Displaying items by tag: Persecution
Last week you prayed for the UK to settle the debt they owe to Iran, so that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe can finally be released from prison. Please keep praying. This week the UK and Iran are in discussions over the £400m that the UK owes for failing to deliver tanks Iran bought in the 1970s. Nazanin believes she has been imprisoned as leverage for the debt. Boris Johnson said ministers were doing ‘everything we can to look after her interests and all the very difficult dual national cases we have in Tehran’. On 1 May Iranian state TV suggested the UK had paid the debt - but the Government said nothing had changed.
In 1915 two million Armenians lived in Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000. Successive regimes deny that there was such a thing as an Armenian genocide. Turkey now appears intent on reigniting the hatred by helping Azerbaijan wage war on Armenia in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which erupted into armed conflict in late 2020. Turkish mercenaries and their Azerbaijani partners have ISIS-like behavior. They tortured beyond recognition an intellectually disabled 58-year-old Armenian woman before murdering her. Her family identified her by her clothes. When a random pedestrian was asked, ‘If you could get away with one thing, what would you do?’ She looked at the video camera and smiled saying, ‘What would I do? Behead twenty Armenians.’ 24 April was Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, marking the start of the period in which Ottoman Turks massacred 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. On 27 April that Turkey said relations with the US had sunk to a new low after Joe Biden formally acknowledged that Armenians suffered genocide 100 years ago.
Christians in Myanmar are praying for their country, they are in the streets, on their knees with their head bowed or laying down stretched out with arms raised. Whole neighbourhoods are involved in visible prayer. Christians in Myanmar have been persecuted for probably a hundred years in this Buddhist country; they make up about 6% of the population. The military has been continually attacking them, and they have suffered terribly. When there was a democratically elected government the Christians were doing better. But with the recent military coup, under Chinese pressure, the whole population, including Buddhists have had enough of the military and they want democracy. The Christians are lying down in the streets: not a political protest, they’re crying out to God for peace and healing. Please join those praying for an end to this deteriorating situation and relieve the population from fear of civil war.
Believers can languish in captivity for years in Eritrea. ‘They often aren’t even charged with anything and they don’t go to court’, said Greg Musselman from Voice of the Martyrs. In an unexpected move, Eritrea’s government released dozens of prisoners in late February. Many believers thought, ‘things are changing!’ But Musselman said, ‘The Eritrean government may be trying to curry favour with Ethiopia, their neighbouring country, because the prime minister there is a Christian. As recent arrests show, these changes were too good to be true. Our hopes that the Eritrean government was loosening its grip on evangelicals now seem to be going in the opposite direction. Eritrea is claiming religious freedom, but that’s not happening at all.’
Four Christian men were beaten and scarred by knives carving Xs on their skin, and forced to eat sheets of the Bible in a recent shocking incident in Venezuela. The perpetrators are believed to oppose the work of Restoration House, a church-led drug rehabilitation programme in the city of Libertador, which the four victims had joined. Threats had been made against the house before the attack. In Latin America, the illegal activities of drug gangs are endangered by churches who deter people from criminality. This can lead to opposition, which explains this latest Venezuelan incident. The men have since been discharged from hospital. One remains in particularly poor health, with injuries to his lungs and head and two broken ribs. Two others have their legs and arms in casts. Pray for God to surround them with His healing presence, and that they will continue their recoveries from drug addiction and grow in their walks with Jesus.
International Christian Concern (ICC) has observed a marked increase of reported religious freedom violations within Turkey since the start of the New Year. While most of these recent violations impact church buildings, they also include a lack of interest by the authorities in pursuing and protecting justice for Christian victims. Churches are seen as a source of income both by the government (faith tourism) and by society (treasure hunters). Otherwise, church buildings are neglected by the government and often turned into mosques. Pray for the protection and perseverance of believers in Turkey. Pray that the government will honor Christian landmarks and churches.
Raja Waris, a 25-year-old Christian lay reader, is in police custody in Lahore after he shared another person’s post critical of Islam on his Facebook page. Raja apologised to the Muslims in person, saying he had shared the post for academic understanding between Christians and Muslims and did not mean to offend any Muslims, and the issue appeared to be resolved. But then a huge mob gathered demanding his beheading. Fearing violence, hundreds of Christian residents fled their homes while around 400 anti-riot policemen were deployed to the area to thwart violence. When local church elders were taken to the police station, a large mob gathered outside, chanting slogans against Christians. Negotiations failed, and Raja was hiding due to threats to his life. Mob leaders only called off the siege after he was held under blasphemy laws that call for up to ten years in prison. He and his family are currently in a safe house for their security.
Christians in Egypt are not safe, despite the authorities’ claims to the contrary. The following tragedy shows the dangers Christians must navigate in Egyptian society, and their disbelief that help will come in the form of justice. Persecution is more than violence; it is also about how the authorities respond to these injustices. On 10 December three Muslim brothers attacked Coptic Christians living in Alexandria, murdering one man and significantly injuring two with knives and clubs, then damaging three Christian shops. The brothers have a history of thuggery and escalated harassment of Christian shop owners. They were arrested, but local Christians fear that they will be declared mentally unstable and not fully punished, as has happened before in similar cases. Violence against Christians is commonplace in Egypt, but this happened in Alexandria, where sectarian tensions are normally subtler than in Upper Egypt.
A rare insight into the persecution endured by Christians living under the totalitarian North Korean regime has been given by Sookyung Kang, a Christian who fled her homeland to be able to worship freely without risking her life. She said, ‘The regime tries to control people by idolising and divinising the leaders. I believe the Gospel gives freedom to everyone. But the regime takes away freedom and won’t allow people to think freely.’ North Korea has set up ‘quarantine camps’ for Covid-19 patients, where they are deprived of food and medicine, causing many to die of starvation. Some believers have been executed simply for owning a Bible. Tens of thousands of Christians - sometimes entire families - have been incarcerated in labour camps where they are abused, tortured and worked to death.
Survivors of a massacre at a school in the western Oromia region of Ethiopia reported that 54 ethnic Amhara were massacred, probably more. The Amhara are mostly Christians. About 60 armed terrorists, identifying themselves as the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), swept into Gawa Quanqa village, Guliso District at around 5 pm on 1 November. Some survivors were able to flee to a nearby forest while the assailants rounded up women, children and elderly who were unable to run away. Then they shot the defenceless group and burnt 120 houses. ‘This senseless attack is the latest in a series of killings in the country in which members of ethnic minorities have been deliberately targeted’, said Amnesty International.