Monday, January 13, 2014

Gunmen kill Pastor in Brazil

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

BRAZIL (ANS) -- Police in Brazil say two gunmen have fatally wounded an evangelical pastor at his church in the city of Belo Horizonte.

via BBC
According to a story by BBC News, the gunmen reportedly entered the city's Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and shot him in the head before fleeing by car.

Police said there was no evidence the men were robbers. The pastor, Charles Vidal de Souza, 34, died shortly after arriving at hospital.

It is not clear whether the pastor was the intended target of the assault.

He was found in an office in the church where there were signs of a struggle, according to police.

According to the BBC, the killing occurred in a middle-class neighborhood of Belo Horizonte, the state capital of Minas Gerais.
The city is around 400 miles south-east of the capital, Brasilia.

Gun violence is high in Brazil, but attempts at banning the sale of guns have failed in the past.
The BBC said a 2005 referendum on the issue was defeated by a sizeable majority.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christians face internal conflicts in South Sudan

Sudanese refugees recently celebrated Christmas
 in Egypt. (Photo courtesy of e3 Partners/8thirty8)
South Sudan (MNN) — Africa’s newest country and the world’s newest state is the site of extreme violence brought on by internal conflicts.
According to BBC News, at least 1000 people have been killed since mid-December. Many of these are civilians. More than 200,000 people have left their homes due to the fighting and mass killings.
e3 Partners shares on their Facebook page the reactions of two pastors in the midst of the violence. One pastor plans to get his family to a safe place along with the thousands of other South Sudanese fleeing the region. Then he wants to return to minister in South Sudan.
The other pastor says, “I am fully convinced that this is the best time for evangelism, missions, and discipleship here in South Sudan, regardless of the risks. God has already taken care of them. Now is the time to preach about the Sovereignty of God in suffering, God’s grace in our sufferings, and why God appoints suffering for His saints. HOPE…the best of things! Waiting for the morning, during the long night of weeping.”
Many Christians see the darkness of trials as the place where God’s light shines the brightest. They do not falter because they know the importance of God’s work, and they rely on His strength.
According to The Christian Post, Roman Catholic Priests and Protestant pastors in S. Sudan are doing their best to protect both the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups. Some are opening their homes and risking their lives to save these people, ignoring the danger they are in. The division between the Dinka and Nuer is often credited with the heightened violence, including mass killings.
e3’s Facebook page, 8thirty8, is founded on Roman’s 8:38-39 — “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The hope is that Christians will pray at 8:38 pm each day before they go to bed. Many Christians are just getting ready to face a new day of trial and persecution while we in the West are preparing to lie down for a peaceful sleep.
As you watch other believers step up and do Kingdom work despite the risks, consider how you can be involved in a big way. e3′s mission for this region is to plant as many healthy churches in Sudan as they can, so that the discipleship can occur right in the country.
e3 encourages Christians to pray for their fellow believers in South Sudan, who on top of persecution by Muslims must now face this deadly war. Pray also for those remaining in South Sudan to reach many ears with the Gospel truths.
e3 recognizes that at this moment, Muslims around the world are more open to the Gospel than they ever have been. Don’t waste that opportunity. If you’d like to support e3 in a tangible way, check out their “Get Involved” page. 

Libyan Christians have reason to fear

Libya (MNN) — Christians in Libya are concerned following the announcement that Libya’s new constitution will follow Sharia, or Islamic Law.
Cabinet of interim government
Christians have reason to fear as Cabinet of the interim government meets.
According to reports, the General National Congress released a statement that said, “Islamic law is the source of legislation in Libya. All state institutions need to comply with this.”
Todd Nettleton with the Voice of the Martyrs says since Islamic law will be the source of legislation, Christians have reason to fear. “What’s going to happen to those people who used to be Muslims who are now following Jesus Christ in Libya? This says the state law is going to follow Islamic law, which says those people are apostates and should be killed.”
Nettleton says Christians are asking important questions. “How is this fair? How is this democracy if all of the laws, all of the rules, are based on one religion and not open to the others?” Many Christians feel promises of democracy after President Moammar Qaddafi’s fall have been broken. NATO actually went to war with Qaddafi under that premise.
While the constitution isn’t completed, it doesn’t look hopeful. The only thing Christians in the west can do is pray. Unfortunately, few Christians in the west know what to pray about.
The Voice of the Martyrs offers a free monthly newsletter to help you follow stories of persecution more closely. Nettleton says, “We’re called Scripturally to remember those in prison as if we were in prison with them. We can’t do that if we don’t even know that they’re there.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Church in Iran closes its doors to Farsi speakers

Church in Iran closes their doors to Farsi-speaking
church attenders in Iran. (Mohabat photo)
Iran (MNN/Mohabat News) — Increasing pressure from the government has forced a church to do something no church ever wants to do: it told certain attenders to stay away. The church in Iran closes its doors to Farsi speakers.
According to Mohabat News, the pastor of a church in Tehran was forced to announce that Farsi-speaking Christians are not welcome anymore. The news service reports this is just another in the list of churches where Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed anymore.
The pastor made the announcement to the majority Farsi-speaking attendees. Some have been attending the church for more than 20 years.
Just one week after the announcement, the church’s custodian prevented a few of the Farsi-speaking members from entering the church. Those prevented included Sunday school teachers, ministers, and elders of the church. They were told they cannot enter the church building even for purposes other than attending the service.
Iranian churches are under pressure from government–more specifically Revolutionary Guard Intelligence–to stop their service in Farsi.
Earlier, the Ministry of Intelligence asked members of this church to submit their ID cards and personal information to the ministry. This was done to intimidate church members and keep them from attending church services.
It is noteworthy that only a few Armenian and Assyrian families attend this church. It’s unlikely this church can continue with so few attenders remaining.
Some analysts believe that Assyrian Member of Parliament, Yonatan Betkolia, is behind this prohibition order. Past experiences have clearly shown his close cooperation with the Ministry of Intelligence. Through this cooperation, he has been able to convince a number of Assyrian and Armenian pastors to close the doors of their churches on Farsi-speaking Christians.
Since 2011, pressure and restrictions on Iranian churches have increased dramatically.
Many Christians, especially newly-converted Christians, have faced imprisonment, pressure, and harassment in the past few years. Iranian intelligence and security forces have recently focused their efforts to close down more churches around the country. Among the already closed churches are the Assemblies of God Church in Ahwaz, the Farsi-speaking church of Janat-Abad, and Central Assemblies of God Churches in Tehran. The Central AG Church was the largest Farsi-speaking Church in Tehran which was completely closed down during the past presidential election campaigns in Iran.
Even a Latin Catholic Church in Tehran was forced to ban Farsi-speakers from attending, although only small parts of their services were held in Farsi. Government authorities threatened church officials and warned them against allowing Farsi-speaking Christians in their services.
There are a few other churches across the country, as well, that are ordered to prohibit Farsi-speaker attendance. They are also banned from registering new members.

The real story in North Korea

North Korea (MNN) — While the reports of the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle were verified, the method of execution was open to speculation.
Then, a report surfaced last week about Jang Song Thaek and his advisers being fed to wild dogs. Major news sources picked up the story, and even as it picked up headlines, the debunks were being published in equal force.
Todd Nettleton, spokesman with the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, “It was traced back to a Chinese newspaper and then eventually to a social media post that may or may not have been satire. So everything that comes out of North Korea, really, we need to look at carefully. We need to cross reference between multiple sources to see what’s true and what’s not.”
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
Reports coming out of the recluse nation have to be examined closely because “it’s just so difficult to get information out of the country. Anything that does come out needs to be questioned: ‘What’s the agenda behind it?’ ‘Who released it?’ ‘Is it a credible source?’”
The problem was that the stories debunking the urban legend had little more than ‘it probably didn’t happen that way.’ Experts doubted the veracity, noting the detail in the report, the numbers of dogs, victims, and more. Yet they also noted that this form of execution was used in North Korea to punish prisoners. Nettleton says one thing it DOES prove: “Just the fact that we think that it MIGHT be true says how terrible things are in North Korea.
“If Kim Jong-un will kill his own uncle, he will certainly kill anyone else who crosses the regime or who is perceived to be disloyal,” Nettleton adds.
Within North Korea, those perceived disloyal include anyone who worships someone other than Kim Jong-un. Nettleton explains, “It’s treason. It undermines the very legitimacy of the North Korean government. That’s why Christians are persecuted so severely.”
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
(Photo courtesy Voice of the Martyrs USA)
In fact, for the 12th year in a row, North Korea tops the 2014 World Watch List, released yesterday by Open Doors USA. The WWL is a ranking of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the most severe.
In the report, Open Doors says believers must hide their decision to follow Christ. Being caught with a Bible is grounds for execution or a life-long political prison sentence. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians live in concentration camps, prisons, and prison-like circumstances under Kim Jong-un.
And yet, there IS a Church. The Voice of the Martyrs has been active in North Korea for decades, including launching tens of thousands of “Scripture Balloons,” helium filled balloons that are printed with Scripture passages and other Gospel messages.
It’s a message that gets through in a country where very little else does. Nettleton says far
(Image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)
(Image courtesy Voice of the Martyrs Canada)
from being helpless, you can “pray for the protection and safety of our Christian brothers and sisters. Pray for opportunities to witness, and then I think it’s fair to pray for a government that respects its own people and values their safety and their health.”
There are more ways you can take action and inject truth into North Korea. Click here for more.

Jubilee Campaign and the Nigerian Working Group Join With Survivor to Mark Anniversary of Nigeria Terror Massacre and Seek U.N. Humanitarian Response

By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- Several US organizations advocating on Nigeria have marked the official start of the anti-Christian genocide in northern Nigeria on January 6, 2012, according to a news release from Jubilee Campaign USA.
Some of the victims of Boko Haram's Mubi Massacre

“From the time it issued an ultimatum, shortly after blowing up churches on Christmas day, demanding that Christians leave Northern Nigeria in January 2012 or die, Boko Haram has prosecuted a pernicious and systematic campaign of extermination,” said the release monitored by the ASSIST News Service.

“Funerals for randomly killed non-Muslim ‘others’ have been attacked, companies have been raided and non-Muslims summarily executed by shots to the head, buses have been stopped with the occupants separated and systematically slaughtered. More Christians were killed in northern Nigeria in 2012 than throughout the rest of the world.”

Ikenna Nzeribe
The Working Group on Nigeria has joined with Ikenna Nzeribe, the sole survivor of Boko Haram’s Mubi massacre of January 6th 2012 to remember the estimated 2000 Christians who have been killed since then. 14 Christians were killed when they gathered to mourn another murdered Christian in Mubi in northern Nigeria. After being medivaced abroad, Ike continues to undergo surgery for shots to his head - a hallmark of Boko Haram's vicious attacks.

The release went on to say, “While we commend the designation by the United States of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) during an Africa sub-committee congressional hearing in November 2012, as Congressman Chris Smith noted then, ‘What I learnt on the trip (to Nigeria) was that victims of the terrorism are not receiving ... assistance from the international community including the United States. Individual private voluntary charitable groups ...are stepping up to the plate... but in nowhere near approximating the need of these individuals who are now IDPs and have PTSD problems.’”

Last week Canada also designated Boko Haram as an FTO, joining the United States and England.

Accordingly the group has asked the following:

A Boko Haram fighter
1. That the United Nations Security Council impose sanctions to restrict terror financing flows to Boko Haram. This is only logical now that the UK, US and Canada are amongst the countries whose governments have done so.

This is even more necessary since the majority of permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have lost citizens to the Boko Haram (France, UK, China). Furthermore Boko Haram has in fact bombed U.N. offices itself in August 2011 killing 25 people.

2. That the U.N. reimburse Nigeria for the cost of rebuilding its bombed office by setting up a Victim Compensation Fund to provide compensation and humanitarian assistance to victims. It is unfair for the U.N. to benefit from this tragedy while poor victim citizens are deprived of similar restitution. The U.N. should pay its bills and give back to its hurting hosts.

3. That the US, EU and other international partners similarly assist victims to help mitigate the potential for violent escalation.

Members of the Working Group on Nigeria who signed the letter to the United Nations are:


Jubilee Campaign
Religious Freedom Coalition
The Institute on Religion & Democracy
Igbo League
The Westminster Institute
Justice for Jos
African Christian Fellowship USA
Christian Association of Nigerian Americans
Red Eagle Express
Advocates International


Andrew E. Harrod, Ph.D (Independent Writer & Researcher)
Ikenna Nzeribe (Sole Survivor of Boko Haram's Mubi Massacre, January 6, 2012)