Jan – Dec (BH)


December 26, 2018:  Christians in Syria Plead for No Immediate Withdrawal of U.S. Troops Due to Safety Concerns This article really touched my heart, as I responded to President Trump’s statement regarding removing military troops from Syria with this very same question — what of the Christians in Syria who are just starting to rebuild crushed and trampled lives?  Please be in prayer for our president as he continues to discuss and work out his plan.  According to breakingchristiannews.com, Sanharib Barsoum of the Syriac Union Party has sent an open letter that states, “Turkey wants to destroy all of us.  100,000 Syriac and other Christians will be killed or driven away if Turkey invades” after an American Troop removal. December 25, 2018:  Chinese Government Raids Churches on Christmas Eve to Disrupt Celebration From rfa.org (Radio free Asia):  “We have no programs of activities for Christmas, so they haven’t bothered us,” stated one church attendee.  “If we did, then they would send people around to interfere.” December 20, 2018:  Pre-Christmas Increased Persecution of Christians in China; Pastor Wang Yi Writes Powerful Summary of “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” Throughout this year, China has certainly flexed and enlarged its anti-Christian/religion muscles.  As what we loosely call “the Christmas season” continues for a couple more weeks, it is heartbreaking to realize how relentlessly the Chinese Christians are being persecuted.  Secular forbes.com shares that “high-profile arrests of lawyers and religious leaders” have become a “signature attribute of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s reign.”  Pastor Wang Yi of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu anticipated his arrest, which indeed came about on Sunday, Dec. 9, according to chinapartnership.org.  He wrote a letter of encouragement and steadfastness designed to be widely circulated, if he were detained beyond 48 hours by the authorities.  Pastor Yi had previously circulated a piece entitled “Meditations on the Religious War,”  on social media, according to CBN news online.  His house was ransacked, and no word of Pastor Yi’s fate or those detained with him has been shared as of 12/18/18. November 2, 2018:  Asia Bibi’s Release Triggers Rioting Imprisoned for allegedly “blaspheming Muhammed,” Asia Bibi’s 8-year imprisonment was recently reversed by three Pakistani judges, who found insufficient evidence to convict her of the crime and sentence her to death by hanging.  According to christianheadlines.com, radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik supporters “staged street protests and blocked off several major roads…by mid-afternoon the protests had grown so large that they immobilized parts of major cities including Islamabad and Lahore.”   Remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan! October 19, 2018:  Sri Lanka Sees Significant Increase in Persecution of Christians I am certainly no follower of Sri Lanka news, but I did think that the country’s variety of religious beliefs were relatively harmonious in their relationships.  Apparently this is changing. christianheadlines.com has reported that “Attacks and other actions against Christians in Sri Lanka have escalated this year, with Hindu extremism beginning to take root along with long-time Buddhist aggression.”  The population is gauged as around 70% Buddhist and 13% Hindu, and Sri Lanka has been rated by Open Doors’ World Watch List as 44th out of 50 countries for being “the most difficult” to be a Christian. October 10, 2018:  South Korean President announces Meeting Between Pope and N. Korean Dictator Kim Jon Un I read this with some surprise.  South Korean President Moon has served as an efficient intermediary among many political figures for over a year, but it never occurred to me that he might be used by God to address Christian persecution in North Korea.  According to christianheadlines.com, President Moon, himself a Catholic, will be visiting the Vatican on Oct. 17 and 18 (next week!) and will extend an invitation from Kim Jong Un to Pope Francis for the Pope to visit North Korea.  I think this is worth watching, and praying into!  Open Doors USA has consistently rated North Korea as the “worst country” for political persecution. October 9, 2018:  300,000 Prisoner Transfers in China?  That’s Staggering! As I read the statistics in this article, it is almost mind-numbing.  I used to think that President Trump’s good business-relationship with the Chinese was a good thing.  Now I wonder if it is preventing him from speaking out on issues of human rights.  This info from christiannewswire.com should make anyone stop and ask….why is China focusing on the imprisonment of so many more people?  Also of interest is the statement “transferred Muslim detainees on a large scale.” October 4, 2018:  Three Churches Locked by Government in Indonesia According to christianheadlines.com, authorities in Jambi, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, “last week escorted members of a Methodist church congregation out of their building and sealed the door shut.”  Indonesia’s constitution does guarantee freedom of worship, but officials currently delay or reject church permits without legal precedent.  Last July, “Muslim groups” apparently complained to city officials that churches were “a nuisance.”  Please pray for these people who are suffering religious oppression on top of the natural disasters that have hit in the last few weeks. September 10, 2018:  Escalating Crackdown on Christians in China A report at foxnews.com states that “Experts and activists say the Chinese government is now waging the most severe suppression in the country since religious freedoms were granted by the Chinese constitution in 1982.”  These governmental actions include “Destroying crosses, burning Bibles, closing churches and forcing Christian believers to sign papers renouncing their faith…” September 5, 2018:  Australians Experience “Increased Religious Bullying,” Choose Homeschooling OK, I would never have thought that religious bullying was a significant problem in AustraliaChristianheadlines.com shares that “Deeply religious families in Australia are more frequently choosing to homeschool their children as a result of increased Christian bullying…the number of students being homeschooled has nearly doubled since 2014.”  The trigger?  Australia’s 2017 legalization of same-sex marriage, opposing a Christian, traditional family model. September 4, 2018:  Increased Indians Now Worshiping Christ in Secret Due to Persecution Christianpost.com reports that after repeated death threats and incidents of increased physical aggression, numbers of Indian Christians are now worshiping in secret, forgoing their church gatherings.  Pastor Singh, leading a congregation in India’s Madhya Pradesh State, was quoted as saying, “Prior to May this year, around 200 people used to worship regularly in my church…but now only 50 to 60 people attend my church on Sunday.”  Hindu radicals are accelerating their anti-Christian activities in numerous locations.  Please be in prayer for our Indian brothers and sisters. August 31, 2018:  Pakistan Governments Offers Less Protection to Multiple Minority Groups, Including Christians According to cbn.com, predominantly-Muslim Pakistan has grown increasingly intolerant of its non-Muslim population groups.  Specific incidents of neighborhood harassment and increased violence towards Christians within the last several weeks have heightened concerns.  In May, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom “cited Pakistan for its deteriorating human rights record.” July 20, 2018:  China Rezones the Land, Then Destroys the Churches For the second time this year, a well-known Chinese church has had its land re-zoned by the government, with a subsequent destruction of its building.  According to christianpost.com, “70 police officers, this time under orders of the Communist Party” demolished the Liangwang Catholic Church, registered with the government as a church since 2006.  Golden Lampstand Church, in Linfen, was destroyed in similar fashion in January, 2018, as well as a church near Xi’an in the Shaanxi province in December of 2017.  International Christian Concern Regional Manager Gina Goh is quoted as stating, “The government cannot destroy the faith and resilience of Chinese Christians.”  Please be in prayer for our Chinese brothers and sisters. June 29, 2018:  A Kansas Woman is Told She Cannot Pray Inside Her Own House?   In our country, founded on freedom of speech and religion, this is one of the oddest citizen-police encounters I have read about recently.  Apparently a neighbor complained of a “noise disturbance” when Kansas resident Mary Ann Sause played her radio too loudly and Catholic programming was overheard, outside.  The police threatened to take her to jail and demanded that she not even pray silently in her house.  Sause thus sued the officers for their conduct and threats towards her, and according to breakingchristiannews.com, “their command was upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.”  Next stop:  Supreme Court. June 19, 2018:  Imprisoned Pastor Released After Decade,  No Charges Ever Filed According to christianheadlines.com, International Christian Concern (ICC) has reported that Pastor Oqbamichel Haiminot of Eritrea (East Africa) was recently released from prison after over a decade of imprisonment for his faith.  Eritrea’s allows only four religions as acceptable choices in its country:  Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Sunni Islam.  To engage in the practice of any of these religions, four “pledges” must be given to the government, including a pledge “to never be ‘born again'”…. June 16, 2018:  VP Pence Pursues His Promise to Help Christians and Yazidis in Iraq According to westernjournal.com, Vice President Pence has continued to vow, “We will not rest until we give our fellow Christians and persecuted communities across the Middle East the resources and support they need to recover, rebuild, and flourish in their ancient homeland once again.”  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has responded to Pence’s ongoing commitment by utilizing a rarely used provision and allocating additional funds to assist “persecuted communities,” specifically described as “Christians living in the Nineveh Plains and the Yadzidis located in Sinjar.” May 25, 2018:  India’s Anti-Conversion Laws Impact Those Who Respond to the Gospel This article shares one Indian Christian’s perspective on who is actually potentially penalized for converting, and is quite interesting.  Abhijit Nayak, described as “a ministry partner with Voice of the Martyrs Canada, is quoted by Mission Network News online as stating, “‘Let’s say I want to share my faith with my Hindu neighbor next door, it’s not a problem.  But…it comes to my Hindu neighbor when he or she decides to become a Christian, go to church, and take baptism.'”  Uttarakhand has become the seventh state in India to pass anti-conversion laws.  For an article on diminishing religious liberty in India since the 2014 election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, click here.  The Evangelical Fellowship of India reports incidents of persecution against Christians in 2017 to demonstrate a 232% increase. May 10, 2018:  Iran’s Evin Prison, “Preferred Prison” for Christians International Christian Concern shares testimonies from people who have been released from Evin Prison:  “The human toll on the imprisoned cannot be ignored as many of them will suffer irreversible psychological and and emotional trauma for the rest of their lives,” persecution.org quotes Dr. Mike Ansari of Heart4Iran.  As we celebrate the return of our three American Christians imprisoned by North  Korea, remember to lift up those brothers and sisters persecuted in Iran.  Want a quick North Korea fact roundup? Check out this article. May 8, 2018:  North Korean Christians Warn Peace Talks May not Improve Condition of Citizenry This is a very interesting perspective, as shared with christianpost.com by Pastor Eric Foley with Voice of the Martyrs.  The main concern?  Multiple promises over the decades of a “nuclear-free North Korea” and no improvement of living conditions for either the Christians or average citizen in North Korea.  Foley quoted a number of 30,000 people currently imprisoned in North Korea, for their Christian faith; and an additional 70,000 keeping their faith a secret.  What an opportunity to pray into the future of North Korea! May 1, 2018:  Ancient Christian Caves of Refuge Found, Date Back to Roman Persecution As many of you know, I am a huge Biblical archaeology buff!  This unearthing is really interesting.  Overlooked by the ISIS troops as either “Christian” or valuable, the caves remain intact, though filled with garbage and debris from the occupation.  Carly Hoilman, for faithwire.com, explains that Manbij, Syria, was overtaken by ISIS in 2014 and remained in its hands until 2016.  Abdulwahab Sheko, head of the Exploration Committee at the Ruins Council in Manbij, knew of the ruins but remained silent until the area’s liberation.  The article quotes American archaeologist John Wineman as saying that the excavation “could be crucial to understanding the lives of Christians under Roman rule.” April 16, 2018:  Chinese Government Cuts Off Water and Power from Home Church Xi’an (Zion) Church in Beijing refused to have government surveillance cameras installed in the sanctuary and overflow room.  Despite their dissent, cameras were forcibly installed — and then the water was turned off and as the elevator ceased functioning, the warning went out “power may go out anytime as well.”   Pastor Guo Xijun, pastor of Beijing Endao Church, hypothesized, “Cameras will record everything that happens in the church.  That said the personnel, finance and administration of the church will be intervened to some extent since government is able to collect more ‘evidence.'” March 30, 2018:  Easter Commemorations in 5 Challenging Countries This article is quite informative, although it does not include countries I would have expected — North Korea, China or Pakistan.  It does describe Easter recognition in Syria, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and — to my surprise — Israel. March 24, 2018:  “God is on the Move” Among Gangs in El Salvadore Despite Government Indifference This is a very interesting look at God’s move among a socially isolated group of people.  “There are no government programs to rehabilitate gang members.  The security minister himself told me that, by law, there’s no difference between a guy who’s in the gang and a guy who’s left the gang,” stated Sarah Esther Maslin of The Economist as she was interviewed by Lulu Garcia Navarro of NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.  According to Maslin, “The Pentecostal churches tell you you don’t need to know the Bible in and out.  All you have to do is show up and sincerely believe that you can change…that belief of a come-to-Jesus moment has, I think, impacted a lot of them.”  The reporter also asserts that gang members “feel like they’ve really bee marginalized from mainstream society.  And you know, for whatever reason, the Catholic church has symbolized that for them as well.” February 28, 2018:  Bible Burning Caps “One of the Most Traumatic” Years of Christian Persecution in India According to christianheadlines.com, Hindu extremists threatened, harassed, and physically bullied senior citizen Gideon International members after they had received the permission to distribute Bibles in an area they had distributed Bibles in “for 30 years without any opposition.”  The extremists, acting in the Singotam Village, Nagar Kurnool District in Telangana stole the remaining Bibles from the car, began ripping out pages and tearing them apart, setting them on fire while videotaping began.  Naveet Chhabra, executive director of Gideons International in India, is quoted as saying, “Whoever has done this act of burning the Bibles, we will pray for them that the Lord wipe away the hatred from their hearts…we don’t retaliate, we don’t hold any animosity, and we forgive them.  We love them.” February 23, 2018:  CPAC States “It’s Time to Save the Persecuted Christians” According to breitbart.com, the Conservative Political Action Conference held this week offered a segment entitled “Save the Persecuted Christians,” stating, “This (the Middle East) is the cradle, the birthplace of Christianity, and now we are down to four percent…it’s time to save the persecuted Christians.”   Founder of Mission of Hope and Mercy for Christians in the Middle East, Father Andre Mahanna stated “It is important to show the connection between the Christian persecution going on in the world and why we, in America, must care about it here at home.” February 2, 2018:  New Death Highlights Increased Persecution of Christians in India Pastor Gideon Periyaswamy in southern India was found hanging from a rope in his house; the death has currently been ruled as a suicide.  However, Periyaswamy had endured increasing verbal and physical abuse from a group characterized as “Hindu extremists.”  According to the Fox News report, many Christians in the area feel his death is an example of “systematic persecution” from this Hindu fragment. January 16, 2018:  Bolivia Enacts New Law Penalizing Evangelism Online Christian Post reports that new Penal Code Article 88.1 combines “armed conflict” with “religious or worship organizations.”  According to the Post, 88.1 threatens a prison term between five and twelve years to anyone who “recruits, transports, deprives of freedom or hosts people with the aim of recruiting them to take part in armed conflicts or religious or worship organizations.”  President Morales, who is expected to sign the legislation, has expressed anti-Israeli statements and actions over the last year.  The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia has established a National Emergency Commission and has issued an emergency alert for the “evangelical people in Bolivia.”  January 23 Update:  “Bolivia’s President Revokes Evangelism Restrictions” — as reported online at Christianity Today, “Evo Morales announced on national TV that controversial criminal code will be scrapped.