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PAKISTAN: Pastor Arrested on Fabricated Charges

PAKISTAN: Pastor Arrested on Fabricated Charges

Sarfaraz Raja is the associate pastor of the Youngsen Memorial Church in the village of Youngsenabad, Punjab. He was preparing to deliver his Good Friday sermon on 10 April when his brother phoned, reporting that police had entered their family’s house and were harassing their mother and other family members. Accompanied by the head of the village, Pastor Sarfaraz rushed to the scene, where he found six police officers in the courtyard of the family home.

Rather than receive an answer to his enquiry about the authorities’ intrusion, Pastor Sarfaraz was forced into a police vehicle and transported to the station, along with his uncle. At the police station, distillation equipment from a storeroom was photographed with the two men and with this fabricated evidence, the pastor and his uncle were charged with illegally making and selling alcohol. Then the accused men were released on bail the next day.

Sarfaraz believes that the charges stem from complaints he had made earlier about the police wrongfully protecting criminals in the community. He says that other villagers, including the village headman, Chaudhry Ranjeet Lal, will vouch for him regarding these matters. While police deny the allegations, the sub-inspector mentioned his willingness to make a deal if the complaints against the police officers in the charge are withdrawn.

A government enquiry has been ordered by the provincial Minister of Human Rights to evaluate the actions of the local police. Cases of corruption in the country’s villages are not uncommon. Pakistani Christians are frequent targets of local authorities and often must contend with false allegations.

Source: Morning Star News

  • Pray justice will prevail for Pastor Sarfaraz and his uncle, proving their innocence so that the charges will be dropped.
  • Ask the Lord to bring conviction to the hearts of the police officers involved in such corruption and lead them to repentance.
  • Pray that the Christians of the village will demonstrate exemplary lives of honesty and grace so that others in the community would be drawn to faith in Christ.

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PAKISTAN: Christian Family Continues to Suffer Following Recovery of Abducted Daughter

PAKISTAN: Christian Family Continues to Suffer Following Recovery of Abducted Daughter

Abductions, sexual assaults, forced conversions, and forced marriages continue to be a significant abuse faced by Christians in Pakistan.

On 27 January 2019, Maria, 16, was abducted from a relative’s house in Punjab, Pakistan, by a group of Muslim men. For several weeks, Maria was raped multiple times in captivity, forced to convert to Islam, and married to one of her captors. According to Maria, she was severely beaten by four men after she initially refused to convert to Islam.

When Maria’s family came to know that she was missing, they immediately filed a report with the local police. Through several weeks of police efforts, Maria was found. However, this was only the beginning of the legal battle Maria and her family had to wage against her captors. It was also several weeks before Maria was allowed to return home to her family.

The legal battle started in March 2019 with Maria stating for the record that she had not freely converted to Islam or freely married her captor. Instead, she reported that she was forced to do these things against her will and under threat of harm.

A month later, Maria appeared before a court and repeated this statement. After this hearing, the court allowed Maria to return home to her parents. Fearing threats and a repeated abduction, Maria’s family moved to a new neighbourhood where they remain in hiding.

Abductions and assaults on women and girls from Pakistan’s religious minority communities, like that experienced by Maria, are unfortunately common. According to a study by The Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, kidnapped, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.

The issue of religion is also often injected into cases of sexual assault to place religious minority victims at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.

Following the successful recovery of victims, some victims and their families report continued suffering. Perpetrators often avoid prosecution for their crimes and can openly harass victims and families with impunity.

In Maria’s case, this harassment has forced the family into hiding. Unless they receive assistance from Pakistani authorities, the family will likely remain in hiding until Maria’s captors lose interest and give up looking for her.

Source: International Christian Concern

  • Ask the Lord for justice for Maria and her family. Pray the Lord will protect them and provide all their needs. Pray too that He will strengthen their faith.
  • Pray the community will show Maria the care, love and sympathy she deserves.
  • Ask that the authorities will do more to ensure the protection of vulnerable women and girls and will do all they can to pursue justice on their behalf.

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LAOS: Abusive Husband Demands Return of Children

LAOS: Abusive Husband Demands Return of Children

Mrs Khoun, who came to faith in Christ last year, loves to listen to a Christian radio programme that broadcasts sermons and other Christian teaching in her language.

Her husband has always opposed her Christian faith, and his harassment, including beatings, has grown more severe. He recently gave her an ultimatum: Stop going to church or leave the house. She chose to leave, taking two of their five children with her, but her husband is fighting to get the children back.

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Join with Mrs Khoun in praying that the Lord will intervene to ensure she will be able to keep her two children with her. Commit to the Lord, her other three children.
  • Pray her faith may be strengthened and that she will receive great care and encouragement from other Christians in her community.
  • Pray for the salvation of Mrs Khoun’s husband. May he too experience the saving power of the Gospel.

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INDIA: New Believer Persecuted over Rumours of Paid Conversions

INDIA: New Believer Persecuted over Rumours of Paid Conversions

Aarav came to faith in Christ after experiencing healing from an illness when a local minister prayed for him.

When Aarav invited the minister and his family to his home, about 50 members of a militant Hindu group gathered there and began shouting and banging on the doors. The pastor called the police, who came and told the mob that nothing improper was happening in the house. The Hindus were not satisfied, and police finally took Aarav and the pastor to the police station for questioning.

The situation was apparently resolved, until local media reported false allegations of Christians being paid to convert. As a result, Aarav and his family have been evicted from their home, lenders are demanding immediate repayment of loans and Aarav’s long-time client has said he will no longer purchase milk from him. “The family is very sad and worried,” a VOM partner said. “We need to stand urgently in prayers with them.”

Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA

  • Ask the Lord to intervene to finally resolve the situation for Aarav and his family. Pray He will help them remain faithful during this difficult trial.
  • Pray Aarav and his family will receive much care and support from their Christian family as well as members of their community.
  • Persecution in India continues to escalate. Pray the Lord will give courage and wisdom to His church.

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CHINA: Exorbitant Fines Imposed on Landlords of Religious Venues

CHINA: Exorbitant Fines Imposed on Landlords of Religious Venues

A new strategy has raised the level of fear among the church in China. Anyone renting to a house church can be punished with a steep fine – up to $45,000. The measure, supported with much publicity, has left many churches homeless.

A Christian from an impoverished household in Luanchuan County used to host small religious gatherings throughout the year. When she saw banners displayed throughout the city threatening to impose huge fines, she stopped, fearing that she would be unable to find the money for the penalty.

In another case, the police and local officials have been harassing the landlady of a house church meeting venue in Jinshui district of Henan’s Zhengzhou city since last year. Her property was used by a church which has more than 100 congregation members.

The authorities demanded she stop allowing the Christians to use her property. At first the woman refused to obey, so in April, officials told her that “religious issues are political” and threatened to fine her if she continued renting the venue to believers. The landlady said that officials would call her practically every day to put pressure on her, they even threatened to arrest her. The woman was told that even after she ousts the believers from her property, she will still have to report to authorities when she rents out the building again. Pressured and intimidated, the landlady had no choice but to obey, and the house church ceased gathering in April.

“We have the largest number of house churches in Henan. The government is implementing such severe measures in its crackdown to eradicate house churches completely,” a member of a house church commented.

Similar situations have occurred in various regions. Sometimes, the police don’t even need to appear in person to shut down a church: a threatening phone call is sufficient to make the landlord fear repercussions.

For house churches that generally rent their venues, the suppression tactic to threaten landlords with hefty fines is detrimental – they are left with no place to congregate.

Source: Bitter Winter

  • Thank the Lord that nothing can come against the work of His Holy Spirit in building His church.
  • Pray the believers will be granted other opportunities to meet. Pray they will continue to be faithful in encouraging one another.
  • Pray the witness of the Christians in China may be used by the Lord to encourage many in authority to examine the Scriptures for themselves.

Post your prayer in the comments below.