The lower house of the Belarusian National Assembly has passed a tough new security bill making “discrediting the Republic of Belarus´ a criminal offence.” Belarus´ security forces (KGB) will have the power to act against those who commit “crimes against the state,” e.g., by reporting repression and persecution. Last year the 600-strong New Life Church in Minsk was refused registration, and no one would rent premises to them. They purchased a cowshed where they started meeting and worshipping. The authorities then fined the church for allegedly violating the Land Code, as a cowshed may not be designated for religious use. The church´s pastor, Vyacheslav Goncharenko, has been fined frequently. According to Forum 18 (F18), the Minsk City Administrative Committee ordered the sale of the cowshed. The state will now confiscate New Life´s property. F18 recently saw a report written by a top religious affairs official expressing regret officials have not been active enough in controlling and repressing religion. He complains of the state´s failure to return an alternative Orthodox community to the Moscow Patriarchate, failure to stop Baptists conducting two or three services a week, “freely and systematically distributing religious literature,” and conducting “an illegal water baptism” lasting over four hours with over 300 participants. He describes the situation as “depressing” and vows to ensure religion is brought under control by the end of the year.
Pray God will use the witness of faithful Christians to demonstrate His love and grace to those who oppose Him. Pray they will keep growing in wisdom, grace, patience and faith in their Redeemer.
ASSIST News Service
Unknown attackers set fire to the Beth Eden Protestant Church in Manado, Indonesia, on the night of December 8th. There were no injuries, even though the pastor and his family were living in the building. However, the building received extensive damage. Stephen Liow, the church´s pastor, told Asia News he had been receiving anonymous calls in the past few months from people threatening to burn down the church building. The Christmas season in Indonesia has often been a time of suffering for Christians who are targeted by Islamic militants. Due to the heightened threat of terrorism, thousands of police officers have been put on alert. A police spokesman said, “Churches and other worship buildings have become our top security priority along with entertainment centres, shopping compounds.”
Pray the Lord Jesus will protect His followers as they celebrate his birth. Pray Pastor Liow will have the heart of Christ as he leads the congregation through this stressful time. Ask that the faithfulness of believers will spark a new work of the Holy Spirit throughout Indonesia.
The United States has approved emergency resettlement for a family of four Iranian Christians left stranded in Turkey since an October deportation order. Widow Zivar Khademian, together with her daughter Fatemeh Moini, 19, and sons Hossein and Kazem Moini, both in their early 30s, had fled to Turkey in January 2003. After arriving in Turkey, the family was twice refused UNHCR refugee status, despite their status as former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Under Iran´s strict Islamic laws, anyone who abandons the Muslim faith faces the death penalty.
Give thanks to God that Zivar and her children can come to the United States. Pray they will find strong Christian friends to help them in their adjustment to a new life here.
Pray God will move in His loving power to prevent this execution and the truth regarding the circumstances will be made known. Pray the Lord will strengthen Christians, leading many to Christ.
The earthquake that hit the Kashmir region of India and Pakistan October 8th killed thousands and left more than 3 million homeless. With the urgent need for shelter, Pakistani authorities are reportedly evicting hundreds of Christians from their homes to make room for the homeless. Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi told Catholic news agencies at least 40 families in a district near Joharabad in Sind province were forced out of their homes. He believes officials prefer this alternative because it saves the time and money needed to erect shelters for the refugees. Bishop Lobo said, “We are the most vulnerable people, we are very poor and we are easy targets.” Some are seeing this as a slap in the face, as Christians were actively involved in relief operations for those suffering from the earthquake, regardless of their religious affiliation. Bishop Lobo has begun assembling a legal team to prevent similar evictions in other Christian communities.
Pray God will give Bishop Lobo great wisdom as he deals with government officials. Pray our faithful Lord will provide housing and basic supplies for those who trust in Him. Pray this will result in an opportunity to promote the truth of God´s Word in Sind province.
Pray Uzbek Christians will remain strong, knowing their help comes from the Lord. Pray God will strengthen them to continue to bear fruit for His Kingdom. Pray the hand of the Lord will be upon President Karimov, bringing him out of darkness into His glorious light.