COMPASS DIRECT

Global News from the Frontlines
August 16, 2002

Copyright 2002 Compass Direct

**********
China

Conspiracy or Compassion? (Compass) -- Hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees are in hiding in northeast China, living in fear of deportation back to a country gripped by a grotesque dictatorship and a famine that may have claimed 2 million lives. The Chinese government has taken drastic action to stem the flood of desperate refugees seeking asylum in foreign embassies in Beijing. Sensational headlines have accused overseas hostile forces, and in particular Christians, of being involved in a „conspiracy‰ to destabilize the North Korean regime. The Chinese-language newspaper Youth Reference on June 19 claimed that a „South Korean body with links to the Christian church‰ had masterminded a recent asylum incident. The result: South Korean evangelism and discipleship ministries in China are at risk in the atmosphere of surveillance and paranoia.

**********

China

Christians Neglected in inner mongolia (Compass) -- Churches are thriving in independent Mongolia, but the church worldwide often forgets neighboring Inner Mongolia, a part of China with over 4 million Mongol residents that is tightly control by Chinese authorities. The Protestant church in Inner Mongolia is small but growing rapidly, with 172,000 believers and over 1,000 official churches and meeting points, according to official reports. However, the church faces two major obstacles: persecution and cults. Churches have been demolished in some areas of Inner Mongolia by hostile local authorities. Because of the lack of trained pastors, cults have made easy inroads. „Inner Mongolia is one of the most backward areas in terms of gospel witness,‰ laments a house church leader.

**********
Colombia

Rebels Assassinate Evangelical Minister and Son (Compass) -- On August 3, unidentified assassins from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ambushed and killed Rev. Adelmo Cabrera Polanco and his adult son, Luis Carlos, as the two were returning to their home. Pastor of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in the town of Puerto Rico for the past 18 years, Cabrera left a widow and five children. He served until recently as president of the municipal council. Last month, FARC demanded that all local government leaders resign their posts or face retaliation. Apparently the motive for his murder was his government position, although he had resigned. At least four evangelical pastors have died violently in the San Vicente del Caguán area since late February, when peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government broke down.

**********
Ethiopia

Evangelical Pastor Killed by Orthodox Church Mob (Compass) -- A mob led by priests of the Orthodox Church attacked and killed an evangelical Christian pastor in his home in Merawi, in northwestern Ethiopia. Brother Dantew, a teacher by profession and the leading elder in the Full Gospel Church, was fatally injured on the evening of July 17, several hours after he had asked for police protection. His two teenage sons, 15 and 17, witnessed the murder. The homes of eight other evangelical families also came under attack that night, leaving their furniture and belongings destroyed. Local police failed to intervene in the attack, later declaring that the situation was „beyond their capacity.‰ Full Gospel Church leaders requested a formal investigation into the attack, which resulted in the arrest of some 40 Orthodox Church members, including six priests.

**********

India

Nun Jailed on Conversion Charges (Compass) -- On July 18, a Catholic nun was sentenced to six months imprisonment for converting Hindus to Christianity. Sister Vrishi Ekka, a 56-year old Ursuline nun, was jailed in Ambikapur in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh on charges of violating the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act of 1969. When Christian schools closed in protest against the arrest and imprisonment of the nun, Hindu fundamentalist groups supported by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retaliated by staging protest marches outside the schools. Terming the action of the Christians „a provocative gesture,‰ BJP legislature party chief, Nand Kumar Sai, said that Christian organizations had no business to protest the court&Mac226;s verdict. Meanwhile, Ursuline nuns at the Vidya Jyothi Christian school in Mysore have decided to defy threats by Hindu groups to drop the Lord&Mac226;s Prayer from the school assembly.

**********

India

Gladys Staines Testifies in Murder Trial (Compass) -- On June 12, Gladys Staines, widow of Australian missionary Graham Staines, made her first appearance in the district court of Orissa in the trial of those accused of the brutal murder of her husband. Eleven of the accused, including prime suspect Dara Singh, were present when Mrs. Staines told of receiving the news that her husband and two young sons, Timothy and Philip, had been burned to death by a mob of Hindu fundamentalists. As Hindu fundamentalists stepped up their campaign to derail the trial proceedings, Mrs. Staines faced hostile questioning on her role in using the Leprosy Mission to convert people to Christianity. Disturbed by the growing number of testimonies from the prosecution witnesses, a Hindu fundamentalist group calling itself the Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha is making efforts to save Dara Singh, who has been hailed as a hero in the Hindu belt of Orissa.

**********

India

Ruling Party Supports Anti-Christian Activity (Compass) -- India&Mac226;s ruling political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has gone public with its anti-Christian agenda. On July 29, BJP Vice-President Kailashpati Mishra accused Christian missionaries of provoking large-scale violence in the North Indian state of Jharkhand that left five people dead and hundreds injured. Riots followed passage of the state&Mac226;s new domicile policy, which bars employment for those who settled there after 1932. In a separate incident, a BJP member of the legislative assembly presided at a mass conversion ceremony in June in which 400 tribal Christians were formally re-converted to Hinduism. Christians expressed shock that a BJP legislative member openly associated with such a highly controversial incident. They complain that the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, which restricts religious conversions, has been totally ignored when applied to Hindus.

**********

Indonesia

Ambon Peace Process Barely Intact (Compass) -- The precarious peace between Muslims and Christians on the island of Ambon continued to hold, despite extremists detonating bombs in the predominantly Christian area of Mardika on July 27. The blast area included a polytechnic school, and many of the injured were students. Of the 52 victims taken to the hospital, one has since died and six remain in serious condition. Nevertheless, the Catholic Ambon Crisis Center released a report which concluded that „there is a gradual increase of mutual understanding and intermingling of the Muslim and Christian communities.‰ The report said many refugees are still stuck in camps or hiding in the jungle on the island of Ceram. Gambling and prostitution has greatly increased in the wake of the warfare.

**********
Nigeria

State Governor Imposes Arabic Language (Compass) -- In a controversial step, the governor of the northern state of Zamfara, Ahmed Sani, a Muslim, announced the enforced use of the Arabic language by all residents of the state, including Christians. Sani, who introduced the Islamic legal code sharia to states in northern Nigeria in 1999, said he would enforce the teaching and usage of Arabic in order to enhance the Islamic faith among the people, regardless of their religious persuasion. In a speech to Islamic clerics and guests from the Saudi Arabia Embassy, the governor thanked guests for their support of his administration since the imposition of sharia law, and noted that God had entrusted Saudi Arabia with the task of ensuring the progress of Islam around the globe. „We will do our best to make sure that we understand and speak Arabic,‰ he said.

**********
Nigeria

Five Hundred Killed in Religious Conflict (Compass) -- Some 500 persons died in an outbreak of violence between Muslims and Christians in Wase, a town in Plateau state in northern Nigeria. Prominent Christian leaders Vincent Lar, Gabriel Kumdum, and Tsaih Bakinrijia, a former police chief, were among those killed in the July 12 tragedy. Solomon Lar, an advisor to Nigeria&Mac226;s president, said that more than 10 Christian communities were ravaged and destroyed in the conflict. Some 10,000 people have been displaced in these villages and are now living as refugees. A Canon of the Nigerian Anglican Communion blamed the attacks on a „grudge‰ against Christians in this part of the country. „We recognize the violence unleashed against church buildings, the holy men and the Taroh Christians generally in this light,‰ he said.

**********

Turkey

Canada Reconsiders Asylum for Iranian Family (Compass) -- The Canadian Embassy in Ankara interviewed for a second time in three months an Iranian Christian family stranded in central Turkey, igniting hopes that Canada might grant them religious asylum. Mahmoud Erfani, his wife and their three daughters were denied visas to Canada following their first meeting with immigration officials last April. Mrs. Erfani suffers from multiple sclerosis and observers believe her poor health was the determining factor in the visa denial. But „new and relevant information‰ submitted to the embassy in June, which outlined persecution against the Erfani family in Iran prompted officials to re-consider the case. Should the new request fail, the Erfanis could be deported to Iran.

**********
Turkey

Pastor Granted Building Permit (Compass) -- Government officials have approved the revised architectural plan for a Protestant worship center under construction in Diyarbakir, allowing work to resume at the building site on July 30. Nevertheless Pastor Ahmet Guvener still faces criminal charges accusing him, among other things, of „obstructing a historical site.‰ Local officials halted work on the building in response to a smear campaign in the Turkish press that depicted Guvener as a missionary propagandist handing out free New Testaments. Guvener says his innocence is „clear-cut‰ and he expects to be acquitted.

**********

Vietnam

Pastors Harassed (Compass) -- On July 6, Vietnamese authorities arrested Pastor Nguyen Dang Chi of Phy Ly and held him in a cell for 24 hours. Pastor Chi, who has seen his Nazarene congregation grow to 800 members since it&Mac226; founding in 1995, sang hymns and prayed, despite being chained, deprived of water and forbidden to go to the bathroom during his time in jail. More than 20 believers from his church staged a sit-down protest at the police station, convincing security forces to release Chi. On Sunday, July 14, police broke up the worship service of an Assemblies of God fellowship in Vinh Long and arrested members of the congregation, including the pastor. They were released the same day.