January 20th, 2011 by M. French

Read more about Yubelina, the Indonesian follower of Jesus pictured above who was badly burned after an attack by Muslims on her Christian Village, on the Persecution Blog and this post from a subscriber to the VOM newsletter:

Her skin is splotchy & ranges in color from light brown to red to white. Much of it is leathery. Her nose is disfigured. She has a purplish-colored patch of skin in between her bottom lip & the bottom of her chin. Her upper lip is peeling. Her left eye is white & red; her pupil is clearly no longer able to see.

But she is smiling. A huge smile. Joy radiates from her. Why?? She must receive stares. Children are probably afraid of her. The world would call her damaged. Ugly.

Yubelina has figured out where her identity lies. She is a treasured child of the King. She has traded “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:3). Her smile reveals Jesus.

Yubelina is beautiful. I guarantee she has a joy, a contentment, that no name-brand, trendy clothing; no perfect haircut & makeup; no flawless skin or toned body can bring.

True beauty…

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October 22nd, 2009 by M. French

November 8th is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. More information can be found here: www.persecution.com/idop. The following is a video from Voice of the Martyrs on the day of prayer:


[Link to Video]

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July 20th, 2009 by M. French

From VOM’s Persecution Blog:

JIANGSU – A Bible school run by Vice-President of the Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) Pastor Shi Enhao was raided on July 16 at 11:30 a.m. (Beijing time) in Suqian city, Jiangsu province. Pastor Shi and 11 students were taken to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) office and questioned. They were all released around 5 p.m. the same day. The students were sent back to their hometowns and warned not to come back for Bible study. The school is part of a Bible education school run by CHCA, and has been in existence for several years without any problems from authorities.

Contact the Chinese embassy on behalf of the Bible school and ask that students be allowed to study the Bible and worship freely.
Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
3505 International Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 495-2000
Fax: (202) 588-9760

NOTE: If you are a citizen of another country, please click here to find the contact information of the Chinese embassy in your own nation http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zwjg/2490/.

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July 2nd, 2009 by M. French

From Compass Direct News:

Government seminar on house churches, once considered encouraging, results in crackdown.

DUBLIN, July 2 (Compass Direct News) – Amid vigorous debate among scholars in China on the status of house churches, one prominent scholar has suggested the government offer more openness and legal standing to house church Christians, but authorities have reacted with raids, arrests, forced church closures and a ban on the Chinese Federation of Christian House Churches.

Scholar Yu Jianrong and others have concluded that house churches are a positive influence on society, but the government is wary of such influence, particularly since Yu’s research estimated the total number of Protestant house church Christians at between 45 and 60 million, with another 18 to 30 million attending government-approved churches – potentially putting the number of Christians higher than that of Communist Party members, which number around 74 million.

The one-year, government-commissioned study by Yu and associates suggested that officials should seek to integrate house churches and no longer regard them as enemies of the state.

Yu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Rural Development Institute, used a combination of interviews, field surveys and policy reviews to gather information on house churches in several provinces from October 2007 to November 2008.

After comparing various research statistics, Yu determined that Protestant house church members numbered between 45 and 60 million, with another 18 to 30 million attending government-approved churches. He acknowledged in one interview, however, that the total number of Protestant Christians might be as high as 100 million.

[Read More]

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December 17th, 2008 by Bethany French

For the past five months, an underground campaign of violence directed against Christians has erupted in Orissa (one of the poorest states in India) and spread to several surrounding states as well.  According to a London online newspaper as of November 20, 2008, there have been 67 Christians killed, thousands of homes burned, hundreds of places of worship destroyed, and there are now around 11,000 displaced Christians in refugee camps.  The leaders of several Christian organizations in India have said that Hindu militants are offering rewards to those who commit violence against Christians.  Allegedly the reward offered for killing a pastor is $250, and rewards of food, fuel, weapons, and money are being offered to those who hurt or destroy Christians or their property.  They have also said that the Hindu extremist group, Bajrang Jal has set up training camps for training women to use weapons in order to kill Christians in rural areas.  The Hindu groups have denied these claims, but according to the Times of India, the Indian government has found enough evidence to indicate a planned conspiracy of violence against Christians by the militant Hindu groups.

This string of violent activities was triggered by the assassination of Hindu extremist leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati.  Despite the Maoist party claiming responsibility for the assassination, the militant Hindu group has continued to blame the murder on Christians.  Following is some of the story and quotes from the interview with Maoist leader Azad by an Indian newsgroup:

“We killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati to avenge his villainous role in Kandhmal,” said Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, in an interview to a leading Oriya daily on Friday.

Azad said ever since the December 2007 riots in Kandhmal, a predominantly tribal area, Laxmanananda and VHP secretary general Pravin Togadia portrayed Christians as Maoists and attempted to defeat the revolutionary movement. “Laxmanananda was taking the lead in Hindu fascist activities,” he said in the interview. “We appeal to the public to join us to fight exploitative organizations.”

According to this Maoist leader, the militant Hindu group (VHP) has portrayed Christians as Maoists, even though they are not, thus allowing them to shift the blame and focus for the murder onto the Christians rather than those who claimed responsibility themselves.  Hindu extremist groups have a deep-seated hatred of Christians for converting Hindus from their religion, and claim that the Christians use coercion, bribery, and force to win converts, and it appears that they have been waiting for just such an excuse to justify a concerted attack on Indian Christians.  Here is what one Hindu leader has to say to the Times of India on the subject:

‘People are bound to react when their leaders like Swami Laxmananda Saraswati are killed and fellow neighbours and friends brazenly converted.” … He was chillingly forthright when he said he will continue seeing the killers of Laxmananda as ”Christians”, not Maoists. Incidentally, three men, now arrested and calling themselves Maoists, have claimed responsibility for the murder of the Hindu leader on August 23 this year. ”Conversions have to stop, only then will violence (against Christians) cease,” he warned darkly… He went on, ”Tribals are being threatened, coerced, and cheated into becoming Christians. Even otherwise, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (1967) prohibits it.”

All the leaders of Christian organizations in India have condemned the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and assert that violence is never an acceptable way to solve their problems.  However, the Hindu leaders promise that Hindus will react with violence whenever they are attacked, and it seems they reserve the right to decide who the attackers are without recourse to actual evidence.  According to the London Newspaper covering the story, “Extremists said that if Mr Lakshmanananda’s killers were not caught by December 15 they would begin a day of violence on December 25.”  The men who were ALREADY arrested by the Indian government for the killing freely claimed responsibility for the attack, but that has not satisfied the Hindu extremist groups who insist upon blaming Christians instead.

In Kandhmal (a region of Orissa), Hindu families have been flying saffron flags over their houses to distinguish themselves from the Christians, because houses without these flags have been vandalized or destroyed by angry Hindus.  This seems very similar to the Nazi Germany’s identification of the Jews using yellow stars of David, albeit the other way around.  All those without the “safety” of the saffron flag are in danger of violent attacks on their person or property.

In the next article, we will look at some of the reactions of the Indian government, as well as international reactions to this campaign of violence.  As the threatened day of violence approaches on December 25th, let us not forget to pray that this violence will be averted, and the glory of God manifested in great power within India!  Pray for our brothers and sisters, many of whom have suffered violence for the name of their Savior, and pray that they will be peacefully restored to their homes and not have to suffer through the winter in refugee camps.  Pray for those who have been blinded by fear and/or hatred, that they would encounter the love and reality of our Messiah Jesus and live transformed lives, devoted to the Lord.  He is our great God, able to do so much more than we can ask Him!  Pour out Your Spirit, Father!

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December 3rd, 2008 by Bethany French

Voice of Revolution posted an article several weeks ago about an Iranian law that has passed its first draft in parliament, which would mandate the death penalty for male converts from Islam, and a life prison sentence for female converts.  The law is currently before a committee and may undergo some changes before it comes before the parliament to be passed into actual law.  It passed in its original form with an overwhelming majority, 196 to 7, with two absent members, which makes it appear that it will almost certainly be passed, unless major international pressure is brought to bear on the situation.  If this law is passed, Iran will have taken another step toward nationally legislating the Sharia laws of Islam.  Up until now in Iran, the death penalty for converting from Islam has been left to judicial discretion, solely based upon the writings of Islamic law, but has not been nationalized.

This law has ramifications not only for non-Muslims and converts living in Iran, but also may affect converts to other religions internationally.  One clause of the law as it stands right now states that converts from Islam living outside the borders of Iran may be tried by the Iranian courts in their absence and condemned, if they are seen to jeopardize Iranian national security.  Men whose parents were Muslim and who convert to another religion as adults would be subject to immediate execution, whereas men whose parents were NOT Muslim, but who had converted initially to Islam before changing their minds would be given three days to “repent” and return to the Muslim faith.  Women are given the opportunity to convert back to Islam at any point during their life imprisonment.  Other sins punishable by death according to this law are witchcraft, heresy, fortune-telling, and swearing against/insulting Mohammad, Fatima, or the Shi’ite Imams.

According to an online British Newspaper called The Telegraph, very little attention has been given to the passing of this law from either media or international public figures. Here is an excerpt from the October 11th article discussing this:

David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran’s largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing.

It is a sign of how little interest there is in Iran’s intention to launch a campaign of religious persecution that its parliamentary vote has still not been reported in the mainstream media.

The vast majority of the information or discussions available on this law is found on Christian sites focusing on the persecuted church, or other types of religion-themed sites and blogs.  The fact that the passing of the Iranian Penal Law, which infringes on the international human rights agreements Iran has officially made in the past, fails to have made widespread international news is a solemn indication of the unofficial ‘blind eye’ to the persecution of the Christian Church and other people groups in many countries across the world.

Friends, we are the Church, and many of our Iranian brothers and sisters will come under harsher persecution now than they ever have in the past!  We must join with them now in prayer, that their faith would remain unshaken, and that the Kingdom of God will come in a great outpouring in Iran!  Pray that the Spirit would fill the saints in Iran with power and boldness, that they would be able to proclaim the name of Messiah Jesus until He comes!  Pray that God will bring swift justice for His people in Iran, work in the hearts of those in the parliament when this law comes back for a vote, and bring this issue to international public attention.

Father, let our hearts be consumed with the Spirit of prayer and love for all the saints!  Let us bear the weight with our brothers and sisters in Iran, and be filled with courage to stand up for truth and manifest the Kingdom of God on the earth, as we have been called to do!  Pour out Your love and strength on those who suffer for the sake of Your name, and let them abound richly in the power and the joy of the Holy Spirit!  Confound the work of the enemy and let your church abound still more and more in the knowledge of the love of Christ and support those who are faithful to Your name even unto death!  Praise Him!

Sources:  Telegraph.co.uk, Religious Intelligence, Global Exploits Ministries

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November 22nd, 2008 by M. French

Reprinted from Elam Ministries :

In response to a year of persecution and the imminent passing of a law making the death sentence mandatory for all Muslim men who turn to Christ and life imprisonment for Muslim women who turn to Christ, Iranian church leaders are calling for prayer and fasting November 21 – 23rd 2008.

They know they have no influence in the courts of men – but they want to take their case to the courts of heaven.

And like Esther of old, the queen of Iran who told Mordecai to ask all the people of God to pray and fast for three days, so Iranian Christian leaders are asking the world-wide church to also set aside these three days for prayer and fasting.

If you are a prayer leader in your church, please contact other intercessors to be involved in these three days, and please approach your pastor to see if special prayers for Iran can be made at your church service on Sunday November 23rd.

2008: YEAR OF INTIMIDATION FOR CHRISTIANS IN IRAN

The growing church in Iran is under attack. Since April there have been at least fifty three arrests of people whose only crime is their faith in Jesus Christ. The arrests are not localised, but have happened in all of Iran’s major cities…Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Kerman, and elsewhere. Sometimes people have been released the same day, others spent months in prison, some still remain behind bars. Many of them have had to pay exorbitant fees for bail and face frightening court cases. Some have suffered physically while in detention and it is believed that one elderly couple died as a result of being beaten up. These are only the arrests that get reported: it is likely there have been many more.

All of this has been happening against the ominous background of legislation going through the Iranian parliament that will make the death sentence mandatory for any man who leaves Islam and chooses another faith. Women will face life imprisonment for the same ‘crime’. Click here to read more about this legislation.

Despite the persecution, the church in Iran continues to grow rapidly.  The Word of God is reaching many in the country and many believers are determined to courageously share Christ with their countrymen. Christian leaders in Iran believe that the church will continue to grow very rapidly in the next five to ten years, such is the openness of Iranians to the Gospel.

Elam Ministries urges Christians, world wide to pray and fast on behalf of the church in Iran.

  • Pray for all those who have been arrested and intimidated. Pray that the Lord will be their Rock, Deliverer and Shield. (Psalm 18:2)
  • Pray that despite the persecution, Christians will be “encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Phil 1:14)
  • Pray against the law of apostasy. Pray that the severe mandatory punishments regarding apostasy in Iran’s new penal code will not enter the statute book. Pray that many millions of Muslims will see the evil of this law and will hunger for spiritual truth and salvation.

OVERVIEW OF INTIMIDATION*

April, Amol, Mazandaran: a Christian husband and his pregnant wife are arrested. The wife is released after three days, the husband not till the end of May and only when he had secured his bail with his home. He has to face charges in court.

May 11th, Shiraz: Homayon Gholamzadeh and his wife Fariba and Amir Hussein Anari, and his wife Fatemeh, were arrested at the airport and taken directly to jail. All were questioned about their faith and church involvement. The wives were released the same day, but Anari was not released till May 14th, and Gholamzadeh not till May 22nd. The same day Allaedin Hossein, his wife and three children were arrested, their home searched, and computers and books confiscated. All were released apart from the eldest son, Mujtaba Hussein, aged 21. He was kept in prison till June 3rd and then only released on $20,000 bail.

May 13th, Shiraz: Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari, were arrested while walking in a park. Both were kept in solitary confinement till July 15th, when they were placed in a cell together.

May 31st, Tehran: Police arrest forty four year old Mohsen Namvar and confiscated his computer. Mohsen was in prison in 2007 when he was beaten so badly he could hardly walk. No reason was given for this second arrest. He was released on June 27th with high fever and shaking hands. He refuses to talk to his wife about his treatment. The family had to pay the security forces $43,000 for bail – and received no receipt. In early July they fled Iran as refugees.

June 3rd, Tehran: Christian couple, Tina Rad and Makan Arya were arrested and interrogated for holding Bible studies with Muslims. During their four day ordeal both were badly beaten up and the authorities threatened to put their four year old daughter into an institution. They had to raise a total of $50,000 to be released on bail.

July 12th, Tehran:. Mohsen Radfar arrested travelling to the city.

July 12th, Kerman: Twelve Christians are arrested at the airport on their way to a conference. While being questioned their homes are searched. They are released the same day.

July 17th, Isfahan: Sixteen Christians, including six women and two minors, arrested during a service. The elderly hosts of the meeting, Abbas Amiri and Sakineh Rahnama were so badly beaten that both later died: Abbas on July 30th, his wife on August 3rd.

Early August, Shiraz: Mahmood Matin Azad and Arash Basirat, imprisoned in Shiraz since May 13th, are formally charged with apostasy, which carries the death sentence.

August 8th, Kerman: A Christian couple, Dariush and Shireen, are arrested.

August 12th, Arak: Shahin Zanboori is arrested and suffered beatings while in prison as authorities attempted to find out the names of other believers. He was released on August 31st, but faces a court case.

Mid August, Mashad: A Christian, Iman Rashidi, is arrested.

August 21st, Mashad: Ramtin Soodmand, minister of the Evangelical Church, is imprisoned. Ramtin is the son of martyred Revd Hossein Soodmand who was hanged in 1990 for being an apostate from Islam. Ramtin’s mother is blind.

September 22nd, Urumieh: Assyrian Evangelical Minister, Revd. S. Yadegar and another Christian man are arrested and held in prison charged with evangelizing.

September 23rd, Shiraz: All the charges against Mahmood Matin Azad and Arash Basirat are dropped and they are released.

September 28th, Urumieh: A Christian man, Sobhan, is arrested.

October 20th, Mashad: Fereshteh Dibaj and her husband Amir Montazami, who were arrested and held last year, are threatened again by the court that they could be imprisoned. Fereshteh Dibaj is the daughter of Mehdi Dibaj who was imprisoned for nine years for his Christian faith. He was sentenced to death for apostasy in 1993, but was released after international pressure, only to be murdered in the summer of 1994.

October 22nd, Mashad: Ramtin Soodmand freed.

* Main sources: Compass Direct, FCNN

NEW PENAL CODE – MANDATORY DEATH FOR CONVERTS

This intimidation of Christians has been happening while parliament has been revising Iran’s penal code whereby death for male converts will be mandatory. Articles 225-8 of the new code bluntly states that punishment for a male apostate is ‘death’ and for a female it is life imprisonment – unless she re-cants. In a similar way that Nazis argued over the definition of a Jew, so this code has special clauses for ‘parental’ and ‘innate’ apostates. The former have three days to recant; the latter none. Such details do nothing to hide the fundamental injustice of a law that seeks to ferociously punish its citizens for choosing their own religion.

Up to now the death sentence has been available as a punishment for apostasy from Islam in Iran, but individual judges could use their discretion. However the word used in this new legislation is ‘hadd’ which means this is a fixed punishment that cannot be changed, reduced, or annulled.

This proposed bill also introduces a new crime into Iran’s statute book – ‘establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy’ Those found guilty could be punished with death or the amputation of their arms and legs.

The new Penal Code was approved by the Iranian parliament by 196 – 7 votes on September 9th and is now being reviewed before it is sent back to parliament for another vote, and then to the Guardian Council for its final consent. It will then become law.

From the human perspective it is inevitable that this new penal code will become law, so threatening the lives not just of thousands of Christians from Muslim backgrounds, but any believer who wants to witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, for this is ‘promoting apostasy’.

As in the days of the early church, when Peter was put in prison, there can still be a but…

So Peter was put in prison, but the church was earnestly praying…

Please start praying now, and put November 21st – 23rd in your diaries for praying and fasting.

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