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Nigerian Diocese Spokesman Confirms Bridal Party Murdered by Islamic Militants

One day after 11 Christians in Nigeria were killed by militants on Christmas (see below), all members of a bridal party, including the bride, were killed as they headed to the wedding, according to CBN.

The communications director of a Catholic Diocese in Nigeria has confirmed that Martha Bulus, a bride-to-be, and all of the members of her bridal party were murdered by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on Dec. 26.

Father Francis Arinse told the Catholic News Service the group was on the way to the Bulus wedding which was scheduled for Dec. 31, when they were captured and killed by Islamic militants.

“They were beheaded by suspected Boko Haram insurgents at Gwoza on their way to her country home,” Arinse told CNS. He added that Bulus used to be his parishioner at St. Augustine Catholic Church, Maiduguri, after he was first ordained.

11 Nigerian Christians on Christmas Day in Gruesome Video

Terrorists linked to the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) released a video showing the execution of 11 Christian prisoners in Nigeria.

The Associated Press reports that the video was released on Dec. 26 and the killings possibly occurred on Christmas Day.

The captives identities were not mentioned, but an earlier video revealed they had been taken from the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe, The Independent reports.

A claim was made on the video the it was a message for all Christians.

 

 

Police in Uttar Pradesh, India, Most Harsh on Christians, Sources Say

 

Pastor taken into custody from house church in Lakhimpur Kheri District-YouTube Morning Star News

India (Morning Star News) – Police in northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state work in tandem with Hindu extremists to treat Christians and other religious minorities especially harshly, sources said.

“The UP police force is very different from the rest of India,” Dinanath Jaiswar, a volunteer with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom-India, told Morning Star News. “They are very brash in their dealings with Muslim and Christian minorities, and there have been several cases of violence in police custody, but by God’s grace we have tried our best to reach them on time, and even while in the clutches of the enemy, God protects His people.”

From April 2017 to February 2018, India’s National Human Rights Commission registered 365 cases of judicial and custodial deaths in Uttar Pradesh, according to The Indian Express; the next highest amount was 127 cases in West Bengal state.

“It does not take long for a police officer here to lose his temper and thrash a person in custody,” Jaiswar said.

Most cases reported against police stations in several Uttar Pradesh districts fell under the categories of torture, infliction of injury and grievous hurt, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“It has become a trend that a batch of Hindu extremists barge inside Christian homes and accuse them of proselytizing Hindus to Christianity,” Jaiswar said. “When Christians deny the accusations and restrain them from disrupting the prayers, they use the police force to take Christians into custody.”

ADF-India personnel in Uttar Pradesh are often called to rush to police stations to try to intervene before any charges are filed, ensure that Christians are safe and work to release them as soon as possible, he added.

“UP’s legal aid team works like a Rapid Action Force,” Jaiswar said. “We aim at immediate release of pastors in custody. If police extend the custody over the night, the next morning they would file the FIR [First Information Report], and the victims will be presented before the judicial magistrate and will be sent to judicial custody.”

Obtaining bail is a lengthier process, but ADF’s Uttar Pradesh Legal Aid Cell strives to arrange for immediate release on personal bonds, he said.

Pastor Surendra Vanwasi of Jeevan Marg Trust was leading Sunday worship at a home church in Karubir village, Mau District on Nov. 17 when police arrived and took him into custody. The station house officer at Chirraiyakot Police Station “was rash and adamant,” Jaiswar said.

“Tens of requests were put before the higher ranked police officials, and only then the SHO agreed to release Pastor Vanwasi,” he said. “In the guise of enquiry police had detained him, but thankfully no charges were filed.”

Similar case of detention was reported in Mirzapur District on the same day. A church leader identified only as Pastor Khaiya from Mizoram state was invited to Uttar Pradesh to deliver a message to a congregation in Mirzapur. By noon, a mob of upper-caste Hindus and Hindu extremists had surrounded the venue, Jaiswar said.

“They slapped Pastor Khaiya and handed him to police,” he said. “When we reached Jamalpur police station, the local believers informed us that Pastor Khaiya was taken to police station like a criminal. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel]-belt area, and the police station in Jamalpur is specially equipped to torture Naxal suspects. The police had locked up Khaiya in an underground cell.”

The ADF team used social media and called higher officials in the district in attempts to win immediate release, he said.

“The situation turned tense as the upper-caste leaders and Hindu extremists insisted the police officers level serious allegations of forced religious conversions under stringent sections of the Indian Penal Code,” Jaiswar said. “By later that evening, the SHO had finally agreed to release Pastor Khaiya on personal bail. We were forced to give it in writing that he would not be involved in any conversion activity in future.”

Youth Pastors Jailed

Youth pastors Om Prakash, 23, and Ajay Kumar, 20, were leading a worship service at the home of Kapildev Ram in Daraura village on Nov. 25 when the village president intruded into the house and ordered the Christians to stop, sources said.

“Ram’s sons did not allow the village president and his aides to attack the youth pastors,” the youth workers’ trainer, identified only as Pastor Ramjit, told Morning Star News. “They stood as defense and did not let the person touch the pastors. This made him angry, and he went and brought the police force with him and got the pastors and also Ram arrested.”

The youth ministry sends workers to 30 village house churches in four districts in Uttar Pradesh on weekdays. Leaders had sent Prakash and Kumar to Daraura village on Nov. 25, and the next day Ranipur police registered an FIR against them and Ram alleging promotion of enmity between religious groups, deliberately hurting religious sentiments, inducement by rendering an object of divine displeasure and other charges.

Lower court and District Sessions judges rejected their bail pleas. ADF-India’s attorneys have filed a bail petition in the High Court at Allahabad.

Ranipur Station House Officer Ashok Kumar Yadav noted in the Hindi-language case diary that neighbors were disturbed when the mob formed at Ram’s home.

“Our police team had reached it on time and urged them to disperse immediately,” Yadav wrote. “As our attempts to restore peace in the area had failed, we had to arrest the pastors to bring the situation under control.”

Pastor Ramjit said the youth pastors are facing mistreatment from heavy brutes in the district prison.

“When I visited them last week, they told me that under-trial prisoners in murder cases had put up fight and abused our boys in filthy language,” Pastor Ramji told Morning Star News. “They seem very frightened. Both their marriages have been set for summer, and their fiancées and families have been waiting for their release.”

‘You May Arrest Me’

When a mob of no fewer than 60 Hindu nationalists armed with hockey sticks stormed into a Christian’s home in Ghaziabad city, which straddles both Uttar Pradesh state and Delhi National Capital Region, and beat the homeowner and the pastor leading a Bible study, officers from Loni police station took both Christians into custody.

The assailants also vandalized the homeowner’s furniture, said Sanjay Mcgee of Indian Christian Assembly (Bharatiya Masih Mahasabha).

As it was late at night, Christians feared police would hold pastor Jagdish Marotiya and the homeowner overnight and charge them in the morning, Mcgee said. A Christian leader from the Delhi National Capital Region, Minakshi Singh, rushed to the police station and was there until midnight trying to persuade officers not to be misled by Hindu extremists.

“We had enough evidence of videos and photographs of the destruction the armed men had caused, and I was trying to reason with the officials as to why had not they taken any action against the assailants, and why the victims had been detained,” Singh told Morning Star News. “The argument went on for a very long time, and finally at midnight the police agreed release the Christians.”

In the area, called Bharat Nagar Society, about 25 Christian families refrained from putting stars outside their homes during Christmas season, terrified that they would be identified as Christians and targeted by Hindu fanatics, Mcgee said.

“When I visited the area on Dec. 3 after the attack on the home, there were security guards everywhere, and they stopped us from entering the colony,” he said. “I asked the guards where were they when a resident’s house was vandalized two days before, but they denied the attack. An elderly female member of the home church there told us that police had threatened [the homeowner’s] family not to pursue a case against the assailants.”

Good Shepherd Church in the Trilokpuri area came under attack a week before. On the second day of a three-day convention the church had organized, Nov. 23, more than 100 members of the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh surrounded the site chanting, “Go back! Go back!” Singh told Morning Star News.

Higher police officials from the Mayur Vihar station reached the venue and ordered that the gathering must cease in order to restore peace, she said.

“As soon as I received this information, I rushed to Trilokpuri and met the assistant commissioner of police and told him that it is our constitutional right to pray to our God,” she told Morning Star News. “But the police official told me that it is not possible to let you continue Christian prayers, saying, ‘Who will take responsibility if the situation turns hostile?’ I told him that I will take the responsibility, ‘You may arrest me, but the convention should go on.”’

After long discussions on Nov. 23 and Nov. 24, police allowed them to continue as long as they refrained from using the sound system, Singh said. More than 200 policemen were deployed, and barricades were installed on four sides of the church building, she said.

“A mob of at least 200 Hindu extremists showed up outside the church premises and were shouting to the top of their lungs, ‘Har Har Mahadev [Shiva is everywhere],” she said. “We told the police that our people would remain calm, and there will not be any problem from our side, and you please control the mob outside the premises.

“By God’s grace, the final day of the convention was a success. The police also had the chance to hear the gospel and joyfully joined us for the meal after the prayer service.”

pastor prays with ADF-India team after his release from jail in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, India in November 2019. (Morning Star News)

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

U.S. calls on China to release jailed Early Rain church founder Wang Yi

 

Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church—Facebook

The South China Morning Post reported that the U.S. State department was alarmed at the pastor’s secret trial which ended with a 9-year sentence for inciting subversion.

‘Another example of Beijing’s intensification of repression of Chinese Christians and members of other religious groups.’

The United States called for the immediate release of Pastor Wang Yi, whom the article describes as from one of China’s best-known unregistered churches.

Yi is the lead pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church with 500 members. However, the report claims the church attracts more than 800 people each week at more than a dozen meeting points around Chengdu. Read full report

Chinese Church Issues Statement Following Prison Sentence of Pastor Wang Yi

Early Rain Covenant Church Photo: Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Rain Covenant Church
December 30, 2019

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

Original:
秋雨圣约教会关于王怡牧师被判重刑的声明

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

秋雨圣约归正长老教会
2019年12月30日

Early Rain Covenant Church-Facebook

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

Pastor Wang Yi and his wife, Jiang Rong

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

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

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

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

From Pastor Wang Yi:

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

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

[…]

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

[…]

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

– 王怡牧师 《我的声明:信仰上的抗命》

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Indian Christians Facing Increased Persecution as Christmas Nears

 

Church building demolished on Jan. 9, 2019 in Narnepadu village, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh state, India. (Morning Star News)

(Voice of the Persecuted) Christians in India are suffering increased persecution with a recent surge of violence, intimidation or harassment against them. With the uptick of reports and investigations of Christians being persecuted, sadly most cases go unreported as victims and witnesses are terrified of repercussions. Authorities often ignore or refuse to record incidents or perpetrators of these crimes will file false claims against the Christian victims who then end up being arrested.

As Voice of the Persecuted had feared in 2014, Christian persecution has spiked under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is a former militant with the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS), one of India’s most active and violent radical Hindu organizations. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is known for its open support to groups such as the RSS, as well as for backing a state that is 100 percent Hindu. Modi, as a BJP member, was the party’s choice as candidate for the post of prime minister. Modi has won two consecutive terms with a full majority since 2014. This has encouraged radical persecution against religious minorities in the country.

Indian Christians are frequently and falsely accused of bribing or forcing people to become Christians. Mobs attack, burn down churches and destroy properties, beat and sometimes kill Christians for their faith. In only a single week in December, International Christian Concern documented over half a dozen instances of religious persecution against Christians. The group said as many of the world’s Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, Indian Christians are struggling with a growing sense of fear.

The report shared that 10 Christians were arrested on false charges, 25 Christian families were cut off from clean drinking water, and several churches, including one church with nearly 600 members, was shut down. The increasing intolerance is impacting their ability to freely celebrate Christmas, ICC shared. Some churches have felt forced to cancel Christmas programs out of fear they will invite attacks.

In of one of the recent incidents, a mob of extremist Hindu nationalists attacked and savagely beat members of Rev. Bhovi’s church community as they cleared land to build a church. Following the attack, extremists cut the water supply for 25 Christian families and threatened to drive them out of the village unless they renounced their faith in Christ.

“We were small in number at the police station compared to mob of Hindu radicals,” the pastor said. “All of the 25 Christian families were present at the police station to lodge a complaint; however, the police told us that Christians cannot hold any meetings in the village and that pastors from outside the village cannot visit the Christian families, even during this festive season.”

“We have cancelled all our Christmas events in Banni Mardatti village, including carols, cottage meetings, and pre-Christmas events,” said Pastor Raja Bhovi of His Grace Church in India’s Karnataka State. Pastor Bhovi said he planned to take the 25 Christian families of his flock to Arsikare, a town that is 30 kilometers away from their home in Banni Mardatti village, to celebrate Christmas. “Our hope is that we will have a peaceful Christmas celebration, even though it is away from our homes,” Bhovi said.

Extremists closed a church in Uttar Pradesh after filing a false criminal complaint against the church’s pastor, Rev. Ramjit, accusing him of being involved in forced religious conversions. Police told Ramjit that he was no longer permitted to hold Sunday worship services at his church. “We are very uncertain about this year’s Christmas,” Pastor Ramjit said. “Unlike previous years, we have been told to shut down our church since December 8. It is a very painful situation for us now. We are all hoping that things will change.” Pastor Ramjit has appealed the decision and is trying to get permission to hold a Christmas service.

“If we fail to get permission, we will have to organize several smaller gatherings in homes on Christmas day. We are going to have a service one way or another,” the pastor said.

Tonight, the Prayer Team will be lifting up Christians in India on the prayer conference call. If the Lord is breaking your heart for these dear Indian brothers and sisters, come pray with us on the call. Prayers will also be shared for those suffering in China and Burma.

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!

Crackdown on Christianity in China Ramps Up

Early Rain Covenant Church members Photo: Facebook

(Morning Star News) – As more government officials in China are empowered to close churches and a “social credit” system threatens to block Christians from schools, bank loans and jobs, authorities have taken harsh measures against more churches, sources said.

In Beijing, Early Rain Covenant Church elder Qin Defu was sentenced to four years in prison on Nov. 29, according to advocacy group China Aid Association (CAA). Qin was charged with illegal business operations as a result of the church using 20,000 Christian books, according to CAA.

Authorities had promised his family that he would be released if he accepted a state-appointed attorney, the group stated.

The charge on which Qin was sentenced could signal a stiff sentence for Pastor Wang, who has been charged with both “inciting subversion of the state” and illegal business practices after being arrested more than a year ago.

“Qin’s attorney said the church’s pastor, Wang Yi, admitted in a testimony that he was involved with these books,” CAA reported. “As such, the lawyer speculated Wang would receive no less than a 10-year sentence.”

Authorities on Dec. 9, 2018 arrested Pastor Wang and more than 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church; most of them have been released, while Pastor Wang’s wife and child remain under house arrest.

In Shanghai, authorities raided Wheat Church on Dec. 1, broke up the unregistered body’s worship service and ejected members, accusing them of conducting religious activities at an unapproved venue, according to CAA.

The 200 Christians refused to leave, remaining outside in the cold as they sang and worshipped, according to CAA.

The actions are part of progressively harsher measures against Christianity and other faiths deemed a threat to the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since Xi Jinping became president in 2013. New religion regulations introduced in 2017 greatly expand the number of government departments that can enforce restrictions on religious practice, an attorney in China told The Epoch Times.

“Under the previous law, only the Religious Affairs Bureau would enforce religious restrictions,” the unidentified attorney told the news outlet. “Under the new law, every layer of government can regulate religious affairs. The fact that there are so many more officials cracking down on unregistered churches puts tremendous pressure on the members of those churches. As part of this crackdown, Chinese Christians are facing the most persecution since the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.”

In ultra-nationalist efforts to stop ordinary citizens from engaging in religion and other activities deemed a threat to CCP control, China has installed 20 million surveillance cameras with advanced facial recognition software to collect data for the purpose of establishing a “social credit” system to monitor perceived loyalty and dissent, Elizabeth Kendal of the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin notes, citing author Willy Wo-Lap Lam in his book, “The Fight for China’s Future.”

The system is expected to be fully operational in 2020, but Kendal notes that non-compliant Christians and others, such as human rights attorneys, already find they cannot travel as negative social credit prevents them from purchasing a train ticket.

“The days are coming when whole Christian families will find themselves unable to access not merely transport, but schools, hospitals, bank loans and jobs,” she writes.

Such measures flow from the CCP in 2012 formulating five new “black categories” of groups to be quelled – human rights lawyers, underground religious practitioners, dissidents, commentators influencing opinion on the Internet and disadvantaged social groups, Kendal states. The list echoes the “five black categories” of the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, when Chairman Mao Zedong designated landlords, rich farmers/peasants, counter-revolutionaries, evil influences and rightists as enemies of the communist revolution to be neutralized – re-educated and if necessary eliminated, she notes.

‘Subversion’
With courts beholden to the Chinese government, authorities commonly charge pastors with subversion as religion is regarded as a threat to the CCP and stability, according to the attorney quoted in The Epoch Times.

“These pastors have no right to legal representation,” the attorney said. “If they have someone brave enough to be their lawyer, the pastor can be beaten up before seeing that lawyer. And their attorney can be beaten as well.”

The subversion charge against Early Rain’s Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases.

He was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor.

Under the new religion regulations, house churches have been forced to dissolve if they refuse to register, according to the attorney quoted in The Epoch Times, adding that those registering are subject to surveillance, monitoring of sermons and other heavy-handed measures.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 10, 2018 included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.

 

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!

 

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