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CHINA: Protestant House Church Pastor Detained without Trial

CHINA: Protestant House Church Pastor Detained without Trial

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities arrested Pastor Hao Zhiwei in July 2019; however, she still awaits trial. Four months after Hao’s arrest, officials charged her with swindling 2.24 million yuan ($469,340) in church offerings. CCP authorities also accused two church staff members, Hong Ying and Wang Yuanxiang, of fraud but because they “confessed”, they warranted leniency. Prosecutors have not set a trial date for Hao.

“The case is set to have a far-reaching legal impact that could see other house church pastors like Hao come under more legal scrutiny on top of the existing administrative regulations over religious affairs,” Si Weijiang, Hao’s lawyer, said.

Hao’s trial was originally set for January and then apparently postponed until August but there is still no notice of when it will take place. The coronavirus pandemic has also caused delays.

Hao’s husband died two years ago, her two sons, aged 13 and 17, are without both parents.

According to Hao’s 17-year-old son, identifying himself as Paul, “The government is indefinitely postponing the trial as they continue to look for evidence so they can frame my mother by building a fraud case against her that never existed in the first place,” He said he was staying on campus at a university in eastern Zhejiang province but his brother lives at home in Ezhou with a part-time domestic helper.

After authorities arrested Hao and her two co-workers, they contracted to demolish the church to make way for expansion of a steel plant. To justify destroying the church, the local religious affairs department issued a notice in July last year stating that because the church was too close to a power plant, it had to be demolished. Amidst the separation from his mother and the church demolition, Paul stated that he and his brother are at peace. “We have faith in God that he will never give us a trial that we cannot bear.”

Si said Hao refuses to plead guilty and if convicted, faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. He expressed concern that a conviction could set a precedent for CCP authorities to use charges of financial irregularities to prosecute other house church leaders.

Sources: ChinaAid, South China Morning Post

  • Remember Hao, her sons and her fellow church members. Pray they will continue to rely on the Lord and His purposes and not lose heart.
  • Pray that God will sustain Hao while in prison and ask Him to provide her with spiritual enrichment while she endures. Ask God to hasten her trial and secure her release.
  • Pray for the authorities responsible; that they will not fear the Gospel but will submit to the Lord’s merciful and sovereign hand.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

 

LAOS: Christians Detained for Planning Christian Funeral

LAOS: Christians Detained for Planning Christian Funeral

Four Lao Christians have been in jail for more than three months in the country’s Khammouane province for planning a Christian funeral that is contrary to the local customs.

On 3 July, the four Christians travelled to Khammouane’s Phousath village to attend a funeral that was deemed by village authorities to have violated Lao customs and “divided community solidarity.” As a result, they were arrested before they could conduct the Christian ceremonies, said a Phousath village official.

The local villagers wanted to perform ceremonies for the deceased Christian “according to our culture handed down to us by our ancestors,” the official continued, “When someone dies, we help by making donations, sharing food, and asking [Buddhist] monks to come and pray at the home.”

“But [the Christians] wanted to do things that violate our traditional customs. They were preparing things that we felt were strange and wrong and do not understand, and so we acted in order to prevent them from happening,” he said.

While no trial has been held to prosecute these four Christians who are from different villages, the police investigation has been completed and no decision was made as to what happens to them next. Their wives and children are facing hardships due to the loss of income and uncertainty about the four men’s fate.

On 12 October, an official in the religious affairs department of the Lao central government reportedly stated that his department will now work with the Lao Front for National Construction and the Evangelical Church of Laos to win justice for the four imprisoned villagers.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Radio Free Asia

  • Pray for justice for these believers and for their swift release.
  • Pray this difficult time endured by these Christians and their families, may be used by God as a witness to the God-given faithfulness and strength of believers.
  • Pray for Christians in Laos who face opposition. That they will be encouraged and strengthened and will stand firm when tested.

Post your prayer in the comments below.

 

SOMALIA: Christian Couple Arrested

SOMALIA: Christian Couple Arrested

At an October news conference, police in the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland announced that a Christian couple had been arrested for being “apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity.” On 21 September, the two were taken from their home in Hargeisa where police also found Christian literature in their possession.

The police spokesperson, Faisal His Elmi, stated that the arrest came from an anonymous tip. He also 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.” He encouraged others to report Christians who share their faith.

The detained couple, who are the parents of three children, will face trial by a regional court. Their arrests and detentions have generated fear among other believers in the area, causing many of them to flee for safety. A safe house sponsored by VOM has been overwhelmed with believers seeking temporary refuge.

Sources: Middle East Concern, Geeska Afrika Online, The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Pray that the presence of God will be sensed by this couple and their children, reminding them to trust in Him.
  • Pray the other Somali believers who have fled the area in search of safety be greatly encouraged and strengthened by God’s Word and each other.
  • Pray for church leaders in this highly restricted nation, who are faithfully serving the Lord and His people.

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RUSSIA: Strict Opposition to Missionary Activity

RUSSIA: Strict Opposition to Missionary Activity

In July 2016, Russia passed religion laws restricting “illegal missionary activity” by either citizens or foreigners. This activity could involve speaking to people about religion, or the distribution of either printed, audio or video materials.

Between January and June of this year, there have been 42 known prosecutions, resulting in 36 convictions. All those who were convicted received fines.

Most of the recent convictions have not involved religious organisations but rather individuals who were sharing their faith. Those charged were convicted because they did not notify the authorities of the existence of their “religious group”, even though they were acting as individuals.

These laws do not only affect Christians but also citizens belonging to other religious groups. According to Russia’s current laws, individuals or groups engaging in missionary or evangelistic activities of any kind could possibly be subjected to stiff opposition.

Source: Forum18

  • Prayerfully uphold our brothers and sisters in Russia who are presently encountering opposition for sharing their faith.
  • Ask the Lord to provide for those who have received fines so they will have the resources required to pay the penalties.
  • Pray God’s people will not “grow weary of doing good” but rather look with an expectant hope to His promises of an abundant spiritual harvest (Galatians 6:9).

Post your prayer in the comments below.

ERITREA: Thirty Christians Arrested at Wedding

ERITREA: Thirty Christians Arrested at Wedding

Eritrean authorities continued their crackdown on unregistered religious groups when 30 guests were arrested at a wedding ceremony in late June. These Christians were arrested in the capital city of Asmara, joining 15 others who were previously arrested in April and sent to a prison camp.

The government of Eritrea is known as one of the most oppressive in the world, notorious for its arbitrary arrests and detention of people – without a trial. Last year alone, between May and August, more than 330 Christians were arrested.

Since religious restrictions were instituted in 2002, only four religious groups are legally allowed by the government: Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Sunni Islam. Membership in any other group is strictly prohibited, and even members of these legally recognised groups are not necessarily immune from harassment.

Sources: Release Eritrea, Barnabas Fund

  • Remember the hundreds of believers presently imprisoned in Eritrea; some of them already having endured many years of inhumane treatment in terrible conditions.
  • Pray that these prisoners and their families will be provided with inner strength as they undergo such severe trials.
  • Pray those in authority will come to respect the rights of all citizens, including the freedom to worship.

Post your prayer in the comments below.