Friday, April 29, 2011

11 Iranian Christians to stand trial for ‘activities against the order’

Eleven members of the Church of Iran are to stand trial in the Revolutionary Tribunal of Bandar-Anzali for “activities against the Order,” and for drinking alcohol, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The charges relate to their involvement in a house church, and to taking communion wine.

The Christians on trial include:

  • Pastor Abdolreza Ali-Haghnejad and his wife Anahita Khademi
  • Mahmoud Khosh-Hal and his wife Hava Saadetmend
  • Fatemah Modir-Nouri
  • Mehrdad Habibzade
  • Milad Radef
  • Behzad Taalipas
  • Amir Goldoust, his sister Mina Goldoust and his grandmother Zainab Bahremend

Please pray for these individuals today!

There has been an increase in official rhetoric against evangelical Christians, which has been accompanied by a wave of arrests.

On January 4, Morteza Tamadon, the governor of Tehran, called the evangelical movement “a false, deviant and corrupt sect…placing themselves within the religion of Islam like a parasite and under the cover of Christianity.”

So far, the arrests of 254 Christians in 33 cities from June 2010 and February 2011 have been confirmed.  However, the actual number of arrests is thought to be far higher.

The blasphemy trial of six other members of the Church of Iran was adjourned on April 5 to allow prosecutors more time to gather evidence, and postponed again on April 13 in order to allow prosecutors to seek the assistance of Iran’s traditional churches in determining their guilt. Their legal team is optimistic that all charges relating the blasphemy trial, and to a one-year sentence for Crimes Against the Islamic Order handed down at an earlier trial, will be overturned on appeal.

Violence increases against Indonesian Christians

Mission Network News recently spoke with Todd Nettleton of our sister-mission VOM USA, regarding increasing violence against Christians in Indonesia.

Take a few moments to read the story below and then pray for our suffering brothers and sisters.

Easter threats against Christians reveal a grim trend in Indonesia
There has been a marked increase in the level of violence against Christians throughout Indonesia.
It's a trend revealed in the bold bombing attempt at Christ Cathedral Church. Bombs were found beneath a gas pipeline and in bags near the church entrance. Police reports indicate the suspects planned to detonate the explosives with a mobile phone on Good Friday, when the church would be at its fullest.
Todd Nettleton with VOM USA says animosity toward Christians has been at a high level over the last several years, but this is a new direction for the Muslim extremists. "These radical Islamic groups seem to be targeting churches and targeting Christians. It seems to be a little bit of a shift to targeting native Indonesians who are Christians as opposed to targeting foreigners."
Nineteen were arrested in connection with the foiled plot. It's the mindset that's more troubling, says Nettleton. "It does indicate that there is some organization and that there is some effort being made to create disharmony, to create the appearance that there's animosity towards the church."
Other recent attacks in February appeared to come from disgruntled Muslim neighbours over believers meeting in homes. There, too, is an effort to stir up trouble. VOM team members say that militants were trucked into one area from as far away as 80 miles, just to protest a church. The real culprits behind the disruption are hard to find, because their message can be presented without any local relevance. "They're able to recruit troublemakers to come in from out of the area when they need an angry mob to march and shout slogans. They're able to recruit people to join that mob."
Nettleton says they've also noted a corresponding development that could be real trouble in the near future. "One of the things we've seen over the last five years is a shift to of what I would call ‘government persecution.'"
While there is no official state religion, Islam seems to be gaining strength politically, often at the expense of religious minorities such as Christians. Christians say they are being marginalized in society and increasingly persecuted.
Many house churches have been closed. Government officials have been more recently citing legal code and infractions as they close churches. It's unsettling because there's no recourse. "It's one thing when there are criminals and lawbreakers who make trouble. It's another thing when it IS the law that's making trouble. That's what we've seen sort of a shift to. Again, it's not everywhere in Indonesia, but it has become more and more common in the stories that we're reporting persecution there."
However, Nettleton says, "The good news is that the gospel continues to spread. Even in the stories about the potential bomb attack over Easter, many of the comments from the Christians were ‘Church is where we want to be on Easter, and if there's a risk, there's a risk.'"
That attitude is encouraging. VOM has been reaching out to support the persecuted church in Indonesia for years, but in times when oppression is coming from more than one direction, Nettleton says, "That spirit says the future of the church is bright and strong. There is need for prayer though, and there's need for prayer for protection for the Christians. There's also need for prayer for the Muslims, particularly I think for government officials."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4 Ethiopian Muslims beat evangelist to death, assault his pregnant wife

Pray for Ethiopian believers today!
International Christian Concern (ICC) learned that four Muslims beat an evangelist to death and assaulted his pregnant wife in Worabe, Ethiopia, on April 21.

An ICC spokesperson told ASSIST News Service that the Muslims lured Evangelist Abraham Abera from Kale Hiwot Church, his home and place of ministry, telling him that his friend was sick and needed his immediate attention.

Abraham left with the men; they turned on him and began to beat him with rods. The minister’s wife, Birtukan, ran to intervene, but the Muslims beat her as well.

Abraham died on the spot and his wife, who sustained a severe head injury, was left unconscious in the street. She was found and taken to a hospital in Butajira, where she regained consciousness on April 22.

Birtukan spoke with an ICC source and said that she knew two of the attackers. She said that as the Muslims were beating her and her husband, they told them, “You (Christians) are growing in number in our area. You are spreading your message (the gospel). We will destroy you.”

Birtukan’s unborn baby fortunately survived the attack.

The attackers remain at large. A Christian leader in the area told ICC that the men may not be arrested because the local officials are also Muslims. The area is 97 percent Muslim.

Egyptians mixed over Islam's role in new government

Most Egyptians don’t want an incoming government that strays from the principles of Qur’an, reported a new poll conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

CBN News reported that two-thirds of respondents said they want society to strictly follow the Qur’an. Yet, only 31 percent said they tend to sympathise with the Islamic fundamentalists in their country. Troubling statistics for Egyptian Christians, indeed.

Take a few minutes to watch CBN News Senior International Correspondent Gary Lane analyze the recent poll further (Length 2:30).

The Pew results were based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 Egyptians and is considered the first credible survey in the Middle East since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pastor arrested in Inner Mongolia

VOM contacts in China report that one of their dear friends, a pastor, was arrested in Inner Mongolia on April 12.

The pastor, Jesse, was arrested along with four other leaders. His "offense" is that 1,000 university students attend his church. About 100 of the university students are also Bible school students who are taught by a VOM worker.

Police have detained Pastor Jesse five times over the last year, and they had warned him and let him know they were watching him. Pastor Jesse and the four others are being held in a detention center where prisoners are usually held for at least 30 days. It’s not known whether he will be formally sentenced.

A friend wrote, "We sent some clothes [to Jesse] but were not able to meet and talk to him. Please pray. The situation here is so bad."

Ask the Lord to encourage Pastor Jesse, and pray for his release. Pray that his church members will not falter in their faith but will grow stronger.

Egyptian Copts ‘terrorized’ by gang

Pray for Christians in Egypt!
Since late January, Copts in Minya province, Egypt, have suffered repeated attacks from a large gang of thugs who target Christians, reported Release International.

The first attack on a Coptic family occurred on January 28. The family reported the assault to police but withdrew their allegations after receiving death threats from the gang.

On January 29, the gang leader raped two Coptic women, threatening to kill their children if they took the matter to police. In another assault, gang members kidnapped a 30-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy; their families were forced to pay ransoms to secure their release.

The gang has also reportedly imposed a night-time curfew on Copts. Copts in Minya are dismayed that the police and army have not taken more decisive steps to detain gang members and their leader.

Pray that authorities will take action to apprehend the gang members in Minya province.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pastor kidnapped in Mexico

Pastor Josué Ramírez Santiago
(Photo Assist News)
A pastor has been kidnapped by suspected drug traffickers in the city of Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico, reported Compass Direct News.

At approximately 8:15 a.m. on April 10, a group of men armed with machine guns barged into the Christian Center El Shaddai where some 500 Christians were gathered for a worship service. The men fired guns into the air and grabbed Pastor Josué Ramírez Santiago.

The following day, the pastor's family received news that the criminals wanted a ransom of 20 million pesos (approximately $1.6 million CAD). Even if the family could raise such an immense sum, it is unlikely that payment would secure the pastor's safe return.

Local Christians have reported that organized crime syndicates and drug cartels often target Christians because they view churches as revenue centers.

"Some 100 Mexican or foreign pastors who lived in Ciudad Juarez have had to abandon the city because of the threats and demands for money," said Arturo Farela, director of the National Fraternity of Evangelical Churches. He also noted that many pastors and their families had been victims of extortion, threats, kidnapping and homicide.

Pray Pastor Josué will be released and safely returned home. Pray for protection for evangelical Christians suffering persecution. Pray for God's peace to reign in regions of Mexico currently embroiled in violence and crime. Pray God's people will be equipped and emboldened to serve their Lord faithfully, even amid great opposition.

New Christian convert from Islam murdered in Somalia

On April 18, two Muslim extremists in Somalia murdered a member of a secret Christian community in Lower Shabele region as part of a campaign to rid the country of Christianity, reported Compass Direct News.

An area source told Compass two al Shabaab militants shot 21-year-old Hassan Adawe Adan in Shalambod town after entering his house at 7:30 p.m.

Adan, single and living with his Muslim family, was said to have converted to Christianity several months ago. Area Christians said they suspected someone had informed the Islamic militants of his conversion. One source said that a relative who belonged to al Shabaab had told Adan’s mother that he suspected her son was a Christian.

“This incident is making other converts live in extreme fear, as the militants always keep an open eye to anyone professing the Christian faith,” a source said.

With estimates of al Shabaab’s size ranging from 3,000 to 7,000, the insurgents seek to impose a strict version of Shariah (Islamic law), but the transitional government in Mogadishu fighting to retain control of the country treats Christians little better than the al Shabaab extremists do. While proclaiming himself a moderate, President Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed has embraced a version of Shariah that mandates the death penalty for those who leave Islam.

You can read the full story here.

Uzbek Christian assaulted, fined for distributing Bible

An Uzbek Christian was recently assaulted and fined in the capital city of Tashkent for giving a children's Bible to one of her work colleagues in 2010, reported Forum 18 News Service.

On April 1, Galina Shemetova was leaving a hospital after medical treatment, for which she had been granted sick leave from her work at the local subway station, when she was accosted by a police officer. The officer struck her on the head and dragged her into a police vehicle.

The same day, Galina was charged with "attracting believers of one confession to another (proselytism) and other missionary activity" and fined 50 times the minimum month salary in the country (approximately $1,400 CAD). The officer who assaulted Galina claimed that she was "hiding from police for one week pretending to be ill" and when asked what she had done wrong, said "she is a missionary and violated the law."

Pray Galina will continue to be steadfast in her faith, trusting in God's provision and guidance (1 Peter 5:8-10). Pray Uzbek Christians facing similar trials will keep their eyes on Jesus, persevere in the faith and not grow weary or lose heart. Pray persecutors throughout Uzbekistan will be challenged by the consistent testimony of Christ's followers and be drawn to Him.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Consider Him this Easter

Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, recently shared an Easter reflection via the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission’ Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin.

This Easter, we hope you’ll take a moment to “consider Him” and remember all that Jesus Christ has done and is continuing to do for you. Also remember to lift up our brothers and sisters around the globe who suffer for Christ’s name.

When contemplating persecution, consider Him. (Hebrews 12:3)


By Elizabeth Kendal

Does persecution bite;
    does fear consume your night?
        Consider Him.
Does tribulation strain;
    does mocking sore inflame?
        Consider Him.
Consider Him who crown of thorns did humbly wear; [Scripture: see end note 1] Despised, rejected, spat on, was stripped bare; [2] Unrecognised, object of scorn, Unfair! [3]
     Consider Him. (Hebrews 12:3)

Can those who hate you strike;
    take jobs, possessions, life?
        Consider Him.
Can government forsake;
    injustice overtake?
        Consider Him.
Consider Him who bore the blows and took the lash; [4] Falsely accused, betrayed, abused in purple sash; [5] At Golgotha, nailed to a cross, with Satan clashed; [6]
     Consider Him. (Hebrews 12:3)

Does righteousness take fright;
    does hope fade out of sight?
        Consider Him.
Does fear grip heart and head;
    strike hands and knees like lead?
        Consider Him.
Consider Him who with His gaze on heaven's home; (Hebrews 12:2) Endured the cross, despised the shame for promised throne; (Hebrews 12:2) Consumed with love, propelled by faith alone; (Hebrews 12:2)
     Consider Him. (Hebrews 12:3)   

When evil seems supreme,
    and rest seems like a dream;
        Consider Him.
When enemies grow bold,
    when shrouds seem to enfold;
        Consider Him.
Consider him whose violent death bruised serpent's head; [7] Who third day, shroud removed, rose from the dead; [8] Arisen, King of Love victorious, as he said; [9]
     Consider him! (Hebrews 12:3)

“. . . Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.' (Hebrews 12:1c-3 ESV)

Scripture References:
  1. Mark 15:16-20
  2. Isaiah 53:3; Matt 27:28-30; Psalm 22:18
  3. John 1:11; Luke 22:63-65; Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 53:9
  4. Matt 26:67; 27:26
  5. Matt 26:59-60; Luke 22:47-48; John 19:2,5
  6. John 19:16-18; Matt 27:39-44; Heb 13:12
  7. Gen 3:15; Col 2:13-15; Rev 5:6-14
  8. John 20; Isaiah 25:7,8
  9. Matt 12:40; 16:21; 17:22,23; John 2:18-22

Saturday, April 23, 2011

'We are the clay; He is the potter'

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

Day 165

“We are the clay; He is the potter.”

One believer stood at the window, watching the midnight streets for movement that could signal the police closing in on the worshippers. The Christians were meeting secretly in the southern part of Iran. The foreign visitor added to the danger, for Iranian police would be furious to know Christians were sharing fellowship with an outsider.

One believer had recently been released from police custody, and the bruises on his body told about the treatment he had received. Although the police watched him closely and knew of this Christian work, he continued, ministering as much as he could when he wasn’t under arrest.

He spoke with passion and urged the gathered believers to grow more like Christ, regardless of the cost. All of them knew that the cost would be high, for all of them knew Christians who had been arrested, beaten or murdered. Others had simply disappeared.

The wonderful service was long and worshipful. Afterward, the amazed foreign guest asked the speaker about his prison experiences and the suffering he had endured. “How can you,” he asked, “keep such a spirit of hope and cheerfulness in the midst of these troubles?”

“These trials are just ‘tools’ in God’s hands,” said the Iranian believer. “Who am I to criticize the tools that God uses to make me more holy?”

Just as the clay cannot ask the potter what it will be, so we cannot ask our Maker what we will be. But, we can trust that God will create something beautiful and holy with our lives. We know by faith that we are the products of God’s hands.

In what ways do you need to trust that God, the Master Potter, is making you into a work of art?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Killer of Christian Emmanuel brothers gets death sentence in Pakistan

Rashid (L) and Sajid (R) Emmanuel
(Photo ASSIST News)
In July 2010, we shared with you that two Pakistani brothers were shot and killed after they were accused of blaspheming the prophet Muhammad. Rev. Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel, leaders of United Ministries Pakistan, were being returned to jail under police custody when they were attacked and shot by several masked men.

On April 18, an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan’s Faisalabad district sentenced to death Maqsood Ahmed, who was convicted of killing the brothers and injuring a police inspector, reported ASSIST News Service.

The court imposed a $47,784 fine on the convict and sentenced him to multiple 10-year prison terms.

ASSIST News reported that the ruling is a good sign for Christians, and other religious minorities in Pakistan, as it is the first ever case of its kind where the accusations were heard on merit by the honourable court, and the accused was punished according to the law.

The brothers were arrested in early July after being presented with a three-page document that insulted Muhammad and was supposedly signed by the two of them. Handwriting experts notified police that the signatures on the document did not match the brothers' writing. Sources believe the brothers were likely to be exonerated of the charges.

In the days before the murder, Muslims organized large demonstrations calling for the death penalty for the brothers.

When news of the murder reached the brothers' neighbourhood of Dawood Nagar, Faisalabad, Christians gathered to protest. Police fired teargas cannons at the protestors, who in turn threw stones. The situation quickly became volatile, with indiscriminate shooting occurring between Christians and Muslims.

Joseph Francis, chairman of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) has appealed to Christians around the world to “pray for all innocent persons detained under blasphemy and other discriminatory allegations” and added, “May the God, our Lord, protect them from the illegal decisions of the courts as well as preserve those falsely accused of blasphemy from their co-prisoners.”

Speaking out against persecution could paint target on believers

VOM’s Greg Musselman recently spoke with Mission Network News (MNN) about increasing persecution in Pakistan and the targeting of believers who speak out against persecution.

Musselman told MNN that Pakistan has always been a difficult place for believers to live, but as the blasphemy law (in which anyone can be sentenced to death for negatively portraying the prophet Muhammad or Islam) has come to international attention, tension has dramatically increased.

The case of Asia Bibi—a woman sentenced to death for allegedly blaspheming Muhammad while sharing her faith—has created particular outrage among Muslim and Christian communities alike, albeit often for opposing reasons. Believers are so perturbed by the injustice that they are willing to hold a vigil, but Musselman says this could be asking for trouble.

"You could be painting a target on yourself, and that could give the militant Islamists an opportunity—especially when they know that this event is coming."

It would seem that believers in Pakistan are in the midst of a catch-22. If no one speaks out against their persecution, attacks will continue unchecked.

Musselman anticipates many more church bombings (like the one that went off in Sarhadi Lutheran Church in Mardan) in the future. But if Pakistani believers do speak out against the injustice being done to them, they will also be persecuted further. Consider both Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who were assassinated for their positions on the blasphemy law.

As a result, some believers have already started to flee the country or go into hiding. Musselman says new converts live in extreme caution. "Those that come to Christ from Muslim backgrounds have to be very careful. They come late to the [church] service and leave early."

Pakistani Christians have always had to live under the radar, but now it seems as though "anybody that comes out against the blasphemy law or speaks out against Muslims and the treatment of Christians—they will find themselves in difficulty," explains Musselman.

Read the full story here.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan. Pray any vigils that occur on Asia Bibi’s behalf would not incite more violence but would be an effective time of prayer and peaceful protest. Pray the Lord would guide each believer as to whether he should stay in the country or flee, and as to when he should speak up or be silent. Pray our fellow kingdom workers would courageously continue to live out Christ's love, reaching out even to those who persecute them the most.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Muslims warn that Christians may ‘pay the price’ for outcome of Nigerian election

Pray for protection and strength
for believers in Nigeria.
Violence erupted in many of Nigeria’s northern cities on April 16, after a presidential election that appears to have given a sweeping victory to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, reported BBC News and VOM sources.

Goodluck, a Christian from the south and representative of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), took 57 percent of the vote. He received about 22.5 million votes compared with 12.2 million for his opponent, General Muhammadu Buhari.

Goodluck came to power a year ago when his predecessor, Muslim Umaru Yar'Adua, became ill and died. Goodluck was serving as vice president at the time.

Traditionally, leadership in the religiously and ethnically divided nation alternates between Muslim and Christian leaders in the top job; their running mates are often of the opposite religion.

As news of Goodluck’s apparent victory spread, rioters took to the streets in the cities of Kaduna, Kano and Jos, burning the homes of PDP supporters. The BBC also reported protests in the states of Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina and Sokoto.

A VOM source in Nigeria wrote, “Just this morning [April 20], we woke up to the fresh news of attacks on Christians in Kaduna city, mostly in Kawo, Gonin Gora and several other areas across Kaduna. Many churches, Christian houses and properties are now on fire. Many Christian families were trapped and surrounded by violent Muslims reacting to the outcome of the presidential election that is yet to be declared officially.

“The fear of Muslims is that they do not want a Christian leader and president in Nigeria. Even before now, it has been rumored that if the PDP wins the election, they will not accept the result and that Christians should be ready to pay the price. Please pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Kaduna right now.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has noted that members of the Youth Corps are being targeted because they were employed to monitor the elections, and had resisted efforts at vote rigging. Also there are currently curfews in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kano and Kaduna States.

Malatya murder trial continues on 4th anniversary of deaths

Christian martyrs Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel
and Tillman Geske (Photo by Compass Direct)
Monday marked the fourth anniversary of the murders of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tillman Geske—employees of the Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, eastern Turkey, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The three members of the Malatya Kurtulus Church were tortured and killed by a group of five young Muslims in the office of the Christian publishing company on April 18, 2007. 

The trial of the five alleged murderers began on November 22, 2007, and to date at least 27 witnesses have appeared in court over the course of 30 hearings. The five men were caught trying to escape from the scene of the crime. However, the trial has been prolonged due to the prosecutors’ desire to prove the killings were commissioned by high-level clandestine powers.

Last month, 20 people were detained in connection with both the Malatya murders and the ongoing ‘Ergenekon’ case. Ergenekon is an alleged high-level conspiracy to destabilize the Turkish government through acts of terror, including the targeting of minority communities, as outlined in the organization’s “Cage Action Plan.”

Friends and family of the victims, who have long advocated a more in-depth examination of these murders, have expressed satisfaction with recent developments, and the hope that the Malatya trial will soon be officially merged with the Ergenekon case. However, the timing of the recent removal from the Ergenekon investigation of Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor who ordered the recent arrests, has raised some anxieties.

The next Malatya hearing is scheduled for April 29.

Police round up pastors, Christians again

Photo by ChinaAid
This past Sunday, police again detained church leaders in Beijing and Shandong and rounded up nearly 50 Christians trying to attend an outdoor service, reported ChinaAid Association, via the South China Morning Post.

On the previous Sunday, police detained 169 worshippers of the Shouwang Protestant Church, as they tried to worship outside a commercial building. They had been evicted from their usual premises.

The recent crackdown on Shouwang, one of the largest house churches on the mainland, and a few smaller churches prompted fears that a fresh crackdown on unregistered churches was under way.

Church members who were taken into custody most recently said large numbers of police officers were deployed near the building where Shouwang members planned to worship. They said police shoved them into buses and took them to different police stations for interrogation. They were still in custody as of Monday.

Pastor Jin Tianming, who was taken away by police on Saturday night and interrogated for nearly 12 hours, said about 50 people in his congregation were detained. Many were among those detained last week.

Pastor Li Xiaobai and his wife were also taken away for a few hours on Saturday night, and Pastor Zhang Xiaofeng had been removed from a restaurant near the planned place of worship Sunday morning, church members said. Jin and Li remained under house arrest.

Beijing police refused to make any comment.

In late 2009, the church bought a 1,500-square-metre office space in a commercial building for 27 million yuan ($3.96 million CAD), but the property's management was pressured by the authorities not to hand it over, even though the church had paid in full.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Laos, Vietnam troops kill four Hmong Christians

Agence France-Presse released a story of Laotian and Vietnamese troops killing four Hmong Christian women over the weekend after confiscating their Bible.

The Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA), a U.S. rights group, said the unarmed highland Hmong women were “summarily executed” on Thursday in northeastern Xieng Khouang province by soldiers from a special 150-member unit of the Lao People's Army (LPA) led by Vietnamese secret police and military advisers.

The government troops confiscated the group's only Bible and “brutally and repeatedly raped” at least two of the younger women before shooting them at point blank range with automatic weapons in the head and torso. Their husbands and 26 children were forced to witness the killings and have since disappeared after being beaten and tied up.

CPPA executive director Philip Smith said there has been a “very dramatic” increase in persecution, imprisonment, torture and killing of Lao and Hmong Christians for celebrating Christmas or worshipping independently, as well as independent Buddhist and animist believers in the provinces of Vientiane, Khammoune, Saravan, Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang and other regions in Laos.

Please pray for Laotian and Vietnamese believers who are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. Pray for the families of the four women who were recently killed. Pray they would be surrounded and strengthened by the love of Christ. Pray, too, that senseless acts of murder such of these would not dampen the spirits of other believers in the area.

Vietnamese government steps up repression of Christian group

A Montagnard village
The Vietnamese government has been increasingly harassing a peaceful group of Montagnard Christians living in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, reported The Straits Times.

Although Christian Montagnards have always been a target of persecution, the Vietnamese government has stepped up its repression of this indigenous minority—forcing hundreds to renounce their religion.

According to a report from the Human Rights Watch, “the Vietnamese government has increased its harassment of peaceful ethnic minority Christians in the Central Highlands, targeting members of unregistered house churches.”

Pray the Lord will protect these believers and give them the strength they need to stay faithful and remain effective witnesses for Christ. May they rely on the Lord to give them the words to say when they stand before accusing authorities (Matthew 10:19). Pray for the perpetrators and all those in authority.

Nepalese Christians on hunger strike

Pray for Nepalese believers today!
On March 20, thousands of Christians marched with empty coffins and empty stomachs in front of Nepalese government offices, reported International Christian Concern. The believers were begging the government of Kathmandu to allot them plots of land to bury their loved ones.

In recent years, land available to Christians has been limited, forcing them to bury their dead on top of one another in the same tomb.

In 2009, Christians were given the Shleshmantak Forest as a place to bury their dead. However, this forest was right next to a Hindu temple. The decision sparked protests from Hindus around the country, forcing the government to ban Christian burials in Shleshmantak Forest.

Although the Nepalese government has lifted the ban, radical Hindus continue to stop Christians from burying their dead in the forest.

Pray the Nepalese government will have compassion for these believers and grant them land. Ask the Lord to provide for them. Pray these believers will be the light of Christ to their Hindu neighbours.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Riot police take on worshippers in Azerbaijan

Pray for believers in Azerbaijan!
Three religious communities in Gyanja, Azerbaijan, have been banned from meeting for worship, reported Forum 18 News Service.

The worship bans were imposed in mid-March because the communities do not have state registration. However, Babek Sadykov of the Gyanja Police denied this ban, claiming, "no one is being prevented from worshipping."

Local sources told Forum 18 that one of the communities was warned that "if they met for worship on the following Sunday or at any future date they will all be arrested." Two buses full of ordinary police and riot police later arrived to prevent any religious worship. Protestants told Forum 18 that the church had already reluctantly decided not to hold one big Sunday service that day. "People are now very afraid."

Meanwhile, President Ilham Aliev told a government-initiated World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue that "freedom of religion freedom of conscience has been fully established in Azerbaijan."

Ask the Lord to grant true religious freedom in Azerbaijan. Pray believers will be encouraged to continue to meet together despite opposition (Hebrews 10:23-25). Pray believers will be unified and encouraged as they continue to walk in faith and be an effective witness for the gospel to all those around them, including the local police.

Christian released from prison in Afghanistan!

VOM sources have confirmed that an Afghan convert to Christianity was released from prison on March 31.

Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was imprisoned in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. He was arrested in late October 2010 for giving a Bible to a friend.

While detained, Shoaib was physically abused and threatened with death by fellow prisoners. He refused to recant his faith in Christ in exchange for his freedom.

Thank the Lord for Shoaib's release! Pray for healing and strength for him, as he adjusts to life outside prison walls. Pray he will continue to entrust his life and future to the Lord. Pray for the release of other imprisoned Christians. Pray that believers in Afghanistan will stand strong in their faith and reach out to their neighbours, despite their small numbers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Listen to kids at Sideras Children’s Home in India sing unto the Lord!

In spite of all they have been through, dozens of children at the Sideras Children’s Home in Indore, India, continue singing unto the Lord. Many lost their homes in the August 2008 militant Hindu attacks in Orissa, while others lost one or both parents. VOM provides support for some of children. You can, too!

Call our office at 1-888-298-6423 to find out how.

Take a minute to watch and listen to the children sing (Length 1:00).

You can sponsor a persecuted child in India!

One building of the Sideras Children's Home in Indore, India
In August 2008, militant Hindus unleashed an assault on Christians in at least 12 districts of Orissa state.

More than 100 people were killed, 4,500 homes and churches burned, and 70,000 people displaced. Christians were told they could not return to their homes or remain safe unless they converted to Hinduism.

Following the attacks, VOM partnered with a ministry to provide 60 affected children with a place to live and an education. Word spread, and that number increased to 125 children, ranging in age from 4 to 16.

Today, VOM continues to support children at the Sideras Children’s Home who have lost their homes or, in some cases, one or both parents during the 2008 attack.

You are invited to join us in supporting these children.

For $40/month, you can provide a child’s education, clothing, housing, food and medical costs. You can support the child monthly or make a gift to cover the entire year. After we receive your commitment, we will send you a photo of your child along with information about him/her. We will ensure that you receive updated information about your child at least once during the year. Also, you can send letters to your child by way of VOM’s office.

Please prayerfully consider being a part of a child’s life!

Contact our office at 1-888-298-6423 today, as VOM sponsors a limited number of children.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Police injure Christian leader in Shaanxi with electric baton; block door of another in Henan with bricks

Pastor Wang Zhanhu was hit by a police baton
and went into a coma. (Photograph provided by
Zhanhu's family and evidence collected by
reporter Qiao Long.)
Two house-church leaders in Huaxian, Shaanxi Province, and Fanxian, Henan Province, were harassed by police, reported ChinaAid Association and Radio Free Asia.

When Wang Zhanhu attempted to prevent police from disturbing an assembly, the police hit him with an electric baton. He went into a coma. He is currently under treatment at a hospital.

Police also blocked up the entrance to Senior Pastor Zhang Tielin’s home with bricks, so he and his family could not enter or exit their home. This is the second time the government blocked his door.

Take a moment to read through Zhanhu and Tielin’s response to their assaults here.

Please pray for these two brothers and their families as well as other believers in China who are standing up for Jesus and religious freedom.

‘Religicide’ exterminating Iraqi Christians

More Christians have been fleeing Iraq in recent months than ever before, reported Mission Network News (MNN) today.

Carl Moeller with Open Doors USA says extremists are calling for the complete extermination of believers in the country.

"We've been calling this a 'religicide'—which is the systematic destruction and elimination of a religious group simply for being that religious group. And we see this now unfolding in a very shocking way," says Moeller.

The number of Christians in Iraq has dropped dramatically in the last few decades, from 850,000 believers in 1991, to 550,000 believers in 2003, to 345,000 believers in early 2010. Now perhaps less than 250,000 Christians call Iraq home, a number which includes those who have been permanently displaced from their homes.

The loss of so many believers in just a year can be attributed in part to one significant event, said Moeller: a terrorist attack by al-Qaida-linked groups on Our Lady of Salvation Church on October 31 of last year. Sixty Christians were killed. As a result, up to 95,000 Christians have left the country since that attack, said Moeller.

At the current rate of the exodus, Iraq will not have any Christians left in three years, said an Open Doors' field worker.

You can read the entire MNN report here.

Please pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Iraq. Pray for their safety but also for courage unknown to share the gospel with those who are seeking. Pray that the government would put an end to this "religicide" and that ultimately the Lord's sovereign will reign.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Believers in two Indian states banished

Pray for believers in South Asia.
Christian believers in two Indian states were expelled from their villages because they chose to follow Jesus, reported Gospel for Asia (GFA).

“Once again, we are seeing how our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering persecution for His sake all across Asia,” noted GFA President K.P. Yohannan. “These two incidents clearly show the cost of discipleship in India and other South Asian countries.”

One incident took place in a high-caste Orissa village known to be a center of religious extremism.
GFA-supported national missionary Galoknath Jena established a regular prayer meeting in a family’s home in a high-caste Orissa village. The family was the first in the village to follow Christ, and they were among just a handful of believers that formed the first Christian fellowship there.

The rest of the village was angered by the small group of believers. When the husband died suddenly, village leaders began to verbally abuse and harass the wife, daughter and grandchildren. The believers responded in silence and prayer, infuriating the leaders.

The leaders forced the family to leave the village. Taking their few worldly possessions with them, the family took shelter in the home of a GFA leader in a village about 25 kilometres away.

Yohannan said a young man in Uttar Pradesh received Jesus as his Saviour about six months ago, and the local leaders banned him from his village. His entire family has been excommunicated from their society, said Yohannan.

Please take a moment to pray for these families that are suffering greatly simply because they have placed their faith in Christ. Pray the Lord will continue to hold them up. And pray also for those who persecute them, that their eyes will be opened to the true love of the living God.

Arrested Iranians out of prison, but not free

Elam Ministries is reporting that most of the Iranian Christians arrested in the wave of arrests over the Christmas season are either out of prison, or have been offered release on the condition of very high bail—$250,000 for one believer.

While they are out of prison, they are not free, says Elam. They are closely watched, and their phones are tapped. If there is any suspicion of them engaging in any Christian activity, they risk arrest and imprisonment again. There are also court trials. The Christians do not know the date, the charge or, often, the sentence. They live in intimidation and uncertainty and with their memories of prison—solitary confinement, constant questioning, insults, beatings, threats of execution and lies that others have betrayed them.

They need our prayer.

Please pray for:
  • Grace for released Christians to not just get through each day but to be able to live each day to the fullest knowing they can cast all their cares on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)
  • Wisdom regarding their future
  • Healing for their memories

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

First foreign evangelist allowed to openly proclaim gospel in Vietnam since 1975

Thousands respond during an invitation at a
Luis Palau festival in Ho Chi Minh City,
Vietnam. (Luis Palau Association photo)
For the first time since 1975, a foreign evangelist has been allowed to proclaim the Gospel openly in Vietnam, reported Mission Network News.

World-renowned evangelist Luis Palau broke a 35-year drought of non-Vietnamese evangelist activity when he entered Vietnam a week ago. Luis, his son Andrew and a team from Luis Palau Association were met at the airport by some 400 to 500 cheering people.

The Vietnamese have extremely high hopes for the Palaus' month-long stay in Vietnam. The evangelical church, 2 million strong, has set a goal of bringing 10 percent of the country—roughly 9,900,000 people—to Christ by 2020. Their hope was that last weekend's evangelistic festival in Ho Chi Minh City would add significantly to that number.

The festival was unsurprisingly met by obstacles.

There was some concern that the permit wouldn't be granted for the festival, and it was not actually permitted until three hours before the event and even then it required a move to a different location.

In the end, a slightly late start made little difference. By the festival's close on Sunday, thousands had engaged in worship, heard a clear gospel message and listened to testimonies. Thousands came to Christ.

The Palau team will remain in Vietnam for a couple of weeks, preaching the gospel, encouraging leaders, and building up churches in discipleship and other areas. Pray for their time in the country, and especially for this weekend’s festival in Hanoi. The April 15-16 event also has yet to receive a permit.

Praise God for the new lives that have been found in Christ. Pray that the time Luis Palau and his team spend in Vietnam will bear much fruit and will open the doors for many more evangelistic opportunities.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beijing police release nearly all Shouwang Church detainees; pastor, two others still in custody

Twenty-four hours after a crackdown on a house church that lost its indoor meeting site and was attempting to hold Sunday worship services outdoors, Beijing police had released all but a handful of the at least 169 Christians who were detained, said ChinaAid Association sources.

Western news reports described the move against the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing’s largest house churches, as the largest crackdown on unregistered Protestant congregations in years.
By Monday morning, only a pastor and his wife and one female believer were still in police custody. However, surveillance vehicles remained outside the apartment buildings of many Shouwang members, and ChinaAid believes that their freedom of movement will remain restricted for some time to come.

Church sources said at least 169 people were detained by police when they turned up at a previously designated public area in western Beijing’s Haidian district for their normally scheduled Sunday worship service at 8:30 a.m.

Some were immediately loaded into buses and taken away by some of the up to 1000 police who turned out in force to seal off the site in the Zhongguancun commercial area. Most were taken to a nearby elementary school, while others were held in local police stations. In almost all cases, the Christians sang hymns while in detention.

Police interrogated the detainees, took down their names and other personal details and ordered some to write statements of repentance and personal guarantees. Many refused and were not released until well after midnight.

Authorities had also put two dozen of Shouwang’s clergy and lay leaders under informal house arrest beginning Saturday night to prevent them from going to the meeting site. Members of the congregation who showed up but managed to elude the police regrouped in smaller numbers in nearby locations and proceeded to hold their regular Sunday worship service.

The church’s website was taken down, and cell phone coverage in the area of the meeting site was shut down, in an apparent effort to keep news of the crackdown from getting out.

In the days before the planned outdoor worship service, Shouwang church members were called in for talks by various authorities, including the local police, work supervisors, school leaders and neighbourhood committees, who warned them not to participate in the outdoor meeting on Sunday.

At least one Western reporter, the correspondent for The Toronto Star, was detained for several hours and had his press credentials confiscated. Other foreign reporters were turned away from the area by police.

Destroying one Qur’an vs. destroying many Christians; which is worse?

The West responds vehemently to the
burning of one Qur'an. What about
the murders of hundreds of Christians?
Raymond Ibrahim recently wrote a story for Frontpage Magazine about the now infamous Qur’an burning by Florida pastor Terry Jones that resulted in hysteria in the Muslim world.

While the article is written referencing Americans, the word "Westerner" could easily and should replace it.

Ibrahim wrote that in Afghanistan alone, some 20 people, including U.N. workers, have been killed and beheaded. Western leaders around the globe have condemned Jones’ actions, and many are even blaming the deaths in Afghanistan directly on Jones.

Yet, writes Ibrahim, as Western leaders rush to profess their abhorrence at what one American did to one inanimate book, no one seems to be questioning what many Muslims are doing to many living and breathing Christians around the Islamic world—to virtually no media coverage or Western condemnation.

Ibrahim provides a list of recent atrocities:
  • Afghanistan: A Muslim convert to Christianity was seized and, according to Shariah’s apostasy laws, awaits execution.
  • Bangladesh: A Christian man was arrested for distributing Bibles near Muslims. Since April 6, thousands of Muslims have been rioting, injuring dozens—not because of Jones, but in protestation of women’s rights.
  • Egypt: A Muslim mob burned down another Coptic church and dozens of Christian homes; when Christians protested, the military opened fire on them while crying “Allahu Akbar,” killing nine. Another mob cut a Christian man’s ear off “according to Shariah.”
  • Ethiopia: Muslims went on a rampage burning down nearly 70 churches, killing at least one Christian, and dislocating as many as 10,000. Christians living in Muslim majority regions are being warned to either convert to Islam, abandon their homes, or die.
  • Malaysia: Authorities detained and desecrated thousands of Bibles.
  • Pakistan: Two Christians were shot to death as they exited church; a Christian serving life in prison for “blasphemy” died in his cell under suspicions of murder.
  • Saudi Arabia: An Eritrean Christian has been arrested for sharing his faith with Muslims and is facing the death penalty; other missionaries continue to languish in Saudi prisons.
  • Somalia and Sudan: Christian girls—including a mother of four—were recently abducted, raped and killed for embracing Christianity.

None of these atrocities, says Ibrahim, were performed in retaliation to Jones’ Qur’an burning; they’re just business as usual in the Muslim world. And those are just some of the few stories that actually made it into the media. Many, many stories, says Ibrahim, are of persistent, quiet misery that only the victims and local Christians know.

One would think stories such as these are equally deserving of media attention and Western condemnation as the Qur’an burning.

“Such is the surreal and increasingly irrational world we live in,” says Ibrahim, “where irate Muslims and grovelling Westerners obsess over the destruction of one book while ignoring the destruction of many human lives; where a guaranteed and hard-earned American right—freedom of expression—receives a lot of condemnatory huffing and puffing from those charged with protecting it, while murderous, barbarous—in a word, evil—behaviour is devoutly ignored.”

Read Raymond Ibrahim’s full article here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eritrean believer faces possible death sentence

An Eritrean Christian faces a possible death sentence after being accused of preaching to Muslims outside a mosque in Saudi Arabia, reported our sister-mission VOM USA.

Mussie Eyob, who converted to Christianity two years ago, was arrested at a mosque in the Haya Roda area on February 12 and is being held at a high-security prison in Jeddah. Officials initially thought Mussie was mentally ill, but a medical examination found him to be in good mental health.

Mussie's family visited him on March 20 and found that although he had lost weight, he was being treated well and was in good spirits.

Mussie began preaching at the Eritrean Embassy on February 9 before moving on to the local mosque days later.

Pray that God will soften the hearts of Saudi officials toward Mussie and that he will not be sentenced to death. Praise God for Mussie's boldness.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pastor, son attacked in Andhra Pradesh

Pray for the full recovery of a pastor
and his son who were attacked
in India.
VOM-partner Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) is reporting that a pastor and his son were attacked in Andhra Pradesh.

On the evening of April 3, Narender Goud went to the house of Pastor Joseph Manda and attacked him with a stick. Pastor Joseph sustained serious injuries to his shoulder and legs. His son, Sunny, who is physically challenged, came to his father’s aid and was also attacked. Sunny sustained serious damage to his ears.

The assailant also abused and manhandled the pastor’s wife and daughter, reported GCIC.

Pastor Joseph’s brother informed police of the incident, and officers from the Maaklore Police Station arrived at the home. Pastor Joseph and Sunny were taken to a hospital.

Police later picked up Goud and charged him with attempted murder. He was released on bail the next day.

Pastor Joseph is the pastor of Indian Pentecostal Church in Borgoam village, which was built about three years ago. The church has about 40 believers.

The church was built on land donated by Goud. According to GCIC, Goud now wants the property back as its value has risen sharply in the last few years. Though Goud’s wife attends Pastor Joseph’s church, he is not a member.

Pastor Joseph and his son were discharged after four days in the hospital.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Searching for peace

Below is a story VOM contacts shared about a grandmother in Iran (courtesy of our sister-mission VOM USA). It's an amazing story of God meeting a devoted Muslim woman in her darkest hour.

Searching for peace

Zahra’s life was bleak. Her grandson had a terminal illness, and the secret police had killed her two daughters on the same night. Zahra’s daughters were university students, one 20 and the other 23. To cover up the crime, the secret police forced Zahra to claim it was an accident.

All she wanted was to be with her children. She spent all her time thinking about her daughters, crying, smelling their clothing and kissing their pictures. She had lost her desire for life.

“The loss of my daughters was more than I could bear,” Zahra said. “I tried to put an end to my life four times.”

Zahra was taken to the hospital, clinically depressed, hopeless and miserable. “In my search for peace of mind, I tried every possible means but could not find comfort or a way of escape.”

Then one night she was invited to a church service. She had never been to a church, but since she had tried everything else, she decided to give Christianity a try. She didn’t know anyone there, but God met her there. At the end of the sermon, the pastor had a message for someone in the meeting.

He said, “There is a woman here whose grandson is terminally ill. The Lord says, ‘I healed him.’”

Zahra was shocked. Was the message for her?

She went home and called her son in Tehran to ask about her grandson. She learned that he was feeling better. Later, doctors who examined him said there wasn’t a trace of sickness in his body. “We don’t know how this happened,” they said.

A devoted Muslim, Zahra could not understand what had happened. “If Muhammad is the final prophet,” she thought, “why should Jesus heal my grandson?”

A few nights later, Jesus came to her in a dream and told her, “Zahra, I healed your grandson. You are healed as well.”

When Zahra woke up, she was a different person. Her sadness was gone and she had an inexplicable peace.

“I committed my life to Jesus,” she said. “Since then, I am following my Lord. He saved me from all my troubles and sins. He has given me purpose and hope. I am a witness for all he has done for me.”

Death threats issued against Christian leaders in Pakistan

Joseph Francis and Naveed Walter
Photo from ASSIST News Service
A leading human rights campaigner in Pakistan has urged the government to provide "full-fledged security" for Joseph Francis, Director of CLAAS (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement), after Francis received death threats for his work on repealing of the country's controversial blasphemy laws, reported ASSIST News Service.

Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), told ASSIST News that he is concerned for the safety of Francis and other Christian leaders who are receiving disturbing threats.

Walter said, "CLAAS, under the leadership of Mr. Joseph Francis, provides the legal aid assistance to people who are persecuted because of their religion. It is an organization that is working to unite Christian lawyers on a platform to assist in cases that relate to the blasphemy laws in specific. Before 1992, Christian lawyers were afraid to take these kinds of cases."

He went on to say, "After the assassination of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, Mr. Francis could be a next target of the Taliban and extremists. The Government must ensure his security."

Please pray for the protection of Joseph Francis, Naveed Walter and all those willing to stand up for the rights of the Christian minority in Pakistan. Thank the Lord for the way He has equipped them to do this good work. Pray He will give them favour and, through them and others like them, bring about great change in this nation for religious freedom.

Afghan Christian remains behind bars

Pray for Shoaib Assadullah who
remains imprisoned in Afghanistan.
An Afghan who was arrested for his conversion to Christianity remains behind bars one month after the release of Said Musa, another convert who was quietly granted asylum in Europe after an abusive nine-month imprisonment.

Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was arrested on October 21 in Mazar-e-Sharif for giving a Bible to a friend. While in prison, Shoaib described being physically abused and receiving death threats from fellow prisoners, reported International Christian Concern. He also fears he may face the death sentence for his conversion if he is summoned back to court.

While Afghanistan's constitution upholds freedom of religion, apostasy is tried under Islamic law and is punishable by death.

In a phone conversation with a friend on March 24, Shoaib said that he will not return to Islam in exchange for his freedom, but is willing to die for his Christian faith.

Please pray for the release of Shoaib Assadullah and pray for his protection while he is in prison. Ask the Lord to take away any fear and renew his strength. Pray the Lord will use the testimony of this faithful Christian brother to encourage the faith of secret believers throughout the country.

You can post a prayer for Shoaib or persecuted Christians in general on VOM's Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

18 Christians arrested in India

Eighteen Christians, including two pastors, were arrested on March 28 for converting to Christianity without official permit in Orissa's Mayurbhanj district, reported Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

The arrests came after a police complaint was filed against the two pastors and 16 newly converted Christians. The Christians were brought before the SDJM Court at Baripada and were released on bail on March 30 and 31, charged under the "Orissa Freedom of Religion Act," which bans any conversion lacking a permit issued by authorities.

Sajan K. George, president of GCIC, called on Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to withdraw the accusations and put a stop to anti-Christian violence in the state.

Pray all charges will be dropped and that freedom of religion will truly be experienced by the people of Orissa. Ask the Lord to minister to the new converts and deepen their faith to help them overcome this opposition. Pray the Lord will continue to build His Church. Pray for all those who would oppose Him in India.

Asia Bibi unwell in prison

Pray for Asia Bibi's health and
spiritual strength.
AsiaNews is reporting that Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, is sick with chickenpox, because of the unhygienic conditions she is being kept in.

Asia has been held in solitary confinement for more than three months. Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masih Foundation, said, “Despite ill health, [Asia] she spends her time fasting and praying for everyone; she neglects her health and prays for everyone else. She is concerned about the current situation in Pakistan. We are trying to arrange a medical examination, and to ensure acceptable hygienic conditions. Until now she has had no medical care. "

Please continue to pray for Asia and her family. Pray Asia’s health be restored and that she continue to find her strength in Jesus Christ. Pray, too, that charges against her will be dropped and that she will be released. Pray for her physical, emotional and spiritual strength.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nepalese church bomber faked repentance

Ram Prasad Mainali
The chief of a militant Hindu extremist group disguised his extortion and terror activities from behind bars by claiming he had repented of bombing a church in Nepal and showing interest in Christianity, reported Compass Direct News.

The revelation emerged when Nepal’s premier investigation agency foiled a plot to explode a series of bombs devised by Ram Prasad Mainali, former chief of the Hindu militant outfit Nepal Defence Army, in the capital city of Kathmandu.

On March 4, police arrested six cohorts of Mainali carrying powerful home-made bombs and high-explosive powder, to be used as part of a plan to extort money from industrialists, The Himalayan Times reported.

In an interview last year, Mainali told Compass that his interaction with Christians inside jail in Kathmandu’s Nakkhu area had led him to repent from his deeds and read the Bible.

Mainali was arrested on Sept. 5, 2009, for exploding a bomb in a Catholic parish in Kathmandu, Our Lady of the Assumption, which killed a teenager and a newly married woman and injured more than a dozen others on May 23 of that year.

A local Christian worker who had known Mainali said the church bomber used Christianity to evade police surveillance. “I was disheartened when I recently learned that Mainali had threatened some pastors with violent attacks [by phone], demanding protection money from them,” he told Compass on condition of anonymity.

You can read the full report here.

Blasphemy trial of 5 Iranian Christians postponed

The blasphemy trial of five members from the Church of Iran was adjourned yesterday due to a lack of evidence, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

The trial of Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj and Nazly Beliad was adjourned until April 12 in order to give the prosecution more time to gather evidence. Lawyers representing the five men have consistently maintained that there are no legal grounds for the blasphemy charges, and remain optimistic that the case will eventually be dismissed.

In an earlier trial at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, the five men were handed a one-year sentence for Crimes against the Islamic Order, which their legal team believes will also be withdrawn on appeal.

Please pray that all charges against these five Iranian Christians will be dropped. Pray, too, that God will give them strength and peace as well as encouragement to continue standing strong in their faith.

Saving Pakistan's Christians

Believers in Pakistan need our
prayers. Please stand with them!
At the end of March, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Commission (RLC) released a Research & Analysis Report on Pakistan titled “Saving Pakistan’s Christians.”

Despite severe criticism by the international community that followed the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti in February, Pakistan remains unchanged. Attacks on Christians and other minorities continue, the latest being the killing of two Christian men in Hyderabad during the last week of March.

While Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a vision of stability, law and order and protection of all religious communities when the nation was formed in 1947, the sixth president General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, who captured power by a coup in 1977, Islamized the country.

Although successive rulers were far more moderate and liberal, they did not dare to make efforts to rid the country of extremism thanks to the clout the conservative sections had acquired. The political expediency carries on till today.

The blasphemy law—adopted by Zia-ul-Haq—is dear to Islamic extremists and jihadi terrorists mainly because it is a symbol of what they want Pakistan to be, irrespective of its practical utility. The significance of this law is to be seen in light of a strong sense of loss of Islamic identity that has gripped the extremist elements.

Please take a few moments to read the entire Research & Analysis Report found here, particularly if you’re seeking a better understanding of the reasons behind the country’s persecution of Christians.

Continue to keep Pakistani Christians in your prayers as they face waves of escalating persecution.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hearing God through silence

The following is excerpted from 100 Prison Meditations by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, VOM’s founder. The book recalls contemplations from his time in solitary confinement while held in a Communist prison.

Why All the Suffering?

A sufferer once came to a pastor and asked him many questions. The pastor answered, “Kneel here in church and ask Jesus for the answers.” The man replied, “Do you really think I will hear a voice from heaven?”

“No,” said the pastor, “but by keeping quiet in prayer for several hours before God, you will realize that you can go along without answers to all your problems. This would have been Jesus’ answer and it will quiet you.”

You do not need more than His peace, which passes all understanding. You do not need both peace and understanding, for understanding presupposes qualifications that most of us do not have.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Are you spending quiet time with God?

Pastors attacked in India

Pray for believers to withstand
attacks by RSS members in India.
Pastor N V Eliyas, 45, and Pastor Milton George, 46, of New India Church of God, were returning home along with families, from a house dedication prayer service on March 31, when they were attacked by RSS activists, said the Global Council of Indian Christians.

Pastor Eliyas and his wife, Rachel, were returning on their motor bike and Pastor George was following them in his car along with his wife, Shiney.

They were stopped by about 50 RSS activists at Kara Beach Road and attacked. Sources say the activists also shouted slogans against them for “forceful conversions” while attacking the pastors. The car and the bike were very badly damaged by the activists.

Pastor Eliyas sustained injuries on his head and was rushed to the Kodungallur Government Hospital. The doctors advised the pastor to admit himself to Inrigalakuda Government Hospital for specialized treatment as they were not equipped for such serious injuries.

The police have arrested 35 Hindu activists belonging to the RSS. They have been charged by the police for their attack on the pastors and their family members.

Monday, April 4, 2011

5 Iranians to stand trial on blasphemy charges

Five Iranian Christians, who were recently sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for crimes against the Islamic Order at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz, will stand trial in a lower court on blasphemy charges this week, reported Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, Mehdi Furutan, Mohammad Beliad, Parviz Khalaj and Nazly Beliad, members of the Church of Iran denomination, were arrested in June 2010 on charges of apostasy, political meetings, blasphemy and crimes against the Islamic Order. They spent eight months in jail before being released on bail in February. Their lawyer has appealed the one-year prison sentence for crimes against the Islamic Order, and a decision is pending.

It was initially assumed that the other charges against the five men had been dropped. However, a source close to the detainees has revealed that they will now face charges of blasphemy in a lower court, possibly due to the fact that  lower courts are generally more disposed to hand down guilty verdicts.

The situation for Christians in Iran is worsening, with churches finding it difficult to hold meetings, and many Christians attempting to flee the country. 

Christians in Iran are also increasingly concerned for Youcef Nardarkhani, the pastor of a large congregation in the city of Rasht, who was arrested in late 2009. He remains in prison after having been sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy, despite there being no articles in the Iranian legal code that refer to such a crime. Instead, the presiding judge in the Nardarkhani case based his ruling on texts by Iranian religious scholars. An appeal to the Supreme Court was filed in December, and a hearing is due within two months.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

House church raided by police in China

Chinese authorities recently raided a home in Shaanxi Province where believers were gathered for Sunday worship, reported China Aid Association.

On March 13, a dozen Christians were attending a house-church service in the village of Ma'an when the local police chief and two other officers barged into the building. The officers confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature. They also took all of the believers into police custody. Ten of the Christians were released that same evening.

At last report, however, two believers—Weng and Zhang Yongkuan—remain detained.

Pray for the release of the two detained Christians. Pray that believers in the village will not lose heart but will trust the Lord in all things. Pray for wisdom for area church leaders in the midst of opposition. Pray that authorities in China will truly respect the religious freedom of all citizens.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Christians slain in Pakistan

Pray for believers in Pakistan!
Two Christians were recently killed by Muslim youths who opened fire on believers outside a church in Sindh Province, Pakistan, reported Compass Direct News.

Residents of Hurr Camp, a colony of working-class Christians in the city of Hyderabad, were reportedly celebrating the 30th anniversary of their Salvation Army church when a group of Muslim youths gathered outside the building and started playing music loudly on their cell phones. The Muslims also started teasing Christian women as they arrived for the celebration.

Four Christians went outside the church building and told the Muslims to stop teasing the women and to respect the sanctity of the church. An argument ensued. The Muslim youths eventually left, but returned with handguns. They then opened fire on the Christians.

Younus, 47, and Jameel, 22, were killed instantly. The other believers, Siddique, 45, and Waseem, 20, were seriously injured. At last report, they were hospitalized in the capital city of Karachi.

Younis leaves behind a wife and four children. Jameel is survived by his wife of one month.

The grief of the slain believers' families has been exacerbated by the police's indifference to the case. Authorities did not even register a case in the killings until late that night, and only did so after local Christians blocked the main highway with the two bodies for some hours.

Jameel's paternal uncle, Anwar, alleged that the police were biased against the Christians, as none of the accused has been arrested so far. "Please pray for us," he said.

Ask God to comfort all those who mourn for Jameel and Younis, filling them with the peace that surpasses understanding in the midst of their grief (Philippians 4:7). Pray that the Lord will bring their murderers to justice. Pray for cross-bearing disciples in Pakistan committed to the Great Commission.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Nepalese constitution could threaten evangelism

Pray for religious freedom in Nepal!
Provisions proposed for Nepal's new constitution pose a threat to religious freedom, says Open Doors USA.

When the last standing Hindu monarchy in the world was overthrown in 2006, plans were made for Nepal to become a secular democracy. An interim constitution was enacted in 2007. The finished version was due for completion May 28, 2010, but more time was needed. Now the new constitution is set to be enacted on May 28, 2011.

The current draft constitution contains provisions "that prohibit anyone from converting others from one religion to another." So far, most political leaders have seemed unaware of the implications this could have for religious freedom, reported Compass Direct News.

The religious freedom concern is not the only issue with the draft constitution, either. Open Doors reports that at least 288 contentious issues arose out of the 11 committees condensing the preliminary drafts for the new laws, and the Constitution Committee has resolved 175 of them.

In the meantime, other questions have been brought up about the validity of such restrictive provisions for the constitution. Nepal signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1991, which included the right to manifest one's religion. U.N. officials have interpreted this to mean citizens have the right to evangelistic and missionary activity.

For now, it is up to the Constitutional Assembly to decide whether this provision violates religious freedom or not, a political leader told Compass. Compass also notes, "Religious conversion could become a contentious issue if the proposed restriction is removed. Even the notion of a secular state is not wholly accepted in the country."

Pray for the Lord's provision in this decision. Pray for guidance for the Assembly, and for safety for believers. Pray that the Gospel would continue to move forward at the hands of faithful Christians, regardless of any danger that may lie ahead.

Chinese government persecution of Church escalates

Chinese government persecution of the Church in China continued to worsen in 2010, the fifth straight year of escalating persecution, according to an annual report released Thursday by ChinaAid Association.

Although the report was based on just 90 known cases of persecution of Christians and churches in China last year, ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu pointed out that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The Chinese government’s stranglehold on information and the authoritarian regime’s other security measures make getting a true picture of the extent of persecution impossible.

Nevertheless, the fact that the documented incidences of persecution came from all parts of China and involved people from all levels of society makes the report a useful guide.

The incidences of persecution rose nearly 17 percent from 77 cases in 2009, and the number of people persecuted increased by nearly 14 percent, from 2,935 people to 3,343 people. The greatest increase was in the number of people detained, which soared nearly 43 percent, from 389 to 556.

In addition to documenting an increase in both the incidences of persecution and the number of people persecuted in 2010, the report highlighted three new alarming trends:
  1. Full-scale suppression of Christian human rights lawyers groups,
  2. Use of abuse, torture and mafia tactics, and
  3. Severe crackdown on official Three-Self Patriotic Movement churches that do not accept government control.
“Both the relentless persecution against those advocating for religious freedom and the central government’s orchestrated campaign to forcibly prevent some 200 Chinese house church delegates from attending the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization show that China still has a long way to go toward true religious freedom and rule of law,” said Fu, whose organization’s main focus is Chinese government persecution of house churches.

You can read the full report here.