Hello. This is long, but worth it. It was sent to me by my missions prof. And yes, it is genuine. >===== Original Message From Paul Borthwick <73314.3240@...> ===== THOUGHT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ THIS -------------Forwarded Message----------------- "Defender"--an Update on Religious Liberty and Persecution prepared by the World Evangelical Fellowship Religious Liberty Commission. MARCH, 2000 SRI LANKA The Evangelical Fellowship of Sri Lanka, a member of WEF, reports that a church in the village of Makola off the coast of India, was attacked and destroyed by Buddhist extremists on January 15. The likely reason for this attack is the belief held by Buddhist extremists that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country and the Christian Protestant minority, which is only 0.92% of the population, should not be allowed to exist and convert Buddhists. The church stands on the pastor's own family land. The monk vowed he would never let a church exist in that area. Pray: Protect your people as they follow your command to "Go and make disciples of all nations." QATAR The news release read "The way is now clear for establishing the first Christian church in Qatar." This is another sign of Qatar opening up to new vistas of freedom and religion reports the Gulf Times. The small oil producing peninsula jutting off the east coast of Saudi Arabia has prohibited the public practice of any religion except the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. The decision is another democratic first for Qatar's young emir, Sheikh Hyamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Pray: You are Lord of the Nations. We praise you for this new opportunity to share your Word in Qatar. SUDAN The militant Islamic government of northern Sudan bombed a hospital on March 7 for the second time in a week. No fatalities have been reported in the attack on the Samaritan's Purse hospital in the southern city of Lui, but a raid the March 1 killed two people and injured many others. The National Islamic Front (NIF) government bombers killed 13 children in February in a bombing raid that destroyed a school in the Nuba Mountain region. Large concentrations of Christians reside in the Nuba region. A British Broadcasting Company correspondent reports no military targets exist nearby. Nearly 2 million people have died since 1983 in the war against Christians and animists in the country's south. Pray: Lord, you are in the midst of those who believe. Comfort our brothers and sisters in Sudan with your never-failing love. CHECHNYA Since the Soviet Union crumbled, Chechnya has become a very dangerous place-particularly for Christians. **Four people have been kidnapped from the 100-member Baptist church in the past year. **In January, 13-year-old Anja Hrykin was found by Russian soldiers after she had been held for 3 months by Muslim extremists who beat, raped and starved her. She is now recuperating in the care of other refugee members of the church. **Pastor Vasili Luppov, 24, of the First Chechan Full Gospel Church was kidnapped four years ago. He is in "special danger" now due to the end of fighting in Chechnya. **Russian Orthodox priests have been kidnapped. **Majority of the church's members evacuated to neighboring cities. **Many Chechens will return from refugee camps to a destroyed homeland. Therein lies a new ministry for the church. Pray: Join with believers who say: "We want to return to Grozny and show people we don't hate them for what they have done. We love them and want to help them." TURKMENISTAN SPECIAL SITUATION REPORT "The most repressive police state of the former Soviet Union." -- In January members of the Helsinki Commission met with government officials and religious leaders. Commission Chairman Christopher Smith, a US Congressman from New Jersey, called Turkmenistan "the most repressive police state of the former Soviet Union." Smith charged that President Niyazov's regime "violates all human rights commitments the country has committed itself to observe." There is no freedom of the press, no freedom of assembly or association, and the government jails anyone who voices the slightest criticism of official policies. No Road Work in Site --In November, the WEF Defender reported the destruction of the Adventist church in the capital city of Ashgabad. It is widely regarded that the destruction of this church was the defining moment of Turkmenistan's suppression of its religious minorities. Visitors report "The building remains a pile of rubble with no indication that road work continues on the site. No other buildings have been destroyed." The church was demolished to make way for a new road. "You have made your choice." -- Dimity Melnichenko wrote on December 18 following his arrest during a raid on his pastor's home in Asghabad. "I was at the home of Brother Vladimir Chernov when 15 people climbed over the fence. They tied my hands and kicked me. They said I was in the house to steal. At the police station there were more beatings. They pressured me to give names of believers. I refused. They said, 'You will suffer.' I replied, 'For me life is Christ, and death is gain.' He replied, 'You have made your choice." Sanctioned Religions -- The government has sanctioned only Islam and the Russian Orthodox Church. Along with attacks on Christians, the government destroyed a Hare Krishna ashram. Pastor Imprisioned -- Amnesty International reports that Shagildy Atakov, a 37-year-old ethnic convert serving as a protestant preacher remains in prison for refusing to participate in a required daily oath of loyalty to Turkmenistan president Saparmurat Niyazov. Atakov is sentenced to four years in prison and fined $12,000. The average monthly wage is about $30. His brother, Chariyar Atakov, was arrested on March 3. Local church members say he was arrested because he is a Christian. Private Home Raided -- Turkmenistan's political police, the National Security Committee (KNB) raided a religious meeting held by a Protestant Christian group in a private home on February 23. During the raid in the town of Bezmein, twenty kilometers west of Ashgabad, KNB officers were accompanied by police officers and local authorities from Bezmein and Ashgabad. All were interrogated, names and addresses recorded, and told not to meet again. Christians Deported -- On December 23, the government deported two couples accused of holding church meetings in their home -Pastor and Mrs. Vladimir Chernov and Mr. and Mrs. Aleksandr Yefremov. Non-Turkmenistan Christians are being deported, even though they have residence and work permits. Follow-up -- Suggestions for follow-up action are mixed. Christian Solidarity Worldwide recommends that due to the sensitivity of the situation, action not be taken now. On the other hand, Keston News Service maintains that Turkmenistan is engaged in "religious cleansing" (the equivalent of "ethnic cleansing). They recommend pressure be brought to end punitive measures against members of religious minorities. Contacts: ** The Embassy of Turkmenistan 2207 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20008 Phone: 202-588-1500 Fax: 202-588-0697 ** Petition Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to expel Turkmenistan if it does not improve its human rights record. Fax: +43-1-53185-213 E-mail: AbtI3@... Pray for Turkmenistan: Lord, help us not to remain silent concerning suffering brothers and sisters. Protect your servants just as you protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. NIGERIA In a nationwide broadcast on March 1, President Olusegun Obasanjo called for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims following bloody clashes that left many dead. He voiced the cry "We must return to the fundamental faith that life, all life, is sacred. We have lost our sense of outrage and moral sensitivity." In clashes beginning February 20 over the implementation of Sharia, the Islamic legal system, over 1,000 people died, thousands were left homeless and at least 36 churches were destroyed, along with several mosques. On February 29, the government suspended the implementation of Sharia proposed by several northern Nigerian states. Diffusing the tension is difficult for President Obasanjo, a southern Christian eager to balance the sensibilities of the north, which has felt left out since the shift in power it had held during a succession of military rulers. Sharia family law is part of Nigeria's constitution but not the Islamic penal code, which allows floggings, amputations, and beheadings. Pray: O God, give wisdom to Nigerian leaders to speak the truth in love. CHINA The US State Department plans to introduce a resolution condemning China for its human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva in March. Spokesman James Rubin said "Over the past year, the government of China intensified its crackdown on political dissent, initiated a campaign to suppress the Falun Gong, and intensified controls on unregistered churches and on the political and religious expression of ethnic minority groups, especially Tibetans." In mid-January, the third highest Tibetan Buddhist religious authority-the seventh Karmapa Lama-fled to India. On January 11 the Chinese Communist Party called for greater control of religions in order to "guarantee political stability." Forty-five-year-old house church leader Li Dexian was detained on February 22 for the tenth time since October. Each Tuesday over 1,000 Christians gather at the church despite attempted disruption of the prayer gatherings by Chinese officials. However, on February 5, the day before the Chinese New Year celebrations, one of China's most prominent house church leaders, Zhang Rongliang, was quietly released from prison in Fangcheng City, Henan Province. Pray: We join Paul as he writes in Thessalonians 3:1 "Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored." BULGARIA The Bulgarian parliament is debating proposed restrictive legislation similar to that passed in Macedonia and Romania. The Bulgarian National Assembly approved a first reading of the bill in early March, to create a two-tiered system giving only the Orthodox Church full religious freedom. The Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance, a member of WEF, is working with other religious groups to prevent the law from passing. Copies of the proposed legislation are available from WEF (630-668-0440) or WEF-NA@.... Pray that decisions be made that will not prohibit free worship of you. AZERBAIJAN In a deliberate loosening of religious freedom restrictions, the government of Azerbaijan (located east of Turkey) approved two Protestant churches' long-standing applications for registration--the Cathedral of Praise and the Nehemiah Church. A number of recent events back up the public pledge President Haidar Aliev made to US Ambassador Stanley Escudero in early November. **Visas were issued for a German Lutheran pastor and a Polish Catholic priest to continue serving their respective congregations in Baku. **In early January, the Azeri congregation of the Baku Baptist Church applied for separate registration, apart from its mother congregation of Russian Baptists. It will become the next test case. Two Azeri pastors from this congregation were jailed last September when authorities claimed it was an "illegal" church. **On January 21, Jehovah's Witnesses were notified of their registration as a religion. Pray: Thank you precious Savior for hearing the prayers of your people. Strengthen and uphold your Church in Azerbaijan. INDONESIA The Muslim-Christian war in the Maluccas is a serious flashpoint in the world. Although it may be considered a civil war, it has profound ramifications for Muslim-Christian relations worldwide. According to the New York Times "The fear is that the violence in places like Ambon will spread. Already there are copycat clashes in the resort island of Lombok, attacks on churches in Jogjakarta and rallies in the capital of Jarkarta. Once freed from the 32-year regime of its former dictator, President Suharto, whose sheer force was used to repress differences in a nation of 13,000 islands, society lost its ability to resolve differences in a peaceful way. Pray: In this desperate situation, people cry out "Is God still there?" Let them know that you are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow-a very present help in time of trouble. TURKEY Two Turkish Christians, Ercan Sengul, 38, and Necati Aydin, 28, were arrested March 1 while selling and distributing Christian literature outside of the city of Izmir. Both men are employees of an official book distribution company, registered in Turkey since January 1996. Both are changed their religious identity from Muslim to Christian on their permanent identity papers. Pray: Put your hand of protection around believers in Turkey. Turn what man intends for evil into good for your kingdom. INDIA On March 8, under pressure from national leaders, the western Indian state of Gujarat withdrew a controversial order concerning its relationship to a hard-line Hindu organization. The controversy deadlocked India's parliament the first week of March. The parliament came to a standstill over the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled western Indian state of Gujarat's order in January allowing its employees to participate in activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu youth organization tied to the BJP. Religious minorities claim that activists allied with the RSS are responsible for a wave of persecution against religious minorities since 1998. As recently as February 27, Hindu communal forces demolished a church in the Surat district of Gujarat where 25 tribal Christian families attend services. Pray: Help us to truly put our trust in you when you tell us in Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." VIETNAM Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thuy will be granted an appeal on March 10. She was sentenced in December to one year in prison for "interfering with an officer" while she hosted a Christian meeting. The legal brief charges the authorities with denying Thuy her freedom to practice her religion as guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution. This is significant, WEF's correspondent in Vietnam says, because "the government's ploy has been to steer clear of the religion issue." Pray: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven! SAUDI ARABIA Four Filipino Christians arrested in early January by Saudi religious police remain jailed and under interrogation in the capital city of Riyadh. The three wives and five children arrested with them for conducting Christian worship in a private home have all been released. It is believed that the ongoing Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) investigation of the four men is aimed at receiving details about the network of secret meetings for Christian worship in Riyadh and throughout the country. It is expected they will all be deported. Saudi law does not allow non-Muslims to meet for public worship. Pray: Lord, open the hearts of the captors so that they might hear and believe. Sources: Amnesty International, Associated Press, Baptist Press, Compass Direct, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Evangelical Fellowship of Sri Lanka, Gulf Times, Jubilee Campaign, Keston News Service, New York Times, Newsroom, Religion Today, Rueters, WEF Religious Liberty Commission. World Evangelical Fellowship P.O. Box WEF, Wheaton, IL 60189 Phone: 630-668-0440 Web: www.worldevangelical.org Johan Candelin, Director WEF Religious Liberty Commission Kathi Graham, Editor --- You are currently subscribed to wef-staff as: [73314.3240@...] To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-wef-staff-190375E@... - steve brown S.D.G.