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Persecution Watch: Praying for Believers in Bhutan
(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Thursday December 2, 2021 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church hosted by Persecution Watch.
Bhutan: Population: 835,000, Christians 30,000 (3.6%)
In Bhutan, the government assumes that all citizens are Buddhist. Anyone who converts to Christianity is watched with suspicion, and efforts are usually made to bring them back to their former religion. Religious leaders, the local community and family often cooperate in this.
In addition to converts from Buddhism, many Christians in Bhutan come from the Nepali minority. No Christian church in Bhutan has official government recognition—all Christians who worship together are technically worshiping illegally. Local authorities often refuse to issue Christians a “non-objection certificate,” which is needed for loan applications, registering property, applying for jobs, and renewing their ID cards.
Particularly in rural areas, Buddhist monks oppose the presence of Christians. In general, local officials overlook this opposition. Buddhism is engrained in daily life in Bhutan, and anyone who leaves Buddhism to follow Jesus is viewed with suspicion by neighbors, friends, and even immediate family. Conversion brings shame upon the family, so often family members go to great lengths to bring the convert back to his or her original faith. If everything fails, converts’ families will disown them. Because life in Bhutan is still very communal and the proximity and protection of the family are important, being disowned is a significant form of persecution against converts from Buddhism to Christianity. Government officials will do whatever is necessary to preserve the country’s Buddhist heritage. Many officials are heavily influenced by Buddhist monks, and there is a longstanding practice of monks working in and for the government.
Miriam witnessed “Growing up in a Buddhist family, I had a lot of responsibility for pleasing the deities that my forefathers had worshiped and doing all the cultural and traditional practices we as a Buddhist family used to do. But now, after becoming a Christian myself, I came to realize that we were wrong in so many things. It was like coming out of the darkness and being able to see again. Our parents would tell us that if we didn’t do these rituals and our practices, we would fall sick. If any ill befell the family, it was because we had not appeased the deities and our gods.”
Bhutan rose two spots on the World Watch List this year, primarily because of a rise in pressure in almost every sphere of life for Christians. Fortunately, physical violence against followers of Jesus continues to be non-existent. But Christians—particularly those from Buddhist backgrounds—risk oppression, discrimination and intense pressure from their families, communities, and government. Converts from Buddhism are far and away most at risk. Because Buddhism is so engrained in Bhutan’s culture and society, anyone who leaves Buddhism for Jesus is seen as betraying their family, their community, and their country. This means intense pressure for anyone who chooses faith in God.
Through our local partners, Open Doors provides immediate aid to Bhutanese believers when their faith in Christ lands them in prison, excludes them from families and communities, and deprives them of livelihood and employment. We also strengthen the persecuted church in Bhutan through working with partners on literature distribution, discipleship, persecution preparedness and prayer support.
- Pray to the Lord He will touch through His Holy Spirit for political leaders to give religious freedom to Christians.
- Pray that the spirit of Unity and love will heal the Bhutanese church who is divided by Denominationalism. To bring believers together in unity and encourage oneness in Christ Jesus their Lord.
- Pray that the Lord will bless and guide Open Door workers in organizing leaders’ gatherings. To help church leaders to come together and worship, fellowship and have discussion. Continue to pray for unity, peace and understanding among the churches in Bhutan.
- Pray for the Christians in Bhutan to remain true and strong in their faith, in the face of Buddhism’s strong influence in the country. This because Buddhists leaders have made efforts to visit schools to give religious talks to students. They have taken great measures to help Buddhists promote Buddhism and deepen the Buddhist faith in Bhutan among young people.
- Please pray for churches in central-south Bhutan. Most are constantly monitored by authorities, hindering, or even preventing worship and fellowship gatherings. Ask God to give believers wisdom to know how to respond to this situation, and that He would soften the hearts of the authorities to allow Christians to worship freely.
- Pray for opportunities for believers to boldly share their faith in the hostile environment.
- Pray for converts from Buddhism, that they would be protected from oppression at the hands of their family, friends, and community and especially Buddhist monks.
- Pray that the Lord through His Holy Spirit will show Christian Pastors and leaders on how to respond to the government officials who want to preserve the Buddhist heritage. That the Lord will talks the scales from their eyes and let them see the love and promises of Christian life.
- Pray that the Lord will give His believers the ability to love their enemies and to forgive them.
- Pray to the Lord that Christians will experience God’s comfort and show them that they are being prayed for.
- Pray. That all Christians are solidly rooted in His word.
- Pray that the Lord will watch over and protect His church Bhutan and add to the numbers of believers daily.
Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses to the Lord:
- Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018. Pray for her release.
- Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
- Pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
- Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped from Iran and praying to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
- For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence.
Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer Call 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 time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.
Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.
“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are 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 are new to the call and cannot 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!
God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.
Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team
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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.
Pastor in Bhutan Sentenced to Prison for Accepting Funds for Ministry
(Morning Star News) – A court in Bhutan on Wednesday sentenced Pastor Tandin Wangyal to three years, 11 months in prison for receiving funds for ministry activities from a Christian organization.
The verdict from the court in Dorokha, Samtse District asserts the pastor received US$11,864 in funding from a foreign Christian organization to conduct trainings and spread Christianity in the Buddhist country, sources said.
A source on Thursday (Sept. 11) told Morning Star News that Wangyal had been granted a one-year bail after paying a fine of US$763. Today, however, the source said authorities had refused to release the pastor due to a technicality on the release papers. The release on bail will amount to year subtracted from his sentence.
Another pastor, M.B. Thapa (known as Lobzang), was sentenced to two years and four months for taking Wangyal to a village for a gathering for which he allegedly had not obtained prior permission, but he was entitled to pay a fine of US$1,678 “in lieu” of prison that enabled him to remain free.
Wangyal was convicted under Article 71 of the Civil Society Organization Act of Bhutan, which outlaws raising funds for activities “in contravention of the laws of the country” and without prior permission. The pastors were arrested in Khapdani village, Dorokha area in Samtse District, on March 5.
The pastor had 10 days to appeal, but in comments to Morning Star News hours before he was detained Wednesday night (Sept. 9), Wangyal said he had already filed an appeal in Samtse District Court and was hoping for bail.
“My case now dates back to the past records and findings on my laptop,” Wangyal. “I do not agree to the charges.”
Wangyal and his wife have three sons, ages 8, 5 and 2.
“I am worried about my wife and my three little sons,” he said. “Please pray for me and my family.”
The two pastors were apprehended after they had reached Khapdani village in Dorokha to attend a foundation-laying ceremony. The police confiscated Wangyal’s laptop hard disk, mobile phone and a movie projector.
Before winning release on bail on April 22, the two pastors were detained for 49 days without formal charges. The evening of March 4, they had spoken at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new house at the invitation of another Christian in Khapdani. They were planning to hold a three-day seminar in the village the next day that included screening of a film, but as they were trying to transport a child who was ill to a hospital, police arrested them.
The Civil Society Organization Act puts restrictions on collections, stipulating that “No person shall collect or ask for any contribution or charity to aid or help any activity, which is in contravention with the laws of the Country, and a collection in a public place must not be conducted unless the promoters of the collection hold a public collections certificate from the Authority and the collection is conducted in accordance with this Act.”
At the United Nations Human Rights Council’s recent Universal Periodic Review of the Buddhist nation in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States and other nations urged the tiny kingdom to protect religious freedom by allowing people to freely practice their faith and by granting all religious groups equal opportunity to obtain legal status.
Among other international rights groups submitting reports, U.S.-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) called on Bhutan to address various religious freedom concerns. ADF noted that Bhutan has enacted several laws restricting fundamental rights of its citizens, freedom of association and freedom of religion and belief of individuals.
Wangyal had refuted Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Damcho Dorji’s statement to Business Bhutan newspaper that religion was not a factor in the arrests, saying, “All this time they have denied that it was a faith-based arrest, but everything since day one has revolved around faith.”
Thapa (Lobzang) said he was grieving for his friend and colleague.
“I was sentenced to less than three years, which was bailable,” he told Morning Star News. “I paid the money against the prison term and will return home tomorrow.”
Christians are generally allowed to meet in homes or private halls to worship but face obstacles and persecution in trying to do so. Bhutan has numerous Buddhist monasteries and a few Hindu temples, but no church building.
The miniscule Christian community remained underground until 2008. Bhutan transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy in 2008 after a century of absolute monarchy.