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Little Change in Three Years
Revisiting 2002
"It is remarkable when you revisit past news events including a list of nations that persecute, and come to the realization that little has changed. The events in the editorial give factual basis to the realization that we have much more work to accomplish in Jesus name." -Jim Dykstra ChristianMonitor.org

Perspectives On World Wide Christian Persecution

The following articles were written to for the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted Church, 2002. Each Item was read as a three minute speech in the evening worship service on November 17 at Grace Baptist Church, Taipei, Taiwan. Nine people were asked to read some of the articles below and then to pray for the specific needs of the community they were speaking on and the broader needs of persecuted Christians worldwide. The Lord blessed us on this day and many people were deeply moved by what they heard. I encourage you, if you are reading this, to get your Churches and congregations involved with the IDOP 2003. In fact, if you missed IDOP 2002, why don't you just organize a single day to remember the persecuted Christians in your Church. Cover it with prayer, and cover them with prayer and may the blessings of Jesus fall upon your congregation and those you pray for.

Introduction - An Overview of Persecution

When many Christians living in countries with religious freedom think of Christian persecution, they conjure up images of Christians being thrown to the lions in the Coliseums. They will remember the suffering of the early Christians in the book of Acts and the first martyr Stephen, or the stoning of Paul and Barnabas, or the martyrdom of, with the exception of John, all the Apostles. Very few Christians living in countries with religious freedom today will think of the persecution that continues to this very day, unabated even as we speak.

Paul Marshall, in his book, "Their Blood Cries Out" states that today, more than 200 million Christians live in countries whose governments aid and abet their persecution. In fact, some reports have said that as many as 800 million Christians are daily persecuted for their faith in Christ. It has been reported that more Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than in the preceding 19 centuries. It was calculated that, in the last century, a Christian was killed every 3 minutes for their faith.

Today, in obedience to Hebrews 13:3 which says "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.", Christians across the world join hands and in one voice cry out to God. We fall before the throne of Glory and ask God to deliver our brothers and sisters from their trials and afflictions. Today, as one voice, we join persecuted and non-persecuted Christians throughout the world to ask for strength in times of weakness and to ask for grace in times of suffering and to ask for firmness in the faith in times of trial. Christians are purified by fire, and some even die by it. Today we remember with one voice those modern martyrs who daily die for the gospel of Christ. Because we trust in the promises of God (which are all yes in Christ) we know that these martyrs have entered glory. Their sufferings, trials and afflictions are over. We trust that Christ has spoken those humbling words: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Today we will highlight various aspects of modern persecution using different countries as specific examples. The countries that will be highlighted are a mere sampling of the places where persecution occurs and although each country will be used to highlight a single aspect of persecution, it is important to understand that persecuted Christians usually experience all these aspects at once. Today we shall also remember the servants of the persecuted Church, the silent, unsung heroes who risk all they have for the suffering body of Christ.

The persistence in the faith of persecuted Christians should be an inspiration to all Christians world wide. Today you will hear stories of the revival of the Sudanese Church in the midst of starvation, hunger and war. You will hear the stories of North Koreans who, even in the face of severe suffering and danger to their own lives, are desperate to read and hear the word of God. The faith of the forgotten peoples of South East Asia (Burma and Vietnam) will be highlighted and the patient endurance of Chinese Christians imprisoned for their faith will be revealed. These stories, although sad and tragic, should wrench us into a process of self-examination of our own faith and our own response to God. These stories should urge us to learn more of the suffering of our siblings in Christ and to encourage us to become active in prayer for them and in other ways.

The first step is always prayer: "If prayer is the least you can do it is also the most you can do." But prayer should never become an excuse for inaction. So today we need to examine our hearts and to see the burden the Lord has placed there. Today you may realize that there is more you can do, we encourage you to do it. We urge you to prayer and encourage you to action.

Sudan - Starving for the faith

Sudan is a deeply divided country that has been devastated by Civil War since 1983 when President Jaafar el Nemery declared Sudan an Islamic Republic and introduced Sharia law (Islamic law), which was enforced upon the entire population. Since then the National Islamic Front (NIF) ruling over Sudan has, according to the Baptist Press, "waged what has been widely described as a genocidal campaign against Christians, animists and moderate Muslims in the southern and central regions of the African country". The World Evangelical Alliance reported in July that a senior "Sudanese official vowed that his government would continue to raise the banner of jihad or holy war against the southerners." They quoted the First Vice-President Ali Osman Taha as saying: that "jihad" is their way and that they would "not abandon it".

The tragic ramifications of this Jihad led to widespread famine in the South of Sudan where mostly Christians live. Many international observers believe now that hunger and starvation has been used as a weapon. Doctors Without Borders affirmed in 1999 "that the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is preventable". The Barnabas Fund, in a recent article said: "Hunger, even to the point of starvation, is another weapon that the Government of Sudan is prepared to use." The Institute of Religion and Democracy have said on their web-site:
"Manmade famine is the NIF's most powerful weapon in its war of genocide. The regime systematically burns crops, kills livestock, uses its UN-sanctioned veto power to ban relief, and requires conversion to Islam for food. By blocking aid in 1998, the regime brought 2.6 million south Sudanese to the brink of starvation and caused 100,000 hunger-related deaths. Today 60,000 refugees in the Blue Nile region and 20,000 in the Nuba Mountains are being denied critical food and medical supplies"
This truth was sadly and dramatically illustrated on the 27 September, 2002, when the NIF banned all humanitarian flights to the south. Many of these flights provide basic needs and food to an already malnourished population. It is estimated that as many as 3 million people depend on this aid as their only source of food. The ban was set in place for a week and many international commentators believed that the NIF was once again using starvation as a weapon of war. At the time of the ban the Washington based Center of Religious Freedom accused the NIF regime in Khartoum as using this stoppage in Humanitarian aid "as a means of securing a military advantage in its ongoing offensive in Eastern Equatoria."

Although there is much suffering, there is also growth. The Church in the South through their afflictions, and persecution is growing. Christianity Today, in a 1998 article, said "ironically, more people are converting to Christianity now than in the more peaceful times before the Muslim government expelled missionaries from the country 35 years ago." The article went on to quote Mike Wall, executive director of ACROSS (Association of Christian Resource Organizations Serving Sudan) who said: "Tremendous growth has taken place during the last ten years of war and severe suffering."

A prayer vigil that took place daily from September 18 to September 24 outside the US State Department helped to increase the awareness of the starvation and persecution of Christians in Southern Sudan. The prayer vigil aimed to show solidarity with persecuted believers in Sudan, to pray for the suffering and persecuted Christians and to call the government to be active in seeking an end to the regime's oppression. This has culminated in a new legislation being passed in the US congress that will release relief funds to the South and enable the US to place Sanctions on Sudan if there is not a significant improvement in the state of religious freedom. This legislation coupled with much prayer, advocacy and other international pressure resulted in the signing of the first truce between the warring parties in 18 years. The truce took place to facilitate peace talks in Kenya and took affect at noon (local) time on October 17.

Saudi Arabia - Lack of Religious Freedom

Saudi Arabia has regularly featured at the top of the Open Doors World Watch list, which ranks countries according to the severity of Christian persecution. When a Muslim US citizen living in Saudi Arabia was asked about the state of religious freedom in that country, the answer was "There is none." The US State Department's report on religious freedom states:

"Saudi Arabia is an Islamic monarchy without legal protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice. Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The Government prohibits the public practice of non-Muslim religions. The Government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however, it does not always respect this right in practice
The World Evangelical Alliance, in their 2002 Geneva Report said:

"The Saudi kingdom has long been guilty of active persecution of all non-Muslim religious expression and is well-known for its policy of prohibiting all forms of religious worship - even in private - among its many expatriate workers. Christians working in Saudi are often harassed or imprisoned for holding prayer meetings or small worship services in private homes or apartments. Sometimes those arrested are held without charge for months and eventually deported. Asian workers are usually targeted
As the guardian of two of Islam's most sacred places, Mecca and Medina, The Saudi government feels it has a sacred responsibility and as such does not permit any non-Islamic influences in to the country. Restrictions placed on citizens and expatriates alike include restrictions on wearing non-Muslim religious symbols; a total ban on printing, importing, possessing and distributing non-Muslim literature; and severe restrictions on both public and private non-Islamic worship. The internet-servers that are used in Saudi Arabia also block a large number of Christian web sites further restricting the spread of the gospel of Christ. Breaking any of the above laws can lead to arrest, imprisonment, torture and deportation of Christians.

The deportation and imprisonment of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia is well documented. Open Doors reported that in May two Filipino Christians were deported for owning a Bible. International Christian Concern (ICC) reported on May 28 that two Ethiopian Christians being held at the Breman deportation center were beaten in the chest for half an hour by Major Bender Sultan Shabani, a prison official. Last year, in August, Daniel Moreno, another Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia, and 14 other Christians were imprisoned for 7 months for their faith. The reason for their arrest was that they were carrying out "illegal Christian activities." Soon after their arrest it became apparent that the authorities were trying to find information on local Christians. Thankfully, all of these prisoners have been released and have returned home. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Daniel Moreno said that when he asked his interrogator, Major Alamudi, why he was arrested, the major replied "The government is afraid Islam is getting weak."

The lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia has meant that hardly any of the local population are Christian. ICC reports that only 4% of the people inside Saudi are Christian and 98% of them are expatriate workers. Not only does this state sponsored oppression daily threaten the health, freedom and livelihood of Christians, but it also threatens the eternal comfort of it's citizens.

China - Imprisoned for the Faith

The State Department Report on Religious Freedom says, "the (Chinese) Government seeks to restrict religious practice to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship and to control the growth and scope of the activity of religious groups." The report continues to say, "the Government continued its crackdown on unregistered churches, temples, and mosques. In general unregistered religious groups continued to experience varying degrees of official interference, harassment, and repression." The Church that has suffered the most and come under the most pressure from the government is the South China Church (SCC).

The SCC was founded in 1991 by Gong Shengliang and now has more than 50 000 followers across 10 Chinese provinces. Since being branded a cult in April of 2001, the SCC has experienced severe persecution. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) reported in early August that "since the crackdown on the SCC began, five members have been sentenced to death, and over 200 of the SCC leaders have been arrested, receiving sentences ranging from one year to life imprisonment. More than 500 of the SCC's full-time evangelists have lost their homes with all their properties confiscated, and thousands of ordinary believers have been beaten, received short- term detention, and been heavily fined."

Gong Shengliang, himself, received the death penalty earlier this year. Recently though his sentence has been overturned and converted to a life sentence. Christians around the world celebrated the grace and mercy shown by God but are still in fervent prayer for him and his family. Four female members from the SCC were released after re-trial. While awaiting trial they were tortured and sexually molested. Upon release they had decided to press charges against the authorities. When the police heard of this they immediately re-arrested them and placed them in a labor re-education camp where, according to Chinese law, people can remain imprisoned, without trial, for up to three years.

At the end of August, the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China "compiled a list of 71 people who have allegedly been secretly arrested or have disappeared ?most in July". The Committee, which is run by overseas Chinese Christians, has previously released detailed reports before, which have been praised by human rights researchers and scholars. Their web site is filled with testimonial evidence of the persecution and imprisonment of Christians. On the 27th of October they reported on two Henan Missionaries who were arrested on the road and imprisoned after a Bible was found in one of their homes. They also reported on Shaoqun Zhang, a 36 year old female from Hunan, who was arrested, imprisoned and tortured for her faith on the 20th of June. This happened even after the police, having ransacked her house found nothing in her home to relate her to Christianity. Detention of Christians is not only restricted to Chinese citizens. The Committee reported that on the 5th of August two Taiwanese Missionaries, who were preaching in Henan, along with 40 people who were listening to them, were arrested and expelled from China. Some of the members from their audience were detained and tortured just for listening to them.

Although there is evidence that the Chinese government is becoming more open and although a radical economic reformation is taking place in some parts of China, Christianity, if not controlled by the state, is viewed as a threat, as an "evil cult". Members from unregistered Churches are regularly harassed, imprisoned and tortured. Female Christians are also susceptible to sexual molestation. It is hoped that with the recent changing of the guard in China, religious freedom will become a reality and Christians will no longer fear worshipping in hidden places but rather they will be able to come out in the open and confess Christ with free abandon.

Pakistan - Christians Under Fire

in Pakistan have, over the preceding year, come under increasing fire. In
the wake of the US war in Afghanistan, many militant Muslims have struck
out against Christians, perceiving them to be traitors and symbols of the
west. These militants have set out to deliberately target Christians,
Christian Organizations and Christian Communities. There have been attacks
on schools, Churches, and other organizations. The Pakistan government
has, to their credit, tried to increase security for Christians but they
appear helpless in the midst of this ever rising tide of violence.

On 28
October last year, 11 people were massacred in St Dominics Church,
Bahawalpur. The Pakistan Christian Post quoted the four gunmen as
saying "Pakistan and Afghanistan, graveyard of Christians. Allah is
Great. This is just the start" prior to opening fire on the
congregation. This attack occurred 4 days after a US bombing raid in
Afghanistan. A few weeks prior to this attack a "number of Islamic
religious leaders issued a fatwa stating that two Pakistani Christians
will be killed for every Muslim who dies during American strikes on
Afghanistan." In a second attack on a Church on March 17 a man hurled
hand grenades into the International Protestant Church in
Islamabad. Five worshippers were killed and forty people were injured.

The attacks have not
stopped there. On August 5, five people were killed in an attack on the
Muree Christian School. This school aims at educating children of
foreign missionaries. Fortunately none of the Children were hurt. Four
days after the school attack, on August 9, another five people were killed
in an attack on a Presbyterian Mission Hospital in Taxila. The
hospital provides eye care and other medical services to tens of thousands
of patients a year, the vast majority of them Muslims, and many of them
impoverished. The attack on the Hospital has been called a "Crime
against Humanity" by the Bishop of Peshawar and president of Pakistan,
president Musharaff called these attacks "despicable."
A more recent
incident occurred in September when seven Christian Charity workers
working for the non-profit Institute for Peace and Justice were
brutally executed in Karachi. They were each gagged, tied to their chairs
and executed with a single bullet. An eighth person was severely wounded
and a ninth person severely beaten. Two more attacks, one on a Church on
29 September, and one on a hospital on 5 October has left Pakistani
Christians on edge and nervous.

Attacks on
individuals have also been violent and insidious. Many Christian Rights
groups reported that a 17 y/o Christian girl, Gulnaz had acid thrown on
her when she retaliated to being sexually molested by a Muslim male.
International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported on 15 y/o Yaqoob
Asih who was tortured to death by the authorities. Yaqoob witnessed an act
of bribery and insisted that as a Christian, if asked, would have to
reveal what he had seen and that he could not lie.

Sadly, these attacks
have resulted in a drastic decline in Church attendance. Pakistani
Christians are afraid and fear that if they attend Church, they too may
become victims. The Pakistani government has advised Christians and
Churches to arm themselves because, as one Christian leader said, "It's
their way of saying, 'We cannot protect you. You will have to protect
yourselves'" but most of these institution lack money for security.
The attack on the Muree Christian School has also resulted in it closing
it's doors for the upcoming academic year.

But hope is not lost,
Christian leaders are still vocal about Church services and still continue
to lead worship. They have refused to cancel services and have refused to
bow to terror. The Taxila Hospital continues to serve the community and
the NGO's in Karachi where the seven executions took place will continue
to run. Two victims of the attack at the Church in Islamabad are resolved
to minister and have said "We are part of the army of God to reach the
unreached. We are on the battlefront, and we would like those in the back
to support us." The most telling story is that of Gulnaz who, from her
hospital bed has expressed a desire to draw closer to the Lord and serve
Him and His people.

Vietnam - The Forgotten Believers

Christianity Today has called it "Vietnam's Hidden Tragedy," on September 20, 2002, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called it a "New Crackdown on Montagnards in Vietnam." The forgotten and largely ignored Christian ethnic minorities of Vietnam continue to suffer in the oppressive communist regime. HRW reports that the latest religious persecution started early in 2001 after mostly Christian ethnic minorities, collectively known as Montagnards, "conducted peaceful demonstrations calling for greater land rights and religious freedom." Since then many of these Christians have been forced to flee their homes and many of them have even fled their country into neighboring Cambodia. International Human rights monitors have been banned from visiting the central highlands of Vietnam, where these people live.

Despite the persecution they suffer, the effective propaganda campaign carried out by the Vietnamese government has, according to Christianity Today, led some mainline American protestants to support the view of the communist Government who say that "religious freedom is secure." For instance, John McCullough, a United Methodist and chief executive of Church World Service, has been quoted as saying "While isolated incidents of religion-related harassment …have occurred in some areas, these are not the result of government policy. There is clearly freedom of religion in Vietnam." This perception is false, both secular human rights organizations (like Human Rights Watch) and Christian Rights groups have documented proof of the current state of persecution in Vietnam.

An April 2002 Human Right's Watch report, called Repression of Montagnards: Conflicts over Land and Religion in Vietnam's Central Highlands, has documented the forced "conversion" of thousands of Christians, by the authorities, to animism "by making Christians drink a repulsive cocktail of goat's blood and rice wine." The report also describes the "excessive use of force by security forces in Plei Lao, Gia Lai province in March 2001, when several hundred troops surrounded and entered the village late at night to break up an all-night prayer meeting. In a confrontation with villagers, security forces fired into the crowd, killing one villager. They then burned down the village church." The 200 page reports correlates eye witness testimony with previously unseen "Internal government documents obtained by Human Rights Watch".

In a recent summary of persecution in Vietnam, Open Doors said:

"Thirty Christian leaders recently received jail sentences ranging from three to 12 years, Compass reported in June. At the beginning of June, another 14 Vietnamese pastors were arrested in the Central Highlands. Others have simply disappeared, and a further 200 Christians have been arrested this year. In the past five years, an estimated 14,000 Christian Hmong have fled persecution in northwest Vietnam. Those who were forced to return from Cambodia to Vietnam have been tortured.
"Let us not close our eyes, ears, hearts minds and souls to the plight of Christian minorities in Vietnam. Let us rather remember them in prayer. There is ample evidence from reliable sources to show that they suffer tremendous hardship for their faith. Let us not forget them.

Indonesia - Persecution from the community

Since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, religious persecution increased drastically. The Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to worship but, an increase in fundamentalist Islam led to an increase in the persecution of Christians from the surrounding community. Most of the Muslim-Christian violence has occurred in Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas. In a 1999 report examining the origins of the violence, the Brussels based International Crises Group said "the main dividing line between the two sides is religious identification (Christian or Moslem) though religious issues were not at the core of the fighting when it first erupted." Although initial violence was not religious the tables turned and persecution started with the arrival of Laskar Jihad, a militant Islamic organization, who "turned intermittent fighting between two communities into a campaign of 'religious cleansing'.."

Last year the Washington Times reported that "63,000 terrified Christians" living in Central Sulawesi "had been informed a 'bloody Christmas' awaited them at the hands of radical Islamic militants." The report said, "28,000 of them were refugees whose towns and villages had been looted, burned and bulldozed by?Laskar Jihad. Another 3,000 Christians were said to be hiding out in jungles."

This year, until recently, the persecution of Christians had gained momentum. The Barnabas Fund reported that, on the 4th of August, in an attack on the Christian village of Matako, seven people were shot and wounded. In the same attack, two Churches and twenty-seven houses were burned to the ground. In a later report Christianity Today told of an August 12 attack on the Christian villages of Sepe and Silanca. Both villages were burned to the ground. The Christianity Today article went on to say that the "attacks on the Christian villages started after armed forces guarding the villages were unexpectedly withdrawn."

Extreme violence by the surrounding community is not the only persecution that Christians have experienced. Other types of persecution have come from the Indonesian police in terms of Church closures and false arrests. The Barnabas Fund reported that the police closed two Churches in the town of Cikarang Barat, West Java on September 6th. They also reported on "the closure of four church buildings in nearby Cikarang Baru in July." In addition, two Churches undergoing renovations in Bandung were forced to close and a Church in Malang, East Java was also shut down. The reason given for these closure have all been the same: "local people objected to the church buildings and activities of the Christians."

Christian Rights groups have also provided extended coverage on the arrest of Pastor Rinaldy Damanik. He has been arrested for the alleged possession of illegal weapons and ammunition but many people believe he was arrested for his outspoken criticism of the government. Pastor Damanik has denied the charges are true. Pastor Damanik is known as a man of peace and has been one of the principal negotiators for peace between the Christians and Muslims in the region. Pastor Damanik gave himself up at the police headquarters in Jakarta where he was promptly detained for 20 days. During the initial stage of his imprisonment he was so severely interrogated that he had to be hospitalized. The Barnabas Fund has said that Pastor Damanik "is widely believed to be an innocent scapegoat who is being unfairly blamed for the failure of the Indonesian authorities to end the violence in Central Sulawesi." Cry Indonesia quoted a local commentator as saying that the arrest of Pastor Damanik "is nothing less than a deliberate attempt to undermine the security and leadership of the Central Sulawesi Christian community."

In the wake of the Bali bomb blast, the world has come to know the true face of militant Indonesian Muslims. This has led to an increase in governmental pressure on these organizations. Thankfully, Laskar Jihad, in the wake of the bomb at Kuta, which claimed the lives of 180 people, has disbanded. The plight of the Christians in Indonesia has also inspired Christians around the world to support and assist them. Cry Indonesia, a Christian Rights group is helping to set-up micro-economic projects to enable refugees to sustain themselves and aid from the outside world, although severely hampered, has been sent to assist the suffering Christians of Indonesia. Although much work is still needed and there are still shortages, God is working, and people are responding.

North Korea - Hunger for the Word

The Korean peninsula was divided into North and South after the Korean War. North Korea has since become a hard line Stalinist state where religious freedom, although guaranteed by their constitution, is an illusion. According to the US State Departments recent report on religious freedom "the Government discourages organized religious activity, except that which is supervised tightly by officially recognized groups linked to the Government." The capital of North Korea, Pyonyang, used to be known as the Jerusalem of Asia and the center of fervent Christian worship. Sadly, today, merely owning a page of the bible may get you thrown into a concentration camp or even killed.

Although there are many dangers of owning Bibles in North Korea, many Christians in that country are still hungry to hear and read the word of God. United Press International (UPI) reported on an attempt by the Voice of Martyrs (VOM) to saturate North Korea with the Gospel. VOM prints the entire Gospel of Mark on helium balloons and then when the wind is right, releases them from the border with China into North Korea. Each balloon has one, two or three pin-holes deliberately placed inside them. As the helium leaks out so the balloons slowly descend and will eventually land. The report continues to say, "People are prepared to risk their lives picking up these flying Gospels as soon as they touch ground. Missionaries in China report that North Korean soldiers can shoot "offenders" who dare to pick up these balloons, or even slay them with crowbars or hammers."

Michael Weygandt, an executive at VOM said that they received "a report of a little girl bringing one of our balloons home to her grandmother who wept and said, 'Thank God, they haven't forgotten us,' meaning the world's Christian community. The grandmother buried the balloon but dug it up every night to read and interpret its inscription to her family."

Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute has said, in a CNSService report that "defectors at the Chinese-North Korea border say they have been imprisoned because they were reading pages of the Bible, preaching the Gospel or talking about God. They were tortured for reading the Bible. They were used for biological experiments because they believe in Christ. Some were killed. There were mass executions."

The South China Morning Post in an article entitled Persecuted Church Fights Secret War quoted a source that said, "Kim Jong-il is now using the army to operate house-to-house searches for Christians. They look for any pieces of paper. Whoever has a Bible in their hands is accused of being a spy - anything connected with the outside world can mean arrest and death."

Many North Koreans are now fleeing their country into China where they become illegal immigrants (as China refuses to acknowledge them as political refugees) and go into hiding. In China they are hunted by the authorities and, if found, are sent back to North Korea. Once in China "they often head for homes displaying the cross," said Weygandt (of VOM). "They don't know what the cross signifies, except that it is a sign of trustworthiness." These Christian homes form safe houses for both believers and non-believers. Tim Peters, a Christian Missionary and leader of the Ton-A-Month club, when asked "What influence (if any) does Christianity have in NK and with NK refugees?" replied: "Notably, when I left a safehouse recently and asked the teens what they wanted, I was very impressed that they clamored for English Bibles." He went on to say "I couldn't help but wonder how many South Korean teens in 2001 would ask for that instead of a Sony Playstation or a DVD player?"

Servants of the Persecuted

There are many International Organizations and many individuals that serve the persecuted Church. Very often they risk life and limb to aid and assist their afflicted brothers and sisters, but yet they continue to go. Men like the late Steve Snyder, the founder of International Christian Concern, who was described as a man "toughened by visits to the war zones of southern Sudan and Azerbaijan." Yerang Missions, a Korean Mission group that takes the Gospel to the communist countries of North Korea and China describe their origins after hearing a story:

"(The story was) about a few missionaries who were helping North Korean escapees and Chinese Korean. They were very poor and their deeds were not known by anyone. They had been tortured by Chinese communists, beaten by North Korean police as well as endured terrors of robbery, and cold weather and hunger. However, they kept on caring for refugees and shared gospel with Korean Chinese people. Some people who knew about them started to help by visiting and living among the escapees. In those visits, we realized helping them is what delights God."
The Free Burma Rangers is a group of men and woman, risking life and limb to take medical supplies and Bibles to what Don Richardson, in "Eternity in their Hearts", described as the first Christians in Burma: the forgotten Karen people. Members of the Free Burma Rangers are diverse and varied, Shannon Allyson ex green beret and successful dentist, when asked why he helps replied: "I'm doing what I'm supposed to do: getting them out of pain and asking nothing in return."

When Bob Pierce, an evangelist and journalist with Youth for Christ, was in China just shortly after World War II he witnessed "some courageous women who were living among lepers and orphans, sacrificing everything to share the love of Jesus Christ." Through this life-changing event, he received a clear vision from God for World Missions. In the early 1970s he mentored and discipled a young man, Franklin Graham, who founded the Samaritans Purse charity which last year distributed US$130 million in direct aid to places where poverty and persecution are experienced daily.

The late Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was also known as "the voice of the underground Church", spent fourteen years imprisoned for his faith in his native Romania, where he was tortured and spent three years in solitary confinement. He was imprisoned twice and upon his second release was "purchased" from the Romanian Government for US$1900. In the mid 1960s both he and his wife sought exile in the United States and founded the Voice of Martyrs which is now an International Organization aimed at serving the persecuted Church worldwide.

The list of those who serve, and still serve the persecuted Church is compelling and inspirational. Brother Andrew, the original "God's Smuggler", took bibles behind the iron curtain at the height of the cold war. An ex-marine, Doug Sutphen, who was later known as God's smuggler to China, led "Project Perl", which was a daring operation that saw some one million Chinese Bibles land on Swatow Beach, South China, during an evening in June 1981. We also remember servants like Graham Steines, an Australian Missionary who, with his two young sons, was martyred in India in 1999.

Currently there are many people who spend their life in the service of persecuted Christians. Some of them are famous, some of them mere shadows in time. But they serve for one reason: their love of Christ. They risk all for the Gospel message of love and for the strength of believers. They are on the front lines serving in a deadly war, living daily by faith and trusting fully in the love and mercy of our benevolent father in heaven. All they ask is that we remember them in our prayers. In the words of Amoon and Ghazala Sharon, survivors of the Karachi Church bomb blast, "We are part of the army of God to reach the unreached. We are on the battlefront, and we would like those in the back to support us."

What Can We Do?

How can we respond to the persecution of Christians? What can we do, if anything? Our first response should always be prayer: "the least we can do is also the most we can do: Pray!" We should pray that God will protect the families and property of persecuted believers. We should pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen their faith and also pray that they will constantly seek strength in the Lord. We should pray for their specific needs and should pray that God would continue to provide for them. We should also pray for the persecutors. We should pray that they would have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and their hearts would be softened and their minds open to receive the Gospel of Christ. We should also ask God to direct our efforts where they are most needed and respond accordingly. And remember, when prayers are answered, thank the Lord for His grace.

Before we can pray for their needs, we need to know what those needs are. It is therefore important to stay informed through the secular media and by keeping in touch with the news from Christian Rights groups. Sign up to receive newsletters and constant persecution updates. Pass this information on to other Christians and keep them informed. Give them the opportunity and privilege to pray for their afflicted brothers and sisters.

Write letters to Christians imprisoned and persecuted for their faith. The Voice of Martyrs, and other groups, list prisoners and addresses where they can be reached. Write letters to them, strengthening them in the faith and letting them know that Christians on the outside do care about them. In those letters make sure that you quote bible verses that can enrich them. Make sure the letters are filled with empathy and transmit a spirit of unity. Let the person know that you are praying for them and you are concerned for them and about their situation.

We can also advocate on behalf of the afflicted. When you hear stories of persecution in different countries write letters of protest to those governments and their representatives in both your country and here in Taiwan. Write letters to newspapers making sure accurate information of Christian persecution is transmitted through the popular media.

Provide for their needs. Donate money, food, blankets and other items persecuted Christians need. VoM run a "Blankets of Love Campaign" that provides blankets to people in the South of Sudan, other organizations ask for donations of clothes. Donate money to the Barnabas Fund's "Change the World" program that aims to support the much battered Christians in Pakistan. Donate Bibles through the Bible League or help support food aid programs through organizations like World Vision, Christian Aid, or Ton-a-Month Club.

Lastly, and most importantly, continue to share the Gospel with the people who are around us. In his book "For the Love of My Brothers" Brother Andrew, more famously known as God's Smuggler, wrote about the Russian invasion of Czchekeslovakia. After hearing about the invasion he left his home in Holland with a trunk load of Russian Bibles and drove all the way to Prague while everyone else was leaving. On the first Sunday after the invasion he was preaching in a Church when someone asked him why this had happened. His answer was simple: if you don't take the Gospel to the heathen, God will bring the heathen to you. He then gave the Russian bibles to the members of the Church and they went out onto the street and started to evangelize the Russian soldiers. It is important to share the Gospel message of Christ, it is important to tell others of the Love of Christ, of his grace and peace. It is important to share the love of Christ with all those around us and to invite them to place their faith in him. After all the Gospel is "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."
PKS, the editor of Christian Monitor (www.christianmonitor.org), prepared this article. Originally from Africa, he currently resides in Asia. Christian Monitor, an online journal for the persecuted Church, daily monitors persecution around the world.

Nate MacDonald
"Do all things for Christ."