Friday, August 31, 2012

Twenty-Two Chinese Believers “Taken Away” for Trying to Attend Worship Service

08/29/2012 China (China Aid Association)- Dear brothers and sisters:
Peace in the Lord! On this past Sunday, we held the thirty-fifth outdoor worship service of this year. The weather remains sunny and hot. As far as we know, one sister was taken to be detained at a hotel on Friday. And on Sunday morning, at least twenty-two believers were taken away from locations near the platform for attending the outdoor service. They were then sent to three different local police stations. Thirteen believers were released by noon, and the rest of them were released one after another by 20:00pm on Sunday.

Xie Min, maltreated during her detainment last Sunday, now temporarily moved to live with another sister. However, after Xie moved in, they often got harassment. They got strange visitors, and the home phone number of the host even got posted on the webpage of a website providing housing information. We strongly protest against such harassment. May God rebuke them, so that they would be pricked by their conscience and come to repentance.

We give thanks to our God who strengthens us, so that we would not bow to the powers trying to control the church. This is truly a spiritual warfare, and our church needs to fight the battle to stand firm in this generation, so each of us need to join this battle. May the whole church pray in unity, that the LORD pour out his Spirit, revive us, give us faith and strength to fight this battle in unity, and continue to guide us!

We believe that this God we trust is the God who sovereigns in the history of man, and is the God who sustains and protects his Church with divine providence. May God lead his church into victory together with him.

May peace and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the mercy and love of Father God, and the console and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, be with each brother and sister of Shouwang Church and all the churches who remember Shouwang Church in prayers, from this time on and forevermore! Amen(Source).
Beijing Shouwang Church

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christian Attorney Blocked From Visiting Imprisoned Chinese House Church Leader

08/24/2012 China (China Aid Association)- In Urumqi, Xinjiang on August 12, 2012, an attorney from Beijing applied according to legal process to meet with Alimujiang Yimiti, the prominent Uighur Christian house church leader, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Prison No. 3 of Xinjiang.  The attorney was illegally and unreasonably refused access to Alimujiang by prison officials.

At about 10 a.m. on August 12, 2012, the Christian attorney hired by Alimujiang’s wife Gulinuer, came to the Prison Section of Xinjiang Autonomous Region Bureau of Prison Administration with application papers to meet with Alimujiang.  He found Section Chief He who is in charge of processing papers to meet with inmates who are serving their sentences in the prison.  The attorney presented his application papers for the meeting. 

Section Chief He disappeared into other offices for nearly an hour.  At about 11 o’clock, Section Chief He, with a booklet in his hand, said to the attorney: “According to the stipulation of the Ministry of Justice, when someone wants to meet with an inmate serving his or her time in prison in order to represent him or her in a lawsuit, he must get the approval and authorization from the inmate himself before he can meet with the inmate.  So you can go to Prison No. 3 of Xinjiang and apply there to meet with Alimujiang and you don’t need to come to our Bureau of Prison Administration.”

Then, the attorney and Gulinuer went to Prison No. 3 of Xinjiang and applied to meet with Alimujiang there.  When they arrived the prison administrators were in a meeting.  At about 12:00 noon as employees were leaving work for the morning, the administrators of the prison made arrangements for the attorney to see Section Chief Wang from the Prison Section in charge of inmates.  They brought the attorney to the office of the deputy director of the prison and pretended to discuss the matter for a while in front of the attorney and then said the attorney could meet with the inmate and that they would process the papers at 3:30 p.m. when they came back to work for the rest of the day(Source).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Twenty-Six Chinese Believers “taken away” for Attending Illegal Outdoor Worship Service

8/13/12 China (ChinaAid) - Peace in the Lord! On this past Sunday, we held the thirty-first outdoor worship service of this year. It was a hot and humid day, with showers in the early morning. As far as we know, on Sunday morning, besides the sister who was taken to be detained at a hotel on Friday, at least twenty-six believers were taken away from locations near the platform for attending the outdoor service.They were then sent to four different local police stations.Six believers were released by noon, and the other twenty-one believers were released one after another by 20:00pm on Sunday.

We continue to give thanks to our Lord, who has been encouraging us through his words. He manifested how “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals” through his mighty works in the past (Daniel 4:17, 32), and he continues to reign over the kingdom of mortals; he remains righteous and just. May God have mercy on this country, and allow the rulers of this country to know him, so that they understand that their authority comes from God, and then use their power with justice and righteousness(Source).

Maryland Chick-fil-A Vandalized Over CEO’s Christian Beliefs on Marriage

08/13/12 United States (Christian Post) - A Chick-fil-A located in Frederick, Md., was vandalized over the weekend when same-sex marriage supporters decorated the store with a gay pride flag and glued pro-same-sex marriage stickers to the windows of the restaurant. Cpl. Gregory Santangelo of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office told the Frederick News Post that cleaners had been hired to remove the stickers from the windows, which had been put in place using a heavy spray-on adhesive.

Earlier this month, a 30-year-old man of West Hollywood, Calif., was arrested for reportedly spray painting "tastes like hate" on the side of a Chick-fil-A in Torrance, Calif.

These aggressive acts of protest come after Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy confirmed in early July that, according to his Christian faith, he firmly supports traditional marriage. A series of protests against the Georgia-based fast food chain by same sex marriage advocates ensued shortly after Cathy's statements.

Conversely, those admiring Cathy's steadfast Christian faith showed their support on "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" by visiting their local restaurants on Aug. 1 to buy the food chain's trademark fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries(Source).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jailed Arizona Pastor Faces Probation, Unannounced Government Inspections

Washington, D.C. (August 14, 2012) - International Christian Concern has learned that Pastor Michael Salman is facing up to three-and-a-half years of probation as well as monthly government inspections for actions related to the Bible study he led in his Phoenix, Arizona home. Salman is currently serving out a sixty-day jail sentence after Phoenix authorities convicted the father of six of violating dozens of city code regulations normally applied to commercial properties.

Salman, whose arrest last month for holding a Bible study has sparked widespread controversy and garnered international media attention, is currently set to be released in early September. He then faces ten days of house arrest followed by three-and-a-half years of probation. Pastor Salman could also be forced to serve the remainder of his probation in prison if at any point he violates the terms of his probation, one of which bans Salman from having gatherings of more than 12 people at his home.

In addition, the city of Phoenix has reserved the right to carry out unannounced inspections of Pastor Salman’s property once a month in order to ensure that he is no longer holding Bible studies with more than 12 people. It was not immediately apparent if this number included Salman’s immediate family, which includes six children and Michael Salman’s wife, Suzanne.

The entire ordeal, which has seen the beleaguered Arizona pastor subjected to armed police raids, a $12,000 fine, and several weeks in a Guantanamo Bay-like prison camp, has stirred controversy over the possibility of zoning ordinances being used to violate citizens’ First Amendment rights to religious freedom.
In a recent posting, John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and one of the attorneys assisting in Salman’s case, pointed out that the zoning officials in Phoenix “had no problem with group gatherings for family reunions, football parties, Tupperware parties, or Boy Scout meetings.” He says that the “harassment” of Michael Salman by the officials began because they believed that “religious activities, even in the home, have to be governed by building codes for churches, rather than residential homes.”

A somewhat similar controversy over properly applied zoning ordinances has recently been highlighted in the case of Opulent Life Church. The church, a small southern Baptist congregation located in rural Holly Springs, Mississippi, has taken its case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after local city zoning ordinances banned the church from having a building on the town square.

Last September, a California couple, Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, were also fined for violating local zoning ordinances after holding Bible studies in their home. The fine was later refunded and zoning ordinances changed to allow for private religious gatherings after the incident sparked widespread outrage.
Meanwhile, Michael Salman’s family seems relieved that he will not be facing any additional jail time. After the judge’s order for three-and-a-half years of probation was announced, a Facebook post on a page related to Salman’s case read “Considering we were thinking it would be quite a bit more jail time, we are pleased with this outcome(Source).”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Algerian Convert to Christianity Talks about Christ

I praise the Lord Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit has opened the eyes of this man and that he has sworn allegiance to Christ because of it.

7/26/2012 Algeria (Asia News) – A few days ago, the website of Notre Dame de Kabylie posted a tape in which a former Muslim, Mohammed Christophe Bilek, talked about his conversion to Christianity. The original broadcast, which focused on the persecution of Christians, first appeared in 'Dieu Merci' (Thank God), a show that deals with religion on Direct 8, a French TV channel.

Mohammed Christophe Bilek was born in Algeria in 1950 and has lived in France since 1961. He is the author of two books: Un algérien pas très catholique (A not very Catholic Algerian), published by Cerf (1999) and Saint Augustin raconté à ma fille (Saint Augustine as told to my daughter), published by Éditions Qabel (2011). In the 1990s, he founded the Notre Dame de Kabylie (in French), a website devoted to evangelisation among Muslims and Muslim-Christian dialogue.
In the video, Bilek highlights the risk Muslim converts face when accused of apostasy, an offence that can be punished by death. Nevertheless, he insists on the importance of baptism, the encounter with Jesus Christ and affiliation with the Church.
His views go against those of priests and bishops in Muslim countries, who prefer to dissuade or even deny baptism to Muslims who want to convert out of fear for the consequences they and Christian communities might face.
Is baptising banned?
A few weeks ago, a bishop in an Arab country in the Middle East told me that police threatened to close one of his communities because members had advertised a Christian-Muslim meeting on dialogue. Police were concerned that this might be the first step towards so-called proselytising and apostasy. "If this is the reaction to a meeting on dialogue, imagine what it would be if we had a conversion," an embittered bishop said.
It is no wonder then that the prelate is against conversions and baptisms for only this seems to be the way to preserve the little freedom of worship that exists in the country in question.
In places like Morocco, and until recently Algeria, the situation is such that dioceses were instructed not to baptise Muslims who want to convert to Catholicism because "local laws ban it."
Fr Samir Khalil remembers that a few years ago, he met a Muslim whose request for baptism was rejected for 13 years. Baptism, he was told, would bring him a lot of trouble, force him to emigrate to avoid being executed for apostasy, and endanger the priest performing the baptism. And yet, for all this time, the would-be convert studied the Gospels and the catechism on his own and led a life of prayers.
In Egypt, the Christian clergy also tends to avoid baptising Muslims; only a few priests have done so in secret. Speaking to AsiaNews, a religious who has been in Egypt for decades, said that baptising at any cost "is against the Second Vatican Council because the Council said that non-Christians can also find salvation outside the Church." Implicitly, this means that baptism is unnecessary and that people find salvation according to their circumstances.
This is not the place to start a theological debate about the faith in Christ and the salvation of non-Christians. Suffices it to say, that both Dominus Iesus and the Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization reiterate the importance of a 'visible' and socially relevant affiliation to Christ and the Church.
What is more, baptism is a life-changing experience, one that alters the convert's perception of life. Changes occur in the here and now, not in some future 'eternal' life after death. For this reason, offering others the baptism is not a superficial deed but a gift of life and hope in the present. Being baptised or not being baptised are not equivalent

Saturday, August 11, 2012

House Church in Remote Chinese Province Continues to Face Persecution

08/11/2012 China (ChinaAid) - This March (2012), Zhong Shuguang, the Christian pastoring Xinjiang Hotan house church, was detained for 15 days by the Hotan Municipal Public Security Bureau who confiscated church possessions. In April the church hired a Christian lawyer to apply for administrative review on behalf of the house church; initially it appeared some relief had been obtained, but then a series of retaliatory persecutions were conducted against the church.

On July 2nd Pastor Zhong Shuguang was administratively detained, while additional church property was confiscated. On Sunday, July 22nd, 17 brothers and sisters of the church, including Pastor Zhong Shuguang and his wife, were detained, then later released.

China Aid Association condemns the Hotan authority’s concerted persecution of this house church, and urges it to stop the harassment and suppression of Xinjiang Hotan house church, as continued persecution serves only to undermine social stability in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, ChinaAid calls on churches throughout China to pay close attention to the persecution of brothers and sisters in Hotan and to intercede to the Lord on their behalf.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Update on Two Imprisoned Christians in Iran

I pray for the healing of my brother in Christ, Benham Irani and the conversion of Youcef Nardakhani who are both living in Iran.

8/8/2012 Iran
(Assist News Service) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that Pastor Benham Irani, currently held in Ghezal Hesar prison in Iran, has developed a blood infection as a result of an ongoing intestinal complication.

“As his health continues to deteriorate sharply, he is reportedly barely able to speak,” CSW says in a media update.

Sources close to CSW report that Pastor Irani may be sent to a hospital for surgery to remove the part of his intestine which is the source of the infection. However, his family has not been informed about possible surgery or whether or not he has been sent to hospital.

Benham Irani pastors the Church of Iran congregation in Karaj. He was arrested in December 2006, and sentenced to six years imprisonment on charges of “action against the state” and “action against the order.”
CSW says: “The verdict against him includes text that describes Pastor Irani as an apostate and reiterates that apostates ‘can be killed.’ Furthermore, prison authorities and fellow prisoners have informed him on various occasions that he will not leave the prison ‘alive.’

Meanwhile, Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign says that after months without any motion on this case, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has received a written court summons, calling on him to appear on September 8.

In an e–mail update to ASSIST News, Buwalda says: “While we pray that the Iranian regime will relent and release him, the previous death sentence for apostasy remains in effect and legally could be implemented at any time.”

Buwalada explained that last year, when many in the NGO community believed Yosuef’s execution to be imminent, Jubilee campaign unleashed a firestorm of publicity highlighting the fact that Iran was about to execute a man solely for his Christian faith.

“Hundreds of thousands of people responded, including the 20,000 who signed Jubilee Campaign’s petition which was delivered to the Iranian Embassy in the Hague this last March,” Buwalda said. “However, our efforts were not enough to free Pastor Yousef, and the greatest weapon the Iranian regime possesses has always been time.”

Buwalda goes on to say that Mohammad Dadkah, the lawyer who dared to defend Pastor Yousef, has been put under extreme pressure by the Iranian authorities and we do not know if Pastor Yousef will have legal representation at the upcoming hearing.

Buwalda said: “As we have continued to say throughout this case, the plans of the Iranian regime depend on we in the West forgetting about this unjustly imprisoned man. Rest assured that the Jubilee Campaign and our friends throughout the NGO community and the world have no intention of letting that happen(Source).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Christians in Uzbekistan Sentenced For “Teaching Religion”

07/23/2012 Uzbekistan (BosNewsLife)- Supporters of a Baptist house church Christian in Uzbekistan have asked for prayers amid concerns she faces up to three years imprisonment on charges of "illegally teaching religion", BosNewsLife learned Monday, July 23. Yelena Kim's congregation was raided by about a dozen police and government officials in April during a Sunday service, rights activists said at the time.
Officers reportedly charged with wrongdoing Yelena though she was not present when the raid occurred, Christians said.

She has been accused of "violating the procedure for teaching religious doctrine," a charge which carries a maximum three year prison term, according to rights group Forum 18, which closely followed the case.
Officials also drew up records against her husband, Eduard Kim, and church member Losif Skaev, Forum 18 and Christians explained.
Officers returned to the house church in June with a search warrant and ordered church members to leave while they searched the premises, seizing printed materials, music, disks, a photocopier and Bibles, Christians said.
Devoted Christian Losif's home was also searched and 150 Bibles were confiscated along with some of his personal property and his passport, said rights activists. In a statement rights group Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which supports the house church with advocacy, said it was important that Christians around the world "pray that Yelena will be acquitted and that the persecution of this house church will cease(Source)."

Suspected Members of Boko Haram Kill An Evangelist

08/07/2012 Nigeria (Sahara Reports)-Gunmen suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect on Monday evening killed an evangelist with a Pentecostal church in Maiduguri, Ali Samari.
Evangelist Samari, 57, was with the Good News Church (GNC) Maiduguri and was reportedly killed at his Mafoni residence at exactly 6.30pm.
The witness also said the evangelist had sometimes this year received a stern warning from men suspected to be members of the Boko Haram sect, asking him to vacate his residence.
He said though the evangelist discussed the threat to few people that were close to him, but he however dismissed it, saying “it is the Almighty God that protects. I leave everything in the hands of God.”
Confirming the incident, the Borno State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Gideon Jibrin, said the reports of the killing in Mafoni ward was received on Tuesday morning.
“It is a place where some members of the Boko Haram sect use as a hideout and from where they launch attacks on other parts of Maiduguri metropolis, “Jubrin stated(Source).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Two Chinese House Churches Persecuted, Three Sunday School Teachers Detained

07/31/2012 China (ChinaAid) - China Aid Association learned that the Xinjiang Hetian Church suffered yet another instance of persecution. Brother Zhong Shuguang and a female believer were arrested and charged with illegally gathering; they could be held for 15 days. In addition, the Sunday School summer camp of a house church at Urumqi, Xinjiang was raided. Teachers and students were taken to the police station and subjected to physical abuse.

On the morning of July 24, 2012, a Sunday School summer camp was being held for 28 children at the home of Sunday School teacher Bao Yun (which is located at Sandaoba, Midong District, Urumqi, Xinjiang), when seven to eight people broke into her home. The intruders refused to identify themselves, but forcefully barred the door preventing exit, and took photos of those present. The three female Sunday School teachers (Bao Yun, Wang Xinxin, and Luo Qinqin, asked the intruders to stop taking pictures and leave, but the intruders summoned a larger group of people including police from the local Yangmaogong police station, and agents from the branch office and municipal office of the Domestic Security Protection Department. The large group forced their way into Bao Yun’s home and encircled the children and the elderly people of the household, proclaiming that this was an illegal gathering.

The group took the 28 students (mainly junior high school students, 14 to 17 years of age), three Sunday School teachers, and Bao Yun’s husband Chen (also a believer), by force to the Yangmaogong police station. Children who refused to go to the police station were violently drug off into police vehicles. Some children were injured from being drug on the ground and/or being beaten. Bao Yun’s mother fainted from being violently drug, pushed, and pulled. She was sent to a local hospital and only woke up after a few hours of emergency treatment.

According to neighbors, after the Sunday School teachers, students, and Bao Yun’s husband and mother were violently taken away, a group of plainclothes police (reportedly from the municipal Domestic Security Protection Department)broke into Bao Yun’s home through windows and confiscated computers, Christian books, and other items. Yangmaogong police station later produced a list of confiscated items. Bao Yun’s husband Chen was held and interrogated from noon until 11:00pm before he was finally released. When he returned home he found that the electricity had been cut off, and the home was in complete darkness. Some students were held and interrogated until 2:00 or 3:00am on July 25th before being released.

Later on July 25th, Chen checked the list of confiscated items produced by the police station, and found that the police had omitted any mention of gold rings and glasses which had been taken and were worth 2,000 yuan. After the three Sunday School teachers including Bao Yun had been held for more than 24 hours, Chen inquired at the police station and learned that they had been transferred to the Liudaowan detention center. As of July 28th the three teachers were still being held, but the police and detention center did not provide any legal notification such as notice of administrative detention, or notice of criminal detention(Source).