Persecuted For Spreading The Gospel
We have dedicated this page for public awareness of some 200 million suffering believers and ask that you would join us in prayer on their behalf, and help us raise awareness of their plight, especially in the West where the mainstream media neglects to report their suffering. Countless Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Few seem to be aware of them, and fewer seem to care. T.T.U.F. stands with organizations such as The Voice of the Martyrs in support of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their involvement in spreading the gospel. We pray that you will become pro-active in prayer support and join us in raising awareness of and reaching out to the persecuted Church!
Top News Around The World:
Click Here: WORLD MAP - Nations that Prohibit or Restrict Christianity
VOICE OF THE MARTYRS PERSECUTION BLOG
PERSECUTION PODCAST: Broadcasting Stories of the Persecuted Church Hosted by David Erwell,Todd Nettleton and Dory P. (David shares prayer updates for David shares prayer updates for Senegal, Turkey, Egypt, North Africa, Nepal, and Somalia.)
PERSECUTION PODCAST: Broadcasting Stories of the Persecuted Church Hosted by David Erwell,Todd Nettleton and Dory P. (David shares prayer updates for David shares prayer updates for Senegal, Turkey, Egypt, North Africa, Nepal, and Somalia.)
PERSECUTION REPORT: Voice of the MartyrsA judge in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian couple to death on false charges of blasphemy. The judge ordered their execution after convicting them for sending a text message that was criticizing the Islamic prophet Mohammed. VOM Canada partner Gary Lane of "Christian World News" reports.
From Christian World News:
PRAY - Update for August 2013
Persecution and Prayer Alert
"Then the King will say...'I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.... Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" Matthew 25:34-40
CAMEROON: Christians Abducted Amidst Growing Instability
Sources: World Watch Monitor, The Toronto Star
Scars on Adamu Musa, shot by Boko Haram
in a 2013 attack on Gava West village.
Photo: Morning Star News
Gilberte Bussiere, a Canadian nun who is in her mid-70s, as well as Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, two priests from Italy, were all involved in social development and education within the country. At last report, there was no news of the missing missionary workers.
Sources suspect that the Islamic group Boko Haram may be responsible for the abductions, as the group has kidnapped other Christians and foreign nationals in the area. Cameroon's north -- which borders the countries of Nigeria, Chad and Central African Republic -- has become a base for such militants.
Please bring Gilberte, Giampaolo and Gianantonio to our Lord in prayer, asking that He sustain and encourage them during this difficult trial. Pray that they will very soon be released unharmed. Until then, may they be a witness to their abductors of the love of Christ, prompting them to learn more about our Saviour. Please also pray for peace and stability in northern Cameroon.
BAHRAIN: Child Beaten for Her Faith
Source: VOM USA
Michel Djotodia resigned as president in January.
Photo: World Watch Monitor
The girl's father has been a believer for several years and is open with his family about his faith. During a recent conversation with her mother and uncle, the girl was asked what she believed. This was her reply: "I believe what my dad believes. I believe in Jesus."
The child's mother and uncle immediately began to beat her, leaving her badly bruised. Despite the beating, the girl and her father remain committed to following Christ.
Ask God to grant physical and emotional healing to this young girl as she recovers from the ordeal. May her faith grow stronger each day, despite the pressure she will surely continue to face. Thank the Lord that her father is also a believer, and pray that he will be a source of comfort and strength for his daughter as she follows Jesus. Finally, pray for the girl's mother and uncle, that they may also come to accept Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
IRAN: Farshid Fathi Injured by Prison Guard
Sources: Mohabat News, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Elam Ministries
Farshid Fathi, a believer serving a six-year prison sentence for "political offences," was among more than 30 prisoners who were injured by guards and security agents in Evin Prison on April 17th. (For more information on Farshid's sentence, please visit this page.)
Forces from the Intelligence Ministry, Revolutionary Guards, and over 100 prison guards were involved in the violence, which left dozens of prisoners seriously injured. Farshid suffered a broken foot and toe when a guard stamped on his bare foot to prevent him from assisting an injured inmate during the attack. The assault occurred after the inmates protested against an aggressive inspection that had lasted for over five hours.
Three days later, on Easter Sunday (April 20th), Farshid was finally transferred to a hospital where he was treated with a cast. However, he will also reportedly need surgery in the coming weeks.
He later wrote the following note:
"Today I celebrate our Lord's resurrection (with) mixed feelings of joy and pain in a different way and in a different place. My left foot is in a cast after they broke it last Thursday in violations they applied against helpless prisoners under the excuse of inspections. After three days of pain, finally they took me chained and shackled to a hospital on Easter morning. Though I was in dire pain, I took it as a gift from our Lord to get out of prison -- even for a few hours. Of course, we forgive them for all they have done to us because we are followers of the One who says, 'Father, please forgive them because they don't know what they are doing.' So my dear friends, please...pray for me that I may know Him and be found in Him and the power of (His) resurrection."Thank the Lord that Farshid was eventually able to receive medical attention. Pray that he will continue to recover, and that he will promptly receive any further necessary treatment. May Farshid and other imprisoned Christians in Evin Prison be a source of reconciliation and peace between fellow prisoners and their authorities, so that the violence will cease. Finally, please also pray that Farshid will be filled with renewed hope and joy as he faces a six-year prison sentence. May he continue to look to our resurrected Lord for strength and grace while serving Him behind bars until granted release.
RECENT PRISONER ALERT
Arrested December 2012 in China
Print Fact Sheet A Christian bookstore employee, Wenxi Li, and another man associated with the bookstore, Lacheng Ren, were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for their role in the Enyu Bookstore in Taiyuan. On June 17, 2013, Wenxi Li was sentenced to two years in prison by the court of Xiaodian district of Taiyuan in central China. In 2012, Wenxi Li, a book store worker in Beijing, traveled to Shanxi province to help local Christians there open a new book store in the capital city of Taiyuan. But police raided the new business, Enyu Bookstore, and confiscated hundreds of books that Wenxi had brought with him from Beijing. According to the South China Morning Post, one security worker allegedly shouted at Wenxi and his co-workers, “Don’t you dare bring Christian culture here. This is our turf.” On Dec. 19, 2012, Wenxi was asked to come to a police station to retrieve the $6,000 worth of books that police had seized. But when he arrived at the police station, he was immediately arrested and sent to prison. Police were quoted as saying Wenxi was denied bail because of the seriousness of his “crime.” His wife, Cai Hong Li, said police told her that her husband was arrested because he was involved in an “illegal business.” However, Cai Hong said the bookstore had a legal license to operate and that her husband was not involved with managing the business. He was “just sent to find a rental place for a new store,” Cai Hong said. Since her husband’s arrest, Cai Hong said she and her two children have received harassment from anonymous sources. She added that she fears for her children’s safety. While in prison awaiting trial, Wenxi led three people to Christ. His family is planning to appeal his case.
Arrested December 2012 in China
Print Fact Sheet Lacheng Ren, a Christian sponsoring a new Christian bookstore in Taiyuan, and Wenxi Li, a Christian bookstore employee, were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for their role in the Enyu Bookstore in Taiyuan. On June 17, 2013, Lacheng Ren was sentenced to five years in prison by the court of Xiaodian district of Taiyuan in central China. In 2012, Wenxi Li, a book store worker in Beijing, traveled to Shanxi province to help local Christians there open a new book store in the capital city of Taiyuan. But police raided the new business, Enyu Bookstore, and confiscated hundreds of books that Wenxi had brought with him from Beijing. According to the South China Morning Post, one security worker allegedly shouted at Wenxi and his co-workers, “Don’t you dare bring Christian culture here. This is our turf.” On Dec. 19, 2012, Wenxi was asked to come to a police station to retrieve the $6,000 worth of books that police had seized. But when he arrived at the police station, he was immediately arrested and sent to prison. Police were quoted as saying Wenxi was denied bail because of the seriousness of his “crime.” Shortly after Wenxi was arrested, in an apparently coordinated move, Lancheng Ren was also arrested at his home. Lancheng Ren is not an employee of the bookstore, but is one of the founders.
HELD 500 DAYS
Arrested October 2012 in Nepal
Print Fact Sheet Pastor Chhedar Bhote Lhomi was arrested for eating beef and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The 37-year-old pastor and his wife were ministering in a remote part of Nepal among Tibetan people. They established a church there which met regularly. Pastor Bhote and his wife are from an area of Nepal where eating beef is permissible, but in other areas, local Hindus do not eat beef because cows and oxen are sacred as symbols of the gods. In October 2012, local villagers discovered that Chhedar and his family had eaten beef. In an uproar, they accused him of killing the cow himself, and they destroyed his home and everything he owned. The locals handed them over to the Hindu committee, who called police and had him arrested. He was given a sentence of 12 years in prison. When a VOM representative recently met with Chhedar, he was sad and discouraged. Chhedar’s family is struggling without him. He is worried about his children’s future and his wife’s ability to provide for them. The other students tease and mock his three children, ages 10, 8 and 7, relentlessly. Our VOM representative wrote, “Please help to get more letters in the jail so that he will know he has believers around the world who are praying for him.”
LONG STANDING PRISONER ALERT
HELD 283 DAYS
Arrested May 2013 in KazakhstanPrint Fact Sheet Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev of Astana, Kazakhstan, was arrested on May 17, 2013 after allegations were made that he had harmed the health of one of his church members. Until his retirement in October 2012 at age 66, Pastor Kashkumbaev led the Grace Church in Astana, a legally registered protestant church. After his arrest in May, he was freed on Oct. 8, 2013 to complete his pre-trial detention under house arrest. However, secret police waiting at the entrance to the prison rearrested the pastor as he left the prison. His family and wife had not seen him in five months. The pastor’s trial was due to take place in November 2013. In July 2011, the mother of a church member asserted that prolonged influenced from the church undermined her daughter’s mental state and resulted in schizophrenia. The church member herself, however, says she was erroneously diagnosed after having a forced mental examination. She has spoken up publically for Pastor Kashkumbaev and stated that the charges of harming her health are unfounded. In a long-running campaign against the church, state officials have accused the church of being involved in espionage, fraud, money laundering, distributing extremist texts and using hallucinogens in communion drink. On Oct. 3, 2012, the church was raided and officials seized valuables such as gold items, computers, DVDs and books that were declared to be “extremist literature.” At the request of officials, church members voluntarily underwent blood tests to demonstrate that they were not under the influence of any hallucinogens. The results of the tests were not made known to the church members. After his arrest in May 2013, a court mandated that Pastor Kashkumbaev undergo a psychiatric assessment on Aug. 9. He was then ordered to stay at the psychiatric hospital until Sept. 17. During his time in the hospital, there were grave concerns that the pastor would be subjected to psychotropic drugs and ruled mentally incompetent. While being held in the psychiatric facility, the pastor, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1995, was repeatedly questioned about why he followed Jesus rather than Allah. Nearly a month went by before his transfer back to the Investigative Prison.
LONG STANDING PRISONER ALERT
HELD 3564 DAYS
Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel
Arrested May 2004 in EritreaPrint Fact Sheet 09/28/2012 Update Dr. Kiflu Gebremeskel, a leading figure of Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, founder and senior pastor of Southwest Full Gospel Church and member of the executive committee to the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea, was arrested on May 23, 2004. He was taken from his home in Asmara Gejeret, at approximately 5 a.m. Dr. Gebremeskel was a mathematics lecturer, department and faculty head at the University of Asmara until 1999, when he became a full-time pastor at the Southwest Full Gospel Church. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Chicago University. His wife and four children have not been able to visit him. About 2,000 Eritrean Christians are believed to be under arrest because of their religious beliefs, held in police stations, military camps and prisons in 12 known locations across Eritrea. Dr. Gebremeskel is one of the 28 clergymen being held. Jailed Protestants are routinely subjected to physical beatings and severe psychological pressure to deny their religious beliefs. Police and military authorities continue to demand the prisoners return to one of the three “official” Christian denominations recognized by the government. But even the legally recognized denominations--the nation’s historic Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches--have come under government disfavor, incurring threats and even jailing by security police officials.
HELD 3265 DAYS
Arrested March 2005 in Eritrea
Print Fact Sheet Pastor Kidane Weldou disappeared and is presumably detained by Eritrean security forces. His vehicle was found abandoned in downtown Asmara. He is a senior pastor of the Full Gospel Church and has been a leader in the church for many years. Weldou is married and has four daughters. For many days his family has been unable to learn his whereabouts. Other Full Gospel pastors still being held include Haile Nayzgi. Pastor Weldou is also a member of the executive committee of Gideons International in Eritrea. About 2,000 Christians are being held in prisons and military camps in Eritrea. A few were released after signing a pledge to stop attending religious services. The Eritrean government began forcibly closing evangelical Protestant churches in 2002. They have not allowed any of the independent Protestant churches to register and reopen since, even though 11 have applied for this official registration. Along with Islam, there are only three Christian churches authorized to worship by the government. These include Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches. However, Orthodox Christians have also been arrested. On February 19, 2005, a group of Sunday school teachers and students were arrested and detained by police after a raid on the Medhane Alem Orthodox Church in Asmara. They were later released. According to Compass Direct, the pastors of the banned Protestant churches were reportedly ordered not to inform anyone outside Eritrea of their problems. However, these pastors rejected this advice and reported what was happening to the outside world. Some of those arrested are held in metal shipping containers.
Statistics from EritreaAccording to Compass Direct newly compiled statistics smuggled out of Eritrea indicate that at least 1,918 Eritrean citizens are imprisoned and subjected to torture and forced labor because of their religious beliefs; 95 percent of these known religious prisoners of conscience are Christians.
HELD 3564 DAYS
Arrested May 2004 in Eritrea
Print Fact Sheet 03/10/2005 Update During the early morning hours of May 23, 2004, Haile Nayzgi was arrested and taken to Police Station #1 in Asmara. He was the leader of Eritrea’s Full Gospel Church, which is comprised of 120 to 150 house meeting groups. The church groups were closed by government decree at a meeting with a government official on May 15, 2003. At that time the church groups were given an application form for government registration. The Full Gospel Church filled out the form and returned it to the appropriate offices, but no reply was ever received. Haile is married and has three children. He was previously an accountant with World Evangelical Alliance. During his incarceration, Haile has been refused any personal contact with his family. When family and friends went to take food and clothing to the prison for Haile on August 24, 2004, they were told that he was no longer there. Mr. Nayzgi has been moved to various locations since his arrest, but the actual charges against him have not been released.
Haile's Wife and Children Separated in SudanAfter Haile went to prison, his wife and children decided to flee Eritrea. His wife is in Kharthoum, but his children were only able to reach a border town between Sudan and Eritrea. Because of fear of human traffickers, they have not been able to travel to Khartoum. Meanwhile, more than 20 church leaders working with the underground church were arrested on Jan. 17, 2013. From various denominations, they were arrested in their own homes, in an apparently coordinated move.
HELD 712 DAYS
Arrested March 2012 in Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Print Fact Sheet Alireza Seyyedian is a 37-year-old former Muslim who has been a Christian since 2006. Last year, security forces confiscated his computer during a raid on his apartment. Authorities then discovered video of Alireza’s baptism in Turkey on the computer. In December 2011 he was sentenced to six years in prison, for crimes against national security and propaganda against the regime. The judge stated that since Alireza was baptized in Turkey, he was trying to express the lack of freedom in Iran and was therefore was propagating against the regime. He was also accused of holding regular meetings with former Muslims and distributing Bibles among youth. They also said he had communication with Zionist satellite TV channels such as Mohabat TV and Radio Mojde and shared worship hymns he had written with them. The verdict also falsely accused him of being a member of the Jesus Only cult. On March 14, 2012, Alireza was caught seeking to flee Iran for Turkey. He was arrested and transported back to Tehran where he was imprisoned in Evin prison. He was put in Section 350 of the prison, which is where political prisoners are held. That part of the prison is run by VEVAK, the intelligence service that reports to Ayatollah Khameini and is beyond the control of Iran’s prison authorities. According to one report, the conditions of this section of the prison are unsanitary, and each cell is overcrowded with around 30 political prisoners. Alireza has never been married.
HELD 1156 DAYS
Arrested December 2010 in Iran (Islamic Republic of)Print Fact Sheet Farshid Fathi was arrested on Dec. 26, 2010 in a wave of arrests of believers in Tehran and other areas. Of the 22 believers arrested by security forces in Tehran, 10 were released after intense questioning and after they signed agreements to refrain from Christian activities. Eleven others were also later released. By the end of April, 2011, only Farshid remained in prison, though his family had paid an enormous bail sum. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement. Farshid, a Christian convert from Islam, was charged with “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country,” and sentenced to six years of imprisonment on March 5, 2012. Though the charge is for his Christian work, authorities tried to cast his activities as political offenses. Farshid’s appeal against the charges was rejected in June 2012. He is due to serve the rest of his sentence in Evin Prison. According to Elam Ministries, Farshid is a shining beacon for Christ in Evin, so much so that the son of an Iranian ayatollah commented on Farshid's sweet nature in a YouTube video. The two shared a cell. The man remarked on how beloved Farshid is among the inmates. Elam described Farshid as “a man after God’s own heart.” Farshid, born in 1979, is married to Leila, and has two children, Rosana and Bardia.
“How Can I Complain?” – October 2013Disturbed to learn of a false story on the Internet, Farshid wrote a letter to clear up the matter. “How can I complain about my suffering when my brothers and sisters are paying a high price for their faith all over the world? I recently heard about many people killed in front of a church in Pakistan. I also heard a young sister in Christ sharing about how she lost her family for the sake of the Gospel and still she is willing to return to share the good news. “…So when I look at all these heroes of faith, how can I complain about my suffering? Thank you so much for your prayers..."
Farshid Under Mental Torture - August 2013In a letter written from prison, Farshid Fathi described how his interrogators have used emotional manipulation to break him. He wrote, “I was told falsely that my wife had been arrested as well, and that I needed to give my [two] children’s custody to someone temporarily. I was also informed, falsely, that my dad had a heart attack and was hospitalized. Then they wouldn’t give me any follow-up news on whether he was dead or alive. It was all intended to put me under mental pressure.” In reality, his father is fine, and his wife and two children fled Iran in 2011. They are now in Canada.
“My Lord Has Never Left Me” - November 2012Farshid wrote a letter to his father in November 2012, which describes the condition of his heart during a very lonely time. “Often I have been sorrowful because of certain things, but I have never been a slave of sadness. Often I have been insulted, humiliated and accused, but I have never doubted my identity in Christ. Some have deserted me, some have fled from me; in no way do I pass judgment on them. My Lord has never left me. “…What really matters is I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. This possibly is the sweetest truth of my life that I am His and He is mine.”
HELD 1,000 DAYS
Arrested May 2011 in Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Print Fact Sheet Behnam Irani, a 41-year-old pastor from Karaj, Iran, was convicted of crimes against national security in January 2011 and sentenced to one year in prison. After voluntarily surrendering to authorities on May 31 to begin his sentence, he learned that he would be forced to serve five years in connection with a previous conviction. Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) raided Irani’s house church on April 14, 2010, and assaulted him before taking him into custody. Although he was released on bail two months after his arrest, he later received the one-year prison sentence. When Irani voluntarily began serving his sentence in May 2011, he was prepared to spend one year in prison. But he received a letter in October stating that he must now serve five years from his previous sentence. Irani was first arrested in December 2006 and tried for crimes against national security. He was released in January 2007 but was soon re-arrested, tried and sentenced to five years in prison. Irani was never called to serve the sentence that is now being held against him. Irani became a pastor in 2002, 10 years after becoming a Christian. Please pray for his wife and two children as they wait for him to return home.
Still Ill, But Full of Faith - September 2013Pastor Behnam Irani remains in poor health. He has served a little over two years of his six-year sentence. VOM partners report that his faith remains strong and his attitude is positive. His family misses him a great deal. He has a 12-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. Pray for healing for Pastor Behnam and for protection for him while he’s in prison. Pray especially that God would strengthen and encourage his faith during this season.
Behnam Remains in Prison - August 2013VOM contacts sent this update recently: Pastor Irani is still in prison and is still sick. His wife is mostly doing well, but she gets quite lonely. Their young son forgets he has a daddy sometimes. Their daughter is still shaken by what happened; she saw her father getting beaten by the police during the service.
Behnam Transferred to Prison Hospital - July 2012Within the last week, Behnam Irani became so sick that he lost consciousness. As a result, he was finally allowed to be transferred to to prison hospital. His family had been worried for weeks that he appeared to be suffering from an intestinal issue. Instead, it appears that Behnam suffers from a bleeding ulcer. We are thankful Behnam is being treated by a doctor, but we encourage you to continue to pray for him since the situation is so serious.
Irani is Ill - February 2012The family of Behnam Irani are very concerned over reports of his ill health. He is experiencing some sort of intestinal disorder. His family is very concerned because his brother died from intestinal cancer. Please pray for his health, as well as for his family.
Pastor Irani Being Mistreated and in Poor HealthFor the first few months of his sentence, Behnam Irani was held in solitary confinement in a very small cell. Afterward, he was moved to another small cell with other prisoners. The room was so full, the prisoners were not able to lie down to sleep, so they had to sit all day and night. The room also got very hot. Pastor Behnam is now in a normal cell, but authorities have asked for him to be beaten regularly. All his hair has turned white, and his friends fear he may lose the use of his foot, due to a severe foot injury. Please keep Behnam and his family in your prayers.
HELD 1699 DAYS
Arrested July 2009 in Pakistan
Print Fact Sheet On Jan. 11, 2010, Imran Ghafur Masih was sentenced to life in prison and fined 100,000 rupees ($1,155 U.S.), according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts. His family has appealed the decision to the Pakistan High Court and is awaiting a hearing date. On July 1, 2009, Pakistani police arrested Imran Ghafur in Punjab province after Muslims accused him of burning pages of the Quran. While cleaning his brother’s retail shop, Imran removed the trash he had collected, intending to burn some of it. While burning the trash, pages of an Islamic book flew into the fire and burned. Imran’s neighbor, Haji Liaqat, saw the burned pages of the Islamic book and alerted other Muslims in the area. “Haji Liaqat saw the burned pages, and he aggressively told all resident people and travelers that Imran burnt the pages of a Quran also,” a VOM contact said. “He was telling everybody that Imran Ghafur is burning the Quran … he should be killed.” Imran and his father were severely beaten before police arrested Imran. Following the arrest, news of the incident spread throughout the city, and angry Muslims threw stones at the police station where Imran was being held. “Give the death sentence to him who disgraces the Holy Quran, and hang him who disgraces the Holy Quran,” the Muslims said. “Christians are dogs; Imran is a dog,” they shouted. On July 2, 2009, Imran was moved to a jail. “The situation is very tense in Hajwari town, where the Christian families live,” the VOM contact said. “Haji Liaqat and his friends are saying that they will not allow Imran’s family to live in the colony or run their business.” Imran and his family have been managing businesses in the area and are actively involved with other Christians in the area.
Singing Songs at MidnightIn March 2012, Imran Ghafur's family told us how Imran spends his time in prison. At midnight, Imran prays and sings spiritual songs. Sometimes Muslim prisoners join him and ask him to pray for them. Imran also spends a lot of time in prayer and Bible reading. He is anxious to be released so he can "do missionary work for Jesus." Please pray for his family, who seemed to be feeling particularly low last month.
Thank You for Your PrayersOn Thursday, May 26, 2011, Imran’s brother, Naveed, visited Imran in jail. Naveed told Imran many people were praying for him and he asked Imran what message he wanted to give VOM and other prayer partners. Imran had tears of joy in his eyes. He said, “I am thankful to Lord for this help. I wish that I could personally meet and thank you, but I am in jail. I cannot do that, but I promise, the day I come out of this prison, surely I will thank you for this love and prayers.” Imran said he is using his time in prison to study God's Word. "I am happy the Lord wants to use me for his Kingdom."
HELD 1711 DAYS
Arrested June 2009 in Pakistan
Print Fact Sheet Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, 2009. Asia (also called Asia Noreen) is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of 1,500 families. Many of the local women, including Asia, work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees. During their work, many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. In June, the pressure became especially strong. On Friday, June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.” Upon hearing this, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from the mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She was held at the police station in Nankana city. Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed they were under pressure from local Muslim leaders. Seventeen months after Asia’s arrest, she was convicted of violating subsection C of Pakistan’s 295 blasphemy law - blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad - and was sentenced to death. No Christian in Pakistan has ever been executed under the blasphemy law, but in several cases,extremists have murdered Christians after their release from prison. Asia’s conviction and death sentence have brought international attention to the country’s blasphemy laws. Christians have called for Asia’s release and for a repeal of the laws, while extremists in Pakistan continue to demand that she be executed. The Voice of the Martyrs urges Christians around the world to pray for Asia Bibi and her family.
Asia's Husband Visits Once a Month - October 2013Since Asia was transferred to a new prison, her husband has been able to visit her once a month. It’s an expensive, arduous journey for him, but it is an encouraging time for both of them. Asia’s two daughters have not yet been able to make the trip, but VOM is arranging to have them visit as soon as their school schedules allow.
Asia Transferred to a New PrisonAsia Bibi was transferred to a new prison in June, leaving her five hours away from her family. She was previously only an hour away. Her husband, Ashiq, met her on June 6, 2013. She again requested prayer, and told her husband she's been sick and in a lot of pain. Asia continues to await word on her appeal against her blasphemy sentence.
HELD 1448 DAYS
Arrested March 2010 in Uzbekistan
Print Fact Sheet On March 9, 2010, a criminal court in Uzbekistan sentenced 27-year-old Tohar Haydarov to 10 years in prison for the “illegal sale of narcotic or psychotropic substances in large quantities.” Members of the Baptist church in Uzbekistan insist that the charges are fabricated and that Haydarov’s sentence was punishment for his religious activity. It is unclear why Haydarov received a 10-year sentence. According to Forum 18 News, Baptists insist that police planted drugs on Haydarov, and church members insist that he is “a man with a pure conscience and an honest Christian.” Haydarov's appeal was denied.
Sentence Confirmed; Prisoner Shown LettersA judge recently confirmed Tohar's ten year prison sentence, for charges church members say are false. "The court correctly stated the criminal act of Tohar Haydarov, and the punishment was given in proportion to the act, taking into account the public danger of the act," the judge wrote. Prison authorities recently showed Tohar some of the many letters sent to him, but he is not allowed to read them, because "there are too many citations from the Bible in them." ----This last prisoner is a Roman Catholic Priest. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would impart true biblical salvation to this man, who is suffering imprisonment for the sake of his church.----
HELD 945 DAYS
Nguyen Van Ly
Arrested July 2011 in Vietnam
Print Fact Sheet On Feb. 19, 2007, Father Nguyen Van Ly was arrested in Hue, Vietnam for distributing material “harmful to the state.” In March, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He has issued statements criticizing the government’s confiscation of church property, lack of seminary training and the influence of the state in church teachings and has been a powerful advocate for Christian freedom. On March 15, 2010, Father Nguyen was released on medical parole after he suffered three debilitating strokes. He spent 16 months convalescing before the government demanded he return to complete his sentence. Seriously ill and weak, Father Nguyen was rearrested on July 25, 2011.
International Christian Persecution Top Stories
Converting from Islam to Christianity has never been an easy thing, especially so in country's like Pakistan. Once an individual has left Islam in a country like Pakistan, they are often alienated by their family and are sometimes treated with serious hostility. In the case of one Christian convert in Pakistan, his conversion ultimately led to his death.
Hostility towards Egyptian Christians in the past few months has been at an all-time high. In a horrific attack this past week, two Christian pharmacies were attacked as well as some on the street. The victims of the stabbings were all Christians. A suspect has since been arrested and it appears that charges will be brought against him. The defendant appears to be preparing an insanity defense, that looks like many as simply a cover-up to hide the real motives behind the attack of these Christian women.
Christian Family in Damascus Often Runs for Their Lives After Bombings, but Places Trust in God’s HandsFriday, February 21st, 2014
A firsthand account from inside the Syrian capital of Damascus highlights the intense pressure Christians are living under in the midst of the conflict. Besides the very real threats coming from the on-going war, the physical trauma that so many have experienced are putting intense burden on the church. There are young people sharing their testimony of having a brother beheaded simply because of his faith. This reality must urge the church to be fervent in their prayers for Syria.
Attacks on Christian communities across northern Nigeria continued over last weekend when Boko Haram militants surrounded a Christian village, gathered up many of the Christian men in the village square and executed over 100 people. The levels of anti-Christian violence continue to rise in northern Nigeria as the government struggles to control the Boko Haram insurgency. Please pray for the Christians who find themselves targeted by Boko Haram.
A church located in Omdurman, Sudan near the country's capital of Khartoum was demolished by Sudanese authorities without warning and with little explanation. According to local police, the church was destroyed because it was located in a "Muslim area" and was unwanted. Many Sudanese Christians see this act as a part of Sudan's broader campaign to become more Islamic and Arab. Following the separation of South Sudan, Sudanese President al-Bashir declared his intention to adopt stricter forms of Sharia law and make the country more Islamic. Please pray for Christians currently suffering in Sudan.
According to sources in Egypt, an agreement has been reached to officially open a Coptic church in Saudi Arabia. This is being described as the first church ever built inside Saudi Arabia. It is unclear whether the church would be permitted to accept Saudi nationals who may wish to come. There are estimated to be more than a million foreign Christians living inside Saudi Arabia who have very limited access to religious activities or services. A formal church would be a step in the right direction, though is largely symbolic rather than a substantive change of policy towards Christianity.
Christians have found themselves in an incredibly vulnerable situation in Syria. The conflict has attracted a host of Islamic Jihadist groups who pose an existential threat to Christianity. It has also prompted a harsh crackdown by the regime of Bashar al-Assad that has left many hesitant to support him, only viewing the alternatives as potentially worse. This has led many to flee the country. Other Christians have decided to stay and attempt to protect their land as much as possible, leading to interesting coalitions. Despite the very real dangers, Christians are determined to see the church continue on in the land that was the birthplace of Christianity.
The story of Christianity in Iraq over the past 11 years is troubling in many ways. In the midst of the violence the number of Christians has decreased by 1.2 million. Prior to 2003 there was estimated to be 1.5 million, now just 300,000 remain. Along with the physical absence of Christians, much of the culture and heritage of the church is in danger of being lost as well. There have been some steps taken both politically and by civil society to protect and promote Christianity in Iraq.
Injustice, discrimination and persecution continue to dominate the lives of many Christians living in Pakistan. Last week, a Christian boy and Muslim girl ran away together and got married without the consent of their families. This incident let to several Christians being arrested and a Christian community almost being destroyed by a Muslim mob. The local police arrested and tortured three of the Christians they were charged with "protecting." Will Christians in Pakistan ever be able to live and equal and peaceful life?
Pakistan continues to be criticized by the international community for its abusive and controversial blasphemy laws. In Pakistan, defiling a Quran, defaming the Prophet Mohammed or hurting religious feelings can warrant life imprisonment and even execution. Unfortunately, these laws are used to persecute religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians. Today, even openly standing for reform to the blasphemy laws is enough to invite violence. Will Pakistan ever be able to reform?
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Australian missionary John Short, 75, was arrested by North Korean authorities on Sunday in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang. John, a career missionary based in Hong Kong, was traveling to the reclusive nation with a tour group and was carrying Christian literature translated into Korean.
Christians face a rising level of religious freedom around the world, and especially in the Middle East. Two recent studies from respected research organizations, Pew Forum and Open Doors, have highlighted the massive scale of the issue. Many are pushing for the United States to make the protection of religious minorities a core part of foreign policy, which the administration says that it already is. The problem has been in the failure to back the rhetoric with action. While there are political issues involved, it is imperative that the positions that exist to protect religious minorities be quickly filled if the United States is to have any credibility behind its claims to be a defender of religious freedom.
The situation for Christians in Upper Egypt remains extremely unstable. The lack of stable security structures has created a situation where Christians are regularly taken hostage and held in exchange for ransom. The pace of the kidnappings has shown no signs of slowing down. In recent weeks the targeting of children seems to have increased. The security forces in many cases have been unengaged. In some instances it is due to a failure to report the incident, but in others the response has been limited.
Reports of more attacks on Christian communities in northern Nigeria continue to be collected following this weekend's attack on the Christian village of Izghe in Nigeria's northern state of Borno. It is believed that Boko Haram militants are behind these attacks, intensifying their campaign to cleanse Nigeria's northern regions of Christians. It is now believed that as many as 200 people may have been killed in a series of attacks over the weekend. Many are now questioning the Nigeria government inability to protect its Christian citizens.
A group of prominent Christian leaders from the Central African Republic (CAR) have spoken out against the cycle of brutal violence that has enveloped the entire nation. Many of these leaders are calling to an end of revenge killings and specifically have spoken out against the notion of the Anti-Balaka groups being labeled "Christian militias." According to the church leaders, true Christians should not engage in the brutal violence now being witnessed across CAR. Please pray for an end to the violence and for order and peace to be restored soon.
In March 2011, the then minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated by Islamic radicals because of his open criticism of Pakistan's controversial and abusive blasphemy laws. Bhatti specifically highlighted how the blasphemy laws were disproportionately abused to persecute Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan. He also spoke boldly in the blasphemy case against a Christian woman, Asia Bibi. Now, the Bhatti's killers may go free due to death threats and intimidation.
Human rights observers are noting a perceptible increase in the profile of religious freedom issues in the United States and Europe. President Obama's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 6 included many direct references to the issue of international religious freedom. The European Parliament has also just released its first annual report on religious freedom violations around the globe, and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, has publicly called for more attention to be paid to severe persecution in nations like Syria, Egypt, and Nigeria.
Nine Christians in central China remain behind bars this week as their lawyers appeal for an investigation from a higher level court. The nine Christians, including Pastor Zhang Shaojie, were arrested back in November along with more than a dozen other church members belonging to the Nanle County Christian Church. The mass arrest was unusual because the church belongs to the government controlled "Three-Self" church organization. Most of China's Christians choose to worship in unregistered house churches and can be arrested for attending these "illegal" gatherings.
One Coptic woman was killed and others were wounded in a violent attack on Christians in Upper Egypt. The attack occurred around midnight when a man broke into two separate pharmacies and stabbed employees working there, as well as two students who were walking on the streets. “He killed her because she is a Christian. There was nothing else,” said the brother of Madline Demian, 30, who was killed in the attack.
A Moroccan Christian who was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison for speaking about his faith has been formally cleared. The court proceedings in the case against Mohamed El Baladi, a Christian, were finalized on February 13th, bringing an end to a case that had originally raised concerns about a possible crackdown on religious activity. The court ruled that Mohamed had simply spoken about his faith, with no attempts at coercion. His trial has brought the reality of Moroccan Christians into the public spotlight across the country as his testimony and the persecution he has faced since becoming a believer has been shared in Moroccan media.
On Saturday night, Feb. 15, Christians in a village located in northern Nigeria were attacked by Boko Haram. As many as 106 Christians were killed in that attack, marking the single deadliest attack on Christians in 2014. This attack is only the latest in a series of attacks on Christian villages that began to intensify in January 2014. Christians living in northern and central Nigeria have been attacked almost every weekend in 2014. When will the violence stop?
According to reports from the ACLJ, 2 Christian men in Pakistan have avoided imprisonment due to false murder accusations leveled against them. False accusations of crimes, especially blasphemy, are very common for Christians in Pakistan. Many of these accusations are leveled against Christians by Muslims who seek to settle personal scores or are seeking economic gain. Because there is almost never any punishment for those who level these false accusations, many Christians fear any type of conflict with a Muslim who could falsely accuse them of some crime and thus radically change their life.
In a hearing last week, Elliot Abrams of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that the United States consider using targeted economic sanctions against nations who violate basic standards of international religious freedom. While the U.S. does report on violations of religious freedom around the world and does list certain nations as "Countries of Particular Concern", actual sanctions are almost never placed against nations for persecuting religious minorities. Every year millions of Christians living around the world face government restrictions and social hostility, often including extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture, simply because of their religious identity.
In a long awaited high profile report, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry has condemned North Korea and its leaders for crimes against humanity, calling on the international community to take swift and decisive action. Michael Kirby, the head of the commission, pointed out that the world has no excuse not to act, knowing full well the extent and depth of the atrocities being committed in North Korea. The report also pointed out that "severe punishments" are carried out against those who practice Christianity. North Korea is widely considered to be the worlds worst persecutor of Christians in the world today, with as many as 50,000 Christians currently locked up in prison camps.
In Boko Haram's latest attack on Christian in northern Nigeria, the militants dressed in military uniform and stormed a Christian village. The militants then began shooting Christian residents of the town, specifically targeting male residents. This is just another attack by Boko Haram on the Christian community living in northern Nigeria. Bent on establishing a purely Islamic society in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has been using extreme violence to drive Christians out of northern Nigeria since 2009.
Due to death threats and peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government, the killers of Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, could be released from prison without facing justice. In 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down due to his criticism of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Calling for reform to the laws, Shahbaz was among the only government official brave enough to speak out publicly about the laws and how they were abused against religious minorities, especially Christians. Will Shahbaz and his family ever receive justice?
Foxes Book of Martyrs Online:
History of Christian Martyrs to the First General Persecutions Under Nero Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly acknowledged Him to be the Son of God and perceiving the secret hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words three things are to be noted:
First, that Christ will have a Church in this world.
Secondly, that the same Church should mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the uttermost strength and powers of all hell.
And, thirdly, that the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and all his malice, should continue.
Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly, what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold: for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of God in His Church might appear to His glory, also that, the continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time, being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian faith.
As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior's history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of the Jews by His subsequent resurrection.
Although one apostle had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him; under the solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken Him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the high-priest" , the history of His resurrection gave a new direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy Spirit, imparted new confidence to minds. The powers with which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of Gentile proselytes.
I. St Stephen
St. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. '' The time when he suffered is generally supposed to have been at the Passover which succeeded to that of our Lord's crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the following spring
Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet. We are immediately told by St. Luke, that "there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that "they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaa and Samaria, except the apostles."
About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor one of the seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution that arose about Stephen "
II. James the Great
The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apostles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other at Macedonia. These events took place in AD 44.
Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first called by the name of "disciple." He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A. D. 54.
Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a. halberd in the city of Nadabah, AD 60.
V. James the Less
Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Savior. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.
Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.
Was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.
VIII. St. Mark
Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.
Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome; albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof. Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him to death which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But, coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to whom he, worshipping, said "Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.
Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptized at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.
The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, AD 72.
Preached in several countries, and having translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.
Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, which exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.
The evangelist, was the author of the Gospel which goes under his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries, and supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.
Surnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania Africa, and even in Britain in which latter country he was crucified, AD 74.
The "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian after wards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about AD 73. And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical, and watered plenteously with the blood of saints.
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