Persecution and Prayer Alert, Voice of the Martyrs
UZBEKISTAN: Christians Fined for Singing and Reading Bibles on Holiday
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Uzbekistan continues to raid people exercising freedom of religion or belief without state permission. On December 1st, police raided a group of about 80 Protestants who were on holiday together at the Simurg (Phoenix) resort in the Bostanlyk District of Tashkent Region. Charges under six different articles of the Code of Administrative Offences have been brought against four of the group who were meeting together to discuss their faith and sing Christian songs. During the raid, three Bibles and 100 Christian songbooks were confiscated. Witnesses say police “insulted the believers with abusive words…and threatened that they could bring criminal charges against the believers unless they wrote statements.” Fingerprints were taken of all present.
When asked why the authorities would punish people whose only “offence” was to read their Bibles and sing Christian songs on holiday, a police representative stated that people “must do it only in registered places specifically set up for religious purposes.” The officer then declined to comment further on why police violate the right to freedom of religion or belief. “I am not authorized to give more comments,” he said.
In November, three Protestants were fined sums of between 20 and 100 times the minimum monthly wage for meeting together, reading their Bibles, singing Christian songs, praying and possessing religious books. All of these books, including Bibles, were ordered to be destroyed. For more on how Uzbekistan’s political system is oppressing Christians, go to the Uzbekistan Country Report. You may also want to read how it has affected the lives of other believers: click here for more information.
As Canadian believers in a country founded on Christian principles, may we never take for granted the privileges of being able to freely read the Bible, meet with fellow Christians, and sing songs of praise and worship – without concern of police arrest, heavy fines or imprisonment. Pray that the Church in Uzbekistan will one day be able to experience such blessings. Ask the Lord to place God-fearing leaders in all levels of government and, as a result, bring about positive change to the country’s legislature concerning freedom of religion. In the meantime, pray that these believers will be strengthened and encouraged to keep living for Jesus.
BELARUS (Update): Church Thrilled Over Cancellation of Eviction
The eviction of the New Life Pentecostal Church from its building in the Belarusian capital Minsk (scheduled to take place the morning of December 5th) was thankfully called off at the last minute. “There will be no eviction,” announced Olga Shcherbovich, the court executor who signed the eviction notice against New Life. “There was a document, there was action; the document was withdrawn, the action stopped.”
New Life presently meets in a former cow barn it bought and renovated back in 2002, but the authorities had never legalized its use and have been trying to evict the Church for a decade. (To learn more about the situation, click here.) Considering that the land and building still legally belong to the authorities, New Life’s administrator Vitaly Antonchikov is concerned that they may seek to evict the church sometime in the future. But for now, the congregation is overjoyed and celebrated the good news with a thanksgiving service during the evening of December 5th, instead of gathering at the appointed eviction hour scheduled earlier that same day. They also wrote a letter of thanks to the authorities for this decision.
First of all, let us rejoice with our Christian family there in Belarus – giving thanks to our wonderful Lord for intervening on behalf of their seemingly hopeless situation. May He continue to do great exploits on behalf of these faithful worshippers as they have endured several legal challenges over the years. Pray that this congregation will continue to experience God’s favour with the governmental authorities and that His work will thrive in their community. May He touch the hearts of those in authority that they, too, may know the “Christ” of “Christmas.”
PHILIPPINES: Island Invasion Causes Massive Destruction and Loss/h3>
In an area of the southern Philippines, Christians are suffering severe persecution at the hands of rebels who are determined to introduce Islamic law there. Those living on the island of Mindanao have been forced off their land, maliciously attacked and even killed. One bishop related how he had immediately evacuated his village when news came of an imminent raid. Terrified villagers hid behind rocks by the coast as they helplessly watched 300 rebels invade the island by boat from other islands. On their return to the village, they discovered that a family of five (that of a church elder) had not managed to escape and had been brutally murdered, including their baby. Homes and other property had been destroyed.Even though political negotiations are presently taking place between the Filipino government and Muslim leaders about the creation of a new semi-autonomous region, the rebels are operating as if Islamic law is already in effect. Just this past October, a preliminary peace accord was signed agreeing to the formation of the Bangsamoro region in 2016. Yet it’s possible that a final accord could be officiated by the end of the year. Christians fear this action will only intensify the persecution, thus forcing them completely out of the area in the very near future. Already attacks on their property are common occurrences and several of their churches have been stoned or burned down. For an overview and past VOM reports, check the Philippines Country Report.Pray that the Lord will mightily intervene on behalf of this victimized Christian community, bringing greatly needed protection and aid, as well as the ‘peace that transcends all understanding.’ May He heal their bodies, renew their minds, restore their community and build their faith so they can stand firm amid this persecution. Concerning their political situation, pray that the government negotiations will safeguard their rights as a community.
INDONESIA: Testimony of Female Prisoner Who Was Set Free
Former Bible college student Ribur and her Christian friend Roy were arrested on May 29th, 2012, and three days later, were charged with abusing Islam. Their arrest took place after being captured and attacked by a mob of villagers in Aceh (located near Sumatra), where Ribur began meeting weekly with a family of believers and reaching out to the Muslim community there. While at the village just prior to the arrest, a crowd of people suddenly gathered around the two visitors and began beating them, also lashing at them with a cattle whip. Further interrogations by the village leader resulted in more accusatory questions and beatings. Ribur prayed that the Holy Spirit would give her the strength to stand strong and testify to the truth. (To obtain a better understanding of the challenges faced by Christians in Indonesia check the Indonesia Country Report.)
During her subsequent 60 days of solitary confinement, Ribur was able to read the Bible and pray. Someone unexpected took notice. A prison guard told her it was the first time they had seen how a Christian prayed and read the Bible. Since the authorities couldn’t find any evidence against Ribur and Roy, they were let go. “After I was released,” Ribur testifies with gratitude, “I felt that the same God who helped me in the prison was helping me still.” Though the team’s work in Aceh is on hold for now, she continues to serve her local church and still dreams of planting churches in Sumatra.
May the Lord grant Ribur ‘the desires of her heart’ to continue reaching out to others with the Gospel message of Jesus by opening doors of opportunity for her to minister in Sumatra. In the meantime, pray that He will prepare the hearts of people there so they will be receptive to the good news of His eternal salvation. Also pray for continued blessings on Ribur and Roy, and their ministry team, for their faithfulness to the call even during difficult circumstances.