Friday, February 29, 2008

Church leaders detained in Inner Mongolia, China

China-Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports a church leader in Inner Mongolia is behind bars, along with more than 40 of his co-workers-among them, a South Korean pastor who remains missing.China Aid Association verifies the report, adding that the leader was identified as the president of the Inner Mongolia Branch of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Wang Dawei.State Security Bureau police and members of the Religious Affairs Bureau arrested the group on February 20.The leaders had been in the third day of a Bible study retreat. Officials also took the offering money and more than 30 boxes of Bibles and other Christian literature.As part of the investigation, SSB members also searched Dawei's residence.The church in China is growing rapidly, despite government efforts to stop the movement. VOMC quotes one estimate suggesting that 6% of China's population is Christian. By contrast, Tibet has an estimated total of 300 Christians.Pray that these leaders will be released. Ask God to give them strength and boldness of faith as they suffer for Him. Pray that the Chinese authorities behind the raids would respond to the hope of the Gospel.
As in the days of Noah....

Fundamentalists respond to church growth with violence

India-Violence that started in India during Christmas celebrations has only escalated in Orissa state.Orissa state is known for the violence.Operation Mobilization's Peter Dance said that is likely the result of a combination of things. The area has many strong Hindu fundamentalists, and there are many Dalits coming to Christ. "[Dalits are] ostracized from any religious opportunities there in India, and they're turning to Christ because Christ loves them. And they're beginning to see that, and they're turning to Christ by the tens of thousands. This persecution has been deliberately focused on that," said Dance.The Hindu opposition to the growth of the church has forced OM to become more sensitive with their outreach. "Years ago, obviously, it was much more free to, shall we say, go out in the street, give out tracts, preach from the corner of the mall, for instance," said Dance. However, their people were beginning to be beaten up and stoned and run out of towns because of these outreach methods. As the situation changes, the methods of outreach change.Those changes have not hindered church growth, and the persecution has actually contributed to church growth. Many people turn to the church during uncertain times. "Now of course there's a whole lot of questions that go with that: ‘Do they know what they're doing when they turn to the church?' etc. Well, that's where churches and other organizations, including ours, are involved in being able to share the beauty of Christ," Dance explained.Since Dalits have been denied not only religious rights but health and schooling as well, they are very excited to learn more."I think actually the growth is a very under-reported situation," said Dance.The current violence is a reminder of the continual struggle Christians face in India. Dance says Christians need to pray for the "thousands and thousands of Christians in refugee camps." Christians as well as Hindus and Muslims are ministering to refugees. OM is trying to raise funds to provide food, clothing and shelter.
As in the days of Noah...

Unprecedented response to India's Godman showing

India-As persecution against Christians began over Christmas, an unprecedented event took place. Book of Hope International's Godman, the 3D animated film on the life of Christ, was shown on national television.The results of this showing are staggering, says Book of Hope's Executive Director Rob Hoskins.Already they've received more than a half million letters from people who have responded to the movie. Hoskins says that response is a direct result of pre-trained national believers. "Before the broadcast even took place, we had trained 203,632 volunteers," Hoskins says. "So far, we've had over 3,405,000 people that have watched the movie, and we've had literally hundreds of thousands of people who have accepted Christ."Those numbers represent only those who watched in Christians' homes.Nielson ratings are expected to be releaseed later this week.That will give specific information about the number of actual views to Godman.Hoskins believes this is just the beginning."I believe in the next 10 to 20 years we will see a move of Christ in India that will astound us-literally by the millions and tens of millions of people that are going to come to Christ in India over the next several years."Persecution of Christians has increased over the years, and Hoskins says he expects to see it increase even more. "I think the fundamentalists in India want to continue to prevent people from having freedom of religion and choosing their god. And as the church grows, I think the minority fundamentalists in that country are going to try to prevent them from accepting them as Lord and Savior," says Hoskins.With the incredible response comes incredible responsibility.Hoskins says Books of Hope, Bibles and other discipleship tools are needed."We have tremendous needs, and I think that's the job of the western church-to provide resources for churches like the India church that are just growing in just unprecedented ways."Failure to provide these resources could be devastating. Hoskins says we don't want to see "spiritual abortion" take place. That means "you give birth to something and you don't feed that new child. And so what we're needing to do is plant the Word of God and ensure that Scripture engagement takes place."According to Hoskins, it's more critical in India than anywhere else because of Hinduism. "All gods are equal, and there are thousands of them. We don't want Jesus just to be another god that you accept. We want Scripture engagement to take place for those children and their parents to understand that Jesus is the one, the only true Lord." However, that takes time and good resources.
If you'd like to help provide quality resources for the work in India, click here.
As in the days of Noah....

Bibles destroyed in India's anti-Christian violence

India-Christians continue to be the focus of attacks in India, and now believers are starting to understand why the attacks are taking place. Sampson is the Director for Distribution with World Bible Translation Center in India.He says the violence in Orissa is taking its toll."Nearly 700 houses are destroyed, and thousands of Christians are displaced. They are staying in refugee camps, in dormitories at schools in villages, and in make-shift tents."Not only have these Christians lost clothing, food, homes and more, they've also lost something even more important."Many Bibles (have been) burned and destroyed. So many of the new believers don't have Bibles right now. They're missing the Word of God. We need to get Bibles to these village schools. Some are staying in the jungles. So we need to get the Word of God in these places."According to Sampson, the State government is controlled by a coalition of Hindu nationalists who hate the spread of Christianity.He says the reason these attacks are taking place is because many are turning to Christ."A leading fundamentalist party leader has suggested that there has been an increase of nearly double the number of Christians-nearly 5.5 percent of the population is Christian, up from 2.1."The World Bible Translation Center distribution program has had a direct impact on that increase, says Sampson. "34,000 Oriya Bibles were distributed in May 2007. So God was greatly blessing the efforts of the distribution. And all of a sudden the devil tries to thwart the attempts by using the Hindu fundamentalists and starting the persecution in Orissa."However, Sampson isn't discouraged by the increasing violence. "God is going to do great things in Orissa because of the persecution. More churches will be raised and more house church, too, and the number of believers will increase in the coming days."Sampson says their faith is strong. He says, "Hindu fundamentalists are visiting house to house asking believers to renounce their faith. But these believers are not willing to give up Jesus Christ. And as a result, they're facing more persecution."While Orissa's state law prohibits Hindus from converting to Christianity, in violation to India's constitution, Sampson says it's not stopping church growth. "All of these believers are accepting Christ secretly and taking baptism secretly."World Bible Translation Center is asking you to help provide a new easy-to-read Oriya Bible to one of the displaced Christians in Orissa. $6 provides a complete Bible-God's Word that will provide comfort and encouragement to a persecuted believer there.
Click here to donate.
As in the days of Noah....

Baptist church celebrates Vietnam recognition

Vietnam-Vietnamese Baptists met at Grace Baptist Church in Ho Chi Minh City Jan. 10-11 to celebrate the church's receiving official government recognition and to organize a new national confederation. This historic development is expected to encourage future evangelism and church-planting efforts in the country, reports the Baptist Press.The Vietnamese government made this possible by granting a certificate of religious practice to the church. The 400-member group met to create Grace Baptist Southern General Confederation. It adopted a constitution and elected officers for the new organization, which will organize and represent new churches across Vietnam.The church sits alongside the main airport road in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Formerly called Saigon, the city was renamed in the 1970s at the end of the war with the United States. The church is completing an expansion of its building, prompted by a road-widening project. A new multi-story building is fronted with a dramatic spiral staircase and topped with a cross.Grace Baptist Church is an outgrowth of Southern Baptist missionary work that began in Vietnam in the late 1950s. Missionaries left the country when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Since then, the Vietnamese government has not allowed missionary presence.But that foundational work continued to grow. Today, Baptists are widely acknowledged as the fastest-growing church group in Vietnam. There are now some 5,000 Baptists in 90 congregations in a dozen cities and provinces across the country. Only some of them are allied with Grace, church leaders said.Grace pastor Le Quoc Chanh has overseen much of the church's growth, keeping his congregation intact through various hard times in the past.While the Vietnamese government hindered Christians from meeting or pursuing evangelism in the past, it is now developing a market-driven economy, encouraging tourism and seeking an increased presence on the world scene. New national laws assure its citizens religious freedom.The Vietnamese concept of religious freedom includes registration of church groups.
Local observers say national government leaders sincerely want to let church groups function without interference.But they also want to ensure that churches do not pursue political agendas or other programs that might jeopardize Vietnam's political and economic stability-highly valued as the country develops.Observers say it may take longer for local government leaders in some outlying areas to move to a more open stance on religion.Opposition is still known to occur there. International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told the gathering,"We're here to recognize and celebrate the progress of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.We commend the government leadership of your country."They have led Vietnam to take a place of leadership in the economy and trade and human rights of the global community,"Rankin continued."But especially, we praise God for this significant occasion in which the government of Vietnam is openly recognizing and registering the Baptists of Grace Baptist Church."Rankin talked of the legacy of missionaries who served "out of love and devotion to the people of Vietnam.""We honor the contribution they have made in laying the foundation for Baptist work in this country," Rankin said."But most of all we celebrate your faithfulness and perseverance to continue to serve the Lord here."Not only have you been faithful in worship and Bible study and serving the Lord," said Rankin, "but you have given yourselves to the needs of the people of Vietnam.""We challenge you to a vision for the future," Rankin concluded. "Continue to share the Gospel and serve your Lord faithfully. I am reminded of the words of the prophet Habakkuk: 'Look among the nations and be astounded for I will do a work among you that you will not believe.' Truly that prophecy is being fulfilled here today. We see God doing a work among us that we would not have believed, and we give Him the praise and glory for this day."
As in the days of Noah....

Prayer warriors at 'gay' fest on trial:Police told Christians they had no speech rights in public park

A trial is scheduled to begin today in Elmira, N.Y., and lawyers for the defendants say it will be a test of whether the First Amendment affirmations of freedom of speech and freedom of religion still are valid in the United States."Choosing to exercise your First Amendment rights in a public place is not a crime," Joel Oster, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund said. "The government has no right to arrest citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights in public."At issue is the arrest of several Christians at a "gay pride" event is Wisner Park in Elmira in 2007. Julian and Gloria Raven and several others entered the park to pray silently for the participants of the event celebrating homosexual behavior.Officials with the ADF noted that the materials advertising the event said everyone was invited and it was open to the public. "The group did not draw a disorderly response from event participants," the ADF said. However, an Elmira police sergeant had told the group they were banned from the park.[[[They were not allowed to "cross the street, enter the park, or share their religion with anyone in the park," according to the ADF.The group's members later were arrested and accused of "disorderly conduct.""It seems oxymoronic to say that by walking silently in a public park, with heads bowed, these people somehow disturbed the peace," Oster said. "From the sit-ins of the 1960s to today, courts have repeatedly ruled that the police cannot arrest those who peacefully express their message in public places."]]]While the facts of the case make it seem relatively minor, the ADF said the issue is nothing less than the United States' freedoms of speech and religion.[[["If this violation of these Christians' rights is allowed to stand, the First Amendment rights of all people of faith are in jeopardy," the ADF said.]]]When the Christians were arrested, officials with Elmira justified their actions to WND.Assistant Police Chief Mike Robertson told WND that the members were accused of a "combination" of allegations, including the "intent" to cause a public inconvenience, a "disturbance" of a meeting of persons and obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic.He also said at the time that the accusations would include taking part in "any act that serves no legitimate purpose."[[[Raven had told WND his group assembled to pray for three hours the night before Elmira's "pride" festival in promotion of the homosexual lifestyle."We have a legal right to be at an event held in a public square. We're not a hate group," he said. "We're Christians and we're going to be there to pray."He said he contacted police, who told him he had no free speech rights in the public park."The female officer, she said, 'You're not going to cross the street. You're not going to enter the park and you're not going to share your religion with anybody in this park,'" he told WND."When she said that, for the first time in my life as a Christian, I felt now my freedom of speech is threatened or challenged," he said. "I was being told I could not share my religion with anybody in that park."Raven said he told the officer "she was violating the Constitution that she had sworn to uphold, and she was very agitated and adamant, and couldn't look me straight in the eye."Raven asked for the justification for such a threat and was not given a response.He said his team of Christians then went into the park, and they were arrested within three or four minutes.]]]He said if the situation is left unchallenged, the city of Elmira will be in the position of being able to control the content of people's messages in a lawful assembly – or even thoughts if they are nearby."We didn't say boo to a goose, still we were arrested," he said.The local newspaper reported the arrests came just "moments" after Elmira Mayor John Tonello delivered a speech "celebrating diversity."And the actions prompted some immediate criticism from newspaper readers.[[["I was appalled and disgusted by the gay stories strewn through the paper. What was even more disturbing was the way the city acted. Since when is it illegal to sit on the ground in a public park and recite Bible verses? Are they not protected by the same Constitution that allows gay people to have their gay pride event. These Bible thumpers had their constitutional right to free speech and assembly trampled on by the city. They should not have been arrested," said Kevin Raznoff.]]]Robertson told WND the Christians "certainly" have a right to assemble, but not on public property when there's an "organized" event there. Asked repeatedly about how the "disturbance" statute relates to First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, he did not answer."Obviously, they caused a disruption to an event that was taking place," he said.[[[[[[But Raven confirmed to WND the Christians did not approach a single person, did not speak to anyone and did not even make any audible statements until after they were arrested.]]]]]]

As in the days of Noah.....

Woman freed from sentence for being 'Christian'

An Egyptian woman sentenced to three years in prison for putting her religion as "Christian" on her marriage certificate more than two decades ago has been released, according to her lawyer.The release of Shadia Nagui Ibrahim, 47, came only a few weeks after WND reported on plans for a rally in Egypt on behalf of the woman who was unaware that when she was two years old, her father briefly left Christianity to pursue Islam, before returning to Christianity.Under Egyptian law, that made her a Muslim for life, so she was charged with, and convicted of, fraud for putting "Christian" as her religion on her marriage certificate in 1982.However, according to published reports in Egypt, the nation's attorney general ordered her released, citing a "mix-up" over her religion designation.The case stems from the woman's marriage as a Christian, a restricted practice in Egypt. There Christians are not allowed to marry Muslims, only other Christians.According to reports from the South African Press Association, the situation developed because of her father's actions when she was a toddler, and the fact that 20 years later, she didn't know about what had happened.Sam Grace, of Coptic News told WND that the Christian community on Egypt was saying, "Enough is enough."Egypt has in recent years moved its federal government closer and closer to Islamic sharia law, including an amendment to the constitution that Islamic law now is considered the source of jurisprudence in Egypt.Such actions have dealt harshly with Christians, who with the rally "have decided to be more active in taking a stand," Grace told WND. "It seems they've kind of reached a point where they can't take it any more."The woman's father eventually had someone forge personal identity documents that said he was a Christian. Reports say the forger was detained in 1996 and confessed to changing the documentation.But when Shadia Ibrahim was married in 1982, she believed she was a Christian, and said so on her marriage documentation.Authorities later prosecuted her for "providing false information on official documents."Her lawyer, Ramses El Naggar, told Egyptian reporters the attorney general felt the judgment in her case was made on the basis of erroneous information.Egyptian authorities have not shown themselves tolerant of Christianity."In September, an Egyptian court extended the jail term of two Christian human rights activists, Adel Fawzy Faltas and Peter Ezzat, who were arrested in August. The men, members of the Middle East Christian Association, were arrested a day after they took part in documenting the alleged murder of a Copt by two members of the police force. They later were released.Authorities also have threatened two young boys who were ordered to take training to be Muslims, but refused, stating they are Christian.And there have been several attempts to deport from America Egyptian Christians who would be subject to penalties if returned because of their choices to live as Christians.The Middle East Review of International Affairs said the rise of Islam in Egypt arrived with Anwar Sadat's tenure."He then initiated what one could, in hindsight, term 'the Great Islamic Transformation' of Egypt. The first step was to stipulate in the Second Article of his new Constitution, promulgated in 1971 (long before Khomeini embarked on his Islamic revolutionary campaign), that the Principles of Islamic Shari'a were 'a main source' of legislation. In May 1981, the 'a' was replaced with 'the,' making Shari'a the term of reference for the entire constitution, meaning all other articles were to be interpreted in that light," the organization said."The curricula of public schools, established by the Ministry of Education, ignore the Coptic era in Egypt's history. Courses glorifying Islam (the 'Only True Religion') and its history, while vilifying the crusaders (i.e. Christians) and the Jews, are imposed on all students," the group said."In the case of a father of a Christian family converting to Islam, his minor children are forced to follow suit: The mother's custody rights – a well established legal principle – are ignored in this case, as children, according to typical court rulings, are supposed to follow the 'better (or 'more noble') of the two religions,'" the group said.An Egyptian Christian who had fled his home nation, "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured," a federal court ruled in allowing him to remain in the United States.The court pointedly concluded that "diplomatic assurances" of his religious rights "by a country known to have engaged in torture" weren't reassuring.A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years."They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report concluded.The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had "a poor overall human rights record."
As in the days of Noah....

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Expert says China's 'religious freedom' is limited

A minister-at-large with Open Doors International says the Chinese government is trying to craft an image of religious tolerance leading up to the Summer Olympics-an event that likely has both positive and negative ramifications for Christians in that country.Last week, the director of China's Religious Affairs Bureau met with U.S. officials and spoke at Georgetown University. He said China's peaceful development depends upon its respect for human rights and religious beliefs. But Johnny Li, a native of China who came to Christ as a young adult and who recently returned from a trip to the communist nation, says the Chinese government is cracking down on underground churches, also known as "house churches."He also says the government restricts the movement of its citizens, which means those living in rural areas are finding it tougher to travel to large metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, Li does say the Chinese government is trying to improve its image regarding human rights."The whole world is looking at China-so China handles this very carefully and, in a way,is trying not to give a bad impression to the West," Li explains."And in fact, China has a lot of improvement compared with 10, 20 years ago, even five years ago. Religious freedom is much better now because China's government also tries to open up in different ways to allow Christians to have freedom."But according to Li, religious freedom does not carry the same meaning to communist officials as it does for Christians in America. In the U.S., he points out, "you can do a lot of things" under the definition of religious freedom-such as preach the gospel."But 'religious freedom' in different," he shares."You have religious freedom in the government church. You can evangelize, you can share the gospel, you can preach the gospel...but it has to be within the government church." However, he points out, those who practice Christianity in unregistered churches are breaking the law and are often arrested and persecuted by the communist government. According to the latest "World Watch List" of persecuted countries, released by Open Doors International, China moved up the list from last year-from No. 12 to No. 10.
As in the days of Noah....

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Christians Encounter the Anti-Proselytizing Law

A number of sources point to a worsening in the situation of Christians in Algeria, particularly in the Kabyle region, which is often singled out as being a place where evangelism occurs.Last December, the Christian director of a Kabyle primary school was suspended by the Ministry of Education. According to the ministry, the director used the school for evangelism, “inciting Christianity and failing to follow the school curriculum.”* The Minister of Religious Affairs, Mr. Bouabdallah Ghoulamallah, was pleased with the decision. The director, however, denies the accusations.In another incident, five people were recently taken to court in Tizi-Ouzou, Kabylie, and accused of evangelizing.These events highlight the fact that the anti-proselytizing law of September 2006 (which relates to worship and places of worship) is starting to be applied in Algeria. The law seeks to prevent the conversion of Muslims to Christianity and calls for prison sentences and fines for anyone who “incites, forces or uses means of seduction with a view to converting a Muslim to another religion” or who “makes, stores or distributes printed documents or audio visual materials, or any other media seeking to undermine a Muslim in his faith.”Locally, many fear the closure of all unregistered places of worship in Algeria. This would be contrary to the Algerian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience and opinion (article 36) as well as freedom of expression, association and assembly (article 41). *Quote taken from an interview given in January to Channel 2 of the national radio service.
Please pray:
*That the school principal’s case might receive a fair hearing from the Ministry of Education. (Psalm 7:6)
*For the five Christians who are currently facing charges. (Deuteronomy 4:7)
*For all Algerian Christians, that God might fill them with wisdom in dealing with the anti-proselytizing laws. (Colossians 1:9)

As in the days of Noah....

Eritrean Officials Imprison 35 Members of Underground Church

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) ( has learned that Eritrean officials imprisoned 35 men, women and children belonging to the underground Faith Missions Church on Christmas Eve 2007. Security agents of the government of Eritrea raided a building in the port city of Massawa, where the members of the underground church were holding a prayer vigil. The imprisoned Christians were placed in Weea Military Training Center, and according to our sources are still held there. Weea is one of the most notorious prisons in the country, where the temperature can reach 120ยบ F. Many prisoners die from the heat and the torture inflicted on them, including a Christian woman, Migsti Haile, who died on September 5, 2007, after being severely tortured for refusing to recant her faith. Reliable sources from inside Eritrea reported to ICC that Christians in the town of Agordat have also been imprisoned, as well as six other Faith Missions members from the small town of Nakfa. Faith Missions is a small Evangelical denomination in Eritrea. It has been in existence in the country since the early 1950s. Besides engaging in evangelistic activities, the church formerly ran orphanages and schools throughout the country. Eritrean officials closed the church in May 2002, forcing it to go underground. Recently, the government of Eritrea has targeted adherents of this denomination with particular severity. ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Darara Gubo, stated, “Officials of the government of Eritrea have continued to deny the fact that they are restricting freedom of religion in the country. In fact, when a US Congressional delegation led by Donald Payne (D-NJ) visited Eritrea in the beginning of January 2008, they were told by government-controlled religious leaders that there was freedom of religion in Eritrea. The irony is that Eritrea is one of the most oppressive regimes in terms of Christian persecution.” In Eritrea, more than 2,000 evangelical Christians alone are imprisoned under inhumane conditions. The country’s ruling party follows a communist ideology and highly restricts freedom of religion. The only recognized churches in the country are the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church. Even members of the recognized Christian churches are not spared persecution. The Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, is under house arrest for resisting government involvement in the church. In addition, Dr. Fistum Ghebrenegus, Dr. Tecleab Menghisteab, Rev. Gebremedhin Gebregiorgis, Merigeta (“Mentor” in the Eritrean Orthodox Church) Ytbarek Berhe, along with other leaders, are also imprisoned. In November 2007, the government of Eritrea expelled 13 Catholic missionaries from the country. Members of the outlawed evangelical churches have been imprisoned or forced to leave the country. Those who remain must worship underground.
Please pray for the Eritrean Christians who are languishing in prison cells.
You can also call the Eritrean Embassy in your country in the US, call
(202)319-1991 or
Please politely ask the Eritrean officials to stop mistreating Christians in their country and release all who are imprisoned for their faith in Christ Jesus.

As in the days of Noah...

Christians expelled from Jordan; Open Doors is concerned

Jordan-Jordan is increasing pressure on foreign Christians living in the kingdom, expelling many long-time residents over the past 13 months. According to Compass News, local churches see this as an attack on their legitimacy.The report indicates authorities deported or refused residence permits to at least 27 expatriate Christian families and individuals in 2007, a number of them working with local churches or studying at a Christian seminary.In all but one case, officials didn't even explain their decisions.But many of those expelled told Compass that they had been questioned by intelligence officers regarding evangelism of Muslims.Open Doors' Al Janssen isn't surprised by the allegations. "Muslim authorities will always use that. Are they going out on the street and evangelizing? I find that hard to believe. But what if someone asks you in the privacy of a conversation, 'I want to know more about what you believe as Christians.' Is that proselytizing?" Some Muslims believe it is.Janssen is surprised by this. "Christian families have pretty much been allowed to live there," he says. "It's been affecting the seminary and the staff there and other mission agencies. Now, suddenly, the government is turning on them and not allowing them to renew their visas."Christians from the United States, Europe, South Korea, Egypt, Sudan and Iraq were among those deported or refused visas in 2007.While there is no evidence that this is a long term trend, it's definitely not encouraging.Janssen is concerned for two reasons."Does this mean that Jordan is going to become more of a radical Islamic country? The other thing that would concern me is that other Islamic countries might be encouraged by this example of Jordan and decide they might start cracking down on Christians are well."Janssen was asked if he thought these actions were taken because the church was growing in Jordan. "When God's at work, we shouldn't be surprised when there's a counter attack."Those working at the Jordanian Evangelical Theological Seminary(picture left above) have been targets. Foreign JES students have also been denied visas. At least 10 who were deported in August and September were non-Jordanian Arab students.The government is also restricting hotel meetings. Compass reports believers are now required to obtain a government security clearance before holding meetings in hotels, but the necessary permission is rarely granted. Foreign preachers are being asked to refrain from openly saying that they were coming to Jordan to preach.Those applications are being flatly rejected by the intelligence police. Sarcastically, Janssen says, "There is one sure cure for persecution and that is to stop talking about Jesus. When people start coming to Jesus, there will almost always be persecution."In the meantime, pray that the government will end their antagonism toward Christians.Pray also that believers will be given residency permits and visas so the work in Jordan can continue. Also, pray that God will allow non-Jordanian Arab believers into the country so they can get the needed theological training they need.
As in the days of Noah....

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mission Aviation Fellowship still flying in Kenya -- despite unrest

Workers with Mission Aviation Fellowship are still involved in rescue operations throughout Kenya, as the violence continues in the aftermath of December's contested presidential elections. Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) workers have evacuated people on all sides of the conflict, which has claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Fran Derocher, director of operations in Africa for MAF, describes the situation as tense-as negotiations continue in an effort to end the unrest. Derocher says much of the fighting has pitted tribes against each other. However, he says Christians in Kenya have been able to help both sides."It has been a real blessing to watch. We had so many clothes that were brought to our church that we actually had to give them away to other groups that needed them," he reports."...It has just been a tremendous blessing to watch the believers respond in a way that I haven't seen." MAF provides aviation services in Kenya, as well as information technology and logistics services to Kenya, Sudan, and Somalia.
As in the days of Noah....

Bible business booms in China

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Palestinian Christians live in constant fear of Radical Islam

Here with an item from last week's news that you might not have heard about: Unidentified gunmen blew up the YMCA library in the Gaza Strip on Friday morning. While no one was hurt, two guards were temporarily kidnapped while the offices were looted, a vehicle stolen and all 8,000 books destroyed. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, although Fatah accused Hamas of being behind it. Hamas, for its part, strongly denied any responsibility and condemned the attack. Meanwhile, confidential sources in Gaza told the Jerusalem Post that the attack was in response to the reprinting of the Muhammad cartoons in Danish newspapers last week.The supposed motivation for the attack, and the fact that it was not big news, illustrates the dire situation faced by many Christians living in the Palestinian territories.There are only some 3,500 Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, in Gaza. Over the past two years, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have claimed responsibility for attacks against Christian figures and institutions with the stated goal of driving Christians out of Gaza.If indeed the attack on the YMCA was motivated by the latest wave of violence in Denmark over the cartoon controversy, it shows how precarious the Christian position is. The Young Men's Christian Association in Gaza is open to Muslims and includes a school, sports club and community hall. It is not a centre of Christian proselytism. But if events in Denmark which have nothing to do with Christianity can produce anti-Christian violence in Gaza, then it is clear that there is nothing Christians can do to avoid such violence.The problem is not their behaviour but, in the eyes of the violent Islamist jihadists, their very presence. They must simply live in hope that some faraway event does not inflame the anti-Christian wrath of their neighbours. Is it any wonder that Christians in such situations desire to emigrate? Could anyone judge harshly the few thousand Christians in Gaza if they were to leave entirely?A second noteworthy dimension of the Gaza YMCA bombing is, well, how un-noteworthy it was. It was treated in the Israeli press as a sort of news brief. After all, there was the continuing story of the assassination in Damascus of Hezbollah's chief of terror operations, Imad Mughniyeh. And just hours after the YMCA attack, eight Palestinians in Gaza were killed in an explosion at the home of Ayman Fayad, a senior Islamic Jihad official. All Palestinian organizations blamed the Israeli Defence Forces for the blast; Israel denied any involvement.So how can the destruction of a library, or the firebombing of a school, or the desecration of a church be reported against the daily toll of political violence elsewhere, to say nothing of the international stories? On the same weekend, the French foreign minister arrived for a visit, and a German newspaper reported that Israel was preparing to declare dead the two soldiers who were kidnapped in 2006, the incident which gave rise to the Second Lebanon War.Even then, who would do the reporting? There is no free press in Gaza. Outside reporters, whether Israeli or foreign, cannot move about freely and pursue such stories. Foreign reporters in particular need extensive handlers, as they do not know the local language, the local geography or the local leaders. It is much easier to stay in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem and rewrite press statements about the visit of the latest foreign dignitary.Even if the reporters came, what would they be told? It is well known that Christian Palestinians who have been subject to firebombings, seizures of homes and businesses, assaults and death threats still tell foreign visitors that they have excellent relations with their Muslim neighbours. After the foreigners go home, these Christians must remain, and are loath to give any reason for jihadist extremists to think that they are stirring up trouble.And so it goes -- news trickles out about one outrage or another, but it gets lost if it gets noticed at all. Meanwhile, Christians in Gaza and the West Bank try to live quietly, never knowing whether a newspaper in Denmark or a papal speech in Germany or nothing in particular might be the pretext for violence coming to their doors.It is an awful way to live. It is more awful still that so few know, or care about it.
As in the days of Noah....

A New Muslim Nation in Europe?

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, caused international furor when it declared its independence this week.While the world community works out the international implications of Kosovo's independence, others are worried about a Muslim-majority state in Europe. The creation of a such a state raises fears of a radical Islamic state that would persecute Christians and become a base for terrorism.
Christians Targeted for Almost a Decade
Since 1999, the Orthodox Christian Serb minority has been attacked by the Albanian Muslim population.In 2004, Muslim mobs, angry at the murder of three ethnic Albanians, attacked Serb enclaves, destroying hundreds of churches and monasteries.This week, Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu tried to calm the fears of the Serb Christian minority."We understand their fear, but there is no reason to fear," he said. "They will be part of the process as they were before."
But the Serbs may be targeted more for their Serb ethnicity than their Christian faith.Peter Kuzmic is a Slovenian Evangelical and human rights advocate. He says Kosovo's Muslims are moderates, who do not want a religious war."This Kosovo situation is not a question of a religious war. It's not a religious question," he explained. "It's a political question, territorial question and religion is being abused by extremists on both sides."Steven Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism lived in Kosovo for four years. He says there is religious freedom for all faiths in Kosovo."It is a majority Muslim country," Schwartz said. "It is also filled with Christian missionaries who have never been molested. I have walked up and down the streets of the main towns and there are Holiness churches and Evangelical churches. These are all new and nobody says a word about it."
Targeted By Jihadists?
However, some terrorism experts believe Islamic states like Saudi Arabia want to export their strict brand of Wahhabi Islam to Kosovo.They warn that Kosovo's moderate Muslims, angry at high unemployment, organized crime, and drug smuggling, would welcome a Taliban-type rule.
Prior to this week's declaration, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Russian television that Kosovo is a potential target for takeover by radical jihadists."I think it's very risky if it's granted recognition by the U.S. and other European countries," Bolton told the Russian interviewer. "I don't think it is economically viable. I think its instability risks attracting Islamic extremists from around the world."But Schwartz says Islamic radicals won't find welcome in Kosovo. Its people are grateful to the U.S. for protecting them."The bottom line is the Kosovars now have freedom and they have freedom because of the United States," he explained. "And they're not dumb. They're not going to turn to radical Islam."Now the Bush administration is counting on this new Muslim nation to be an ally, not an enemy, in the war on terror.Russia and China have joined Serbia in protesting Kosovo's independence to the United Nations.They say the declaration violates international law.

As in the days of Noah....

Court-favored Islam … in America

With two young girls murdered in Texas, likely victims of an "honor killing" by their father just weeks ago, is it wise for American authorities to ignore death threats issued by a Muslim father to his non-Muslim children? That's just the latest disquieting question emerging from a contentious divorce case in Tennessee.Rosine Ghawji has for years now contended that her ex-husband, Maher Ghawji, is a Wahhabi and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that he has been involved in terrorist activities. Maher Ghawji has contested this, but new statements by their two sons give the allegations a new urgency and raise serious questions about how the judge assigned to the case has treated concerns for the boys' safety.Rosine Ghawji has marshaled an impressive array of evidence to support her claims about Maher Ghawji's ties to the global jihad, but Judge Donna Fields of the Shelby County Circuit Court was unmoved. In her Final Decree of Absolute Divorce, she wrote: "Wife has seriously alienated the children from Husband with unproven and baseless accusations." She even decreed that Maher Ghawji would have the final say over the religious upbringing of the couple's two children, Louis, now 19, and KK, 16 – thus ensuring that they would be raised Muslim at least until they attained majority. Louis Ghawji notes that at Judge Fields' final ruling on the divorce case in February 2007, she declared: "Those children will have to follow the Muslim religion." She ordered them to accompany their father on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca – which is only open to Muslims.The young men, however, wish to live as Christians – and by their own account this makes them all the more vulnerable to their father. Louis and KK Ghawji have had numerous chances to observe their father up close, and they don't share the judge's claim that their mother's accusations about his jihadist sentiments and activities are "unproven and baseless." Last week Louis Ghawji wrote to Judge Fields on the issue of his and his brother's passports, which were taken by the court and subsequently, according to Judge Fields, lost. Louis Ghawji recalled that in June 2004, Maher Ghawji told him and his brother that they would be traveling to Syria in a few days."My brother and I panicked," wrote Louis. "We knew the extremist Muslim ideology from our father. He was a nut case. And obsessed. We still had his threats of death and him telling us that the Islamic law requires to kill somebody who is born Muslim but become a Christian [in] our mind."Louis Ghawji has been sounding this alarm for quite some time. Last May he commented on a Memphis Flyer article about the divorce and custody battle, writing that Judge Fields was still holding onto the passports, "preventing us to go to France but she allows us to go to Pilgrimage with my dad in Saudi Arabia. SHE IS FORCING MY YOUNG BROTHER TO BE A MUSLIM, AND SHE GAVE CUSTODY TO MY DAD." Was their father a terrorist? "I do not know if my dad or his brother are involved in terrorism; I am not working for the CIA" – however, "all I know is the life we were living with him He always was a fanatic Muslim. He hates Jews and did not want a Jewish boy sitting in our house. He hates the Western Civilization and America. I would have never been allowed to go to a dance or to a party where girls were dancing. We were not allowed to touch a dog or we had to wash our hands seven times."Louis's brother, KK, concurs. He wrote to Judge Fields, "I am not a Muslim and I will never be. I was going to the mosque every Sunday with my mother because she wanted us to learn also the culture of our dad, and I hated it. With the example of my father telling lies after lies, breaking law after law, without being punished because he is a doctor. With the memories of what he told us at home and the way he was acting, I sure don't want to become a man like him." And ominously, "One day he told me that if I was not Muslim, I will not be his son, and he would rather see me dead. I will never forget this, and I know he is a man of his word as Islam is concerned, and one day he will put his threat to execution. It is a matter of time."When a man has made such threats according to the testimony of both of his sons, should it not at very least be a matter for investigation? Yet thus far Judge Fields appears impervious to the boys' appeals. Louis Ghawji concluded an earlier letter to her with this: "Just to let you know that the Ghawji brothers are a new breed of young American. We will not side with terrorism for profit and we will fight for our rights, and with God on our side, we will prevail."Will they get the chance to do so? Or will they first fall victim to the Islamic penalty for those who leave Islam – on American soil? And why isn't the American justice system working to protect these young men from that horrific possibility? Must we always take action against such threats only after they have been acted upon?
By Robert Spencer
As in the days of Noah....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Arab nations move to regulate satellite TV.

Middle East-Arab satellite television channels face tighter restrictions on the content they broadcast. The charter, sponsored by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, calls on stations "not to offend the leaders or national and religious symbols" of Arab countries.Offenders risk the loss of broadcasting permits. SAT-7's David Harder responds: "We, at SAT-7, are not overly concerned about this because it seems like they are specifically relating to channels that may be making strong anti-government political statements or even very strong religious statements attacking one faith or another."When asked if SAT-7 could be targeted with this regulation, Harder could only say, "The simple answer is that we don't know, but we hope not. How we might be affected would depend upon how tightly or loosely the law is interpreted."According to the document, channels should "refrain from broadcasting anything which calls into question God, the monotheistic religions, the prophets, sects or symbols of the various religious communities." However, the ministry programming does "conform to the values of Arab society" because their programming represents the local minority Arab Christian community and its values.Harder hopes that their focus will protect their ability to share Christ in the region. "We don't talk about politics or political leaders, and we don't attack one religion or one denomination or another. Instead, we talk about Jesus. We feel strongly that, whatever the purpose of this regulation, we will stand out and hopefully will not be affected."He says part of their purpose is to build bridges of understanding between the communities. Their ethos actually conforms to these points and has given their staff a good reputation which would be a strong defense against any who might attempt to use this law against SAT-7.Pray for continued favor with local officials and for the ongoing safety of their operations in the region.
As in the days of Noah...

Kosovo's Declaration of Independence gives added importance to Bosnia's first Year of Prayer

Bosnia-A conference in late January in Bosnia began the first Year of Prayer in Bosnia, reported Operation Mobilization International. Now, it seems that prayer is especially needed in the country as Kosovo declares its independence.A published news source reports that Bosnian Serbs, specifically, are opposed to the declaration. They have made their opposition known, saying that they will entreat their Bosnian leaders to block its recognition.Kosovo's leaders seem confident according to another published source. However, tensions between Kosovo and Bosnia are fragile considering Bosnian Serbs and Serbians were prepared to announce war in November 2007 if Kosovo declared its independence.Kosovo Police Service and NATO prepared for ethnic clashes in preparation for the announcement and, reportedly, the only incident in Kosovo was four grenades being thrown at a building that houses the UN and EU missions.That northern town is ethnically divided.However, the situation in Serbia looked a bit different. Riots broke out, forcing police to use tear gas. Rioters smashed windows at McDonalds restaurants and the US and Slovenian embassies.In Republika Srpska, a Bosnian-Serb majority entity of Bosnia, Kosovo flags were burned.According to OM, there are, at most, 1,000 Christians in Bosnia.130 of them, or 13 percent, attended the January prayer conference.They conducted a prayer walk through the city of Mostar which is located in the south of Bosnia. The city is divided into Muslim and Croatian halves by the Neretva river, a result of the war in the 90's.According to OM's prayer Web site for Bosnia, healing after the 1992-1995 war was a slow process. Still, gaps in the governmental structure leave many children behind without health care or education. More information on the country can be found month-to-month at the Web site above. It has daily prayer requests for Bosnia so you can join Christians in the country in raising up their nation.
As in the days of Noah....

Muslims Target Christian Evangelists in Pakistan

Former prisoner in Cuba responds to Castro's resignation

Cuba-Cubans can forget about an end to the United States economic embargo of Cuba, despite Fidel Castro's resignation as head of state. U.S. officials don't believe Raul Castro, the retiring president's brother, will bring the significant change needed to lift those sanctions. Christians in the U.S. agree.Voice of the Martyrs' USA Director Tom White was captured by Cuban authorities after the plane from which he was dropping Christian leaflets crash-landed there. He was tortured and sentenced to 24 years but served 17 months before he was released.White is not impressed with the potential new leader: "Castro's brother, Raul, is the one who would shoot prisoners in the head with a 45 pistol if they weren't altogether dead. So that's the kind of person, perhaps, who would be inheriting the transfer of power there."While communism still reigns, White says, "There are thousands of house churches that have broken open.There are hundreds of people worshiping in them, which the government can not stop. They passed a resolution outlawing house churches not to be within a certain number of miles from each other, but no one has obeyed this law."White doesn't believe Castro's resignation will inspire a revolution of sorts because Cuba is now allied with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. "Chavez has unlimited fiscal resources to aid the Cuban government. When the Russians pulled out of Cuba, Castro was furious because he lost between 17 to 21 million dollars a day. Now, their 'sugar daddy' is Chavez in Venezuela."While communism isn't expected to leave Cuba, White believes Christians will be left alone, relatively. "Cubans noticed how the Romanian revolution was begun by a Lutheran priest, and it really shook them up, and they pulled way back. In my opinion, it would cause a total revolution on the entire island if they started smashing up the poor Christians."In the meantime, prayer is needed. "Pray that Christians continue to exhibit the same kind of courage in their poverty. They knock the walls out of their houses and convert them into little house churches. Pray that they continue to be inspired and have creativity," says White.He's also asking Christians not to pray for safety. "Most Christians in these nations don't pray that the oppression stops, just that they'll have more courage to be people of faith. So pray that God will strengthen the people of Cuba."
Voice of the Martyrs continues to help believers in Cuba. If you'd like to help VOM, click here.

As in the days of Noah...

China's Relentless Persecution of House Church Head

An open letter, posted Monday, by the president of the Chinese House Church Alliance revealed the relentless persecution endured by him and his family under the hands of the Chinese government.Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who heads the Chinese House Church Alliance, issued the letter to the international community out of frustration of being driven from house to house by officials with no response from the central government or the judiciary system to his appeal for justice.Zhang, who converted to Christianity in 1986, is used to persecution after having been stalked, arrested, beaten, and imprisoned 12 times for his activities in the house church movement.But the latest incidents have been more intense and frequent, forcing the house church leader to write two open letters to President Hu Jintao and a third open letter to the international community for help after receiving no response from the government. As detailed in his letter, high-level Chinese officials visited an orphanage – which is supported by the house church alliance – last October after which authorities forced the foreigners teaching the children to leave, drove away the students, cut off the power supply to the building, and began to monitor Zhang’s movement more closely. The orphanage in the end was forced to relocate after the energy company refused to return electricity to the building. In a period of a little over a month, Zhang moved six times.“I had to appeal to the leaders of Sanhe City,” Zhang said. “However, instead of resuming the power supply, they threatened us even further. We then sued the Bureau of Electricity Services in the name of civilian rights, but the justices of the court would not accept our case! They forced the landlord to kick us out. On Christmas Day, they drove the orphans out of the school!“In all helplessness, I wrote two open letters to President Hu Jintao. While the letters did not produce any result, they all the more persecuted the orphans and the church and they even forced two of my sons to move! On November 6, 2007, the orphanage was moved to a residential compound in Beijing. However, on the next day, the police officers from Tongzhou District of Beijing tried to force the landlord to drive us out.”More evictions followed as the Public Security Bureau (PSB) tried to “isolate” the house church leader, Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association (CAA), told The Christian Post Tuesday. CAA posted the letter.According to Fu, the intensified campaign against Zhang is “absolutely” related to the Beijing Olympics and the government’s effort to crack down on the house church movement. Fu said the government’s main goal is to destroy the house church network and isolate Zhang who is the leader of the underground church.As noted by many other human rights group, China has engaged in a softer crackdown on churches by preferring to target house church leaders instead of ordinary Christians to avoid attracting international attention to human rights violations.In his third letter, Zhang urged the international community to pray for the upcoming Beijing Olympics and to press the Chinese government to practice true religious freedom as it claims in its official laws.“We pray to God that those brothers and sisters imprisoned for preaching Jesus Christ will be released soon and that God will make leaders in the Chinese government to treat the believers in a correct way and that God will make China a country full of love, justice, freedom and prosperity!” Zhang wrote.On Tuesday, China Aid Association said it just learned that 21 major house church leaders were recently sent to labor camp at the same time for re-education.They were all detained on Dec. 7, 2007, during a massive arrest at a leadership training gathering with some 249 leaders in Shandong province. The 21 senior church leaders were sentenced from one year and three months to three years in the labor camp, according to CAA. They were accused of being members of an "evil cult" by the PSB. Among the 21 sentenced, 17 are men and four are women.Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog group, has organized a prayer campaign for persecuted Christians in China centered around the Beijing Olympics. Participants will pray for persecuted Christians in China and for a spiritual revival in the country.
On the Web:

As in the days of Noah....

Pakistani Christians Hope for Improved Status After Election

Pakistan’s political party, led by President Pervez Musharraf, admitted defeat Tuesday as early results from Monday’s parliamentary election showed the ruling party’s unpopularity among its citizens."We concede and congratulate the people who have won the elections," said Mushahid Syed Hussain, general secretary of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, to CNN.Pakistan had been under military rule for over half of its 60-year history, eight years of which have been under Musharraf. Monday’s election, the country’s first general election in six years, was a step towards democracy.Early results show the parties of two former prime ministers to dominate the election. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in Musharraf’s 1999 coup, and the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December, has together won over half the parliamentary seats, according to unofficial tallies reported by Pakistan’s GEO TV.Unofficial tallies from 229 of the 268 National Assembly seats being contested showed Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party with 33 percent and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party with 27 percent, reported GEO TV, according to The Associated Press.The ruling PML-Q was a distant third with 14 percent. It lost significant support nationally and internationally after Musharraf last year imposed emergency rule, fired Supreme Court justices, jailed political opponents and restricted press freedoms.Sharif is calling on Musharraf to step down.Pakistan’s election attracted international attention, especially from the United States, because of Musharraf’s ties with Washington as a key ally in the war against terror, and because of the recent assassination of pro-democracy and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.Several U.S. congressmen – including Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) – are in Islamabad to oversee the voting process. Biden commented that the election results mean the United States can revise its Pakistan policy."This is an opportunity for us to move from a policy that has been focused on a personality to one based on an entire people," Biden said, adding that Washington should encourage more deeply rooted democracy in Pakistan, according to AP.Christians in Pakistan also hope that the country will move towards democracy and practice greater religious freedom after the election. Recently, the tiny Christian community has faced increased persecution by growing numbers of Muslim extremists.Christians also suffer daily under harsh discrimination in all areas of life, including education, finances and politics.Arguably the most hated law cited by Christians is the blasphemy law, which is often manipulated to accuse innocent Christians and sentence them to jail with the motive of business profit or revenge. There are dozens of Christians currently in jail because of blasphemy laws that forbid anyone from defaming Islam.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has urged the State Department to add Pakistan to its list of “countries of particular concern.”“It’s one of the most serious problem spots for religious freedom in the entire world,” said Felice Gaer, former chairwoman of the commission and director of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.
“Discriminatory legislation has fostered an atmosphere of religious intolerance and eroded the legislative status of people who belong to minorities,” Gaer said.Christians had hoped that Bhutto, who was tutored by a Catholic nun, would help them gain equality in society before her sudden death. With Bhutto’s party gaining a significant number of parliamentary seats, it now remains to be seen if the status of Christians in Pakistani society will improve.Todd Nettleton, spokesman for Christian persecution watchdog group Voice of the Martyrs, urged, "Pray for God's will in the elections. Pray that the government that takes power will look out for the Christians, will protect their right to worship, will protect their right to change religions, will protect their right to conversion,” according to Mission Network News.“I think we can pray for the believers there that they will continue to be a witness,” he added.Final results for Pakistan’s general election are not expected until Tuesday evening.

As in the days of Noah....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Shopkeepers beat evangelist for roadside preaching

Pakistan-Voice of the Martyrs Canada reported that Daniel Sodager Masih was beaten the night of February 11 for preaching on the roadside.A Muslim man who heard Sodager preaching came out of his shop and began shouting at him. Sodager refused to stop preaching God's Word. The encounter escalated when another Muslim man began beating the 55-year-old evangelist.Another news report stated that Sodager's right ear, mouth and eyes were injured during the attack. The report also said that the same day, 500 Christian men and women marched to the office of a Christian politician named Tariq Jarev Tariq to demand that the attackers were brought to justice. They came shouting Jesus' name and asking for equality in religious rights. Christian shopkeepers closed their shops in protest.The same report said that the two men accused of the attack had been arrested, but no report had been filed at that time.A local man reported that Sodager has been preaching this way for 25 years.An Open Doors report from Pakistan recently voiced concern that extremist Muslim influence is moving into Lahore. Sharia law was adopted in Pakistan in 1998. A field officer from a Christian NGO urged authorities to bring justice to the criminals or risk hunger strikes and weekly protests because of the incident with Sodager.
As in the days of Noah....

Youth conference encourages church in Russia

Russia-There are concerns being voiced from Washington DC that Russia could be heading back to Cold War status, something Russia's Vladimir Putin flatly denies.The Russian head acknowledged his desire to build up internal development so the administration can tackle more successfully the other social and economic problems. However, there are shadows lurking in the distance between Russia and the United States, something being played up in media accounts across the board.Yet, even though there's been a lot of negative press about Russia in recent days, Slavic Gospel Association's President Bob Provost there is a lot of good news. He was in Russia for a youth leader conference recently. What he came away with was the highest level of excitement he's seen in years.Based on what he saw, the church will be facing some beautiful growing pains."Consider 350 local church youth directors from 61 states of Russia.It was a phenomenal conference.The theme of the conference was simply, 'Be Strong,' from 1 John 2:14.These men, together, are leading a movement of more than 20,000 Russian youth."This movement started 10 years ago with a young Russian student who had a vision for youth and evangelism.E.B.(*) turned down a full scholarship to pursue a doctorate in scientific economics to pursue studies with SGA at the Strategic Bible Institute in Novosibirsk, Siberia (which would eventually become the Novosibirsk Biblical Theological Seminary).Eugene served as youth leader of the Novosibirsk Baptist Church which eventually led to running the development of youth ministries for the Baptist Union. His zeal is seen in the network developed among leader-trainers. It was many of these youth leaders who were at the recent conference Provost attended.The conference offered seminars that covered prayer ministry, personal evangelism, creative evangelism, outreach work in public schools, purity and holiness, coordinating youth ministry and working with rehabilitation ministries, among others.Many leaders committed to getting grounded again in the Bible, agreeing to read through it in 2008. It is one way to prepare themselves for the things yet to come.Provost says he's praying that the conference theme becomes manifest in their lives."When you have growing churches, many of them now with strong visionary youth leaders, you are leading youth movements in their communities. The prospect in the future is very exciting, even though there's tremendous opposition.The opposition right now is greater than it's been since the Lord granted freedom in 1989.You just see His hand in this movement."Youth leaders also received key tools to help them in their work, among them God and Man by Dr. Roman Dechtiarenko, The DaVinci Code Quest by Josh McDowell, Preaching with Passion by Pastor Alex Montoya, and Our Sufficiency in Christ by Dr. John MacArthur.E.B. remains actively involved in raising evangelistic leaders up to encourage new believers around Russia. It's a monumental task, and one that needs constant prayer.The future of the church has never been warmer nor more promising in Russia.
PS:Name withheld for security reasons.You can pray for EB and wife,though.God knows whom you are referring to in prayer....

As in the days of Noah...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chinese stepping up religious crackdown ahead of Olympics

A new report shows that China's communist government has stepped up its crackdown on Christians.According to the annual report released by the China Aid Association, there were 60 cases of known persecutions against house churches last year-up from 46 cases in 2006.The report also found that 788 people were persecuted, a total up from 665 the year before.Bob Fu, president of the China Aid Association, says the crackdown on Christians and unregistered house churches is related to the upcoming summer Olympic games.And he says the crackdown is even extending to foreign Christians."But one surprising thing was the unprecedented campaign to kick out foreign Christians and missionaries-and even businessmen-from China," notes Fu. Fu is encouraging Christians in the West to use their freedom to call for reforms in China."We can write letters to President Bush, who has agreed to attend the China Olympics this summer,asking that he will continue to raise his voice," says Fu.According to Fu, the campaign to deport foreign Christians is the most widespread of its kind since the communists took over more than 50 years ago.
As in the days of Noah....

Government paints bull's-eye on Christians:Egyptian court makes converts from Islam show 'previous Muslim identity' on ID cards

An organization that reaches out to persecuted Christians worldwide, International Christian Concern, says a new Egyptian court ruling allowing 12 Christians who converted to Islam to return to Christianity actually isn't religious freedom, and will place them in grave danger.The Washington-based human rights group said the recent ruling followed another in which the judge concluded that no one – ever – is allowed to leave Islam.The difference between the two cases is that the single man seeking to have his national identity card in Egypt reflect that he is a Christian was born a Muslim, while the more recent case, affecting 12 people, involved individuals who were Christian, turned to Islam, and then sought permission to return to Christianity.On its surface, the ICC said, the ruling appears generous and beneficent. "The ruling enables the Christian identity of the 12 converts to be indicated on their government-issued identity cards," the organization noted. They had been "fighting for their re-conversion to be recognized by the Egyptian government" and now it has. "Egypt's highest civil court has broken from Islamic tradition and official permitted someone to convert to some other religion than Islam," ICC noted.However, the "victory" is only partial, and, in fact, "may indeed end up harming more than it helps," the organization said. "The reason the court recognized these 12 conversions is because they had been Christians before they were Muslims.This does not help Muslim-born Egyptians who convert to Christianity," ICC said.The group noted the only Muslim-born convert to Christianity to seek Egyption permission to be listed with his Christian identity, Mohammed Hegazy, has been rejected by Egyptian courts.In that recent decision, Judge Muhammad Husseini said it violates the law for a Muslim to leave Islam.The report said Husseini cited Article II of the Egyptian constitution, making Islamic religious law the "source" of Egyptian secular law, as the basis for his conclusion.Since Islam is the "final" and "most complete" religion, Muslims already have full freedom of religion and are not allowed to return to the "less complete" Christianity or Judaism, the ruling said."Freedom of religion doesn't mean getting in and out of Islam to another religion, but only means that each person is free to practice his own religious rites, and not playing games with Islam or contradicting sharia law," the website said the judge concluded.International Christian Concern noted that Hegazy now lives in hiding because of the many death threats from Muslims who consider him apostate, which under Islamic law results in the death penalty.
"Most Muslim-background Christians face such intense persecution that they do not even ask for official recognition of their Christianity for fear of discrimination and persecution from the government and from Muslims," the ICC said.In the cases involving the 12 actually given permission to be listed, again, as Christian, the danger is just beginning, according to Magdi Khalil, director of the Middle East Freedom Forum.Since the judge also ordered those Christians to display their "previous Muslim identity" on their national ID cards, the decision creates a high level of danger, Khalil said.When extremists see their IDs, the Christians could be subject to discrimination or even killed, since they are considered apostates, Khalil explained.The court ruling also failed to reference a religious freedom clause in the Egyptian Constitution, and that means the judge effectively kept the ruling from being used as a precedent in religious freedom disputes."Freedom of religion should allow Egyptians the right to convert to any religion, any time, without restriction," Khalil told ICC.Khalil, however, noted that under current circumstances in Egypt, Christian girls are forced to convert when they are ordered to marry Muslim men, while other Christians are offered employment if they convert to Islam.Darara Gubo, the regional manager for Africa under the ICC program, agreed."Egyptian authorities should not interfere with the right of citizens to choose the religion they want to follow. Rather, they have an obligation to protect citizens who choose to convert to Christianity and to recognize those conversions without any restrictions," Gubo said. "The international community should step up pressure on Egypt to provide real religious freedom."ICC delivers humanitarian help, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill.WND previously has reported on a ruling from a U.S. federal court that an Egyptian Christian who had fled his home nation "most assuredly has a right not to be tortured." The ruling allowed the Egyptian Christian to remain in the United States.The court pointedly concluded that "diplomatic assurances" of his religious rights "by a country known to have engaged in torture" weren't reassuring.A report from the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights concluded Coptic Christians in Egypt have been harassed, tortured and killed by Muslims for 1,400 years."They have been subjected to all kinds of hate crimes including, the abduction of young Coptic girls, the killing of Coptic women and children and the destruction of their places of worship," the report said.The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, an agency created by Congress, also lists Egypt on its watch list of countries, noting it had "a poor overall human rights record."In addition, Egyptian authorities have threatened two young boys who were ordered to take training to be Muslims, but refused, stating they are Christian.

As in the days of Noah...

Muslims destroy YMCA, Christian books:'We don't need any of these missionary institutions'

In the latest attack on Christians in Gaza, 16 Palestinians forced their way into the YMCA library, stole everything but Christian books and then burned down the building.According to Palestinian terrorist sources in Gaza, the attack was carried out by Hamas and its ally, the Popular Resistance Committees. Israeli security sources said Hamas knows exactly who was behind the attack.Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a "military wing" to enforce Muslim law in Gaza, told WND the YMCA had Muslim children in its nursery program."Gaza is Muslim, more than 99 percent are Muslim," he said. "We don't need any of these missionary institutions. They have only one goal – to convert our sons and daughter to Christianity. Abu Saqer said that while he feels some sympathy for parents who can no longer send their children to the program, "Let them send their children only to sharia Islamic nurseries where they will teach the principles of the Quran."Sources say that in previous attacks against Christians in Gaza, gunmen have worn masks, but in this instance, just four of the 16 shielded their identities, indicating an increased boldness.Israel Radio said the fire, which destroyed thousands of books, was started with an explosive device.A second explosive device laid near a computer in the library failed to detonate. Two security guards were taken by the intruders and later released in the northern Gaza Strip, Israel Radio said.
Imposing 'Islamic rule'
Hamas in June seized complete control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction amid widespread fears it would impose hard-line Islamic rule in the territory and that life for Christians might deteriorate.The Christian population in Gaza and the West Bank has continued to dwindle, down from an estimated 15 percent 50 years ago to about 1.5 percent today. An estimated 3,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of over 1 million.Among the slew of recent alleged anti-Christian attacks in Gaza was the murder in October of a Christian bookstore owner whose beaten, bullet-ridden body was found after his shop had been repeatedly targeted by Islamists.Abu Saqer's Jihadia Salafiya, the army of Islam, is suspected of carrying out anti-Christian attacks in Gaza, including firebombing the bookstore in April and lobbing of grenades at a church in September.Abu Saqer told WND in an interview last year that all Christians in Gaza who engage in missionary activity will be "dealt with harshly."Jihadia Salafiya also is suspected of firebombing Internet cafes and a United Nations school in Gaza that allowed boys and girls to participate together in a sporting event. One person was killed in the attack.Now that Hamas is in power, "the situation has changed 180 degrees in Gaza," said Abu Saqer."Jihadia Salafiya and other Islamic movements will ensure Christian schools and institutions show publicly what they are teaching to be sure they are not carrying out missionary activity," he said.Abu Saqer accused the leadership of the Gaza Christian community of "proselytizing and trying to convert Muslims with funding from American evangelicals.""This missionary activity is endangering the entire Christian community in Gaza," he said.Abu Saqer claimed there was "no need" for the thousands of Christians in Gaza to maintain a large number of institutions in the territory.He said Hamas "must work to impose an Islamic rule or it will lose the authority it has and the will of the people."As WND reported in November, Christian leaders in the Gaza Strip were intimidated into attending and expressing support for a speech in which the territory's Hamas leader urged the worldwide spread of Islam.

As in the days of Noah....

Mandatory 'integration' of children pursued

A government bureaucrat in Germany says that nation demands all children attend government-approved schools because they all must be "integrated" into society the same way."This is one of the great developments of the 19th century towards emancipation and democracy," a recently dated letter to a homeschool advocate said.WND has reported a number of times on Germany's aggressive enforcement of its Hitler-era ban on homeschooling, and even when parents decided they would flee to Iran to seek a less-oppressive educational environment for their child.One German student, Melissa Busekros, at one point simply was taken into custody by members of a team of police officers and confined to a mental institution for her crime of being homeschooled. Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government "has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole."Drautz said homeschool students' test results may be as good as for those in school, but "school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens."Now comes the newest response to an inquiry from a homeschooling advocacy organization, Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, whose officials had asked the government to reconsider the ban on homeschooling.An English translation of the response, which was in German, was provided to WND, and in it, the government stated plainly its right to educate children trumps any parental or religious rights others can suggest."State Secretary Siegfried Schneider and State Undersecretary Bernd Siebler have asked the responsible legal department to respond to your e-mail of Jan. 2nd, 2008. Our response to your concerns is as follows:," the letter said."Mandatory school attendance in Bavaria is regulated by Articles 35ff of the Bavarian Law for Education. Those meeting the age requirements and being residents of Bavaria are subject to mandatory school attendance according to Art. 35, part 1 BayEUG. To comply with the mandatory school attendance law it is imperative that a public or private school is attended. Homeschooling is only allowed when strict conditions (involving an illness) are met. Accordingly homeschooling is only possible for the long term sick children or students with health conditions, which prevent them from attending school," the letter, identified as having come from an education "ministry," said.
"Concerning the question of mandatory school attendance, in 2002 the Bavarian Constitutional (Supreme) Court decided on the basis of the Bavarian Constitution, and in 2003 the German Federal Supreme Court decided on the basis of the German Constitution that homeschooling does not meet the constitutional requirement of mandatory school attendance. These court decisions were again confirmed by the Federal Supreme Court on 31 May 2006. The state's responsibility to educate is the basis for mandatory school attendance and – according to the courts – takes precedence over parent's rights and freedom of religion," the letter said.The letter noted the Federal Supreme Court decision even "upheld the partial withdrawal of custody rights and the right to determine where children will stay" if a parent refuses to order their children into public schools because such failure "constitutes an abuse of parental custody rights, which adversely affects the well-being of a child and which require actions by the family courts…"Educators have been told to notify authorities if any such cases develop so they can be prosecuted, the letter said."The general mandatory school attendance law is considered an indispensable condition to warrant a free and democratic system and at the same time an indispensable prerequisite to safeguard the economic and social welfare of society. The purpose of mandatory school attendance is not only to convey knowledge, but particularly also to teach social competence to children," the education officials said. "Besides supporting social competence, the school also fulfills the function of looking out for the well-being of a child during class.""The Bavarian Constitution wants to integrate all children the same and comprehensively into society by way of mandatory school attendance. This is one of the great developments of the 19th century towards emancipation and democracy," the letter said.The homeschool advocates called it "not a day of good news.""There is an attitude of refusal and ignorance towards the concerns of homeschooling families," a Germany organization spokesman said in an e-mail to a U.S. organization, the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has worked actively in trying to help the homeschoolers of Germany."It looks not good here in Germany," the spokesman said.WND has reported that even Americans who are in Germany for various assignments, including that of a special ministry, have been targeted with legal action for homeschooling."German officials appear to be more determined than ever to rid their country of influences that may contribute to the rise of what they call 'Parallelgesellschaften,' parallel societies," the HSLDA said in a statement earlier. "Never mind that Germany has hundreds of thousands of genuinely truant youth hanging around street corners; school officials have determined that parents diligently educating their children at home are a greater danger to German society.""The German education system is very hostile to devout Christian faith," said Joel Thornton, of the International Human Rights Group. "Their health education in public middle schools is very explicit regarding human reproduction. It is often nothing short of pornographic, even in the lower grades. Their science curriculum is very heavily weighted in its discussions of evolution. Also, there is a lot of teaching on occult practices."

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