Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Forum 18: Kyrgyzstan

"12 July 2006

An official of Kyrgyzstan's state Religious Affairs Committee has told Forum 18 News Service that the Religion Law could soon be amended to restrict evangelism or proselytism. 'I hope that the new draft of the Law will be as close as possible to international standards,' But, 'we have to take local reality as our starting point,' Shamsybek Zakirov told Forum 18. He expressed concern about anger from local Muslims in southern Kyrgyzstan, directed at the Religious Affairs Committee and local Protestants at Protestant evangelism. Zakirov confirmed statements made by Pentecostal Pastor Dzhanybek Zhakipov to Forum 18 that pressure by the authorities on local Protestants has increased. Government minister Adakhan Madumarov today (12 July) was reported as also indicating that the Religion Law may be tightened. The problem of intolerance of Christians and other religious minorities - leading to violent attacks and even murders - is widespread in Central Asia."

Forum 18: Kazakhstan

"14 July 2006

A Pentecostal theological college is facing attempts by the authorities to close it, along with a media campaign against the college, and the dramatic increase in fines of unregistered Baptists has continued, Forum 18 News Service has found. These are the latest developments in Kazakhstan's crackdown on religious freedom. The Shymkent Prosecutor's Office is prosecuting the local Elim Seminary for not having an Education Ministry licence - even though the college immediately applied for a licence when this requirement was introduced in May. The Prosecutor, Erzhan Ezaliev, claimed to Forum 18 that 'Personally I am neutral towards Protestants. But the law is the same for everybody.' In 2005, the same Prosecutor's Office - without any legal grounds for its action - also tried to close the Seminary. Also, two Baptists, one a Pastor, have been fined for unregistered activity and breaking an order banning a church. The fines imposed are much greater than the previous norm."

Bosnia: Obstacles to Building Places of Worship

"13 July 2006

Legally building a place of worship in Bosnia and Herzegovina is often difficult, Forum 18 News Service has found. Religious communities of all faiths face obstruction in getting permission to build or re-build places of worship. For example, in the Bosniak-controlled area, mosques have been built without official permission. But Catholic and Protestant churches face years of official obstruction, Forum 18 has been told. In the Croat-controlled area, especially in and around Mostar, Muslim and Protestant places of worship cannot be legally built. In the Serb-controlled area, Serbian Orthodox churches can be built, but places of worship of other faiths can face much obstruction. Another problem Forum 18 knows of limiting building and other activities throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina is taxation. All religious communities must pay 17 per cent VAT on all their activities - even on humanitarian aid."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

WEA RLC: Malaysia bans more Christian books

"Date: Thursday 13 July 2006
Subj: Malaysia bans more books deemed prejudicial to public order.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

Once again, Malaysia's Internal Security Ministry has used the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 to ban books on religion. The banned titles are books that critique Islam and books that assist in Christian witness to Muslims. Many are international best sellers and have been in circulation, including in Malaysia, for many years. They are banned on the grounds that the Internal Security Ministry has deemed them prejudicial to public order. In reality however, the only members of the public likely to be provoked by these books are Islamists who rely on repression because they are threatened by public debate and public access to alternatives. That the government should pander to this element in this way is very disturbing."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Open Doors: China, India


The Zhongmu City People's Court sentenced Chinese house church pastor Zhang Rongliang to seven and a half years in prison. Zhang is a key leader of the China for Christ house church movement. He was arrested by police without charges on December 1, 2004. Months later was he charged with 'attaining a passport through cheating' and with 'illegal border crossing.' Zhang's lawyer was not optimistic about an appeal. Pastor Zhang's wife, Chen Hongxian, was shocked at the verdict. 'Who would have thought the outcome would be this bad?' Chen said. 'It is the Communist Party's court, not the People's Court, that makes the real decision.' Pastor Zhang has five chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and severe diabetes. Chen has asked the international Christian community to continue praying for her husband. Previously Zhang had spent a total of 12 years in prison for his religious activities.

Read More

Please Pray For:
- Pastor Zhang, that he will be paroled quickly because of his poor health, and receive mercy even at the hands of his enemies.
- Pastor Zhang's wife, that God will provide comfort and peace during this uncertain time.
- The underground Church in China, especially for those who minister to God's flock."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Compass Direct: India

"Policeman tells victims seeking justice, 'Ask Jesus to call me on my mobile phone.'

July 6 (Compass Direct) - When four tribal Christians in Toranpada village, Maharashtra state, asked for help following an attack by Hindu extremists last month, police responded by taunting and kicking the victims, then filing charges against them.

Members of the local Tribal Welfare Committee had beaten Baburao Mahala, 32, Anil Chaudhry, 23, and a couple identified only as 20-year-old Kalpana and her husband Sunil, 24, on June 8 for converting to Christianity.

The four converts filed a complaint at the local police station immediately after the attack. When they returned on June 15 to ask what action had been taken, one police officer told them, 'Ask Jesus to call me on my mobile phone.'

Three police officers then asked for a demonstration of prayer. When the four Christians knelt down, the officers kicked them and taunted them. The officers then filed charges against them for breaching the peace.

Abraham Mathai, a member of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission and leader of the All India Christian Council, accompanied the four to the office of the director general of police on June 20 to protest against the officers' behavior.

'They harassed the Christians instead of giving them assurance that the perpetrators would be brought to book,' Mathai said.
The director general of police ordered an inquiry, but police at the station have denied any wrongdoing.

Elsewhere in Maharashtra state, a government school in Sagar village, Nashik district has denied admission to children from Christian families, according to Mathai.

'The state government says that primary education is free for all, but how can the children of Christians benefit from this scheme if they are denied admission?'

The government in Maharashtra is ruled by a coalition of the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress Party. Of over 96.8 million people in the state, a little more than 1 million are Christian. "


"July 10 (Compass Direct) - For two years Francis Yohanna Anche, 15, has been suffering from a brain injury he sustained when Muslim students in his high school in Zaria city attacked Christian students. His right hand and leg are still paralyzed from a machete cut to his head. Muslim students at the Government Science Secondary School-Kufena, Anche told Compass, had written a letter on June 24, 2004 warning Christian students that they should stop worshipping in the school's chapel or else face their wrath. Seven other Christian students also sustained injuries in this attack. Christian leaders in Kaduna describe the state as the nerve-center of Islamic extremism, where many religious conflicts in northern Nigeria originate and spread to other parts of Nigeria."

Read More>

Monday, July 10, 2006

Forum 18: Uzbekistan

"3 July 2006

In Muinak in Karakalpakstan region - where all Protestant activity is banned - local Protestant Lepes Umarov faces up to three years' imprisonment on criminal charges for 'breaking the law on religious organisations'. The duty officer at the police station told Forum 18 News Service that Umarov was released by the police after several hours' detention in late June after signing 'an undertaking not to leave the country'. Forum 18 has also learnt that Pentecostal pastor Dmitry Shestakov from Andijan has fled Uzbekistan to escape criminal charges also lodged in June in retaliation for his church work. In Kuvasai in Fergana region, the secret police have questioned the 11-year-old son of the Vitkovsky couple in whose home a Baptist church meets. The church's services have repeatedly been raided in recent months and a judge threatened Viktor Vitkovsky with imprisonment on 27 June. He and his wife were due in court on 3 July."

Forum 18: China

"6 July 2006

Perhaps surprisingly, China's book lovers have ready access in the many bookshops in the country's cities to publications about religion. While very little - if any - tackles any connection between religion and contemporary Chinese society and polity, various publications discuss the history, doctrine and practices of the five approved faiths - Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism - Forum 18 News Service has found. While state censorship persists, books promoting a particular faith and offering adherents texts to help their religious practice are difficult to find in general bookshops - though some innovative publishers have been able to get round official controls. Instead, religious believers have to seek out bookshops of the five state-sanctioned faiths, whose own publications cannot be sold in general bookshops as they lack official publication data. Private bookshops - such as those run by individual Protestants - can only stock devotional material that has slipped through the official net."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

VOM: India - Harassment Continues

"(VOM sources)

A group of junior doctors of Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh beat up a Dalit Christian laborer for several hours, cut his hair and forced him to drink his own urine in Gandhi Medical College hostel on June 21st. The police sources said the junior doctors started beating the Christian at 2:30 p.m. and continued the thrashing until night. The man somehow managed to free himself from the clutches of his tormentors and rushed to the nearest police station. The police are looking for the unknown persons on charges of wrongful confinement and physical abuse. In Bothli village in Durg district Sunday, June 25th, dozens of activists of a Hindu group, Dharam Sena, disrupted a weekly prayer meeting of Christians. As the prayer meeting was going on, more than a dozen Hindu fanatics surrounded the house, shouting slogans against Christians. They then barged into the house and started to attack all those present. Attacks on minorities, particularly on Christians, are increasing alarmingly. They are suffering a series of attacks and assaults by hardliner Hindu groups in many of the North and South Indian States.

Pray God will protect the Dalit Christians who are the poorest of the poor and give them peace and safety. Give thanks to God for the perseverance of the saints who remain faithful to Jesus in spite of severe persecution. Pray the Holy Spirit will come in glory and loving power to the whole country of India. "

VOM: Eritrea - Imprisoned Christians Escape

"(VOM Canada)

In the early morning of May 16th, 15 Christians escaped from a military training camp in Asabe, Eritrea and attempted to escape across the desert into neighboring Djibouti. According to a June 23rd report from Open Doors U.K., the men had been detained in metal shipping containers for the past two years because of their faith in Christ. Military police pursued the men when they were discovered missing. After two days, the bodies of five of them were found dead from exposure. At last report the other 10 had not been found and there was no indication if they were successful in crossing the border into Djibouti. If they remain in Eritrea, their lives are in grave danger.

Pray if there are survivors, the Lord will bring them safely to a place where they can recover from their ordeal. Pray the families of the deceased will find comfort in the fact that Christ is victorious over death, and their loved ones will be raised with Him. Continue to pray for the safe release of the many Christian prisoners in Eritrea."

VOM: China - House Church Leaders Arrested

(China Aid Association)
May 27th and 28th, 2006

30 house-church leaders from Langzhong City, Sichuan Province were arrested and forced to pay fines. Eyewitnesses and family members of the victims reported that the arrests happened from 11 a.m. on May 27th until 9 a.m. on the 28th during a fellowship meeting. Fifteen members of the Public Security Bureau in six police vehicles raided the meeting. Eyewitnesses say that during the arrests and interrogations, Christians were abused inhumanely by constant heavy beatings. Though some of those arrested were released on the 28th, on morning of the 29th, 14 house church leaders received criminal detention notices. They are:

Li Ming
Wang Yuan
Li Jinbo
Li Chengxi
Shi Zhihe
Gou Yongcai
Jin Jiyun
Wang Shuhua
Gou Qingju
Ke Xiufang
Sun Changfen
Hu Yongju
Zhang Shulan

Liao Zhoulan Pastors Li Ming, Wang Yuan, Li Jinbo and Jin Jiyun are major leaders of the Chinese House Church Alliance which was established in 2004. It is made up of approximately 300,000 members from various house church movements scattered across 21 provinces. CAA also learned that in recent weeks a number of house churches from Beijing, Shangdong and Guangdong were forced by the local authorities to close. Polite letters of protest and concern may be sent to the Chinese Embassy.

Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington DC 20008
TEL: 202-7456743
Fax: 202- 588-0032; 202-7457473

Pray Jesus will draw close to the prisoners with His loving comfort.
Pray God will protect them from further beatings.
Pray their faithfulness to Jesus will inspire Christians everywhere to seek a closer walk with our Savior and Friend. (Compass Direct)

Chinese officials have expressed "strong dissatisfaction" with a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 12th condemning rising persecution of religious believers in China. The resolution came after U.S. President George W. Bush invited three members of China's house-church network to the White House on May 11th--author Yu Jie, law professor Wang Yi and legal scholar Li Baiguang. Yu, 33, attends Ark Church, an unregistered Protestant house church that has had to change locations six times to escape harassment.

When Yu was asked to visit the White House, secret police in Beijing immediately called his wife, Liu Min, at her office in downtown Beijing. "They bluntly asked me to stop attending Ark Church, assuming that if I stopped going, the others would also scatter," she said.

When she replied that she could not obey the order, the police said they would spread rumors to damage her husband's reputation. Police also advised her to divorce Yu.

Give thanks to God that information about the lack of religious freedom in China is being made public. Ask God to protect the house church representatives who were willing to suffer the consequences of reporting to President Bush. Pray all those who are threatened by the Chinese authorities will continue to stand up for Jesus.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Belated Happy Fourth of July!

I pray that you all found time to praise the Lord for, and celebrate, our freedoms as Americans yesterday, and that you were able to be with family and friends.

Please remember to pray for all of those who don't share those freedoms, for whom faith and worship are literally matters of life and death.

Pray for the leaders of their countries, that their hearts may be softened towards those they lead and that they too would come to know Christ.

In Jesus' name,


Open Doors: Cuba, Malaysia

CUBA:* The Rev. Carlos Lamelas, pastor and former national president of the Church of God in Cuba, was unexpectedly freed from jail on Monday (June 26) according to Compass Direct. The surprise move astonished and delighted many observers following the case. Members of Lamelas’s extended family accompanied his wife, Uramis, and their two daughters to the Villa Marita Detention Center in Havana for what they thought would be their weekly 15-minute visit with the jailed pastor. “It was a surprise indeed on Monday when we went for the visit,” Rev. Lamelas’s sister, Lourdes, informed friends in an e-mail. “They informed us that they had decided on a change in procedure and that the case was closed! He was free to go home.” Arrested on February 20, Rev. Lamelas was jailed for more than four months without being formally charged. Government officials reportedly accused him of aiding Cuban citizens in leaving the country illegally. Read More

Please pray:

- Thanks and Praise to the Lord God Almighty!

- For Rev. Lamelas’s health and full recovery from his ordeal.

- That he and his family will neither be harassed nor threatened, but would walk in the Peace of God.

MALAYSIA:* Hotels in Malaysia have refused to host a series of religious rights forums after angry protestors shut down an event on May 14 and accused the organizers of being “enemies of Islam.” Article 11, a coalition of 13 religious and human rights groups, had organized a series of forums to discuss constitutional rights and the dilemma created by a dual legal system incorporating both civil and sharia law. The coalition is named after the same article in Malaysia’s constitution, which guarantees the right of every citizen to “profess and practice his religion.” On May 14, police cordons and a crowd of roughly 500 demonstrators greeted participants arriving for a forum in Penang. Eventually police insisted that the forum be shut down, despite having issued an official permit for the event. “This incident shows how serious the breakdown in constitutional values is,” National Human Rights Society deputy president and lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a speaker at the forum, told local reporters. “If we cannot speak on the constitution, where are we as a nation?”
Read More

Please pray:

- That the Lord would give wisdom and determination to Prime Minister Badawi and his government, to uphold the Malaysian constitution and defend and protect all the citizens of Malaysia.

- For the strength and safety of Malik Sarwar, the National Human Rights Society, the Article 11 coalition, and all those who are striving for peace and justice.

- For the Christians living in Malaysia to remain strong and not let this shake their faith.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Voice of the Martyrs - News

"UZBEKISTAN: Police Disrupt Easter Gathering and Seize Passports
June 23, 2006
The Voice of the Martyrs

VOM staff in Uzbekistan report that on April 16th, police in the city of Nukus, just miles from the Turkmenistan border, burst into a private home of Christians celebrating Easter with friends. Their fellowship was broken us just as they began to drink their tea and open God's Word. Police searched the home and seized Christian materials. No receipts were given for the materials taken. The believers were forced to write statements explaining why they were having tea with the group and what they were talking about. This was done even though it is not illegal for friends and family to drink tea and read books in private. Police took the passports of Bakhtiyer Gazhayev, Mader Baltayev and Ikram Saburov, all from Turkmenistan, as well as the passport of the Uzbek woman who was hosting the gathering.

Two days after the police raid, less than 24 hours were left before the Turkmens' allowed stay in Uzbekistan would expire. Police had still not returned their passports. On this evening, a VOM worker visiting Nukus met with the three Turkmen Christians, who told him about the injustice taking place. He went straight to the local police chief to demand an explanation of why the passports were taken and when they would be returned. Initially, the chief indignantly refused to answer. The VOM worker warned him that in several minutes, the whole world would know about the persecution of Christians in Uzbekistan, and especially about its treatment of foreign Christians. The police chief relented and said the Turkmens' passports would be returned the next day. When the VOM worker insisted he would stay until he personally saw them returned, the chief exclaimed, "All right! We'll give them their passports back today.”

Whether police were stalling or getting advice from the Committee of National Security on how to proceed, several hours passed. The Christians waited patiently by the gates of the police station. With only 15 minutes left before the office closed for the day, the police called the three Turkmen Christians in one by one and gave them back their passports. The police chief told them, “We were going to give you your passports even earlier, but you brought this Voice of the Martyrs representative with you. It is because of him that such a delay with the passports happened.” The police chief still refused to disclose why the passports were confiscated in the first place. The following morning, Bakhtiyer, Mader and Ikram returned home to Turkmenistan.

Police seized the passports knowing the serious problems the Turkmen could run into without such documentation. If police refused to give back their passports after three days, the three would face serious punishment in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for breaking passport laws?as foreigners are forbidden to stay abroad without their cards. In the unlikely case they were able to return to their native country without them, they would have been imprisoned for their passport violations.

The Uzbek believer who hosted the Easter gathering did not receive her passport that day. A young police lieutenant explained, “You see, our civil workers have the passport of your Uzbek Christian.” The “civil workers” were plainclothes KGB officers.

The Voice of the Martyrs is thankful for the opportunity to be the voice of Christians who are oppressed by those hostile to the gospel."