Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Persecution in Azerbaijan, Sudan, Vietnam, Syria

AZERBAIJAN - Police in Azerbaijan have threatened six Christians with criminal prosecution for sharing their beliefs with others and handing out religious literature. In Azerbaijan, all religious activity without state permission is illegal. Religious literature can only be given away or sold if it has passed through compulsory state censorship and only then in specialized state-approved shops. Heavy punishments are imposed for breaking these restrictions. 

Three were detained May 17 and their car confiscated along with Christian literature, three more on June 23. Thank the Lord for these believers’ faithfulness. Ask Him to strengthen their faith and keep them from facing charges or fines. Pray that their passion for Christ will draw others to Jesus (Matt 5:14-16). Source: Forum18 News; VOM

SUDAN - Authorities in Khartoum, Sudan, demolished two church buildings on June 18, just days after confiscating three Christian schools. Church leaders said persecution is intensifying after the secession of the new largely Christian nation of South Sudan in July 2011. Authorities claim that Christian-operated schools are unwelcome and unnecessary in largely Muslim Sudan. However, Christian leaders believe that these schools continue to meet a clear need. 

Pray that Sudan will allow all church property to continue being used for its intended purposes. Pray that church leaders will know the Spirit's guidance and wisdom at this time. Pray that those opposing the Church in Sudan will know Christ's love, forgiveness and blessing through the lives of Christians (Rom 12:14, 21). Source: Compass Direct News; VOM

A typical Hmong house-building technique in th...
A typical Hmong house-building technique in the tropical climate of Vietnam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
VIETNAM - Vietnamese officials in Dien Bien Province destroyed two new church buildings belonging to ethnic minority Hmong Christians and threatened to tear down a third. On June 13, authorities destroyed Phan Ho Church of the registered Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North). 

On June 17 the Ho He Church, erected only in April by the unregistered Vietnam Good News Mission, was demolished. Officials also threatened Cong Church (Vietnam Good News Mission) with demolition. In the last 20 years, a great awakening has occurred among the Hmong people in Vietnam's northwest mountains, growing from virtually nothing to 400,000 believers. The Hmong Christians remain under heavy government suspicion, are regularly harassed, and persecuted. 

Despite hundreds of congregations trying to register with the government, over half of Vietnam's Protestants remain unregistered because officials simply refuse to accept the applications. Others are told they cannot register because they are illegal or because there are no Christians where they live. Pray the Lord will encourage the faith of these believers, particularly the church leaders. Pray that God will soften the hearts of those opposing Hmong Christians in Vietnam. Source: Compass Direct; VOM

SYRIA ― As Syria continues to disintegrate into civil conflict, believers continue to share Gospel CD's, baptizing new believers, and delivering food and medical aid to suffering Christians in Syria while violence rages around them. 

"Right now there is no food or medicine left,” said a Lebanese missionary who crossed the border into Syria in June. “The economy has come to a standstill, and there is no work." Many Christians are sick and starving, along with other minorities (the Bedouins and Gypsies). 

"This has been one of the longest weeks of my life," the missionary said. "To visit Syria, I had to sneak in through the mountains and not go by normal roads. I went there to baptize a new believer, but instead I had to bury him. I led him to Christ two years ago. He was a key helper in the ministry. He was shot in the head. Why? Because he had become a Christian. Now revenge is taking place."

The slain Christian had been witnessing to many friends and neighbors and had led a growing house church that met in his home with 43 other believers. He was actively involved in delivering aid to some 600 Syrian Christians in his area. 

"Lots of people came to the funeral. In the beginning, I did not know how to start the service. Then I decided to share some letters of encouragement from the churches. I invited several of the believers to read in front of the meeting. They were so encouraged to know that they are not alone. By the time we were done, there were tears of joy instead of sadness. As it says in the Word, when one member suffers, all suffer."

The Lebanese leader of the mission is preparing now to go back to Syria with Bibles, CD's, food and medicine, praying for God to supply the needs in Syria. Pray for about 80 food packages and a small amount of cash ($150 per family); about $6000 for emergency surgeries, medicines and basic medical supplies; 2000 Arabic New Testaments at $4 each; and 20,000 Gospel CDs at $1.70 each.  

"Yesterday," he said, "I was harassed by local authorities. "You know what this tells me? Simply that I am doing the right thing. I feel every time we move forward, Satan tries to stop us. That is why I want to continue-- especially now when we have more people coming to Christ and being baptized. I will not stop until I am with Jesus." 

Lebanese Christians are ministering on both sides of the border with Syria, welcoming refugees into their homes and church buildings at considerable risk. Lebanese believers are trying to help with basic needs such as food, housing, and medicine as funds permit. Rent for a refugee family can run as high as $800 a month. 

Syrian believers are being helped by Christian Aid Mission (800-977-5650;;  Gift Code 400REF). Source: Mission Network News