Six Christians in Laos who spent more than a month in jail for celebrating Christmas have now been set free.
The Christians in Vientiane province were taken into custody because they had not sought official permission to hold a Christmas celebration. Most were ethnic Hmong and new believers. As part of their celebrations, they invited the whole village to watch the Jesus film.
The six were detained in late December and released on 31 January, after each paid a fine of around $630. Contacts of Voice of the Martyrs partner office, Release International have helped the families pay their fines and supported them while their loved ones were in jail. They have also been supporting a group of Christians in Savannakhet province, southern Laos, who were also detained for being involved in Christmas celebrations. They too were only released when they paid a fine. Nineteen families involved in the same celebrations were also reportedly fined.
Source: Release International
- Praise God for the release of these believers. Ask Him to provide for them financially and strengthen their faith.
- Thank God for the boldness of Christians in Vientiane in sharing the Gospel: pray that many more in their village will come to know Christ.
- Pray for the Laotian officials who detained the Christians, may the Lord open their hearts to the Gospel.
Authorities forcibly sold three sites of the largest house church in the capital China’s southern Guizhou province Sunday, only informing the owners on the day of the auction.
On 11 February, Su Tianfu, pastor of Huoshi Church, the largest house church in Guiyang, Guizhou, received a notice from the Baiyun District Court, saying that the Nanming District Religious Affairs Bureau had demanded that he fulfil his obligation to pay a fine of more than 7 million yuan.
Su, along with imprisoned Huoshi Church Pastor Yang Hua, were first notified of the fine last May, which authorities claimed they incurred because they took that amount in “illegal income”. The pastors, however, maintained that the money had been freely donated by the church’s congregation and only used on church expenses. They appealed several times until the court handed them a definitive verdict, making the fine mandatory.
Authorities hired an assessment company on 23 January and the organisation ruled that the church’s total property, including the items inside it, were worth 5.36 million yuan. The court subsequently granted the company permission to auction the church and its property, with the final sale going to the “state-owned enterprise” Nanming Investment Group for 5.12 million yuan on 11 February.
When Wang Hongwu, the wife of Yang, heard that the property had been sold, she speculated that officials may soon accuse Pastor Su of “divulging state secrets,” as they did her husband when he attempted to prevent them from confiscating a church hard drive. Yang is currently serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence and has faced torture and severe illness while in prison.
Source: China Aid
- Ask the Lord to uphold Pastor Su at this time of shock and disappointment. Pray the Lord’s protection will be upon him and that words of wisdom may be granted as he deals with those in authority.
- Pray the church members will be all the more determined to meet together and encourage one another.
- Pray for Pastor Yang in prison; ask the Lord to grant him the physical, emotional and spiritual strength he needs.
Police have detained and questioned members of an evangelical church in northern Belarus three times in the last two months for distributing Christian literature.
As recent as 14 October, police arrested Andrei Fokin as he and other believers were distributing Christian books and magazines in the Lepel town market. He was released after a warning, but later fined for repeat offenses.
On 4 November, police again interrupted their literature distribution, this time taking nine Christians to the police station.
Prior to the October arrest, the church had served the community through its street library ministry since 2004 without objection from authorities.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray that church members will be able to pay their fines and resume their library ministry without harassment.
- Pray the conduct and attitude of these believers will be a strong witness for the Gospel to those in authority.
- Pray the members of the church will not be fearful but may continue to love and serve the Lord and the members of the community.
Police raided at least two Baptist meetings for worship on Easter Sunday, in the central city of Temirtau and the southern city of Taraz.
Officers issued four summary fines totalling about nine months’ average wages with no court hearings. Such fines for meeting for worship are increasing, Baptists complained to Forum 18.
In a separate case, a court in the southern city of Almaty has banned a Protestant church from meeting for three months.
The court also fined the church for holding a meeting for worship in a place other than its registered address. An Indian citizen associated with the church is appealing against a fine and deportation order.
An official of Almaty’s Religious Affairs Department, Karshyga Malik, said on 24 April that the administrative cases against the church and the Indian citizen were among 33 it had launched since the beginning of 2017. The cases were to punish those who meet without state permission, meet in places without state permission, distribute religious literature without state permission or talk to others of their faith without state permission.
Police raids on congregations of the Council of Churches Baptists are frequent. They choose to meet for worship without seeking state registration.
Source: Forum 18 News Service
- Pray these Christians will be emboldened to continue to follow the Lord and encourage one another in the faith. Pray for opportunities to meet.
- Commit to the Lord those who have been fined and the Indian citizen facing deportation.
- Ask the Lord to give wisdom to church leaders when dealing with authorities.