Thursday, June 30, 2011

Government plans could aid persecutors in Pakistan

Changes to Pakistan’s Ministry for Religious
Minorities could lead to an increase in Christian persecution.
The Catholic News Agency is reporting that Pakistan’s plans to eliminate its national Ministry for Religious Minorities could lead to more persecution of Christians. The government has proposed dividing the ministry into provincial divisions.

Unless there are any last-minute movements, the “devolution” efforts will begin July 1.

A Lahore priest told Fides news agency that the proposal will obscure the rights of Christians from the national political agenda. “We will be even more helpless. For the fundamentalists this will be a 'green light' to new aggression, violence and persecution against Christians,” he said.

The present Minister of State for Minorities, Ackram Gill, is vigorously protesting the abolition. He has led a delegation in a meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister and has organized a protest outside of Parliament. Christians and Hindus, another religious minority in Pakistan, have organized press conferences and public meetings calling for reconsideration of the measure.

The full article can be read here.

To learn more about persecution in Pakistan, please visit our Country Report.

Update: Iranian pastor’s death sentence upheld

Youcef Nardarkhani
The death sentence of Youcef Nardarkhani, an Iranian pastor convicted of apostasy, has been upheld and confirmed by the Iranian Supreme Court, reports Present Truth Ministeries.

Pastor Youcef, a leader in the Full Gospel "Church of Iran" network, was arrested and imprisoned in October 2009 after protesting a decision by the government requiring that his son study the Qur'an.

In September, Iran's 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld Pastor Youcef’s death sentence and conviction for apostasy. The delivery of the death sentence, however, was delayed. Many believe the delay was a means to pressure him to him to turn away from Christ in prison.

With the sentence now upheld and confirmed, it is possible that the authorities will ask him to recant his faith and execute him if he refuses without advance notice—a typical pattern of action taken by authorities in such cases.

If Pastor Youcef is indeed executed, his would be the first judicial execution of a Christian in Iran in two decades. He is but one of several members of his church who have been arrested by Iranian officials, and his wife has also spent time in prison because of her faith in Christ.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray God will continue to equip Pastor Youcef to stand firm in his faith.
  • Pray he will sense the love and support of all those praying for him and working on his behalf. 
  • Pray the Iranian authorities involved will be convicted of their injustice and overturn the case.
  • Pray for comfort to abound in the hearts and minds of Pastor Youcef’s wife and children.

The helper of the fatherless

There are times when we simply cannot bear the deep misery of this world. The distressing stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters fill us with sorrow. The trials we are facing in our own lives cause us to stumble. Sickness, injustice, loss and death seem rampant and unstoppable.

The writers of the Book of Psalms were like us in many ways. They were fallen people living in a fallen world who had difficulty understanding the atrocities around them. We can identify with their pleas for help and be comforted by their firm assurance of the Lord’s sovereignty in all situations. May these words encourage you today as you serve Him.

Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God.
   Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
   Why does he say to himself,
   “He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
   you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
   you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
   call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
   that would not otherwise be found out.
The LORD is King for ever and ever;
   the nations will perish from his land.
You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted;
   you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
   so that mere earthly mortals
   will never again strike terror.
Psalm 10:12-18

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Christian girls kidnapped in Egypt

Nancy and Christine
were recently kidnapped by Muslims.
(Photo: FrontPage Magazine)
Two Coptic Christian girls were on their way to church in Minya, Egypt on Sunday, June 12, when they were abducted by Muslim kidnappers, reports FrontPage Magazine. The cousins, Christine Azat, 16, and Nancy Magdi, 14, were held for a ransom of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $33,015 CAD).

Christine’s father immediately went to the police when he discovered the abduction and has continued to seek their help to no avail.

The people of Christine and Nancy’s region began gathering as much money as they could. They came up with the ransom money, but when they tried to make the exchange with the kidnappers, they were told the girls had already been sold to another group that was asking for 12 million pounds in payment (approximately $2 million CAD).

Nancy’s father laments the kidnapping of his daughter, saying she’s still only a child.

“She is only 14 years old, the youngest in the family, our baby… .Since her disappearance my household has been living in continuous depression, misery, and weeping,” he said.

It is not probable that the 12 million pound ransom will be raised. Christine and Nancy will likely face rape and enslavement if they are not killed.

The usual rumour that the girls willingly left their families and converted to Islam is being circulated. However, even Al Azhar, the institution that formally recognizes conversions to Islam, has not acknowledged the conversion of the girls.

The kidnappings add to an already long list of attacks on Christians in Minya. In April, we reported violence against Coptic Christians by a gang of thugs. The assaults began in January when two Coptic women were raped while a 30-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy were held for ransom.

Please pray for Christians in Egypt:
  • Pray that Christine and Nancy’s families will continue to trust in God as they seek wisdom in the next steps they should take.
  • Pray the police will recognize the kidnappings and take action.
  • Pray that those who kidnap Christians will see the love of Christ displayed in the lives of their victims.

Words from our founder: Jesus, your friend

VOM founder Richard Wurmbrand
spent 14 years in prison for his faith.
A story is told of two brothers who once lived completely opposite lives. The older was a God-fearing man, good to everyone. The younger was rebellious, even violent. The older brother tried to influence him, but in vain.

One evening, while the older sat quietly in his home, the brother stormed in with blood on his clothes, shouting, “Save me if you can! I have killed a man and the police are after me!”

The other replied, “Quick! Let’s change clothes.”

They did so. The murderer donned the white garment, and the innocent put on the blood-stained one.

Scarcely had they finished when the police arrived. Seeing the older brother in bloody clothes, they knew they had found the man and dragged him from his home. They had no doubt that he was the one they sought.

Brought to court, the accused admitted his guilt. The judge bowed to what seemed clear evidence and sentenced him to death.

He had one last wish: “At the moment of my execution, please give my brother this letter.” His wish was granted.

Later, when the brother opened the letter, he read: “I died in your place, in your bloody garment, for your guilt. I was happy to make this sacrifice for you and ask only one thing, that you live a life of love and goodness.”

The innocent was dead. Nothing could change that fact. But as often as former comrades asked the younger to participate in an act of violence, he replied, “I cannot do it in the white garment I received from the brother who died for me.”

This is exactly what Jesus did for each one of us. He Himself was without sin. But He took upon Himself the sins of us all and bore our punishment as He expired on the cross. His blood can cleanse you from all of your sins, just as He cleansed me from mine. Believe in Him and you will be saved from hate and despair. He will make you a child of God who will spread love and light.

So says God in His holy book, the Bible.

Excerpted from Richard Wurmbrand’s book, Jesus, Friend to Terrorists. You can purchase this book by contacting our office or by ordering online.

The Voice of the Martyrs was founded in the mid-1960s by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured by Communist authorities in his native Romania for 14 years. While still in prison, Pastor Wurmbrand envisioned a ministry that would focus on the plight of the persecuted Church, raise a voice on their behalf, and provide encouragement and assistance to them. For more information, please visit our website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Egyptian Christians see fruit from protests

Demonstrators in Cairo protest
the demolition of a church building.
(Photo: Compass Direct)  
Christian protests in Egypt which began in January against discrimination may be coming to fruition, reports the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

New government proposals to remove burdensome regulations on the building of churches would mark a “major step forward for the citizenship of Christians,” the Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan of Assiut said to CNA.

The uprising around President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting led to increased tensions between sectarian groups in Egypt. Peaceful Christian protesters often found themselves facing violent opposition.

“What we are seeing here is one of the first fruits of the demonstrations back in January. When the Christians demonstrated, they asked for their rights and the first right they demanded was the construction of churches,” Bishop William explained.

The problems surrounding the construction of churches have been huge for Christians. Bishop William said this fact is becoming more and more recognized by the public. He said more than half of the problems faced by Christians in Egypt would be resolved if these restrictions are removed.

Egypt’s laws currently require presidential confirmation of requests to construct churches. The approval process often takes years and sometimes even decades. Changes to this process would see proposals going before the regional governor with decisions being disclosed within three months.

Islamic jihadists and other extremists are resisting the political movement. On May 7, extremists attacked three Coptic Orthodox churches in Cairo. Fifteen people died and more than 230 were injured.

However, the bishop said the Islamists are losing support in the fall-out of Mubarak’s regime. Many governors are sympathetic to Christians and resistant to the Islamic push for an Islamic theocracy.

Moderate Muslims are not supportive of the extremist actions and interfaith meetings between Christians and Muslims are promoting cooperation between the groups.

To learn more about the trials Egyptian Christians face, consider reading our Egypt Country Report.

Mission training school attacked in Indonesia

A training school like this one
was recently attacked.
VOM USA is reporting that a mission training school was recently attacked by a mob of Muslims following a prayer meeting in Jonggol, West Java, Indonesia.

Approximately 85 Muslims rushed into the school and raided each class and dorm room, removing pictures of Jesus. They told the staff that the school must be closed. No students were on the premises, as school was not in session that day.

Several police officers and soldiers accompanied the mob from a nearby military base and neighbours did not recognize them as locals.

The school, which was established in 1999 with the purpose of training evangelists in Indonesia, has reportedly always maintained a good relationship with its neighbours.

At last report, mission leaders said that they were attempting to follow up on the incident in the hopes of helping to prevent further violence. The leaders also urged Indonesian Christians not to retaliate, but to remain calm and to pray.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray God will touch the hearts of the attackers, leading them to repent and recognize Christ as Lord.
  • Pray a spirit of trust and peace will govern the hearts of Indonesian Christians and guard them against fear.
  • Pray Christians in Indonesia will be a bold testimony of Christ's love to those around them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Iranian Christian held in solitary confinement

Farshid Fathi
Friends and family of a detained Iranian Christian are calling for clarification of his case more than five months after he was sent to Tehran's notoriously brutal Evin prison, reports Release International and Mohabat News.

Farshid Fathi, 32, was one of several believers detained by government security officials in December 2010 during a series of raids on Christians' homes in Tehran. He has endured months of solitary confinement even though no court orders or instructions have been issued in his case. Interrogators have reportedly used psychological torture in attempts to force Farshid to reveal details of Christian contacts.

Farshid's wife and two young children have been allowed to speak to him only once a week. Farshid's family was forced to sell his father-in-law's home in order to survive financially and have not been able to pay the bail to secure his release.

You can help Farshid Fathi by praying!
  • Pray God will strengthen and console Farshid as he suffers for his faith.
  • Pray his family will trust in the Lord for provision and comfort.
  • Pray the steadfast faith of Iranian believers will encourage other Christians in the country who are suffering persecution.
  • Pray the Word of the Lord will continue to go forth in Iran and that many will come to embrace Him as Lord.

Missionary charged with human trafficking in Laos

VOM USA is reporting that a missionary to youth in Laos was recently charged with human trafficking, an offense that carries a hefty fine and a prison sentence of five to 50 years.

Brother K was arrested and charged with human trafficking in May after he went to a police station to seek the release of 24 young people. The youths had been detained while travelling to a Christian training conference, where Brother K was serving as a leader.

Brother K denied involvement in human trafficking and invited the officers to visit the conference centre to see what the students were being taught. Taken aback by his boldness and concerned that the offense would become known as a persecution case, police released the 24 students but detained Brother K.

After bail was set, Brother K bargained to reduce the amount and police agreed on a sum equal to three months' wages. The youth later held their training session at a hastily convened new location.

You can help by praying!
  • Thank God for His protection of the students and for the boldness of their leader.
  • Pray Brother K will continue to persevere in the faith.
  • Pray Christian youth in Laos will continue to passionately share the gospel with their neighbours.
  • Pray freedom of religion will truly become a reality in Laos.

You can post a prayer of encouragement for Brother K and the Christian youth in Laos on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Egyptian Christians flee to Libya

In this CBN News exclusive report from eastern Libya, Gary Lane talks about Libya's faith community, the proof that Muslims are being converted to Christianity in the North African nation, and how some Egyptian Coptic Christians have relocated to Libya so they can be safe and free to worship (Length 1:51).

Friday, June 24, 2011

TSPM officials rebuke Shouwang members

Members of Shouwang Church were
forced to worship outdoors in 2009 also.
(Photo ChinaAid)
VOM partner ChinaAid Association reports that representatives of China’s government-regulated Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church system have begun participating in police interrogations of detained Shouwang Church members.

Shouwang Church has been in a 10-week standoff with the authorities regarding a place for the 1000-member strong church to meet. They were left without a building when their landlord evicted them under government pressure.

They began meeting publicly outdoors, which resulted in 160 arrests the first week. Every Sunday since, members attempting to gather have encountered police. Those arrested are usually released within a few hours, but church leaders remain under house arrest.

Recently, personnel from TSPM churches have appeared at police stations attempting to persuade Shouwang members to join the Three-Self church and abandon their outdoor worship.

This tactic represents another phase of Shouwang Church’s struggle as government-backed TSPM church officials use theological reasoning to dissuade the church from meeting publicly. One member said the government interrogator showed a great biblical knowledge. The interrogation focused on the issue of whether Shouwang’s actions are in accordance with the Bible.

“This surprised me greatly,” he said. “Perhaps this will be their approach from now on.”

“I’m really afraid of being tortured, and I’ve heard many stories of that,” another Shouwang Church member told CNN in an interview.

“Personally, I don’t know how long I can last, because the pressure is pretty tense,” she told the CNN reporter.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray Shouwang Church’s struggle with the government for a place to meet will end.
  • Pray members of Shouwang Church will continue to stand strong in spite of the member losses the church is experiencing.
  • Pray they would “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of [themselves] together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Two Christians killed in Sudan

Pray for Sudanese believers today!
Military agents killed one Christian and Islamic government sympathizers killed another after attacks on churches in Sudan’s South Kordofan state, reports Compass Direct News. Two others were tortured.

One June 8, Muslim militia loyal to the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) attacked and looted at least three church buildings in the town of Kadugli. Nimeri Philip Kalo, a student at St. Paul Major Seminary, was fleeing the town when he was detained near the gate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

The SAF agents accused Kalo of being a Christian and therefore opposed to Islamic government. They shot and killed him.

The same day, Islamic militants slaughtered Adeeb Gismalla Aksam, the son of an elder with the Evangelical Church in Kadugli. Adeeb was a Christian who worked as a bus driver. 

Muslim extremists also peppered a Roman Catholic Church with bullets during a mass in which congregants were asking God to protect them.

No one was hurt by the bullets, but SAF agents arrested Rev. Abraham James Lual. The agents accused Rev. Abraham of telling people to oppose the Islamic government. They took him to an unknown location and tortured him. He was released two days later.

Another Christian told Compass that he was arrested at gunpoint by SAF agents. He said he was accused of being anti-Islam, taken to a military jail and beaten. They took him back to his house and tortured him with sticks, guns and knives saying, “We will kill you.”

Christians in the area said they are traumatized by the atrocities being committed against their brothers and sisters by the government and government sympathizers. One source pleads with the global Christian community, “The situation is critical—we need other Christians to fast and pray for us.”

You can help by praying!
  • Pray the victims of Islamic persecution will “bless those who persecute [them]” (Romans 12:14).
  • Pray persecuted Christians in Sudan will seek refuge in God’s comforting arms.
  • Pray plans to uproot, wipe out or convert Christian populations in Sudan will not succeed.

VOM speaks with Mission Network News about Syrian crackdown

VOM’s Greg Musselman spoke with Mission Network News (MNN) about recent pro-democracy uprisings sweeping the Middle East, North Africa and now Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is attempting to stamp out the protests cropping up across the country, but as soon as security forces squash one center of rebellion, another springs up, says MNN. The Syrian government is allied to Shia Iran and Hezbollah, but the nation’s population is 90 percent Sunni Arab. This adds to fears that sectarian violence comparable to that in Iraq could arise in Syria.

Musselman told MNN, “When you look at the situation that’s taking place in Syria, you can draw some parallels to what has gone on in Iraq. I think the consequences could be similar for the church.”

He went on to say that the crackdown is resulting in a slaughter. As a result, another refugee crisis is arising.

Many are fleeing to Turkey. As of Tuesday, there were nearly 9,000 Syrians in Turkish refugee camps. For Assyrian and Chaldean Christians that fled Iraq, they now have to face fleeing once again, said Musselman.

The regime’s violent response to public outcry is only fuelling the people’s protests. Syrian Christians, however, are keeping a low profile in the political and religious ring and with good reason.

There is a lot of fear that Christians will be attacked, because they’ve experienced it before,” said Musselman. “When violence begins to spin out of control, the Christians become a target.”

Christians have been attacked and killed and their churches burnt to the ground. However, Musselman noted that the mass movement of people also means new opportunities. “People that have been locked under Islam... have come to Christ as a result of being out of their countries.”

You can help by praying!
  • Pray God would embolden, comfort and encourage all of Syria’s Christians with His presence.
  • Pray for new believers who have recently come to Christ and must now learn how to deal with the opposition.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Send a letter to Imran Ghafur!

Imran Ghafur
VOM contacts recently met with Pakistani prisoner Imran Ghafur’s family. They say he is in good health and is permitted to visit with them each Thursday.

The family is able to see Imran through a glass window and speak to him via intercom. He only leaves his cell twice a day for a head count. The cell is 26 feet by 20 feet. It has no windows and summer temperatures can reach 49 degrees Celsius.

Imran was arrested on July 1, 2009, on charges of burning pages of the Qur’an. While cleaning his brother’s store, Imran removed some trash intending to burn some of it. While burning the garbage, pages of an Islamic book flew into the fire and burned. Imran’s neighbour saw the burned pages and informed other Muslims in the area.

Imran and his father were severely beaten before police arrested Imran. Muslims in the area are calling for his execution.

You can send a letter of encouragement to Imran, letting him know you are praying for him.

Imran Ghafur
Central Jail of Faisalabad

You can also compose a letter to Imran in his own language by visiting Click on Imran’s profile and then click “Write an encouraging letter.”

The most vulnerable part: Children of the persecuted Church

Khmu children in Southeast Asia
Do you have children?

If so, to what lengths would you go to protect them? What sacrifices would you be willing to make for their well-being? Your immediate answer might be, “Anything! I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure their safety and happiness.”

But for our brothers and sisters in restricted nations, these questions are incredibly difficult. Like any parent, they want the best for their children; they want their kids to be healthy and happy, to have stability and protection. But they also desire that their children learn the way of our Lord—to put Him first in their lives, regardless of the outcome.

From a young age, children of the persecuted Church learn that following Jesus does not guarantee a life free of danger or heartache. The reality is that many Christian children suffer threats, the loss of home or church, oppression from the community, and even death in their families.

“Children are the most vulnerable part of the suffering church,” Carl Moeller wrote in an article for Crosswalk. “They are highly susceptible to the impact of being persecuted for their faith. In lands where Christians are oppressed minorities, the youngest, weakest members of society are at particular risk because no one in power will advocate for them.”

Perhaps the earlier questions should be rephrased. Do you have children? If so, to what lengths would you go to ensure they understand their calling as Christ’s representatives? What sacrifices would you be willing to make as a family to whole-heartedly follow Him?

The Voice of the Martyrs is committed to standing with families and children of the persecuted Church as they seek to make Jesus their first priority. In the July edition of our monthly newsletter, we share stories of children who are suffering for Christ’s sake in Sri Lanka, India and Nigeria and how you can get involved in showing them love and support. You can sign up for your free copy here.

This week in church history: Britain’s first martyr

The following was written by Dan Graves for

A fugitive's praise of God won Alban to Christ.

The Roman emperor Septimus Severus hated Christianity. When he came to Britain in 208, he found Christians living there. In a fury, he ordered them put to the sword. A Christian priest, who is often given the name Amphibalus, fled before the imperial wrath. In the town of Veralum (now named St. Albans) lived Alban, a high ranking Roman soldier.

Something about Amphibalus' behaviour led Alban to offer him shelter. In spite of his status as a hunted refugee, Amphibalus never ceased to praise God. His joy was so real that Alban was moved. He asked how that could be, was told about Christ and converted to Christianity.

The governor learned that Alban was harbouring a Christian fugitive. He sent soldiers to haul in the priest. They were met by a man in a priestly robe. It was none other than Alban. When the governor saw this, he was furious. Since Alban had helped Amphibalus to escape, he said, Alban must bear the punishment due the priest. At the moment, the governor was preparing to pour out a libation (drink offering) to his gods. Now he ordered Alban to do so, saying he would spare him only on condition that he show his loyalty to the old gods by doing that.

Alban refused. "I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things," he said. After flogging Alban, the governor again asked him to renounce Christianity. Once more Alban refused. And so the governor ordered his execution. According to one legend, the place of execution was across a swollen river. The townsfolk, not wanting to see him die, tore down the bridge. But Alban, desiring to go to God, prayed to be able to cross—and the river dried up. According to another legend, Alban was thirsty and a spring welled up to quench his thirst.

Whatever actually happened, the soldier who was to behead Alban was so awed that he refused to do the job, becoming a Christian himself on the spot. A second soldier was found who cut off both of their heads. Legend says that the eyes of the soldier who struck the deadly blow immediately fell out.

Meanwhile, Amphibalus the priest, hearing that Alban was to die in his place, hurried to the place of execution and offered himself up. He, too, was killed. Modern research indicates that these deaths took place on ... June 22, 209.

Impressed by these events, Alban's judge ordered the persecution to stop. Although the date and other details of Alban's martyrdom are shaky, there is not much doubt among scholars that he actually existed. His story was known around Veralum in the century after his death and he was mentioned in early writings. Churches were built in his honour. The British historian Gildas and the Saxon historian Bede both mention him in their histories.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The power of prayer

Prayer changes everything!
Excerpted from Jesus Freaks Vol. II, a devotional book of stories of revolutionaries who changed their world, fearing God, not man.

Iran: Pastor

“Lord,” the pastor prayed, “I cannot take any more of this questioning. Please, release me from this!”

Already the pastor had been in and out of prison, and now he was called every two weeks by the secret police for interrogations. The interrogations were the same questions over and over, accusing the pastor of being a spy from the West.

The next morning, the pastor was again to go to the secret police headquarters, and he asked his church members to pray that God would provide him a way out.

“I see you are here,” said the officer, taking him into the questioning room. Before they could begin the questioning, however, the tape recorder sitting on the table exploded. Flames came out of it, and it was obvious it would never work again.

“What are you doing?” the guard asked angrily, seeing the slight smile in the pastor’s eyes.

“I am praying for you,” the pastor answered. “You are not fighting against me, you are fighting against God. You cannot win against Him.”

“Go home,” the officer yelled, and the pastor quickly left.

He ran into his house and asked his wife, “What happened?”

“Three older ladies from the church came here,” she said. “We gathered around and joined hands and prayed for you, that God would protect you from the interrogation.”

When they further discussed the two incidents, they found that the time the women had gathered for prayer was exactly the time the tape recorder had exploded.

It is essential that we never forget the power of prayer. “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2 KJV) is the admonition of the scriptures. Nothing is impossible for God! A revolutionary Jesus Freak is not afraid to ask great things from a great God. Let the example of these modern-day prayer warriors serve as a reminder to us.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything
according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—
whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him."
1 John 5:14-15 NIV

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

An anxious time for the Middle East

“There is no doubt at all that it is a very anxious time for Christian communities,” said Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent interview with BBC News. “There have been extremist atrocities already, especially in Egypt.”

Dr. Williams continued, expressing concern that the vacuum left by the end of autocratic regimes in the Middle East was being filled by extremists. He remains optimistic, hoping the political upheavals will eventually bring greater democracy to the region. But for the short term, he fears for the Christian community, as he believes assailants are using the recent chaos to attack minorities.

For example, he claimed there were more Christians killed and churches burned in Egypt than have been reported. He argued life is unsustainable for believers in northern Iraq, while pointing out that in Syria tensions are nearly at breaking point.

Please keep our brothers and sisters in the Middle East in your prayers during this anxious time.
  • Ask the Lord to bless and encourage the Church in the Middle East.
  • Pray for peace and stability in these countries.
  • Pray believers will be a Christ-like example to their neighbours, even when persecuted.
  • Ask God to grant wisdom to the authorities and leaders of these areas.

You can read the full BBC article here.

Colombia today: Meet Pastor Manuel

The following is excerpted from Restricted Nations: Colombia, one of the latest books in the Restricted Nations series.
Pastor Manuel and his wife pastored a congregation in Chopal village, south of San Jose del Guaviare, for about eight years. They faced numerous challenges, and many churches in the area had been closed by FARC guerrillas.
Pastor Manuel decided to open a church building regardless of the threats and risks. The pastor was part of an evangelistic event at which three FARC guerrillas and seven members of the paramilitary surrendered their lives to Christ.
But on September 21, 2009, Pastor Manuel was shot and killed by FARC guerrillas. The guerrillas had made an appointment with Pastor Manuel and his family.
“He thought they were going to authorize him to have a church officially, which he had discussed and asked for before,” said a VOM contact. “One of them came in the house with the pastor’s wife, Gloria, and his daughter while the pastor was outside. He was shot five times.”
One FARC guerrilla, referring to the pastor, yelled, “Make sure that dog stays dead.” They then shot the pastor again, this time in the neck. Pastor Manuel’s wife ran outside and wiped the blood off his face. With the help of their children, she dragged his body under a tree.
“She ran and got her Bible, and shaking with tears, preached to all those who got near,” the VOM contact said. “Their ten-year-old son said, ‘Mom, don’t worry, Dad died for Christ and now he is with Christ.’”
Want to read more about persecution and stories of Christians in Colombia? Click here to order your copy of Restricted Nations: Colombia today.

Three Vietnamese Christians convicted of subversion

Pray for believers in Vietnam today!
Three members of the “Cow Shed Church” in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, have been convicted of subversion and given prison sentences, reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Pastor Duong Kim Khai, Tran Thi Thuy and Nguyen Thanh Tam, along with four others, were convicted for their activism in a peaceful campaign for land rights.

The three Christian men, who are members of an unrecognized branch of the Mennonite Church, have been assisting fellow Vietnamese in making formal complaints to the government regarding the forced sales of their farmland to large corporations.

The three Christians have assisted in writing complaint letters asking the government for compensation and are known members of an overseas-based democracy party that calls for peaceful political reform.

All seven of the arrested were denied legal representation at the trial, which is thought to have been rigged. Pastor Duong was sentenced to six years in prison, Thuy to eight and Tam to two. Pastor Duong has been held since August 10, 2010.

Vietnam is one of the world’s few remaining Communist nations. Its constitution provides for freedom of worship; however, the government continues to restrict activities of many religious groups. Unregistered churches face harassment, discrimination and sometimes outright persecution.

Pray for Vietnam!
  • Pray the light of the gospel might banish the ideological and moral darkness over this nation.
  • Pray for protection for Christians who are courageously witnessing in Vietnam.
  • Pray the Vietnamese church will continue to grow and be a light to others.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Christians fleeing religious persecution

Please pray for Christians around the world who are
fleeing their countries because of their faith.
Christians around the world are fleeing for their lives, and they are now facing opposition in the very places they seek refuge.

The Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission recently released a Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin requesting prayer for the safety and refuge of Christians forced to take flight because of their beliefs.

Christians fleeing Eritrean persecution and totalitarian government have normally made for Egypt and Yemen. Both, however, are no longer considered safe havens for Christians.

Barnabas Aid reports about 500-600 Eritrean refugees are currently being detained by authorities in Egypt, while another 100-200 are in the hands of traffickers. Eritreans seeking refuge in Israel must cross the Sinai Desert. The journey is perilous because of the conditions and the risk of running into bandits or traffickers.

North Korean refugees in search of the Christian-organized “underground railroad” instead fall into Chinese captivity. The Chinese security forces return them to North Korea to be executed or jailed.

In the Ivory Coast, Christians are fleeing ethnic, religious and political cleansings enforced by the government. While some Christians remain despite the risks, others live as refugees in Liberia.

The increasing violence along Sudan’s North-South border is leading to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of predominantly Christian Southerners. As their home regions are bombed, many Christian families are being left with nowhere to turn.

Please join us in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters!
  • Pray God will keep them safe as they flee; hidden from wild animals, people-traffickers and criminals; and sustained while in oceans, deserts, dangerous cities and other hostile environments.
  • Pray the Holy Spirit will sanctify them as they seek their place in the purposes of God, confidently looking to Jesus, as He is well able to meet their every need.
  • Pray particularly for those who are currently in the hands of jailers or unscrupulous people-traffickers. May the God of all grace, mercy and justice draw these vulnerable believers into His presence, deliver them from violence and brutality and restore their liberty and security.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Continued prayer requested for Christians abducted in Yemen

The Hentschels
June 12 marked the second anniversary of the kidnapping of nine foreigners in Saada, northwest Yemen, three of whom were murdered and two of whom were freed last May, reports Middle East Concern.

There continues to be no news of Johannes and Sabine Hentschel, a German couple, and their young son, Simon, or of Tony, a British man. Johannes and Sabine’s daughters, Lydia, 6, and Anna, 5, are currently living with relatives in Germany and reportedly in good health.

It is understood that both German and British investigators have stopped the active search for the missing believers. Those close to this situation remain hopeful that those still missing are alive and ask for continued prayerful intercession on their behalf.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray the status of the missing Christians will be made known.
  • Pray that, if they are alive, they will rest in the Lord’s care and soon be released unharmed.
  • Pray the families and loved ones of those missing and murdered will know the peace of Jesus amidst continuing speculation and uncertainty.
  • Ask God to encourage and guide Yemen’s Christian minority, most of whom are foreigners working in the country who are often isolated from one another in their walk of faith.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New measures to control religious freedom in Azerbaijan

New amendments could increase restrictions
on freedom of belief or religion in Azerbaijan.
Christians in Azerbaijan fear that new amendments to the restrictive Religion Law will increase state restrictions on freedom of religion or belief in the country, reports Forum 18 News

The amendments, adopted June 10, could make it difficult to determine which individuals are able to serve as religious leaders.

A news article states that a “religious person engaged in religious activity is a person with higher or secondary specialized religious education."

While this definition does not specify that only “professional” religious workers can conduct activities such as religious education or leading worship, officials could use the new definitions to ban individuals from any religious activity not specially authorized by the law.

Churches and other religious communities worry that the new amendments are a covert way of requiring those still waiting for re-registration to begin the entire process again, offering more opportunities for officials to impose pressure on communities and stop them from gaining legal status.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray for Christians in Azerbaijan as they go about their ministry for Christ amid these new amendments.
  • Pray they will continue to echo Peter's sentiment and be determined to obey God regardless of what man says (Acts 5:29).
  • Pray true religious freedom will be upheld in Azerbaijan.

Christians attacked and threatened in Jharkhand state, India

Several Christians came under attack in Jharkhand state, India, in recent weeks, reports Compass Direct News.

On May 28, Hindu militants beat the members of five Christian families in Palamu district.

A week prior, a group of Hindu militants threatened to beat Pastor Sanjay Choudary of the Gospel Echoing Missionary Society if he did not stop leading worship meetings. He and his congregation then filed a complaint, leading the police to visit with them on May 28. Immediately after the police left, the enraged militants appeared and started beating people. One woman suffered internal injuries, and another believer was still missing at last report. The Christians have reportedly fled their homes.

In a similar incident, Hindu militants in Karivadhi village are threatening to severely beat three families of new Christian converts if they do not return to Hinduism. These Christians have also fled the area and are now in hiding.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray these Christians will look to the God of truth as their righteous refuge and tower of strength (Psalm 31:1-5).
  • Pray they will be living witnesses to the love and hope of Christ, even to their persecutors.
  • Ask God to work in the hearts of those who attack Christians in India, leading them to the path of repentance and peace.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Threatened churches in Algeria remain open

Pray for religious freedom in Algeria!
On May 7, we shared that seven Algerian churches were ordered to close.

At a press conference on June 2, Algeria’s Minister of Interior Dahou Ould Kablia stated the Protestant Church of Béjaia will be “allowed to continue their activities until they receive the necessary authorization,” reported International Christian Concern.

In May, the president of the Protestant Church Association (EPA) was informed that seven Protestant churches in the Béjaia province were ordered to permanently close. The demand is in accordance with a 2006 law known as Ordinance 06-03.

The ordinance requires non-Muslims to obtain permission to meet. The ministries responsible for granting permission have not made the registration process an easy one, and it can often take years for registrations to be approved.

In April 2011, a church in the village of Makouda was given 48 hours to shutdown. The commissioner did not accept the documents the pastor presented proving his affiliation with the EPA. However, that church, too, remains open.

Thankfully, the seven churches in Bejaia ordered to close on May 7 did not shut their doors and continue to meet in the face of opposition.

One church congregant said, “We worship out of conviction. We are not afraid, because we did nothing wrong. We were never forced to choose Jesus, but we did so voluntarily. Whatever the circumstances, we will continue to say: we are here to praise your name Lord.”

You can read the whole article here.

Pray for Sudanese Christians as their country divides

Sudanese Christians face uncertainty as their country divides.
Sudan is officially slated to become two separate countries on July 9. The Christians in the country request prayer as the independence of the two regions could have profound effects on Christians, reports Middle East Concern.

The northern state has publicly voiced intentions to more strictly enforce Shariah law. This means the religious freedoms of Christians and other non-Muslims could be severely limited.

The status of Southerners living in the North is also uncertain. If Christians begin making an exodus out of the North, those who remain could be left more vulnerable.

For now, the Sudan Council of Churches has decided to remain a single institution covering both countries. The churches request prayer as they transition to functioning within two legal systems, one of which could potentially be stringent Shariah.

Additionally, the North-South border remains disputed and violent clashes have occurred along the entire planned border, notably in Abyei, South Kordofan and Darfur.

You can read the entire article here.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray God will keep Christians in disputed areas safe from crossfire.
  • Pray God will give wisdom to church leaders as they prepare to bridge the transition their countries are facing.
  • Pray that the potential movement of Christians will result in the spread of the gospel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Missionary and family violently beaten

Sukhwinder Das and his wife with
two of their children
(Photo by Gospel for Asia)
Gospel for Asia-supported missionary Sukhwinder Das, who has been serving in a village for four years, started experiencing serious opposition a few weeks ago.

In the past week the persecution has escalated into threats and even violence, reports Gospel for Asia.

On June 4, the villagers called Sukhwinder to a meeting, where they tried to force him to abandon his faith in Christ and his ministry. Sukhwinder refused.

Just a few days ago, the tense situation reached its climax. At 8 p.m. on June 8, the village elders stormed into Sukhwinder’s home and attacked him, his wife, their three children and his elderly father.

Sukhwinder’s father was beaten until he lost consciousness and suffered serious injuries.

Police arrived while the attackers were brutalizing the family, but they refused to help. When Sukhwinder went to the police station the next day to report the incident, the police declined to file a report against the village elders because no eyewitness would come forward to make a statement.

Sukhwinder and his family visited a doctor and are receiving treatment.

You can help by praying! Pray:

  • for God’s protection and comfort upon Sukhwinder’s family along with a speedy recover for his father.
  • God will turn the hearts of the policemen in Sukhwinder’s favour.
  • God will change the attitudes of the villagers toward Sukhwinder. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pastor, church official killed in Nigeria

The Rev. David Usman and his wife
at his 2009 ordination.
Muslim extremists from the Boko Haram sect shot and killed a Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) pastor and his church secretary in Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state, on June 7.

Compass Direct News is reporting that the Rev. David Usman, 45, and church secretary Hamman Andrew were the latest casualties in an upsurge of Islamic militancy that has engulfed northern Nigeria this year.

The Rev. Titus Dama Pona, pastor with the Evangelical Church Winning All in Maiduguri, told Compass that Pastor Usman was shot and killed by members of the Boko Haram near an area of Maiduguri called the Railway Quarters, where the slain pastor’s church is located. Pona said Christians in Maiduguri have become full of dread over the violence of Boko Haram, which seeks to impose Shariah (Islamic law) on northern Nigeria.

“Christians have become the targets of these Muslim militants—we no longer feel free moving around the city, and most churches no longer carry out worship service for fear of becoming targets of these unprovoked attacks,” Pona said.

The Rev. Logan Gongchi of COCIN’s Kerang congregation in Jos, Plateau state, told Compass that area Christians were shocked at the news of Usman’s murder. “We knew him to be very gentle, an introvert, who was always silent in the class and only spoke while answering questions from our teachers,” Gongchi said. “He had a simple lifestyle and was easygoing with other students. He was very accommodating and ready at all times to withstand life’s pressures.”

The killing of Pastor Usman marks the second attack on his church premises by Muslim militants. The first attack came on July 29, 2009, when Boko Haram militants burned the church building and killed some members of the congregation.

Pray for imprisoned Vietnamese pastor

Pastor Y Wo Nie remains
behind bars. Pray for him
and his family.
Pastor Y Wo Nie was arrested on August 18, 2004, for leading a demonstration demanding more religious freedom and the release of property confiscated by the Vietnamese government. He received a nine-year sentence.

Our sister mission VOM USA recently received a letter from Y Wo Nie's wife. She wrote, "Our family situation is very difficult. I don't have a job; some days I work as a day labourer and some days I'm unemployed. My youngest son is sickly."

She recently visited her husband in prison, who is ill. She said, "I'm worried for my husband but God gives me His comfort that He is always with us though we have to face sickness or hard situations; He will help me to overcome my hard times."

Please pray for their family!

You can send a letter of encouragement to Pastor Y Wo Nie at the following address:

Y Wo Nie
Nam Ha Prison
Team 27
Ba Sao Village
Kim Bang District
Ha Nam Province

Or, visit to first compose a letter in Vietnamese and then mail it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Muslim mob besieges Egyptian church

Thousands of Muslims protested the reopening of the St. Mary and St. Abraham Church in the Cairo neighbourhood of Ain Shams on May 19, reports Assyrian International News Agency.

The church was forced to close in 2008 because of severe protests occurring against Christians. When the church attempted to reopen, the priests were met with the same protests and violence.

Muslims are protesting the church's dome and cross, which reportedly violate the Muslim custom of "dhimmitude." The custom considers displays of faith by religious minorities to be intolerable.

Eight Coptic Christians were arrested and charged with rioting and violence, three of whom have been sentenced to five years in prison for firearms and weapons possession. Although these three maintain that the evidence was planted, their criminal charges remain. Conversely, the three Muslims arrested during the riots were released.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray for justice for the imprisoned Christians.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen the faith of the believers in the community and pray they will exemplify the love of God through consistent love and prayer for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:43-48).

Pakistani police reluctant to prosecute attack on church

Armed Muslims disrupted the worship service at Numseoul Presbyterian Church in Lakhoki Kahna village, on May 29, cursing the congregation, smashing a glass altar and desecrating Bibles and a cross. Instead of making arrests, police initially pressured Christians to accept an apology from the accused, reported Compass Direct News.

Pastor Ashraf Masih told Compass Direct that Muhammad Shoaib, the nephew of a former Member of the Punjab Assembly (MPA), entered the church building accompanied by four men armed with rifles and pistols.

The men cursed the congregation for "disturbing the peace of the area by worshipping on loudspeakers," though the loudspeakers were used only inside the building.

Police were reluctant to register the incident until the pastor told police that his colleagues had witnessed the damage, journalists had photographed the site, and his congregation would block the main road in protest. Police officials agreed to make Shoaib publicly apologize.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray for Pastor Ashraf and the members of the congregation. May they conduct themselves in such a way that they will be witnesses for the gospel.
  • Pray for justice for Pakistani Christians. May God grow and strengthen His church in Pakistan.

Iran continues to crack down on Christians

In the Islamic Republic of Iran, authorities are cracking down on Christians.

Elam Ministries, an organization that serves the persecuted Church in Iran, reports that 235 believers in 35 cities have been arrested in the past six months. Many have spent weeks and months in prison, often serving long stretches in solitary confinement. They also endure interrogation and physical abuse.

Gary Lane of CBN News recently spoke with David Yeghnazer of Elam Ministries. Watch the interview here (length 3:00).

Want to watch more videos like this? Visit today!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Somali Christians persevere amid severe persecution

Pray for Somali believers worldwide!
In recent years, a number of Somali Christians have been martyred or publicly named as targets for execution in the country, where Islam is the national religion. With a mere 0.05 percent of the population known Christians, many believers have fled to neighbouring countries in fear for their lives.

Nonetheless, new testimonies continue to affirm that many Somalis, including Muslim-background believers, are boldly embracing Christ, despite pressure, threats and violence, reports Somali Christian Ministries.

A Somali woman who has faced pressure from her Muslim family members since becoming a Christian five years ago recently reported that her husband and children have also left Islam for Christianity.

Another Somali, a Muslim-background believer living in Southeast Asia, came to know Christ in recent months. "No matter what will happen to me I will sacrifice my life for Jesus," he said. "I hope you pray for me, whoever you are. I believe that you are my brother or sister in Christ and you will ask Jesus to take away the blindness and sufferings of my Somali people."

You can help by praying!
  • Praise the Lord for these encouraging testimonies of Christ moving among the Somali people.
  • Pray Somali believers 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 suffering Somali Christians will sense the encouragement and love of the various individuals standing with them in their plight.

Are you showing generosity and compassion to your enemies?

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

Day 17
Russia: Captain Marco

“What is it?” Soviet Captain Marco snarled at the young boy. “What do you want?”

The boy, only 12, swallowed his fear as he stood before the Communist officer.

“Captain, you are the man who put my parents in prison. Today is my mother’s birthday, and I always buy her a flower for her birthday,” said the boy. “Since my mother taught me to love my enemies and to reward evil with good, I have brought the flower instead for the mother of your children. Please take it home to your wife tonight, and tell her about my love and the love of Christ.”

Captain Marco, who had watched unmoved as Christians had been unmercifully beaten and tortured, was stunned at the act of love of this boy.

His tears fell as he slowly walked around the desk and grabbed the boy in a fatherly embrace. Marco’s heart was changed by the gift of Christ’s love. He could no longer arrest and torture Christians, and soon he himself was arrested.

Only months after the boy’s visit to his office, Marco slumped in a filthy prison cell surrounded by some of the same Christians he had previously arrested and tortured.

He tearfully told his cell mates of the young boy and the simple gift of a flower. He considered it an honour to share a cell with those he had previously hunted and attacked.
Generosity is second nature to the believer. Jesus taught that others would recognize real believers by their demonstration of love. And not just for those who love us in return. Oftentimes, generosity toward strangers and even enemies is the best application of Jesus’ teachings. Witnesses to our acts, if not the recipients themselves, are befuddled at the sight. Imagine a wounded Christian worker who prays for the boss who unjustly fired him or her. Picture the impact of grieving parents who give the gift of forgiveness to a drunk driver. The world doesn’t understand generosity. However, it is affected by it all the same. We find we are never more like God himself as when we give generously to others. God gave his only Son to demonstrate his love for the world and purchase our salvation. What could you give today that might open someone’s heart to God’s kingdom?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Chinese migrant denied refugee status in Canada for inability to describe Jesus

The Ottawa Citizen reported today that a Chinese migrant was denied his refugee claim partly on the grounds he could not sufficiently answer the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s request that he describe what Jesus was “like as a person.”

Wu Xin Wang sought refugee protection in January 2008 claiming he faced persecution in China because of his Christian beliefs.

Wu said he had been a member of the Underground Church in China and had acted as a lookout during church services. In immigration board documents, Wu claimed his wife had called him from China informing him that officials from China’s Public Security Bureau had visited their home as part of an investigation into illegal church activities.

During Wu’s refugee assessment, a board adjudicator asked him what Jesus was like as a person. Wu responded, describing Jesus as the son of God conceived through the Holy Ghost and as his personal saviour. The board member said anyone could memorize and recite a creed.

Last August, the board denied Wu’s refugee claim, finding his professed religious beliefs and practices allegedly a mere attempt to bolster his refugee claim. Wu applied to the Federal Court to review the board’s decision. On May 26, a federal court judge said “he could see no reason to overturn the decision.”

This ruling raises the question of whether Christian migrants need to be able to describe Jesus’ human characteristics in order to be granted refugee status.

You can read more about the questions Wu answered here.

Two Christians fined 100 times minimum monthly wage in Kazakhstan

Pray for believers in Kazakhstan today!
The Kazakhstan government has fined two Christians for religious activity without state permission, reports Forum 18 News Service. They have been fined amounts that equal 100 times the minimum monthly wage of the region.

Members of Grace Church told Forum 18 that police and other authorities unlawfully broke into the home of Mereken Moldaziyatov to find him leading prayer and preaching to visitors.

Bazyl Zhashibekov faced trouble with the government after Kyzylorda police filmed him and his friends reading the Bible and praying in his home.

Officials were evasive to Forum 18’s questions regarding which Kazakhstan laws forbid praying and reading Scriptures together in private homes.

Church members say neither Mereken nor Bazyl are able to pay the fines. Kazakhstan law allows a verbal warning to be issued “in cases of insignificant harm,” but the judge in Bazyl’s case says that if Bazyl is “not happy with the decision, he can file an appeal.”

Bazyl did make an appeal, but he was not informed of the hearing until six days after it had taken place and was not able to make a defence.

Grace Church members told Forum 18 that they will be launching complaints against the Appeal Court’s decision.

You can read the full article here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fate of Iranian Christian prisoner unclear

Farshid Fathi, 32, a Christian resident of Tehran, was arrested in September 2010, and remains in custody in the political prison ward of Evin Prison, reports Mohabat News.

Unlike the detainees in other home invasions that took place in December 2010, Farshid has remained in custody for months. Of the more than 60 believers rounded up in December, half were released within hours of their arrests.

Farshid, however, continues to be subjected to psychological torture by security forces and interrogators in an attempt to extract a full list of individuals he has evangelized as well as details on his foreign contacts. One such method included temporarily releasing Farshid and then immediately re-arresting him and putting him in solitary confinement.

Farshid’s family has not seen or heard from him in more than five months. The high bail amount set by the authorities leaves the family unable to pay for his release.

You can read the full article here.

You can help by praying!
  • Pray Farshid Fathi’s faith will not waiver under the tremendous pressures of prison life.
  • Pray Farshid’s family will see God’s provision for them despite the financial and psychological pressures that they face.

Radical Hindu movement attempts to block interreligious violence bill in India

Pray for Indian believers who daily
face unprecedented violence. Pray
for religious freedom.
The radical Hindu Bajrang Dal movement is attempting to block the path of a bill to prevent interreligious violence in India, reports AsiaNews.

The national coordinator of the Bajrang Dal Subhash Chouan called the law “draconian” and announced that his organization will launch a national campaign to prevent the law being approved by Parliament.

The leader of the Bajrang claims the law interferes in the workings of state government and moreover attacks the federal nature of national politics. “If the employee of a particular organization is accused of interreligious violence, the head of the organization will be held accountable. This law will punish the leaders, even though they are not to blame.”

The president of the Global Council of Christian Indians (GCIC), Sjan K. George, condemns the move and recently told AsiaNews that “Right-wing Hindutva elements continue with impunity and immunity, doing whatever they want to the minorities in several parts of the country.”

On June 5, Karnataka police stormed a Pentecostal house-church Sunday worship, following false complaints of “forced” conversion against the Pastor Manjunath Venketappa Naik in Doddama Layout area of Bangalore.

For nearly four hours, the police detained the pastor, his wife, three minor children and six other believers. Only through advocacy by GCIC were they released without being charged.

Sajan K George said he was also surprised at the criticism from the Bajrang Dal to a report by the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom. “The Report focuses on the anti-conversion laws in five states of India. These laws apart from being draconian are clearly violations of one’s freedom of religion and expression. Minorities hardly enjoy the same status as the majority community; unfortunately, we are treated so often as second class citizens.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why don't Chinese Christians register their churches?

Many in the West ask VOM why Chinese Christians don’t simply register their churches.

Today, our partner organization ChinaAid Association posted an intriguing article that is pulled from the Fall 2010 issue of Shouwang Church’s quarterly, Almost Flowers: “Why We Won’t Join the Three-Self Patriotic Association.”

Writer Sun Yi, writes,

When the question is raised overseas of why not join the Three-Self and thereby resolve the problem of the legality of these existing churches, a natural rejoinder is to ask: 'Do you think your church would be willing to be labelled a Three-Self church if, for instance, you discover one day that the pastor your church selected is no longer allowed to pastor and the Three-Self has arranged for someone whose theology is unacceptable to be your pastor, or the number of people your church baptizes each year has to await approval from above, or you have to wait for permission to evangelize in places outside the church grounds, etc., etc.?'
If you’ve been wondering why Chinese house churches and regular churches have shied away from registering, please take some time to read through Sun Yi’s article, which you can find here.

I’ll leave you with another of Sun Yi’s thoughts.
If a church demonstrates its patriotism by sacrificing its very basis for being, then this patriotism would be worthless because the church’s very existence is already worthless. It is just like what Christ said about the salt that has lost its saltiness: ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men’ (Matthew 5:13). Only by trusting in Christ to stand firm on its foundation as [part of] the universal [Christian] church can a church, out of its faith, demonstrate of its own accord its respect for the secular authorities God has put in place. This kind of respect for the authorities put in place by God, along with love for one’s neighbour, are what should be the real starting points for patriotism and love of the people.
Continue to pray for Chinese churches and believers who remain steadfast in being salt and light throughout their country.

Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison; pray!

Pray for Youcef Nadarkhani's release!
VOM contacts received word that Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison in Lakan province in northern Iran. He continues to be under the death sentence for apostasy (click here for more information).

Last week our contacts were informed that a decision had been reached in his case. However, no one was informed as to what that decision was.

Please pray for Youcef and his family. Pray that his faith would stand firm regardless of circumstances.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Evangelism to be forbidden in Nepal?

Five years ago, Nepal abolished Hinduism as its state religion.

Now, it’s working on a new criminal code that would forbid a person of one faith to “convert a person or abet him to change his religion,” reports Compass Direct News.

Article 160 of the proposed code also says no one will be allowed to do anything or behave in any way that could cause a person from a caste, community or creed to lose faith in his/her traditional religion or convert to a different religion. The proposal would also prohibit conversion “by offering inducements or without inducement,” and preaching “a different religion or faith with any other intent.”

Offenders could be imprisoned for a maximum of five years and fined up to $685 CAD. If the offender is a foreigner, he or she would be deported within seven days of completing the sentence.

The bill, which would make proclaiming Christ a punishable offense, was approved by the Council of Ministers and then introduced in parliament on May 15 by Law and Justice Minister Prabhu Shah.

In the meantime, Nepal continues to operate without a constitution due to a protracted battle for political power. The current prime minister has admitted his three-month-old government had failed to fulfill its mandate and instead sought another year to write the constitution.

Amid the delays, Hindu militancy is on the upswing, reports Compass Direct.

Continue to pray for Nepalese believers. Pray the government will acknowledge religious freedom for all.