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.
14 June 2018
CHINA: Underground and Official Churches Targeted
As of the end of May, almost 100 house churches in the central Chinese province of Henan have been shut down. Along with those closures, authorities have taken action against the official Three-Self Patriot Movement churches, demanding that all crosses be removed from their buildings.
According to a member of an official church, after orders were received to remove the crosses, they chose to remove them on their own, rather than face demolition by government crews. “No one dares defy the orders,” he stated.
For house churches not yet closed, officials have ordered that any religious decorations be covered or removed. If this is not done, the symbolic emblems will be removed forcibly. Churches have also been forbidden to allow the singing of hymns. Guards are posted at some locations to keep members out, and authorities are not allowing more than five people to meet together at a time without permission.
Since changes were made to the “Regulations for Religious Affairs” in February 2018, the government has tightened its grip on religion.
31 May 2018
RUSSIA: Church Attack in Chechnya
On Saturday 19 May, four gunmen stormed the Archangel Michael Orthodox Church in Grozny, Chechnya. Before they were shot dead by police, they had killed one church member and two security officers. Two other officers and another church member were also injured.
According to the pastor, churchgoers heard shouts of “Allahu Akbar” outside the church and rushed to bolt the doors just as the attackers tried to break in. It appears that the attack started as a hostage attempt. Along with guns, the four perpetrators also carried axes and Molotov cocktails. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has claimed responsibility.
Chechnya, which is located in southern Russia, has been a hotbed for Islamist activity — often attacking police, government officials and moderate Muslims.
Militants have been attempting to establish a Muslim emirate in the region for years. The population is predominantly Muslim after most of the Christian population fled during the separatist wars of the 1990s.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Radio Free Europe
10 May 2018
INDIA: PASTOR BEHEADED BY SUSPECTED MAOISTS
The body of a pastor was found beheaded on the shore of a reservoir in eastern India on 2 May, hours after he was abducted by around 25 masked men whom police believe to be Maoists.
Residents of Kubasal village, in the Tamar area of Jharkhand state, identified the body lying on the shore of Surangi reservoir as Pastor Abraham Topno and alerted police. He is believed to have been murdered in the late hours of 1 May.
The 46-year-old pastor was last seen by villagers travelling in a jeep with a local taxi driver named Ranga Singh Munda.
“It was late in the evening, as they entered the thick forests surrounding the state capital, Ranchi,” Inspector Gimal Kumar said. “They pulled the pastor and the driver out, blindfolded them and tied their hands with a stiff rope. Then they cut his throat.
“The masked men told Ranga Singh Munda to go away and that that they have no business with him. ‘We only want him [the pastor],’ they said, and asked Munda to run away.”
The inspector stated that the pastor’s body, whose head had been severed, had been taken for a post-mortem. He added that the jeep was found near the body and had been set on fire.
A note was found in red ink in the Hindi language that said, “Death to police spy. Long live PLGA [People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army],” and signed “Your Maoists”.
Source: World Watch Monitor
3 May 2018
MYANMAR: CIVILIANS CAUGHT UP IN VIOLENCE
At least 10 Christian civilians have been killed and thousands need urgent medical attention in Myanmar’s Kachin State as the fighting between ethnic rebel groups and government troops in a conflict area rages on, according to reports.
The ethnic Kachin civilians were killed in Mansi Township in southern Kachin and in Tanai Township as they sought to flee areas where the fighting is ongoing on, according to Frontier Myanmar.
About 2,000 civilians remain displaced and around 160 people have been “forced to tag along and [stay]” with the military, it reported.
The displaced people are “in dire need of medical treatment as well as rations,” the Rev Mung Dan, a Baptist community leader, told CBN News.
A coalition of 32 Kachin groups have urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.
The fighting, which includes government shelling and airstrikes, escalated in January and re-erupted earlier this month.
Burma army soldiers are at war with armed ethnic minority groups that have been demanding autonomy for decades, including in Karen and Kachin states which are home to a vast number of ethnic minority Christians.
Source: The Christian Post
24 April 2018
CHINA: GOVERNMENT PASSES RESTRICTIONS
Christians in China ask for prayer as the government continues to further restrict Christian activity.
In February, churches were ordered to report their religious activities to authorities. In March, the Communist Party disbanded its Religious Affairs Bureau and the Communist Party’s Central Committee absorbed the duty of managing religious life in China. In April, the government banned the online sale of Bibles — a setback in a country where printed Bibles were already difficult for many to obtain.
President Xi Jinping continues to increase his control over religious life and promote Chinese nationalism. The Communist Party may also be working on a new Bible translation, meant to inject Chinese values into Scriptures.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
18 April 2018
NIGERIA: MISSING CHIBOK GIRLS FEARED DEAD
After relatives and activists commemorated on Saturday the 4th anniversary of the Chibok girls’ kidnapping, there are now fears that many of over 100 girls still missing will never return home.
Of the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram on 14 April 2014, 57 escaped, 107 were rescued or released, and 112 are still missing.
A Nigerian journalist with links to the radical Islamist group has claimed that only 15 of the missing girls are still alive, though he did not disclose their names.
Ahmad Salkida, widely known for his exclusive reports on the insurgency, said it was the responsibility of the Nigerian government to disclose their names because, he alleged, many of the captive girls died as a result of crossfire and bombardments of the security forces.
But the Nigerian government denied his claims, saying in a statement yesterday: “Following the numerous press enquiries on the information contained in the series of tweets by Mr Ahmed Salkida, we wish to reiterate that the information is not known to the officials of this administration either from the captors of the Chibok girls or the international intercessors who are working with us.”
A spokesperson told the BBC the government remains in discussions with Boko Haram to secure the release of the 112 girls who remain missing.
Salkida also cast doubt on the potential impact of future negotiations, saying the remaining 15 girls are no longer under the control of Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, and that only their new husbands can decide their fates.
Salkida claimed he had negotiated for the girls’ release on behalf of the government, under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, but that several opportunities to have them freed had been missed.
He said he had arranged for a prisoner-swap on five occasions, but delays from the government led to a breakdown in negotiations.
Source: World Watch Monitor
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