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CRIMEA: Court orders Christians to destroy chapel

Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel, Yevpatoriya ©Krymr.org (RFE/RL)

Forum 18 reports the Orthodox Church of Ukraine fears that the authorities in the western Crimean city of Yevpatoriya will demolish a small wooden chapel it built in 2013, before Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. The city court ruled on 6 November 2019 that the Church is using the site illegally and that it should demolish its chapel within one month.

The Church complains it learned about the court hearing only on that day. Its lawyer said the Church is appealing against the decision (see below).

Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Yefymenko visited the Yevpatoriya church during Sunday liturgy on 1 December, which was attended by “a large number of parishioners” squeezing into the small church. Many had come specially from other cities of Crimea, she told Forum 18. “Representatives of the Russian special services may come to such liturgies under the guise of parishioners, and record those who visit places of worship of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” she said.

Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea is not recognized by Ukraine or internationally.

UNHRC call to halt Cathedral eviction

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the Russian government not to evict the Orthodox Church of Ukraine congregation from its rented accommodation in the Crimean capital Simferopol while the Committee considers an appeal by 62 parishioners. The premises serve as the Crimean Diocese’s Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral.

On 18 November a Russian arbitration court rejected the Diocese’s latest appeal against a court order to annul the rental agreement and evict the Cathedral. On 28 November, the Diocese lodged a last-ditch appeal to Russia’s Supreme Court in Moscow.

The now Kiev-based lawyer for the Church, Sergei Zayets of the Regional Centre for Human Rights, told Forum 18 that the chapel was built on land belonging to the community of those living in the flats.

According to court documents seen by Forum 18, the wooden chapel is 5.5 metres (18 feet) by 5.5 metres and its height to the top of the gold-painted cross on the wooden onion dome is just over 10 metres (35 feet).

Obstructing, punishing worship

The Russian authorities in Crimea use the wide range of available laws and regulations to punish communities that meet for worship in places or in ways the authorities do not like.

The Crimean Justice Ministry has rejected the registration application from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s Simferopol parish, most recently on 20 September. It claimed there were “violations” in the documents presented. A Justice Ministry official insisted to Forum 18 from Simferopol that “nothing in principle” obstructs the registration of communities of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Massive rent increase and evictions

The Kiev Patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as it then was, has rented premises that earlier housed the Officers’ Club in central Simferopol since 1995. It is there that its Simferopol and Crimea Diocesan Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral and offices are located. The Diocese has three floors of the building, with the sanctuary on the middle floor.

Almost all the Kiev Patriarchate’s dioceses and parishes – including in Crimea – joined the Orthodox Church of Ukraine when it was recognised as canonical by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in January 2019.

In 1996 ultimate ownership of the Simferopol building was transferred from a disbanded military base to the Crimean Property Fund. In 1997, under a Crimean Supreme Council decree, rent was set at the symbolic level of 1 Ukrainian Hryvnia (0.5 Norwegian Kroner, 0.05 Euros or 0.08 US Dollars) a month.

Five of the Kiev Patriarchate’s churches in Crimea were forced to close within months of the March 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.

The Sts Volodymyr and Olga Cathedral – which is next to the offices of the Property Fund – appears on a list of state-owned property in an attachment to a 15 March 2000 Crimean Supreme Council decree. A 16 May 2001 Supreme Council decree – seen by Forum 18 – governs the Church’s use of the building, whose size it gives as 1,475.7 square metres (15,900 square feet).

However, on 18 April 2014, the State Council (which replaced the Supreme Council) adopted a new decree – which remains on the Russian-backed Crimean government website – amending the 2001 decree. It confirmed the Diocese’s rental of the premises until 2050 but changed the basis on which rent is levied.

Archbishop Kliment (Kushch), head of the Diocese, told Forum 18 in June 2014 that the change would result in the Diocese having to pay about 160 Russian Roubles per square metre per month (236,112 Roubles, then equivalent to 42,990 Norwegian Kroner, 5,145 Euros, or 7,000 US Dollars a month). “We’re a non-commercial organisation – how can we pay commercial rates? We live on donations.”

No Russian registration, no rental

The Russian-controlled Crimean State Council amended the Crimean Law on the Particulars of Regulating Property and Land Issues in Crimea on 31 July 2018. This required that any rental contract for state-owned or municipally-owned property with an organisation that had state registration under Ukrainian law but which failed to gain registration under Russian law after the 2014 annexation be cancelled through the courts.

In his explanation presented to the Crimean State Council justifying the amendment, the head of Crimea’s Russian-backed government Sergei Aksyonov noted several Ukrainian-owned companies in such a position, but made no mention of the Orthodox congregation in Simferopol.

Courts order eviction

On 31 January 2019, the Crimean Property and Land Issues Ministry asked the Federal Tax Service and Justice Ministry in Crimea if the Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine had brought its documents into line with Russian law (i.e. if it had Russian registration). Finding that it had not, the Ministry wrote to the Diocese on 5 February cancelling the rental agreement and asking when Ministry inspectors could visit the premises to arrange the “return” of the building. To read full report click here

CRIMEA: “Anti-missionary” prosecutions double in 2018

Compared to the first year they were implemented, punishments in Russian-occupied Crimea for ill-defined “missionary activity” doubled in 2018. Of 23 prosecutions for sharing faith or holding worship at unapproved venues, 19 ended in punishment. Also, 17 cases were brought for communities not using their full legal name.

In Russian-occupied Crimea in 2018 there were 23 prosecutions brought against individuals for ill-defined “missionary activity”, of which 19 ended with punishment, Forum 18 has found. Many of those punished were prosecuted for sharing their faith on the street or for holding worship at unapproved venues. Cases against two more are due to be heard in mid-January 2019.

This represents a doubling of such cases in the Crimean peninsula since the first year such punishments for “missionary activity” were imposed. July 2016 to July 2017 saw 13 known cases of which 8 ended in punishment.

“These punishments do have an impact,” one member of a religious community in Crimea who was earlier fined for sharing their faith on the street told Forum 18 on 9 January 2019. “Believers go out to share their faith less often, and give out publications or invitations less openly. It is a question not just of fines – if you don’t pay then fines are doubled, then if you still don’t pay they impose compulsory labour.” Read More

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Praying through Matthew 5:43-48 (Dec. 7, 2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) My dear brothers and sisters, I feel strongly led to continue our prayers to pray for the lost and those who persecute believers (see Nov. 23rd call details). Corrie Ten Boom’s heart-felt prayer for her persecutors was possible because she was rooted and grounded in Christ. By prayer and His Word, she could be a vessel of His mercy and grace, forgiveness and love. Oh, the precious love of Jesus for these deeply and sadly LOST persecutors! He asked us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

I fail at much smaller tests. Lord enlighten us through the Holy Spirit. May we also pray to forgive as our dear sister graciously prayed for herself. My dear ones, we are vessels of His Mercy and Grace, for the lost, those who persecute us and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to forgive and required to love them as our Lord has asked. In Jesus’ Name, Oh Lord, please strengthen us! I welcome you tonight to come as you are, as the Holy Spirit leads, on the Persecuted Watch Call. May we come united to receive God’s blessings in obedience of His will for us!!!

In Christ Love,

Nadia Dybvik  and Merlaine Smokes, Prayer Call Moderators

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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Meet you on the call!

Animists Opposing Christianity in India Find Allies in Maoists, Police, Hindu Extremists

Animists and Hindu extremists mob against Christian burial of Mohan Nag’s daughter Suman Nag in Ulnar village, Chhattisgarh state. (Morning Star News)

India, (Morning Star News) – In an area of central India where tribal animists enlist Maoist militants to kill Christians who refuse to recant, Sodi Joga took it seriously when relatives threatened to kill him, his wife and 5-year-old daughter.

“The villagers demanded that Joga and his family must partake in the cleansing ritual, a puja, which would cleanse them of Christianity and restore them to their previous faith,” Dudhi Bandi, an elder of New Bethesda Yishu Krist Ministries in Sukma District, told Morning Star News. “But they refused to bow to the tribal deities.”

The family had been attending Christian worship services for more than a year in Gadiras village, Chhattisgarh state. When they refused to bow to the tribal deities, villagers expelled the family from their home in the Kalgundapara area of Gadiras village on Nov. 4, Bandi said.

“The villagers threw out the belongings, animals and chickens owned by Sodi Joga,” Bandi said. “Joga did not know where to go. It was his relatives and kinsmen who were threatening that they would kill him, his wife and 5-year-old daughter.”

The family took refuge at a church building in another village for two weeks, and then they returned in spite of the threats, he said. Bandi said he encouraged them to leave as soon as they sense any danger.

“I pray for the Lord’s protection over them,” he said. “Usually in such cases, the village council would let Naxals [Maoist militants] take over, and they won’t hesitate to take lives. We had already counselled them and made them aware about these dangers.”

He accompanied Joga and his wife to the Gadiras police station on Nov. 7 and helped them file a petition. The officer did not issue a receipt for the petition and told them that he would need time to investigate before filing a First Information Report, Bandi said.

About a week later, Bandi received a phone call from the village president.

“He told me that we should not have gone to the police station when it is an internal matter of the village,” he told Morning Star News. “I said, ‘Alright, sir,’ and asked for forgiveness for not approaching him at first. He went on to clarify that only he vests the rights to solve the issues in the village, and that we cannot go to the police.”

Joga and his family had faced harassment for three months prior, according to his petition.

“They would quarrel with us over trivial issues and link it with our Christian faith,” Joga stated in the complaint. “We had been quiet and never said a word.”

Inciting Opposition
In area districts and others nearby in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states, violence against Adivasis (indigenous tribes) who have put their faith in Christ has reached a level of at least one incident every other week, according to legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India.

“Adivasi Christians in Chhattisgarh face the brunt of the anger of their kinsmen,” ADF-India attorney Son Singh Jhaali told Morning Star News. “It is intriguing that the village council and its president, who enjoy supremacy in the village administration matters, decide the family matters also. Even police accept their judgement as final and refuse to file cases against anybody in the family who puts an Adivasi to suffering because of their faith in Christ.”

If a man in a tribal, animist family becomes a Christian, the village president summons his brothers to appear before the local council, and members declare the Christian unacceptable in the community and incite families against him, he said.

“This has long been the trend,” Jhaali told Morning Star News. “The brothers are also made to believe that if they oust the odd one from the village, they can get a larger share in the property or agriculture produce which once belonged to the Christian. They are manipulated to go against a brother who is related by blood and with whom they had spent their entire lives together.”

If the shunned Christian, unaware of the village council’s decision, continues to till his land, the community denies him water for farming, he added; the land is allowed to go parched until it is handed to his kinsmen.

A local source who requested anonymity said local councils work with Naxalites to rid areas of Christianity.

“To wipe out Christianity from the village, the council can go to an extent of exerting pressure on Christians to partake in a cleansing ritual,” the source told Morning Star News. “When Christians decline to join the rituals, as the next extreme step, Naxals are informed about the growing Christian faith, and Christians are handed over to them to be killed.”

Naxalites shot an Adivasi Christian from Narayanpur District to death in February.

Shunned by their tribal kinsmen, new Christians must be supported by strong churches, Jhaali said.

“Once a family puts their faith in Christ and starts attending church, they are in fellowship with the members who care for each other through thick and thin. They are no longer in darkness in an isolated tribal hamlet,” he said. “Their network grows, and they are in companionship with fellow believers and become aware of civilities, education and opportunities ahead that can lead to having a better life, far away from the blind practices and superstitions imposed by the Adivasi community.”

Denial of Tribal Status
Infuriated by growing numbers of those turning to Christianity, tribal villagers in central India’s Chhattisgarh state have joined hands with Hindu extremists to persecute Christians, sources said.

“The Indian Constitution granted certain safeguards to Adivasis to uplift them from their social and economic backwardness, but the Hindu extremists’ have issued inflammatory statements in public gatherings that some of the Adivasis had accepted foreign faith and so must be denied the tribal status,” said the ADF’s Jhaali.

In Orcha village, the local president refused to recognize the Adivasi status of Christian converts Ramesh Kumar Usendi and youths from his church, denying them higher studies and government benefits, Usendi said.

The Christians on Nov. 19 went to the Narayanpur District Administrative Office to apply for caste certificates, as a local council member had suggested.

“We travelled about 62 kilometers [38.5 miles] to reach the district office and submitted our applications and waited for hours,” Usendi told Morning Star News. “The official called us and asked us if I and the youths were Christian. We answered, ‘Yes.’ He was very angry that we applied for caste certificates and started using filthy language against us.

“The officer then tore our application letters and dumped them in the dust bin and asked us to never appear before him.”

Older villagers at least recognize the Christians as kinsmen, he said, but younger ones view them as competitors for jobs, he said.

“In the Hindu Sanghatan [Hindu Union] meetings, they are told that Christian Adivasis would compete against them for government jobs,” he said. ‘They want to limit our access to higher education and government benefits. In Orcha village alone, there must be at least 500 to 600 Christians who suffer this social inequality. Christian youths have at least studied 10th grade, but most of them do not possess a caste certificate.”

The Supreme Court and the High Court of Ranchi have held that Tribal status shall continue even after conversion to Christianity. In a 2004 case, the Supreme Court ruled that a tribal person, even after converting to another religion, would not lose Scheduled Tribe status. In February, the Chhattisgarh High Court affirmed that the Tribal status shall continue even if the tribal person converts to Christianity.

Burial Denied
In Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur District, tribal people in Mirtur village refused to allow burial of Ramvati Kadti’s deceased 17-year-old daughter unless Kadti renounced her Christian faith.

Anjali Kadti died in the emergency ward of a government hospital in Bijapur District on Nov. 25 after a month-long battle with malaria, sources said.

Active in her church, Anjali Kadti had helped her mother make ends meet after her father died, Pastor Jagdish Chapdi told Morning Star News.

“The villagers threatened Ramvati Kadti, saying that she is only a woman and that she cannot perform the last rites without the support of village council,” Pastor Chapdi told Morning Star News.

The village president imposed a condition that if she gave up her faith in Christ, he would send a male member of the community to dig the grave and plant an incense stick, and only then could she bury her daughter, he said.

“But she stood firm in faith and declined their offer,” the pastor said. “The villagers along with at least 200 Hindu extremist RSS [Rashtryia Swayamsevak Sangh] and Bajrang Dal activists did not let us bury the body for two days.”

Villagers on Nov. 27 gave an ultimatum, telling the family to decide between Christian or Adivasi rituals, and Kadti again refused, he said.

“We spent an entire day pleading with them to allow the burial,” Pastor Chapdi said.

Police declined to act knowing the village president would tolerate no interference, he said, but eventually Mirtur police officials told the council that it is a resident’s right to be buried within village limits, and that land must be granted before it became national news.

“They finally agreed and gave a small piece of land under a tree,” Pastor Chapdi said, but he added that in October the village council took up the matter of Christian revival meetings and Christmas celebrations.

“They said, ‘Go on and celebrate your newly found faith. Enjoy to your heart’s content, we will see what to be done when it is our time,’” he said. “They told us that our Adivasi ancestors worshipped the land, trees and nature, and that Jesus Christ is a new God and we are going with the current trend and following a foreign faith.

“They said, ‘Soon you will taste the bitter taste of leaving your ancestral faith. How will you marry and bury your dead? Without our permission, you cannot marry or even bury your dead. We will show our power then,” Pastor Chapdi said. “A month after, we fully realized what they meant. It appears that they are going to make things even more difficult for us in the future. We request prayers for the salvation of our tribal relatives.”

Likewise in Ulnar village of Bastar District, a mob of around 1,500 RSS and Bajrang Dal members and villagers opposed the burial of another young Christian, Suman Nag.

“I lost my son five years ago to snakebite, and now a teenage daughter,” said her father, Mohan Nag, adding that she succumbed to a severe illness in October. “On Oct. 27, the villagers and scores of Bajrang Dal activists protested that I cannot bury my daughter in the common graveyard in the village limits, and that I should go to a neighboring village and buy a piece of land to perform the last rites.”

The villagers told him that, beginning at that time, Christians who don’t contribute to village funds to celebrate Adivasi ritual and festivals would not be allowed to enter the common burial ground, he said.

“Police force was deployed in the village to control the mob, and the village council was under pressure to grant us access to the graveyard,” Nag said. “Only then were we able to perform the service in Christian way.”

Police Complicity
In Kondagaon District, the Taraibeda village council is warning those who become Christians to stop meeting together or it will enlist police to file charges against them – as happened to a pastor who was falsely booked after being beaten unconscious.

After tribal animists under Hindu extremists’ influence on Easter of 2017 took pastor Sadhu Kashyap out of the house-church service he was leading, beat him, and left him nearly unconscious at the police station, officers charged him with causing annoyance in public places by singing or uttering obscenities, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation, ADF-India attorney Jhaali said.

When Pastor Kashyap reached Kathavan hamlet from Taraibeda village early on April 16, 2017, he was shocked to see the mob of hundreds gathered outside the house church, he said.

“I went inside, and we had decided to hold the worship service as it was Easter Sunday, and the believers were observing fast the previous three days,” Pastor Kashyap told Morning Star News. “Suddenly two persons barged inside the home church and asked me to come out, and that they wanted to talk to me. I reluctantly went to enquire what the matter was. They held my hands tight, caught me by the collar and took me onto the road.”

They took him to a secluded area about a kilometer away and began punching him, he said.

“Some of them kicked me with shoes and beat me up with sticks,” the pastor said. “I almost fell unconscious, and they boarded me on a vehicle and took me to the police station in Kondagaon. I remember that I was fainting, and they stopped at a hotel, sprinkled some water on my face and forcefully made me drink the water. Later I was handed to the police. My health was degrading, and I was soon fully unconscious.”

Police then filed the charges against Pastor Kashyap, who received hospital treatment the next morning. He and church members went to the police station to submit a complaint about the attack, but police refused to register an FIR against the assailants, he said.

Only on Nov. 21 did the chief metropolitan judicial magistrate of Kondagaon District acquit Pastor Kashyap of the charges, Jhaali said.

Christians make up 1.92 percent of total 25.5 million population, according to the 2011 census.

The state of Chhattisgarh was formed in 2000 out of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh’s anti-conversion law, known as the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1968, remains in force in Chhattisgarh also. Hindu extremists frequently invoke it to falsely accuse Christians of forcible conversion.

“The anti-conversion laws are the main reason why worship services are held in homes in secret,” Jhaali told Morning Star News.

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the BJP came to power in 2014.

Fear of Hindu Extremist Violence Ends Christianity in Village in Northern India

(Morning Star News) – The gruesome beating of a pastor’s family in northern India last month showed why a woman who was once Christian returned to Hinduism – and joined the mob attacking them.

“I was among the crowd abusing and accusing the Christian family,” the 30-year-old mother, whose name is withheld for security reasons, told Morning Star News.

Led by Hindu extremists in Udham Singh Nagar District in Uttarakhand state, a mob of 60 to 70 mainly female villagers assaulted 28-year-old pastor Sawan Pol’s father, mother, wife and 10-year-old brother in Bagwala village, near the city of Rudrapur, sources said. The pastor’s wife was holding their 6-month-old son during the assault.

Pastor Pol, who was away on ministry visits during the Nov. 8 attack on his home, said the assailants kicked his young brother in the groin.

“Some men were wearing boots – they kicked my little brother on his private parts with the boots on their feet and injured him so badly that he still cries with severe pain every time he urinates,” Pastor Pol said.

His father, 48-year-old Shyama Prasad, sustained internal injuries to his chest, knee, hands and legs and has pain throughout his body, he said.

“They beat my father, mother and wife in such a way that they would not profusely bleed,” Pastor Pol said. “They have sustained much internal injury. My father and mother are unable to walk. My father is not able to breath normally after he was beaten on his chest.”

Injured leg of Shyama Prasad, father of pastor Sawan Pol in Bagwala village, Uttarakhand state, India. (Morning Star News)

Though about 10 men were among the assailants, initially most of the attackers were women in order to discourage the pastor’s father from fighting back, he said.

“They knew my father would never resist attack by women, knowing well that the crowd would blame him for attempting to compromise a woman’s dignity if he tried to resist,” Pastor Pol told Morning Star News. “Two men caught hold of him while the women attacked him with hands and wooden sticks. My brother was begging the assaulters to leave my father alone, but to no avail.”

The mob then turned to Pastor Pol’s mother and wife, according to the former Christian woman.

“The mob dragged Pastor Sawan’s mother and wife and assaulted them by slapping them with bare hands and sticks,” she said.

She said she feared for her own safety and that of her family if she did not join the mob, but that she could not obey the other women’s calls for her to strike the Christians.

“Not even one woman was left who did not step forward and slap the family,” she said. “After knowing how pious and helpful the family has been not only to me but also to the entire village, I just could not hit them on their face – although I joined the mob to abuse the family, to save my own skin.”

She said she became a Christian and was baptized a few years ago after experiencing several miracles and answers to prayer, but that she grew afraid when a Hindu “holy man,” or Baba, arrived in the village about a year ago. He summoned every woman in the village and demanded that they pay him 5,000 to 10,000 rupees (US$70 to US$140) each or he would harm them and their families with black magic, she said.

“He performed some black magic, threatened us and ordered us to continue to visit him and revere him by touching his feet,” she told Morning Star News. “And all the women of the village have been regularly doing as he says.”

Before his arrival, there were 15 Christian families in Bagwala village, she said.

“All the Christian families, for fear of the Baba, returned to the Hindu faith,” she said. “He threatened me with fatal consequences if I ever went to church again. Baba said that he would harm my children using his black magic, and at no cost can I risk my children’s lives. I am very scared for the safety of my family, and I asked my husband as well to stop going to church.”

She said she knew that the Hindu “holy man” was a fraud, but that she would not risk him and his followers attacking her family as they did Pastor Pol’s family.

“This is the fate of those who will not submit to Baba,” she said. “If I would have resisted, I would undergo the same fate as that of Pastor Pol.”

The followers of the Hindu Baba have spread word throughout the village that no one should attend church services if they wish to safeguard their families, she added.

Police Inaction

In the two-hour assault, the former Christian said, the mob dragged Pastor Pol’s mother and wife and struck them, with his wife shielding their infant son from the blows.

“To save her son, she ran to a corner and hid him in her arms with her back taking all the beatings,” the mob member said.

Pastor Pol’s mother somehow escaped and shut herself in a room; the mob pounded the door with bricks, stones and wooden sticks, trying to break it open and assault her, the former Christian said.

“The mob accused the family of being Christian and carrying out forced conversions as they hit them,” she said, acknowledging, “all their allegations are false and fabricated stories.”

Pastor Pol said his young brother was traumatized.

“My brother was begging the assaulters to leave my father alone, but to no avail,” Pastor Pol said. “My house was completely vandalized when I reached home, and I was devastated to see my father, mother, wife and brother.”

He took his father 19 kilometers (11 miles) to Bilaspur, Uttar Pradesh state, for treatment. Prasad, his father, submitted a complaint at the Rudrapur police station that day, but police did not register a case, Pastor Pol said.

“The police came to our village and spoke to the head man of the village,” he said. “The head man hushed up the case by convincing the police in-charge that he will mediate and strike a compromise between the two groups [attackers and the victims]. So the police did not take any action.”

Pastor Pol later went to the police station to insist on registering a complaint, but the station chief said he would require not only the full names of the assailants but also their parents’ names, as well as their addresses.

“How can I know their mothers’ and fathers’ names and their correct addresses?” Pastor Pol said. “This is a way of demotivating me to pursue the case.”

Without money to hire a lawyer to move the case forward, he said he decided to take it no further with police.

Unwilling to Abandon Christ, Village

Heading an independent church called Jesus’ Followers’ Holy Gathering (Yeshu Bhakat Pavitra Sabha, or YBPS), Pastor Pol said his family has been facing threats for the past year.

His young brother is regularly bullied and threatened at school, he said.

“‘You are Christians, we will not let you settle here,’ is often what he hears while on his way to school,” the pastor said. “If I was alone, I would not fear – even if they cut me to pieces, I would not fear. But I am fearful for my family. Mine is the only Christian family left in the village, everybody else has chosen to leave Christ due to fear.”

He has been forced to stop gatherings in Bagwala, but he continues to lead worship services at nearby villages, he said.

“I cannot leave Christ, nor can I leave the village and go – they [Hindus] will say that we have fled due to fear,” he said. “If I leave, someone else will come [to lead services], but opposition will be strengthened to persecute this new pastor more.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

4 Muslims Kidnap, Beat and Rob Christian Preacher in Norway, Demanding He Convert to Islam or Die

Roar Fløttum. (Image credit: Roar Fløttum/Facebook)

(CBN) Four Muslim men attacked a street preacher after they lured him away while he was preaching and praying for the sick on a street in Trondheim, Norway last week.

According to the website Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, Roar Fløttum was approached by the men when one of them asked him to come with them to pray for a friend who had injured his foot. Instead, they took him to a nearby backyard where the men allegedly pushed him down a cellar staircase, beat him, robbed him and threatened to kill him if he did not convert to Islam.

“They told me to give them my bank card and certificate, codes, mobile, and Apple ID. They held me hostage there for an hour as they withdrew from the card,” Fløttum told Norway Today. They made about 10,000 kroner. (a little more than $1,000 in US dollars) While they kept me there, they threatened me and said they would kill me if I did not convert to Islam.”

“They wanted me to say a few words in Arabic,” he continued.  “I was scared and actually thought they were going to kill me because they said they had a knife and didn’t want witnesses.” full report

Fløttum asked on his Facebook for his friends to pray for his attackers.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Prayer Requests from the Persecuted (Dec. 3, 2019)

Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) supports Christians suffering the worst kind of abuses for their Christian faith. The one thing they all have in common is they live in highly restricted Islamic nations or regions. We strive not only to help them with their physical needs, but also their emotional and spiritual needs. Prayer is certainly one of the most important aspects of our mission. There has not been a single conversation or communication without a request for prayer, never. VOP is always available, day or night, to act and pray when they have urgent requests.

We stay in contact and ask them to share specific prayer needs with us each week. Tonight we ask that you join us on the Persecution Watch conference call to pray for the immediate spiritual, emotional and physical needs of those we are caring for and another we hope to help in the future. Lord willing we can continue to do so. Women and children are always the most vulnerable where ever people are oppressed. On tonight’s call, we will be praying for two women who fled severe persecution but have not reached a permanent nation of safety. These women have also been a part of an underground movement to share the Gospel of Jesus with the lost. Their hearts still burn with the desire to share the Word of God with all.

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14

We trust and believe God hears our prayers! Please join the call and unite in Spirit led prayer for these dear ones. Your prayers make a huge difference in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. (See prayer points below call details)

In Christ love,

Lois Kanalos, VOP Founder

Nadia Dybvik and Merlaine Smokes, Prayer Call Moderators

 

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Meet you on the call!

Prayer Points 

For Neda:

  • Please pray for her daughter who is suffering the pain of leaving all she knew, her friends, church family, and particularly her grandmother and aunt. She still has nightmares of authorities raiding her house and taking family from the home. Please pray for peace for her and that she can trust in Jesus in the midst of her pain.

 

  • Pray for Neda’s family members to be absolved of any charges and able to join her in the near future.

 

  • Pray for the situation of the country they fled to as things have deteriorated for people in her ethnic group, among others, in this nation. Please pray that she can get to a safe country soon with her daughter.

 

  • People tell her that it is not wise to be evangelizing since they could be further endangering themselves. They are careful but the same way they never stopped sharing about Jesus in the home country, they cannot stop sharing about Jesus in this new place and many are coming to Christ. Pray for wisdom and protection for them. Please pray for the new believers that they would grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 

For Maryam:

Maryam cried and cried when she heard that there would be other believers praying for her. She said when she heard it, she fell on her knees and cried out and thanked God. She felt God’s love and provision when she heard others praying for her. She felt that she was not alone and that she had brothers and sisters standing with her in prayer.

This is the reaction the persecuted have when they hear you are praying for them. In Christ, connected in love and concern as true brothers and sisters. Somehow a weight is instantly lifted and God gives them the strength to press on.

  • She is very sick and has not been able to leave her bed. She believes she has an ear infection, but the earliest that the doctors will see her is in a few weeks. Please pray for healing for her and that she would be able to get treated soon.

 

  • A generous donor was able to cover Maryam’s living expenses for the month of December. She had been saving and not using heat. With this donation she was able to call someone immediately and connect heating back in her apartment. She was in tears knowing that she would be warm this winter.

 

  • She wants prayer for her son who is left behind in her home country. She is worried about him and wants prayer that God would guide him and direct him in his life and to provide for him.

 

  • Maryam specially wants prayer for her walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. That her character grow in Jesus and that she would be a good example and witness to those around her and that they would come to know our Lord and Savior.

 

 

 

Falsely Accused of Killing Hindu Leader in India, Five Christians Ordered To Be Freed

Journalist Anto Akkara on Indian TV program The Wire (Screenshot from YouTube)

(Morning Star News) – After spending 11 years behind bars for a murder they did not commit, five Christians in eastern India were finally ordered to be freed on Tuesday (Nov. 26), sources said.

The Supreme Court of India issued a decision granting bail to the five Christians from Odisha (formerly Orissa) state falsely accused of killing Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, whose death on Aug. 23, 2008 in Kandhamal District touched off anti-Christian attacks that killed 120 people, destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and displaced 55,000 Christians.

The five Christians remained in jail at this writing. One of the five Christians granted bail this week is reportedly mentally challenged. Because the Supreme Court issued the release on bail, the five Christians and two others freed earlier this year do not have to return unless the high court itself so orders.

“I am really happy that all of them are granted bail,” attorney Anupradha Singh, who represented the Christians, told Morning Star News. “The Honorable Judges granted the bail on the grounds that they have spent over 10 years in jail. Their behavior in the jail was also good, and the same was noted.”

Journalist Anto Akkara, who has been anchoring an online signature campaign at www.release7innocents.com since March 2016, was also elated.

“This is a big victory for truth and justice for Kandhamal,” Akkara, author of “Who Killed Swami Laxmamananda?” told Morning Star News. “I am thrilled.”

Buddhadev Nayak, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Durjo Sunamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi and Munda Badamajhi were convicted in 2008. They were arrested by December 2008 along with Gornath Chalanseth and Bijaya Sanaseth, who were also convicted but managed to obtain bail in May and July respectively.

Christian leaders and activists have long maintained that the seven Christians were framed and falsely accused, and that the charge against the mentally challenged Badamajhi typified the absurdity of the charges.

“Considering the fact that the accused-appellant(s) had already undergone 10 years of their sentence as is the case of other accused directed to be released on bail, and taking an overall view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the above-named accused- appellant(s) should also be released on bail on such conditions as may be imposed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Phulbani in S.T. No. 16/18 of 2013-2009,” Supreme Court Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari wrote in their ruling.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), said the legal fight does not end with the granting of bail to the seven accused Christians.

“This is just the first step,” Lal told Morning Star News. “The case still has to be fought at the High Court in Odisha.”

At the same time, Lal said he was glad that the Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas with their families.

“This is like a Christmas gift for them,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Human Rights Law Network, to the Bhubaneswar Cuttack Archdiocese, to [the United Christian Forum’s] John Dayal, ADF [legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom] and to everyone who contributed to securing this first step to their freedom. Special mention should be made of journalist Anto Akkara, who continued to create awareness about this case.”

Attorney Anupradha Singh echoed the sentiment that the quest for justice remains.

“This is a small success because the case is still pending at the High Court,” she told Morning Star News. “We will diligently fight the matter in the High Court.”

Spurious Case

The Reb. Dibya Paricha, a Catholic priest and an attorney based in Odisha state who has coordinated legal matters for the seven Christians, said he was hopeful that they will win acquittal from the High Court.

“They should not have been detained for so many years,” Paricha told Morning Star News. “Politics should not have been involved but, unfortunately, it was. We must understand that people’s lives and liberty are more important. I know personally that they are innocent.”

Attorney Bibhu Dutta Das, who has played an active role in legal matters following the anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008, said the accusations lack substance.

“There is no direct evidence against them,” Das told Morning Star News. “Their conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, and it is necessary that the chain of circumstantial evidence be established for conviction, but in this case, it was not so.”

Journalist Akkara expressed his frustration over the lagging legal process.

“Last week the Supreme Court observed that the constitution will lose importance if fundamental rights are not protected,” he told Morning Star News. “When I heard this, I asked myself what this meant for the seven innocents of Kandhamal. It was a shame that those people were still in jail for all those years. I see the bails as a silver lining, and it seems that now we are coming to the edge of the tunnel, towards freedom and truth.”

False Arrests

Hindu extremist leader Saraswati, widely believed to have encouraged violence on Christmas Eve 2007 that damaged 53 church buildings and 700 houses, was killed along with five of his disciples by a mob of armed gunmen at his ashram in Jalespeta, Tumudibandha in 2008. Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda took responsibility for the attack, but Hindu nationalist leaders led by Pravin Togadia alleged a Christian conspiracy.

Togadia marched with the body of Saraswati for 160 kilometers (100 miles) along predominantly Christian areas in order to provoke violence. The ensuing attacks on Christians’ homes and destruction with explosives of church buildings sent thousands of people into the forests.

Soon after Saraswati’s death, the police arrested and detained four Christians, including a 13-year-old boy. The four Christians were reportedly brought to the police station by members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Togadia, the VHP leader, reportedly announced the names of the arrested Christians arrested before the police could.

The Christians were detained for more than 40 days before police let them go for lack of evidence. Later, however, police proceeded to arrest the seven Christians as scapegoats.

“The first batch of ‘Christian killers’ – four of them were beaten up and dumped in police stations by Sangh Parivar – were later set free by the police after 40 days of investigation,” said Akkara, who also produced a documentary, “Innocents Imprisoned,” on the 10th anniversary of Kandhamal in August 2018. “It was after their release, the seven innocents were arrested in two batches in October and December 2008 from the remote Kotagarh jungle area.”

The seven Christians were convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and rioting by Additional District and Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Tosh on Sept. 30, 2013. Two prior judges presiding over the trial were transferred before Tosh heard the case and delivered the verdict.

Appeals against the judgment from the District and Sessions Court have dragged on since then. Their bail applications were denied, forcing them to appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

“We requested the judges in the High Court again and again, and the matter was listed many times, but was never heard,” attorney Das told Morning Star News. “Finally, when it came to the court of Justice Misra, he said that he will neither hear the case nor will he grant bail and thus rejected the bail applications. So, we had no other option but to come to the Supreme Court.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Out of extreme persecution, a testimony of love

Photo: William Warby, CC BY 2.0 (modified by Voice of the Persecuted)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear brothers and sisters, when I meet people I like to tell them who I am and share testimonies of my amazing Father and how much he loves, provides for and speaks to me. They’re often excited to hear more. I too get excited hearing stories of the amazing Grace of God from our brothers and sisters in Christ of old and present.

This morning, the Lord reminded me of a precious brother, Richard Wurmbrand, who was persecuted because he knew the love of Jesus and he loved him too!

In 1948, Richard was arrested by the Romanian Communist secret police on his way to church. He spent a total of fourteen years in prison. Three of those years in solitary confinement in a cell thirty feet underground, with no light or sound.

During his imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured physically and psychologically. He was forced to listen to the constant broadcasts of phrases denouncing Christianity and praising Communism. Richard recounted having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off, then the next day beaten again to the bone. His body was scarred by the physical torture for the rest of his life.

“I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with 50 pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterword without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold and praying with fervor for the Communist. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.”
I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their tortures.
I tremble for western Christians who don’t help they’re persecuted brother. In the depths of my heart, I would like to keep the beauty of my own vineyard and not be involved in such a huge fight. I would like so much to be somewhere in quietness and rest. But it is not possible… The quietness and rest for which I long would be an escape from reality and dangerous for my soul.
The West sleep and must be awakened to see the plight of the captive nations.”
—Richard Wurmbrand
When I come on the call as a moderator, I come with the knowledge of why we pray for our brothers and sisters. We pray for their sufferings in persecution, for their protection and freedom, because we love them.
“God will judge us not according to how much we endured, but I am much we love.” —Richard Wurmbrand
We also come on the call because we love those who do not know the Lord as their Savior. Despite all the abuse and torture Richard endured, he later said after his release:
“It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility toward them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them.”
“Consider as sin any minute of life spent on something other than saving souls for eternity from this world doomed to destruction.” — Richard Wurmbrand
Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you as you are called by the Holy Spirit to join me tonight.
In Christ’s love,
Nadia Dybvik, Prayer Call Moderator

From any location on your phone

Time: 

9:00 PM EST

8:00 PM CST+

7:00 PM MST

6:00 PM PST

Call in number: 712 775-7035      

Access Code: 281207#

Recommended: For those who may be subject to added charges for conference calls. Please download the app, it’s free!

MOBILE APP: Free Conference Call HD also provides a quick and easy way for you to dial into conference calls without having to remember the dial-in credentials. Save all of your conference call dial-in numbers and access codes using this free app. With the Free Conference Call HD you can instantly dial into a conference call via 3G/4G data network and or regular mobile carrier. Google Play link  or App Store – iTunes

What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin has led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern (please check your time zone). Blaine also serves as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.

Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone. We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you’re new to the call and can’t find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ.

Meet you on the call!

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED

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