Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is Iran disconnecting from the Internet?

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) posted a story today noting that Iran is taking steps to “disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world.”

Observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country see the move as the Iranian leadership’s attempt to “end the fight for control of the Internet.” The government is promoting its national Internet “as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes.”

Why the move? WSJ says it appears to be “part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence.”

A state-run news service recently reported Iran’s head of economic affairs, Ali Aghamohammadi, as saying Iran’s national Internet will be “a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level.”

What does this mean? The national Internet will be compliant with Islamic law. And likely not very friendly toward Christians living in the country.

Aghamohammadi also said that eventually the national network could replace the global Internet in Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries.

Definitely not a good thing for Christians.

Please pray for the leaders in Iran as they contemplate a move toward a national network. Pray their eyes and hearts would be opened and that they will turn toward Jesus Christ. Pray, too, for Iranian Christians, that they would not be fearful but know that God is in control.

You can read the full article here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Evicted Christians to return to Chiapas community

Pray for believers in Chiapas, Mexico,
as they attempt to integrate back into
community life.
Thirty-two Christians in Chiapas, Mexico, say they are ready to return to the community where their neighbours torched their homes and stole their livestock, reported VOM sources.

The group fled the area in January 2010 after being forcibly evicted by a mob of 200. The Christians had been worshiping in a believer's home for almost a year because the same mob had destroyed their church. Members of the community were unhappy that the Christians would not contribute to or participate in religious drinking festivals held in their town.

The Christians filed a court case requesting compensation for their burned homes, but they have seen no progress since the government loaned them the use of a large home in another city. The 32 believers have decided they will return to their community on June 15, with or without government help.

“It is time to go home,” they say, “and win the others to Christ, whatever the cost.”

Pray for these Christians and others who have been run out of their communities because of their Christian faith.

Algerian Christian given 5-year prison sentence for blasphemy

Siagh Krimo and family
On May 7, we shared that two Algerian Christians were scheduled to appear in court on charges of proselytizing and blasphemy. On May 25, one of those men was sentenced to five years imprisonment, reported International Christian Concern.

The verdict came days after authorities forced the permanent closure of seven Protestant churches in Algeria’s Bejaia province.

Siagh Krimo was charged by the Criminal Court of the Djamel District in Oran, who based their decision on Article 144 bis 2 of the Penal Code which criminalizes acts that “insult the prophet and any of the messengers of God, or denigrate the creed and precepts of Islam, whether by writing, drawing, declaration, or any other means.”

Krimo has 10 days to appeal the sentence.

Krimo, who is married with a 9-month-old child, was arrested on April 14, along Sofiane, after sharing his Christian faith with a neighbour. Sofiane was released soon after the arrest, while Krimo was detained for three days. Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home, which Algerian Christians suspect were being closely monitored by the police.

Krimo was sentenced in spite of the prosecutor’s inability to produce the neighbour who accused Krimo of proselytizing and making defamatory statements against Mohammad.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Algerian Christians have been under attack in recent weeks as laws have been increasingly enforced to discriminate against them. Earlier this week, seven churches in Bejaia were ordered to close. Now, an Algerian Christian is on the verge of being unjustly imprisoned for accusations of criticizing Islam. While Algeria professes that it upholds religious freedom, it also embraces a blasphemy law that, by its very nature, can be used to prosecute anyone who does not adhere to the religion of Islam. We urge Algeria to acquit Siagh of all charges and repeal Article 144 bis 2 of the Penal Code.”

What You Can Do
  1. Pray for Siagh Krimo. Pray he would remain strong in Jesus while he faces time behind bars. Pray he will be a witness to those around him in prison. Pray for Algerian authorities.
  2. Write to the Algerian embassy in Canada to express your concern.
His Excellency Smail Benamara
Embassy of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 6N2

Some fear Sudan land dispute could trigger war

Many fear a civil war could reignite between north and south Sudan following the north's recent invasion of a disputed territory, reported Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on Friday.

Southern Sudan is set to become an independent state on July 9, but both the north and south want the city of Abyei within their boundaries.

Leaders in the Christian south believe the Muslim north is planning a “full scale war” in the region. Northern government troops are currently occupying Abyei, blockading border crossing points into the city.

County Commissioner Dominic Deng said at least 80,000 people have fled Abyei since the invasion last weekend.

U.N. Officials now worry there is not enough food and supplies for Sudanese families leaving for nearby areas.

Continue to pray for our Sudanese brothers and sisters living in Abyei and the surrounding area. Pray for their protection and well-being.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Officials raid churches, question Christians in Azerbaijan

Several Christians were targeted by authorities in town of Sumgait, Azerbaijan, in recent weeks, reported Forum 18 News.

On May 15, police raided the Sunday morning service of Praise Church, taking place at a local restaurant. The officials wrote down the names of all believers present and took them to the police station.

Three days later, two church members were each fined about two weeks' average local wages. That same day, police went to the home of another local pastor and questioned him about his Christian activity.

On May 17, approximately 20 police and officials of the State Committee raided the private home of a South Korean citizen, where members of another church had gathered.

Some 60 Bibles and other Christian books were confiscated and those present were taken to the police station, where they were questioned and forced to write statements. At last report, the books had not been returned.

You can help by praying!

Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of the believers and their desire to worship Him amid opposition. Pray for continued strength for Christians facing charges and harassment from authorities in Azerbaijan. Pray especially for wisdom for church leaders when dealing with opposition. Pray the Lord will continue to spread the gospel in this nation.

Colombian Christians facing increased and intense violence

Pray for Colombian believers
as violence intensifies.
Colombian Christians are on high alert as intense and deadly violence continues in the country, report VOM sources. On May 12, a bomb exploded in Puerto Lleras, killing several policemen and injuring bystanders.

For several months, members of Colombia's main Marxist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), have been openly killing individuals in town streets and burning buses throughout the region.

FARC guerillas have also been conducting an internal purge, reportedly killing many of their own men and accusing them of being traitors to the Communist cause. It is suspected that many of those killed were secret Christians.

“In all our years in Colombia, we have never seen it this unstable,” said a VOM contact. “Yet we believe that this is also the most opportune time that we have ever seen for the gospel.”

You can help by praying!
Pray for those working to supply Bibles to Colombian believers in this region, as the need is reportedly very great. Pray the various other ministry efforts of Christian workers in Colombia will be effective. Ask God to guide and sustain new believers as they serve Him in a climate of intense and ongoing violence. Pray those who persecute Christians in Colombia will repent and embrace Christ as Lord.
Want to know more about persecution in Colombia? Check out the newest edition to the Restricted Nation series, Restricted Nations: Colombia. Click here to order yours today for $7.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Seven Algerian churches ordered to close

You can find out more about the persecuted Church in Algeria along with further information on the ordinance from 2006 in our June newsletter. Subscribe here.

On May 22, the Governor of Bejaia informed the President of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) that the seven churches in that province must close down because they do not comply with an ordinance from 2006, reported Middle East Concern.
The ordinance regulates the exercise of religions other than Islam.

The EPA churches cannot currently comply with these regulations because the Ministries of Interior and Religious Affairs have delayed responding to the EPA's application for registration. Without legal registration, the EPA cannot apply to register their churches as places of worship.

You can help by praying!

Please pray the order to close down the churches will be withdrawn and that this practice will not spread to other parts of the country. Pray the 2006 law will be repealed or the necessary procedures implemented to allow the EPA to register. Pray, too, that all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him.

All Pakistan Minorities Alliance vows to carry forward Shahbaz Bhatti’s mission

Shahbaz Bhatti
A group of mainly Christian leaders gathered earlier this week in Lahore, Pakistan, to honour the life of Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minorities who was gunned down on March 2 by Islamist assassins, reported ASSIST News.

Bhatti made a life’s work of campaigning for tolerance in Pakistan, which is 95 percent Muslim, and most recently became a lonely voice, with a handful of others, in a campaign to reform the harsh blasphemy law.

Organized by The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), the gathering was attended by church leaders and representatives of all recognized churches in Pakistan, parliamentarians, politicians, APMA leadership and APMA workers from across the country.

Group Captain (Retd.) Cecil Chaudhry, Executive Secretary General of the APMA, highlighted the life and works of Bhatti, including his numerous achievements prior to becoming the Federal Minister for Minorities which included the formation of APMA.

He emphasized Bhatti’s struggle to make Pakistan a “non-discriminative State” as envisioned by the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, where, he said “every citizen would enjoy equal rights and complete freedom of religion.”

Going forward, the APMA will “continue to strive to realize Shahbaz Bhattti’s dream,” which was the repeal of all discriminatory laws, the blasphemy laws in particular, and to make Pakistan a non-discriminative state where every citizen would have equal rights, religious freedom and equal opportunities in a free society.

Dr. Paul Bhatti, brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, returned to Pakistan from Italy following his brother’s death and was subsequently appointed chairman of the APMA. He was also appointed advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Minority Affairs, with the status of a federal minister.

Dr. Bhatti vowed to “strive to accomplish the cause and mission” of his late brother and to lead APMA with Shahbaz Bhatti’s vision and ideology.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Christian woman in Darfur, Sudan arrested for evangelizing

Northern Christians are becoming more vulnerable to official and societal pressure as South Sudan prepares to split from the predominantly Muslim north on July 9. Please continue to pray for our Sudanese brothers and sisters!

Compass Direct News is reporting that Sudanese National Security Intelligence and Security Service agents arrested a Christian woman in a Darfur camp for displaced people, accusing her of converting Muslims to Christianity.

At the same time, in Khartoum, a Christian mother of a 2-month-old baby is wounded and destitute because she and her husband left Islam for Christianity.

In Darfur Region in northwestern Sudan, Hawa Abdalla Muhammad Saleh was arrested on May 9 in the Abu Shouk camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Al-Fashir, capital of North Darfur state, sources said.

Abdalla has yet to be officially charged, but authorities have accused her of possessing and distributing Bibles to others in the camp, including children. Sources said she could also be tried for apostasy, which carries the death sentence in Sudan.

Abdalla has been transferred to an unknown location in Khartoum, sources said, adding that they fear she could be tortured as she was detained and tortured for six days in 2009. Intelligence agents, they said, have been monitoring her movements for some time.

In Khartoum, a Christian couple with a newborn said they have come under attack for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Omar Hassan and Amouna Ahamdi, both 27, said they fled Nyala, 120 kilometers southwest of El-Fashir, for Khartoum in June 2010. Knife-wielding, masked assailants attacked the couple on May 4 after relatives learned that they had converted from Islam to Christianity.

The wife was injured while trying to protect her husband during the attack.

You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Prayer requests for Egypt

Last week, Middle East Concern requested prayer following violent clashes between Christians and Salafi Muslims in Imbaba, Egypt.

Twelve people were killed (Christians and Muslims), many injured and arrested, and two church buildings and numerous Christian homes were damaged by theft, looting and arson.

In response, the government reaffirmed its determination to tackle sectarian violence.

There are two developments requiring continued prayer.

First, the Supreme State Security Prosecution has started legal proceedings against 23 Salafi Muslims allegedly involved in the Imbaba incident. The charges used include terrorism, premeditated murder, vandalism of public and private property, and intimidating citizens.

Second, the government has announced it is considering re-opening a number of church buildings that were closed under President Mubarak. Sixteen have already been approved for re-opening, of which at least three have already been opened. More re-openings are expected this week provided the authorities are satisfied that adequate security measures are in place.

Fear of sectarian incidents was one factor in the original decisions to close the buildings.

Regrettably, one re-opening was marred by a sectarian clash on May 19. As a group of Christians approached the Church of the Virgin in Ain Shams, Cairo, a crowd of Muslims, including Salafis, tried to block their way. The two groups threw stones at each other. Police quickly restored order and made some arrests. The Christians then approached the church via a back route. No injuries were reported.

Egyptian Christians request our continued prayers.
  • Pray authorities will fulfil their commitment to bring all perpetrators of sectarian violence to justice
  • Pray the re-opened church buildings will be well used
  • Pray further re-openings will happen peacefully
  • Pray security measures will prove adequate
  • Pray the bereaved will know the comfort of Jesus
  • Pray the wounded and traumatized will know the healing touch of Jesus
  • Pray church leaders will know the Spirit's enabling as they pastor their congregations and deal with community leaders
  • Pray the Good News of Jesus will be made available to all that seek it

Churches under restraint in China

New regulations further restrict house churches in China.
The Chinese government enacted new regulations this past week in a further attempt to control its growing Christian population, reported VOM contacts.

The pastors of some of China’s house churches face new reporting regulations, according to VOM workers. The pastors must provide police with weekly reports detailing their whereabouts and how many people attend their church meetings. If pastors leave their city, they must report their travel plans, and they are restricted to short trips. If the pastors fail to report and police are unable to contact them, they are arrested.

VOM workers say these regulations primarily target large house churches that organize under a specific name, advertise and meet publicly.

In early 2011, the Chinese government announced its goal of bringing House Church Movement (HCM) churches within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) organization.

“Since the government knows that this goal is physically impossible to achieve—the TSPM only has enough pew space every Sunday for about 20 percent of the Christians in China—we can only assume that the government’s meaning is that they will start to force the HCM churches under government authority in some manner so that [house churches] can be totally controlled by the government,” said a VOM worker.

Though only the state-sanctioned TSPM churches are officially recognized by the government, Chinese Christians say three types of churches now exist in China: TSPM churches, registered churches and HCM churches.

The term “registered” refers to a new policy enacted about three years ago by the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB). The RAB told house churches they could obtain registration if their pastors completed a degree from a TSPM seminary. These registered HCM churches would also be required to report all of their activities to the government, essentially coming under government control. A VOM worker said he isn’t aware of any house churches that have registered.

Friday, May 20, 2011

11 Iranian Christians walk free from court!

11 Iranian Christians are
free today!
At the end of April, we told you that 11 members of an evangelical denomination in Iran were to stand trial for “activities against the order.” The charges referred to their involvement in a house-church meeting and to taking communion wine.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has learned that these 11 individuals have been acquitted by the court and released. Praise the Lord!

Following their arrests in April, the 11 individuals were brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Bandar-Anzali on May 1 for a rushed hearing where their lawyer, Mr. Seyyed Mohammed-Ali Dadkhah, hastily drafted a statement in their defence.

In a written verdict issued in mid-May, the court ruled that since the 11 claimed to be conducting a Christian ceremony, their activities were covered by Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, which allows Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians to “perform their religious rites and ceremonies, and to act according to their own canon in matters of personal affairs and religious education.”

The judge added that the case involved a religious ceremony, thus there was no evidence to sustain the charge that they had been acting against the national security or the order of the country. The local authorities have 20 days in which to appeal the acquittal.

Please continue to pray for believers who remain imprisoned in Iran, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is awaiting a date for his appeal against a death sentence for apostasy, and house-church pastor Vahik Abrahamian, who remains behind bars in Hamadan despite the release of his three co-accused, including his wife.

Released Chinese Christian in ill health

Yang Caizhen
We just learned that Yang Caizhen, a Chinese Christian detained along with her husband and four other believers in November 2009, has been released. Praise the Lord!

In September 2009, Yang Caizhen and four other members of the Fushan church in Linfen, Shanxi province, were sentenced to two to several years of criminal detention for organizing a prayer rally. She has been ill and in the hospital several times since her arrest and was reportedly released in February due to her poor health. At last report, she was still in a very fragile state.

Praise God for Yang Caizhen's release! Ask Him to give healing to her as she recovers. Pray also for her husband, Yang Xuan, and Pastor Wang Xiaoguang, Yang Rongli and Zhang Huamei, who were arrested at the same time as Yang Caizhen and remain in prison.

The July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter will feature an update on Yang Caizhen and other believers taking a bold stand for Christ. Subscribe to this free resource online today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blasphemy laws threaten North African Christians

Amid the political shifts in the North African countries of Egypt and Sudan, the laws against defaming Islam continue to threaten Christians in the countries, reported Compass Direct News.

Article 98(f) of Egyptian law, known to attorneys as the "contempt of religion" charge, is not officially an anti-blasphemy law. It is meant to discourage people from offending others' religious sensitivities. In reality, however, it is reportedly used to stifle free speech and punish and intimidate those who do not subscribe to the standard, orthodox version of Sunni Islam practiced by most in Egypt.

Violating this statute is known as having "defamed a heavenly religion." Others have been charged under the statute with "insulting Islam." By comparison, no convert from Christianity to Islam has ever been charged with Article 98(f) for defiling Christianity.

In Sudan, where the non-Islamic south is set to split from the Islamic north on July 9, as the result of the referendum earlier this year, Christians in the north remain vulnerable to baseless accusations of defaming Islam. Apostasy (leaving Islam) is punishable by death.

Violation of Section 125 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, which prohibits "insulting religion, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs," is punishable by imprisonment of one year, a fine and 40 lashes.

While convictions are reportedly rare, Christian converts from Islam continue to be victims of Sudan's blasphemy law.

Pray the Lord will equip faithful leaders who are willing to speak up for human rights and religious freedom in Egypt and Sudan. Ask the Lord to strengthen and protect His often-embattled Church in these countries. Pray that Christ's Body throughout North Africa will continue to be a bold testimony of His love and grace.

Syrian Christians fear the worst

Uncertainty for Syrian Christians
may come with a regime change.
VOM’s Greg Musselman recently spoke with Mission Network News about the unrest in Syria.

Take a moment to read the MNN article:

Syrian Christians fear the worst

Syria (MNN) ― The unrest continues in Syria, and it appears government leaders are intensifying a crackdown on anti-government protesters. According to reports, they're focusing on demonstrators in Damascus and its suburbs.

Syria’s minority Christians are watching the protests sweeping their country with trepidation, fearing their religious freedom could be threatened if President Bashar Assad’s secular rule is overthrown.

Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada agrees, saying Christians aren't sure they want change. They know they won't be getting a Christian president, “but at least there is some measure of religious freedom. If this government, as we know it, comes down now, it’s unknown, and it'll likely be something worse than what they have now.”

Musselman says Sunni Muslims form the majority in Syria. “With the more militant, radical elements of Islam, [they] will try to enforce Shariah law, and that will cause problems for Christians—similar to what happened in other parts of the Middle East.”

More than half of the Christian population in Iraq was killed or forced to leave Iraq as that nation formed a new pro-Muslim government.

According to Musselman, the infighting in Syria between Islamic groups may also affect Christians. “The Christian community then becomes a sitting duck in a lot of ways.”

While the violence continues, Musselman is asking Christians to pray that God would give wisdom to believers in Syria. “You don't want to just be hiding and cowering in fear. You still need to be proclaiming the gospel.”

In the meantime, VOM needs your support to continue meeting the needs of Christians in areas where religious freedom remains questionable.

Government media goal to discredit Christians in Iran

Christian numbers are increasing in
Iran despite opposition!
Is Iran a true supporter of freedom of speech and belief?

In recent months, high-ranking religious leaders and experts have launched harsh and confrontational campaigns against Christianity and other non-Islamic beliefs inside Iran, reported Mohabat News. Government media outlets such as newspapers, websites and news agencies have been reflecting these attacks.

Reports from inside Iran indicate that more than ever before people, especially the younger generation, are turning to Christianity as the faith of choice. This is happening despite extensive sums allocated and spent on creating and managing the government propaganda machine that pumps out Islamic ideology.

Government-friendly media have made concerted efforts to publish articles and news items that could be perceived as destructive to Christianity. The goal is to discredit Christianity and further antagonize security and judicial authorities to take harsher measures against evangelical Christians in Iran. Mohabat News says this is evidenced by the increased repressive and confrontational measures that have resulted in home invasions and arrests of dozens of Christians across Iran.

Contrary to its claims and propaganda, the Iranian government has proven that it bears no flexibility toward other beliefs and faiths unless they are aligned with the government’s agenda and ideology. Any and all anti-Islamic views are crushed in the harshest manner possible.

Despite this, the number of Iranian Christians is increasing. Praise the Lord!

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran today. Pray for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. Pray they keep their eyes focused on Jesus and not on their circumstances. Pray, also, for Iranian leaders, that their eyes may be truly opened to the light and love and truth of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

China unlikely to ease crackdown on Shouwang Church

Shouwang Church members were
forced to meet outside in 2009.
Photo ChinaAid
Todd Nettleton with our sister mission VOM USA recently spoke with Mission Network News about the escalating persecution toward a house church in Beijing that has been attracting international attention.

The Shouwang Church in Beijing has been in a battle of rights with China for years, but the struggle has only just come into focus for most. The 1,000-member church was ousted from its building when their landlord was pressured by officials to evict them. For the past six weeks, Shouwang members have been meeting publically outside.

During the first week of meeting, over 160 members were arrested under the auspices of disturbing the peace. Most arrested were released within a few hours, but the church leaders have been on house arrest since.

Each subsequent outdoor Sunday worship service has resulted in dozens more arrests.

While international news investigations have brought to light the issue across the globe, Nettleton says China will likely not be swayed.

"In spite of all of the publicity, in spite of the international outcry, the Chinese government has continued to hold a very firm line: ‘We will not allow this church to meet because they are not registered with the Chinese religious officials,'" explains Nettleton.

Shouwang did attempt to register with China's official Three-Self Patriotic Church, willing to be a recognized church within certain parameters. The church was denied registration—a common happenstance Nettleton says for churches who don't wish to place communism before Christ.

The best-case scenario for Shouwang is that the government would grant registration for the church and allow services to go unhindered. The worst-case scenario is filled with uncertainty.

"The worst-case scenario is that we see this continued string of arrests—more and more people arrested, detained, held maybe on administrated detention for 15 days, maybe some will be locked up away for longer periods of time," says Nettleton. "Really, the worst-case scenario is that it just goes on and on indefinitely, without the church getting the rights that they're promised—without any kind of an end in sight."

Pray that this would not be the case.

Amid turmoil, ongoing persecution and blatant obstructions of religious freedom, the church in China continues to grow. Pray that the Lord would use even this scenario to bring more to His Kingdom.

Who decides what religious education your child receives: Parents or the government?

The Supreme Court of Canada
Philippe Landreville, Photographer
Supreme Court of Canada Collection
Today, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will present a verbal argument in the Supreme Court of Canada in regard to the Quebec case dealing with parents’ rights to determine the religious and moral education of their children.

S.L. v. Commission scolaire des Chênes (hereafter, the "Drummondville" case) addresses the issue of whether parents have the right to choose the kind of education their children will receive, particularly in regard to religious instruction.

The case will cut to the core of what freedom of religion and conscience and parental authority mean in Canada.

At issue is the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program, a mandatory course which must be taught to all Québécois children. The course has as its objective the instruction of children in a manner that will promote “the development of attitudes of tolerance, respect and openness,” thus “preparing them to live in a pluralist and democratic society.”

Essentially, the course teaches children that all religions are the same. EFC is taking a stand for all parents in Canada to determine for themselves the religious education of their children.

Please take a moment to pray for Don Hutchison, EFC’s Vice President and General Legal Counsel Director, as he presents the case today. Pray for wisdom, guidance and peace. Pray, too, for those on the Supreme Court.

You can read the full court case here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Muslim extremists burn church building, homes in Nigeria

Muslim extremists gutted building of 85-member
church in Dengi, in Nigeria’s Plateau state.
(Photo Compass Direct)
Christians from a local Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) congregation in Dengi, Plateau state, have been displaced after Muslim extremists set their church building and some homes on fire last month, reported Compass Direct News.

The Rev. Ishaku Danyok of the church told Compass that the April 29 incident occurred after Muslims approached Christian music shop owner Gabriel Kiwase and told him that his music was disturbing them as they said their prayers.

The young Christian man switched off the music. The Muslims left, only to return about 20 minutes later to burn down the music shop and then burn down houses belonging to some Christians in the town.

The pastor of the church of 85 members told Compass that their building, his own home and the property of five other Christians in the town were damaged in the hour-long attack.

As a result of the destruction, most members of his church have fled the town.

Dengi town is predominantly Muslim, with Christians making up less than 10 percent of its population.

According to Christian leaders in the town, the assault on Christians was premeditated and well-planned.

Danyok said he believes that God has allowed such attacks on Christians in the town for a purpose that will glorify Him. “We believe that God wants to strengthen us through these incidents,” he said.

You can read the full story here.

Please pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pakistan renames "Department of Religious Minorities"

Shahbaz Bhatti was killed
in March. His brother Paul
was recently named to the
Federal Ministry for Inter-
faith Harmony and Minorities
in Pakistan.
The Department of Religious Minorities in Pakistan has been renamed “Federal Ministry for Interfaith Harmony and Minorities,” reported Agenzia Fides.

Paul Bhatti, brother of the slain minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was named “Special Advisor to the Prime Minister,” and lawyer Akram Masih Gill was named “Minister of the State” (a sort of “Deputy Minister”).

Riaz Hussein Pirzada, a Muslim and member of the Muslim League-Q, was unexpectedly appointed a few days ago at the summit of the Ministry and has now assumed office as “Minister of Health.” His appointment did not find consensus among the religious minorities in Pakistan, and discontent on behalf of the international community reached the Pakistani government.

Pirzada publically said that he was “not entirely satisfied” with the assignment given to him and would like another one.

Sources told Fides that the Christian community in Pakistan hopes this move is the final structure of the Ministry. Adding reference to “interfaith harmony” strengthens the work begun by Shabhaz Bhatti who had obtained a promise of funding from the U.S. government to promote interfaith harmony in Pakistan.

Syrian Christians increasingly vulnerable amid power struggle

Fears for the safety of Syria's Christian population have been on the rise amid the "Arab Spring"—the pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa since March, reported the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission.

The Syrian regime is allied to Shia Iran and Hezbollah. However, the nation's population is 90 percent Sunni Arab, adding to fears that intense sectarian conflict similar to that in Iraq could arise in the country. (The two predominant sects of Islam are Sunni and Shia. A majority of Muslims is Sunni with the smaller percentage of Shia Muslims living in Iran and Iraq.)

If such a struggle ensues, Syria's 1.4 million Christians (6.3 percent of the population) could be in the same vulnerable, threatened position as Iraq's now almost annihilated Christian community, especially if the current regime under President Bashar al-Assad loses control. (In fact, Syria hosts hundreds of thousands of Assyrian and Chaldean Christian refugees from Iraq.)

Consequently, Syrian Christians are maintaining a very low-key approach both politically and religiously. They kept their observance of Easter very quiet this year, cancelling traditional public processions and celebrations. The on-going riots have not been sectarian yet, being rooted in grievances that are social (repression and inequality) and economic (unemployment plus massive fuel and food price hikes).

Ask God to embolden, comfort and encourage all Syria's Christians with His presence. Pray followers of Christ in Syria will be a strong witness to their family, friends, neighbours and their oppressors, seeing the current unrest as an opportunity to evangelize.

Friday, May 13, 2011

April was a cruel month in Uzbekistan

April saw an upsurge in raids, literature confiscations and heavy fines—as well as court-ordered literature destruction—to punish Protestants in Uzbekistan's capital of Tashkent, reported Forum 18 News Service.

In the wake of an April 5 raid on his home, Protestant Anvar Rajapov was heavily fined for alleged proselytism, illegal religious meetings and illegal literature. The judge ordered that the vast majority of the religious literature confiscated from him be destroyed.

Protestants who know Rajapov, who wished to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 on May 12 that "the whole case is fabricated." They said that the authorities did not reveal any religious meetings in Rajapov's home during an earlier raid but "only authorized religious literature.” They added that Rajapov does not conduct religious meetings or teach religion in his home.

"There is no evidence" for the charges brought against Rajapov, and the court "did not prove any of it,” they told Forum 18.

A registered Baptist church in Tashkent—twice raided in early April—had four members given massive fines. In late April the church itself was massively fined after tax authorities alleged it failed to use a cash register to record sales and donations. Officials told Forum 18 that one church member, Konstantin Malchikovsky, now faces criminal prosecution with a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.

Uzbekistan's authorities keep all religious communities under very tight control and surveillance. In defiance of the country's international human rights obligations all unregistered religious activity is illegal. All religious literature is subject to compulsory prior state censorship.

You can read the full Forum 18 story here. Please pray for religious freedoms in Uzbekistan!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Still no justice for Christian victims of 2008 Orissa violence

One of many churches destroyed during
the 2008 Orissa attacks.
Almost three years after radical Hindus brutally attacked Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa state, trials are marred by all sorts of irregularities, reported AsiaNews.

Out of 3,232 criminal cases filed, only 828 complaints were actually converted into First Information Reports. Of these, only 327 went before a judge ending in 167 acquittals and 86 convictions on minor charges. Another 90 cases are still pending.

According to official figures, 1,597 suspects have been acquitted, a number that does not include the thousands who could not be arrested and tried.

On August 24, 2008, radical Hindus began attacking Christians, one day after the assassination of the World Hindu Council leader, despite a Maoist group’s claims of responsibility.

Half of Orissa’s 30 districts were involved. Six thousand houses were burnt in 400 villages. About 296 churches were also torched. Over 56,000 people were displaced, with about 30,000 living from three months to a year in government-refugee camps. Over 20,000 men, women and children have spent days hiding in forests. Over 10,000 are yet to return home. Many have been warned or threatened by their neighbours that they can return home only if they become Hindus.

AsiaNews reported that Christian victims are subject to abuses even after complaints reach the courts. Victims’ lawyers have no role in court other than feebly protesting from time to time to the judges. Threats are openly proffered in the courtroom against relatives of the dead and eyewitness. Video footage and photos by taken mobile phones have not been examined either during the investigation phase or during the trial itself. Neither the Directorate of Prosecutions nor the police have tried to pursue or upgrade certain cases.

The government of Orissa has acknowledged and admitted to 52 deaths in Kandhamal during the violence of 2007 and 2008, including 38 Christians.

Christian sources reported 91 people died during the pogrom, 38 died where they were attacked, 41 succumbed to their injuries, and 12 died in police action. These numbers do not include the cases of suicide and deaths caused by post-traumatic syndrome among the very young and the very old who witnessed the violence close-up and then spent long periods in refugee camps or slums.

Please continue to pray for Christians in Orissa state and throughout all of India.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Standing up for Jesus in Laos

Khamxay is a former animist who became a Christian and then later a pastor in Laos. His faith in Jesus landed him in jail, and beatings by the guards almost resulted in his death. Yet, Khamxay continues to tell others in his nation about the God of the Bible!

Take a few moments to watch this video by our sister-mission Release International and be encouraged by Khamxay’s faith (Length 5:00).

You can view more videos like this one at Persecution.TV.

Extreme serenity in Romania

Excerpted from Extreme Devotion, a book of 365 true accounts of men and women who totally sold out for Jesus.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts
in You.”
(Isaiah 26:3)

The pastor, his wife and their six small children had just read Psalm 23 while eating breakfast. Suddenly, the police burst into his home to search the house and arrest him.

The police asked him, “Don’t you have anything to say? Have you no sorrow or regret?”

The pastor said carefully, “You are the answer to what we prayed today. We just read in Psalm 23 that God prepares a table before us in the presences of our enemies. We had a table but no enemies. Now you have come. If you would like anything that is on the table, I would like to share it with you. You were sent by God.”

“How could you say such stupid things? We will take you to prison, and you will die there. You will never see your children again.” With continued ease, the pastor continued, “We also read about that today: ‘Though I pass through valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear.’”

The officer shouted, “Everyone fears death. I know because I have seen it on their faces.”

“A shadow of a dog can’t bite you, and the shadow of death can’t kill you. You can kill us or put us in prison, but nothing bad can happen to us. We’re in Christ, and if we die, he will take us to his world.”

Peace. It’s becoming as valuable as blue-chip stock in today’s economy of unrest and violence. Fortunately, all believers are shareholders in God’s gift through Jesus Christ. But many people lack this peace. Some take prescriptions and worry to no end, trying to receive peace apart from God. Whatever good feeling they may find is only temporary at best. Then it’s back to worry and unrest. In contrast, God’s peace enables us to succeed with serenity in our sufferings. No trial can unnerve your trust in Him. Like the gentle pastor in this story, though calamity may strike without warning, you will be prepared with God’s perfect peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Persecution of Shouwang Church members continues for fifth Sunday

The church-state confrontation between one of Beijing’s largest house churches and the Chinese authorities continued for a fifth straight Sunday, reported ChinaAid Association.

On May 8, police detained at least 13 members of Shouwang Church who attempted to congregate and hold an outdoor worship service, as well as at least one Christian from another house church who turned up at the designated outdoor meeting site in a show of solidarity.

Authorities also continued rendering church members homeless by pressuring their landlords to evict them. This tactic was employed just days after the first outdoor worship attempt on April 10.

ChinaAid sources also reported that, as in past weeks, many Shouwang families were confined to their homes and not allowed to go to the designated meeting site in Zhongguancun, in northwest Beijing’s Haidian district.

Please pray for the house church members as well as evicted families.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Muslim attackers kill 17 Christians in Nigeria

Charred remains of Assemblies of God
church in Kafanchan, Kaduna state
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Muslim attackers killed 17 Christians yesterday, including the wife and three children of a pastor, and burned down several Christian homes in the village of Kurum, Bauchi state, Nigeria.

Christians have suffered many casualties in northern Nigeria since April 16, after supporters of Muslim presidential candidate Muhammudu Buhari lost the federal election to Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian.

Many Muslim voters claimed voter fraud, although international observers praised the polls as the fairest since 1999.

Reportedly, as many as 300 Christians have been slain, with 14,000 fleeing their homes after Islamic attacks. 

Over the weekend Christian leaders in northern Nigeria called for a federal probe into the post-election violence, saying more than 200 church buildings were burned.

Click here to read an update on the violence by Compass Direct News.

Muslims attack Christians in Egypt; 12 killed

Please pray for Egyptian Christians!
Two churches were set ablaze and at least 12 people killed in clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Cairo over the weekend, reported a number of news agencies, including Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).

Street battles broke out across the neighbourhood of Imbaba, in the western part of Egypt’s capital, after Salafi Muslims turned out in force to demonstrate outside Saint Menas Church Saturday night.

The hardline Muslims were angry over rumours that a Christian woman was being held against her will inside the church because she wanted to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man. Christians deny the claims.

The Salafis set the front of the church ablaze while Christians were still inside the building, and threw petrol bombs at homes and shops.

As the violence spiralled, Christians and Muslims threw stones at one another and gunshots could be heard. The nearby Virgin Mary Church was also set ablaze.

Riot police moved in to quell the violence with tear gas and by firing warning shots into the air, but some Christians say they did not do enough to bring the situation under control.

Read full stories about the attacks here, here and here.

Please pray that:
  • The bereaved will know the comfort of Jesus
  • The wounded and traumatized will know the healing touch of Jesus
  • Church leaders will know the Spirit's enabling as they pastor their congregations and deal with community leaders
  • The authorities will fulfil their commitment to bring all perpetrators of sectarian violence to justice in this and any future incidents
  • False rumours of people being imprisoned in Church property will be effectively squashed by community leaders
  • All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Raids and confiscations in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan's secret police and other officials have carried out two raids on an officially registered Baptist church in the capital Tashkent, reported Forum 18 News Service.

More than 50,000 Christian books, a large quantity of printing and office equipment, and a sum of money belonging to a church member were confiscated. Later, three church leaders and the caretaker were fined sums ranging between 50 and 100 times the minimum monthly salary.

Officials have refused to explain their actions, but there has recently been a harshening of official actions against the possession and supply of religious literature.

One Tashkent Baptist, asked by Forum 18 what might be behind the raids and confiscations, said, "The authorities are interested in having small pocket-size churches and religious organizations, which will stay quiet and not have much religious activity."

Pray believers will be encouraged to continue to meet together despite opposition (Hebrews 10:23-25). Pray the Lord will use the confiscated material for His glory through His good timing and purposes. Pray for Uzbekistan's secret police.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Algerian Christians arrested for proselytizing and blasphemy

Two Algerian Christian men are scheduled to appear in court on charges of proselytizing and blasphemy, reported International Christian Concern.

Sofiane and Krimo were arrested in Oran on April 14 after sharing their Christian faith with their neighbours. Sofiane was released a day after their arrest, while Krimo was imprisoned for three days.

After the arrest, Algerian police searched Krimo's home for Bibles and other Christian material. Krimo was known to hold weekly prayer services at his home, which local Christians suspect were being closely monitored by the police.

A court hearing, initially scheduled for April 27, was postponed to a later date.

Algerian Christians are fearful that a law introduced in 2006—requiring religious services to obtain a government permit to worship—will be applied, which may result in a five-year imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Algerian dinars ($1,337 CAD). Church leadership has expressed frustration over the government's negligence to lay out a set procedure to register a church or to approve a permit quickly.

Please pray for a favourable outcome for Sofiane and Krimo at the next court hearing. Pray the Lord will use this case and their testimony to encourage the faith of other believers in Algeria. Pray those in authority will recognize the lack of religious freedoms in the country and make changes accordingly.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy 40th Anniversary, VOM Canada!

Forty years ago today, VOM Canada received its official status as a non-profit organization.

Back then, VOM was called Jesus to the Communist World Inc. (JTTCW). When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union dissolved, many thought persecution was coming to an end. There were those who questioned the need for a ministry called Jesus to the Communist World.

In reality persecution of our Christian family was increasing. The leadership of JTTCW recognized this and adapted, changing our name to The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM).

Instead of focusing only on the former Soviet Union, we started visiting places in Africa, the Middle East and other countries in Asia. Finding many Christians in these areas who suffered for their faith in Christ, we began telling their stories and providing assistance to them.

Today, VOM still provides support to faithful believers who stood strong under Communist oppression in the 1950s and ’60s. However, much of our attention and resources are now focused on countries such as North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

In 2011, VOM projects will support persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries. This support takes many forms.

One person may need a Bible or theological training to lead a group of believers meeting in secret. Another may need a microloan to start a small business to support evangelistic activities. Still another may need the advice of a lawyer to help him navigate through the judicial system.

While we do not know all that the future holds, we believe the Lord’s inerrant Word that promises that persecution will continue until His return (John 15:20, Rev. 21:4). The form of persecution may change, and we may need to adjust our methods of support, but our commitment to remain faithful to the charge in Hebrews 12:3 remains:

“Remember them in bonds as bound with them.”

Consider joining VOM Canada for one of our 40th Anniversary Celebrations throughout 2011!
May 14
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Emmanuel Fellowship Baptist Church
Vernon, BC

September 24
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Grace Orleans Church
Ottawa, ON

October 1
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cornerstone Alliance Church
Winnipeg, MB

October 29
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
First Church of the Nazarene
Moncton, NB
Call our office for more information! 1-888-298-6423

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Three imprisoned Iranians released!

Pastor Vahik Abrahamian
remains detained after his wife
and two others were released.
Three Iranian believers were set free on April 30, after 239 days in prison, reported Middle East Concern. Praise the Lord! However, Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, who was arrested at the same time, remains in custody.

On April 28, Arash Kermanjani, his wife Arezou Teimouri and Sonia Keshish-Avanesian were brought before a judge. Their lawyers were asked to present their cases. Unexpectedly, they were set free.

It is unclear whether the charges against the three have been dropped or whether they will face further hearings. Sonia is uncertain why her husband was not freed at the same time, and she is extremely worried about him.

The two couples were detained on September 4, 2010, in Hamadan. They have been accused of various offenses, including propagating Christianity, opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran and having contact with exiled opposition figures.

Several others detained at the same time are understood to have been released within several weeks.

You can encourage Pastor Vahik by sending him a letter:
Vahik Abrahamian
Evin Prison
Saadat Abad
Islamic Republic of Iran
Praise the Lord for the release of Arash, Arezou and Sonia! Please pray for Pastor Vahik. Pray he will know the peace and presence of Jesus and be an effective pastor to those around him. Pray those released will know the healing touch and close presence of Jesus. Pray all charges against them will be dropped. Pray, too, that all involved officials will act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow him.

Christians killed in Laos; alarming religious freedom abuses continue

Pray for religious freedom in Laos!
Several Christians were recently attacked and killed in Xiengkhouang Province, Laos, underscoring the intense repression and abuse facing followers of Christ in the nation, reported the World Evangelical Association (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC).

On April 15, troops from the Lao People’s Army caught a group of Christians belonging to the Hmong community, an ethnic minority. All of the believers’ Bibles were confiscated. The troops shot and killed four of the women after repeatedly raping two of them. Their husbands and children were beaten, tied up and forced to witness the gruesome killings. At last report, the whereabouts of the surviving believers were unknown.

The absence of free press and lack of information infrastructure in Laos, a Communist state, often prevents news from reaching the outside world—including that of religious freedom. This incident and other recent reports, however, indicate a disturbing increase of repression facing Christians in the country.

Around last Christmas, authorities in Khammouan Province reportedly unlawfully detained 11 church leaders. Seven Christian families were also reportedly expelled by officials in Katin village, Salvan Province, earlier this year.

Protestant Christianity and the Hmong Christian community, in particular, are seen by sections of the Lao society and the authorities as an American or imperialist “import” into the country and a threat to the Communist rule.

As a result, believers are routinely expelled, forced to relocate, pressured to renounce their faith and arrested. Religious organizations and institutions have been allowed to function in Laos, but only as long as they remain under government surveillance and control.

You can read the full WEA-RLC Research and Analysis Report “Why Laos Restricts Religious Freedom” here.

Pray for comfort for all those mourning the loss of the four Christian women. Pray other believers will soon be returned home safely. Pray for the peace and strength of Christ to reign in the hearts and minds of Laotian Christians under pressure for their faith. Pray that the Laotian government will recognize the need for true freedom for all their citizens.

Escalation expected in Shouwang Church suppression

Members of a Chinese house church
gather to worship.
Our partner mission, ChinaAid Association, is issuing an urgent call for prayer after learning that China’s top leaders have decided to take new measures in the coming days against one of Beijing’s largest house churches—measures that are entirely different from tactics thus far implemented against Shouwang Church and which could completely change the nature of its clash with the authorities.

ChinaAid asks all Christians worldwide to pray.

The developments of the past four consecutive weeks have clearly shown that there are no signs of the Beijing regime tolerating or imminently tolerating Shouwang Church’s holding the bottom line of religious practices and acting for purely religious reasons.

ChinaAid strongly urges all churches and Christians worldwide to join the ranks of those who are praying for and supporting Shouwang Church and its brothers and sisters. Even as Shouwang Church is scattered, the church in China will be like a lamp burning ever bright in the darkness, bringing boundless hope to the Chinese people.

Please join us in praying for Shouwang Church members and Chinese believers across the nation of China.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Make parachutes for Colombia!

One of our VOM partners flies a plane over the deep jungles of Colombia and simultaneously drops parachutes out his window.

Attached to a heavy-duty plastic bag, these parachutes float to the ground, delivering a Bible, other Christian literature and, sometimes, a shortwave radio pre-tuned to Christian stations, into the hands of villagers and FARC guerrillas alike. While outsiders cannot easily make it in, the saving message of Jesus Christ is permeating Colombia’s darkness.

Now you can join VOM in providing parachutes to our partner and his team by ordering ready-to-assemble Colombia Parachute Packs. Each Parachute Pack includes everything you need (cloth, ribbon, glue, plastic bag and instructions) to assemble 10 parachutes.

All you need is a pair of scissors and a willing heart!

Once the parachutes are assembled, simply return them to the VOM office along with $5 per parachute to cover the cost of deploying them in Colombia.

Each Colombia Parachute Pack is $10 and includes a DVD of VOM’s Underground Reality: Colombia, Episode 3. We have a limited number of ready-to assemble packs, so please call our office today to order!


Can you sew?

If yes, then you can make the parachutes without using a kit by purchasing fabric, thread and nylon cord from a local fabric store. The nylon cord must be sturdy, yet thin, and flexible enough for a sewing machine to zigzag stitch onto the fabric. Muslin fabric works best.

Download the parachute pattern and sewing instructions here.

Send sewn parachutes to our office and include $5 per parachute for deployment costs.

Send to:
Parachutes for Colombia
The Voice of the Martyrs
PO Box 608
Streetsville ON  L5M 2C1
From the air, hope is coming to the people of Colombia looking for truth and purpose. Thanks for being a part!

Disarming Colombia’s darkness

Rolo (not his real name) used to be a member of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). He, along with fellow guerrillas, followed a Marxist ideology that opposes the gospel and demands total loyalty to the cause.

Amid the violence, Rolo found Jesus and committed his life to serving Him.

Today, Rolo travels about Colombia’s “red zones,” bringing the saving message of Jesus Christ to those living there. He ministers not only to guerrillas but also to pastors and villagers who are prevented from leaving their villages without permission.

Take a few minutes to be encouraged by Rolo's story and passion for leading fellow Colombians to Christ (Length 9:15).

You can check out more videos like this one at Persecution.TV.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rioting Muslims damage church, properties in Pakistan

Muslim protestors broke windows of a Christian-
owned elementary school in Gujranwala on April 30.
(Photo: Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan)
This past Saturday, hundreds of Muslims in Gujranwala attacked Christians’ homes, a school and a Presbyterian church building after learning that police had released two Christians accused of “blasphemy”—amid reports of another alleged desecration of the Qur’an, said Compass Direct News.

Mushtaq Gill and his son Farrukh Mushtaq were released on Friday afternoon after a handwriting expert hired by police determined that the latter had not written a threatening note accompanying burned pages of the Qur’an, police sources said.

The two Christians, who had been taken into protective custody on April 15, were relocated along with family members to an undisclosed location.

As news of their release spread, a Muslim claimed that pages of the Qur’an had been burned anew in Gujranwala’s Aziz Colony cemetery in Punjab Province. Announcements over area mosque loudspeakers began blaring, and Muslim residents and members of extremist groups began gathering.

A mob started rioting and hurling rocks at the Christians’ homes and at an elementary school. The mob also pelted the Aziz Colony Presbyterian Church building. Armed with clubs and batons, the protestors clashed with police who arrived to provide security to the besieged Christians.

At least 18 people were injured and had to be hospitalized. There were no reports of injured Christians.

The protesting Muslims then moved toward government offices and set tires on fire on the main Gujranwala-Sialkot road. They also tried to attack the Gujranwala Range regional police office, but officers thwarted their plans, police sources said.

Around 150 protestors were arrested, with two cases registered against them for attacking Christian property and “creating a law and order situation,” police said. The remaining protestors dispersed after senior police officials assured them that they would find “the real perpetrators” of the first alleged Qur’an burning within three days.

Sources told Compass that the riots compelled a large number of Christian families to flee, as they feared the kind of large-scale violence that occurred in Gojra on August 1, 2009, when at least seven Christians were burned alive by Muslim mobs after the spread of a rumour of blasphemy.

Gujranwala Police Chief Ghulam Muhammad Dogar told Compass Direct by phone that the protestors would not be allowed to target and harass Christians.

“Stern action will be taken against the provocateurs of the riots,” Dogar said. “The police are investigating the two incidents of Qur'an desecration, and only those responsible for the crime will be punished.”
Gill and Mushtaq were taken into protective custody on April 15 in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the Gojra massacre after Mushtaq was accused of desecrating the Qur'an and blaspheming Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.

The purported evidence against Mushtaq were some burnt pages of the Qur'an and a handwritten note, allegedly in his handwriting, claiming that he had desecrated Islam’s scripture and used derogatory language against Muhammad. A Muslim youth allegedly found the pages and note outside the Gills’ residence.

Orissa Christians acquitted!

Christians in India continue to
suffer persecution. Please pray!
On April 18, six Christians were acquitted of false accusations of arson, ending more than two and a half years of litigation, reported All India Christian Council.

The six men, Christians from a tribal background, were accused of burning down Hindu homes in Gajapati District, Odisha (formerly Orissa state), on October 20, 2008. Ironically, all of them lost their homes in the unprecedented anti-Christian riots of August 2008.

The Christians were charged under sections 147, 148, 452, 436, 506 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code.

Lawyers immediately appealed to the district court for anticipatory bail to prevent the arrest of the men who, as daily labourers, were the main source of income for their families. The district court rejected the request, and lawyers appealed to the Orissa High Court in 2010. The men went into hiding until the High Court granted their request, and then they immediately surrendered and were granted bail.

The Gajapati District sessions court began the trial in January 2011 and acquitted the men of all charges due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Praise the Lord!

What will happen to Syria’s Christians if revolt is a success?

Pray for Christians in Syria!
While the picture in Syria appears to be a noble one of a rising voice for freedom being silenced by a dictator, there’s another scenario being whispered in the background that is far more sinister, says Mission Network News.

"There's a strong indication that some of these rebels in the country are influenced by Iran and even perhaps Iranian backing on the extremist side," says Carl Moeller of Open Doors USA.

Moeller explains that "the Christians there that we're working with are quite concerned that if there are extremists mobilizing in the rebellion and they overthrow Assad, without any clear replacement in place, there could be a period of time—perhaps even a permanent situation—where Iran or other extremist nations use their influence to make it very, very difficult for the Christians."

Simply put, "Under Assad, there was relative stability—albeit limited freedoms, but relative stability in the country which allowed for protection for the Christian communities."

Syria has a Christian population of approximately 1.5 million believers which is 8 to 9 percent of the total population of the country. They are members of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations. While the church of Syria is not a hidden or secret church, the evangelical church often faces problems when it reaches out with the gospel.

Open Doors reported that some churches in Syria cancelled their Easter services because of the unstable political situation. Easter weekend was one of the bloodiest since the riots and anti-government demonstrations started in mid-March. The Associated Press reported 120 deaths last weekend across Syria and a total of 450 deaths since the unrest began.

"The current situation in Syria is very uncertain for Christians in the country," says an Open Doors co-worker. "Look at the population of Syria,” he says. “It is a mix of minorities of Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Christians, Druzes, Kurds and others; that is potentially an explosive mix. I see a possible clashing of these minorities in which I think Christians will be possible victims of much violence."

You can read more of Mission Network News' story here. Please pray today for believers in Syria!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Christian leader attacked by militants in India

Pastor Ramesh Devda
(Photo Compass Direct)
Hindu militants recently beat Ramesh Devda, 30, a pastor and evangelist, in Madhya Pradesh state, India, reported Compass Direct News.

On April 4, Pastor Ramesh was travelling by motorbike with his two sons from Chikklia to Raseda when three militants on motorbikes suddenly blocked his way.

The militants, drunk and armed with large bamboo sticks and clubs, beat the pastor in front of 10-year-old Elias and 8-year-old Shimon. They threatened to kill Pastor Ramesh and warned him not to come to the area again. They delivered brutal blows all over his body, including his head.

The terrified cries of the young boys alerted people passing by to the situation. When others arrived on scene, the attackers fled. At last report, Pastor Ramesh was in the hospital receiving care for severe injuries, including a fractured skull. He was thankful that his sons were spared from beating, though his older son sustained a leg injury during the attack.

Pastor Ramesh, who serves with the Christian Reformed Fellowship of India in three villages, suspects his attackers were Hindu militants angered by his Sunday worship services. Although he believes the attack was pre-planned, he does not want to report it to the police, as he fears retaliation.

Ask God to heal Pastor Ramesh. Pray a spirit of trust in the Lord will guard his heart and mind against fear. Pray for guidance and safety for his wife and children, who are also active in Christian ministry. Pray Christians in India will look to the God of truth as their righteous refuge and tower of strength (Psalm 31:1-5).

Chinese authorities continue crackdown against the independent Beijing Shouwang house church

For the fourth Sunday in a row, Chinese police detained dozens of members of the Shouwang house church in Beijing, continuing a severe crackdown on one of the capital's largest house churches, according to confirmed reports obtained by ChinaAid Association.

By late yesterday morning, at least 31 members of Shouwang church were detained and taken to different police stations.

All of Shouwang church's leadership have been under informal house arrest since April 9 when the church was forced to have its first outdoor worship service. Many of the church's more than 1,000 members had been prevented from leaving their homes each Sunday starting April 10.

Last Sunday, more than half the church members were confined to their homes. 

Pray for strength and a continued assurance of God's presence for members of the Shouwang church. Pray those arrested will be released. Pray Chinese Christians will be equipped with everything they need, so that they may do work which is pleasing to the Lord Jesus.

Concerns for imprisoned Turkmenistan pastor

Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev
(Photo ASSIST New)
Friends of Turkmenistan Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev are increasingly concerned about his health in the Seydi Labour Camp, they told Forum 18 News Service.

Pastor Nurliev, who leads Light to the World Protestant Church in the town of Mary east of Ashgabad, was arrested in August 2010. He was given a four-year labour camp term in October 2010 with "forcible medical treatment" on charges of swindling.

His community insists the charges were fabricated to punish him for his religious activity, as he had tried in vain to register his church. In December 2010, he was transferred to the Seydi Labour Camp.

Nurliev, a 46-year-old grandfather of two, suffers from diabetes and had regular treatment before his imprisonment. The labour camp administration will only allow treatment for him if he has a certificate from the hospital, but the hospital will only give such a certificate if he comes in person. The camp administration has refused to put Nurliev in the Camp's medical unit.

Adding to the family's difficulties, Nurliev's wife Maya lost her job at a local firm in March, after she took unpaid leave to travel. Authorities have applied heavy pressure, including threats of dismissal from employment, against Maya and other church members.

Also, Maya had been denied any opportunity to ensure Nurliev himself received the diabetic medicines he needed since his August 2010 arrest.

Police have again been pressuring members of Nurliev's church, asking them if his wife Maya is gathering them for worship services or meetings. "Church members have been summoned," Protestants who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals told Forum 18. "Police warned them: if we find out the church has been meeting, we'll do the same to you as we did to Ilmurad.”

Under Turkmenistan's harsh Religion Law, all unregistered religious activity is illegal. Communities which function without registration face the constant threat of police raids, threats and punishments.