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Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Category

postheadericon 245 million Christians suffering high levels of persecution

245 million Christians suffering high levels of persecution

A new report by Open Doors has revealed the extent of Christian persecution around the world. The 2019 report reveals the number of Christians experiencing high levels of persecution reached 245 million. Its annual World Watch List details the 50 countries where persecution is at its worst.

Open Doors estimates over 4,300 Christians were killed because of their faith over the last year, though the true figure is thought to be much higher, with friends and relatives said to be afraid to report killings. Most of these deaths occurred in North. and Central Nigeria, where 3,700 Christians were killed for their faith, including 1,885 in ‘genocidal’ acts in Plateau state.

Levels of persecution in Nigeria are categorised as ‘very high’, but despite the violence, the country is only twelfth on the World Watch List. Persecution is thought to be ‘extreme’ in eleven countries, including India, which overtakes Syria to make the top ten for the first time. In Asia an estimated 140 million Christians – one in three – are persecuted.

In the previous year’s report, around 215 million Christians were said to have experienced persecution across 58 countries, but they now experience high levels of persecution in 73 countries worldwide.

Persecution in China was said to be receding in 2017, but it is on-the rise-once again, with the country-jumping–
from 43 in last year’s list to 27 in 2019. President Xi Jinping has considerably tightened control of religious affairs in the last year, with new rules dubbed “the most restrictive in 13 years”.

CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland Henrietta Blyth said: “Our research uncovers a shocking increase in the persecution of Christians globally. “In China our figures indicate persecution is the worst it’s been in more than a decade – alarmingly, some church leaders are saying it’s the worst since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.
“Worldwide, our data reveals that 13.9 per cent more Christians are experiencing high levels of persecution than last year. That’s 30 million more people.”

The report was presented to MPs at the World Watch List’s parliamentary launch yesterday. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I think it is an extraordinary figure that almost a quarter of a billion people are suffering persecution today because of their Christian faith. “It is also extraordinary to think that’ 80 per cent of people suffering persecution because of their faith are Christian.” He said it should always be high on the list of priorities for Foreign Office ministers to raise the issue of persecution in countries where it is happening.

The Christian Institute – 18th January 2019

postheadericon China demolishes church for refusing state registration

China demolishes church for refusing state registration

Chinese police have blown up a church building, after its leaders refused to bow to state demands. According to ChinaAid, military police detonated explosives in underground halls as well as demolishing the above-ground building.

The Golden Lampstand Church was an unregistered congregation in the north of China and home to 50,000 worshippers.

‘Re-education’

In 2009 officials assaulted church members guarding the construction site, and handed large fines to its
leaders. One was sentenced to two years in a “re-education labour camp” while another was imprisoned for seven years.

ChinaAid President and Founder Bob Fu said: “The repeated persecution of Golden Lampstand Church demonstrates that the Chinese government has no respect for religious freedom or human rights”. “ChinaAid calls on the international community to openly condemn the bombing of this church building” .

Tight grip

The organisation said it was concerned that mass destruction of church buildings may be on the horizon as new regulations come into force giving the Chinese Communist Party even greater powers over religion.

A state newspaper called the actions part of a “city-wide campaign to remove illegal buildings”.

The New York Times and The Guardian, which both reported the demolition, noted that China guarantees freedom of religion “on paper” but “tightly controls spiritual life”.

Banned

Last year the Chinese Government banned members of the country’s ruling Communist Party from holding any religious beliefs.

It stated that religious groups should be ‘guided’ by the state in altering their doctrine in order to promote “socialist core values”.

The Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs said those who declined to give up their religious faith would be punished by the Party

Christianity Explored – 18th January 2017.

 

postheadericon Christian Church growing in North Korea despite persecution

Christian Church growing in North Korea despite strong persecution

Christianity is growing in the despotic state of North Korea despite the horrendous persecution of dissenters, sources on the ground say.

A North Korean defector who works with the country’s underground church said that people “no longer respect Kim Jong-un” and are refusing to worship the Kim family, as they were told to do in the past.

The anonymous defector, a member of the Worldwide Coalition to Stop Genocide in North Korea, told The Telegraph that, people “are looking for something else to sustain their faith”.

Church growth

He said: “In some places, that has led to the emergence of shamens, but the Christian church is also growing and deepening its roots there”.

The man’s testimony coincides with an annual report on global religious freedoms by the US State Department, released yesterday.

It found that: “An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to beheld in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions”.

In some cases, the report added, the persecution of religious dissenters can be as extreme as execution, torture and imprisonment.

Open Doors

In its 2017 World Watch List, Christian charity Open Doors classified North Korea as “the most difficult” place in the world to be a Christian.

Open Doors also believes that the number of Christians killed or imprisoned is increasing, estimating that around 70,000 are in labour camps.

The World Watch List also revealed that in neighbouring China, persecution of Christians is receding, and the church has doubled in size from 50 million Christians in the 1980s to nearly 100 million today.

Christian Institute – 16th August 2017

postheadericon Archbishop of Canterbury statement on the migrant crisis

Archbishop of Canterbury statement on the migrant crisis

In a statement on the ongoing migrant crisis facing Europe and the Middle East, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, said today:

“This is a hugely complex and wicked crisis that underlines our human frailty and the fragility of our political systems. My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence and persecution. There are no easy answers and my prayers are with those who find themselves fleeing persecution, as well as those who are struggling under immense pressure to develop an effective and equitable response. Now, perhaps more than ever in post-war Europe, we need to commit to joint action across Europe, acknowledging our common responsibility and our common humanity.”

“As Christians we believe we are called to break down barriers, to welcome the stranger and love them as ourselves (Leviticus 19:34), and to seek the peace and justice of our God, in our world, today.”

“With winter fast approaching and with the tragic civil war in Syria spiraling further out of control, we must all be aware that the situation could yet worsen significantly. I am encouraged by the positive role that churches, charities and international agencies are already playing across Europe and in Syria and the surrounding areas, to meet basic humanitarian needs. These efforts may feel trivial in the face of the challenge, but if we all play our part this is a crisis that we can resolve.”

“We need a holistic response to this crisis that meets immediate humanitarian need while tackling its underlying drivers. I commend the UK Government for its strong commitment to the world’s poorest people through the delivery of the aid budget. It has shown global leadership by providing £900 million since 2012 to the crisis In Syria. It has also shown moral leadership in using Royal Navy ships to save the lives of hundreds who have tried to make the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean.”

“I hold in my heart particularly those who are most vulnerable in conflict, and those who we have a special duty to protect. The Government has rightly sought to provide sanctuary to unaccompanied children, women and those who have been victims of or are at risk of sexual violence. I welcome this while urging a renewed commitment to taking in the most vulnerable.”

“The Church has always been a place of sanctuary for those in need, and Churches in the UK and across Europe have been meeting the need they are presented with. I reaffirm our commitment to the principle of sanctuary for those who require our help and love. The people of these Islands have a long and wonderful history of offering shelter and refuge, going back centuries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people or many many more.”

“It has always been controversial at the time it happened, always been seen as too difficult. Yet each time we have risen to the challenge and our country has been blessed by the result.”

“We cannot turn our backs on this crisis. We must respond with compassion. But we must also not be naïve in claiming to have the answers to end it. It requires a pan-European response – which means a commitment to serious minded diplomatic and political debate, but not at the expense of practical action that meets the immediate needs of those most in need of our help.”

++ Justin Welby 3rd September 2015

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postheadericon Government urged to do more for Christians fleeing from Islamic State

Government urged to do more for Christians fleeing from Islamic State

“We are proud to die for Christ.” With these words, three orphans and two nuns secured their release from their ISIS hostage-takers, according to a participant in a meeting at Westminster Central Hall on the crisis facing Syrian Christians last Monday (26 October). The London summit drew together representatives of Christian communities in Syria and Egypt, members of British Universities, representatives of the Bishops of Coventry, Peterborough and Europe, NGOs and advisers to the Archbishops’ Council and the Mission and Public Affairs Council.

The aim of the meeting was to debate how to secure the safety of Christian Communities in Syria and in the camps in Jordan, along with Yazidis, members of the gay community (some of whom have died most appalling deaths), women and large numbers of Muslims also targeted by ISIS. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has argued that no one group should be disadvantaged in the allocation of visas.

Organised by the Barnabas fund, its international director Patrick Sookhdeo was joined by Canon Andrew White, the President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. The two were grateful for the ‘outstanding compassion’ of British Christians in their response to the crisis. The work of the Archbishops of York and Canterbury was also acknowledged, as was the contribution of Archbishop Idowu-Fearon of the ACC. However, they also had criticisms to make of the British Government because of its inaction in the face of the threat from ISIS. They also claimed that DflD was discriminating in who should receive help, and they accused the British media of being silent in their reporting. They pointed to the death threat hanging over 180 Christian hostages, for whom ISIS had demanded a ransom of £50000 per person.

It was emphasized that no ransom would be forthcoming, since there was no guarantee that it would secure their freedom, it would only encourage further kidnappings and fund more arms for ISIS. The meeting heard claims that the UK Government seemed to be blind to the reality that for Syrian Christians the options are convert, be killed or flee. Speakers said it was contradictory for the Government to argue for the EU to embrace Turkey while Turkey had called for an IS Consulate in Ankara. Some pointed instead to the response of the Australian Government in taking 12,000 Christian refugees. And Canberra’s system of allowing private sponsorship of refugees was also praised. Home Secretary Theresa May also outlined proposals for a similar private sponsorship system in the UK in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October. However, since then there has been little action on the part of the UK Government. Views were expressed that this might be related to the funding of UK institutions and businesses from Gulf States.

Last week two members of the House of Lords made an appeal to the Prime Minister to welcome Christian refugees. Lord Alton and Baroness Cox pointed out that nearby states were more kidly disposed to accepting Muslim refugees but the situation was not the same for Christians. There were calls for a liberalising of the rules to allow some Eastern European states to accept more Christian refugees. So far this has had a cool reception in Brussels. It was suggested that such a policy may result in those states being excluded from the Schengen visa zone.

Church of England Newspaper 28 October 2015

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postheadericon True Martyrs

 

For by the sacrificial death of Christ we are set free,

our sins are forgiven.

Ephesians 1: 7

Wickersley Parish Church’s patron saint, a man called Alban, is believed to have been a Romano-British citizen of the Roman town of Verulamium around the end of the 3rd century, who gave shelter to an itinerant Christian priest, later called Amphibalus. Alban was impressed by his guest’s message and after a time he received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. Soon afterwards a period of persecution, instigated by the Emperor, brought soldiers in search of the priest whereupon Alban exchanged clothes with him so as to enable the priest’s escape. Believing Alban to be the priest the soldiers arrested him instead.

At his trial, with his true identity revealed, Alban was urged to prove his rejection of Christ by making offerings to the Roman gods. He refused and defiantly declared his faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. He was condemned to death, led out of the city, across the river and up a hillside, where he was beheaded.

The martyrdom of Christians did not begin and end with the Roman era. Christians have suffered for Christ in every generation since. Most Christian martyrs lost their lives in the 20th Century and conditions are not improving for many Christians across the world.

On Wednesday morning, 18 April 2007 in Zirva, Eastern Turkey, three Christian men, Tilman Geske, a German missionary, Necati Aydin, a Turkish pastor, and Ugur Yuksel, met to study the Bible. On the other side of town ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they believed undermined Islam. The Christians attending the Bible study had met these Muslim men previously and believed them to be ‘seekers’; they readily welcomed five of the group when they turned up at the Bible study. However, their guests had not come to learn about the Christian faith but to kill the infidels. Equipped with guns, bread knives, ropes and towels they tortured the Christians for almost three hours before murdering them in a most grotesque way.

It is right that we should be shocked by this account of martyrdom, but we should not be surprised because Christ warned that such things would happen. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 15: 18, 16: 2-3)

Christians who live in the UK read such accounts with a mixture of horror and relief that we enjoy the freedom to practice and proclaim our faith. No one is likely to arrest us or try to kill us for believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and were we to experience opposition from individuals or officialdom we may well consider it unseemly to complain when our fellow Christians are suffering such terrible persecution. That said, it would be unwise of us to ignore the change in the climate of tolerance towards Christians in the UK.

Recent months have witnessed what can only be described as the escalation of human rights abuses against British Christians. The arrest of a Christian street preacher in Cumbria shows how serious the situation is becoming. Dale McAlpine, when questioned by a woman, read from the Bible a list of sins, which included homosexual behaviour. Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, graphically describes the event:

‘Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Christianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace. Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour. It appears that two police community support officers — at least one of whom was gay — claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public. Under our anti-discrimination laws, such distress is not to be permitted. And so we have the oppressive and sinister situation where a gentle, unaggressive Christian is arrested and charged simply for preaching Christian principles. It would appear that Christianity, the normative faith of this country on which its morality, values and civilisation are based, is effectively being turned into a crime.’

Given the politically correct consensus between our new government’s coalition partners the next decade is likely to bring more arrests of law-abiding Christians. This dire forecast begs the question ‘How should Christians respond to this increasingly oppressive secularising culture?’ We could complain but our complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears.  Not many of the 70% of Britons who ticked ‘Christian’ on their census forms are likely to take to the streets over the dismantling of the last vestiges of Christian Britain.

Our second option is to compromise with the prevailing culture. It would guarantee us less hassle but we could no longer, with any integrity, claim to be truly Christian.  A third option is to challenge the prevailing culture through word and deed. The message of the Gospel is freedom from oppression and sin but also freedom of conscience, thought, speech, and practice (little wonder tyrants wish to silence it). By proclaiming Christ and living out our creed with neighbourly love we serve as salt and light to our nation and emulate the many Christian men and women who countered tyranny with love as they defiantly declared their faith in “the true and living God who created all things”. Their example points us to the example of the Lord they loved and served. Jesus Christ, who defied tyranny, died in gentleness of spirit, and gave his life for the world.

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postheadericon Natural Disasters and Faith

The Haitian earthquake [2010] has reminded us of the fragility of life on an untameable planet. Unlike other disasters such as the Aids epidemic, famine, and hurricane carnage which can be partly attributed to ual lifestyle, deforestation and global warming respectively, the  earthquake which caused such carnage, although perhaps predictable, was wholly natural. In the words of the insurance underwriter the Haitian earthquake was ‘an act of God.’

So then, God is to blame. Or is he? The Bible teaches that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and ‘he saw that it was good’ (Genesis 1:1). He then created humankind who instead of delighting in creation chose to rebel against its creator. As punishment for their sin Adam and Eve were ejected from God’s presence and condemned to live in a world which due to their sin was now less than hospitable, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life’ (Genesis 3: 19). God willed that his good creation should be placed ‘into decay’ until it shared in the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God’ at the end of time (Romans 8: 18-22). Human sin has had cosmic consequences, because of sin our planet is broken, disordered and dangerous.

So what if the Earth is corrupted by sin? Why didn’t a powerful and loving God intervene to stop this disaster as he might have stopped others? I have no answer to this question, and I defy anyone else to give a satisfactory answer. It is a mystery. However despite the horror of the disaster, its vast scale, and the numerous individual tragedies, including the s of infants, which have caused faith to be questioned, I am not inclined to abandon my faith in a faithful and loving God, who knows what it is like to suffer and who shares in our suffering.

On Boxing Day 2004, when the strains of Christmas carols could still be heard, ‘All is calm, all is bright’, a tsunami struck SE Asia. We sang songs of a lovely baby as the wave tore babies from their parents arms and brought to thousands. Nathan Nettleton, preaching in the aftermath said, ‘What of our Christmas gospel now. Can we stand in the mud of Banda Aceh or ett or Galle and speak of the one who is called Emmanuel, God with us? Or would it sound ? But that’s the challenge isn‘t it? Because if the Christmas gospel has nothing meaningful to say in Tamil Nadu, or the Maldives, or Meuloboh then it doesn‘t really have anything meaningful to say at all. Any theology that can’t be preached in the presence of parents grieving over their slaughtered children isn’t worth preaching anywhere else either.’

The Christmas gospel declares ‘the Word became flesh’. God became a human being and exposed himself to the vagaries of our sinful world. Herod sought to tear the Christ child from the arms of his mother and destroy him but he failed. Pilate however succeeded and the Christ of the manger became the crucified Christ. ‘The Crucified God’. The Word who had become flesh became hunted, despised, and buried flesh. Christ’s glorious resurrection does not make him a God who is immune from suffering. He is not looking on as an impassive observer far removed from the suffering world. He became one of us, he suffered in all the ways we suffer. The Bible teacher John Stott has written, ‘I could not believe in God were it not for the cross’. God does not just know about suffering – he has suffered himself, for the sins of the world, out of love for us, and he suffers still, as we suffer. He remains ‘a man of sorrows acquainted with grief’.

What then can we say to our world in the wake of yet another natural disaster? Our message need not change. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, Vincent Nicholls, the then Catholic Bishop of Birmingham wrote, ‘Disasters do not wipe out faith anymore than they wipe out love. is the ultimate disaster which comes to us all eventually. But no matter how it comes, whether it is early in life, in hood or after a long decline – whether it comes in such a collapse or such a calamity as a tsunami – it has no power to rob us of our God-given grace, our destiny to be with God for eternity’. God may not have intervened to protect the victims of the Haitian earthquake, but he as already intervened to save humankind from a much greater disaster, an eternity apart from Him. God has won a glorious destiny for us because he took on flesh, suffered, died, and rose again! This is a gospel that can be preached in the presence of parents grieving over their slaughtered children, and it can therefore be preached anywhere.

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Regular services

Sundays
8.15: Holy Communion
10:30: Family Worship, communion twice a month
6:00: Evening Service, communion twice a month

Thursday
10.00: Holy Communion