Pray.Network

A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities

I'm trying to consolidate all the Open Doors postings I've been doing into this group.  I will be moving the discussion featuring Prayer Alerts and Stories of Persecution to this thread.  With each entry, I'll provide the link to the actual page on the Open Doors site, as well as the text of the alert.  Please join me in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world!  

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. -- Hebrews 12:3

Views: 83

Replies to This Discussion

Aug 12, 2018: 7 REASONS WHY HOTBEDS OF PERSECUTION ARE GROWING IN C...

On the morning of November 26, 2016, in the Central Asia country of Azerbaijan, 30 adults and their children had just come together for their weekly worship meeting. It is a meeting these believers who have little Christian community throughout the week look forward to each weekend. That day, they had gathered like they always do in their pastor’s home when 10 uniformed police officers and several men in plain clothes (including a local State Committee representative) staged a raid on Pastor Shabanov’s home.

Officers ordered them to halt the meeting, calling it “illegal.”*

Across Central Asia, in sealed-off areas mostly comprised of former Soviet countries (today’s five “Stans”: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, as well as Azerbaijan), worship meetings like Pastor Shabanov’s are being shut down, Bibles are being confiscated and Christians are facing frequent acts of abuse and discrimination. The Central Asian republics–all on the World Watch List–have become hotbeds of persecution.

Below, we share seven reasons why these republics are becoming increasingly hostile to Christians–and what you need to know to pray with knowledge and specificity for our brothers and sisters who are risking their livelihood and even lives to follow Jesus:

1. OWNING AND GIVING A BIBLE ARE PUNISHABLE OFFENSES AGAINST THE STATE.

There are still places in the world where it’s practically impossible to get a Bible. The Central Asia region is one such place. Religious control laws heavily restrict freedom to own or distribute Bibles and Christian literature. In Azerbaijan, Christians have been detained and fined for selling Christian books and materials. 

2. RELIGIOUS CONTROL LAWS ARE GIVING THE GOVERNMENT VETO POWER OVER MOST ANY RELIGIOUS GROUP.

So for Christians, religious liberty and expression are extremely restricted. Many Central Asian countries are so tightly controlled that any threat—perceived or real—against the government is met with brutal crackdowns.

For example, a recent law in Tajikistan forces religious groups to provide information to the government about their leaders and followers, as well as granting authorities control over religious education. Some church leaders even report that surveillance cameras are being installed in their sanctuaries to monitor preaching.

And in Azerbaijan, the government uses a law prohibiting religious extremism to imprison political dissidents and restrict any kind of evangelism or unregistered meeting. In fact, a recent law passed in Kazakhstan has given the government broad authority toflagrantly violate religious rights.” 

3. CHRISTIAN CONVERTS FROM ISLAM ARE OFTEN FACING SEVERE PERSECUTION FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES.

Central Asian nations stand at a crossroads between South and Southeast Asian countries and Russia—resulting in a cultural mixture of Soviet-era and Chinese government models, as well as the Islamic faith of surrounding countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. 

The Central Asian church is very young and inexperienced. Before the 1990s, hardly any indigenous Central Asians came to faith. How to stay strong and trust in God when life is difficult is one of the first things Central Asian believers should learn, says a Bible trainer on the frontlines.

Young believers like Sameda* are risking their lives and in Sameda’s case, the loss of their children to follow Christ. A former Muslim who met Jesus three years ago, Sameda has been kicked out of her home by her Muslim husband. Now he is threatening to divorce her and take their young daughter. In the next few months, Sameda must choose between being a Christian and her own daughter.

4. GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWNS ON CHURCHES ARE INTENSIFYING, FORCING THE CHURCH UNDERGROUND. 

In Turkmenistan, since the adoption of a new complicated Law on Religious Organizations and Religious Freedom in March 2016, all religious entities are required to re-register to operate legally. Under the law, unregistered religious organizations may not legally conduct religious activities, establish places of worship, or produce or disseminate religious materials. For any such activity, the organization will face fines ranging from 100 to 1,000 manat ($60 to $600), with higher fines for religious leaders and lower fines for members.

The authorities in Uzbekistan’s southwestern Navoi [Navoiy] Region have been raiding and punishing local Baptists “to stop them from meeting for worship and peaceful religious activity,” according to statements issued by the Council of Churches. Baptists to Forum 18. All exercise of freedom of religion and belief without state permission is illegal, against Uzbekistan’s binding international human rights law obligations. However, the Council of Baptist Churches refuses on principle to register their congregations with the state, insisting in accordance with international law that registration is not necessary to meet for worship.


In Turkmenistan, in the capital city of Ashgabat

5. SECRET HOUSE CHURCHES ARE INCREASINGLY TARGETS OF POLICE AND AUTHORITIES.

In most areas, officially and publicly worshiping is out of the question. Additionally, evangelizing is a punishable offense. Raids like those on Pastor Shabanov’s house church are rampant. In one Central Asian republic, police officers recently broke into an apartment of a believer hosting a Bible study of an underground house church. The police confiscated Bibles and Christian literature and detained the participants who were later accused of spreading “radical religious teachings.” 

In Azerbaijan, according to a new amendment to the state religious code, religious groups meeting without registration will be subject to one to two years in prison.

In an undisclosed area in Central Asia, a secret group of believers is fighting for the right to practice their faith. They have been fasting and praying for security and opportunities to meet together, preach, pray, have Bibles and worship.

6. CHRISTIANS ARE EXPERIENCING A LOSS OF HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS. 

A Human Rights Watch report on Uzbekistan indicates that the government maintains a “blacklist” made up of thousands of individuals suspected of belonging to unregistered or extremist groups. Those on the list are barred from obtaining various jobs, from travel, and must report regularly for interrogations with the police. 

7. THE CHURCH IN CENTRAL ASIA CONTINUES TO GROW. 

Despite tightening restrictions and the increasing introduction of new laws restricting religious freedom, God’s church continues to grow in this area that has seen centuries of adversity and strife. And that growth may well be the biggest reason why this region of the world is experiencing such persecution. Like the underground church in China that increased and expanded exponentially during the country’s Cultural Revolution, disciples of Jesus are multiplying in Central Asia in the face of government and cultural crackdowns. People like Pastor Shabanov and Bible smugglers like Ulzhan and Alexey (see below) are risking it all to bring believers together and to get Scripture and Christian literature into the hands of Christians.
The following messages from Central Asian believers are a snapshot of the hope more than 5 million believers in the church of Central Asia are sharing:
  • Ulzhan*, a Christian worker in an undisclosed area, says: “So many people have come to faith. People of so many different backgrounds and social conditions. I see this movement of God in my life and in the lives of people around me. It’s incredible.”
  • Pastor Hakeem* says: “Thank you so much for providing our church with Bibles. Without your help, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to give people the most important thing—the Word of God! Your ministry played a tremendous role in our call to reach out to Muslims for Christ.”
  • Alexey*, a literature distribution coordinator for Central Asia, says: “God has been helping the Church grow even without books; however, Christian literature is a wonderful tool that helps the Church stand firm and mature! “On average, we distribute over 30,000 books a year. Knowing there are over 70 million people in Central Asia, the number of books seems like a small drop in a big ocean. Still, our hope is that, through each book, God will touch the hearts of those people who seek Him and those who have never heard of Jesus.”
  • Sergei*, a former Muslim who received a Bible and is now a Christian, says: “God revealed to me how precious I am to Him and that it doesn’t matter if I have an earthly family or not. I learned to look at myself through His eyes and learned to respect and love myself. My life absolutely changed thanks to this small book.”

PRAYING WITH CENTRAL ASIAN BELIEVERS

Together, we must remind believers in Central Asia that they are not forgotten, and even as they are oppressed, they belong to a worldwide community of faith. Please use these prayers to pray with individuals and churches.

  • Pray with believers who have converted from Islam who often experience isolation in their new faith, as well as the fear and pressure they experience knowing that their family’s discovery of their conversion can mean ridicule, persecution and even death. Each time these new believers reach out for Christian fellowship and community, they put their lives in danger along with those they meet with. 
  • Pray with workers who distribute Bibles and Christian materials throughout the region. They are often being watched and must be careful of each and every move and step they take. As Brother Andrew often prayed when smuggling Bibles, pray the Lord “makes seeing eyes blind.” 
  • When believers, especially women, are discovered by their Muslim family members, they are often beaten. Pray for their healing both physically and emotionally, and pray for their family members to understand their decision and be willing to hear the truth of the gospel. 
  • When someone converts from Islam to Christianity it often becomes a problem when these believers lose a family member as they are unable to provide a proper funeral.
  • Pray with converts in Tajikistan. The persecution, stress and problems in their everyday life are increasing. Pray for wisdom from God for how to deal with these growing pressures and stand firm in their faith.     
  • Pray for Kazakh believers and for church leaders, especially those pastors who lead secret churches and believers who converted from Islam. Pray for their security amid increasing restrictions and government control. Pray for wisdom for pastors and leaders who are organizing events. 

Aug. 16, 2018: Pray with Marco and Mina

PRAY WITH MARCO AND MINA–THEY WATCHED THEIR FATHER’S MURDER AFTER HE REFUSED TO DENY JESUS

[above photo: Marco and Mina by the truck their father was driving when ISIS militants attacked after opening fire on a bus of Coptic Christians on the way to the Minya monastery in rural Egypt.]

On May 26, 2017, then 10-year-old Mina and his 14-year-old brother Marco endured one of the most shocking sights a child could experience: That day, the two boys watched as ISIS militants gunned down their father, Ayed Habib Tawadros. Some 29 Christians died that day, including children, adults, and laborers. Ayed, a bellmaker at St. Samuel’s Monastery in upper Egypt, was among those who chose death over denying Jesus. 

How are the boys doing now one year later after losing their dad?

A big smile on the face of little Mina, now 11 years old.

It is the first thing that stands out when our team visits Marco and Mina in their village, close to the Minya province.

“He is doing better,” his mother, Hanaa, says, grabbing Mina in a hug. Since his father’s death, Mina has suffered from anxiety and fear.

The brothers play a lot of football, and the exercise helps them process what happened, explains Hanaa.

MEN OF THE FAMILY

The two boys feel very responsible for the safety and protection of their mother and two sisters, Rania and Reham. During his holidays, Marco continues his father’s job of making church bells. Before the death of his father, Mina used to join Marco and his father sometimes at the monastery–not anymore.

“They always want to make sure at least one man is in the house with me and their sisters,” their mother says.

In addition to the emotional turmoil, the brothers also encountered practical hardship in the aftermath. They couldn’t focus in school anymore, which delayed them in their schoolwork.

Slowly, things are getting better, Hanaa says–a testimony of God’s promise and power to restore and redeem. The boys are daring to dream again like young boys should. Marco wants to become an engineer. Mina hopes to become a police officer.

“Then I can protect the Christians and prevent attacks like what happened to my father,” he explains.

The boys continue to be proud of their father and how he stood for Jesus. They will always miss him, but they also believe he made the right choice.

He remains in their hearts, and now they need only to look up for a visible reminder of their father’s life and faith each day they walk out and see the renamed street sign their village changed and erected recently.

Ayed Habib Tawadros Street.

PRAYING WITH AYED’S FAMILY

  • For Hanaa, pray for continued provision, discernment, and insight for raising her children and caring for her family. Pray that she would continue to seek His wisdom and that she would lean on Him for understanding and comfort as she misses Ayad.
  • Pray for Marco as he works at the monastery and helps care for his younger brother. Pray that he would continue to trust God and that God would place people in his life to encourage and remind him of his father’s strong character and faith.
  • Pray for Mina, that he would continue to heal and that the love of God through his family and church would conquer his fears and anxiety. Ask God to be near to him as he misses his father. Pray that he would learn to love God and walk with Him as he grows.
  • Pray for daughters Rania and Reham that they would continue to follow God and stand strong in the face of rising persecution. Pray for their protection and provision as they carry Ayad’s legacy of faith.
  • Pray for their church and family, that they would continue to minister to Hanaa’s family through their presence and provision–offering the critical support Hanaa and her children need.
  • Pray for justice. Pray that these terrible events over the last year will draw the attention of world leaders to focus more heavily on human rights and religious freedom in Egypt.

Aug. 14: GOD IS GROWING HIS YOUNG CHURCH IN CENTRAL ASIA

THE SURPRISING WAY GOD IS GROWING HIS YOUNG CHURCH IN CENTRAL ASIA

Like so many young people growing up in Central Asia, Ulzhan* was headed for destruction. Throughout the former Soviet countries, increasing numbers of youth are turning to alcohol and drugs. Ulzhan needed larger and larger quantities of alcohol and drugs to fill the hole in his soul. When Jesus came into his life through the church, everything changed. Life became meaningful.

Today, he serves God in often very stressful circumstances in Central Asia. Open Doors recently spoke to the now underground church leader at a secret location. In this rare interview, Ulzhan reveals how God grabbed hold of his heart, how he fiercely prayed for his Muslim parents, and how God uses persecution to grow His Church.

Can you share with us how you came to faith?

My grandmother was an Orthodox Christian. She had a big impact on me. She was so nice and prayed diligently. She really took good care of me. She was quite rich for Soviet standards but never counted her money. Instead, she used it to bless others, including me.

But my life slipped away after I came back from serving the army at age 20. Life just didn’t have any purpose. I did what so many young people do in Central Asia: I drank a lot of alcohol and used drugs to make me feel better. I started using drugs when I was 14 years old. My friends and I lived for that kind of fun. Later, I worked as a bodyguard. Some girls came up to my client and told him: ‘We believe in Jesus Christ. He is our Savior!’ They invited him to go to church. But he told them he was a Muslim and suggested they invite his bodyguard.

I was a Muslim too! Not a very strong one, of course. I agreed to go to church with them. I got a Bible and went to church. That church showed me there was a different way—that life had meaning. Within one month, I didn’t drink, smoke or use drugs anymore. My friends stopped seeing me because I was no longer fun to hang out with. They even warned me, “You are a very strange believer! You go to a sect! Stop visiting that church if you know what’s good for you!”

How did your parents respond when you became a believer?

My relationship with my parents was never very good. That’s why I spent so much time with my grandmother. My parents were always busy working. The problems I had with them continued to be the same. There were many quarrels. They didn’t like that I had become a Christian.

What did you do?

I prayed for many years. Fifteen years for my mother, then she became a believer. I had to pray even longer for my father, 21 years. He became a follower of Christ only one year before his death.

What about your friends? Did you pray for them too?

Of course. I didn’t see them very often. Two or three of them have come to faith since then. Some died of sickness. The others, I have no information about.

Can you tell us about your current ministry?

I wish I could. I trust you but not these walls.

Do you feel comfortable sharing about what God is doing in Central Asia?

Yes. In the last six years, God has really surprised me. It’s not because of anything that I have done; it’s all His work. So many people have come to faith. People of so many different backgrounds and social conditions. I see this movement of God in my life and in the lives of people around me. It’s incredible. I’m really grateful to be in this ministry, and I’m so grateful for your support and prayers. It’s a great comfort to know that other people know about our difficulties.

What’s the one thing our brothers and sisters outside Central Asia should know?

How good Jesus is. There is no other name than His. He is the only Savior. I’m in my 40s now, but this is all I have to share. Jesus is the focus. He is supreme. Nothing is more important than the soul of a person. It doesn’t matter how we share the gospel, only that we do it. Explain that we are saved through the name of Jesus. Share this news wherever you can.

You are so right, and this will be an encouragement for our supporters. But please help us understand the plight of believers in your country too so that we can pray better. For example, what’s the most heartbreaking story you’ve heard?

Please don’t think I’m a hero. The praise should go to others. There was one sister. Let’s call her Nadia. She took care of her sick husband and their three children. One day the police came to threaten her because she was an underground small group leader. They took her to the police station and didn’t give her any food or water, she wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet, and they violated her.

They wanted her to give away sensitive information, such as the names of other Christians. She would lose her future and her family if they sent her to prison. Then they even threatened to harm her children who were only 15, 12 and 2. It was very disturbing and frightening to her.

What did she do?

She didn’t give them any names, but it was a real nightmare. The police questioned her every day, saying, “If you don’t tell us who you work with, we won’t allow your children to go to school anymore!”

Actually, she had been arrested on an outreach with her oldest son. Of course, he wasn’t as strong as his mother. And after one day without food, water and toilet, he was tortured too. They pulled his hair and tried to break his hand. They wanted names, and he told the police my name.

Were you arrested?

The police came to search my house, but I don’t keep sensitive materials at my home. They couldn’t find anything. Yet, they still gave me a huge fine. It was a very hard time for all of us. Especially for Nadia and her family. In the end, the police gave up and released Nadia and her son.

Why do you think God allows this kind of persecution to happen?

Okay, let me preach for a little bit. God is our Father. Whenever He teaches us, He is preparing us for something important. We are not weak plants unable to survive on their own. We have been planted by Him for a purpose. We have to fulfill His will in this place.

Look, Jesus became obedient through suffering, right? We are not better than Jesus. We need to learn obedience through suffering as well. He won’t spare us the suffering. We are His children, and this suffering is a kind of training for us. After going through problems, suffering and persecution, we too wonder sometimes: Why do we still do this ministry? Is it worth it? We like comfort, but we have so many problems. But then we also experience His love, and all we want is to get to know Him even better. And the truth is that we learn more about Him when we suffer.

It’s what the Bible teaches.

Of course. Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We will forget negative emotions, but His love will never pass away. One day we will face Him in Heaven, and we will not only thank Him for times of prosperity but especially for how we experienced Him during times of suffering.

How often do you preach a message like this to other persecuted believers?

I’m quite high profile, so I can’t work too openly. Instead, I train others to share messages like this with other Christians. They need to understand and live the truth. You have to understand that the church in Central Asia is very young and inexperienced, but how to stay strong and trust in God when life is difficult is one of the first things believers should learn.

Of course, it’s human to ask: Why God? Why did you allow this to happen? But it’s the wrong question. We should ask: What for, Lord? It’s all about His plan and His purpose we need to align ourselves to. Many young believers don’t understand this yet. They don’t know that we are His ambassadors. They don’t know that there is glory, and there is suffering. We should pray according to the words of the apostle Peter, who says that our problems are there to test us and help us grow in faith. So pray that you grow stronger in faith and remember that comfort comes after suffering.

How can we best pray for you?

Pray for strength and for my health. Also pray for more time and opportunities to serve the Lord.

Aug. 17: TURKEY COURT REFUSES U.S. PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON AGAIN

TURKEY COURT REFUSES U.S. PASTOR ANDREW BRUNSON AGAIN

One of Turkey’s high criminal courts in Izmir has upheld a lower court’s decision and rejected U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson’s request to be released from house arrest.The court also rejected an appeal for Andrew’s travel ban to be lifted.

The first appeal rejected by a lower court was then sent to a higher court, according to Brunson’s lawyer Ismail Cem Halavurt.

Halavurt said that they may file another appeal with the court as, “depending on the developments, we can apply again.” He said he was also considering an appeal to Turkey’s constitutional court.

TRUMP CALLS BRUNSON A “PATRIOT HOSTAGE”

Since the first appeal was rejected, the U.S. government has increased pressure on Turkey, levying sanctions, doubling tariffs on Turkish imports and speaking frequently and publicly, calling for Andrew’s release.

President Trump has repeatedly called for his release and late last night he tweeted, calling Pastor Brunson to represent the United States as a “great patriot hostage.”


Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

Turkey has taken advantage of the United States for many years. They are now holding our wonderful Christian Pastor, who I must now ask to represent our Country as a great patriot hostage. We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!


U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Turkey, Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Pastor Brunson in his home in Izmir. Speaking outside the Brunsons’ residence, Hovenier said Washington wanted the pastor’s case “as well as the case of the other unjustly detained Americans, and the Turkish national employees of the U.S. diplomatic mission” resolved fairly, swiftly and transparently.”

In response to U.S. actions, Turkey President Erdogan publicly rebuffed the U.S., retaliating with increased tariffs on U.S. imports and threatening to boycott U.S. electronic goods.

Pastor Brunson’s next hearing—the fourth time he will appear before a Turkish court—is scheduled for October 12. The 62-page indictment accuses Pastor Brunson of “Christianization,” calling it an act of terror. The indictment demands up to 15 years in prison for “crimes in the name of the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and up to 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political or military espionage.”

If convicted, Pastor Brunson faces 35 years in prison–essentially a life sentence for the 50-year-old pastor.

On July 25, he was moved from Buca prison to house arrest for health concerns. The upcoming hearing will mark almost two years since Pastor Brunson was arrested in October 2016.

PRAYING WITH THE BRUNSONS

Please continue to pray for the Brunson family, remembering …

Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Instead, Paul reminds us that we pray against the principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). As much as we may be tempted to villainize President Erdoğan and his government, as Christ’s Church we are called to pray against the darkness. Pastor Brunson’s case is set against a backdrop of increasing Christian persecution and darkness in Turkey, which is No. 31 on the World Watch List.

Prayer is our greatest weapon. It goes beyond strongholds and into places we could never venture. And if you believe the Book of Acts, prayer can break chains, release prisoners, bring aid and relief to suffering saints like no other resource. Throughout his life, Open Doors Founder Brother Andrew has witnessed Acts-like prayer. He says that prayers can go where we cannot… there are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”

God is sovereign; we don’t know His ways. Throughout history, God has used persecution as part of His sovereign plan to spread the gospel and strengthen believers. Persecution of Christians was prevalent in both the Old and New Testaments. Scripture tells us repeatedly that we will not always understand God’s ways. But we continue to pray even when things don’t make sense in our heads and hearts, trusting God and His wisdom–remembering that He is good and nothing is happening that He’s not aware of or allowing.

God is the master of timing. Throughout Scripture, we see that God is not in a hurry. For 400 years, the Israelites prayed for deliverance from Egypt. Even Jesus knew this. In the Gospels, Jesus says “my hour has not come.” We continue to pray knowing that God is the master of time and therefore the master of timing.

God is still working. Places or circumstances don’t limit God’s power. When Joseph was thrown into a cistern by his brothers, God was still working. When he was unjustly imprisoned, God was still there, using the circumstances to mature Joseph and ultimately save His people. And God still works through our prayers. When we pray, we show that we are trusting God to work even when our finite view limits our perspective.

In His Word, God has shown us how to pray for the persecuted. We can find insight and practical help in the scriptures:

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

…but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32).

And finally, we can pray the powerful prayer Pastor Brunson recently sharedasking God to use Him: “Father, cause to burst into flame in the love You have for Jesus, that I may be a servant, ardent lover of Him, willing to undergo whatever is asked.”

Aug. 17: In Mexico, Pastor Braces for Death

IN MEXICO, PASTOR BRACES FOR DEATH BUT GOD DOES THE MIRACULOUS

In Mexico (#39 on the World Watch List), persecution against church leaders and their churches is on the rise. The ongoing struggle against organized crime affects all Mexicans, but especially the most vulnerable groups in rural areas, including minority Christian denominations. Christians such as church leaders who actively engage in transforming society constitute a threat to drug cartels and other criminal groups. In Juarez, just across from El Paso, Texas, church leaders have become targets of ringleaders. 

“You don’t know who you’re messing with…”

A church pastor (name withheld) from the Mexican border city of Juarez thought they might be the last words he would hear, staring point blank into a gun barrel.

The hitman had entered the home of the church leader intent on carrying out his assignment. As the pastor knelt on the floor, he heard the man pull the trigger.

Miraculously, the gun failed to fire. 

Confused, the hitman knocked the pastor unconscious and stole his wallet, then left the home.

CHURCH LEADERS TARGETS OF PERSECUTION

The story sounds like a scene from a movie. But for this pastor and others like him in Mexico, persecution of them, their families and their churches is tragically real.

The attack came just days after the murder of fellow local pastor Eduardo Garcia. He was chased and shot by unidentified assailants believed to be members of the drugs trade. His car eventually swerved into a bus stop, and then another car, before stopping.

During a particularly gruesome period of violence in 2009, the Garcias lost their 24-year old son, Abraham, who was murdered also by suspected drug ringleaders.

“The pain we feel is really strong,” he told World Watch Monitor last year. “We wouldn’t wish it on anyone… We had decided to try to rescue the city, but I never imagined we would become a part of the statistics.”

Eduardo Garcia, pictured last year holding a photo of his wife and late son, was shot six times (World Watch Monitor).

Both church leaders were likely targeted because of their church’s restorative work with the community, which drug cartels see as a hindrance to their trafficking efforts.

“All I can say is that with the work we do as a church we have affected the activities of those groups involved in drug trafficking and also the organized crime,” says the pastor who survived his attack. “We are not sure what comes next.”

In recent years, the number of violent deaths in Mexico has gone up dramatically. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, in 2017 there were over 30,000 homicides in Mexico, the highest figure on record since statistics were first collected in 1997.

In cities like Ciudad Juarez, in the state of Chihuahua–one of the most violent places in the country–80 percent of the murders relate to the drugs industry.

In June alone, there were 177 murders in Juarez, according to municipal authorities–six a day.

A THREAT TO DRUG CARTELS

While the violence affects everyone, actively practicing Christians are particularly vulnerable, says Open Doors’ Latin American Analyst Dennis Petri. Given that as much as 90 percent of Mexico’s population would identify as Christian, Petri told World Watch Monitor that it’s important not to look so much at a person’s identity as a Christian, but more at the behavior resulting from their Christian convictions.

“Whenever a Christian starts to engage in social work–for example, setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic or organizing youth work–that’s a direct threat to the activities and interests of organized crime because it takes the youth away from them. It’s a direct threat to their market.”

Petri mentioned one church leader who was killed for setting up a drug rehabilitation clinic and then refusing to close it despite threats. He also cited the example of a church leader who set up a football team for vulnerable boys, some of whom were working as informants for cartels. When one boy told the cartels he no longer wished to be an informant, he was killed.

PERCEPTION OF AFFLUENCE

A more obvious example of why active Christians are easy targets of Mexican drug cartels comes from the perception that churches and their leaders have a lot of money, so congregations offer a ready source of cash. Cartels can simply enter, lock the doors and tell the congregation to empty their pockets.

Chito Aguilar, 62, a former drug trafficker who now leads a church, told World Watch Monitor: “They say, ‘Well, if in a church there are 50 or 100 people bringing their offerings, that’s more and easier money than what they’ll get robbing a convenience store.’ Eight people walk into a church, and one or two will remain at the doors while the others start collecting watches, rings, wallets … everything.”

PRAYING WITH CHURCH LEADERS IN MEXICO

  • Pray for Christian leaders who are being targeted. Pray for courage, that they would remain in the fight for souls through much-needed community and youth work. Ask God to protect them and their families and strengthen them in the face of growing adversity.
  • Pray with the families of these pastors, especially the Garcias who have suffered so much. And pray for Christians who are often denied access to basic social services and resources. Some of these believers suffer incarceration and displacement.
  • Pray for God’s provision and grace. Pray for the government in Chiapas, Hidalgo, and Oaxaca specifically.
  • Mexico is one of the most violent countries in the world. Pray for physical protection for persecuted believers in Mexico.
  • Pray for the hearts of those involved in drug cartels who kidnap, terrorize and even kill Christians who stand in the way of their illegal work. Pray that they would come to know Jesus and that they would encourage positive change in Mexico.

Sep. 18: BOKO HARAM THREATENS TO KILL LEAH SHARIBU

BOKO HARAM THREATENS TO KILL LEAH SHARIBU—OPEN DOORS CALLS FOR URGENT PRAYER

Open Doors is calling for urgent prayer as news breaks of Boko Haram’s execution of a kidnapped aid worker and threat to kill kidnapped Nigerian Christian teenager Leah Sharibu and three other hostages.

The Islamic extremist group recently released a video of the killing of a 25-year-old midwife with the International Committee of the Red Cross. The young woman, Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, was abducted on March 1 during an attack on the northeastern town of Rann near the Cameroon border. In the same video, reportedly a spokesperson for the group also threatens Leah Sharibu’s life.

in the video, seen by the Nigerian online magazine The Cable, the insurgents claim they had contacted the government over the captives with no response.

“We contacted the government through writing and also sent audio messages, but the government have ignored us. So, here is a message of blood,” said a group spokesman. “The other nurse and midwife will be executed in similar manner in one month, including Leah Sharibu.”

The two other female aid workers, also kidnapped in the Rann attack, are Hauwa Mohammed Liman, another midwife working for ICRC, and Alice Loksha Ngaddah, a nurse working with Unicef, and mother of two.

A NEW STRATEGY OF EVIL

Only three weeks ago, Boko Haram released what was believed to be a scripted audio messag... who was kidnapped this year on February 13 from a school in the town of Dapchi, along with more than 100 other girls.

In the 35-second audio recording, the 15-year-old girl—the only one not released with the other kidnapped girls because she refused to denounce Christ—asked for help for her family and herself:

“I also plead to the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives,” she said in her Hausa language. “Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion. I am calling on the government, particularly the President, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”

According to The Cable, the proof of life was a requirement for possible renewed negotiation efforts between the government and Boko Haraman extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria.

Emmanuel Egebe, a Nigerian activist based in the United States, said that the killing of the female aid worker, who is a Muslim, signals a shift in Boko Haram’s strategy.

“To my knowledge, this is the first execution by Boko Haram of an aid worker for failure to respond to a demand,” he said in a statement this morning.

“Boko Haram generally executes Christian males who refuse to convert, men and women – Christian or Muslim – who work for security services … It is contrary to Boko Haram’s rules of engagement to execute Muslim women, and when you don’t think they can sink any lower, they hit a new nadir!

Egebe noted that the Islamic group had killed United Nations diplomats and aid workers before, including Korean doctors, polio vaccinators, etc.

“However, this is the first execution for failure to meet their ransom demands. It is not clear what it is they are asking for, but whatever it is, I understand the Nigerian government declined.”

After the release of the audio message from Leah Sharibu, a government spokesperson told press: “For President Buhari, nothing will be spared in bringing all our girls home. He will not rest until all of them are freed.”

PAST PLEAS FOR HELP FOR LEAH SHARIBU

On September 12, in an interview with Voice of America, Leah’s father, Nathan, said the family had not heard from a government representative since Leah’s disappearance in February and that he hadn’t heard of any plan to release his daughter from Boko Haram...

“Nothing is being done that I know of. I don’t know of any plan to release her. What I know is what I get from the media. I believe they can get her from Boko Haram if they want to help us. We are very, very sad in the family. It has been seven months since she was taken.”

At that time, both Nathan and Leah’s mother, Rebecca, publicly pleaded with Nigeria President Buhari to intervene and bring their daughter home.

“We appeal to the federal government to intensify efforts to release our girl for us,” Nathan said after the audio was released. “We appeal to the whole nation to mount pressure on them to release her for us. We don’t know what to do, and we are pained about her captivity.”

Rebecca Sharibu also made a plea: “I am pleading to Christians in high positions all over the world and to the president as she pled, she pled for help, to help her out of the situation she is in,” Rebecca said in an interview. “We too plead to the President Buhari to rescue our daughter, and we are very grateful to all the Christians in Nigeria and to all the Christians in the whole world for praying for us.”

In April when Leah realized she would not be freed with the other kidnapped girls, she quickly scribbled a message to her mother and sent it with a classmate. Rebecca shared it with one of our Open Doors team members who visited her:

“My mother you should not be disturbed,” she wrote. “ I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am … I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is the last time Rebecca heard from her daughter in unscripted text in eight months.

In its nine-year insurgency, Boko Haram has reportedly claimed more than 20,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people.

PRAYING WITH LEAH SHARIBU AND HER FAMILY

Father, our hearts ache with this news today. We can’t imagine what the Sharibu family must be going through right now… but we know you are with them and with Leah, that you are an “ever-present help in trouble,” as the Psalm says. God, we ask you to hold Leah tight, to comfort and strengthen her. We pray that as you strengthen her, the Muslim women she is with would see the one true God. Give her words to say … We also ask that through Leah, her persecutors would see You and turn to Christ. Be close to her broken-hearted family. Give them a spirit of courage, not fear … and a spirit of hope, not despair. Please, Father, we fervently pray that you work in ways we can’t fathom to bring Leah back home to her family. In Your Son’s name, we pray and ask for these things… #RememberLeah

Aug. 21: My Wife Turned Me In to the Police

MY WIFE TURNED ME INTO THE POLICE FOR LEAVING ISLAM, THEN SHE FOUND JESUS

August 21, 2018 by Robert Kenna in 

[We just received this powerful testimony from a Christian in Central Asia. *Representative name and photo used for security.]

HELLO, MY NAME IS *NEJAT.

I met the Lord Jesus three years ago.

When my wife discovered I was a Christian, she became upset and stopped listening to me because I denied Islam.

On one occasion, she went to the police station to file a complaint against me. After this, the representatives of the National Security Police came to visit my wife at work.

They asked her why she had complained. She said it was because I had left Islam and had become a Christian.

The Security Police asked her several questions:

“Did your husband start drinking?”

“No,” she replied.

“Did he used to drink?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Is your husband beating you?”

“No,” she replied.

“Did he used to beat you?”

“Yes,” she answered.

Then they said:

“What else do you need? If we had more people like your husband here, it would be easier for you and us. Your husband is on the right way.”

In the evening she shared the story with me, and I explained the gospel to her, which she finally accepted. Now we serve the Lord with our family.

This is how God changes the hearts of people in our country!

Sincerely,

Nejat

Aug. 22: Now He Smuggles Bibles

HE USED TO TRAFFIC HEROIN IN CENTRAL ASIA, NOW HE SMUGGLES BIBLES

Throughout Central Asia, illegal drugs are rampant in the former Soviet countries. A 2017 report on Central Asia’s drug problem states that since the breakup of the Soviet Union, there has been a tremendous increase in both trafficking and drug use throughout the regionDrug addiction is growing, especially with the youthHere, Viktor* shares how drug trafficking was his life, even in jail–until the day his prison cellmate received a package in the mail that changed the trajectory of Viktor’s life and the eternities of thousands of others.

While many would consider their 20s an adventurous stage of life, *Viktor’s story takes that theme to new extremes. Like many this age, he moved away from home and began exploring a new trade.

Unfortunately, however, Viktor’s trade of choice was smuggling illegal drugs in Central Asia.

At first, Viktor’s early adult years were filled with adrenaline and adventure. Viktor led an operation that ran drugs from Tajikstan to the state where he lives in Central Asia. He seemed to have natural abilities to covertly network across communities. Viktor’s success rate, in fact, was so high that he was offered the chance to smuggle drugs across the Afghanistan border as well, which would’ve expanded his operation into three countries.

But in 1996, things went south when Viktor was caught with four kilo–almost nine pounds–of heroine on him. He was immediately arrested and jailed.

‘I READ ABOUT ETERNAL LIFE’

In jail, Viktor’s life took a turn for the worst. As his sentence wore on, Viktor grew suicidal. He describes how his state of mind deteriorated:

“I felt empty inside and did not want to live anymore. I did not know how long I would be in jail.”

Viktor’s daily life in confinement continued to burden him until the day his cellmate received a package from his mom. It was the Gospel of John, which his friend offered to Viktor.

At first, he didn’t touch the book. But as he continued to struggle, after 10 nights of poor sleep, Viktor finally picked up the book and began to flip through it.

Initially, the Bible made little sense to Viktor.

“Words like ‘the Word was first and the Word was God’ made no sense to me,” he remembers. “What did it mean? I put it away and stopped reading.”

But then the strangest thing happened. Once again, Viktor encountered a series of sleepless nights. In a moment of exhaustion and desperation, he again turned to the Bible and, this time, he couldn’t stop reading.

“I read about eternal life.” Viktor explained. “Reading about eternal life caught my attention. Thinking about it, I really desired eternal life, even more than I desired to be released from jail.”

As he read, Viktor began to feel God’s presence. He didn’t know about prayer; still, he called out to Jesus.

“’You know I am not sure that you exist, but I want eternal life and I want to be born again.’ I continued reading in the Bible alone in my cell with no Christians around. It was just me and the book.”

When fellow prisoners later tried to smuggle him a package of drugs, Viktor refused it.

“Looking at the drugs, I knew that they would drive me insane. ‘This is death!’ I said. I made the decision to choose life and sent the drugs back.”

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

In the midst of this, Viktor got bad news. The prison doctors diagnosed him with a disease and told him he probably only had about 18 months to live. But as Viktor drew near to God, the news didn’t have the crushing impact on him that you might expect. Instead, Viktor began to feel confident he would go to Heaven. He had a sense of visible joy his fellow inmates couldn’t understand.

When the disease didn’t worsen, Viktor and others started a church.

They began gathering in small groups, playing instruments, and praying. Viktor even tried his hand at preaching. Not too long after they began, the prison administrator came to respect Viktor and his house of prayer so much that he suggested Viktor preach over the prison’s microphone system that was usually used for announcements.

The prison official became a supporter, encouraging Viktor’s leadership in the faith. When winter arrived, for instance, and Viktor had to stand out in the cold to deliver his sermons, the administrator encouraged him, “Do not care about the cold, you have to preach about Jesus Christ!”

MODERN-DAY BIBLE SMUGGLER

When Viktor was released from prison, he decided to continue his role as a pastor by attending a seminary Bible college. During his studies, he started to work among drug addicts in a rehab center and began sharing the Word of God with them.

Today, he is the pastor of a very special church in Central Asia. His church can’t be formally registered, so it does a lot of its work in a barn filled with animal feed. Thanks to Open Doors support, Viktor is able to sustain himself and his ministry by selling blocks of salt for cows and grain and rice for chickens, while he also secretly stores resources and materials needed for evangelism. Where he lives, Bibles and Christian literature are illegal.


Viktor gets Bibles and Christian literature into the hands of Christians.

When asked about his safety, Viktor acknowledges there is risk involved.

“We have so many secret things here,” he shares. “But we operate wisely and only let trusted people in our yard. The customers come to our barn and no farther. When people come for books, we close the gate or put a car in front of it. Neighbors cannot see what we are doing. And there is no reason to come and check. The only visible activity is our animal food we sell.”

The believers gather discreetly in a rented facility, using a home-based evangelism method where they identify people who want to learn more about God and then go to their homes to teach them.

At nights, the church members go into the village to interact in the public spaces. They can’t publicly evangelize in the streets, so they just socialize and answer questions.

“If a lady asks about baptism, for instance, then we suggest going to her home to drink tea and talk a little further,” he says. “We use any opportunity to enter their homes to share the gospel.”

While Viktor and his friends started his ministry on their own, it was further developed through a microcredit from Open Doors.

“We realized it was not our own plan,” he says. “God led us to this ministry. It is hard work and does not produce a high profit, but it works.”

We asked him what we can pray for and what we can pass on to our brothers. His answer was quick:

“Please do pray that my testimony and my life can bring many people to Christ, and pray also for my relatives.”

Aug. 23: My Father's Death for Christ Made Me Search for Jesus

EGYPTIAN TEEN: ‘MY FATHER’S DEATH FOR CHRIST MADE ME SEARCH FOR JESUS’

Before the father of 17-year-old Marqos was killed, Marqos didn’t think too much about God. His mother described him as a “difficult teenager.” But when he heard about how his father, Baghat, had refused to deny Christ and as Marqos thought about how his father has lived his faith, his heart began to change. Recently, our team in Egypt visited Marqos and his mother, Fawziya. Together, they share how God is moving in the midst of their tragedy to draw them closer to Him.

Marqos starts out, talking about life before he lost his father.


“Before he was killed, we were a family of four living in El-Arish (a small city on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast)l: me, my sister, my mother and my father. It wasn’t a bad place to live. We lived in peace with our Muslim neighbors. My father was a veterinarian, and had good relations with his Muslim colleagues and friends.”

“At some point, new people moved to the village, Fawziya adds. “They were Palestinian immigrants with a very strict view on Islam. That changed everything.”

The new residents of El-Arish began threatening believers by spreading leaflets warning Christians to leave the city or die. In the beginning of 2017, they started their killings. Baghat was one of the first victims.

“It was a Sunday, and my husband woke up early to go to church,” Fawziya says. “After that, he went to work at the veterinarian clinic of one of his Muslim friends.”

Marqos and Fawziya weren’t present at the tragedy that followed, but Marqos spoke with a Muslim friend of his father who witnessed the event.

“He told me that two young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside,” Marqos says. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father’s head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him. When I heard he’d died, I couldn’t walk to the morgue.”

Fawiziya shares about Baghat.

“My husband was a loved man in El-Arish; a respected veterinarian. I’ve heard that the terrorists were keeping an eye on him for some time before they killed him.”

Marqos runs to another room to get his father’s cross necklace.

“He wore it every day, also the day he died. I was proud of my father, for standing by his faith until the last moment. It made me curious. When my father was still alive, he woke up every morning at 5 am to study the Bible and pray. Apparently, that helped him become a strong believer. My father’s death for Christ has made me search for Jesus.”

Fawziya has seen a noticeable change in her son’s heart and habits.

“You know, Marqos used to be a difficult teenager. But after the murder, all of the sudden, I found him reading his Bible and praying. He started going to church often, studied harder. He really changed as a person. If he doesn’t understand a verse, he asks me about it. And we pray together.

“This is what my husband and I have always prayed for together: that the Lord would touch our son’s heart and pull him closer to Him.”

Egypt is No. 17 on Open Doors’ World Watch List and continues to be a country that poses extreme danger and violence for Christians. Please pray with Marqos, Fawziya and their family as they live life without Baghat, and for the many believers in Egypt who have lost loved ones to persecution. 

Indian Couple Beaten After Leaving "Old Gods" for Jesus

INDIAN COUPLE BEATEN AFTER LEAVING ‘OLD GODS’ FOR JESUS

Preeti and her husband were tied up with ropes and brutally beaten by neighbors in their community for one simple reason:

They refused to reject their Christian faith and participate in a local ritual.

When Preeti and her husband told the people in their village that they didn’t want to participate in the ritual because they had left their old gods and found Jesus—it stirred up anger within the community.

The couple reports that a group of 30 to 40 men from the village gathered and chased Preeti and her husband with spears, sticks and swords. At one point, they tried to rape Preeti—partially tearing her clothes—before she escaped.

GOD PROVIDES AN ESCAPE

Preeti and her husband were separated and she ran to find shelter in another house in the village. The family was not a Christian household, but they helped hide Preeti for some time. Later, due to a thunderstorm and rain, the mob eventually dispersed and gave up the search. When they were gone, Preeti took the opportunity to flee to her pastor’s house in another village.

“Somehow God saved me that day,” Preeti shares with an Open Doors partner. Later, Preeti’s husband also made it safely to the pastor’s house, but he sustained many injuries and is still recovering.

“Though I am still fearful to return to my village, I am comforted by God,” Preeti shares.

CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR BELIEVERS IN INDIA

Both Preeti and her husband were able to attend an Open Doors training event on persecution preparation called Standing Strong Through the Storm. Please continue to pray for the couple—and the countless believers in India they represent. Ask God to give the church in India strength and courage in the midst of rising persecution.

*Due to the safety and security of Preeti and her husband, we have not shown their faces.

Aug. 29: New Recording of Leah Sharibu

NEW VOICE RECORDING OF BOKO HARAM CAPTIVE LEAH SHARIBU BRINGS HOPE

[Photo accompanying the voice recording of Leah Sharibu that Boko Haraman extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria released to Nigerian media]

A new audio recording released by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram reveals that kidnapped 15-year-old Leah Sharibu is alive.

The 35-second recording was published by Nigeria’s online newspaper The Cable on Monday. In it, Leah makes a passionate plea to the Nigerian government for her freedom in her native Hausa language:

“I am Leah Sharibu, the girl that was abducted from Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi. I am calling on government and people of goodwill to get me out of this problem.

“I also plead with the members of the public to help my mother, my father, my younger brother and relatives. Kindly help me out of my predicament. I am begging you to treat me with compassion, I am calling on the government, particularly the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation. Thank you.”


Photo: Leah Sharibu before she was kidnapped on Feb. 13, 2018.

In the recording, Leah pauses several times, suggesting she was reading from a written text.

The Nigerian government is working to verify the authenticity of the recording, But Leah’s father, Nathan Sharibu, said the voice on the recording is his daughter’s.

“It really is her voice. I thought she might have been killed since we were told by those released that Boko Haram kept her because she is a Christian. I can only imagine the way they would have treated her,” Nathan said.

He said the recording had given the family hope: “I’m really encouraged that I heard the words of my favorite daughter.”

The audio was accompanied by a picture of Leah, clad in a light brown hijab, sitting on a mat in an undisclosed location.

FREEDOM EFFORTS

Leah was kidnapped on the evening of February 13, along with more than 100 other girls, when Boko Haram militants stormed a girls’ secondary school in the Nigerian town of Dapchi. A month later, she was the only girl who wasn’t freed with the others because she refused to turn from her Christian faith and convert to Islam.

When all of the girls were loaded on trucks to go home, Leah was not allowed to go. Leah’s mother, Rebekah Sharibu, shared with an Open Doors team member what one of the released girls had told her:

“Leah was told to say some Islamic incantations before she would be allowed onto the truck. But she refused. She said, ‘I will never say it because I am not a Muslim.’ They became angry and told her if she wouldn’t denounce Christ, she would remain with them. Still, Leah refused. We watched Leah being left alone with the other members. We kept crying and waving at her ’til the truck vanished.”

Nathan Sharibu said the whole family was pleading for the government to do more, as were Christians and some Muslims that are “praying for my daughter,” he said. He is hopeful that the recording will redouble efforts to free her.

“We appeal to the federal government to intensify efforts to release our girl for us,” he said. “We appeal to the whole nation to mount pressure on them to release her for us. We don’t know what to do, and we are pained about her captivity.”

Nigeria’s secret service is analyzing the audio for authenticity, said a government spokesperson. “We are aware of the audio in circulation concerning the unfortunate situation of our daughter, Leah Sharibu. In dealing with terrorists, nothing is too trivial. The secret service is analyzing the voice. Our reaction will follow the outcome of the investigation.

“For [Nigerian] President Buhari, nothing will be spared in bringing all our girls home. He will not rest until all of them are freed.”

Nathan said he hasn’t heard of any plan to release his daughter from Boko Haram...

“Nothing is being done that I know of. I don’t know of any plan to release her. What I know is what I get from the media. I believe they can get her from Boko Haram if they want to help us. We are very, very sad in the family. It has been seven months since she was taken.”

Reportedly, Boko Haram has abducted at least 2,000 children since 2009, including 276  girls taken from a school in Chibok in April 2014. Of those, more than 100 are still missing, held by the militant group.

PRAYING WITH LEAH SHARIBU AND HER FAMILY

Father, we thank you for this good news that Leah is alive and this hopeful encouragement for her parents. We pray that You would continue to surround Leah with your comfort and protection, always strengthening her faith. And we ask that through Leah, her persecutors would see You and turn to Christ. Be close to her broken-hearted family, as they grieve and live their lives without their beautiful daughter. Ultimately, we pray for the release and safe return of Leah Sharibu. In Your Son’s name, we pray and ask for these things… #RememberLeah

Open Doors has followed the Sharibus’ story from day one of the Dapchi kidnappings and will continue to report on this developing story. Read our previous reports here: 

In Nigeria, Girls Still Feared Missing After Boko Haram Attack

Nigerian Girl Refuses to Deny Christ to Boko Haram and Remains in  ...

Aug. 30: China Forbids Children from Churches

CHINA FORBIDS CHILDREN FROM CHURCHES AS RELIGIOUS RIGHTS DIMINISH

According to the new regulations, religious leaders must “conduct religious activities in the Chinese context, practice core socialist values, carry forward the fine traditions of the Chinese nation, and actively explore religious thought which conforms to the reality in China.”


Photo: This church in Luoyang in Henan province was required to display the Chinese flag. (Photo courtesy of China Aid)

Across the country, churches are reportedly facing increasing pressure to align with the Communist Party; including, in some areas, replacing crosses with the national flag and displaying pictures of Xi Jinping.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing regulations is the new announcement in some areas that children are not allowed to attend church services, suggesting beginning efforts to stunt the growth of Christianity for emerging generations. 

China Aid reports multiple examples of recent moves that continue to violate and diminish believers’ religious rights:

  • China has increased its persecution of unofficial “house” churches, forcing many of them to close.
  • In the west-central province of Jiangx in Xinyu County, all churches have reportedly been ordered to display the national flag, as well as Xi Jinping’s picture and posters on socialist values. Xinyu County government officials also pulled down the cross of Jieken Evangelical Church, as well as many others.
  • Additionally, children in the area have been forbidden from attending church.
  • In Shangrao, another area of Jiangxi, more than 40 churches have hung a slogan that reads, “Non-locals are prohibited from preaching; no underage people allowed in church.”
  • The government has threatened to cancel the welfare of low-income residents should they refuse to comply.
  • In Leqing, Zhejiang province in East China, churches have been forced to pay homage to the Communist Party by singing patriotic songs and hanging the national flag.
  • Government officials in other regions of China are also forcing churches to tear down their crosses and replace them with the national flag. In the city of Luoyang, part of the Henan northern province, another cross was replaced by the Chinese flag.
  • On Aug. 21, Tianen Church’s cross was torn down in the city of Hebi, also in Henan, the “epicenter of the drive to control the Christian community in China,” according to the Associated Press, whose reporters visited the province earlier this year. It’s the country’s most populous province and a focus of President Xi Jinping’s fight against poverty.“A dozen Chinese Protestants interviewed … described gatherings that were raided, interrogations and surveillance, and one pastor said hundreds of his congregants were questioned individually about their faith,” AP reported.“I’ve always prayed for our country’s leaders, for our country to get stronger,” Guo, a 62-year-old whose church was ordered to stop its activities until it was registered with the government, told AP. “They were never this severe before, not since I started going to church in the 80s. Why are they telling us to stop now?”

CHRISTIANS ‘ENIGMA’ TO XI JINPING AND HIS GOVERNMENT

All places of worship in China will have to fly the national flag on national and religious holidays if a proposal by state-sanctioned religious institutions is implemented. Radio Free Asia (RFA) quoted China’s Global Times newspaper: “All religious venues should raise China’s national flag to strengthen awareness of respect to the flag and preserve the flag’s dignity …   Places of worship [that] do not follow the practice could face scrutiny.”

Aaron Ma, an Asia-based researcher for Open Doors International, told World Watch Monitor that Christians are an “enigma” to the government,

“The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) believes the Church is a destabilizing force, but not because it is bad; in fact, local communities and authorities tend to believe Christians are good people, “Ma explained. “Some suggest that because Christians’ allegiance is first and foremost to God and not the Communist Party, there is a conflict of interests that the party believes can potentially hinder the process of unification. Others are more concerned by what they perceive as potential ‘chaos’ arising from the huge number of Christians.”

In a statement following the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom held last month in Washington D.C., delegates urged the Chinese government to “protect the religious freedom of all individuals and to respect the human rights of all members of religious groups” as this “will only further peace, security, and stability in China and among its neighbors.”

THE GROWTH CONTINUES

Despite intensifying persecution in China by an officially atheist government, the church in the country of 1.4 billion people continues to grow. Reportedly, tens of millions of Chinese people now identify as Christians, and the number has grown rapidly.

Over the past four decades, China has witnessed a religious revival, in particular with a significant increase in Christian believers. The number of Chinese Protestants has grown by an average of 10 percent annually since 1979. Some estimates indicate that China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030.

Today, pray with your family in China as they continue to see their religious rights diminish. Pray especially with church leaders and their congregations who no longer have a church building to gather in, or are being forced to replace the symbol of their Savior with flags. And pray with house churches and their leaders who live under continuous scrutiny and threat of fines and even imprisonment. 

RSS

START HERE TO . . .

Add a photo?  

Reply to a discussion?  

Blog an insight?

Post an event?

Watch (and pray) a video

Join a group?

Invite my friends/class/?

--->Take the Tour  

--->Ask A Question

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Partners in Prayer

•Visit  

 LOVE2020.COM

•Pray

 ...right here, right now

•Follow

@MakeLoveYourAim

•Tweet this 

#LoveBeyond ...

Blog Posts

Pray Christmas - Day 4

Posted by Mark S Mirza on December 4, 2018 at 6:00am 1 Comment

Pray Christmas - Day 1

Posted by Mark S Mirza on December 1, 2018 at 9:51am 1 Comment

Workshop Video

Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer

3016

© 2018   Created by Pray.Network Coordinator.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service