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Christmas Celebrations Mark Progress of Religious Freedom in Sudan

Muslim government officials attend Christmas service at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church on Dec. 25, 2019. (Facebook)

(Morning Star News) – In stark contrast to his predecessor, Sudan’s new minister of religious affairs last week attended a long-persecuted church’s Christmas service.

Following the Sudanese government’s announcement of Christmas as a public holiday for the first time in eight years, Minister of Religious Affairs Nasr al-Din Mufreh accompanied senior government officials at the Christmas Day service of Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church – a congregation the previous Islamist government had harassed for years.

At a press conference after visiting several churches in Khartoum on Christmas Day, the Muslim leader sent a strong signal of religious coexistence to Christians in a country where they suffered for their faith under former President Omar al-Bashir.

“I tender my apology for the oppression and the harm enforced on you physically by [the prior government’s] bulldozing your church buildings, arresting and falsely imprisoning your church leaders and raiding your property,” Mufreh said, according to Radio Dabanga.

Sudan had suspended Christmas as a holiday following the secession of South Sudan in 2011. The government-run Sudan TV on Christmas Day broadcast Christmas services of various churches in Khartoum, including the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, whose members had been subject to arrests on false charges and whose property had been threatened. The church is part of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC), which has been embroiled in property disputes, with the government appointing a government-run committee to assume control of the denomination.

In light of advances in religious freedom since Bashir was ousted in April, the U.S. State Department announced on Dec. 20 that Sudan had been removed from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) that engage or tolerate “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom” and was upgraded to a watch list. Sudan had been designated a CPC by the U.S. State Department since 1999.

Bashir, ousted by the army on April 11 after widespread protests began in December 2018, was sentenced on Dec. 14 to two years in a correctional facility for corruption and illegitimate possession of foreign currency. He still faces charges of plotting the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

Bashir has not yet been charged in the crackdown earlier this year that killed more than 250 protestors.

Among 11 people appointed to a Sovereignty Council to oversee the transition to civilian rule in Sudan is Raja Nicola Eissa Abdel-Masih, a Coptic Christian who long served as a judge in Sudan’s Ministry of Justice. She was one of six civilians appointed to the council on Aug. 21.

Amid these hopeful signs, Christians in Sudan are still awaiting the return of properties seized by the government under Bashir, who also has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for directing a campaign of mass killing, rape, and pillage against civilians in Darfur.

Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Bashir had vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.

In April 2013 the then-Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population. Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who did not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.

After Bashir was deposed, military leaders initially formed a military council to rule the country, but further demonstrations led them to accept a transitional government of civilians and military figures, with a predominantly civilian government to be democratically elected in three years.

Christians are expected to have greater voice under the new administration. In September pastor Mobarak Hamad, former head of the Sudanese Church Council, demanded that the transitional government return all church buildings, lands and properties wrongfully confiscated by the former regime.

Religious Affairs Minister Mufreh told Asharq Al-Awsat his ministry would fight terrorism, extremism and takfiri notions – punishments for leaving Islam. Mufreh previously worked as a leader in the Al-Ansar Mosque in Rabak, south of Khartoum.

The new government that was sworn in on Sept. 8, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, an economist, is tasked with governing during a transition period of 39 months. It faces the challenges of rooting out longstanding corruption and an Islamist “deep state” rooted in Bashir’s 30 years of power.

Hamad, the former chairman of the Sudan Council of Churches, has said that the government should recover all properties confiscated under the previous regime, including the Catholic Club and another building belonging to the Sudan Interior Church.

The Catholic Club, strategically located near the Khartoum International Airport, was turned into the headquarters of Bashir’s National Congress Party. The Sudan Interior Church building, used by the Khartoum International Church and other Christian organizations, was turned into offices for the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

On July 29, Chairman of the Military Council Abdul Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decision to amend the name of NISS to General Intelligence Service. The measure also froze Article 50 of the Law of Security Service, which had given NISS broad powers of inspection and detention without cause, widely misused against Christians and political opponents.

Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.

Sudan ranked sixth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Chinese Church Issues Statement Following Prison Sentence of Pastor Wang Yi

Early Rain Covenant Church Photo: Facebook

(Voice of the Persecuted) A statement from Early Rain Covenant Church regarding the severe sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi, encouragement for other churches being persecuted and a request for prayer.

Since December 9th, 2018, our church’s senior pastor Wang Yi has been imprisoned on charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations.” On December 26th, 2019, he was secretly tried at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. On December 30th, the court announced that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison and fined 50,000 RMB. Our church issues the following statement to clarify our position:

1. As the senior pastor of this church, Pastor Wang Yi is a faithful servant who has been chosen by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. His teachings on the truth of the gospel are consistent with the entirety of biblical revelation; they are consistent with the creeds, confessions, and relevant catechisms inherited by the universal church; and they are consistent with the constitution of Western China Reformed Presbytery. The influence that God has given Pastor Wang Yi within the universal church and especially within Chinese churches throughout the world is a result of his being called by God and courageously preaching the gospel amidst the unique cultural and political circumstances in China.

2. Pastor Wang Yi’s sermons, lectures, books, and articles are produced for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. From the perspective of the church, he produces these things as a way of fulfilling his call to the ministry and responding to the gifts and grace he has received. By producing these things, he is fulfilling his duties as a pastor and a missionary. From the perspective of society, he is exercising his freedoms of religion and of speech, rights granted to Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws of China. The books printed by the church have never been printed for profit but only for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. He has never conducted so-called “illegal business operations.”

3. Ever since Pastor Wang Yi received his calling from God, he has always held to the biblical principle of “separation of church and state” regarding the relationship between church and state. He has spent much time researching, preaching, and writing about this. It is widely known in the Chinese church that he has always taught that Christians should submit to authorities in power in accordance with Scripture. He has taught that even when the church is being persecuted, Christians should be willing to submit to the government’s physical restrictions of them as well as to the depravation of their property. He has never said or done anything that amounts to “inciting to subvert state power.”

4. Pastor Wang Yi’s arrest, imprisonment, and trial are persecutions he has suffered for the sake of the Christian faith, and they testify to the sufferings of Christ for the glory of God (1 Pet. 5:1). He is a gift and joy whom God has given to this church (Eph. 4:11, Phil. 4:1).

5. Pastor Wang Yi did not commit any crime. The authorities’ charges of “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegal business operations” are part of the unjust persecutions against the Chinese house church. Regardless of the sentence the authorities pronounce against him, Pastor Wang Yi is the senior pastor of this church and a faithful messenger of the kingdom of heaven whom we stand with and follow and whom the Lord Jesus Christ has chosen and approved.

In Christ, we issue the following exhortation and protest against Pastor Wang Yi’s severe sentence. Do you government officials not know that this is a sin against God? Do you not know that this is an abuse of your authority (Rom. 13:3)? Even so, we do not hate you. On the contrary, our merciful and righteous God wants us to love you and to pray for you. We desire that those public officials and law enforcement officers who are involved in this case would quickly repent and believe in the Lord, that you would know the atonement and forgiveness of sins which the Lord Jesus extends to all through his suffering on the cross, and that you would obtain eternal life and hope.

We invite all sojourners throughout the world who belong to the universal church to pray fervently for Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu, who are being imprisoned for the sake of Christ and of the gospel, as well as for their families. Pray for all of us. We will also pray for you. In this eschaton, which Jesus Christ brought about through his incarnation, through his perfect life, through his betrayal and trial, through his substitutionary death, through his resurrection and ascension, through his gift of the Holy Spirit—in this eschaton, may we testify, through our suffering, that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6) and that he is the light of the world.

We also invite churches who are currently being persecuted to fix their eyes together with us upon the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, may we be united to the King of Kings who ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, who is our eternal high priest and prophet of the last days. May we be strong in his grace as we keep on fighting despite repeated setbacks. We do this to fulfill the Great Commission and to spread the gospel, that the glorious name of the triune God might be praised. May God help us and allow us to experience together the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of God until the day we see him face-to-face. May blessing and honor and wisdom and wealth and glory and power and authority be to our holy Father who is in heaven, to the Lord Jesus Christ who obtained our salvation, and to the Holy Spirit our Helper who continually helps us. Amen!

Early Rain Covenant Church
December 30, 2019

Voice of the Persecuted asks that you be their voice and share this story. Encourage your church, friends and family members to pray with you for them in their suffering. These precious Chinese believers are praying for you!

Original:
秋雨圣约教会关于王怡牧师被判重刑的声明

自2018年12月9日以来,本教会主任牧师王怡被当局以“煽动颠覆国家政权罪”和“非法经营罪”之名羁押,2019年12月26日在成都市中级人民法院被秘密开庭审理。12月30日,王怡牧师被宣布判刑9年,并处罚金5万元。本教会特作如下五点声明,表明教会的立场:

1,作为本教会的主任牧师,王怡牧师是上帝和主基督所拣选的忠心的仆人,他在福音真理的教导上符合整本圣经的启示,符合大公教会所传承的信经、信条及相关要理问答,符合改革宗长老会华西区会的宪章规定;上帝使王怡牧师在普世教会尤其是在全世界华人教会中拥有的影响力,是因为他蒙主呼召,按主所赐,大有勇气地在中国特有的文化与政治处境中宣讲福音;

2,王怡牧师的证道、讲座、书籍和文章,是他牧养信徒、传布福音的信息。从教会范围来看,这既是他对所蒙圣职呼召的践行,也是他对所领受恩赐、恩典的回应,是他履行牧师和宣教士职分的本分;从社会层面来看,这是他对中国宪法和法律所赋予中国公民的信仰自由和言论自由权利的践行。教会印制的书籍,从未有任何牟利行为,其目的都在牧养信徒和传福音,从未有过所谓的“非法经营”之行为;

3,王怡牧师自蒙呼召以来,在教会与政府关系上持守基于圣经的“政教分立”立场,在这方面有多年的研究、讲道和写作,在中国教会中广为人知,他在教会中从来都是教导基督徒要按照圣经顺服在上掌权者,即使在教会受逼迫的时候也愿意顺服政府对基督徒身体的限制、财产的剥夺,从未有过“煽动颠覆国家政权”的言论和行为;

4,王怡牧师被拘捕、被囚禁、被审判,是为基督信仰遭受逼迫,为上帝的荣耀作基督受苦的见证(彼前5:1),他是上帝赐给我们这间教会的礼物和喜乐(弗4.11;腓4:1);

5,王怡牧师并没有违法犯罪,当局对他“涉嫌煽动颠覆国家政权罪”和“非法经营罪”的指控,是中国家庭教会遭受不公义逼迫的一部分。无论当局如何判决,王怡牧师都是本教会的主任牧师,是我们所认同和跟随的主耶稣基督所拣选和设立的忠心牧者。

我们对王怡牧师被判重刑发出在基督里的劝告和抗议。岂不知政府人员这样做是得罪上帝的吗?岂不知这是对上帝授予政府权柄的滥用吗(罗13:3)? 即便如此,我们对你们没有仇恨,怜悯与公义的上帝反而要我们爱你们、为你们祷告,深愿参与这场教案的公务人员,秉公执法,能早日悔改归信主基督,认识主耶稣在十字架上受难对世人一切罪的代赎和赦免,并得到永远生命与盼望。

我们邀请寄居全地的普世教会,为因基督和福音缘故被囚禁的王怡牧师、覃德富长老和他们的家人继续切切代祷。为我们众人祷告,我们也会为你们祷告,愿我们在这末世 — 耶稣基督以他降世为人、完美一生、被卖受审、代罪受死、复活升天和赐下圣灵带来的末世中 — 以我们的受苦见证基督是道路、真理、生命(约14.6),是这黑暗世界的光。我们也邀请正在遭受逼迫的教会,一起定睛死而复活的耶稣基督,依靠圣灵与已经升到高天之大者右边的王万之王、永远的大祭司和末后的先知紧密联合,在祂的恩典上刚强起来,屡败屡战,屡战屡败,为的是践行大使命,让福音广传,使三一上帝荣耀的名得着称赞。求上帝帮助我们,让我们在逼迫中,同享上帝长阔高深的慈爱,直到与祂面对面的时刻。愿颂赞、尊贵、智慧、丰富、荣耀、能力和权柄,都归给我们在天上的圣父,为我们赢得拯救的主耶稣基督,不断向我们施恩帮助的圣灵保惠师。阿们!

秋雨圣约归正长老教会
2019年12月30日

Early Rain Covenant Church-Facebook

Pastor Wang Yi Sentenced to 9 Years in Chinese Prison for Sharing the Gospel

Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong

We have learned that Pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to 9 years in prison for proclaiming the gospel. The following is a translation of the official announcement from the court:

“On December 30, 2019, the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, publicly pronounced the following judgment in accordance with the law regarding the case of the defendant Wang Yi for the crimes of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations’: For the crimes of ‘inciting to subvert state power’ and ‘illegal business operations,’ Wang Yi is sentenced to 9 years in prison; he is deprived of political rights for 3 years; and 50,000 RMB of his personal property shall be seized.”

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)

Praise God for the faithful witness of our brother in Christ, whose reward is now great in heaven. May the Lord use Pastor Wang Yi’s imprisonment to draw many to himself and to bring glory to his name. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:11)

From Pastor Wang Yi:

I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.

[…]

Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.

Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.

[…]

Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.

– Pastor Wang Yi, “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience”

// […] 我渴望上帝使用我,以失去人身自由的方式,来告诉那些让我失去人身自由的人,有一种比他们的权柄更高的权柄存在,也有一种无法被他们关押的自由,充满了耶稣基督死而复活的教会。

无论这个政权对我加以怎样的罪名,泼以怎样的脏水,只要这罪名指向我的信仰、写作、言论和传教行为,那不过都是魔鬼的谎言和试探。我将一概予以否认,服刑而不服法,伏法而不认罪。

[…]

关押我的人,终将被天使关押。审问我的人,终将被基督审问。想到这一点,主使我对那些企图和正在关押我的人,不能不充满同情和悲伤。求主使用我,赐我忍耐和智慧,好将福音带给他们。

使我妻离子散,使我身败名裂,使我家破人亡,这些掌权者都可以做到。然而,使我放弃信仰,使我改变生命,使我从死里复活,这些世上却无人能做到。

[…]

耶稣是基督,是永生上帝的儿子。他为罪人而死,为我们而复活。昨日、今日,直到永远,他都是我的君王和整个世界的主。我是他的仆人,为此被羁押。我将温柔地去反抗一切反抗上帝的人,我将喜乐地不服从任何不服从上帝的法律。//

– 王怡牧师 《我的声明:信仰上的抗命》

This update comes by means of the Facebook page associated with Early Rain Covenant Church.

Please share and pray for Pastor Wang Yi. Pray for all Chinese believers who are at a high risk of persecution as the Chinese government is cracking down on them and seeking to wipe out Christianity. Our Lord will never abandon them, not for a moment!

Father God, Pastor Wang Yi is suffering for the sake of Christ and for our Lord’s glory. Please fill our brother with your supernatural presence. Comfort him as he picks up this cross and give peace to his heart and mind. When he opens his mouth may Your words flow from him. Give him the courage that whatever may come your Gospel and saving love will be boldly shared. Help Pastor Yi to love his persecutors and prepare them to hear Your Word.

May persecution never weaken our brother’s faith but make him stronger, a mighty warrior for Your Kingdom. We thank you for this precious brother in Christ. We lament for and with him as if he were our own family member and we were in prison with him. Oh Father, if it’s in Your will, we ask for his release. Lord, we lift up his family as they too go through this trial.

We ask for Your hand to be on every Chinese brother and sister as they face this rapid increase of persecution from their government. In the face of fear help them not retract from the faith. May the fire of the Holy Spirit sweep over and consume this nation, and may a greater Church body arise!

We pray for those who are shunning you and hurting your church. They do not realize what they are doing. We pray for their eyes to be opened and their hearts prepared as you reveal Yourself to them. Show them they have no power over You. That You cannot be removed from any place on Your Earth, it is Yours. Your Gospel will be shared exactly as You’ve said and Your light will continue to shine even in the darkest place. We pray that they will accept our Christ and the invitation of salvation. All for Your glory, alone. In Jesus Holy name, we pray.

 

2 People Killed in Fort Worth Church Shooting

Fox News Youtube

Please pray for West Freeway Church of Christ members! A gunman opened fire in a Texas church on Sunday, killing one person and critically injuring another before two parishioners shot and killed him at the scene, police said. The shooting unfolded around 9:57 a.m. at the West Freeway Church of Christ, which is located in the city of White Settlement, just outside Fort Worth.

“It’s all very tragic,” Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Mike Drivdahl told reporters. White Settlement Police Chief J.P. Bevering told reporters Sunday afternoon the gunman entered the church during a live-streamed service and opened fire. Two parishioners returned fire, striking the suspect who died at the scene. read more

Tonight on the Persecution Watch Call (12/28/19)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Tonight we welcome you to join us on the conference call to pray for the global persecuted church. We will also be remembering our Brother Blaine and praying as the Holy Spirit leads us. Thank you dear brothers and sisters for your support and dedication to pray for the persecuted Church. We can all be prayer warriors on this call.

In Christ love
Nadia Dybvik, Prayer Call Moderator

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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.

Prayer Director Blaine Scogin dies of cancer

Blaine Scogin, Founder of Persecution Watch Prayer Conference Call/Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted

(Voice of the Persecuted) To all who have been praying for Blaine Scogin, we sincerely thank you. In October, test results revealed that he had stage 4 Melanoma cancer. Blaine passed into glory shortly after midnight following Christmas Day. Brother Blaine was a generous, humble man who loved the Lord and God’s Word with all his heart. He strove to pick up his cross daily and live a life devoted to Christ. He was a role model to all who knew him.

Blaine began the Persecution Watch ministry, a U.S. national prayer conference call, that prays specifically for the Persecuted Church and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. For over a decade, with perseverance and a contagious passion, he faithfully hosted the prayer conference call three times a week and encouraged all to join him. As the Holy Spirit led, Blaine occasionally opened the call for nightly prayer and these devoted prayer warriors were known to meet each night for well over a month. Blaine mobilized prayer for the IDOP and held other special 12 or 24-hour call events. He invited persecuted Christians to share with us and encouraged all to wash their feet in prayer. This deeply touched our persecuted brothers and sisters. They described it as being in the same room praying together with those on the call. I still receive messages of how the prayer team blessed them and they ask for continued prayer. Other ministries collaborated with Persecution Watch during these events and Voice of the Persecuted was privileged to be one of them.

Years ago, Blaine and I met through our calling and desire to serve the Persecuted Church. Not only a ministry partner, he was a brother in Christ and my very dear friend. Our friendship came easy. We understood one another and worked well together. Blaine was also a Board Member and Prayer Director of Voice of the Persecuted (VOP). His passionate heart for the persecuted and prayer was a perfect match for our mission that will be hard to replace. What a blessing to have met and come to know him. I’m forever grateful to the Lord for our meeting, which was truly a divine appointment! Words cannot express how deeply I will miss him and our daily communications.

Blaine was legally blind but he knew his Bible. He would listen to the audio Bible for hours each day. Blaine could quote full chapters and he powerfully prayed God’s Word with enthusiasm. He truly identified with the persecuted and his devotion for those suffering for Christ is unforgettable. He was one of the most gifted intercessors, I’ve ever known! This mighty prayer warrior was also a good leader and he taught in love. We have learned so much on how to pray for the Persecuted Church from him.

I have no doubt the Lord called Blaine to begin and lead the Persecution Watch ministry. Sounding the alarm, he was our wake-up call! His mission was to rouse the sleeping church to the reality of modern-day Christian Persecution, and activate the church to Biblically care and pray for them. Though the Scriptures tell us to relate to the persecuted as if we were suffering with them, persecution is a topic many don’t want to hear. Some, even in the church, still deny it’s taking place or ignore it completely. Anyone in a mission pertaining to the persecuted sometimes feel it’s a lonely place to be. I remember a time when our brother was feeling down. I encouraged him with the Word and told him that he wouldn’t fully realize the effect of his prayers and dedication until he was in glory. As others have shared, we can imagine the martyrs who have gone before Blaine as well as those yet to come, greeting him by name.

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Though we deeply grieve the loss of our dear brother, we rejoice that he is now without pain or sorrow and in the presence of our Lord. I can almost hear his praises bellowing out above the crowd of saints worshiping Him. Until we meet again dear brother, you’re forever in our hearts.

Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continuing the important prayer mission that Blaine, our Prayer Director, began. Through the Lord’s leading, Blaine grew a strong prayer team who will continue hosting the Persecution Watch call. We encourage you to join them and pray united for the Persecuted Church. God had always been glorified on Blaine’s prayer call and In the words of our brother, “Lord willing, God will continue to be exalted on the call.” The Persecution Watch prayer conference call details are below. Please share with prayer networks, prayer teams and all who pray. As we begin a new season, may God greatly bless and refresh you and the mission in the coming year.

Later next week, we will be sharing the sentiments of those who knew and worked with Blaine as a tribute to our brother. If you would like to be a part of this memorial tribute and share your heart for Blaine, please send it to info@voiceofthepersecuted.org by January 12, 2020 to be included. (date extended)

Your sister in Christ,

Lois Kanalos (Founder, Voice of the Persecuted)

Persecution Watch Conference Call 

From any location on your phone 

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 

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 for Android or App Store for IPhone

Grenade Attack Near Cathedral Leaves Several Wounded in the Philippines

Aerial view of Cotabato, Philippines. (Wikipedia, PeterParker22)

Philippines (Morning Star News) – A grenade attack near a Catholic cathedral and radio station in the southern Philippines on Sunday (Dec. 22) could have been aimed at a military advance team for a presidential visit as much as the Christian sites, according to local reports.

The grenade explosion injured at least eight soldiers and six civilians in Cotabato on the island of Mindanao, according to reports. Police stated the grenade was thrown near the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, seat of the archdiocese of Cotabato, and the radio station owned by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Mass-goers huddled in the cathedral upon hearing the explosion and the ensuing brief gunfight between soldiers and the assailants. They later returned to worship, but a service scheduled for 6:30 p.m. was cancelled, parish priest Zaldy Robles told Minda News.

“It is sad that this kind of violence is happening while we are celebrating the holy Christmas season,” Robles told the news outlet. “Let us not let the reign of darkness rule over us.”

He added that it was fortunate the grenade was not thrown into the worship service. In 2009, a bomb attack at the same cathedral in Cotabato killed five civilians and wounded dozens of others.

After Sunday’s grenade attack, a second blast a short distance away injured a passer-by, according to Vatican News.

Explosions in two cities also in the same diocese’s territory, Libungan in North Cotabato and Upi in Maguindanao, hit shortly after the attack in Cotabato, and the military suspected the Islamic State-aligned Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in all the blasts, according to reports. Earlier security forces had reportedly recovered and de-activated two Improvised Explosive Devices on Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato, near the cathedral.

It was unclear if the wounded soldiers were guarding the cathedral or were part of an advance team for the visit of the president scheduled for the following day. Minda News reported they were part of the security apparatus assigned to the cathedral during the Christmas season, while another news outlet quoted a Western Mindanao Command spokesman as saying the grenade was aimed at a military vehicle of the Division Reconnaissance Company deployed in advance of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit on Monday (Dec. 23).

Mindanao is one of five provinces that came under the Muslim rule of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), confirmed in a Jan. 21 referendum. The BARMM was formed from a peace deal with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but the BIFF and Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf rebels were excluded from the agreement.

While the military suspected the BIFF in the attacks, some speculated the assailants could have been other opponents of the BARMM. Whether one or the other, Duterte called the attackers terrorists.

While the peace agreement calls for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to take over administration of the BARMM, the Philippine government exercises full control over the police and military.

Islamic State-affiliated terrorists were blamed for twin suicide bombings at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu Province on Jan. 27, which killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 100. Jolo is a small island off the coast of Mindanao.

Members of Abu Sayyaf, which claims allegiance to Islamic State, reportedly aided the Jan. 27 attack and turned themselves into authorities. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año stated on Feb. 1 that Islamic State-affiliated terrorists were responsible for the twin suicide bombings.

Islamic State representatives took responsibility for the bombings in online postings shortly after the explosions, one inside the cathedral on Jolo, and another about 12 to 15 seconds later outside the doorway. Año said two Indonesian suicide bombers, one who went by the nom de guerre Abu Hud and his wife (unnamed), were guided by local rebels from Abu Sayyaf.

Abu Sayyaf had rejected the peace deal that created the BARMM as it preferred the region belong to a broader southeast Asian caliphate.

Sunday’s violence follows a bomb attack on a shopping mall in Cotabato earlier this month that killed two people and wounded 35 others, also attributed to Islamic State-affiliated terrorists.

According to the government’s peace deal with the rebels, 2019 is a period of transitioning from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the new BARMM (adding “Bangsamoro,” or “Nation of Moros,” moros being a colloquial term for Muslims) government.

Under the agreement, MILF rebels were to surrender their estimated 50,000 weapons to the government.

Tonight on the Persecution Watch Prayer Conference Call (Dec. 12, 2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear intercessors, you are invited to join us tonight, Thursday December 26 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church. Looking back on 2019, I believe it would be good to lift up the 7 nations who in our, perhaps my, perception caused much prayer for the persecuted Believers.

In alphabetical order:

Afghanistan

Population: 36 million, Christians in the thousands

A country where Christianity is not permitted to exist. An Islamic state by constitution, which means all government and religious officials are hostile to other religions as Christianity is.

Christian converts from Islam face strong pressure from family, friends and neighbors and can even be attacked.

  • Pray for these believers to have courage and protection.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam.

  • Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.
  • Pray for isolated believers in Afghanistan, many of whom are totally cut off from any other Christians.

China

Population: 1.4 billion, Christians 97 million

China continuously increases restriction on religious freedom and monitors and controls Christians through CCTV and social ratings.

  • Pray that the Chinese Christians who were recently arrested in raids would have courage and perseverance in the faith—include Pastor Wang Yi.
  • Pray for Chinese Christians to stand strong amidst tightening religious restrictions and to engage in cross-cultural missions effectively.
  • Pray that the Chinese government would proactively enter into constructive dialogue with local churches, in order to understand that Christian values are aligned with traditional Chinese values and that Christianity can be a positive influence for Chinese society.

Eritrea

Population:  5.1 million, Christians 2.4 million

Brutal, authoritarian president suppressing Christianity under inhuman conditions.

Thousands of Christians have been imprisoned in Eritrea over the last decade, some of whom remain in prison after more than 10 years. Pray for endurance for brothers and sisters detained in horrific conditions and ask God to give them perseverance in their faith.

Pray for President Afwerki, that God would work in his heart and reveal the truth of the gospel.

India

Population: 1.3 billion, Christians 65 million

President Moro is determined to create a Hindu state with Hinduism as the only approved religion. Increased violence and restrictions towards Christians.

  • Pray for Christian converts from Hinduism who are forcefully pressured to return to their national religion.
  • Pray with Christians in India for God’s provision and protection as they preach the gospel in places with anti-conversion laws.
  • Pray for the government of India, that they would open to religious liberty.

Iran

Population: 82 million, Christians 800,000

Islamic State under the control of religious leaders meaning that Christians persecuted and restricted “under” Islamic law. Mosques are empty and people demonstrate against Islamic leaders.

Any Muslim who leaves Islam faces a charge of apostasy and can be thrown in jail or worse. Pray that the laws will change, allowing for freedom of religion.

Nearly all churches that held services in Persian have been closed in recent years and their leaders were arrested. Pray for Christians in Iran’s prisons to have genuine love for their guards and fellow inmates.

Pray for secret believers who meet in house churches, that they will be protected and will be faithful witnesses to the surrounding culture.

Nigeria

Population: 195 million, Christians 91 million

Weak government controlled by Muslims unwilling to protect Christians. Increasing violence in the Northern part of the country against Christians by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.

  • Please pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice, who made a slave for life by Boko Haram
  • Pray for Christians in the middle of Nigeria, who are facing increased hostility and attacks from Fulani militants.
  • Sharia law has been implemented in 12 northern states where Christians face marginalization and discrimination. Pray that these Christians would not be discouraged. Pray they will not be tempted to give up the faith in pursuit of an easier life.
  • Pray for Fulani militants, the members of Boko Haram and other extremist groups. Pray that God will touch their hearts with His truth.

North Korea

Population:  25.6 million, Christians 300,000

Brutal dictatorship that fears Christians. Goes to extremes to punish Christians and aims to eradicate Christianity.

  • The situation for Christians is vulnerable and precarious. They face persecution from state authorities and their non-Christian family, friends and neighbors. Pray for their protection.
  • Pray for strength and courage for Christians who suffer in prisons, labor camps and remote areas.
  • Pray that God will prepare the underground church in North Korea to be a light for the country—and that they will be ready to share the gospel freely someday soon.

Many blessings,

Andy, 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.

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