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The Chinese government has implemented a crack down on the Church not seen since Mao began his war against Christians in 1949. More Chinese Christians were arrested during the Christmas season. Chinese authorities continue to raid and close churches, arrest unregistered church members, pressure them with round-the-clock surveillance and the threat of detainment. Pastors like Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church are encouraging their congregations to stand strong and to prepare for much greater hardships. See video sermons (below) given by Pastor Wang Yi to his church members before his arrest. Be encouraged in your own faith as well in your prayers for our brothers and sisters in China.
On December 9th, 2018, authorities arrested more than 100 members and leaders of Early Rain Covenant Church, including Pastor Wang Yi as we reported here. He and his wife have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power.”
Three church members who were released described being beaten, deprived of sleep, food or drink and even trampled by police at the station. One brother was dragged after his hands and feet were bound. His body sustained injuries from what he claimed as being tortured in multiple ways.
Early Rain Covenant Church is an “unregistered” church in Chengdu, with more than 500 members. During the raid, authorities confiscated items and sealed off the church including its offices, a kindergarten, a seminary, and a bible college blocking them from going to the church schools. The church’s accounts on Chinese social media was removed. They searched the homes of many congregants and tried to force church members to sign a pledge that they would only worship at meeting places that conform to the laws of the People’s Republic of China. The church building was guarded by police and plain-clothes officers who would not allow anyone to enter. Those that weren’t taken conducted worship service in two separate locations outdoors. One group was dispersed immediately by police, and more than 20 taken away. The other group was dispersed by police after about an hour, and the two people leading the service were taken away. Many if not most members were forbidden from leaving their homes by police standing guard outside, so these brothers and sisters worshiped in their homes.
A more recent raid against the Early Rain members ended in the arrest of 60 more members in addition to over 100 already in custody. On Christmas Eve, the 23rd-floor sanctuary of Early Rain Covenant Church was officially converted into an office space for community police. Community police, or shequ, are local authorities with less power and jurisdiction than typical city police. They are like community monitors. A translation of the notice is below.
Esteemed residents and friends,
Because of work-related needs, the community police will be moving to North Taisheng Road 56, Jiangxin Building, 23rd floor on December 24th, 2018. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience. The entire community police staff will be waiting for everyone to visit us at our new office location.
Shuangyanjing Community Police
Remaining members of the Early Rain church attended Christmas Eve services elsewhere. Follow latest updates here
Most Chinese Christians belong to “unregistered” churches. Chinese underground, house, or unregistered churches are those who refuse to be state-controlled such as the Three-Self Patriotic Church. The TSP church is considered by many believers to be corrupted for making doctrinal compromises required by the Chinese Communist Party and it’s agenda to force Christians to put the state before God.
Praise God for what He is doing in China. In the name of Jesus, pray for mercy and the perseverance of the saints in China. Pray that that they will gain a new strength of boldness sharing the Gospel, the message of what Christ did on the Cross for all. May the true Church continue the speed of expansion that has been witnessed for the last 20 years. All for the glory of God! Amen
By— From attacks by Muslim mobs to closures by Muslim authorities, the lamentable plight of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt always follows a pattern, one that is unwaveringly only too typical.
Thus, last April 14, a Muslim mob—predictably riled by the previous day’s Friday mosque sermons—attacked the church of the Holy Virgin and Pope Kyrillos in Beni Meinin, Beni Suef. According to Watani, as with 3,500 other Egyptian churches, after patently waiting for decades to receive a permit, the church “had been used for worship for some 10 years now… [T]he building authority committee had recently [earlier that day] visited the church in preparation for legalising its status, and the attack was waged in retaliation.”
Local authorities’ response was even more typical: Twenty people were arrested after the attack—eleven Muslims (attackers) and nine Copts (defenders). At least five of the arrested Christians, whose “crime” was to try to put out fires Muslims started, were illegally incarcerated for over a month. One lost his job due to this prolonged absence (police refused to admit holding him to his employer).
Thereafter, on May 22, followed the usual “reconciliation” meeting between local Christian and Muslim elders, whereby victims forego their legal rights in an out of court settlement. In order to release their innocents the Copts had to agree to close the church—no more mass, wedding or funeral services on grounds that it is a “security risk”—and agree that the eleven Muslims who led the violent attack also be acquitted.
Just four days after that, the whole process was repeated again: on May 26, another Muslim mob attacked a church in the village of al-Shuqaf in the province of Beheira. “The mob,” notes the report, “also pelted the Coptic villagers’ houses with stones, damaged the priest’s car, and set on fire a motorbike that was parked in front of the church. Seven Copts suffered slight injuries. The police was called and caught 11 Muslims and nine Copts.”
As with the previous church incident, according to Watani, this church had also
been in use for worship for over three years now, and is known as the church of St Mark… a few months ago, construction work started on building a mosque close to the church. On Saturday afternoon [May 26], the Muslim worshippers began shouting slogans against the church and the Copts, and used the mosque microphones to call upon the villagers to attack the church. Many villagers gathered and waged the attack.
The Coptic villagers claim that the nine Copts who were arrested had been caught randomly in what has now become common practice by the police in order to pressure the Copts into ‘[re]conciliation,’ so that no legal action would be taken against the Muslim culprits in exchange for setting free the Coptic detainees and ensuring a swift end to hostilities.
Such is the unvarying “boilerplate” plight of Egypt’s Christians and their churches. To become acquainted with the persecution of one Coptic church is to become acquainted with all. For instance, nearly two years ago I offered the following detailed look at the “reconciliation” process—one that, as these two recent incidences show, remains perfectly applicable to and well entrenched in Egypt:
Christians trying to build a church … are typical violations that prompt large, armed Muslim mobs to attack all the Christians in that village (and their church if one exists) as a form of collective punishment, which is also Islamic….
After the uprising has fizzled out, authorities arrive. Instead of looking for and arresting the culprits or mob ringleaders—or, as often is the case, the local imam who incites the Muslim mob against the “uppity infidels” who need to be reminded of “their place”—authorities gather the leaders of the Christian and Muslim communities together in what are termed “reconciliation meetings.” During these meetings, Christians are asked to make further concessions to angry Muslims.
Authorities tell Christian leaders things like, “Yes, we understand the situation and your innocence, but the only way to create calm in the village is for X [the offending Christian and extended family, all of whom may have been beat] to leave the village—just for now, until things calm down.” Or, “Yes, we understand you need a church, but as you can see, the situation is volatile right now, so, for the time being, maybe you can walk to the church in the next town six miles away—you know, until things die down.”…
[Should Christians] rebuff the authorities’ offer and demand their rights as citizens against the culprits, the authorities smile and say “okay.” Then they go through the village making arrests—except that most of those whom they arrest are Christian youths. Then they tell the Christian leaders, “Well, we’ve made the arrests. But, just as you say so-and-so [Muslim] was involved, there are even more witnesses [Muslims] who insist your own [Christian] youths were the ones who began the violence. So, we can either arrest and prosecute them, or you can rethink our offer about having a reconciliation meeting.”
Under the circumstances, dejected Christians generally agree to the further mockery. What alternative do they have? They know if they don’t their youth will certainly go to prison and be tortured. In one recent incident, wounded Christians who dared fight against Muslim attackers were arrested and, despite serious injuries, held for seven hours and prevented from receiving medical attention….
[N]ot only are the victims denied any justice, but the aggressors are further emboldened to attack again.
Indeed, as seen by recent events—including one month where four churches were attacked and then closed—this modus operandi and culture of emboldened impunity is now more entrenched in Egypt than before.
An estimated 150 churches closed since July.
December 18, 2013 (Morning Star News) – Christians in southern Colombia are living in constant danger from a guerrilla army that has banned worship services in rural areas under its control.
An estimated 150 churches have been forced to close since July, when the 32nd Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP in Spanish) launched a repressive campaign against Roman Catholic and evangelical churches in the department (state) of Putumayo.
The FARC-EP has prohibited celebration of the Mass and Protestant worship in most small town and villages. Only congregations that have express permission from the rebel group are allowed to hold services without fear of retaliation.
Christians at greatest risk are the members of house churches and the itinerant evangelists who serve them.
“Every time my husband or another church leader leaves to go preach in the countryside, I can only ask, ‘Lord, continue to watch out for the safety of every one of them,” Jeanet Ortiz Pinto, wife of itinerant evangelist and radio speaker Angel Pinto, told Morning Star News. “My heart is saddened to see what is happening around us.”
The Pintos have pastored the Church of God in Puerto Asis, Putumayo since 1988. Angel Pinto also serves as itinerant pastor of several newly planted churches in the region.
During his 25-year ministry, Pinto has been captured five times by armed groups. Twice they told him he would be executed for violating FARC-imposed bans against preaching.
In both cases, local commanders released the pastor once they realized who he was – his congregation operates a well-known rescue ministry for war orphans.
“Some of those orphans belong to us; their parents were our comrades in arms,” they told Pinto the last time they spared him. “If we kill you, they will have nobody else to care for them.”
The FARC is known to have assassinated hundreds of evangelical church leaders over the years, including some of Pinto’s ministerial colleagues in Puerto Asis.
Guerrilla threats have driven six priests from their parishes in the Diocese of Mocoa, according to press reports.
“In the manual of coexistence issued by area FARC units, they have ordered us to close our churches, prohibited us from visiting outlying communities, or to preach – in effect, we must cease religious celebrations altogether,” Monsignor Luis Alberto Parra, bishop of Mocoa, told El Colombiano.
In the 50 years since the FARC launched its guerrilla war, 220,000 persons have lost their lives, according to a study by Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory. Hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced by the violence, creating one of the world’s largest populations of internal refugees.
Ironically, the current aggression against Christians is happening while the Colombian government is engaged in negotiations with the FARC in Havana, Cuba, with a view to developing a comprehensive peace plan. The Colombian government tapped politicians, journalists, businessmen, and retired police and military officers to form the negotiating team, but no religious leaders.
Eneida Herrera, an evangelical and professor of Public Finance at the Autonomous University of the Americas, lamented that the church has suffered violence from armed groups yet was excluded from talks in Havana.
“Should the Havana negotiations fail to produce anything positive, we can expect an even greater wave of violence than what has occurred to date,” Herrera told Morning Star News. “The church and the local communities are the ones who will have to live with the results, whether good or bad.”
Pedro Mercado, adjunct secretary of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church, reportedly said he was “very worried.”
“We assumed that, in the face of the peace process, pressure from the FARC was going to diminish,” he told reporters. “But on the contrary, it has grown harsher. We are watching with worry the security threats to our priests and bishops, which restrict our freedom to preach the word of God.”
On Friday (Dec. 13), the 48th Front of the FARC-EP tried to take by force the village of Caicedo, about 30 minutes from Puerto Asis. In order to stall response from police and military units, guerrillas blew up an oil tanker on the road as Angel Pinto was passing through on his motorcycle. He and other travelers were unhurt but were stranded at the site for several hours until authorities could restore order and remove the burning tanker.
By Latin America Correspondent for Morning Star News
Photo: Newly baptized believers in the Putumayo River. (Morning Star News, David Miller)