Bangladeshi Christians in peaceful protest
Barnabas Fund, 10 November 2020
Bangladeshi Christians, and other minority groups, took to the streets of Dhaka in a 500-strong peaceful protest march on 7 November against relentless Islamist extremist attacks on minority communities.
At least 17 people from ethnic and religious minority communities were killed between March and September this year, with attacks continuing throughout the Covid crisis.
The protesters say that the Islamist attacks against minority communities ‘‘hurt religious feelings’’, and minority leaders claimed that “the government failed to protect them’’.
A placard stating, ‘‘Stop Using Facebook for Community Attack” highlighted the role of social media in persecution-related incidents.
The 1% Christian minority has typically enjoyed greater religious freedom in Bangladesh than in other Muslim-majority countries but violence against Christians, particularly in rural areas, has been growing, with those active in evangelism and converts from Islam particularly targeted.
Jacksons – November Update 2
Give thanks for the effect last week’s Restorative Justice for Parolees course has already had. Many who said at the start that they had things sorted out admitted by the end of the week that they had learned a lot. Pray that they will act upon the effect of their actions on others.
One man returned stolen goods to a woman and apologised, admitting to the group that it had been very difficult but he felt as if a weight was off him. We had talked about victims and he just couldn’t sleep for thinking about what he’d done and the pain caused and was glad to be able to make it right.
Another participant brought a bag mobile phones he had robbed from people on a train four years earlier but now wanted to give back. The course is unashamedly based on Christian principles.
Fraser is working out possible avenues to get a NetACT group account with a major online theological e-book supplier – a long way out of Fraser’s comfort zone!
A huge backlog of official paperwork in the church we attend in Wellington must be regularised before a full-time minister can be called. A lot of the work falls to Fraser.
Finding jobs are more difficult with Covid-19 now at 10,000 new cases a day. Alix has had one anger counselling online session. Cipri has found a job but needs more health testing first. André should start soon.
Istvan’s return to the Centre is on hold till he displays more motivation. Daniel is doing well. Marian is making progress with a loan approval for flat of his own.
The re-development of Blythswood’s depot now awaits final approval from the local mayor.
Schools are still closed, a full lockdown is possible in Cluj.
Adi’s drivers are now clear of Covid-19 and back at work.
Adi is uncharacteristically demoralised at the moment because of a bureaucratic impasse in re-licensing TK1 and TK2 which could undermine their application for EU funds for running costs for TKs 1-4 submitted last August.
Sri Lankan pastor threatened by police and monks
Barnabas Fund, 26 October 2020
A Sri Lankan pastor has been forced to stop his ministry after being threatened and intimidated by police and Buddhist monks.
Police visited the pastor on the morning of 18 October and ordered him to report immediately to the local police station.
Obeying the instructions, the pastor went to the police station where he was taken to an office crowded with monks, who issued a series of threats against him. The monks also had the church attendance list in their possession.
The church has endured similar intimidation tactics over the previous five years and prayers are requested for the church, the pastor and his congregation.
Christians make up eight percent of the population of Sri Lanka, but face frequent persecution and local opposition, which is often led by Buddhist monks.
In February 2020, three Christians needed hospital treatment after they were ambushed and attacked by a 50-strong extremist mob, led by three Buddhist monks.
NetACT has to decide whether to spread a grant from a major Christian charity in America across all their partner colleges or concentrate on a few colleges which have realistic project proposals in place. Donald Garvie in Jos has asked Fraser to help with hosting and setting up their online catalogue. Fraser is also exploring the possibility of getting a NetACT group account with one of the major online theological e-book suppliers.
Dawn finally got back into prison and had to lead the sessions at short notice. Fewer are allowed to the Bible studies but it means we can have more of a discussion than a class. The last 9 months have been tough but covid19 never took hold in Drakenstein. It can’t be a coincidence that many have been praying. There was a hunger amongst inmates for the “spiritual workers” to be allowed back in.
The prison staff are looking worn down. Pray for them, especially the chaplains Mr van Dyck and Mr Pekeur.
30 candidates have to be whittled down to about 18 for the Parolees Restorative Justice course. Pray for insight and discernment for the Hope Prison Ministry staff, that any incipient weak spots will be identified swiftly and dealt with in a God-honouring manner and that the participants will be committed to the week and arrive on time each day.
In November 2017, the Western Cape was suffering from a severe drought. There was a lot of prayer. Now the reservoirs are full. It’s important to connect the dots and give thanks!
Alix would now like to receive anger counselling before he can find a place to rent for himself. Cipri has developed a fever and was to be tested for Covid-19 on Tuesday morning. André, who shares a unit with him in the Centre is finding it hard to self-isolate.
Istvan wants to come back to the Centre and Dani will interview him. Daniel is doing well in combining studies with work. Marian, who works in a car tyre centre, is working through the loan approval process to buy his own flat on a mortgage.
The architect is suggesting that Blythswood’s depot building should be only partially demolished to avoid damaging neighbouring properties.
Covid-19 cases are now at 5000 a day in Romania compared with 500 a day in May. Schools are closed, some towns are quarantined and a 10 p.m. curfew is in place.
3 of Adi’s staff drivers have gone down with Covid-a9 but are now recovering. This has obliged Adi to drive to Austria himself to pick up textile supplies for the Blythswood shops in Jimboliya.
The original surveyor’s estimate for building TK3 and TK4 was not his mistake but was over-ridden when the structural engineer made a later more detailed estimate.
They are now waiting for the result of their application for EU funds for running costs for TKs 1-4 submitted last August before deciding how to proceed with the TK3 and TK4 project.
Christian couple face “apostate” Somaliland trial
Barnabas Fund, 13 October 2020
A Christian couple detained for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity” in Muslim-majority Somaliland are to have their case forwarded to court. Police arrested the couple, who have three children, on 21 September after finding Christian material at their home.
A police colonel threatened that “whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy”.
The couple’s arrest and detention caused great concern among the small Christian community in Somaliland and many believers are reported to have fled abroad.
Islam is the official religion of Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Its constitution states that individuals have the right to freedom of belief. However, the constitution also prohibits Muslims from converting to another religion, bars the propagation of any religion other than Islam and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia (Islamic law).
The Restorative Justice course in Allandale prison should have already started but has been postponed until next week – it may be cancelled altogether because stricter lockdown levels for prisons would not allow certain intrinsic elements of the course. The ministry leadership prefer to wait until the course can be run fully. The RJ planned for November will involve men on parole and will not be subject to such strictures.
Some spiritual workers are now being allowed back into prison – the Covid-19 lockdown has brought home to the inmates how much they missed it. Pray that they will open up to God. Pray for Dawn’s discernment and stamina.
Fraser had received the full text of all the NetACT journal articles, in time to publish the first issue around the end of last month. But he is currently having an issue with the host server on which all NetACT platforms are sitting.
Alix is still looking for a place to rent to move out from the Centre. Cipri still struggles with diabetes but stubbornly refuses treatment. André is still looking for a job but the employment situation at the moment is very difficult.
Daniel who quit his job to attend school is doing well and the Centre is helping him set himself up in a self-employed capacity to earn enough money to fund himself while completing secondary school. Marian has been approved for a bank loan to get his own apartment.
Plans to sell or re-develop three properties owned by Blythswood are moving ahead fairly smoothly.
TK1 and TK2 are operating well. Jimboliya is less likely to go into impending lockdown faced by the city of Cluj, the home of the Daniel Centre, as Covid-19 cases rise again.
The original surveyor’s estimate for building TK3 and TK4 was far too low by about €150,000. Blythswood needs legal advice in relation to the surveyor. They may have to pull the plug on the project in which they have already invested €18,000.
Abandoning the project would invalidate the application for EU funds for running costs for TKs 1-4 submitted last August and so would severely impact TK1 and TK2.
Give thanks that Fraser now has the full text of all the NetAct journal articles, hopefully in time to publish the first issue before the end of September.
Edward Stoffels has found a place to live in Cape Town and, unbeknownst to him, his name was suggested for a caretaker’s job. Please continue to pray for him.
A local prison has just asked for a Restorative Justice course for 12-17 October. So there is pressure to find volunteers to provide lunches. Pray for the inmates who can take part and for the Hope Prison Ministry team. Pray that Dawn’s stamina will be built up between now and then.
Wednesday, 30th September, we submit our application to renew our visas. Please pray for no complications.
Pray that a parcel from the UK with books for a vulnerable young woman will not be delayed at Customs or lost.