Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Encouraged in Prison

The following is a post from yesterday’s Persecution Blog, operated by our friends at VOM-USA. I hope you find it encouraging and will motivate you to write to a prisoner of faith.

On Sept. 16, The Voice of the Martyrs contacts in Pakistan reported that 20 year old Sandul Bibi’s faith is strong and she is encouraged by reading the Bible and a copy of Tortured for Christ.

Despite being held in prison for 11 months without a trial, Sandul has been encouraged by reading the Bible and a copy of Tortured for Christ, a book written by VOM’s founder Richard Wurmbrand. “In the month of March, Sandal…studied that book. She is really encouraged. Last month when she traveled for Faisalabad for [a] court hearing, secretly she gave that book (Torture for Christ) to her father Gull Sheer and said to him,’ Please read it in jail. This is a unique book,’” VOM contacts said.

When Sandul’s family visited her in prison during the recent Muslim holiday, Ramadan, she told them Muslims told her to pray and fast with them, but she refused telling them, “I am Christian I pray to Jesus Christ why should I say prayers with you. I will not do that.” Even though Sandul has faced some challenges in prison, she told her family that her faith in Christ is strong. “When I feel lonely, I talk with God during the prayers, in the presence of God I feel strengthened and peace in mind. I am happy that this way” God fulfils His Words that “I am with you,” Sandul said.

Sandul and her father Gulsher were arrested in October 2008 and charged with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the "blasphemy" law. Sandul was falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9 a large crowd of Muslims attacked Christian families at a church, throwing stones and firing guns. They were shouting, "Kill Gulsher and his daughter Sandul." Sandul and her father, Gulsher Masih, were arrested after a mob from the local mosque surrounded their house. Loudspeakers from different mosques broadcast accusations that Christians had disgraced the Quran, calling Muslims to attack and burn their homes. The angry crowd threw stones and set fire to Sandul's home. Christians believe Sandul and her father were targeted and arrested because they were aggressively winning villagers to Christ.

VOM is continuing to support Sandul’s family and encourages you to pray for Sandul and Gulsher as they remain in prison. Pray for their release and for the false charges to be dismissed. Ask God to encourage other believers in Pakistan who are unashamedly standing for Christ. To send letters of encouragement to Sandul and Gulsher go to

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church 2009

Is your church planning to take part in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this year? On November 8, Christians worldwide will join in remembering and praying for suffering believers through IDOP, an initiative of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

Christians around the world face abandonment for their faith in Jesus. Some are expelled from their homes. Others are rejected by family and friends. Converts are sometimes even viewed with suspicion and fear by fellow Christians.

Stand with your brothers and sisters. Show them they are not alone by taking part in this unique opportunity to pray for your persecuted Christian family.

To find out more about IDOP 2009 and to download a kit of special resources designed to help you get involved, please visit the IDOP international website at This year’s kit includes posters, a prayer map, prayer requests, children’s materials, a four-minute video, and other resources that will help your church or group pray together with thousands of other Christians around the world for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair – persecuted but not abandoned" - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

For additional information, please contact the IDOP Office:

Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance
32, Ebenezer Place,
Sri Lanka

**A few countries have their own IDOP websites. Please refer to the listing of these National IDOP sites on the home page of

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“If I live, I live for Jesus. If I die, I die for Jesus”

On August 26, 2008, Puspanjali and her daughter, Mona Lisa, went out to again search nearby villages in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, India for Pastor Digal. The last contact Puspanjali had with her husband was on August 23, when he went to the house of a believer following a worship service. He didn’t risk venturing home because Hindu mobs were going from village to village, attacking Christians and destroying homes and churches. The assassination of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, was the catalyst for the widespread attacks and, despite evidence to suggest otherwise, many Hindus blamed Christians for his death.

Pastor Digal had a heart for the Hindu people. He would spend time with them, assist them with medical or financial problems, and fast and pray for their needs. Through his witness, 20 Hindu families in a village he ministered to came to know the Lord. But his work also attracted the attention of Hindu militants, angered that he was telling people about Jesus.

On August 25, a mob of approximately 200 Hindus stormed the home where Pastor Digal was staying and stoned him. They then tied a rope around his neck and dragged his body to the river. Puspanjali and Mona Lisa discovered his dead body the next day. Suddenly, they found themselves without a husband and father.

Death threats forced Puspanjali and her daughter to flee Kandhamal. Puspanjali is currently living with her parents in another district in the state while Mona Lisa is residing in a Christian hostel. Puspanjali is from a Hindu family, and while her relationship with her parents is good, they pressure her to recant her Christian faith and return to Hinduism. She refuses to deny Jesus, but it is difficult for her to be without Christian community.

Puspanjali’s faith was shaken for some time following the loss of her husband, but her trust in God is strong once again and she is committed to be a light to her Hindu neighbours. The message of God’s saving grace cannot be silenced, even amid such brutal and deadly attacks on His followers.

Pastor Digal often used to say, “If I live, I live for Jesus. If I die, I die for Jesus.” In spite of all she has lost, this too is the cry of Puspanjali’s heart. And it is a cry that, by the grace of God, will continue to resound throughout India's Orissa's state, where the Christian community continues to face suffering and hardship for Christ’s sake.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This week in persecuted church history (September 27-October 3)

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

September 28-29, 2007: At least nine Christians are killed by local Muslims in a series of violent attacks in the Tundun Wada region of Kano State. They also burn churches and destroy believers' homes and businesses.

September 28, 929: King Wenceslas of Bohemia is killed by his brother and an accomplice on the way to a church service.

September 29, 1413: Archbishop Arundel condemned Sir John Oldcastle, a follower of John Wycliffe, of heresy. He was given 40 days to recant, during which he escaped and hid in Wales. He remained hidden for a year, until the offer of a large reward prompted someone to betray him. He was then captured and roasted to death.

September 29, 2008: Christians fleeing weeks of Hindu violence seeking refuge in three relief camps in Kandhamal district are the targets of bomb attacks. The explosions begin at approximately 7:00 p.m. and go off in the villages of Nuagoan and Mahasinghi and the town of Baliguda.

September 30, 2005: A wave of arrests begin in Eritrea with over 200 Christians detained within a week in coordinated raids on churches, workplaces, homes and off the streets.

September 30, 2008: Muslim militants demolish a Catholic church in Kismayo, a town in southern Somalia that had been in the control of a militant Islamic organization affiliated with Al-Qaedafor over a month. The militants vow to launch similar attacks on all other local non-Muslim places of worship.

October 1, 1558: Joris Wippe is executed for his Anabaptist beliefs by being drowned in a wine cask filled with water in Dordrecht, Holland. His body was publicly hung on the gallows by his feet by an object of derision.

Ocotber 1, 2007: Pastor Oqbamichael Tekle-Haimanot, a well-known and senior leader of the Kale-Hiwot Church in Eritrea, is arrested and imprisoned. He was released ten months later after being subjected to hard labour and solitary confinement.

October 1, 2008: An elderly Christian, Lalji Nayak, dies from axe wounds he received when a mob of Hindu militants attacked the village of Hrudangia, India the previous day. His wife, also attacked with an axe, was seriously injured in the head and his brother was hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds.

October 2, 1417: Catharine Saube is sentenced to death for her faith as a heretic and executed the same day by being burned at the stake in Montpellier, France.

October 2, 1551: Pieter Bruynen, Jan Pleunis, and two other Anabaptists are put to death in Antwerp, Holland.

October 2, 1792: A dozen English ministers form the Baptist Missionary Society "for the propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen, according to the recommendations of [William] Carey's Enquiry"

October 2, 2008: Two Christian men are dragged from their home in Sindhipankha village, India by Hindus, shot and then dismembered. The assailants also massacre cattle belonging to village Christians and burn Christian-owned houses.

October 3, 1574: In a desperate attempt to lift the siege of Leyden, William of Orange (the leading Protestant magistrate of the Netherlands) had his troops raise the sluices of the dikes that protected the low-lying lands from the sea.  This desperate act was a turning point in the rebellion of Holland against the political and religious tyranny of Spain.

October 3, 1692: Puritan clergy in Salem, Massachusetts, agree there would be no more executions resulting from the witch trials. More than 150 suspected witches had been put on trial in the previous year, and 19 had been hanged

October 3, 2005: Fifty-three-year-old Christian an, Pamilton Tadoa, is shot in the head and killed as he rode his motorbike to the school where he served as treasurer in the village of Pantengolemba in Poso, Indonesia.

October 3, 2008: Christians gathering for a three-day prayer meeting in Dumarbhavna village, Surguja district, Chhattisgarh state, India are viciously beaten when a mob of Hindu militants enter the house where the meeting was being held and attack the sleeping Christians. Three believers -- Muneshwar Ekka, Beik, and Ravi Devangan – are forced into vehicles belonging to the militants and brought to a secluded place where they are further beaten. Muneshwar Ekka and Beik are  then told to beat Ravi Devangan or face their own death. In fear for their lives, they beat Devangan until he is unconscious.

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)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Words from our founder

Two Christians each planted an apple tree in front of his house. When the time for reaping apples came, the first looked angrily at his tree: it bore not even one apple. When he approached his neighbour’s house, he became even angrier. The branches of his brother’s tree were cracking under the weight of beautiful fruits. He asked his brother, “Explain this to me. We planted our trees at the same time; we serve the same God. How is it that He gave you so many apples and none to me?” The other answered, “Perhaps you did not pray for your tree.” “What! Not pray?” said the first. “I prayed every day: ‘God, give rain; God, enough, now stop the rain. God, sun is needed now; too much now, it might scorch my tree.’ I never neglected prayer, and it was all in vain. How did you do it?” The brother replied, “I am not so keen at prayer as you are. I prayed only once, in the beginning, like this: ‘Father, I have planted an apple tree and wish to have fruit in due time. It is not for me to teach You how much sun and rain to give. You are a more ancient gardener than myself. You created Eden and all trees grow under Your direction. Grant me apples in due time.”

Excerpted from Richard Wurmband’s 100 Prison Meditations, p. 66. You can order a copy of this incredible book of sermons written by Pastor Wurmbrand while he was in prison for his faith from our online resource catalog.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chinese officials offer compensation for attack on Fushan church

About 3 am on September 13, 2009, the Shanxi government and officials raided the Fushan Church of Linfeng [click here for our blog on the incident], destroying 17 buildings and injuring over 20 believers. Here is the latest update from ChinaAid, one of VOMC’s partners:

imag161Late on Saturday night, September 19, 2009, local security officials cornered six Fushan Church leaders and brought them to a secret meeting place for negotiations with 20 government officials. Singled out for their influence, the negotiating party included the wife of the Fushan Church pastor. Under pressure from the Central Government, the leading Fushan PSB officer expressed a desire to make amends for the agency's corporate actions, with the goal of preventing any turmoil that could potentially mar the 60th anniversary National Day celebrations. Angered by the brutal treatment, but willing to cooperate, the six members raised their concerns, including the continued critical conditions of several hospitalized victims and the destruction of 17 buildings on the factory compound. They requested 1.5 million yen ($235,000 CAD) to cover the damages, and the negotiations wore on heatedly throughout the night.

Despite their apparent willingness to negotiate, the local authorities remained unrepentant: One officer reportedly shouted, "But the church building itself was illegal!." The pastor's wife responded, "Even if it was an illegal church, did it have to be violent?" The authorities had no response.

At daybreak on Sunday morning, the Fushan PSB verbally agreed to pay a reparations fee of 1.4 million yen ($219,000 CAD) to Fushan Church, under the condition that the church would not construct a religious building in the future. "Call it whatever you want; just don't call it a church!" The six members were released to return home after a full night of secret negotiations.

ChinaAid President Bob Fu remains wary: "We are not sure if their promise was sincere. I spoke with the pastor of Fushan Church today, and they still had not heard from the officials. This may be a tactic to delay any actions against the government before the National Day on October 1st."

imag159There has been little resolution for the 80,000 members of Fushan Church. Only days after the attack, the Fushan PSB shut off all power, water and communication lines to neighboring Jin Deng (Golden Lamp) Church, whose members aided victims of the attack on September 13th. Believers who have since assembled at the ruined site to pray for the church have been repeatedly chased away by security officers, threatening to beat them and forcibly dispersing the crowds. (View video of the believers prayer vigil). Officials guard the church site and block communication and traffic to churches in the surrounding communities, stifling all movement to prevent religious gatherings.

The crackdown continued when the Fushan PSB arrested and detained church member Shan Yongchang on Saturday, September 17, for send text messages to friends and family about the devastation of the church. He is still in custody, and no one has heard from him since his arrest.

It is clear that the Central government will do anything to protect the image of the Party, and suppress all perceived threats to a harmonious National Day celebration. In light of the facts, it remains to be seen whether the midnight agreement with Fushan Church is kept--or compromised.

Family of Beijing pastor calls for his safe return and requests prayer

VOMC partner ChinaAid recently released a report regarding the recent incarceration of prominent Chinese pastor Hua Huiqi. VOMC staff are planning to report on this story in the next edition of our weekly email news service, The Persecution and Prayer Alert. To subscribe to this service, click here.

September 22, 2009 BEIJING -- ChinaAid received this letter from the Hua Family, urging fellow believers to pray for Pastor Hua Huiqi's release and safe return:

A Prayer Request to Christian Brothers and Sisters All Around the World

September 19, 2009

Dear Christian brothers and sisters, Peace be with you! My name is Wei Ju Mei. My husband Hua Huiqi became a Christian in 1989. Since he converted to Christianity, he has been constantly threatened, oppressed, detained and arrested by the Chinese police. The National Day is coming; on September 17, 2009 my husband was arrested by the Beijing Fengtai police. We haven’t heard anything about him until now.

Since he became a Christian in 1989, Huiqi has dedicated himself to the Lord’s Commandments and served Christian brothers and sisters from all around the nation. In recent years, he took good care of the visitors from the localities, appealing to the authorities in Beijing for help, regardless of their religious beliefs. Through his service, some non-believers accepted Christ; however, the police consider his acts to be disturbing the society. The police exhausted all despicable tricks to stop Huiqi from helping Christian brothers and sisters. Huiqi did not yield; instead, he operated a training seminar with some other Christian coworkers in early 2009. The seminar is also called Tentmaker Fellowship, a Gospel ministry using the method of screen printing to print Bible verses on cloths, paintings, hand bags and etc. The purpose is to let more people see the words of God in daily life. In addition, the ministry has created working opportunities for the disabled and unemployed Christian brothers and sisters.

Unfortunately, less than a year since the ministry started, the rented spot (Daxing area) for the seminar was broken into by the local police. The police told Huiqi and his Christian coworkers that what they did is illegal and that all their belongings should be taken away. They strongly asked the police for legal documentation, but the police said “the neighbors reported that you have disturbed the neighborhood. You must move away in one week,” and left.

On the morning of September 17th 2009, Huiqi came back home from another town; two police named Ge and Ding Xu blocked him at our home. Huiqi told them, “The apartment we rent in Daxing area is not due till December. I will have to ask the landlord to return rent money from October to December”. Police Ge said, “Don’t worry. The officials from Pubic Safety Bureau of Beijing and Taifeng District are discussing this issue.” The police refused to let Huiqi leave home from 10:00 AM to the afternoon. At 6:00 PM, Officer Ge told him, “My boss requests you to dine with him; he will discuss with you the rent money during the meal.” Then the police took him out. A few minutes later, he called me and said, “The police did not take me to meet their boss. I am on Jingshi Highway now, and I don’t know where they will take me.” After a while, I called him again, he said, “They took me to a desert place. I don’t where I am.” At about 8:00pm when I called Huiqi again, his phone was turned off. Since then, I lost contact with him.

One of the police who came to our home is a Vice Director of Fengtai Poice station. On June 5th 2009, he followed Huiqi to Taiyuan Train Station in Shanxi Province and brutally attacked Huiqi. He threatened Huqi, “three months later when I collected enough evidence, I will send both you and your wife to prison. I will see how you can share the Gospel then.” This time, he did what he said.

Christian brothers and sister from all around world, I am very concerned about my husband’s safety. Please pray for his safety and our reunion.

A sister in Christ,

Wei Ju Mei

Please uphold this family on your prayers. Show your solidarity with them by posting a prayer on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My husband didn’t come home

deborah Deborah’s husband Job was sentenced to seven years in jail in Vietnam in 2004 for standing up for religious freedom.

‘When my husband didn’t come home from a meeting, I went out to look for him. No one had seen him. The next day, others from the meeting told me they had seen my husband being beaten with a plank that had many nails on it. While he was unconscious the police put my husband in the trunk of their car and drove away. A week later a neighbour told me: ‘I saw your husband at the hospital’.

‘My family and I went there straight away. My husband had been beaten so badly he couldn’t recognise me or the family. I cried as I tried to make him remember me.

‘In the hospital, the area for prisoners had no mattress, blanket or mosquito net. The sick lie on the floor with nothing to eat. I went out to buy food for my husband but he could only drink a little because his jaw had been broken. I asked for permission to stay to take care of him - but the police said ‘No’.

‘They moved my husband to another prison and wouldn’t tell me where he was. I found out later that they tortured him using electric tools, and after that allowed their dogs to attack him. They thought he was dead, but the Lord’s power kept him alive to become a witness.’

You can find out more about Deborah’s story in our moving video about Christians in Vietnam and Laos ‘Enemies of the State?’  This 25-minute documentary includes a personal reflection from the film maker Andrew Boyd, who describes how the Lord is present with his people as Emmanuel (‘God with us’) even in the darkest of circumstances. You can order it online for only $10.00

Calling on the PM to protect free speech in Canada

Macleans has published an excellent article calling on the Prime Minister to repeal Section 13, the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Entitled Harper must act now to protect free speech this is perhaps the best discussion on the issue I have yet read. Here is how it begins…

Stephen Harper used to have very clear—and colourful—ideas on human rights commissions and what should be done about them.

“Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society,” he said in a 1999 interview with Terry O’Neill of BC Report newsmagazine.“ It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” He went on to complain about the “bastardization” of the entire concept of rights in modern society.

Of course, that was back when Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition. Today he’s Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. And he appears to have lost his fear of totalitarianism.

In an interview this past January with Maclean’s, the Prime Minister was asked what, if anything, he intended to do to halt the encroachment on individual freedom by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the name of regulating hate speech.

It is an issue of crucial importance to this country and our strongly held traditions of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

This magazine understands only too well the dangers involved in putting those rights at risk. Following a 2006 cover story by columnist Mark Steyn titled “Why the future belongs to Islam,” we were visited by a group of law students from the Canadian Islamic Congress. We were given the option of handing over editorial control of our pages for a rebuttal to Steyn’s piece or face a series of human rights complaints. As the first option was anathema to our obligations to our readers, the students launched their complaints.

That we were vindicated in all instances, notwithstanding the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s attempt at an unofficial smear, is beside the point. Under the guise of human rights, the ability of any news organization to produce truthful and reasoned articles was questioned by a variety of government bodies. Scary stuff indeed.

So we asked Harper if he intended to correct this threat to the basic existence of a democratic society.

“The government has no plans to do so,” was his casual reply. “It is a very tricky issue of public policy . . . It’s probably the case that we haven’t got the balance right, but I’m not sure the government today has any answer on what an appropriate balance would be.”

To summarize: the issue of human rights commissions running amok over Canadians’ basic rights and freedoms is something Harper has followed—closely and with obvious passion—for at least a decade. As Prime Minister he admits it is still a problem. And he says he doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.

We do. He should repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

[click here to read the rest of this article]

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Is it worth it?

helen_berhaneAs we read reports of another Eritrean prisoner of faith dying in incarceration, the testimony below is all the more poignant.

Eritrean gospel singer Helen Berhane was detained for two years by Eritrean authorities, during which she was severely beaten and kept in a crowded metal shipping container in the desert. In this extract from her eagerly awaited book, Song of the Nightingale, she asks herself “Is it worth it?” 

A single candle flickers, its flame barely illuminating the darkness. They never burn for more than two hours after the container door is locked: there is not enough oxygen to keep the flame alive any longer. It will go out soon.

The woman behind me shifts in her sleep and her knees dig painfully into my back. I try to wriggle over to give her more room, but I am already pressed up against another sleeping body. I pull my blanket up higher and curl up as much as I can. Despite the proximity of so many people, it is freezing cold. Condensation drips from the roof and slides down my cheek, and when it moistens my lips I taste rust. The air is thick with a dirty metallic tang, the ever-present stench of the bucket in the corner, and the smell of close-pressed, unwashed bodies.

I peer around, trying to work out where she is, the woman whose mind is gone. There, by the small window hacked roughly into the side of the container. I stiffen. Sometimes she blocks the opening by stuffing her blanket into it, cutting off our limited supply of fresh air. Other nights she shouts and wails, rocking the container so that none of us can sleep. She is worse now there are more of us; nineteen in a space that can only sleep eighteen. Tonight she is quiet, and it makes me uneasy.

But I am so tired, and so I force my body to relax against the hard floor. Abruptly the candle snuffs out, I close my eyes, and think of my daughter. Please Lord, keep her safe.

The floor creaks. Someone must be getting up and stumbling across the sleepers to the toilet bucket. I try to shut the noise out. Suddenly, without warning, hands close on my neck like a vice. My eyes fly open, but it is too dark to see. Then there is a guttural snarl, and I know that it is her, the madwoman, her fingers tight on my throat. I push myself up but I have no breath to scream, and I am not strong enough to shake her off. So I do the only thing I can do: I bang my free hand on the wall of the container and kick out. All around us prisoners are waking up. One tries to pull her away from me, but now she has one hand on my throat and the other knotted in my hair, yanking it away from my scalp. I gulp down a breath and manage a scream. The other prisoners start to shout too, and bang the sides of the container. There are shouts now coming from outside, and the sound of hurrying feet, the noise of the bolts sliding back and the pop as air rushes into the container and then the doors are flung open.

My eyes burn as torchlight sears across my face, and then a guard is yanking her away from me and beating her about the head and body with his baton. I fall onto all fours, gasping in air. The guards pull her out of the container, and slam the door again. The women rush to crowd around the small window. ‘They are beating her,’ one of them hisses, low so as not to anger the guards. She risks another look. ‘They have tied her outside,’ she whispers, and the others start to lie down again, looking forward to a few hours of sleep before the guards come again to march us to the toilet field.

I lie down too, but my scalp feels as though it is on fire, and I know that I will not sleep tonight. Sometimes I cannot believe that this is my life: these four metal walls, all of us corralled like cattle, the pain, the hunger, the fear. All because of my belief in a God who is risen, who charges me to share my faith with those who do not yet know him, and who I am forbidden to worship. I think back to a question I have been asked many times over my months in prison: ‘Is your faith worth this, Helen?’ And as I take a deep breath of the sour air, as my scalp stings, the mad woman rants outside, and the guards continue on their rounds, I whisper the answer ‘Yes.’

Remember the estimated 2,800 other Christians in detention in Eritrea, without being charged of a crime and treated in the most inhumane fashion.  Please post a prayer on their behalf on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall to let Eritreans around the world know that they are not forgotten.

This week in persecuted church history (September 20-26)

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

September 20, 1565: Spanish sea captain Menendez brutally wipes out French Huguenots in Florida.

September 20, 2005: On September 20, a German national living in the Hadramawt region of Yemen has his house set on fire and his car bombed because he has been accused of "promoting Christianity."

September 21, 1522: First edition of Martin Luther's German translation of the New Testament is published.

September 21, 1558: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, dies. Charles called the Diet of Worms in 1521, which condemned Martin Luther.

September 21, 1992: Two Islamists from the group Abu Sayyaf enter the studios of the Christian radio station DXAS in Zamboanga, Philippines armed with handguns and open fire. After the shooting stopped, three people lay dead; Christian pastor-broadcaster Greg Happala, radio technician Greg Bacabis, a control operator, was also dead, and a Ambri Asari, a local fisherman who had stopped by to deliver a public service announcement.iran_couplewhipped2_fcnniran_couplewhipped1_fcnn

September 21, 2005: An Iranian Christian couple are arrested. For the next two years they are harassed by authorities. Then in September 2007, they were whipped in their home because they refused to stop attending house church meetings.

Spetmber 21, 2005: Sardauna Anaruwa Sashi, a convert to Christ from Islam, is arrested by police in Paiko, Nigeria and severely tortured. He claims that at one point police beat him with their batons and almost killed him. It was only through the intervention of his pastor and a lawyer from his church that he was released.

September 22, 286: Emperor Maximian orders the execution of the entire Theban Legion (consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, all of them Christians) when they refuse to deny their faith.

September 22, 1557: John Noyes, a shoemaker, of Laxfield, Suffolk, England is  led to the stake to be burned. He kneels down, prays, and recites Psalm 50. As he was chained to the stake, he said, "Fear not them that kill the body, but fear him that can kill both body and soul, and cast it into everlasting fire!"  And as he was burned by the flames, his final words were, "Lord, have mercy on me! Christ, have mercy upon me!"

September 22, 1734: The Confessors of the Glory of Christ, followers of 16th century Polish reformer Caspar Schwenckfeld, settle in the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. In 1525 Schwenckfeld had traveled to Wittenberg to ask Martin Luther for an appointment, but found they disagreed on many issues. He became part of the Radical Reformation and Catholics and Protestants both persecuted him.oldcastle

September 23, 1413: John Oldcastle is brought to trial for heresy before Archbishop Arundel where he presented his confession of faith.  A few days later, he was condemned but because of his friendship with the king was allowed 40 days to recent. He escaped and went into hiding. When captured four years later, he was hanged briefly and then suspended in iron chains over a fire and roasted to death.

September 23, 1557: Twenty-two year old Cicely Ormes is brought to the stake at eight o'clock in the morning.  After declaring her faith to the people, she laid her hand on the stake, and said, "Welcome, thou cross of Christ." Her hand was sooted in doing this, (for it was the same stake at which Miller and Cooper were burnt,) and she at first wiped it; but directly after again welcomed and embraced it as the "sweet cross of Christ." After the tormentors had kindled the fire, she said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour." Then crossing her hands upon her breast, and looking upwards with the utmost serenity, she stood the fiery furnace. Her hands continued gradually to rise until the sinews were dried, and then they fell. She uttered no sigh of pain, but yielded her life, an emblem of that celestial paradise in which is the presence of God, blessed forever.

September 23, 1635: Ulrich Schneider is imprisoned in the famous dungeon of Othenbach in Zurich for his faith.  There we was severely mistreated and pressured to renounce his faith until he finally died, without having been weakened in his faith

September 23, 1639: Stephen Zehender, a member of the church at Knonow, is brought in chains to a convent prison in Zurich where he is stripped naked, kept in chains, starved until he finally dies in misery sixteen weeks later.

September 23, 2008: A mob of approximately 60 people led by a Buddhist monk and a local politician set fire to a partially constructed church hall belonging to the Prayer Tower Church in Mailankulama, Puttlam district, Sri Lanka. Several Christians who tried to intervene in the attack were assaulted. Police officers were eventually able to disperse the mob. However, around midnight some of the attackers threatened to kill Christian children if they attended school the next day. Another church member who had tried to protect the building was also threatened with death by the militants.

so-mansuur-mohammed-cdSeptember 23, 2008: Mansuur Mohammed (25), a humanitarian aid worker who converted from Islam to Christianity in 2005, is beheaded in Manyafulka village by Islamists chanting "Allahu Akbar" and who cheer while holding up his severed head in front of the horrified crowd. A video of the murder was later circulated in Somalia and in neighbouring countries in what many see as an effort to instill fear in those contemplating converting from Islam to Christianity.

September 24, 1794: Russian Orthodox priest-monk Father Juvenaly, his brother Stephen, and eight other monks arrive at Kodiak Island, Alaska. After two years of ministry, the team had led 12,000 Alaskans to embrace the gospel. Juvenaly then extended his mission to the mainland, where he was reportedly martyred in 1796.

September 25, 1550: Philip II, King of Spain renews the decrees of Emperor Charles V forbidding Anabaptist doctrine in his realm and ordering severe punishment to anyone caught holding or propagating this “heresy.”

September 25, 1789: Congress amends The U.S. Constitution to prohibit establishment of a state church or governmental interference with the free exercise of religion.pakistan_karachisept02

September 25, 2002: Islamist gunmen burst into the offices of the Institute for Peace and Justice in Karachi, Pakistan binding and then shooting seven people in an execution-style attack. Only one witness remained alive, a worker at the centre named Robin Piranditta, who was beaten by the attackers but lived.

india_missionaries_of_charitySeptember 25, 2004: Nine missionaries working with a Catholic order known for their work with those most desperately in need in India were attacked and injured by Hindu nationalists. The attacks began as two missionaries visited a slum area on the outskirts of Kozhikode. They were dragged from their jeep and the crosses around their necks were broken. They managed to escape and took refuge in a police station after the people living in the slum intervened on their behalf. An hour later, as the Mother Superior and six others arrived in a jeep to assist those attacked, they were likewise surrounded by a group of around forty, wielding iron rods. Shouting "Long Live BJP," "Long Live the RSS" and other pro-Hindu nationalist slogans, the mob assaulted the missionaries.

September 26: Recognized by Roman Catholics in Canada as a feast day recognizing eight Jesuit missionaries who were killed, often after brutal torture, during the wars between the Huron and Iroquois. Because many Hurons had converted through their ministry, the Iroquois considered them legitimate targets, seeing them as allies of their Huron enemies. 

(sources: Christianity Today, Glimpses of Church History, The Voice of the Martyrs, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Martyrs Mirror,

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, September 19, 2009

Muslim militants slay long-time Christian in Somalia

Late yesterday (September 18), we learned from Compass Direct of the martyrdom of a 69-year-old Christian in Somalia who was killed when Al Shabaab militants executed him when they found Bibles on him at a checkpoint

omar_khalafe NAIROBI, Kenya, September 18 (CDN) — The faith journey of a long-time underground Christian in Somalia ended in tragedy this week when Islamic militants controlling a security checkpoint killed him after finding Bibles in his possession.

Militants from the Muslim extremist al Shabaab killed 69-year-old Omar Khalafe on Tuesday (Sept. 15) at a checkpoint they controlled 10 kilometers from Merca, a Christian source told Compass. A port city on the Indian Ocean 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Mogadishu, Merca is the main city of the Lower Shabele region.

Leaving Mogadishu by bus at 7:30 a.m., Khalafe was carrying 25 Somali Bibles he hoped to deliver to an underground fellowship in Somalia. By 10:30 a.m. he had arrived at the checkpoint controlled by al Shabaab, a rebel group linked with al Qaeda that has taken over large parts of the war-torn country.

A source in Somalia who spoke on condition of anonymity told Compass that the passengers were ordered to disembark from the bus for inspection. The Islamic militants found 25 Somali Bibles in one of the passengers’ bags; when they asked to whom the Bibles belonged, the passengers responded with a chilled silence.

As the search continued, the militants found several photos in the bag. The source told Compass that the militants began trying to match the photos with the faces of the passengers, who were all seized by fear as they knew the inevitable fate of the owner.

The Islamic extremists saw that the elderly Khalafe resembled a face in one of the photos, the source said. They asked Khalafe if he was the owner of the Bibles; he kept quiet. They shot him to death.

Khalafe had been a Christian for 45 years, sources said.

The body was taken to Merca, according to the source, and there the al Shabaab militants placed the 25 Somali Bibles on top of Khalafe’s body as a warning to others.

Christian sources said that at 4 p.m. an al shabaab militant was heard saying on Radio Shabele, “Today we caught Omar, a Somali Christian, with 25 Bibles at Merca checkpoint. He has been converting Somalis to Christianity, and today he has been shot dead at 12:30 p.m.”

Khalafe’s family in Mogadishu learned of his death through the radio report, the source said. The family members then contacted a leader of an underground church in Somalia and informed him of the murder.
“The news of the death of Omar shocked me,” the underground church leader in Somalia told Compass by telephone. “We have long served Christians in Somalia. It is unfortunate that the Bibles did not reach the intended audience. I am sure if they had not got the picture, our brother would be still alive.”

Khalafe was a Somali Bantu who had served with various Christian agencies. Underground church members said he was instrumental in the spread of Christianity and had baptized many converts from Islam in Somalia.

He left behind a widow and seven children. His family was unable to participate in his burial due to the risk of being killed, according to the source, who said one of Khalafe’s sons said, “It is unfortunate that we were not there to give our dad a decent burial. God knows how He will reward him….”  (click here for rest of article)

Please remember to pray for Khalafe’s wife and family.  Pray for Somalia’s besieged Christian population who are among the most endangered followers of Christ in the world.  To post a prayer online for them, click here.

Pakistani hardliners oppose suggestion to repeal blasphemy laws

The continuing struggle in Pakistan as to how to deal with the country’s draconian blasphemy laws is reflected in this recent article in ASSIST News Service.

Friday, September 18, 2009
Pakistani hardliners oppose suggestion to repeal Blasphemy Laws
By Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan
Special to ASSIST News Service

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- The religious and political conservative leaders of Pakistan have said that they would not tolerate any attempt to repeal Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws.

Salman-Taseer-500 The reaction of the fundamentalist leaders came in response to the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer’s statement on Wednesday, September 16, in which he suggested the repeal of the country’s blasphemy laws.

“The blasphemy laws should be repealed to protect the religious minorities, particularly in the wake of increasing incidents of Christians’ persecution by religious extremists,” said Mr. Taseer while replying to reporters’ queries at a dinner on Wednesday.

Reacting to the governor’s suggestion the fundamentalist religious and political leaders have equated demands for repeal of blasphemy to the committing of blasphemy.

Pakistan Urdu Daily Newspaper “Nawaiwaqt” quoted them as saying: “The governor should not play with sentiments of people.

“The secular-minded people should refrain from imposing their wishes on the people of Pakistan.

“The statement is an attempt to cover up domestic flaws. It is an open affront to the people of Pakistan.

“The matter of blasphemy is a matter of life and death for Muslims”, the newspaper quoted them as saying.

Khawaja Saad Rafique, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, told the newspaper that attempts to repeal blasphemy laws will neither be tolerated now will they allow any such attempt to take place.

The newspaper quoted him as saying that unfortunate people who commit blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, Moses and other prophets should be given the same punishment as governed by the blasphemy laws.

He told the newspaper that those who misuse the laws should be meted out strict punishment.

Syed Munawar Hassan, Head of Jammat-e-Islami, (a fundamentalist Islamic religious party), was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the statement of the Governor and some non-governmental organizations that the blasphemy laws should be repealed was “condemnable.”

He said, “No true Muslim could tolerate blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad or against any prophets. Love of Prophet Muhammad is a fundamental part of Islamic faith.

“The governor’s logic that since Islam teaches us to protect minorities and therefore blasphemy laws should be repealed is an extremely weak one,” Mr. Hassan told the newspaper.

Engineer Saleemullah, Chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan Nifaz-e-Shariat (Party of Pakistani Islamic scholars for imposition of Sharia) warned that if the blasphemy laws were repealed then lovers of prophet Muhammad belonging to religious parties including Tehrik-e-Nizam-e-Mustafa (Movement advocating system based on teaching of Muhammad), Tehrik-e-Tahfuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat (Movement for protection of respect of Prophet Muhammad), would come out on streets to stage protest demonstrations.

Continue to uphold Pakistan’s political leaders during this time.  Recent attacks against Christians have opened doors of opportunity to discuss this issue but, as we have mentioned before on this website, previous governments have also attempted to address the blasphemy laws to no success. Pray that God will give courage to the country’s leaders to do the right thing and repeal these laws outright. 

Why not let our brothers and sisters in Pakistan know that you are praying for them and their government by posting a prayer on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

'Christians' celebrating Ramadan?

The following article appeared in WorldNet Daily late last month but I only just became aware of it this week.  Read it over and let me know what you think.


'Christians' celebrating Ramadan?
Posted: August 25, 2009
By Joel Richardson

As the Islamic observance of Ramadan begins this year, an increasing number of Christians will also be entering into 30 days of prayer and fasting. Across the world, a growing number of Christians have been joining the movement led by the 30-Days Prayer Network, which calls Christians to pray and fast for Muslims during the month of Ramadan. The focus of their prayers is the increase of the ongoing revival among Muslims converting to Christianity. In recent years, a historically unprecedented number of Muslims have come to Christ, many through divine dreams and visions. The 30-days website describes the genesis of this movement:

The origin of this international prayer network came about as a group of Christian leaders were praying during a meeting in the Middle East in April 1992. God put a burden on the hearts of these men and women to call as many Christians as possible to pray for the Muslim world.

But a smaller left-wing Christian sect, often referred to as "the emerging church," is now also taking a very different approach. This year, a group of emergent Christians led by one of the United States most influential pastors, Brian McLaren, has announced that it will actually be "observing" the Muslim holy month, along with a Muslim "partner." Ramadan is the month that Muslims thank Allah, their god, for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, their prophet. On McLaren's personal blog, he recently announced his intentions: "We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness." But does such an interreligious observance go beyond mere "neighborliness" and cross the line of religious compromise and syncretism? Does observing the religious holy month of Ramadan create the impression of an endorsement of Islam?

Every year, during the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, the Muslim world celebrates a month-long fast known as Ramadan. The timing of the fast in the month of Sha'aban is specifically intended to commemorate the month in which the Quran was "sent down" or "revealed" to Muhammad. During Ramadan, Muslims will abstain from smoking or drinking, from sex or sexual thoughts and eating during the daylight hours. Muslims also believe that good deeds done during Ramadan will be doubly credited before Allah.

McLaren, a leading voice in the growing left-wing Christian movement, wants everyone to know that he has not converted to Islam, but is a "deeply committed Christian." But McLaren is not fasting for the salvation of his Muslim friends. Instead he is seeking through the practice of this Islamic ritual to promote "the common good, together with people of other faith traditions."

Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions … as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

Christian theologians have pointed out that the notion that Jesus had to overcome his own personal prejudices is contrary to fundamental Christian belief. Such a notion could only be considered if Jesus were merely a human prophet, as Islam teaches.

Despite McLaren's well-articulated niceties, what is clearly missing among his five posts on his personal blog is a single mention of praying for Muslims to come to Christ. This stands in stark contrast to the 30-Days Prayer Network website, where a loving but firm position is maintained:

Most Muslims have actually been trained not to believe that Jesus died and rose again. In general they know little of His forgiveness. They believe that Jesus was a prophet sent from God, but they generally never think of Him as God's appointed King who reigns over the nations (Mt 28:18-20). It is precisely "believing the Gospel of the Kingdom" which is a problem. Like all people everywhere and in all cultures, Muslims are called to turn from evil and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom. Most Muslims around the world have not even had an opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus' death for sins and His resurrection, which liberates us from the power of sin, death and demonic bondage.

Although McLaren has said that he and his followers "will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends," some have expressed that the very act of observing a Muslim religious season is itself highly unorthodox and contrary to historical Christian practice. While loving and befriending others is paramount to the Christian faith, the Bible is clear that Christians are to avoid actually participating in their religious ceremonies:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

Yet fellow emergent Pastor Tony Campolo has argued that such interfaith prayers and even mystical unions are critical for all true peacemakers:

If we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree? Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?

What is also so concerning to observers of the growing emergent Christian movement is its tendencies to rarely express the Christian gospel while loudly and often proclaiming either a classic humanist message or outright religious pluralism. McLaren and other emergent leaders are often heard expressing the need to de-emphasize "doctrinal barriers" between various religions including Christianity and Islam

While Jesus was adamant that adherence to the Christian message would cause a measure of division between peoples of differing religious persuasions, Campolo staunchly disagrees. Speaking on the relations between Muslims and Christians, in an interview by Shane Claiborne, Campolo demands, "We cannot allow our theologies to separate us."

The trend to de-emphasize doctrine by prominent teachers such as McLaren and Campolo has caused deep concern among many conservative theologians and pastors because such opinions likewise tend to cause the central Christian message to be significantly de-emphasized as well. "I'm not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians," stated Campolo. In fact, he has even gone so far as to say he believes many Muslims do not even need to be evangelized.

[W]hat can I say to an Islamic brother who has fed the hungry, and clothed the naked? You say, "But he hasn't a personal relationship with Christ." I would argue with that. And I would say from a Christian perspective, in as much as you did it to the least of these you did it unto Christ. You did have a personal relationship with Christ, you just didn't know it."

The corrosive nature of this liberal and somewhat experimental approach to Christianity has taken on even more significant expressions in recent years. In 2007, Episcopal priestess Rev. Anne Holmes announced that she had become a Christian-Muslim. The Christian Post reported the story:

A Seattle priest has become a Muslim while also retaining her clergy status in the Episcopal Church. Her local bishop has described the development as "exciting." "I look through Jesus and I see Allah," explained the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding to the "Seattle Times," which reported that Redding puts on her Islamic headscarf on Fridays and her clerical collar on Sundays. … she still sees Jesus as her Savior, even if not divine, and plans to remain both a priest and an Episcopalian. Bishop Vincent Warner of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia told the Seattle Times that Redding's embrace of Islam has not been controversial in his diocese.

As in Seattle, so also now in Nigeria and China, there is a small but growing movement of what some are calling "Chrislam," a movement that seeks to combine Christianity and Islam, preaching from both the Quran and the Bible. One Chrislamic gathering brings in roughly 1,500 adherents each week.

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans convert to Islam, including many who were raised in a Christian church. Many students of Bible prophecy see all of this as part of the fulfillment of what the Bible predicted long ago when it described the "great falling away" (1 Timothy 4:1, 2; Thessalonians 2:3).

The word orthodoxy comes from the Greek and essentially means "straight belief." Correct practice (orthopraxy) always flows out of orthodoxy. As the plowman would grasp the plow, he would fix his eyes on some distant mark on the far side of the field. The goal was to walk as straight as possible to the other end. Any small departure would result in missing the desired destination. From this picture we have the idea behind Christian orthodoxy. Each generation makes an attempt to pass on that which was faithfully delivered to them before extending back to the apostles and to Christ. This week, one group of Christians will gaze upon the opposite end of the field and resolutely walk forward for 30 days with determination to cry out for their Muslim friends to become Christians. The other group, led by one of the most influential pastors in the United States, will be embracing a whole new tradition.

The Apostle John warned that the doctrine of the antichrist was seen in any denial of the Father and the Son: No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22, 23) Yet Islam's Quran says that anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God commits the greatest blasphemy imaginable. They said, "The Most Gracious has begotten a son"! You have uttered a gross blasphemy. (Quran 19:88) Some, like Rev. Ann Holmes or the Chrislamic "churches" in Nigeria, have abandoned orthodoxy altogether and aligned themselves with this antichrist revelation. As to where the emerging church finally ends up is yet to be seen. But if choosing to observe a month dedicated to thanking Allah for inspiring such brazen anti-Christ theology is any indication, I think we can safely say they are probably not even on the right field to begin with.

Remember Asia Bibi today!

Does this look like the face of a criminal?

Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, and faces possible blasphemy charges. Asia is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of more than 1,500 asia_bibifamilies.

Many of the local women work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees, including Asia. During their work many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. In June, the pressure became especially strong.

On Friday, June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith, with the Muslim women telling Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for our sins, then asked them what Mohammed had done for them, according to VOMC sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammed is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”

Upon hearing this response the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia Bibi. Then some men came and took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She is currently being held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed that they must go forward due to pressure from local Muslim leaders.

Get Involved!

1. The Voice of the Martyrs urges Christians around the world to pray for Asia Bibi and her family.  Post a prayer request on her behalf on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall today!

2. You can write a brief note or card to Asia at the following address:

Asia Bibi
District Jail
Punjab, Pakistan

While you can write in English, you can also use this online tool to write a letter in her own language. Click here.

3. We would also urge you to write to Pakistani government officials.  Ask for her release and that the rights of Christians like Asia are protected.  You can find links with up-to-date contact information to the Pakistani embassies in Canada and the United States by clicking here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Promoting intolerance for persecutors in the process of raising a voice for the persecuted?

I have been noticing recently a great number of articles and television programs bewailing the growing lack of civility in our Western society. Rudeness and anger seem to be closer to the surface for many, just waiting for an excuse to erupt if offense is given, a slight perceived, or a desire denied.

Christians are by no means immune to this coarsening of our manners.  Just today I read a letter to the editor in which a Christian claimed to speak for all of us when she complained about what she perceived to be a blasphemous comment about God in a recent column in Macleans magazine. Claiming that Macleans’ Christian readers were “severely offended” by the comment, she demanded assurances that this kind of blasphemy would not happen again. As I read the letter, I thought, why does she think she can speak for me and all Christians?  Why does she think I would be severely offended by the humorous comment (and I wasn’t)?  What drives someone to think she can bully around a magazine and expect a restriction of freedom of speech to conform with her personal moral code?  And lastly, I wonder why she thinks God is so weak that He needs her to defend His honour?  I suspect that God can take care of His own reputation, in the long run, far more effectively than you and I can.  This is not to deny the importance of apologetics; but that is not what this woman was engaged in.  She was advocating censorship.  

But even after all of this, it was her tone that struck me most; a tone that spoke of someone who stands ripe and ready to take offense at a moment’s notice.  Just like so many today….

I read comments on blogs almost every day now that reflect the same attitude. Hiding behind the ability to be “Anonymous”, people will “courageously” blast forth their venom on others.  Those on Facebook or Twitter shout out their anger and vindictiveness against the “right” or the “left” (depending on their perspective) and it isn’t long before someone is labelled a Nazi, a Communist, a socialist, or all of the above, obviously without an understanding of what many of these labels really mean.

What really concerns me, however, is how even some Christian ministries are increasingly sending out messages through email, Twitter, Facebook, or on blogs, that are showing a face of incivility and innuendo particularly towards political leaders (especially in the U.S.) and Muslims that I am concerned reflect poorly on the One who calls us to love our enemies and to do them good, and to give to our political leaders what is due them; taxes, respect, and our prayers.  Instead, I read messages of anger, suspicion, crudeness, paranoia, half-truths or unverified stories fit more for conspiracy websites than those who claim to honour Jesus who called Himself, among other things, the Truth.  I have mission leaders approach me asking for assistance in protesting the building of mosques in the West, while bemoaning the fact that church buildings cannot be built in some Muslim countries and they seem oblivious to the double-standard. Today I read reports of Christians rioting in protest against injustices done against them in Pakistan and Egypt.  But lacking were comments that this is not how Scripture calls God’s people to respond to persecution.  But simply being a Christian seems to justify or at least minimize bad behaviour in the eyes of some who claim to speak on their behalf.  Is it necessary to remind us that not all persecuted Christians are good Christians and that we do them no great favour by supporting them unconditionally?

In being a voice of today’s Christian martyrs, we at VOMC need to always seek to strive to be a civil voice.  We must recognize that it is inconsistent to promote intolerance for persecutors in the process of raising a voice for the persecuted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PRAYER REQUESTS: 山西教会受到迫害 The House Church in Shanxi Under Persecution

The following is from the website of the Fushan Church of Linfeng, Shanxi.

Brothers and Sisters of All Nations and everywhere:

About 3 am on September 13, 2009, the Shanxi government and officials had conducted a violent and bloody action towards the Fushan Church of Linfeng, Shanxi. They mobilized some 400 uniformed police and other violent elements to beat up our brothers and sisters-tens of them were hurt. Some were heavily harmed and unconscious and were sent to the hospital for emergency care with oxygen. Over one hundred were hurt in various degrees. Our assembly buildings, over ten locations were bull-dozed into piles of dirt with remnants of broken walls. TVs were taken; refrigerators were broken, damaged cars and kitchen-wares were everywhere. Even pigs, chickens and rabbits were not excluded. Vegetable fields and flower beds were turned into dirt piles. The church's as well as the members' money, Bibles, clothes, cell phones, etc. were robbed.

Please pray fervently for the badly hurt brothers and sisters' life and the severely damage house of the Lord in Fushan Church.

Gao: 15135730465
Yang: 13453716134
Zhang: 13834337715

All Church Members in Fushan Church, Linfeng, Shanxi



Why not show your solidarity with this church and post a prayer on their behalf on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall?

Vietnam: Prison Bible Revival

Yesterday, I posted a story from the latest edition of the Australian Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. Here is another great testimony that I thought you might be blessed by.  Again, if you live in Australia, make sure to subscribe to their tremendous monthly newsletter.

In a Vietnamese prison, a Christian brother passed away and went to be with his Lord. Stephen, a lay preacher and evangelist imprisoned for his faith, had approval from the sympathetic warden to conduct a funeral service for their brother. Stephen was taken to the hospital mortuary, where over 30 officials were present. Full of courage, Stephen preached the Gospel, speaking of Jesus' death and resurrection! Eventually the police who had escorted him to the mortuary said, 'That's enough!' Stephen was overjoyed – 30 officials had heard the truth!

stephen_vn Stephen was arrested in 2002 when he was 32. He was placed in solitary confinement and brutally beaten for three months – his recent medical records verify the abuse he sustained. The authorities who beat him said, 'We want you to tell the truth but according to what we tell you!' Stephen replied, 'You can beat me for as long as you like, you can imprison me for ten years if you like, but I know Who I believe in!' After each beating, the guards threw Stephen back into his cell where he would always kneel down and begin praising and singing hymns to God. Stephen's trust was in God and despite the constant beatings his joy never left him. Many times the bruises from his beatings would miraculously disappear overnight. The testimony of his unwavering faith shocked the guards and they would constantly ask him, 'After all these beatings how can you still praise your God?'

Stephen never denied his Saviour. After three months of interrogation, he was called for an interview. Stephen said, 'I give thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to come here to preach the Gospel to you because you don't believe in God yet. Every day you interrogate me, I see it as an opportunity to explain God's Word to you. It doesn't matter what you want to do with me. Keep me in prison as long as you like. I want to preach the Gospel here in prison because nobody else is here to do it.' The authorities said, 'Because you are so pig-headed, we will transfer you to a prison in the North.' 'Praise the Lord!' exclaimed Stephen. 'You have answered our prayers. We've been praying about how we can bring the Gospel to the North and now God has made a way.' The authorities threw their hands in the air. 'Argue your case with the judge.'

As Stephen awaited his court hearing, he believed that whatever happened was part of God's plan for his life. He was aware and thankful for the support and prayers of many Christians. For two hours the judge and prosecutor argued with Stephen. Finally they announced, 'We sentence you to ten years imprisonment.' Stephen's response was, 'Praise God.'

On 3 March 2004 he was transported to a prison in North Vietnam.  His new prison cell held 56 inmates. Although many had been Christians, they had abandoned their faith. Stephen asked, 'Who will kneel with me and pray to God?' They replied, 'We're in prison, why should we pray?' Only three prisoners joined Stephen in prayer. They decided they would fast on the 14th day of the month. Before long, six more believers joined their prayer meetings. The men began to see Stephen as a leader sent by God and under his pastoral care many stopped smoking and gambling and committed themselves to follow Jesus once again.

In Vietnamese prisons, Bibles are banned because the communists regard God's Word as poisonous propaganda. This didn't stop Stephen and his brothers in Christ. They developed an ingenious plan. Stephen told his brothers, 'Whoever remembers a Bible verse, write it down then give it to me. Together we can build our own Bible from the verses we remember.' As an example, Stephen wrote one of his favourite verses, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.' Philippians 4:6-7

The believers read the special handwritten 'prison Bible' and shared it with the other prisoners. Some believers had backslidden, but the power of God's Word compelled them to confess their sins and repent before the Lord. Knowing that the authorities did not permit prisoners to hold prayer meetings, some believers were afraid they would receive further punishment if they agreed to join with Stephen. However, Stephen counselled them and said, 'If the guards or authorities inquire about the meetings, tell them it is not political. Tell them we meet to thank and praise our God. If there are any problems, I alone will be responsible for this.'

When the prison authorities found out about the meetings, they shouted at Stephen, reminding him of the crime he was committing. 'You are charged with illegally preaching the Gospel in this prison!' Stephen replied, 'That is impossible as everyone here is a believer! We are simply learning the Word of God. You lock us down at 5.30pm each day and then it is our own time and we can pray freely.'

In December 2004, Stephen asked the prison warden, 'As you know, we are Christians and 25 December is a special day for us. May we have permission to buy food and have a meal together to celebrate this special time?' The prison warden agreed and a special Christmas lunch was arranged. Stephen, in charge of the 'main course', served the Christmas story from Luke 2:11 'Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.' Prisoners and guards alike were present, so Stephen fearlessly challenged them to repent and men were saved.

Voice of the Martyrs is supporting Stephen in his bold evangelistic ministry, supplying him with Bibles and other Christian resources. Through our VOMedical fund, we are also providing Stephen with medical treatment for injuries sustained while in prison. Please pray for Stephen, and for Vietnamese Christians who are being persecuted in prison for their faith in Christ.

Order our new video “Enemies of the State.” Witness the resilient faith of Christians in the two communist nations of Vietnam and Laos where believers face imprisonment without trial and torture simply for following Christ. Gain a unique insight into the challenges they face. Discover how the harder the authorities clamp down on Christianity, the more it spreads. (DVD, 25 minutes, 2009). In Canada you can order it here. In Australia, you can order it here.  In the UK, you can order it here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Waiting with hope

The following is a tremendous report from the September edition of The Voice of the Martyrs’ Newsletter in Australia. If you live in Australia, we encourage you to subscribe and receive their newsletter regularly.

On 5 May 2002 at 8 am local police armed with batons surrounded a village church and brought a Christian youth meeting to an abrupt end. Esther’s husband, Peter, was inside the church conducting the “illegal” service when the believers heard loud shouts as the police approached. The Christians scattered in all directions and Peter jumped through an open window. He felt a tug on his trouser leg and was quickly pulled to hide under the building.

The police had come to arrest Esther’s husband because of his Christian activities. When they didn’t find Peter at the church, they searched his house. “Where is he?” the police demanded.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Esther told them the truth, “I don’t know where he is. I am still waiting for him to come home from the meeting.” At the time, she was three months pregnant with their second child. Esther would be waiting another two years before she would see her husband again.

Peter had eluded the police and was now a fugitive with an arrest warrant pending. The police had kept a close watch on their home, and when Esther’s husband tried to return home, the police were waiting. Because he had avoided capture for two years, Peter received a brutal beating before he was taken into custody. Esther said the police “acted like animals.”

Peter was in prison for four months before a court hearing was scheduled. Standing before the judge, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at Nam Ha prison in North Vietnam. Esther was told, “Don’t bother with him. He’s going to die anyway.”

When Esther made the long, expensive journey to visit her husband in prison, he was hardly recognisable. His face was so bloodied and badly swollen from the beatings he had received from his captors. The police said she would be allowed to visit him on the condition that she told nobody he had been beaten.

In desperation, Esther sold a piece of land they owned for 5,000,000 dong ($A400). She had hoped to use the money for a re-trial, instead the police took it. Sometime later Esther was told that Peter’s sentence was now reduced to six years, making him due for release in 2010.

Since 2004, Esther has only been able to visit her husband five or six times. Her two children (now aged seven and ten) attend school and have been doing well in their lessons. They both attained a Certificate of Achievement, but when the authorities told the school their father was in prison, the certificates were taken away. The school told Esther’s children they would never receive a good report. This is a common occurrence among the children of parents who are persecuted for their faith.

Esther has had to work hard to provide for her family and although she feels weak, she must go every day and work in her brother’s coffee field. “I always pray that God will help me,” Esther said. Tearfully, Esther informed us that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and cannot afford the treatment. She hopes she will live long enough to see her husband released from prison, and prays that he will be there to care for the children. She receives great comfort and encouragement through the ministry of other Christian women in her village. “I have learnt to put my trust in the Lord for everything,” Esther told us.

Voice of the Martyrs Australia is supporting Esther’s ongoing medical treatment for breast cancer and we are also supporting her children through our Families of Martyrs fund. Esther asks you to pray for her: “We are used to the suffering, please pray for healing. My husband is still being beaten and is in pain.  Please pray for him.”

Order our new video “Enemies of the State.” Witness the resilient faith of Christians in the two communist nations of Vietnam and Laos where believers face imprisonment without trial and torture simply for following Christ. Gain a unique insight into the challenges they face. Discover how the harder the authorities clamp down on Christianity, the more it spreads. (DVD, 25 minutes, 2009). In Canada you can order it here. In Australia, you can order it here.  In the UK, you can order it here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Culture of Offendedness – a Christian Challenge

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.*

caution A new and unprecedented "right" is now the central focus of legal, procedural, and cultural concern in many corridors -- a supposed right not to be offended. The cultural momentum behind this purported right is growing fast, and the logic of this movement has taken hold in many universities, legal circles, and interest groups.

The larger world received a rude introduction to the logic of offendedness when riots broke out in many European cities, prompted by a Dutch newspaper's publishing of cartoons that reportedly mocked the Prophet Muhammad. The logic of the riots was that Muslims deserved never to be offended by any insult, real or perceived, directed to their belief system. Unthinking Christians may fall into the same pattern of claiming offendedness whenever we face opposition to our faith or criticism of our beliefs. The risk of being offended is simply part of what it means to live in a diverse culture that honors and celebrates free speech. A right to free speech means a right to offend, otherwise the right would need no protection.

These days, it is the secularists who seem to be most intent on pushing a proposed right never to be offended by confrontation with the Christian Gospel, Christian witness, or Christian speech and symbolism. This motivation lies behind the incessant effort to remove all symbols, representations, references, and images related to Christianity from the public square. The very existence of a large cross, placed on government property as a memorial, outside San Diego, California, has become a major issue in the courts, and now in Congress. Those pressing for the removal of the cross claim that they are offended by the fact that they are forced to see this Christian symbol from time to time.

We should note carefully that this notion of offendedness is highly emotive in character. In other words, those who now claim to be offended are generally speaking of an emotional state that has resulted from some real or perceived insult to their belief system or from contact with someone else's belief system. In this sense, being offended does not necessarily involve any real harm but points instead to the fact that the mere presence of such an argument, image, or symbol evokes an emotional response of offendedness.

The distinguished Christian philosopher Paul Helm addresses this issue in an article published in the Summer 2006 edition of The Salisbury Review, published in Great Britain. As Professor Helm argues, "Historically, being offended has been a very serious matter. To be offended is to be caused to stumble so as to fall, to fail, to apostasize, to be brought down, to be crushed." As evidence for this claim, Professor Helm points to the language of the King James Bible in which Jesus says to his disciples: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast in to hell" [Matthew 5:29].

Likewise, Jesus also speaks a warning against those who would "offend" the "little ones." As Professor Helm summarizes, "So to 'offend' in this robust sense is to be an agent of destruction. And to be offended is to be placed in desperate straits."

The desperate straits are no longer required in order for an individual or group to claim the emotional status of offendedness. This shift in the meaning of the word and in its cultural usage is subtle but extremely significant.

Offering a rather robust definition of this new usage, Professor Helm describes this new notion of offendedness as "that one is offended when the words and actions of another produce a feeling of hurt, or shame, or humiliation on account of what is said of oneself about one's deepest attachments."

Professor Helm's definition is rather generous, offering more substantial content to this modern notion than may be present in the claims of many persons. Many persons who claim to be offended are speaking merely of the vaguest notion of emotional distaste at what another has said, done, proposed, or presented. This leads to inevitable conflict.

"People have always been upset by insensitivity and negligence, but the profile of offendedness, understood in this modern sense, is being immeasurably heightened," suggests Professor Helm. "The right never to be offended, never to suffer feelings of hurt or shame, is being touted and promoted both by the media and by the government and interest in it is being continually excited." Thus, "Claims to be hurt or shamed are noticed. They are likely to be rewarded."

The very idea of civil society assumes the very real possibility that individuals may at any time be offended by another member of the community. Civilization thrives when individuals and groups seek to minimize unnecessary offendedness, while recognizing that some degree of real or perceived offendedness is the cost the society must pay for the right to enjoy the free exchange of ideas and the freedom to speak one's mind.

Professor Helm is surely right when he argues that the "social value" of offendedness is now increasing. All that is necessary for a claim to be taken seriously is for the claim to be offered. After all, if the essence of the offendedness is an emotional state or response, how can any individual deny that a claimant has been genuinely offended? Professor Helm is right to worry that this will lead to the fracturing of society. "We all hear things we don't like said about people and causes that we are fond of but in the changed social atmosphere we are being encouraged to give public notice if such language offends us. I am now being repeatedly told that I am entitled not to be offended. So -- from now on -- not offended is what I intend to be. Does this heightening of sensitivity make for social cohesion? Does not such cohesion depend rather on enduring what we don't like, and doing so in an adult way? Does not the glue of civic peace rest on such intangibles as the ability to laugh at oneself, to take a joke about even the deepest things? And is it not a measure of the strength of a person's religion that they tolerate the unpleasant conversation of others? Isn't playing the offendedness card going to result in an enfeebling of the culture, the development of oversensitive and precious members of the 'caring society'? Whatever happened to toleration?"

Given our mandate to share the Gospel and to speak openly and publicly about Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, Christians must understand a particular responsibility to protect free speech and to resist this culture of offendedness that threatens to shut down all public discourse.

Of course, the right for Christians to speak publicly about Jesus Christ necessarily means that adherents of other belief systems will be equally free to present their truth claims in an equally public manner. This is simply the cost of religious liberty.

An interesting witness to this point is Salman Rushdie, the novelist who was once put under a Muslim sentence of death because he had insulted Muslim sensibilities in his novel The Satanic Verses. Mr. Rushdie presents an argument that Christians must take seriously.

"The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other's positions," Rushdie insists.

As the novelist continues: "People have the fundamental right to take an argument to the point where somebody is offended by what they say. It is no trick to support the free speech of somebody you agree with or to whose opinion you are indifferent. The defense of free speech begins at the point where people say something you can't stand. If you can't defend their right to say it, then you don't believe in free speech. You only believe in free speech as long as it doesn't get up your nose."

As the Apostle Paul made clear in writing to the Corinthians, the preaching of the Gospel has always been considered offensive by those who reject it. When Paul spoke of the cross as "foolishness" and a "stumbling block" [1 Corinthians 1:23] he was pointing to this very reality -- a reality that would lead to his own stoning, flogging, imprisonment, and execution.

At the same time, Paul did not want to offend persons on the basis of anything other than the cross of Christ and the essence of the Christian Gospel. For this reason, he would write to the Corinthians about becoming "all things to all people, that by all means I might save some" [1 Corinthians 9:22].

Without doubt, many Christians manage to be offensive for reasons other than the offense of the Gospel. This is to our shame and to the injury of our Gospel witness. Nevertheless, there is no way for a faithful Christian to avoid offending those who are offended by Jesus Christ and His cross. The truth claims of Christianity, by their very particularity and exclusivity, are inherently offensive to those who would demand some other gospel.

Christians must not only contend for the preservation and protection of free speech -- essential for the cause of the Gospel -- we must also make certain that we do not fall into the trap of claiming offendedness for ourselves. We must not claim a right not to be offended, even as we must insist that there is no such right and that the social construction of such a right will mean the death of individual liberty, free speech, and the free exchange of ideas.

Once we begin playing the game of offendedness, there is no end to the matter. There simply is no right not to be offended, and we should be offended by the very notion that such a right could exist.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

*This article was originally published on August 4, 2006 and is reprinted by permission