Friday, December 28, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Last week, after Sunday services, a 19-year-old Muslim youth stabbed an Italian priest in the stomach outside a church in Turkey. Father Adriano Franchini, 65, was hospitalized overnight in the Aegean city of Izmir. The attack comes from a growing climate of violence against Turkey’s Christian minority population. According to Compass News, “Disputes sometimes result when Turks visit Catholic and Protestant churches; due to the popular notion that Christians will pay them to come to church or send them out to the West if they convert to Christianity,” said Monsignor Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar of Anatolia. Read full story
- For the salvation of the young Muslim who stabbed the priest; pray that he may seek forgiveness for his sins. (John 17:3)
- For Father Franchini’s quick recovery from his stab wound. (Psalm 37:39)
- That our brothers and sisters in Turkey will continue to grow in faith and also in numbers. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Christina and the Prayer Force Team
Monday, December 17, 2007
Subj: Belarus: Christian youth leader beaten.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
BELARUS: CHRISTIAN YOUTH LEADER BEATEN
Malady Front (Youth Front <http://www.mfront.net/> (Belarussian)), is a Belarussian youth movement with Christian roots which advocates for freedom, democracy and Christian values in Belarus. It has had its application for registration denied six times, most recently in June this year despite meeting all the requirements. Their lack of registration gives the authorities grounds to repress and persecute the group, to ban their meetings and criminalise their activities. (Link 1)
In May 2006, Zmitser Dashkevich, the group's leader and an evangelical Christian, returned from a visit to the USA only to be arrested on charges of "hooliganism" for allegedly writing political graffiti, a charged that could not be proved. On 1 November 2006 Dashkevich was sentenced to 18 months in prison for "organising and participating in an activity of an unregistered non-governmental organisation". (Link 2: Amnesty International UK and Christian Solidarity Worldwide USA)
Dashkevich is not the first Malady Front leader to be punished by the Lukashenka regime. His predecessor, Paval Seviarynets <http://sieviarynets.net/english/index.htm> who led the group from 1999-2004 and is also a professing Christian was sentenced in 2005 to two years' hard labour for organising a protest against the official (and clearly fraudulent) results of the referendum and parliamentary elections in October 2004.
In September 2007 Zmitser Fedaruk courageously took on the leadership of the Malady Front. Like his predecessors, Zmitser Fedaruk is a committed Christian. Though only 19-years-old he has first-hand experience of repression, including religious persecution and incarceration. He spent five days in a KGB prison earlier this year for meeting with other Malady Front members in a private apartment. He is a member of a Minsk-based Pentecostal church whose pastor has been imprisoned and its premises confiscated.
Fedaruk recently told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that his faith in God gives him both his conviction -- that freedom to do good is man's God-given right -- and the courage to fight for it. He also told RFE/RL that he seeks to serve "as a spiritual and moral guide to the group, whose members regularly risk intimidation, beatings, and arrest".
RFE/RL interviewed Zmitser Fedaruk on 6 December while he was in Washington on a visit sponsored by the US Helsinki Commission. The interview entitled "Belarus: 19-Year-Old Activist Fights For God and Country" was published on 7 December. Fedaruk returned to Belarus on 9 December and on 12 December he participated in a peaceful demonstration in support of Belarussian independence ahead of the visit of Russia's President Putin.
(Rumours have been rife that Belarus-Russia unification may be on the agenda once again. Lukashenka once sought this as a means of advancing his power; however, the rise and rise of the cult and power of Putin have laid waste to that fantasy. Now the rumours are that Putin may be seeking it to advance his own power, as a new state would require a new constitution. Stratfor Strategic Forecasting Inc.'s analysis of 13 December, "Geopolitical Diary: Reality Dawns in Belarus", discounts this believing that Putin is a dictator with such widespread support that he will not be limited by constitutional constraints. Stratfor believes Putin is more likely to want Belarus for geo-strategic purposes so he can move his Red Army right up to the borders of NATO-land, transforming Belarus from "buffer" to "launching pad".)
Not only did Belarussian police predictably break up the 12 December protest and beat the protestors, but they targeted Zmitser Fedaruk for special punishment. The security police isolated Fedaruk, beat him to the ground and stamped on him. His head hit the concrete hard, rendering him unconscious. Demonstrators phoned for an ambulance and Fedaruk was rushed to hospital where he was assessed to have a brain concussion of medium severity, as well as bruising. (Link 3)RFE/RL immediately republished the 7 December interview with an Editor's note. (Link 4)
On 13 December Fedaruk spoke by telephone from his hospital bed to RFE/RL's Belarus Service. "I think my beating was linked to my trip to America. There were many indications of that. I was deliberately pushed behind the OMON [special police] cordon and there, separated from the demonstrators, knocked down and beaten. And then they threw me back, saying something like, 'Take your man back, he made a nice trip to America.'" (Link 5)
Zmitser Fedaruk has a compelling passion for liberty and justice and the glory of God. But even more than that, he has the very thing President Lukashenka fears even more than conviction: the courage to act on it.
"I believe in God. And I fear only God," Fedaruk told RFE/RL. "When I joined Malady Front I couldn't understand how people could stand up and be strong, and not be afraid. Later, when I received this faith I understood that only God and faith can help you be brave. In fact, the young people who come to Malady Front are also like this -- they are the new generation who can get to this new land."
There can be little doubt that Lukashenka will be very keen to crush that courage before it can grow or spread. However, if Fedaruk is right and this courage is from the Spirit of God, then Lukashenka has no idea what he is up against.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wed 12 Dec 2007
CHINA: REPRESSION ESCALATES IN LEAD-UP TO OLYMPICS
The Olympic Games will open in Beijing at 8.08 pm, on 8-8-08 and China is getting ready.
In a recent article, 'Faster, higher, censored', Graeme Philipson (The Age, Melbourne) states: 'China will use the 2008 Olympic Games to market itself to the world. All countries do this, but the Chinese example will look more like Berlin 1936 than Sydney 2000.' Philipson's point is that the image will not be real -- it will be a facade or an illusion -- with China using the Olympics to 'airbrush out the full extent of its oppression . . . just like Hitler and the Nazis 70 years ago'. He ominously warns: 'Visitors to China next year will see the new stadiums and the expressways and skyscrapers and apartment complexes. They will probably even be able to access their hometown newspapers on the web. They will probably not stop to think that the 1936 Olympics were followed by the most vicious repression the world has ever seen.'
Human rights advocates and Christian ministries report repression is intensifying in the lead-up to the Games. The government wants to ensure 'subversive' elements or 'reactionary' forces do not spoil the show. Shi Weihan (37) runs a Christian bookshop near the Olympic village. According to Compass Direct, though Shi worships in an unregistered house-church, his bookshop has only ever sold books for which he has had government permission. Recently Shi, his wife Zhang, and several employees were arrested. Whilst most have since been released, Shi and a female employee, Tian Hongxia (whose father was seriously beaten during the arrest), remain in custody. Shi Weihan is diabetic and there are concerns for his well-being. As China Aid Association (CAA) notes, this is not an isolated case.
CAA also reports that on 7 December a major police operation raided and detained all 270 house-church pastors meeting for prayer and Bible study in Linyi City in the northern coastal province of Shandong. They were handcuffed in pairs like criminals and taken off for questioning. As of 10 December, 150 pastors were still in custody.
In July 2001 Radio Australia reported China's Vice Prime Minister Li Lanqing as saying at an anti-cult exhibition that winning the 2008 Olympic bid proved the international community appreciated the social stability and economic progress in China and the healthy lives of the Chinese people. He concluded that this justified China's fight against 'cults'.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD -
* will protect and keep Shi Weihan and Tian Hongxia in body, mind and spirit so they will grow in grace and knowledge of him; may he, the God of justice, sweep away Chinese injustice.
* will sustain and encourage all China's detained pastors and freedom advocates (including numerous writers and lawyers); by the working of his Spirit may he grant his faithful imprisoned disciples the honour of being used as channels of his blessing and saving grace into dark places.
* will fill China's pastors and influential Christians with great, divine, spiritual wisdom, insight and grace, so they may lead not by human inclination but according to his will and purpose. (Matthew 16:23)
* who is sovereign over all 'kings', will use the Beijing Olympics for his purpose. 'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.' (Proverbs 19:21 ESV)
AZERBAIJAN: "IF YOU MEET AGAIN YOU'LL BE IMPRISONED," ADVENTISTS TOLD
Neighbourhood police officer Elhan Sokhbetov, who took part in an 8 December raid on a Baku Adventist congregation's worship service, denied that it was a raid. "It was just a check-up," he insisted to Forum 18 News Service. Asked why 13 police officers had raided the service, why eight church members had been held for five hours, insulted, threatened and fined he responded: "No-one was threatened. It was just a check-up." Pastor Rasim Bakhshiyev told Forum 18 he was warned they would be imprisoned if they meet again for worship.
"They tried to make us sign statements that we had been led astray in coming to services and that we were renouncing our faith," he added. "This was a crude violation of the law," another Adventist leader told Forum 18. "All our documents are in order and they have no reason to raid the congregation or to fine our members." No official of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations was available to tell Forum 18 why the service had been raided. Officials have told the Adventists they are "too busy" to receive them.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Elder Saidu Dogo, the secretary of the northern Nigeria chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), recently told Compass Direct that Muslim leaders are encouraging their followers to “take over Nigeria by going to war against Christians.” And as a result, many believers in this nation are being threatened, abducted, or murdered.
Left for Dead
Henry Ogbaje, a 24-year-old Christian, was on his way home in Kaduna, Nigeria, on Friday, October 12, when a group of radical Muslims attacked him and beat him unconscious with wooden clubs.
Believing they had killed him, his assailants left him for dead… and Henry lay in a pool of his own blood until he regained consciousness three hours later.
A passerby eventually helped Henry get home, and his family members immediately took him to the hospital. A doctor treated him that night, and told Henry’s family to bring him back to the hospital in three days’ time. On Sunday night, however, Henry’s family rushed him back to the hospital… and by 8:00 p.m., Henry died.
“Henry was a peace-loving person,” remembers his father, Sgt. Emmanuel Ogbaje. “He was not a troublemaker.” This is why Henry’s death is so horribly shocking to those who knew and loved him.
Henry Ogbaje’s murder took place as Muslims were celebrating the Eid-El-Fatr festival, which marks the end of Ramadan. Another man identified only as Basil was also killed in Kaduna during this same time.
Noting that other Muslim leaders also preached attacks against Christians during Ramadan,Elder Dogo is pleading for the Nigerian government to protect Christians. He is asking they act quickly to forestall what he and other Christian leaders say is a systematic effort to wipe Christianity out of northern Nigeria.
“We are alarmed over these types of killings and plead that the government seriously do something about these security breaches,” he said. The Rev. Joshua Magaji, assistant secretary of the Kaduna state chapter of CAN, said the killings were meant to provoke Christians into angry retaliations and trigger another religious crisis in the state. Tens of thousands of deaths have been the result of religious violence in the past three decades and violence has broken out several times since the imposition of sharia (Islamic) law in 2000.
“We thank God that Christians in the state have restrained themselves from avenging the killing of these two, and we would like to appeal that they continue in this spirit,” Magaji said.
Need for Prayer Crucial
Please be in prayer for the families of those who have lost loved ones at the hands of radical extremists. And please pray for the safety and perseverance of the millions of Christians and Muslim-background believers living in Nigeria as thousands of believers are being threatened or attacked because of their faith in Jesus Christ!
Thank you for your enduring support and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are paying such a high price for their faith. May God bless you for battling with them through your gifts and prayers in the coming days!
On September 15, caciques invaded the properties of 10 Christian families. They took over the farming plots in their backyards, denying the families access to their primary food source.
The caciques also forbade residents of Santa Rita to buy food from markets owned by Christians… or to hire Christian men to work as laborers or construction workers in the countryside.
The latest attacks have been a harsh blow for the Christian families who are already struggling financially.
Most of the families are from Jesus is the Way church, affiliated with Assemblies of God. They have endured many years of persecution for their refusal to participate in pagan rituals. This persecution has included being denied access to drinking water and electricity.
Despite continuing harassment, believers in Santa Rita remain firm in their faith, and people in the village are slowly being influenced by their example. Several traditionalist Catholics have commented, “How do they have so much strength to resist persecution? We want to be like them.”
Open Doors provides encouragement and support for believers who suffer for their faith in Chiapas. Please continue to pray for the church in Chiapas, and particularly for the believers in Santa Rita at this difficult time.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
TAJIKISTAN: WHY IS A NEW RELIGION LAW NEEDED?
Today (27 November), 24 religious organisations in Tajikistan have formally complained about the latest draft of a controversial proposed new Religion Law. Despite the proposals for a new Law having been repeatedly strongly criticised by Tajik organisations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Secretary of Tajikistan's Public Council is unable to explain why a new Religion Law is necessary."Well, look at the new draft and you'll understand it yourself," he told Forum 18 News Service. The 24 religious organisations insist that the draft Law directly or indirectly contradicts not only the Tajik Constitution, but also twelve other laws and legal codes of the country. Viktor Kim, whoheads an association of ethnic Korean Tajik citizens, told Forum 18 that"this draft Law needs to be totally discarded and a new one written," he maintained. "So many of the articles in the draft Law are in conflict with the Tajik Constitution. There is no overall logic and concept in the draft, so it makes no sense to adopt it or even work on it."
Police refuse to book attackers; victims detained for ‘forced conversion.’
NEW DELHI, November 29 (Compass Direct News) – About 20 extremists in Karnataka state’s Hassan district on Sunday (November 25) stormed a worship service, dragged out two pastors and another believer, stripped them and beat them after tying them to a pole.
The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that pastors C.J. Joemon and C.J. Jojo and another believer, G. Anil, were attacked while they and about 15 others worshipped at Christ Vision Church, a house church associated with the Indian Pentecostal Church, in Balupette village in the Shakleshpur area.
“At around 10 a.m., at least 20 unidentified Hindu fundamentalists forcefully entered the house church and started abusing the pastors and believers,” Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the GCIC, told Compass. “The fundamentalists threatened the believers and chased them away.”
After burning the believers’ Bibles, the Hindu extremists stripped Joemon, Jojo and Anil, and dragged them to the village junction about 500 meters away, George said.
“The three Christians were tied to a pole and kicked and punched by the gang,” he added.
The Hindu extremists continued to abuse the Christians till about 2 p.m., when seven policemen arrived and took the three victims to the police station.
“However, instead of protecting the Christians, the police charged the pastors with ‘forced conversion,’” George said, adding that officials refused to give medical aid to the Christians until the GCIC intervened.
The two pastors were later released on bail.
Asked why the attackers were not booked, Constable Krishna Gowda of the Shakleshpur rural police station pleaded ignorance, saying the sub-inspector handling the case was not available.
The Christians refused to press charges against their attackers, saying they had forgiven them. Joemon is 22 years old, and Jojo is 25. The house church started in the area three months ago
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Lien (44) is a widow with four children. After her husband died, she began a business selling soap, toilet paper, and sugar. When Lien became a Christian in 2004, she saw the opportunity to tell others about the love of God through her small store. More than 100 tribal people came to know Christ as a result of ministry through her business. The district police soon heard that she was spreading the gospel while conducting her business and have since summoned her for interrogation on numerous occasions. However, none of this deterred her from continuing with her ministry.
One night, after holding a Bible study in her home, 10 teenage boys began throwing rocks at her house. When Lien tried to stop them, the boys began to stone her, knocking her unconscious.
Lien was rushed to the nearest hospital, and though she needed a few stitches, she suffered no serious injuries. Open Doors co-workers were able to spend time with her after the attack, encouraging her and praying with her, as well as helping her pay her medical expenses. Read Full Story>>
For Lien—for a quick and full recovery, and that this incident will only strengthen her in her devotion to God and her dedication to reaching out to the lost. Psalm 89:21
That this will also strengthen and deepen the faith of her children, and that Lien’s testimony will encourage them to live intentionally for Christ and His purposes in the world. Psalm 92:12
That the new believers won’t be discouraged by this incident, but will instead be spurred on towards a deeper relationship with the Lord, and that the church in Vietnam will grow as a result. 1 Thessalonians 3:2
That the 10 boys who stoned her will also come to know Christ. Luke 23:34
Friday, August 24, 2007
When seven police officers with a video camera raided his home on Sunday morning, 29 July, Nikolai Zulfikarov was away. But this did not stop prosecutors launching a criminal case to punish him for "illegally" organising a religious community, with a possible sentence of five years' imprisonment. The small Baptist congregation that meets in his home in the eastern Namangan Region refuses on principle to apply for state registration. One local Baptist told Forum 18 News Service that prosecutors wanted to sentence Zulfikarov immediately, but now there is "total silence". He added that "it is not clear if this means they will abandon the attempt or if they are moving stealthily behind the scenes". Other church members were questioned for many hours and at least one was beaten. The church was again raided the following Sunday during its service. Forum 18 was unable to reach lead investigator Abdumalik Motboev. Ikrom Saipov of the government's National Human Rights Centre in Tashkent said he could not comment on cases he was not familiar with but denied that religious freedom is restricted. "We don't repress religious believers because of their faith," he claimed to Forum 18.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
North Korea is rated the world's worst abuser of religious liberty. Whilst US-North Korea relations have deteriorated over recent years, the North-South inter-Korean rapprochement has been more positive than most people may realise. The cross-border railway had its historic test run in May this year, the Kaesong Industrial Park is open for business and the Christian-funded, English-language, Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is nearing completion. These positive developments result from the historic June 2000 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. A second summit is set for 2-4 October 2007. Please pray that the Spirit of God will be present before and during this Pyongyang summit, infusing divine wisdom and directing the event and the hearts of participants, for the sake of his Kingdom and glory.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
A mob of Hindu extremists beat a pastor and tried to set him on fire before parading him naked in the suburbs of Bangalore, India, on June 8. Laxmi Narayan Gowda was beaten in his home, in front of his wife and two small children, by men allegedly associated with the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the extremist World Hindu Council.One of the assailants threw kerosene on the pastor and others vandalized the house and burned Bibles, Sam Joseph of the All India Christian Council told Compass Direct News. One attacker tossed a burning Bible onto Pastor Gowda -– but he did not catch fire.The group then stripped the pastor naked, hung a sign around his neck that said, "I am the one who was converting people," and paraded him through the streets as an estimated 1,000 people mocked and beat him.
Police arrived on the scene about an hour later. Officials said a case had not been filed against the attackers because the pastor, who was recovering in the hospital, had told them he did not want to file a complaint. The attackers reportedly included some of Gowda's neighbors.Gowda reportedly was himself a member of a Hindu extremist group before coming to Christ 15 years ago. One observer speculated that he was singled out for the attack to punish him for becoming a Christian.
Iraqi Christian dentist Shamir (not his real name) stared at the letter in his hands. It said that he was impure because he was not a Muslim. It said he should leave the country immediately or face the consequences. And if he and his family hadn’t left their house within eight hours, they would die—Leave the house in the Christian district of Bagdad where his family lived for three generations! He felt rage and fear. Christians are being killed almost every day in Iraq. On June 3, a priest and three of his deacons were murdered in Mosul. Father Ragheed Keni, pastor of the Holy Spirit Church in the Al-Noor neighborhood of Mosul, was murdered along with his deacons by unidentified gunmen immediately after the Sunday Mass. The gunmen opened fire, sending a barrage of bullets into the priest and his deacons as they left the church premises. Read the full report
The trials and tribulations that Iraq’s Christian community are enduring pose a heavy burden. From an earthly perspective, there is no hope. Only God, through our prayers and actions, can change history.
Please Pray for:
- The church in Iraq; that any weapon or hindrance that would come against the gospel or church would be cast down. “…No weapon formed against you shall prevail...” Isaiah 54:17
- The northern province of Kurdistan; that this area will remain stable despite the many factors that could potentially destabilize the region. “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the Lord, and I will be its glory within.” Zechariah 2:5
- The large relief project that Open Doors just started for the people who flee the violence. “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
- Open Doors co-workers in Iraq who are trying to help. “The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Imprisoned Elderly House Church Member's Health Worsens - China Aid Association
UPDATE: On August 17, The Voice of the Martyrs received information that imprisoned 76-year-old Shuang Shuying is seriously ill, and her family is seeking her immediate release on medical parole. According to China Aid Association (CAA), a letter from Shuying's daughter-in-law, Wei Jumei, reports that on a recent visit the family found Shuying in poor health. Jumei's letter said, "When my family and I visited her, my mother-in-law was extremely sick. Her hands were trembling and she looked pale. Just a few hours of sleep a day has seriously damaged her health. Prior to her imprisonment she weighed 121 pounds, but now weighs 88 pounds. The verbal abuse she gets from fellow inmates and the psychological pressure she is subjected to, have made her miserable. We appeal for her immediate release on medical parole." Pray for the healing and release of Shuang Shuying. Ask God to protect Christians in China. Psalm 118:17, Isaiah 40:31
Released Laotian Pastors Express Gratitude - VOM Sources
On August 14, The Voice of the Martyrs received a letter from Laotian Pastor Khamphuy, who was released from prison in May. Pastor Khamphuy wrote, "As one of 12 prisoners released in May, all of us want to express our appreciation for your prayers and support while we were in prison. Our wives told us that you sent help to our families and bought food and medicines for us. Thank you for sustaining our families while we were in prison." Pastor Khamphuy and 11 other pastors were arrested after attending a Christian meeting on November 21, 2006. After the release of nine in May, three pastors still remain imprisoned. Khamphuy added, "Please continue to pray for Pastors Amkha, Bua and Van Thong and their families." The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to continue praying for the pastors in prison. Pray they will love their persecutors and have opportunities to share the love of Jesus with them. Also, pray for God's protection for the released pastors and their families, as they continue preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:8, 1 Corinthians 15:57
Authorities Threaten Pastors with Imprisonment - VOM Sources
In May, secret police in Cuba threatened four pastors with 25 to 50 years in prison if they continued receiving financial assistance from international ministries around the world. The pastors were forced to sign documents renouncing the help. The Voice of the Martyrs' contacts in Cuba report, "The secret police told them (pastors) that if they did not give up the financial help, they would be considered anti-revolutionary and conspirators against the government. As a result, the pastors are afraid and have not accepted help." Pray for pastors in Cuba as they share the gospel of Jesus Christ while facing difficult conditions. Ask God to provide for the four pastors and their families, and that their lives will be a testimony to nonbelievers. Psalm 68:19, 3 John 2
Religious Minorities Told to Convert or Die - VOM Sources
Christians in northern Pakistan have been receiving letters threatening them with death if they refuse to become Muslims. The Voice of the Martyrs' contacts in Pakistan report Peshawar's minorities are living in fear after receiving dozens of letters mailed to them in August. VOM contacts report, "There have been numerous threats sent to Peshawar's Kohati area. The letters say if we don't become Muslim we will be killed." Praise God it has only been threats so far. Pray God protects Christians in the area. Pray the testimony of believers in Pakistan will draw nonbelievers into fellowship with Jesus Christ. Psalm 27:1, Romans 8:31
Heavy Persecution of Eritrean Christians Continues
The Eritrean government ordered the hand-over of all Catholic schools, clinics and orphanages to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labor. Ten Christians were arrested as they gathered in a house this past Sunday morning. A group of 10 unmarried Christian women, who had been previously arrested, were recently taken to a military training center and tortured after refusing to sign a letter recanting their faith.
- That God will continue to strengthen and comfort all Eritrean Christians by making Himself more real to them in these dark moments of persecution than ever before. (Hebrews 3:1)
- That the Eritrean government will not succeed in taking over control of these schools, clinics and orphanages, but that God will protect these buildings with His anointing and continue to use them for His purposes. (Psalm 37:32-33)
- For special protection and healing for these 20 Christians arrested and tortured at the hands of the Eritrean government, and that God will use their suffering to show His glory to the people and government of Eritrea. (Colossians 4:3)
Muslims in Bangladesh Force 27 Recently Converted Christians Back to Islam
Local Police had provided eight officers to protect a group of recently converted Christians on July 28. The officers withdrew their protection on August 5, leaving the Christians vulnerable to local Muslims who began dragging these Christians to mosques and forcing them to sign blank papers or declarations of return to Islam. Another 14 converts still face incessant pressure. One Christian, Abul Hossen, told Compass Direct News that Muslims threatened to hang him in a tree upside down and lacerate his body with a blade. Read More>>
- That these 27 Christians will have the courage to stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ. (Psalm 91:2)
- For the rest of the Christians facing threats from local Muslims and that God will strengthen and sustain them in the midst of this heavy persecution. (Acts 4:29)
- That the testimonies of these Christians will show the power and glory of God to the nation of Bangladesh, and lead more people to follow Christ. (2 Timothy 4:5)
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
July 23, 2007
Immediate Prayer Need
Compass Direct News reported earlier today that a 26-year-old woman named Shaymaa was released by Egyptian police into the custody of her family despite their threats to kill her for having converted from Islam to Christianity. She was first taken into police custody last week when she and her husband were accosted by Islamist family members at a local fair in Alexandria. The husband escaped, but Shaymaa has been subjected to intense abuse while in custody. Her repeated requests to press charges against her family for attempting to kidnap and kill her were ignored. Now that she is in the hands of her violent family members, there is a real fear for her life.
- For Shaymaa's protection from her family who has sworn to kill her for having become a Christian four years ago.
- That the Lord would change the hearts of her family members; that they would see their hatred for Shaymaa as being shameful to God.
- For the safety of Shaymaa's husband whose whereabouts are unknown at this time. Please also pray that he would experience supernatural peace at this time, trusting in the Lord's love for his wife, whom he is helpless to protect at this desperate time.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Written threats to Pakistani Christians: close churches and convert to Islam:
Christians in Charsadda and Mardan, in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, have received letters threatening that they must close their churches and convert to Islam within ten days. Although some letters did not say what the consequences would be if Christians failed to comply, others are reported to have threatened bombing or the execution of all Christians. Police have increased security at churches.
The unsigned handwritten letters were delivered to churches and Christian homes in the two towns on 7th May, giving a period of ten days for compliance. Several Christian families have already fled since the letters were distributed. Others have said that they know the militants could kill them, but they are trusting God for His protection, and will not yield to the threats. Shahbaz Bhatti, head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, commented: “These extremists are asking us to change our religion. We will not do it, even if we have to die.”
Christians all over Pakistan will observe a period of prayer and fasting from May 17th (the date on which the ultimatum to the Christians expires) until 27th May.
Around 500 Christians live in Charsadda, where Islamic militants are using intimidation and violence to try to enforce a strict Islamic life-style, resembling that advocated by the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan. The militants bomb music shops, put pressure on barbers not to shave beards, and are trying to have girls’ schools closed. It was in Charsadda that Pakistan’s Federal Interior Minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, narrowly escaped death in a suicide attack last month which killed 28 people.
Bible Institute also threatened
Rt Rev. Mano Rumalshah, the Church of Pakistan Bishop of Peshawar, in whose diocese lie Charsadda and Mardan, spoke to Barnabas Fund of his grave concern about the threats to Christians. Furthermore, in the city of Peshawar, two Taliban-style militants visited the Pakistan Bible Institute in the same week as the threatening letters appeared. No senior leaders were present at the time, so the militants held a gun to the head of a junior staff member and began to threaten him, saying, “We hear you are converting Muslims.” They were on the point of shooting him when a noise disturbed them and they fled.
Amidst much pressure for increasing Islamisation in Pakistan, there is a new threat to Christians from a Muslim background. Until now such converts have not faced any legal penalty, though harassment or violence from family and community are commonplace, and sometimes other legal pretexts are used to put pressure on them. Now, however, Pakistan’s National Assembly is considering a draft Apostasy Bill, moved by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal party. The Bill, which has been sent to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for consideration, would impose a death penalty for adult men leaving Islam and imprisonment for adult women leaving Islam, in line with the dictates of shari‘a (Islamic law).
Seeing a pattern?
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, comments: “Shocking in themselves, these threatening letters to Pakistani Christians are even more alarming because of their similarity to what is happening in other countries at present. Threats to convert to Islam, to leave or be killed are being made against Christians in Iraq, sometimes written, sometimes verbal. [Link] . In Egypt last Friday leaflets were apparently the trigger for violence in the village of Behma, south of Cairo. The leaflets condemned a church building project, and the result was rioting in which Christians were injured and Christian homes and businesses set on fire. The incident at the Pakistan Bible Institute is reminiscent of the killing of three Christians at a Christian publishing house in Turkey last month. Their throats were slit, apparently by those who resented their outreach to Turkish Muslims. [Link] . Is this simply copy-cat terrorism, or could there be an organised international strategy against Christian minorities in the Muslim world and against Christian evangelism in Muslim contexts?”
Please join with us in prayer...
1. The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance has asked concerned Christians to pray for the protection of Christians in Charsadda and Mardan. Praise God that the Christians “are undefeated spiritually and continue to uphold their faith in these difficult times”. Pray also for the Pakistan Bible Institute and all other Christian ministries in the country.
2. Pray that the government of Pakistan, the various state governments, and the local police and judiciaries in every part of the country will act with wisdom and courage to prevent violence against Christians and all other minorities.
3. Please continue to pray, especially as the deadline of 17th May comes on Thursday this week, after which the militants in Charsadda and Mardan have threatened to punish any Christians who have not converted to Islam. Keep praying as Christians in Pakistan pray and fast from 17th to 27th May.
4. Pray that the proposed apostasy bill will be rejected, and that Muslims in Pakistan will be free to choose another faith if they desire. Pray that the Lord will watch over and keep safe all those who have left another faith to follow Him.
5. Pray for peace and stability in Behma, Egypt, after the anti-Christian rioting there. Pray for a complete change of attitude amongst the Muslim community in Egypt so that there will be no objections to expanding church buildings or even erecting new ones from scratch.
Copyright © Barnabas Fund - 14th May 2007
Thursday, April 19, 2007
CHINA: CHINA'S CATHOLICS, THE HOLY SEE AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The relationship between China's government and the Holy See has greatly improved, Forum 18 News Service notes. But contentious issues - such as government control of the selection of "patriotic" Chinese bishops and local officials cracking down on the "underground" church - remain. Some ofthis stems from conflicts between "patriotic" and "underground" Catholics. The current diplomatic situation may also reflect lack of consensus in the Chinese government on the desirability of a normalised relationship with the Vatican. The regular interactions between the Vatican and China can have a positive impact on Chinese political leaders' perceptions. Also, significant progress has already been made in uniting the Catholic Church in China. But, even if normal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Chinese government resume, there may not be any significant short to medium term practical religious freedom improvements. This is because, forCatholics and other religious believers, the major challenge to their religious freedom is the state's wish to control China's religious communities.
10 April 2007
UZBEKISTAN: RUSSIAN RELIGIOUS NEWS WEBSITE BLOCKED
One of the more prominent Russian-language religious news websites,Portal-credo.ru, is blocked in Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service has found. Tests in the Uzbek capital Tashkent showed that the religious news website was inaccessible. Blocking is done at the instigation of the National Security Service (NSS) secret police. Internet service providers (ISPs) inUzbekistan blame the blocking of sites on Uznet, owned by the state provider Uzbektelecom and through which all ISPs have to connect to the internet. Uznet insists that sites are already blocked by the NSS. "We don't block websites - this is done by the NSS secret police. The NSS open the connections for us - they have all the equipment there," an Uznet employee told Forum 18. Uzbekistan has long barred access to more websites than any other Central Asian country, including websites such as Centrasia.ru, Ferghana.ru and Uznews.net. All these websites carry some coverage of religious affairs.
Bible Students Arrested; Church Leaders' Houses Raided - VOM Sources
JIMMA - On March 22, two Bible school students were imprisoned on the accusation of attempting to kill an imam. They were released one week later with after paying a fine. A court hearing was scheduled for April 2, 2007.
BAMBASSE - April 2, the home of evangelist Tolosa Megersa was raided by local Muslims. Six of his cattle and sheep were killed. Five days later, the home of Full Gospel Church leader Lemmu Abdissa, was also raided. All of his property was destroyed, including 4,000 kilograms of grain.
Thank God for the release of the two students.
Pray those who have lost property will be encouraged and rest in knowing they have "better and lasting possessions." Hebrews 10: 34-37
Pastors Imprisoned; Church Building Demolished - VOM Sources/ Global Council of Indian Christians
GALIMERA TOWN - Pastor Jeremiah Majhi held a three-day evangelistic meeting in his church in April, 2006, following which he baptized 20 new believers. While he was baptizing them, some members of anti-Christian Hindu groups came and beat him and the people who were being baptized. They destroyed his church and house. The attackers filed false charges against Pastor Jeremiah saying he was smuggling drugs and other materials. The authorities arrested him along with his nephew and have held them in prison since April 26, 2006. Bail applications have been presented and rejected. A new hearing is expected April 14, 2007.
GUNTHAPUT VILLAGE - On March 30, a mob of 300 Hindu militants completely demolished a church building in an attempt to kill Pastor Shri Chetti. According to a report from the Global Council of Indian Christians, during the demolition, the militants demanded that all Christians leave the village and said they will not allow any Christian worship centers in the area. The church has been suffered persecution in the past when Hindu villagers burned down their building.
Pray these believers will continue to meet despite losing their property.
Ask God to encourage them and for the persecutors to know Christ's love forgiveness and blessing through the testimony of these Christians. Romans 12:14, 21
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Muslim violence against churches and Christian men, women and children is a continuing reality in Muslim-dominated, Sharia-ruled northern Nigeria. On 21 March a Christian teacher in the northern state of Gombe was clubbed to death by a riotous mob after a schoolgirl accused the teacher of desecrating her Quran by handling the bag it was in. Several northern churches have been torched in recent months as Nigeria heads towards electing state governors and then a president. The presidential election on 21 April is threatening to be a seriously destabilising event and various separatist and Islamic groups will doubtless seek to exploit the situation. Please pray that God will raise up a candidate before the people whom he will use to lead and heal this nation of some 130 million.
In the city of Varanasi, Rajendra Chawhan, a pastor and evangelist, has been working to reach non-believers in an area outside Varanasi. He has been holding prayer meetings that have grown to more than a thousand believers and this has angered radical Hindu groups. The pastor has been arrested and beaten several times. Following a recent prayer and healing service, Pastor Chawhan was beaten by Hindu extremists and taken to the police, who arrested him. This was the sixth time he had been arrested. Some Christians went to jail to protest his arrest and were beaten by extremists, while the police turned a blind eye. Pray God encourages, protects and gives wisdom to this pastor, and for his ministry to expand in the midst of these tough times. Ephesians 3:14-19
Stoning houses and torturing Christian men, women and children, approximately 2,000 Muslims attacked one Christian neighborhood, according to Compass Direct News. Dozens of believers were injured and others were driven away from their homes. Ratan Masih, a handicapped Christian, was unable to flee the mob and was badly beaten. Accused of committing “blasphemy” against Muhammad and triggering anti-Christian violence, four Christians have gone into hiding while a fifth, Salamat Masih, remains in police custody.* Read More>>
- For healing and protection for Ratan Masih and the others who were beaten in this attack. Jeremiah 33:6
- That the accusations against these Christians will be dropped and that justice will be served and truth will prevail in this situation. Exodus 23:2
- For the faith and testimony of Pakistani believers who must face these kinds of trials on a daily basis, and that Jesus Christ will be known by others through them. 1 Corinthians 1:6
Justice in Indonesia’s Religious Conflicts Appears Uneven
Justice dispensed in Indonesia’s religious conflicts seems to favor Muslims over Christians. The Muslim extremists responsible for the beheading of three Christian teenagers in Poso received sentences of 14-20 years in prison. Less than two weeks after this verdict was handed down, 12 Christians went on trial for the murder of two Muslims. These murders took place during violent protests that followed the execution of three Catholics whose roles in a Muslim massacre were far less clear than that of the extremists responsible for the beheadings. Conflict between Muslim and Christian communities has continued in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia since 2000, with the majority of victims being Christians.*
- For justice in Indonesia—that Christians will be given fair trials and sentences. Psalm 7:6
That Indonesian Christians will never stop acting justly and loving mercy, even when they do not receive justice or mercy themselves. Micah 6:8
That the truth will reign in Indonesia, and that the suffering of the saints will draw many sons and daughters to glory in Christ. Psalm 43:3
Friday, April 06, 2007
By Michelle Vu, Christian Today correspondent
WASHINGTON - Thirty-four Chinese house church leaders and three Christian leaders from South Korea were arrested in a central province in China – a region notorious for its persecution of Christians.
Local police raided a house church Bible study in Nanyang city, Henan province on Tuesday around 2 p.m. (local time), according to China Aid Association (CAA). Participants were from the Chinese House Church Alliance and were meeting in the home of Pastor Dong Quanyu, vice president of Chinese House Church Alliance.
The term Chinese House Church refers to congregations in China that refused to join the officially recognised Three-Self Church. House churches are independent and usually operate underground.
Henan has a history of Christian persecution and was named by the CAA as the province with the worst persecution record with at least 823 known arrests of pastors and believers and 11 raids from July 2005 to May 2006.
“Henan province should be put on notice having the worst religious persecution record,” said the Rev. Bob Fu, president of CAA, last June. “It is morally imperative for any conscientious foreign investors in Henan to address this serious issue.”
Henan along with Zhejiang provinces are noted for their strong Protestant house church movement as well as severe religious oppression by the government.
One of the main functions of China House Church Alliance is to provide Biblical education to emerging church leaders and young believers in an environment where there are significant challenges to receiving systematic and comprehensive theological education.
The hunger of Chinese Christians for Bible studies was highlighted by the Rev. Ron Pearce, executive director of Empower Ministries, at MissionFest Toronto last week.
Pearce relayed stories of “underground” church leaders meeting by the hundreds in fields under ginseng nets to conduct 24-hour Bible studies for four consecutive days with several pastors taking turns to teach Christians. The ginseng nets muffle voices and shield people underneath it from snow and frost, according to Pearce.
Although persecution of house church leaders and believers continue to be reported, several human rights and government bodies have noted the improvement of religious freedom in China.
Open Doors’ World Watch list this year dropped China from its tenth spot in 2006 to the 12th rank. The list was released in January 2007.
The International Religious Freedom Report 2006, issued by the U.S. Department of State, also observed that although the Chinese government has continue to repress unregistered Protestant churches, there is greater freedom to participate in officially sanctioned religious activities. The report also acknowledged that there is an increased availability of Bibles and religious text in most parts of China.
However, house churches – many of which refuse to join the officially sanctioned protestant organization because they argue God and not the government should be the head of the church – have reported increased government repression of the church and inadequate Bible distribution in rural areas.
Despite improvements in religious freedom in some aspects, China was re-designated as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom last November by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The People’s Republic of China has been designated a CPC every year since 1999.
Global Council of Indian Christians
(Persecution Update India) – Here is another brutal torture story of a young independent Preacher called Basanta Nayak (aged 21), son of Sri Senapati Nayak of Village-Sujeli, P.S:-G. Udayagiri of Phulbani District who was attacked by radical Hindus.
10 to 12 Hindu radicals of Sangh Parivar on 28th March, 07 hit Preacher with punches and tried to strangulate by choking him with a towel up to a stage that he became unconscious and senseless. The tormentors thought him dead. They pulled his body down to a Jungle and threw him there. The attackers came back to their village as if nothing happened.
On March 27th after the meeting a group of people approached him to accompany for prayers. They took him to a place in front of a Hindu Ashram (MATHO Hindu-seminary) where a few others were really waiting to kill this young preacher.
Devilish fowlers, a group of around 12, snared him & started all kind of tortures on him uttering blasphemous slogans against Jesus Christ. The radicals tried all methods to force him not only to deny and reject Christ but also to take oath not to preach Christ. The radicals tightened his neck with a Towel and hit him. They have also rained heavy punches after punches on his face and demanded him to forsake Christ.
Basanta Nayak continued to declare that he can never forsake Jesus Christ and repeatedly declared that he will serve the only living God.
His bold statement infuriated the attackers and created more anger among the tormentors. They became mad and increased physical attacks till Basanta started bleeding profusely from his nose & ears & he couldn’t bear the pain of atrocities on him anymore, and fainted. The attackers thought that he is dead and they dragged him on the stony forest road and threw his body into a dense forest.
God protected his body from the forest animals. He woke him up after some hours the exact time unknown to him when he felt to pray to God. While he was praying, he could see Jesus revealing and comforting him with these verses: Jeremiah 1:19, 18:4, John 14:6, Psalms 46:1. He immediately regained strength and courage to stand on his leg.
In the same night God helped him to return his house safely. Of course, he was unable to talk and open his eyes properly due to acute pain and swelling on his face. His house mates took him to the local G. Udayagiri Police Station hospital where he was referred to the Berhampur medical college hospital. Then his house mates prepared the F.I.R., got it signed by him & took him to Berhampur Hospital on 29.03.07. There he got treated up till 30.03.07 and then was shifted to Cuttack private Nursing Home. Now he is under their treatment & care.
Head scanning, X-rays are over. The reports by the grace of God are normal as on date.
Rashid Masih, Salamat Masih, Sahba Masih Motta, Bao Masih and Sheela Masih are living under threat of attack by Muslim extremists. “The Muslim family told other Muslims at a religious gathering that Christians had disgraced the Holy Prophet, tore a holy sticker and beat it with a shoe. This has led to tension in the city. Christians in the area fear Muslim extremists will attack the family. There is fear there will be attacks this week during celebrations leading up to Easter Sunday,” VOM sources said.
If convicted under blasphemy laws 295-A and 295-C, the Christian family faces three years imprisonment, a fine and the death penalty, or life imprisonment and a fine. Pray God protects these believers and provides a way of escape for them.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Fadhila Naoum, 85, and Margaret Naoum, 79, were in their home last week when thieves broke in and repeatedly stabbed them and eventually strangled them to death. According to Compass Direct News, it is unclear whether the motivation for the attack was religious violence or strictly theft. As reported by Open Doors in January 2007, most Iraqi Christians are in fact targeted by attacks because they are believed to have money. Regardless of the chief motivation for these murders, this particular incident is yet another grim portrait of the growing insecurity facing Christians in war-torn Iraq.* Read More>>
For the friends and family of these two women and that God will draw near them as they grieve the death of their loved ones. Psalm 23:4
For all Iraqi Christians who face these immense hardships--that they will receive power, through the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses in Iraq and to the watching world. Acts 1:8
Imprisoned Christians flocked to the jail’s laundry room to worship God together…And then the authorities closed it off to them and filled it with inmates. Being denied a place to worship, they went on a hunger strike. According to Compass Direct News, the jail official “wanted to send a message to the Christians that this was not their church or chapel.” Following the hunger strike, the laundry room was reopened to the Christians. The jail’s Deputy Superintendent denies that Christians had been refused access to their worship room or that a hunger strike had even taken place.* Read More>>
For these 160 Pakistani Christians—that nothing will be able to hinder them from worshipping God together. 1 Corinthians 1:9
That the authorities will be impacted by the willingness of these Christians to go without food for the sake of being able to worship God together. Psalm 40:3
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Global Council of Indian Christians
India (Persecution Update India) – A group of radicals trespassed into the home of Mr. Athishay Raj on 27th March afternoon in Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada Dist., while a prayer meeting was progressing and forced the believers to leave the home. The band of mischief mongers attacked the Christian believers.
The attack and hate mongering followed a clear pattern:
1. Create a scene to demonize Christians with allegation of conversion and now even terrorism?
2. A mob attacked the Christians assembled peacefully and forced the district administration to arrest the pastors
3. Term prayer meetings as conversion activity and create a smoke screen to legitimize attacks
4. Prepare lower level gullible police officials to dance according to the tunes of radicals.
5. Involve vernacular media to whip up passion and hate and project Christians as outlaws
6. Cause damage to the ministries and pastors and services as anti-national
7. Political pressure is used to convert the victims of attack as villains and the real culprit who has breached peace and harmony becomes a hero at the cost of the innocent Christians
Now even the police have gone to the extent of demanding police permission for prayers in the private homes in Dakshina Kannada.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Although the Russian government seems set to pay the Moscow branch of the alvation Army the compensation due to it by 5 April in the wake of theOctober 2006 judgment at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), the ranch's lawyer Anatoli Pchelintsev says "the problem remains". He told Forum 18 News Service that the government has taken no steps to re-register the branch or to renounce official denigration of the group as a"paramilitary organisation". "If they'd wanted to sort this out, they wouldhave done so already. They had five years while our [ECHR] application was pending." The official in charge of registration of religious organisations within the Federal Registration Service, Viktor Korolev, told Forum 18 hehas yet to read the ECHR's judgment. "I've only seen what's on theInternet, not an official translation". While acknowledging that governments are required to take action to remove the causes of the human rights violations identified by the ECHR, Korolev said he has received no instructions of what to do from the Russian Council of Ministers.
29 March 2007
TURKMENISTAN: DEPORTEE FACES CRIMINAL TRIAL FOR "ILLEGAL" RETURN
Summarily deported in 2001 in punishment for his religious activities withhis local Baptist congregation, Vyacheslav Kalataevsky was forced to return to Turkmenistan "illegally" after being dumped with no money or food across the border in Kazakhstan. On 12 March, while he and his wife were trying to regularise his status in his native town of Turkmenbashi (formerlyKrasnovodsk), he was arrested by the Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police. His wife told Forum 18 News Service she has been denied access to him since his arrest. Kalataevsky faces criminal trial on charges of illegally crossing the border. MSS investigator Selbi Charyeva refused absolutely to discuss his case with Forum 18, declaring only: "He's guilty!" Another Protestant, Merdan Shirmedov, has been denied an exit visato join Wendy Lucas, the American he married last August who is nowexpecting their first child. She told Forum 18 she believes the refusal to allow her husband to leave his homeland is retaliation for the prominent role his family has in a Protestant fellowship in their home town of Dashoguz, pointing to other official harassment of the family.
27 March 2007
UZBEKISTAN: PASTOR'S VERDICT DOCUMENTS EXTENSIVE STATE CONTROLS
The written verdict on Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov, who has been sentenced to four years' imprisonment in an open work camp, gives a snapshot of how state control of Uzbekistan's religious communitiesoperates. The verdict, seen by Forum 18 News Service, indicates how state agencies - hokimat (local administration), the mahalla (town district) committees, the police, public prosecutor's office, courts and expert witnesses - work together to control and suppress religious communities. Inthe case of Shestakov's Full Gospel congregation, the verdict also reveals official obsession over the ethnic affiliation and social background ofthose attending the church. One state agency not mentioned is the National Security Service (NSS) secret police, although it was heavily involved in the case from the start. The verdict especially highlights the key role of the committee of the mahalla, the urban district into which towns and cities are divided. Although ostensibly elected and self-governing, mahalla committees are in practice instruments of top-down control.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
There are also reports that underground churches are beginning to flourish in the isolated Stalinist state, which preaches its own doctrine of juche, or self-reliance, and forbids all but the most limited forms of state-sponsored worship.
"There was a Bible used for a long time in my home," a recently defected North Korean woman told RFA's Korean service. "With it, we used to sing hymns, and my grandmother preached."
"Also, somebody came from Aoji mine and preached in a different way…We just sang hymns in soft voices, not loudly. I was young at that time and kept an eye on the outside to see if someone was approaching," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
The woman said her family had been unnofficial Christians for three generations, and that the meetings were attended by around 10 other believers.
Later, however, the North Korean intelligence service became suspicious of their activities and installed hidden listening devices in each home.
Christian family relocated
About one year later, the family and relatives were forced to move to another place and they were never allowed to return home, she said.
"My daddy was arrested. Then my grandmother died of sorrow, and all my family had to undergo harsh investigation from the Intelligence Service and were then expelled to a secluded place," she said, adding that they were charged with political crimes.
The woman said she was unaware of the minority of Catholic and other believers permitted to worship under the watchful eye of North Korea's Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.
"As they captured my daddy, I thought that the country regarded Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il as gods and never dreamed that there were churches in Pyongyang," she said.
Lee Soon Ja, a defector who made it to South Korea three years ago, said the official churches were largely a propaganda tool to show foreign believers living in or visiting Pyongyang.
Repatriated converts still had to conduct their worship in secret, with no access to the official churches, she said.
Defectors follow those who help
Defector Lee Nam Soo has begun flying balloons carrying the Gospel towards his homeland from a nearby island, hoping to counteract government propaganda that shows foreign missionaries torturing children, he told RFA.
"This, at half of A4 size, contains what the Gospels mean, the correct information about missionaries to counteract what has been introduced to them as the beast of the beasts, and about Christianity as a den of spies and other disinformation," Lee told RFA.
"How can the North Korean government block their landing on the mountains and hills? There seems to be no way of doing so."
If a Buddhist priest leads him, he goes to a temple, and if a Sister,
then he goes to a Catholic church. This is absolutely true.
Kim Sung Min, chairman, Association of North Korean
Kim Sung Min, chairman of the Association of North Korean Defectors in South Korea, said defectors were naturally drawn at times of danger and hardship to follow the faiths of those who helped them.
"There are many Buddhist priests and [Catholic] nuns in [the Chinese border town of] Yanji, who are visiting there. A priest approaches a defector to offer help or assistance to him, then the defector becomes used to following him," Kim told RFA.
Converts influence those back home
"If a Buddhist priest leads him, he goes to a temple, and if a Sister, then he goes to a Catholic church. This is absolutely true. If an evangelical does the same, he goes to a Protestant church," Kim said.
Defectors are often highly suspicious and distrustful at the beginning of new contacts, but later become open to religious teachings because of the unconditional assistance they receive from those who preach them.
Later, such defectors, who live precarious lives in hiding for fear of repatriation by the Chinese authorities, may spread their faith to other defectors, and even among relatives back home in North Korea, where only limited forms of state-sponsored worship are tolerated.
Lee Soon Ja said she used to run a shelter on behalf of evangelist missionaries for fugitive young North Koreans who had been reduced to begging and picking pockets.
"There were five young people in my sarangbang, a shelter furnished for those people who were taken care of by me," Lee told RFA.
"The youngest of them was 17 years old and the oldest was 21. I served meals for them, preached the Bible to them, and we prayed together. I sent the younger ones to school, and I finally settled here in South Korea," Lee said.
Living on the edge
She said many had influenced the beliefs of their families back home, who became interested in religion as a result of the experiences of North Koreans in China.
"One day a boy told me that a person in the [North Korean] Intelligence Service asked for me to bring a Bible with a zipper to him. So he sent it to him," Lee added.
"He might have been one of the boy’s relatives who found out that the boy’s visit was of great economic assistance to a family who had been long starved, and this seemed to make him request a Bible with a zipper," she said.
Rights activists and international observers say that between 50,000 and 350,000 North Koreans are currently in hiding in China.
Beijing, which fears a flood of refugees across its borders, has allowed some defectors to leave for a third country ostensibly for medical reasons.
The number of religious believers in North Korea is unknown, but has been estimated at 10,000 Protestants, 10,000 Buddhists, and 4,000 Catholics by overseas observers.
Four evangelical Christians from the church “Growing in Grace” in San Juan Chamula municipality, 6.2 miles from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas state, were ambushed by a group of unknown armed men on January 31, leaving one believer in a serious condition.
Agustin Gomez, 21, Carlos Perez Gonzalez, 24, Andres Gomez Gomez, 15, and Santos Jiménez Perez, 13, from Nich’Te community, were driving home from San Juan Chamula after collecting water for their homes (they have no drinking or running water in their village) when unknown gunmen waiting on the road began shooting at them. The attackers then fled the scene.
Two brothers, Agustin Gomez and Carlos Perez, were hospitalized in San Cristobal. Carlos sustained five gunshot wounds to the chest and was treated for internal bleeding and shock. He remains in serious condition. Agustin was treated for gunshot wounds and then released.
A formal complaint has been submitted. The Indian District Attorney’s office has started an investigation to locate the suspects and charge them with aggravated assault and attempted murder.
Chiapas state is home to the worst cases of religious intolerance in the country. San Juan Chamula, nestled in the highlands of Chiapas, is the municipality with the most severe and long-term persecution of evangelical Indians, mostly from caciques, or powerful community chieftains. Caciques practice “traditionalist” religion, a semi-pagan mix of Roman Catholic beliefs and ancient Mayan religion.
Traditionalist caciques have proven especially vehement enemies of Christians because they see Protestant Christianity undercutting their control over local villagers. When villagers become Christians, they typically stop drinking posh, an alcoholic beverage produced by caciques and stop participating in pagan-like festivities, which results in a loss of income for caciques.
In the community of Galeana, La Independencia municipality, nine believers were jailed on January 20 for 24 hours for refusing to contribute money and time to the upcoming May 8 festivity. The Christians were released after the county’s mayor intervened and only after they had committed in writing to pay a fine, respect “the internal agreements” and contribute to “the social stability” of the community. The mayor also allowed the Presbyterian church, “Jesus, the Only Way,” to re-open recently following its forced closure by the same caciques.
In Huixtan, 65 Christians were ordered by local caciques to leave their homes in the Los Pozos area by January 6. The demand was issued because the believers refused to financially support the traditionalist Catholic festivities which they no longer participate in. Reynaldo Gomez Ton, pastor of Wings of Eagle Church, said, “They want to expel us because we are not willing to contribute to their festivities.”
The believers called for the immediate intervention of the state government and the Bureau of Religious Affairs to prevent their expulsion, and the government intervened in the case. On January 21, however, caciques forbid the evangelicals to go into the countryside to gather firewood for their homes. On January 30, several of these men arrived at the homes of the believers with picks and shovels and cut off the water supply to 10 evangelical families.
Christians are also being denied government benefits available for peasants through PROCAMPO (Program of Support to the Countryside). The program distributes fertilizers and herbicides to improve agricultural and livestock production.
Pastor Gomez Ton stated that Huixtan’s mayor, Javier Martinez Vargas, “has done nothing to prevent [the current threat] of expulsion.” Rather, he has said that “this act is a result of the habits and customs of the community of Los Pozos,” and that “[the caciques] should mind the religious freedom, the individual rights of the persons.”
Pastor Gomez Ton’s church has long been the target of attacks. Thirteen years ago, he and 10 other evangelicals, among them women and children, were jailed by caciques and their church building was destroyed. The church was destroyed again in 2003, and in 2005, two Christian women were raped by caciques.
The Indian pastor blamed former town councilor Delfino Mendez Ton for the abuses. Although an investigation was ordered by the District Office for Indian Justice, located in San Cristobal, “no investigation ever took place, and the case remained unpunished,” Pastor Gomez Ton said.
Open Doors has been supporting the legal defense of this case through the council of attorney and pastor Esdras Alonso, in an effort to put pressure on the authorities to exercise justice and religious tolerance. Even though the District Attorney’s office in the highlands of Chiapas has been formally presented with a complaint denouncing the aggression, it has not acted on behalf of the law, which grants religious freedom in the community and punishes the perpetrators of injustice.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
UPDATE - Islamic Extremists Sentenced in Killing Christian School Girls – Associated Press
On March 21, 2007, three Islamic militants were found guilty of decapitating three Christian school girls and dumping their bloodied heads in nearby villages. According to Associated Press reports published in Indonesia, the Islamic militants were sentenced to between 14 and 20 years for the killings of Theresia Morangke and Yarni Sambue, both 15, and 17-year-old Alfita Poliwo. Hasanuddin was sentenced to 20 years for masterminding the 2005 attack, while his co-conspirators, Lilik Purnomo and Irwanto Irano, each received 14 years. A fourth girl in the attack, Noviana Malewa, then 15, received serious injuries to her face and neck, but survived. After the attack, Noviana suffered damaged nerves, a dislocated lower jaw and loosened teeth. VOMedical provided reconstructive surgery to repair nerve damage and reduce scarring. Pray God continues to heal Noviana's emotional and mental scars. Pray for Christians in Indonesia who face great persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Psalm 108:4, John 16: 33
Pastor Released from Prison, Wife Arrested – VOM Sources/ China Aid Association
On March 16, 2007 Pastor Don Quanyu was released from prison after serving ten days of administrative detention in the Wancheng Detention Center in Nanyang, Henan. Dong was arrested with 36 other Christian leaders but was the only one sentenced in connection with the "illegal gathering". Three days after Dong's release his wife, Li Huage, was arrested and sentenced to 10 days detention for allegedly "disturbing public order." Li was arrested at the office of the Wancheng District Public Security Bureau as she was seeking the return of her cell phone, computer and Bibles which were confiscated during a raid of her home. Pray for the safety of this family and for God to comfort them during this trying time. Ask God to protect Christians in China who face great persecution. Psalms 5: 11-12
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
“They [the extremists] severely beat the men with sticks, axes and other weapons. The extremists are still holding Brother Vijay, the motorbike and their cell phones,” reported The Voice of the Martyrs contacts working in India.
The Hindu extremists are demanding Pastor Selvan bring the senior pastor of the church to them or “face serious consequences.” Pray for the safety of Vijay and for Christians in India who continue to face difficult and dangerous situations because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
Friday, March 23, 2007
UZBEKISTAN: PASTOR'S RE-EDUCATION "IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT ISOLATION FROM SOCIETY"
Protestant pastor Dmitry Shestakov has appealed against the four-year sentence in one of Uzbekistan's open work camps imposed by for hisreligious activity, Protestant sources have told Forum 18 News Service. The verdict stated that Pastor Shestakov had to be deprived of his freedom" given the absence of the possibility of re-educating him without isolation from society." No date has yet been set for an appeal hearing and Shestakov remains in Prison No. 1 in Andijan until the hearing. He has been banned from kneeling to pray and had his copy of the New Testament confiscated. He has been offered the Koran to read instead, Forum 18 has learnt. Although the state Religious Affairs Committee has frequently in state-run mass media attacked Pastor Shestakov and Protestants generally, Begzot Kadyrovof the Committee claimed to Forum 18 that "I have no information about the case." The verdict also claims it is "necessary" for 12 videotapes, seven CDs, two audiotapes and one copy of an Uzbek-language translation of a book "Jesus: More than a Prophet" to be destroyed. Two Protestants continue to await trial in north-west Uzbekistan.
In the last issue of Frontline Faith, we reported on the fragile peace currently in place in Southern Sudan. And the need to move quickly to complete the multi-purpose Emmanuel Christian Training Center (ECTC) while this peace is still in place.
Just days after our report, a devastating fire swept through the Center, making your prayers and support for the ECTC more urgent than ever. Fortunately no one was injured and the new construction work was spared.
One of the reasons why the ECTC is so vital is the impact it is having on unifying Christians across Southern Sudan.
Pastors being trained by Open Doors have expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to be brought together. While the pastors are from various tribes…and even different denominations…the training they have received has resulted in barriers being broken down, misunderstandings being resolved, and a realization of their oneness in the Body of Christ.
The end result has been a commitment to serve together…for the sake of the Gospel…rather than being divided!
One of the challenges these pastors now face is the growing threat from radical Islam. These courageous pastors fear people will be persuaded to become Muslims because the Islamic leaders promise to provide free schooling and free healthcare…under the condition that those who utilize these services become Muslims.
So please pray for these brave pastors. Pray for them to stand strong in unity regardless of tribal or denominational affiliation. And pray that they may stand boldly in the power of Christ against the ongoing threats from radical Islam.
And thank you for your support of the completion of the Emmanuel Christian Training Center. Because of your prayers and gifts, leaders of the persecuted Church will be trained…and there will be a powerful witness throughout Southern Sudan for the Gospel!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Pastors Brutally Beaten - VOM Sources
RAJASTHAN - On March 7, 2007, Pastor Reginald Howell of Good Shepherd Community Church was brutally beaten by a Hindu extremist group in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. According to The Voice of the Martyrs sources, Pastor Howell went to Hanumangarh to pray for the sick and visit Christians in the area. The pastor was beaten with an iron rod and suffered severe injuries on his back. The police refused to register his complaint and as a result, doctors denied him treatment. Rajasthan State has a so-called "Freedom of Religion Bill," that is used as a tool to harass Christians. VOM sources report cases of anti-Christian attacks in the area keep increasing, and the State Administration turns a blind eye to the persecution.
ANDRA PRADESH - On March 11, 2007, Pastor Anand visited a village to attend services. He was attacked by more than 10 men from a Hindu radical group. Local police who arrived at the location of the attack did not protect him, resulting in further beatings. Pastor Anand was beaten on his face and legs with wooden logs until the early hours of the next morning.
Pray for healing for these pastors and that the Gospel of Christ will not be hindered, but it will spread in the midst of this persecution. Romans 12: 14, 21
Indonesian Christians Attacked; Church Closed - VOM Sources
On February 11, 2007, a Moslem mob stormed Indonesia Bethel Church, in Majalaya, disrupting the service and beating church members. More than 50 Islamic extremists raided the church building and ordered the congregation to leave. Church members were threatened, beaten, and asked to show their identity cards. During the raid, a cell phone belonging to a church member, offerings, an important building permit and pictures of Jesus Christ were stolen. The militants insulted believers and said Indonesia was a Muslim nation. Hours after the attack at Indonesia Bethel Church, the same Islamic extremists marched to Baranangsiang and closed a church there.
Pray believers in Indonesia will rest in the knowledge that God walks with them through this difficult time. Ask Him to heal all who were injured. Psalm 23
Thirty-Six Christians Arrested in Henan, China - VOM Sources/China Aid Association
On March 6, 2007, the police raided a house-church Bible study in Wancheng District, Nanyang City, Henan province. The leaders were taken to the police station and interrogated for a day. After international pressure, however, the local police have released 33 arrested house-church leaders and three leaders from South Korea. One leader, Pastor Dong Quanyu, was sentenced to 10 days administrative detention for "illegal" gathering.
Pray Christians in China demonstrate the love of God through constant love and prayer for those who persecuted them. Pray for strength for Pastor Quanyu, as he serves the remainder of his sentence. Matthew 5: 43-48