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Weekly Edition (02-Jul-2005)
“There is strong evidence of torture of detained believers. Pastor Quang and Pastor Truong [two religious leaders currently detained by Vietnamese authorities] are certainly not benefiting from the recent assurances of religious freedom.” _Janet Epp Buckingham
Table of Contents
Persecution Persists for Underground Church
(CM) Several incidents transpired this week highlighting the continuous persecution of the underground church. The harassment of the leadership of a large underground movement was reported to Christian Monitor. For several weeks local police in northwest China have trailed these leaders arresting two key assistants while the top leader managed to elude arrest. Both were released after paying large fines. This type of harassment has impeded the work of this ministry causing the leaders to maintain a low profile.

Our sources also reported another incident in which a training meeting for church leaders was raided and resulted in the arrest of more than 100 participants. Two of the top leaders are held in detention while the rest have been released. In an unrelated incident another key leader in the Henan Province of China was arrested. Few details are known and prayer for him has been requested.

We have received word from AsiaNews that 34 year old underground priest Fr Vincent Kong Guocun was released from house arrest on June 8th. After spending nearly 6 years under house arrest Fr Kong was released due to poor health. His release highlights the continued detention of 18 bishops and 20 priests in China. Most have disappeared and remain isolated.

I would encourage you to access the press release from China Aid on the website to obtain additional information on recent crackdowns in China and receive an update on the trial of Pastor Cai Zhuohua. The press release includes addresses of Chinese Consulates in the United States for voicing your concerns.
Prayer Points
  • Pray for the protection of the leadership of this underground movement and for boldness to carry out their work facing pressure from the government. Pray they would act with wisdom keeping their eyes on Jesus.
  • Pray for the believers who are under the leadership of these pastors. Pray they would remain strong in their absence and faithful to Him who watches over them. Pray for growth in this difficulty and unity through trials.
  • Pray for the brother in Henan who is jailed for his Christianity. Pray that God would speak to his heart and carry him through his trials. Pray for supply of his every need according to the riches we have in Jesus.
  • Pray for those in detention in China for following the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would work out His will in each situation. Thank Him for the release of Brother Kong and pray for healing in his body and spirit. Pray God would lead him to use his freedom for the work of the Kingdom.
  • Uzbekistan
    Christian Teenager Tortured in Prison
    "These prisoners asked him if he was a Christian, and when he replied 'Yes', they beat him brutally," a church member told Forum 18. "Police officers saw this but made no effort to intervene."

    (Forum 18) Urgent prayer is needed for 19-year-old Kural Bekjanov of the Full Gospel Church in Tashkent. Kural was arrested on the 14th June, supposedly in connection with the murder of a 65-year-old church worker Kim Khen Pen Khin. Despite his involvement having been disproved, Kural remains in prison and has been repeatedly tortured by both police officers and his cellmates, all in an attempt to persuade him to abandon Christianity.

    Christians all over Uzbekistan are united in their concern for his welfare. Sources say that Kural was tortured by having needles inserted under his fingernails as well as having his ribs broken. When Kural’s mother visited him on the 26th June, she noticed her son had ‘lost weight, had difficulty walking and his fingers and legs were covered with blood’. Rather than expressing any concern, a senior police officer remarked that Christians were ‘animals who have sold themselves to America and should be shot as this is a Muslim state’.

    Church closures and police harassment of church members are becoming regular occurrences all over Uzbekistan. Forum 18 reports on Presbyterian churches being closed in Yangiyul and Angren, towns near Tashkent, as well as one in the small town of Farhad in the Syrdarya region south of Tashkent. Please continue to remember Pastor Nicolai Shevchenko of Tashkent’s Bethany Church in your prayers. His trial – in addition to those of five other church members - for leading an illegal (unregistered) church takes place on 7th July.
    Prayer Points
  • Praise God for his immovable, indestructible love! Praise Him for allowing His Spirit to reign in places where it is dishonoured and abused.
  • Thank Him for loving Kural’s attackers, for longing for their repentance and return. His mercy never fails.
  • the Spirit to give Kural a special anointing of grace and love, so that He might glorify God whilst in prison. Ask God to build up his faith, so that he may never renounce the name of Jesus, by which all are saved.
  • Ask Jesus to appear to all those who persecute and harass Christians in Uzbekistan. May He teach them compassion and mercy and may His justice reign!
  • India
    Hate Crimes Intensify Against Christians
    (CM) The outbreak of violence against Christians in India requires our focus in prayer. Incitement of Hindus against Christians should alarm Christians as radical groups rally around the false pretense that Christians are inducing conversions illicitly. This rallying point is being used by leaders of the Viswa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bajrang Dal radical groups to promote violence.

    On June 25th at Jodhpur in Rajasthan over 60 youth were gathered for a festival of spiritual growth and peace when activists crashed the meeting and chased the participants away claiming the festival was a ploy to induce conversions.

    Three Christian nuns were attacked and threatened recently in Mumbai by radical Hindus who damaged a building to be used as a home for the aged. The women were threatened to be killed with firecrackers in their mouths and told, "We won't allow Christians to pitch their tent in this Hindu-dominated area. If the nuns continue, they will be killed."

    An article submitted to Christian Monitor summarizes other events this week: Indian government has decided to deport three American preachers, who were attacked on June13, 2005 by a gang of Hindu fanatics. The government’s view is that the preachers being on tourist visas were debarred from converting locals to Christianity. As such, they were deported on the first available flight to the US. The preachers belonged to the Church of Christ in North Carolina and were to be in India for three weeks.

    Courts rarely punish people who manhandle Christian preachers. Even killers of Christian preachers are awarded lenient punishments. For instance, Dara Singh, the man accused in the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons, was awarded life imprisonment by the Orissa High Court. Dr Abraham Mathai, General Secretary of the All India Christian Committee, is of the view that the deportation is based on inaccurate reports sent by the Malwani police station. He added, “The missionaries were teaching, not preaching. They were beaten up by communal goons and now face the indignity of being deported like criminals”.

    Several states in India have passed anti-conversion laws under which it is an offence for Hindus to convert to any other religion. According to critics, the anti-conversion law is a violation of Article 25 of Indian Constitution. This article states, every one is equally entitled to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. According to a Supreme Court judgments as well, a person can change religion by marriage, adoption or voluntary conversion.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray for the nation of India. Pray that pressures applied to the government by radical Hindu groups would abate and freedom of religion would be honored.
  • Pray for divine protection of the Christians in India as they carry out the work of the Gospel. Partner with them and cover them with your prayers in this land of persecution.
  • Pray for justice to reign in this land and appropriate legal remedies to be handed out without prejudice. Pray for all in justice in India. Pray for the investigators and local police to seek truth and justice while protecting freedoms of human beings.
  • Pray over the situations outlined above. Pray for God’s leading in how to pray. Pray for the Spirit to intercede in each trial faced by Indian Christians.
  • Eritrea
    Remembering the Incarcerated
    (Release Eritrea) Over 500 Christians are currently imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea. A number of those have been held without trial since 2002. That year the government decided to recognise members of the Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran and Orthodox Churches only. All others groups were declared illegal and the unprecedented crackdown on the ‘illegal’ Church began.

    From what is known of prison conditions in Eritrea, our brothers and sisters are afforded no comforts. On the contrary, solitary confinement is common, as are the forbidding of family visits, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, torture and withholding of medicine from the sick. The Eritrean government offers them release, but only if they recant their evangelical faith. It is a tribute to the love our imprisoned brothers and sisters have for Jesus that so many of them refuse to do this, even in the face of such inhumane treatment.

    We ask you to remember them all. We won’t list each one, as they are too many and all suffer for the same faith. They are awesome testimonies of disciples who love Jesus more than their own lives, brothers and sisters who will never recant their faith in Him.

    80 Christian Students Detained
    Security forces in the Eritrean capital of Asmara stormed an end of term party for students from a local comprehensive (high) school, detaining a group of 80, of which 50 were girls and 30 were boys. It is thought that they were singled out for being evangelical Christians but were breaking no law in holding the party. The greatest cause for concern is that the government’s indiscriminate harassment of Christians has now been extended to children and social activities.

    A wedding was raided on the 28th May and the entire wedding party was detained, seemingly on the whim of the security forces. Whereas they once focused on raiding prayer meetings and worship services, the security forces have shown themselves willing to strike at any time in any place. What can we do but take it to the Lord in prayer?
    Prayer Points
  • Give thanks for all the people willing to suffer in Eritrea for the glory of God. Pray that He ministers to our brothers and sisters in prison, gives them glimpses of the glory that awaits them in Heaven. Ask God to build them up in their faith and to renew their love for Jesus.
  • Ask the Lord - in His perfect time – to deliver them from their suffering. May He lead our world’s leaders to bring pressure to bear on Eritrea to stop this barbarity and allow true freedom of religion.
  • Pray for the 80 high school students, and all those detained on the whim of a merciless security force. May Jesus shine through them and show the persecutors that they are persecuting the Son of God.
  • Pray that the Word of God be known in Eritrea, from the corridors of power to the smallest villages. Pray for the salvation of President Issayas Aferwerki.
  • Pakistan
    Accusations and Persecutions
    (CM) Incidents in Pakistan lend credibility to a planned, unified attack on Christians throughout the Middle East. Reports indicate the attacks are founded on deceptions that Christians are unlawfully converting others, blasphemy against the religious figureheads, and desecration of sacred scriptures. The resulting actions of these accusations persecute innocent Christians and cause disunity in communities.

    Consider reports this week received by Christian Monitor. Yousaf Masih was arrested for desecrating the Koran by burning pages of the Muslim holy book. The arrest was based on complaints by Muslim neighbors and resulted in neigborhood rioting and calls for quick justice by Muslims. The facts as reported paint a different picture. Testimony reveals that Yousaf was cleaning a house (his regular job) and following orders to burn a bag of papers. Being illiterate he had no idea of what was written on the papers he was burning. After his arrest his three sons were reportedly beaten and many homes in the community were burned and looted. The penalty for the accusations leveled against him carries the death penalty in Pakistan.

    In another incident AsiaNews reported the police raid on a library near Karachi and run by Catholic sisters. A newspaper and accusations by Islamic extremists led police to raid the shop and confiscate much of the material for sale. They held the store salesman for 24 hours and intimidated the sisters. The accusations centered on reports that Christians were selling books, CDs and tapes slandering the prophets sacred to Islam. The archdiocese issued a statement condemning the incursion stating, “The June publication of unfounded news in a small Urdu-language newspaper has deeply hurt the feelings of Pakistani Christians and damages the cause of dialogue and solidarity among Christians and Muslims in the country.” Formal complaints will be taken up with the Ministry of the Interior.
    Prayer Points
  • Pray against this deception used to promote hatred of Christians and to suppress the Gospel of our Lord. Pray for justice to be served and truth to counter the false accusations.
  • Pray for Yousaf Masih as he is detained. Pray for his protection and fair treatment. Pray God would shelter him and provide for his needs. Pray for strength and a sound mind.
  • Pray for Yousaf’s family in his absence. Pray for fellow believers to carry the burden for providing their needs. Pray for their protection and then healing from the sustained beatings on the children.
  • Pray for the situation in the book shop run by the Catholic sisters. Pray for truth and justice to reign, pray the accusations would fall by revealing of truth, and for justice to be served without prejudice.
  • 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
  • Pray for Nguyên Van Thât (46 years) and Joseph Nguyên Van Phuong (34 years). Both men were recently ordained into the priesthood without approval of governing authorities. The authorities threatened to “suspend” the two new priests from their functions, not to recognize their priesthood and gave them to understand their future priestly activities would meet with all kinds of obstacles and difficulties.
  • Pray for greater freedom in Vietnam to worship and hold church services. Pray for those in prison for their faith. There is strong evidence of torture of detained believers. Pray for Vietnamese officials to face hindrance in deceiving the world that believers are free to worship.
  • Pray for Indian missionary to Saudi Arabia, 30-year old Brother Samkutty. His arrest was related to the recent crackdown on Christians in Saudi Arabia and he was sentenced to one year in prison and has received several beatings.
  • Pray for Kurdish Christians who face discrimination and growing intolerance by the Muslim community. Pray for their protection and provision as they stand up for their Lord and Savior.
  • Pray for Yakup Cindilli who is steadily improving from the beatings he suffered in 2003 for passing out New Testaments in Turkey. The beatings left him in a coma for several weeks and the attackers are free on bail pending a trial.