Monday, November 14, 2011

A Belated Commemoration of a Somber Day


Did any of you know that Sunday, November 13 was the Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church?  I didn't.  I do not think my pastor did either as no mention of it in church.  I doubt any of the prosperity preachers commemorated it as it undermines their entire  false theology.  In fact, I do not know anyone who mentioned it or even knew about it and that is a shame.  Quite honestly, I do not know what is more of a shame: whether it be that very few of us remembered it on that day or that so few of us remember them or pray for them every other day.  We live in a rather spoiled nation and we have no idea what our brothers and sisters in the Lord face in many other nations.  Sometimes I think we need to be reminded what the reality is for so many Christians in the world so that we can remember them in our prayers and truly appreciate the peace and security God has allowed us here. 
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run [swiftly] and be glorified, just as [it is] with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith.  1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 NKJV
In that spirit, today's post will be a brief one on my part as I will just be posting a few examples of persecutation faced by our brethren around the world.

SOMALIA:
A 17-year-old Christian was beheaded by al-Shabab extremists on Sept. 25 as he prepared for school. Al-Shabab, determined to rid Somalia of Christianity and Western influence, had carefully monitored Guled Jama Muktar and his family since their arrival from Kenya in 2008, a source told Compass Direct News. “I personally know this family as Christians who used to have secret Bible meetings in their house,” the source said.
The militants arrived at Muktar’s house around 6 a.m. after his parents had left for work.
“The neighbors heard screaming coming from the house, and then it immediately stopped,” the source told Compass Direct News. “After a while, they saw a white car leaving the homestead.” When Muktar’s parents heard about their son’s murder, they rushed home, buried his body and fled the area, fearing the militants would kill them as well. “When the incident happened, the parents called to tell me that their son had been killed and that they feared for their lives,” the source said. “Since then, I have not heard from them.”
After a string of al-Shabab kidnappings in Kenya, Kenyan military forces invaded Somalia on Sunday, Oct. 16, to combat the extremist sect, according to Associated Press reports. Kenya claims that France joined them in an attack on Oct. 23, bombing a town near an al-Shabab stronghold.
The al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab are masters of suicide bombs, slaughtering Somali civilians, many of them Christians. While fighting the transitional Somali government for control of the country, al-Shabab imposes a strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the area it controls.

NIGERIA:
Muslim extremists carried out new attacks on villages in Nigeria’s Plateau state in September, killing more than 100 Christians, including entire families, according to Compass Direct News.
On Sept. 10, 2011, Muslim extremists stormed Vwang Fwil village at 3 a.m., killing 13 Christians. Attackers killed 14 more Christians, including one pregnant woman, when they attacked the Christian community of Vwang Kogot on Sept. 9. And on Sept. 8, 10 Christians from one family were killed in an attack on Tsohom Foron village.
Compass Direct reports that some of the attackers were wearing Nigerian Army military uniforms. “What is the government doing about the soldiers?” asked Dachung Dagai, a pastor of a Nigerian church. “In some places, enough evidence has been found against these Muslim soldiers and nothing has been done. The government officials have always said they will look into the problems, but nothing has been done.”
In another attack, on Aug. 21, Muslim extremists entered Fadiya Bakut village and attacked Andre Allahmagani’s home. They killed his 10-year-old son and injured his 70-year-old mother. Allahmagani told Compass Direct News that the assailants were armed with guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons.
“This is becoming too much to bear,” said Emmanuel Dachollom Loman, chairman of the Barkin Ladi Local Government Council. “The government should help us before Muslims come and wipe out all of us one day.”
According to Release International, the recent violence broke out after a number of Muslims moved into the largely Christian area to celebrate the Islamic religious festival Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Please pray for Christians in Nigeria’s Plateau state as they continue to face daily dangers.
ERITREA:

Ninety Christians have been arrested in Eritrea in the last two months, as authorities continue a campaign against Christians that began in December. Six of the 90 arrested have been released, but the location of the other 84 is unknown.

On June 2, 2011, police arrested 26 college students from Mai-Mefhi College of Technology. Students were not given a reason for their arrest, but Release Eritrea reports that the students may have been arrested because they did not participate in Independence Day Celebrations. In May, 64 Christians in a village near the Eritrean capital of Asmara were arrested and detained at Asmara’s 6th Police Station.
Sources believe the arrested Christians either remain at the police station or have been moved to Mitire Prison in northeastern Eritrea. Mitire is a remote military prison that is notorious for torture and its harsh living and working conditions. Former Mitire prisoners told Christian Solidarity Worldwide that Mitire is an open-air facility in the desert, where prisoners are terrified by poisonous snakes. Prisoners receive very little food and are forced to work constructing buildings for officers. Because there are no medical facilities, most prisoners leave Mitire after they become too sick to work.
In May 2002, the government of Eritrea banned all Christian groups that do not belong to officially recognized churches. As a result, the Eritrean government has imprisoned several thousand Christians, making the country one of the harshest persecutors of Christians in the world. Many Christians imprisoned in 2002 remain in detention and have never gone before a court. At least 16 Eritrean Christians have died in custody since May 2002, mostly due to torture, treatable illnesses and malnutrition.
INDIA:
Hindu extremists continue to target Christians in India with harassment, false accusations, beatings and even murder. The Global Council of Indian Christians believes Hindu extremists are behind two recent murders of Christians in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In the most recent case, 17-year-old Nirupama Pradhan was raped and murdered after school on May 12, 2011. Her father, Sitrian Pradhan, named the possible murderer, but according to Asia News, police have done nothing to find the murderer.
Police also have refused to give a post-mortem report to the widow of Saul Pradhan, a Christian preacher who was murdered on Jan. 10, 2011. Pradhan had taken a new job at a brick kiln in another village. When he did not return home from work one day, his family searched for him and found his body near a pond. Police originally claimed Pradhan died from the “bitter cold,” but his employers, Hindu radicals, later confessed to the murder.
On May 8, Hindu radicals stopped Pastor B. Vijaya Kumar and his family as they walked home from a prayer meeting, according to Compass Direct News. After the extremists detained the family for three hours, police arrived and questioned Kumar. They told the family to leave the area and said they would accept no responsibility if anything happened to them. Earlier, local papers had falsely reported that Kumar had been converting people by offering them money.
Extremists in Madhya Pradesh accused another pastor of forced conversions. Hindu extremists stopped Pastor Shivraj Maravi from renovating his small house, where he sometimes holds Sunday services. After the extremists filed a police report on May 4, police arrested Maravi and charged him with forcible conversion under the state’s anti-conversion act. Compass Direct reported that Maravi stopped working on his house because he feared he would be attacked by extremists.
Hindu extremists in the state of Maharashtra also stopped construction of a church building and imposed a boycott on Christians in the area. When the Christians complained to police, the police told the group to get permission from the village head, who subsequently refused to help them. In the ensuing boycott, the extremist group prohibited Christian vehicles from carrying vegetables to market, cutting off their means of livelihood. The extremists ordered the Christians to leave the village and said they would not allow Christian children to attend the local school.
CHINA:
In another example of the ongoing crackdown against house churches in China, house church pastor Shi Enhao was sentenced to two years in a labor camp last month. Pastor Shi, who serves as deputy chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, was charged with “illegal meetings and illegal organizing of venues for religious meetings.” The charges stem from the fact that Pastor Shi’s house church of several thousand meets in different sites around Suqian city.
Pastor Shi was detained on May 31 by police in the coastal city of Suqian, Jiangsu province, and held for 12 days before being detained on June 21 by the Suqian Public Security Bureau. The Domestic Security Protection Department also ordered his church to stop meeting and confiscated the congregation’s car, musical instruments and choir robes, as well as 140,000 yuan ($21,712.50) in donations.
Pastor Shi’s case shows that the government is targeting even house churches that do not gather in one location for worship. Shouwang Church in Beijing is engaged in an ongoing 15-week standoff with authorities over their meeting site. Critics of Shouwang have said that house churches that meet in smaller groups can avoid conflicts with authorities, but Pastor Shi’s case proves otherwise.
Pastor Shi and his wife, Zhu Guangyun, are both 55 years old. His 86-year-old mother, Liu Guanglan, requires constant care, which is provided by Pastor Shi’s wife. Pastor Shi’s son, Shi Yongyang, and his wife are both in full-time ministry. His son signed the sentencing paperwork at the police station, but police refused to give him a copy of the signed documents. All three of Pastor Shi’s daughters and their husbands have been threatened by police.
The sentence of two years of “re-education through labor” is an extra-judicial punishment that can be issued by police; it requires no trial, no conviction of a crime and no review by a court or judge. It is often used as punishment for those who have committed minor criminal offenses or for dissidents and adherents of religious groups, such as house church Christians and Falun Gong practitioners.
The chairman of the Chinese House Church Alliance, Zhang Mingxuan, also known as “Pastor Bike,” has been arrested multiple times.
And that is just a small sampling.  Each of those stories is from a ministry called Voice of the Martyrs (persecution.org).  There are so many around the world worshiping and sharing Jesus in nations where that very act can get you raped, tortured, imprisoned, impoverished, ostracized, or killed.  Yet they tread on with the hope of Jesus knowing that whatever may happen in this life, there is a glorious life to come.  They love those who persecute them and share Jesus with the same people who may do any of those things I mentioned to them for that very act.  

Today I am going to let their stories speak for themselves with the knowledge that they are a very small sampling of something that goes on all the time every day in many places around the world.  Pray for our persecuted brethren.  Pray for them and support them. 
Blessed [are] those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10 NKJV

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