1211 posts categorized “Christian Persecution”

December 10, 2013

Five Myths of Persecution

Timothy Samuel Shah, Associate Director and Scholar-in-Residence at the Religious Freedom Project, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University, recently penned an opinion piece about persecuted Christians around the world that appeared on FoxNews.com. The piece explores five "myths" about Christian persecution, and reasons why it is largely ignored in the West, especially by the media.

Most of these victims [of Christian persecution] will continue to be ignored, however, as long as five myths continue to cloud popular thinking about global Christian persecution. Based on an abundance of new evidence, the experts in Rome will show that the myths don't stand up to the facts.

Shaw then goes on to expore the five myths, including the myth that persecution is only a Middle East issue and the myth that Christians actually bring persecution on themselves by their actions and philosophies.

You can read Shaw's piece here

Do you agree with his positions? Do you feel that the media adaquately and accurately covers stories of Christian persecution? If not, why do you think they don't?

Continue the discussion in the comments section to this post.


June 14, 2013

NY Times Exposes Chinese Labor Camp


One of the frustrations of my work at VOM is the seeming indifference of the secular media to the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. Yes, there are times when a story of persecution breaks through into our national conversation—Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran, or the attack on Dogo Nahawa in Nigeria—but for the most part Christian persecution is not a story we see on the evening news or read even in the fine-print sections of the newspaper.NYTLogo

Partly because of this frustration, I read with great interest the story in the New York Times this week about a letter smuggled out of the Masanjia labor camp in China that revealed the terrible conditions of the prisoners. The story of the letter is fascinating in itself—it was smuggled out of the country tucked inside a package of mock tombstones that were sold by a K-Mart in Oregon as Halloween decorations.

But the words that caught my eye weren’t about the letter; they were about the camp the letter was written from: “According to former inmates, roughly half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground churches …”

The story then details some of the things prisoners endure, besides long days of labor creating goods for export to the West. One woman talked about being dragged around by her hair, or being shocked with electric batons until her nostrils filled with the odor of burning flesh. Others spoke of having their four limbs tied to four beds, which were then kicked farther and farther apart by the guards. “That place is a living hell,” said Liu Hua, a 51-year-old former prisoner at the camp.

China’s people can be sent into that living hell for up to four years without even having a trial. The article suggests that when more “workers” are needed, local police will find reasons to arrest people because the labor camp will pay them for prisoners.

Some of my brothers and sisters are in that living hell. Perhaps even now one of them is being shocked, or lying in misery tied to the beds. Perhaps some are whispering words of encouragement to each other during an endless day of heavy labor. Or maybe they are quoting Scripture in their minds while their lips mouth the communist slogans that are a part of their “re-education” sessions.

Todd with Pastor Li De-Xian in 1999.
Todd with Pastor Li De-Xian in 1999.
I’m reminded of Pastor Li De-Xian, whom I met in China in 1999. He was arrested many times for leading his unregistered church. In September 1998, VOM made public a secret Chinese government document outlining Public Security Bureau (PSB) efforts to control Pastor Li. I’ve always remembered a part of it:

“He has been arrested and educated many times, and yet his heart has not died and his nature has not changed.”

I pray for my brothers and sisters who are being "educated" in the Masanjia labor camp today, as well as those in other labor camps across China. I pray that their hearts will not die and that their suffering will only conform them more closely to the unchangeable nature of Christ.

Pray with me.

 

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1900 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books. Todd is scheduled to speak at upcoming VOM Regional Conferences in Tulsa and Wichita.


June 13, 2013

More Attacks on Pastors in Tanzania

Earlier this week, we shared a video report from Gary Lane in Tanzania that included the story of Pastor Mathayo Kachili, who was killed because of his faith in Christ. Pastor Kachili’s story is also included in VOM’s June newsletter.

Tz-mapThe persecution of Christians in Tanzania continues. On the night of Sunday, June 2, the home of Pastor Robert Ngai in Geita town, northeastern Tanzania, was attacked by a large group of radical Muslims. The attackers broke into the home and attacked Pastor Ngai with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised his arms to protect his head from the blows. Doctors at the local hospital said the injuries were beyond their ability to treat, and urged that he be rushed to a hospital in a nearby, larger city for treatment. Ngai is the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church. At last word from VOM contacts, he was still in ICU.

Two nights before the attack on Pastor Ngai, the home of Pastor Daudi Nzumbi in Geita also came under attack. Pastor Nzumbi leads the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania (FPCT) congregation in Geita. Thankfully, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs.

When Pastor Nzumbi heard his dogs barking, he looked out the window and saw the attackers. He called the police, but the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

VOM contacts are working to get more details on these attacks, and to offer encouragement and assistance to these two pastors and other Christians in Tanzania affected by violent Islamic attacks. Please continue to pray for Christians in Tanzania as well as for their persecutors.


June 11, 2013

Tanzania: Pastors Targeted

The feature story in VOM’s June newsletter focuses on the rise of Islam in Africa, with stories of recent persecution from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Gary Lane contributed to that feature story, and also filed this video report to CBN News:

  

Please PRAY for the church in Tanzania, and all across eastern Africa. Pray Christians will continue to be bold witnesses for Christ in spite of the danger and threats. Pray also for Generosa and her 12 children as they mourn the loss of husband and father.


March 6, 2013

Drainage Ditch Baptism

Recently one of our contacts in Laos was invited to visit a village to minister to three people who’d recently decided to follow Jesus. The small house church in their village had no pastor, and so this brother went to disciple the three new believers and other Christians in the village.

The pastor taught for several hours, and at the end the three new believers asked if they could be baptized. Nine other believers also said they had not yet been baptized and asked if the pastor would baptize them, too.

La-mapThe village is not located near any body of water, so the only place they could find for the baptism was a drainage ditch with just barely enough water to submerge someone.

There was one problem: the drainage ditch ran directly in front of the home of the village leader, a communist. However, these brave Christians were determined to be baptized, and all 12 of them were. But shortly after they returned to their meeting place, a messenger arrived, demanding that
all of them report to the village elder immediately. They found police officers waiting and all of them were taken for questioning.

The most severe questioning was for the visiting pastor. Was he the representative of the official church for their area? No, he told them, but he had been invited by the villagers to come.

Thankfully, our brother was not arrested. He was, however, given a strict warning NOT to return. Village officials in Laos sometimes give grudging acceptance to existing Christians, but they are firmly against evangelism activities that lead new people to faith.

These new Christians knew where the village elder lived; they knew that holding a baptism service right in front of his house would be noticed. Yet they wanted to complete the physical demonstration of their spiritual transformation even if it meant inviting hardship.

Hearing their story reminded me of the story of Philip and the Ethiopian official in Acts 8. I could hear my Laotian brothers and sisters echoing the words of that official: “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)

Philips answer was this: “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

These new Laotian Christians believe with all their hearts. They didn’t care if the village elder was watching or not; they wanted to fulfill Christ’s call on their lives. May we also be so bold in carrying out the things He calls us to do, regardless of who’s watching.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM almost 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 1850 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


February 25, 2013

Troubling Times in Tanzania

The past two weeks have seen two Christian leaders in Tanzania killed by radical Muslims. The first was an Assembly of God pastor killed on Feb. 11 in the northwest part of the country. Pastor Mathayo Kachili was killed when Muslims attacked Christians who had butchered an animal. (Traditionally all of the butcher shops in Tanzania have been run by Muslims, but in recent months Christians have tried to change that.)

Six days later, VOM received the following message from one of our Christian contacts in Tanzania:

"While we were busy trying to heal the wounded hearts of Christians of Buseresere-Katoro of Geita, I have just got a VERY SAD news that Rev. Fr Evarist Mushi of Roman Catholic Church and the head priest of St. Theresia Cathedral in Mtoni County of Zanzibar has just been attacked and shot dead by extremist Islamists and died on spot! He was driving a car to his church for Sunday service of this morning, now his life is taken away! HOW LONG SHALL CHRISTIAN BEAR WITH THIS BARBARIC ACTS WHICH ARE NOT SANCTIONED BY THE TANZANIAN GOVERNMENT?

Tz-lgflagA police spokesman said that Father Evarist Mushi was blocked by two men at the entrance to his Catholic church on Zanzibar Island and shot in the head. A group calling itself "Muslim Renewal" took credit for his murder and claimed the young attackers had been trained in Somalia. More concerning for Christians on Zanzibar and in the rest of Tanzania, the group says there are more attacks to come: "Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: at Easter, be prepared for disaster."

Tanzania is a majority-Christian country, according to Operation World, but there is a growing radical-Muslim presence, and persecution is on the rise. Particularly concerning to Christians is the possibility that Islamists in Tanzania are linking with terrorist groups in other countries, such as al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Please pray for Christians in Tanzania. Pray that God will sustain and heal Pastor Kachili's widow and children. Pray that church leaders in the country will know how to respond to persecution and that Christians will be supernaturally empowered to forgive their persecutors. Finally, pray that Muslims will come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way.


February 15, 2013

IRAN: “I am in a fight with myself every day”

Following is a portion from an interview with Padina, an Iranian Christian woman who, along with her husband, is helping grow God's Kingdom in Iran. You can read the full interview here.

VOM: The situation in Iran has changed a little bit since [you first began in ministry]. It seems like more arrests and more persecution. How does that affect you and your work?

Padina: Persecution has caused us to be stronger in faith, has caused us to be more in prayer and fasting, and we take what we are doing for God more seriously, that this is serious. Because every place we go and every ministry, every trip, we feel this might be our last. So whenever we go out, especially on trips, we feel this might be our last trip.

I have chosen this way knowingly and I know that this was my choice so I don't have a problem with it. But I am more worried about my husband because of the way I feel about him. During the day when I think about my husband being arrested, when I consider all these things I come to the point and I think, I know I love Jesus more than this and I may even give up my husband for the love I have for God. So it challenges me, my love for Jesus — do you really love me at that level? So that causes me to have a more loving relationship with Jesus himself.

VOM: That is almost a daily process in your ministry?

Padina: Every day.

VOM: "Take up your cross daily." (Luke 9:23)

Padina: And because our ministry is expanding, we almost once-a-month have a training conference which are all new people and all new risks for my husband to be arrested [because new people could be spies]. So he is at constant risk.

VOM: So you know all the risks but you keep doing the work every day?

Padina: I am in a fight with myself every day. I struggle every day with this idea that I could go out of Iran and minister and already have enough connections to have a large ministry outside Iran. But then I realize God has called me for this country and I have to stay. I won't do that — leave Iran — until I am confident that I have done my part and the ministry is strong and stable.

VOM: There is a famous quote to the effect that courage is not the absence of fear; courage is being afraid and doing it anyway. So I think every day you show amazing amounts of courage. But I also think if we talk to your husband he would say I am not so worried about myself I am more worried about my wife. Do you think so?

Padina: Yes. These days, even a regular arrest of a woman is very uncertain what happens to her in the jail, especially if she is arrested for this kind of thing [Christian activities]. My husband says, "It is very hard for me that you might be arrested and raped. But I have come to a point with my faith in Christ," he says, "at that point give your body to Jesus."

VOM: Are there particular scriptures that you come back to again and again that you draw strength from?

Padina: Psalms gives me a lot of comfort. Especially Psalm 91, I love that Psalm. Even with the snakes and all the enemies around you, I will protect you. I receive a lot of peace and comfort from the book of Psalms. Also, Psalms not only reminds me of God's protection but reminds me of his love for me and my love for him.

VOM: How can we, Christians in the United States, pray for the ministry in Iran?

Padina: A prayer would be that God would give faithful and courageous leaders that would continue to minister under persecution. Because when persecution comes some of the leaders, because of fear, they go away. So pray for courageous and faithful servants.

Second, my prayer would be that God would increase our faith. Not just for me but the leaders, that they would not lose their faith under persecution. And number three is for protection. IRAN_DFG

YOUR TURN: What are the challenges that you must overcome each day in order to fully serve Christ? Share in the comments below.

The story of Padina coming to faith in Christ is told in IRAN: Desperate for God. You can order your copy here. You may also want to order a 5-pack to share copies with Christian friends who might also pray for the church in Iran.


February 13, 2013

NEPAL: “Those words were pricking my heart”

When a Christian brother we'll call "Bilal" died last spring in a small Nepali city, it was important to his family that his body be buried. For Nepali Christians, burial is not only a way to dispose of a body but also an "Ebenezer" (1 Sam. 7:12), a permanent landmark of a person's faith and God's faithfulness. But in Nepal, where 75 percent of the people are Hindus, cremation is the expected ritual following a death.

About 30,000 people live in the city where Bilal's family live, but there are only four or five Christian families. When Bilal died, radical Hindus tried to take his body for cremation, according to Hindu custom. Death, along with birth and marriage, is one of three significant milestones in Hindu culture. By cremating Bilal's body, the Hindus hoped to erase his Christian testimony. Cremation would be a message in their culture that Bilal hadn't really been a Christian, that in death he'd returned to Hinduism. Conversely, a grave would be a permanent testimony that this man had died a Christian. Np-lgflag

Bilal's family refused to turn the body over to the Hindus; they wanted a Christian funeral and burial. The family was at home making funeral arrangements with their church's pastor, Pastor "Sabal," when they heard shouting outside the house. A large Hindu mob had gathered, shouting threats and demanding the body in order to perform Hindu last rights and cremation.

Sabal told the Hindus that Bilal was a Christian and that his family wanted a Christian funeral. The mob then became enraged, grabbing Sabal and two other Christians and beating them with sticks and their fists. The Christians tried to flee on their bicycles, but the mob continued to attack.

The Christians found refuge in the home of "Bima," a Christian widow who motioned them inside her house despite the angry mob chasing them. Why would she invite attacks on her home by sheltering the Christians?

"I am the Lord's servant," she told VOM workers, "so I have to be strong. I will not fear, because he is with us. I thought that some of those people might make problems for me, but I have to be strong."

The mob of angry Hindus backed off, and Christians on motorbikes came to remove Sabal and the others from danger. Sabal was treated for wounds he received in the beating and was later examined by our VOMedical director. While Sabal's body healed quickly, he struggled emotionally. He couldn't sleep for a week after the attack.

"I was praying for myself and I understood, when reading the Bible, I understood that I have to forgive," Sabal said, "because the Lord says if you don't forgive others you will not be forgiven. Those words were pricking my heart." God helped Sabal forgive his attackers by reminding him of the forgiveness he had received.

"I have also done some wrong things, some mistakes, so the Lord is working [to forgive me]," he said. "So I have to forgive. The Lord was speaking to me, 'Forgive them. They have to come to Me.' The Lord was speaking to me. Then I said yes. I have to work with them so they will come to Christ." A month after the attack, Sabal came to the point of fully forgiving those who had attacked and injured him.

He continues to minister in the same city, but after the attacks his congregation shrank by half. Many Christians left in fear, so Sabal preaches sermons designed to encourage believers to withstand the persecution he knows they'll face.

"One day everyone has to die," he tells his congregation. "The life here [on earth] is very short. Whatever they do to us because we're Christian — what we will go through — even if we have to die, we'll die because we'll have a long life [in eternity with Christ]."

Some of the believers too fearful to attend church still ask Sabal to come to their homes and pray with them. He has faith that one day their courage will be strengthened and they will return to the church. "I believe they will come one day," he said, "because they have tasted the Lord."

YOUR TURN: What are you doing to leave a legacy for Christ that others will be blessed by after your death?


January 25, 2013

Engaging the Mind

It is very appropriate to have an emotional response to persecution. That is how many of us began in ministry to and with the persecuted church. We deeply identify with their pain and loss, and we are driven to help.

As good as that emotional response is, there is more we can do. More than likely, if we have an emotional response to persecution, it will set our bodies in motion to do something. That is the Western way—we are, by and large, 'activists.'

But there is still more we can do. We need to have an intentional, intelligent response to persecution as well. We need to engage the mind to understand the biblical and theological aspects of persecution so we can have a competent and mature understanding not only to be able to articulate this clearly to those who are skeptical but also to approach persecution with wisdom. When the emotions cool and the body gets weary, we will still be engaged in the very important ministry to the persecuted church because we are fully committed to it. We are focused, determined, and relentless in our ministry. That kind of spirit comes with concrete devotion based on a rational choice and is much more than a mere emotional response. It involves an intentional, willful decision based on the realization that it is the will of God and that we are to be about his business.

Be assured that I am not talking about a cold, rational approach that inspires no one. God wants people with long-term passion, fully engaging every aspect of our being to do what he calls us to do. Elevel_main

One way to develop a sound, disciplined mind is to complete one or more of the online courses on VOMClassroom. The site includes material on many aspects of persecution and is ready to help you engage your mind. Courses on the site include history of persecution, preparing for persecution, New Testament studies on persecution, and evangelizing Muslims. Each study is a wonderful resource for you personally and for your church, and they are available at no charge.

These courses are making a difference. Here are comments from current and recent students:

"I recommended the classes…[if] people want to know about Biblical perspective on persecution and learning about history of persecution, they can check your website out."

"VOM classes appear to be so valuable, that they should be offered more widely."

"I am really enjoying the online classes. I'm enrolled in the classes to get more information that may be of use for me in the ministry. I'm also developing a Bible study curriculum for my church's small groups to introduce them to VOM and the persecuted church and a deeper meaning of the cost of following Christ."

As we charge out into the world, we need to be sure that we truly have a sound, disciplined mind capable of being mightily used by God. Developing our minds is a part of being about God's business.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


January 21, 2013

Surprised by Suffering

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from a post on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries' web site, reposted here with permission. The post was written by Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity for RZIM. You can read the full post here.

For those of us who live in far less hostile environments, news of persecution is foreign, frightening, and difficult to fathom. Their experiences bring the words of the early church to life in a way that many of us have never considered. When the apostle Paul wrote that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ—neither "trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword"—he was referring to struggles that were dangerously real to him and the people to whom he was writing. "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). Peter, too, encouraged believers in their troubling situations. He urged them to stand firm in their convictions regardless of their affliction; he reminded them that discomfort and suffering was a sacred part of following the wounded one. "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ" (1 Peter 4:12-13).

The apostles' words do not take away the injustice of brutal murder. But they do assuage the shock of its occurrence. Jesus told his followers to expect persecution; in fact, he said they would be blessed by it. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). Peter's words encourage the suffering not to see their painful trials as strange or out of the ordinary, but as something that further marks them as believers and unites them in even greater intimacy with their leader. Persecution may be always jarring, unfair, or lamentable, but it is not strange when it happens to those who follow Christ. Perhaps it is stranger when it is not happening.

Mark Twain once said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." For those of us who live the faith we profess without challenge, trial, or risk, reflection may well be appropriate. Is it possible that we have so shut ourselves up in Christian circles that we have closed ourselves off from the world and hence any chance of suffering for Christ? Is it possible that we are so at ease among the majority that we avoid venturing out as the minority among those who might hate or hurt us? Certainly we experience hostility and persecution indirectly. But how we are personally interacting with the angry, the lost, and the broken masses Jesus once wept over is another thing entirely. How effectively we live as "the salt of the earth" that Jesus described depends on our place and posture within it. Surely salt that remains content within the shaker has lost its saltiness.

The struggles of Christian students on university campuses, the sufferings of Christian aid workers across the world, and the daily trials of believers who live courageously in dangerous places are stories that frighten and sadden us. They are also stories that depict what can happen when the salt of the kingdom is allowed to season the earth. Gayle Williams is said to have been the hand of Christ among some of the world's most forgotten. "Remember the words I spoke to you," said Jesus to his disciples. "'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:20). And then he was led away like a sheep to the slaughter.