PERSECUTION NEWS
June 01, 2001

ìIf one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part
is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ,
and each one of you is a part of it.î
(1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

NTM Missionaries Among Abducted in Philippines

New Tribes Mission (NTM) reports that two of its missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, are among 20 people abducted in the Philippines early May 27. Martin and Gracia, from Kansas, have been members of NTM since 1985, and have served in the Philippines since March 1986.

The Burnhams and 18 others were kidnapped by a group of approximately 20 unidentified men. They were forcibly taken from the Dos Palmas Island resort at Honda Bay, near the island of Palawan. Martin and Gracia were on Palawan Island to do some work at a mission station at Puerto Princesa. There had been no previous reports of terrorist activity on Palawan Island, so NTM had no reason to suspect the Burnhams were in danger in that area.

NTM asks that Christians pray for a speedy resolution to this situation, and for safety for all involved. They also seek prayer for the Burnhams and their three children, who were not with them at the time.

The mission of NTM, headquartered in Sanford, Fla., is to assist the ministry of local churches through mobilizing, equipping, and coordinating of missionaries to evangelize unreached people groups, translate the Scriptures, and see indigenous New Testament churches established that truly glorify God.

To read the story online, go to:
http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,347172,00.htm


Hindu Nationalists Seek to 'Indianize' Christians

In a fresh attack on Christians and Muslims, the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in demanding their Indianization. "We are not demanding conversion of Muslims and Christians into Hindus. For the sake of unity and integrity of the country, we are demanding that they should be indigenized, and be given Indian names," he said.

Last October, RSS chief K. S. Sudershan called on Christians and Muslims to cut their spiritual links with "foreign sources." In a separate development, the VHP's general secretary claimed that about 33,000 people had been converted to Christianity in the northern state of Sikkim in the last 25 years. He added that the figure was compiled by VHP workers touring villages, cautioning people against conversion.

Meanwhile the VHP says it is planning to revamp its image and highlight its "social work" component in the rural areas among the backward castes and tribals. According to VHP's chief of social projects, the aim is to counter the influence of Christian missionaries.

To read the rest of this story, go to:
http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,344769,00.htm


Vietnam Arrests Priest for Anti-Government Plots

According to Reuters, authorities in Vietnam arrested an outspoken Catholic priest and have accused him of fomenting unrest against the government. Father Nguyen Van Ly, one of Vietnam's most well-known dissidents, was taken into custody on Thursday morning, according to Nguyen Van Quang of the Phu An commune police.

On Wednesday, Ly led a religious service of about 150 people in which he distributed leaflets the government said were anti-communist. Ly, 54, had previously been under heavy police surveillance and in March was denounced by official media as a "traitor" for urging the United States to link religious freedom to ratification of a bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam.

The arrest came amid growing criticism of Hanoi for persecution of religion, an accusation the government denies as "gross interference" in its internal affairs.

Vietnam insists it grants full religious freedom to its citizens, but some sects are still outlawed and "abuse of religion" punishable by up to a year in prison. The propaganda charges Ly faces carry penalties of 10 to 12 years in prison.

To read the rest of this story, go to:
http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,345138,00.htm


Three Retailers Leave Online Christian Mall

A pro-family group is reporting that three retailers, including two of the nation's largest department stores, are ending their affiliate relationship with an online Christian shopping mall.

The American Family Association (AFA) says retailers, JC Penney, Nordstrom, and now Avon have now severed their ties with the Christian business KingdomBuy.com because of its affiliation with the pro-family group. KingdomBuy.com, which allows shoppers to designate a church or ministry to receive a portion of the money spent shopping on the site, says the retailers pulling out are responding to a boycott orchestrated by Yahoo! online sex club members.

Apparently, the sex club organized an email campaign urging Kingdombuy's affiliates to sever ties with the online mall due to the AFA's recent role in pressuring Yahoo! to cease its sale of pornography.

"Nordstrom cannot continue to do business with Kingdombuy.com because Kingdombuy.com is a Christian organization." said Nordstrom's Affiliate Marketing Manager Alisha Perez to Gary Sutton, president of Kingdombuy.com. Perez confirmed that Nordstrom would be willing to reestablish the relationship if the website removed the words Christianity and Christian, but refused to say if her company's decision was related to the email campaign.

To read the rest of this story, go to:
http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,345721,00.htm


Azerbaijan
JAILED CHRISTIAN FORCED TO QUIT JOB

(Compass) -- An Azeri Christian jailed for 10 days for allegedly "disobeying police orders" in the town of Ismailly has since been forced to resign from his accounting job at a local hospital. Azer Gasymov, 21, was released April 20 from prison in Ismailly, about 120 miles west of Baku.

But as soon as he returned to his job as assistant accountant at Ismailly's Central Hospital, Gasymov came under considerable pressure to resign. On April 7, Gasymov and six members of Ismailly's house church were arrested during a picnic and held for seven hours. Local police and government officials have subjected Ismailly's two-dozen-member house church to growing harassment for the past two years.

India
SINGLED OUT FOR VIOLATING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

(Compass) -- India is close to being labeled a "country of particular concern" for violating religious freedom and failing to safeguard the rights of religious minorities, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. It called upon the Bush administration to take up the twin issues of religious freedom and human rights with India's government in New Delhi. Commission Chairman Elliott Abrams said violence against Christians was specially troubling because it coincided with the rise in influence of Hindu nationalist groups. The report said violence against Christians has increased more in the past two years than in the previous 52 years since independence.

Malaysia
WOMAN IS REFUSED CHANGE OF RELIGION

(Compass) -- Malaysia's High Court in Kuala Lumpur has rejected the application of Lina Joy, a Muslim convert to Christianity, who was seeking to remove the word "Islam" from her identity card. The judge ruled that, as a Malay, she cannot renounce Islam. Joy, 37, was seeking a declaration stating she could practice the religion of her choice. She had applied with the National Registration Department to legally change her name, but the application was approved on the condition that it did not mention change of religion as the reason. She became a Christian in 1998.

Mexico
HIDALGO EVANGELICALS TO BE FORCED OUT

(Compass) -- Catholic leaders in San Nicolas, a town of some 4,000 people in central Mexico's Hidalgo state, are telling 36 evangelical families they must leave the town "or be kicked out." The evangelicals, about 230 people, have 90 days to leave. Their water and sewer services were cut off on March 28. A Pentecostal church is currently paying for tank trucks to bring in water daily to the homes of evangelicals. "What the town wants is for the evangelicals to stop spreading their religion to more people and to stophaving their meetings ... even though they cooperate with the community," said a San Nicolas spokesman. Government attempts at reconciliation have so far failed. Evangelicals said they are fearful of what may happen next.

Nigeria
A STATE REJECTS ISLAMIC BILL

(Compass) -- The legislative assembly of Edo state in southwestern Nigeria voted against a bill that would have forced the state government to introduce the teaching of Islamic Religious Knowledge to all students in the state's private and public primary and secondary schools. Some lawmakers said they believed the bill was an attempt to promote Islam in the state at the expense of other religions. Nevertheless, the SupremeCouncil of Islamic Affairs plans to use legal means to ensure that the teaching of Islam in the state is adopted.

Turkey
CHRISTIANS REFUSED REFUGEE STATUS

(Compass) -- An Iranian Christian family twice refused United Nations refugee status in Turkey was informed on May 7 that their case "does not merit reopening" for a third review. Together with his wife -- who has advanced multiple sclerosis -- and his three daughters, Mahmoud Erfani fled across the Iranian border into Turkey nearly two years ago. After being subjected to a series of terrifying hour-long abductions by local secret police during the last half of 1998, the family was evicted from their home in Iran in March 1999. But they have no written documentation to prove their persecution claims. Unless full sponsorship is secured for the family in an immigrant-friendly nation, the Erfanis are subject to probable deportation by Turkish authorities back to Iran.

Vietnam
MASSIVE CRACKDOWN AGAINST HIGHLAND CHRISTIANS

(Compass) -- Following protest demonstrations in February over religious rights and the loss of tribal lands to lowland Vietnamese farmers, there has been a marked increase in the ongoing harassment and persecution of minority Christians in Vietnam's Western Highlands. Churches there have largely had to operate underground since the communist takeover in 1975. The crackdown has been widespread and, at times, brutal. There are an estimated 500,000 Protestants and 200,000 Roman Catholics in the Western Highlands.

BANGALORE, India, May 11 (Compass) -- Crude bombs exploded on May 8 in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Francis in Muzaffarpur in India's northern Bihar state. Panicked congregants were forced to run for cover, but no injuries were reported. A threatening note found at the scene suggested the bombs were planted by Hindu extremists upset at the number of tribals becoming Christians in the neighboring district of Patna, church sources reported. Handwritten in Hindi in saffron-colored ink, the note said, "Stop conversions under the pretext of social service. India is a Hindu rashtra (nation). Christians leave India."

Police arrested two men, Dharmender Kumar and Santosh Kumar, for the church bombing. Director general of police, R.R. Prasad, said both are residents of Muzaffarpur. Their political connections are not known. All churches in Muzaffarpur have been brought under tight security.

Allen R. Johannes, press secretary to Archbishop Osta, said bombings have become a trend in the country against the Christians, but it was the first bombing in Bihar state.

BANGALORE, India, May 17 (Compass) -- Three Salesian Catholic priests were gunned down on the night of May 15 in Ngarian, Manipur state, northeastern India, by ethnic separatist fighters who were demanding protection money from the Catholic school.

Official sources from the Catholic Bishop's Conference said that three armed militants drove into the Don Bosco Training Center at Ngarian, in Manipur's Thoubal district, between 8 and 9 p.m. on Tuesday night. The armed men called out the director, Father Pali Akara Raphael (43), and reportedly demanded protection money. Later, Father Andreas Kindo (31) and Brother Shinu Joseph Valliparampil (23) approached them, and gunshots were heard. When other inmates of the center arrived, the three Salesian priests were found lying dead in a pool of blood with multiple bullet injuries. The assailants, who fled the scene, are suspected of belonging to a local insurgency movement called the "People's Liberation Army." They are not connected to Hindu extremists.

The tragedy comes at a critical time when Christians in northeastern India are being blamed by Hindu fundamentalist groups for supporting ethnic insurgency in the region.

Countering this allegation, Archbishop Oswald Gracias, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, condemned the killings. Gracias said, "While Christians are being blamed by some for supporting insurgency in the northeast, the tragedy is that it is at the hands of the insurgents that Christian workers are being brutally murdered."


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NTM Missionaries Among Abducted in Philippines

New Tribes Mission (NTM) reports that two of its missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham, are among 20 people abducted in the Philippines early May 27. Martin and Gracia, from Kansas, have been members of NTM since 1985, and have served in the Philippines since March 1986.

The Burnhams and 18 others were kidnapped by a group of approximately 20 unidentified men. They were forcibly taken from the Dos Palmas Island resort at Honda Bay, near the island of Palawan. Martin and Gracia were on Palawan Island to do some work at a mission station at Puerto Princesa.There had been no previous reports of terrorist activity on Palawan Island, so NTM had no reason to suspect the Burnhams were in danger in that area.

NTM asks that Christians pray for a speedy resolution to this situation, and for safety for all involved. They also seek prayer for the Burnhams and their three children, who were not with them at the time.

The mission of NTM, headquartered in Sanford, Fla., is to assist the ministry of local churches through mobilizing, equipping, and coordinating of missionaries to evangelize unreached people groups, translate the Scriptures, and see indigenous New Testament churches established that truly glorify God.

To read the story online, go to:
http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,,347172,00.htm