Chinese authorities in Zhejiang province used explosives to demolish the Sanjiang Christian Church in Wenzhou, China. The demolition reportedly took place at 8:35 p.m. on Sunday, Beijing time, after protestersâ€”including church membersâ€”were dispersed by police.
The church became the center of a tense standoff after thousands of church members formed a human shield on April 4 in an effort to save the newly constructed church from demolition.
International Christian Concern (ICC) sources also report that Christian leaders had been detained or arrested in cities throughout the province, including Wenzhou, Rui’an, Yueqing, and Zhoushan. The arrests appear to be a part of a province-wide effort to clamp down on possible dissent over the destruction of the Sanjiang Christian Church. Local Christians in Wenzhou interviewed by ICC reported being “heartbroken” at the news of the demolition, and many feared a widespread campaign to demolish churches was underway.
“Local believers universally think that more severe persecution may be around the corner, but they do not really know how to face the coming challenge, except for praying,” said one ICC source close to the situation.
In 2000, hundreds of churches and temples were reportedly destroyed by government officials across Zhejiang province.
The standoff over the church reportedly began after a Communist Party secretary visited the area and insisted the cross atop the Sanjiang Church was too large.
“When the Party secretary Xia Baolong visited the local areas, he found the cross on top of the church very conspicuous,” Zheng Leguo, a young leader at Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou,Â toldÂ ChinaAid.Â “So he ordered that it be demolished. Then, the officials from Yongjia county demanded that the church tear down the cross and the top floor of the church.”
When members of the church refused to remove the cross, authorities then threatened to demolish the entire structure, sparking the formation of a human shield earlier this month by thousands of Chinese Christians. A compromise ending the standoff was reportedly reached, until authorities canceled the agreementÂ last week.
It was not immediately clear how authorities had managed to disperse the church members remaining at the site, though earlier reports claimed that SWAT teams had been brought in and that police had cordoned off roads around the area. In addition, locals reported that electricity at the church had been cut and cellphone reception was being jammed in the area around the church.
According to a blog post byÂ The New York TimesÂ on April 4, local families hadÂ financedÂ the construction of the $4.8 million church building.
“Many of us donated our life savings. … This is our home,” Li Xile, a local from Wenzhou, told theÂ Times.
“The annihilation of the Sanjiang Christian Church only a few hours ago should be a wake-up call not only for Christians around the world, but for the international community at large,” says Ryan Morgan, International Christian Concern’s regional manager for East Asia.
“The government of China demonstrated today just how willing it is to use violent repression, not to mention explosives, in order to try and contain the growth of Christianity within its borders,” he continues. “A truly open and strong society has nothing to fear from the stability and prosperity that inevitability result when religious minorities are protected and allowed to thrive free from persecution.
“Only dictatorships feel the need to forcibly crush the growth of people of faith who are simply looking to peacefully practice their religious beliefs. This morning, tragically, the government of China showed it cared very little for the desperate pleas of thousands of its own citizens, or even the glare and condemnation of the international media spotlight.”
Source : Christianity Today
A campaign of violence and intimidation is being waged by Buddhists against Christians in Sri Lanka, Release International has warned.
The organisation says religious intolerance has been increasing for a decade and that in the past year, churches have been forced to close down and Christians prevented from holding prayer meetings or Bible studies in their homes.
There has been a wave of anti-Christian violence, with murder and arson among the 450-plus documented acts of violence against believers in recent years.
Release warns of a marked increase in the number of churches being demolished or set on fire, as well as attacks on individuals, death threats and forced displacement since 2012.
In many cases, Buddhist monks are leading the protests against churches, which are being increasingly cornered by attempts to restrict where worship can be held and the construction of new places of worship.
North Koreaâ€™s supreme leader Kim Jong-un has reportedly ordered 33 Christians to be executed for contact with a missionary.
The Christians were believed to be working alongside South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook, who was arrested last year. He and his ministry workers in North Korea have reportedly started 500 or so underground churches, the Washington TimesÂ reports.
The Daily MailÂ reportsÂ that Kim Jong-un has charged the 33 with attempting to overthrow the governmentâ€”the same accusation that lead to the execution of the North Korean leaderâ€™s uncle, Jang Song-thaek, and all Mr. Jangâ€™s relatives.
The missionary aides will be put to death in the cell of the State Security Department.
According to theÂ Christian Post, North Korea aired interviews with five of their countrymen at a press conference on Feb. 27 who claimed they met with Jung-wook and accepted money from him and other South Korean agents.
North Korea is known for forcing prisoners to issue statements confessing to crimes, and some have challenged these interviews as an attempt to find out locations of underground churches.
North Korea is widely known for its human rights abuses and zero tolerance forÂ religion. For the 12thÂ consecutive year, World Watch List hasÂ rankedÂ it as the number one country forÂ Christian persecution.
Twenty-five Protestant families have had their water and electricity supplies disconnected and have effectively been put under house arrest in Mexico because of their refusal to participate in Traditionalist Catholic religious ceremonies.
On Feb. 11, village authorities cut off the Protestant familiesâ€™ water supply. Two days later, their electricity supply was also disconnected, and chains, ropes and civilian guards were placed around the familiesâ€™ homes in order to further isolate them.
On the same day, one member of the group was arbitrarily detained by village authorities and imprisoned for more than 24 hours after he attempted to reconnect his water while under the supervision of state officials and police. Village authorities in UniÃ³n JuÃ¡rez, located in La Trinitaria municipality in the state of Chiapas also detained the police officers for 10 hours.
Traditionalist Catholic village authorities are demanding that the families, who belong to the local Mount Tabor Evangelical Church, contribute financially to religious festivals and have said they will not permit the families to reconnect their services or receive visitors until they pay 500 pesos (approximately $38) each.
The village authorities are justifying their actions as in line with the Law of Uses and Customs, which gives indigenous populations autonomy to exercise traditional forms of justice and to protect their culture.
The situation follows an escalation of discriminatory behavior toward the group of Protestant Christians in the municipality beginning in 2010, when the local village assembly blocked their access to firewood and refused them permission to attend or participate in village assembly meetings.
A bus driver in Trotwood, Ohio, is recovering in hospital after remarkably surviving being shot at point blank range in an unprovoked random attack seemingly linked to a gang initiation ceremony.Â Rickey Wagoner, 49, was assaulted by three men while he stood beside his bus in the early hours of Monday morning.Â Three shots were fired at Wagoner – one struck him in the right leg and two were fired at his chest.
The two bullets aimed at his chest were stopped by The Message, New Testament Bible that he kept in his chest pocket, reports theÂ Dayton Daily News.Â â€˜There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he probably should not be here,â€™ said Sgt. Michael Pauley of the Dayton Police Department.
Australian missionary John Short, 75, was reportedly arrested by police in North Korea on Feb. 16. Short, who has lived in Hong Kong with his wife for the past 50 years, was questioned and detained after police found gospel tracts in his possession.
Short traveled to Pyongyang on Feb. 15 with a tour group, and police questioned him at his hotel the next day about the Korean-language gospel tracts that he was carrying. Officials reportedly asked him who translated the material intoÂ Korean, who sent him and to what organization he belongs.
Shortâ€™s wife was informed of his arrest by a member of the tour group who was allowed to leave on Feb. 18. The tour company has made repeated calls to North Korea, but officials have refused to provide any information.
North Korea is considered the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. Although its constitution provides for freedom of religion, the practice of any non-state-sanctioned religious activity is prohibited. Possessing a Bible, saying the words â€œGodâ€ or â€œJesus,â€ and meeting with other Christians all are punishable by death.
The Australian government is working on Shortâ€™s behalf through its embassy in South Korea and has also requested help from Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang.
Source :Â Â The Voice of the Martyrs
This week I spoke with a Cuban church leader about the challenges and persecution being faced by our brothers and sisters in that island nation so close to our own border. Here are some highlights of our conversation:
Every block in every city in Cuba has a secret policeman whose job is to watch 24 hours a day and report anything unusual, illegal or questionable to the government.
After the revolution in 1959, 90% of the church buildings on the island were either destroyed or confiscated by the government. â€œBut the church is not a building,â€ our pastor friend reminds us. The government of Fidel Castro promised to eliminate the church within 5-6 years after the revolution.
The government has literally printed a book which contains their plan for infiltrating and co-opting the church to bring it under the control of the communist government. Their plans include bribing pastors, sending women to seduce pastors, taking away the pastorâ€™s children and other ways to compromise church leaders and control or discredit the church.
And yet our brothers and sisters say this: â€œWe have no hate inside against the Cuban government. God has allowed us to love them.â€
â€œThe only arms we have are prayer and the knowledge that God will fight for us,â€ said this church leader.
According to this leader, from about 1995 to 2005, the government was more worried about large church gatherings and building churches, so they paid less attention to house churches. Their strategy failed, and house churches spread to every part of Cuba as thousands of Cubans came to Christ. One official recently told a pastor, â€œYou guys [Christians] are moving to every town in Cuba!â€
Because their tolerant approach to house churches backfired, the government has changed tactics to aggressively strike back against house churches. Christians have seen a marked increase in persecution during the past two years. Now government officials are threatening to enforce a law that allows the government to confiscate any house used for religious activities. In spite of the threat, house churches continue to meet for worship.
Other thoughts that he shared:
â€œThe communist government has not been able to control or contain the church of Jesus Christ.â€
â€œIn the sufferingâ€”that is the best moment, the most fertile soil for God to work in us, to produce the best fruit. The sweetest honey is there.â€
â€œI am convinced that there is nothing better for the church than to enter into suffering. That is where God creates anew.â€
â€œOur sufferings are the school of God. Thatâ€™s where Jesus graduated, where He set the standard.â€
Please pray for the church in Cuba. Pray Christian leaders will stand strong in their faith, even as they face attacks and temptations. Pray Cuban government leaders will come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way. Jesus promised to build His church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. His words are coming true in Cuba today.
The Indonesian government responded to Muslim protests by closing four Pentecostal churches,Â reportsÂ Charisma News. Two months after protests held at the Indonesian Full Gospel Church, Pentecostal Movement Church, Indonesian Bethel Church and Christian New Covenant Church, the churches remain closed. A petition to re-open the churches (or settle on an alternate venue) is being spearheaded by Pastor Oferlin Hia of Christian New Covenant. According to Pastor Hia, at the time of the protests the churches had been applying for permits to hold their gatherings, but were awaiting response from the local government for approval.