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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.

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CHINA: House Church Members Charged

CHINA: House Church Members Charged

More than 100 members were arrested during a crackdown on Sichuan’s Autumn Rain Covenant Church in China on 9 December, several detained leaders have since been criminally charged.

Both Pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong have been detained for allegedly inciting subversion of state power, a crime that can result in imprisonment of five years, but up to 15 years in extreme cases. Jiang was issued “residential surveillance at a designated location”, where she could be held for as long as six months in facilities commonly known as secret prisons, subject to torture and abuse.

Elder Li Yingqiang who was responsible for posting updates and prayer requests online for the church, has been detained for allegedly picking a quarrel and inciting trouble on the internet. Additionally, deacon Ge Yingfeng and Lu Jinheng were detained for alleged illegal operations, according to South China Morning Post.

In the meantime, more than 50 seminary students from the church were sent to a “re-education camp”. However, they were released and sent home, accompanied by local officials after praying and worshipping for more than 48 hours under surveillance.

The church’s Facebook page was last updated on 10 December with prayer requests. Due to security concerns, the official prayer request updates are now shared through other social media channels to prevent local police from targeting more members.

In spite of the turmoil, many members continue to gather in homes for their weekly small groups.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Commit to the Lord, Pastor Wang Yi and his wife Jiang Rong, Elder Li Yingqiang, Ge Yingfeng and Lu Jinheng and all those undergoing this trial and facing an uncertain future.
  • Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of these believers. Pray their conduct may produce a powerful witness.
  • Ask God to minister to the hearts of the governmental leaders, including President Xi Jinping, so that the country’s Christians can serve their communities peacefully and without constraint.

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ALGERIA: Four Christians Face Proselytism Charges

ALGERIA: Four Christians Face Proselytism Charges

Algerian Christians request prayer for four Christians, including three from the same family, who will appear in court on 6 November in the Province of Bouira, in the Kabylie region.

These Christians are accused of “inciting a Muslim to change his religion” (a criminal offence under the penal code) and “performing religious worship in an unauthorised place” (contravening the 2006 ordinance governing non-Muslim worship).

The charges follow accusations made in July 2018 by a woman, whose husband had converted to Christianity. She and members of her family filed a complaint against her Christian husband, and against a Christian family that had tried to mitigate a conflict between the wife and husband, accusing them of “wanting to pressure her to become a Christian”. The defendants were to appear before court in October, but the hearing has been postponed to November.

In a separate case, a Christian from Tizi Ouzou has been charged with “illegal importation of Christian materials”. The young man (29) was returning from a visit to a Middle Eastern country in the summer of 2016 and had with him some items, such as keyrings and scarfs, with Christian inscriptions. He had previously been tried and acquitted, but the prosecutor has now decided to appeal. A new court date has yet to be set.

Source: Middle East Concern

  • Pray for those facing charges, that they may know the presence of Jesus and the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray they will be acquitted of all charges.
  • Pray that those responsible for the intimidation of Christians will know the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s forgiveness.
PAKISTAN: Forced to Confess ‘Blasphemy’

PAKISTAN: Forced to Confess ‘Blasphemy’

An angry Pakistani mob almost killed a 16­-year-old Christian boy – who is completely illiterate and also slightly mentally challenged – for allegedly burning the pages of a Koran. He was then apparently forced to confess to the alleged crime, and is now in custody – despite apparent inconsistencies in evidence, and witness testimony of alternative explanations.

The incident involving Asif Masih, took place about 250 kilometres from Lahore in the remote village of Jamkay Cheema, in Gujranwala district, on 12 August. The 16-year-old juvenile has been charged under Section 295B of the blasphemy law, and if found guilty, faces life imprisonment.

Asif Masih was buying a few household goods when Muhammad Nawaz, also known as Majhoo, grabbed him and started calling out to passers-by that Masih had broken the money collection box in the shrine of a Sufi saint, Pir Sandhay Shah.

“As soon as a mob gathered, Majhoo incited them by saying that Asif had burned pages of a Koran, at which people started beating him up”, Waheed Masih, Asif’s uncle, told World Watch Monitor.

Waheed said that while Asif was being beaten up, someone informed the police. “Police from a nearby check-post arrived and put Asif in their van, but people still were trying to beat him up and pull him out of the van. After that, the frenzied mob arrived at the check-post and tried to snatch him from police custody”, he said.

“They were shouting that they wanted to kill him and burn his body. Realising the pressure, the police called Alipur Chatta Police Station to send more policemen. Until they arrived, Asif was still being beaten up and, out of fear, confessed that he had burned the pages”.

But the first information report (FIR), lodged in Alipur Chatta Police Station, was not filed by Muhammad Nawaz (Matchi, a caste name), the man who sits at the shrine, but by an imam of the local mosque.

Arshad Ali states in the FIR that “at about 12.30pm, I was at the Pir Sandhay Shah shrine, along with Nawaz Matchi and Munawar Hassan, to offer prayers, when Asif entered the shrine, picked up the Koran, brought it out, poured kerosene oil on it and set it on fire”.

Ivan Gill, a community leader, rejects the claim. “The shrine is about two kilometres from the village and 12.30 is the time of Zohar prayer. How could the imam not be at his mosque, but instead had gone to a shrine two kilometres away?” he said.

The shrine is near a canal in a desolate place. It is extremely small, so only two or three can enter it at a time. “When these three were there, Asif could not have entered to pick up the Koran. Even if he managed, then why could these three not stop him?” Gill said.

Waheed said that, right after the incident, they were told by several people that burned pages of the Koran had been found about two weeks before outside the shrine. “Majhoo took the pages to several people, who later informed us that he was told to bury those pages, as no-one knew who burned them”, he said.

Asif Masih’s father, Stephan, is a bonded labourer to a local landlord. Almost all local Christians serve as labourers. After Asif’s arrest, they went on strike, reported Gill. “The landlords are against the [Muslim] clergy connection, itself against the Christians, because it hurts [the landlords’] work. So they openly oppose the clergy for wrongly accusing an innocent and chances are that they will give testimony in the court in Asif’s favour”, he said.

Source: World Watch Monitor, The Voice Society

  • Intercede for Asif, ask the Lord to protect him while he is in custody. Pray the Lord will strengthen and comfort him and his family.
  • Pray the facts of the case will come to light and that the authorities will judge the case without prejudice. Pray for Asif’s release.
  • Pray this incident may be used by the Lord to show that the blasphemy laws are open to misuse and bring about change.
INDIA: Pray for Pastor Ariaan

INDIA: Pray for Pastor Ariaan

Pastor ‘Ariaan’ has been charged with forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity and has been ordered by police not to pray, share the Gospel or host prayer meetings in his home. In addition, his landlord has ordered him to leave his home, and his daughter has been denied admission to school.

The pastor’s troubles began when Hindu extremists interrupted a church service one Sunday morning and ordered him to stop preaching. Pastor Ariaan continued to preach, and three months later the extremists returned, this time dragging him and two other church members to a Hindu temple for a “reconversion ceremony”. Police intervened, however, and instead took the pastor to the police station, where the Hindu extremists then filed charges against him.

Pastor Ariaan is currently free on bail as the case proceeds through the legal system.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Pray that Pastor Ariaan, his family and the church members will rest in the peace of Christ during this difficult time.
  • Pray the local church will not be fearful but will be encouraged to remain faithful in spite of the opposition.
  • Pray for the accusers and those in authority. May the witness of Pastor Ariaan, be used by the Lord to soften their hearts.