Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Weblog for The Voice of the Martyrs Canada

Dear blog readers,

As of today, The Voice of the Martyrs Canada has launched a new blog following the passing of VOMC's former C.E.O., Glenn Penner, who was largely responsible for managing this weblog site. We felt that a new space, a fresh forum, was needed to reconnect with you and dialogue with you about the persecuted Church.

So, we warmly invite you to check out our new blog today.

Thanks, and God bless!

-Adele Konyndyk and Erin Vandenberg

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Glenn Penner passes on to glory

After a seven year struggle with cancer, Glenn Penner of The Voice of the Martyrs Canada went home to be with the Lord on the evening of January 26, 2010 at the age of 48.

Glenn first joined VOM-Canada in 1997. Klaas Brobbel, the Director of the mission at the time, recalls, "Looking back to August 1997 when we interviewed Glenn for the position of Development Director for The Voice of the Martyrs, I marvel at God’s goodness and timing to send Glenn our way. The mission was floundering and we needed help. Little could we have known the great work that Glenn would be able to pack into the nearly 12½ years of service to the Persecuted Church."

Barely five years after joining VOM-Canada, Glenn was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation treatment and a stem cell transplant, Glenn, his wife Denita, and their family decided not to pursue further treatment when the cancer returned. With confidence in God's provision, Glenn bravely continued to serve the Persecuted Church and strove to utilize the time God gave him to its fullest potential.

Merv Knight, Ambassador-at-Large with International Christian Association, of which VOM-Canada is an affiliate, reflected, "It is my privilege to have had a close association with VOM-Canada from its formative days. I have seen it move through various stages of change and growth. One of those positive changes came with the appointment in 2007 of Glenn Penner as C.E.O. Glenn was God’s man for the time."

Glenn had a particular passion for helping suffering believers to understand the biblical basis for their trials. His book, In the Shadow of the Cross, is an intensive study of the theology of persecution and discipleship which continues to be an invaluable resource to Christians worldwide who are suffering for Christ's sake. A gifted teacher, Glenn was blessed to be able to share his study with Christian leaders in religiously restricted and hostile nations in South America, Africa and Asia, as well as in seminaries and colleges in Europe and North America.

In January 2010, Glenn stepped down from the position of C.E.O. to allow him to serve more in line with the limitations and challenges of his condition. Corey Odden, who served for 10 years with VOM-USA, assumed the role of C.E.O. while Glenn became VOMC's Scholar-in-Residence/Executive Advisor.

Glenn's faithful dedication has inspired many – his family, the staff and supporters of VOM-Canada, international partners, and the many suffering Christians worldwide who have been touched by his service to them. As the mission moves forward into a new chapter, the staff is profoundly thankful to God for Glenn's example.

Greg Musselman, VOM-Canada's Chief Communications Officer, said, "I’ve known Glenn for the past 10 years and we worked together at VOM-Canada for seven. We travelled together overseas several times and worked on many video projects and newsletter articles about the Persecuted Church. I learned so much from him in the area of theology and church history and for that I will always be grateful. The rest of the team and I at VOM-Canada will strive to carry on his legacy as we serve the Persecuted Church."

VOM-Canada's Chief Operations Officer, Floyd Brobbel, added, "Words can never completely convey what Glenn meant to me and over the years ahead I will cherish the memories of my time with Glenn. The meetings, the travel, the laughter, the tears, the heated discussions, the planning, the practical jokes, and the list goes on to form a wonderful tapestry Glenn wove into my life. I would not change a thing because it all narrows to one word for me, and that is 'friend.'"

Friends and family of Glenn Penner are invited to celebrate his life and express condolences to his loved ones on Friday, January 29 at City Centre Baptist Church. The viewing will be held, the Lord willing, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., with the funeral beginning at 1:00 p.m. City Centre Baptist Church is located at 1075 Eglinton Avenue West in Mississauga, Ontario. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, February 6 at 1:00 p.m. at the Zion Evangelical Missionary Church in Didsbury, Alberta. Directions are available here. For more information, please phone 1.888.298.6423.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Prisoner of Tehran

As a subscriber to the CBC Radio's Between the Covers podcast, I am currently listening to a reading of Marina Nemat's memoir, Prisoner of Tehran. In the book, Marina recounts her arrest in 1982 at the age of 16 and her subsequent detention at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Since we receive reports about Iranian Christians detained at Evin prison, this book immediately grabbed my attention. I hope it will help me have a fuller understanding of the conditions and challenges they face and how I can better pray for them.

You can watch a video interview below for more information about Marina Nemat:

Have you read Prisoner of Tehran? If so, please feel free to comment with your reactions to the book. Did you enjoy it? Would you recommend it to others?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stand with Gao Zhisheng

The following report from VOMC partner ChinaAid shares the latest information on Gao Zhisheng, a Christian human rights lawyer who has endured much persecution from authorities. Please consider joining ChinaAid in raising a voice for Gao and his family by signing their petition. To sign today, and for other ways you can help, please visit their website at www.freegao.com.

Since mid-December, 2009, ominous rumors have circulated about Gao Zhisheng, hinting that he has died after brutal torture in prison. However, no reports have been confirmed, and the Chinese government continues to refuse comment on his condition and whereabouts.

Gege, Gao's daughter, had been reportedly "pale and tired-looking" with worry for months. After hearing a rumor of Gao's death just before Christmas, Gege became so emotionally distraught, she was forced to be hospitalized. She remains fragile and under medical watch in a New York hospital.

This week, after searching out the policeman who originally detained Gao Zhisheng back in February, 2009, Gao's brother Zhiyi was told that Attorney Gao allegedly "went missing while out on a walk" on September 25, 2009. Gao's wife refused to comment, but was reported to be extremely upset after hearing the news.

This is the first time a Chinese government official has hinted that they no longer have Gao Zhisheng in their custody, leading ChinaAid to believe Gao's condition has taken a turn for the worse.

"It is totally unacceptable for the Chinese government to lose track of their own prisoner," said President of ChinaAid Bob Fu. "It is absolutely clear that he was forcibly taken from his home in February 2009. Nearly a year later, the Chinese government now says they do not have him."

Though the rumors of death cannot be confirmed, Bob Fu remains extremely concerned for this new development.

"We have every reason to suspect that the Chinese government has something very serious to hide. Gao's family has every right to know what happened to him. It is unbelievable that a high security prisoner would go missing while "out on a walk," without suspecting that there is a major cover up of his condition."

The Chinese government can no longer hide their actions from the world and must be held accountable for their treatment of Gao Zhisheng. Now is the time to act!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reaching out to Haiti

5-e1263408803734 At times like this, The Voice of the Martyrs is thankful that there are committed ministries whom we can refer to when our friends and supporters contact us asking how they they can reach out to when disasters take place like that taking place in Haiti.  As the suffering in Haiti is clearly not one of Christian persecution, The Voice of the Martyrs, as a ministry, will not proposing any projects for Haiti at this time (the only reason we might do so is if we learn that Christians are being discriminated against in the aid distribution and this seems unlikely in Haiti at this time, as persecution of any sort is rare there art other times). 

Hence, we are pleased to refer you to other excellent ministries who are stepping up to effectively assist those in need in Haiti at this time.  The Voice of the Martyrs recommends treachouthe following ministries:

1. World Vision Canada

2. Compassion Canada

3. Samaritan’s Purse Canada

4. Health Partners International Canada


6. Your own denominational mission, if applicable.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Check out The new PersecutionTV!


Check out the radical new update of The Voice of the Martyrs’ multimedia website.  With more features and videos than ever before, this site is definitely the place to go for  video and audio reports on Christian persecution around the world.

Google Takes a Stand

google_logo5 The following editorial appeared in today’s New York Times.  As an organization that devotes considerable time and effort in promoting religious freedom, we believe, Google’s actions in this are both laudatory and worth imitating.

January 14, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist

Google Takes a Stand


It has been dispiriting to see America’s banks apparently stand for nothing more lofty than plunder. It has been demoralizing to see President Obama hiding from the Dalai Lama rather than offend China’s rulers.

So all that makes Google’s decision to stand up to Chinese cyberoppression positively breathtaking. By announcing that it no longer plans to censor search results in China, even if that means it must withdraw from the country, Google is showing spine — a kind that few other companies or governments have shown toward Beijing.

One result was immediate: Young Chinese have been visiting Google’s headquarters in Beijing to deposit flowers and pay their respects.

China promptly tried to censor the ensuing debate about its censorship, but many Chinese Twitter users went out of their way to praise Google. One from Guangdong declared: “It’s not Google that’s withdrawing from China, it’s China that’s withdrawing from the world.”

Cynics say that Google tried to turn a business setback (it lags in the Chinese market behind a local search engine, Baidu) into a bid to burnish its brand. Whatever the motivations, it marks a refreshing contrast to Yahoo assisting the Chinese government in sending four dissidents — Shi Tao, Li Zhi, Jiang Lijun and Wang Xiaoning — to prison for terms of up to 10 years.

“In the 20 years I’ve been doing this work, I can’t think of anything comparable,” said John Kamm, the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, which has enjoyed remarkable success in encouraging China to release dissidents. Mr. Kamm, a former business leader himself, argues that Western companies could do far more to project their values.

Google announced its decision after a sophisticated Chinese attempt to penetrate the Gmail addresses of dissidents. The episode and the resulting flap highlight two important points about China.

The first is that Beijing is increasingly devoting itself to cyberwarfare. This is a cheap way to counter American dominance in traditional military fields. If the U.S. and China ever jostle with force, Beijing may hit us not with missiles but with cyberinfiltrations that shut down the electrical grid, disrupt communications and tinker with the floodgates of dams.

Moreover, China’s leaders aren’t keeping their cyberarsenal in reserve. They seem to be using it aggressively already.

A major coordinated assault on computers of the Dalai Lama, foreign embassies and even foreign ministries was uncovered last year and traced to Chinese hackers. The operation targeted computers in more than 100 countries and was so widespread that Western intelligence experts believe it was organized by the Chinese government, although there is no definitive proof of that.

(If this column is replaced on nytimes.com with one under my byline praising the glorious courage of the Chinese Communist Party in standing up to the bourgeois imperialists of Google — well, that would make my case.)

A second point is that China is redrawing the balance between openness and economic efficiency. The architect of China’s astonishingly successful economic reforms, Deng Xiaoping, clenched his teeth and accepted photocopiers, fax machines, cellphones, computers and lawyers because they were part of modernization.

Yet in the last few years, President Hu Jintao has cracked down on Internet freedoms and independent lawyers and journalists. President Hu is intellectually brilliant but seems to have no vision for China 20 years from now. He seems to be the weakest Chinese leader since Hua Guofeng was stripped of power in 1978.

Instead, vision and leadership in China have come from its Netizens, who show none of the lame sycophancy that so many foreigners do. In their Twitter photos, many display yellow ribbons to show solidarity with Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese writer recently sentenced to 10 years in prison. That’s guts!

China’s Netizens scale the Great Firewall of China with virtual private networks and American-based proxy servers like Freegate. (The United States should support these efforts with additional server capacity as a way of promoting free information and undermining censorship by China and Iran).

Young Chinese also are infinitely creative. When the government blocks references to “June 4,” the date of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Netizens evade the restriction by typing in “May 35.”

When I lived China in the 1990s, an early computer virus would pop up on the screen and ask: Do you like Li Peng? (He was then the widely disliked hard-line prime minister.) If you said you didn’t like Li Peng, the virus disappeared and did no harm. If you expressed support for him, it tried to wipe out your hard drive.

Eventually, I think, a combination of technology, education and information will end the present stasis in China. In a conflict between the Communist Party and Google, the party will win in the short run. But in the long run, I’d put my money on Google.

 For further comment from other media sources click here or here

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Living in the shadow of the martyrs

Yesterday a young Vietnamese Catholic priest was ordained as a bishop in Toronto. His ordination was significant not primarily because he is only 26 years old, making him Canada’s youngest bishop or because he is Canada’s first non-white bishop. Rather, what makes his ordination so significant, in my opinion, is the fact that Bishop Vincent Nguyen has grown up in the shadow of martyrdom.

In the 19th century, 21-year-old Joseph Can Nguyen was arrested for being a Christian.  His executioners tied him to a post in the river and waited for the tide to rise.  Every now and then, at their leisure, they would wade out to Joseph to see if he would recant his faith.  He consistently refused until finally he drowned.

This story of courage and faith has been a legacy of the Nguyen family ever since.

It is in this sense that the blood of the martyrs has served to embolden following generations.  Remembering his faith and courage, the Nguyen family has continued to follow Christ faithfully both in Vietnam and in Canada.  At the age of 16, Vincent dreamed of being a priest but saw no chance of that happening in communist Vietnam.  Risking his life, he and several others boarded a rickety fishing boat hoping to sail for freedom to follow his passion for Christ.

By God’s grace, he survived, culminating in yesterday’s ordination.

As Christians, we all live in the shadow of the martyrs.  Hebrews 13:7 calls us to observe the lives of those leaders who have walked the path of martyrdom and to follow their example.  This legacy is essential if we are to walk faithfully as they did.  This is why we tell the stories of the martyrs in our monthly newsletter.  A task with a God-given mandate, valuable in it’s own right, even if we were to never suggest ways of providing aid. 

Oddly enough, there are more admonitions to remember the martyrs in scripture than there are admonitions for advocacy or providing practical aid.  Could it be that the former is more essential to the survival of the faith than the later?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Urgent Prayer Requested for Hostages in Yemen

Middle East Concern has released the following report concerning six Christians who have been held hostage in Yemen since June 12.  Please join us in praying for this situation requiring urgent prayer. 

Greetings in the name of Jesus, who came that all may have life.

In recent months we have requested prayer following the kidnapping on Friday 12th June of nine foreigners in Saada, north-west Yemen, three of whom were murdered shortly afterwards. Recall that those missing are a German couple, their three children, and a British man.

We are pleased to report that a Yemeni government official has announced that the government has seen proof that the missing six are alive. Precise details have not been disclosed. However, a recent video showing the three young children has been confirmed. This has led some to speculate that the children are being held separately from the adults.

The government has given assurances that, together with German and British investigators, it is continuing to work for their release.

Christians in Yemen give praise for these signs of hope and request our continued prayers that:
a.  The missing six will know the peace and presence of Jesus and will be released unharmed shortly
b.  They will receive enough healthy food and keep warm during the cold nights
c.  If separated, the three children will be reunited with their parents soon
d.  Efforts to negotiate their release will be successful
e.  The families and colleagues of those missing and murdered will know the peace of Jesus amidst the intense uncertainty
f.  Efforts to end the violence in Saada province will be successful and the root causes addressed
g.  All expatriate Christians in Yemen will know the Lord's guiding and protecting at this time, in particular in view of the latest AlQaeda threats
h.  The perpetrators will be convicted by the Spirit and drawn to the forgiveness, love and true life offered by Jesus.

We encourage you to post prayers on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall as a means on expressing your solidarity with them and their family during this time.  We will keep you up to date as to the status of the hostages as negotiations for their freedom continue.

Keeping the faith in the shadow of persecution

In Egypt, converts to Christianity are facing a number of challenges for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus and embrace Islam. They can be rejected from their families and communities, harassed by authorities and even imprisoned. Some believers remain in the country, despite such difficult conditions, and some flee out of fear for their lives. The following article is the story of an Egyptian Christian man who was arrested, beaten and jailed for his conversion from Islam to Christianity:

Keeping the faith in the shadow of persecution


FOR the past two years, ''Mina'' has regularly phoned his mother in Egypt. But the 36-year-old is so scared for the safety of his family here and in Egypt that he has not told her he lives in Australia, instead letting her believe he is in the United States.

It is a fiction devised out of fear that Egypt's security police will track him down or persecute his family in Egypt in retaliation for defying them and fleeing the country.

What brought Mina to their attention was his conversion at age 21 to the Coptic Orthodox Christian faith, which meant turning his back on Islam, the dominant, state-sanctioned religion.

He was arrested and beaten numerous times, then thrown in a room with Islamic radical prisoners who were encouraged to beat him, his Melbourne lawyer, Jimmy Morcos, said.

Mina is one of 70,000 Coptic Orthodox Christians who have fled persecution in Egypt and resettled in Australia since 1971, according to their bishop in Victoria, Bishop Suriel.

He is also one of 12,000 people expected to march to the Egyptian consulate in the city tomorrow to protest over the killing of six Coptic Orthodox Christians in a drive-by shooting in Egypt last month.

The killings are the latest in a catalogue of attacks on Copts in Egypt dating back more than a decade. Even now, the climate of fear is so strong that Mina refuses to publicly reveal his real name for fear of repercussions.

Australia granted him a humanitarian visa in 2003 but Egyptian authorities seized his passport and stopped him from leaving the country six times.

He said he was eventually taken to a prison.

''I saw a person with a blindfold over his eyes and he was hit and there was shouting and he was as taken to a dark place,'' he said.

Mina said he was told this would happen to him if he did not recant, and that leaving Islam was ''a big crime''.

He had to report to the security officials every week to rethink his stance.

In 2007, a way was found to get him to Australia to rejoin his wife and children who had left ahead of him.

Mr Morcos said that international pressure needed to be brought on Egypt to guarantee the human rights of Copts, who make up 18 per cent of the country's population.

Bishop Suriel said the protest would also call on the Australian Government to break its silence on the attacks on Copts in Egypt which has drawn wide condemnation round the world, including from the Pope.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Study shows that U.S. has failed to assist Christians in China due to financial interests

In another example of the improving coverage of Christian persecution by the Canadian secular media, the National Post published an excellent article on Thursday on the how the United States has lost a major opportunity to help improve the plight of Christians in China by putting financial interests first, according to the author of a new report on religious freedom.

"It's terribly inconsistent. It's a real black eye in American foreign policy for us to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses going on in China while we pursue economic advantage," Carl Moeller, head of Open Doors USA, said yesterday.

"It's like selling our birthright. Our nation was founded by people fleeing Europe to seek the very religious freedom being denied people in these countries.

"In the case of China, the chance to use influence is now gone. The American economy has become enslaved to the Chinese banks. It would be economic suicide to make threats now."

His remarks came as the California non-denominational Christian group issued its World Watch List, which ranks 50 countries in terms of their abuse of Christians.

North Korea, an official atheist state that worships its supreme leader, was the most fanatically anti-Christian, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. China was No. 13.

"They [North Korea] have arrested and tortured Christians in various horrible ways, such as sometimes using them as a means of testing biological or chemical weapons," the report said.

Mr. Moeller said getting reliable information from North Korea is difficult, but over the years his group has made contact with enough people "on the ground" to believe these extreme reports are accurate.

He said many of the countries, especially those at the top of the list, are so politically isolated from the West the best that can be hoped is the report will give moral support to those facing bigotry and violence.

Other top offenders were: Somalia The report says Somali Christians "practise their faith in secret under extremely dangerous conditions. At least 10 Christians, including four teachers, were killed for their faith in 2008 and several others kidnapped and raped. Islam is the official religion; there is no legal provision for religious freedom." Yemen "Converts from Islam encounter opposition from the authorities and extremist groups who threaten 'apostates' with death if they do not turn back to Islam."

Mr. Moeller was particularly scathing about Saudi Arabia, which has strong military ties with the United States.

"Saudi Arabia is our ally and they are horrific when it comes to religious liberty," he said.

"[In general], Western governments are not doing enough to combat anti-religious activity."

Religious oppression is a global issue and not just restricted to Christians, Mr. Moeller acknowledged. But pointing out discrimination against Christians is an efficient way to point to the greater issue of religious liberty.

"Evangelicals are becoming a litmus test for human rights abuses in these countries. How Christians are treated in Iran is a good litmus test about how [Iranians] do on human rights overall."

In December, the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, which has no religious affiliation, produced a massive report called Global Restrictions on Religion. This looked at government restrictions and social hostility against religious groups.

The two-year study found 64 countries -- about one-third of all nations -- had "high or very high restrictions on religion."

"But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70% of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which falls on religious minorities."

Brian Grim, a senior researcher at Pew, said in those 64 countries minorities are constantly exposed to violence or imprisonment. Even those not persecuted directly find their civil liberties restricted.



1. North Korea
2. Iran
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Somalia
5. Maldives
6. Afghanistan
7. Yemen
8. Mauritania
9. Laos
10. Uzbekistan

The National Post is perhaps the best example of secular press organizations here in Canada in covering religious liberty and Christian persecution but they are hardly alone.  Others have also shown marked improvement in recent years, in my opinion. Could there be further improvement?  Undoubtedly; but almost any special interest group would probably say the same. Let’s be grateful for the coverage being given and let editors know that we appreciate their coverage.

Also, continue to pray for the U.S. administration as they fail to assist Christians in China due to their financial priorities.  Pray for the Canadian government as it has faced similar pressures but, to this point, has resisted stepping off of the human rights wagon in the pursuit of international trade with China.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kidnap victims reported still alive in Yemen

AFP reported on Thursday that the five Germans, including three children, and a British national who have been held by kidnappers in Yemen for the past six months are still alive, a top official said on Thursday. According to the report:

anthony_s_yemen1_thumb[2] "We have confirmed information that they are still alive. They are five Germans and a British national," said Rashad al-Aleemi, the deputy prime minister for defence and security affairs.

"The three possible places they could be in are [the provinces of] Maarib, Al-Jouf and Saada. Available information confirm that there is coordination between the [northern Shi'ite rebels] Huthis and the Al Qaeda in this matter.

"It is believed that the three children, who were shown in a recent video, are alive in Maarib, while the elders are being used by the Huthis [to provide] medical treatment."

johannes_h_fam_yemen_thumb[1] The three children had resurfaced in a new video two weeks ago but the tape featured no sign of their parents. All were kidnapped in June.

German officials who requested anonymity had confirmed a report in the daily Bild saying the images, apparently recorded recently by the abductors, indicated at least that the three children aged one, three and five were still alive.

The German government now has a copy of the video, Bild said in December.

"The children seemed exhausted," a high-ranking German official was quoted by the newspaper as saying, as the German government declined to comment.

The family of five and the Briton were abducted in northern Yemen along with two German Bible students and a South Korean who were shot dead soon after.

The Yemeni government had repeatedly accused the Huthi rebels of being behind the kidnapping, a charge they denied, charging that the government was behind their disappearance to use it as an excuse to attack them.

Since August, the army has been engaged in an all-out offensive against the Zaidi Shi'ite rebels in the Saada northern province and its surrounding, in a bid to end their five year rebellion.

[click here for a collaborating AP report and here for a Channel 4 report]

Pray that these reports are true.  Pray for the hostages during this time.  Show your solidarity with them by posting a prayer request on our Persecuted Church Prayer Wall for them and their family.

Don’t ban the burka

We would love to get your opinion on this editorial from today’s National Post on this highly controversial subject.  Please leave your comment below, remembering that they need to be moderated before they will be posted

woman-with-burka_64 French legislators are considering a measure that would impose a fine of more than $1,000 on women who wear a burka, a garment that covers Muslim women from head to foot, with a thin, gauzy slit for the eyes.

The government maintains the ban would be a statement in support of “French values,” which, as appears to be endlessly the case in France, are the subject of much public debate. Burkas have been denounced as “a walking coffin” and “a prison for women.” President Nicolas Sarkozy last year declared the burka a “sign of subservience and debasement.”

We share this abhorrence for such clothing: The burka signifies the notion that a woman is a piece of male property, which must be packaged and caged. Contrary to received wisdom, the use of burkas has no “traditional” basis in Islam. It is a vestige of primitive tribal practices from certain parts of the Middle East and Asia, where honour killings are common, and female sexuality is a subject of phobic paranoia.

Still, banning burkas is not the right way to battle the sexist ideas that burkas symbolize. In our society, women have a right to wear what they want, assuming they choose to do so of their own free will.

If women are being forced to wear the burka, that is unacceptable, of course. But even in such cases, the crime lies in the coercion, not the clothing. If radical Muslims forced their wives to memorize the Koran on pain of beating, we wouldn’t ban the Koran — we’d throw the husbands in jail. The same principle should hold with burkas.

Western liberalism means, among other things, the right to dress, eat, pray, and speak as we please. And so the government’s role in the burka debate should be to educate all immigrant cultures, including those that are Muslim, that women have every right to behave as they wish, whether or not it pleases their fathers, brothers or imams.

If a woman understands this fact, and still chooses to go around in a burka, well, so be it. Being free means having the right to make bad decisions.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Yemen: Christians vulnerable in a failing state

Yemen has been a unified state only since 1990. Before that, North Yemen (on the Red Sea) was 60 percent Shi'ite and ruled by a conservative Shi'ite Imamate, while South Yemen (on the Gulf of Aden) was 99 percent Sunni and Communist. In 1962, Ali Abdallah Saleh, a northern socialist and nominal Sunni, seized power in North Yemen in a military coup. He was elected president of North Yemen in 1978 and retains power as president of the unitary Republic of Yemen, which today is on the verge of collapse. The Shi'ites, a 30 percent minority in the unitary state, are marginalised by the Sunnis, while the oil- rich south is marginalised by the ruling north. The Shi'ites want to restore the Imamate, while the south wants to secede. Since at least 2005, President Saleh has been using al Qaeda jihadists (fundamentalist Sunnis) in his fight against the al Houthi rebels (Shi'ites) in the north and more secular (formerly Soviet-backed Communist) secessionists in the south. The conflict also has regional dimensions: Saudi Arabia is fighting advancing Iran-backed al Houthi Shi'ite rebels, while Somalis have joined the Sunnis and Lebanese Hezballah have joined the Shi'ites.

Underneath this crumbling structure are vulnerable Jewish and Christian minorities amidst a population of 24 million. In 1949-50 Israel rescued 45,000 of Yemen's Jews from genocide through Operation Magic Carpet. A further 32,000 Jews have left Yemen since then and now less than 400 remain. As sectarian conflict escalated in the north in January 2007, the Shi'ite rebels forced the 45 remaining Jews in al Haid, Sa'ada, from their homes under threat of death. Most Christians in Yemen (est. 9000 in Operation World 2000) are expatriate workers or Ethiopian refugees. They are a source of light and hope for Yemen, one of the world's poorest and least evangelised nations. Participate! Intercede for the Church in Yemen.

Please pray specifically that, by His word and Holy Spirit, God:

-- will draw all Christians in Yemen into prayer and supply all their needs, increasing their faith and courage; may their lives witness to the faithfulness and supremacy of Jesus Christ.

-- will awaken many Muslims in Yemen (local Arabs and foreign jihadists) to the truth that it is Jesus Christ who is the light of God.

For the 'true light, which enlightens' has come into the world. And to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God (See John 1:9-13).

This Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin was written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (AEA RLC) by Elizabeth Kendal, an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and a member of the AEA RLC team. All previous bulletins may be viewed here.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Video report: World Watch List 2010

As we begin 2010, I encourage you to watch the following video from Open Doors, another ministry that serves the Persecuted Church worldwide. This video and the accompanying report will assist you in understanding the areas of the world where Christians face the most severe persecution because of their Christian faith.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Words from our founder - Two kinds of love

There are two kinds of love: "love because of" the good and beautiful in a person, and "love in spite" of all that this person does to puzzle and hurt us. Obviously, "love in spite of" is superior. It is the most exquisite jewel to be found in the universe. God loves us in spite of our sins. Jesus loved His torturers in spite of what they did to Him.

We can love God not only because of the splendid things that enchant us in the universe, but also in spite of the sufferings we encounter. Without pain in this world, the highest form of love could not exist. This love is worth its price.
Excerpted from pages 130-131 of Pastor Wurmbrand's Proofs of God's Existence. In this book, we are reminded that the questions of God's existence and absolute truth are not new. But, as our founder writes, they are critical to both the atheist as well as the Christian. Will the atheist embrace or reject God, and will the Christian live a life that reflects our Creator? You can order a copy of this unique book for only $7.00 from our online catalogue.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Tips for getting your thoughts published

As the National Post notes today, “Close to 100 letters to the editor arrive at the Post each day. All are read, but only 10 to 15 make it into print each issue. That's partly due to space limitations, but also because many are basically unusable.”

One of the best ways to raise a voice for the persecuted is through well-written letters to newspaper editors. And a 1 in 10 printed average is pretty good odds that your letter will be taken seriously if you do a good job. To help get your letter into print, Paul Russell, the National Post letters editor, suggests the following tips:

A reader recently commented that he has "been impressed for a long time with the quality of the letters that appear on the Post's pages. That must mean that your job of selecting puts you in the same position as a kid with a free pass in a candy store."

Nice analogy, but not quite accurate. Numerous letters can be savoured and enjoyed in their raw form, but most require some degree of editing before publication. So here are 15 pointers on how to make your letter irresistible in that candy store we call the letters file.

  1. Shorter is always better In this era of decreased attention spans -- encouraged by 140-character Tweets and abbreviated text messaging conversations -- newspapers have to compete. That is why we insist that letters be short and to the point. While it may seem difficult to express your ground-breaking thoughts in 200 words or less, this limit is for your benefit. The more succinctly the point is made, the better the chance the letter will be read and remembered.
  2. Letters aren't mini-columns Instead of trying to frame a complex argument, the best letters make a single point, convincingly yet briefly. If you can throw in a pithy observation or humorous twist along the way, all the better.
  3. Be topical Readers want letters about the issues and stories that are currently in the news. You don't have to limit your subject choice to Tiger Woods's bizarre love life or what's happening in Israel (a topic that never goes out of date), but at the same time, don't bother sending us your thoughts on Michael Jackson, Balloon Boy or the Copenhagen summit. Those topics are soooo yesterday.
  4. Appeal to readers' emotions Some of our best letters come from people talking about their own experiences. Last year, for example, we carried an amazing letter from a man coping with Autistic Disorder. As he noted, "Often it seems like I'm looking in on a bad movie scene -- with me as the anti-hero."
  5. Draw from your own experience and thoughts Don't pen a letter that relies on quotes from outside authorities to make its point. We want to hear what you think, not what you read elsewhere.
  6. Financial Post vs. National Post If you want to blast Terence Corcoran for his views on global warming or if you disagree with any other Financial Post article, send your thoughts to fpletters@nationalpost.com.The FP Comment page runs letters related to all content in its section, and FP editors welcome all feedback. - Print vs. online We only run letters to the editor about articles that appear in our print edition. Responses to articles on one of the Post's almost two dozen blogs can be posted by the public online (where you get to assume a cool nickname, like SassieLassie or GrungyOldVan).
  7. Articles vs. advertising Interest groups often buy advertising space in the Post to advocate positions that some readers will find controversial. If you want to respond to these paid advertisements, either buy your own ad or send your letter to the group in question.
  8. Your letter will be edited All letters are fine-tuned -- and probably shortened -- by Post staff, in the interest of clarity and space. Don't take it personally, but instead consider it a learning experience for the next missive you send in.
  9. Eschew obfuscation Write your letter as clearly and simply as possible. While columnists such as Conrad Black are given the leeway to use terms such as "callipygian" (it's worth looking up) to describe Michelle Obama, letter writers are advised to avoid using words that require readers to reach for their dictionaries.
  10. Avoid cliches like the plague "Thinking outside the box" is now an "inside the box" expression. Don't write that someone has "hit the nail on the head" unless you're talking about carpentry, and for the love of God, avoid gratuitous religious references (as I just failed to do). They offend some readers.
  11. We need exclusivity Don't send your letter to numerous media outlets thinking that will increase its chance of publication. Letters editors across the land, seeing the note is not unique to their paper, will just delete it.
  12. Play nice Don't attack the personal views of a reporter, fellow letter writer or columnist (even people as incendiary as John Moore or Don Martin). Instead offer a thoughtful countervailing opinion and try to advance the debate, which will encourage other readers to join in.
  13. Know the two-week rule In an effort to allow as many readers as possible to have their say on our pages, we aim to space out contributions by letter writers by at least two weeks.
  14. Tell us who you are Give us your name, phone number and address. This information is needed not only for verification, but also so we can contact you about editing changes. And we will not publish letters with your name withheld, except in extraordinary circumstances that have to be arranged beforehand with our staff.

I hope that these tips will help you to write more effective letters to editors on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. For even more information, click here.