The Chinese government has implemented a crack down on the Church not seen since Mao began his war against Christians in 1949. More Chinese Christians were arrested during the Christmas season. Chinese authorities continue to raid and close churches, arrest unregistered church members, pressure them with round-the-clock surveillance and the threat of detainment. Pastors like Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church are encouraging their congregations to stand strong and to prepare for much greater hardships. See video sermons (below) given by Pastor Wang Yi to his church members before his arrest. Be encouraged in your own faith as well in your prayers for our brothers and sisters in China.
On December 9th, 2018, authorities arrested more than 100 members and leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church, including Pastor Wang Yi as we reported here. He and his wife have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power.”
Three church members who were released described being beaten, deprived of sleep, food or drink and even trampled by police at the station. One brother was dragged after his hands and feet were bound. His body sustained injuries from what he claimed as being tortured in multiple ways.
Early Rain Covenant Church is an “unregistered” church in Chengdu, with more than 500 members. During the raid, authorities confiscated items and sealed off the church including its offices, a kindergarten, a seminary, and a bible college blocking them from going to the church schools. The church’s accounts on Chinese social media was removed. They searched the homes of many congregants and tried to force church members to sign a pledge that they would only worship at meeting places that conform to the laws of the People’s Republic of China. The church building was guarded by police and plain-clothes officers who would not allow anyone to enter. Those that weren’t taken conducted worship service in two separate locations outdoors. One group was dispersed immediately by police, and more than 20 taken away. The other group was dispersed by police after about an hour, and the two people leading the service were taken away. Many if not most members were forbidden from leaving their homes by police standing guard outside, so these brothers and sisters worshiped in their homes.
A more recent raid against the Early Rain members ended in the arrest of 60 more members in addition to over 100 already in custody. On Christmas Eve, the 23rd-floor sanctuary of Early Rain Covenant Church was officially converted into an office space for community police. Community police, or shequ, are local authorities with less power and jurisdiction than typical city police. They are like community monitors. A translation of the notice is below.
Esteemed residents and friends,
Because of work-related needs, the community police will be moving to North Taisheng Road 56, Jiangxin Building, 23rd floor on December 24th, 2018. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. The entire community police staff will be waiting for everyone to visit us at our new office location.
Shuangyanjing Community Police
Remaining members of the Early Rain church attended Christmas Eve services elsewhere. Follow latest updates here
Most Chinese Christians belong to “unregistered” churches. Chinese underground, house, or unregistered churches are those who refuse to be state-controlled such as the Three-Self Patriotic Church. The TSP church is considered by many believers to be corrupted for making doctrinal compromises required by the Chinese Communist Party and it’s agenda to force Christians to put the state before God.
Praise God for what He is doing in China. In the name of Jesus, pray for mercy and the perseverance of the saints in China. Pray that that they will gain a new strength of boldness sharing the Gospel, the message of what Christ did on the Cross for all. May the true Church continue the speed of expansion that has been witnessed for the last 20 years. All for the glory of God! Amen
In the darkness of night, Christ was born to bring hope and light into the world. He did what no other could accomplish; salvation to all who believe, love and follow Him. Joy to the world, no other gift can compare!
This Christmas, let us reflect not on the trials, but on all God’s blessings in our lives. Let us thank the Lord for His faithfulness to bring hope to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. We thank God for comforting all who mourn, giving them strength and peace. For the ability to praise in the midst of trials, He goes with us in every storm.
As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, please take a moment to remember and pray for those who are suffering for their faith in Jesus. All over the world, persecuted believers are worshiping God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind, salvation through Christ alone. They’re counting their suffering as worthy to be in Him as part of the Body of Christ.
To all our persecuted brothers and sisters, our advocates and workers in the field, supporters and friends of Voice of the Persecuted, Rejoice! In the name of the Lord, Rejoice! Christ is King and Savior of the world. May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all through the year. We thank you for standing with us in the ministry!
God bless you,
From the Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) Team
(Voice of the Persecuted) Pakistani Christian brothers, Qasir (also shared as Qaisar) and Amoon Ayub, have been sentenced to death in the Talagang District Jhelum court after being accused of blasphemy. Both brothers have been held under the charge of 295-A, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the District Jail Jhelum since their arrest in 2014. Their case was heard on December 13, but due to security reasons, the brothers were not in the courtroom and told of the death sentence ruling from inside the jail. Qasir is married with three children, while Amoon is also married and a teacher at the Cathedral School in Lahore.
The allegations surfaced when they were accused of posting disrespectful material on their website, reported AsiaNews. However, Qasir said he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim friends, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website and kept ownership in Qasir’s name.
He had worked at the international office of the Raja Centre in Lahore. While at work in 2010, an argument broke out between his friends and one of them made a comment about another’s sister. The ‘friend’ blamed Qasir and warned him that it was a serious matter in Pakistan. Shortly after, Qasir started to receive death threats from them and he went into hiding. When the situation deteriorated he and his brother fled to Singapore without telling their wives. After a month, they returned to Pakistan and Amoon shared the whole story with his his wife. Yet the situation remained tense, so they left again this time for Thailand. Unable to survive there for very long, they went back to Pakistan in 2012.
After four years on the run they were arrested. A friend told Qasir that the authorities were looking for him. On November 10, 2014, while Amoon was on his way to work, the police detained him. They questioned him about his brother and said a case had been registered against him. Qasir told Amoon to stay hidden. Qasir was later arrested and sent to District jail Jhelum. Fearing for his safety, Amoon again tried to flee the country but was detained by Immigrant Police at the Lahore Airport. Later police sent him to Jhelum District Jail for the same offense as his brother.
Amoon’s wife did all she could to get her husband released, but has failed. She approached the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) for assistance.
(CLAAS) represented Qasir and Amoon and told Voice of the Persecuted that they will challenge the sentence before the Lahore High Court Bench at Rawalpindi as soon as possible. The group believes judges hearing blasphemy cases are threatened by religious fanatics and why those accused of blasphemy are convicted.
CLAAS-UK Director, Nasir Saeed told Voice of the Persecuted,
“This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners, lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent. In this case the trial Judge did not apply his judicious mind and convicted the accused in a very casual manner.
We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi, who was similarly convicted by the lower court and it took her years to reach to the Supreme Court to get justice. I am afraid now Qasir and Amoon will have to wait years to get justice. It is a sad reality that the present government has no intention even to talk about or to take steps to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law. Pakistani President Dr Arif Alvi has already said that the government would not amend the law. This means the killing of innocent people will continue despite growing opposition to the law around the world.”
He shared that the Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has been acknowledged by the world for his recent decision of opening the Kartarpur corridor for Indian Sikhs. However, he has no plans for Pakistan’s own minorities. Nasir added that minorities feared Khan’s statements of making Pakistan a Medina-like state.
“Very recently, his statement that there is no mention of Jesus in history, hurting the feelings of Christians not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world,” he also lamented.
The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country’s harsh blasphemy laws.
Qasir’s son (14yr.) has been experiencing extreme anxiety since his father’s incarceration. Please keep these brothers and their loved ones in your prayers.
(World Watch Monitor) Almost 4,000 people have been killed and thousands displaced in fighting between herders and farmers in Nigeria’s middle belt in the past three years, Amnesty International says in a new report.
Amnesty, who started documenting clashes in January 2016, said yesterday (17 December) violence was increasing with more than half (57%) of the 3,641 recorded deaths in the past three years occurring in 2018, and that the government’s failure to curb the violence and prosecute the perpetrators, was exacerbating the situation.
“The Nigerian government has displayed what can only be described as gross incompetence and has failed in its duty to protect the lives of its population and end the intensifying conflict between herders and farmers. The authorities’ lethargy has allowed impunity to flourish and the killings to spread to many parts of the country, inflicting greater suffering on communities who already live in constant fear of the next attack,” said Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
Clashes between predominantly Christian farmers and mainly Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria have a long history, including raids and counter raids, but both groups testify that they mostly lived together in peace.
Since 2017 the conflicts have become increasingly violent and deadly, said Amnesty, attributing it to competition of resources due to climate change and the influx of refugees on the run from the Islamic Boko Haram insurgency. Attackers appear well organised and armed with sophisticated weapons.
“The killings are becoming no longer herder-and-farmer clashes” but a “deliberate attempt to conquer and occupy the land of the people’s ancestral heritage,” said Dr. Soja Bewarang, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Plateau State in June, after suspected Fulani gunmen went on a killing spree in the state leaving scores dead.
As World Watch Monitor has reported, the attacks are concentrated in the states in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” which straddles the precolonial line dividing the predominantly Muslim north from its Christian south.
Although Ojigho denied the conflict had anything to do with religion or ethnicity, others have said conflicts over land have taken on an ethnic and religious character and that without acknowledging this, politicians will not be able to properly address the conflict.
A report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) in July said the conflict had evolved “from spontaneous reactions to provocations to become premeditated scorched-earth campaigns in which marauders often take villages by surprise at night”, claiming six times more lives than the Boko Haram insurgency.
(Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Chinese Christians in dire need of our prayers. (Morning Star News) – Authorities in China have detained the pastor and more than 100 members of a prominent, unofficial church since Sunday (Dec. 9), according to media and advocacy agencies.
Security authorities raided the 800-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province at about 6 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 9) and also took some church leaders and members from their homes or off the streets, according to the South China Morning Post. Pastor Wang Yi was reportedly detained on Sunday night for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power,” and officials also seized his wife, Jiang Rong, from her mother-in-law’s home; her whereabouts were unknown at this writing.
Chen Yaxue, Wang’s 73-year-old mother, told the SCMP that the couple’s 11-year-old son remains with her while security personnel maintain 24-hour surveillance outside her home.
The charge against Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases. Wang has reportedly yet to be allowed to meet with lawyers or family members.
Advocacy group China Aid said in a statement that Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
“The Communist Party views religion as a threat to their ideological control and, as such, their rule,” the group noted. “However, China’s Christians practice their religion peacefully and never intend to threaten government power.”
Church members released an open letter Pastor Wang wrote in September in which he said he would use non-violent methods to stand in faith and oppose laws that contradicted the Bible and God, according to the SCMP. The pastor had given instructions that the letter be publicized if he went missing for more than 48 hours, the newspaper reported.
“My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Pastor Wang wrote, according to SCMP.
He had been a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, SCMP reported. In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.
“The round-up in Chengdu is part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or underground churches that Beijing has escalated this year,” SCMP reported. “The moves were bolstered by amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that gave grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for ‘unauthorized religious gatherings.’”
Church members have practiced their faith openly, posting sermons online and evangelizing on the streets, RCMP reported. Weekly gatherings across more than a dozen meetings in Chengdu draw more than 800 regulars, the newspaper reported, adding that the church also has about 100 seminary students and an elementary school with about 40 children.
The crack-down on the Early Rain church came as the U.S. State Department announced on Monday (Dec. 10) that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday (Dec. 12) released a statement condemning the arrest of Pastor Wang and the other church members.
“These actions, in addition to the continued systematic repression of Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners, continue a pattern of escalating violations of religious freedom and other human rights under President Xi Jinping,” USCIRF stated. “USCIRF strongly condemns these actions by Chinese authorities and calls for the immediate release of Pastor Wang and all of his fellow church members.”
China ranked 43rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
VOP note: Please pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters as they prepare to celebrate the precious birth of Christ. Pray they will stand strong as the government puts more an more pressure on them. In the name of Jesus, Lord have mercy on these dear ones.
“Please, we need prayer from God to give us direction on how to handle this delicate situation and the support for the young family of Kawanguzi, especially the young innocent children.”
Kenya (Morning Star News) – Shakira Wanyenze, a 31-year-old Muslim woman, had no idea that missing a ride back to her town in eastern Uganda from Kampala would change her life.
That day, June 17, Wanyenze decided to stay the night at the home of a relative in Kampala. She thought the relative, whose name is undisclosed for security reasons, was a Muslim. The relative told her she had put her trust in Christ for her salvation, and after a discussion that lasted late into the night, Wanyenze decided to do the same.
“After many hours of resisting the Christian faith, something convicted me that my life was heading for destruction, and therefore I need to put my faith in Jesus,” Wanyenze told Morning Star News by phone. “I was prayed for that night and had an overwhelming peace after accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
Mother of four children between the ages of 5 and 9, for months Wanyenze managed to keep her faith a secret from her husband, Ismail Kawanguzi, when she returned home to Buyaga town council, Bulambuli District nearly six hours by car from Kampala.
Her husband began to become suspicious on Nov. 30 when he came home to find her praying with her children.
“My husband arrived home at around 8 p.m. on the 30th and heard me concluding the prayers using the name of Jesus,” she said. “When he interrogated me to give reasons why I was using the name of Jesus, I kept quiet.”
He was very tired and went to bed, she said.
“The following morning around 10 a.m., he repeated the same words of the previous night, and I still kept quiet,” Wanyenze said.
Her husband began slapping her, she said. After he had slapped her several times, she began screaming for help, and he took a large wooden board and struck her hand, causing two fingers to bleed, she said.
“I fell down, and he started to strangle me,” Wanyenze told Morning Star News. “Fortunately, neighbors arrived and rescued me and took me to a clinic at Buyaga town council for treatment, and I was discharged after two days.”
The neighbor who took her to the hospital then took her to a church pastor (name undisclosed for security reasons). The neighbor was later shocked to hear that Wanyenze’s husband had purchased a coffin, and rumors spread that he was planning to kill his wife. The neighbor took their four children to the church site.
The pastor has since received threatening messages from Kawanguzi, such as, “If you continue housing my wife in your house, then let it be known to you that soon I will be coming for your head,” the church leader told Morning Star News.
“Apart from such threats to my life, I am also concerned about my church,” the pastor added. “Please, we need prayer from God to give us direction on how to handle this delicate situation and the support for the young family of Kawanguzi, especially the young innocent children.”
The assault was the latest of many in eastern Uganda that Morning Star News has documented in the past six years.
Uganda’s constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to another.
Muslims make up no more than 12 percent of Uganda’s population.
(World Watch Monitor) Jakarta’s former governor, known as “Ahok”, who was sentenced last year to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam, is to be released from prison next month, four months ahead of schedule.
The ethnic Chinese Christian, whose real name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was due to be released in May but has been granted early release, scheduled for 24 January, for good behaviour, according to Sri Puguh Budi Utami, Director General for Prison Affairs, as reported by AsiaNews.
Ahok had refused parole in July as he hoped for early release after serving almost two-thirds of his sentence.
Ahok, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese to govern Indonesia’s capital since the 1960s, was charged with blasphemy in December 2016 after accusing his political opponents of using Quranic verses to dissuade Muslims from voting for him in his bid for re-election as Jakarta governor.
In April last year, one day after he lost the election to his Muslim contender, Anies Rasiyd Baswedan, prosecutors downgraded the blasphemy charges against him and recommended he serve no prison time if found guilty. They suggested two years’ probation with a possible one-year jail term if he committed a crime during that period. The judge, however, decided a harsher punishment was called for, telling the court: “Mr. Purnama was found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment.”
His sentence received widespread condemnation globally as politicians, academics and rights groups expressed their concerns about the growing threat to religious pluralism in Indonesia.
During the trial, Ahok’s supporters clashed repeatedly with extremist Islamist groups and it was for this reason that the former governor initially decided not to appeal his sentence – “for the sake of our people and nation”.
Politics and fake news
However in February Ahok filed an appealafter a court found a communications professor from Jakarta, Buni Yani, guilty of hate speech for editing the viral video that formed the basis for the allegations against Ahok. But the Supreme Court rejected Ahok’s appeal.
Before Ahok’s trial, in November 2016, Catholic news agency UCAN reported that according to Syafi’i Ma’arif, the former chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic group in Indonesia, there was “no blasphemy” in Yani’s video, and the charges against the Christian governor had been fabricated for political purposes.
During his trial, Ahok told the court he had been the target of racist and religious attacks since he was elected to public office in 2005.
In March it was reported that Ahok may also have been a victim of a sophisticated anti-government campaign of “fake news” and malicious bots. An online jihadist network known as the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) posted “inflammatory content and messages designed to amplify social and religious division, and push a hardline Islamist and anti-government line”, authorities said.
An Indonesian musician is currently facing a two-year prison sentence for allegedly committing hate speech against Ahok during his bid for re-election in 2017, as World Watch Monitor reported.
Earlier this year, Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission announced plans to publish guidelines to avoid sectarian clashes in the run-up to next year’s national elections as some hard-line Islamic leaders had called on Indonesians to vote only for Muslim candidates.
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A grandmother whose 35-year-old son, 21-year-old daughter-in-law and 5-year-old granddaughter were shot dead by Muslim Fulani herdsmen is now homeless after she and other relatives fled the attack in August.
“We were taken in by a family in Jebbu Miango village, but unfortunately the room we were given has been destroyed as a result of torrential rains,” Talatu Gado told Morning Star News as tears ran down her cheeks. “You can see that we now sleep in the open.”
Members of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwra village, in Bassa county of Plateau state, Gado and her relatives were at their home in Angwan Kauna village when the herdsmen attacked on Aug. 3. Slain were her son, Emmanuel Gado, his sister-in-law Ladi Monday and the latter’s daughter, Mary Monday. A fourth relative, 7-year-old Gado Monday, was wounded by gunshot. Talatu told Morning Star News,
“Prior to the herdsmen attack on us, they had while grazing their cattle around homes and farms threatened us severally. One of them once told me that a day would come that I will weep, that is if I’m still alive to cry. I never knew they’ll carry out their threat. Now my heart bleeds.”
Photo: Morning Star News
The matriarch and her relatives have not been able to return to their village due to the threat of further attacks, she said.
On the day of the attack at about 6:30 p.m., her daughter-in-law and other women were cooking the evening meal when the herdsmen attacked their village, she said. Her granddaughter was taking a bath. She and her husband, Gado Andra, were seated as they waited for dinner. Suddenly they heard her son, 25-year-old Friday Gado, shouting outside the house that Fulani herdsmen were attacking the village from all sides.
“We all scattered in different directions, rushing out of the house through available exit points,” Talatu Gado said. “Other family members who were too scared to run out rushed into bedrooms to hide.”
The four family members who remained inside were shot, with the three dying and Gado Monday wounded.
“Those of us who were able to escape from the house survived the shooting, but we were displaced as we have been forced to flee the village,” she said. “Many in the community who also survived have fled to other areas. Some are living with relations in Miango town, while others are living in Internally Displaced People’s camps in the city of Jos.”
The Rev. Sunday Birih, pastor in charge of the ECWA congregation in Zanwra, told Morning Star News that Emmanuel Gado tried to rescue Mary, his niece, during the attack.
Emmanuel Lado was brother-in-law to Ladi Monday. Pastor Birih said she served as choir mistress and was a one-time leader of the Women’s Fellowship Group at Angwan Kauna.
Their story is repeated in the hundreds of thousands throughout Nigeria. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates violence in the country is responsible for more than 1.9 million people still internally displaced.
Pastor Birih said the herdsmen had first attacked Zanwra and Angwan Kauna in late January. Killed were church members James Ninweh, 60, Monday Njweh, 49, and 50-year-old Saku Jerih, he said.
“It was during this first attack that my house was burnt down,” Pastor Birih said. “The herdsmen after this attack thought they had killed me and my family as they went round and proudly spread the news that the pastor and his family were burnt alive. But unknown to them, me and my family escaped during the attack before the house was burnt down.”
He credited Morning Star News’s coverage for the outpouring of support he received to rebuild his house after the attack. But the assaults displaced about half of the church’s former membership of about 400 worshippers, he said.
“When we returned after the attack in August, we set aside three days for fasting and prayers, and this has helped to ignite the revival fires in our hearts,” Pastor Birih said. “Other members are scattered in the town of Miango and in the city of Jos. Unfortunately, most houses of my members who survived these two attacks have been destroyed by rains because their owners have been displaced. Truly, my surviving members urgently need help to get back on their feet.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.