Monday, December 5, 2016

RLPB 387. China: persecution set to escalate in 2017

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 387 | Wed 07 Dec 2016

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

by Elizabeth Kendal

Since the 1980s, the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has come less from ideology than from its ability to generate wealth. Consequently, the present economic downturn poses a threat to CCP legitimacy. Analysts have forecast that 2017 will be a particularly difficult year for the CCP, as China is faced with sky-rocketing corporate debt, an increase in bankruptcies, slowing housing, construction and manufacturing sectors and now the prospect that the US will place massive tariffs on Chinese goods. Anticipating escalating social and political unrest, the CCP has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society, including China's rapidly growing Church. [See also: RLPB 379 (12 Oct)]

On 7 August 2014 China's long-disappeared, internationally acclaimed Protestant Christian human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was released from secret 'black jail' detention. Tortured and emaciated, after three years in solitary confinement, Gao struggled to string a sentence together. As was clear to this writer at the time [see RLPB 275 (27 Aug 2014)], in releasing Gao in such a state, the CCP was sending a message that 'this is what happens to those who challenge the CCP!' More than a provocative act, it was also an experiment. If the CCP could do this to the high-profile Gao Zhisheng (52) without consequences, it could do it to anyone. Likewise, the persecution of the Church in Zhejiang, in particular in Wenzhou ('China's Jerusalem'), has been an experiment. If the CCP can remove the Cross and rein in the Church across China's Christian heartland without consequences, it can do it anywhere in China.  

The CCP is cracking down on unregistered (illegal) house churches, while at the same time reining in the State-approved, registered 'Patriotic' churches. As reported in previous RLPBs, several leading CCP-recognised Protestants -- pastors with the CCP-approved Three Self Patriotic Movement and leaders in CCP-approved China Christian Council -- now languish in prison on serious corruption charges, simply for criticising the CCP's religious policy. Meanwhile, leading Christian human rights lawyers have also 'disappeared' into detention.

Cardinal Joseph Zen (84)
On Wednesday 30 November two Chinese Catholic bishops were ordained with joint Beijing-Vatican approval, indicating that CCP-Vatican rapprochement is making headway.  Cardinal Joseph Zen -- the former  Bishop of Hong Kong and the most senior Chinese cleric in the Catholic Church -- has urged the Vatican not to go through with the 'landmark agreement' that would see the Vatican recognise only those bishops already approved by the CCP-approved Catholic Patriotic Movement. Such an agreement would necessitate the Vatican severing ties with the underground Catholic Church, which Zen notes would betray the faithful and fuel repression.

There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August [see RLPB 377 (27 Sept)]; and Jiang Tianyong (believed to have been abducted into secret detention on 21 November) [see RLPB 386 (30 Nov)]. Furthermore, over the weekend of 26-27 November, Chinese security officers raided the Gospel Drug Treatment Church in Guangdong, which specialises in helping people with addictions free of charge, through its Christian rehabilitation centres. Many of its members are former patients whose lives have been transformed by treatment and by the Gospel. Computers and literature were seized and the church's leaders, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, were arrested, presumably for conducting unregistered (illegal) religious activities. Their whereabouts remain unknown.


* the ever-present Spirit of God will minister to Zhang Kai, Jiang Tianyong, Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin, and all other Christian leaders and lawyers presently languishing in Chinese prisons.

 'For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

* the Lord will grant divine wisdom to all Christian figures and Church leaders, local and foreign, seeking to engage or negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party; may their eyes be open to reality and not be deceived; may they walk in obedient faith, trusting only in the Lord.

* the Lord will continue to build his Church in China, refining her, moulding her and sanctifying her in preparation for the day of her freedom.

Pray for China: Psalm 146
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation (v3) ...
[The Lord] executes justice for the oppressed ... The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind ... but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin (from vv 7-9).


Anticipating that economic downturn will result in escalating social and political unrest, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been reviving ideology, bolstering its power and consolidating its control over every element of society. Confident it can commit extreme human rights abuses with impunity, the CCP will doubtless move to persecute the Church into submission nation-wide. Numerous Christian leaders are already in prison, mostly on bogus corruption charges. There is still no word on the whereabouts of Christian human rights lawyers Zhang Kai (re-arrested on 31 August) and Jiang Tianyong (abducted on 21 November). Meanwhile, Hong Kong residents Mr and Mrs Lin Haixin were arrested in late November for running an unregistered Christian rehabilitation ministry in Guangdong. Their whereabouts are unknown. Please pray for China and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RLPB 386. November Update; Incl. Syria, Indonesia, Sudan, Nigeria, China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Vietnam.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 386 | Wed 30 Nov 2016
by Elizabeth Kendal

Please forward this prayer bulletin widely, and encourage others to sign up to the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin blog"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16 NIV)

NOVEMBER 2016 UPDATE -- this month we prayed concerning ...

* ALEPPO, SYRIA (RLPB 382), where the Battle for Aleppo is in its final days. Turkey's invasion and advance in the direction of al-Bab (just 36km from rebel-held eastern Aleppo) has forced the Syrian government's hand.

UPDATE: As the Turkey-backed, al-Qaeda-aligned 'rebels' come under intensive pressure, thousands of Aleppo residents, long-held as human shields, are now escaping eastern Aleppo for the safety of government-held areas. Reports are surfacing of conflict erupting between rebel groups as hardline jihadists seek to stem the exodus of disaffected fighters and civilians. Those who have escaped confirm that rebels have terrorised residents, executing those suspected of disloyalty and keeping snipers posted at all possible exits. Pray this bloodshed will end soon. Pray for the Church in Syria.

* JAKARTA, INDONESIA (RLPB 383), where Islamic clerics have accused Jakarta's incumbent ethnic Chinese Christian Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama of blasphemy in the hope they can prevent him from contesting Jakarta's February 2017 gubernatorial elections.

'Penjarakan Ahok' (imprison Ahok)
UPDATE: Having concluded their investigations, police have named Ahok as a blasphemy suspect, confirming that the case will go to trial. Islamic fundamentalists are now protesting that Ahok has not been arrested and detained as is the normal protocol in blasphemy cases in Indonesia. This is a watershed moment for Indonesia.

For a full analysis see: Indonesia: Ahok's 'Blasphemy',
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 30 Nov 2016

* SUDAN (RLPB 384), where the Islamist and Arabist Government of Sudan (GoS) continues its war on dissent and its persecution of the Church while preparing for a dry season resumption of its genocidal jihad against the African Christians of the Nuba Mountains.

Bishop Max Gassis
Source: CBN,
includes 12 minute interview. 
According to Nuba Reports, some 230,000 Nuba refugees are languishing in the camps of South Sudan, stuck between two horrendous wars: the GoS genocidal jihad in the Nuba Mountains and South Sudan's civil war. With Europe desperate to curb migration, the US desperate for Sudanese intelligence, China and Russia eager to invest and an array of African states keen to normalise relations, the Nuba are being abandoned. Bishop Macram Max Gassis, the emeritus bishop from the El-Obeid diocese in the Nuba mountain area of Sudan, is appealing for international assistance on behalf of the Nuba. He is requesting specifically that Khartoum be pressured to end its aerial bombardment of civilians and allow the entry of humanitarian aid. '[The Nuba] are our brothers and sisters in humanity,' he told Deutsche Welle. 'If we neglect them, we are responsible in front of Almighty God.' May the Lord intervene for his people!

* NIGERIA (RLPB 385), where Christians in ethno-religious fault-line regions -- specifically at this time in southern Kaduna -- face a resurgence of classic Islamic jihad as Fulani Muslim herdsmen and Islamic militants, backed by Muslim political and military figures, work together to displace them and steal their lands.

On Friday 25 November Mile One Village in Tafan District, Jemma Local Government Area (LGA) in Kaduna State's deep south was attacked by 'gunmen' who killed four residents and burned several houses. The residents of Mile One and the surrounding villages of Gidan Waya, Ungwuan Ninzo and Ungwuan Kagoro have all fled. The students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, spent the night hiding in the bush. Neighbouring Pasakori village came under attack a day earlier. Christian leaders lament and have denounced the on-going ethnic cleansing.

On 2 June Bridget Agbahime (74), wife of Pastor Mike Agbahime (pastor of Kano's Deeper Life Bible Church, Northern Nigeria), was beaten to death at her stall in the Kofar Wambai market by an enraged Muslim mob after being falsely accused of blasphemy. According to reports, her accuser had been 'looking to make trouble' for the Agbahimes (who are Christian Igbos from the south) for some time. On Thursday 3 November a Kano court acquitted the five men arrested over the murder, allowing them to walk free. The ruling has horrified Christians. The Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern States and Abuja has appealed to the Attorney General.

NOVEMBER ROUND-UP -- also this month ...


Jiang Tianyoung (source: RFA)
Beijing-based Christian human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (45) disappeared on the evening of Monday 21 November. He had travelled to Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, to meet with relatives of lawyers detained in the July 2015 crackdown. Having already purchased his train ticket, Jiang was due to leave Changsa for Beijing at 10:53pm that night (21 November). His wife Jin Bianling, who fled China with their daughter some years ago, has had no contact with Jiang since 10pm, 21 November, and holds grave fears for his safety. It is feared that Jiang -- who was abducted and tortured for two months in 2011 -- has again been abducted by security officials. One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, Jiang has had numerous high profile clients over the years, including tortured Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng.  May God have mercy! Pray for disappeared Christian lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Zhang Kai. Pray for the Church in China.


Update to RLPB 372 (24 Aug 2016): Praise God that Yusif Farhadov (51), Eldar Gurbanov (48) and Bahram Nasibov (37), three Azeri Christians from Baku, Azerbaijan, who were arrested on 24 June while attending a wedding in Tehran, have been released on bail. After two months of solitary confinement and months of hardship in Evin Prison's Ward 350, the men were released on 29 October. They were allowed to return to Azerbaijan on 6 November after paying the full amount of bail. Middle East Concern reports (7 November): 'They faced charges of engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the regime, but it is hoped that they will be acquitted of these charges.' Praise God for this mercy.


Tohar Haydarov
Source: VOM
Praise God that Christian convert Tohar Haydarov (33) has been released from prison, six years and ten months into his 10-year jail sentence. In early 2010, after local Muslims complained about Haydarov's conversion and witness, Uzbek authorities arrested him, claiming to have 'found drugs' on his property. In March 2010 Haydarov was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Compounding his grief, his Muslim father died -- allegedly of 'accidental electrocution' --  the very day he was due to testify in court in defence of his son's good character. Haydarov was released on parole on 8 November. He has returned to his home in Gulistan, eastern Uzbekistan. His fellow Baptists told Forum 18, 'We are thankful to everybody who prayed for him and sent letters to him while in prison.' However, they request continued prayer for Tohar, anticipating he will face problems; indeed, he has already been warned. Pray for Tohar Haydarov and for the Church in Uzbekistan.


On 18 November Vietnam's new Law on Belief and Religion passed in the National Assembly with 84.58 percent approval. Vietnam's Communist Party-run media hailed it as a great leap forward for religious freedom. Whilst the final text has not yet been made public, it is not expected to differ significantly from previous drafts. The draft Law on Belief and Religion started from the position that religion is a threat to national security and social order, a problem to be micro-managed. In hailing the law's passing, the state-run media noted that, whilst guaranteeing religious freedom for all, the law bans religious activity that could (amongst other things) harm social order and/or national unity, or prevent the performance of civil rights and obligations, or offend the honour of any persons. Such vague and subjective parameters ensure the Communist authorities will have plenty of grounds upon which to repress and persecute religious believers. As is common in much of Asia and Africa, the Church is at the centre not only of humanitarian work but of most pro-democracy and human rights advocacy. Please pray for Vietnam and its Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).