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40 Pakistani Christians freed after almost 5 years in prison on trial for ‘terrorism’

Location near where a mob burnt alive two men in angry reaction to twin church suicide bomb attacks in Youhanabad, March 2015. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

(World Watch Monitor) Forty Pakistani Christians, who’ve been on trial for the murder of two men during a violent protest following Easter suicide attacks on two churches in Youhanabad – a majority-Christian area in Lahore – have been freed by the Lahore Anti-Terrorism Court. Two others, arrested with them, have already died, allegedly due to a lack of access to medical treatment.

The twin suicide bombings, on 15 March 2015, which killed 17 and injured another 80, were claimed by a splinter group of the Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. The death toll would have been much higher if church volunteers on ‘security duty’ had not acted quickly to defend worshippers.

In riots that erupted following the bomb blasts, a mob killed two Muslim men whom they believed had been involved in the attacks. In the end 42 Christians went on trial for their murder, but two died in prison before 2018. The other 40 have been waiting for their appeal to be heard by the Lahore High Court. Meantime, the group have reached a financial settlement with the families of the two men, which under Pakistani law allows for all their acquittal.

The Anti-Terrorism Court announced the verdict on 29 January, acquitting all, including those who had died, after recording the statements of the victims’ families, who told the court that they had arrived at an agreement with the suspects and would have no objections over their acquittal.

A local reacted: “As we give thanks as Christians in Pakistan, one cannot get away from the brutal realities of what this means. The journey of physical, emotional and spiritual healing ahead is a long one. Pray for the right people to be positioned alongside them.

“We also reflect on the lives and deaths of the two [who died in prison]. If they had not, the release of the 40 would not have happened. Their deaths acted as catalysts and became an advocacy bridge for pushing for action and justice”.

Background

In 2015, the Christians of Yohanabad had been angry in the immediate aftermath of the twin suicide attacks on their churches because in 2014, Pakistan’s Supreme Court had ordered the creation of a special police force to protect minority worship places – but this had been later scrapped. Punjab Human Rights and Minority Affairs Minister, Khalil Tahir Sandhu, had said “there was no need of raising another force for this purpose” because the protection of worship places “was quite satisfactory in the Punjab and reasonable security was being provided”.

Napoleon Qayyum, who lived 100 yards from one of the bombed churches, said police were not providing security to the church: “The local police station had been requested to provide a walk-through gate for security, but no such measure was put in place.”

A Catholic nun, Sister Arsene, who had reached one church 30 minutes after it had been bombed, tried to explain to the BBC why the subsequent anger had spilled out of control. “We’re treated as second class citizens. We’d like the government to give Christians our due place and due right. That’s why the angry youths reacted.”

At the time, there were conflicting reports about the two men set upon by the angry mob. Some reports said the two carried weapons, other reports said they had been firing them.

The two, who had been arrested and put into a police vehicle, were apparently forced out of the vehicle, beaten up and eventually burned alive on Ferozepur Road. Some social media reported they were suspects thought to have attacked the churches. Other reports said they were, separately, planning to attack another small church in Khaliqnagar, a Christian settlement next to Yahounabad.

However, some days later, they were finally identified as Muhammad Naeem, a local glasscutter, and Babar Nauman, a hosiery worker from Sargodha; it appeared that they had had nothing to do with the church attacks.

News of their murder filled the Pakistani media, somewhat overshadowing the deaths of the 17 Christians and injury to 80 more. As gory images of their lynching ran on TV and more details emerged, for many Pakistanis earlier sympathy with the Christian community slowly turned into animosity. One young Muslim commented on a Facebook post:

“Christians (Chuhras) have set on fire two Muslims today. I am only sad about their death.” (“Chuhra” is a pejorative term often used to describe Christians).

Easter 2015 suicide attacks repeated Easter 2016, but foiled in 2017

“The Tehrik-e-Taliban Jamaatul Ahrar accepts responsibility for the [2015] attacks on the churches in Lahore,” its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan later told reporters. “We promise that until an Islamic system is put into place in Pakistan, such attacks will continue. If Pakistan’s rulers think they can stop us, they can try.”

In March 2016, on Easter Sunday, the Pakistani Christian community experienced the deadliest terror attack in the history of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous, and most Christian, state when the same Jamaat-ul-Ahrar bombed a popular children’s park in Lahore as families thronged to enjoy their holiday. At least 76 died, many of them children, with over 300 injured.

(Christians make up just 2 per cent of overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan. They are somewhat more prevalent in Lahore, which has about 10 million people, about 5 per cent of whom are Christian).

At Easter 2017, Pakistan’s security forces said they prevented a “major” terror attack on Christians in Lahore over the same weekend. The police caught the attackers in time, killing one suspect, Ali Tariq, and making two arrests during a Good Friday raid at the Punjab Housing Society in Lahore. Two suicide vests and four grenades were recovered from the scene.

Earlier, police had released a memo warning the city’s residents: “Reliable sources have informed us that two suicide bombers of an unidentified terrorist organisation have entered Lahore with the intention of carrying out attacks in churches or parks on 16/17 April. They have been equipped with suicide jackets and will target areas where the presence of Christians will be high.”

One of those arrested was a 20 year old woman, Naureen Leghari, who’d been to join Islamic State group in Syria. The medical student confessed to returning to Lahore with the intention of carrying out a suicide bombing against a church during Easter 2017, according to an interview broadcast on local television.

Police later released her, saying that she had undergone rehabilitation and that IS had deceived her.

Prosecutor offered 40 their freedom if they converted to Islam

In May 2017, it came to light that the Lahore deputy district public prosecutor Syed Anees Shah had told the 40 Christians that they would be freed if they converted to Islam. He was later found guilty of proselytism and suspended.

Shah was criticised for his alleged comment by Malik Muhammmad Ahmed Khan, then-special assistant to the chief minister of Punjab, who said the offer “is not just shameful but a heinous crime … We are all set to end the extremist mindset and steer the country to a tolerant and moderate society. Therefore, we cannot tolerate anyone in the government machinery with this mindset”.

Pakistan’s Senate Special Committee on Human Rights said almost two years ago that “terrorism charges against the [Christians] arrested should be dropped and they should be tried in civil courts”, as Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

At that time (May 2018), then-Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “[Three] years ago, two churches were targeted in Youhanabad, as a result of which [many] Christian citizens died. People in the area conducted protests to condemn the deaths of their fellow citizens – as is their right. These people were charged with terrorism and have been rotting in jail.”

In September, 2013, a suicide bomber had blown himself up outside a 130-year-old church in Peshawar after Sunday Mass, killing around 80.

The group’s acquittal came on the same day that the most well-known Pakistani Christian, Asia Bibi, published her biography (in French only, ‘Enfin Libre’ (Free at Long Last), written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet, author of two previous books with the woman who survived 9 years in prison on false charges of blasphemy.

“You know my story from the media, perhaps you have tried to put yourself in my place to understand what I suffered,” Asia Bibi was quoted saying in a press release announcing the new book. “But you are far from understanding my day to day existence in prison, or my new life, and that is why I tell you everything in this book.”

VOP Note: The public launch for the new book will happen on 1 February. Translation into other languages will soon be available as well.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Pakistan

 

Pakistan: Population: 201 million Christians 3.99 million

(Voice of the Persecuted) In 1947, the year of the country’s independence, the situation for Christians became more complicated as Pakistan officially became a Muslim state. All Christians suffer from institutionalized discrimination, illustrated by the fact that occupations seen as low, dirty and derogatory are reserved for Christians by the authorities. Many Christians are poor and some are victims of bonded labor. There are middle-class Christians as well, but this does not save them from being marginalized or persecuted. Dozens of smaller “everyday attacks” against churches and cemeteries do occur.

Huma Younus, a Catholic girl who was abducted and forcibly converted to Islam last October. Tabassum Yousaf, the lawyer representing the 14-year-old Catholic girl, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the two judges of the High Court of Sindh province have instructed the police officer in charge of the investigation to present Huma in court at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 3rd, 2020.

Nonetheless, it will not be easy to return Huma to her parents’ home, not least because of the corruption of the police and their apparent connivance with her abductors. “Just this morning (Jan. 16, 2020) in court,” her lawyer reported, “the officer in charge of the investigation reported that on Jan. 9 Huma had been brought before the court of first instance in order to sign a declaration stating that she was an adult. Neither I nor her parents had been informed, and such procedures may not take place in the absence of both parties. It is clear that the police are helping her abductor.”

Her Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, persists in claiming verbally that Huma is of adult age, but her parents have provide the court with two documents attesting to the fact that she is still a minor—one is a declaration from her school, and the other is her baptismal certificate, issued by the Catholic parish of St. James in Karachi. Both documents state the date of Huma’s birth as May 22, 2005.

In May 2019, a landlord killed a Christian worker because he dared to work for another employer, according to a report by Morning Star News. This case illustrates the low social status of most Christians and is just a glimpse of the many similar cases that often go unreported.

· Pray to the Lord that He will exercise His power and bring about a change in government and that they will be open to religious liberty.

· Pray the Pakistani government passes laws that will protect the Christians and other religious minorities in the country as Pakistan is an Islamic Republic that suffers from a plethora of radical Islamic groups.

· Pray for peace for Christians who converted from Islam. Family, friends and neighbors see these conversions as shaming the community.

·  Pray Christians accused under blasphemy laws will not face violence or mob “justice” and that they would stand strong in the midst of this dangerous trial.

· Please pray for protection of Christian women and girls who are often raped and then forcefully married to Muslim men in the community. This usually results in forced conversions.

· Pray to the Lord to protect and encourage pastors who do covert ministry work

· Pray to the Lord that believers will remain joyful in suffering and know that the body of Christ is praying for them

· Pray that Christians Internet messages and websites will reach deep into the Muslim communities and also encourage Christians.

· Pray to the Lord that the believers will have courage, wisdom and boldness to reach out to their Pakistani neighbors.

· Pray to the Lord to give NGOs favor that they will be invisible to the authorities and can continue to provide spiritual and other support to believers.

· Pray to the Lord to give strength to His believers that they will love and forgive their persecutors.

· Pray that the Lord for supernaturally growth of the church, that the Lord will multiply the number of believers.

Again, we want to pray for pastor Wang Yi, who received a 9-year prison term, to be released by the authorities. Thank the Lord that Leah Sharibu and hopefully Alice have been released.

Pray for pastors and believers in Wuhan that the Lord will protect them from infection and keep them safe.

Many blessings,

Andy – Prayer Call Moderator, Persecution Watch

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

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 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 served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

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. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

URGENT: Fox Network Blocking Abortion Survivors Commercial from Super Bowl

Clip from Abortion Survivors commercial -Faces of Choice

(Voice of the Persecuted) URGENT PRAYER and ACTION NEEDED: In 2014, I met Lyric Gillett who was only 23 at that time. I kept my eye on her because I knew the Lord had big plans for this special girl. A little over 2 years ago, I asked many to pray for this brilliant, young woman who has a heart bigger than Texas and the tenacity to take on any challenge and reach the goal. God’s plans for her, I didn’t know but was very excited to find out. While I followed and prayed for Lyric, I would often be reminded of Isaiah 6:8—Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” I asked the Lord to guide Lyric’s path, give her strength, gather strong believers to encourage her and to expand her territory. It comes as no surprise that God led her to form and launch Faces of Choice, a mission which deeply touches my heart.

On January 24, 2020, Lyric shared about this relevant new mission.

“The culmination of years of work — or rather, the birth and the beginning of it — will be unveiled on the main stage at the March for Life today, in Washington, D.C., in a matter of minutes, as a commercial and media campaign I’ve entitled Faces of Choice. God gave me this vision four years ago, and just like a baby in the womb, this idea has been vibrantly alive long before it will be “born” this afternoon. It has been a labor of love to get here, with an incredible team of people sent directly by God’s hand.

This campaign focuses on the survivors of abortion: literally, those who were aborted, and survived. Their voices will change everything…”

Lyric recently described the struggle that she and her media buyer had to get FOX to clear Faces of Choice’s 30 second spot for Super Bowl Sunday. She’s accusing the network of censoring her commercial.

“They gave [us] the run-around for six months, and we still haven’t received an answer. With the news that five more spots were made available for purchase, My Faith Votes has incredibly partnered with me to create a petition and email campaign for Faces of Choice, to ensure that these survivors’ voices are heard. “Choice is not merely a word. Choice has a face, and choice is a person. Their voices need to be heard, not silenced by the media’s agenda to ignore them into oblivion.”

Gillette told Faithwire, “The main goal [of the commercial] is for everyday Americans to actually see choice — to be able to look it in the eye. It is ironic and it is incensing to me that these survivors of abortion had their very voices almost stolen from them from the moment of conception, and now the media is doing that again.”

AGAIN, I ask that you pray for Lyric and the Faces of Choice mission. Please sign the petition here to support the effort for the commercial featuring abortion survivors to be aired during the Super Bowl. Stay up to date by subscribing to their email list. You can also follow them on Facebook here. Share and ask all your family and friends to also get involved, then follow up. It has long been said that it takes a village to raise a child. Now, in this present age, I say it takes a village to save them. Thank you in advance.

God bless you all,

Lois Kanalos,

Founder, Voice of the Persecuted

You may be wondering why we are sharing about Faces of Choice when our mission is to cover, care for and be a voice for the persecuted Church. Our Founder is also a voice for at-risk babies in the womb. She has taken part in and endorses campaigns to save them and their right to life. From time to time you will see us raise our voice for the protection of these incredibly vulnerable children who cannot speak for themselves. We ask that you too will consider standing up for these little ones and keep them in your prayers.

China: Christians Not Allowed to Hold Religious Funerals

In Luoyang’s Song county, the cross was removed from a Christian’s coffin.

Rules and regulations prohibiting religious funerary rituals are being adopted across China, as the government promotes “civilized secular” traditions.

by Li Guang

(Bitter Winter) Expanding the measures to suppress people of faith, authorities throughout China are enforcing policies that prohibit religious customs and rituals to be used during funerals.  Xinjiang Muslims have been banned from commemorating the dead according to their faith,  and Christians ordered to stay away from religion during burials. More reports from across China on the implementation of these oppressive rules.

Only “civilized” funerals allowed

The Regulations on Centralized Funeral Arrangement, adopted by the government of Wenzhou city’s Pingyang county in the eastern province of Zhejiang, came into effect on December 1, 2019. The new rules aim to “get rid of bad funeral customs and establish a scientific, civilized, and economical way of funerals.” One of the regulations states that “clerical personnel are not allowed to participate in funerals,” and only “no more than ten family members of the deceased are allowed to read scriptures or sing hymns in a low voice.”

Similar policies are being adopted elsewhere in the country. A village official from the central province of Henan who requested anonymity told Bitter Winter that the local government convened a meeting for religious work assistants in April, informing them that all religious funerals are restricted. Soon after, the Management Measures for Village (or Community) and Township (or Town) Religious Work Assistants were issued. The document stipulates that clerical personnel should be “timely stopped from using religion to intervene in citizens’ weddings and funerals or other activities in their lives.”

Christians denied dying wishes

When a member of the state-run Three-Self Church from Wuhan, the capital of the central province of Hubei, died in October, her family arranged a Christian funeral. While the family and friends were saying goodbye to the deceased, the police stormed in and arrested her daughter, who was praying for her mother at the time. As it turned out, somebody has reported the family to the authorities. The daughter was only released after the deceased was buried without Christian rituals two days later.

“When my father died, village officials threatened to arrest us if we didn’t conduct a secular funeral. We did not dare to go against them,” a villager from Gucheng town in Henan’s county-level city of Yuzhou said with anger. “My father had been a believer for several decades. He is persecuted even after death.”

The funeral of a well-known preacher from Wen county in Henan’s Jiaozuo city, who passed away on June 27, was stopped after government officials and six policemen came to the venue and accused the gathered people of spreading “religious propaganda.”

In November 2018, in Suiping county under the jurisdiction of Henan’s Zhumadian city, a Christian in his nineties passed away. A believer for more than 40 years, the man’s dying wish was to have a Christian funeral. Only ten minutes into the proceedings, a few government officials stormed in and harshly rebuked the family for having “a religious gathering disguised as a funeral.” No religious activities outside the church were allowed, the officials claimed. If the family wanted to sing spiritual songs, “they should go to the church and sing the national anthem instead.”

No to church choirs, and no religious symbols

In 2018, the government of a locality in Henan issued the Negative List of Persons in Charge and Clerical Personnel of Religious Activity Venue Management Committees, which stipulates that visiting groups, choirs, orchestras, and other groups are prohibited from privately holding religious activities outside places of worship. The government often uses such requirements as an excuse to intrude or disperse Christian weddings and funerals.

“The government prohibits religious funerals, and doesn’t allow church choirs or orchestras to perform during them,” said an elder of a Three-self church in Henan’s Shangqiu city. “Pastors can only sneak into believers’ homes for a hurried prayer. The situation is quite adverse, and some believers don’t even dare to accompany the deceased to the graveyard.”

In April last year, government officials commanded to stop a Christian funeral procession in Fangcheng county in Henan’s Nanyang city. They ordered the church choir and believers to leave immediately and hide the cross and other religious symbols, or else, they would be arrested. All except for the family of the deceased left, and all symbols of crosses were removed from wreaths.

In June, at a funeral in Song county under the jurisdiction of Henan’s Luoyang city, a village official demanded to remove the cross symbol from the cloth covering the coffin.

“Officials said that state laws prohibit religious funerals. We even didn’t set up a cross on the tomb,” said a Three-self church believer who arranged a funeral for her husband in Henan’s Luohe city.

China-Wuhan Pastor: Pray with Us

Wuhan, Parrot Island bridge (CC0 1.0) pxfuel

(China Source) The following is a letter from the pastor of a church in Wuhan written to brothers and sisters in Christ. It was specially written for distribution. 

Brothers and sisters, peace be upon you:

During these past days the Wuhan pneumonia [virus] has been at the center of my thoughts and life. [I am] always watching the latest news, and always thinking about how our family and the church should face this.

As for family, I have gathered masks and foodstuffs and have ventured out of doors as little as possible. When venturing out in public I have worn a mask, but as for the rest, I have placed it in the Lord’s hands.

As for the church, the safety of the congregation, a faithful witness, the possibility that members could contract the illness, have all become a great area of struggle. It is readily apparent that we are facing a test of our faith.

The situation is so critical, yet [we are] trusting in the Lord’s promises, that his thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that he allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us. Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for those in this city who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ.

First, we are to seek the peace of Christ to reign in their hearts (Hebrews 3:15). Christ has already given us his peace, but his peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33). Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and, with the world, would be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death.

Why do only Christians have this peace? Because of sin, humans deserve the trials and tribulations that come upon them, Jehovah says: the wicked have no peace (Isaiah 48:22). We were all sinners, but Christ, because of faith, took our penalty and gave us his peace. Therefore Paul says, who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33). Christians may with the world face the same tribulations, but such tribulations are no longer punishment, but a new opportunity to grow nearer to the Almighty, to purify our souls, and an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.

In other words, when disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love. And, as Paul firmly believed, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? . . .  in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roman. 8:35-39).

Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ. These words are so comforting for us, we have already become one body with Christ. We have a part in his sufferings, and we have a part in his glory, all of Christ’s is ours, and our all is Christ’s. Therefore, Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this city; the pestilence cannot harm us. If we die in the pestilence, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter into his glory.

Thus, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God. Our Lord Jesus through faith experienced an incomparable suffering of death, yet God raised him from the dead, and sat him at his right hand.  (Acts 2:32-36)

If in reading these truths you still have no peace, I encourage you to diligently read the above cited scripture and call on the Lord to give you insight until the peace of Christ reigns in your heart. You must know, that this is not just an observable disaster, but even more it is a spiritual struggle. You should first wage a battle for your heart, and secondarily battle for the soul of this city.

We earnestly hope that you would know that not a sparrow falls without the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29). With so many souls facing pestilence, can it be outside God’s will? All that we are experiencing, is it not like Abraham facing Sodom, and Jonah facing Nineveh?

If God, because of a righteous man withheld judgment on Sodom, or because of 120,000 who didn’t know their left hand from their right, withheld destruction, what of the city of Wuhan in which we live?  We are clearly the righteous in this city, far more than a single righteous person there are thousands and thousands of us. Yet, may we like Lot be grieved over all those in this city (1 Peter 2:7), and like Abraham who earnestly prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33). You see, Jonah with difficulty proclaimed the gospel to Nineveh, and Nineveh repented and was saved. We are this city’s Abraham and Jonah. We must pray for God’s mercy upon this city, and bring peace upon this city through our prayers and testimony.

I believe this is the command of God calling those of us living in Wuhan. We are to seek peace for this city, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people of Wuhan! And we can through online networks guide and comfort our friends and loved ones with the gospel, reminding them that our lives are not in our own hands, and to entrust their lives to God who is faithful and true.

The past few days I have received many inquiries from foreign pastors. They and the whole church are concerned for this city, even more for us; and confronting this epidemic, seek to serve the city with us.

Thus, I especially ask them to turn their eyes upon Jesus. And do not be concerned with my welfare, nor be agitated or fearful, but pray in the name of Jesus. Good hearted people are through their actions serving this city, especially the medical personnel who are risking their own lives. If they can take on such worldly responsibilities, how can we not more readily take on spiritual responsibilities!

If you do not feel a responsibility to pray, ask the Lord for a loving soul, an earnestly prayerful heart; if you are not crying, ask the Lord for tears. Because we surely know that only through the hope of the Lord’s mercy will this city be saved.

A Wuhan Pastor
January 23, 2020

“This letter was passed on to us for distribution by a friend of ChinaSource. Join us in praying for all those affected by this crisis, especially for our brothers and sisters in and around Wuhan.” 

Keep updated by visiting ChinaSource, a window into Christianity in China and the key issues that impact the church.

Pray with us for the Persecuted on the Prayer Conference Call tonight

(Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Saints, remember our brothers and sisters in their imprisonment and afflictions tonight. Let us remember them as they follow Christ in places where it is not safe to be a believer. With the news of the serious virus outbreak in China, we will be lifting our Chinese brothers and sisters to the Lord for protection from illness and a determination to share the Gospel of Christ with the lost. We will continue to pray for Leah Sharibu, who has been a captive of the Boko Haram for nearly two years. We will also pray for Iranian women who have been a big part in starting underground churches in Iran. We invite you to join us in prayer on the Persecution Watch call as we advance His kingdom purposes by praying for the persecuted church and calling out for the global harvest of souls. See the prayer call details below.

In Christ love,

Nadia Dybvik and Merlaine Smokes, Prayer Call Moderators for Persecuted Watch

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

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 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 served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own. With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

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. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!

Severe Attack in Northern India Devastates Families, Church

India (Morning Star News) – Before Pastor Jai Singh appeared before a judge in northern India and was jailed on false charges of luring people to convert, Hindu extremists had dragged him from house worship to a school where groups of six beat him in turns, he said.

“From the school, they took me to a Hindu temple and forced me to sit before the idols,” Singh said. “They told me that they ‘are policemen, we can make you admit whatever we want.’ They had beaten up my legs with wooden sticks and pulled my legs apart.”

He was wearing a long, white tunic called a Kameez that was soaked in blood from the beatings on Jan. 5 in Bichpari village, Sonipat District, about an hour north of Delhi.

“They forcefully undressed me and threw my Kameez away,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “It was evening by the time they dropped me at Gohana police station. I was severely bruised and was howling in pain.”

The radical Hindus had assaulted him and other house-church worshippers after an attempt to attack their mother church in nearby Siwanka over Christmas was thwarted, sources said. The pastor, who struggles to provide for his family as a day-laborer, is still unable to walk due to the severity of the beatings, they said.

Police took Pastor Singh to a hospital, where he received an injection, then returned him to the police station. Soon Inspector Shri Bhagwan registered a First Information Report (FIR) against him, pastor Ram Kishan of Siwanka and three other unnamed persons based on a complaint by a Bichpari resident identified only as Ramesh, the pastor said.

The FIR falsely accused them, Naresh Singh and several other Christians of offering money to Hindus to lure them to convert to Christianity, he said. The next day, Jan. 6, he was presented before a judge and sent to judicial custody.

“Unknown persons in plainclothes were driving me to the court and then to the jail,” Pastor Singh told Morning Star News. “At first I suspected that they must not be a police officer as the persons were not in uniform. The journey from court to jail was torturous, as this person in plainclothes abused in vulgar Haryanvi language. He abused my family members, including my wife and children. I kept quiet and said in my heart, ‘Oh Lord, if it is in Your will, then let it be, but give me strength to endure this. I am weak. I need you.’”

An attorney with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India filed a petition for bail, and he was released on Jan. 7, he said.

“Even inside the jail, I was very afraid that I might have seizures – I was under medication, and the jail authorities did not allow me to take my medicines,” Pastor Singh said. “Now I’m in a very bad state. I can’t sit or stand or lie down straight on my back for five minutes. The marks of beatings are still all over my body. My legs feel very heavy and stiff, so that I can’t even stand on my feet.”

After he was treated at a hospital in Sonipat District, an undisclosed Christian organization has enabled him to receive treatment from a hospital in Delhi, he said.

Vinod Kumar, son of accused Pastor Ram Kishan of the mother church in Siwanka, said the same radical Hindu assailants had shown up at that congregation’s Christmas celebrations. Church members did not let them enter the premises.

“We kept watch that day and stopped them from causing any disturbance,” Kumar said. “They could not do anything and waited outside for a while for a chance to attack but, vexed at us restraining them, they left without causing any harm.”

On the first Sunday of 2020, the assailants then showed up at the Bichpari village house church and attacked Pastor Singh, home-owner Naresh Singh and his relatives.

“Their minor children also suffered injuries,” Kumar said. “Pastor Jai Singh is a native of Siwanka. He is not able to sit or stand or walk as of now. It seems there are internal injuries that would take time to heal. There was a crack in Pastor Singh’s right leg, and by God’s grace it is healing.”

Pastor Singh said a mob of 250 to 300 people initially surrounded the house during the Jan. 5 worship. Naresh Singh went out to find out what they wanted, and those inside suddenly heard the mob attacking him.

Before they could go outside to help him, about 30 assailants burst into the home and began shouting at them in foul language, Pastor Singh said. Naresh Singh’s female relatives tried to stop the radical Hindus from attacking Pastor Singh and were shoved away, injuring the women and children, the pastor said.

“Minor children of Naresh Singh and his brother also got injured,” Pastor Singh said. “Then they held me by my collar and dragged me outside the home.”

Accusing him and Naresh Singh of being responsible for the growing number of people converting to Christianity, the approximately 30 assailants beat them while the rest of the radical Hindus looked on, he said.

“They pushed me to the floor, and I could not understand who was kicking me, who was slapping or beating on my back,” Pastor Singh said. “As a huge crowd surrounded me, I could only see their hands and shoes kicking me. They picked me up from the floor and took me inside Singh’s home and told me that I should go with them, if not they would kill me there on the spot.”

Pushing him into a vehicle, the assailants ranted at him in foul language, he said.

“They uttered disgustful, caste slurs against my faith and community that I cannot repeat with my mouth,” Pastor Singh said.

At the school they beat him on his forehead close to his eyes, he said.

“My eyes got swollen. There was severe bleeding from my forehead,” he said. “The remaining members who were following us by motorbikes and other vehicles also reached the school, and they took turns to beat me. A batch of six assailants would beat me up at once, after that they would sit back and relax while the next batch of five to six continued the beating. I was howling in severe pain, and I do not remember for how long that continued.”

They tried without success to force him to falsely admit to luring Hindus to convert with money, he said.

Denying that he would ever offer people money to convert, the father of four began to weep as he said, “I am just a daily laborer – my children and family are leading a very difficult life. I do not have enough means to bring up my children, I can’t even provide them a nutritious meal.”

Afraid to Worship

Kumar, the pastor’s son in Siwanka, said Hindu extremism has increased in the area as the number of people putting their faith in Christ has grown.

“The Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] government is in power in the center as well as the state, and they have been elected twice consecutively,” he said. “They strongly believe that the rise in Christianity was possible ‘by giving money to convert,’ which is not the reality actually, but at the ground level people have been made to believe this narrative.”

A source said on condition of anonymity that high-caste Brahmins are the main opponents of Christianity in Haryana state, but they remain veiled by utilizing the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), Bajrang Dal and allies to do their bidding.

The assailants of the house church in Bichpari were members of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), area Christians said.

“Earlier there was good strength of believers in Bichpari, but now they are very scared and backslidden due to the rising opposition,” Pastor Singh said.

Now only three families attend worship services, he said.

“I was doing the Lord’s work and also was working very hard to earn some money to feed my children,” he said, tears welling up in his eyes. “Now I have been made as fit for nothing.”

Ostracized

The Jan. 5 attack resulted in the closing of Naresh Singh’s shop at the market center in Bichpari.

“After the Jan. 5 attack on our home church, the owner of the shop called and told me to vacate the premises immediately,” Singh said. “It has been two weeks, and we don’t have any earnings since then.”

He had been earning 200 to 300 rupees (US$3-4) per day selling boiled eggs, he said.

“It was the only source of livelihood for my family,” Singh said. “In the shops, the villagers refuse to sell us daily necessities. We have been socially ostracized. Even the neighbors and friends in the village, who had long been our regular visitors, do not even look at us now. We were beaten up, but police registered cases against our people.”

Singh filed a complaint at Gohana Sadar police station, and officers registered an FIR against alleged assailants identified as Pappu Sarpanch, Sonu, Ravi, Sunil, Jagbir and Sarpanch of Jagsi village, and about 200 other unnamed persons, he said, adding that no action has been taken against them.

The FIR accuses them of disturbing religious assembly, voluntarily causing hurt, abduction and criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code, “but they are all roaming free,” Singh said. “Only Pastor Jai Singh spent three days in custody after getting beaten up brutally.”

India is ranked 10th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. The country was 31st in 2013, but its position grew worse each year after Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Kidnapped Christian Student Executed by Islamic Extremists in Northeast Nigeria

Young child extremist executes kidnapped Christian student.

Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Islamic State-affiliated terrorists have executed a Christian university student kidnapped earlier this month in northeast Nigeria, sources said.

In a video that Site Intelligence Group reported was released on the Islamic State’s Amaq news website, a boy of indeterminate age with a pistol shoots and kills Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a member of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) who was kidnapped on Jan. 9 on the Damaturu-Maiduguri Highway while returning to studies in Maiduguri, Borno state.

The armed, masked boy in the video, a member of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) according to Site, says in the Hausa language that the Christian from Plateau state will be killed in retaliation for “atrocities against us,” possibly referring to Muslim-Christian violence in the 2001 Jos riots.

“This is one of the Christians from Plateau state,” the boy says. “We want to tell all Christians that we have not forgotten what you did to our parents and grandparents. Christians all over the world must know that we will never forget their atrocities against us, until we avenge the bloodshed visited on us.”

The video then shows the boy shooting Dalep in the head from behind, and then in the back, killing him.

After Dalep was kidnapped, his family had received no information about his whereabouts. It is unclear when the execution took place, but Site reported that it took place at an unidentified outdoor area in Borno state.

From Jing village in Plateau state’s Pankshin County, according to a Jos resident originally from the area, Dalep was identified by members of his ethnic Mupun people as the one killed in the video. He was a second-year biology education student at the University of Maiduguri.

ISWAP in 2016 broke off from the rebel terrorist group Boko Haram, which originated in Maiduguri.

The Mupun Cultural and Development Association (MUCDA) on Wednesday (Jan. 22) confirmed the execution of Dalep in a press statement issued in Jos, with MUCDA spokesperson Kenzy Ngupar blaming Boko Haram. Many people in Nigeria make no distinction between ISWAP and Boko Haram.

“We have information that he was abducted on his way to school in Maiduguri, which led to the unfortunate video going ‘round of his killing,” Ngupar said. “At this point we condemn in its entirety the senseless abduction and killing of Nigerians in any part of the country and call on the government to step up practical efforts to address this growing menace in our country. MUCDA and indeed the entire Mupun nation is pained by this.”

Fabong Jemchang Yildam, chairman of the Plateau Youth Council (PYC), condemned the killing and declared three days of mourning and prayers among Christians.

“We are indeed pained that our young people have become targets for terrorists despite our peaceful and receptive nature,” Yildam said in a press statement on Wednesday (Jan. 22). “This gruesome murder of an innocent Plateau son is totally unacceptable and unjustifiable. It is an outrage to freedom of religion movement and respect for human lives.”

Saying the PYC strongly believes that humans are born free and equal and should achieve their full potential in a safe and loving society irrespective of background and belief, Yildam said the execution of Dalep was a serious setback in the quest for religious freedom.

“We demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice and receive punishment commensurate with the crime they have committed,” Yildam said. “Government must intensify the war against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in Nigeria and must ensure the safety of Nigerians anywhere in the country.”

Yildam called on Plateau youths to wear black armbands or black clothes in mourning through Friday (Jan. 24).

“We remain law-abiding even in this period of darkness and mourning,” the PYC spokesperson said. “We also commiserate with the immediate family of the martyr and others whose lives were untimely snuffed out. For the victory of evil over good can only be temporary.”

The Rev. Dennis Bagauri, Lutheran pastor killed in Adamawa state on Jan. 20, 2020. (File photo)

Lutheran Pastor Killed

In Adamawa state in northeast Nigeria, Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN) officials confirmed the killing of the Rev. Dennis Bagauri at his church site home in the Nassarawa Jereng area, Mayo Belwa County, on Monday (Jan. 20).

He was shot to death the same day the district chairman of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria, the Rev. Lawan Andimi, was beheaded by Boko Haram in the Michika area of Adamawa state.

The Rev. Musa Filibus, archbishop of LCCN, issued a press statement on Tuesday (Jan. 21) from the church’s headquarters in Numan town, Adamawa state, saying gunmen believed to be from Boko Haram killed Pastor Bagauri.

“The church leadership condemns in the strongest term the killing of the man of God, who has been in the vineyard of service to God,” Filibus said. “Please pray for the security agents to fish out the killers of our pastor.”

Yola resident Rebecca Musa told Morning Star News in a text message that “the men armed with guns broke into the LCCN where the pastor lives and shot him dead at night when all persons in the area had gone to sleep.”

Besides leading a congregation, Pastor Bagauri also served as an adviser on religious matters to the Adamawa government. The state police commissioner said investigations are underway.

Adamawa Gov. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri on Tuesday (Jan. 21) sent his condolences to the church and the family of the slain pastor, whom he described as “a God-fearing man, easy-going, and with great humility.”

Nigeria ranked 12th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution but second in the number of Christians killed for their faith, behind Pakistan.

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