- Persecution News--Thanksgiving Edition
November 21, 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.
Special Thanksgiving Edition
AFGHANISTAN'S 24 JAILED AID WORKERS ALL SET FREE
Eight Western Christians Helicoptered to Pakistan by Barbara G. Baker
ISTANBUL, November 15 (Compass) -- In the last phase of a dramatic rescue operation, U.S. military helicopters airlifted eight Western Christian aid workers out of Afghanistan before dawn this morning to safety in Pakistan.
The covert operation ended a tense 48 hours since their Taliban captors had headed south from Kabul last Monday night, taking the eight prisoners with them toward Kandahar.
By this morning, the safe release of their 16 Afghan co-workers of the Christian Charity, Shelter Now, arrested with them 14 weeks ago had also been confirmed.
The Taliban regime had refused any access to, or information regarding, the Afghan staff, although sources in Kabul had been told last month that Taliban investigators had found no evidence against them and would be releasing them soon.
Deputy U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) today that all the Afghan staff of Shelter Now had been released on Tuesday, when Northern Alliance forces took Kabul from Taliban control.
From Germany, a spokesman for Shelter Now confirmed to Compass today that three of their jailed Afghan staff had been released and crossed into Pakistan earlier this week. Others have telephoned their Peshawar office in northwest Pakistan over the past two days to confirm they had been freed, the spokesman said.
Shelter Now's eight Western and 16 Afghan staff had been jailed in early August on charges of spreading Christianity among Afghan Muslims, a capital offense under the Taliban's harsh Islamic rule.
Calling the rescue of the eight Westerners "incredibly good news," U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his gratitude to everyone in Afghanistan who helped with the operation.
The covert rescue operation included cooperation from opposition Afghan soldiers, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the U.S. special forces. (34 other worker from other aid agencies were accused of spreading Christianity in the weeks after the Shelter Now arrests may still be imprisoned, as there has been no word of their release.)
ABU SAYYAF RELEASE HOSTAGES ... EXCEPT BURNHAMS
The AP reports that Muslim extremist guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden released seven of their last 10 hostages, leaving them with only a Filipino nurse and missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham of Wichita, Kan.
According to AP, the rebels hope to move faster through mountainous jungle as they dodge an intensifying pursuit, but the military is still closing in, said Lt. Gen. Roy Cimatu, military chief in the southern Philippines. Some 7,000 troops have been chasing the rebels on the southern island of Basilan.
The freed Filipino hostages said they had been held with the Burnhams. Angie Montealegre, 31, said the Americans gave her a message to relay to their family, but she didn't reveal its contents.
According to New Tribe's Scott Ross, recently released hostages delivered a letter from Martin and Gracia Burnham. Ross describes the letter. "They describe some of the conditions at they're living in. It was encouraging to be able to read that they could joke about some of the circumstances in which they find themselves. But, it was also touching your heart when you read their greetings to their children and wishing they could be around them at Thanksgiving." Despite the Burnham's circumstances, Ross says they haven't forgotten their ministry focus. "The hostages continue to tell us tremendous stories of how Martin and Gracia are encouraging to them, that they're able to pray with them. They're doing Bible studies with some of the hostages, but were doing it all by memory. Hearts have been touched."
INDONESIAN CHRISTIANS RESCUED
(Mission Network News--Indonesia)--Christian Aid Mission reports that a partnership with a large evangelical church in Jakarta has resulted in a rescue effort for Indonesian Christians. Many were trapped by Jihad terrorists, however, nearly three thousand Christians have been relocated thus far. All have been taken to areas not controlled by the Muslims. Christians from local churches are helping to provide land, shelter, food, clothing and elementary health care.
Meanwhile, violence continues to plague Indonesia as Jihad warriors have struck the Moluccas Islands again. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is reporting that four Christians and an army officer are feared dead following the attack. More than one-thousand villagers were forced from their homes as the militants torched a village on Buru Island.
Security forces were outnumbered in the attack. Christian Solidarity officials fear the attacks could spread to Sulawesi and Irian Jaya in the days ahead.
TENSIONS EASING FOR CHINESE CHRISTIANS?
(Mission Network News--China)--China tops today's news as the government reportedly is considering changes in its religious policy.
Reports indicate some easing of pressure among unregistered house churches. President of Open Doors U-S-A, Terry Madison, says he's not getting overly excited about the report. "It may be a little premature to say there are, going to be great, dramatic changes. A month, two three, four down the road will tell us certainly whether the changes have really come to pass. I think it's also premature to know exactly what these changes are. But, we continue to support the house church movement and will do so right through whatever choices they make."
Madison says that hasn't changed their focus of training church leaders and providing them with material. He says support is needed. "Some have actually joined us as couriers, going through Asia and taking God's word into China. But, all can pray and all can give toward the need of a Bible." A gift of 40-dollars can provide Christians with 10 Bibles where God's word is scarce.
RADIO STATION INVASION BECOMES EVANGELISTIC OPPORTUNITY
(Mission Network News--Guinea) God made a potentially dangerous situation an evangelistic opportunity in Guinea, West Africa. The Christian and Missionary Alliance says 30 armed military and police officials converged on an unfinished radio station. They ordered the station manager to open equipment containers demanding to know the nature of the programs. As the manager played one of the tapes the high-tension situation changed. The manager says the men asked to be forgiven and requested copies of the program.
CENTRAL ASIA SOFTENS TOWARD CHRISTIANITY
(Mission Network News--Asia)--And finally, hard-line opposition to the Gospel is softening in Central Asia since September 11th. Case in point - the countries of Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan announced they have delayed ratifying new laws, that would proclaim Islam and Orthodoxy the national religions. According to the Bible League, the President of Kazakstan has ordered a, special commission to read and study the Bible and report back to him.
Officials say Central Asia is at a crossroads. Pray that many will turn to Christ.
However, the following situations have not been resolved as happily yet. As you give thanks for the good news about Christians around the world, remember to pray for our brothers and sisters who are still at risk.
TEN KILLED IN NIGERIA CLASHES
The Associated Press reports that 10 people were killed in clashes that erupted in a northern Nigerian village after Christians proposed moving a local government office out of the palace of a Muslim chief. Rabiu Bako, spokesman for the Kaduna state government, said the rampage started Friday in the village of Gwantu, about 70 miles south of the city of Kaduna, the state capital.
At least 19 people were arrested, a police officer told AP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Tensions persisted throughout the weekend although the situation was reportedly calm on Monday.
Interreligious tensions in other parts of the state -- which is mainly Muslim with a large Christian minority -- have risen since Friday, when the state began implementing Shariah, or Islamic fundamentalist law, in areas dominated by Muslims. More than 2,000 have been killed in riots since February 2000, when Shariah was first proposed. Hundreds of thousands more were forced to flee their homes.
According to the AP, Kaduna state Gov. Mohammed Makarfi appointed a five-member committee on Monday to investigate the latest clashes, which began after the Christian-led Sanga Local Government Council tried to relocate its offices from the palace of the Muslim chief to another Christian-dominated area.
FOURTH CHURCH TORCHED IN MALAYSIA
The Christ Community Center Church in Subang Jaya (Malaysia) was, on Oct. 27, destroyed by arson, according to a report from the Barnabas Fund. Police had been called out to the building in the early hours of Saturday morning after the burglar alarm went off. Finding nothing suspicious they left. Three hours later, flames engulfed the building.
Christ Community is the fourth Malaysian church to have been burnt in recent weeks, according to the report. A serious blaze gutted the Marthoma
Christian Community Center in Sungei Petani several weeks ago.
On Oct.13, chairs and other church equipment were burnt and destroyed in Christ the King Church, also in Sungei Petani, and Molotov cocktails were thrown at St. Philip's Church in Segamat, Johor.
The first three fires were the result of arson attacks, carried out by suspected Islamic militants, sources told The Barnabas Fund. "It now seems likely that the Christ Community Center is the latest victim in a wave of attacks which seem set to continue," said the report. Church leaders are advising Christians to notify the police immediately if they receive any threatening messages.
Militant Islam is reportedly on the increase in Malaysia, influenced by extremist groups in surrounding nations, like Indonesia's Laskar Jihad. The government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is working hard to combat these trends and preserve Malaysia's reputation as a majority-Muslim nation where Christians and other minorities do not need to fear violence.
SECURITY THREATS AT EVANGELISTIC MEETINGS IN SUDAN
(Mission Network News--Sudan)--Evangelist Sammy Tippit says thousands were responding to the Gospel in Khartoum, Sudan. Not long after the stadium cleared after the first night, a serious problem arose. "Christian leaders who were organizers of the conference were called in to the security offices of the government, and they were told that there were extremists in the area who were making credible threats to attack the stadium, attack the people there and attack us."
Tippit says they were told there was a potential for significant loss of life, if they continued their meetings. "The more they found out, the more credible the threats were. They were planning on something big. Then, as that developed, it had to go to the governor's office, where we were told that we would not be able to continue the meetings. They didn't feel that they could provide the security." However, Tippit says they were allowed to hold the pastors' conference.
Please pray for the ministry and safety of the local believers in the days ahead.
PERSECUTION NEWS is a non-regular periodic service of Foot of the Cross Publications. Articles are copied from various sources, such as Mission Network News, CNN.com, AP Breaking News, 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.