Sunday, May 31, 2009

This week’s recommended resources from The Voice of the Martyrs (May 31-June 6)

It’s summertime!  Time to kick back with a good novel at the beach, cottage, or backyard.  Why not read a great one from The Voice of the Martyrs?  Here are a couple that we have available:

Daughter of China by C. Hope Flinchbaugh
Like young women everywhere, Mei Lin longs for an education, a career-even love. But the system she lives in does not tolerate religious beliefs and Mei Lin’s faith is as profound as it is simple. Must she abandon her beliefs to have the life she’s dreamed of? In this debut novel, the author employs the unusual setting of today’s China to draw readers into the landscape of the heart. ($15.00. Paperback, 278 pages)

Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
“Is this the day I die?” wonders Li Quan as he endures persecution for his faith. Half a world away, his college buddy - a businessman living in comfortable corporate America - steps on the plane to China. Reunited after 20 years, both men face decisions that will determine their destinies . . . as well as the fates of their nations and the world. This soul-stirring and challenging book will convict your heart to live in the light of eternity. ($15.00. Paperback, 399 pages).

Also check out our online discount specials!  VOMC t-shirts, caps, posters, and books – only $5.00 or less!

This week in persecuted church history (May 31-June 6)

Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7b (ESV)

May 31, 1578: Italian archaeologist Antonio Bosio discovers the Christian catacombs in Rome. Some have mistaken them for places of refuge or worship, but Christians used them mainly as burial chambers.

June 1, 165: Justin, an early Christian apologist, is beheaded with his disciples for their faith. "If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to be saved," he said just before his death. Christians soon named him Justin Martyr.

June 3, 1647: The Puritan British Parliament bans Christmas and other holidays.

June 3, 2007: As they are leaving the Church of the Holy See in Mosul, Iraq, Father Ragheed Ganni (35), Basman Yusef, Waheed Isho and Ghasan Bidawid are shot killed when some armed men force them out of their vehicle and shoot them.

June 4, 2007: Three Christian guards are killed when the St. Jacob Church near the Asia Neighbourhood of Dora. Iraq is looted. Local Muslims intended to turn the building into a mosque. That same day, the St. John the Baptist Church near the Assyrian quarter of the district is also looted.

June 5, 754: English monk Boniface, missionary to Germany, dies with 50 other Christians in an attack by angry pagans. The missionary, famous for smashing pagan idols, also established a monastery at Fulda that is still the center of Roman Catholicism in Germany.

June 5, 1414: Bohemian reformer Jan Hus appears before the Council of Constance. Instead of allowing him to state his beliefs, the council only permitted him to answer trumped-up charges of heresy. Hus was condemned and burned the following July.

June 5, 2005: An eight-year-old girl named Denkenesh is stabbed to death by a witch doctor in Alalaba, Ethiopia. He had repeatedly told her Christian family that their prayers hindered his contact with the spirits.

June 6, 2004: Mobs armed with sticks attack four churches on the southwestern outskirts of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

(source: Christianity Today, The Voice of the Martyrs)

Prayer: “Grant that we, who now remember these before thee, may likewise so bear witness unto thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of glory that fadeth not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” – taken from The Book of Common Prayer, Canada (1962)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What have you been reading in May?

I have been following Kevin DeYoung’s blog lately and noticed that he has started a book log in which he mentions a book that he has read and then makes a one or two line comment about it.  With my busy schedule, I thought, “What a great idea!” I really don’t really have time to write out full reviews like I have in past months but this would give me an opportunity to share with you a bit of what I have been exposed to and maybe encourage you to look more at certain books or avoid others.

Anyway, here’s what I have been reading in May.

thumbdown United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror by Jamie Glazov. Points out a real issue (the strange tendency of the political left to side with human rights abusers like communist regimes and Islamists) but does so with such a condescending tone and his disdain so palpable that it took the edge off of the author’s arguments for me. Questionable research methodology as well (i.e. tends to quote quotes instead of going to the primary sources for his information).

thumbdown Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by Justin Taylor & John Piper. A collection of articles on suffering in the Scriptures ranging from incomprehensibly dense to overly simplistic. Piper’s articles are worth reading but not worth the price of the book.  Not much new ground covered here. Disappointing all in all.

thumbup Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village by Serge Schmemann. If you are a Russophile like me, you’ll love this book. If not, pass on it. Tells the story of the author’s family and home village up until they fled Russia after the Revolution.

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo. As you can tell from my blogs from the last couple of days, I like this book. I like it a lot.  Addresses the fact that fifty years of giving aid to African countries has NOT improved the lives of Africans but made things worse.  But the author does more than just point out the problem. The second half of the book is dedicated to providing workable solutions.  This is a book that cannot be ignored by anyone serious about really improving the lives of those in need.

So what have you been reading?

Recent interviews with Dambisa Moyo on aid for Africa

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I am reading through Dambisa Moyo’s book Dead Aid.  Thought it might be good to give you a taste of what she is advocating for and so here are a couple of interviews that she has done this week here in Canada. You can also find more on her website.


Why aid to Africa must stop

Adrian Humphreys, National Post  Published: Saturday, May 30, 2009 

Born and raised in Zambia but educated at Oxford and Harvard, Dambisa Moyo was an uncommon face as a black woman in the world of high finance. Now with the publication of her book Dead Aid, she has become an uncommon voice, a strong and eloquent advocate of stopping financial aid to Africa as the best way to help the troubled continent. It is an idea contradicting rock star campaigners, Western politicians and grassroots wisdom all at once. As she makes her way to Canada for a highly anticipated debate on Monday with Stephen Lewis and others at the Munk Debate on Foreign Aid, she spoke with the National Post about her ideas and the hazards of opposing the aid orthodoxy.


Q What's so bad about rich nations sharing their wealth with poor nations to help them cope with their struggles?

A No country on Earth has ever achieved long-term growth and reduced poverty in a meaningful way by relying on aid. It's just never happened. So we're pushing a strategy that has no evidence of working anywhere on Earth. And we have years of evidence that the aid strategy doesn't work.

It boils down to incentive. We have to ask ourselves: Are African governments incentivized to do what governments all around the world are expected to do, that is, deliver public goods: education, health care, infrastructure and security? Unfortunately an aid system has allowed African governments to abdicate their responsibilities.... So until African governments live or die based on job creation and providing goods to Africans and not rely just on getting aid money, we will continue to see a situation where the private sector has not developed and Africans do not have job opportunities. The billion dollars that go from government to government ... can make African governments lazy with respect to doing what they are supposed to be doing. It also fuels corruption, can fuel civil wars, inflation, the debt burden, and so on.

Q What do you see as the better way?

A It is a mixture of trade, foreign direct investment, capital markets, the bond market, remittance and microfinance. It is basically fostering a private sector investment into these economies so you actually get job creation. The fundamental problem with the aid model is there are no jobs being created for Africans. It is a band-aid solution. Over 60% of Africa's population is under the age of 24. These people need jobs or we'll have a continent of pirates or young people with no opportunities. It is critically important that people understand that Africans want what Westerners want.

Q In order to raise aid money, foundations and aid agencies often turn to television commercials panning across impoverished people amid a damaged wasteland. That hardly inspires confidence that any private funding would be worthwhile as a financial investment.

A I completely agree and that is one of the fundamental problems with the celebrity culture. The focus is so negative. In the book I call it the four horsemen of African apocalypse. They want to focus on war, disease, poverty and corruption. I met with an African woman in Kenya who said to me it is hard enough to raise a teenager anywhere in the world, but try to raise a teenager to be an engineer or a doctor or to really contribute to the global society when you are constantly being told you are poor, you're inefficient, you need a handout. This is not a formula for success. It is a great disappointment that, by and large, celebrities use their platforms to basically push a negative story. That is not going to encourage anyone to Africa to invest.

Q So you advocate turning off the taps. How soon, how suddenly and how completely should they be turned off ?

A I appreciate you asking that question because I have been completely misrepresented and, I have to say, I think quite deliberately misrepresented, particularly by the NGO community...

[click here to read more]

Friday, May 29, 2009

When aid becomes deadly

I have been reading the controversial new book by Zambia economist Dambiso Moyo, Dead Aid in which she argues convincingly that the billions of dollars of aid that have been poured into Africa over the past fifty years has, instead of improving the lives of Africans, made it far worse. Aid, she contends, has significantly increased poverty and stifled economic growth throughout Africa.  Take the following case in point, taken from pages 44-45:

There's a mosquito net maker in Africa. He manufactures around 500 nets a week. He employs ten people, who (as with many African countries) each have to support upwards of fifteen relatives. However hard they work, they can't make enough nets to combat the malaria-carrying mosquito.

Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses, and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive, the nets are distributed, and a 'good' deed is done.

With the market flooded with foreign nets, however, our mosquito net maker is promptly put out of business. His ten workers can no longer support their 150 dependants (who are now forced to depend on handouts), and one mustn't forget that in a maximum of five years the majority of the imported nets will be torn, damaged and of no further use.

This is the micro-macro paradox. A short-term efficacious intervention may have few discernible, sustainable long-term benefits. Worse still, it can unintentionally undermine whatever fragile chance for sustainable development may already be in play. Certainly when viewed in close-up, aid appears to have worked.

But viewed in its entirety it is obvious that the overall situation has not improved, and is indeed worse in the long run. In nearly all cases, short-term aid evaluations give the erroneous impression of aid's success. But short-term evaluations are scarcely relevant when trying to tackle Africa's long-term problems. Aid effectiveness should be measured against its contribution to long-term sustainable growth, and whether it moves the greatest number of people out of poverty in a sustainable way. When seen through this lens, aid is found wanting.

Instead of giving malaria nets, Moyo argues (quite rightly) donors could buy from local producers of malaria nets then sell the nets on or donate them locally.  For the lives of Africans to really improve, she says, “there needs to be much more of this type of thinking.”

I could not agree more.  I am convinced, even at a smaller level, that simply providing aid to those in need does not solve their long term (macro) problem.  Dependency on outside aid stifles not only the economic growth of countries but (on a smaller level), I believe, the economic growth of families and churches.  The time has long since passed when organizations like our own need to look beyond the short-term needs to long-term solutions and recognize that simply addressing short-term problems (micro) leads to inevitable long-term dilemmas like the one referred to above. It is time to reconsider, for example, the wisdom of shipping blankets and clothing from the West to nations where local Christians, in particular, could be benefitted by doing business with them. If Bibles and books can be printed in-country, then they should be. If local churches can be enabled through microcredit projects to support their own pastors and evangelists, then they should be rather than paying them out of Western coffers.  Yes, I know that donors in the West like to get involved in practical ways like donating clothing, sponsoring national pastors, and other such things.  But isn’t it time that we thought beyond donor relations when it comes to program planning? Isn’t it time we started educating the Western church to understand that money is not the solution to every problem in the developing world and that local problems should be solved using local resources as much as possible? 

This calls for an entirely new way of doing ministry. 

  • One that moves us beyond treating the poor like dependents and more like partners. 
  • One that reduces the temptation that even persecuted Christians are prone to of misusing the huge influx of cash which aid inevitably creates.
  • One that stops the cycle of dependency that robs Christians of the privilege of biblical stewardship and trusting God to meet each other’s needs.
  • One that helps Western Christians to realize that we have more to contribute to the purposes of God than just giving money and sees organizations like The Voice of the Martyrs as more than primarily grant-giving foundations. 
  • One that calls for us to train and hire staff who can serve the persecuted church in ways that go beyond funding projects. 
  • One that educates the Western donor to the need of supporting organizations who are more concerned about finding long-term solutions than sending short-term influxes of funding to those in need that may or may not really solve anything.
  • One that really tries to do good by doing what is right rather than by doing what will raise money or get attention.

Will this change come easily over quickly? No, of course not. Simply giving aid is much easier.  It’s also popular. But change must come if we are to be truly faithful to our calling of serving the God’s persecuted church.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update on imprisoned Cuban pastor Omar Gude Pérez

Christian Solidarity Worldwide released an update today on imprisoned Cuban pastor Omar Gude Pérez today.  As you may recall from our earlier blog, his case was to go to trial last week.  Here is part of today’s update

Last Tuesday, trial proceedings opened against Pastor Omar Gude Pérez. According to his wife, Kenia, the state prosecutor presented the charges against Pastor Gude Pérez in an environment of intense intimidation. A number of church leaders from the same denomination in other parts of the country were detained in the days preceding the trial, in an apparent attempt to prevent them from attending the proceedings. The family is now waiting for the next phase of the legal proceedings.

According to witnesses, upon leaving the prison to be transported to the court Pastor Gude Pérez was separated from other prisoners who were also being taken to the courts and put in a separate car. En route to the court, the car was escorted by police vehicles. When his family entered the courtroom they were taken aback to see that the pastor was surrounded by state security agents who were communicating with walkie-talkies, “as if he was a terrorist,” said Kenia. 

“However,” Kenia said, “I know the truth, that God was also surrounding Omar with millions of angels all around him. What happens is that Satan always tries to mirror in the physical world what God is doing in the spiritual world.”

Imprisoned in May 2008 on charges of ‘human trafficking’, Pastor Gude Pérez trial has at last begun.  Although his family was given the good news in March that there was no evidence to support the original charges under which the pastor had been arrested, he is now being charged with ‘illicit economic activity and falsification of documents’. In addition, his lawyer has questioned why the pastor is being tried by a criminal tribunal despite the fact that the charges against him relate to civil procedures and as such should be reviewed by a civil court.

There are strong indications, however, that Pastor Gude Pérez is actually being targeted because of the leadership role he holds in a fast-growing Christian organisation.  His wife Kenia says the new charges, coming almost a full year after his original detention and imprisonment, are completely fabricated and are merely an attempt to disguise the fact that he is a victim of religious persecution. 

For months prior to his detention, Pastor Gude Pérez and his family were threatened by government officials and warned to curtail their religious activities.  A number of other members of their religious group have also been harassed by the authorities. 

The prosecution’s new petition against Pastor Gude Pérez accuses the pastor of ‘counter-revolutionary conduct and attitudes’ and, apparently in an effort to support the allegations of ‘illicit economic activity’, says that he is unemployed, ignoring the fact that he has spent the past twenty years working as a full-time pastor.  Pastor Gude Pérez now faces the possibility of a seven-year prison sentence.

Please continue to uphold Pastor Pérez and his family during this time. Pray that all charges would be dropped. As before, we also encourage you to send a letter or card of encouragement to Pastor Pérez’s family, letting them know that they are not forgotten and that you are praying for them. You can mail your letter or card to:

La Familia Gude Pérez
Avellande 278
entre Esteban y San Martín
Camaguey, CP 70100

More details on Nepal church bombing

Destroyed Church At 9:23AM on May 23 in the Himalayan nation of Nepal a powerful pressure cooker bomb ripped through the hall of the Assumption Catholic Church in Dhobighat, Kathmandu killing two and wounding fifteen. The congregation was preparing for their Saturday morning Mass and approximately 250 were in the room. Eyewitnesses say that a young man and woman in their early 20s came in to the church at about 9:15AM carrying a bag. The woman set the bag down between two ladies and told them that she was going to the toilet. A few minutes later the bomb exploded sending shrapnel and nails flying into the congregation. Instantly a fifteen year old Indian Christian girl Celestina Joesph was killed. On the way to the hospital 30 year old Deepa Patrick a newlywed visiting family in Nepal from India also died. Fifteen others were injured including one of the priests. 3 of the injured remain in critical condition. In an interview with one of the leaders of the church he told VOM “We never expected this kind of thing to happen. We never harm anyone”. A second bomb was disarmed by police before it was able to detonate.

The Nepal Defense Army, a Hindu militant group with ties to Indian Hindu extremist groups, has taken responsibility for the attack. They are the same group that mutilated and murdered a Catholic priest last year in Nepal and made death threats to the VOM staff and many other Christian leaders. They are responsible for bomb attacks on other Christian churches and Muslim mosques. Their leader RP Mainali states that their goal is to return Nepal to a Hindu State and to rid Nepal of the Christians and the Muslims. In a phone conversation with VOM staff when he made death threats, Mainali claims to have protection from local government and the Hindu people of Nepal.

VOM is working with the local church in assisting with the medical needs of the injured.

Name List of injured Christian Injured priest 2
Injured 6 at hospital 1 Injured 6 at hospital 2
Injured 3-1 Injured 2 lost ear 3
Injured 6 with doctor 2 Injured 5

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Messianic Jews attacked in Israel

When a group of Messianic Jews went into the streets of the central Israeli city of Rehovot last Wednesday (May 13) and began handing out evangelistic pamphlets, some of the ultra-Orthodox residents of the area became so outraged that they began beating the evangelists and ripping up their literature. Passersby also joined in the fray and destroyed most of the literature.

Those who attack Messianic evangelists, as these did, often falsely claim that missionary activity is illegal in Israel (as if this justifies the violence).  In reality, there is no Israeli law against sharing one's faith with consenting adults. It is only illegal to offer monetary compensation for accepting a new faith or to proselytize minors.

Amazingly enough, when I shared this story with the editor of a Christian magazine here in Toronto this afternoon, he was not even aware that Messianic Jews suffered such abuse in Israel today.  I guess that’s not really surprising or unusual.  Most evangelicals who visit Israel have little idea that there are Christians there and most church leaders who go there are often more interested in meeting leading rabbis than Christian pastors.  In our July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter, we will be publishing an article on the persecution faced by the followers of Jesus in Israel and the Palestinian Authority called “The Forgotten Church.”  Subscribe today to make sure that you receive it.

Words from our founder

Now we have His word that whoever puts faith in Him is forgiven and will live with Him in eternal paradise. Even notorious Marxists can be saved. It is worth noting that two Soviet Nobel prize winners, Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, both former Communists, after describing the extremities of crime to which Satanic Marxism leads, have confessed their faith in Christ. Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Stalin, the worst of the Marxist mass-murderers, also became a Christian.

Let us remember that Marx’s ideal was to descend into the abyss of hell and draw all mankind in after him. Let us not follow him on this vicious path, but rather follow Christ who leads us upward to peaks of light, wisdom, and love, toward a heaven of unspeakable glory.

Excerpted from Pastor Wurmbrand’s book Marx & Satan, p. 120. You can order a copy from our online resource catalog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

This week’s featured resources from The Voice of the Martyrs (May 24-30, 2009)

Do you love church history? I do. That’s why I think that books like this week’s featured items need to be in every Christian’s library.  We need to remember the sacrifice of those who went before us and imitate their faith (Hebrew 13:7).

 Blood of the Martyrs, Seed of the Church by Thomas Thigpen

Encounter the faith of early believers like John the Baptist, Stephen, and Paul. Marvel at the courage of those who were killed by pagan kings and government officials. Travel alongside early missionaries whose death inspired others to come to faith. Mourn the tragedy of Christians warring against other Christians. And meet contemporary men and women whose lives of service and death are precious in the sight of the Lord. ($15.00. Paperback, 216 Pages)

Martyrs Mirror by Thieleman J. Van Braght

This book is a record of the path of the early Christian martyrs up to the mid-seventeenth century; Christians who paid a high price, the sacrifice of their own lives, to preserve a pure faith and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Tortures, persecutions and sufferings were endured with fortitude and trust in God. This book tells the stories of more than four thousand Christians who endured suffering, torture, and death because of their simple faith in the gospel of Christ. Songs, letters, prayers, and confessions appear with the descriptions of defenceless Christians who were able to love their enemies and return good for evil. ($40.00. Hardcover, 1158 pages)

Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs by The Voice of the Martyrs

Understand our rich Christian heritage with new eyes. Be stirred to action by these testimonies of faith. Encounter the stories of Christian martyrs from the dawn of Christianity to the modern times and allow their witness to overflow into your life. This special leather-bound edition, which includes a special cross pendant, will be a treasured addition to any library. ($25.00. Hardcover, 476 pages.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This week in persecuted church history (May 24-30)

Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Hebrews 13:7b (ESV)

May 24, 1689: Parliament passes England's Toleration Act, granting freedom of worship to Dissenters (non-Anglican Protestants) but not to Catholics and atheists.

May 24, 2008: Police raid a private home and jail 25 Christians who had gathered in Adi Kuala on Eritrea's Independence Day to pray for their nation.

May 25, 2007: Uzbek pastor Dmitry Shestakov transferred to a closed labour camp in the city of Navoi to serve the rest of his sentence for refusing to "repent for the crime he has committed."

May 26, 1521: The Edict of Worms formally condemns Martin Luther's teachings , and he is put under the ban of the Holy Roman Emperor. Those who fear for his life then kidnap Luther and hide him in Fredericks Wartbury castle.

May 26, 1647: Massachusetts enacts a law forbidding any Jesuit or Roman Catholic priest from entering Puritan jurisdictions. Second-time offenders could face execution.

May 28, 2004: Samuel Masih, a Pakistani Christian in jail accused of blasphemy, dies in hospital of injuries suffered from beatings at the hands of his guards.

May 29, 1660: England's King Charles II triumphantly enters London, marking the full restoration of the monarchy. Though he promised religious liberty, he cracked down on Dissenters (including John Bunyan) following a 1661 attempt by religious fanatics to overthrow him.

May 30, 339: Eusebius dies at age 74. Author of the 10-volume Ecclesiastical History, he is called the father of church history. His works are perhaps the leading source of information on persecution in the first three centuries of Christianity.

May 30, 1416: Jerome of Prague burns at the stake for heresy. When the Council of Constance arrested and tried his fellow Bohemian reformer Jan Hus, Jerome went to defend him, sealing his own fate.

May 30, 1934: The first synod of the Confessing Church at Barmen ends. Influenced by Karl Barth, the synod resisted the teachings of the Nazi German Christians.

(source: Christianity Today, The Voice of the Martyrs)

Should Malaysian Christians be allowed to refer to God as “Allah”?

An ongoing debate, now before a court, has been raging in Malaysia over whether Christians should be allowed to refer to God as “Allah”. Christians argue that this is the usual word for God in their native language and so they should be allowed to use it. Muslim leaders, on the other hand, contend that that referring to God as “Allah” should be restricted to Islam, concerned its use in other religions could lead to confusion and possible conversions from Islam to Christianity.  As this BBC report rightly points, this is more than just a row about language, it is a matter of religious freedom.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

This past week in persecuted church history (May 17-23)

Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 
Hebrews 13:7b (ESV) 

May 21, 1527: Anabaptist minister Michael Sattler, a former Benedictine monk who left the monastery and married after reading Paul's letters, is tortured and killed in Rottenburg, Germany. His wife was drowned eight days later.

May 23, 1498: Italian reformer Girolamo Savonarola, who preached aggressively against the corruption of northern Italy's church and society, is hanged for heresy and his body burned. After gaining fame for successful prophecies, he sought to establish an ascetic Christian community. Scholars still debate whether he was a saintly prophet or a fanatic.

May 23, 1633: Though Huguenots (French Protestants) had tried to colonize "New France" (Canada) for three decades, France declares only Roman Catholics are allowed to permanently settle there.

(source: Christianity Today)

Friday, May 22, 2009

BJP at the crossroads

India's recent federal elections saw the victory of the Congress Party and the startling defeat of The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP, a group connected with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has the "goal [of] 'Hindutva,' a Hindu state in which minorities must assimilate to the majority culture and language, revere the Hindu religion, and glorify Hindu race and culture" (Religious Freedom in the World, 199). Of course, this platform does not assimilate well with India's secular constitution, which describes the country as "a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic" (198).

The BJP began rule of the federal government in 1998 before being defeated by the Congress Party in 2004. According to Religious Freedom in the World, the BJP garnered their popularity by exploiting the religious tension in the country following the destruction of a mosque in December 1992 by members of groups connected with the RSS while police looked on. Many Hindus believed the mosque was built on the site where a commemorative Hindu temple once stood above the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram.

In August 2008, anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa state after World Hindu Council (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was murdered. Militant Hindus blamed Christians for the crime even though Maoists accepted responsibility. For weeks, VOMC received reports of Christians being attacked, forced from their homes, raped, and killed. We continue to hear about Christians in relief camps being threatened by militant Hindus. The BJP openly supported the attacks.

Exploiting religious tension to gain victory may have worked for the BJP in 1998, but has backfired for the party in recent months. The Times of India put it well: "This is a new century, where destroying a mosque in order to establish a temple at the same spot hardly makes policy sense. India has changed dramatically between 1992 and 2009. The old ploy of provoking communal riots in order to polarize the electorate, a formula that BJP appears to have stuck to as late as 2008 in case of anti-Christian riots in Orissa, is subject to diminishing returns at the ballot box."

Blind Spot, a book I'm currently reading through which examines how the news media interprets and reports on stories with religious elements, acknowledges that "religion contains an immense capacity to define and mobilize people within and across state boundaries, both for good and for ill." By promoting attacks on religious minorities, the BJP seeks to incite religious fervor for their own gain. As proven by the election results, however, such a strategy does not always yield victory.

Members of the BJP reportedly met informally on May 17 to question whether a more moderate tone would have been more advantageous. Many speculate that the party is now at a crossroads. A recent report by Compass Direct aptly summarized the party's situation, saying "[its] defeat at the national level is expected to compel the party to decide whether it turns to moderation in its ideology or more extremism in desperation." During his swearing in ceremony in 2004, Prime Minister Singh himself urged "strengthening the secular foundation of our republic." But as Blind Spot notes, "one root of 'religious terrorism' is a growing rift between leaders trying to create a secular state, and the deepening religious commitments of the majority of their people." While India is a secular state, approximately 80% of its population is Hindu.

While Christians are, of course, hoping for a movement into moderation, only time will tell which direction BJP and their supporters will take from these crossroads and how their choices will affect the religious minorities in the nation.

The struggle of Pakistan’s Christians

This is an excellent 11-minute documentary on the challenges facing Christians in today’s Pakistan.  The focus of the video is on the so-called “French Colony” in Islamabad, where a community of 5,000 Christians live in extreme poverty, literally walled-off from the rest of society.  Originally broadcast by France 24 in April.

Late last year, The Voice of the Martyrs produced a 25-minute documentary entitled Pakistani Voices which you can order from us online and share with others. You can watch a trailer of this video by clicking here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Coming up in June edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter

june_nl_09I am really excited about the upcoming June edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. We just sent it to the printers yesterday and it should be ready to mail out at the end of the month. If you live in Canada and are not receiving our newsletter regularly, you really should. Our newsletter goes behind the scenes of persecution reports and brings you into the lives of persecuted Christians around the world. We find ways that you can make a meaningful connection with them. Each edition also contains biblical and practical teaching that you can use in your daily walk with the Lord.

Here’s a peek into the June edition:

  • In our feature article “Testaments of Grace in Vietnam,” enter the world of “Maria” and “Esther” as they share the struggles of daily life that they face because their husbands are in prison for their faith. Meet Brother “Barnabas”, a Vietnamese pastor whose sacrifice for Christ provides an inspiring example for church leaders in Canada.
  • Read the shocking story of the Cu Hat Church and how the Vietnamese government illegally and violently destroyed their chapel. Find out how you can reach out to them and let them know that you stand with them as members of God’s family
  • Study Revelation chapter 5 in our regular “Living in the Shadow of the Cross” series and learn how God calls us to follow His Son’s example of sacrificial living in accomplishing His purposes.
  • Read the testimony of Kim Sung Min, a former propaganda officer for the North Korean Army, who is now fighting for the freedom and faith of his home country and find out how VOMC is bring hope to the people of southern Sudan.

Don’t miss another edition of Canada’s only monthly publication on the persecution of Christians around the world. And yes, it’s free and we will never bug you for money! Click here to subscribe today.

Encouraging Sri Lanka

Yesterday I sent out the first batch of messages that a few of you sent to us to forward on to our co-workers in Sri Lanka.  Messages of hope and encouragement for those who are quite literally burning themselves out as they seek to serve the thousands of refugees displaced by recent fighting in their homeland. Here is the response I received by this morning:

Dear Glenn,

We are so touched and encouraged by their words and prayers. It is a very special thing to know that our brothers and sisters living thousands of miles away in Canada pray for us and think about us.

Our work is often difficult, tiring, stressful and dangerous. Particularly those who are right now working with the war IDPs in the camps. We will share these messages with all of our colleagues.

Please convey our thanks and deep appreciation to each one of your supporters who wrote in.

Thank you also and all at VOM C for your friendship and concern.


(Note: name concealed for security reasons)

I would really like to send more of these encouragement notes to these dear saints, these front-line workers who are risking much to be Christ’s hands and feet!  Won't you take a minute or two and be a blessing to your brothers and sisters today?   It will only cost you a little time but the encouragement that your words and prayers give these folks is valuable beyond measure.  Do it right now! Click here to send a message of love and encouragement and we will forward it to them right away.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Apologizing for the actions of others

Hardly a week goes by when some Christian group or leader isn’t apologizing for the actions of our society or churches or for the actions of Christians in the past. The crusades, slavery, sexual abuse, and persecution for heresy are probably the most common ones. 

Of course, these were terrible things for Christians to do.  I would be the last to suggest otherwise.  But are today’s Christians responsible to apologize for the acts of others or previous generations? 

Kevin DeYoung, in a recent blog entitled False Apology Syndrome, draws upon C.S. Lewis’ article “Dangers of National Repentance” in suggesting that it is “always dangerous when we are apologizing for something we disdain in someone else. Some solidarity with your country or your own history can be a good thing, but is can also easily turn into the sin of pride where we ‘confess’ all the stupid things our benighted forefathers weren’t smart enough to avoid.” As Lewis wrote, “The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting of our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.”

DeYoung continues, “The (false apology) syndrome is dangerous because it allows us to feel good without having to be good. We get all of the moral high ground that comes with confession and none of the personal pain….We get to feel grandiose for “our” guilt without actually having to change.

It would not take guts for me to stand on my soap box in Kenya and confess America’s high divorce rate, our alarming number of out-of-wedlock births, and the countless abortions we perform. Nor would it be big of me to preach a series of sermons apologizing for the church’s faults where I lament our wicked popes, our positive thinking Jesus, and our watered-down seeker friendly megaplexes. I already think all of those are wrong and I always have. And I have no part in them. What courage or humility does it take for me to “apologize” for these wrongs when none of them are mine? Such a sermon series would be viewed as thinly disguised disdain for other people’s problems.

I took the time today to read through Lewis’ original essay and was struck by its relevance after all of these years. Confession should never be easy. It is hard and it costs.  Confessing or apologizing for the so-called sins or actions or others or other generations costs us nothing and is most often simply a cleverly disguised expression of pride – the exact opposite of what confession is really all about.

This week’s recommended resources from The Voice of the Martyrs

I love books! My office both here at the mission and at home are full of them and I usually have 2-3 on the go at any one time.  This is a passion that was shared by Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, the founders of The Voice of the Martyrs, and so it is hardly surprising that making books on the persecuted church available to our friends and supporters has always been a part of our ministry.  We certainly don’t do it for the money as most of our books are sold close to cost or even below cost.  We simply believe that a knowledge of the persecuted church is part of what it means to be a healthy, growing Christian.

To that end, I am going to recommend 2-3 books every week from our online catalogue that I think would be valuable for our blog readers to get their hands on. I hope you find it helpful. Of course, we have other resources available too like DVDs, t-shirts, prayer wristbands, and posters (and I will mention them too, from time-to-time).  So here are my recommendations for this week.

Perpetua: A Bride, A Martyr, A Passion by Amy Rachel Peterson.

My wife is reading this right now and really enjoying it.  Perpetua is an historical novel based on the real life and death of a young Roman noblewoman who was martyred in the amphitheater of Carthage in 203 AD. While many martyrs were poor or illiterate, Perpetua was neither. A new mother, a noblewoman, wealthy, highly educated... she had much to lose, and she chose to give it all away for the privilege of dying for Jesus. ($15.00. Paperback. 394 pages).

Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights by Ezra Levant

Anyone concerned about religious liberty in Canada must read this book in my opinion. A creature of the civil rights era and its aftermath, Human Rights Commissions in Canada were supposed to be an equalizer to help the poor and powerless stand up to the rich and powerful. Today, in our increasingly tolerant society, they have morphed into a costly grievance industry. They now monitor political opinions, fine people for expressing politically incorrect viewpoints, and censor websites. Shakedown is a shocking and controversial look at the threat that radicalized human rights commissions pose to Canadian values, by one of the country's most plain-spoken political activists. It is a convincing, passionate plea to Canadians to reclaim their basic liberties. ($17.00. Hardcover, 216 pages).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is healing in the atonement?

Given my present battle with cancer and my work with persecuted Christians who suffer both injury and sickness because of their faith, it is common for people to seek to remind to me that "healing in the atonement,"  and that I and persecuted Christians need to claim healing in our lives, basing their belief mostly on Isaiah 53:3-4 which reads, 
    He was despised and rejected by men;
        a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
    and as one from whom men hide their faces
        he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted. (ESV)

But is this what these verses teach?

There are two New Testament passages that are often seen to be directly quoting Isaiah 53:4. The most obvious quote is Matthew 8:17. Many assume that 1 Peter 2:24 also quotes Isaiah 53:4, but as Erickson points out, this assumption is not as clear as some would believe.[1] Peter gives none of the typical indications that he is quoting an Old Testament passage. We do not find the words "as it is written" or any other similar formula or phrase. Rather, it seems likelier that he is referring to the whole of Isaiah 53, and particularly to verse 12.[2] How, then, are we to understand how Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 8:17 fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4? An in-depth investigation becomes essential at this point.

Isaiah 53:4 reads, "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried."[3] The primary meaning of the first noun, chale is that of "physical sickness" or "disease,"[4] though the term can also mean spiritual sickness, as in Isaiah 1:5 and Hosea 5:13.[5] As the New American Standard translation reflects, the word is placed in the emphatic position in the sentence. The verb nasa' has basically three separate meanings: "to lift up"; "to bear, carry, support"; "to take, take away"[6], though the predominant meaning is "to lift (up)".[7] Many interpreters take nasa' in this context as meaning to "to bear" or "to carry" vicariously[8] and, indeed, this term can refer to vicarious bearing.[9] Erickson argues, however, that in the one hundred verses listed by Brown, Driver and Biggs in which the meaning is "to bear, carry," "only six have reference to a vicarious bearing of guilt".[10] Erickson contends that the more likely rendering in Isaiah 53:4 is "has taken".[11] The verb, itself, does not mean, "to bear the punishment of," as Stott points out. "We are obliged to translate it thus only when sin is its object.[12] Erickson adds: "It should also be noted that Isaiah did not put the verb in an emphatic position; it seems that what is really important is what the suffering servant has taken, not how he has taken it."[13]

The second noun in this passage mak'ov only appears sixteen times in the entire Old Testament, in which at least eleven occurrences refer to mental suffering.[14] Gesenius calls it "pain of soul."[15] Erickson says, "The basic idea conveyed by the word is mental pain, sorrow, or distress resulting from the toilsomeness of life, including its physical burdens."[16] The likeliest meaning here, then, would seem to be that which the New American Standard and New International Version have adopted, "sorrows" or perhaps distress, perhaps as a result of physical infirmities."[17] The second verb sabal means basically "to carry a heavy load."[18] The word appears nine times in the Old Testament. Lamentations 5:7 and Isaiah 53:11 (in particular) convey the idea of vicarious bearing. In the remaining instances, sabal merely means "'carrying a load'; there is no connotation of vicariousness."[19] While the verb in Isaiah 53:4 may hold the concept of vicarious bearing, as some believe,[20] there is no reason to demand that it must. As Erickson points out, "Here again, just as in the first clause, the emphasis is on what the suffering servant has carried rather than on how he has carried it."[21]

It must be admitted that there are various ways in which this verse may be taken. It does seem that Isaiah in verse 4 is speaking of actual physical and mental afflictions, though not necessarily to a vicarious bearing of them, and as Erickson states, "in Matthew's quotation of this passage, we find something very similar."[22] Matthew's rendering of Isaiah 53:4 is quite unusual because it follows neither the LXX or Targum, both of which spiritualize the Hebrew.[23] Carson holds that Matthew 8:17 is most likely Matthew's own translation of Isaiah 53:4, given the significant alterations from either the LXX or the Targum.[24] One significant difference between the LXX (which Matthew often quotes in his gospel) and his quotation of Isaiah is in his substitution of verbs in the first phrase of Isaiah's passage. In the LXX, the phrase used the verb phero, which could conceivably be translated as "bearing vicariously." Matthew, however, substitutes lambano for phero, a word nowhere used in connection with vicarious bearing of guilt or anything similar.[25] Lambano is merely an extraordinarily common word with little or no theological significance. In Matthew 8:17, it simply means "to take away" or "remove."[26]

The second verb bastazo is very close in meaning to sabal, meaning "to bear" or "to carry" but "in none of its usages does it signify ‘to bear vicariously.'"[27] Perhaps what it meant here is a sympathetic bearing such as we find in Galatians 6:2.[28] Robertson writes, "The passage as Mt. employs it, has no bearing on the doctrine of the atonement."[29] But, he adds, "Jesus does show his sympathy with us. Christ's sympathy with the sufferers was so intense that he really felt their weaknesses and pains. In our burdens Jesus steps under the load with us and helps us carry on."[30] Erickson concurs: "What we are suggesting here, then is that both Matthew and Isaiah are referring to actual physical sicknesses and mental distresses rather than sins."[31] Erickson continues, "It seems likelier that they are referring to a sympathetic bearing of the troubles of this life. If this is the proper interpretation, Jesus ‘took our infirmities and bore our diseases' by becoming incarnate rather than by offering atonement."[32]

R.T. France notes that for Matthew, it is important that Jesus be seen to fulfill the role of the Isaianic Servant of the Lord.[33] Yet, as France points out, "it is remarkable that neither of these passages (Matt. 8:17 or Isa. 53:4) refers to the distinctive role of redemptive suffering, either in the specific words cited or in the aspect of Jesus' ministry to which they are applied."[34] "It is in the totality of his life and ministry, not only in its redemptive aspect, that Matthew delights to trace Jesus' fulfillment of the scriptural pattern."[35]

We conclude by noting that this explanation of how Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled answers the chronological difficulties of how the effects of the atonement could actually be said to be in effect before the atonement was even accomplished. If the atonement were in view in Matthew 8:17, it is hard to explain why Matthew quotes this verse in a context some time before Christ’s actual death. If, however, it is the incarnation that is in view here (and in Isaiah 53:4), and not the atonement, then there is no chronological difficulty at all. This view also best fits the context and syntax of each passage. We conclude, therefore, that the emphasis of Matthew 8:17 and Isaiah 53:4 is the incarnation rather than the atonement.

In summary, while Isaiah 53 (as a chapter) primarily emphasizes the sacrificial work of the Suffering Servant on behalf of mankind's sin, Matthew quotes these verses in 8:17 in reference to His ministry before He goes to the cross. In Matthew’s mind, he sees the prophecy of Isaiah 53:3-4 fulfilled in Jesus’ incarnation rather than the atonement, as He heals the sick (8:1-16).

Matthew 8:17 records that as a result of the healing ministry of Jesus (vv. 1-16), the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 was fulfilled, "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."

In other words, by coming and living among us, Jesus took on all aspects of what it meant to live in a fallen world. As He saw the suffering of people, his sympathy was so intense that he actually felt their pain and weaknesses. He saw the burdens that many carried, and He stepped under the load with us and helped carry it.

In becoming a man, Jesus "took our infirmities and bore our diseases." By coming to earth, he entered into the very conditions that we find here, including sorrow, sickness, and suffering. Experiencing sickness and sorrow himself, and sympathizing as he did with human suffering, he was moved to alleviate the miseries of this life when He witnessed them.[36] Time and time again we see throughout the gospels that Jesus healed because He pitied.[37] By means of His deep sympathy or compassion, Jesus entered "fully and personally into the sorrows of those whom He came to rescue."[38] As Bredin puts it, "He enters into the fears and pain, the tears and the worries and the anxieties of people in order to transform them."[39] 

Hence, do I believe in healing?  Yes, but it comes through the mercy and grace of my Lord alone.


[1] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology. Baker Book House, 1985: 841

[2] Ibid.; D. Edmond Hiebert, First Peter. Moody Press, 1984: 176-180; E.G. Selwyn, The First Epistle of St. Peter. Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1961: 180

[3] New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995

[4] As reflected in translations such as the New Revised Standard Version and New International Version

[5] Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Biggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford University, 1955: 318; William Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament. trans. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Baker Book House, 1857 rpt. 1979: 279-280; Carl Philip Weber, hālâ in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament , Vol.1. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 286-287

[6] Walter C. Kaiser, nasa' in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.2. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 600

[7] Erickson: 839; Gesenius: 567

[8] Kaiser, nasa': 601; Franz Delitzsch, Isaiah.William B. Eerdmans, rpt. 1983: 316-317; Derek Kidner, "Isaiah" in The New Bible Commentary: Revised . ed. D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970: 618

[9] e.g. Isaiah 53:12

[10] Erickson: 839

[11] As reflected in the New International Version

[12] Stott: 244

[13] Erickson: 839. Emphasis added

[14] John N. Oswalt, mak'ov in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.1. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 425

[15] Gesenius: 471

[16] Erickson. p.839

[17] Ibid.

[18] Brown, Driver and Briggs: 687; R.D. Patterson, sabal in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol.2. ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke. Moody Press, 1980: 616

[19] Erickson: 838-840

[20] Gesenius: 578; Patterson: 616

[21] Erickson: 840

[22] Ibid.

[23] D.A. Carson, Matthew. Expositor's Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1984: 205.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Erickson: 840. cf. Walter Bauer, W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. rev., University of Chicago, 1979: 464-465; Harold K. Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised . Zondervan Publishing House, 1978: 246

[26] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker: 464; Louw and Nida: 270

[27] Erickson: 840

[28] Ibid.; A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.1. Matthew and Mark. Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1930: 67; A.B. Bruce, Matthew. The Expositor's Greek Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1900, rpt. 1980: 141; John MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos. Zondervan Publishing House, 1992: 104

[29] Robertson: 67

[30] Ibid.

[31] Erickson: 840

[32] Ibid.

[33] e.g. Matt. 3:15 - Isa. 53; Matt. 8:17 - Isa. 53:4; Matt. 12:15-21 - Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 27:57 - Isa. 53:11

[34] R.T. France, "Servant of Yahweh" in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, I. Howard Marshall. InterVarsity Press, 1992: 746

[35] R.T. France, Matthew. William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985: 159. cf. France, "Servant of Yahweh": 746

[36] cf. Erickson: 840

[37] e.g. Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 5:19; 6:14; Luke 7:13

[38] MacArthur: 104.

[39] Eamonn Bredin, Rediscovering Jesus. Twenty-third Publications, 1985: 99

Monday, May 18, 2009

Questions that now face Sri Lanka

With the apparent end to the civil war in Sri Lanka now at hand, at least three main questions remain to be answered as we look ahead to the coming days:

1. Will the Tamil desire for greater representation and autonomy take on a new violent form in Sri Lanka or will the government of Sri Lanka genuinely pursue avenues to address the grievances of its Tamil population? Sadly, history does not give us much room for optimism for the latter.  Indeed, without international pressure put on the government of Sri Lanka, it is unlikely to take place. 

2. Will the Sri Lankan government now allow NGO’s and the international community to assist in providing aid and rehabilitation for the thousands of Tamils who have been displaced by the conflict? This will be a massive undertaking, requiring significant resources. Failing to do so will unquestionably create a fertile breeding ground for discontent and grievances that will erupt into further violence in the future.

3. With the “Tamil problem” apparently solved, will Buddhist nationalists now turn their attention towards Christians and other religious minorities whose very presence defies their expressed desire for a purely Buddhist and Sinhalese country. In January, Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thero, a Buddhist monk and Member of Parliament representing the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party stated that those who voted for them in the 2004 general election expected the JHU to fulfill two goals.  “One," he said, "was to end unethical conversions and the other was to liberate the country from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. That is why we entered politics.” 

Accordingly, I expect, we will soon see a resurgence of pressure on the government to pass anti-conversion legislation.

Uncertain days lay ahead for Sri Lanka. Your prayers for its people, leaders and church are much needed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

VOMC welcomes Indian election results

The Voice of the Martyrs welcomes the victory of the Congress Party and the resounding defeat of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the recent Indian federal election.  It is hoped that the decline in BJP support, in particular, will result in the re-establishment of a more religiously tolerant Indian society than has been evident in recent months and years.  While in opposition and in government, the BJP and its supporters have presided over or instigated several anti-Muslim and anti-Christian pogroms. Hundreds have died and thousands made homeless due to their actions. 

We are grateful that the Indian people have expressed their rejection of the BJP’s militant brand of Hinduism. We commit ourselves to continue to pray for India in the days ahead and urge Christians around the world to join us.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Please act on behalf of missing Colombian pastor

Reyes_and_family The Voice of the Martyrs joins with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is calling for action to be taken on behalf of Pastor William Reyes, who has not been seen or heard from since he disappeared in north-east Colombia on September 25, 2008. Because of fears for their safety, his wife, Idia Miranda and her children William, Luz Nelly and Estefania were recently moved to another part of the country.  According to CSW:

Pastor Reyes disappeared last year while travelling home from the city of Valledupar.  He and Idia were the leaders of the Light and Truth Inter-American Church of Maicao, in the province of La Guajira, and were also members of the local pastors’ association, FRAME.  They and other pastors at FRAME had been receiving threats from unidentified illegal armed groups since March 2008.

Ten days after Pastor Reyes’ disappearance, thousands gathered for a peaceful march through the streets of Maicao calling for his safe return. That same day, a wallet containing Pastor Reyes’ identification documents was found just inside the Light and Truth Church.  His family and church hoped this was a message that he was still being held alive somewhere; however, they did not receive any further communication or a ransom request. (Source: CSW)

CSW notes that recently the family has also come under threat.

A number of worrying developments in the case since the beginning of this year led to the decision to move Idia and her children to another part of the country.  In January, a man arrived at the Light and Truth Church asking for Idia.  When he was told she wasn’t there, he requested her home address and mobile number, which were not given to him.  He left a message that it was “in her best interests to get in touch with him, rather than for him to have to find her”.

Just a week later, William and Idia’s sixteen-year-old daughter Luz Nelly was approached in the street by a stranger, who told her she should go with him if she wanted to see her father again. When the man attempted to grab her arm, Luz Nelly fled. 

In February, unidentified armed men allegedly entered another Christian church, just a few blocks from the Light and Truth Church, and forcibly removed a female parishioner. 

Please pray for this family during this terrible time.  Pray that those guilty of Pastor Reyes’ disappearance, and the disappearance of other pastors in the area, would repent of their crimes, release their captives and that justice would be done.

CSW is also urging its British supporters to write to their members of parliament in the UK.  May I encourage Canadians to do likewise? 

Please write a letter to your MP to ask the Canadian Government to raise this case and urge the Colombian government to open an official investigation.  CSW partners in Colombia report that despite repeated pleas for action, the Colombian Attorney General’s office has not reported any progress in investigating Pastor Reyes’s disappearance.

In your letter, you might ask your MP what action, if any, the Canadian Government has taken on this case. You might also ask your MP to contact the Colombian Embassy directly to express concern at the failure to open an official investigation into Pastor Reyes’ disappearance.

You can find the name and address of your MP by clicking here and entering your postal code.

Cuban Pastor Pérez to face trial next week

Pastor Omar Gude Pérez has been held in detention in Cuba since May 2008, facing false charges of "illicit economic activity and falsification of documents." The original charge of "human trafficking" placed against Pastor Pérez was dismissed in March due to lack of evidence. The State prosecutor has requested a seven-year prison sentence be given to the pastor, who is currently imprisoned in the city of Camaguey.

Prior to his arrest, Pérez was involved in the training and oversight of several pastors and church leaders across Cuba.  The ministry he is part of, the Apostolic Nations for Christ Movement, is active in evangelism and church planting.

According to local Christians, Pastor Pérez has been targeted by authorities because he is one of the main leaders of an unrecognized denomination which also has no association with international denominational networks. This makes him and other leaders and members of the denomination particularly vulnerable to harassment from government officials. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, church leaders have reported that their phones are tapped, leaders are watched and threatened, and many church members have been threatened with loss of employment if they do not leave these churches.

After a year in prison, Pastor Pérez is due to face trial next week.  Please pray that he will be found innocent of the charges against him. Pray, too, for his wife Kenia and their two children at this time.  We encourage you to send a letter or card of encouragement to Pastor Pérez’s family, letting them know that they are not forgotten and that you are praying for them. You can mail your letter or card to:

La Familia Gude Pérez
Avellande 278
entre Esteban y San Martín
Camaguey, CP 70100

A final note on the Tamil protests and civil disobedience

If you have been following this weblog, you will know that over the past couple of weeks, I have been discussing whether the recent protests by Toronto’s Tamils fit within the context of appropriate civil disobedience. This is a relevant discussion for the Persecuted Church Weblog since the issue of civil disobedience is a normal part of life for many persecuted Christians, though often it is expressed in a far less public ways (i.e. refusing to obey laws that call for them to stop witnessing to their faith, printing Bibles, and the like).

In today’s National Post, Robert Fulford brings up an important point for this discussion as he evaluates whether we can place these recent protests in the long and honourable tradition of civil disobedience as expressed through the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.  He suggests that we cannot for the simple reason that Gandhi and King “directed their protests against their oppressors, not (as the Tamils do) against innocent citizens on the other side of the world who might have trouble finding Sri Lanka on a map” (emphasis added). 

This is a vital point, in my opinion.  Civil disobedience must, to be legitimate, be directed against the oppressor, not against innocents who have nothing to do with it.

I think that this will likely be my last posting on this particular issue. I have found it a helpful exercise in evaluating the topic of civil disobedience. I hope you have found it helpful too.  Of course, this is more than just an academic exercise. The situation facing the Tamils in Sri Lanka is grave, as our partners there are trying to address.  May I encourage you again to write a message of encouragement to these overworked brothers and sisters who, at great risk and cost, are seeking to be Christ’s hands and feet among those fleeing from the fighting?  To be honest, the response to this earlier appeal has been rather disappointing.  Your message need not be long but I know it will be appreciated. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A values-driven mission

The key to really understanding the ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is appreciating the importance of our organizational mission and values.  The Voice of the Martyrs exists for only one reason – to glorify God by serving His Persecuted Church.  This, in a nutshell, sets the direction for everything we do and sets limits for what we will not do.

How we fulfill our God-given mission is spelled out in our core values. We are a values-driven mission meaning that everyone, including me, is accountable to follow the values that we think are essential in carrying our mission in a manner that glorifies the Lord.  There is rarely a decision that comes up when one or more of these values are not referred to in some way and I encourage my staff to challenge me if they think that I or the mission are not following through on them faithfully. 

Uncompromising Faithfulness to God. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Glorifying God in all that we say and do as individuals and as a ministry
· Acknowledging our dependency upon God in all aspects of our service for Him
· Promoting and modeling prayer above all other acts of service for the Persecuted Church
· Accepting the Bible as our absolute authority in both mission belief (orthodoxy) and practice (orthopraxy).
· Researching, modeling and teaching what it means to be a sacrificial, cross-bearing disciple in the 21st century in Canada and around the world.
· Choosing to trust God to supply our needs rather than engaging in direct solicitation methods of fundraising.

Integrity. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· The truth
· Accurate reporting
· Strict financial accountability
· Careful monitoring of international projects
· Speaking the truth in love and listening to each other as staff members seeking the truth

Independence within Partnerships. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Maintaining our identity as an independent Canadian mission best equipped to know how to accomplish our mission in Canada
· Partnering with other like-minded individuals, missions, and organizations in ministering to the Persecuted Church worldwide

Respect. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Serving the Persecuted Church according to their wishes, aspirations, and needs, and not according to our own predetermined strategies
· Refusing to promote (even unintentionally) the spreading of intolerance and hatred towards others, even persecutors
· Recognizing the Image of God in each of our staff and treating them accordingly

Evangelical and Non-denominational. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Our staff holding to an evangelical theology
· Ministering to persecuted Christians regardless of denominational affiliation
· Unity in the essential beliefs of the historical Christian faith and freedom to differ in nonessentials.

Excellence. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Never being satisfied with “good enough”, always looking to improve
· Exceeding the service expectations of our donors and friends
· Never being satisfied with the “status quo”, always looking to the next challenge
· Seeking to be proactive rather than reactive in outlook
· Not being afraid to fail in the pursuit of excellence

Empowerment. This is reflected in our commitment, for example, to:

· Standing with the Persecuted Church, encouraging and equipping without creating dependency, maintaining and promoting their ability to be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, and resisting any programs or ministry that would detract from this
· Unleashing the knowledge, experience, and motivation of each of our staff members through the accountability, direction, and support that only effective cross-centred, servant-leadership and a team-oriented environment can produce
· Demonstrate trust with our staff by sharing as much as possible with them about the mission’s operation.

Purpose-driven blessings

        May God be gracious to us and bless us
        and make his face to shine upon us,  Selah 
       that your way may be known on earth,
        your saving power among all nations. 
       Let the peoples praise you, O God;
        let all the peoples praise you!
- Psalm 67:1-3 (ESV) 

In these tough economic times it is easy for us to focus our prayers on asking God to bless us and to shine His face upon us.  It is even easier to lose focus of the fact that our prayers for blessing are for a specific purpose – to bless others to the end that God’s ways would be known, His saving power experienced, and His praise proclaimed.

This vision needs to be the driving force behind our prayer.  The goal is not the blessing itself but the reason for God bestowing it.

Joshua and Mary

Islam is the official religion in Egypt. In this North African country, a person can convert to Islam at anytime but Muslims are not permitted to leave Islam. Christian men are not allowed to marry women from a Muslim background, even those who have become Christians.

Recently a team from The Voice of the Martyrs met with Joshua, the husband in a young married couple in Egypt whose faith in Christ has brought them together but allows them to spend little actual time together.  Watch this brief report from The Overcomers, one of a series of short (60-second) video reports put out each month by The Voice of the Martyrs.  This story will be part of a larger video to be released on DVD in July called Egyptian Voices: Testimonies of the Persecuted.

To subscribe to the postcast for The Overcomers and other VOMC programs, click here.  You can watch more inspirational video reports like this on our multimedia website

Send a message of encouragement to Sri Lanka

Yesterday, I received an email from a dear friend and colleague in Sri Lanka who in which she shared how are partners are being overwhelmed by the need to take care of so many refugees fleeing the fighting between the government and the Tamil Tigers. Many people are arriving often with just the clothes on their backs, without food, injured or sick. There are Christians among the refugees and our friends are doing all that they can to help them. When possible, the pastors who are in the IDP camps are worshipping with the Christians who are with them. Sadly, At least ten pastors have been killed in the recent fighting.

While this civil war is not a matter of Christian persecution, the need to care for these refugees falls within the mandate of our partners’ mission and makes it difficult to monitor religious liberty issues for us since their staff is completely overtaken by this pressing need. Our hearts go out to them and their nation during this time.

sls-fs-commnt Can we ask ask you to join us in praying for them during this time and perhaps even sending a message of encouragement to them, letting them know that you care and are praying for them? Send the message to us using our online form and we will forward it to them. Due to security concerns in Sri Lanka during this tense time, it is better that we do it this way rather than having you send it directly. For their safety, we will be removing your email address and any personal contact information when we forward your message to them.

Click here to send a message of love and encouragement to these dear front-line workers at this time and we will forward it to them right away.