Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Get down on your knees and blog

In Proverbs 31:8-9 we read:

  Open your mouth for the mute,
        for the rights of all who are destitute. 
  Open your mouth, judge righteously,
        defend the rights of the poor and needy.

I am often reminded of this in my role as CEO of The Voice of the Martyrs here in Canada.  Our mission is to glorify the persecuted church by serving His persecuted church.  In his book Tortured for Christ, our founder Richard Wurmbrand wrote,

wurmbrand2 “I would not have left Romania, despite the dangers, if the leaders of the Underground Church had not commanded me to use this opportunity to leave the country, to be the ‘voice’ of the Underground Church to the free world. They wished me to speak to you of the Western world on their behalf about their sufferings and needs. I came to the West, but my heart remained with them. I would never have left Romania if I had not understood the great necessity for you to hear of the sufferings and the courageous work of the Underground Church, but this is my mission.”

The Voice of the Martyrs today continues the legacy of Pastor Wurmbrand in raising a voice for persecuted Christians around the world.  It is sometimes hard for Christians in Canada to understand that persecuted Christians do not want us to send all of our funds directly overseas!  They urge us to publicize their plight, to tell their stories, to urge governments to intervene on their behalf, and to share their prayer requests with Christians in Canada.  One of our core values as a mission is to serve the Persecuted Church according to their wishes and needs, and not according to our own predetermined strategies. Just as Pastor Wurmbrand left Romania at the command of underground church leaders to be their voice, we are fulfilling the command of today’s Persecuted Church as we share their stories in our monthly newsletter, in books, and through television and radio. 

Today, of course, one of the key ways we do this is on the Internet.  This is why I take the time to blog as regularly as I do.  As I look at the statistics, I realize that there are few ways in which I can personally reach so many with this important message.  I think that as a CEO, that it is important that my voice is heard first-hand and not filtered through a public relations firm or a communications team.  You need to know that there is a real person here who cares deeply for our brothers and sisters.  It’s why I personally Twitter and answer emails and comments posted on our blog.  Cutting myself from the public goes against everything that I believe about leadership.  Blogging is a sacred task for me, in whatever form it takes. Personally, I think Richard Wurmbrand would have blogged had he been starting his ministry in 2009.

ipl-twitter May I urge you to join me?  If you have a blog site or use Twitter or Facebook – however that looks for you - get involved in raising a voice for the voiceless (or, as I jokingly said to a friend of mine the other day, raise a tweet for the tweetless).  We have recently seen the impact of the Internet in raising awareness of the problems in Iran.  May I ask you to join me in raising awareness of the persecuted?  Feel free to create links to our websites and blogs.  Embed our videos that are on YoutubeFollow us and retweet our messages on Twitter.   Write your own material and reference ours.  Feel free!  Anything that is online from our mission is yours to use just so long as you don’t use it for personal gain (and a link or credit line is always nice). 

But for the love of our brothers and sisters, get on your knees and blog – speak up for those who are being persecuted for Christ.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Spiritist challenges visiting preachers to power encounter in Uganda

You may find the following story a bit disconcerting. It was for me.  But it does reflect the reality of what Christians face in various parts of the world.  What bothered me was the response of the preachers, to be honest.  Why did they flee and now, why are they going to press charges?  Maybe the two responses are related? I certainly have some unanswered questions.

Read the story over and then give me your comments (keeping in mind our comments policy).  Who is in the right here?  Who is in the wrong? Is this persecution?  If so, did these preachers pass the test? If you are a Christians there anything in this incident that bothers you?  If you are not a Christian, what is your response to this incident? 

Uganda: Herbalist Challenges Evangelists

Ali Mambule
28 June 2009
The New Vision

Kampala — A herbalist in Masaka town challenged visiting preachers to a show of strength at his shrine on Wednesday evening in Mukudde zone in Nyendo Sennyange division.

The Christians from Bukakkata Evangelical Church and Health Building Church, Misaali, arrived at the shrine and began preaching. They were led by pastor Patrick Male Kakooza.

The herbalist, known as Prof. Kasagazi Kansaze, challenged the Christians to demonstrate their healing powers.

"I also have powers, which I believe are stronger than yours. I want you to show me what you can do. If my powers prove stronger than yours, you should join me, or else I'll join you if you happen to disprove me," Kansaze proposed to the evangelists, who seemed to think he was joking.

Kansaze then lit a wood fire and instructed his clients, who had been joined by some residents who live near the shrine, to start singing songs used to invoke spirits.

At this point, the evangelists started to flee, some of them abandoning their Bibles. Pastor Male escaped but the residents forced some, including Betty Nannyonjo, to stay and watch the herbalist's display.

"You neglect your culture and jump off with foreign cultures. You come here and preach to us the word which was sent to the Corinthians. Are we from that part of the world?" Kansaze, who seemed to be possessed, asked while stepping into the fire and putting burning wood into his mouth.

He grabbed Nannyonjo and asked her to step into the fire like he had done, but Nannyonjo broke free and escaped.

The residents chanted and praised the herbalist. Nannyonjo later told The New Vision that she would file a case against Kansaze.

"He welcomed us to his shrine. Why did he turn violent?" Nannyonjo asked.

The waning of Iran’s protest movement

This morning The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published the following analysis on the reasons for the waning of the protest movement following the Iranian election.   Please continue to pray for Iran and especially for her Christian population.

Elections in Iran – Part V: The Waning of the Protest Movement

By: A. Savyon*

Iran|#529| June 29, 2009

Two weeks after the elections, it seems that the Iranian regime has managed to suppress the protest movement. This report examines the reasons for the waning of this movement.

1. Violence by the Regime

In attempt to quell the protests, which were mostly peaceful, the Iranian regime has employed brutal violence. IRGC and Basij units, some of them in plainclothes, used both cold weapons (clubs and knives) and live fire against the protestors. In addition to employing violence against the demonstrators in the streets, the security forces also raided student dorms, especially in Tehran; arrested protesters, political activists, journalists and intellectuals; and persecuted owners of homes from which the call of "Allah Akbar" was heard in the nights. The heads of the regime made threats against anyone who participated in the demonstrations, blocked websites and media outlets supportive of the protest movement, and waged a media campaign against this movement by describing the protestors and their leaders as hostile elements collaborating with Iran's enemies. Permits for political and party activities were revoked, and a special court was establish to prosecute the protestors.

2. Unlike Some of the Demonstrators, the Protest Movement Leaders Never Advocated a Regime Change in Iran; Their Campaign Is Part of a Struggle between Two Streams within the Regime

The leaders of the protest movement, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami, called on the demonstrators to keep their protests peaceful, and stated that they would negotiate with the regime to attain their goals, which are the holding of a new election or the establishment of a committee of ayatollahs, acceptable to all sides, to examine the election results. Unlike some of the protestors, these leaders are not interested in a change of regime in Iran, and have never called to topple Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.(1) 

It should be noted that Khatami and Rafsanjani, who stayed behind the scenes of the protest movement, have not managed to recruit the support of any senior ayatollah against Khamenei. Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is the second most powerful figure in the regime and heads two of its most important bodies (the Experts Assembly and Expediency Council), has never purported to lead a movement presenting an alternative to the regime. Despite his blatant disagreements with the Supreme Leader, he hasn't openly challenged the latter's decision to accept the election results, though, according to reports, he has sought to recruit senior ayatollahs to join his camp within the regime.

3. Absence of International Support

The policy of the West during this crisis has been one of non-intervention in the events in Iran.

Conclusion:

The events in Iran following the elections were a public outburst of rage that encompassed many sectors of Iranian society. This outburst was made possible by the emergence of a comprehensive common denominator, namely anger over the rigged elections. The protestors sought a leadership, but did not find one.

The regime's power and brutal suppression of the protests, the absence of a religious leadership, and the silence of the world meant that the protest movement could not maintain its momentum, and started to crumble after two weeks. However, it is safe to assume that another, more effective, protest movement will arise when the necessary "ingredients" are present, namely – a public of protestors, a compelling ideological agenda presenting an alternative to the regime, a religious leadership that will head the movement and will be willing to pay the price, and international support.

It can also be assumed that the present Iranian protest movement is likely to impact the Sunni Arab societies in the countries neighboring Iran, which are also no strangers to election fraud.

Now that the regime has managed to quell the protests, its various elites are busy trying to mediate between its two competing streams, both of which are conservative and accept Khamenei's authority.(2) The desire for reconciliation is clearly evident in Rafsanjani's recent public statement – his first in the last two weeks – in which he declared his loyalty to Khamenei (who has his "unending affection"), and adopted the line of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad that foreign elements were behind the protest movement.(3)

*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project.

____________________________________

Endnotes:

(1) The leaders' position was expressed, for example, by Mousavi's supporter Majlis Member Ghodratollah Alikhani, who cried out emotionally during a recent Majlis session, "We are all sons of the Revolution!" 
(2) See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 522, "Elections in Iran – Part II," June 9, 2009, http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=IA52209.
Since Khamenei stressed, in his June 19, 2009 Friday sermon, the importance of all the leaders to the regime,  the regime's various elites and mechanisms have been working to appease the disgruntled presidential candidates and offer a solution to the crisis. Among the figures undertaking this effort are Ayatollahs from Qom, such as Mousavi Ardabili, Sobhani and Javadi-Amoli, as well as Majlis Speaker Larijani who has established his own committee for resolving the conflict, members of the Guardians Council and others.
On Khamenei's June 19 sermon, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2413, "Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a Tehran Friday Sermon: In Every Election There Are Winners and There Are Losers," June 21, 2009, http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=countries&Area=iran&ID=SP241309.
(3) ILNA (Iran), June 28, 2009, Mehr (Iran), June 27, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFiv361ycpQ .

Remembering Chris Leggett

chris-leggett

Chris Leggett

June 23, 2009

[From the Cleveland Daily Banner]

Christopher Ervin (Chris) Leggett, 39, formerly of Cleveland, and a current resident of Nouakchott, Mauritania, Africa, passed away Tuesday, June 23, 2009, in Mauritania. He was greatly loved and respected by the Mauritanian people. The Mauritanian Minister of Justice stated that “his death was a great loss to Mauritania”. Chris lived and died for Christ.

He and his family were residents of Mauritania for the past seven years where he directed a non-governmental organization with a focus to help the people of Mauritania. One aspect of his work involved working with the prison systems to train and equip women and young boys to re-enter society. He directed a training center providing training in such areas as computer skills, sewing, and literacy. He also oversaw a micro-loan program which fostered growth of small businesses; hundreds of projects were financed which impacted the lives of countless people.

He was a 1987 graduate of Cleveland High School. He attended Cleveland State Community College and graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 1990 with a degree in Business Administration. He was a member of First Baptist Church of Cleveland for many years and most recently was a member of Michigan Avenue Baptist Church of Cleveland.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents: Jay T. and Mildred B. Leggett; Ervin G. and Rachel A. Foreman.

Survivors include is wife, Jackie Beard Leggett; parents: Jay and Linda Leggett of Cleveland; four children: Hannah Marie Leggett, Jordan Christopher Leggett, Haley Rebecca Leggett and Erin Christian Leggett; brother and sister-in-law, Jay L. Leggett, Jr. and Erica S. Leggett of Cleveland; father-in-law and mother-in-law: Charles and Shirley Beard of Cleveland; nephews: Jay L. Leggett, III, Grant W. Leggett and Jonathan M. Rowland, all of Cleveland; and several other family members.

The funeral will be held on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at the First Baptist Church of Cleveland at 2:00 p.m. with Reverend Jim Gibson and Dr. Alan Lockerman officiating. Interment will follow in Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland with Jake Beard, Shannon Brown, Junior Burke, Stan Gibson, Brian Nerren, Jack Roach, David Souther, and Dennis Tweed serving as pallbearers.

The visitation will be held on Monday, June 29, 2009 at the First Baptist Church of Cleveland from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and also 1 hour prior to the Tuesday service.

Memorials can be given to the family as follows: Directly to Jackie B. Leggett at 1112 Glenmore Drive, Cleveland, TN 37312 or through First Baptist Church of Cleveland, 340 Church Street, Cleveland, TN 37311 and designated to the J. Mack Hall Fund or by going to www.clevelandfbc.com and selecting the icon for Chris Leggett. You may leave a message of condolence for the family at this web site.

Messages of condolence may also be given at www.ralphbuckner.com.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Persecution: Normal and Expected

By Nik Ripken

“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” - John 15:20

They admitted to being confused, these pastors and lay leaders who had endured decades of persecution within the now-failing Soviet Republic. Yet they agreed to share their personal, family, and church stories with the broader Christian community, hoping to help churches, mission organizations, and missionaries in the West develop a more biblical missiology of suffering. These pastors and lay leaders were intimately conversant with persecution, suffering, and martyrdom.

The confusion surfaced near the end of a series of interviews. Life histories had been shared, stories of persecution recited and documented, and tears shed while events were dissected. The testimonies were compelling. It seemed to the interviewer that this was the stuff of scripture—that he was hearing Bible stories come to life in his own time.

And that’s when the moment of confusion came, when the interviewer asked some questions that weren’t very professional or well planned. After hearing story after gripping story, he was compelled to ask this group of pastors and lay leaders, “Why have you cheated us in the West? Why haven’t you written these stories down? Where are the books that chronicle your faith and persecution? These stories are worthy of a movie. These are Bible stories come to life! Why have you not shared these lessons learned?”

As Common as the Sun Rising in the East
His outburst was greeted with confused silence. The pastors and lay leaders were dumbfounded. Most of the people simply ignored the embarrassing questions and the harshness of the challenge. Finally, one brother stood up, took the interviewer by the arm, and drew him to the end of the large room by the eastern window of the dwelling. Looking out at the horizon, the man spoke calmly to the interviewer: “Sir, when your sons were growing up, how many mornings did you take them to the window of your house and say to them, ‘Look, boys, the sun is coming up in the east this morning?’”

The interviewer found the question silly. “Well, I never once did that,” he answered. “Had I done that, my sons would have thought I had lost my mind, because the sun always comes up in the east!” Gently, the wise brother made his point: “Sir, that is why we talk little of our persecution and suffering. That is why we have not written our stories down. And that is why we have not made a movie. Our persecution is always with us. It simply comes as we walk with Jesus. It is like the sun coming up in the east.

“Besides,” he continued, “when did you Christians in the West stop reading the Bible? Our stories have already been told. God has already told all of us what we need to know about persecution and suffering.”

To say the interviewer was deeply humbled belabors the obvious. But the truth found a way into his heart and he was changed that day.

What kind of person sees persecution as biblical, expected, and hardly worth mentioning? Clearly, a person steeped in the story of scripture and well-acquainted with God. We would be wise to listen and learn the lessons.

First, persecution is normal for those who follow Jesus. Scripture makes this point from beginning to end. It is, quite simply, like the sun coming up in the east. Persecution is neither good nor bad—it just is. Certainly, Christians are not to seek persecution. But, at the same time, Christians need not give in to a crippling fear.

Persecutors intend for their actions to punish, intimidate, and (ultimately) silence God’s people. But God can use persecution in other ways. His highest purpose in persecution is to call his people closer to himself and to refocus their attention to the suffering of their Lord. When followers of Christ suffer willingly for their Savior, this gives their faith value. That kind of suffering also increases the impact of their witness.

Second, conversion is the primary cause of persecution. That may sound strange, but consider this simple truth: When people come to Jesus, persecution results. And the only way to stop persecution is to keep people from coming to Jesus. Conversion and suffering for the faith are simply two sides of the same coin. Many Christians in the West hold to a missiology of suffering that is, at the very least, biblically inconsistent. They see persecution as “bad,” as “a punishment,” and as “something to be avoided at all cost.” Western Christians facing persecution would typically ask, “What did we do to deserve this?” And that question really means, “What did we do wrong?” But believers who are more at home in the world of persecution would see things differently. They might say, “We are being persecuted because we did what was right!” What a different perspective!

The Western Church has been led by a host of well-meaning proclaimers and organizations asking that Christians pray for brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution. That is biblically right and godly. Yet those who pray typically ask for God to stop the persecution.

Is that really what we want to pray, when the only way to stop persecution is to keep people from coming to Jesus?

Those who see persecution like the sun coming up in the east seldom ask others to pray for their suffering to end. Rather, they ask that others pray that:

  • they might remain obedient in the midst of their persecution
  • they might be bold in their witness
  • God would use their suffering to bring others to himself

But they do not ask that others pray for their persecution to end. Amazingly, they understand that there is no resurrection without a crucifixion. And while they never seek to suffer, they find joy in being allowed to suffer for and with Jesus. In their suffering, they are privileged to identify with their risen Lord.

Third, even when missionaries do everything right, the result of a bold and culturally-astute witness will be the persecution, suffering, and martyrdom of others. That’s the result of “the mission enterprise.” One of Satan’s most powerful attacks comes against the fruit of a believer’s witness. Consider this scenario: Faith has been shared and received. A new disciple has come into the family. The one who has shared the good news feels responsible. And Satan can use that good feeling of responsibility for his purposes. The words Satan whispers are devastating: “You were faithful in your witness. Now look: someone is being hurt because of what you did! Your beloved disciple is now being persecuted! And it’s all because of what you did. Maybe it would have been better if this one had never come to Christ.”

Subconsciously, it is easy to accept those words. It’s easy to believe that the persecution is your fault. Trying to assuage that terrible guilt, Western workers often move into “rescue mode.” The plan is simple: “Perhaps we should extract this new disciple and keep him safe!” Tragically, in the process, God’s call to church planting gets lost. And, what’s even more dangerous is that the rescuers come to believe that safety is something that they can guarantee and provide.

The Purposes of God?
God’s story speaks to the situation. What do we do when Joseph is wrongly accused and thrown into Pharaoh’s prison? Practically speaking, what do we do when that happens today? We write emails. We distribute contact information for governments and United Nations officials. We fill inboxes and voicemails with demands that the person be freed. We righteously claim that his rights have been violated. We point out that he has committed no crime and we say that we will settle for nothing less than his release. We threaten sanctions.

And that’s all understandable.

But what if God has determined that he needs this person in jail for a season? Or, at the very least, what if God determines that he will use this time of imprisonment for some special purpose? What if we spring this person too soon—before he has the opportunity to interpret “Pharaoh’s” dream? What if we rescue him, only to discover that we have been working against the purposes of God?

Of course, we dare not be careless here: no believer has the right to be silent when another believer is suffering! The Church in the West has no right to ignore the suffering of brothers and sisters around the globe. But even so, there is a God-given wisdom that will lead God’s people to understand that there are times to allow Christians to remain imprisoned for the sake of God and his kingdom. They also will understand exactly when those times are.

For eighty percent of the Christian family in our world today, persecution remains as common as the sun coming up in the east. Surely, persecution is never to be sought nor fearfully avoided. But when it comes, each follower of Christ is invited to embrace it, to see it as normal and expected, and to pray that God might somehow use it for his purposes.

Dr. Nik Ripken (pseudonym) is a mission veteran of twenty-four years with the International Mission Board, SBC, having served in Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Somalia, and Germany. Currently, he and and his wife serve as strategy associates in Northern Africa and the Middle East with specific responsibilities for the Horn of Africa and some Gulf States.

[This article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of Lausanne World Pulse and is used by permission]

This week’s recommended resources from The Voice of the Martyrs (June 28-July 4)

With the eyes of the world focused in Iran and the Middle East, it is critical that Christians understand the truth of Islam and how Christianity is alive, though persecuted, in the Islamic world.  Here are just a few of the great resources available from The Voice of the Martyrs that can help you to put world events in perspective and help you to pray more effectively for the work of God in the region.  Be sure to check out our many new arrivals, specials and discounts that are also available online.

idfgIran: Desperate for God. Compiled by Voice of the Martyrs 
An oppressive Islamic state drives its people into the arms of God! Despite the tremendous oppression in Iran, an intense spiritual hunger is breaking out across the country. The salvation of Jesus Christ is sweeping through one of the most oppressive terrorist nations on earth. How can it be? Read seven testimonies of Muslims who found true freedom. ($8.00. Hardcover, 152 pages, 2006)

jtj From Jihad to Jesus by Jerry Rassamni
Jerry Rassamni was a militant Muslim who hated Christians and warred against them. From Jihad to Jesus will take you on Jerry's personal journey as he is transformed by the hand of God from a militant during the Lebanese Civil War. After recounting his physical jihad (struggle) against Christians, the narrative briskly shifts to Jerry's spiritual jihad (struggle) into enlightenment as he attempted to refute the Bible. This book reveals gripping evidence that led Jerry to abandon Islam and embrace Christ as his Savior. ($15.00. Paperback, 240 pages)

tmit The Myth of Islamic Tolerance edited by Robert Spencer
This collection of articles sets out to debunk the theory that Islam is the tolerant religion that many claim it to be. The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims brings to light the deeply ingrained historical, cultural, and religious elements of a profound modern crisis--the violence, fanaticism, and contempt for outsiders that characterizes much of the Islamic world today. Anyone concerned about the dangers of politically motivated distortions of Islamic theology and history should not miss this explosive and enlightening volume. ($30.00. Hardcover, 593 pages)

This week in persecuted church history (June 28-July 4)

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

June 28, 2006: A Muslim mob in the town of Izom in the Nigerian state of Niger overwhelms police and clubs an unidentified Christian woman to death for participating in street evangelism.

June 30, 1315: Lay missionary, mystic, and philosopher Ramon Lull, who was persuaded by a vision to seek the conversion of the Muslims, is reportedly stoned to death in Bougie, North Africa.cranmer_martyr

July 2, 1489: English reformer Thomas Cranmer is born at Aslockton, Nottinghamshire. The archbishop of Canterbury wrote the Book of Common Prayer and was burned at the stake in 1556.


June 30, 2003: Seventeen-year-old Nermine is kidnapped in front of the Isis Secondary School in Alexandria, Egypt. Shortly afterwards, her father, Samaan Sadek Stephanos, receives a phone call, saying that his daughter has been kidnapped and is being forced to change her religion to Islam. Her abductors then plan to have her married to a Muslim man.

July 1, 2005: Approximately seventy believers are arrested in Zhaolou Village, Henan Province, China during a baptism service.  Ten of them, including Pastor Wang Baode, are sentenced to fifteen days' detention.  The rest are released after paying sri_lanka_nceasl fines of 300 RMB ($45 CDN) each.

July 3, 2004: The office of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) was vandalized in what appeared to be a systematic search for records related to their campaign against proposed anti-conversion laws.

(sources: 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)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remember them in Vietnam

In June, we have been focusing on the plight of persecuted Christians in Vietnam.

Vietnam is one of the most tightly controlled nations in the world. Although its constitution grants freedom of worship, the reality for Vietnam’s religious minorities contradicts this right. Registration is required for all religious organizations and churches that do register are tightly controlled by the government. Those who do not register face the possibility of imprisonment, torture, and death. Churches and other buildings used by Christians are frequently dismantled by authorities in Vietnam.

Persecution is most intense for the ethnic minorities, especially the Montagnards from the hill country. Many of these people have attempted to flee to neighbouring Cambodia. However, under an agreement with the Vietnamese government, Cambodian authorities have been returning the refugees to collect a bounty. Those who are returned are imprisoned, tortured or killed. Despite the persecution, the church in Vietnam is growing and becoming stronger. Christians now make up almost 10 percent of the population.

How can you remember them in Vietnam?

stand-out STAND OUT
Show your support for the church in Vietnam and worldwide by displaying a Voice of the Martyrs prayer map in your office, dorm room, or any place where others might ask notice it and want to learn more about its significance. You can order a free map by calling our office at 1.888.298.6423.

CRY OUT
cryoutPlease especially remember to pray for our Vietnamese brothers and sisters mentioned in the June edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. For helpful suggestions on how you can pray more effectively for them and other persecuted believers around the world, request a free copy of our prayer guide Cry Out to the Lord by calling our office at 1.888.298.6423. You can also receive up-to-date prayer requests and news on the Persecuted Church by subscribing to VOMC’s weekly email service, The Persecution and Prayer Alert. Subscribe today!

speakout SPEAK OUT
Nguyen Van Dai, a Protestant church leader and lawyer, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by four years of house arrest. Nguyen was accused of a wide range of crimes, including “conspiring with terrorists, in their efforts to promote human rights efforts, including religious rights and democracy.” He was also accused of compiling “evidence of Vietnam’s suppression of the Protestant religion and providing it to the U.S.-based Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam and the U.S. embassy.” Join us in standing in solidarity with Nguyen Van Dai. Write a polite letter to the Vietnamese ambassador, urging his government to release Nguyen Van Dai. Please do not mention The Voice of the Martyrs in your letter.  Letters may be sent to the following address:

His Excellency Duc Hing Nguyen, Ambassador
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
470 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON
K1N 6M8

HELP OUT
Rescue MeWhile much of our most significant work in Vietnam cannot be publicized, your donations help The Voice of the Martyrs provide encouragement, pastoral care, biblical training, and practical support to persecuted Vietnamese Christians. Your gifts also allow us to advocate on their behalf in Ottawa and worldwide, documenting and publicizing cases of persecution and lobbying political leaders to act on behalf of persecuted believers in Vietnam.

Donations to all of our projects can be made securely online by clicking on the icon on the right or sent by mail to:

The Voice of the Martyrs
P.O. Box 117, Port Credit
Mississauga, ON
L5G 4L5

REACH OUT
reachoutRead of the trials of the Cu Hat Church, the shocking story of a congregation in Vietnam under fire from government authorities. You can provide a word of encouragement to these courageous Christians. Take a picture of yourself and/or your family. Get the picture printed and then simply write the Vietnamese phrase  on the back of the picture. Then mail your picture to us (see above) and we will forward it on.

vietnamese phrase(translation: When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers)

Chief Rabbi and Yad L'achim on trial for 2005 attack on Messianic congregation

On Christmas Eve 2005, the Nachalat Yeshua Messianic Congregation in Beersheba, Israel gathered to celebrate the coming of Christ and to baptize two young women.  As the service began, however, approximately 500 hundred Orthodox Jews, including a number of children, stormed the meeting.  They were invited to stay. The intruders, however, began to dance around the room and sing while overturning tables and chairs.  The agitators then began beating the Christians.  Objects were thrown into the baptismal pool and approximately $2000 damage was caused to church property.  The hatred of this group was evident as youths told one Christian woman who tried to enter the building that Christians are Nazis and deserve a bullet in the head. 

The Yad L'achim anti-missionary organization and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Beersheba, Yehuda Deri, who was present stood throughout the incident were charged and their trial began on June 10.  It is hoped that this case will highlight the ill treatment that Messianic Jews often suffer in Israel and support their right to worship freely and without harassment. Please pray.

In the upcoming July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter you can also read an article on the reality of what it often means to live as a Christian in Israel and the Palestinian territories entitled The forgotten church.  Click here to apply for your free subscription and we will send you out a copy of the July edition right away.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Al-Qaeda claims to have killed aid worker in Mauritania for his “Christianising activities”

This afternoon, we received notice that Al-Qaeda is claiming to have killed an American aid worker in Mauritania because he was allegedly spreading Christianity.  Here is a report from BBC.

Al-Qaeda's North Africa branch has claimed responsibility for the killing of an American aid worker shot dead in Mauritania, al-Jazeera TV reports.

The Arab satellite channel said it had received an audio message in which the group said it had killed 39-year-old Christopher Leggett on Tuesday.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said it had targeted Mr Leggett for allegedly spreading Christianity in the country.

Al-Jazeera said it could not verify the authenticity of the message.

"Two knights of the Islamic Maghreb succeeded Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to kill the infidel American Christopher Leggett for his Christianising activities," the group was reported to have said.

Unidentified gunmen ran up to Mr Leggett in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, on Tuesday and shot him several times, witnesses said.

Mr Leggett, who grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee, taught at a centre specialising in computer science and languages in a working-class neighbourhood of the city, the Associated Press reported.

We will release more details as they become available.

Iranian Christians hesitant to get involved in protests

World Magazine posted an excellent article on the response of Iranian Christians to the recent electoral unrest in Iran. Here’s a taste:

Estimates of Iran’s Christian population range from 2 to 7 million out of a country of approximately 67 million mostly Shiite Muslims. According to Open Doors, more than 100,000 of Iranian Christians are so-called “secret believers” who remain publicly identified as Muslims but meet in rapidly growing numbers of house churches.

This month’s street protests and the furor over the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised important questions for the country’s Christian minority, who generally avoid political engagement.

“As long as the sovereignty is in the hand of supreme leader, no matter who comes [to power] Christians will always be under threat. Under his power, the country is ruled by Islamic [Sharia] law, and therefore non-Muslims, including Christians, must be dealt according to the Islamic law,” said Daniel Shayesteh, a Christian convert and former member of Hezbollah in Iran now serving as a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor in Australia.

Adding to the ambivalence of Iranian Christians, lead opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi is remembered as anti-Jew and anti-Christian when he served as prime minister in the 1980s. Shayesteh told me by email that it’s not clear to most Christians whether Mousavi now favors “a softer approach” toward non-Muslims. [click here to read the remainder of the article]

Please remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Iran at this time.  I posted a blog yesterday that you might find helpful in this regard.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Church assaulted with stones and rotten eggs in Israel

One of the sad realities that many evangelicals in the West are unaware of is the persecution facing Christians in Israel.  The following comes from Compass Direct:

nicolay_parishioners MIGDAL HA-EMEQ, Israel, June 22 (Compass Direct News) – When the congregation at St. Nicolay church in this northern Israeli town gathered on that quiet Friday morning of May 29, they never expected to be showered with stones. The Russian Orthodox worshipers, including many women, children and the elderly, had filled the small building to overflow with several outside when they were stunned by the rain of stones. Some were injured and received medical care. The church had also been attacked earlier that week, during a wedding ceremony. Stones and rotten eggs were thrown from the street, hitting guests as they arrived. The identity of the assailants is unknown – a police officer said the complaint “lacked the exact description of the attackers” – but eye-witnesses claimed they were ultra-orthodox yeshiva students who frequently cursed the church on their way to the school or synagogue. “They often assault us verbally, curse and yell at us, although we tried to explain that this is a place of worship, a holy place,” said a frustrated Oleg Usenkov, press secretary of the church, adding that police inaction amounts to nonfeasance. [Click here for the full story]

In the upcoming July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter you can also read an article on the reality of what it often means to live as a Christian in Israel and the Palestinian territories entitled The forgotten churchClick here to apply for your free subscription and we will send you out a copy of the July edition right away.

Update: Laotian Christians released

We are happy to report that on June 13, Christians arrested by plain clothes police, after visiting Christian villages in Laos, were released without incident, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts.

The believers were released without any problems, and they were not required to pay any fines. The police questioned them for hours and wanted to find out if they were resistance movement. When the police found out they were Christians, they were all released. Praise God!

The Christians were arrested on June 12, after visiting Christian villages. The visiting believers met the police when they were in the village for their routine daily work. The police questioned them about what they were doing in the village.

The Voice of the Martyrs rejoices with the families of these released believers. Praise God for His faithfulness. Pray believers in Laos will remain faithful in their faith in Jesus Christ.

What have you been reading in June?

It’s been a good month for reading and so here are some brief summaries of what I have paged through this month. I hope you check some of these books out.

 The Gospel According to Job by Mike Mason : While not intended to be an academic commentary, the author does a better job than most commentators in dealing with the questions and answers we find in the Biblical narrative of Job.  A rich, thoughtful and deep journey into the text of the book of Job where we learn that there are no easy answers to suffering, especially suffering due to one’s relationship with God. Now available from VOMC.

The Christians: A Glorious Disaster by SEARCH. The seventh volume of the church history series The Christians dealing with the years 1100-1300, with a specific focus on the Crusades.  A great edition to a great series but I felt that it was not as strong as previous volumes especially in terms of illustrations, depending too much on engravings by Dure (which may be a reflection of the publisher’s budgetary constraints). I hope that this excellent series will eventually be completed (there are 12 projected volumes) but I dare not hope that it will take place in my lifetime.

Sudan: Race, Religion and Violence by Jok Madut Jok. By far the best examination of the history and conditions facing Sudan today.  I wish that this book had been written when The Voice of the Martyrs had started its work there.  Should be required reading for anyone who works there or plans to.

Inside the Revolution by Joel C. Rosenbug. Was a timely read, given recent events in Iran.  Well-balanced and helpful in understanding the Middle East and the three movements (as he calls them) that are influencing events there (the Radicals, Reformers, and Revivalists). While I don’t agree with all of his points (his brand of eschatology, in particular), I am still glad that I read this book at this time in history, given its particular focus on Iran.

So what have you been reading this month?

How best to pray for Iran

This morning, the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission sent out an excellent guide on how to pray for Iran during these days.  I thought that it would be good to share it with you.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 010 | Wed 24 Jun 2009

----------------------

IRAN: HOW BEST TO PRAY

----------------------

In 1989 the father of the Iranian Revolution, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, died without a successor. His rightful and designated successor, Grand Ayatollah Hussain Ali Montazeri, had been sidelined in 1988 for protesting corruption and human rights abuses. At that time Khamenei was President, Mousavi was Prime Minister and Rafsanjani was Speaker of the Parliament. They were secure because they had not protested the purges and massacres! Possibly because Rafsanjani thought Khamenei could be easily controlled, Rafsanjani convinced the Assembly of Experts to appoint Khamenei as Supreme Leader even though he was not qualified for the role. However, after Rafsanjani became president the two men started to clash. Rafsanjani's power base was the business class, so he supported business, the elite and economic growth.

Khamenei's power base was 'the masses', so he supported the clerics, the poor and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Khamenei and the IRGC brought Ahmadinejad to power in 2005 specifically because he would serve their interests. With Ahmadinejad in power, the IRGC have been able to extend their control over much of the Iranian economy and pursue their own and Khamenei's regional ambitions.

So, at the heart of the present troubles is a power struggle between the Khamenei-IRGC-Ahmadinejad camp versus the Rafsanjani-Mousavi camp.

Both camps are in the conservative block and all those involved are Islamists -- none of them are counter-revolutionaries. The Ahmadinejad camp is ideologically driven and committed to exporting Revolution, spending billions of petro-dollars through the IRGC on foreign adventures in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon and beyond to establish regional hegemony. The Mousavi camp on the other hand, though equally Islamist, wants less belligerence and good international relations so it can focus on domestic issues and the economy. The largely young, urban intellectuals who have been protesting in the streets of Tehran are simply embarrassed by and frustrated with the present regime and are desperate for change. One analyst described Mousavi as merely a 'balloon' that had been 'inflated' by those determined to express their anger against Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Independent analysts both inside and outside Iran believe that election fraud has taken place. However, this does not mean that Ahmadinejad would not have won the election anyway as he is enormously popular and is virtually worshipped by masses of rural poor who greatly appreciate his generous handouts. It is widely believed Khamenei and the IRGC wanted not only to guarantee Ahmadinejad's election but to provide him with a powerful mandate. The ruling regime had every intention of retaining power. As opposition started to mount even before the election, a senior official from the IRGC, Yadollah Javani, warned that the Revolutionary Guards would crush any attempt at a 'Velvet Revolution'.

Khamenei and Ahmadinejad control the guns and have the support of a clear majority of the 86-member Assembly of Experts (AoE). When Rafsanjani (who heads the AoE) recently approached the AoE -- possibly in an attempt to de-legitimise Khamenei -- his daughter and four other relatives were arrested. The Khamenei-Ahmadinejad-IRGC camp will retain power for the time being. Meanwhile, discontent, desperation and disillusionment are mounting.

PLEASE PRAY FOR IRAN THAT:

* the hunger of Iranians for openness and answers will grow as many of them start to question what has gone wrong there and as they search
for a better way; may many find answers in Jesus Christ. (Generally
the protesters still hope for a pure Islamic State. They believe that
Islam is the solution and that the present regime has merely diverged.)

* God will wonderfully protect and preserve his besieged Church as
persecution will doubtless escalate when the regime moves with rage
and force to repress or even purge those who oppose it or are
perceived to be a threat.

* the Holy Spirit will breathe supernatural courage into the Iranian
Church, so believers will witness with courage, conviction and authority; may every word of witness be blessed with every believer a
prophetic voice and a light shining in the darkness.

'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.' (John 3:17 ESV)

--------------

NOTE: After the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing on 4 June 1989, large numbers of Chinese elite (including Communist officials) rejected Communism and in a few short years the Chinese Church became truly representative of Chinese society. Christianity is now just as much a faith of the urban elite -- doctors, lawyers, artists, scholars and the like -- as it is a faith of the rural poor. Even amongst non- Christians, Communism is largely discredited and rejected and openness and liberty are sought.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CHRC keeping record of critics

Apparently Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, is keeping a "file" on those who are publicly speaking out against the CHRC. In a recent interview, she said.

"Please, please, look. We have experienced 16 months of invective hurled at us, and at any time when anybody has tried to speak up and correct misinformation, gross distortions, caricaturizations, then the very next day there's been some full-frontal assault through the blogs, through mainstream media. I have a file. I'm sure I have 1,200, certainly several hundred of these things."

How does it make you feel to know that if you dare to publicly raise a voice in criticism of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that they are keeping record of it? 

In a recent speech, Ms. Lynch objected to human rights commissions and their employees being described by such terms as “Gestapo”.  But isn’t it just this kind of unwarranted information gathering that characterizes such organizations? 

Guess Ms. Lynch has another entry for her “file”.

Words from our founder

My brothers and sisters, you also must believe that your lives are clay in the hands of a wonderful Sculptor. He never makes mistakes. If at times He is hard on you, it is because He sometimes has what we could call negative success. He loses a pawn in order to win the chess game. He loses a battle in order to win a war. He causes his Son to endure suffering in order to save a world. Just trust. Don't live on another's messages, but discover the message for which He is molding you.


Excerpted from Richard Wurmbrand's book If Prison Walls Could Speak. You can order a copy on our online resource catalog.

Iranian election update

Increasingly it is becoming clear just how severely the Iranian presidential elections were marked by vote rigging and irregularities.  On July 21, Chatham House released a preliminary analysis which they concluded the following:

Working from the province by province breakdowns of the 2009 and 2005 results, released by the Iranian Ministry of Interior on the Farsi pages of their website shortly after the election, and from the 2006  census as published by the official Statistical Centre of Iran, the following observations about the official data and the debates surrounding it can be made.

· In two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of
more than 100% was recorded.

· If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory was primarily caused by the
increase in voter turnout, one would expect the data to show that the
provinces with the greatest increase in voter turnout would also show
the greatest 'swing' in support towards Ahmadinejad. This is not the
case.

· In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that
Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all former
centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former
reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two
groups.

· In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and
Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas.
That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth. The claim
that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces
flies in the face of these trends.

[click here to download the full report]

Of particular concern to us at The Voice of the Martyrs are recent statements by  Iranian government officials and Ayatollah Khamenei blaming “foreign elements” for the recent unrest and demonstrations. 

Similar accusations have, in the past, been accompanied by increased oppression against religious minorities, including Christians, who are perceived as having Western sympathies and support. 

Pray for Western leaders as they seek wisdom as to how to respond to the Iranian government’s crackdown on demonstrators. Pray that church leaders in Iran would have wisdom to know how to advise their congregants on how to best exhibit God’s priorities during this tumultuous time.  Pray for increased freedom in Iran at all levels.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coming up in The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter

july_09_nl This week, the July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter will be arriving at our office and then mailed out to our subscribers. I am really excited about this edition which features the testimonies of a husband and wife from Muslim backgrounds who our staff met in Egypt earlier this year. In We are here to stay, you will meet “Mustafa” and his wife “Deborah”. From their joyful smiles and welcoming hospitality, you would never guess the trials they have faced at the hands of authorities and family members and the ways they were rejected by both Muslims and fellow Christians. Plus you will discover several practical ways that you can stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians in Egypt.

In The forgotten church you will learn how a exodus of Christians has left no more than 5,000 evangelical believers remaining in the precarious Palestinian territories – where they face pressure from all sides.

In our regular monthly feature, Living in the shadow of the cross, you will discover from Revelation chapter 5 how force is not the way of the Lamb; how His purposes for the world will be achieved but it will be done His way, the way of sacrifice and suffering, even death.

Finally, get caught up on persecution news briefs from around the world and new resources for all ages that are now available from The Voice of the Martyrs. 

Apply today to make sure you get your copy of the July edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter!  Subscriptions are free to Canadian residents.  Already getting our newsletter?  Why not invite a friend or family member to receive it?

Not a persecution story

Every now and then I like to post a story some would want to say is persecution but really isn’t.  Part of my reasoning for this is that it helps us to learn to discern true persecution from the consequences of unwise or sometimes even sinful acts.  Sometimes Christians suffer simply because they fail to be as as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).  Here is a recent example from Nigeria.

Nigeria: Lagos Shuts Down Church Over Noise Pollution

Bola Ojuola
19 June 2009

The Lagos state government has commenced the implementing of zero tolerance on noise and pollution as it shut down a Pentecostal church located in Abule Egba area of the state and two companies yesterday.

Officials of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), and task force officials who went to the scene to carry out the operation said the church and bakery were shut over noise and gas pollution coming from loudspeakers and generators.

The LASEPA team led by Mr. Kayode Bello, who carried out the action yesterday morning, warned that the church may not be reopened until they have a change of attitude.

Daily Trust learnt that the government has warned those churches involved and notice had been served on them before the action was taken yesterday.

A packaging company has also been shut down at Abule Egba area for the same offence by LASEPA.

The State government had warned that the state would no longer tolerate the activities of churches and mosques which tends to disturb the populace with noise from their megaphones with various sanctions placed on them.

Dambisa Moyo speaks on CTV and CNBC

in our continuing discussion of the need to move beyond dependency creating relief aid, The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is encouraging ministries involved in assisting the poor and the persecuted to consider some of the arguments of Dambisa Moyo, author of the best selling Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa.  In the first video, Moyo speaks on CTV's Canada AM (June 2, 2009).

And on CNBC on June 10, 2009. This is a very good interview.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This week in persecuted church history (June 21-27)

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

June 21, 1600: John Rigby is hanged, drawn, and quartered at Southwark, England as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales executed during the reign of Elizabeth I.

June 22, 2007: The five-year vilification case between Pastors Daniel Nalliah and Daniel Scot of Catch The Fire Ministry and the Islamic Council of Victoria is settled in seven hours of mediation between the two parties in the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

June 24, 2008: Pastor Murugan (65) is beaten by Hindu militants who ambushed him and two other believers while returning home from a prayer meeting in Moodalpalya, Karnataka, India.

June 24, 64: Roman Emperor Nero begins persecuting Christians.

June 25, 2006: Four members of the Missionaries of Charity in India -- best known as the organization formerly led by Mother Teresa -- are visiting AIDS patients in a hospital in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh when they are accosted by Hindu militants. As many as fifty members of Dharma Parirakshana Samithi accuse the nuns of trying to convert the patients to Christianity. 

June 27, 2007: Patras Masih was shot and killed in Lahore, Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam.

June 27, 2008: Two preteen Christian girls, Saba Younis and Aneela Younis, are kidnapped by Muslims while on their way to visit their uncle in the town of Chowk Munda in the state of Punjab. Two days later, the kidnappers filed for custody of them at the local police station, stating that they had converted to Islam and that their father, Younis Masih, no longer had jurisdiction over them.

(sources: 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)

This week’s recommended resources from The Voice of the Martyrs (June 21-27)

This week, I am recommending three books by our founder, Richard Wurmbrand. These are probably my three favourite Wurmbrand books.

Reaching Toward the Heights 

After being out of print for a few years, this wonderful 365-day devotional by Pastor Wurmbrand is back!  Pastor Wurmbrand draws upon his own experience in prison and the testimonies of other persecuted Christians to encourage us to elevate our relationship with the Lord. ($10.00 Paperback, 383 pages)

Proofs of God's Existence

The questions of God's existence and absolute truth are not new. But as our founder Richard Wurmbrand writes, they are critical to both the atheist and the Christian. Will the atheist embrace or reject God, and will the Christian live a life that reflects our Creator? This is not an apologetics book written for sceptics but written to provide some answers to critical questions of those who are open for answers, who desire knowledge and who prefer the light of truth to the darkness of ignorance. Formally only available in India. Now you can enjoy it too. ($7.00. Paperback, 166 pages)

In God’s Underground

This is my favourite book by Pastor Wurmbrand!  This inspiring drama  is the most complete telling of the story of Richard Wurmbrand's imprisonment for his faith by hard-line Communists in Romania. Sentenced to "life" in a death room, he was able to rejoice in his Lord amid the most horrific conditions. It is a story of triumphant faith. ($7.00. Paperback, 276 pages)

Also check out our online discount specials!  VOMC t-shirts, caps, jewellery, DVDs, posters, and books – most only $5.00 or less!  New items added this week!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Missionary activities may have prompted abduction and killings in Yemen

yemen1 On June 12, nine foreigners were abducted in Yemen — four German adults, three small German children, a British man and a South Korean woman — after they ventured outside the city of Sa’ada without an armed escort. According to Speigel, German investigators of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and Yemeni officials have concluded that:

the group of foreigners, which comprised six devout Christians and three children, left the town of Saada in a Toyota SUV around 4pm on Friday June 12 to visit a doctor they knew who lived near the city. There, they drank tea before setting off again around 6pm. Witnesses report seeing the group being stopped by a number of armed men in a black Suzuki Vitara.

Around 6:45pm, one of the two young German women managed to call a German nurse, Rosa K., in Saada using her mobile phone. However the woman could not hear the caller very well and hung up. The investigators assume that the kidnappers executed three of their victims with shots to the head in a riverbed a short time later. Police later found a cartridge case next to one of the bodies.

Four days later, the bodies of Rita Stumpp (26) and Anita Gruenwald (24), German nurses in training, and Eom Young-sun (33) of South Korea were found. Still missing are German doctor Johannes Hentschel. (36), his wife Sabine (36), their three children Lydia (4), Anna (3) and Simon (1) and British engineer Anthony S. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

stumpp_gruenwaldWhat is becoming apparent, however, is that these were not just any foreigners picked at random but they were probably especially targeted because of who they were as Christian relief workers. Stumpp and Gruenwald attended Brake Bible School in Lemgo, Germany and had only recently arrived in Yemen to serve an internship at al-Jumhuri Hospital in Sa’ada. The hospital internship was scheduled to last three Eom Young-Sunmonths. Eom Young-sun, who also called herself Magdalena after the follower of Jesus, arrived in Yemen last October as a volunteer teacher and had attended a Christian missionary school in South Korea. Other members of the group apparently had ties to other saada_hospitalmissionary organizations and all six adults worked for Worldwide Services, a small Dutch-based international non-governmental organization working in the health sector in Yemen. Speigel reported today that one of the kidnapped men, Johannes Hentschel, had been threatened a few months ago by angry Muslims who objected to his personal efforts to share Christ with Muslims. German investigators have also found missionary tracts in the belongings of the two German nurses who were killed. The German Foreign Ministry's task force is now assuming that the Germans were known locally as missionaries and that Islamists were the likely perpetrators. Local imams reportedly had concerns that the hospital workers were doing evangelistic work in conjunction with providing medical aid.

Most observers now believe that the kidnappers are members of or have links to al-Qaeda. The region where the bodies were found was in the Noshour Valley, an area known to be a hotbed of al-Qaeda activity. Some terrorist experts are also suggesting that the killings resemble the work of Said Ali al-Shihri, deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who once was in American custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba but released in November 2007 and sent to a Saudi Arabian "rehabilitation" program for jihadists. It wasn't long before a "cured" al-Shihri was released from the program, crossed into Yemen and rejoined al-Qaeda, with whom he quickly rose to deputy commander.

Two issues will likely arise out of this incident:

1. There will be those who will point to this and decry any Christian evangelistic activities in Muslim countries by relief workers, inferring that the kidnapping and killings could have been avoided if these foreigners had simply kept their faith to themselves. This, however, ignores both the motivation of those who go to serve (love of Christ and others) and the missionary nature of true Christianity. To be a Christian is to witness and true witnessing involves words. From a biblical perspective, God’s messengers cannot be silent. They can only be silenced. However, there will be those who will try to blame the victims for what has happened to them.

2. If it is shown that Ali al-Shihri was involved, there will be those who will point to this as evidence that President Obama's plan to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre by January 2010 could lead to future and more severe terrorist attacks. While I have gone on record as supporting the closing of Guantanamo Bay, I am concerned that not enough will be done to guarantee that the truly dangerous inmates have been identified and dealt appropriately according to the rule of law. Instead, I fear, they will simply be relocated to a willing nation where some (perhaps many) will simply slip back to countries like Yemen, Afghanistan or Iraq and resume their Islamist activities, including attacking and killing Christians.

Please pray for the safe return of those still being held. Yemeni authorities believe that they are still alive. Pray, too, for the grieving families of those who were killed. Pray for Anthony’s wife who had decided not to go with the group on their outing and remains in Sa’ada.

Why the fish in VOMC’s logo?

You may have noticed, for example, that the logos of The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is somewhat different from that of our sister missions in the United States or Australia.  Originally, we all had the same logo (the one VOM Canada retains).

logo master

It still is the logo of the International Christian Association to which we all belong.  But over time and for their own reasons, some of our sister missions dropped the fish from their logo.

vom_usa

We in Canada have deliberately decided to retain the fish symbol in our logo, however. One of chief main reasons is due to its significance in persecuted church history. As most know, the fish was one of the best known early Christian symbols as early Christians made the Greek word for fish, ichthus, into an acronym for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour."  But, as Collin Hansen notes in his article in Christian History, the fish symbol became increasingly important as persecution increased, becoming a “mark of the subversives.”

As persecution of Christians became more frequent and intense in the Roman Empire, the fish symbol became a password shared among underground believers. They used the fish to mark secret gathering places, especially within the catacombs. In this catacomb art the symbol was frequently coupled with communion imagery—the fish is depicted swimming with bread and a cup of wine on its back. The fish symbol also appeared on Christian gravestones and jewelry, and marked the homes of believers. After the threat of persecution had passed, the fish was inscribed on the Constantinian Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Since the fish symbol was known among pagans, it remained a more discreet and thus effective identifier for the persecuted Christians than a cross. Secrecy often meant the difference between life and death for believers, or even the church's very survival. One story recounts how the fish symbol enabled fellow Christians to work together even when they didn't know each other. When meeting a stranger on the road, Christians would sometimes draw one arc of the fish in the dirt. If the stranger reciprocated by drawing the other arc, the believers could reveal their faith to each other without alerting Roman authorities and spies.

Given our founder Richard Wurmbrand’s reputation during his lifetime as being a religious subversive and the same accusation cast at persecuted believers in many countries today, it seems to me that such a subversive symbol as the fish belongs on our logo in recognition of it historical and contemporary significance.  It is a mark of who we are, who we belong to, and who we serve.

Blogging in Iran

blogging_iran
[Cartoon from today’s Toronto Star]

Friday, June 19, 2009

Raise a voice with the Persecution Report

Have you watched the most recent Persecution Report by The Voice of the Martyrs? This monthly 10-minute video report is a great way to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the world today in regards to Christian persecution.

How about adding the Persecution Report to your website or blog and helping raise a voice for persecuted Christians around the world?  It’s pretty easy. You can either add a link (the URL for the Persecution Report video player is http://www.persecution.net/video.html) directly to the Persecution Report or you can use one of the following html coding and embed it into your site:

<center><script src="http://www.persecution.net/video.js" type="text/javascript"></script><a href="javascript:player('http://www.persecution.net/video.html')"><img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.persecution.net/images/pr_link.jpg" /></a></center>

<center><script src="http://www.persecution.net/video.js" type="text/javascript"></script><a href="javascript:player('http://www.persecution.net/video.html')"><img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.persecution.net/images/pr_link2.jpg" /></a></center>

<center><script src="http://www.persecution.net/video.js" type="text/javascript"></script><a href="javascript:player('http://www.persecution.net/video.html')"><img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.persecution.net/images/pr_link3.jpg" /></a></center>

<center><script src="http://www.persecution.net/video.js" type="text/javascript"></script><a href="javascript:player('http://www.persecution.net/video.html')"><img border="0" alt="" src="http://www.persecution.net/images/banner/pcr.jpg" /></a></center>

Also, we now have the Persecution Report in hi-definition which you can download and show in your church or prayer group meetings.  Click here to get the latest edition.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Human rights lawyers experience Chinese government crackdown

For several years, The Voice of the Martyrs has been working with ChinaAid Association in providing legal funding through our Legal Defense Fund for Chinese Christians who are wrongfully arrested and charged with crimes because of their religious activities.  So it was with considerable concern that we learned that 21 human rights lawyers have had their licences cancelled or refused renewal because of their efforts in defending religious freedom cases.  According to ChinaAid:

“These human rights lawyers should be rewarded for their brave active efforts in promoting rule of law and advancing citizens' civil and human rights according to both the international standard and China's own Constitution, " said Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid. "Ironically, the rights of the rights attorneys are now in jeopardy."

Three leading lawyers have called ChinaAid expressing their concern and requesting ChinaAid to solicit the help of the international community. This is an unusual request from human rights attorneys who, in the past, have tried to walk a fine line within the framework of Chinese law. One lawyer told ChinaAid, ‘The Chinese government already broke the bottom line by forcing our lawyers to fight to survive to earn a living.”

ChinaAid has received reports of human rights attorneys who have been recently kidnapped, beaten, and tortured by officials for practicing normal legal defense work. 

We are asking that you please contact Chinese government authorities, protesting this action and urge that they immediately restore the licenses of the attorneys, and end their harassment and abuse.  Click here to view the names of the 21 attorneys whose licenses have been suspended or not renewed by the government. Write to:

Ambassador Lijun Lan 
Embassy of the People's Republic of China
515 St. Patrick Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 5H3
Tel: (613) 789-3434,3513,8422/762-3769 (24h)
Fax: (613) 789-1911

or

Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
3505 International Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (202) 495-2000
Fax: (202) 588-9760

You can also support VOMC’s vital ministry to our imprisoned brothers and sisters through your donations to the Legal Defense Fund. To donate to this fund, designate your gift when you make a donation securely online, by mail or call us at 1.905.670.9721 (click here for contact information).