“Where is democracy” for Chinese churches?
Barnabas Fund, 30 June 2020
“Where is democracy?” a Christian in China asked after two communist party-approved candidates were foisted on their church committee.
Four deacons presented a written complaint against two candidates put forward by the local United Front Work Department when it confirmed its candidates on their church committee, effectively handing control of church activities to the government.
The new Template for Religious Activity Venues demands that all such venues establish a “democratic management committee” with “clergy members, representatives of religious citizens, and other relevant members”.
A clergy member from a church in Shandong province lamented, “If we don’t follow the Template, our church will be shut down.”
In Henan, a communist-party-supporting preacher was appointed director by government officials in December 2019 because he fulfilled the criteria of “proactive cooperation with the government”.
The continuing crackdown in China has seen hundreds of “house churches” and official churches shut down, with violent police raids, thousands of arrests and detentions, imprisonment of pastors and forced installation of surveillance cameras inside some churches.
Turkey’s president to protect minority religions
Barnabas Fund, 9 June 2020
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will do “everything possible” to protect “members of other minority faiths”, following a recent attack on a church in Istanbul. Police are currently holding a man in detention on suspicion of carrying out the church attack.
Critics of the government say the rhetoric of the president has fuelled recent intimidation and violence against ethnic and religious minorities, including the fatal stabbing of a 20-year-old Kurd in Ankara.
Opposition MP, Tuma Celik, who is a Christian, said, “I don’t have evidence they (recent events) are an organised effort, but I believe they are the result of polarising rhetoric used by the most senior members of the government.”
Hostility towards Christians has worsened in recent years, as secularism has given way to Islamisation with the rise of Erdogan’s AKP.
“Important step” towards religious freedom
Barnabas Fund, 2nd June 2020
Sudan’s Transitional Military Council and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North have jointly agreed to found an independent national commission and a Ministry for Peace and Human Rights.
On 21 May, the government stated, “We agreed to establish a commission for religious freedom to address all issues relating to religious freedom in order to affirm the principle of peaceful coexistence in the country.”
The Liberation Movement’s representative, Yasir Arman, highlighted the importance of the step for protecting Christians in the volatile “Two Areas” states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, which include the Nuba Mountains, and have remained in dispute since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.
Another positive step towards greater religious freedom was made in March, when the Transitional Military Council announced a bill proposing to repeal the death penalty for apostasy from Islam and make it a criminal offence to accuse someone of apostasy.
Saving Forgotten Lives
Barnabas Fund, 13th May 2020
Thanks to the generous giving of our supporters, Barnabas Fund has sent £766,706 of life-saving aid to Christians in 24 countries, in desperate situations due to the lockdown.
Many low-paid daily-wage earners have lost their meagre incomes and are locked down without food. We have sent food aid for more than 250,000 Christians.
Many live in conditions where it is impossible to keep a safe distance to avoid infection. We have provided hygiene products for more than 14,000 Christians.
Pastors supported by the Sunday offerings of their congregations are suddenly destitute when people can no longer gather for worship. We have sent support to more than 6,400 church leaders.
On top of this, locust swarms are multiplying in East Africa and Pakistan and anti-Christian violence continues in many contexts.
57 murdered and church damaged in Mozambique
Barnabas Fund, 15 April
Islamist fundamentalists murdered at least 57 people, with a further five deaths unconfirmed, and smashed their way into a church in an upsurge in violence at the beginning of April in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which is Muslim-majority.
On 10 April, militants launched a murderous attack where one person was shot, another burned alive, and three drowned as they tried to escape. About 60 people were taken hostage but released later the same day.
On 9 April, five died in an attack on the Quirimbas archipelago. The terrorists caused severe damage to the local church and destroyed homes of church missionaries.
On 7 April, at least 52 people were massacred in the same area when they refused to join the terrorist group. “The criminals tried to recruit young people to join their ranks, but there was resistance,” said a police spokesman. “This provoked the anger of the criminals, who indiscriminately killed, cruelly and diabolically, 52 young people.”
The Bishop of Pemba said that Muslims “have, from the beginning, distanced themselves from these attacks and said that those involved are not religious, and are misusing the name of religion to do this,”
Militant Islamist organisation Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama have effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado.
Emergency network to help Christians globally
Barnabas Fund, 14 April 2020
Barnabas Fund, joined by over 85 partner organisations, has launched the Barnabas Coronavirus Emergency Network (BCEN) to meet the needs of persecuted Christians on the margins of society, discriminated against in daily life, and often discriminated against when aid is distributed. This network gives us direct access to our brothers and sisters at the grassroots and helps us monitor the effects of Covid 19 on persecuted Christians and learn how to support them better.
BCEN is obtaining reliable up-to-date information to share with supporters to inform their prayers and is guiding our response in terms of practical support for coronavirus-affected Christians, ensuring that funds given are used as effectively as possible.
BCEN has already sent £425,305.73 GBP ($528.338.66 USD) to support vulnerable communities in Pakistan, China, Laos, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Armenia and Sri Lanka. We are inundated with requests for support and are committed to continue helping.
But we are only scratching the surface. There is much to do and we need your support in the weeks ahead.
Visit us at www.barnabasfund.org/en/BCEN for news and prayer requests, regularly updated and join us in praying for the persecuted Church during this difficult time.
New anti-conversion bill for Sri Lanka?
Barnabas, 24 March 2020
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa hinted that he is prepared to introduce an anti-conversion bill to “save this country” from falling into deep difficulties.
Addressing the annual convention of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress, he identified the conversion of “traditional Buddhist families to other religions” as a major “threat”.
He implied that an anti-conversion bill could be introduced after the parliamentary elections. “There are many that oppose it and that is why we don’t want to touch it,” Rajapaksa told his audience. “If you want it you must bring it forward unanimously otherwise it will be my neck on the line,” he added.
Christian leaders in Sri Lanka say the latest proposal is part of the government’s pre-election campaign. “They are using extremism to be popular,” said a pastor. “They have already started to collect information regarding churches through local government authorities. I believe they are strategically working out something against the house church movement.”
Another pastor added, “The government is frightened to see the growth of the local churches in rural areas.”
Iranian Christian prisoners and the coronavirus
Barnabas Fund 10 March 2020
The Iranian government has been continuing to release tens of thousands of prisoners serving sentences of less than 5 years, including a few Christians, to lessen the spread of coronavirus within prisons.
Among those released was Christian prisoner Ramiel Tamraz, who was freed on 26 February.
Official government statistics confirmed 145 coronavirus related deaths and 5823 cases of infection on 7 March, but some sources suggested the figures may be higher.
Schools and universities were closed down to prevent the spread of the virus.
Iran is in need of “urgent prayer”, an Iranian Christian told Barnabas, particularly for the cities of Tehran and Qom, where the outbreak of coronavirus is particularly severe.
“At the moment everyone is suffering. The issue is affecting everyone. The shortage of medical equipment, medical personnel and medicine are a very main concern. Lack of training is another one. People don’t know how to deal with it,” she explained. “Christians are pleading prayers and for God’s mercy for Iran and Iranians.”
Forcing Christian converts to declare their faith
Barnabas Fund, 24 February 2020
Christian converts from Islam no longer have the choice of keeping their faith secret in Iran after the “other religions” option was removed from the application form for ID cards.
The choices available to new applicants are only the four religions recognised under the Iranian constitution: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrianism.
The new rule reflects the strategy of harassing Christian converts from Islam and pressurising them to emigrate – Muslim-born converts to Christianity now have to reveal they are Christian or lie about their faith.
The ID cards, which are compulsory for every citizen aged 15 and above, are a necessary part of daily life in Iran and are required to access basic government services or to make bank transactions. The holder’s religion is then easily accessed by the state’s computer network.
Converts are frequently arrested and then released to drive them to leave the country, meaning that many leaders of convert groups have little Biblical education.”
The removal of the “other religions” option marginalises other religious groups including Bahais and Hindus.
Five million people march in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 10 February 2020
Five million people took part in protest marches across Nigeria on Sunday 2 February against the murder of Pastor Lawn Andimi by Boko Haram.
The peaceful demonstrations, organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) as the final event of a three-day fast, took place in 28 of the country’s 36 states.
CAN president Samson Ayokunle said, “Though we have protested before, this event took a new dimension … With one voice we said ‘no’ to killings, ‘no’ to security negligence, and ‘no’ to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. It is a wake-up call to the government.”
Pastor Andimi, a local chairman of CAN in Adamawa State, was murdered by Boko Haram on 20 January, after being kidnapped on 2 January.