Nina* accepted Jesus as her Savior in 2008 through students' ministry, and she was baptized in 2010. After her conversion she was afraid to tell her parents. She went to the Sunday meetings secretly for half a year and each time she would say she was going to her friends. When she got stronger in her faith she decided to reveal the truth to her parents. It was a step of faith for her, but after she took it she got problems in her family. Her father sent her away and she lived in the church for several days.
Then he called her back home and he began to lock her up in the house on Sundays so she couldn't go to church. Once when a lady from the church called her, the father took the phone and answered that Nina had died. It was his revenge for her conversion. Soon, her father went to Russia and she was able to go to church again.
This year God blessed her with an opportunity to study at a college. To go there, however, she had to ask permission from her parents. When she mentioned her desire to the family, her mother, brother and sister agreed – a miracle. But her father still resisted. He said if she went he would curse her.
After a Sunday service where the church prayed for Nina's father, her mother phoned her and said that he agreed! For Nina it was a testimony of God's faithfulness.
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(Iran)—Today marks a day of celebration. After languishing in prison for almost three years, under the threat of execution for his faith, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been released from prison and acquitted of his apostasy charge.
Pastor Youcef had been summoned to appear before the court this morning for the charges brought against him. His hearing lasted almost six hours. But in the end, he was released and able to return home to his family.
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Today there are about 1500 Tunisian Christians (most of them with a Muslim background). Some meet in the official church buildings in several cities of the country, others meet in house churches. Tahira, a student is one of these Tunisian Christians. Her sister and mother also became Christians. She still lives with her family. She is very open about her faith, even on Facebook she speaks out about this.
Steve recently was threatened by some strict Islamists. "They said to me: 'Do you know that it is not forbidden to kill you?' But I didn't really feel afraid. I could answer them: 'Yes I know you can do that'. They responded that I was crazy saying that. I said to them: 'Yes, I am crazy for Jesus'." The men then left and didn't come back.
Steve became a Christian about five years ago through the internet. "I found a site about the Bible and got interested. I got in contact with other Christians and I am going to a house church." Both Steve and Tahira participated in a discipleship training that Open Doors organized for Tunisian Christians. The training is one of the ways Open Doors uses to strengthen the Tunisian church.
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The United Arab Emirates is one of the most liberal countries in the Gulf; expatriates make up around 85 percent of the population. The constitution provides for religious freedom on the condition that established customs, public policy or public morals are not violated. The government restricts this freedom in practice. Christians in the United Arab Emirates, who are mainly foreign workers, are mostly persecuted by the government’s discriminatory attitude and society’s hostile attitude towards Christianity, resulting sometimes in deportation.
The government is placing restrictions on the development of facilities for Christian migrants. Persecution also comes from those community members who monitor Christian migrants. This is a reality in the whole country, although smaller more conservative Emirates are more restrictive than the larger ones.
Muslim Background Believers are under severe pressure by relatives, family and Muslim society due to Islamic government, law and culture. All citizens are defined as Muslims and the law denies Muslims the freedom to change religion under penalty of the death. To avoid death, social stigma or other penalties, converts may be pressured to return to Islam, to hide their faith or to travel to another country where their conversion is allowed. There are very few local believers among the Muslim population. Evangelism is prohibited, but non-Muslim groups can worship freely in dedicated buildings or private homes.
On 22 April 2012, a church in Lalibela was having their usual Sunday morning service when police and municipal officers had gathered outside the building. After the proceeding, the unaware congregation was met with flashing cameras. As they were exiting the building, the awaiting officials started taking pictures of each member without their permission. The police entered the church and informed the leaders that they have orders to close down the church. The leaders attempted to discuss the matter with them and enquired about the official letter giving the orders, but they were patently ignored.
What happened next no one anticipated. Right after the police locked the doors and sealed the keys with an official stamp, some men started beating the church leader, Tesafa, his wife and Tesafa’s brother in law. A stone was flung at Tesafa which hit him in the chest. Struggling to breathe, the pastor’s wife tried to shield him with her body. The aggressors pulled her off and slapped her in the face. Eventually when more police arrived on the scene, the assault was defused. Tesafa was taken to the nearest hospital but because of his critical condition, Doctors referred him to a better hospital in Weldiya. Fellow Christians had to collect money to pay for a driver and fuel to take him to Weldiya.
After x-rays was taken of his injuries, Tesafa was transferred yet again to another hospital in Dessie, 300 km from Lalibela. He received proper treatment for most of his injuries but the pain in his chest remained.
Finally, Tesafa and his wife decided to seek specialized medical attention at a hospital in Addis Ababa. But the treatment cost exceeded their means which placed them in very desperate circumstances. After Open Doors learned about Tesafa’s ordeal, they offered to take care of the expenses. He is still in Addis Ababa, progressively recovering from the chest injury.
Leader: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
Government: Federal republic
Main Religion: Christianity (Orthodox)
Population: 84.7 million (51.5 million Christians)
Evangelical churches face some opposition from the Orthodox Church, which sees the fast growth of the Protestant Church as a threat. However, the main source of persecution is Islamic extremism, much of which is fuelled by external sources. The unprecedented shift of Islamism from Sunni to Wahhabism has resulted in increased intolerance towards Christians. More than 3,000 Christians were displaced when Muslim extremists set fire to 59 churches and 28 homes in Jimma in March.
- The unresolved conflict in the east is attracting extremist groups such as al-Shabaab from Somalia. Pray for a solution to this conflict.
- There were reports of Christians being imprisoned on false charges. Pray that the authorities would act justly.
- Open Doors provides Bibles and leadership training to the church. Pray that many will grow in the faith as a result.
This post was modified from its original form on 10 Oct, 21:31
Sometimes for security reasons, we cannot share a personal story from the country we are featuring on the Five Minute Challenge. This is the case for Djibouti. So instead here is a list of the Top Ten Things to Know about Djibouti:
- The republic of Djibouti is a Muslim/Majority nation with a small, predominantly expatriate Christian community.
- Population: 864,000 (15,000 are Christians)
- Islam is the religion of the state.
- The constitution provides for religious freedom.
- Proselytising is not technically illegal, but is discouraged. Even interest in conversion brings risk of intense persecution.
- The attitude of the government towards non-Muslims is generally is one of tolerance and respect. However, societal animosity towards Christians is increasing.
- Conversion from Islam is strongly discouraged, and the small number of indigenous Muslim Background Believers are persecuted by their families and society.
- There were some reports of churches being vandalized. There are also occasional reports of discrimination based on religious belief or practice.
- The French Protestant, Roman Catholic and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches represent the only active Christian witness recognized by the government.
- Christian radio and satellite TV are broadcast in the French language.
Would you join us in praying for the known and unknown prayer requests of Christians in Djibouti?
One morning, security officials conducted a raid on his home and arrested Carlos. They falsely accused him of “human trafficking” (giving aid to Cubans who wished to escape the island without government permission), and imprisoned Carlos in Havana’s Villa Marita Detention Center.
Fellow Christians learned of his arrest and organized an international prayer and correspondence campaign that sent hundreds of letters to the jail. The letters made no political statement. Fellow believers simply sent Bible verses to encourage Carlos and pledged to pray for him and his family. Nevertheless, Cuban officials were convinced that people as far away as Europe and Asia were interested in Pastor Lamelas’s case.
Some time later his wife arrived at Villa Marita jail for her weekly 10-minute visit and learned to her amazement that Carlos would be coming home with her that same day!
Pastor Lamelas was later acquitted of all trafficking charges but endured official harassment for five years before gaining political asylum. Carlos says he has seen God’s hand in many details of the ordeal he and his family endured, right up to the moment they walked into their new home.
In law and practice, the government of Belarus continues to violate its citizens’ freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. Belarus is ruled by an authoritarian regime.
A law introduced in 2002 makes unregistered religious activity a criminal offense. Many churches have to wait several years to register and all religious activity is monitored by the secret police. Active participation in unregistered religious groups may result in a two-year term of imprisonment or heavy court-imposed fines. Additionally, the law restricts the ability of religious organizations to provide religious education for children.
In March 2010 a pastor was twice fined more than a month's average wages for leading an unregistered church following a raid on his church's worship service. Four months later another pastor was fined three times in one day for sharing his faith in a local village.
Please pray for Christians in the country of Belarus- that they would remain strong, despite the persecution that they face.
Local Muslims in Banda Aceh, Indonesia beat and mocked two Christian workers, Roy Tyson Kalbulan and Ribur Manulang, on May 30, 2012. The believers were accused of baptizing a Muslim woman named Miriam. The assault lasted for half an hour before the police showed up and arrested the believers.
I was not baptizing Miriam,” said the imprisoned Christian worker Roy. “I met her a week before the attack and she was asking about Isa (Jesus) and baptism. So, I shared my faith in response.” “While I was in her house, there was a man who looked at me without saying a word,” Roy added. “I knew then that something was going to happen, because he was walking around in the house.
Ten minutes later, several men came to the house and they started beating me all of a sudden.” The men stopped beating Roy only when a village official came. As Roy was about to be brought to the village office, a second Christian, Ribur, came from Medan, North Sumatra.
Someone in the agitated crowd recognized her to be Roy’s friend and the mob vented their violence against her. She, along with Roy, was also dragged to the village office. At the office of the village head, the Acehnese Muslims once again beat Roy and Ribur. The ordeal lasted half an hour before the police intervened and brought the believers to the local police office.
After two months in Aceh prison, Christian workers, Roy and Ribur were released from prison.“God has answered our prayers!” said Open Doors worker. “Roy and Ribur are now out of prison. The Banda Aceh police failed to file a strong case against them within the prescribed 60-day period and now they are free.”
Never Too Old to Go Digital
In countries where possessing Christian material endangers believers, SD cards in cell phones have become a popular alternative for storing God’s Word. An elderly believer says, “I am grateful that you made these memory chips. Now I can listen all the time and wherever I am."
Following the example of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan adopted new religious legislation.
Kazakhstan’s prime minister Karim Masimov officially signed the laws on September 1, 2011 and within a month they were unanimously passed by the lower and upper house, with only minor amendments. The drafts were then sent to president Nursultan Nazarbaev to be signed into law.
These drafts consist of two parts. The first one is completely new and replaces the 1992 legislation on religion; the second amends nine other existing laws touching on religion – bringing them into line with the new religion law and imposing harsher punishments. Together this legislation restricts religious activities to a great extent. Both laws were drafted by the government’s Agency of Religious Affairs (ARA), with no advice sought from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as in previous cases.
While the 1992 version was named "The Law on Freedom of Religious Confession and Religious Associations", the new Law is officially titled "The Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations." The dropping of the term ”freedom”’ in the title is significant.
Since this law has passed, more than 200 out of approximately 660 churches are being closed down.