VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

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Persecution Watch: Praying for the Nation of Kyrgyzstan

10/20/2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) Dear Prayers Warriors, it is written in the Bible, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Led by the Spirit of the Lord, yesterday afternoon some of our brothers and sisters in Italy came together to pray for the nation of Kyrgyzstan. I had the blessing to hear some of their heartfelt prayers. It touches my heart when brothers and sisters pray for each other’s trials, persecutions and tribulations. I liked to continue their prayers.

Below is a short Prayercast video for the people of Kyrgyzstan. Please take time to view it before the call.

Dear Saints it is also written in Revelation 8:3-4,

“3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Come join us as we pray for Kyrgyzstan Nation

We will also continue to pray for:

~   Leah Sharibu and Alice that they will be set free from Boko Haram captivity.

~   Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison, for his family, the children, and the church in China.

~   To pray for Anita, an Iranian Christian, persecuted by the Islamic regime.

~   For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their persecution continues.

~   The Global Harvest for the Kingdom of God.

In the love of Christ,

Nadia and Merlaine, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderators

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: Government Orders to Destroy Swedish Missionaries’ Gravestones

Tombstones for Swedish missionaries in a Xiezhou town cemetery.

Shanxi government desecrated the resting place of 20 missionaries, who worked and died in China nearly a century ago, and destroyed a house for visiting believers.

(Bitter Winter) by Zhang Feng — Protestant missionary Verner Wester and his six family members were buried nearly a century ago in the Swedish missionary cemetery in Xiezhou town, administered by the Yanhu district of Yuncheng, a prefecture-level city in the northern province of Shanxi. He was a member of the Swedish Mission in China (Svenska Missionen i Kina (SMK)), who lived in China from 1903 to 1930.

SMK missionaries established their first mission station in Yuncheng in 1888 and later expanded to other areas in Shanxi and adjoining provinces of Henan and Shaanxi. Through their charitable work building schools and hospitals, which residents could use for free, the missionaries played an important role in the areas’ development and led numerous locals to Christianity.

“Swedish missionaries bought a plot in Yuncheng’s Xiezhou town cemetery for themselves,” an elderly Christian from Yuncheng told Bitter Winter. “This meant that they devoted their hearts, souls, and entire lives to China.”

Earlier this year, the Church of Christ’s Family (基督家園教會), a local house church established in 2008, ordered to make gravestones for the 20 Swedish missionaries in the Xiezhou cemetery. The Church also established contacts and communicated with Verner Wester’s granddaughter Mick Lidbeck, who recounted her grandfather’s story in the book  Min farfar i Kina (My Grandfather in China).

In a short time, the cemetery started attracting Christians who came to pay respects to the missionaries and pray. To accommodate them, the Church of Christ’s Family renovated an old four-room house near the cemetery and displayed a series of photographs depicting missionaries’ work in China. The move immediately drew the local government’s attention.

At six in the morning on September 12, the Yanhu district government dispatched over 100 special police and public security officers and personnel from various government institutions to block the street leading to the cemetery. Onlookers trying to take photos were threatened and told to leave immediately, as an aerial drone hovered above them, observing the scene.

About two hours later, three excavators were brought in to destroy the Swedish missionaries’ gravestones and the adjoining house as “illegal constructions.” To conceal the demolition, government-hired personnel planted vegetation atop the ruins overnight.

A government insider revealed that all villagers living near the cemetery were summoned to the local police station prior to the demolition, and their cellphones were confiscated to prevent information leaks. Heads of the Church of Christ’s Family and directors of several church venues were lured to neighborhood committees and put under control. Their cellphones were also confiscated. The Church of Christ’s Family was blacklisted and targeted for priority surveillance because of contacts with Verner Wester’s family in Sweden.

Ironically, or maybe intentionally, four months before the gravestones were destroyed, the Yanhu district government opened an exhibition of old photographs depicting Swedish missionaries’ activities in China for over ten decades. In an article dedicated to the show, Sweden is hailed as a world leader “in the fields of innovation, green development, and environmental protection.” “With the predestined relationship between Sweden and China, which was established by Yuncheng city and over 100 Swedish missionaries in China one hundred years ago,” the article states, “we will surely be able to complement each other’s strengths, integrate deeply, and promote the development of both countries.”

In reality, however, bulldozing the gravestones of those who built this “predestined relationship” speaks to the contrary. Which “strengths” is the CCP going to complement? Clearly, not democratic values, respect for human rights and religious liberties.

“The CCP portrays missionaries in a negative light, depicting them in films and novels as spies cooperating with imperialist countries to invade China,” a member of the Church of Christ’s Family commented. “Believers renovated the cemetery to show their positive influence, but the CCP can’t tolerate that the missionaries’ Christian spirit will spread across China. Missionaries’ gravestones can be demolished, but their spirit has been deeply rooted in our hearts and inspired generations of believers.”

Persecution Watch: Praying for believers in North Korea and Vietnam

Oct. 8, 2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) North Korea – Population: 25,8 million, Christians 300,000 thousand

North Korea continuous to be number ONE when it comes to communist oppression and Christian persecution. Christians who are discovered are deported to the horrible labor camps like Yodok or killed on the spot.

Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering in these labor camps.


Pray for the leader Kim Jong-un that the Lord will reach out him with the Gospel.


Pray for the safety of the house churches and that He will blind the police and informers.


Pray to the Lord to open the floodgates of heaven to feed the just and the unjust, as He lets it rain on the just and the unjust.

Over 20% of North Koreans are malnourished, relieve is not coming in as the orders are closed due to COVED19.

Pray for a good harvest!

Pray to the Lord that the border to China will open. NGOs are stock piling supples in China, waiting to be able to get in.  

Vietnam – Population: 97.5 million, Christians 8.7 million

Vietnam is following the Chinese model of Christian persecution. The can not stop Christians, therefore all efforts are on containment. Targeting pastors and churches – as the government thinks what the pastor says people will do.

Please pay that the Lord will strengthen and protect His church leaders.

Please pray for the ethic minorities like the Hmong who are 75% Christian. Most of them are excluded from emergency food distribution due to their faith. There are verified instances where NGO workers were prevented to give food aid to Christians.

Pray that the Lord will help Christians to navigate through that changing and tightening regulations that are designed to control and discourage them.

MISSION AVIATION FELLOWSHIP 
Supports Bible Translation projects, shows the Jesus film in refuge camps and remote villages, delivering vaccines and other medical supplies.

47 planes are often the only safe an reliable means for ministry activities (2019 – 18,532 missions flown, 55,100 passengers transported, 5,603,860 pounds of cargo delivered, 1,457,833 nautical mile flown, 210 years of travel time saved which can be used for productive ministry work)

Pray to the Lord for His hand of protection over MAF.

Pray to the Lord to touch Christians to financially support MAF

Andy, Persecution Watch 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.

Separating a child from its parents Human rights violation in the courts of the Islamic Republic

The sentence was issued to a Christian couple converts who had taken care of a child from the age of 10 weeks. Because the child was born a Muslim, the Christian family could not take care of him.

(Mohabat News) – In an unprecedented case, a two-year-old adopted by a Christian couple was separated from his family by the ruling of the Bushehr Revolutionary Court!

The verdict issued for “Maryam Fallahi” and “Sam Khosravi”, a Christian couple who have taken care of a child from the age of 10 weeks, states that due to the child being born a Muslim, the Christian family cannot take care of him.
According to “Article 18” organization, the final verdict in this case was issued on Wednesday, September 23, 2020.

The verdict was upheld after a Bushehr family court judge ruled on July 19 that there was a “strong emotional connection” between the child and the Christian couple, Maryam Fallahi and Sam Khosravi. The orphanage has an “unknown future” ahead for him, and the chances of another family adopting Lydia due to her illness are “zero.”
The two-year-old suffers from heart and gastrointestinal diseases, and Welfare did not notify the Christian couple of Lydia’s condition, the report said. However, they are making every effort to improve the child’s condition without any objection. The Welfare and Forensic Medicine Supervisors have also confirmed that Maryam Fallahi, a nurse at Bushehr Heart Hospital for many years, and her husband provided the best care for the child during her care.

“The judge’s ruling to separate Lydia from the Christian couple is completely contrary to the fatwas issued by Makarem Shirazi and Yousef Sanei, two Shiite religious leaders,” their lawyer said. Nasser Makarem Shirazi, in response to the explanation and question of the lawyer of the case, had issued a fatwa that due to “necessity”, the child can stay in this family. Sanei also issued a fatwa stating that “his guardianship does not have any legal problems for couples, and that being a non-Muslim does not prevent them, and choosing a religion for the child should be done after puberty. The issuance of this sentence is not only contrary to international law, but also to Iranian law.”

The lawyer added, “Article 3 of the Law on the Protection of Unaccompanied and Malnourished Children and Adolescents states that all Iranian nationals residing in Iran can adopt children, and does not specify any religious affiliation. They are Iranians and the religion of Christianity is recognized in the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to paragraph T of Article 6, the transfer of a child to religions accepted in the constitution is permitted.”

Maryam Fallahi and Sam Khosravi are among the seven Christian converts who were arrested by Bushehr security agents on July 1, 2019 and tried in the Bushehr Revolutionary Court.

Sam Khosravi was given one year imprisonment and two years ban to stay in Bushehr and Maryam Fallahi to 80 million Rials ($320) fine and permanent dismissal from government services

It should be noted that despite the fact that Christians are legally recognized as a religious minority, the security services are still pursuing the issue of Muslims converting to Christianity with particular sensitivity and are dealing harshly with activists in this field. Separating a child from its parents is the latest human rights violation in the courts of the Islamic Republic. “Adopted child” is just a legal term, and it is a crime to separate a two-year-old child who loves his [or] her legal parents.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on September 24 added a number of judges from the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, three prisons, and one Revolutionary Court to the list of sanctions.

“Revolutionary Court judges do not administer justice fairly, but instead seek to deprive the Iranian people of justice, as well as human rights and fundamental freedoms. The United States will continue to stand with the Iranian people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. He called on the regime to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

“The United States is exposing the true nature of the Iranian revolutionary courts and their judges as tools designed to carry out the Iranian regime’s brutal ideology and suppress dissent,” he said.

Breaking: CCP Operative Threatens Pastor, Others in USA

Bob Fu praying at The Return—National and Global Day of Prayer and Repentance Photo: Institute on Religion and Democracy

(By Faith McDonnell for IRD) On Monday, September 28, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) operative publicly threatened the life of the Rev. Dr. Bob Fu. All of us who believe in religious freedom and human rights need to speak out.

Fu, the founder and president of China Aid, is a former prisoner of faith in China and outspoken activist. In May he became an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom in China here at IRD. And just this past weekend he spoke at The Return, a globally-viewed gathering for repentance and revival that took place on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Moments before Dr. Fu went to the podium at The Return to pray on behalf of the Christians in China and the nations, he received shocking news. Chinese Communist thugs were surrounding his home in Texas, harassing his wife and children. He asked the tens of thousands in attendance at The Return to pray for his family. And he asked God to transform China into a “mission-sending” nation and to bring Communist leaders to repentance.

I sought out Fu after he finished speaking. I discovered that in addition to intimidating his wife and children, the thugs slandered him. They brandished signs declaring — ridiculously — that “Bob Fu is a Fake Pastor” and “Bob Fu is Responsible for COVID-19.” Fortunately, the police dispelled the Communist agents swiftly. And fellow church members brought comfort to his family.

But the threat was not over. Monday I received word about disturbing, threatening videos against Fu and others. These videos came from Chinese Communist Party agent, Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok. It was he who sent thugs to Fu’s home.

Guo is a Chinese billionaire businessman who fled from China to the United States in 2014. He was accused of bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Guo uses his large social media following on YouTube, Twitter, and his personal website to incite and encourage violence against leading critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). One of his tactics is to turn around and name these freedom fighters as CCP agents, thieves, and traffickers! These include human rights activists and prominent members of the Chinese diaspora.

In videos on September 27 and September 28 Guo threatens Fu again. Guo also threatens many other Chinese former dissidents and freedom fighters. He threatened some leaders of Tienanmen Square who now live in the United States. One he threatened was Pastor Zhang Boli, still on the CCP’s “Most Wanted” list.

In the video on September 28 Guo addresses Fu directly. He boasts that some “100 or 200 operatives” are coming to his house. This intimidation, violence, and slander geared towards confusion and misdirection are the kinds of tactics that the Chinese Communist regime employs against those who dare to speak out about the human rights violations it perpetrates.

Many in the West have emboldened the CCP in recent years. Large, powerful entities such as Disney, the NBABig Techmajor U.S. banks, and others have consistently acquiesced. So the CCP believes it can even control Chinese Americans. . . in America! This needs to end!

Please pray for Bob and his family. Pray also for all the other Chinese heroes slandered and threatened by Guo and the CCP. In addition to prayer, you may wish to:

  • Join us in the statement below. To sign, please indicate so with your name, city, state in the comment section for this article.
  • Urge the United States government deport this Chinese operative.
  • Inform YouTube that Guo uses his channel to issue death threats and intimidation. We hear over and over how YouTube warns or shut downs conservative and Christian YouTube channels. Let’s see if social media will not have a double standard for once.

Read and sign the Joint Statement here

CCP Rewriting The Gospel: Jesus Actually “Killed” The Woman Taken in Adultery

Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (one of a set of 12 scenes from The Life of Christ) Metropolitan Museum of Art

More warnings coming out of China. (Bitter Winter) The story in John 8 is presented to Chinese students as one where the Savior waits for the Pharisees to leave, then stones the adulterer himself.

Every Christian knows the story. It is told in the Gospel of John, 8:3–11. “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” Jesus at first ignored them, but then told the Pharisees,  “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Since they knew they were not without sin, “they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.” Jesus said to her, “‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’”

It is a powerful story about mercy and forgiveness. Jesus does not condone the sin, but forgives the sinner with his divine authority. Mercy and forgiveness, however, are unknown to the CCP. Perhaps in anticipation of the future promised “sinicization” of the sacred scriptures of all religions, a textbook published by published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press for teaching “professional ethics and law” in secondary vocational schools tells a different version of the story, as revealed by UCA News.

Here is how the textbook presents the story of the woman taken in adultery: “The crowd wanted to stone the woman to death as per their law. But Jesus said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.’ Hearing this, they slipped away one by one. When the crowd disappeared, Jesus stoned the sinner to death saying, ‘I too am a sinner. But if the law could only be executed by men without blemish, the law would be dead.’”

Christians in China are protesting against a textbook making Jesus a sinner and a killer. Actually, however, the incident is subtler than that. It is not, or not mostly, about painting a negative image of Jesus. It is about the CCP itself. Many CCP bureaucrats, judges, and police officers are notoriously corrupted. Yet, the story teaches that they should be obeyed. If “sinners” would be prevented from “executing the law,” including administering the capital punishment with or without due process, “the law would be dead.”

As told to Chinese students, the story teaches that the law and the Party are good and pure, and transcend the impure human beings who happen to represent them.

Even if the officers are corrupted, their decision should be acceptedbecause, honest or corrupted, they represent the Party, and the Party’s law should never be questioned.

This is standard CCP theory, but totally distorts the meaning of Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Mobilizing Jesus for the CCP propaganda is blasphemous and offensive to Christians. Yet, we can expect more such distortions as religious scriptures are gradually “sinicized.”

‘Red Tourism’ Sites Developed to Enforce Communist Ideology

CHINA — “According to several shop assistants, the venues’ managers were demanded to arrange spaces according to the Mao-era style. The site’s administration even provided all statues and portraits of Mao Zedong. All employees must swear allegiance to the CCP in front of the Mao Zedong statue every Monday morning.” Read more

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.

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