Each week we will tell the story of believers being persecuted for their faith. Please include the people in this story, along with persecuted people around the world, in your prayers.
11 April 2018
NIGERIA: Kidnapped Leah Sends Message Home
Leah Sharibu, the Nigerian Christian girl still being held captive by Boko Haram, reportedly asked her released friends to pass her mother a message, which read:
“My mother you should not be disturbed. I know it is not easy missing me, but I want to assure you that I am fine where I am… I am confident that one day I shall see your face again. If not here, then there at the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to local partners of the Christian charity Open Doors, who recently visited the Sharibu family, Leah’s mother fainted after receiving her daughter’s message. She also reportedly found it traumatic to hear the stories of some of the abducted girls.
One of Leah’s friends told the Sharibu family some details about Leah’s attempted escape, which ended with her being sent back to the Boko Haram camp by the people whom she had approached for help.
“She didn’t tell us she was leaving,” Leah’s friend, Aisha, told the family. “We thought she was just going around the corner, but she sneaked out along with Maryam and Amira [her classmates].”
The girls were taken on 19 February during a raid on their school in Dapchi, in the northern state of Yobe. Boko Haram released 104 of the girls on 21 March.
Leah’s parents were told that the militants did not want to let her go because she refused to convert to Islam. After hearing that his daughter was still being held captive, her father said: “I am very sad, but I am also jubilant, too, because my daughter did not denounce Christ.”
On 23 March, the President of the Church to which Leah’s family belongs released a statement, saluting her “courage, doggedness, and faith”.
Source: World Watch Monitor
5 April 2018
NIGERIA: Christian Girl Remains Captive
A Christian school girl in Nigeria spent Easter as a hostage of Islamist militants after she refused to convert to Islam.
Leah Sharibu was among 111 schoolgirls who were kidnapped on 19 February from the Government Girls’ Science Technical College in the north-eastern town of Dapchi by Boko Haram fighters.
Nearly all were released on 21 March after five of the girls reportedly died due to ailments linked to the attack, officials and rights activists disclosed.
The only Christian girl among the Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram last month could have been freed along with her schoolmates but refused to renounce her faith, according to her mother.
Leah Sharibu refused to accept Islam, resisting the entreaties of her classmates to pretend to do so, her parents learned from snatched conversation with her friends.
Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has assured Nigerians that Leah Sharibu will soon regain her freedom.
Prayer services were held all over Nigeria over Easter for Leah Sharibu and her family.
Sources: The Guardian, Bos News Life, Morning Star News
Boko Haram, the Islamic terror group in Nigeria that has slaughtered tens of thousands of people, among them Christians, has kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in a recent raid, state officials admitted.
Reuters reported on Sunday that the mass kidnapping at a girls’ school took place in the town of Dapachi, with a number of the radicals dressing up as soldiers to confuse the students.
“The federal government has confirmed that 110 students of the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are so far unaccounted for, after insurgents believed to be from a faction of Boko Haram invaded their school on Monday,” Nigeria’s information ministry said in a statement.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who has declared Boko Haram defeated on a number of occasions since coming to power in 2015, described the situation as a “national disaster.”
News reports initially stated that 13 girls were missing following Monday’s attack, with as many as 76 rescued, but Nigerian authorities have since clarified that those numbers are incorrect, dashing the hopes of dozens of parents.
The raid on the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi was the largest of its kind since 2014, when Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls, mostly Christians, from the town of Chobok. The raid back then sparked years of search and rescue efforts, with a number of the victims raped and forced into marriage to Islamic militants.
“I want the families of the girls yet unaccounted for at the Government Girls Technical College, Dapchi to know that no effort will be spared to ensure that all of them are returned safely, and the attackers arrested and made to face justice,” Buhari vowed in a message on Twitter.
Source: The Christian Post
Authorities forcibly sold three sites of the largest house church in the capital China’s southern Guizhou province Sunday, only informing the owners on the day of the auction.
On 11 February, Su Tianfu, pastor of Huoshi Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, Guizhou, received a notice from the Baiyun District Court, saying that the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau had demanded that he fulfil his obligation to pay a fine of more than 7 million yuan.
Su, along with imprisoned Huoshi Church Pastor Yang Hua, were first notified of the fine last May, which authorities claimed they incurred because they took that amount in “illegal income”. The pastors, however, maintained that the money had been freely donated by the church’s congregation and only used on church expenses. They appealed several times until the court handed them a definitive verdict, making the fine mandatory.
Authorities hired an assessment company on 23 January and the organization ruled that the church’s total property, including the items inside it, were worth 5.36 million yuan. The court subsequently granted the company permission to auction the church and its property, with the final sale going to the “state-owned enterprise” Nanming Investment Group for 5.12 million yuan on 11 February.
When Wang Hongwu, the wife of Yang, heard that the property had been sold, she speculated that officials may soon accuse Pastor Su of “divulging state secrets,” as they did her husband when he attempted to prevent them from confiscating a church hard drive. Yang is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence and has faced torture and severe illness while in prison.
Source: China Aid
‘Than’ a 37-year-old Christian father of five, was brutally murdered by unknown attackers recently. His wife, Aung, discovered his body on the side of the road, covered in blood, as she returned from collecting firewood for cooking.
Than’s killers had slit his wrists, stabbed him in the chest and beat him severely.
In early 2017, a villager known to hate Christians told Than’s family that it wasn’t wise for them to live in the animist village. And about a month before his murder, several members of the Palaung Army had visited the village several times and questioned villagers. The soldiers tried to get Than to buy drugs for them, but he refused.
The family has been shunned ever since Than and Aung accepted Christ and were baptized in 2008.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
CHINA: Christians arrested in “cult” crackdown
A crackdown on “cults” in Yunnan province has led to mass arrests of Christians – with many now facing long jail sentences.
Six members of a church in the Lincang area have just been handed sentences of up to 13 years – after a court convicted them of being part of a “dangerous sect”.
The sentencing of Lincang Christians last week is the latest fallout of a coordinated campaign against the so-called Three Grades of Servants organization which began in 2016. Officials used the campaign as a pretext to round up about 200 Christians across Yunnan: some Christians have already been convicted, while others are awaiting trial.
The authorities have recently told some of the lawyers defending church members that they are suspected of defending their clients “illegally” and that their qualifications will be “reviewed”.
Meanwhile, the Chinese judiciary in neighboring Guizhou province is putting severe pressure on house church Christians. A court has just upheld a decision to fine Pastor Yang Hua and Pastor Su Tianfu of Huoshi Church almost $1,400,300 after decreeing that church offerings were “illegal income”.
Source: Release International
IRAN: Christians Receive Eight Year Sentences
Two Iranian Christians were sentenced to a total of eight years in prison by a revolutionary court in December 2017, after being convicted of national security-related crimes.
Suroush Saraie and Eskandar Rezaie, who are both members of the Church of Iran denomination, each received seven-year sentences for “creating a group that works against national security” and an additional year for “propaganda against the state.” Both men are appealing the verdict, which was handed down on 28 December 2017 by the 4th Chamber of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz.
During the same court hearing, a Christian woman named Zahra Norouzi Kashkouli was sentenced to a year in prison for “being a member of a group working against the system.” She too is appealing the sentence.
Article 23 of the Iranian constitution states that “the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.” Nevertheless, there has been a rise in arrests of members of minority faith communities since the advent of the Rouhani presidency, and Christians have routinely been charged with national security-related crimes in order to justify excessive sentences.
Saraie and Rezaie were initially arrested on 12 October 2012, along with five other Christians, during a raid on a prayer meeting. They were later found guilty “action against national security” and “propaganda against the order of the system,” for which Saraie received a two-and-a-half-year sentence on 16 July 2013. His sentence was upheld on appeal and he was jailed in July 2014. Rezaie was given a one-year sentence, which he began serving in July 2015.
Saraie was released early from Adelabad Prison in November 2015, and Rezaie was released during the same month. However, Saraie and Rezaie were both rearrested in July 2017, and were returned to Adelabad Prison. They were released a few months later, after meeting bail payments of $95,000 (USD) and $140,000 (USD) respectively.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Late last week, a local church from a small village in Laos was about to conduct a Christmas service when the police arrived.
The police were claiming the church did not have the necessary permission or paperwork, and they were there to shut down the service immediately. This came as a surprise to the church leaders as they had sought permission from the local government to have this service two weeks prior to the event.
The church leaders faced a dilemma; stop the Christmas service until the situation is clarified or continue with the service and risk persecution? They chose to stand for God!
Once the police become aware of the church leaders’ decision, they immediately arrested five of the church leaders and took them away to prison, where they still remain today. Other local church leaders are currently trying to negotiate with the local government for the release of the five leaders.
It is widely believed that the Laos Central Government are providing the local authorities and Ministry of Interior in those districts with strategies to stop the Christian movement.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs contacts
IRAN: Christian Convert Loses Appeal
An Iranian convert to Christianity has had his 10-year prison sentence upheld after losing his appeal.
Naser Navard Gol-Tapeh was sentenced in May alongside three Azerbaijanis, Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov, each were given 10-year sentences for “missionary activities” and “actions against national security” in Iran.
The four men were arrested in June 2016 after security agents raided a wedding party in Tehran. They spent four months in prison, but were then released on bail, after which the Azerbaijanis travelled home.
The three Azerbaijanis were allowed to leave Iran in November 2016 and are unlikely to be forced to return, despite their representatives failing to overturn their verdicts during the 12 November hearing.
Since May, 21 Christians have been sentenced to long prison terms in Iran, according to advocacy group Article 18.
Source: World Watch Monitor