Archive for December, 2006

Spiritual revolution in Middle East

Posted in Overseas with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2006 by Mike

Just ran across Joel C. Rosenberg’s blog. In case you haven’t heard of him, he has written some great novels, the first of which was “The Last Jihad”. I guess that since I’ve only just finished reading this first one, I can’t actually say the rest are great, but he did win “Best Novel of 2006” by the ECPA for “The Ezekiel Option”. He’s got a great post about how Christianity is spreading throughout the Middle East, even in those countries which are run by fundamentalist Islamic regimes.

Iraq: more than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations, with 14 new churches opened in Baghdad, and dozens of new churches opened in Kurdistan, some of which have 500 to 800 members. Also, more than 1 million Bibles shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.Egypt: some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society told me they used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament. “Egyptians are increasingly hungry for God’s Word,” an Egyptian Christian leader told me. Last Christmas, I had the privilege of visiting the largest Christian congregation in the Middle East, which meets in an enormous cave on the outskirts of Cairo. Some 10,000 believers worship there every weekend. A prayer conference the church held in May 2005 drew some 20,000 believers.

Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000. Dozens of baptisms every week.

Kazakstan: only 3 known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000.

Uzbekistan: no known Christians in 1990, but now more than 30,000.

Sudan: more than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an on-going genocide that has killed more than 200,000. Seminaries are being held in caves to train pastors to shepherd the huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? “People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead,” one Sudanese evangelical leader told me.

Iran: in 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders tell me there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches.

He’s got some more great stories in the rest of the post.

More violence against house churches in China

Posted in Overseas with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2006 by Mike


More attacks against Christians in China. This time in Beijing, the site of the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics. Wonder how much of this type of violence will be seen (and allowed to be reported) during the summer games. Here’s the story.

A group of policemen and unidentified persons broke into the home of Xiu Ruibin, a house church missionary in Beijing, beat people in the house and destroyed the furniture. Before the attack two other church leaders were put under house arrest in Xiaoshan on the eve of the court trial of 8 Christian leaders “guilty” of having protested against the destruction of their church, this according to the China Aid Association (CAA), a US-based NGO fighting for religious freedom in China.
The CAA reports that a few days before the attack, some of Xiu’s former colleagues in Heilongjiang Province, who came to Beijing to complain to the central government about illegal actions of their local government, were physically attacked by unknown assailants.
Ms Xiu took them into her own home for their safety and to preach the gospel to them.

Cuban pastor cleared of all charges

Posted in Overseas on December 17, 2006 by Mike

Stacy Harp reported Friday on Persecution Blog that all charges of trafficking in illegal immigrants have been dropped against an evangelical pastor in Cuba.

On Tuesday, December 13, a Cuban court absolved Rev. Carlos Lamelas of all charges of trafficking in illegal immigrants.In a statement Lamelas expressed concern that the Cuban government would look for a way to punish him. His lawyer told him that he might be required to pay a fine for the “falsification of documents”.

Lamelas was arrested in a police raid at his home on February 20. The evangelical pastor was in jail for more than four months, before being unexpectedly released from the Villa Marita Detention Center on June 26.

Thank you to all who prayed for and wrote to Pastor Lamelas.

House church attacked in China

Posted in Overseas with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2006 by Mike


Lest anyone think that China has softened in its stance against Christianity, the Christian Newswire is reporting that police in Shanghai attacked a house church less than 2 weeks ago.

China Aid Association was just informed that December 9th, 2006 a house church in Changqiao, Shanghai was attacked by the local police. A brother named Wang Mingwei was taken to the police station, along with some church belongings. CAA is investigating the event and trying to acquire more details.Photo: Brother Wang Weiliang

In the same article, on a different incident:

CAA learned that the Xiaosha intermediate People’s 10th Court, Hangzhou City has scheduled a trial for the famous Xiaoshan case at 8am, December 22, 2006, more than 4 months after the Dangshan church was demolished by the local government. Eight Christians: Shen Chengyi, Shen Zhuke (female), Wang Weiliang, Feng Guangliang, Ni Weimin, Guo Lijun, Shen Jianjian, Luo Bingliang, will stand trial on charges of inciting a crowd to resist law enforcement. Six of the eight Christians are currently detained in the detention center. Shen Jianjian and Luo Baoliang are out on bail pending trial.December 8, 2006, family members of the eight Christians received indictments from the Xiaoshan Prosecutor, Hangzhou City.

CAA also learned that Brother Zan Aizong, the ex-chief of the Hangzhou reporter station of Chinese Ocean Newspaper, who was fired because he criticized the Xiaoshan event, has brought a lawsuit against the Internet Supervising Division of the Hangzhou PSB, which placed him in custody for 7 days on the charge of disturbing the public order by spreading rumors on the Internet. The Shangcheng District People’s Court has accepted his lawsuit and will try it December 19, 2006. Brother Zan Aizong had just returned to Hangzhou following a short visit to US.

Remember to keep these brothers and sisters in Christ in your prayers. For more info on the persecuted church, visit Persecution Blog.

Christians attacked for not “reconverting” to Hinduism

Posted in Overseas with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2006 by Mike

Le Journal Chretien tells of how two men in the Madhya Pradesh state in India, who converted to Christianity four years ago, were attacked for not turning back to Hinduism.

Ostracized by their village for the past year, two converts of a church in Madhya Pradesh state’s Shahdol district have been beaten for their refusal to return to the Hindu fold.
Santu Prasad Barmaia and Kunjan Prasad Barmaia, both farmers and members of a Gospel for Asia church in Paralia village, were attacked by a group of 12 villagers on October 19.The attack took place in the morning, when the two were on their way to their fields, a local Christian requesting anonymity told Compass. Both men suffered internal injuries.

Police have not arrested the culprits, the source said, in spite of the fact that the victims named them in a complaint filed at the Amarkantak police station.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

The source explained that villagers were angry with the Christians for declining to participate in Hindu rituals since receiving Christ four years ago. “The villagers had been persistently putting pressure on them to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism,” he said.

He added that in the past year villagers have refused to allow the two men, the only Christians in the village, to take water from the hamlet’s common well to pressure them to return to Hinduism. In spite of their limited resources, the Christians dug their own well.

“Earlier, some miscreants vandalized a Hindu temple in the village and the blame fell on the Christians,” the source said. “Later, however, police investigation revealed that they had not done it. Yet the villagers continued to treat them with contempt.”

Please remember these two brothers in your prayers.

Assyrian Christians in Iraq–no voice, no protection

Posted in Overseas with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2006 by Mike


Michelle Vu reports in The Christian Post on a protest held Monday outside the White House by Christians trying to bring attention to the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Although most religious and ethnic groups are suffering in Iraq, Vu reports that this tiny segment of the Iraqi population is especially vulnerable.

“This should be a priority because Assyrian Christians are the indigenous people of Iraq and many people don’t know that,” explained Paul Isaac, one of the rally’s organizers. “Because of their small population, weak status, and lack of regional support they have no one to protect them from all the violence.”Isaac pointed to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) report statistic that although Assyrians comprise only five percent of Iraq’s population, they make up nearly 40 percent of the refugees fleeing Iraq. He said that although all the ethnic and religious groups are suffering in Iraq, “it is clear that the Assyrian Christians are suffering by far the most…and they really have no one to protect them…”

In addition to the troubling Assyrian refugee statistic, there has been a rise in reports of persecution of Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Recently, in October, a 14-year-old boy near Mosul died by a crucifixion-murder. In the same month, Father Paulis Iskander was beheaded in Mosul.

For more information on the Christians of Iraq, visit ChristiansofIraq.com. For much more information on the persecution of Christians around the world, visit The Voice of the Martyrs. And as always, remember our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in your prayers.

The Nativity Story–“The dumbest movie I’ve ever seen”

Posted in America with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2006 by Mike

We decided to take the family to the local theater to see “The Nativity Story”. I’d heard some good things about it, and I wasn’t disappointed. The script pretty much stuck to the work on which it was based, the Bible. Since the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story don’t include everything that happened, we have to guess at some of the things that were said and done. One especially moving moment was when Joseph and Mary were talking to each other about their fears during their travel to Bethlehem. After Mary wonders when they will first be able to tell that Jesus is God, Joseph admits being apprehensive, saying, “I’m afraid that I won’t have anything to teach him.” Another touching scene is when Mary bathes Joseph’s feet as he sleeps by the river after many days of traveling to Bethlehem.

There were several times during the movie when I was moved to tears. So it was with surprise when I stood up to leave at the end that I heard a lady (in her 60’s) a few rows back say to her friends in a not-so-soft voice, “That was the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen!” I couldn’t believe my ears. My first reaction was irritation. But that soon turned to feeling sorry for her. I’m not sure what she had been expecting since the title of the movie is pretty clear about what the movie is all about. Then I felt good, because the story of Christ’s birth is really meant for people exactly like her. She couldn’t have been in a better place for that 1 hour and 41 minutes. A seed was planted in her heart. Someday I hope that seed is watered and begins to grow.

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Catherine Hardwicke on the making of The Nativity Story. Turns out that Keisha Castle-Hughes, the 16-year-old actress who plays Mary, is pregnant by her 19-year-old boyfriend. Not exactly a perfect parallel to Mary, but at least she has chosen to have the baby.