5/28/20 (Voice of the Persecuted) Again, we want to lift up two persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for Leah Sharibu and Alice that this year will be the year where they will be set free. And also pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison in China. Pray for Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran. and for Pakistani Christians and other minorities who are facing discrimination and persecution during the Coronavirus crisis. Muslims are denying Christians relief food packages because of their faith in Christ.
Population: 97.5 million, Christians 8.8 million
Christians in Vietnam are targeted by both the government and, especially in rural contexts, tribal leaders. The government has some level of tolerance for Christian groups, particularly Catholics, but if any believers are deemed to be politically active, they can be imprisoned. In places where religion and ethnic identity are closely tied, Christians who convert from traditional religions are often the victims of pressure and violence from their families and communities. On the state level, villagers collude with local Communist authorities, beating believers, kicking them out of their villages and stoning places of worship during meetings. Local and national government authorities persecute the Christian minority through their laws, and Christian bloggers and political activists have been arrested and sentenced.
A sweeping 2018 law on religion, which looked like a possible improvement for Christians on paper, has not changed anything substantially, except to add another source of uncertainty. Tighter regulations on online communication are also restricting and limiting the freedom available to Christians.
Both non-traditional Protestants and converts from indigenous religions are persecuted intensively. Estimates indicate that approximately 80 percent of the country’s Christians belong to the country’s ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, and face social exclusion, discrimination and attacks. Ethnic minority Christian children are discriminated against in schools; their medical needs also are often neglected. Some are not even allowed to attend school at all.
Non-Christian relatives of Christians are also strong persecutors, cutting family ties and denying any family inheritance. In some cases, relatives force a Christian spouse to divorce and then withhold custody of their children. Believers’ homes are sometimes destroyed, forcing them to leave their village.
- Pay that the government will cease the monitoring of churches and to curb the growth of Christianity. Pray for the government to loosen religious restriction and increased freedom.
- Pray against the bureau of Religious Affairs and police bureaucracies that deny most registration of churches
- Pray that the Lord will stop the crackdowns against Christians and ethnic minorities, especially the Hmong. The Communist regime does everything possible to keep their actions out of the international spotlight. Pray the truth would come to light and that changes would be made to ensure human rights for all minorities in Vietnam.
- Pray for believers who are often attacked by their village and even their family members when they choose to follow Jesus. Christian converts have shared that they experienced expulsion from their villages, the destruction of their homes and being physically beaten.
- Pray for provision for these believers who knowingly pay a high cost. Pray their love for Christ and each other is a witness to their families.
- Pray for unity between all the Christian churches. Pray that the Evangelical Church of Vietnam North and South, two separate organizations, work together – and also with smaller evangelical groups.
- Pray that the Lord will sustain the Christians who are in prison for their faith, strengthen their faith and encourage them daily through His Spirit.
- Pray believers are bold to share the gospel and that your hand of protection is over them.
- Pray for suitable discipleship of the many ethnic minorities coming to faith in rural areas. Pray that the Lord will protect and guide all the oral bible teachers and that much fruit will come from their labors.
- Pray that the Lord will both continue to sustain and grow His Church despite these circumstances.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Moderator
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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. Since the passing of Brother Blaine Scogin, we thank you for your patience as we have transitioned into this new season. 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.
At least one wall destroyed and a cross broken. The culprits wanted to take back land already sold to the church. This is a case of reverse blasphemy. For Punjab lawmaker, the cross has value for Christianity and Islam. “Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too,” said a local Christian. A group of Muslims attacked the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura, Sheikhupura district, a few dozen kilometres from Lahore, Punjab. The building, built 22 years ago, was desecrated, a wall destroyed, a cross and other valuables broken. Read More
India (Morning Star News) – Animists in central India last week told five Christian families they would lose their harvest lands unless they returned to their tribal religion and beat them when they refused, sources said.
When the families answered a summons to a meeting with Salhephal village leaders in Bastar District, Chhattisgarh state on Tuesday (May 5), they found the tribal elders estimating the value of their lands, pastor Sirisguda Ramdhar told Morning Star News. The Christians had forbidden a tribal animist leader, Dulla Poyami, to perform tribal worship on their land, he said.
“The village leaders told the Christians, ‘You are not partaking in our tribal rituals, and so we cannot allow you to profit from your agricultural lands,’” Pastor Ramdhar told Morning Star News.
The Christians told them the lands were registered in their names, and that they were working hard to earn their bread, he said. “We follow our faith but have never been a burden on this village or to our kinsmen – you cannot snatch away our lands,” they told the tribal elders, according to the pastor.
“Even before they spoke any word further, the elders stood up and stormed at Christians Madda Poyami and Badda Poyami,” he said.
They began beating the two Christians, and a mob of at least 60 people soon gathered around them and the Christian families, clamoring for them to renounce their faith in Christ, he said.
“When the Christians refused, they abused them in extremely vulgar language and started beating them,” Pastor Ramdhar said. “The mob was very furious and did not spare even the women. They stoned Madda Poyami, injuring him in his head and knee.”
Poyami was admitted to the government hospital in Jagdalpur for treatment. Christians Bodda Poyami, Raino Poyami, Sumani Poyami, Hande Poyame, Jagri Poyami and Besalbati Poyami were also injured in the mob attack, and some of them received medical treatment without being admitted to the hospital, Pastor Ramdhar said.
He said the tribal animists, who worship and sacrifice to various tribal gods based in nature, had threatened to expel the Christian families and seize their land for more than a year.
Son Singh Jhali, a lawyer allied with legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India (ADF India), visited the injured at the hospital and helped them draft a complaint to be filed at the Kodenar police station.
“The medical proofs are important to support the complaint and enable the police officers to register cases against the assailants,” Jhali told Morning Star News.
Also on Tuesday (May 5) in Bastar District, residents of Naktoka village who follow a mix of tribal religion and Hinduism threatened to kill Christians if they tried to give a Christian burial for one of their dead in the community graveyard, Pastor Guptaram Kawasi said.
“A mob of more than 100 villagers opposed the burial of Bhima Kashyap in the graveyard allotted for villagers, accusing him of adopting foreign faith,” Pastor Kawasi told Morning Star News. “The Christian family was put under immense pressure to perform his last rites as per the Hindu and tribal traditions followed in the village.”
Villagers told the family they must undergo a reconversion ritual in order to perform last rites, he said.
“They threatened that they would kill everybody present at Kashyap’s home if they proceeded against the village’s customs,” Pastor Kawasi said.
On Wednesday (May 6), the Christians called ADF India’s Chhattisgarh Legal Aid Centre, and shortly thereafter the officer-in-charge of the Mardum police station arrived with the village revenue officer and his police force, he said.
“The revenue officer showed us the land for burial, and the funeral service was possible in the presence of police at around 4 p.m. the next day,” Pastor Kawasi said.
More Death Threats
Christians also were attacked recently in Dantewada District.
Nila Kunjam, 25, was at her home the morning of April 19 when three middle-aged villagers stormed in, area resident Sushil Kumar Kunjam said.
“It was around eight in the morning when we heard screams from Nila Kunjam’s home,” Kumar Kunjam told Morning Star News. “The assailants were shouting at her parents, ‘How dare you allow your daughter to partake in Christian prayers?’ Soon they drove her forcefully out of her home to a distance of about 50 meters as they beat her on her back, head and knees.”
A mob of at least 60 villagers gathered, accusing Kunjam of defiling her caste, he said.
“The mob kept looking on as the three assailants beat the 25-year-old Christian woman and vowed that they would kill her,” Kumar Kunjam told Morning Star News. “I followed the mob and started videotaping the brutality happening in front of my eyes, but they snatched away my phone and slapped me tightly on my cheeks.”
Nila Kunjam received severe blows on her back and knees and had to be admitted for hospital treatment, he said. Her family filed a complaint at Bacheli police station, but officers told them they couldn’t take any action until the government lifts a lockdown ordered to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, he told Morning Star News.
Other village Christians have also suffered. On Friday (May 8), two tribal leaders went to a pond where Christian women were bathing and washing clothes and threatened to kill them if they touched the water again, Kumar Kunjam said.
“As there is a severe water shortage, the common pond is the only source of water,” he said. “The common pond is for all the villagers, but they accuse Christians of defiling the pond.”
Also in Dantewada District, axe-wielding tribal animists in Jaram village on April 6 lingered outside a Christian family’s home at about 11 p.m., Pastor Anand Rao Nag said. Mangduram Kashyap, his wife Lalita Bai Kashyap and their children locked themselves inside fearing for their lives, Pastor Nag said.
They called Pastor Nag, who was unable to go to their home to help due to the coronavirus lockdown, he said. He maintained constant phone contact with them.
“The assailants kept watch outside to hack the Christians to death if they stepped out,” he said. “They told me that the village council had sent some persons into the village to enquire if any of the residents had converted to Christianity. The Kashyaps’ neighbors had informed the village elders that they go to church and pray inside their home.”
At around 6 a.m. the next morning (April 7), six of the villagers took the Kashyap family by force to a place in the village where a mob of around 200 villagers surrounded them, Pastor Nag said.
“Without uttering a word, the assailants started beating the Christian men and woman in Kashyap’s family, including their infant grandchild,” he told Morning Star News.
The village council told the family they would be brutally killed if they reported the attack to police and fined them 5,000 rupees (US$67) he said. They took the money by force along with the family’s goat and chickens.
“Mangduram Kashyap is undergoing treatment for his injured eye,” Pastor Nag said. “We request prayers for a speedy recovery.”
Villagers had also threatened the Kashyaps in 2012, telling them to renounce Christ, he said. The family complained to police, who took no action, he said.
Sacrifice to Tribal Deities
In Metapal village, also in Dantewada District, animists beat Christians who refused to comply with their demand to sacrifice their animals to tribal deities, sources said.
A mob of around 120 villagers led by tribal leaders showed up at Santuram Markam’s home on March 30 at around 4:30 p.m. and beat family members when they refused to renounce Christ, Markam said.
“The village council summoned us to a meeting demanding we bring a goat, pig, hen, coconut, incense sticks and cash of 5,000 rupees [US$66] as sacrificial offerings to the tribal deities,” Markam told Morning Star News.
When they refused to give in to their demands, the mob again barged into Markam’s home the next night (March 31) and started beating his aged parents, he said.
“I escaped from there and have run into the woods,” he told Morning Star News at that time, by telephone. “I will go back only after knowing about the situation there at home. I am very scared to back home now. They beat us yesterday, and they came again today. My Christian neighbor Raju Podiyami and his family also came under attack today.”
Superintendent of Police of Dantewada District Abhishek Pallava told Morning Star News that officers were exhausted from working extra hours due to the novel coronavirus and it was not possible to send a force there at midnight.
“I will try to make peace between the groups over the phone,” Pallava told Morning Star News at that time. “Nobody can reach there now. All the police force has been working day and nights because of coronavirus. It is a Naxalite [Maoist rebel] area, we cannot take risks by sending forces without any preparation.”
The animists on March 31 kidnapped Markam’s neighbor, Podiyami, from his home and locked him in a hut as they drank liquor throughout the night, area pastor Sushil Sangam said. After cutting through the thatched roof and escaping, Podiyami took his family of eight, injured from the previous day’s attacks, and sought refuge at Pastor Sangam’s church site in Tokapal village, Bastar District, the pastor said.
“But the residents of Tokapal, fearing the spread of coronavirus, had informed the police that some unknown persons had entered the village,” Pastor Sangam told Morning Star News.
The police took them to a government shelter, where they were quarantined – and there four of them contracted malaria, including Podiyami, according to Pastor Sangam.
The pastor said they are undergoing treatment in Tokapal and staying with him.
“We are taking care of them,” Pastor Sangam said. “They are very scared to go back to Metapal now.”
Had police taken action against the assailants, the Christians would not have been forced to step out of their village seeking refuge and ended up in a shelter where some contracted malaria, Pastor Sangam said.
“It is very difficult to get any help from the police at midnight, as it is a Naxalite belt, and the tribal extremist leaders are very well aware of this,” he told Morning Star News.
ADF India’s Jhali said that farmers are preparing the soil, which involves sacrificial offerings to tribal deities, with the village council collecting funds and animals to be offered.
“But Christians refuse to partake in this ritual,” Jhali said. “This has been the one main reason for the spike in violent attacks against Christians amid lockdown.”
Jhali said officers at the Katekalyan police station had registered a First Information Report against the assailants under sections of the Indian Penal Code for rioting, obscene acts, voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation.
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.
(Morning Star News) – A gunman at the door of a Christian family’s home in eastern India on Thursday (April 16) shot the daughter of a pastor who was killed in the same house five years ago, family members said.
Neelam Purty, 25, sustained bullet wounds in her thumb and thigh in the shooting she survived in Sandih village, near Binda village in Murhu Block, Jharkhand state, they said.
“Is this the house of the pastor who was killed?” one of two men asked family members at the door at about 8 p.m., according to Purty’s sister, Sharon Purty.
She said the men were trying to speak in the local Mundari dialect, but that it was clearly not their native language. They resorted to speaking Hindi, she said.
“That pastor was killed, but you did not learn a lesson,” the men said as they shouted at family members at the door, according to Sharon Purty, who said they added. “You have continued assembling in large numbers for Christian prayers. Where is the woman working as spy?”
The sisters’ mother told them that they were not spies and asked them to leave, Sharon Purty said.
“‘Call the woman out, or we will kill you,’ they threatened us,” she said.
One of the men, masked in black cloth, handed a pistol to the one standing behind him and told him to load it, Sharon Purty said. At that point she, her mother and younger brother were near the door.
“My sister, Neelam Purty, who was making the bed until then, also came to the front room wondering what we were still doing there,” she said. “The masked gunman pointed at her and screamed, ‘She is the one – she is the spy!’”
Their mother told him he was mistaken, that her daughter was a schoolteacher in Jamshedpur city. The family had moved out of the home in the village after pastor Chamu Hassa Purty was shot dead there in 2015, but on April 15 members returned from different schools and colleges that were shut down as the government announced that a lockdown due to the new coronavirus was extended to May 3.
Sharon Purty said her mother was pleading with the gunmen to leave when the masked one told the other to shoot.
“He fired at her – she was standing there with her hands straight, and the bullet pierced into her right thigh through her thumb,” Sharon Purty told Morning Star News. “Our father was shot to death in that same room. We cried for help, and both the gunmen got on a motorbike and sped away from there.”
Family members tied Neelam Purty’s thigh and hand with cloth to slow blood flow and, without any means of transport, obtained help from a church member to take her to Murhu police station on a motorbike, Sharon Purty said. Her wounded sister’s thigh bone fractured as they put her on the vehicle, she said.
A pastor with a car picked up Neelam Purty from Murhu police station and took her to Khunti Government Hospital, where doctors provided First Aid and referred her to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi, she said.
RIMS doctors initially said she would undergo an operation on Sunday (April 19) but postponed it, leaving Neelam Purty’s mother, two younger sisters and a younger brother worried that the bullet was still in her, Sharon Purty said. Neelam Purty underwent an operation today (April 21).
Before Thursday night’s shooting, her younger brother had initially answered the door when one of the gunmen knocked and mimicked the voice of a grand-uncle, she said.
Seeing two strangers, one masked, the shocked brother ran to family members in the bedroom, Sharon Purty said. Her mother went to the door and asked the men what they wanted.
“My younger brother and I also went into our front room to check who the persons were and why had they come to our house,” Sharon Purty told Morning Star News, adding that when the men asked if this was the house of the pastor who was killed, the siblings figured they were from the same group that killed him.
“But we were too young back then and do not remember their faces now,” she said. “The two men were not very tall. They stood one behind the other. The one standing in the front, facing us directly, was wearing a worn-out jacket. His hair was long and dirty. He covered his face with a black cloth and looked like a criminal. But the one standing behind him had neatly tucked his shirt and looked like an educated, well-groomed person.”
Inspector Pappu Kumar Sharma of Murhu police station told Morning Star News that a case has been registered and that an investigation is underway.
“We will tell you when we catch the culprits,” he said adding, “Neelam Purty is responding well to the medical treatment offered at RIMS hospital. As it was a Sunday, the operation had to be postponed. She is under the observation of good doctors. They will conduct the operation soon.”
A representative for legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom India said he urged District Superintendent of Police Ashutosh Shekhar to conduct a speedy and fair investigation. Shekhar said police had raided a few places and would arrest the culprits soon, the ADF India representative said.
Shekhar told Morning Star News that police have three or four suspects based on leads they have received.
“There is no Naxal movement in this part [Binda village] of the state,” he said. “And there is no direct link of this incident with their father’s killing as of now, but we cannot rule out that possibility also.”
He noted that Neelam Purty has lived in Jamshedpur “for quite some time, and the incident occurred the very next day after she came to her village. We are questioning local gangs operating in that area, and also the family’s disputes with their extended family in the village, the call records of their family members and the call records of people residing in that area.”
An area pastor said the family needs to move to a safe, rented house in a secure area, which will be difficult to find amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Sharon Purty said police must arrest the assailants soon, “as they have seen our faces and recognize us – we feel very unsafe.”
Before her father was killed on Oct. 12, 2015, he had prayed for a sick boy in a nearby village and helped his parents admit him into a hospital, Sharon Purty said.
After coming home that night and going to bed by 10 p.m., there was a knock on the door at about 11 p.m., she said. Her mother got up and saw through a narrow window in the front room eight men who told her that a boy was sick and asked if Pastor Purty could pray for him.
“My dad woke up and asked for the boy’s address,” Sharon Purty said. “They gave the same address where my father just returned from after admitting him at the hospital. We had figured that they were following my father’s movements.”
When the men asked her mother to open the door and give them a drink of water, she told them to get water from the well and leave, Sharon Purty said.
“My father and mother came to the room where we were sleeping and told us that we should flee from the rear door,” she said. “As we were about to move, two of them held us and brought us back to the front room. They fired at my father many times and at walls also.
“After my father’s killing, we had moved out of our native village and rarely went there. It was because of the coronavirus lockdown that we had gone there to stay. In 2016, another pastor, Pastor John, who was a close aide to my father and had continued the ministry in the village after him, also was killed.”
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.
(Forum 18) Twenty-one-year-old Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi has been sentenced to three months plus one day in prison, and ten lashes.
The sentence relates to Mary’s alleged participation in anti-government demonstrations following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.
The sentence is suspended for one year, and depends on her future conduct.
Mary has not appealed against the verdict, but commented:
“There was no evidence against me, so I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment, but also flogging.
“And it should be mentioned that even before the verdict was handed down, I and my family were forced to endure all kinds of torture, none of which was sanctioned by law, and which ought to be considered crimes in themselves. So even if I would have been acquitted, it wouldn’t have been a real acquittal!”
“We have refrained from appealing against the verdict because the appeal courts have turned into confirmation courts!”
During Mary’s court hearing last week, the judge questioned her about her religious views, even though the charges were unrelated to her faith.
He cited no evidence against her, saying that her presence in the area where the rally was taking place was evidence in itself.
Mary’s hearing had previously been scheduled for 2 March, but was postponed due to coronavirus.
After her hearing was rescheduled, Mary tweeted that it would be a “crime against humanity” to send anyone to prison under the current circumstances.
Mary has already spent six months in prison as a result of her participation in house-churches, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.
In July last year she faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.
Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.
Just a few weeks later, on 12 January 2020, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.
There was no word about Mary’s whereabouts for a month, before it was confirmed that she was being held in Qarchak women’s prison, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.
After her arrest, Mary was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets, and not given any food for 24 hours.
She was beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.
Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.
Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran. She launched a campaign last year called “Kahma”, fighting for the rights of all Christians – whether from Christian homes, or Christian converts – to be given the right to attend church.
UPDATE on Anita
We had asked you to pray for Anita, a Christian convert who was charge with promoting the underground church in Iran. Her hearing took place on April 15th. The Iranian court had recommended 6 years in prison, but we were encouraged that the judge, who is known to be harsh, had treated her kindly during the trial. After the hearing she was released to house arrest and told the judge would send his final verdict. Sadly, she received a verdict of 10 years in prison. Please pray for Anita and her attorney who will likely appeal the sentence.