Blog – 2018 4th Quarter
Weekly Commentary December 9-15, 2018
Another short report this week (click here to read) with stories from three countries.
- There are stories from Iran of large-scale arrests of Christians and of inhumanity to an imprisoned Christian and his family.
- A vicious atrocity has been perpetrated against a priest in Nicaragua while he sat in the confessional.
- Finally, a church in Sichuan province in China has seen mass arrests of its parishioners. This story included a despicable detail: of those released, three reported that they had ‘raped’ by police. We must note that it has been almost 30 years since such a story has come out of China, and in that case the device used was an electroshock weapon (when that victim was hospitalized a nurse confronted the police and asked what was wrong with them). While that was not alleged here, we must clearly see that the recent central government actions to tighten control of churches have begun to loosen any moral restraints not held by the police within their own souls. It appears more and much worse is to come.
So please pray as much as you can for the suffering in this world.
Weekly Commentary December 2-8, 2018
A short report this week with stories from six countries (please click here to read).
Perhaps the most history-laden is the story from Ukraine. Some readers will recall news that after years of internal conflict, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in October 2018 revoked the 1686 decree granting authority over Ukraine to the Moscow Patriarchate. Why? In part due to large desire by Ukrainians to have a national church.
This is a long complicated history. From the Russian perspective this is tragic. Russian Christianity originated with the conversion of the Kievian Rus in what is now Ukraine. Many ethnic Russians still reside in Ukraine, and many Orthodox of both ethnic groups are reluctant is sever this history. The theology of autocephaly, namely the complete hierarchical independence of churches, is basically accepted in the Orthodox world (it reaches back to the Council of Ephesus, when Cyprus was granted it) but the applicability to modern nation states has been disputed. Consequently, until two months ago the canonical Orthodox church in Ukraine was the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).
Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kiev – Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
The Ukrainian side is even more tragic. Ukrainians suffered terribly under Russian political domination, with the nadir reached during the 1932-33 Holodomor, the Communist directed famine in which 4 to 12 million died. A breakaway church, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church was created in 1921; it was initially supported by the Communists as a counter to the ROC but was later persecuted.
Church of St Andrew, Kiev – former Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence many Ukrainian nationalists have desired their own church. They have argued that nationalistic autocephaly has good too far in the Orthodox world to be stopped just for them. Another breakaway church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate) was founded in 1992 after Ukraine became independent but was unrecognized by the greater Orthodox communion until now. Ukrainian nationalists began to harass congregations who wanted to stay united with Moscow.
St Volodymyr’s Cathedral, Kiev – former Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate)
The February 2014 Russian takeover of the Crimea and the Donbass region in Ukraine made things much worse. The ROC did not oppose the invasions, and more Ukrainians dropped their support of the ROC. Both sides began to persecute or accelerated their persecution of their ecclesial opponents. The Today’s Martyrs site has long reported on these events, occasionally with observations of the same events from Christians harmed by each other. The December 2018 granting of autocephaly by Patriarch Bartholomew, which has unified the two breakaway churches, can be seen as a rebuke to the ROC’s alliance with the Russian government.
St Michael’s Golden Domed Cathedral, Kiev – newly established Orthodox Church of Ukraine
Yet this week’s report shows that this is not a simple account of Russian perfidy. Now the Ukrainian government is passing legislation and setting policies that will result in the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). There are reports of dozens of clergy who are loyal to Moscow being pulled in for questioning by the Ukrainian counter-intelligence service. Every indication is that this is not happening due to real security concerns, but rather due to national politics overriding the human right to religious freedom.
The only good thing in all this is that both sides are to some degree Christian and so both have obviously displayed self-imposed limits to their tendencies to violence. Please pray that all sides will find resolutions to these divisions and remember that they are called by Christ to be, despite whatever structures they adopt, united as one.
Weekly Commentary November 25 – December 1, 2018
The good news this week is the freedom of 27 captive Christians in three countries. Two clergymen have been released by the Chinese government; one had been held for almost a year in a luxury hotel room. The government of Malaysia released (and deported) four Finnish Christians who had been arrested 10 days earlier for minor missionary activities – they had handed out pens that had been labeled with a reference to a Gospel verse. Twenty-one Bible school students in Myanmar who had been forcibly conscripted by a separatist militia managed to escape, although twenty remain in captivity. We also have some good news concerning the rebuilding in Iraq, although it is offset with accounts of current harassment and fear of the future. So, about a page and a half of our 22-page report this week is good news (please click here to read in full).
The rest of the report covered the other extremes of the Christian experience: deaths of Christians in Cameroon, the Central African Republic (unnamed), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Nigeria, Tanzania (an Indian missionary in a vehicular road accident), Uganda, and the United States. Besides deaths the report covers the usual arrests, beatings, and harassments that so many Christians have come to expect throughout the world, with 3 pages covering India alone. Some particular insanities include another chlorine gas attack on a Christian neighborhood in Syria (with fortunately no fatalities) and the arrest of Filipinos on child trafficking charges for rescuing children from a school during an attack by a paramilitary group.
In the West we have some very interesting stories.
One story concerns a six-year old boy who is slated for sex reassignment in the U.S. despite showing signs of resistance. His Christian father has been charged by the court with abuse for not agreeing with this doom.
Ireland appears to be moving in the direction of coercing Christian doctors to perform abortions. How things have changed in such a short time.
Two stories from the United Kingdom and the United States describe how orthodox Christians are being marginalized by Christians who have embraced the Sexual Revolution. Such Christians have achieved ecclesial power by advocating equality, and now they are exercising that power by enforcing inequality; of course, a cynic would say this is only payback, but such a view ignores the Biblical and Traditional roots of orthodoxy. The time has probably come for orthodox Christians to recognize that their internal opponents are not only “conformed to this world” (all of us are, to some extent, guilty of this) but have moved beyond Paul’s admonition into a neo-syncretism that diminishes the Gospel to an astonishing degree. The future will likely bring an alliance between secular persecutors and these neo-syncretic Christians which will attempt to convert and welcome the remaining benighted orthodox into the happy and accepting postmodern world. Despite their efforts the question will always remain: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Weekly Commentary November 18-24, 2018
Christians were reported this week (please click here to read) to have been killed in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and the United States, the last the targeted shooting of a shopper at a religious goods store. The Central African Republic attack was perpetrated against a refugee camp and a cathedral by foreign jihadists; Bishop Juan Jose Aguirre Munos, a missionary of long experience in the country, is quoted at length concerning the international dynamics of this conflict.
Alindao Cathedral, Central African Republic
Aside from these murders our report this week covers news from 14 countries. It includes:
- The continued threats to Asia Bibi in Pakistan
- Arrests in Iran
- Continuing captivities in China, Niger, and Thailand, with ONE release of a mother and her children
- More pressure on Christians in India
- More Western style discriminations in Australia and the United Kingdom
- A Christian eyewitness to a massacre of dozens of Muslim clerics in Afghanistan
- The retirements of two bishops who have done their best to stand for their fellow Christians, one in Rwanda and the other in Vietnam; in the case of the Archbishop of Kigali, Rwanda, news accounts of his retirement did not mention how during the genocide a quarter century ago he had risked his life to save others and what he endured when those attempts failed. We do.
This is a great deal of news for you, our readers. Please read it over, please pray, please remember.
Announcement November 23, 2018
This Thanksgiving weekend marks the completion of our seventh year of publication and the beginning of our eighth year. This last year has been our most difficult yet, with many interruptions due to technical and personal issues. Pray that the coming year will not experience a reduction in our production, but only from a real decline of martyrdom to report!
This week we have also published our first new biography this year. Less than two weeks ago we discovered the story of Lin Zhao, who never wavered in her opposition to Chinese Communism from the time she repented of her service to the regime until her execution eleven years later. You may read the Today’s Martyrs biography of her by clicking here, or by accessing the People tab on this web site and scrolling down to 1968. Our biography is unusually somber because her story is one of cruelty and nearly total invisibility, yet her memory miraculously survived and has inspired many Chinese Christians in the last two decades. As usual our biography attempts to place her faith in the context of her and our times and within the space of two pages (should the reader desire more the 2018 biography Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China can be recommended). Please read it and offer your prayers for all of China.
Weekly Commentary November 11-17, 2018
Another small report this week (please click here to read). Seven stories come to us from six countries, and two of the stories are updates to last week. One is good news of the police rescue of four abducted priests in Nigeria. Two are Western style stories of Canadian and U.S. Christians putting themselves in crosshairs for the sake of the Gospel. The remainder cover the gamut of theft, sexual assault, and murder that is so widespread on God’s green earth.
We already know that next week’s report will be much larger. What does not change is the need for your concern and prayer: small or great as the news may be, suffering is always suffering.
Weekly Commentary November 4-10, 2018
Nine named Christians have been reported as having died for their faith in this week’s report (please click here to read). Seven were Egyptians who had completed a retreat at a monastery and were on their way home: six were members of one family. A Nigerian tribal leader was found dead, days after his abduction following his meeting with his state governor to discuss anti-Christian violence. A Ugandan convert was poisoned, and his wife (who was not a Christian) then abandoned his young sons and married the suspected poisoner.
St. Samuel Monastery, Minya province, Egypt
Out of 14 pages on this week’s report, fully 10 pages concern the continent of Asia. Persecution is again increasing in India. Clergy are disappearing in China. Pakistan has sentenced another mentally challenged young adult to life imprisonment for blasphemy – in this case for singeing an Islamic mental health booklet with a cigarette. A Pakistani minister in the United Arab Emirates (the first time this country has appeared in our reports) has been threatened with death if she should return to her ‘homeland’. Another church has been closed in Myanmar by Chinese backed separatists.
St Paul’s Catholic Church, Mong Pawk, Shan state, Myanmar
While we have typically Western discrimination stories from Britain and Canada, there is another story from Britain regarding Pakistani blasphemy victim Asia Bibi that is not so Western. The British government has not extended an offer of asylum to her and her family. Christian activists in Britain questioned this, but then concluded that Asia Bibi would not be safe in Britain since 100,000 British Muslims have signed a petition against her.
In recent years British Muslims have committed a few acts of violence and persecution against Christians, but their leading role is that of political allies of the secularists who seek the suppression of the religion. Quite an alliance, each side seemingly blind to the goals of the other. It is an alliance that is developing in many places in the West, with an endgame that is at present unfathomable. Pray that at least some Christians will remain to testify to the truth, since that is becoming a rare species indeed.
Weekly Commentary October 28 – November 3, 2018
The major story in this week’s report (please click here to read in full) comes from Pakistan. The Supreme Court in Islamabad issued its ruling concerning the fate of Aasiya Noreen aka Asia Bibi, who has resided on death row after her 2009 conviction on blasphemy charges. The Court ruled that Asia had been denied the presumption of innocence that was her due under both civil and Islamic law, voided her conviction, and ordered her set free. As of this writing she is not free: she must reside in a secure location until she can leave the county with her family and legal guardian and his family, all of whom are facing death threats. No country has yet agreed to provide them asylum, and the government two days later reportedly caved into pressure from radicals and placed her on the no fly list. Her Muslim attorney, Saif Mulook, has already fled the country. Islamic radicals have mounted several demonstrations calling for Asia’s extrajudicial murder but the violence has been restrained by government troop movements and suspension of cell phone service. Only a handful of killings have occurred, mostly of radicals who appear to have not been radical enough. Still, the radicals have threatened to swarm the nation’s airports and disrupt service if they get wind of Asia’s imminent flight.
So, Asia Bibi has been saved from death under the law, but she is not safe yet. Please pray for her eventual safety.
In other news Christians has been killed in Cameroon and Kenya, beaten by paramilitaries in India and by thugs in Pakistan, intimidated by police in China, and continued to fight for Christian values in Belgium and Pakistan. Again, please pray for God’s protection for all of these people and their concerns.
Weekly Commentary October 21-27, 2018
This week’s report is an oddity. There are no good stories, and only two are horrifically bad.
Another missionary was arrested in Turkey, then released and told to leave the country.
A policeman was killed in an armed assault on the residence of the cardinal archbishop of Mexico City by suspected robbers.
A Christian singer in Malta (our first story ever from that small island nation) was verbally attacked for discussing his conversion story on a talent contest television show.
A convert from Islam in Kyrgyzstan was severely beaten.
Finally we have several stories from China, including an essay by Cardinal Emeritus Joseph Zen Ze-Kium in which he wrote “And yet, to the underground bishops and priests of China, I can only say this: Please don’t start a revolution. They take away your churches? You can no longer officiate? Go home, and pray with your family. Till the soil. Wait for better times. Go back to the catacombs. Communism isn’t eternal”.
No, Cardinal Zen is correct: communism and the other delusions of our times are not eternal. Please read our full report (click here to read – and consider following the included links to the original news sources). Please pray that people everywhere will come to follow the Eternal One who loves as a Father loves, and who grants us the power to be free from our false loves and delusions.
Weekly Commentary October 14-20, 2018
The good news on our report this week (click here to read in full) comes from Egypt, Norway, Syria, and the United Kingdom.
First, a Syrian journalist who disappeared after he reported on Kurdish closures of Christian schools was released.
Second, a Christian doctor in Norway who had been fired from her job for refusing to install contraceptive devices won her appeal at the Supreme Court and so will be reinstated.
In the third story an Egyptian Christian was acquitted on appeal of building a church without a permit.
The fourth case involved a British priest who had been wrongfully accused of sexual predation. He had been cleared two years ago of the charges by both church and civil authorities, but he was not reinstated to his previous positions of trust at his abbey and college. He was forced to sue in court, and this week he was reinstated.
Ampleforth Abbey, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
We have three deaths to report. Another priest has been killed in Mexico. A seminarian was shot dead by army soldiers while praying in a church in Cameroon. In Indonesia another Christian was reported as sacrificing her life during the massive September 28 earthquake: she was a young teacher who tried to hold up a collapsing wall to allow the children in her religious education class to escape.
Two young Christians disappeared in Egypt, and others were reported as still in captivity in Burkina Faso, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Thailand. Christians in the United States suffered discrimination, including one at the hands of her own church. There are also two ‘background’ stories from the Central African Republic and India.
Please read these stories and pray for deliverance, consolation, freedom, justice, and wisdom
Weekly Commentary October 7-13, 2018
As is our preference, we will begin with the good news from this week’s report – please click here to read
Pastor Andrew Brunson has been freed after two years’ imprisonment in Turkey (please click here for a Today’s Martyrs biography that explains the background of his arrest). The U.S. government finally gave up on a purely diplomatic approach to secure his release and imposed economic sanctions on Turkey and certain officials on August 1, 2018. The Turkish government came to its senses. Pastor Brunson was brought into court on October 12, 2018, convicted of aiding terrorism, sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment, and released with time served. He left the country later that day. Among his parting words were “I am an innocent man. I love Jesus, and I love Turkey”.
Two days earlier Daniel and Amy McArthur were found innocent of illegal discrimination by the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court. Such charges had been brought three years earlier after they had refused to bake a wedding cake for a same sex wedding. Please be sure to read some of David McArthur’s comments in our report
Finally, surprisingly good news from the Sudan: shipments of Bibles which had been held for years by the government under numerous pretexts have been released.
On the side opposite of ‘good news’ a priest has been killed in Colombia and two teachers have been killed in Kenya. A young Christian air traffic controller gave his life when he elected to stay in a collapsing tower during an Indonesian earthquake to help a jetliner escape an approaching tsunami.
Christians were imprisoned, attacked or harassed in ten more countries.
The most frivolous example was the harassment of an American law school dean for having written years before in favor of a more traditional standard of dress for women. Think about this: if he were Muslim no such harassment would have occurred. His ideas were certainly eccentric in current Christian practice, and so we see that our tolerance for even harmless eccentricity is declining.
At the far extremes from frivolous we have continued war in Myanmar, repeated acts of injustice in Pakistan, and perhaps worst of all the mass incarceration of Pakistani refugees in Thailand. Seventy Christians of all ages and sexes have been detained in crowded and unsanitary conditions for having overstayed their visas; the ‘overstaying’ is due to inaction or outright misconduct on the part of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees and Pakistani diplomats, and also due to the refugees’ desire to not experience prosecution or death should they return ‘home’. Their plight tells us that for some Christians optimism is not an option, that there is no escape, and so our hope must ultimately lie in heaven.
Weekly Commentary September 30 – October 6, 2018
A small report this week (click here to read in full). We report on the killing of Christians in Nigeria and Kenya, persecution in China, Myanmar, and Syria, continuing risk of persecution in Nicaragua, and discrimination in the United Kingdom. Please continue your prayers.
Blog – 2018 4th Quarter