According to a report released by the U.S. State Department, there are no public churches left in Afghanistan.
One decade after the US invasion of the nation that led to the overthrow of the Taliban regime, Afghan Christians are no better off than before.
The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed back in March 2010, according to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report, which also states that there are no Christian schools left in the country.
"There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March ... (private) chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams), and at the Italian embassy."
The report also states that "Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity. The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom."
Today, most Christians in Afghanistan are afraid to even "state their beliefs, or gather openly to worship."
The report acknowledged that Afghanistan's new constitution - ratified with the help of U.S. mediation in 2004 - can be contradictory when it concerns the free exercise of religion.
While the new constitution proclaims that Islam is the "religion of the state" and that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," it also claims that "followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law," even though "the right to change one's religion was not respected either in law or in practice."
"Muslims who converted away from Islam risked losing their marriages, rejection from their families and villages, and loss of jobs," according to the report. "Legal aid for imprisoned converts away from Islam remains difficult due to the personal objection of Afghan lawyers to defend apostates."
After intense diplomatic pressure, authorities released Afghani Christian Said Musa, who had been in prison for nearly nine months on charges of apostasy (leaving Islam), punishable by death under Islamic law. Another convert, however, remains in prison.
A source in Afghanistan said that Musa was released and had left the country, but the date of his release was not clear. Musa had written a series of letters from his prison cell, the last one dated Feb. 13. In that letter Musa, an amputee and a father of six, said that representatives of embassies in Kabul visited him and offered him asylum. After the representatives left, Musa was taken to another room where three Afghani officials tried to convince him to recant his faith. They promised to release him from prison within 24 hours if he would do so. He refused and was sent back to his cell.
I told them I cannot follow Islam, he wrote in his letter. I am Jesus Christs servant. They pushed me much and much. I refused their demands. Still in prison is Shoib Assadullah, an Afghani Christian who has been in a holding jail in a district of Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan since October. A recent letter from him suggests that his life is in danger.
The number of young Muslims coming to Christ in Iran is growing. Although exact numbers are not known, there are reports of an increase in house church secret meetings. Even in the streets some are openly telling others that they are Christians. According to Middle East Open Doors staff members, the growth is 'explosive'; they even speak of a revival.
Shouwang Church Attempts to Move Indoors But is Blocked Again by Government
Beijings beleaguered Shouwang Church started the New Year prepared to end its 38 weeks of holding Sunday worship services outdoors and attempted to lease a new meeting site at three different places. But the landlords all came under government pressure and refused to let Shouwang meet on their premises. So the 1000-member church continues to be forced to hold its worship services outdoors. Anyone who shows up at the outdoor worship site is rounded up by police and held for up to 24-48 hours before being released. Meanwhile, the churchs clergy and lay leaders have been confined under house arrest since April 2011.
Christians in Laos continue to pay the price for their faith. In a report from a confidential source during the first quarter, Open Doors learned about the plight of more than 50 believers who were harassed, threatened, imprisoned or expelled from their villages. Their names and locations, as well as the exact dates of the events, are withheld for security reasons.
One believer in the North was evicted out of his village when he became a follower of Christ. In the community where he resettled, he brought 50 people to Christ and they started to meet every Sunday for worship. Last year, he and his nephew attempted to return to their old village. While on their way, the police accosted them.
Both remain in prison and are not permitted to see anyone. Not too long after that, a brother in another northern province put together a Christmas event in 2009, during which, 20 people in his village gave their lives to Christ. Early next year, he was put in prison and has been locked since, without visitation rights.
Following these two arrests, four more Christians, whose conversions irked some influential spiritists in their community, were also held in police custody. These [four] men worshiped spirits before, but they were healed of their ailments after Christians prayed for them. Because of this, they turned to Christ. This news angered some of the spiritists in the area and told the police to arrest them.
Christians (Protestants) comprise 1.85 percent of Laos today. Majority of them belong to the Khmu tribe. Church activities and whereabouts of believers are monitored at the village level. Down south, a man was put in prison early this year for refusing to recant his faith in Jesus. It started when he led his family and relatives to salvation in Jesus.
The authorities threatened to kick him out of the village, if he did not stop [sharing the Gospel]. He was summoned thrice to the village chiefs office, and each time, he was forced to sign a form stating his denial of Christ. But he refused. A week later, he was incarcerated in the district jail and he was not allowed to receive visitors.
The same source also reported of 11 Christian families, or 50 believers, forced out of their homes, after they refused to revert to Buddhism as the local authorities demanded.
They are wandering in the jungles without proper food, water and shelter. The people are losing hope, especially the youths, who want to return to their villag e. The small children are getting weak. The parents are thinking of returning, but they are afraid of the persecution that awaits them b ack home.
Lao officials, claiming that proper procedures had not been followed when the church was founded in 1963, confiscated and sealed a church in Khamnonsung Village. A human rights advocacy group asks, "How do these officials know that Khamnonsung did not follow proper procedures? And if a permit is required for this building, why wait 49 years to tell them?"
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Election of Hard-Line Islamic Governor in Indonesia Followed by Closure of 17 Churches: The election of a hard-line Islamic governor in Indonesias Aceh Province last month appears to have opened the way for a crack-down on the minority Christian community. Emboldened by the April 9 election of Zaini Abdullah of the militant Aceh Party, hundreds of Islamists demonstrated on April 30, demanding area church buildings be not only sealed but demolished. Police Chief Bambang Syafrianto suggested that the Christians be given three days to tear down their church buildings, and that an enforcement team would be formed to demolish them if they failed to do so. Read more>>
On April 25 a lower court ordered the closure of the Greater Grace Protestant Church in Bakut; this means that any church activity is illegal and that its members are subject to prosecution. The church appealed and petitioned their case before a judge on July 31; they are now awaiting the outcome.
Vietnamese Authorities Hire Gangsters to Harass Christians
Kneel! Kneel! shouted a village thug. Holding a lead pipe he demanded that Pastor Vinh* drop to his knees; an action tantamount to admitting his guilt. Unwilling to give into the demands, the thug struck Vinhs knee with the pipe, followed by a stronger blow to his face that broke Vinhs jaw. The July attack forced the young pastor to spend the past several weeks in a hospital bed. Please consider writing a letter to Pasto Vinh; encouraging him as he recovers and prepares to go back to the field to share the gospel message.
Possible Conflict Looms in Egypt
Egypt is waiting in anticipation, wondering whether or not there will be a major confrontation tomorrow, August 24, between the supporters of the Islamist parties seeking to turn Egypt into a closed Islamic state, and those seeking a new, open civil country. An Egyptian blogger writes, We are praying for Egypt lease join us in these critical days!