Anti-conversion laws against Indian Christians
Barnabas Fund, 4 October 2021 (excerpts)
Extremists in India continue to use anti-conversion laws as a means of harassing church leaders and other Christians.
On 28 September a pastor in Himachal Pradesh was arrested on charges of attempting to gain converts to Christianity through force and bribery..
The following day, in Madhya Pradesh, radical Hindutva nationalists disrupted a Christian wedding, alleging that the bride had unlawfully converted from Hinduism.
Pastor Charlie John and two Christian brothers were arrested after extremists ordered them to stop distributing Bibles and leaflets in Rampur, Himachal Pradesh.
The pastor explained, “I only offered the Bible, and I gave it to those who freely accepted the Good News.”
“Someone refused the Gospel I was giving them and I didn’t insist. “We share the Good News with people, tell them about Jesus, but without forcing anyone to convert. The accusations made against me are totally false.”
In Madhya Pradesh the police filed no charges against the couple or the wedding party, but continue to investigate.
“The newly wedded couple are Christians and their marriage reception was disturbed based on a false allegation of religious conversion,” said a local pastor.
An Indian legal expert has argued that “a ban on conversion motivated by any sort of gain is in effect a ban on all conversion” which therefore nullifies India’s constitutional commitment to freedom of religion.
A younger retired minister, Hannes Theron, has taken over the responsibility for running the NetACT office and developing relationships with the colleges across Africa. The Theology Faculty at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the larger universities in South Africa, is interested in joining NetACT.
Fraser is struggling with the latest issue of the NetACT journal. The ‘copy-edited’ files he has been sent are a mass of inconsistencies, requiring a complete re-working to make them ready for publication.
Only 10 men are allowed to attend prison Bible study. One man says he would follow Jesus up to a certain point, fearing that, if he showed weakness, he would be trampled on and humiliated by other prisoners. Pray he would follow Jesus completely, not just up to a point. He was, however, glad for a long sentence as he met Jesus in prison whereas he’d not known him outside.
Fahiem, the Muslim background man was the first to arrive at the Bible study this time, clutching his new Bible protectively, eager to make right choices and change his life, and appreciative that he be included in these prayer notes. In 2021, 4 close family members have died so he wants to live a changed life and show them a better way – amazing that people in another continent can have a prayerful impact on those so far away. Dawn was able to go into Maximum and Medium A at Drakenstein today to lead classes on emotional and spiritual maturity over the next 2 weeks. She has started a discipleship group at Zebulun.
The new storage centre foundations are now 75% complete with the industrial floor and insulation to complete. The Covid situation in Romania has worsened into the fourth wave.
Balazs is back from a week in Kenya but goes again for a month on October 24th. Samuel Okomo’s health issue is probably stress-related, having lost his wife to cancer last year. One of the volunteers left there is having a remarkable impact on widows with her Biblio-drama.
Alix has resigned as assistant to Balazs and Dani but they hope to recruit one of the Kenya volunteers who has just resigned from her social services work to replace him. André continues to be much more co-operative but Julian, who is mentally challenged and recently baptised, is causing concern as he has been in contact with an ex-Daniel Centre resident who has HIV Aids.
Alex, Cipri and Damian are increasingly hard to handle as they should be looking for places to live independently with EU funding but are not very pro-active in searching for such places.
No major updates from Adi with Balazs having been in Kenya but Adi did sponsor a very successful annual ball for the elderly in Jimboliya while Balazs was gone.
Indian Pastor Burned with Acid
Barnabas Fund, 7 September 2021 (excerpts)
A 16-year-old Christian suffered burns over 60 per cent of his body as the result of an acid attack in eastern India.
The pastor was attacked at the end of August 2021 shortly after leaving his house to go and sell vegetables in the village market early in the morning.
The teenager’s family, who converted to Christianity two years ago and regularly hold Christian meetings in their home, say they believe that radical Hindutva nationalists carried out the attack.
The pastor conducted daily prayer meetings in his house but was warned to stop by the extremists. His refusal led to the acid attack.
In India, it is not unusual for someone to be serving as a pastor at such a young age. There are so few Christian workers, a situation aggravated by the death of at least 2,000 Christian leaders since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An Indian church leader told Barnabas Fund that the state in which this attack was carried out is not known for anti-Christian violence, adding, “I am worried that this will become a model of attack for others to follow.”
The Evangelical Fellowship of India documented 145 cases of atrocities against Christians in the first half of 2021. These incidents included three murders, 22 attacks on churches and 20 instances of ostracism or social boycott in rural areas for those refusing to give up their faith.
Edward the ex-prisoner, now working with the young men at Beth Uriel house in Cape Town, is still faithfully following Jesus in the way that he lives and is a great encouragement to the parole officers who see so many men return to prison. Pray he would obtain the wood and other resources to renovate the hut he want to live in on the Beth Uriel grounds.
Dawn was allowed back into prison today for a Bible study in Maximum. We hope to include Medium A soon. Ebrahim in Maximum writes and plays songs to encourage the other believers. A Muslim inmate was felt drawn to join us to learn more about God and has said he’ll return next week. He’s asked for a Bible.
There’s a great problem with violence in South Africa. Many inmates come from families where beating a child unconscious or hitting him with a brick is an acceptable form of discipline. Some people working in prison ministry or church circles say beating is what they need, it’s what they understand. What we understand can be changed.
Pray for a revolution in thinking that all who follow Jesus trust him enough to turn the world’s thinking upside down.
Pray for smooth arrangements for us to visit the UK in November! Ruth had a positive phone call with someone from Student Finance but the information she sent in hasn’t solved the problem.
The pouring of the storage centre foundations is slow.
Some Kenya project volunteers will leave for time in Kenya at the end of September; Balazs will go for the first week, and then for a month with more volunteers from October 25th. Samuel Okomo, director of the Kenyan school has been down with a lengthy illness which could threaten the existence of the school, currently with 250 students but with potential for 400.
André is back at the Centre, much more co-operative after a hard time of working long days on a Spanish farm. Julian, mentally challenged but a conscientious church attender, was baptised last week. He works for Ikea but could be a long-term resident at the Centre as he is vulnerable to being cheated by others.
School is back in but, with rising Covid, medical masks are now mandated. Cluj has a population of 400,00.
EU funding for independent living is now promised by October and Alex, Cipri and Damian may well move out then. With more options open to young school leavers, only difficult cases now apply to join the Daniel Centre.
The 36 students who come to TK1 and the 44 who come to TK2 re-started school on September 13th and there will be a 20th celebration this weekend for the founding of TK1. There is good co-operation from the business community in Jimboliya but the new local Council has been creating problems for Adi over the tax situation.
The dangers facing Afghan Christians
Barnabas Fund, 24 August 2021 (excerpts)
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan creates great danger for Afghan Christians, all of them converts from Islam or the children of converts.
If caught by the Taliban, they are very likely to be killed. Although the Hanafi school of sharia, which predominates in Afghanistan specifies death only for adult sane male apostates from Islam, the Taliban’s track record of an ultra-strict interpretation of sharia means it is very likely they will kill all apostates – men, and women, and children too.
But if Christians join other Afghans desperate to flee for various reasons, will they reach a safe haven?
American forces decide who may flee the country by air. Christians must make themselves known in order to be considered for evacuation. If they are not accepted, this leaves them and their families highly vulnerable to being attacked and killed by the Taliban.
All their family members’ names and contact details must be sent in advance on a list to the Americans. The reason for their vulnerability must also be stated – so Christians will have to reveal that they are Christians. Those accepted for evacuation must not go to the airport until called or they will be turned away.
After the deadline of 31 August, any Christians still waiting at the airport will run the risk of being exposed as the Taliban takes control.
It appears that most Afghan Christians will need to make their way overland across a border somehow.
Barnabas Fund is working hard, through Operation Safe Havens, to enable Afghan Christian families to reach safety.
A meeting last week discussed how Hugenote College can create online biblical languages courses and make them available to other colleges in the NetACT network throughout Africa. Everyone involved was very positive and determined to move ahead. Pray for the next issue of the NetACT journal which is due out soon.
Dawn’s Mum has a significant birthday in November. We haven’t seen James and Ruth for a long time so hope to go to the UK in November for two months. If anyone would like to meet up whilst we’re there, let us know.
An outbreak of rabies has reached a township on our side of Cape Town (about an hour’s drive away). Pray that the disease would be contained.
Please pray for South Africa’s prisons. A 60% increase in crime will worsen the already severe overcrowding, violence and societal breakdown.
Gangs in Drakenstein Maximum are demanding the blood of a warder to keep peace inside the prison. A Christian inmate has been stabbed and is in hospital but his blood is not enough to satisfy the gang leaders.
A major cause of crime and deprivation is the breakdown of family life with many children growing up without fathers or in uncaring homes. Dawn has offered to run “The Marriage Course” at Zebulun church to strengthen marriages and family ties and educate married couples in ways to show love, communicate, forgive and learn to grow together.
The frame of the new storage centre is now in place.
The Kenya project has been re-scheduled for the end of September/October.
Balazs has been in Serbia as part of the oversight for Blythswood projects there. Serbian officialdom is much less sympathetic to Blythswood work than Romania generally is.
As in the UK, Covid numbers have been rising again in Romania which has the second lowest vaccination rate in Europe after Bulgaria.
Cipri in the Centre still needs prayer as he struggles with suicidal thoughts. Istvan is also struggling and has returned to the Centre for the third time.
There has been no advance on new arrivals at the Centre over the past fortnight.
Adi’s work is now winding down after a very busy summer and they prepare to return to the normal school schedule on September 13th amid ongoing uncertainty over EU funding.
Pastor’s son killed in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 13 August 2021 (excerpts)
Local authorities have demolished a church building in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, leading to the death of Ezekiel Bitrus, the son of a pastor.
The Borno Geographic Information System (BOGIS) conducted the demolition on 5 August as church members gathered to protest.
It is alleged that the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) accompanying the BOGIS demolition group then opened fire on the protesters, killing 29-year-old Bitrus and injuring five others.
29-year-old Ezekiel Bitrus was allegedly shot and killed by Borno State’s Civilian Joint Task Force while protesting against the demolition of a church building
It is further alleged that the CJTF had confiscated the phones of church members in order to prevent documentation of the demolition process or the subsequent shooting.
The CJTF operative accused of shooting Bitrus has been arrested as part of an investigation ordered by Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum.