Published: 14:47 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 29 October 2010
Prayer Focus 11/10
- CHINA - CHRISTIANS BARRED FROM ATTENDING WORLD CONFERENCE
- INDONESIA - CHRISTIANS AT CENTRE OF NATURAL DISASTERS
- BHUTAN - CHRISTIAN IMPRISONED FOR SHOWING FILMS ON CHRISTIANITY
- ALGERIA - VICTORY FOR CHRISTIANS ARRESTED DURING RAMADAN
- PAKISTAN - CHRISTIAN FAMILY TARGETED UNDER “BLASPHEMY LAW”
- IRAN - CHRISTIANS SUFFER HARASSMENT, PERSECUTION, BEATINGS AND IMPRISONMENT
- TURKMENISTAN - PASTOR JAILED FOR FOUR YEARS
CHINA CHRISTIANS BARRED FROM ATTENDING WORLD CONFERENCE
A number of Christians in China were stopped as they tried to leave the country to attend the Third International Congress on World Evangelization, organised by the Lausanne Movement and held in Cape Town, South Africa, in October.
More than 200 Christian leaders were invited to represent China at the conference, but when the authorities learned of this, they took action to prevent them from leaving the country. Delegates were harassed; some had their passports confiscated, while others were jailed for 20 days. ChinaAid reported that a handful of Christians were able to get to Cape Town; however, one Christian said that police were also at Beijing airport in an attempt to prevent them from boarding their plane.
The Chinese authorities stated that the reason for their hostility was that the participation of Chinese Christians at the conference represented “a threat to national security” and that “representatives of the government-sanctioned church were not invited”, a claim that ChinaAid refutes.
China has allowed the BBC to produce a series on the Church in China, which alleged that conditions were becoming easier for Christians in China, but recent evidence suggests this is not true in every part of this vast country. There are also important differences in treatment between the registered churches (legal, but carefully controlled by the government) and the unregistered “house churches”.
In a separate incident, a group of police officers entered the home of prominent Christian lawyer and leader of the Chinese Christian Legal Defense Association, Dr Fan Yafeng, early in the morning of 20 October. The officers tried to prevent Dr. Fan from leaving his home. As he struggled past them, they assaulted him, causing him to sprain his ankle. He was taken to the police station and at the time of writing, he is still in detention.
- Pray for those Christians who were harassed as they attempted to attend the conference in South Africa. Pray that the recent publicity will bring about a relaxation of government control on Christianity in China.
- Pray that Dr Fan and his wife, Ms Wu, will know the Lord’s peace in this difficult situation. Ms Wu is struggling to negotiate with the authorities about her husband’s condition and whereabouts.
INDONESIA CHRISTIANS AT CENTRE OF NATURAL DISASTERS
Christians have been caught up in a three-fold disaster in Indonesia this week. A magnitude 7.7 undersea earthquake triggered a three-metre high tsunami, which struck the predominantly Christian Mentawai Islands, off the coast of West Sumatra, on Monday evening 25 October. Rescuers are struggling to reach the worst-affected communities following the tsunami, which swept away at least 13 villages.
The following day, the highly active volcano at Mount Merapi in central Java erupted, shooting out huge clouds of gas and ash. The combined death toll has topped 400 with over 300 missing and tens of thousands displaced as homes were destroyed.
Barnabas Aid has sent immediate aid for food, clothing and medicine to our partners in Indonesia for use in Mentawai. One church leader in Padang, West Sumatra, appealed for our prayers, saying, “As we see the pictures and hear the stories of lost homes and missing or dead loved ones, the churches feel the hurt, and listen to cries out for help. The pain, the sadness, the loss, the devastation, it’s almost too much to bear even to watch, even from a distance. Yet, there are hundreds or thousands who are living this nightmare. And God, we pray for them with all of our hearts and souls.”
- Pray that rescuers will be able to reach survivors in need and that many who are missing will be found alive. Pray for Christians who have been bereaved or displaced by these disasters, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and presence in their distress and loss.
- Pray that Barnabas Aid partners will receive adequate resources to be able to help those in need.
In Bhutan, Prem Singh Gurung has been sentenced to three years in prison for screening films on Christianity. Gurung was arrested four months ago and was found guilty on 6 October of “attempting to promote civil unrest” after local residents complained that he was showing Christian films in two villages in the predominantly Buddhist nation.
It is estimated that there are around 6,000 Christians in Bhutan, which is situated between India and China; however, their presence is not officially acknowledged in the country. There are no registered Christian institutions, and Christians must practise their faith in secret.
- Thank the Lord for Gurung’s courage in sharing his faith with his fellow citizens. Pray that he will know the Lord’s peace and that he will grow even stronger in His faith while in prison.
- Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Bhutan; pray that there will come a time when Christianity is recognised in that nation so that Christians will no longer have to meet together in secret.
ALGERIA VICTORY FOR CHRISTIANS ARRESTED DURING RAMADAN
Two Christian men, Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak, have been acquitted of breaking Ramadan rules in Algeria. The men were arrested in August after they were seen eating lunch during Ramadan, Islam’s month of fasting during daylight hours, on the building site where they worked in Kabylie, northern Algeria. They admitted they had been eating but said they had done it discreetly.
The men were accused of “offending Islam”, and a state prosecutor sought a three year prison sentence. But at their trial on 5 October the judge threw the case out of court, saying, “No article [of law] provided for a legal pursuit against the men.”
A group of people who had gathered outside the courthouse during the morning applauded when they heard the verdict. Algeria is overwhelmingly Muslim; the small Christian population numbers some tens of thousands, almost all of them converts from Islam.
- Praise the Lord that the two men have been cleared of any wrongdoing; pray that their lives may return to normal without fear of further harassment or future appeals by the prosecutor.
- There are two similar cases scheduled for trial in the coming weeks; pray that this case has set a positive precedent. Pray that the small Christian minority in Algeria will stand firm in their faith.
PAKISTAN CHRISTIAN FAMILY TARGETED UNDER “BLASPHEMY LAW”
A case of blasphemy has been registered in Pakistan against a Christian family. Yousaf Masih and his wife, their son-in-law Zahid and two other men have been included in the charge.
Yousaf, his wife and his daughter are illiterate and very poor and were living in a rented house. When they moved in, the toilet room had no roof, so a relative gave them a sheet of plastic to use. In early July, a group of Muslim neighbours noticed that the plastic sheet had words from the Qu’ran written on it. A dispute ensued between Yousaf’s relative and their neighbours, and a mob gathered near the Christians’ house, demanding their immediate arrest for “disgracing verses of the Qu’ran”. The family fled from their home, fearing violence.
- Pray for Yousaf Masih and his family, especially those who have been arrested. Pray that the Lord will grant them His protection. Pray too that the case against them will be dropped. The punishment specified in the Pakistan Penal Code for defiling, damaging or desecrating the Quran is life imprisonment.
- Pray for Christians in Pakistan, who suffer so much under the “blasphemy laws”. Pray that there will be a change in the attitudes of the authorities so that these laws will no longer be used to settle scores against Christians.
IRAN CHRISTIANS SUFFER HARASSMENT, PERSECUTION, BEATINGS AND IMPRISONMENT
A Christian convert in Iran has died from injuries received when he was badly beaten by a relative. Middle East Concern has reported that the beating occurred because the relative disapproved of the man’s decision to leave Islam and follow Christ.
There have also been a number of reports of Christians being detained in Iran and one story of good news for a Christian released from prison in October.
In July 2010, a group of 15 Christians were arrested in Mashhad while on their way to spend time with fellow believers. Most of the group were released after a week, but according to Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) three Christians remain in detention, charged with apostasy. It has been reported that families of those detained have been told they “must persuade their loved ones to renounce their Christian faith and embrace Islam once again”.
A church leader in Ahvaz remains in detention following a raid on his home in late July; his condition is unknown. His wife and 6-year-old daughter were also arrested but were released after several hours of interrogation. A group of nine Christians were arrested in September and charged with carrying out evangelism in Hamedan, as reported by Iranian state television.
Tina, the wife of an Iranian pastor, was arrested on 8 June and sentenced to life in prison in August, but following an appeal she was released on 11 October. Her husband, Yousef, was arrested on 12 October and he was still in detention at the time of writing.
- Pray for the bereaved family of the Christian who died as a result of his injuries. Pray that his wife and children will know the peace and comfort of the Lord. Pray too for the relative who carried out the beating, that he will come to know Christ.
- Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are still in prison, that they will know the presence of Jesus.
- Praise the Lord for Tina’s release, but please pray for her husband, that any charge against him will be dropped and the family will be reunited.
- Pray that Christians in Iran will not be intimidated by the harassment and arrests and that they will continue to stand firm in their faith.
TURKMENISTAN PASTOR JAILED FOR FOUR YEARS
After nearly eight weeks in pre-trial detention Pastor N, the leader of the Light to the World Church in one city in Turkmenistan, was sentenced on 21 October to four years in jail.
Pastor N was arrested on 27 August and charged with fraud (see Prayer Focus Update October 2010). His wife and other church members vigorously refute the accusations and questioned the credibility of the prosecution witnesses, but in spite of this, the courts ruled in favour of the prosecution.
Pastor N is likely to be sent to a labour camp near the eastern town of Seydi. He is under treatment for diabetes, and his wife has been denied the opportunity to see him or give him his medicines since his arrest in August.
- Pray that Pastor N will receive the medical attention he desperately requires. His wife said he looked “very, very pale and thin” when she saw him in court in October.
- Pray that Christians in Turkmenistan will remain faithful to their Lord and Saviour, despite persecution and harassment from the authorities.
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