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Christians in Northern India Forced to Stop Worship, Pastor Says

India (Morning Star News) – Harassment of Christians by hard-line Hindus in northern India ended in police coercing a pastor to agree to stop holding worship in his home after an officer threatened to make false charges against his son, he said.

The pastor said the coercion by police in Uttar Pradesh state came after his son, 19-year-old Pawan Kumar, on Aug. 25 asked intoxicated Hindus to stop yelling disparaging remarks about Christianity outside their home in Tarkulwa village, Maharajganj District.

“The officers at Shyam Deurwa police station joined hands with the assailants and forced us to sign a document vowing that we would never conduct prayers in our home, and that we would not share gospel with anyone,” the house-church leader, identified only as Pastor Sugriv, told Morning Star News. “I was forced to sign it. What kind of justice is this?”

On the night of the triggering incident, the group of Hindus were on the verge of attacking but in their drunken state ended up fighting among themselves, he said. He took his son back inside and locked the door to the Hindus’ taunts of, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” which continued into the night, Pastor Sugriv said.

The next morning he informed the Tarkulwa village president about the harassment, and the official summoned the Hindus to his office and warned them to make no further disturbances, he said. The Hindus returned that night (Aug. 26), however, again using obscenities as they disparaged Christianity, the pastor said.

“We had no other option but to inform the police,” Pastor Sugriv said. “It is not safe for us to have these drunkards come by whenever they want and start picking fights with us, shouting at the top of their lungs. We have women in our house, and it was beyond what we could tolerate.”

Two police officers came to their home on Aug. 29 and asked Pastor Sugriv’s son to show them where the accused lived, he said.

“We thought they came to take action against them for our safety and allowed our son to go with them to show their homes,” he said. “We had waited very long for our child to return, and someone passing by informed us that police had taken him into custody.”

Arriving at the Shyam Deurwa police station, he found his son and one of the Hindus, who had falsely accused Kumar of sexually harassing young women in the village. Police were planning to charge him with sexual harassment, the pastor said.

At length Pastor Sugriv pleaded for them to release him, reminded them of the complaint he had already filed and called the Uttar Pradesh team of legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India. ADF personnel brought the matter to higher police officials.

The station house officer was away on duty at a religious procession but assured Pastor Sugrive that he would release his son after returning, the pastor said. When the station house officer returned to the Shyam Deurwa police station at about 11 p.m., however, Pastor Sugriv said the chief spoke harshly to him.

“You can get lawyers and higher police officials to call me from Delhi, Bombay and from across the country – I’m not afraid of anyone,” he shouted, according to the pastor. “I will frame your son in such a case that he will be behind the bars for many, many years. Go do whatever you want. I will not let him go.”

Pastor Sugriv said he had never left Kumar alone even at his grandparents’ home, much less in a jail cell.

“It was not easy for me,” he said. “He speaks very softly and never speaks ill of anyone. When he saw the drunkards mocking and laughing, he could not take it. He went up and asked them what was wrong. That was the only offense committed by him.”

The station house officer was adamant that he would not be released, he said.

“I entrusted my son to my Lord’s hands and left the police station that midnight after the officer retired from his duties,” Pastor Sugriv said. “God gave me the strength at that moment to be prepared for the worst.”

That night after midnight, a spokesperson at the Maharajganj District Police told Morning Star News that the in-charge inspector of Shyam Deurwa police station had been directed to take necessary action, but Kumar was not released.

“It affected him psychologically, he is of tender age,” Pastor Sugriv told Morning Star News. “Even the next day [Aug. 30], the officer refused to release him, but the brothers in ADF’s Uttar Pradesh team did not give up. Finally, in the evening, he was released without any charges.”

As a condition for his son’s release, the officers forced Pastor Sugriv to sign a document vowing that they would never practice their faith in their home or talk about Christ with anyone, he said.

The pastor told Morning Star News he was shocked at the demand, saying, “Don’t we have the freedom to pray even within the four walls of our home?”

Shyam Deurwa Police Inspector Vijay Singh denied that the document Pastor Sugriv signed violated India’s religious freedoms, saying it prohibited only fraudulent conversion.

“Villagers have been opposing them since they have been propagating Christianity in the area, so I had only taken their signatures on a document vowing that they will not forcefully convert or allure anyone to convert,” Singh told Morning Star News.

Singh also denied that police took Kumar into custody that night or the next day or threatened to file false charges against him.

The spread of the novel coronavirus among inmates makes incarceration especially dangerous. ADF India’s representative in Uttar Pradesh told Morning Star News that in this case and another in Azamgarh District, “we had to ensure that the victims do not get framed in false allegations, since arrest or detention during this time can be risky for their health as well.”

“But often the officers are adamant and refuse to take action against the assailants,” he said. “There have also been cases where the victims had to pay penalties of 1,000 rupees [US$13.50], as there is a threat that the police could falsely book them for violating the lockdown instead of taking action against the assailants.”

Beatings amid COVID-19

In the case in Azamgarh District, Hindu extremist beatings in Dasmada village in early July that sent a Christian for hospital treatment have caused a house church to stop meeting for worship.

“We are all scattered now and only praying that Lord will allow us to resume the services in Dasmada,” 20-year-old pastor Vikas Gupta told Morning Star News.

He was leading a small group of Christians in worship in compliance with measures to control the spread of the coronavirus on July 1 when a mob of around 15 upper-caste Hindu villagers surrounded the place chanting slogans and threatening to kill the Christians, he said.

“They warned that if I am seen again in the village, they would hack me to death,” Pastor Gupta told Morning Star News. “We had tried to speak peacefully with them, but they were on fire.”

As they had issued threats since the founding of a house church there three years before, the pastor was used to such opposition, he said.

“But to our shock, they returned at around 5 p.m., around 30 this time, and started beating me and three other brothers present in the premises of the home church,” he said. “One of us was severely injured and had to be immediately rushed to the hospital.”

The mob also damaged parked vehicles, the church roof and other property, he said.

On July 6 they returned, saying their relatives had become Christians and were refusing to eat food offered to Hindu gods and goddesses, Pastor Gupta said.

“They accused us, saying we had been training the people who come to church to go against their Hindu relatives, and that because we had been propagating a foreign faith in the village we don’t deserve to live,” he told Morning Star News. “They kept punching us on the back and striking our heads as they took us to a local Hindu temple and forced us to vow that we will not preach about a foreign God.”

The Christians told them repeatedly that they had not trained anyone to oppose them but only gathered at the home to worship and pray, but they ignored them, he said.

With the help of ADF India, on July 7 they filed a police report about the attacks, he said.

Pastor Gupta took refuge at a Christian’s home in a nearby village, and the rest of the members and pastors of the church fled to another community – only to be attacked there at 10 p.m. by about 100 radical Hindus, he said.

“They fled from there to save themselves,” Pastor Gupta said, adding that for the past two months, house-church leaders have sought refuge in neighboring towns.

ADF India’s representative in Uttar Pradesh stated that they have guided persecuted Christians on how to file complaints online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The harassment of Christians continues even through the lockdown,” he said.

India is ranked 10th on the 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 has been worse each year since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Tonight on Persecution Watch Call: Praying for Christians in Maldives

9/3/2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) Maldives — Population: 450 ,000, Christian thousands

Radical Muslims control society. The Maldives is a nation of islands in the Indian Ocean, that spans across the equator. The country is comprised of 1192 islands that stretch along a length of 871 miles. The Maldives, especially its main island, Malé, is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. The close-knit, homogeneous communities are naturally alert to any deviation, including religious choice. All politicians tirelessly announce that they are keeping the Maldives 100 percent Muslim, leaving effectively, no space for any other expression of religious faith.

The Maldives are a paradise on earth for tourists, you would think about the Christians community hardly persecuted in the islands:  Maldivian Christians must keep their faith completely secret and being found to own a Bible could result in a prison sentence. That’s why many Maldivian Christians have been forced to move abroad to escape persecution. Those Christians who live outside the capital sometimes meet in secret for worship, but these meetings are subject to police raids. Even tourists have reported getting into trouble for having a personal copy of the Bible since importing Christian literature into the country is strictly prohibited.

The main source of persecution is the Islamic extremism since the government sees itself as the protector of Islam, and the judicial system increasingly reflects Sharia (Islamic law); the death penalty has been introduced as punishment for murder, even for children, and a law banning marital rape was vetoed by the president as ‘un-Islamic‘. Citizens of the Maldives who convert to Christianity lose their citizenship and risk torture.

It is illegal to import Bibles, but some Maldivians access the Scriptures through Bible apps or the internet. VOM says translation of the Bible into Dhivehi, the main language of the Maldives, is ongoing, but the work has been difficult and slow because of the small number of Christian converts.  They use creative, secretive methods to share the gospel inside the Maldives. They also support outreach to Maldivians in India and are assisting in the recording of God’s Word in the national language

The Maldives’ constitution requires all citizens to be Muslim. Conversion from Islam means that someone can be stripped of their citizenship and punished under Shariah law. Even foreign workers who are Christians are closely watched, which makes church life extremely difficult and practically non-existent. Churches are outlawed, and openly carrying the Bible is illegal Maldivian Christians must keep their faith completely secret. There have been cases where spouses have only discovered after years that both of them were active Christians, as they had hidden their faith from one another. If they are discovered, they will lose their citizenship. Even owning a Bible can result in imprisonment. In practice, no church meetings are possible. Most Christians in the Maldives are expatriates, and most prefer not to organize meetings out of fear of repercussions. Sharing the gospel with Muslims is illegal and can result in deportation.

Since Christianity is forbidden in the country, baptisms of converts cannot take place and would have to be done outside of the Maldives—and even then in secret, so the conversion is not made known. Children of converts are shunned and harassed at school, if the conversion is discovered. They may also be forced to leave school and may have no other option but to attend a school abroad, if they want to continue their studies (and their parents can afford it). This is an option many expatriate Christians choose for their children, just to avoid the everyday pressure on Christians.

At work, coworkers apply constant pressure on expatriate Christians to persuade them to convert to Islam. They try to prove to Christian migrant workers that Jesus is not the Savior and even use money or promises of promotion at times. Converts try to blend in with the majority of people around them in their efforts to hide their faith.

  • Pray the hearts of those in power will be softened toward Christians.

 

  • Pray for protection of believers because the government is currently engaged in a political struggle with opposition forces, any perceived threat such like Christianity is quickly and harshly eradicated.

 

  • Pray the hopes for human rights are realized. Former President Mohamed Nasheed was elected as speaker of the parliament in May 2019. This formalizes his reappearance on the political stage in the Maldives and increases hopes for change, including in the area of human rights, including religious freedom. However, these are hopes for the long-term, not the short-term.

 

  • Pray that God would help secret believers to find fellowship.

 

  • The language of the Maldives is Dhivehi: the complete Bible in this language is not yet available. Pray believers will have access to the Bible in their language.

 

  • Pray for more translators so that a Bible in the Dhivehi language will be available soon

 

  • Pray for got to soften the hearts of radical Muslims, that the Lord will appear to them in their dreams.

 

  • Pray for protection of NGO’s who covert support to believers

 

  • Pray that the strong Christian messages on the internet that will encourage believers and let Muslims see and understand the Good News.

 

  • Pray that believers would have courage and endurance in the face of persecution.

 

  • Pray to the Lord to that He will protect and encourage the saints and make their gatherings invisible to the authorities

You are invited to join us on Thursday, September the 3rd in a prayer call for the persecuted church.

Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Moderator

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM Eastern

8:00 PM Central

7:00 PM Mountain

6:00 PM Pacific

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!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

Turkey Deporting Foreign Christians or Banning Their Return, Sources Say

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – Dozens of foreign Christians in Turkey have been forced to leave the country or been banned from returning in what appears to be government targeting of the Protestant Christian community, rights advocates say.

Many, like Carlos Madrigal of Spain, have been serving in leadership roles in Protestant churches in the country for years. Such foreigners have lived in the country for decades, forming families and buying property, according to a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC).

Madrigal has lived in the country for more than 19 years on a clergy visa as the spiritual leader of the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation (IPCF), according to a press statement from the group. At the airport in November 2019, he was issued a stamp in his passport that he realized would keep him from returning to Turkey if he left the country, so he decided to cancel his trip and appeal the decision, according to published reports.

Madrigal appeared on Turkish television in June to point out that he could see no clear reason why he was banned from the country, the MEC researcher said.

Noting that the ban against Madrigal was issued in November 2019, the IPCF stated, “It is with great sadness that we must inform you that since 2019, it has been made increasingly difficult for foreign Protestant clergy serving in Turkey to be resident in our country.”

Denied

Turkey’s Ministry of Interior notified another foreign Christian, Joy Anna Subasigüller, a U.S.-born mother of three married to a Turkish pastor, on June 5 that her family visa was denied, according to German media outlet Deutsch Welle (DW).

Subasigüller, who has lived in Turkey 10 years, is a stay-at-home mom of three children ages 2, 4, and 4 months. Her children, like their father pastor Lütfü Subasigüller, are Turkish citizens, and she suspects the decision to deport her is related to his Christian work, according to DW.

Pastor Subasigüller was stunned that Turkish authorities would require them to abandon their home and relatives in Turkey, he told DW. The couple plans to contest the decision in court.

Another case involves a U.S. pastor in Istanbul who was about to fly out of the country from Istanbul with his family on June 24. He learned he would not be allowed to return to Turkey, canceled his flight and filed an appeal, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Another foreign resident of Turkey, Hans-Jurgen Louven of Germany, had invested more than 20 years in culture and faith tourism in the country with encouragement and assurances from local officials. In August 2019 an application to renew his residency visa was denied, and he was ordered to leave the country in 10 days, according to Christian support group Open Doors’ World Watch Monitor.

De Facto Ban

It is estimated that about 35 Christian workers received similar bans in 2019 and 16 more since the end of June, according to a Middle East and North Africa researcher for CSW.

The bans could go undetected by the unsuspecting. As Christian foreigners leave the country at airports, officials stamp an “N-28 Code” in their passports, according to the IPCF. Officially the code indicates that they need to obtain special approval to re-enter the country via their country’s embassy, but those who have tried to obtain it have been refused, making the code essentially a de facto ban, said the MEC researcher.

The N-28 Code can also be used to deny visa renewals, according to the IPCF.

Those fighting the ban find that administrative courts are not giving lawyers access to reports from Turkish intelligence, according to the MEC researcher. Advocates hope that they will be more successful by appealing to the constitutional court and, if not, then at the European Court of Human Rights, he said.

Effect on Churches

The targeting of foreign Christians puts pressure on Turkey’s small and vulnerable Protestant community, which relies on foreigners for formal religious training and sometimes for funding, advocates say.

“This will deprive them of support and make them feel isolated and abandoned,” said the CSW researcher.

There are about 10,000 Turkish Protestants who attend about 170 churches, many of them house churches, in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of more than 84.3 million people, said the MEC researcher.

While officially Turkey allows freedom of religion, including conversion from Islam, advocates say that pressure began building against foreign Christians in the country when U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned on spurious terrorism charges from 2016 to 2018.

Some Christians believe that a blacklist may have begun while authorities were trying to gather evidence against Pastor Brunson, the MEC researcher said. Some have noticed that many of those banned had attended one of three Christian conferences, he added.

“It’s notable that none of these people have been charged with any breaking of the law,” he said.

Foreign and local Christians love Turkey, he added, saying that some will have to count the costs of staying in light of recent developments.

“You actually find that Turkish Christians, they love their country,” he said. “These people who are receiving the bans – I know many of them personally love Turkey and have given such a lot to Turkey.”

Turkey ranked 36th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Young Mother Is Fifth Christian Killed in India in Two Months

Jharkhand state, India. (Filpro)

(Morning Star News) – A 26-year-old mother became the fifth Christian in two months to be killed in India last week when she refused to hand over her daughter to be raped by Hindus who had assaulted the girl and other Christian minors, sources said.

Two masked Hindus slit the throat of Sunita Devi (name changed for security reasons) in Regadi village, in Jharkhand state’s Khunti District, when she came out her door at 1 a.m. and refused their demand for her young daughter, according to the sources.

“The two suspects had raped Devi’s minor daughter three times in the past besides three other Christian juvenile girls, and all four of the minor girls belong to my church,” pastor Jaymasih Nag of Grace Family Ministry (Anugrah Pariwaar Seva) told Morning Star News.

Devi’s daughter told police the assailants had previously called Devi by phone with demands that she hand over her daughter to be sexually abused, according to a police report. That night her mother had refused to answer her cell phone when the assailants called, according to the daughter.

At about 1 a.m. Devi noticed two men at the window of the room where she had been sleeping with her children and decided to get up and send them away, Pastor Nag said, based on what the minor girl had told him.

“Unaware of their intentions, Devi with the help of her cell phone torch, stepped out of the house to shoo the men away,” he said. “Devi’s daughter followed her mother. Before long, the men attacked Devi and she fell on the ground dead. On seeing her mother fall on the ground, the minor girl quickly ran inside the house and latched the door from inside.”

The girl thought there could be more men at a distance, but because of darkness she could see only two of them with their faces covered, he said. According to police, after the assailants killed Devi, they dragged her body into a nearby jungle, put her corpse into a sack and threw it into a river about two miles away. Police found her body at 2 p.m. and sent it for autopsy.

Pastor Nag saw her corpse and said her throat was completely slit.

As her husband works in Odisha state to provide for the family, Devi had lived alone with their two sons and two daughters. She had kept quiet about the torment her family was going through and was dealing with the rapists herself, thinking they would not go to the extent of killing her, Pastor Nag said.

Her husband and the Christian parents of another rape victim went to police only after the killing of Devi, sources said. On the basis of statements from the two girls, officers at the Khunti police station registered a First Information Report and arrested two suspects, station in-charge Jaideep Toppo said.

“At the complaint of the two minor girls, we arrested two suspects, and they have confessed to their crime of raping Devi’s daughter three times and the other girl once,” Toppo told Morning Star News.

Asked if the suspects killed Devi, Toppo said only, “The two men are arrested for rape and not killing.”

Pastor Nag pastors his church in nearby Saridkel. Devi and her family began attending his church six years ago. Hers is one of eight Christian homes in her village of 25 families.

Religious Motive

The two men arrested are Hindus who live in Saridkel village, where Pastor Nag has led regular worship services for the past 12 years, less than a mile from Regadi.

Pastor Nag said that girls from Christian homes are intentionally targeted by Hindus who influence followers of tribal Sarna religion, trying to introduce Hindu gods into their rituals and uniting with them against Christians.

“Why are all their targets Christian girls?” he said. “Though the opposition might not be visible outwardly, there is constant threat to believers in various forms.”

Other area Christian leaders also said the rapes and the killing were clear cases of persecution.

“Christians are soft targets, and the underlying factor of such incidents are always because of their faith,” a Christian leader from Ranchi, Sandeep Oraon, told Morning Star News. “This belt of Jharkhand has been witnessing rising persecution, and it is very real for the Christians who are living it every day.”

Asked if the assaults against four Christian girls and Devi pointed to a targeting of Christians, Station in-charge Toppo told Morning Star News, “You are thinking too much.”

Fear of Reporting Rape

Pastor Nag noted the likelihood that there were more than two rapists.

“We are yet not sure if the rapists are only two – there could be more than two involved in the crime,” he said. “We are not sure if the rapists have targeted just four Christian girls and not more.”

In a culture that shames rape victims and facing threats from the assailants, the victims did not quickly reveal the crimes. After Devi’s husband and the other rape victim’s family took the bold step of approaching police, two more families in his church, residents of Saridkel, informed Pastor Nag that their minor daughters also had been victims of the two men, Pastor Nag told Morning Star News.

“I am shocked that neither Devi nor the other three families ever spoke to me about the traumatic experience they and their children had been going through,” he said. “They fear the adverse consequences their families will have to face for speaking out. Devi probably was afraid to speak out, knowing well the consequences she and her daughter would have to face, and thus she did not approach the police.”

The rapes and killing have terrified Christians in the two villages and surrounding areas, he said.

Christians begin facing opposition from Hindu and Sarna tribal religion villagers from the moment they put their faith in Christ, Nag said. Opposition also drove him from Saridkel for many years, forcing him to settle in a nearby city, he said. Extremists threatened to damage his church building, he said, and only in January did he dare return to his native Saridkel.

Political Pressure

A well-placed source told Morning Star News that there is immense political pressure in this case.

“Initially the police had arrested four suspects, but they let the other two go after some financial ‘give-and-take,’” the source said.

On Saturday (July 25) the arrested men were taken to court to record their statements, and a member of the Legislative Assembly belonging to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party accompanied them in support, the source said.

Station in-charge Toppo said he was not aware of any confession to homicide.

Though the autopsy was performed the same day the body was discovered, July 20, Toppo said he was still awaiting the autopsy report.

“The weapon used for killing is not clear yet; wounds on the deceased’s neck and back were visible,” he told Morning Star News. “The rest will be clear in the report.”

Pastor Nag said he found police proceedings were “slow” and “ignoring the obvious.”

“Though it is obvious that these men brutally murdered Devi after she refused to give her daughter to them, police are still slow in taking action on the ‘killing’ front,” he told Morning Star News.

Asked about this allegation, Toppo reiterated, “Investigations are underway, and nothing can be said until the investigation is complete.”

Rapes

Devi was laid to rest on her own farmland on Tuesday (July 21). She is survived by her husband and four children, ages 2 to 13.

On June 28 she had sent her daughter to buy some vegetables at a nearby market. The girl went with a neighbor friend, and on their way the two suspects abducted them and took them to a secluded place, where they locked them in a room, sources said.

The two girls were kept in the room, which was locked from outside, with men taking turns to guard it until 9 p.m.

“These men entered the room at 9 in the night and raped both the girls,” Pastor Nag said. “This was the third time that Devi’s daughter was being raped and first time when her friend became their victim.”

The families of the girls searched for them throughout the night. The girls were released the next morning and informed their parents upon reaching their homes.

Devi’s daughter told her the rapists threatened severe harm if they told anybody about the assault, the pastor said.

“It was already traumatizing for Devi and her daughter that just like previous three times, the minor girl could be abducted from anywhere, anytime and dragged to a secluded place to be raped again and again,” Pastor Nag told Morning Star News. “It was since then that Devi started to receive constant phone calls from these men demanding for her daughter to be given to them for their sexual pleasure.”

Informed of the previous rapes, Toppo expressed surprise and told Morning Star News that the complainants had not reported the prior two rapes, and that police would investigate when they do so.

Devi’s husband has taken his four children out of the village, and they are living in an undisclosed location. He has received constant phone calls from the suspects’ friends and supporters pressuring him to withdraw the charges, Pastor Nag said.

“There are threats to his and his children’s lives,” the pastor said.

Including the death under mysterious circumstances of a Christian woman in Chhattisgarh state the last week of May, Devi’s death is the fifth religiously motivated killing of a Christian in India in two months. On July 10 in Maharashtra state, Maoists killed pastor Munshi Devu Tado in Bhatpar village, Gadchiroli District.

In Bari village, Jharkhand state, followers of tribal religion on June 7 abducted and killed Kande Munda. On the night of June 4 in Odisha state, followers of tribal religion abducted 16-year-old Sambaru Madkami for his faith before stabbing and stoning him to death.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on April 28 urged the U.S. State Department to add India as a “Country of Particular Concern” to its list of nations with poor records of protecting religious freedom.

India is ranked 10th on 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 has worsened since Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

Tonight on Persecution Watch: Report of new crackdowns on Iranian Christians

In an organized operation Iranian security police arrested 12 Christian converts in different cities across the country.

On July 8th, Mohabat News reported that Iranian security officers have begun a new wave of arrests across the country to crackdown on Iranian Christians and especially targeting Christian converts.

Reports of this new campaign state that plain-clothed security officers raided a prayer gathering in a house church in Yaftabad region in Tehran, at 8pm on Tuesday June 30. At least 20 worshipers were in attendance at the time. Officers arrested a few of the congregants and thoroughly searched the house where they had gathered.

Article 18, an Iranian Christian advocacy group, verified the news and added, among the security officers were two female agents as well, which is not a common sight. Security authorities video recorded their raid and few rounds of questioning and arrests took place during the attack.

Eyewitnesses reported, after authorities turned off their video cameras they began mistreating and beating the house church congregation. At the end of this ordeal, authorities forced these Christians to sign a paper stating they were not subject to any kind of violence or mistreatment. During the raid security authorities arrested six Christians and confiscated all Bibles and cellphones belonging to the congregants.

The same day, Iranian authorities raided homes of a number of other Christians in Karaj and Tehran. The names of some of those arrested are Joseph Shahbazian, Reza N, Salar A, Mina Kh, Maryam Kh and Sonia. At least three other Christian converts, Farhad M, Arash and Farhad Kh were also arrested in Karaj. Some of these Christians have already received a bailing order for 50 Million Tomans (approx. $12,000 USD).

In addition, three other Christians, Sohrab A, Ebrahim and Yaser, were also arrested on the same day in Malayer, Hamedan Province. All three were temporarily released the following Thursday after each posted a 30 Million Tomans (Approx. $7,000 USD) bail.

Credible sources in Tehran told Mohabat News, a Christian woman by the name of Maliheh Nazari was also arrested in Western Tehran.

Ever Increasing Pressure on Iranian Christians

This new wave of crackdown on Iranian Christians is happening as the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus continues to spread in Iranian prisons where poor hygiene accelerates virus spread. The danger of catching COVID-19 in Iranian prisons is so high that Iranian Judicial System decided to temporarily release around 80 thousand prisoners to avoid mass infection.

The regime continues to violate the human rights of its citizens at a time when the people are already suffering as a result of widespread mismanagement and embezzlement among top ranking authorities in addition to economic pressure caused by international sanctions on the country.

Iranian political and religious dissidents are usually arrested under false accusations such as propaganda against the Islamic regime or receiving support from Israel. These dissidents are often used as a scapegoat for the problems that plague the country.

The Islamic regime uses media propaganda to win over public support before each crackdown campaigns against political and religious dissidents. As expected before this new wave of attacks, the regime began a media propaganda campaign to shed a negative light on Iranian Christians.

Last week, Yahya Yasrebi, an Iranian professor of Islamic Philosophy stated, “gravitation of our youth towards Christianity is not as a result of their pursuit for truth, but rather it’s out of frustration, mortal needs and stupidity”.

Likely, the number of arrests reported in this crackdown campaign are much lower as families of Christians who are arrested are always warned not to publicize the arrest and threatened that it will result in worsening of their situation.

Dear Prayer Warriors, Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour, two women who were born into Muslim families who went on to lead house churches and evangelized to Muslims, are examples of converts who have been arrested for their faith.

The women spent a total of 259 days in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in 2009. Since departing from Iran in 2010, they have often shared their experiences as converts.

“We know firsthand how difficult it is for those who attend house churches because they risk their lives to attend house churches,” Amirizadeh said at an event in February hosted by the Family Research Council. “Any time if the government find out, they can raid the gathering, arrest people, torture them and confiscate their property.”

Open Doors reported that 169 Christians were arrested in Iran during the organization’s 2019 reporting period — Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2019.

According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, the Iran Revolutionary Court in southern Iran sentenced last month seven Iranian Christian converts for the alleged crime of “spreading propaganda against the state.” The converts were sentenced to prison, exile, a financial penalty, and a ban on work and social activities.

In addition to being one of the world’s largest state sponsors of terrorism, Iran is also listed by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for tolerating and engaging in systemic and severe violations of religious freedom.

Iran ranks as the 9th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors 2020 World Watch List. Converts from Islam in Iran often face persecution from the government and face the threat of arrest for attending an underground church. It is illegal to hold church services or produce Christian literature in Farsi, the main language.

Pray for the believers in Iran who have been arrested

  • Ask God to calm their fears, that they would know that they’re not alone and that the worldwide Church is standing with them. Pray that they would be treated well and for quick release to be back home with their families.
  • We continue to pray for Anita, an Iranian convert also arrested by the Iranian Regime. We have learned from Voice of the Persecuted that her original 10-year sentence was lowered to 6 years. Her attorney has appealed the lengthy prison term with the hope of lowering it to 1 year. At present, she has not yet been called back to the prison and is still under house arrest. Pray she will be released without serving the prison sentence and for her faith to remain strong.

Please also remember:

  • Leah Sharibu and Alice, captives of Boko Haram, to be set free.
  • Pray that Pastor Wang Yi in China will be able to minister to inmates and that soon he will be released from prison. Pray for his family and for the Church that God gave him to lead.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I read a beautifully illustrated story a Victory!

“The Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground.
It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky.
The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful wise and deadly.
Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles.
Do not fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle grounds like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer.
You will be assured of clean victory.
Pray without ceasing.”

If Holy Spirit is leading you please join us tonight as we pray on the Persecution Watch prayer conference call for the persecuted church and the global harvest of souls.

Your Sister in Christ Love,

Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Leader

Prayer Conference Call Details

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

From any location on your phone

Time:

9:00 PM Eastern

8:00 PM Central

7:00 PM Mountain

6:00 PM Pacific

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!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.

China: Must Raise National Flag and Sing Anthem to Reopen Church

A flag-raising ceremony in the Quannan Christian Church. Photo: Bitter Winter

Some state-run churches were allowed to reopen in China after a 5-month lockdown. But only after proving their loyalty to the Communist Party.

(Bitterwinter) The Lishiting Catholic Church in the Shunhe district of Kaifeng, a prefecture-level city in the central province of Henan, reopened on June 14, after staying closed for five months. “We solemnly raise the national flag here today after the epidemic, witnessing the fruits of all people working together under the leadership of Xi Jinping who directs the government and the Party,” a priest told a gathering of about 20 people, supervised by government officials.

The Gangxi Christian Church in the district was also reopened at 8 o’clock that same morning. “The church finally reopened after five months, 147 days, or 21 Sundays, but instead of singing hymns to praise God, the government required us to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem, praising Xi Jinping’s ‘victory in fighting the epidemic,’” a congregation member commented. “This is completely contrary to our belief.”

Some state-run places of worship were allowed to reopen in June, long after other public venues in China returned to normal after coronavirus restrictions have been lifted. But only those who commit to endorsing patriotism are permitted to open their doors to congregations.

The Two Chinese Christian Councils in Henan, Zhejiang, and other provinces demanded that on the relaunch day, churches must promote patriotism, raise the national flag, sing the country’s anthem, and tell believers “moving stories about China’s battle with the pandemic.”

At 7 a.m. on June 13, over 20 clergy members of the Quannan Church, the largest Christian church in Quanzhou city in the southeastern province of Fujian, held a flag-raising ceremony in its courtyard. An eye-catching slogan promoting the core socialist values was posted on the wall behind the flagpole. (see top photo, Quannan Christian Church)

That day, under the supervision of officials from the city’s United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau, the church pastor praised President Xi Jinping’s achievements in fighting the epidemic.

“We should love the socialist system and the Communist Party,” he said, going on to promote the “superiority of the socialist system” and criticizing the United States for its efforts battling the pandemic.

“The United Front Work Department and Religious Affairs Bureau demand to hold flag-raising ceremonies and promote patriotism,” a church member commented. “From now on, all churches have to do so, or they will be shut down, and their leaders dismissed.”

A preacher from Henan’s Zhumadian city told Bitter Winter that before his church reopened, he had to attend a conference organized by the local Two Chinese Christian Councils. Participants had to study Xi Jinping’s major speeches on preventing and controlling the coronavirus outbreak and listen to “heroic stories of fighting the epidemic.”

“The government demands to promote these things to congregations after churches reopen,” the preacher explained. “These texts are published in a booklet, over 100 pages long. Preachers must mainly talk about the state’s policies. Those who disobey will be arrested.”

A pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist Church thinks that the requirement to raise the national flag and promote patriotism on the day churches reopen is aimed at “disturbing the minds of believers to transform their ideologies and change the essence of their beliefs.” He is concerned that the CCP will further intensify its control over people of faith through patriotic education and indoctrination.

“Its ultimate goal is to make all people believe in communism only, to ‘sinicize’ Christianity,” the pastor added, calling on believers to “stand guard against the CCP’s vicious intentions, not to become prisoners of communism.”

“Three-Self churches should follow the path of house churches and hold meetings in secret, to avoid being controlled by the CCP and save their pure faith,” the pastor concluded.

by

VOP NOTE: In a repeat of history, the Chinese government has been implementing tactics to remove not only Christianity but all religion from society. Pressure is being put on Chinese citizens to pledge allegiance and have faith solely in President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China.

Numerous Mosques ‘Sinicized’ Amid the Pandemic

Threatening and intimidating Muslims, the CCP implemented forced rectifications of mosques in Hui-populated areas in Henan, Hebei, and Ningxia. According to an imam from Shangqiu city, five mosques were forcibly rectified in the city’s Minquan county in April, following the central government’s orders to “sinicize” over 1,000 mosques across the province. Mosques in Bodang township’s Zhaizhuang village and Huji township’s Zhangzhuang village were among the targeted places of worship. The imam added that officials threatened to arrest anyone who dared to protest or oppose the state’s policies.

Hundreds of Policemen Sent to Demolish Buddhist Temples

 “The state won’t allow temples to spring up all over the country,” a government employee from the southeastern province of Jiangxi told Bitter Winter. “Religion is certainly restricted in China. People can believe in nothing other than the Communist Party, which will resolutely crack down on anything not supported by it.”

Makers of Religious Statues Suppressed

The Chinese government is expanding the scope of crackdowns on religions by stifling businesses that produce religious items.

Quyang county, administered by the prefecture-level city of Baoding in the northern province of Hebei, is renowned across China for stone carving crafts. During the reign of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), Emperor Wu (157 BC-87 BC) named the area the “carving town.” Religious statues made in the county are sold all over China and also in Taiwan, but amid the CCP’s campaigns against people of faith, even those who make religion-related items are not spared.

 

China: Elderly Christians told to give up faith or lose government benefits

(Bitter Winter) By Even though China’s economy has been severely affected by the coronavirus, and many residents suffer financial difficulties, the CCP threatens to take away the last means of survival from elderly believers—government-issued subsidies. To keep them, they must stop believing in God.

A Catholic from Fuzhou city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi has been receiving monthly 250 RMB (about $ 35) from the government since 2018, the year her husband died. At the end of 2019, local government officials threatened the woman, in her 60s, that the subsidy would be withdrawn unless she removes images of Jesus from her home. “Because the Communist Party feeds you,” they told the woman, “you must only believe in it, not God.” Two months later, the pension was canceled because she refused to remove the symbols.

“It has become difficult to maintain belief in God because of religious persecution,” the woman told Bitter Winter helplessly.

On April 30, community officials in Fuzhou forced to cover up a cross image in the home of an 80-plus-year-old Christian, threatening to scrap her subsistence allowance otherwise.

In late April, the Fuzhou city government intensified religious investigations through “return” inspections—visits to the places that have previously been stifled to make sure that people don’t resume practicing their faith. During one of them, Civil Affairs Bureau officials threatened a Sola Fide believer in a nursing home, who has been paralyzed for eight years, to drive him out of the residence if he continued his belief. His “five-guarantees”—government aid in the form of housing, food, clothing, medical care, and funeral expenses to people who cannot work and have no income—would also be revoked. Officials tore down images of Jesus in his room already last autumn.

“The officials said that I am supposed to believe in the Communist Party since it feeds me, or else all my social benefits would be canceled,” the believer said. “I won’t give up my faith no matter how the government pursues me. If it cancels my benefits, I will meet God earlier.”

On January 19, officials from Jiangxi’s Yingtan city deprived a local Christian of her government aid for hosting religious meetings at home, even though the woman was immobile from an illness. In March, officials from the city’s Yujiang district destroyed religious calendars in the homes of two believers who receive government benefits.

On January 23, Taian city officials in the eastern province of Shandong harassed a Catholic, in her 70s, because of religious symbols in her home. The woman told Bitter Winter that they told her to replace the tokens with portraits of Xi Jinping or Mao Zedong since “she lives on the Communist Party’s welfare,” which might be canceled if she didn’t listen to them.

“By forcing me to remove the portrait of the Lord Jesus, the government tried to stop my belief in God, but they cannot take away my belief from my heart,” she said.

In late April, officials from Heze city’s Cao county in Shandong destroyed crosses and other religious symbols in the homes of several elderly believers who were also receiving poverty alleviation subsidies. A local churchgoer said that these state representatives claimed that no poverty alleviation resources should be given to the people who have religious symbols at home; they must believe in the Communist Party to enjoy aid from the state.

 In April, officials from Kaifeng city’s Lankao county in the central province of Henan removed a religious calendar and couplets with cross images from the home of a poor Christian and scratched her poverty alleviation aid. They also ordered her to renovate the house and install a toilet ahead of an inspection by higher-ups. The demand was against poverty alleviation regulations, which stipulate that the state should cover such expenses.

“What should I do without my income? How can I reason with them? It’s just like the Cultural Revolution,” the distraught believer lamented.

China: Jiangxi province continues to intensify religious persecution after coronavirus lockdown

Numerous old Local Churches in Shangrao’s Guangfeng district had their crosses removed.

(Bitter Winter) By – Venues of the old Local Church (Laodifangjiaohui, 老地方教會)—unregistered Christian congregations that follow the teachings of the Chinese minister Watchman Nee (1903-1972)— were among many other victims of China’s religious persecution in the past few months. More than 40 churches were suppressed in four cities of the southeastern province of Jiangxi: Shangrao, Jingde, Yichun, and Fuzhou. Some were demolished, while others closed or repurposed by the government.

At least 28 venues were stifled in Shangrao city’s Guangfeng and Guangxin districts and Yugan county. A local government employee revealed to Bitter Winter that the CCP is fighting Christianity for “ideological territory and people’s hearts” in rural areas and wants to limit its development. To achieve this goal, the municipal government requires localities under its jurisdiction to strengthen atheist propaganda, demolish unregistered places of worship, and intensively “sinicize” the state-run venues.

On April 27, as local government officials oversaw the demolition of an old Local Church venue in the Guangxin district, they warned its congregation that “believing in Jesus is believing in a foreign god.” And “since the coronavirus was brought to China from abroad, believing in Jesus means going against the Party.”

“If believers protested against the demolition, they would be labeled as reactionary elements,” a local believer said helplessly. “The Communist Party is so unreasonable!”

On the morning of May 22, an old Local Church in Guangfeng district’s Hengshan town was cleared out on orders from the local government. Its chairs and tables were confiscated. [Without warning,] officials brought in a crane to remove the church’s cross.

In late April, another old Local Church meeting venue in the district’s Shatian town had its cross, the Ten Commandments, and other religious symbols removed. “The government is like a stone, and we are like an egg—we cannot defeat them!” a church preacher told Bitter Winter.

The old Local Churches in multiple areas have been shut down or emptied.

Since quarantine measures were relaxed, authorities throughout Jiangxi intensified crackdowns on Christian churches, even those administered by the state. In the past few months,  crosses were removed from at least 26 Three-Self churches in Duchang, a county in Jiujiang city. From April 18 to 30, 48 Three-Self venues were shut down in Shangrao’s Yugan county.

On May 12, an old Local Church venue in Yugan county was repurposed for an activity center for the elderly. A congregation member recalled that the government arranged people to climb over the church’s courtyard wall to remove its cross. They later used shovels to take off the venue’s signboard.

A local official revealed to Bitter Winter that the government is eliminating unregistered churches now, and state-approved Three-Self churches will soon be targeted for elimination too.

On May 17, seven police officers and village officials raided an old Local Church venue in Taqian, a town in Leping city. They tore down Biblical verses and religious symbols from the walls and burned them, as well as smashed the church’s donation box.

The church’s donation box was smashed, and religious verses removed and burned.

A congregation member told Bitter Winter that the local government pressured the church to register with the state, or the congregation would not be allowed to hold gatherings. They could even be arrested, or the venue could be destroyed.  “We won’t register,” the believer explained. “If we surrender, we’ll be controlled by the government, forced to raise the national flag, and sing the national anthem. It means believing in the Communist Party, not God. But gatherings can’t be organized unless we register. By doing so, the government aims to eliminate our faith.”

 

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