Tag Archives: persecution

Freedom begins within oppression: building a church in North Sumatra

The hardest thing in the world is to practice freedom where there are few (if any) freedoms allowed by the ruling class.

Compass Direct New reports:

Jakarta — Muslim extremists and local government authorities last week threatened to tear down a church building under construction in North Sumatra even though church leaders met requirements of Indonesia’s draconian law on worship places, the church’s pastor said. Emboldened by local authorities’ unwillingness to grant a church building permit to Protestant Bataks Christian Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, or HKBP), some 100 Muslim extremists accompanied by government officials on April 29 tried to destroy the building under construction in Jati Makmur village, North Binjai, 22 kilometers (14 miles) from the provincial capital of Medan. The Rev. Monang Silaban, HKBP pastor, said about 100 members of the Islamic extremist Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defender Front), some armed with “sharp weapons,” arrived at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by Binjai municipal officials, who brought a bulldozer. Police met with church and Muslim extremist group leaders following the confrontation and reached an agreement that construction on the building would cease until the permit is approved – something that hasn’t happened in the two years since HKBP applied.

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Former North Korean agents infiltrated prayer meetings

Former police and security officers in North Korea told a U.S. government body that their superiors had instructed them to play the role of Christians and infiltrate “underground” prayer meetings in order to incriminate, arrest, imprison and sometimes execute believers in North Korea. Interviewed for a report issued on April 15 by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the six officers were tasked – before they fled North Korea – with finding and eliminating small groups of Christians. “There are no preliminary hearings when religious people get caught,” one agent said. “[We] regard them as anti-revolutionary elements. When such an offender is caught in North Korea, the NSA officers surround the person and kick and beat the person severely before interrogating.” Another agent said, “The most important question asked to the repatriated is whether they have met South Korean missionaries or evangelists or encountered or experienced religion. If they confess that they have met missionaries or deacons…then without any further questions, they will be sent to the NSA and they are as good as dead.”

-Sarah Page of our affiliate, Compass Direct News

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Commission on religious liberty reveals North Korea’s systematic persecution of Christians

In a report released this month by a U.S. government body, refugee testimonies confirm severe persecution of Christians throughout North Korea.

In the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s report, refugees said that Christianity remained a key factor in the interrogation of people repatriated from China to North Korea.

Border guards reserved the harshest punishment for those who admitted having any contact with Chinese or South Korean Christians. The report, released April 15, found that consequences are harsh for those found violating state policies on religion.

“For example, recently many North Korean refugees have Bibles with them when they are repatriated,” one refugee said. “If you get caught carrying a Bible, there is no way to save your life.”

Refugees interviewed said that punishment for owning a Bible could include execution and the imprisonment of “three generations” of the owner’s family.

Compass Direct News, our affiliate news service

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Vietnam’s insane approach to human rights and religious liberty

An unprecedented prayer appeal by the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) indicates that the government has stonewalled quiet, persistent attempts to obtain redress on confiscated church properties, interference in church affairs, and discrimination against Christians. Addressed to “The Church of God Everywhere,” the March 28 letter from the Executive Committee of the ECVN(S) followed several ultimatums in which the church threatened “collective action” and still did not obtain serious dialogue with authorities. It is uncommon for the ECVN(S) — which received full legal recognition in April 2001 and is Vietnam’s largest Protestant Church — to go public on such matters. The church leaders’ letter said some of 265 properties confiscated had been turned to other uses, some simply left to fall into disrepair and others demolished. The demolition of two church buildings, one in Ben Cat and the other in Go Vap, Ho Chi Minh City, occurred last year, and authorities also destroyed two Bible schools in the Central Highlands after legal recognition of the church in 2001.

-Compass Direct News, our affiliate news service

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Chinese authorities re-arrest Christian bookstore owner

A bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to “insufficient evidence.” Shi Weihan, a 37-year-old father of two, was re-arrested on March 19 and has been held without any family visits allowed, according to his wife Zhang Jing. Shi was first arrested on November 28, 2007, and held until January 4. His wife said she had received no word on her husband’s condition, and she has been prohibited from bringing him any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest. Zhang said she is “very concerned” about her husband’s health, as he has diabetes. Public Security Bureau officials have been known to use deprivation and torture to force detainees to reveal information about others. Another bookstore owner, Zhou Heng, was arrested and detained in Xinjiang province on August 3, 2007 for receiving a shipment of Bibles. Zhou revealed last week that he had been cleared of charges and released from prison on February 19.

-Compass Direct News, our affiliate news service

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Algerian court violates U.N. Declaration of Human Rights; religious expression forbidden

An Algerian Christian was handed a two-year suspended sentence for “proselytism” Wednesday amid an ongoing government crackdown on 26 of Algeria’s 50 Protestant congregations, a church leader said.

A court in Tiaret, 150 miles southwest of Algiers, delivered the written verdict yesterday after convicting the Christian on April 2, said Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA). Prosecution of “proselytism” violates Article 18 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the inherent right to publicly manifest one’s faith.

The Christian, who requested anonymity, plans to appeal the two-year suspended sentence and a 100,000 (US$1,540) dinar fine, Krim said. Because it is suspended, the man will not have to serve his jail term unless he commits a repeat offense.

According to Krim, authorities brought charges against the man after he reluctantly gave a Bible to an undercover police officer who posed as someone interested in Christianity and insisted that he needed one.

Police have detained several other Christians in past weeks, apparently part of an effort to implement stringent regulations put in place two years ago to govern non-Muslim places of worship.

In addition to restricting church buildings and worship locations, the 2006 religion law also bans attempts to “shake the faith of a Muslim.”

“If you take this law to the extreme, it means that carrying more than one Bible is illegal,” said one long-time resident of Algeria who requested anonymity.

On March 29 police detained a Christian woman for 24 hours when they discovered she was carrying six books about Christianity during a routine check on the outskirts of Tiaret. Christian sources reported that she is scheduled to appear before a judge on May 7.

Two Christian men traveling by public bus from Tizi Ouzou to Bjaia on the evening of March 21 also were detained by police after they were found with 11 Bibles. The men were held for 24 hours and then released.

Authorities in Algeria have accelerated church closures, with half of the country’s Protestant congregations now ordered to cease all activity, Christian support organization Open Doors reported Thursday.

The Holland-based organization reported that 26 congregations have now been give orders to close. At least 16 belong to the EPA, which counts 32 members, while another 10 are from approximately 20 small independent house groups that exist around the country.

During an interview on national television on March 30, Religious Affairs Minister Bu’Abdallah Ghoulamullah claimed to be closing churches for not functioning “according to the law.” He said that the churches would be allowed to reopen after conforming to government regulations.

But several congregations report that they have decided to reopen their doors after multiple attempts to meet official regulations have failed to produce government approval.

“We have done everything, and we are conformed to what the religious minister said, and the provincial governor,” said one member of the Full Gospel church in south Tizi-Ouzou. “The result is nothing for the moment.”

The congregation has continued meetings despite an order to close their doors last month, prompting a visit from local police during their weekly meeting last Friday (April 4).

Seven policemen and a policewoman approached the church pastor at the end of the service at 1 p.m. to deliver written notice for the Christians to cease all activity. The officers apologized for interrupting the individual prayer that the pastor and other elders were carrying out for members of the 400 Christians in attendance but re-ordered the church to close down.

The head pastor immediately went to the local police station and explained why the congregation had decided to continue meeting. Police noted the explanation and again told the pastor to cease all activity before letting him go.

Other churches have faced similar difficulties in obtaining government approval for their activities.

“There was another church who went 11 times to the provincial governor and each time he sent them to get this paper or that paper, and so on,” a member of the Full Gospel church said.

-Peter Lamprecht, Compass Direct News

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Funeral mass for Iraqi Archbishop

As we reported yesterday with the help of our affiliate Compass Direct News, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulus Faraj Rahho, was found dead Thursday, two weeks after he was kidnapped.

Mourners attended a two-hour funeral mass today.

During the mass, “The patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic church, Emmanuel III Delly, tearfully urged Christians on Friday not to seek revenge for the death of the archbishop of Mosul, whose body was found in a shallow grave two weeks after being kidnapped,” reported AFP in this article.

The BBC has a brief story here.

Reuters UK has more details here.

Chaldean Christians belong to a branch of the Roman Catholic Church. An estimated 800,000 Chaldean Christians live in Iraq.