Displaying items by tag: Christian persecution
At a meeting in Parliament and in two letters, officials warned New Life Pentecostal Church that continuing to meet for worship in the car park of their seized church in Minsk could lead to administrative or criminal prosecution (maximum punishment four years' imprisonment). The church vowed to continue its worship. ‘The authorities may initiate criminal charges,’ Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko said. ‘This is possible, given that they have gone as far as throwing us out of the building without compensation and imposing debts.’ City and state religious affairs officials refused to discuss the threats. The church has held services outdoors every Sunday - in snow, rain, or hot sunshine - since officials evicted the congregation from its building on 17 February. Pray for God continually to reassure Pastor Goncharenko of His presence with him as he stands for freedom of religion in Minsk.
Pastor Samuel lived in the north of Burkina Faso but had to flee from extremist attacks on his church and members of the Christian community. ‘We don’t know who the attackers are, nor do we know who is sponsoring them,’ he said. ‘All we know is that they attack Christians. These attacks have shattered the lives of our people. We are troubled and filled with pain over the deaths of our family members.’ There are no open churches in parts of the northeast. Pastor Samuel lives in a camp for internally displaced people, praying with others there and encouraging them to not lose hope. Open Doors estimates there are over a million internally displaced people, and many are Christians. Believers who have converted from Islam also face significant pressure and opposition from their communities. Families may reject Christian converts, and new believers may be pressured to renounce their new faith.
The government of the Luhansk People’s Republic, which declared itself independent from Ukraine in 2014, has added four Christian books to an official list of banned extremist materials. The books were seized from the Council of Baptist Churches in the city of Sverdlovsk and in July they were added to the list by the justice ministry ‘in order to secure the safety of the Republic’. There are 18 Christian works on the list of extremist materials, including a Russian version of the Gospel of John, a Billy Graham book, and a book by C H Spurgeon. Catholics have been denied a priest and the possibility to receive communion. An Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel has been closed, and its bishop denied entry. Security forces also raid Protestant congregations and interrogate church leaders at police stations. We can ask God to soften the hearts of the authorities in Luhansk.
In 2018 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bombed Golden Lampstand Church, completely destroying the building. Later workers transported the broken bricks from the scene. Now the government has initiated another round of arrests of church leaders, escalating its persecution against Christians who decide to ‘hold fast’ to the faith and refuse to compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ - despite facing another round of persecution. On 7 August police arrested nine leaders from the church, including Pastor Wang Xiaoguang, formerly imprisoned for three years, and his wife, Preacher Yang Rongli, previously imprisoned for seven years. Officials also summoned Chinese leaders from other churches for questioning. CCP authorities continue to persecute this house church with an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 members.
Barnabas Fund reports, ‘Afghan Christians are at huge risk. As American troops leave the country, Taliban fighters are expanding their area of control, especially in rural areas, and re-imposing their ultra-strict form of sharia as they go. By the end of August the last Americans will have gone, but in mid-July the Taliban already claimed to control 85% of the country. What is certain is that Afghan Christians, as converts from Islam, will be even more vulnerable under Taliban rule than under the Afghan government. The Taliban has publicly announced that Christians must convert, leave, or be killed.'
A new wave of Christian persecution began after two Muslim men were arrested and charged under the new anti-conversion law. Hindu nationalists, including BJP members, claimed they had been involved in forceful conversion of 1,000 people. Using the arrests as an opportunity for political gain, BJP politicians publicly warned against illegal conversions of Hindus to non-Hindu faiths. Since then, International Christian Concern has documented at least thirty Christians in Uttar Pradesh being attacked by radical Hindu nationalists. In each of these incidents, perpetrators justified their attacks by falsely accusing their Christian victims of engaging in fraudulent conversions. ‘This is a grave situation for Christians in the state,’ a church leader, requesting anonymity, said. ‘There is zero response from the Yogi administration, which empowers the attackers to do more. The attacks are perpetrated by the hardcore Hindutva activists who are supported by politicians.’
Recently three Baptist pastors from Kachin state were detained and charged with organising prayers for peace. The pastors are now facing three years in jail because of a penal code which criminalises causing fear, spreading false news, and agitating for criminal offenses against government employees. They were praying that the fighting between the Burmese military and the pro-democracy forces in Kachin state, which has intensified recently, would cease. It is reported that the pastors, who are elderly and in poor health, were sent to a prison on 29 June to await their court hearing on 12 July. Their imprisonment was met with an outcry from Christians in the country. Many are using social media to publish prayers and pleas for their release. Other church attacks and arrests have occurred elsewhere throughout the country.
Although Christian persecution continues to rise in India, the only recent survey of this fact was in 2020 when a report from the Evangelical Fellowship of India listed 366 incidents where Christians were targeted, 40+ in the first two months. Most incidents feature physical violence, threats, harassment, and the disruption of church services by religious radicals or the police. Disruption of prayer meetings and Sunday worship is now a trend across many states. Many Christians are falsely accused and detained on charges of forced conversion. The US commission on international religious freedom has said, ‘Religious hate crimes in India are rising. Mob violence is carried out against Christians accused of forced or induced religious conversion.’ Christians make up a little over 2% of India’s population. Though they are often accused of following a ‘foreign’ religion, the gospel was introduced there in the first century through Jesus’ disciple Thomas.
Christians are increasingly being persecuted violently: by brutal IS in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Hindu extremists in India. Release International issued a report on persecution trends in 2021. It is a wake-up call to take our prayers for our persecuted family to new levels. Nigerian attacks are driven by Islamist ideologies to destroy ‘the infidels’. 300 Christians remain detained without trial inside Eritrea. The Chinese government is increasing its ‘clean-cup’ of anything that does not advance the communist agenda. North Korea’s policy against Christians is the longest, harshest persecution in recorded history. Iranians constantly fear they are under surveillance when they meet secretly. The pressure has led to an exodus from Iran that will continue in 2021. Egyptian Christian converts from a Muslim background will continue to pay a high price for their faith and will be expelled from their families, divorced, and lose their employment.
Rev Dr Bernard Randall, a former chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge, is taking Trent College to court for discrimination, harassment, victimisation, and unfair dismissal after the school reported him - without his knowledge - to the government anti-terror watchdog for a sermon he gave at the school on ‘identity politics’. There has been widespread bewilderment as the story has been covered by newspapers and the internet. How can such a reasonable sermon from a Christian minister provoke the treatment he received? How can you be labelled a terrorist and eventually lose your job in a Christian school for advocating freedom of belief? He says his story sends a message to Christians: ‘You are not free to talk about your faith. It’s not enough to just “tolerate” LGBT ideology. You must accept it without question; no debate is allowed without serious consequences.’