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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
Chinese Christians in dire need of our prayers. (Morning Star News) – Authorities in China have detained the pastor and more than 100 members of a prominent, unofficial church since Sunday (Dec. 9), according to media and advocacy agencies.
Security authorities raided the 800-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province at about 6 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 9) and also took some church leaders and members from their homes or off the streets, according to the South China Morning Post. Pastor Wang Yi was reportedly detained on Sunday night for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power,” and officials also seized his wife, Jiang Rong, from her mother-in-law’s home; her whereabouts were unknown at this writing.
Chen Yaxue, Wang’s 73-year-old mother, told the SCMP that the couple’s 11-year-old son remains with her while security personnel maintain 24-hour surveillance outside her home.
The charge against Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases. Wang has reportedly yet to be allowed to meet with lawyers or family members.
Advocacy group China Aid said in a statement that Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
“The Communist Party views religion as a threat to their ideological control and, as such, their rule,” the group noted. “However, China’s Christians practice their religion peacefully and never intend to threaten government power.”
Church members released an open letter Pastor Wang wrote in September in which he said he would use non-violent methods to stand in faith and oppose laws that contradicted the Bible and God, according to the SCMP. The pastor had given instructions that the letter be publicized if he went missing for more than 48 hours, the newspaper reported.
“My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Pastor Wang wrote, according to SCMP.
He had been a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, SCMP reported. In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.
“The round-up in Chengdu is part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or underground churches that Beijing has escalated this year,” SCMP reported. “The moves were bolstered by amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that gave grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for ‘unauthorized religious gatherings.’”
Church members have practiced their faith openly, posting sermons online and evangelizing on the streets, RCMP reported. Weekly gatherings across more than a dozen meetings in Chengdu draw more than 800 regulars, the newspaper reported, adding that the church also has about 100 seminary students and an elementary school with about 40 children.
The crack-down on the Early Rain church came as the U.S. State Department announced on Monday (Dec. 10) that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday (Dec. 12) released a statement condemning the arrest of Pastor Wang and the other church members.
“These actions, in addition to the continued systematic repression of Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners, continue a pattern of escalating violations of religious freedom and other human rights under President Xi Jinping,” USCIRF stated. “USCIRF strongly condemns these actions by Chinese authorities and calls for the immediate release of Pastor Wang and all of his fellow church members.”
China ranked 43rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
VOP note: Please pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters as they prepare to celebrate the precious birth of Christ. Pray they will stand strong as the government puts more an more pressure on them. In the name of Jesus, Lord have mercy on these dear ones.
How do Christians under pressure for their faith celebrate Christmas? In the fourth of our series we hear from an Iranian Christian who spent three years – and three Christmases – in prison.
Mohabat News – Because converting away from Islam is illegal in Iran, house churches meet in secret and Christmas is an “inner celebration” that takes place in people’s hearts, explains Mojtaba Hosseini, who became a Christian as an adult. He remembers one year when he and other members of their small congregation decorated the house and shared some food together. But they made sure the decorations were not Christmas-themed. “If police carried out a raid – which often happens at that time of year – we could say we were celebrating a birthday.”
In February 2012 the police raided his house church meeting and later that year he and another member were sentenced to 44 months in prison. Mojtaba was found guilty of ‘disrupting national security’ and ‘propaganda against the regime’, which related not only to his leading a house church but also to evangelism and contact with Christians outside Iran. After three years he was released from Shiraz prison on parole.
“Christmas had always been an inside celebration for me, so inside the prison I could celebrate it just the same. I would feel the joy of liberation in my heart,” which, he said, the government “is never, ever able to quench” despite separation from his family, interrogations he endured, uncertainty about the future, and sharing in a cell with “men who had committed the most terrible crimes”.
A church already exists in the village of Abu Hannas in Samalout, Minya; but, according to Father Stephanous Shehata, the current church, named after the martyr, Saint Abu Maqqar, is too small to serve the large Christian population of the village. So the church purchased an unused piece of land next to it in the hopes of expanding the current church or building another. The 10 Christians were arrested while attempting to build the wall, pending an investigation.
Islamic law, or Sharia, bans the renovation of existing Christian churches and the building of new ones. Accordingly, in Egypt, building, expanding, or even renovating churches is extremely difficult. The first hurdle is the government; it often takes many years to get permits. Once and if a permit is issued, Christian minorities must then face angry Muslim mobs, who often go on rampages, including against existing churches.
For example, one month earlier, another church under construction in Minya was attacked by a mob consisting of at least 400 Muslims believed to have been incited by local officials. After the attack, and although the church had obtained the necessary permits required for construction, it was closed by officials. source Raymond Ibrahim
Further explaining the church attack above, the nearly 3,000 Coptic Christians in Swada village comprise about 35% of the village, yet there isn’t a Coptic Orthodox church in the village. There is one evangelical church, but the nearest Coptic Orthodox church is more than 8 km from the village.
The Eshhad Project explains Egypt’s church construction law and it’s discriminatory affect for Christians in Egypt, which is a violation of domestic and international law. While Coptic Christians face this hardship, an underground church leader told Voice of the Persecuted, “Those who have converted to Christianity have an even harder time and worship in secret”. He also shared that the underground church movement was rapidly expanding in Egypt. He explained in they’re mission alone, nearly 10 new ‘underground churches’ were planted in the past year with plans of over 20 more. He asked for prayers of protection and the ability to get the needed materials to train pastors, as more and more Muslims become believers in Christ.
A refugee now living in the US, Joseph Kim tells the story of his life in North Korea during the famine years. His life was changed after meeting an ‘Underground Pastor’ and how a small act of love made all the difference.. He’s begun to create a new life — but he still searches for the family he lost.
NAIROBI, Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamic extremists suspected to be rebel Al Shabaab militants have kidnapped a Christian mother of two young children in Somalia and threatened her husband because of their faith, her husband said.
Three masked men abducted Shamsa Enow Hussein, 28, on Aug. 5 in Bulo Marer, Lower Shebelle Region, at 7 p.m. outside her home after determining that she was a secret Christian, 31-year-old Mohamed Isse Osman told Morning Star News.
“I just heard screaming from my wife and the children as I approached my house,” Osman said.
That night, his wife was able to send him a text message saying he should flee the area, he said.
“Please leave immediately because of what we believe,” she said in the text. “They have abused me sexually saying I am an infidel.”
Osman said he has received anonymous, threatening text messages from the kidnappers from a withheld number, including one reading, “Your wife has told us all about your Christian involvement and soon we shall come for you too.”
A leader of the underground church in the undisclosed town to which Osman and his daughters, ages 3 and 5, have fled said Osman has not heard from his wife since her Aug. 5 text message.
“Our two young daughters are crying for their mother,” Osman told the church leader.
A resident of the Bulo Marer area whose name is withheld confirmed that Hussein was abducted but that local residents knew little else about it.
“What little we knew about Osman’s family was that they were not very committed to attending the mosque during Ramadan time,” he said.
Somalis consider themselves Muslim by birth, and apostasy, or leaving Islam, is punishable by death.
Al Shabaab, said to have ties with Al Qaeda, reportedly has a base in Bulo Marer. The group has vowed to rid Somalia of Christians, who meet secretly due to persecution. Al Shabaab is battling the Somali government that replaced the Transitional Federal Government a year ago, on Aug. 20, 2012.
On June 7 in Jamaame District in southern Somalia, insurgents from the group shot 28-year-old Hassan Hurshe to death after identifying him as a Christian, sources said (see Morning Star News, June 20). Al Shabaab members brought Hurshe to a public place in the town of Jilib and shot him in the head, they said.
The insurgents have lost control of several areas of Somalia since Kenyan military forces helped to dislodge them in the past year, but they are suspected in the shooting death of a Christian pharmacist on the outskirts of Kismayo in February. Two masked men killed Ahmed Ali Jimale, a 42-year-old father of four, on Feb. 18 as he stood outside his house in Alanley village (see Morning Star News, Feb. 28).
On April 13, Al Shabaab rebels shot his widow, 42-year-old Fartun Omar, to death in Buulodbarde, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Beledweyne, leaving their five children orphaned (see Morning Star News, April 22).
On March 23, Al Shabaab militants in Bulo Marer jailed and tortured a Christian, 25-year-old Hassan Gulled, for converting from Islam, sources said (see Morning Star News, April 16).
On Dec. 8, 2012 in Beledweyne, 206 miles (332 kilometers) north of Mogadishu, gunmen killed a Christian who had been receiving death threats for leaving Islam. Two unidentified, masked men shot Mursal Isse Siad, 55, outside his home, Muslim and Christian sources said (see Morning Star News. Dec. 14, 2012).
Siad and his wife, who converted to Christianity in 2000, had moved to Beledweyne from Doolow eight months before. The area was under government control and there was no indication that the killers belonged to the Al Shabaab rebels, but the Islamic extremist insurgents were present in Buulodbarde, and Christians believed a few Al Shabaab rebels could have been hiding in Beledweyne.
In the coastal city of Barawa on Nov. 16, 2012, Al Shabaab militants killed a Christian after accusing him of being a spy and leaving Islam, Christian and Muslim witnesses said. The extremists beheaded 25-year-old Farhan Haji Mose after monitoring his movements for six months, sources said (see “Morning Star News, Nov. 17, 2012).
Mose drew suspicion when he returned to Barawa, in the Lower Shebelle Region, in December 2011 after spending time in Kenya, according to underground Christians in Somalia. Kenya’s population is nearly 83 percent Christian, according to Operation World, while Somalia’s is close to 100 percent Muslim.