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.
18 April 2019
MALAYSIA: STATE POLICE FOUND RESPONSIBLE FOR DISAPPEARANCES
Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared on 13 February 2017 when his car was forced to stop and he was abducted in broad daylight by masked men. On 3 April this year, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia released findings that placed blame for the attack on the Special Branch of the state police.
The disappearance of Pastor Koh is not the only such incident. On 24 November 2016, Amri Che Mat was grabbed under almost identical circumstances. He also has never been found. Amri was a Shiite activist, a branch of Islam which has been banned in Malaysia. The commission’s report states that religious activities were the reason behind both attacks.
A gold coloured Toyota Vios, owned by Special Branch officer Saiful Bahari, was spotted at the scene of both attacks, Bahari has since disappeared. The commission has stated that it may yet open an investigation into other unresolved disappearances, including that of Joshua and Ruth Hilmi, Christian evangelists who went missing in late November 2016.
Pastor Koh’s family, along with others, continue to push for answers. Pastor Koh’s wife, Susanna, intends to give the Special Branch six months to provide answers or she may take legal action. “This is the beginning of our fight for religious freedom and human rights,” she told the press after hearing the ruling. Some suspect that investigations may not begin until the national police chief, Mohamad Fuzi Harun, officially retires.
Sources: Open Doors USA, Anglican Communion News Service, National Post
11 April 2019
KURDISTAN: CHURCH BUILT WITH STATE APPROVAL
Hope awakens in northern Iraq as another church is built with the support of the government. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) supervised the construction of the first Armenian Orthodox Church in Erbil through their department of religious affairs.
According to a local news source, a spokesman from the KRG was quoted as saying, “The opening of this church itself is laying another foundation stone for a peaceful coexistence of ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan region.”
The Kurdistan region of northern Iraq was a hotbed of ISIS activity and violence in recent years. Church buildings were burned, women and children were kidnapped, and many were murdered because of their faith.
Christians are beginning to return to their homes in northern Iraq now that ISIS has been driven out. The construction of this church gives hope to many Christians returning home that a new day is dawning for Christians in Iraq.
Sources: International Christian Concern, Kurdistan 24
4 April 2019
NIGER: PERSECUTION IS FERTILIZER FOR THE GOSPEL
A VOM partner ministry worked with 144 evangelists in Niger last year, providing discipleship training and opportunities to help them support themselves.
The evangelists then visited communities throughout the country, sharing the Gospel and teaching people about Jesus.
As those hearing the Gospel began to place their faith in Christ, some were threatened or expelled from their families. One Christian worker, however, said the persecution also had a positive effect. “Persecution became fertilizer for the spread of the Gospel,” he said.
In places where there was strong persecution, the evangelists observed more eagerness among the new believers to apply biblical principles to their lives. In some places, their dedication even made communities more accepting of Christians. “Extending discipleship to the persecuted will bring about a stronger church,” the Christian worker said.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
28 March 2019
NEPAL: CHRISTIANS BLAMED FOR VILLAGERS’ DEATHS
When five people died within a week in a small Nepalese village in January, the only Christian family in the Hindu village was blamed for the deaths.
Gianprakash and his family were asked to leave the village because they were following a foreign God.
One night, six young men came to Gianprakash’s home, shouting and trying to break down the door. When Gianprakash asked them why they were disturbing his family, one of the young men said, “We know the death spirit is here, and that’s why five people are dead!” Before leaving, they broke the home’s water cistern.
Gianprakash and his family have temporarily moved to another city.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
21 March 2019
INDIA: CHURCH BRACED FOR MORE VIOLENCE AS ELECTIONS LOOM
There’s been a sharp rise in attacks on Christians in India so far this year – and many fear that things could get worse with a general election on the horizon.
There were 77 recorded incidents of hatred and violence against Christians in the first two months of 2019. This is up from 49 cases over the same period last year, according to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (RLC-EFI).
This tally includes two murders by Maoist militants last month, one in Odisha and one in Chhattisgarh. Christians fear that violence may increase now that elections have been scheduled to start on 11 April.
In many instances, Christians are being persecuted by those who should be protecting their rights. In Tamil Nadu, police have reportedly joined with Hindus going door-to-door telling Christians not to meet for worship.
In Uttar Pradesh, Pastor Sindhu Bharti was beaten unconscious by police after they arrested her and five other church members during a Sunday service. All six Christians were charged with intent to offend religious feelings, defiling a place of worship and rioting. The RLC-EFI documented 325 incidents against Christians in India last year – with 40% of attacks happening in Uttar Pradesh.
Sources: International Christian Concern, Release International
7 March 2019
PAKISTAN: CHRISTIAN TEEN ABDUCTED AND FORCEFULLY CONVERTED TO ISLAM
A Christian teenager was abducted and forcefully converted to Islam last month. The abductors are now using Pakistan’s legal system to keep the abducted Christian girl, who they claim has embraced Islam.
On 6 February, Sadaf Maish, age 13, of Cholistan, Wichra Bangla, Bahawalpur was abducted by Maqbool Hussain, Mubashir Hussain Baloch, and Azhir Hussain Baloch. When Sadaf’s family became aware of her abduction, they reached out to the family of the abductors who told them that Sadaf would be returned to them.
After eight days, the abductors told the Christian family that Sadaf was married and had converted to Islam. They then showed the family a marriage certificate which falsely claimed Sadaf was 18, an age old enough to get legally married in Pakistan.
Sadaf is from a poor Christian family and local police have so far failed to act on their repeated requests for help. The men suspected of Sadaf’s abduction are influential and have threatened her family not to take action. Sadaf’s family have made a video appealing to the authorities for help.
Abductions and forced conversions to Islam are unfortunately common for religious minorities in Pakistan. It is estimated that nearly 1,000 women from Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu communities are abducted, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam each year.
Sources: International Christian Concern, Release International, The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, Pakistan Christian Post
28 February 2019
IRAN: CLERIC WARNS AGAINST SPREAD OF CHRISTIANITY
Iranian cleric Hujjat al-Islam Naser Rafiei delivered a speech in Qom (home to the largest Islamic seminary in Iran) which warned against the spread of Christianity throughout the country. He specifically named house churches and evangelical networks as an attraction for Iranian youth whose faith in Islam is diminishing.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, affected Iran more than any other event in modern history. It led to the establishment of the world’s only country governed by an Islamic theocracy, now 40 years old.
Today, many of those who committed their lives to Islamic rule are filled with despair. This disillusionment has opened new doors for the Gospel, which is sweeping across the nation via satellite TV and Internet, and growing house church movements. However, the government continues its attempts to thwart this move of God.
Sources: International Christian Concern, The Voice of the Martyrs USA
21 February 2019
NIGERIA: ONE YEAR OF CAPTIVITY FOR LEAH SHARIBU
On 19 February 2018, at 5:30pm, Boko Haram entered the town of Dapchi, Nigeria, wearing military uniforms and driving trucks mounted with machine guns. They approached the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) and ordered 110 schoolgirls to enter their trucks. They then disappeared with the girls for more than a month.
The released girls told their families of Leah’s courage and faith in the face of almost certain death. Prior to returning the abducted girls, the terrorists pulled Leah aside and told her that she would not be allowed to go home unless she recanted her faith. She refused. She told the terrorists that she could not deny Christ. After being held for nearly eight months, Leah again made headlines. On 27 August the terrorist group released a proof of life video of Leah. In the video, she pleads for the government to help her and her family.
Then, on 17 September, Boko Haram killed an aid worker from the Red Cross named Saifura Khorsa. During the execution, the militants said that they would kill another three victims including Leah, if the Nigerian government did not pay ransom.
One month later, on 16 October, Boko Haram executed another worker named Hauwa Liman. After her execution, Boko Haram declared that they were going to keep Leah as a “slave for life” because the government had not paid a ransom for her. Since then, there has been little to no communication about Leah from the Buhari administration or Boko Haram.
On the 19 February, the Leah Sharibu Foundation stated, “We cannot forget about her today. Petition God, in prayer and fasting, for Leah’s release and freedom of religion.”
Source: International Christian Concern
13 December 2018
MYANMAR: Village Bans Buddhists from Selling Food to Christians
Authorities in a Buddhist village recently established a law forbidding Buddhists from hiring Christians for work and from renting or selling anything to Christians. As a result, believers in the village are unable to buy food.
Every day, village authorities pressure the Christians to return to Buddhism, promising that if they do they will be able to buy food again. The believers, however, are standing firm. “This is not a game”, one Christian replied. “We were baptized. We believe in Christ 100% and we will die believing.”
When a Buddhist vendor sold a banana to a Christian recently, he was detained for three days and fined the equivalent of $90. The man later decided to become a Christian, asking another believer to teach him the Bible and baptize him, because he saw that the Buddhists were wrong.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
29 November 2018
NIGER: Five New Churches in Two Years
Christian workers on the ground in Niger report a chain reaction of disciple-making over the last two years.
One man who went through a VOM-sponsored church planting program went on to share the Gospel with seven others. After those seven people were well-developed in their faith, they each went to seven different villages to share their faith there.
In every one of those villages, at least one person accepted the Gospel. “From these seven disciples, five vibrant churches have been created”, wrote a VOM contact. “The new believers are like the early church as they are pooling together their resources amongst themselves to contribute to the building of a church building.”
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
22 November 2018
PAKISTAN: Asia Bibi UPDATE
Since June of 2015 we have been praying for Christians around the world that
have been persecuted for their belief in Jesus. One of the first prayer requests we had
was for Asia Bibi who is a Christian in Pakistan.
Asia has been on death row since 2009, most of it in solitary confinement, for
saying insulting things about the prophet, Muhammed. She denies it. She drank from a
water container used buy muslim workers and they had her arrested and accused.
After three years, her family received permission to visit her. Her case went to
the Supreme Court of Pakistan where she was found guilty and sentenced to death.
She went back to the court seeking a new judge and a new trial was set for
February of 2018. Her defenders are being targeted by extremists. The lives of the
Supreme Court judges have been threatened if they show clemency. Two men who
took up her case were assassinated.
On October 31 of this year the Supreme Court overturned the conviction,
ordering her immediate release from prison, but Asia Bibi remains in prison.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s conviction has sparked
violent protests led by the popular and influential Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party.
What awaits Asia Bibi in Pakistan is almost certain death at the hands of angry mobs
who wish to see her hang.
In an effort to quell these violent protests, the Pakistani government reached an
agreement whereby it will impose a travel ban upon Asia Bibi, effectively preventing her
from leaving Pakistan and finding a safe haven. In exchange, the TLP will call for an end
to the violent protests. As part of the agreement, the Pakistani government has agreed
that it will not object to an appeal against Asia Bibi’s release.
According to her lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, Asia Bibi is likely to remain in prison or
solitary confinement in Pakistan, free in name only.
Please join us in praying for Asia’s faith to be strengthened and for her
protection. Also that Asia will be released and allowed to leave Pakistan quickly.
Current information on Asia Bibi - November 27, 2018
GREAT BRITAIN: Prime MInister Theresa May personally blocked Asia Bibi from finding
sanctuary in Great Britain because she is concerned about the British Muslims attacking the
British embassies around the world. She even over ruled the British Home Secretary, Jajid
Javid who said she should be given refuge.
CANADA: Justin Trudeau of Canada has been working with Islamabad for weeks on offering
asylum to her, but Australia has stepped in and will offer it if Canada does not.
AUSTRALIA: Martyn Iles, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby said: "This is
momentous news for all who have lobbied so hard and so long for Asia Bibi. It seems she has
three possible destinies ahead of her: Australian, Canadian, or dead. It would be the ultimate
tragedy if she were to die on account of bureaucratic dithering.”
15 November 2018
INDONESIA: Proposed Religious Education Law
Christian organizations in Indonesia have raised concerns about a new religious education bill that would require government permits before conducting any classes, including Sunday school, catechism or Bible classes.
The law, if passed, would require a minimum of 15 participants, along with approval from the government’s Religious Affairs Ministry.
One church leader believes it will be used by hard-line groups to ban church activities and harass Christians. “It limits Christians in conducting important and inseparable parts of religious activities” he states.
Those concerned have launched a petition demanding that informal classes, such as Sunday school, be left to the regulation of individual religious groups.
Sources: UCA News, World Watch Monitor
8 November 2018
PAKISTAN: Government gives in to Protesters, Asia Free in Name Only
On Wednesday 31 October 2018, more than four years after agreeing to hear her appeal, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned Asia’s conviction, ordering her immediate release from prison.
Voice of the Martyrs staff and supporters were overjoyed, thanking God for the release of our sister Asia.
We were sorry to hear, within 48 hours of that acquittal, that despite the Supreme Court ruling, Asia Bibi remains in prison.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s conviction has sparked violent protests led by the popular and influential Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party. What awaits Asia Bibi in Pakistan is almost certain death at the hands of angry mobs who wish to see her hang.
In an effort to quell these violent protests, the Pakistani government reached an agreement whereby it will impose a travel ban upon Asia Bibi, effectively preventing her from leaving Pakistan and finding a safe haven. In exchange, the TLP will call for an end to the violent protests.
As part of the agreement, the Pakistani government has agreed that it will not object to an appeal against Asia Bibi’s release.
According to her lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, Asia Bibi is likely to remain in prison or solitary confinement in Pakistan, free in name only.
Sources: BBC News