Blog – 2019 1st Quarter
Weekly Commentary March 24-30, 2019
We have only four countries on this week’s report (click here to read in full): Canada, China, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The Canadian story has a darkly humorous element, while the British story is one of pure vindictiveness against a child. Most of the Chinese stories are of arrests. One story from China and all of the Ukrainian stories highlight growing discord among Christians.
All these events show us that while we need to pray for deliverance from persecution, we also need to pray that we treat each other with mercy and that we put each others’ salvation ahead of our worldly concerns, so that we do not enable or aid or perpetrate persecution ourselves. That might not be an immediate concern for most of us, but we can never be sure when the world will change and our allegiances will be tested, as nearly every story this week showed. Pray that we not be put to the test.
Our Lady Queen of Poland church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Weekly Commentary March 17-23, 2019
Very little good news this week (please click here to read our full report). Christians were killed in Cameroon and Nigeria, and they disappeared in Burkina Faso and China. They were physically assaulted in Canada, India, and Pakistan, the last was an attack by Muslims on a mentally disabled man who was complaining in his own home about the Lenten fast; the victim was the one arrested. Christians in China saw their homes raided and churches closed, though one man escaped a police dragnet, for now.
A Christian asylum seeker was deported from the United Kingdom back to Iran for having written a misrepresentation on his application. The misrepresentation? He claimed that Christianity was a religion of peace. Another British Christian, a journalist, was questioned by police. Her crime? She wrote that a boy was still a boy after sex reassignment surgery.
Our last story tells quite a tale. Fr. Douglas al-Bazi is an Iraqi priest who has suffered greatly. He saw thousands of Christians flee from the Islamic State and take refuge at his church. Even earlier he had been abducted, shot, and beaten so that his front teeth were knocked out. He publicly opposed his religious superiors’ attempts to stop the outflow of Christians from Iraq, and in 2016 they bowed to the inevitable and sent him to a parish in Auckland, New Zealand. In the aftermath of the mass murder of fifty Muslims in Christchurch some of his parishioners expressed fear of retribution against them. He calmed their fears and reached out to the Muslims of Auckland with sympathy and prayer. Was this the act of an apologist? By no means! On our report we have preceded his recent comments with an older comment about the evils of Islamic inspired terror, and so we hope to illuminate yet again how a Christian can with clarity still demonstrate true love for his neighbors.
St Joseph’s Oratory, Montreal, Quebec, Canada – courtesy Getty
Weekly Commentary March 10-16, 2019
Let us start with the good news from this week’s report (click here to read):
- A Christian civil rights attorney was released from prison in China after over two years’ incarceration.
- A doctor returned to India to resume his ministry after his expulsion had been ruled illegal.
- An Indian priest was released on bail after nine months in jail.
- A French priest was cleared of charges that he had inappropriate contact with a minor, and his accusers received fines and suspended sentences.
As usual the bad news outweighed the good:
- Christians were reported to have been killed in Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia (missionaries and other leaders in a commercial airline crash), Madagascar, and the Philippines
- Christians were imprisoned or faced imprisonment in Australia, China, Indonesia, and Iran
- Christians were abducted or assaulted or threatened with assault or death in China, Kenya, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Ukraine.
- A street preacher was arrested in London and then ‘de-arrested’ five miles away in a deserted public park; the police told him “No one want to hear that [the Gospel] anymore”.
Please pray for all of these people.
One final comment. This week there were a great many stories regarding church vandalism in Europe, but few listed the names of any Christian, and so per our policy we were not able to report on most of them. The reader should be aware, however, that the vandalism and desecrations appear to be growing, apparently as Europe embraces both Islam and neo-Paganism. In the last few weeks dozens of churches in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have been damaged. A church in Ireland where Handel played the organ and wrote his Messiah saw the desecration of its burial crypt. The obvious lesson for our readers is this: if you want to visit Europe and enjoy its Christian heritage, go now, while you still can.
St Michan’s Church, Dublin, Ireland – courtesy reidsguides.com
Church of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God, Kurozvany, Ukraine – courtesy Union of Orthodox Journalists
Weekly Commentary March 3-9, 2019
Which country holds the title The Most Anti-Christian Country on Earth?
That might be a tough call. Officially (in terms of law and policy) the top contenders might be North Korea or Saudi Arabia. Eritrea despite official recognition of three churches combines elements of both top contenders. By sheer count of incidents the top contender would probably be Pakistan.
A week ago the Irish columnist and former agnostic John Waters penned an article with the title The Most Anti-Christian Country on Earth. His choice? His native Ireland.
The article was prompted by the government’s announcement that it was considering a ban on crucifixes and other religious imagery in hospitals that are run by religious orders. The rationale, it would seem, is that it is feared [really?] that patients might be troubled by such imagery, and that their recovery might be impeded. As Waters pointed out, no consideration was given to those patients who might be comforted by the image of the God Who Suffers With Us, and who cured the sick and disabled. Please read our report for this week, and you will find a link to Water’s writing in the Ireland section.
But is Waters correct? Our report this week also demonstrates the tempo of persecution in India, with a second Christian death at the hands of Maoist guerrillas. Nigeria continues to have the highest reported death toll for Christians anywhere on earth. These atrocities are much, much worse than the persecution of Irish Christians. Ireland might only be The Most Anti-Christian Country in the West.
Yet, even in the West Ireland has competition. Australia has long waged a media war against Christianity, using sex scandals and ‘uncaring’ Christian doctrine as weapons. The country has now incarcerated its second bishop within a year. The first, Archbishop Philip Wilson, was convicted in May 2018 of having failed to report the abuse of a minor back in 1973. In December 2018 an appellate court ruled there was absolutely no evidence that could have led to a conviction, and prosecutors admitted three weeks later their case was too weak to retry. Just days after this appellate decision Cardinal George Pell was convicted on multiple sexual assault charges, but secrecy laws prevented the announcement of the verdict until now. Many observers stated that his defense team was able to prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt and they expect the appeal to end the same way as Wilson’s case. It should be noted that the secrecy laws designed to protect the accused actually hurt Pell’s defense: jurors were not aware of a previous mistrial that almost acquitted him. The guilty verdict also came now only because prosecutors decided to not move ahead with the remaining cases due to their weaknesses.
The real lesson of Ireland, and Australia, is how quickly society can appear to change. Ireland was wholeheartedly committed to Christianity just two generations ago, and Australia was nearly so. One Australian observer remarked that George Pell’s decision to fly home and mount his defense rather than hide in the Vatican showed that he was out of touch with the massive changes in his homeland. He chose to submit himself to a jury pool drawn from a populace that in 2015 cheered the destruction by arson of four historic churches that had been scenes of child sex abuse decades earlier. Such a populace does not arise spontaneously, it needs years of enticements to habituate itself to the belief that the spiritual needs of Christians in churches and hospitals do not matter, and only after such cultivation would it suddenly arise in might and vengeance from the fog.
Weekly Commentary February 24 – March 2, 2019
Our apologies, no report this week.
Weekly Commentary February 17-23, 2019
There is a horror story from India in this week’s report. Regular readers know that while persecution of Christians is quite common in that country, it is unusual for Hindu radicals to actually kill Christians. It seems they will beat Christians to within an inch of their life, and so occasionally Christians do die, but premeditated murder is very rare.
The means by which Anant Ram Ganda, a 40 year old Christian convert and father of five, was murdered is thus not entirely surprising. Some of his Hindu neighbors wanted him dead. Did they kill him? No, not directly. They contacted the nearby Maoist guerrillas and falsely told them that Ganda was informing the authorities about their activities. The guerrillas waited for his wife to leave the home with their daughters, and they then killed him in sight of his son Purno. If you have the stomach for it, click here and play the video of an interview with his widow Sukbati as she nurses her baby. There are no subtitles, but 6 year old Purno can be seen chewing on his fingers in great anguish. We can imagine what everyone in Heaven really thinks about this.
Christians were also killed in Burkina Faso, Colombia, and Uzbekistan.
Christians continued to be detained in China, India, and Pakistan.
Christians continued to persecute each other in Ukraine; among the several stories a monastery abbot and U.S. citizen (and former U.S. Navy chaplain) was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and deported, despite having been born in the country, because he told members of the U.S. Congress about Ukrainian persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Christian institutions were vandalized or threatened with such in France (extensively so, with more than 10 church desecrations in 2 weeks), India (regarding a statue of a missionary), and the United Kingdom (in a one-man Islam-and-drugs-motivated crime spree).
A U.S. researcher of Christian persecution lost her Facebook page after she posted a photo of the 21 Coptic martyrs who were killed in Libya four years ago this month.
A Christian doctor in Syria wrote a background story about the conflict there and explained why in his opinion some do not want it to ever completely end.
So, please read this week’s report and pray for Syria, for Ukraine, for India, and for all places of conflict, persecution and discrimination.
Bust of Fr. John Baptist Hoffmann, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Sarwada, Jharkhand state, India – courtesy AsiaNews
Notre Dame Church, Dijon, France – courtesy JC Tardivon / MAXPPP
Announcement February 20, 2019
Pastor Wang Yi, Early Rain Church, Chengdu, Sichuan province, China – courtesy christiandailyreporter.com
ChinaAid and Voice of the Martyrs Korea have via the internet continued a petition begun in China in September 2018. It was written by now imprisoned Pastor Wang Yi and signed at that time by 439 Chinese pastors. The purpose of this online petition is to gather 43,900 additional signatures to help all those persecuted under the current crackdown.
Please read over A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith at https://chinadeclaration.com/en/ and please consider signing it. It is a simple and clear theological call for separation of church and state. It poses no threat to the hegemony of the current Chinese government. Even if you decide not to sign, please mull over the ideals it upholds and pray for Pastor Wang Yi and for every other Chinese Christian who signed it.
God bless you.
Weekly Commentary February 10-16, 2019
We have a fairly typical report this week (click here to read in full). Nine pages of 24 abbreviated stories from 14 countries, with links to the originals tell us of a few good outcomes. Yes, just a few good outcomes:
- Two priests and a bishop have been released from detention in China, although they have been barred from public ministry and administrative work.
- A teen girl in Egypt has been returned home by police just days after her disappearance.
- A Christian college organization won a decision in a U.S. Federal court against the Iowa university that had banned it from campus.
- Two bishops in Syria who have long been reported on these pages have reported on the return of foreign diplomats, a definite sign that the 8 year long civil war is winding down.
But this week’s report also tells of the usual harms perpetrated against the Church:
- The abduction and murder of a minister in Myanmar.
- Arrests in Ethiopia, Iran, and Pakistan. The first two men are no longer in jail – the Iranian is out on bail – and the third story might be a real corruption case: it is of a Pakistani politician who has a mixed record in the defense of Christians.
- Christians are still unjustly jailed in China, India, and Pakistan; an appeal is underway for one of the jailed Pakistani couples.
- A Danish citizen has been convicted in Russia of working for a prohibited organization, namely his church, and sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment. This is a first for post-Soviet Russia, but absent public pressure it will not be the last.
- Many other stories of assault, vandalism, and discrimination.
Finally, we have a pair of background stories from India: the publication of Persecution Relief’s 2018 report, which shows a 70% increase of incidents over the previous year, and a report from Dr. John Dayal that describes the government cancellation of 14,000 licenses of foreign NGOs that harms the poor and is a sign of growing paranoia in the country.
Please look over our report and allow it to lead you to prayer for all these people and for all the world.
Weekly Commentary February 3-9, 2019
Our report for this week (please click here to read in full) contains more old news than usual. We have the recent account of a defiant Christian who disappeared in a North Korean prison in 2004, the 2017 abduction and torture of a Sudanese convert and refugee in Egypt, and two stories from 2018, including that of a Russian seminarian who was killed while saving an intoxicated homeless man from death a year ago. We also report on the recent murder of a retired pastor in the U.S. at the hands of a man he had been counselling, and the wounding of his wife.
While ‘old news’, these stories are current in part because these people have been remembered by a spouse or a fellow prisoner. Pray that these witnesses will be comforted by their faith, and that those they have loved or admired will not be forgotten.
Weekly Commentary January 27 – February 2, 2019
Good news on this week’s report (please click here to read):
- Former Indonesian governor Ahok – aka Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – has been released from prison after serving 20 months of his 2 year sentence on blasphemy charges. His 2017 trial was an election year political farce in which the court acknowledged evidence had been fabricated but admitted it into the record anyway and in which it imposed a sentence far in excess of that recommended by the prosecution. He is now home with his family.
- Chinese dissident Huang Yan has been granted asylum in the United States after suffering years of atrocities. She lost children in two separate events due to miscarriage during police beatings. When she contracted cancer the government refused to allow her treatment, and so she had to flee the country via a Christian underground railroad to secure medical care. Please keep up your prayers for her health.
- The Pakistani Supreme Court has refused to reconsider its ruling that freed Asia Bibi; pray that she will soon find asylum in another country.
- The Bulgarian government has been dissuaded from passing a law which would have imposed onerous regulations upon churches.
Regarding acts of evil we have this to report:
Christians have been killed in Nigeria and in a suicide bombing at a Philippine cathedral. They have been attacked in Germany and India, and threatened with attack in the United Kingdom. They have suffered wrongful prosecution or government harassment in Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine (in the Russian occupied Crimea) and Uzbekistan. One Christian has been wrongfully deported from the United Kingdom to Pakistan despite the death threats he had fled.
In Christianity a common theme is the triumph of good over an apparently stronger evil. The story from Germany this week has such elements. It concerns a convert who had been a missionary cleric in Greece for Islam and who was changed when he met a Christian couple. As he put it “During my studies [in Pakistan], I persecuted and oppressed Christians myself. Then the question flared up in my heart: why?” Yes, this is often how the Faith grows: not just by the Godly actions of those who practice it, but by the knowledge of evil and the heartfelt recognition that there must be a better way.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Jolo, Philippines – courtesy Western Mindanao Command
Holy Cross Convent High School, Kolhapur, India
Blog – 2019 1st Quarter