Tuesday, November 30, 2010

500+ Iraqi Christian families flee

The Assyrian International News Agency is reporting that Iraqi Christians are continuing to flee their country, with 507 families moving to the Kurdish north, where security measures are relatively stable. Many more families have fled directly abroad, mainly to Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

Despite calls for them to stay, many Iraqi Christians feel they have no future left in the country. This follows violent attacks against Iraqi Christians, which you can read about here, here and here.

Churches in Baghdad are reported to be almost empty with senior Christian clergymen fearing that Iraq is on its way to losing its Christian minority. Baghdad was the last remaining city with a sizeable Christian community, but thousands have fled the latest upsurge in anti-Christian violence.

Pray for the nation of Iraq. Pray for anointed leaders who can act with wisdom, courage and integrity. Pray that God will heal this land and its people. Pray that Christians might persevere in this difficult situation; pray also for their protection.

You can read the full story here.

Court says president cannot pardon Asia Bibi

International Christian Concern (ICC) is reporting that Pakistan’s president cannot grant pardon to Asia Bibi, the Christian woman who has been sentenced to death for “blasphemy” against Muhammad. The Lahore High Court issued the order after lawyers argued that President Asif Ali Zardari cannot issue the pardon before Asia’s appeal to the High Court is decided.

Asia has appealed to the High Court, but the court has yet to set a date for her appeal hearing.

In a statement to ICC, Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, said that President Zardari has pledged to intervene if the High Court unnecessarily delay a decision in Asia’s case. Under Article 45 of the country’s constitution, the president has authority to free convicts.

However, ICC says fundamentalist Muslims have stepped up their threats against the Pakistani officials, warning that there will be anarchy if Asia is pardoned.

Please continue to pray for Asia’s release and protection for her and her family. There are reports that Asia’s husband and children have gone into hiding, concerned radical Islamic groups are planning to kill the family.

Read the full story here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chinese rights defence lawyer detained

VOM's sister mission ChinaAid is reporting that an active member of the Petitioners' Rights Defence Lawyers Association was seized by Beijing police and placed under criminal detention Saturday evening for allegedly trying to encourage subversion of the Chinese government.

Bai Dongping, a new Christian and longtime political activist, was being held at Beijing’s Xicheng District Detention Center. Although police produced no paperwork to authorize apprehending Bai, a document was sent to his family, saying he was being charged with "inciting subversion of state power.”

Since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was named the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Chinese authorities have responded by stepping up pressure on religious believers, especially Christians, political activists and rights defence lawyers. Authorities have barred Christians and human rights lawyers from leaving the country to attend international conferences and have been harassing other Christians, activists and rights defence lawyers through actions ranging from detentions to jamming the locks on their homes with superglue.

You can read the full stoy here.

More details about these actions are available at the ChinaAid website.

In mailboxes this week

The December issue of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter is hitting mailboxes this week. It’s VOM’s 2010 Year in Review.

Here's your sneak peak!
  • Find out how VOM has brought hope to persecuted Christians facing tragedy in 2010.
  • Read about Jars of Hope and how individuals and families throughout Canada provided 60 Nigerian children with clothing, education, food, housing and medical attention.
  • Read about VOM’s leadership-training courses, Bible translation and radio broadcasts reaching believers in restricted nations.
  • Read how VOM’s partnership with Global Response Network is helping rebuild war-torn Sudan.
  • Learn how Christmas Blessing packages provide North Korean believers with food items, toiletries, medication, clothing and Christian literature.
The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter is the flagship publication of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada. Published monthly, it is available free of charge to anyone in Canada who requests it.

You can subscribe online here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Operation World is now available

VOM is now offering the newest release of Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation.

Written for Bible-believing Christians who want to obey the last great command of Jesus Christ by evangelising the world and completing the Great Commission, the seventh edition shares well-researched statistics on the state of the church around the globe. It also includes charts and maps, showing global religious and demographic trends and major currents in economics, politics and society, as well as the prayer needs of each nation.

It is a valuable resource and prayer tool for every home and church.

You can order yours today by visiting VOM’s Online Catalogue.

Operation World by Jason Mandryk, paperback, 978 pages. Available while supplies last.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

12 arrested over Baghdad church massacre

Our Lady of Salvation Church after the
October 31 attack.
Photo by Ankawa.com
VOM reported in early November (see story here) that Islamic militants stormed a Catholic church during Mass in Baghdad, killing 70 people and wounding 75.

The Assyrian International News Agency and CNN reported today that Huthaifa al-Batawi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, the "mastermind, direct supervisor and planner" of the October 31 attack, was among 12 arrested in connection with the deadly church siege.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes a number of Sunni extremist organizations and has ties to al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the Baghdad church siege. It was among the first of many attacks in recent weeks targeting Christians (see stories here and here), which have left scores dead and many more wounded throughout the Middle Eastern nation.

Iraqi security forces made the arrests of the 12 "suspected terrorists," who also have links to al-Qaida in Iraq and a wave of Baghdad explosions on November 2, an Iraqi interior ministry official confirmed.

Gen. Ahmad Abu Ragheef, the head of internal affairs at the Interior Ministry, said in an Iraqiya interview that al-Batawi confessed to his role in the church siege, telling Iraqi authorities who he was and about other attacks he supervised.

You can read the full story here.

I have to know

Excerpted from Jesus Freaks, Stories of those who stood for Jesus: the ultimate Jesus Freaks, a best-selling collection of worldwide testimonies, targeting teens with the life-changing message of the Persecuted Church.

I have to know

Thomas Hauker
England, 1555

“Thomas,” his friend lowered his voice so as not to be heard by the guard. “I have to ask you this favour. I need to know if what the others say about the grace of God is true. Tomorrow, when they burn you at the stake, if the pain is tolerable and your mind is still at peace, lift your hands above your head. Do it right before you die. Thomas, I have to know.”

Thomas Hauker whispered to his friend, “I will.”

The next morning, Hauker was bound to the stake and the fire was lit. The fire burned a long time, but Hauker remained motionless. His skin was burnt to a crisp and his fingers were gone. Everyone watching supposed he was dead. Suddenly, miraculously, Hauker lifted his hands, still on fire, over his head. He reached them up to the living God, and then, with great rejoicing, clapped them together three times.

The people there broke into shouts of praise and applause. Hauker’s friend had his answer.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficent for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore will I glory rather in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Spoken by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

Friday, November 26, 2010

No immediate pardon for Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi will not be immediately
pardoned by Pakistan's president.
ASSIST News Service is reporting that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will not immediately pardon Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to die for insulting Islam, but may do so later if an appeals court delays her case too long, an official said yesterday.

A story posted at EPakistanNews.com stated Thursday: “The case has prompted outrage from international rights groups and inflamed religious passions at home. In recent days, demonstrations have been staged both by Pakistan’s Christian minority calling for her release and also by Muslims warning against any pardon for her and defending the country’s blasphemy law, which critics say is misused to settle personal scores and by extremists to persecute minorities.”

Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who met with President Zardari yesterday, said the president has decided to let the appeal process play out instead of immediately pardoning Asia. Bhatti was quoted as saying, “However, Zardari agreed to pardon Bibi later if the appeal case is unduly delayed.”

No specific deadline given, but Bhatti said he believes the president “will not wait months or weeks.”

Asia is the first woman condemned to die under the blasphemy law. She has been jailed for 18 months and was sentenced November 8 to hang.

Read the full ASSIST News Service story here and the EPakistanNews story here.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Even your family will reject you

Dewi, an Indonesian woman, knows very well what Jesus meant when He said that if you follow Him even members of your own family may turn against you (Matthew 10:34-36). However, Dewi had no idea of just how high the cost would be. Watch God turn her heartache into passion for serving Him!

To see more Christians speak of how God is moving in their lives, visit VOM's multimedia site, Persecution.TV.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pakistani Muslim leaders threaten protests if Asia Bibi is released

CNN is reporting that two prominent Pakistani Muslim leaders threatened today to call for nationwide protests if the president pardons Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

"If the president pardons Asia Bibi, we will raise our voices across the country until he is forced to take his decision back," nationally known mufti Muneer Ur Rehman said. Hafiz Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, a leading cleric in Lahore, said pardoning the woman would be "criminal negligence" and would cause inter-religious tension.

Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer told CNN Tuesday that President Asif Ali Zardari would pardon Bibi if the High Court did not grant her request for mercy.

A spokesman for Zardari said today that no action has been taken, but the president will pardon her if necessary.

You can read the CNN story here.

For a more complete report, visit the Assyrian International News Agency.

Iranian pastor officially charged—apostasy

Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani
and wife, "Sister Tina"
Our sister office, VOM-USA, is reporting that Iranian Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani has officially been charged with denying that Mohammed was a prophet. The Assize Court of the province of Gilan stated that this act is apostasy because Nardarkhani believes in Jesus and has shared his faith with others, says VOM-USA.

The indictment states that as an apostate, Pastor Youcef will be executed. His lawyers have 20 days to appeal the indictment.

The indictment, which was issued by a public prosecutor in the presence of a jury, stated: “[Youcef] has frequently denied the prophethood of the great prophet of Islam and the rule of the sacred religion of Islam. ... He has proven his apostasy by organizing evangelistic meetings and inviting others to Christianity, establishing a house church, baptizing people, expressing his faith to others and denying Islamic values.”

According to court documents, when Pastor Youcef was asked about his faith, he told authorities, “Since I was born in a Muslim family, I was Muslim until I converted to Christianity at the age of 19.” He openly acknowledged accepting Jesus Christ.

The court also stated that the apostasy charge was determined a crime according to Islamic theologians.
Pastor Youcef’s defense attorneys have entered a not-guilty plea to the charges, arguing that “since there is no punishment specified in the Islamic judicial system of Iran and other penal laws [on apostasy] ... their client has not committed a crime to deserve a punishment.”

Please continue praying for Pastor Youcef and his family. Pray that his appeal will be successful and that he will be released.

To learn more about Pastor Youcef, visit http://www.prisoneralert.com/.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reach out to North Korean believers this Christmas

Our North Korean brothers and sisters are blessed with
daily essentials through the Christmas Blessing Fund.
Our brothers and sisters in North Korea continue to covet our prayers. Under the rule of Kim Jong Il, the needs of North Koreans are sacrificed in order to bolster the power and control of his regime. North Koreans are currently suffering severely because of skyrocketing inflation and the shortage of daily necessities. Many are starving to death.

Among the hardest hit are followers of Christ, who are treated with particular cruelty for refusing to renounce Christ—an action that recognizes an authority greater than the "Dear Leader."

For a second year, VOM's Christmas Blessing Fund is supplying believers in North Korea with gift packages that contain food, toiletries, medication, clothing and Christian literature. This ongoing project, with distributions made throughout the year, helps to fulfill persecuted believers' basic needs.

You can get involved in this exciting project today as we grasp the hands of our brothers and sisters in North Korea and share the blessing of Christmas with them!

To make a donation, visit us online at http://www.persecution.net/donation.htm. You can also send financial gifts by mail or call us at 1-905-670-9721.

The Voice of the Martyrs
P.O. Box 608
Streetsville, ON  L5M 2C1

Continue to pray for boldness and strength for Christians living in North Korea. Pray for God's provision for those suffering in prison camps and living in deplorable conditions. Pray that North Korean Christians will have opportunities to share the love of Christ, even with those who oppress them. Pray that God's unrestrained mercy will spill over North Korea, frustrating the wicked (Psalm 146:9b) and delivering the oppressed (Psalm 40:11-13).

Conflicting reports about Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi's husband and daughters
By now you may have heard conflicting reports regarding the release of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who was recently sentenced to death for blasphemy.

ASSIST News Service reports that several sources inside Pakistan claim that Asia, also known as Asia Noreen, who has spent the last year and a half in prison, was set free yesterday (November 22), after being pardoned by Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari.

Other sources are saying that this claim is premature.

A respected source close to the case said that according to their latest information, Asia has not been pardoned and that her mercy plea was sent to the Punjab Home Department, which will forward it to the Interior Ministry for onward submission to the Presidency.

The source also said that the presidential spokesperson made a statement that President Zardari had not “received any such plea” but that he may consider it on the “advice of the prime minister.”

It is also believed that, if and when Asia receives a possible presidential pardon, a strike is being called for Wednesday and threats of violence could erupt if Asia is released.

Nasir Saeed, coordinator of CLAAS in the UK, told ASSIST News: “The ordeal faced by Asia and her family is unimaginable to most people outside of Pakistan who are largely unaware of the abuse and discrimination faced by the tiny Christian minority there."

VOM will to keep you posted on Asia’s case. Please continue to pray for her release and for the safety of her and her family.

Read ASSIST News Service's full report here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Prayer meetings banned during Asian Games

Guangzhou is located in southern China.
The 16th Asian Games has reached its halfway point in Guangzhou, China. ChinaAid reports that leading up to the games, which started on November 12, authorities in the southern Chinese city banned unofficial Protestant "house churches" from holding meetings.

Local pastors and their congregations were warned not to meet during the games, which end November 27, according to rights lawyer and Protestant house church member Tang Jingling. Tang said that the authorities sought out pastors and ordered them to stop holding meetings. Some of the groups responded by splitting up into much smaller groups and meeting at ever-changing locations.

The ban—that extends to all house churches in the entire Pearl River Delta region—is likely to remain in effect until January.

ChinaAid says that China’s unregistered churches are under constant fire from the government for operating outside officially sanctioned religious activities.

An atheist country, China has an army of officials whose job is to watch over faith-based activities, says ChinaAid. Those activities have spread rapidly in the wake of massive social change and economic uncertainty since economic reforms began 30 years ago. Party officials are put in charge of Catholics, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims and Protestants. Judaism isn't recognized, and worship in unapproved temples, churches or mosques is against the law.

You can read the story in its entirety here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Send a letter to Asia Bibi; Pakistani officials

Asia Bibi
PrisonerAlert.com is reporting that Asia Bibi's attorneys filed an appeal this past week against the death sentence she received after being convicted of blasphemy in early November. Asia’s husband, Ashiq, asks believers to continue praying for his family.

"Please pray for my wife, asking God to release her soon," Ashiq said. "Please spread the news all over the world and appeal for prayer for me, my wife and our children. I am praying for those helping me and thankful to VOM."

The PrisonerAlert for Asia has been viewed more than 34,300 times, and more than 7,400 letters of encouragement have been sent to her.

VOM encourages you to send a letter of encouragement to Asia, too, letting her know you are praying for her. Also write to the Pakistani government and ask for her release.

For information about letter writing, check out the following links:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Clothing choice closes church in Burma

When is the last time you saw your church leader wear an accessory—a t-shirt, ball cap or lapel pin, etc.—that revealed his political preferences?

Officials in Burma ordered a Baptist church to cease holding worship services after the pastor refused to wear an election campaign t-shirt supporting the military government’s Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) reported Wednesday that the election commission summoned 47-year-old Pastor Mang Tling of Dawdin village, Gangaw township, Mergui division on November 9, two days after the election and ordered him to stop holding services and discontinue the church nursery program.

Pastor Mang had received a t-shirt from his village leader. When he refused to wear it, the leader filed a report with local authorities accusing the pastor of persuading Christian voters to vote in favour of an opposing party.

Compass Direct News reports that, under Burmese law, religious leaders can be penalized for “engaging in politics,” which gave the pastor a solid legal reason to decline the t-shirt. The law also bans leaders of religious groups from voting in national elections, according to the CHRO, although lay members of those groups are able to vote.

Officials interrogated Pastor Mang in Gangaw until Sunday, November 14, when he was allowed to return home.

Pray government tactics would not intimidate that Burmese Christians and that they would continue to seek Christ and share Him with those around them.

You can read the full story here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christian oppression rising in Islamic nations

In the past month, persecution has increased greatly against Christians in Islamic countries. Why? Because of fear, reports Ryan Mauro of Frontpage Magazine. Christianity is making major inroads among Muslims who have become disillusioned with their faith.

And, Muslims are not pleased.

Yesterday, the Assyrian International News Agency posted Mr. Mauro’s story about the rise in persecution against Christians in Islamic countries.

He describes the recent attacks in Baghdad and how they are just the latest episode in the sad persecution of the Iraqi Christian community. Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Azerbaijan and other Muslim countries are reporting an escalation in persecution as well. A member of the Central Council of Iranian Churches claims that about one Christian is arrested per week on average now.

The motivation for this increased persecution, says Mr. Mauro, is a desire to stop the conversion of Muslims. It is estimated that before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the number of Christians in Iran numbered in the low hundreds. This month, Ayatollah Khamenei publicly called the "network of house churches" a threat to Islam.

Todd Nettleton, the director of media development for VOM-USA, told Frontpage that the church in Iran is growing at a phenomenal rate: "The thing to realize about Iran is that the 'man on the street' equates the government with Islam. It is the mullahs, after all, that are in charge of the country," Nettleton said. “So failure, injustice and corruption in the government are seen as failure, injustice and corruption in Islam itself, which is creating a populace that is very open to other ideas, including the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

The irony? The increased oppression of Christians in the Islamic world is a sign of success. If they weren't effective, such government measures against Christians would not be necessary. The political shifts, like those related to terrorism and democracy, are making the headlines, but a potentially decisive religious shift is also underway and the world could look very different in the coming decades because of it.

You can read Mr. Mauro's story in entirety by visiting the Assyrian International News Agency.

Update: Asia Bibi speaks with Compass Direct

The entrance to the prison where Asia Bibi is being held
VOM reported back in June that Asia Bibi, a Christian labourer, was arrested for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad and defaming Islam. Under pressure from area Islamists, a judge convicted her on November 8, citing Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy statutes and sentenced her to death.

Recently, Asia and her husband, Ashiq Masih, were able to share her story with Compass Direct at the jail northwest of Lahore, Punjab Province, where Asia is being held. Here are excerpts of her interview.

“I don’t know why – when I walked into court that day, I just knew,” Asia said of the day that she received the death sentence. “And when the judge announced my death sentence, I broke down crying and screaming. In the entire year that I have spent in this jail, I have not been asked even once for my statement in court. Not by the lawyers and not by the judge. After this, I have lost hope in any kind of justice being given to me.”

Asia said the triggering incident resulted from a “planned conspiracy” to “teach her a lesson,” as villagers in Ittanwali, near Nankana Sahib about 75 kilometers from Lahore, resented her and her family because of a few mishaps.

“What my village people have accused me of is a complete lie,” Asia said. “I had previously had a row over a trivial issue of water running out of my house onto the street, and a man called Tufail verbally abused me. On June 14, when I was out picking falsas [a type of berry] with about 30 women, they again asked me to convert to Islam.”

Asia said the women of the village frequently asked her to renounce Christianity while they worked in the fields, and that she refused each time. “This time, too, I said that I saw no reason why I should leave my own religion. They then asked me about Jesus Christ, and I told them to go and ask the local mullah and not to bother me with those questions.”

Meantime, one of the women asked her for water, she said. After she had fetched it, the others told the woman not to drink water brought by an “untouchable” and “dirty woman,” Asia said. “I asked them if Christians were not human …why the discrimination? This annoyed them, and they started verbally abusing me. We were soon engaged in a heated argument.”

Asia said that five days later, a mob led by Qari (one who has memorized the Qur’an) Muhammad Saalim burst upon her after some of the women told him about the incident in the fields. The mob pressured her to admit that she had blasphemed.

“They have been saying that I confessed to my crime, but the fact is that I said I was sorry for any word that I may have said during the argument that may have hurt their feelings,” Asia said.

Police arrived as they were beating her and took Asia into custody, where they registered a case under Section 295-C of the blasphemy laws against her based on the complaint of the imam.

“They [police] registered a false complaint, because the complainant [Saalim] was never present at the scene,” said Asia.

Asia said she has been heartbroken and shattered since the conviction. “How can an innocent person be accused, have a case in court after a false FIR [First Information Report], and then be given the death sentence, without even once taking into consideration what he or she has to say?” she asks.

Asia’s lawyers filed an appeal against the Nankana sessions court’s verdict in the Lahore High Court on November  12, and the court is likely to take up the case soon.
Sohail Johnson of the Sharing Life Ministry, which has been following the case from the onset, said authorities may have been aware that the sensitive nature of the case would instantly bring it into public light.

Asia said she has not lost faith in Jesus. “He will rescue me from this fake case, and I will return home – please ask everyone to pray for me.”

To read the full story, visit Compass Direct online.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Likely NK successor thinning ranks

Did you know the blue bands in NK's flag signify
sovereignty, peace and friendship? Not words
typically associated with the country.
Yesterday, we posted excerpts from a WEA-RLC Research and Analysis Report that explored what a change in leadership in North Korea will mean for persecuted Christians living in the communist nation.

Today, AsiaNews is reporting that Kim Jong-un, the like successor, is not waiting around for his father’s death to consolidate his power, and has begun purging government and party ranks under the guise of an anti-corruption campaign.

On Kim’s orders, police raided party offices and arrested party officials suspected of corruption. The Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity reports that 15 senior border officials were arrested and charged with bribery, smuggling activities and turning a blind eye to people fleeing the country.

"This is a purge for generational change . . .  . Senior officials are trembling with fear because they don't know where heads are going to roll," a spokesperson for the group said.

As feared in the WEA-RLC report, the young Kim is following in the footsteps of his elder, who reportedly had people executed in the 1990s every time problems proved too difficult to handle.

AsiaNews says the ruthlessness of the young Kim is probably why Kim Jong-il appointed him deputy party secretary and deputy president of the Central Military Commission, choosing him over other sons and pretenders to the throne of Pyongyang.

You can read the full story, “Kim the ‘third’ to thin out party ranks,” at AsiaNews.

Continue to pray for salvation of the Kims and safety for North Korean Christians. Pray that the words "sovereignty," "peace" and "friendship" become words that do, in fact, symbolize the country and its leaders' actions.

Bring VOM to your community

A vital part of the ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs is sharing with you the biblical message and testimonies of today's Persecuted Church from around the world. We have speakers who travel to locations throughout Canada, doing just that. Visit our website today to check out upcoming presentations and locations near you.

Are you interested in inviting VOM into your church, conference, seminar, small group or other setting? We welcome your invitations. Visit our website to contact our booking coordinator or to fill out our online request form.

We look forward to sharing stories of the Persecuted Church with you and your community.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Egyptian Christian detained at airport

Sherif Muhammad was
detained one week ago
and has not been heard
from since.
One week ago, Sherif Hassan Abdelwahab Muhammad, an Egyptian Christian, and his British wife were detained at the Cairo Airport following a trip from the United Kingdom, reports Middle East Concern (MEC). While on their way to passport control, the couple was approached by a plainclothes security official who asked Sherif, a UK resident, to identify himself. Upon stating his name, Sherif was detained. MEC says that no one has heard from Sherif since November 9.

Sherif’s wife, Emma, was asked to hand over her passport and plane ticket. She was then escorted to another room. She was issued a boarding pass for return to the UK on the same plane that brought the couple to Cairo. She has received no word of her husband’s whereabouts, nor any explanation of his detention or possible deportation.

Sherif has been detained in Egypt on numerous occasions since his conversion to Christianity 19 years ago. During these detentions, he was only questioned about his conversion and the peaceful exercise of his Christian beliefs, including his relationship with other Christians.

He has never been charged with any crime under Egyptian law.

International law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Egypt is a state party, clearly states that everyone has:
  • the right “to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice” and
  • “either individually or in community with others and in public or private, manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
Please consider calling, writing or emailing the Ambassador of Egypt to Canada and petition his intervention in this case to ensure that Sherif’s human rights, as well as his right to peacefully exercise his belief in Jesus Christ, are respected.

Shamel Nasser
Ambassador of Egypt to Canada
Egyptian Embassy
454 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, ON  KIN 6R3
Tel: 613-234-4931, 613-234-4935

You can also email the offices of the following individuals:

H. E. Muhammad Hosni Mubarak
President of Egypt
Please address him as “Excellency.”

Habib Ibrahim El Adly
Ministry of the Interior
Please address him as “Minister.”

Play pray for Sherif and his wife. Pray for Sherif's protection and release. Pray that God would fill the two of them with peace. Pray for the authorities involved that God would move and cause them to release Sherif immediately.

How will North Korean succession affect Christians?

North Korea
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) sponsors a WEA-RLC Research & Analysis Report to help individuals and groups pray for and act on religious liberty issues around the world. A recent report explores what a change in leadership in North Korea and will mean for persecuted Christians living in the communist nation.

Since its formation in 1948, atheistic North Korea has been ruled by one family. The current leader, 68-year-old Kim Jong Il, suffers from a long list of health issues and is believed to have had a stroke in 2008. His youngest son, 28-year-old Kim Jong-un, is likely to be his successor.

As the report notes, the likely succession is significant because it concerns a nuclear-armed regime that has been one of the world’s worst violators of human rights and one of the greatest threats to world peace.

Not to mention a huge threat to Christians living within its borders.

Most believers, estimated to be over 450,000 (as per the Center for the Study of Global Christianity), are part of the underground church. Recently, a 50-year-old North Korean Christian, Son Jong Nam, was tortured to death in a prison as he was caught with 20 Bibles and 10 cassette tapes of hymns, reported Associated Press in July 2010.

According to the National Human Rights Commission of South Korea, North Korea runs six large prison camps for political prisoners. Together, they hold an estimated 200,000 inmates—one in every 100 people in the country is in jail, most likely facing death—and are used as a key tool to suppress potential dissidents and tame famine-hit people by spreading a sense of fear. It is believed that many of these inmates were imprisoned for their faith in or preaching Christianity.

So, will a succession affect change?

The report says that, above all, the North Korean regime wants to maintain its control over the country, which requires it to balance the external threat and meet economic needs at home. Christians are seen as a Western-influenced threat to the government. The future of Christians depends on the compulsions the new regime will face to hold its grip on power.

For the succession to take place successfully, says Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the US-based Heritage Foundation and former official from the US intelligence, there must be no opposition to the leadership of the Kim family. And, that is likely. But, it is possible that an inexperienced Kim Jong-un will be challenged by members of the party’s elite. Also, a collapse of the regime cannot be ruled out.

However, if everything goes as planned in the succession, there will be little change in the regime’s policy and persecution and repression will carry on.

Continue to pray for North Korea's leaders, that the Holy Spirit would bring them to repentance and belief. Pray for a watershed moment in God's timing that will bring thorough change, freedom and complete transformation to the land. Pray for fellow brothers and sisters, for their emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

To read the full report, visit World Evangelical Alliance.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hoodies are here!

Consider wearing your beliefs on your sleeve and across your chest by pulling on a Voice of the Martyrs hooded sweatshirt this winter season.

Hoodies are $35 and available in blue or white. Sizes M, L, XL and XXL. Limited quantities. While supplies last.

Order yours today by visiting VOM’s Online Resource Catalogue.

Jailed for showing a film about Jesus

Bhutan means "Land of the Dragon."
Think about all the films you’ve watched in your lifetime. How many, if you had to guess, had a Christian theme or presented some angle of Jesus’ life on earth? Countless, no doubt. When thinking about what Jesus might look like, who in the Western world hasn’t thought of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, George Steven’s The Greatest Story Ever Told or Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ?

And, whom among us thought twice about watching those films or ones like them?

Last month, VOM sources reported that a Bhutanese Christian was sentenced to three years imprisonment for "attempting to promote civil unrest" by showing films about Christianity.

Prem Singh Gurung, a 40-year-old ethnic Nepalese citizen living in southern Bhutan, was detained while showing Christian films in the Gonggaon and Simkharka villages. A court in Gelephu, reportedly said Gurung had violated Sections 105(1) and 110 of the Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act, requiring authorities to screen all films before public presentation.

Bhutan is one of the world’s least evangelised nations. Proselytism and incitement to convert are illegal. Bhutanese officials are reportedly defending Prem’s sentencing, saying that although they respect the freedom of religion, “no person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement."

This past Friday, police attempted to arrest two more Christians for involvement in showing a film about Jesus. The two Christians were not found and were still in hiding, said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), which closely monitors the case.

Please continue to pray for our Bhutanese brothers and sisters who make up less than 1 percent of the country’s predominately Buddhist population. Pray for true spiritual liberation and for growth of the Church in this land.

Friday, November 12, 2010

IDOP 2010: Pray with us this Sunday

Richard Wurmbrand wrote about the power of prayer in the May 1989 The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter:
Prayer has more power than an atomic bomb. It has changed both Russia and China, where the situation has eased to some extent, though the governments are still decidedly anti-religious. The chief cause of this change has been the loving prayers of the sufferers for their henchmen, seconded by the prayers in the West of Christians we have alerted and informed.

When I was in prison, Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals and Adventists were all in the same cells and endured the same atrocities. Instead of arguing about less important things, we united in love and prayer for the killers, and we used every occasion to tell our torturers about Christ.
This Sunday, we encourage you to join with believers around the world and pray for Christians who suffer for their faith during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Downloadable resources such as prayer points, Bible readings, devotionals, video, testimonies and children’s material are still available at http://www.idop.org/.

Just as the Apostle Paul asked the church in Thessalonica to pray, we ask you to stand with us and pray for those in the midst of persecution, that God would continue to work in their lives and do a work in the hearts of those around them.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honuored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5).

Kindergarteners and police officers

Classrooms are for learning, not policing.
Have you ever thought about the possibility of your 5 or 6-year-old child’s classroom being searched by police officers because his teacher is a Christian? In restricted nations around the world, this practice is not an oddity, but rather, the norm.

VOM sister-mission China Aid reported on Tuesday that the Public Security Bureau (PSB), accompanied by officials from education bureaus, raided Chinese kindergarten classrooms in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan.

Sun Haiping, wife of house church pastor Wang Dao, is in charge of the three schools. She is also part of the Chinese delegation, now in Washington, DC, focusing on democracy and religious freedom. Her main purpose as a part of this delegation is to elaborate on the persecution of house churches in Guangzhou.

“If this was a normal school inspection, the PSB would not have been there, and it would have been led by the Education Bureau,” she said on Tuesday. “The schools are at risk of being shut down.”

During the invasions, PSB questioned teachers and children concerning where Sun was, and what her purpose was for traveling to the US. They also asked if the school owned Bibles or distributed them to students.

According to Sun, the schools where raided by police because she is visiting the United States to speak about democracy and religious freedom. Authorities applauded Sun’s generous actions in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, but now she is being targeted for speaking about the freedom and justice that the Chinese constitution promises, but the authorities withhold from citizens.

Please pray that Sun Haiping and Wang Dao will stay strong and faithful and that the children in these schools will be able to continue receiving quality education from these equipped believers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

UPDATE: Asia Bibi remains steadfast; appeals sentence

A VOM contact in Pakistan had the opportunity to meet with Asia Bibi in the court place on Monday, prior to her sentencing. Surrounded by police and prison guards, he spent 25 minutes speaking to her and praying for her. During their conversation, Asia said the following:

“It does finally not matter to me whether I am sentenced or whether the judge will set me free because I know that I am innocent and most of all I know that the Lord is with me. They persecuted Jesus also, and the Bible says that they will persecute us as well.”

What an amazing testimony! Especially in light of her death sentence, which Asia is appealing. Her attorney is planning to submit an appeal and will wait to hear about a court date. VOM sources say that the court is currently reviewing cases from 2005.

Asia Bibi's husband and daughters.
While in Pakistan, the VOM contact was also able to meet Asia’s husband, Ashiq, and her daughters, Isham and Isha.

Please continue to pray for strength and peace for Asia and her family. Also, consider using the information below to contact the High Commissioner for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and share your concerns about the unjust treatment of Pakistani Christians.

His Excellency Akbar Zeb
High Commissioner for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
10 Range Road
Ottawa, ON K1N 8J3
Tel: (613) 238-7881
Fax: (613) 238-7296
Email: parepottawa@rogers.com

Wondering what or how you should write to a government official? Here is some advice:
  • Write a short, clear message.
  • Be polite. Remember you are representing Jesus Christ.
  • State your general concern for persecuted believers and Asia’s case in particular.
  • Do NOT write about politics or the government.
Here is a sample letter:

Your Excellency,

This week Asia Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy. The story of her case is circulating around the world, and thousands of Christians in Canada know about it. I ask that her sentence be reversed and that she be released from all charges and allowed to return home to her family. I am praying for you as you lead your country.


Your Name

For more information about writing to government officials, download a PDF of VOM’s letter-writing guide and prisoner list.

New wave of attacks target Iraqi Christians

Our Lady of Salvation church after the
Oct. 31 attack (from Ankawa.com).
Less than two weeks after Islamist militants killed 58 individuals in an attack at Baghdad’s main Syriac Catholic church, further attacks have killed at least five Christians and injured 33 others.

Suspected Islamist militants detonated 11 bombs in Christian suburbs across the Iraqi capital on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, striking indiscriminately at shops and homes owned by members of the increasingly vulnerable minority.

In the aftermath of the church massacre, The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front, announced its intention to open upon the country's Christians “the doors of destruction and rivers of blood.” It posted a statement on militant websites last week calling for the continual bloodshed of Christians in the Middle East.

“Baghdad right now is just gripped by terrorism against the Christian community and there is no other way to put it,” said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA. “I’m using the word ‘religion-cide’ to explain to people what is really taking place in Iraq right now. Extremists are concentrating their efforts to eliminate Christianity from that country.” He noted how sad this effort is given that Christianity has been in the land that is now known as Iraq for two millennia.

Christians in Iraq have expressed frustration as well as desperation after the attack, saying that the Iraqi government only speaks word of protection but is unable to provide security for the beleaguered community. An Open Doors contact in Baghdad sent the following message on Wednesday:

“[T]errorists have started to kill the Christians in their houses in many different places of the city. My family and I are very stressed and afraid. It is very horrible and we are safe now, but maybe we are the next victims. Why is there no real safe place in Baghdad? Will we also leave Baghdad or not? We do not want to leave. We are born here. My family has lived here for ages and now I am forced to escape? What is this kind of world? Please pray for us to keep us safe until Friday, when we can get out for a few days.”

Continue to pray for the victims' families and for divine intervention.

Excerpted from The Christian Post and Assyrian International News Agency.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bhutanese government may legalise Christianity

As Christians living in the Western world, it can be difficult to imagine daily life without Bibles, Christian literature and our pick of churches in a 15-kilometre radius. And, yet, there are populations of people in this world who are unable to freely worship or attend a church of their choice.

In the South Asian country of Bhutan, government officials recognise only Buddhism and Hinduism as the country’s two religions. As a result, only these two communities have the right to openly practise their beliefs and build places of worship.

That may soon change as Bhutan’s religious regulatory authority is expected to consider recognising Christianity before the year’s end.

For the first time in Bhutan’s history, the Buddhist nation’s government seems ready to grant much-awaited official recognition and accompanying rights to a miniscule Christian population that has remained largely underground. The authority that regulates religious organisations will discuss—at its next meeting in late December—how a Christian organisation can be registered to represent its community.

Thank the Lord that movement forward is being made. Pray for our fellow Bhutanese brothers and sisters and their efforts to share Jesus Christ with those around them. Pray that the meeting will take place in December and that God will move among those gathered and open hearts to hearing His name and the words of His people.

You can read more about the plight to legalise Christianity in Bhutan by viewing “Legal Status Foreseen for Christianity in Buddhist Bhutan” posted on Charisma Magazine.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PRAY: Pakistani woman sentenced to death

Asia Bibi and her family
VOM sources are reporting that Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-two, has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for blasphemy. She is the first Pakistani woman ever to receive this sentence for blasphemy.

Yesterday, a court judge gave Asia the maximum sentence at the end of a trial that lasted more than 16 months. Asia, a farm labourer in her late 30s from Ittanwali, Punjab province, was also fined more than the equivalent of an average worker’s two-and-a-half years’ salary. The decision comes as a crushing blow to Asia and her family as well as all Pakistani believers and those who have been praying for Asia’s release.

Police first filed a case against Asia in June 2009, after her local Muslim co-workers accused her of making derogatory comments against Islam’s prophet, Mohammed. VOM first reported on this story on June 24, 2009, and wrote an update last week about Asia languishing in prison.

Please pray for a reversal of the court ruling. Pray that God would soften the hearts of those in charge of Asia’s case. Pray God's perfect peace that surpasses all human understanding over Asia and her family.

Want to do more? You can voice your concern by sending emails directly to the offices of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations.

Office of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari


Abdullah Hussain Haroon, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations


For more information about writing to government officials, download a PDF of VOM’s letter-writing guide and prisoner list, “Doing time for God.”

Imprisoned in a shipping container

Ever imagined yourself living inside a metal shipping container? Of course not. Shipping containers are made for moving inanimate goods around the globe, not for human comfort, and certainly not for housing. So, imagine Helen Berhane’s shock when she found herself living in one. The reason? She was imprisoned in her homeland of Eritrea for refusing to deny Jesus Christ as her Saviour.

Below is peek into Helen’s dramatic experience of being persecuted for His name’s sake, as excerpted from Song of the Nightingale: One woman’s dramatic story of faith and persecution in Eritrea by Helen Berhane with Emma Newrick.
A single candle flickers, its flame barely illuminating the darkness. They never burn for more than two hours after the container door is locked: there is not enough oxygen to keep the flame alive any longer. It will go out soon.

The woman behind me shifts in her sleep and her knees dig painfully into my back. I try to wriggle over to give her more room, but I am already pressed up against another sleeping body. I pull my blanket up higher and curl up as much as I can. Despite the proximity of so many people, it is freezing cold. Condensation drips from the roof and slides down my cheek, and when it moistens my lips I taste rust. The air is thick with a dirty metallic tang, the ever-present stench of the bucket in the corner, and the smell of close-pressed, unwashed bodies.

I peer around, trying to work out where she is, the woman whose mind is gone. There is a dark shape standing by the small window hacked roughly into the side of the container. I stiffen. Sometimes she blocks the opening by stuffing her blanket into it, cutting off our limited supply of fresh air. Other nights she shouts and wails, rocking the container so that none of us can sleep. She is worse now there are more of us: 19 in a space that can only sleep 18. Tonight she is quiet, and it makes me uneasy.

But, I am so tired, and so I force my body to relax against the hard floor. Abruptly the candle snuffs out, I close my eyes, and think of my daughter: Please Lord, keep her safe.

The floor creaks. Someone must be getting up and stumbling across the sleepers to the toilet bucket. I try to shut the noise out. Suddenly, without warning, hands close on my neck like a vice. My eyes fly open, but it is too dark to see. Then there is a guttural snarl, and I know that it is her, the mad woman, her fingers tight on my throat. I push myself up but I have no breath to scream, and I am not strong enough to shake her off. So I do the only thing I can do: I bang my free hand on the wall of the container and kick out. All around us prisoners are waking up. One tries to pull her away from me, but now she has one hand on my throat and the other knotted in my hair, yanking it away from my scalp. I gulp down a breath and manage a scream. The other prisoners start to shout, too, and bang the sides of the container. There are shouts now coming from outside, and the sound of hurrying feet, the screech of the bolts sliding back and the pop as air rushes into the container, and then the doors are flung wide open.

My eyes burn as torchlight sears across my face, and then a guard is yanking her away from me and beating her about the head and body with his baton. I fall onto all fours, gasping in air. The guards pull her out of the container, and slam the doors again. The other women rush to crowd around the tiny window, so small that only one can see out. One does, and whispers, “They are beating her!” Her voice is low so as not to anger the guards, who do not like us to look out. She risks another glance. “They have tied her outside.” The others start to lie down again, looking forward to a few hours of sleep before the guards come again to march us to the toilet field.

I lie down, too, but my scalp feels as though it is on fire, and I know that I will not sleep tonight. Sometimes I cannot believe that this is my life: these four metal walls, all of us corralled like cattle, the pain, the hunger, the fear. All because of my belief in a God who is risen, who charges me to share my faith with those who do not yet know him, a God who I am forbidden to worship. I think back to a question I have been asked many times over my months in prison: “Is your faith worth this, Helen?” And, as I take a deep breath of the sour air, as my scalp sings, the mad woman rants outside, and the guards continue on their rounds, I whisper the answer: “Yes.”
Want to read more? You can order this book through The Voice of the Martyrs Online Catalogue.

For more information about the persecution of Christians in Eritrea, visit The Voice of the Martyrs' Eritrean Country Report.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8 house churches closed in Syria

Check out a 60-second Overcomers video...

To view more videos about the persecution of Christians around the globe, visit Persecution.TV.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Iranian pastor to be held indefinitely

A little more than two weeks ago, VOM sources reported that Iranian Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani was sentenced to death by the Assize Court of the province of Gilan. Pastor Youcef, a leader in the Full Gospel "Church of Iran" network was arrested in October 2009, after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Qur'an. As of October 21, a formal verdict had not been delivered.

This past Friday, sources inside Iran confirmed that security officials informed the court not to deliver an official verdict, citing the amount of international attention the case is receiving. While the Iranian officials originally assumed they could hide their actions, the international attention has forced them to maintain appearances, thus deciding to neither deliver a sentence of death nor execute Pastor Youcef at this time.

Continue to pray for Pastor Youcef and his family, his release and his protection during this time of isolation.

To read more about the persecution of Christians in Iran, visit VOM’s Iran Country Report.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Won't you pray with us?

The plea of persecuted Christians remains unchanged: "Please, pray for us." Often their prayers are requests for strength. Many ask the Lord to make them mentally strong to withstand severe pressure to deny Him. Others ask for physical strength following violent attacks. Some cry in prayer for the ability to forgive their persecutors.

This November 14, Christians worldwide are setting apart an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), as a special time to pray for the suffering Body of Christ around the globe. This year's theme is "Hearing Their Cry" from Psalm 10:17: "You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry."

There is still time for you, your friends and your church group to get involved in this exciting prayer initiative. Visit http://www.idop.org/ to find out more and to download special resources designed to equip you to pray for your persecuted family.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chinese authorities raid Christian's home

Last week, approximately 10 police officials raided the home of a Christian in Beijing, China, in an effort to search for Hua Huiqi, a formerly imprisoned pastor. Every room in the house was ransacked, including a bedroom belonging to a child. The officials questioned the homeowner about intentions to meet with foreigners later that evening.

In response to the incident, the owner later spoke these powerful words: "Because the Beijing police have crossed the line, and have blatantly and continually abused the basic rights of my entire family, I hereby announce that today I will begin to continually fast and pray. I will pray to the Lord to bless China and to fill it with righteousness! I also request, brothers and sisters, that you pray for me and my family, and that God may grant us freedom from fear!"

Pray that this believer will continue to set Christ apart as Lord without giving in to fear, always prepared to share Christ while living a holy life (1 Peter 3:14-17). Pray that other Christians facing opposition in China will also remain confident in Christ and look prayerfully and faithfully to Him. Pray that China will no longer violate the human rights of its citizens. Pray also for safety for Pastor Hua Huiqi.

*Image of Pastor Hua Huiqi is provided by ChinaAid.