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NEWSLETTER
Weekly Edition (26-Jun-2005)
"It is ridiculous that they are trying to silence me, in this age of the internet and mass communication. When they hit the shepherd, they expect the sheep to run away, but church history is paradoxical, as, the more the church is persecuted, the more followers it gets." -Archbishop Jovan of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Table of Contents
Uzbekistan
‘Unregistered’ Church Pastors Face Trial
‘Those at the police station answered that they required neither lawyer nor summons because all they needed was to destroy us’ – Pastor Nicolai Shevchenko.

The authorities in Uzbekistan have increased their persecution of the Bethany Protestant Church in Tashkent. Having already punished two church members for ‘illegally’ expounding the Gospel, Pastors Nicolai Shevchenko and Sergei Khripunov have been charged with leading an unregistered church. The pastors, together with four others, face trial on 7th July and have little hope of a fair trial. They have tried to register the church, but have seen their applications turned down one after another.

The police raided a church worship service on 12th June, and told the members that they could no longer meet there. They are said to have threatened and intimidated church members during the raid, and continued to threaten the six detainees once they were in police custody. All requests for an attorney were refused. The pastors are currently in hiding, fearful of re-arrest before the trial. Under Uzbek law, anyone charged three times with the same offence faces an automatic prison sentence.

Up to 150 people attend the church meetings, all of them converts to Christianity, and they need your prayers. They “know that they are going to face and accept persecution with great joy”. Their only ‘crime’? An open confession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Prayer Points
  • Praise the Lord for the matchless power of his Word. Praise Him for every one of the 150 converts to Christianity at the Bethany Church. Praise Him for His desire to transform Uzbekistan into a country in His own image.
  • Lift up Pastor Nicolai and Pastor Sergei to the Lord. Pray for their spiritual health as they see their church under fire. Ask the Lord to prepare their hearts for the trial in July. May they continue to seek His face in everything.
  • Praise God for being a true and just God. Ask that His justice be done on 7th July and that His truth be known.
  • Pray for President Karimov and all those in power. May Jesus show them that they are persecuting the Son of God and convict them of their sin. May He change them and change Uzbekistan.
  • Saudi Arabia
    Two Indian Christians Remain Imprisoned
    The Muttawa – Saudi Arabia’s infamous religious police – continue their merciless persecution of evangelical Christians with the arrest and imprisonment of two Indian Pentecostals for proselytism on 28th May.

    The identity of one of the men is known. George Kutty, who belongs to the Indian Pentecostal Mission, had links with several Pentecostal missionaries worldwide. Kutty kept all information and contact details on his portable computer and it was seized during the arrest. Further arrests are now feared.

    Both men are being held in prison, where visitors are rarely allowed and torture is rife. Their incarceration brings to mind the five elders of an Ethiopian-Eritrean house church in Riyadh arrested on 29th April. Yemane Gebre Loul, Gazai Zarom, Msfen Tekle, Yonas Tekle and Teklu Mola are being held in an Interior Ministry prison, but that is all that is known of their whereabouts. No one has been allowed to visit them for a month.

    The Muttawa deny that any non-Muslims are apprehended or tortured, speaking of a “tolerant Islamic belief which guarantees the rights… of different religions”. Saudi Arabia’s Christians pray for the day when remarks such as these are more than empty rhetoric. Join them in praying for change and for our Lord’s name to be glorified there.
    Prayer Points
  • Praise the Lord who endured unspeakable persecution for our sake. Praise Him for giving George Kutty and the other Indian Christian the passion for making his name known in Saudi Arabia.
  • Give thanks for our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia who love Jesus more than their own lives, who desire to see the Great Commission become reality in a hostile and dangerous country.
  • May all our brothers in sisters in prison sense the protection of the Holy Spirit. May they allow Him to strengthen and encourage them, fill them and allow them to be a testimony to all who meet them.
  • Pray for the salvation of the Saudi Royal Family and all those in positions of power. Ask God to bring the Muttawa to their knees in repentance as they see Jesus for who He is.
  • Serbia and Montenegro
    Silencing the Archbishop
    (Forum 18) A Serbian Orthodox Archbishop, Jovan (Vranisskovski) of Ohrid, has had an 18 month jail sentence confirmed by a Macedonian appeal court, in the latest development in a long-running government campaign against the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in support of the rival Macedonian Orthodox Church. "It is ridiculous that they are trying to silence me, in this age of the internet and mass communication," Archbishop Jovan told Forum 18 News Service. He noted of government action against SOC believers that "when they hit the shepherd, they expect the sheep to run away, but church history is paradoxical, as, the more the church is persecuted, the more followers it gets." Court officials have claimed to Forum 18 that commenting on the jail sentence is "against the law." Archbishop Jovan was in 2003 jailed for five days in solitary confinement, for baptising his sister's grandchild.

    "When they imprison an archbishop of a church in the 21st century - merely for serving his people - what else can you say about the system and the state?" the senior hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia, Archbishop Jovan (Zoran Vranisskovski) of Ohrid, commented to Forum 18 News Service from his native town of Bitola in southern Macedonia on 24 June. He was speaking a day after Bitola appeal court confirmed the 18 month prison sentence on charges of "inciting national, racial and religious hatred, schism and intolerance" handed down by a lower Bitola court in August 2004 and upheld by another Bitola court two months later. The archbishop is due to be taken to prison eight days after the court decision.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for unity in the conflict in Serbia between the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church. As fellow believers in Christ they need a spirit of unity that begins at the foot of the cross.
  • Pray for Archbishop Jovan who will serve an eighteen month sentence. Pray God would use the incarceration for His purpose and will. Pray for God’s peace to rest on him and a sure knowledge that He is in control.
  • Pray for this nation to allow the freedom to worship without promoting one group over another. Pray for this nation to be healed as Christians humble themselves and pray.
  • Indonesia
    Accusations of Attempted Conversion
    (Compass Direct) A Muslim council has accused three Indonesian women of attempting to convert Muslim children. Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun were arrested on May 13 and taken to the Indramayu State Prison, where they await trial. Dr. Zakaria is the pastor of Gereja Kristen Kemah Daud (GKKD), or Christian Church of David’s Camp, located in the small town of Harguelis, Indramayu district, West Java.

    In 2003, a public elementary school in nearby Babakan Jati approached the church staff and asked if they would establish a Christian education program for the school.
    After the National Education System Bill became law in June 2003, all public schools were required to provide religious education for children of religious minorities attending their schools (see Compass Direct, “A New Twist on Indonesia’s Controversial Education Bill,” September 12, 2003.) The school in Babakan Jati had no means of providing Christian education, and therefore asked the GKKD church to provide teachers and an appropriate program. The Christian students would then be evaluated at the end of each semester and given the required marks in their school reports. The women of the GKKD church set up a “Happy Sunday” program, with Christian songs, games and Bible study for the children. The program was run by Bangun and Pangesti, under the direction of their pastor, Zakaria.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for these women as they are held in detention. Pray for God to protect them and keep them in perfect peace. Pray for supply of every need.
  • Pray for the accusers who wish to prevent the children to come to Jesus and to know Him. Pray for conviction to capture their hearts and bring them to repentance.

  • Pray over the judiciary system in this case. Pray for truth to be honored above all other things. Pray for justice to be served according to the will of God.
  • Pray for Indonesia while struggling to step out of bondage into full relationship with the World. Pray for leaders to act with wisdom and integrity.
  • Vietnam
    Case in Point
    (Christianity Today) Angh (not his real name) received a message to go to the district police station in the Daklak province of the Central Highlands in Vietnam. The teenager, a church worker and student in a Christian discipleship class, was interrogated by the police and asked about his attendance in the class. He said he was studying the Word of God. Immediately one of the policemen used his club to strike him on his head. He fell flat on the floor, seeing nothing but blackness. Angh was told to go home and no longer attend the Bible class—or else there would be more severe punishment. For days Angh experienced dizziness from the clubbing. His family advised him to drop out of the class. He refused. Angh told his family: "I am convinced that as I follow the Lord, I have to learn His Word. I will continue to study the Bible. I am not afraid. After the incident, my faith has gotten stronger."

    (Montagnard Foundation) “Today many of our villages are under martial law where Vietnamese security forces conduct rampant human rights abuses and a policy of Christian religious persecution. Every week we receive reports direct from Vietnam where our people describe forced renunciations of Christ, beatings, electric shock torture, arrests, and even murders conducted by Vietnamese authorities.”

    The US State Department also confirmed that the killings of our Christian people during the 2004 Easter Massacre was in “double digits” figures.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for the Christians in Vietnam daily. Pray the forces of persecution would relent in the name of Jesus. Pray for those who are held captive because of their faith. Pray for boldness in proclaiming the Word of God and leading others to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  • Pray for the ones who experience treatment as Angh did. Pray that God would protect and shield them. Pray wounds would be healed, spiritual strength renewed and physical needs met.
  • Pray Vietnam would honor agreements to allow freedom of religion. Pray government leaders would hold human rights in high esteem. Pray that truth and integrity would follow all in leadership.
  • Pray for the Montagnard and Hmong people groups that face strict control, forced relocations and confiscation of ancestral lands. Pray for the Montagnard Foundation in the USA and its founder Kok Ksor. Pray that God would lead and direct his efforts.
  • India
    Authorities Directed to Prosecute
    (BosNewsLife) Christian workers in India's tense state of Orissa faced an uncertain future Wednesday, June 22, after the Orissa High Court ordered the local government to ensure the prosecution of missionaries involved in forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity. Human rights groups say the "forced conversion" charges are often used against Christian missionaries preaching the Gospel, and could mean widespread police actions.

    In a statement obtained by the BosNewsLife Orissa Bureau, the Orissa High Court asked the state government Tuesday, June 21, to direct all the district prosecutors "to take appropriate actions" within two weeks in cases of allegedly conversions "by coercion" by invoking the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act.

    The published court decision came after Anant Kumar Shatrusalya and 268 other Hindu activists filed a petition alleging forced conversions by Christian missionaries in the Orissa Gajpati district.

    Missionaries fear the court order may be "misused by the Police and district administration against them," BosNewsLife learned. They suggest their work is often misunderstood as it involves preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ who they say loves Hindus too.

    They argue people have to make a free "personal decision to accept Christ as their Personal Savior and Lord," and stress no person can be "forced" to become a Christian, as this would be against Biblical teachings.

    This is the second time in less than three months that judicial intervention was sought over alleged coercion. On April 11, the Orissa High Court looked into the plight of 22 Hindu families at Mallabhandaja Village who were allegedly forced to convert to Christianity by missionaries.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for the nation of India. The constant violence directed at Christians and minorities is against Biblical principles. Pray for reconciliation and repentance for those opposed to the gospel.
  • Pray for those accused of attempted conversions. Pray the accusers would be exposed for false accusations and sensationalism. Pray for a breakdown in the hatred expressed for followers of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for a spirit of respect for fellow human beings to flood this land and knowledge of the Creator of the Universe to prick the hearts of all. Let freedom ring for the captives of religious bondage.
  • Global
    Additional Prayer Needs
    (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
  • Pray for missionaries in Turkey who face accusations of creating ethnic divisions and targeting the poor.
  • Pray for the Christian settlement of Jeypore, in Koraput district, Orissa state that faces demolition threats once again. The demolition is expected to be completed in November.
  • Pray for Christian leaders in Xian, China that were arrested and fined recently. All were released after paying the fines but remain under surveillance.
  • Remember Christian brothers and sisters in detention in Eritrea. The documented crackdown in this nation resulted in hundreds of arrests.
  • Pray for Christians in Sri Lanka. Pending anti-conversion legislation and hate crimes against Christians has the church on edge. Pray for God’s peace.