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.