees and one activist, on May 31. A second group of two refugees and their activist guide was arrested at around the same time. According to Compass Direct, after almost two weeks of tense negotiations with political officials, the refugees were released into the hands of South Korean embassy staff on Saturday, June 10. When all efforts had failed, a representative of Helping Hands Korea paid a ransom of $500 per person for eight of the refugees; another activist ransomed the other two. The two South Korean activists were identified as Kim Hee-tae and Shin Sang Hwa, both believed to be Christians. The religious background of the 10 North Korean defectors was unknown at press time.
Read More>>

Please pray:

- The Lord will heal and comfort the refugees, and draw the unbelieving to Himself.

- For the “activists” who risk their own lives and freedom to help the desperate North Korean people.

- That the Lord will move upon the hearts of government officials in these surrounding countries, so they will not harass these refugees, but let them pass through their territories without difficulty.


Rising Tide of Refugees

Leaving North Korea without official permission is a serious crime. Security guards closely question all refugees who are forcibly returned; many are tortured and/or imprisoned. Those who return with a Bible or admit having contact with Christians in China face certain torture and imprisonment, and, in some extreme cases, execution.Despite these risks, hundreds of North Koreans continue to cross the border into China, seeking relief from the brutalities of the regime. Thousands of North Korean refugees are living in China. Without legal citizenship, however, they are constantly at risk of being arrested and sent back home. The Chinese government recently increased the “bounty” payable for turning in a North Korean refugee from 1,000 yuan (US$125) to 3,000 yuan (US$374). According to a Compass source, China forcibly repatriates an average of 500 North Koreans every month, sometimes as many as 200 per week. “The Chinese are extremely serious about ferreting out North Koreans,” he said.

Please pray:

- That these Chinese policies toward North Korean refugees will be abandoned. Ask the Lord to bring pressure upon law makers in China to stop these cruel practices.

- That God will give them grace to see that these actions are dishonorable, and shameful to the people of China.

- Pray for the courage, faith, and powerful witness of these saints in North Korea and China as they bring the light of Christ into the darkness.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Turkmenistan: Baptist deported due to worship


A Baptist who is a Russian citizen, Aleksandr Frolov, was deported from Turkmenistan on 10 June because of his religious activity, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. Local Baptists told Forum 18 that Frolov's latest problems began after he visited Russia. After he returned, three officials came to his home and confiscated his Residence Permit. The officials gave their reasons as his attempt to import Christian literature, failure to notify the Migration Service of his exit from the country, and the holding of worship services in his home. Frolov separates him from his wife, a Turkmen citizen, their three year old son, and five month old daughter at their family home. Local Baptists have called for prayers and appeals for Frolov to be allowed back to his home and his family, for local Baptists to be allowed to hold worship services freely, for an end to restrictions on receiving Christian literature and for believers to be able to travel freely to visit other congregations."

These believers need your prayers!

Open Doors USA: "These Believers Need Your Prayers!

Prayer Support Vital for Believers in the Three Countries Where Christians Suffer the Most

After extensive research, careful documentation, and review of testimonies from persecuted believers around the world, Open Doors has issued the 2006 edition of our World Watch List. This annual report ranks the 50 nations where Christians suffer the most, based on the intensity of persecution that believers face for actively following Christ.

An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide may be subject to interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith in Christ. We call upon all believers to pray for these brothers and sisters, especially in the following three countries where persecution is the most intense.

1. North Korea - hundreds of Christians killed in 2005

For the fourth year in a row, North Korea holds the ignoble distinction of being the world's worst violator of religious rights. As the most repressive nation on earth, the regime is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country. Human rights violations are commonplace.
The brutal Stalinist regime considers Christianity the greatest threat to its power. Consequently, Christians are specially targeted for arrest - often along with three generations of the believer's family in an effort to eliminate the faith's influence.

Tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses and starvation-level food rations. Open Doors also estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed in 2005 - sometimes just for carrying a Bible.

Please pray for religious freedom for our Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea. Ask God to give them the strength they need to stand strong in the midst of intense suffering. Pray also that God’s Church will continue to grow in North Korea.

2. Saudi Arabia—largest crackdown on Christians in a decade

Also for the fourth straight year, Saudi Arabia holds the second spot on the World Watch List. Officially, there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. By law, citizens are only allowed to adhere to one religion: Islam.

The public practice of non-Muslim religions is strictly prohibited, and although non-Muslims have the right to worship in private, more than 70 Christians were arrested during worship in private homes in 2005. This is Saudi Arabia’s largest crackdown on Christians in a decade.

In addition, apostasy (conversion to another religion) is punishable by death. Christians who have converted from Islam live in constant fear for their lives. They worship in secret and are usually isolated from other believers.

Please pray for safety, courage, and strength for believers living out their faith in this oppressive country. Pray also that God’s Word would continue to go forth in Saudi Arabia and that many would come to faith in Christ.

3. Iran—a new wave of persecution follows presidential election

Islam is also the official religion in Iran, the country holding the number three spot on the World Watch List this year. In June 2005, the election of Muslim hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president prompted a new wave of persecution against Christians.

Presumably as part of the new president’s commitment to make Iran adhere even more rigidly to Islamic law, local officials throughout the nation have allegedly been ordered to crack down on all Christian cell groups. Increasingly, Christians have been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned. In November a house church pastor was killed, and it is feared that many more Christians will be murdered for their faith in the days ahead.

Former-Muslim converts face particular hardship as the government is intent on making them return to Islam. A new law makes it illegal to offer any assistance to believers of Muslim origin, a policy that threatens discipleship and evangelism efforts.

Please pray for Christians in Iran, particularly Muslim-background believers who worship in fear and secrecy. Pray that false doctrines will not arise in their isolated cell groups. Pray also that evangelism and discipleship efforts will go forth despite opposition.

Thank you for remembering all of these persecuted believers in your prayers. Your prayers and gifts are a vital part of encouraging and equipping our brothers and sisters in Christ, allowing them to stand strong in the midst of unimaginable hardship and persecution."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Open Doors: India, Iran (new stories - prayer needed!)

"India: * With the encouragement of a local chief and the apparent backing of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, villagers in the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh gang-raped two Christian women after the husband of one of the women refused to deny Christ. When Gokharya Barela refused, the village head told villagers that they were free to rape any Christian woman they found. That evening, Barela's wife and another Christian woman were raped; both women attend prayer meetings of the Indian Evangelical Team (IET). Read More>>

Please pray:

-For these women and their families - that God will comfort them and heal their wounded hearts in the wake of this injustice and that the Holy Spirit would move them to forgive their persecutors in a way that would reveal God's unending love.

-That God will strengthen, empower and bless the Church in Madhya Pradesh in the midst of this heavy persecution, and that every one of their sufferings would be used to draw His people to Himself.

-For the grace of God to fall upon the nation of India.

Iran: * A Christian convert jailed six weeks ago in northern Iran was released last night and reunited with his family. A former Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, Ali Kaboli, 51, hosted house church meetings in his home and traveled in the Caspian Sea region as an itinerant evangelist. Kaboli was arrested without explanation on May 2 at his carpenter's workshop in Gorgan. Under Iran's strict apostasy laws, Kaboli's conversion 35 years ago still qualifies him to receive the death penalty. Sources told Compass that a hefty bail had been subsequently posted for Kaboli's release.
Read More>>

Praise God for Ali’s testimony and that he is now home with his family!

Please pray:

-That Iranian authorities will no longer pursue the apostasy charges against Ali Kaboli.

-For the ministry of Ali Kaboli—that God will continue to use this man in mighty ways to show Himself to the people of Iran and the rest of the world.

-For the families of men and women like Ali—that God will comfort and provide for the loved ones of His faithful servants.

-That this case and others like it will deeply affect the Iranian officials to the point of recognition that Christ is Lord.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Open Doors: India, Iran


* On May 31, a district court of Madhya Pradesh state acquitted 16 Christians accused of killing Arjun Pal, a Hindu fundamentalist. His death occurred in the violence that erupted after the body of a young girl was found inside a Catholic school in Jhabua in 2004. The Alirajpur sessions court acquitted the Christians, with the judge citing lack of evidence and saying prosecutors had fabricated testimonies against the accused. According to Indira Iyengar, member of the Madhya Pradesh Minorities Commission, Arjun Pal was killed on January 16, 2004 by one of his own group in the confusion that followed a mob attack on Christians. The extremists then put Pal�s body into a jeep and rushed away, later accusing the Christians of killing him.
Read more>>

Praise God that these sixteen Christians were acquitted of the death of Arjun Pal!

Please pray:

-For our brothers who have spent the last two years in jail--that they will not harbor any resentment but would experience complete emotional healing and express forgiveness.

-For the family to be healed from the trauma as their loved ones return home.

-For protection from any more violence in the area and that the acquittal will not be challenged.

-For Christians to share their faith and love to all Hindus and that many will come to the Lord through their testimonies.


* An Iranian Christian, who converted from Islam 33 years ago, is under arrest and interrogation in Northern Iran, where secret police have held him for the past few weeks. According to Compass Direct, Ali Kaboli, 51, was taken into custody on May 2 in Iran’s northern province of Golestan. To date no charges have been filed. In the past, Kaboli has been charged for holding “illegal” religious meetings in his home. He could also be charged for converting to Christianity, which under Iran’s apostasy laws, calls for the death penalty. “Everyone knew that his house was under control [police surveillance] for many years,” an Iranian Christian now living abroad said. “They even pushed him to leave the country about three years ago, but he told them he preferred to stay inside the country, even if it meant living in an Iranian jail.”
Read More>>

Please pray:

-That Ali will stand strong during his time in jail and that he will have opportunities to share his faith with the guards.

-That the Church in Northern Iran will serve as a bold witness for the Lord.

-That Ali will be released from jail and that all charges against him will be dropped.