Persecution News

October 23, 2001

“If 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.”

RIOTING SPAWNS CRACKDOWN ON GROUP MEETINGS IN NIGERIA
(Nigeria)-- In the wake of September's deadly sectarian riots in Plateau State, government officials are cracking down on all groups. Efforts to maintain a tenuous peace between Christians and Muslims have caused authorities to ban all political, cultural and religious meetings until further notice. Open Doors ' Karen Yates says although there are safety concerns, their workers are staying put. "We are in those areas trying to keep Christ in areas where persecution exists. If the church leaves, then Christ is no longer there. We are not looking to evacuate, we're not looking to change our work. If anything,
we are looking to reach out more."
At least 500 people died in the fighting, and scores more were left homeless. Yates says: "We still need to be praying for the people there, for the Christians there, and for the Muslims there as well, that God would work through these tensions and that His peace would reign over that area." On Monday, October 15, 2001, Reuters reported that fighting broke out in the working class district of Tudun Wada on Monday for the first time since Friday's anti-U.S. protests. The protests began peacefully on Friday as an angry reaction to the U.S.-led airstrikes in Afghanistan, but turned violent on Saturday. Friday is a strict day of rest for Muslims.
Some of the fighting was attributed to traditional rivalries between Christians and Muslims. After the violence began, many non-Muslims fled to police stations and military barracks for safety. Authorities in the city confirmed that at least 18 people had died after two days of clashes between police and anti-U.S. protesters. But despite official accounts of the number of dead, witnesses told CNN they had seen hundreds of bodies in the streets and elsewhere. Additional government troops entered Kano on Sunday to help police keep the peace, after many residents ignored an overnight curfew. Nigeria's population of about 120 million is split almost evenly between Muslims and Christians. "We have instructions to shoot any rioters on sight," a police officer at Kano central police station told Reuters. Nigeria has faced an increase in ethnic or religious bloodshed since army rule ended in 1999. There was violence early last year following the introduction of strict Islamic sharia law in parts of predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria. Last month, hundreds of people were reported dead in fighting in the central city of Jos.

STATE DEMOLISHES CHURCHES ELSEWHERE IN NIGERIA
(Compass) -- Christian leaders in Kano state, northern Nigeria, said the state government demolished seven churches, set ablaze six churches, and forced several others to close, all during September. Many church leaders said the September 7-17 religious riots in Jos, in central Nigeria, led to attacks on Christians in Kano. "Many private homes and shops belonging to Christians, as well as cars, were burnt down or destroyed," said one leader. Fifty-four churches have been served with demolition notices by the state government. Seventeen have already been demolished despite protests by churches in the state. The government has declared all churches located in Shagari Quarters of Kano city as "illegal structures." Despite the high concentration of Christians in this area, "The government, because of its insensibility, has turn deaf ears to our plight," said the leader.

COMMITTEE WANTS CESSATION OF ISLAMIC LAW
(Compass) -- Nigeria's presidential constitutional review committee has advised the federal government to halt the adoption of Islamic law, or "sharia," in the northern states. Section 10 of the 1999 constitution -- which prohibits the adoption of any religion as an official religion by government at all levels -- should be retained, states the committee's report obtained by Compass in Abuja. The committee noted that the adoption of sharia in several northern states has led Nigerians to question whether sections of the constitution have been infringed. It said Nigerians believe that freedom of religion is a fundamental right and clearly provided for in the constitution. The committee asked the leaders of the nation's two dominant religions to see their religions as instruments of cohesion and development in the country.

PAKISTANI CHRISTIANS CONTINUE TO SUFFER UNDER ATTACK REPRISALS
(Pakistan)--The United States' response to the terror attacks is making life difficult for Christians in Pakistan.
That's the word from Norm Nelson of Life at Its Best. "If you are just charged with having blasphemed the prophet Mohammed you are arrested and held in prison. And, there's been discrimination. Christians are kept on the lower rung economically. But, now with the military action of the United States being take in Afghanistan they're very much in danger, they believe, of mob violence." Nelson says Pakistanis are coming to Christ despite their situation. "It's difficult. It's tough. They are really hungry. But, they are effective. They're already courageous. It's already a difficult situation for them. This is a Muslim country, so obviously they really do need our support and our prayers." Financial gifts are needed to help these Pakistani believers lead their countrymen to Christ.

Church closings continue in Laos
(Laos)--Christian Aid Mission is reporting that Laotian authorities are stepping up their efforts to squelch Christianity. Late last week, they shut down a church after Christians refused to surrender the facility to government authorities. Believers plan to meet at another church about two miles away. Reports show that 59 churches have been shut down in the preceding 18 months, and many Christians imprisoned. Please pray for their testimony and that their faith would be strengthened.

LAWYER FOR CHRISTIAN AID WORKERS RETURNS TO KABUL
(Compass) -- As aerial military strikes by U.S. forces continued to pound Afghanistan, the defense lawyer for eight Western relief workers imprisoned since early August in Kabul left Pakistan October 10 to return to the Afghan capital. Pakistani lawyer Atif Ali Khan hoped to submit his formal written defense to the Taliban Supreme Court on October 11. The eight jailed Christians are accused of preaching Christianity among Afghan Muslims, a capital offense under the strict Taliban interpretation of Islamic law. Prisoner Diana Thomas faxed her pastor in Australia in early October saying the detainees have been moved to a location where they are able to cook their own meals and even order food from a nearby restaurant. Reports from a British journalist described the cell where the six women were being held as "about 20 square yards, not even that big," and squalid. The journalist stated that one of the women was on a hunger strike, and, "Those women just had a tremendous inner strength.”

CHRISTIANS CONTINUE TO FACE PERSECUTION IN INDIA
(Compass) -- Incidents of violence against Christian workers in northern India continue to be reported despite talks between the leaders of the mainline churches and Hindu fundamentalist organizations. On September 11, Christian booklets were burned by the student wing of the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP).
The same day in Orissa state, 113 Christians from 26 families were reportedly forced to return to Hinduism by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). On September 18, a Methodist pastor and four others were injured during attacks by Hindu fundamentalists in Bharathari village in Gujarat state.
A mob attacked the members of Operation Mobilization India while they were screening the film "Dayasagar" (Ocean of Mercy), based on the life of Jesus Christ. State reserve police forces have been deployed in Bharathari village, and four persons have been arrested. In a separate incident, unidentified miscreants ransacked a church near Bina in Madhya Pradesh state and tried to set it ablaze on September 30.

CHURCH BOMBINGS REMAIN A MEANINGLESS MYSTERY
(Compass) -- Authorities in Venezuela have yet to solve the mystery surrounding pipe bomb attacks on several Roman Catholic churches in July and August. Nor can officials explain why the bombings abruptly ceased just as mysteriously as they began. On July 25, the Church of San Francisco suffered an explosion. Later the same week, police discovered pipe bombs placed at the Cathedral of Caracas and the church of the Santa Capilla. Initially, Venezuelans speculated that the bombings resulted from a bitter feud between Roman Catholic leaders and the Fifth Republic Movement Party of President Hugo Chavez. The July church bombings caught headlines for a few days, but one church leader does not see the incidents having long-term impact on inter-faith relations in Venezuela. "People are kind of accustomed to the fact that in Venezuela you do alarming things to draw attention to yourself. ... I don't see this as a religious thing."

NO PLACE TO WORSHIP IN ZANZIBAR
(Compass) -- According to the authorities, people on this Tanzanian island are free to follow their faith without restriction. Yet five church leaders from different denominations recently painted a picture of ongoing harassment, bureaucratic roadblocks, religious opposition and violence against the growing church in Zanzibar where it is estimated that 98 percent of the people are Muslims. Christians encounter the most opposition when they want to establish a place of worship. Whenever the local people hear that a pastor is planning to build a church, even if he owns the land, they will do whatever they can to prevent it. Another church leader said that every church built in the last 10 years was built without official permission. "What can you do?" one Christian pastor asked. "They will not give us permission to build a church. ... So we just have to go ahead regardless. The local Muslim people fear Christianity, that it will influence the people to join us."

CULTURE OF FEAR GRIPS THE CHURCH IN ZIMBABWE
(Compass) -- Christians in Zimbabwe who speak out against violence and injustice are being targeted by government-backed groups such as the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party. Outspoken church leaders in this southern African nation risk being harassed, threatened and publicly humiliated. Some have fled the country. Several with foreign passports have been expelled. Many members of church congregations have suffered violent attacks on their families. In mid September, a church in Rusape, where the leader had spoken against the government-backed violence, was burned. In Mount Darwin, 2,000 women gathered for the Methodist Women's Conference had their church meeting place attacked and the conference broken up. The ruling ZANU party is pursuing a policy of terror aimed at forcing people to renounce support for the opposition party. "They [the authorities and ZANU officials] know that the church has to speak the truth and they are frightened that when the truth comes out, it will challenge their hold on power. The truth would show how they are terrorizing the people," said one resident of Harare, the capital. Christians number between 40 to 60 percent of the population of Zimbabwe.

MODERN TURKISH BIBLE TRANSLATION RELEASED
(Compass) -- The first modern Turkish translation of the complete Bible was realeased in early October to the Turkish public. The new millennium edition represents the first complete Bible translation since the 17th century in the Turkish language. The formal Istanbul presentation of the newly printed Bible at the initial October 6 press conference was addressed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, as well as representatives from the United Bible Societies and the Bible Society in Jordan. "It is important that everyone learn the Holy Bible clearly and accurately," said Patriarch Bartholomew. "This is assured by correct, accurate translations."

GOVERNMENT’S CRUSH OF CULTS IN CHINA HURTS CHRISTIANS, TOO
(Compass) -- A confidential circular issued last year by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security sheds light on how the government is determined to stamp out cults and raises serious questions as to the methods used. Dated April 30, 2000, the circular defines organizations with certain characteristics as heretical.
These definitions are vague and only make generalized statements about cults. Some of them can easily be applied to underground Roman Catholics and unregistered Protestant house churches as well. Many fear that local police may interpret these definitions in the widest possible sense to crack down on innocent unregistered religious activities.
In China, the government, press and judiciary are ultimately all controlled by the Communist Party, and there is no independent court of appeal for those accused unjustly of belonging to a cult. The indiscriminate crackdown on cults has now been in full swing for two years.
CANCELLED EVANGELISTIC MEETING IN EGYPT LEADS MANY TO CHRIST ANYWAY
Those who know Egypt will hardly believe the following report which we recently received from one of the leaders of the Evangelical Alliance. Checks revealed the report to be accurate: Bayadiya, a medium-sized Egyptian city, experienced one of the greatest evangelistic breakthroughs in the nation's history: at least 7,500 people (some sources mention up to 15,000) have decided to follow Jesus.
"The idea came during a weekend for church planters, musicians and young artists: why not hold an 'evangelical celebration' similar to those held over 40 times each year by the Coptic Orthodox church to honor saints? They planned a large celebration for all Evangelically-oriented groups. The youths were excited, and immediately started writing songs and sketches," reports one of the initiators. Bayadiya, a predominantly Christian town near Minyas, was selected as the venue.
Despite initially granting permission, the police banned the event - one day before it was supposed to take place! All the tents had to be taken down. The Christians didn't give up: instead of inviting the people to the celebration, they went to the people on the street, in the churches and in their homes.
They performed the sketches on the back of a truck which drove around the town, stopping at strategic spots. Hundreds and thousands of people saw the sketches, heard "Sunday School", took part in puppet theaters, listened to music groups and even received prayer in coffee houses.
Thousands of people - conservative estimates speak of 7,500, some up to 15,000 - of all age groups, and including visitors from the surrounding villages, experienced a spiritual rebirth, according to the report.
A gang leader gave his life to Jesus after seeing the Jesus film, and led six others of his gang to the Lord. A number of people experienced physical healing, to which they testified on video; many were freed from demons, and whole houses and streets decided to follow Jesus. Young people saw how God performed miracles through them, and how hundreds of Christians an non-Christians reacted to the supposedly “weak sermons.” Several criminals and even murderers were deeply touched, and repented in tears. "It was as in the early days of the church," says one of the organizers.
Fifty leading members of Bayadiya's churches are have their hands full with continuing the revival. 25 new "Street meetings" (fellowships) meet every week, some with up to four parallel meetings. Many people have asked to be allowed to start Christian meetings in houses.
The followup work is centered on planting churches; some 80 of which are planned in the coming months.

PERSECUTION NEWS is a non-regular periodic service of Foot of the Cross Publications. Articles are copied from various sources, including Newsweek, Australian Broadcasting Corp, Compass Direct, Religious News Today and FridayFax and others as noted with each article. Persecution News is published for the sole purpose of disseminating information about persecution of Christians around the world, and subscriptions are free.

The INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH (IDOP) is coming up Sunday November 4, 2001. Thousands of churches throughout the world will be remembering, praying for and calling public attention to the persecuted Christians by participating in IDOP activities on that day, and for weeks beforehand.
With the many current news stories about Christians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and other places, there has never been a better time to bring persecution to the attention of the world.
Read the book of Esther during the month of September in preparation for IDOP activities.
Write letters to the editor of your local paper, pass out copies of this newsletter to others in your community, contact Voice of the Martyrs for information about having a special presentation in your community, obtain a presentation packet from VOM and show the video to your church.
Even wearing a “Christians Still Die” t-shirt can have an impact in curbing persecution activities.
Last year, many Christians hung mini Christmas lights, made by imprisoned Christians in China, on their front window and lit them for the world to see as a show of support for the persecuted brethren. You might even write to your local paper saying that you are going to do this and why. Evil thrives on silence. Let’s not be silent anymore.