18 posts categorized “Restricted Nations”

December 3, 2013

Pray for the Persecuted Church All Year Long

"Every time you kneel down and pray for Vietnam, you are working with us in Vietnam."

— Vietnamese pastor with more than 30 years of ministry experience

Prayer continues to be one of the main requests we receive from our persecuted brothers and sisters. Agreeing with them in prayer for their faithful witness for Christ in spite of the hardships and persecution they face brings us into fellowship with them. 2014calendar

“After going through what I went through, seeing other Christians go through suffering, having other Christians encourage me and pray for me, it all brought me closer to Christ.”

— Awuna Sunday, injured in a bomb attack at a Nigerian church

The Voice of the Martyrs’ 2014 Prayer Calendar is an excellent tool to help us remember our persecuted family in prayer each day throughout the year. Each day features a prayer request from one of the hostile or restricted nations where Christians face harassment and persecution for their faith.

The calendars also make an outstanding gift to help your Christian friends join with you in prayer for the persecuted church, and quantity discounts mean you can order multiple copies for less than $1.50 each. Give one to your pastor, to members of your Sunday School class and to other Christian friends.

Click here to order your 2014 VOM Prayer Calendar.

November 25, 2013

Syria Persecution Update

VOM's November newsletter was a special update on the situation for Christians in Syria, in the midst of a horrific civil war. In recent months our office hasSyria_2 put a special emphasis on how we can assist Syrian Christians both inside and outside Syria. Those plans are being implemented now. In order to keep our workers and Syrian Christians safe, we can’t describe the exact nature of how we’ll be helping, but when we are able, VOM will update our supporters on how we have been helping persecuted Syrian believers.

Here is a recent update from one of our VOM contact inside Syria.

Since the beginning of the conflict, two small towns in Syria have been a place of refuge for 4,500 families, who were forced to flee their homes in other areas of Syria. The villages are historically Christian and both communities have lived in peace with their Muslim neighbors for decades. Since the arrival of the displaced, Muslims and Christians continued to live in harmony.

On the morning of Oct. 21, 2013 the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Read the rest of this important update on Persecution.com.

May 31, 2013

State Department report on Religious Freedom

VOM's Todd Nettleton was interviewed this week by Mission Network News reporter Ruth Kramer about the release earlier this month of the US State Department's annual report on religious freedom around the world. Here's the article from Mission Network News' web site:

If you follow religious freedom issues, you are already aware of the connection between government restrictions on religious freedoms and countries prone to violence toward religious minorities.

That's been backed by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Research cited in this year's International Religious Freedom Report  points out the strong correlation and goes on to note that governments who repress religious freedom also create a societal intolerance toward those who are discriminated against. Worse, the seeming latitude seems to  embolden hatred and violence toward this minority population.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry releases the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 20, 2013. [State Department photo/Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world as required by the U.S. Congress International  Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. It follows recommendations submitted to the State Department by the independent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

IRFA requires the United States annually to designate as CPCs those governments that "engage in or tolerate" systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with the The Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, "It'll be interesting to see what happens with that. The Secretary of State was a part of the release of this report, made some comments about it, but the last time that our government designated Countries of Particular Concern goes all the way back to 2011."

IRFA provides a range of options for such action, adds Nettleton. "Now, they push it into the hands of the Secretary of State and say, ‘Okay. You've got the report; you've got the evidence; it is documented what's going on in these countries. Now it's time to designate which countries are Countries of Particular Concern.' That, then, opens the door for additional actions by the U.S. government including, even up to the point of sanctions." However, the United States has not made CPC designations since August 2011.

There is some urgency behind the designation because the clock is ticking. Sanctions on the currently-designated CPCs will expire in August 2013.

The countries singled out for special mention for violation of religious freedom in the 2012 report were: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. Nettleton admits to some mixed feelings about the report.  On the one hand, they're raising awareness of the problems. Still,  "The disappointing thing is some of the countries that were left off. When you're singling out religious freedom abuses, how do you leave out Egypt? How do you leave out Nigeria? How do you leave out Pakistan?"

Given the combination of government changes and insurgencies, along with the resultant targeting of Christians, Nettleton wonders, "Some of the countries that were left off, you [wonder], ‘How did that happen? Who missed the boat to leave those countries out of specific mentions of the abuse that's  going on there?‘"

The main themes of this year's report are: (1) Governmental restrictions and abuse; (2) Laws covering blasphemy, apostasy and conversion; (3) A rise in Anti-Semitism; (4) Societal Intolerance and Violence; (5) The problem of impunity for those who violate religious liberty.

Yet, none of this comes as a surprise to ministries coming alongside the persecuted Church. Open Doors releases an annual list of the top 50 countries known for their persecution. All of the countries spotlighted are on the list, most of them in the top 20.

With the State of the Church in such dire straits, is anyone sharing Christ's story? Is anyone responding to it anymore? Nettleton observes, "The Gospel is not dependent on political things. It is not dependent on the government; it's not dependent on freedom. People are spreading the Gospel regardless of what the government is doing, regardless of what the U.S. State Department says about religious freedom there."

In other words, he says that God is still at work. That means the job of the Church isn't finished. "Hopefully, as we shine the light on these abuses, and as we speak out on behalf of religious freedom, we can have an influence as the nation to improve those situations." How to influence? For one thing, suggests Nettleton, you can pray. But "beyond our prayers, which is obviously the most important thing that we can do, I think it's good for us to have a voice with our own government, with our own senators and even our State Department."

This is the part where you can engage. Write a letter, send an e-mail, or call. Tell your representatives in Washington that religious freedom is an issue that matters to you, explains Nettleton. "That really is the language of Washington: Who cares about this? How many people is this important to?"

This article was originally published on the Mission Network News web site. The full State Department report is here.

January 30, 2013

Meeting Saints: a good trip

Editor's note: a version of this story appears in VOM's February newsletter. U.S. residents can request a free subscription to the newsletter here.

There are good trips and bad trips when you go on the road to meet the persecuted church.

Bad trips where you come home with malaria (Sudan) or get so sick you actually consider going to a local doctor (Pakistan). But the good trips far outweigh the bad: trips where you meet a pastor and his wife eight days after the pastor was shot by Muslim radicals (Iraq) or watch as God opens door after door so you can meet widows of Christians martyred just a few weeks before (Turkey). Good trips where you are "smuggled" late at night to an underground Bible school and meet the future church leaders of a huge nation (China), or are tossed up in the air (literally!) by brothers in Christ as they thank you for coming to encourage them in their trials (can't say where for security reasons). Good trips where a kindly pastor's wife, seeing jet-lag overcoming you, invites you to take a nap in one of her children's beds (Uzbekistan).

I am often sobered by the fact that brothers with whom I've laughed over coffee and popcorn are in prison today because they follow Jesus (Eritrea). I am humbled and incredibly grateful God has allowed me the sacred privilege of meeting, interviewing and hopefully encouraging His beloved children who suffer so much for doing things most of us take for granted.

Visiting Nepal late last year was definitely a good trip. For one coworker it was the first time he'd been to meet the persecuted church, and seeing the trip through his fresh eyes was a great reminder of the blessing of our work. I was encouraged to hear from a Nepali brother that two books I helped write – Extreme Devotion and Hearts of Fire – are among their favorite tools to strengthen Nepali Christians to stand amidst persecution. And it was amazing to step out of my hotel room and look up at four of the 10 tallest mountains in the world!

The person I'll remember most from the trip was a sweet, joyful, pretty lady who gave up everything to follow Christ. After she got baptized, her high-caste Hindu husband threw her stuff out of the house, kicked her out and married another woman. Instead of taking her in after that, her own parents also turned her away when she refused to denounce her faith.

When her earthly family kicked her out, her spiritual family opened their doors and took her in. We met Danmaya in the stifling heat of a one-room brick house that belongs to her pastor and his family. They gave me a plastic chair to sit in while the pastor sat on the bed and his wife and Danmaya sat on the floor.

Danmaya couldn't stop smiling. She's lost every family relationship she had in the world because she followed Jesus. She's sleeping on the floor of someone else's house. But she couldn't stop smiling. She told us that she's forgiven her husband…and even prays for his new wife.

Danmaya and her pastor thanked us repeatedly for coming, as if we'd done something special. We thanked them for sharing their stories, and for their faithful witness. We rode almost two hours in a taxi with a/c that couldn't quite keep up with the heat to meet Danmaya. But after hearing her story, and seeing the joy of the Lord literally radiate from her face, I thought on the two-hour drive back to the hotel that I'd happily drive eight hours to spend one hour with such a Godly saint.

P. 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.

November 29, 2012

"Very Much Disturbed" - VOM Intern Looks Back

From the minute I stepped into VOM’s offices for a college internship, I felt welcomed and loved – and very much disturbed. While a warm lady greeted me and an office manager gave me a tour, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pictures on the walls. A young boy whose limbs were burned. An Asian woman smiling brightly, her face disfigured beyond recognition. A man and his family standing outside what used to be their home. A lump caught in my throat. I shifted in my sandals. My life was about to be turned upside down. Muslim_Woman_ForBlog

On the second-floor news department where I spent three months copyediting, transcribing and writing, the peace of Jesus prevailed with an undercurrent of urgency. As a college sophomore, it was thrilling – breathtaking! – to have a front-row seat to the most important news on the planet. Popular syndicates do not cover it, but this breaking news from our persecuted family was precious to VOM staff. A pastor was released in China! We would celebrate. A Christian village was ransacked and burned. We would pray. I came to realize that it was good to be disturbed by those pictures lining the walls and stories filling my inbox. Because when we are disturbed, we do something about it.

It was in this environment of communion with the persecuted church where God got my attention about His agenda for my life. As I heard stories from Indonesia and Nigeria and Iran I started piecing things together. What was the common thread running through these nations and their persecutors? It was like a light bulb came on for me: Islam.

One of the best things about working at VOM was staff chapel. Each week, chapel was an encouraging time of worship and prayer, as well as a refreshing break from my cubicle! That summer, an Egyptian sister spoke about living in the heart of the Muslim world with “Kingdom mentality.” In her ministry she sought to plant the attitudes and mindset of the Kingdom of God, preparing the way for the Good News. She explained that Muslims must first be won to the mentality of a Christian before they are ready to receive the truth of the Gospel.

That got me thinking. Could I live among Muslims with a Kingdom mentality? Like this sister from Egypt, could I relate and respond to Muslims in a Christ-like way, clearing a space for the Gospel to take root and grow? God was developing in me a love for the most frequent persecutors of Christians. He was clearly calling me to be a laborer among Muslims.

After that summer at VOM, I returned to my university deeply changed and motivated to make my life count for the Kingdom. Walking into a packed lecture hall that fall, I took a deep breath and scanned the room.

One. Just one woman wearing a floral-print headscarf. She was sitting near the back of the hall, and there was an empty seat beside her. There was no mistaking the Spirit’s voice. You are my witness. And there is your seat.

That was ten years ago. Today, I am privileged to continue ‘taking my seat’ among Muslim women by living and ministering in the Muslim world. Whether from a mat on the floor or atop an ornate sofa, I laugh with my friends, hear their stories, and share Kingdom values little by little. Yes, the stories of the persecuted church disturbed me as I walked the halls of VOM, yet they inspired me to action. Perhaps we could all use a little more of that kind of disturbance.

Editor’s note: The author of this post was one of the first college interns to spend a summer working and learning at VOM. Because she is involved in gospel work in the Middle East, we cannot share her name. VOM’s internship program is available to students who have completed at least their sophomore year in college. CLICK HERE for more information.

May 10, 2012

Todd Nettleton of The Voice of the Martyrs interviews Brad Phillips about the Sudan - Part 2

A few days ago we shared with you Part 1 of an interview Todd Nettleton did with  Martyrs (VOM) Brad Phillips of Persecution Project Foundation (PPF) about the current difficulties Christians are facing in Sudan and South Sudan, and today we have Part 2 of that important conversation.

Please share this with your friends and please keep praying for those in the Sudan.

January 26, 2012

Pray for Nigeria's Persecuted Christians

Nigeria has really been on my heart and sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words, so I created this graphic as a nice reminder to pray for Nigeria's persecuted Christians. Please join me and pass it on.


Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

January 16, 2012

Karnataka Most Dangerous State in India for Christians


Southern state remains most volatile place for third straight year.

NEW DELHI, January 13 (CDN) — Attacks on Christians accelerated over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in the south Indian state of Karnataka, which was identified as the most unsafe place for the religious minority for the third consecutive year in 2011.

With 49 cases of violence and hostility against Christians in 2011, Karnataka remained the state with the highest incidence of persecution, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s annual report, “Battered and Bruised…”

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which is based in Karnataka’s capital of Bengaluru and initially reported most of the incidents, also documented at least six anti-Christian attacks between Christmas Eve 2011 and New Year’s Day.

On the evening of Jan. 1, about 20 men disrupted the New Year’s Day worship service of the Blessing Youth Mission Church at the house of a believer in Hunnur village, in Jamkhandi division of Bagalkot district. Suspected Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal, the men manhandled pastor Siddu Seemanth Gunike, accusing him of forcibly and fraudulently converting Hindus. Local police intervened and rescued the pastor and other Christians.

On New Year’s Eve, more than 10 men trespassed onto the premises of the Karnataka Calvary Fellowship Church, in the Ganeshgudi area in Joida division of North Canara district, and disrupted a service of thanksgiving. Believed to be Hindu nationalists, the men forced the church to stop the service. Police arrived but only to summon the pastor, identified as P.R. Jose, to the police station the following morning. After GCIC’s intervention, however, a senior police official assured the Christians of security.

Please continue reading at Compass Direct.

Please also pray for Christians all throughout India. India is a restricted nation with approximately two and a half percent of the population as professing Christians. Learn more at Persecution.com.

September 3, 2010

What Restricted Nation Are You Praying For?

Screen shot 2010-09-03 at 10.14.51 AM   Since Friday's are the days we focus on helping you to pray more specifically for the persecuted church, I wanted to refresh your memory about praying for the restricted nations.

One of the nations I have a burden for is Pakistan.  As you know, Pakistan is mostly Muslim and with the recent floods and the devastation from that, they are in dire need of our prayers and our support.

However, there are numerous nations that are restricted nations, and I want to encourage you today to go to our Restricted Nations page, and find a nation that you will commit to pray for this month.  

May 12, 2010

Restricted Nation: Kuwait

At the beginning of the year I challenged you to pick a restricted nation every month that you were going to pray for.  Today I wanted to remind you of that commitment by sharing that I am praying for Kuwait this month.  Leave a comment and tell me who you're praying for.

You may pick a nation from our Restricted Nations page by clicking here.

Kuwait has Sunni Islam as the state religion. Kuwait has a diverse Christian community and a relatively liberal Islamic regime.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 87.43%, Christian 8.17%
Ideology: Islam
Head of State: Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah 

Only Muslims may become citizens. Foreign Christians have the freedom to live and work in Kuwait, but they must worship in a physical location within their own Christian community. Evangelism to Kuwaitis is forbidden. Kuwaitis who convert to Christianity publicly face harassment and arrest. The government discourages Christianity by providing financial incentives for Muslims. Currently, there is no overt government persecution. House churches exist, and Bibles can be sold legally. As little as two years ago there were only a handful of Kuwaiti believers, but now there is a small, growing community of indigenous believers. Some of these are very bold in sharing their faith.