Friday, December 28, 2007

Open Doors: Turkey

There may be governmental involvement in the murders of three Christians in Malatya:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Open Doors: Priest Beaten in Turkey

Muslim Youth Attacks Priest in Turkey

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

Please pray:
  • 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)
Praying with you,
Christina and the Prayer Force Team

Monday, December 17, 2007

WEA RLC: Belarus

Date: Monday 17 December 2007
Subj: Belarus: Christian youth leader beaten.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Malady Front (Youth Front <> (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 <> 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.

Elizabeth Kendal

Friday, December 14, 2007

WEA-RLC: Prayer bulletin - China

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin No. 458
Wed 12 Dec 2007
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'.


* 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)

Forum 18: Azerbaijan - "If you meet again, you'll be imprisoned"

10 December 2007

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

Open Doors: Prayer needed for Muslim-background believers in Nigeria

Few Christians in the West consider the country of Nigeria a Muslim nation. Yet half of its citizens are Islamic… and there is a growing minority of radical Muslims who are violently targeting Christians in this African nation.

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!

Open Doors: Mexican Believers Suffering Persecution

Believers in Santa Rita, Chiapas state, Mexico, have suffered increased persecution in recent months from caciques—powerful local leaders who are traditionalist Catholics—who oppose their Christian faith.

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

Forum 18: Tajikistan - Draft of New Religion Law Unnecessary

27 November 2007 (received December 1, 2007)

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."

Open Doors: 2 Pastors Beaten in India

Two Pastors in India Stripped, Beaten – Then Arrested
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