Friday, November 30, 2012

Uzbekistan: Thousands of Bibles and Other Religious Literature Ordered to be Destroyed

11/29/2012 Uzbekistan (Forum 18)- Uzbekistan continues to violate the right to freedom of religion or belief by fining and raiding people meeting to discuss their faith and pray together. In Tashkent Region a Protestant has been fined 100 times the minimum monthly wage for allegedly illegally distributing religious literature, and books including Bibles and New Testaments have been ordered to be destroyed, Forum 18 News Service has learned. The court that punished the Protestants' "offence" also violated Uzbek legal procedures.

In another case in the central Samarkand [Samarqand] Region, three Protestants have been given one fine of 50 times the minimum monthly wage and two fines of 10 times the minimum monthly wage for allegedly distributing religious literature. They deny this, telling Forum 18 that their real "offence" is to meet with others to read the Bible and pray.

Also, Protestant churches with state permission to exist in the capital Tashkent have been told that they must change their charters and apply for re-registration – and so state permission to exist - within one month. Exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission is a criminal offence (see forthcoming F18News article).

The trials of Protestants took place in the same month that nine Muslim men from Tashkent Region, who met to discuss their faith and to learn how to pray, were sentenced after a criminal trial. Gayrat Khusanov and Shuhrat Yunusov were each given seven year jail terms on 22 November, and the other seven defendants received three year suspended prison terms. Relatives of the men told Forum 18 that they simply met sometimes to read the Koran and pray together. Books confiscated, possibly fabricated statement?

In the central town of Chirchik [Chirchiq], on 7 November Police Officer Aziz Zhurayev demanded that Vadim Shim open the boot of his car and confiscated Christian books that were found. Later the same day Officer Zhurayev confiscated more Christian books and materials from a garage belonging to Lyubov Tambovtseva. But on 7 November Officer Zhurayev stated in his report that all the religious materials were confiscated from Shim.
A very strict censorship regime is applied against religious literature and other material of all faiths that is published, distributed, or imported, or that people posses.
Officer Zhurayev's report also includes an undated statement from another woman who has been verified to be not resident at the address given in the statement. The woman is herself wanted for an offence by the police.
Chirchik police officers on 28 November referred Forum 18 to Officer Ulugbek Zhurayev to discuss the case. Zhurayev said that Forum 18 should talk to Officer Aziz Zhurayev at the the town's police Criminal Investigation and Struggle against Terrorism Division. This division oversees cases involving violations of freedom of religion or belief.
However, the officer who answered the Zhurayev's phone, adamantly denied to Forum 18 that anyone called Zhurayev works for Chirchik Police. Told that his colleagues referred Forum 18 to his number, he said that it is a "wrong number" and put the phone down.
Fined, Bibles and New Testaments ordered destroyed
On 9 November Judge Ikrom Obidov of Tashkent Region's Bostanlyk District Criminal Court fined Shim 7,235,500 Soms (about 21,500 Norwegian Kroner, 3,000 Euros, or 4,000 US Dollars at the inflated official exchange rate), 100 times the minimum monthly wage.
Shim, a member of an unregistered local Protestant Church called Mir (Peace), was fined under the Code of Administrative Offences' Article 184-2, which bans "Illegal production, storage, or import into Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials by physical persons". Punishments are a fine of between 50 and 150 times the minimum monthly wage, "with confiscation of the religious materials and the relevant means of their production and distribution".
Judge Obidov with the same decision, which has been seen by Forum 18, ordered the destruction of the confiscated Christian literature and materials: 1,379 books, 2,103 brochures, 448 leaflets 48 magazines, 193 video-tapes, 354 audio cassette-tapes. Among the confiscated books were three Bibles in Russian and 30 New Testaments – 20 in Uzbek and 10 in Russian(Source).

Pakistani Christians Protest Morsi’s Visit to Parliament

11/21/2012 Pakistan (Pakistan Christian Post)- Dr. Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress PCC has strongly protested on visit of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and his proposed address to parliament of Pakistan on his role to not protect Coptic Christian. Nazir Bhatti said that President Mohammad Morsi is responsible of killing of hundreds of Egyptian Coptic Christians who were run down by government armed vehicles in Cairo.

The President Mohammad Morsi represents Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Muslims who are burning Churches and attacking Christian’s life and property in Egypt and Morsi regime has not brought Islamists culprits to justice involved in violence.

Coptic Christians are 10% of population of Egypt and practicing Christianity when Islam was not even evolved but now Islamists are treating Christians like slaves in their homeland which was occupied by Muslim invaders during Caliphs barbaric rule in Mecca and Medina.

Dr. Nazir Bhatti said that Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi is not worthy to address Pakistan Parliament because he has blood of Coptic Christians on his hands while he is pushing for systematic genocide of Christians.

Nazir Bhatti urged Christian parliamentarians to stage walkout as a protest during address of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi to joint session of house on November 23, 2012, in Islamabad, against killing of Coptic Christians(Source).

Harsh Prison Sentence Given to Christian Poet in China

12/29/2012 China (CIC) - After being illegally detained for more than a year, Christian poet Li Bifeng was sentenced with a fabricated charge of "contract fraud," stemming from a legitimate business deal. As of the November 19th sentence, the dissident poet is now facing 12 more years in prison.

Interestingly, Li had become a Christian while imprisoned for seven years (due to writing poetry promoting freedom in 1998). Prior to that, he served five years for his participation in the Tiananmen democracy movement in 1989. It is widely believed by international observers that the excessive sentence is meant to exact revenge for his aid in assisting the escape of famous exiled Chinese writer Liao Yiwu. Liao is the author of the book, "God is Red," which was selected in 2011 as the best title by "Christianity Today."

Last August, the prosecutor in the case wanted Li's 17-year-old son, Jiang, who is studying in North America, brought back to China. Li's business and assets were confiscated, preventing him from providing financial assistance to his son. Organizations such as VOM-Canada have helped to raise support for his son's tuition and living expenses during 2012, so that Jiang would not need to return to China and thus face impending harm(Source).

Religious Violence on the Rise in Kenya

  11/27/2012 Kenya (WorthyNews)– Religious violence is on the rise in Kenya following a series of explosions in Nairobi's predominately Somali neighborhood. In the latest attack, a male attacker disguised in a shawl threw an explosive device into a minibus, blowing it apart. In retaliation to the bus bombing, youths armed with machetes and stones sought out Somalis, accusing them of carrying out the Sunday bombing of a minibus that killed 10 and injured 30.

“The terrorist’s intention is to cause friction between Christians and Muslims,” said Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Scores have been injured in retaliatory violence that has focused in the suburb known as “little Mogadishu” where refugees have fled the prolonged conflict in Somalia.

“This is very bad — to isolate the Somalis and target them because of the blast is very deadly," said Rev. Wellington Mutiso, secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya. "If we don’t arrest it, it may backfire into a religious war(Source).”

Christians in Laos Resist Severe Pressures to Recant Faith

I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for their bravery in refusing to renounce their Lord. I pray that God will give me the same sort of strength.

11/27/2012 Laos (International Christian Response)- In Lao villages far from the international community’s eye, Christians who refuse to take part in traditions involving worship of ancestral spirits face severe pressures. Authorities in southern Laos recently tried to force more than 200 Christians in six villages in Savannakhet Province to convert back to traditional, ethnic religion by ordering them to take part in the rituals. None of the Christians gave in to threats of expulsion, according to Human Rights Watch for Laos Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

Police called a meeting of three villages in Kengsaiyai village, Phin district, on Oct. 19 and ordered about 150 Christians from 31 families to take an oath and drink “sacred water” dedicated to spirits as part of the ritual, HRWLRF reported. Officials also told them to sign a document stating that they had converted back to their traditional religion and threatening to expel them from their villages if they refused. All the Christians refused to deny Christ, and authorities have backed off, said an HRWLRF official.

“The Christians are no longer threatened with eviction if they deny participation in the occult rituals,” he told Morning Star News.

Local authorities stopped pressuring Christians after some Christian families approached the governor of Savannakhet and the Lao National Assembly office in the province, he explained. Separately, authorities in the same district’s Vongseekaew village on Oct. 5 pressured about 50 Christians to participate in a similar ritual and profess belief in the traditional religion in order to continue living in the village. But four days later, the administrative head of the district intervened, warning police and military officials against forcing anyone to perform the ritual.
The official’s warning had no effect five miles away in Allowmai village. Police told Christians in the village that the Sept. 11 incarceration of three pastors – identified only as Bountert, Adang and Onkaew – would be extended for three years if they did not forsake Christianity.

After family members of Adang and Onkeaw approached higher officials, the three pastors were released, the HRWLRF official said. Moreover, authorities have turned away from pressuring Christians in the district to participate in the ritual, he said.

“Local officials instructed villagers to live in harmony with each other and [ensure that] occult rituals were not enforced on Christians any longer,” he said.

Christians in Seekaew village of Jutsume sub-district also have been pressured to convert back to traditional religions, HRWLRF reported. Two local officials, identified only as Bounheung and Boungong, have also threatened to demolish houses belonging to the Christians(Source).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chinese Christian Who Helped Hundreds of North Koreans Escape Now Trapped in Thailand

11/27/2012 China (China Aid Association)- A Chinese Christian who helped hundreds of North Koreans escape to Thailand and then was forced to escape there himself has been waiting for two years ago for the United Nations to grant him political asylum.

ChinaAid recently received Tu Ai-rong's video appeal for help. In the video below, he tells his story of how he helped 300 to 400 North Koreans escape from the city of Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province to neighboring Thailand. When China's state security discovered what he was doing, Tu was arrested, sentenced to three years' imprisonment and fined $30,000. He was abused while in prison, and continued to be threatened by government agents after his release. Six month later, in 2009, he fled to Cambodia and Laos. In October 2010, he arrived in Thailand where he applied to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for political asylum.

Not only has Tu been waiting in vain for the past two years for political asylum, his situation has become even more grave because the Chinese government has issued a warrant for his arrest. Tu could face a 20-year prison term if he were arrested again by the Chinese authorities. Meanwhile, his family has had to rely on the Korean church for help and face a precarious future(Source).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seven Chinese House Church Christians Charged with Engaging in Cult Activities

11/25/2012 China (ChinaAid) - Seven house church Christians in Henan province who were arrested in the spring have been charged with engaging in cult activities, but the believers and their church leaders say the government is framing them by accusing them of being part of the "Shouters."

Several Christian lawyers from Beijing are now involved in handling the case, which was supposed to go to trial on Nov. 27. But that hearing was suddenly canceled. In May, ChinaAid reported that the Ye county house church was being persecuted by the local authorities, who had taken many believers into custody and were holding some under criminal detention.

On Oct. 19, the Ye County Procuratorate issued its indictment against Hu Linpo, Han Hai, Yang Lianbing, Wang En (female), Li Dan (female), Zhang Mian (female) and Cao Xia (female) on the charge of “using a cult meeting to interfere with law enforcement.” It said that they were taken into custody on April 14, 2012, at about 10 a.m. during a worship service, and that on April 20, they were criminally detained by the Ye County Public Security Bureau.

On July 27, their case was turned over to the Ye county courts, who later handed the case back to the police for insufficient evidence. The public security bureau concluded after further investigation that the seven detainees and their meeting were all part of the cult group known as the "Shouters" because among the items confiscated from the meeting site was literature associated with the "Shouters," including a Recovery Version of the Bible.

But the church and its members deny being part of the "Shouters" and believe the public security bureau is deliberately framing them and trying to use the "cult" label to persecute them. ChinaAid will continue to closely monitor the developments in this case, and calls on the Ye county authorities not to frame churches of pure faith but rather to protect according to the law the legitimate rights of citizens to freedom of religion(Source).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

British Christian Wins Case Over Facebook Gay Marriage Post

11/17/2012 Britain (FMT) - A British Christian who was demoted by his employer over comments he made on Facebook opposing gay marriage in churches won a High Court case for breach of contract yesterday. Judges in London found that Adrian Smith, who works for a local government social housing body, had not been guilty of any misconduct and awarded him token damages of less than £100 (US$158, 125 euros). Smith, 55, lost his managerial status, had his salary cut by 40 percent and was handed a final written warning after posting on Facebook that gay weddings in churches were “an equality too far”.

Although the remarks were not visible to the public and were posted outside work time, Smith’s Manchester-based employer, Trafford Housing Trust, said he had broken its code of conduct by voicing religious or political views that could upset his colleagues.

Judge Michael Briggs ruled that the trust had no right to demote Smith and had breached its contract with him, while the Facebook posts did not constitute misconduct. The judge said Smith could have won far more in damages if he had launched proceedings for unfair dismissal at the employment tribunal.

“The breach of contract which the trust… committed was serious and repudiatory,” Briggs said.
Smith said in a statement after the ruling: “The judge exonerated me and made clear that my comments about marriage were in no way ‘misconduct’.

“My award of damages has been limited to less than £100 – but that is for technical legal reasons.
“But I didn’t do this for the money, I did this because there is an important principle at stake.
“Britain is a free country where people have freedom of speech, and I am pleased that the judge’s ruling underlines that important principle(Source).”

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Despite Persecution, Pakistani Christians are “Hungry for God’s Word”

My Pakistani brethren in Christ remind me of the Psalmist who says in verse 20 of Chapter 119:
My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will give me the same equal amount of longing for His Word and that He will help my Pakistani brethren to keep being brave and keep longing for God's Word so they can be able to set the country (and possibly the World) on fire for Him.

11/10/2012 Pakistan (BosNewsLife)- A leading Pakistani evangelist says he has been able to massively distribute Bibles in impoverished isolated villages where he claims people are hungry for "God's Word" despite mounting "persecution" by Islamic militants.

Haseeb Masih of the Save Pakistan Ministries (SPM) group also told BosNewsLife that at least hundreds of villagers responded to his call to "give their heart to Jesus Christ."

Names of the villages were not immediately released amid security concerns, but SPM is mainly active Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province. Masih said that through his group's 'Free Bibles Distribution Project' he gave 55 Urdu Bibles in recent days "to those who were in great need but could not afford it" after already distributing 350 Bibles some two weeks earlier.

They, "have promised to read the Bible everyday to know more about Jesus Christ and are thankful to God that He provides His Word," Masih said. "It's always a great blessing for me to hand-out the Word of God to those people who are in great need and struggling to get it."

He suggested it was a miracle that many people came to his meetings in this volatile region as Pakistan's Christian community "faces persecution" and Christians are regarded as outcasts by this Asian nation's heavily Islamic society.

Christians, who comprise less than five percent of Pakistan's 190 million population, suffer especially in villages and small towns where "Islamic fundamentalists have their strong roots," according to a SPM statement on the subject.

Unemployed young villagers are among those targeted for Islam's Jihad, or 'holy war', and "brainwashed" with teaching against Christians, SPM investigators said.
"...So they become professional terrorists and play at the hands of the religious and political leaders," they added.

Despite these tensions, villagers still "have a passion to know more about Jesus Christ. The Lord enabled me to reach-out to those people who are hungry and thirsty about the Word of God," evangelist Masih explained.

"I was invited to a prayer meeting in a village where we had worship and prayers together. When I explained how we can come to Jesus Christ everybody [watching] responded and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and gave their heart to Him."

He stressed, "It was amazing to see that people where praying and worshiping loudly. The presence of God was moving around, something incredible."

Masih was on his way Friday, November 9, to another relative unreached area in the country and he added that he had urged supporters to "pray for a safe journey and for those people who are desiring" to receive a Bible(Source).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chinese Pastor Attacked in Nighttime Highway Assault

My prayers go out to this brother in Christ Jesus.

10/27/2012 China (China Aid Association)- An unidentified motorist forced a Beijing house church pastor's car off the road on a highway to Beijing, then smashed the car with a club in a nighttime assault.
The attack on Pastor Liu Fenggang took place on Oct. 17 on the Beijing-Harbin highway. The motorist was driving a black SUV with its license plate covered up.

Earlier that day, Pastor Liu had agreed to take a believer from Beijing to Tangshan, in neighboring Hebei province, so that he could take care of some business. They were returning at about 6 p.m. when they reached the toll booth in Xianghe, Hebei. Upon exiting the toll booth, they found a metal fence channeling the traffic into a single lane on the left. Pastor Liu found it strange that a checkpoint had been set up but no policeman was there to inspect the vehicles.

After exiting the checkpoint, Pastor Liu moved into the center lane and had driven for about five kilometers (three miles) when he noticed that a black SUV was starting to squeeze the driver side of his vehicle, a Chinese-made qq car, forcing him into the far right lane. The black SUV continued to push, and Pastor Liu pulled into the emergency lane (shoulder) and stopped. The black SUV also stopped.

After a while, when no one approached his vehicle, Pastor Liu attempted to pull out into the road and resume driving, but the black SUV again blocked his car. When Pastor Liu started to get out to try to find out what was going on, the wife of the believer who had requested the ride yelled, "Don't get out. Look at his license plate!" Pastor Liu looked and saw that the SUV's license plate was covered with a black cloth.

Just then, the other driver, a tall man with a large-billed baseball cap wielding a gold-colored metal club, emerged from the driver's side door of the SUV and ran toward Pastor Liu's car. He pulled the driver's side door open, and just as Pastor Liu reached to unbuckle his seatbelt to get out, the man slammed the car door closed. Raising his club, he smashed the windshield, then ran quickly back to his vehicle and drove away.
Because the windshield was made of safety glass and also was covered with plastic film, Pastor Liu sustained just a few cuts on his left arm from the shattered glass(Source).