Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 381
IMPRISONED BELIEVERS: VULNERABLE AND ABUSED
China Aid Association (CAA) <http://www.chinaaid.org/> 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
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* 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