Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Persecuted Church

The persecution of the Christian Church in Moslem countries is only too well known.

A Pakistani official in a northern district warned female teachers and students to don Islamic garb this week, citing threats from Taliban Islamic supremacists (Islamists) active in the area. The Pakistani Executive District Officer (EDO) issued a notice requiring female students in Swat district to wear burqas, an outer garment cloaking nearly the entire body, according to an article on 25 September in a regional newspaper, the Daily Mashriq. Christians in the Afghan-border region 120 miles north of Peshawar say Islamists from the Taliban movement, which ruled most of Afghanistan from 1995 to 2001, have targeted them in recent months.

It is no better in Hindu countries.

In a case typical of false accusations that Hindu ultranationalists file against Christian workers, a pastor and his sister have been cleared of charges of rape and forced abortion in Chhattisgarh state. The Evangelical Fellowship of India announced that pastor Simon Tandi, aka Rohit Ranjan, a convert from Hinduism, and his sister Sanjeela Begum were acquitted by a court in Chhattisgarh's Kanker district on 12 September. Pastor Tandi was facing charges of raping and forcing a girl to terminate the resultant pregnancy after she filed a complaint – prompted by a Hindu nationalist group – against him in June 2005. Pastor Tandi had spent six months in jail, and his sister four months, before they were released on bail prior to the acquittal. The court reportedly found discrepancies in the statement of the complainant and a lack of evidence against the accused. Christian rights activists say facing false police complaints is common for Christian workers in several parts of the country.

And in communist countries it is just as bad.

Beijing house-church leader Cai Zhuohua, jailed since 2004 for conducting "illegal business practices" by distributing Christian literature, has been released with stern warnings to stop practising his faith outside the government-sanctioned church. Rev Bob Fu of China Aid Association (CAA) told reporters that on 13 September, three days after Pastor Cai's release on 10 September, officials of China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) took the well-known Beijing house-church pastor to their offices and tried to intimidate him with threats. "They warned him to be careful – not to be interviewed by the media, to obey the law and not to attend religious activities," Rev Fu said.

Officials from the National Security Bureau – China's equivalent of America's Central Intelligence Agency – on two occasions gave Pastor Cai similar warnings before he was released, Rev Fu said. As an ex-convict whom the government is especially interested to control, Rev Fu said, Pastor Cai must report to the PSB once a month. Pastor Cai is now at home in Beijing with his wife and mother, who leads a church that meets in their house. Deprived of his Bible whilst in prison, Pastor Cai was forced to make soccer balls for the 2008 Beijing Olympics for 10 to 12 hours a day, according to the CAA. Pastor Cai's mother, Rev Fu said, reported that the pastor was well and in good spirits.

Pastor Cai was sentenced to three years in prison on 8 November 2005 for "illegal business practices" and fined 150,000 yuan (then about £9,275). His wife, Xiao Yunfei, was sentenced to two years and fined 120,000 yuan, and her brother Xiao Gaowen was given an 18-month sentence and a fine of 100,000 yuan. Both were released after serving out their sentences. Having been arrested by state security officers on 11 September 2004 at a bus stop, Pastor Cai had been incarcerated for three years by last 10 September even though he was not convicted until November 2005. At the time of his arrest, authorities found more than 237,000 pieces of printed Christian literature, including Bibles, in a storage room he managed. By law, only the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church is allowed to print and distribute Bibles in China.

The US State Department's 2007 International Religious Freedom Report, released last week, noted that many unregistered evangelical Protestant groups in China refuse to register with the TSPM due to theological differences, fear of adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members, or fear that it will control sermon content. "Many evangelical house-church groups also disagreed with the TSPM's admonitions against proselytising, which they consider a central teaching of Christianity," the report states. Recently Chinese authorities have been trying house-church leaders under Article 225 of China's Criminal Law against "illegal acts in business operation," according to Rev Fu of the Texas-based CAA.

Last week the Saudi King was welcomed to London with great pomp and ceremony (even though the band played the Darth Vader march from 'Star Wars' as he arrived. Pakistan is a key ally in the fight against the Taliban. India has been welcomed into the family of nations as thE world's largest democracy, and Western countries are cosying up to her as a future mega-consumer. China is due to host the Olympics shortly and wishes to be seen in a good light.

In the old days Palmerston would have sent a gunboat if a missionary were threatened. Today, Western nations care more for money than for their Christian brothers and sisters. Individual Christians should write to their MP, congressman, MEP or Senator to let them know how we feel about this persecution.

If you want to know more this website is useful.

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