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)