04 29 Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Persian Speaking World: Family Comes to Christ while on Pilgrimage
Recently an Iranian believer shared a story that was on his heart. “Please share this story with everyone who prays for Iran. I want you all to know how God is at work in Iran,” he says.
“In Iran, Shia Muslim pilgrims visit the graves of the successors (imams) of Muhammad, the prophet who founded Islam. They go there because they believe these imams can fulfill their wishes and heal them from deadly diseases. Yaghoub (not his real name), a servant of God, went to this holy place for Muslims. You wouldn’t have noticed Yaghoub in the crowd; he looked just like the Muslims that went there to worship dead persons who couldn’t do a thing for them. But he was in contact with the living God; the only one who could really heal all these people.
“Yaghoub is led by the Lord to talk to one family. Soon he finds out that they’re there because the father of the family is suffering from cancer and they expect a miracle from the deceased holy Muslims. Yaghoub’s heart hurts for the family because he knows that the ones they are relying on are unable to fulfill their wish. Courageously, he shares about God. He tells them that only Jesus can heal the father because He is the only living God. Yaghoub notices the family is listening and eager to know more, so he continues to share the gospel with them.
“Yaghoub tells them that if they believe in Jesus, He can give them rest and peace in their hearts. He explains to them how they can give their hearts to Jesus. He starts praying for them. The family accepts Jesus into their hearts. After that, they part ways with the family going back to the little town they came from and Yaghoub goes back to his home.
“But the story isn’t finished. Two weeks later Yaghoub calls the family to see how they are doing after they accepted Jesus into their hearts. The father of the family answers him joyfully. When they returned home, they found out that the cancer he was suffering from was gone. The doctors didn’t find any cancer in his body. The man was so happy, that he told this story to his entire extended family. He told them how he was healed miraculously by the only true God.”
Southeast Bangladesh: Persecution against Christians Intensifies
Buddhist clerics in Duitila, Bandarban District, Bangladsh have threatened to hurt the few Christian families in the village, unless they return to their old faith. The hostility against the believers has been going on for some time. “The Buddhist leaders have been looking for an opportunity to accuse Christians of something,” said a church leader of the Presbyterian Church in touch with the believers. “They don’t want the Christians to remain in their village. Every day they search the believers for small errors, so that they can make a case against them.”
On April 23, the clerics pressured a 54-year-old Christian leader, Hemoranjan Chakma, to become a Buddhist monk or he would be slapped with a hefty fine. The pressure started when they learned that the man was going through a marital crisis.
Without any means of paying, Hemoranjan gave in to the demand. He was then brought to a Buddhist temple where he had to stay and go through the customary rituals of becoming a monk. After three days, Hemoranjan left the temple and was later seen attending a Christian church. Enraged, the Buddhist clerics summoned him and protested about his continuing with the Christian faith.
“Hemoranjan responded by saying that is a Christian and that he has the right to exercise his faith and worship Jesus Christ,” the church leader told Open Doors. “The Buddhist monks were provoked and openly declared that unless Christians become Buddhists, they cannot live in Duitila village. They cannot worship (their God) or exercise their faith.”
The Duitila Christians, however, decided to stay put and remain in their faith. The Buddhists then began to search for all the believers in the village, armed with guns as they made rounds from one house to another.
“Hemoranjan and five other Christian men fled,” the church leader said. “The Buddhist monks want to bring these men back to Buddhism. They are searching especially for Simsong Chakma, the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Duitila.”
On the night of April 24, the same monks burned down the house of 35-year-old pastor Simsong. They also beat him severely, leaving him near death. They also levied a fine of $210, which the pastor must pay within a few days.
“The Christian families in Duitila are oppressed,” said the church leader. “They are living in uncertainty. Please pray for them to be safe and strong in the faith. Pray for us, the leaders, too. We need God’s wisdom in discussing peacefully the issue with the Buddhist leaders.”