Tuesday, September 14, 2021

RLPB 615. India: Joy and Pain in Bihar's Gaya District.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 615 | Wed 15 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc

INDIA: JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT
by Elizabeth Kendal

click on map to enlarge

In July this year, Gaya District in the north Indian state of Bihar, found itself at the centre of a religious conversion 'scandal' after it was reported that, in Belwadih Village, hundreds of 'Mahadalits' had left Hinduism and converted to Christianity. [The category 'Mahadalit' refers to a conglomerate of over 20 Scheduled Castes. It was established in 2010 by the then Chief Minister of Bihar State to divide the Dalits for political gain. The Mahadalits are Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) and, as such, exist beneath all Hindu castes.] Indian mainstream media reported the story as a case of exploitation of superstitious villagers. As reported in OpIndia.com (17 July): 'Even as states across the country are formulating and implementing laws to curb the menace of religious conversions, a raft of people belonging to the Mahadalit community have abandoned their faith and converted to Christianity in Gaya District's Belwadih Village ... Reports claim the rampant conversions are being carried out under the pretext of curing maladies.' But, reading further, one can only conclude that the Spirit of God is moving in that place.

The story begins with Kewla Devi, a Mahadalit village woman whose chronically ill son was not responding to medical treatment. When someone urged Kewla to seek the help of Christians in adjoining Wajidpur village, Kewla - with nothing to lose - did! The Christians prayed and her son recovered. So remarkable was this miraculous healing that, not only did Kewla and her whole family become followers of Jesus, but so too did around 135 Mahadalit families in Belwadih village. OpIndia reports: 'Some women say that before conversion, children used to disappear or fall off rooftops. But such incidents have stopped since they converted to Christianity.' The new Christians - who no longer use vermilion to mark their foreheads, nor pray to Hindu gods or goddesses - all insist they converted freely of their own will, without any inducement. The investigative reporter from India Ahead expects 'this matter is bound to reverberate in the entire political arena'. Indeed it might! For while the Hindu nationalist BJP made great gains in the October-November 2020 elections, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance only holds power over the pro-secular, left-leaning Grand Alliance by a mere 0.03 percent. If the BJP decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain, then the persecution could well explode.

Gaya: Mahadalit families Convert to Christianity.
India Ahead, 16 July 2021 [4 minutes; first 1:45 in English]

According to local Christians, persecution in Gaya District has been escalating for some time. The media attention on conversions will doubtless make things worse. On 27 July two men confronted Pastor Dhiraj and his wife, Ravita, at their church in Fatehpur township, Gaya District, Bihar State. According to International Christian Concern (3 August), 'The men demanded Pastor Dhiraj and his wife leave the area or they would kill him and demolish his church.' The men returned on 28 July and again on 29 July. Then, on the evening of 29 July, a mob of up to 30 Hindu nationalists descended on the pastor's home and attempted to break in. They climbed onto the church roof and threatened Ravita with weapons. Fortunately, local villagers heard their cries, came to the rescue, and dispelled the mob. Pastor Dhiraj and other church leaders have since met with village leaders and filed a complaint with the police.

On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Kamta village, Gaya District, was walking home when three unidentified men on a motorbike threw flammable liquid on him and set him on fire. Morning Star News (MSN) reports (13 September) that Nitish's family has faced opposition from Hindu extremists since they left Hinduism for Christianity two years ago. According to Nitish's brother, Sanjeet (17), everyone in their church has faced Hindu extremist hostilities. In July rumours spread that Christians would be expelled from the village. Sanjeet told MSN that his four brothers, two sisters, mother and father were Hindus until two years ago, when they put their faith in Christ after his mother was delivered from tormenting spirits following healing prayer by Christians. Family members who were frequently ill also began to enjoy good health after the Christians prayed for them. 'Since we started to believe in Christ two years ago, the evil spirits left my mother, and health was restored in our family,' Sanjeet said. 'We are still poor, but there is happiness in our lives after we started following Jesus ... We continued to go to church despite threats. Even today, after what my brother has gone through, we will not forsake Christ. We will continue to remain faithful until we die.' Suffering burns to 65 percent of his body, with 15 percent deep burns, Nitish is currently fighting for his life. Dr KN Tiwari of the burns unit of Appolo Burn Hospital in Patna, Bihar State, described Nitish's condition as 'very, very critical. His survival chances are low'. After expressing wonder that Nitish was still alive, the doctor touched on the source of our hope saying, 'It is only God's grace that Nitish has pulled through thus far with this extent of burns.' Please pray!

Nitish Kumar (14); burned for following Jesus. Morning Star News. 


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* sustain and bless the Kumar family and all the believers in Kamta village; may the Lord of all mercy provide the Kumar family, as well as Dr Tiwari and all the staff in the burns unit of the Appolo Burn Hospital, with all they need to bring healing to our brother Nitish (14), who was burned for his faith in Jesus. May the hand of the Lord be upon them all, and especially upon the body of Nitish; may those who perpetrated this heinous crime be brought to justice.

* comfort, encourage, protect, and guide Pastor Dhiraj and Ravita and the churches in Fatehpur township; may all threats come to nought; may those who harass, intimidate, and threaten the believers be brought to justice.

* protect and bless the new Christian community in Belwadih village; may the Holy Spirit continue his work in the believers so they might confound their enemies by continuing to grow in grace, truth, love and unity; may all efforts to destroy this community be thwarted -

'And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ' (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

- and may media reports intended to demean and vilify Christians and Christianity achieve the exact opposite. 

SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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JOY AND PAIN IN BIHAR'S GAYA DISTRICT, INDIA

Persecution is escalating in Bihar's Gaya District. The situation might soon worsen if the Hindu nationalist BJP - which rules in coalition with the slimmest of margins - decides to stoke sectarian tensions for political gain. In mid-July, Indian media reported unfavourably that some 135 Dalit families had left Hinduism to follow Jesus in Belwadih village. From 27 to 29 July Hindu nationalists threatened Pastor Dhiraj and his wife Ravita, who lead a church in Fatehpur township. The threats culminated in a mob attack, from which locals rescued them. On 11 August Nitish Kumar (14) of Katma village was walking home when unidentified men threw flammable liquid over him and set him on fire. The family has been persecuted since becoming Christians two years ago. Nitish is currently fighting for life. Please pray.

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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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

RLPB 614. China: The CCP versus Christian Education

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 613 | Wed 08 Sep 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

Subscribe (free) or view archives at: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) blog. The RLPB is sponsored by Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. 

CHINA: THE CCP versus CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
by Elizabeth Kendal

In evicting a community of young homeschooling families - all members of Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church - from their rented homes, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has demonstrated that it is prepared to escalate its persecution of non-compliant Christians to a whole new level. Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) has been targeted for severe punitive persecution since May 2018 when it criticised the CCP's new Religious Affairs Regulations and vowed to resist, declaring: 'The highest law of the Christian is the Bible. Any law that contradicts the Bible we will disobey by non-violent methods.' The ERCC disobeys unacceptable CCP laws by continuing to gather for worship, prayer and Bible study while unregistered; and by continuing to witness openly and teach youths under 18 years of age, despite all this being illegal. It also has encouraged like-minded churches to 'embrace civil disobedience' and do the same [see RLPB 483, The CCP's War on Religion Heats Up, 12 Dec 2018].

Chinese Young Pioneers: children are urged to
'have a firm faith to follow the Party from a young age'. 
 Global Times, 1 June 2021 (photo: Xinhua).

For ERCC and fellow non-compliant churches, the cost of discipleship has been high indeed. The evictions, however, may be about more than membership of ERCC. The punitive action may well have been triggered by the fact that these young families were known to be home-schooling their children together. The evictions coincide with a new CCP campaign to re-fashion Chinese culture by stripping it of corrupting Western influences and infusing it with 'Xi Jinping thought'. Some have labelled it 'Cultural Revolution 2.0'. Integral to the campaign is a focus on capturing and controlling the hearts and minds of Chinese youths. China's Compulsory Education Law makes it illegal to homeschool or to operate sishu (private, unregistered schools). Article 2 defines 'compulsory education' as 'the education that all school-age children and adolescents must receive uniformly implemented by the state...' Despite this, education outside of the CCP system has been growing in recent decades as Chinese parents remove their children from the high pressure, exam-orientated, highly ideological, one-size-fits-all system where membership of the CCP's Chinese Young Pioneers (where children are taught to love and serve the Party) is mandatory. With the CCP now moving to reverse this trend, the days of tolerance are probably over.

Shu Qiong (left, holding child) appeals
to passers-by. Chengdu, 2 September 2021.
(China Aid Association)

On Wednesday 1 September - the first day of the new school year - officials, police and a large group claiming to be landlords, approached ERCC member families in Jiaoda Garden residential compound in Chendu's Wuhou district. Individuals wearing red armbands told the believers: 'On behalf of all homeowners of the community, we want to tell you that Christians are not welcomed here.' The next day, sister Shu Qiong was driving home at 4pm when she was stopped at the compound gate by police officers who asked her, 'Are you a Christian?' 'Yes,' Shu replied, 'I am a follower of Jesus Christ.' When the police officers told her, 'That is not allowed here', Shu appealed to passers-by: 'I am a follower of Jesus Christ,' she said. 'Everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life in Him. We have no religious freedom in China. These police officers will not allow me to go home because of my Christian belief.' Later sister Sun, who is pregnant, was also stopped at the gate. [Three years ago -- during the violent raids of December 2018 -- Sun hemorrhaged and miscarried at the hands of Chengdu police.] When brother Li Ying questioned the legality of the police officers' actions, he was arrested, forcibly transported to the police station and charged with 'obstruction of law enforcement'. The Christian families, who occupy seven units within the compound, were given three days to evacuate their homes.

China Aid Association also reports that on 4 September, some 30 religious affairs officials, police and SWAT officers raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province; a school dedicated to cultivating Christian musicians, specifically for ministry. Having already arrested Principal Xu, the authorities proceeded to confiscate the school's pianos, computers and documents. They also detained the students for 24 hours. Teachers expect to be summoned and interrogated. A day before the raid, Principal Xu told staff that police officers had called his landlord, and he advised staff to prepare for 'the test' (i.e. a spiritual test/trial). The school has appealed for prayer.

Elsewhere across China, children have started the school year with new textbooks and a new curriculum infused with 'Xi Jinping thought', as the 'Communist Party aims to extend his personality cult to children as young as seven and rear a new generation of patriots...' Teachers have been instructed to 'plant the seeds of loving the party, the country and socialism in young hearts.' As observers note, the introduction of a new curriculum incorporating 'Xi Jinping thought' comes as 'the CCP conducts a wider campaign to fight what it considers corrupting influences on the youth, from video games to celebrities and foreign educational tools'. Wang Dan, a US-based Chinese activist, expressed alarm: 'If this is not Cultural Revolution, what is it?' he asks. 'We have cried wolf about the re-emergence of the Cultural Revolution for many years. Now the wolf has come.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:

* comfort and bless the Early Rain Covenant Church members who have been evicted from their homes because of their faith and uncompromising discipleship; may the Lord provide their every need.

* protect, comfort, and bless Principal Xu and all the staff and students of Maizi Christian Music High School; may the school secure the lawyer of the Lord's choosing; may all the school's property be returned.

* abundantly bless China's faithful believers with all the wisdom, grace and strength they will need to endure and to navigate these difficult and testing times.

Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress (Isaiah 33:2 NIV).

Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm!… Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity!… For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2: 9,12,14 ESV).


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY versus CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

On 1 September children across China started the new school year with new textbooks and a new curriculum infused with 'Xi Jinping thought'. The new curriculum is part of a CCP campaign that many are calling 'Cultural Revolution 2.0'. Integral to the campaign is a focus on capturing and controlling the hearts and minds of youth, to ensure they grow to love and follow the CCP. China's Compulsory Education Law makes it illegal to home-school or to operate unregistered schools. On 1 September eviction notices were served to several families - all members of Early Rain Covenant Church, Chengdu - who live across seven units in a residential compound and home-school their children together. On 4 September police raided Maizi Christian Music High School in Harbin, confiscating equipment and arresting Principal Xu. Please pray.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc (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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com