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INDIA: Karnataka Christian hospital official arrested for proselytising

(AsiaNews) – Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a radical Hindu group, on Monday stormed the Sanjo Hospital, Mandya district (Karnataka), and beat up Simon George, a public relations officer, and Sister Nirmal Jose the hospital administrator.

The extremists claim that the two denigrated Hindu deities. Instead of helping the victims of the attack, police took Simon George into custody. He applied for bail but the court turned him down.

For Fr Josekutty Kalayil, who takes care of the hospital’s legal affairs, the incident stems from the hospitalization on Sunday of an elderly Hindu with high blood pressure.

Just before he was discharged, the man asked why there was a Bible in his room. Simon George, who was doing a routine tour, replied that he could read it if he was interested. This was followed shortly afterwards by the attack.

According to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the hospital was attacked because it is run by Christian religious, even though it serves everyone, regardless of faith or caste.

“Christian missionaries who work in the medical and educational field are targeted every day by extremists who try to discredit their altruistic work, which is to get people the ‘beneficial touch’ of Jesus,” George explained.

In his view, the charges against the Sanjo Hospital staff are false. “There is nothing criminal or illegal about keeping a Bible in a hospital room; no Hindu deity has been offended,” he noted.

The Christian community Mandya district is very small, about 9,000 people out of a population of 1.8 million, but it is under constant threat from extremist groups.

“Our Christian institutions serve mostly those who attack, abuse and assault us. May God forgive them for they know not what they do,” was George’s laconic comment.

Confirmed: Mary Mohammadi is in Qarchak Prison

Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi arrested and brutally beaten by prison officers

Article18 has confirmed that Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is being held in Qarchak detention centre, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

It is a month today since Mary was arrested, as protests took place in central Tehran following the Iranian government’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.

Since that time, there has been no word from Mary, although last week the Persian-language HRANA news agency reported that she was being held in Qarchak Prison.

At that time, Article18 was unable to verify this, but a reliable source has now confirmed that Mary is indeed being held there and that her bail has been set at 30 million tomans (around $2,250).

Mary’s family have been able to put together the amount, even though it is equivalent to more than the annual salary for Iranians, under the country’s current economic challenges.

However, Article18’s source explained that during the time it took for the family to obtain the amount, “Mary’s case was transferred from the prosecutor’s office to the court, which will now decide whether or not to grant her temporary release from prison”.

Mary has been charged with “disturbing public order by participating in an illegal rally” and provided with a lawyer not of her choosing.

She has been able to call home a few times to reassure her family that she is OK.

As the Iranian government has held celebrations to mark the 41st anniversary of the revolution, the legal system has slowed. With the Iranian New Year (Nowruz) only a month away, it is not clear whether there will be sufficient time for Mary’s family to secure her release before the holidays, or whether she may be forced to remain detained for longer still.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said that he was “extremely relieved” to know that Mary is OK, and hopes soon to be able to confirm her release – “albeit temporary” – from prison.

Who is Mary Mohammadi?

Mary’s case has captured the world’s attention, with even the US President, Donald Trump, citing her arrest during his recent National Prayer Breakfast speech.

Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran and, prior to her current detention, had already served six months in prison for her Christian activities, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.

Last July, Mary 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, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.

Beaten

HRANA reports that, during her detention, Mary has been beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.

After her arrest, HRANA reports that she was taken to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran, where she was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets.

She was then interrogated by three officers, who gave her forms containing 30 questions. Mary refused to answer the questions in the absence of a lawyer.

Mary was not given any food until 24 hours after her arrest and her handcuffs were put on in a cross-shape, making them very uncomfortable.

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.

The next day, she was taken to Evin Court, where she was charged. Her case was then transferred to the General and Criminal Court of Tehran.

Mary is now one of around 2,000 women prisoners in the overcrowded Qarchak Prison, which is considered the worst women’s prison in Iran and has been sanctioned by the US for “gross human rights violations”, including abuse, arbitrary beatings, little drinking water and “creating an environment for rape and murder”, noted Open Doors.

This article was updated on 13 February to include the new information from HRANA.

VOP Note: Please pray for Mary and Christian converts in Iran.

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, searches, fines, threats, beatings

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

(Forum 18) Protestant women celebrating Christmas are the latest victims of police raids on worship meetings. Officers searched the home, seized telephones, forced the women to write statements and took photos and fingerprints.
Officials often summon and threaten people known to be religious (including men who attend mosque, women who wear headscarves, and Jehovah’s
Witnesses).

One Year Anniversary of Pastor Wang Yi’s Arrest by the Chinese Government.

Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wang Yi poses with sign that reads, ‘Pray for the nation on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings. (China Aid)

December 9th marked the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Pastor Wang Yi, who is still in jail awaiting trial.  Early Rain Covenant Church members continue to be harassed and arrested.

Pastor Wang Yi understood the dangers coming against the church. In advance, he wrote the following statement to be released upon his arrest. “It is a glorious display of faith and courage in the face of persecution. It is sure to become a significant document in Chinese church history. Read it and pray for Pastor Wang Yi, his wife and son, his church, and all Christians in China who are facing various pressures because of their faith,” was shared by an Early Rain Covenant Church social media account.

My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience

On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.

As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.

For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.

As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.

For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.

At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.

But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.

As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.

For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.

This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.

If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.

Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.

I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.

If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

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

Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.

If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.

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

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

And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?

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

First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be published by the church after 48 hours of detention. 

Appendix: What Constitutes Faithful Disobedience

I firmly believe that the Bible has not given any branch of any government the authority to run the church or to interfere with the faith of Christians. Therefore, the Bible demands that I, through peaceable means, in meek resistance and active forbearance, filled with joy, resist all administrative policies and legal measures that oppress the church and interfere with the faith of Christians.

I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience.  In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement.

I firmly believe that spiritual disobedience is an act of the last times; it is a witness to God’s eternal kingdom in the temporal kingdom of sin and evil. Disobedient Christians follow the example of the crucified Christ by walking the path of the cross. Peaceful disobedience is the way in which we love the world as well as the way in which we avoid becoming part of the world.

I firmly believe that in carrying out spiritual disobedience, the Bible demands me to rely on the grace and resurrection power of Christ, that I must respect and not overstep two boundaries.

The first boundary is that of the heart. Love toward the soul, and not hatred toward the body, is the motivation of spiritual disobedience. Transformation of the soul, and not the changing of circumstances, is the aim of spiritual disobedience. At any time, if external oppression and violence rob me of inner peace and endurance, so that my heart begins to breed hatred and bitterness toward those who persecute the church and abuse Christians, then spiritual disobedience fails at that point.

The second boundary is that of behavior. The gospel demands that disobedience of faith must be non-violent. The mystery of the gospel lies in actively suffering, even being willing to endure unrighteous punishment, as a substitute for physical resistance. Peaceful disobedience is the result of love and forgiveness. The cross means being willing to suffer when one does not have to suffer. For Christ had limitless ability to fight back, yet he endured all of the humility and hurt. The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him.

I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.

The Lord’s servant,
Wang Yi

First draft on September 21st, 2018; revised on October 4th. To be circulated by the church after 48 hours of detention. 

English translation provided by Amy, Brent Pinkall, and the China Partnership translation team.

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

Prayer Points

Pray for Individual Believers—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” —Hebrews 12:1-2

Pray for the imprisoned & their families. (Heb 13:3)

Pray for believers threatened & terrorized by the police. (Heb 13:6)

Pray for the weak & the fearful. (Heb 4:15-16)

Pray for those who have lost jobs or homes for their faith. (Heb 11:16)

Pray for Pastors and Church Leaders.“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…” Colossians 1:24-25

Pray for churches strategizing next steps to navigate persecution. (Matt 10:16; Ps 37: 5-6)

Pray for strength for pastors ministering to dispersed churches. (Phil 4:13; Col 1:29)

Pray that God will teach pastors how to exhort the suffering church with his Word. (Eph 6:19; Col 2:1-2)

Pray for pastors’ knowledge and love for Christ to deepen through suffering. (Phil 1:9-10, 3:8)

Pray for God’s Kingdom to Advance “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” —Philippians 1:18

Pray that God will empower the church to love and witness to those who hurt them. (Rom 12:19-20)

Pray for the light of Christ to reach the darkest places—in prisons and among the persecutors. (1 Pet 2:9)

Pray for an overflowing of joy, hope, faith, and love as the church participates in the sufferings of Christ. (1 Pet 1:6-9)

Pray for the church to persevere and be kept blameless until the gospel is proclaimed to all and Christ returns. (1 Thess 5:23; 1 Pet 1:13-16)

 

Falsely Accused of Killing Hindu Leader in India, Five Christians Ordered To Be Freed

Journalist Anto Akkara on Indian TV program The Wire (Screenshot from YouTube)

(Morning Star News) – After spending 11 years behind bars for a murder they did not commit, five Christians in eastern India were finally ordered to be freed on Tuesday (Nov. 26), sources said.

The Supreme Court of India issued a decision granting bail to the five Christians from Odisha (formerly Orissa) state falsely accused of killing Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, whose death on Aug. 23, 2008 in Kandhamal District touched off anti-Christian attacks that killed 120 people, destroyed nearly 6,000 homes and displaced 55,000 Christians.

The five Christians remained in jail at this writing. One of the five Christians granted bail this week is reportedly mentally challenged. Because the Supreme Court issued the release on bail, the five Christians and two others freed earlier this year do not have to return unless the high court itself so orders.

“I am really happy that all of them are granted bail,” attorney Anupradha Singh, who represented the Christians, told Morning Star News. “The Honorable Judges granted the bail on the grounds that they have spent over 10 years in jail. Their behavior in the jail was also good, and the same was noted.”

Journalist Anto Akkara, who has been anchoring an online signature campaign at www.release7innocents.com since March 2016, was also elated.

“This is a big victory for truth and justice for Kandhamal,” Akkara, author of “Who Killed Swami Laxmamananda?” told Morning Star News. “I am thrilled.”

Buddhadev Nayak, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Durjo Sunamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi and Munda Badamajhi were convicted in 2008. They were arrested by December 2008 along with Gornath Chalanseth and Bijaya Sanaseth, who were also convicted but managed to obtain bail in May and July respectively.

Christian leaders and activists have long maintained that the seven Christians were framed and falsely accused, and that the charge against the mentally challenged Badamajhi typified the absurdity of the charges.

“Considering the fact that the accused-appellant(s) had already undergone 10 years of their sentence as is the case of other accused directed to be released on bail, and taking an overall view of the matter, we are of the opinion that the above-named accused- appellant(s) should also be released on bail on such conditions as may be imposed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Phulbani in S.T. No. 16/18 of 2013-2009,” Supreme Court Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari wrote in their ruling.

The Rev. Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), said the legal fight does not end with the granting of bail to the seven accused Christians.

“This is just the first step,” Lal told Morning Star News. “The case still has to be fought at the High Court in Odisha.”

At the same time, Lal said he was glad that the Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas with their families.

“This is like a Christmas gift for them,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Human Rights Law Network, to the Bhubaneswar Cuttack Archdiocese, to [the United Christian Forum’s] John Dayal, ADF [legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom] and to everyone who contributed to securing this first step to their freedom. Special mention should be made of journalist Anto Akkara, who continued to create awareness about this case.”

Attorney Anupradha Singh echoed the sentiment that the quest for justice remains.

“This is a small success because the case is still pending at the High Court,” she told Morning Star News. “We will diligently fight the matter in the High Court.”

Spurious Case

The Reb. Dibya Paricha, a Catholic priest and an attorney based in Odisha state who has coordinated legal matters for the seven Christians, said he was hopeful that they will win acquittal from the High Court.

“They should not have been detained for so many years,” Paricha told Morning Star News. “Politics should not have been involved but, unfortunately, it was. We must understand that people’s lives and liberty are more important. I know personally that they are innocent.”

Attorney Bibhu Dutta Das, who has played an active role in legal matters following the anti-Christian violence in 2007 and 2008, said the accusations lack substance.

“There is no direct evidence against them,” Das told Morning Star News. “Their conviction was based on circumstantial evidence, and it is necessary that the chain of circumstantial evidence be established for conviction, but in this case, it was not so.”

Journalist Akkara expressed his frustration over the lagging legal process.

“Last week the Supreme Court observed that the constitution will lose importance if fundamental rights are not protected,” he told Morning Star News. “When I heard this, I asked myself what this meant for the seven innocents of Kandhamal. It was a shame that those people were still in jail for all those years. I see the bails as a silver lining, and it seems that now we are coming to the edge of the tunnel, towards freedom and truth.”

False Arrests

Hindu extremist leader Saraswati, widely believed to have encouraged violence on Christmas Eve 2007 that damaged 53 church buildings and 700 houses, was killed along with five of his disciples by a mob of armed gunmen at his ashram in Jalespeta, Tumudibandha in 2008. Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda took responsibility for the attack, but Hindu nationalist leaders led by Pravin Togadia alleged a Christian conspiracy.

Togadia marched with the body of Saraswati for 160 kilometers (100 miles) along predominantly Christian areas in order to provoke violence. The ensuing attacks on Christians’ homes and destruction with explosives of church buildings sent thousands of people into the forests.

Soon after Saraswati’s death, the police arrested and detained four Christians, including a 13-year-old boy. The four Christians were reportedly brought to the police station by members of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Togadia, the VHP leader, reportedly announced the names of the arrested Christians arrested before the police could.

The Christians were detained for more than 40 days before police let them go for lack of evidence. Later, however, police proceeded to arrest the seven Christians as scapegoats.

“The first batch of ‘Christian killers’ – four of them were beaten up and dumped in police stations by Sangh Parivar – were later set free by the police after 40 days of investigation,” said Akkara, who also produced a documentary, “Innocents Imprisoned,” on the 10th anniversary of Kandhamal in August 2018. “It was after their release, the seven innocents were arrested in two batches in October and December 2008 from the remote Kotagarh jungle area.”

The seven Christians were convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and rioting by Additional District and Sessions Judge Rajendra Kumar Tosh on Sept. 30, 2013. Two prior judges presiding over the trial were transferred before Tosh heard the case and delivered the verdict.

Appeals against the judgment from the District and Sessions Court have dragged on since then. Their bail applications were denied, forcing them to appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

“We requested the judges in the High Court again and again, and the matter was listed many times, but was never heard,” attorney Das told Morning Star News. “Finally, when it came to the court of Justice Misra, he said that he will neither hear the case nor will he grant bail and thus rejected the bail applications. So, we had no other option but to come to the Supreme Court.”

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

Foreign Christians Arrested on Charges of ‘Converting’ in Nepal

(Morning Star News) – A Christian from South Korea arrested in Nepal on charges of “attempting to convert” was released on bail on Wednesday (Aug. 7), sources said.

Cho Yusang, a 73-year-old evangelical Christian, posted bail of 150,000 Nepalese rupees (US$1,330) after being arrested on July 23. His health deteriorated after he was incarcerated, and he had been hospitalized, said Tanka Subedi, chair of the Religious Liberty Forum Nepal (RLFN).

On Monday (Aug. 5), Subedi told Morning Star News that Cho had been released from hospital care.

“Though he was out of hospital, he was feeling dizzy this morning also,” Subedi said. “His health is still not good. He does not want to go back to the hospital, because he does not have much money left. He does not have insurance cover to pay his bills.”

In Nepal on a business visa, Cho was also charged with misuse of visa.

The charge of “attempting to convert” under Section 158 (1) of the Nepal Penal Code of 2017 calls for as much five years in jail and/or a fine of up to 50,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$445), according to Subedi.

Cho and two other foreigners working separately from him were found involved in conversion activity in Pokhara, in central Nepal, Raj Kumar KC, spokesperson of the District Police Office in Kaski, reportedly said.

Police arrested Cho for allegedly distributing leaflets and Bibles in the Barachi area of Kaski District, in Gandaki Pradesh Province, KC told the Kathmandu, Nepal-based news outlet Republica. The police spokesman said officers also arrested two Japanese nationals, Jehova’s Witnesses unaffiliated with Cho, in the Ratna area of the same district on the same charges.

KC reportedly said their arrest shows that “some foreigners do not come with good intentions,” and that they would be charged with proselytizing.

B.P. Khanal, national coordinator of Nepal for the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief [IPPFoRB], told Morning Star News that after arresting Cho from his lakeside lodging, police raided his room and confiscated some Bibles and Christian literature.

Khanal, who is responsible for inter-faith relations for the Nepal Christian Society, said possession of a Bible and Christian literature is not evidence of a crime.

“In this case the law is discriminatory, because it is not an offense to have Bibles in your room,” Khanal told Morning Star News. “The recovery of some Bibles and Christian literature from Yusang’s personal belongings is projected as an offense and as a crime Yusang committed. Anybody can have a Bible – it is not a drug or an explosive. Carrying a Bible should not be and must not be a criminal offense.”

The Nepal Christian Society has hired an attorney for Cho, he said.

U.S. Citizen Charged

Earlier, in Basgadhi of Bardiya District, police on June 21 arrested U.S. citizen Bradley Navarro Anagaran on a charge of possessing Christian literature, according to the RLFN.

When local pastor Hira Singh Sunar went to the police station to inquire about his arrest, officers arrested him as well, according to an RLFN statement. Both Anagaran and Pastor Sunar were charged with “attempting to convert,” it stated.

Anagaran was found with two discipleship leaflets designed for use within a church circle, Christian sources said.

“Apart from the literature on discipleship, police have confiscated a few pairs of reading glasses from his backpack, which means that the police did not find him distributing the literature to anybody,” Khanal of the IPPFoRB said.

The two Christians were moved from district headquarters of Gulariya to Bansgadhi police station. They were released on bail on July 3, and Anagaran has returned to the United States, but he must return for a hearing at the end of this month and every court date thereafter, Subedi of the RLFN said.

“I personally don’t know how he will be able to do that, as it is a great financial burden to travel every time for his court date from the United States to Nepal,” Subedi told Morning Star News. “The court procedures in Nepal take several years and are tiresome.”

A team from the Nepal Christian Society in Kathmandu, including Khanal, went to speak with local officials.

“We met with about 60 local pastors and mobilized prayer, as well as formed a task force,” Khanal said. “We met Bradley and Sunar inside the jail and comforted them. We met the police inspector who arrested Bradley, the deputy superintendent of police, chief district officer and the prosecuting attorney to discuss how the charges in the case could be minimized, for there was no ‘conversion attempt’ in the case at all.”

After the initial order for a week’s remand ended, police kept them in custody while extending the investigation for no apparent reason, sources said.

“Both Bradley and Sunar were being kept in a miserable condition while in custody,” read an RLFN newsletter. “They were treated as criminals even though they had not committed any crime.”

The Rev. Mukunda Sharma, spokesperson of the RLFN, was a part of the team visiting the duo in jail. He urged human rights and diplomatic officials to support them.

Khanal issued a plea for foreigners visiting Nepal to refrain from doing anything that will land them in legal trouble. He said that sharing the gospel where there are already local churches should not be taken up by Christians from other countries.

“Their role can be to inspire, educate and train local churches if they really want the bring the gospel to the people,” he said. “Let the local church in their local language share the gospel.”

As the Nepal Christian Society is taking up an increasing number of legal cases, he asked that the international Christian community pray for those accused under Nepal’s new criminal code.

An increase in persecution of Christians in Nepal began after a new criminal code was passed in October 2017, which took effect in August 2018.

Targeting Christians

Pastor Sagar Baiju, a senior Christian leader in the country, said that such incidents make it clear that government officials, police and politicians are targeting Christians.

“Unless this new law is revoked, such incidents will continue to increase in Nepal,” Baiju told Morning Star News. “When I travel to foreign counties, I carry my identity with me – and my identity is that I am a Nepali, but apart from being a Nepali, I am a Christian, so I always carry my Bible with me. How is it a crime, when foreign tourists come to Nepal to tour the country or to visit their friends and carry their Bible in their hands?”

People of other religions erect huge tents, gather in large numbers and use loud sound systems for worship, and the lawmakers do not question them, he said.

“All the schools in Nepal have their morning devotions according to the faith that the school authorities follow,” he said. “In schools run by Hindus, they make the children perform Saraswati Vandana [a common Hindu mantra] in their morning devotion, and nobody objects to it. Then why is it a crime, if a Christian school makes the children say The Lord’s Prayer in the assembly? Why are objections raised and Christians ghettoized as criminals?”

There is a need for Christians to unite and raise the issue with a single voice, he said.

“A hospital owned by a Hindu has a big Hindu temple inside the premises,” he said. “They are free to write Hindu scriptures on the walls of the hospital and nobody objects. But if a Christian hospital has a Bible inside the hospital or a Bible verse hung on any wall, we are accused of preaching our religion, and the authorities running the hospital are in trouble.”

Nepal was ranked 32nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Thailand arrests Pakistani Christian Asylum Seekers including children

Pakistani Christians taken to IDC in caged wagons

Voice of the PersecutedSources on the ground reported to (VOP) that approximately 50 Pakistani Christians were arrested from a building on the outskirts of Bangkok around 7 a.m., this morning (July 8). Immigration authorities raided and rounded up as many people as they could. They
broke through doors and violently took people out. Those who resisted were beaten as well.
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The building had had a high occupancy rate among Pakistani Christians Asylum Seekers for many years. This is the first time it has been raided. It is also the first time we’ve heard of authorities beating those being apprehended. It was also shared that they were taken to the notorious Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) known for it’s inhumane condition.
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VOP Note: Please pray for these families and the safety of those suffering and hiding. Pray doors will open to be approved asylum status and leave the nightmare of Thailand for a host nation.
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30 Pentecostal Christians Arrested for Praying in Eritrea

Eritrea’s Pentecostals have faced much persecution and detained for their faith. Recently 30 were arrested by the country’s security forces for praying. According to the BBC, Dr. Berhane Asmelash of Release Eritrea, said the Christians were arrested at three different locations around the capital city of Asmara.

The Eritrean government officially sanctioned and provided protocol status recognition to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, and Sunni Islam. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process, including personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship. Although the Eritrean government stated that it would allow other groups to be recognized, it has refused to register applications for recognition pending since 2002, even though some of them meet the requirements. Basically, the government considers other religious groups illegal and claim they are instruments of foreign governments.

A few weeks ago, police arrested 141 Christians, including 23 men, 104 women, and 14 minors, from Asmara’s Mai Temenai area.

Eritrea’s population is approximately half Christian and half Muslim. Since 2004, U.S. State Department has recognized Eritrea as a “country of particular concern” for horrific violations of religious freedom.

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