Wednesday, November 19, 2008

VOM Top Stories

Iraq – Two Christian Sisters Killed

On Nov. 12, two sisters were killed and their mother wounded by a gang of Islamic extremists in the Al Qahira section of Mosul, Iraq, according to VOM contacts. The gunmen shot one of the sisters as she was waiting for a bus outside their home. They then stormed into the home, killed the other sister and injured their mother. A bomb placed by the assailants at the entrance of the house detonated as police arrived on the scene, injuring several officers.

This incident is the latest in a series of attacks on Christians that have occurred in Mosul, in recent weeks. Since October, more than seven Christians have been killed and more than 200 families displaced. The Christian community in Iraq is estimated to be 3 percent of Iraq’s 26 million people, or about 800,000. Some Christians believe they are being targeted in an effort to wipe out the Christian community's economic activity and drive believers from the area. Since 2003, Christian leaders, churches and businesses in Iraq have been targeted by Islamic extremists. As a result, many believers have fled.

The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to pray for this family as they mourn their loss and for healing for the injured mother. VOM is working to provide assistance to this grieving family. VOM has also responded with 300 Actions Packs to help persecuted and displaced believers in Mosul. Pray displaced families will return safely to their homes, and ask God to protect them and other believers in Iraq as they risk their all for their faith.

Christian Persecution Intensifies Across China

On Oct. 29, China Aid Association (CAA) reported that since the end of the Olympics in Beijing, cases of religious persecution have increased.

CAA has received reports of intensified religious persecution in Beijing, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Shangdong provinces. In Beijing, Pastor "Bike" Zhang Mingxuan and his family members have been evicted from their home, beaten and arrested. In Heliongjiang province, one city called Yichun recently banned all house churches, CAA reported. In Yunnan province, some house church members were attacked right after the Olympics. In Shandong province, Pastor Zhang Zhongxin was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor, and after the Olympics his appeal was denied, according to CAA.

Meanwhile, CAA has learned that 29 house church leaders have been serving time in labor camps and prisons in Henan province since July 2007. They are accused of being "evil cult" members. One leader was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, which is the harshest sentence against a house church leader in recent years, besides Pastor Zhang Rongliang, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in 2004, for allegedly "attempting to illegally cross the border and forgery of an official document," CAA added.

The Voice of the Martyrs stands with and actively supports Christians in China. VOM encourages you to pray for Christians in China who are facing immense challenges. VOM actively supports Christians in China through Christmas Care Packs and with Christian literature like the Gospel storybook, He Lived Among Us. Pray the Holy Spirit encourages and protects believers as persecution increases in China.

U.S. Department of State Gravely Concerned by China’s Harassment of Pastor "Bike" Zhang

UPDATE: The U.S. Department of State released a statement detailing its serious concern about the brutal beating of Pastor "Bike" Zhang's sons by China's Public Security Bureau (PSB) on October 23. They also condemned the harassment and recent imprisonment of Pastor Zhang by the PSB.

"We are gravely concerned by the brutal beating of Pastor Zhang "Bike" Mingxuan's two sons by public bureau officials. We are also deeply concerned by continuing official harassment of Pastor Zhang, a prominent Beijing house church leader, including his arbitrary detention and the forced relocation of his family," said Robert Wood, The U.S. Department of State, Deputy Spokesman in a press release.

Wood's statement called on the Chinese government to release Pastor Zhang and permit his family to return home. "We call upon the Government of China to condemn the violent acts committed against his [Pastor Zhang's] sons, and to bring to justice those individuals responsible for such acts," the statement said. "We are concerned about a pattern of intimidation of religious freedom and rule of law advocates and their family members. We urge China to honor those international human rights instruments to which it is a signatory that protect the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of religion."

On October 16, PSB officials severely beat Zhang Jian, the elder son of Pastor Bike, after they entered Pastor Bike's home, secured the exits. The officers beat him with iron bars for nearly half an hour. As Zhang lay bleeding profusely, his mother called an ambulance. The receptionist told her a higher government authority had directed them not to dispatch an ambulance to rescue Zhang because he is related to Pastor Bike. Xie Fenglan next called her younger son, who rushed to the house. Authorities also then beat him.

"We are encouraged to see the U.S. government speaking out on behalf of this persecuted Christian family," said Todd Nettleton, VOM's director of media development. "We join with the State Department in calling on the Chinese government to release Pastor Zhang and to allow his family to return to their apartment."

This incident is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to stop Pastor Bike and his family from sharing the gospel in China. In August, two days before the Olympics, Pastor Bike was arrested along with his wife and a co-worker. The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association launched an international petition drive advocating for their release. More than 58,000 people signed the petition, and it was delivered to Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong in Washington D.C. Shortly after the petition was circulated and the Olympic Games ended, all three were released.

VOM encourages you to pray for the release of Pastor Bike and the speedy recovery for his sons. Ask God to protect and encourage them and all believers in China during this challenging time.


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