30 posts categorized “current events”

April 10, 2014

Christians Concerned as India Elections Open

Christians in India are fearful that the country's general elections, which begin this week, may lead to a rise in persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. About 815 million people are expected to cast ballots in the elections, which take place in several phases ending May 12. Results are expected to be announced May 16.

Opinion polls suggest a victory for the opposition National Democratic Alliance, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is currently chief minister of Gujarat. He was widely criticized for failing to prevent the massacre of more than 2,000 Muslims in his state in 2002. Modi, 63, has been denied a visa to enter the United States for more than 10 years. In-map

Most incidents of mass violence against Christians have taken place in states under the rule of the BJP. Rev Richard Howell, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, says Modi's rise has led to 'fear and insecurity' among Christians. 'The perception… is that the scale of persecution of Christians will increase,' he says.

While Modi is seen by many—especially those outside India—as a radical Hindu nationalist and a human rights abuser, he is seen by many in India as a capable leader who has improved the economy in Gujarat and brought 24-hour electricity to its people.

“He is seen as having been a very competent, even successful chief minister in Gujurat with the one major exception of the 2002 riots,” Dr. Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia program at The Wilson Center, told NBCNews.com. “The economy there has grown remarkably well and he is regarded as the atypical Indian politician in the sense that he is not surrounded by allegations of corruption or enriching himself personally.”

Christians in India are requesting prayer for their nation as the elections go forward. Pray Christians will find strength and security in Christ as this process moves forward. Pray also for God’s will in the election process.

Learn more about the nation of India and persecution there.

Sources: Release International (VOM’s sister mission in the UK), NBCNews.com


March 20, 2014

Murderers Set Free in Turkey

This week I received an email from a Christian contact in Turkey. He shared the news that, under authority of a new Turkish law, the five men who murdered three Christians in 2007 were being set free. Their court case has dragged on and on and on, and the new law says that if a court verdict is not reached within five years, the accused should be set free until the verdict is reached.

Malataya men[8]
The story of the deaths of my three brothers— Necati Aydın, Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilmann Geske—is a story that has gripped me deeply. Seven weeks after the murders I went to Turkey, where I met the widows of the two married martyrs, as well as the fiancé of the third man. I listened in awe as these ladies told me how God had enabled them to forgive the young men who brutally killed their husbands.

The young men were captured at the scene of the crime. They had notes in their pockets that they were defending their nation and their religion, Islam. There really isn’t much question as to their guilt or innocence. The questions that have arisen in the trial have much more to do with who put the men up to the killing. Did they act on their own, or were their powerful men behind the scenes that ordered the killing?

According to my contact, another new law in Turkey raises the possibility that the Malatya murder case will be assigned to a completely new court, which would mean starting the trial over and maybe many more years before a final verdict is rendered.

Christians in Turkey are understandably frustrated. They see the freedom of these men as a clear signal that they are not safe in their own country, that their government will not protect them and will not punish those who harm them.

Yet their hope does not rest in the Turkish government, or any other worldly power. Their hope, as the song says, is “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Whatever the court or the government may do, the foundation for these Christians is secure.

When I met Susanne Geske, widow of Tilmann, she told me that her young daughter had asked when they would go to see the men that killed her father. She wanted to take a Bible to them, in the jail, in the hope that someday they might be reunited with Tilmann and the other men—in heaven. Will you join me and the families of these courageous martyrs in that prayer, that—whether in jail or not—these five men will come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord?

For further information on this case, read Faithful Until Death by Wolfgang Haede. You can also watch a video interview with Haede and Semse Aydin, his sister-in-law and the widow of Necati Aydin.

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 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.


January 29, 2014

A Philippine Peace Deal: It’s What Christians Dreaded

An agreement between the Philippine government and the Muslim insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is intended to usher in long-awaited peace to the southern region of the Philippines, but it is what Christians living in this area have dreaded for years.

Since 1996, the Philippine government has been in talks with the MILF, an insurgent group that has terrorized those living in the Mindanao region and killed over 150,000 people since the 1970s. Those talks have led to what is being called the “normalization annex,” the last piece of the agreement, which is expected to be formally signed sometime in February or March of this year.

The so-called peace agreement between the government and MILF will include a deal that grants amnesty to those currently facing or already convicted of charges related to rebellion. While other serious crimes such as rape are not included in the deal, many insurgents will be released and pardoned of rebellion-related crimes. In addition to the amnesty, the Philippine government will grant more autonomy to a five-province area already controlled by Muslim insurgents. The area, which is to be called Bangsamoro, will be better funded and more powerful than before. Ph_locator_bangsamoro

In exchange for amnesty and more autonomy, MILF has agreed to deactivate their 11,000 soldiers from duty. Insurgents are expected to hand over weapons, and the government’s military forces will also be reduced. While security troops will still be allowed as a peace-keeping force, the expectation is that this will be a Muslim-controlled area operating under its own laws.

The upcoming VOM newsletter includes the story of a Christian woman living in the Mindanao area. Although divided between Muslims and Christians, her village was frequently invaded by rebel forces. Sometimes the rebels continued on to another village, but other times they occupied Christians’ homes for days or weeks at a time. Christians were then left homeless and became prey to rebel forces, which sometimes used them as a shield from the government’s military.

It is uncertain how this peace agreement will ultimately affect Christians, who will be subject to the new laws of Bangsamoro. It is suspected that Islamic law, known as Sharia, could be implemented at some point in the future. Rebel troops will no longer fear interference from the government, and Christians living in Muslim-controlled villages may face even more restrictions and harsher persecution.

In countries where Sharia is followed, Christians are often banned from proselytizing, owning Bibles or even attending church services. The penalty for such crimes often include harsh prison sentences and sometimes even death. Under Sharia, Muslims who convert to Christianity would risk being killed.

Unfortunately, this is not the sort of peace that Christians in the Bangsamoro area ever wanted. It is an agreement that will likely invite a wave of new persecution. Pray for believers living in the southern region of the Philippines. To read more stories of Christian brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith, watch for VOM’s upcoming March newsletter.

Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Washington Post.  Image: Wikipedia

“Ann Kay” is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.


November 19, 2013

Life Under the FARC

What’s it like to live under heavy-handed communist rule as a Christian? Colombian Christians in the Putumayo region of Colombia know. That’s because they, and all people in the region, are subject to a list of 46 written points published by the FARC, the armed revolutionaries who control some parts of Colombia. It’s called the “Manual for Coexistence for the Well-Functioning of the Communities.”

The document spells out plenty of points that residents of the region must follow, including that families may have no more than two cell phones per family, and they must not have cameras. It details how often children in boarding schools outside the district may come back to visit. It lists the hours between which goods merchants in the area can travel for more goods. Every person over the age of 15 must be registered with the Community Action Board. LifeUnderFARC_Photo

For Christians, the manual also spells out the rules for religious practice. Point 40 states, “Evangelical chapels may only be built in municipal capitals” and, point 41, “Pastors and priests will only hold their masses in the churches in the municipal capitals.” In other words, the FARC control where you can worship and when. Pastors and others who have tried to conduct ministry outside of the city capitals have come under threat or been forced to flee.

The Colombian newspaper tells the story of the Peña family, who received a printed copy of the manual underneath their door. An accompanying letter said, “As you know, and according to point 45, parents whose children are active in the police, army or other state security organizations should sell their belongings and abandon the area.” The family of five packed and left within 45 minutes, fleeing the region.

The pastors that VOM supports in this region and around Colombia face the same sorts of threats. They are committed to reaching the lost throughout Colombia, even in these most difficult zones. Continue to pray for these workers who live and share Christ under these restrictions.

Source: El Colombiano.com

Dory P. has worked with VOM for six years. She grew up in Ecuador, met her husband while working with another mission organization, and now lives in Oklahoma. Between Dory, her husband and two-year-old son, they share five passports. Dory helps tell the stories of the persecuted through VOM's newsletter, and her husband serves with VOM's international department.


 


November 5, 2013

Appeal Granted; Christian in Iran Released from Prison

After serving ten months in Iran’s Evin prison for Christian activities, we rejoice that Mostafa Mohammad Bordbar was released on Nov. 3, 2013 and acquitted of all charges. We celebrate and

Bordbar
Set free!
are so thankful for the consistent prayers of our members and the many letters sent. Prisoner Alert recorded that government officials were emailed 108 times and 855 encouraging letters were written. Mostafa was arrested on Dec. 27, 2012 for “attending an illegal gathering and participating in a house church.” He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in July. Mostafa’s lawyer appealed and in a scheduled hearing on Oct. 30, the court decided to withdraw all charges.

Praise the Lord for this answer to prayer. Feel free to go to Mostafa's profile on PrisonerAlert and write an email of thanks to Iran's President or Supreme Leader (click on the link to "Petition Official").

There are still more than 40 Christians in prison in Iran, with several more on PrisonerAlert that you can write letters of encouragement to.


October 4, 2013

Kenya: Prayer For A Friend

Late on Sept. 23, I received an unsettling text message from a friend in Kenya. He wrote: “The al-Shabaab have attacked at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and they are killing innocent people. I request you to pray for Kenya and me.”

I had read about the hostage situation unfolding the day before in Nairobi, so I was already concerned for his safety, and I wondered how the beautiful city mall I had been to the year before could have been the place of such chaos and terror.

In March 2012, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, with a group of others interested in a missions outreach to Kenyan children and adolescents. The group of thirty was from all over the United States, and we sat down just outside the Westgate Mall to enjoy a meal at a restaurant that caters to American tastes. The aroma of hamburgers wafted through the air along with Kenyan specialties such as Kenyan stew and masala chips, which are similar to French fries. Laughter bubbled up from conversations being held in a variety of languages, and the sounds of engines running and car horns beeping in congested traffic lines punctuated the sunny afternoon.

 

Ann_In_Kenya
Ann With Her Friend in Kenya
After our meal, our group shopped at the Nukumatt store located in the mall. While there, we passed through a security check and bigger bags were left in the front of the store. For the most part, I felt safe visiting this stable and friendly country. Kenyans are a beautiful people that have great resilience. The Christians I spoke with during my trip stressed vast improvements that were being made; “hope” was one of the key words used amongst almost everyone I spoke with.

 

Christians in Kenya do face persecution, especially in villages located near the border with Somalia. In recent years, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has attacked several churches and killed pastors in villages near the Somali border.

In the attack on the Westgate Mall, it is reported that the militant group released those who could prove that they were Muslim by reciting a verse from the Quran or giving the name of the Prophet Mohammad’s mother. Non-Muslims were killed. News reports indicate that more than 67 were killed and around 175 people injured in the attack. Two of those who were killed were employees at the Nukumatt store, the store I had walked through to buy tea.

As my friend reminded me, Kenya does need prayer. While he appears to be safe for now, many Christians near the Somali border face extreme danger from al-Shabaab. Christians throughout Kenya need continued prayer for protection as well as boldness in their faith and hope of a bright future.

Ann Kay is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.


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 12, 2013

Radio Update: Tanzania and Iran

MicEvery other Wednesday, VOM's Todd Nettleton checks in with Moody Radio Quad Cities for a brief update about VOM's ministry and news from the persecuted church around the world.

In today's interview, Todd provided word of recent attacks on pastors in Tanzania, as well as a look at Iran in light of this week's election.

CLICK HERE to listen to this morning's interview.

Thank you, Moody Radio QC, for being a consistent voice for our persecuted brothers and sisters!


June 3, 2013

Nigeria Trip Report

Last month VOM's Todd Nettleton visited the nation of Nigeria to meet with and interview persecuted Christians, including several who have been treated in the new prosthetics clinic provided by VOMedical. Last week Todd was a guest on Moody Radio's program, “In the Market With Janet Parshall,” and talked about the trip and the people he met with in Nigeria. Listen to the interview below.

Nigeria: In The Market Interview

Special thanks to Moody Radio, Janet Parshall and the producers of "In The Market With Janet Parshall" for permission to post this interview on the PersecutionBlog.