VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Andrew Brunson Speaks to European Parliment, Releases Book and Records Song Written in Prison

Pastor Andrew Brunson suffered exteme persecution at the hands of the Turkish government – Photo: Fady Gergis Youtube capture

(Voice of the Persecuted) American Pastor Andrew Brunson recently spoke to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. Andrew shared what it was like to live as a pastor in Turkey since 1993. He described those 25 years as “twenty-three by choice, two by force in the prisons”, and as spending those combined years telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ. Though he and his wife suffered in Turkey, Andrew said they still loved the Turkish people and have no regrets they went there and did the work that made him a target for persecution. Andrew started several churches and had done this openly, with nothing to hide, in front of Turkish authorities. “It wasn’t a job for me. I fully believe in what we did, and I don’t try to hide that my call is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. I believe He is the only way of salvation and I don’t apologize for saying that. We spent 25 years in Turkey not to undermine the system in any way but to bring God’s offer of eternal life.”

Turkey has a large unreached people group who have never heard the Gospel of Christ, which is why Brunson agreed to go when asked all those years ago. It may surprise you that the Turkish people are often forgotten in prayer, but Pastor Brunson’s imprisonment has changed that. During his incarceration, Brunson was told about the unprecedented prayer movement taking place on his behalf. He said he didn’t feel worthy of it, but certainly needed prayer and was very grateful. As basically an unknown, he wondered why millions of people were praying for him. He concluded that God was using this with intentions to pour prayer into Turkey. “I rode a wave of prayer out of Turkey but…there was a tsunami of prayer that crashed into Turkey that is going to bring great blessing to that country…God was using my imprisonment for good in that way.”

Background: In 2016, the Brunson’s had believed they were called into the local police station to receive long term visa’s, but instead told there was an order for their arrest and they would be held for deportation. It was an unusual detainment for a Westerner who would normally be notified weeks in advance about deportation. They spent 13 days in the center under total silence without knowing why they had been detained and no legal or consular services. Andrew said that he remembers seeing the U.S. Consulate being turned away at the gates of the deportation center. They repeatedly asked what was happening and when they would be deported but only told, Ankara will decide. At the end of the 13 days, his wife, Norine was released but Andrew was imprisoned for “terrorism” for more than two years. Not wanting to leave him, Norine remained in Turkey during his imprisonment.

Attempts by Ankara to use Brunson as a political pawn for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed. The U.S. responded to the imprisonment and false espionage and terror-related charges against Brunson with sanctions. On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on two Turkish government officials who were involved in the detention of Brunson. Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had their assets frozen in the United States, they were prohibited from traveling to the U.S., or engaging in any financial transactions with American citizens. On August 9, the Trump Adminstration raised tariffs on Turkish products. Erdogan followed with tariffs on U.S. products. The U.S. sanctions proved to put a greater pressure on Turkey and on October 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted on the charge of aiding terrorism, but sentenced to time served. He was released from Turkish custody and immediately returned to the United States.

During the European Parliament meeting, Andrew thanked the MEP’s for there concern about religious freedom and using their position to advance it. He also warned of the heightened level of pressure now being experienced by Christians in Turkey. Many lies were often shared about Brunson in the Turkish media supported and controlled by Erdogan’s Islamic government. He some what became the face of Christianity in Turkey. Andrew said there’s been a significant increase of hate speech, tension and distrust since his case.

“I think the environment has been created so when there is increased persecution against Christians, now most Turks are conditioned to say, They deserve it,” he added.

As we at Voice of the Persecuted asked you to pray for Andrew from the beginning of his detention, we now plead with you to keep Christians in Turkey as well as the Turkish people in your prayers.

During the session, Andrew also told the MEP’s about an interesting dream he had in prison about Turkey, Iran and Russia. Andrew said he believed it was God inspired. Voice of the Persecuted highly recommends that you watch the video below of Brunson’s full speech in the European Parliament.

Inspiring

In his most difficult time as a prisoner in Turkey, Andrew wrote a song in Buca Maximum Security Prison only two weeks after the Turkish government falsely accused him of being a spy and helping to lead a coup attempt. These new charges carried an automatic three life sentences in solitary confinement with no parole. Andrew sang this song every day for the remainder of his two years in prison. Listen as Andrew’s explains the story behind the song.

With the help of Fady Gergis, Andrew’s song titled, Worthy Of My All – is now available as a free download. He recorded it at International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOPKC). Gergis said, “This song carries such a powerful testimony of continuing to believe that Jesus is worthy while almost having no hope of getting out of prison.” You can download it for free at this link. Fill in your email address, and you will receive a link for the download.

 

Andrew recently published book. You can preview and purchase God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance here.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Prayer and Praise with the Persecuted Church

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear prayer warriors, I listened again and again, with eyes closed, to the words of this song and the volume turned up. I lift my arms high and within my soul, I was led to sing.

Dear brothers and sister you are welcome to come on the call as the Holy Spirit leads you to intercede for our persecuted Brothers and sisters and for the harvest. Call details below

In Christ love
Nadia Dybvik, Prayer Call Moderator

Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has

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!

 

Tonight on Persecution Watch Conference Call: Christians in North Korea (Dec. 12, 2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Intercessors, you are invited tonight (Thursday December 12th) to join us in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church.

North Korea

Population: 25.6 million, Christians about 300,000

The primary driver of Christian persecution in North Korea is the state. For three generations, everything in the country has focused on idolizing the leading Kim family. Christians are seen as hostile elements in society that have to be eradicated. There was hope that new diplomatic efforts in 2018—including the 2018 Winter Olympics—would mean a lessening of pressure and violence against Christians, but so far that has not been the case. Kim Jong Un has maintained his tight control over the populace, and dissent or worshiping anything else is not tolerated.

If Christians are discovered, not only are they deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot, their families will share their fate as well. Christians do not even have the slightest space in society, on the contrary, they are publicly warned against. Meeting other Christians in order to worship is almost impossible and if some believers dare to, it has to be done in utmost secrecy. The churches shown to visitors in Pyongyang serve mere propaganda purposes. 

Someone recently asked this question: “What is it like to have the freedom to live an open Christian life?”

A North Korean Christian who was able to escape answered,

This seemingly easy question took me back to the North Korean detention center where I almost died 14 years ago. I was only fifteen at the time. I was arrested for trying to escape the country.

Though I am happy and free now, my life has been hard and dark. I’ve buried many memories, but certain ‘triggers’ inevitably bring them back to me.

I heard the other prisoners scream and cry.

Prisons in North Korea are not silent, not at all.

Fifty people were crammed in my prison cell. The guards forced us to sit on the floor the entire time. We were back-to-back. One other inmate behind me died during the night. Cause of death? Torture? Starvation? Illness? Lack of medical care? All of the above? Two policemen came and dragged him out like someone drags a dead animal. Prisoners are not humans in North Korea.

When I was a young boy, I saw a lot of death on the streets. Many died of starvation and were left outside. But at age 15, when I was in a North Korean prison cell, and the prisoner behind me died, that was a new–shocking–experience.I was overwhelmed with fear. Fear of death. Fear of being dragged away like the other prisoner.

Even before my arrest, I had seen many tragedies. Once I was forced to witness a public execution.

There were hundreds of prisoners like me in this intelligence detention center. That means that all prisoners–like me–were arrested in China or on their way to China.

·        Pray that new diplomatic efforts will pay dividends, and will lead to a softening of the North

Korean Government.

·        Pray that Kim Jong Un will listen to wise counselors and concentrate on the needs of his people instead wasteful military projects.

·        Pray that meaningful agreements can be forged with North Korea, the US and South Korea to reduce tensions and focus on the suffering population

·        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.

·        Please pray for 10 women and children who are en route from NK to China – to safety, pray for 7 more starting their trek along the underground railway.

·        Pray that China will stop forcefully return NK refugees to North Korea.

·        Pray for the Lord to open the floodgates of heaven = food deliveries, as it rains on the just and unjust, to feed the just and the unjust – 40% about 11 million are malnourished.

·        The Lords hand of protection on organizations who secretly send medication, seeds and other provision to the underground believers.

Please also remember to pray for: Leah Sharibu and Alice, who were made slaves for life by the Islamic group Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Many blessings,

Andy, Prayer Cal 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!

 

One Year Anniversary of Pastor Wang Yi’s Arrest by the Chinese Government.

Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wang Yi poses with sign that reads, ‘Pray for the nation on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings. (China Aid)

December 9th marked the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Pastor Wang Yi, who is still in jail awaiting trial.  Early Rain Covenant Church members continue to be harassed and arrested.

Pastor Wang Yi understood the dangers coming against the church. In advance, he wrote the following statement to be released upon his arrest. “It is a glorious display of faith and courage in the face of persecution. It is sure to become a significant document in Chinese church history. Read it and pray for Pastor Wang Yi, his wife and son, his church, and all Christians in China who are facing various pressures because of their faith,” was shared by an Early Rain Covenant Church social media account.

My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience

On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.

As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.

For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.

As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.

For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.

At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.

But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.

As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.

For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.

This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.

If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.

I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.

If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. 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.

Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.

If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.

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.

And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?

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.

First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be published by the church after 48 hours of detention. 

Appendix: What Constitutes Faithful Disobedience

I firmly believe that the Bible has not given any branch of any government the authority to run the church or to interfere with the faith of Christians. Therefore, the Bible demands that I, through peaceable means, in meek resistance and active forbearance, filled with joy, resist all administrative policies and legal measures that oppress the church and interfere with the faith of Christians.

I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience.  In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement.

I firmly believe that spiritual disobedience is an act of the last times; it is a witness to God’s eternal kingdom in the temporal kingdom of sin and evil. Disobedient Christians follow the example of the crucified Christ by walking the path of the cross. Peaceful disobedience is the way in which we love the world as well as the way in which we avoid becoming part of the world.

I firmly believe that in carrying out spiritual disobedience, the Bible demands me to rely on the grace and resurrection power of Christ, that I must respect and not overstep two boundaries.

The first boundary is that of the heart. Love toward the soul, and not hatred toward the body, is the motivation of spiritual disobedience. Transformation of the soul, and not the changing of circumstances, is the aim of spiritual disobedience. At any time, if external oppression and violence rob me of inner peace and endurance, so that my heart begins to breed hatred and bitterness toward those who persecute the church and abuse Christians, then spiritual disobedience fails at that point.

The second boundary is that of behavior. The gospel demands that disobedience of faith must be non-violent. The mystery of the gospel lies in actively suffering, even being willing to endure unrighteous punishment, as a substitute for physical resistance. Peaceful disobedience is the result of love and forgiveness. The cross means being willing to suffer when one does not have to suffer. For Christ had limitless ability to fight back, yet he endured all of the humility and hurt. The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him.

I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.

The Lord’s servant,
Wang Yi

First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be circulated by the church after 48 hours of detention. 

English translation provided by Amy, Brent Pinkall, and the China Partnership translation team.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

Prayer Points

Pray for Individual Believers—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” —Hebrews 12:1-2

Pray for the imprisoned & their families. (Heb 13:3)

Pray for believers threatened & terrorized by the police. (Heb 13:6)

Pray for the weak & the fearful. (Heb 4:15-16)

Pray for those who have lost jobs or homes for their faith. (Heb 11:16)

Pray for Pastors and Church Leaders.“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…” Colossians 1:24-25

Pray for churches strategizing next steps to navigate persecution. (Matt 10:16; Ps 37: 5-6)

Pray for strength for pastors ministering to dispersed churches. (Phil 4:13; Col 1:29)

Pray that God will teach pastors how to exhort the suffering church with his Word. (Eph 6:19; Col 2:1-2)

Pray for pastors’ knowledge and love for Christ to deepen through suffering. (Phil 1:9-10, 3:8)

Pray for God’s Kingdom to Advance “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” —Philippians 1:18

Pray that God will empower the church to love and witness to those who hurt them. (Rom 12:19-20)

Pray for the light of Christ to reach the darkest places—in prisons and among the persecutors. (1 Pet 2:9)

Pray for an overflowing of joy, hope, faith, and love as the church participates in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Pet 1:6-9)

Pray for the church to persevere and be kept blameless until the gospel is proclaimed to all and Christ returns. (1 Thess 5:23; 1 Pet 1:13-16)

 

Christians Slain in Suspected Al Shabaab Attack in Northern Kenya

Kenya (Morning Star News) – Suspected members of Somali Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab intercepted a bus in northern Kenya on Friday (Dec. 6), separated out those who were not local ethnic Somali Muslims and executed them, sources said.

The Medina Bus Co. vehicle en route from Nairobi to Mandera had 56 people aboard when it was intercepted at 5:30 p.m. between Kutulu and Wargadud in Wajir County, where the population is largely ethnic Somali Kenyans, sources said. A witness who escaped told a Morning Star News contact that the assailants separated out 11 Kenyan workers from the interior (assumed to be Christians) from local residents, assumed to be ethnic Somali Muslims.

“One of the Muslim men gave me Somali attire, and when the separation was being done I went to the side of the Muslims, and immediately we were told to get into the bus,” the survivor told the Morning Star News contact. “As the locals were getting back into the bus, the non-locals who were left behind were fired upon with gunshots.”

The bus was stopped as the workers were returning to their station in Mandera, he said.

“I think the attackers were monitoring our travelling all the way from Nairobi,” he said. “The militants knew that we were not armed.”

Two of the victims were teachers identified as evangelical Christians, but their names were withheld pending official notification of relatives, another source said.

“We have lost two teachers who used to attend our church,” the source from a congregation in northern Kenya (undisclosed for security reasons) told Morning Star News.

A third victim was a doctor who belonged to an Africa Inland Church congregation, the source said, and three others were said to be Roman Catholics. The religious affiliation of five other people killed was yet to be determined at this writing.

Al Shabaab, which is waging war against the government of neighboring Somalia, reportedly took responsibility for the attack, saying victims included “secret security agents and government employees.”

Official information about the attack was inconsistent. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement that several police officers were among eight people killed, and a police source told Agence France-Presse that seven of a total of 10 people killed were officers.

Al Shabaab, which is allied with Al Qaeda, or Al Shabaab sympathizers have killed several non-local people in northern Kenya since 2011, when Kenyan forces led an African coalition into Somalia against the rebels in response to terrorist attacks on tourists and others on Kenya’s coast.

Al Shabaab militants were suspected in the killing of two Christian teachers on Oct. 10, 2018.

On April 2, 2015, 148 people at Garissa University College lost their lives in an attack by Al Shabaab, and several attacks on churches and Christians have taken place in Garissa, also in northern Kenya.

Somalia’s constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims.

Somalia is ranked 3rd on Christian support group Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian; Kenya is ranked 40th.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Prayer for the Church in Crimea (Dec.10,2019)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Tonight we will lift up believers who are facing challenge after challenge with the occupation of Russia in Crimea. Among recent reports against Crimean churches, a small church which was built prior to the occupation was told it is operating illegally on the site and must be torn down in a month.

PRAYER POINTS

• Pray for God’s peace and reconciliation to overcome all hatred, conflict, and war.

• Pray for followers of Jesus to arise as messengers of His hope to the hopeless and the oppressed.

• Pray for repentance, forgiveness, and unity in the Church, across denominations and traditions.

Pray occupying authorities of Crimea will soften their hearts, allow churches to remain open and Christians allowed to worship in the churches they choose.

Dear Prayer Warriors, some time ago I read a heart-felt prayer from a sister, ‘Oh, the precious love of Jesus for these deeply and sadly LOST persecutors!! To be so rooted and grounded in Christ by prayer and His Word that one could be a vessel of His mercy and grace and forgiveness and love. I fail at much smaller tests. O LORD, please strengthen me. I ask in Jesus’ Name.’ As I was meditating on it, I pondered on the meaning and I seek The Holy Spirit to enlighten me.

My dear ones, we are the vessels of His mercy and grace also for the lost ones, those who persecute our brothers and sisters. We are vessels for forgiveness and love. Jesus’ love is so deep for them and He requires us to to love them too. We must pray this for ourselves, as our dear sister graciously prayed for herself. I in Jesus name, oh Lord please strengthen us!

We invite and welcome you to come as you are on the Persecuted Watch Conference Call tonight. As the Holy Spirit leads, come to receive God’s blessings in obedience of His will for us!

In Christ Love,

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!

 

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

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!

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