Tuesday, July 21, 2015

RLPB 319. China & Laos: 'Remember those in prison . . .'

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 319 | Wed 22 Jul 2015

By Elizabeth Kendal

China and Laos are at once very alike and very different. Politically, both are Communist Party ruled and totalitarian. Geographically and economically, China is a seemingly untouchable rising giant while landlocked Laos is one of the poorest and neediest countries in the world. In China, Christians exist in significant numbers (at least 7.8 percent of the population) and at every level of society. Aided by numerous Chinese Christians in the West, China's persecuted Christians will never be 'invisible' or 'voiceless'. On the other hand, Christians in Laos comprise only 3.4 percent of the population and most are tribal. Consequently, persecuted Christians in Laos are amongst the most 'invisible' and 'voiceless' of all persecuted Christians.

The CCP versus the Cross
9 June 2015
source: China Aid
For decades now, Western politicians have subscribed to the belief that poor human rights are a consequence of poverty and backwardness. To this end, the West has focused almost exclusively on economic development in the belief that human rights will follow naturally. This is essentially a theological error. Human rights abuses arise not from without (poverty and backwardness) but from within: from sin (especially greed and megalomania); from the belief that human life is of little value; and from the arrogance that rejects God and boasts, 'You [God] will not call to account' (Psalm 10). Economic development has not brought rights in China, it is not bringing rights in Vietnam and it will not bring rights to Laos. As requested by the Lao Movement for Human Rights (November 2014), 'International donors should make their future aid commitments to Laos contingent upon the government's tangible progress in addressing key human rights issues.' Above all, the Church should pray.

CHINA: As the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wields its new National Security Law [see RLPB 318 (15 July)] the number of human rights lawyers and Christian leaders in prison will escalate. As noted in RLPB 275 (25 Aug 2014) when the CCP released Christian human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng on 7 August 2014, it was telling human rights lawyers, 'Not only are we prepared to torture and destroy you, but we are so confident of impunity that we no longer need to hide it.' Of the more than 230 prominent human rights lawyers harassed and detained over the past 10 days, 13 are being held incommunicado and six have 'disappeared'. As Human Rights Watch cautions, the risk of torture is high. Some have already 'confessed' to being members of a 'criminal gang'. 

Zhang Kai
Pastor Zhang Shaojie (RLPB 275), church leader Ms Yang Rongli and Uyghur house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti are amongst numerous pastors and Christian leaders currently detained in China. They have been arrested for protesting the illegal acquisition of church land, for appealing about being labelled a 'cult', or for resisting the forced removal of crosses. On 14 July, amidst the massive nation-wide crackdown on human rights lawyers, a group of Christian human rights lawyers, led by attorney Zhang Kai, announced the formation of the 'Lawyers for Protection of the Cross' group.  According to China Aid, these lawyers have declared their willingness to pay any price for their beliefs.

LAOS:  Several church leaders are currently languishing in appalling conditions in Laotian prisons.  Amongst them are pastors (Mrs) Kaithong, Puphet, Muk and Hasadee, as well as lay-leader Tiang [RLPB 298 (25 Feb 2015)].  These church leaders had prayed with a terminally ill Christian lady who later died. The authorities then arrested the Christians and charged them with her murder. Subsequently the church leaders were found guilty of practising medicine without a licence. This ruling that equates prayer with medicine will have profound implications for the Church in Laos. After their lawyer filed an appeal in March, the prisoners' families were threatened with their loved-ones' prison time being extended. Torture is routine in Laos prisons and prisoners are routinely held in stocks

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them ...' (Hebrews 13:3a ESV)


* Christians and human rights lawyers imprisoned in China, where risk of torture is high; may they look to the Lord for absolutely everything they need and may God restrain violent hands and pierce hardened consciences.

* the courageous Christian human rights lawyers of the 'Lawyers for Protection of the Cross' group, especially for Zhang Kai, its leader; may their courageous efforts not be in vain and may God bless everything they do as they put their liberty and their bodies on the line in defence of the Cross. 

* Christians imprisoned in truly appalling conditions in Laos where torture is endemic; may they look to the Lord for absolutely everything they need and may God restrain violent hands and pierce hardened consciences.

* God the sovereign king to intervene in seemingly untouchable China and desperately needy Laos; may the Lord Jesus Christ continue to build his Church and may the Holy Spirit sustain, comfort, encourage and strengthen his vulnerable, threatened and persecuted people.

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China and Laos are very alike and very different. Whilst both are totalitarian and Communist Party ruled, China is a seemingly untouchable rising giant and landlocked Laos is one of the poorest and neediest countries worldwide. Not only are numerous Christian leaders and human rights lawyers already incarcerated in China, that number is about to rise markedly as the Chinese Communist Party asserts its authority in a nationwide crackdown. Furthermore, the risk of torture is higher now than it has been for some time. Meanwhile in landlocked Laos, persecuted Lao Christians are amongst the most 'invisible' and 'voiceless' persecuted people in the world. Several Lao Christian leaders are currently languishing in appalling prisons where torture is routine.  Please pray for China and Laos and for Christians imprisoned there. (Hebrews 13:3)


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).