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NEWSLETTER
Weekly Edition (04-Dec-2005)
“What Chinese Christians really need is not such kind of naive ideas or even simple-minded actions as to hope to ‘promote greater religious freedom through diplomatic means.’ Instead, humble hearts and prayerful love are much more appreciated than simply teaching what Chinese Christians should do.” - Ray Jian, a prominent Christian scholar.
Table of Contents
Laos
October Report Indicates Ongoing Persecution
Oftentimes news from Laos is slow in reaching the West. The Communist government tightly controls Christians and often imprisons and tortures believers. Friends at InfoMekong.com detailed several incidents that took place at the end of October:

Burning Down a Church
Oct. 27, Mr. Kh, a Christian leader told us that 7 people, including police and leaders of the village, had burned their bamboo church. As a matter of fact, the authorities have often threatened to burn the church. When the Christians heard the news about their bamboo church building being burned they cried loudly. Some of these people have been Christians only 8 or 9 months. They said that this church is the place where they worship the holy and living God, and they love it very much. When they heard that it was burned out, it felt like they were burned in their hearts. We encouraged them to stand firm in the Lord and in their faith.

There are more than 35 house churches and one church building that have 2,840 Christians in this province. But we do not know why no one else had any problem except the "bamboo church" village, which just started early this year. The authorities have been continually persecuting them since they became Christians.

Church Leaders Arrested
3 church leaders, Mr. M, Mr. SS and Mr. Sa, were arrested on October 28, 2005. Mr. M's wife said the provincial police came to arrest her husband and put him into their truck and took him to the provincial prison. She said that the police almost arrested her too, but she has an eight-year-old daughter who cried out, so they left her. Every Sunday, Mr. M and his wife have been walking two hours from their village to another village to preach and teach. The authorities have been warning him not to go over there to preach and teach, but they kept going. That is the reason he was arrested.

Church Leaders Harassed
The HS district governor lied to Mr. SS, sending him to another province where he was formerly a district governor to get his retirement papers in order to receive his retirement funds. 2 policemen, not in uniform clothes, escorted him. The letter which was presented to the provincial governor, stated that Mr. SS should be put in prison for 6 months because he had broken the law which forbids leading people to believe in a foreign religion. Then the governor asked him, "Is there anything that you have done wrong, apart from being a Christian?" He answered no, he had done nothing wrong. The governor said that there are many Christians in his province as well. Then the 2 policemen asked 500,000 kip, (2,000 baht) from Mr. SS to pay for their travel costs for escorting him. He did not pay them because he had not asked them to escort him. Then the governor gave the police 500,000 kip. Mr. SS is afraid that he might have to pay this back later on because the governor told them that the district governor has to pay him back.

Cunning Manipulation
October 23 was another serious day for the HSN Christians. The police and the head of the village tried to force them to renounce their faith and stop holding worship services. The content of the papers they were asked to sign were written very deceitfully, carefully avoid any direct mention of Jesus. The papers did address Christian activities such as evangelism and witnessing. The Christians did not discern the deceit of the authorities behind the papers or their real purpose. The police, the communist party members in the village and the head of the village insisted that Mr. SS sign the paper. He took his pen and started to sign his name on the paper but suddenly his daughter smacked his hand away from the paper so he would not sign it. All the authorities who were standing there were astonished and embarrassed because of her boldness. She told us her testimony herself. She does not know how to read to write. She just depends on other people to read for her. Christian radio is very important to her. Isn't it amazing that although she did not know how to read, she knew that the content of the papers that the authorities were pressuring them to sign were not true and were deceiving her father. Isn’t that wonderful?

The reason that the local authorities are so displeased is because Mr. SS has become a Christian even though he was a formerly communist district governor. He had served the government for more than 30 years. They cannot understand why he became a Christian? It is very hard for them to accept.
Prayer Points
  • Pray over the nation of Laos. Often overshadowed by the persecutions of China and Vietnam, Laos is in need of the prayers of all of us. Pray the church would find protection under the wings of the Most High. Pray for courage and determination to follow Jesus.
  • Pray for each situation outlined above. The suffering endured should be enough motivation to intercede without ceasing. Pray for the church to grow and mature in His grace.
  • Pray for the workers who carry out the call of the ministry. Pray they would earnestly seek the face of God and move within His will. Pray for wisdom in decision making and peace within to lead.
  • Indonesia
    Appeal Lost; Children Terrorized
    Having served over 200 days in prison for teaching children the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun have lost the appeal of their three year prison sentence. The fabricated charges illuminate a justice system corrupt and holding no form of true justice. Additionally, the Barnabas Fund has reported on the horrible conditions these Christian women must endure. "The women sleep on hardwood platforms with no blankets or sheets. There are 12 women altogether, in the prison, and eight share a five meter by five meter jail cell where they must pay the guards to turn on the water for their toilet."

    Jim Jacobsen of Christian Freedom International reports, “It's really a major injustice of the law and international treaties, basically," Jacobsen says, "because they're being held in a very dirty, cramped prison in Indonesia and have one appeal left." And if the women's sentence is not reduced or overturned on appeal this time, he adds, "they're going to spend the next three years in this very crowded, dirty prison, and we just think it's very, very wrong." While enduring such hardships for their faith, the Lord has been faithful to these women. In their own words, the Christian inmates say their faith continues to sustain them. Zakaria, who says she wakes up at 5:00 a.m. daily to pray and read her Bible for two and a half hours, admits she is sometimes depressed, though not for long. "God comforts me everyday with joy and peace," she explains. "I pray for the other prisoners and guards. One prisoner converted and became a Christian. We share our faith with others."

    Zakaria has even been permitted to lead a weekly worship service in a small outdoor courtyard of the prison. Each Sunday, CFI reports, about 35 people from her church are allowed to enter the prison to participate. The incarcerated worship leader says of her present surroundings, "This is 'School of Trust Bible School' -- not a jail."

    Children Terrorized
    A mob attacked and vandalized a Sunday school last week causing 30 Christian children to flee. The Sunday school was meeting in a private home when an Islamic mob broke into the house destroying much of the furnishings and forcefully evicting the adults and remaining children. The house was then sealed and posters denouncing the school were hung over the doors. The building was scheduled to be evacuated on January 1, 2006 as part of an agreement with locals. Once again the Indonesian government remains non-committal to remedy the attack.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for the physical needs of the three prisoners. Pray God would meet every need and keep them safe. Pray for favor from the guards and continued freedom to share the Gospel. Pray God would accomplish His purposes.
  • Pray for the testimony of the women and the lives they have touched while imprisoned. Pray the Word they have shared would find fertile ground in which to develop.
  • Pray for the authorities in the judiciary to find wisdom regarding their case. Pray they would reverse their decision to accept the appeal from the Christian women. Pray for justice and truth to be honored.
  • Pray for the children who witnessed the attack by the Islamic mob. Pray Jesus would block the horror of the attack from their memory. Pray for all who suffered injury to be healed in the name of Jesus.
  • Iran
    Reports Indicate Renewed Crackdown on Christianity
    We have continued to keep Pastor Hamid Pourmand in our thoughts and prayers. Pastor Pourmand was the most visible evidence of persecution in Iran until the recent murder of house church pastor Ghorban Tori, 50 years of age. On November 22nd the pastor was kidnapped from his home, stabbed and his body thrown in front of his house according to Compass Direct News.

    The crackdown begins with reported comments made recently by the new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In a meeting with provincial governors the president stated that he was concerned with a growing house church movement in Iran and vowed “I will stop Christianity in this country”.

    Following the murder of Pastor Ghorban Tori, several secret police visited his house confiscating Bibles and other banned Christian literature. Other Christian leaders reported raids of the homes of Christians in the city. Additional sources report the arrests and tortures of 10 other Christians throughout Iran although the detainees have since been released.

    In our opinion the crackdown is in a preliminary phase demonstrating to house church Christians the eyes of the secret police are watching them. This usually precedes a harsher crackdown.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for the family of Ghorban Tori. The loss of this man is surely difficult for many. Pray for the peace of God to comfort the mourning. Pray for strength in the midst of suffering. Pray for trust in God to prevail.
  • Pray for the other house church leaders who were arrested and tortured. Pray God would heal physical, mental and spiritual wounds inflicted by the oppressors. Pray for safety and protection as they surely will be followed.
  • Pray for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pray Jehovah would visit him and reveal His glory and power. Pray for repentance to follow a visitation much like the Apostle Paul experienced.
  • Pray the plans and schemes of the secret police would fall into confusion as they seek to punish the believers.
  • China
    Understand and Intercede
    Over the last several weeks China has undergone intense scrutiny and tremendous publicity following the visit of two major governmental organizations. President George Bush of the United States and Manfred Novak, the UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur on torture. The visit by President Bush grabbed the headlines while the more significant visit by the UN was largely ignored.

    The UN has been attempting to visit China for the last ten years to evaluate reports of torture and unlawful detentions. In the preliminary report the UN special Rapporteur stated:

    The Special Rapporteur recalls that over the last several years his predecessors have received a significant number of serious allegations related to torture and other forms of ill-treatment in China, which have been submitted to the Government for its comments. These have included a consistent and systematic pattern of torture related to ethnic minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uighurs, political dissidents, human rights defenders, practitioners of Falun Gong, and members of house-church groups. These allegations have been and continue to be documented by international human rights organizations.

    The methods of torture alleged include, among others: beatings; use of electric shock batons; cigarette burns; hooding/blindfolding; guard-instructed or permitted beatings by fellow prisoners; use of handcuffs or ankle fetters for extended periods (including in solitary confinement or secure holding areas), submersion in pits of water or sewage; exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold, being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions, such as sitting, squatting, lying down, or standing for long periods of time, sometimes with objects held under arms; deprivation of sleep, food or water; prolonged solitary confinement; denial of medical treatment and medication; hard labour; and suspension from overhead fixtures from handcuffs. In several cases, the techniques employed have been given particular terminologies, such as the “tiger bench”, where one is forced to sit motionless on a tiny stool a few centimetres off the ground; “reversing an airplane”, where one is forced to bend over while holding legs straight, feet close together and arms lifted high; or “exhausting an eagle”, where one is forced to stand on a tall stool and subjected to beatings until exhaustion. On the basis of the information he received during his mission, the Special Rapporteur confirms that many of these methods of torture have been used in China.

    We trust the release of the final report in 2006 will lend hope to China respecting human rights and elimination of Christian persecution if God would see fit.

    During the visit by President Bush many Christians were detained and prevented from attending his visit to one of the officially sanctioned churches. Catholic priests were arrested and then released again pointing to the attempt of the government to control the house church movement.

    In other news Evangelist Louis Palau remarked to the press that Christians in China should register with their government to receive greater freedom and governmental blessing. We feel strongly that even though his remarks were well intended once again Western Christianity seeks to ignore the ability of Chinese Christians to speak out for themselves and denies them the ability to govern their own affairs. It is blatantly obvious given the phenomenal growth of the church in China, that God is orchestrating this growth through His methods as Chinese Christians surrender their lives into His will.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for underground Christians in China. Pray their devotion to the Lord would not be corrupted. Pray the Lord would continue the work that He began in them and bring it into completion in His time and by His methods.
  • Pray the laborers in the fields of harvest would keep their hands on the plow. Pray with determination they would break up the fallow ground and plant the seeds of the Gospel.
  • Pray for Western Christians to allow the Chinese church to speak out for themselves. Pray for humble hearts and prayerful love to be poured out upon the Chinese.
  • Pray for the nation of China as outside pressures expose the hidden sins of a nation. Pray the leadership would act with guidance and wisdom from on high and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus.
  • Saudi Arabia
    Prison and Lashes
    (From November 20) According to a recent religious freedom report on Saudi Arabia, “the country is a monarchy with a legal system based on Islamic law (Shari'a). Islam is the official religion, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims. The Government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion, and such protection does not exist in practice. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. The Government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private; however, it does not always respect this right in practice and does not define this right in law.” The teacher will appeal.

    With that in mind, secondary school teacher Mohammad al-Harbi was sentenced to 40 months in prison and 50 lashes a week in public for "dubious ideology, mocking religion, saying the Jews were right, discussing the Gospel and preventing students from leaving class to wash for prayer." Mohammad was taken to court by students and colleagues after he discussed the Bible and praised the Jews.

    This incident lends credence to the United States placing Saudi Arabia on the ‘countries of particular concern’ list for repeated denial of religious freedoms. While there are many Christians in Saudi Arabia they must remain underground and rely on secrecy to avoid the same fate as Mohammad al-Harbi.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for success in the appeal by Mohammad. Pray his courageous stand will bear fruit for the underground church in Saudi Arabia.
  • Pray those who follow Jesus would continue the work of the Gospel. Pray for wisdom in ministry and protection from persecution.
  • Pray for the nation of Saudi Arabia to protect and honor the basic rights of human beings including the right of freedom of religion.
  • Global
    Lest We Forget
    (CM) Let us continue to intercede for the many needs of the persecuted church around the world. Time and space do not allow for an adequate representation of all these needs. Several are presented here and are no less important than those presented in-depth in this newsletter. The Christian Monitor website contains recent articles that expose prayer needs in these nations. Continue to lift up these needs and pray continually for persecuted Christians around the globe. You may never see or hear the results of your prayers but know that they impact many lives. If at all possible commit to an hour a day to intercede for the needs presented in this newsletter. Please tell others about the issues highlighted.
    Prayer Points
    Christians in Pakistan are reportedly forced from their homes in order to make room for Muslim families displaced by the recent earthquake. Please keep this situation in prayer.

  • Pray for Christians in Turkey who experienced fresh harassment this past week from both security police and the judiciary, along with an attempt by vandals to set on fire one local church.
  • Pray for three Christians attacked as they distributed Christian literature in the western state of Maharashtra, India on Saturday (November 26). Two of the three injured were hospitalized.
  • Pray for Pastor Ezzat Habib who was under threat from Egypt’s security police for holding services at his house church and was run down by a taxi in Cairo and died of internal bleeding and a broken skull.
  • Pray for Christians in Xian China who suffered attacks while staging a sit-in over the return of their church building. News blackouts by the Chinese authorities accompanied the attacks.
  • PRAYER
    Urgent prayer request
    Christian Solidarity Worldwide Advocacy Team
    29-Nov-2005
    Dear Friends,

    We are writing to convey an urgent prayer request from our partner organisation in India , the All India Christian Council, for the now-homeless Christian community of Gandahati village, Gajapati district, Orissa state, India. On Sunday 20 November, while the Christians were in church, fifteen of their houses were burnt down by Hindu extremists, leaving six people seriously injured and a large number homeless. The attacks are estimated to have caused around 1 million rupees’ (approximately £12,700) worth of damage.

    The Christian families made homeless are still in urgent need of relief, including food, clothing and shelter. Surprisingly, eight Christians from the village have been arrested by the police and are being held in custody, following the attacks against their community.

    Please pray for these prisoners, their families, and for those who lost their homes and belongings during the arson attacks. Please also pray for those who committed the attacks, and for the authorities as they investigate the incident.

    Your prayers are greatly appreciated, and can make a real difference for the Christians in Orissa.

    With thanks,

    CSW Advocacy Team