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Persecuted ChurchThe Persecution & Prayer Alert
The Voice of the Martyrs, Canada
www.persecution.net
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A weekly news digest on the Persecuted Church and how you can respond.

Tough times require tough faith. Find out more at www.persecution.net/newsletter.

Subscribe to the RSS feed at www.persecution.net/pnp.xml.
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In this week’s edition: reports from India, with updates from China and Bangladesh
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1. Christian killed, believers threatened in Kandhamal, India

Hrudayananda Nayak (40) was found dead in the village of Rudangia, Kandhamal district, Orissa state on February 19. The day before, Nayak was abducted by a group of Hindu militants while on his way home from a nearby town. Nayak is the third Christian known to be murdered in the area since late October.

Christians in Kandhamal displaced by anti-Christian violence (see www.persecution.net/in-2008-08-27.htm) remain fearful to return home to their villages. According to a February 18 report from Compass Direct, 18 families in Bareka village were recently forced to undergo Hindu rituals and sign documents that stated they had converted to Hinduism of their own will. Approximately 400 Christian families from Piangia Budaripura village remain in a relief camp because militants have stated they can only return if they convert to Hinduism. In Betticola village, the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a destroyed church building (see www.persecution.net/in-2009-02-11.htm) has been stopped by officials. However, according to a February 25 report from AsiaNews, they are also refusing permission to rebuild the church building until the deed of ownership is presented.

Pray for the Nayak family as they mourn. Pray for daily protection and strength for Christians in Kandhamal (Hebrews 12:2-3).

For more information on the persecution facing Christians in India, go to www.persecution.net/india.htm.
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2. Pastor beaten, Christians arrested in India

The Voice of the Martyrs received several reports of attacks on Christians in India in recent weeks.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. on February 22, Hindu villagers disrupted a worship service and beat Pastor K. Krupanamdam in Gabbilalpet, Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh, according to a February 22 report from All India Christian Council. Two police officers were stationed in the church at the time of the attack because local villagers had recently expressed their desire to seize the property. However, they were not able to get the situation under control until more officers arrived on scene. Pastor Krupanamdam was eventually taken to the police station where he registered a complaint against his attackers.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. on February 24, two Christian women, K.P. Mary (34) and Sangamma (49), were arrested on charges of forcible conversion in the village of Ravaruu, Karnataka. When Hindu militants noticed the women visiting with two new converts to Christianity they lodged a complaint with police.

Pray for Pastor Krupanamdam as he recovers from the attack. Pray for the release of the arrested believers. Pray that those oppressing Christians in India may experience repentance and salvation (Acts 9:1-19).

To learn more about Christians suffering for righteousness’ sake in India, go to www.persecution.net/india.htm.
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3. Update: House church leaders released in China

Due to international pressure, four Chinese house church leaders who were arrested while attending a seminar in Henan province on February 11 (see www.persecution.net/cn-2009-02-18.htm) have been released. According to a February 24 report from ChinaAid, the leaders were all freed by February 20.
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4. Update: Bangladeshi couple pressured to withdraw rape accusation

Last month, the wife of a Bangladeshi pastor was gang-raped by Muslims who ambushed the couple outside their home in Gopalganj district (see www.persecution.net/bd-2009-01-21.htm). According to a February 19 report from Compass Direct, local Muslims have threatened Pastor Shankar Hazra (55) and his wife Depali (45) with violence in an attempt to force them to withdraw their charges of robbery and rape. Local believers and human rights activists believe that Muslims paid a doctor to falsify a medical report which alleged that there was no evidence that Depali was raped. 

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Bangladesh (3)

 

11 Missions have been welcomed for their social uplift programmes — hence the emphasis on institutions and aid programmes — but too few are directly involved in evangelistic outreach and church planting. Pray for increased opportunities to fulfill their primary calling. Since 1980 limitations have been placed on missionaries, with all projects, plans and finances needing government approval and strict quotas placed on the number of missionaries allowed. Reinforcements with a vision for evangelism and discipling are needed, yet the expatriate force continues to dwindle. Pray for visas, patience with red tape, and strategic usefulness for the small missionary force in a pressurized situation. Some significant agencies are Association of Baptists for World Evangelization, Norwegian Santal Mission, Scandinavian Pentecostals, Mennonite Central Committee, Interserve, IMB-SBC and SIM.

12 Christian literature is in great demand because of the hunger created by:

a) Widespread distribution by EHC and ABWE , the latter with a large literature division.

b) Bible Correspondence Courses run by SIM and others; the former have a staff of 5 in Dhaka processing over 2,000 papers a month. Pray for these and all efforts to follow up contacts, and for many to be added to the churches. Pray for inspired, national writers and for efficient production of suitable evangelistic and teaching literature.

13 Distribution of Scripture portions and sales of Bibles have risen year by year. Pray specifically for:

a) The Bible Society and its extensive ministry of Scripture production.

b) The wise distribution of the Scriptures in the Bengali Muslim dialect. Many copies of the NT have been distributed since 1981. It has been well received and appreciated by Muslims, but initially met with opposition from some churches. A temporary ban on its import in 1990 enhanced sales. Praise for the publishing of the entire Bible in 2000.

c) The translation of the Bible into tribal languages. At least six, possibly nine, translations are needed; work is in progress in three of these.

14 Other Christian media are important since a high proportion of the population is illiterate. Pray for effective outreach through:

a) Radio. Christian broadcasters (TWR, FEBC and FEBA) transmit eight hours a week in Bengali and 88 hours in English. Pray especially for the production of suitable and sufficient programmes for the non-Christian majority.

b) The JESUS film has been used among Hindus and Muslims with good response. It is completed in Bangla, Sylheti, Assamese and nine tribal languages and is in preparation in five more. Pray for freedom to show the film in villages and for protection for the operators.

c) Cassettes. GRN have a team of recordists working on master tapes in indigenous languages; 21 languages have been recorded. Pray for the completion of the recordings in a further 13 languages and effective use of the finished product.

d) Drama teams are being used to communicate biblical truth to village people. A long tradition of village drama allows more freedom to raise questions and address social issues on the stage than in general society.

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Myanmar government clamping down even more

Myanmar (MNN) ― The government of Myanmar continues to make it difficult to help people in need in that military-led government. On May 2, 2008, thousands were killed and millions were displaced by Cyclone Nargis. Christians aren’t giving up, despite the difficult times.

Patrick Klein, founder and President of Vision Beyond Borders, says it was difficult to get into the country at the beginning of the disaster. But now, “The government’s clamping down even more. We just had two teams who were in there. They said the borders are getting even tighter. The goverment is looking more closely for materials being carried in. Thankfully our teams were able to get through.”

For the rest of the article

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6 There are over 20,000 registered NGOs which have multiplied to meet the land’s deep social needs — Bangladesh may lead the world in the number, diversity and relative impact of NGOs on the life of the country. Indigenous secular NGOs such as the Grameen Bank have significantly improved the life of millions of the poor, and especially women, with self-help schemes and loans. Christian NGOs have administered aid since independence and, during the nation’s frequent natural calamities, have been generous and impartial. HEED and World Vision seek to uphold Christian values and prepare the way for local church and mission involvement. TEAR Fund seconds workers and helps in funding projects. Pray for wisdom and sensitivity for all involved in implementing these programmes — that aid not be perceived as manipulative or dependency-producing.

7 Bengali people are by far the largest unreached people in the world with a global total of over 230 million. The majority live in Bangladesh and India, but large communities live in Britain, USA, etc. It was to the Bengali that William Carey went as a missionary. Although they revere Carey’s memory, the great breakthrough has still not come after 200 years. Now could be the time for the Bengali people! Many are torn between being good Bengali and good Muslims. Pray specifically for:

a) Muslims, who number over 110 million. The majority follow ‘folk’ Islam — a blend of indigenous culture and Hinduism, overlaid by a thin blanket of Islam. Pray for:

i) Openness to the gospel — the vast majority have never heard the true gospel.

ii) More workersin 1985 there were only 25 committed to their evangelization. There has been some improvement since then, but both needs and opportunities are greater.

iii) Those who have responded. Thousands have come to trust in Jesus. Many of these continue to live in their communities. Pray for great wisdom in nurturing this movement — its leadership, worship patterns and cultural relevance without compromise of biblical truth. Pray for unity to develop and for leaders to model confession and forgiveness. Pray they would learn dependence on God in poverty, firmness under persecution from Muslim neighbours, evangelistic vision and positive relationships with the older Christian community from a different cultural background.

b) The Hindus who feel vulnerable as a religious minority. Their insecurity increased during the time of the Babri Mosque crisis in India when Muslims retaliated by destroying Hindu temples. Pray that this may open many to the truth of Jesus. Many thousands of followers of Jesus remain within the Hindu context and do not link up with ‘foreign’ Christian bodies. Of the 29 lower castes, only four are over 2% Christians, and in a further six there has been a smaller response. The upper castes have remained resistant to the gospel.

8 The tribal peoples’ very existence is threatened by the general population explosion pushing hundreds of thousands of Bengali to invade their territory. The Chakma of the Chittagong Hill Tracts have responded with guerrilla warfare to the destruction of their villages, occupation of their land and even massacres by invading Bengali. Pray for a just settlement — the granting of limited autonomy to the region has not improved the situation much. Pray also for Christian agencies seeking to bring the tribal peoples to Christ (ABMS, BMS, IMB-SBC, Presbyterians and Lutherans).

9 Other unreached groups:

a) Non-Christian tribal groups. Some are resistant to the gospel or have not had adequate opportunity to hear: the animist Mru (work by Baptists), the Buddhist Chakma (Baptists), Mogh and Khyang (several thousand Christians).

b) The Bihari Muslims who, while being refused Bangladeshi citizenship, are also denied entry to India and Pakistan. They live in large refugee camps. Pray that their dilemma may bring an openness to the gospel.

c) Rohingya Muslims. In 1978 200,000 became refugees, and again in 1992, fleeing Myanmar government persecution. They have never been evangelized — pray for those seeking openings to reach them.

10 Young people are strategic but little is done to meet their spiritual needs.

a) Over half the population is under 16, most living in great poverty.

b) Students number over 650,000 in 458 tertiary colleges. There are 600 Christian students in 17 groups led by two staff workers. It is not possible for them to meet on the campuses. Pray for real commitment among these believers and a vision for outreach.

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1 The downward spiral of poverty and suffering cannot be reversed without good, honest and impartial leadership for the nation. The majority of the population is illiterate, malnourished and without adequate medical care. Pray for political stability and a government that is courageous to stand against Islamist demands for increased Islamization and against corruption. It also needs to make tough decisions to improve the quality of life for all.

2 Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, under pressure from extremist Muslim groups, has increased. Christians, Hindus and Buddhists suffer many disadvantages and there have been cases of destruction of churches and persecution of Christians for their faith. Pray for the binding of the powers of darkness operating in the religious, social and ethnic realms. Pray also that constitutional freedom for all to practise and propagate their own religions might be maintained.

3 The churches have been growing at twice the population rate over the past 40 years. Though still constituting officially only 0.3% of the population, they are having an increasing impact on society. Over 80% are literate. Pray specifically for:

a) Growing churches such as the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship, Assemblies of God and the Bangladesh Free Baptist churches which have set bold outreach goals for the future.

b)  The Great Commission Movement, launched in 1991, which brought together evangelical congregations with the commitment to prayer, research and cooperation in planting a church in every one of the 464 sub-districts and each of the ethnic groups of the country by the year 2000. Pray that this momentum might be maintained.

c) The people-movement tribal churches. Nearly all the Bawm, Pankhu, Garo and most of the Oraon, Mahili and Khasi have become Christian, and the Santal and Munda peoples have a large and growing minority of Christians. Pray that these churches may become strong, mature and full of missions vision.

d) The churches among sections of the Hindu population. Response has largely been among the Namasudra and Muchi castes. Pray that these Christians may be able to reach other Hindu castes still little affected by the gospel.

4 Revival of the Church is the greatest need. Pray that the Holy Spirit may move in these areas:

a) Nominal Christianity. Early people movements brought thousands of marginalized sections of society into the Church. Poverty, illiteracy and lack of trained and godly leadership have led to shallowness and nominalism.

b) Unity. Imported and indigenous divisions have hindered the effectiveness of witness in the past. Pray for the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh as it seeks to encourage evangelical unity and cooperative action in evangelism, teaching and aid programmes.

c) Outreach. After years of little interest, there is growing involvement in reaching out to the major non-Christian communities.

5 Leadership for the churches. God is raising up a new generation of leaders who exercise a ministry beyond their own community, yet they are few. Pray for multiplication of leaders.

a) The College of Christian Theology, the Christian Discipleship Centre and the Dhaka United Theological Seminary are key interdenominational residential schools. The CCT and CDC also run TEE and short-term programmes.

b) Five denominational Bible schools and seminaries (AoG, ABWE, Free Baptist, Lutheran and Church of Bangladesh).

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1. Christian accused of blasphemy in Pakistan

A Pakistani Christian, Hector Aleem (51), is under fire after being accused of sending a blasphemous text message, according to a February 5 report from Compass Direct. On January 22, police arrested Aleem for blasphemy and abetting a crime after a religious scholar allegedly received a text message from him in November that insulted Muhammad. Although he was acquitted of the blasphemy charges at a hearing on February 2, he was not cleared of abetting. Local Christians believe the judge’s decision was influenced by the approximately 150 people protesting and yelling threats outside the courthouse. Sources claim that Aleem was targeted because he directs an organization that lobbies for the rights of Christians in Islamabad.

At last report, Aleem was detained at the Adiyala Jail in the city of Rawalpindi, where he has been denied adequate food, medicine for his heart condition and visits with his family. His family has gone into hiding due to threats from Muslim militants.

Pray that Aleem will be acquitted of all charges. Pray for protection for him and his family. Pray that Muslims in Pakistan will come to know Christ’s love through the lives of Christians (Romans 12:14, 21).

Find out more about suffering Christians in Pakistan at www.persecution.net/pakistan.htm.
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2. Bible student beaten and threatened by Muslims in Bangladesh

Rajen Murmo (20) was attacked by a mob of approximately 50 Muslims in the town of Uttara, Bangladesh, where approximately four million Muslims had gathered for an annual Islamic conference on February 1. According to a February 5 report from Compass Direct, Murmo and some fellow students from Believers’ Church Bible College were distributing Christian literature when a man approached them and said that the Quran had superseded the Bible, rendering it outdated. Some men then grabbed Murmo and demanded to know who gave him the Christian literature. They also demanded that he give them the addresses of religious leaders and of his school. When he refused, the attackers beat him and threatened to kill him unless he gave them the information. Officials eventually arrived and were able to rescue Murmo. The mob pressured the officials into sending Murmo to a local police station where he was held until the principal of his school secured his release.

Pray for healing for Murmo. Ask God to strengthen him to remain steadfast in the midst of opposition (1 Peter 5:12).

For more information on the persecution facing Christians in Bangladesh, go to www.persecution.net/bangladesh.htm.
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3. Christians threatened and mistreated in Kandhamal, India

Despite government assurances of stability in Kandhamal district, Orissa state, the tension remains high for Christians returning from the relief camps to what remains of their homes, churches and livelihoods. According to a February 6 report from AsiaNews, approximately 17 people visited the village of Jhimangia in Kandhamal on February 2 to survey the damage before moving back. However, when they arrived, they were surrounded by Hindu villagers who warned them that they could not return unless they converted to Hinduism. Other Christians who have moved back to the district are reportedly facing harassment and discrimination. Elsewhere in the district, a foundation for a Hindu temple has been laid on the site of a church that was burned to the ground in August.

Pray for boldness for Christians returning to their homes in Kandhamal district. Pray that the believers will be a light that draws their Hindu neighbours to Christ (Matthew 5:14-16).

Learn more about the persecution of Indian Christians at www.persecution.net/india.htm.
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4. Religion Law amendments proposed in Armenia

On February 5, proposed amendments to Armenia’s Religion Law and Criminal Code began passage through the nation’s parliament, according to a February 9 report from Forum 18. Under the amendments, leaders of religious communities involved in evangelism could face up to two years in prison. Those caught evangelizing could be imprisoned for up to one year or fined 500 times the minimum monthly wage. The amendments propose a five-fold increase in the number of members required to register as a religious organization.

Pray that these amendments will not be approved. Ask God to work in the lives of Armenia’s leaders so that they too will turn to Him.
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5. Update: Christians released in Iran

Iranian Christians who were arrested in Tehran on January 21 (see www.persecution.net/ir-2009-01-28.htm) have been released from detention, according to a February 9 report from Compass Direct. Jamal Ghalishorani and his wife, Nadereh Jamali, were recently released on bail. Local Christians are fearful that the couple will be charged with apostasy, which could potentially carry the punishment of execution. Another believer who was arrested along with the couple, Hamik Khachikian, was released without charges after a week in detention.
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6. Update: Shuang Shuying released from prison in China

Shuang Shuying (79), who was sentenced in February 2007 to two years in prison on charges of “willfully damaging private property” (see www.persecution.net/cn-2007-02-28.htm), was released from detention on February 8. According to ChinaAid, Shuying suffered poor health and was tortured while in detention. Upon her release, Shuying went to be with her dying 91-year-old husband, who passed away the next day without regaining consciousness.
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7. Update: Prominent Christian lawyer seized by officials in China

Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese human rights lawyer who has come under fire in recent years for his work defending underground Christians (see www.persecution.net/cn-2007-01-03c.htm for more details), was forcibly taken from his hometown in Shaanxi province on February 4. According to ChinaAid, his current whereabouts are unknown and there is serious concern for his safety. On February 9, a letter written by Zhisheng detailing the brutal treatment he endured while detained for over 50 days in 2007 was released to the international community. To read this letter, go to www.tinyurl.com/gao-letter.

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