Displaying items by tag: Christian persecution
On 22 March the European Union announced a number of sanctions on Eritrea’s national security office. This positive EU move should hardly be a surprise to the Eritrean government. It has faced sanctions for its human rights and religious freedom violations in the past, earning the nickname of ‘Africa’s North Korea’ for its systematic flaunting of international standards and its insular foreign policy. The recent sanctions target arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons, and torture committed by its agents. Eritrea has a well-documented history of treating its prisoners inhumanely and of targeting religious minorities for particularly harsh treatment. Me’eter Prison, the customary holding place for Eritrean prisoners of conscience, is notorious for its regular use of torture, for example to induce religious recantations. Prisoners are kept in metal shipping containers placed on the open desert floor.
Just one of the Christian prisoners in China is Pastor John Cao (60), serving a seven-year prison sentence for ‘organising illegal border crossings’ between China and Myanmar. He made many trips from America to his native China to establish schools and work among the poor before expanding his humanitarian work into Myanmar. He was detained in 2017 while returning to China from Myanmar and sentenced a year later. His defence lawyer and his mother asked prison authorities to deliver a Bible to him. They refused. His mother writes Bible verses in each letter she sends. Please ask God to bless Pastor John and keep his faith strong, and pray for healing from his various health problems. Pray that he will be released early. Pray for his witness to prisoners and guards, and that others would continue his ministry to the poor.
When Nigerian front-line worker Daniel Zagi was interviewed by Voice of the Martyrs, he used the word ‘pray’ 42 times. ‘If there is anything you want to do for us, pray’, he said. ‘We are here, and we are fighting for the cause of the gospel in the north.’ Many Christians in northern Nigeria have lost loved ones and homes in attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants, who seek to drive Christians out and establish an Islamist nation. Many pastors have been forced to flee the region, and entire congregations have been displaced. Nigerian believers need our prayers as they advance the gospel amid these violent attacks. Pray that believers suffering repeated attacks will withstand persecution and persevere in faith. Ask God to comfort all those who have experienced great loss because of this violence.
Many Christians in Iran are paying a high price for their faith in Jesus. They have lost jobs, homes or even custody of children. Some have been physically abused. Many are rejected by friends and family, and some are unjustly imprisoned in Iran’s notorious prison system. Prayer strengthens our brothers and sisters and reminds them that they are not forgotten. In a letter from prison, Pastor Farshid Fathi writes, ‘I sense the fragrance of your prayers as a cool breeze on my heart and it strengthens me from afar’. For the region’s Christians, SAT-7’s Persian TV channel presenters will also mark the New Year (Nowruz) festival on 20 March by highlighting the new life we have in Christ.
While working at an Afghan eye hospital, Dan took a fortnight’s trip to Iran which turned into a nine-week nightmare. He was falsely charged with spying and being a missionary and imprisoned in a small dark room, being interrogated and beaten by prison guards. Then he recalls, ‘As I lay on the ground, all of a sudden, the room fills with this glorious light. And I turned around to see what was going on, and there was Jesus. It was at that lowest point that He met me.’ Jesus provided strength to continue and even befriend the guards who beat him, and the courage to boldly proclaim his faith in front of his accusers and an Iranian judge. ‘I preached and told everyone who Jesus is and how much he loved them.’ Not long after he was released. He now trains people to serve in missions.
A video from Pakistan shows Tabitha, a Christian nurse, who was beaten by fellow nurses and staff after accusations of blasphemy. The hospital where she worked issued an order that medical staff could not receive tips or deal with money from patients. Tabitha reminded a Muslim co-worker of the order when she saw she was collecting money from a patient. When Tabitha mentioned it to her superior, she was dragged off into a closet, tied and beaten up. Blasphemy accusations are highly inflammatory in Pakistan and often lead to mob violence and vigilante killings. The life of a blasphemer is much like the story The Scarlet Letter, but instead of wearing the letter A for adulterer, they walk through life with an invisible B for blasphemer. Police investigated and found the accusations to be false. However, the family remains in hiding due to threats associated with the accusations.
Over a dozen lives are claimed in nightly raids in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 1 March Italian diplomats and World Food Programme workers were killed in an attack on a UN convoy. Officials blame the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, for this incident - the latest in a disturbing trend. Armed groups have killed over a thousand civilians in eastern DRC since late 2019. ‘In 2021, we’ve seen mass attacks by these Muslim extremists,’ said Voice of the Martyrs Canada. There are more than 100 armed groups operating in DRC. Not all of them are Islamic, but those that are have one goal in mind. They are radical, and even though they may have lost some control in places like Iraq and Syria they’re doing whatever they can to cause destruction, particularly where a large majority of people are Christian.
When a pastor shared the gospel with a Nepali family, they eagerly placed their faith in Christ and began attending church regularly, walking eight miles each way to attend. But when the owner of the land they leased learned of their newfound faith in Christ, he kicked them off the land. As an extremely poor family struggling to survive, they had leased the land both to live on and to farm, giving half their crops to their landlord in payment. In addition to being evicted from the land, they were denied access to the village water tap. Our persecuted brothers and sisters in Nepal face great pressure from their communities to reject Christ or suffer the consequences of continuing harassment and beatings from nationalists who envisage Nepal becoming a ‘pure’ Hindu nation. Also the government has criminalised conversion to Christianity and declared that ‘those who change their religion should be expelled from Nepal.’
Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen State on the same day that Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was ousted from power in a military coup. The army shelled districts of mainly Christian ethnic Karen villagers, forcing them to escape into inhospitable mountainous jungle with what little they could carry. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest since Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy, were overthrown three months after winning a landslide election They have been replaced with a military government. The ethnic cleansing tactics used by the army against the Kachin were condemned in a 2018 UN Human Rights Council report with many testimonies of torture, rape and other abuses by military personnel. In 2020, 100,000 predominantly Christian Kachin remained scattered across 138 refugee camps, in crowded conditions with little sanitation and at great risk from coronavirus.
Slaughtering Nigerian Christians continues unabated. An average of ten Christians are killed daily. A recent episode was at the hands of the government, which executed six Christian soldiers in Abuja on false charges. A Muslim colonel stole weapons from an armoury, but six Christian soldiers on duty got blamed for the theft. Their lawyer claimed they died ‘purely because they were Igbo and Christian. The government of today detests Christianity and detests the Igbo tribe.’ He had petitioned the government to provide a defence, but his attempt was denied and they were executed in secret. Nigeria’s constitution gives the military no authority to execute people, and prisoners should be able to appeal to a higher court. They didn’t get their rights. The military now claims that they were never executed, but they have not been seen by their families or in public.