Newsflashes from the Persecuted Church
Open Doors Making Huge Impact in North Korea
Last year was a difficult one for all North Koreans, including the 200,000 to 400,000 underground believers. In his first year leader Kim Jong-Un invested heavily in his security and military hardware. The country was also struck by several typhoons, which deepened the humanitarian crisis already taking place. Despite the difficulties and risks, God opened important doors for Open Doors to do more. Open Doors distributed almost 60,000 pieces of Christian materials, such as Bibles, books and training materials. Through Open Doors training – both in China and in-country through our networks – Open Doors reached 5,500 with religious education. Also, 57,500 North Koreans were given food, medicines, clothing and other relief items. Open Doors was able to carry out a number of secret projects. But the figures don’t tell the entire story. The people do. One secret Christian wrote: “Your foresight on our upcoming natural disaster and sending us clothing, medicines and other goods in advance have become such a great comfort and help to our believers to overcome this unexpected flood. Even though our believers were suffering from this unexpected rain and strong wind, they were at the frontline to help one another to solve and overcome the problem. We are overwhelmed to witness God’s miracle as we receive precious support and love. We will never forget your kindness and faith that you have given us at this crucial moment. You don’t know how much your support means to us.” Every day Open Doors sees God at work and is grateful that Open Doors can be part of what He is doing. The work is not without risk. Sometimes people are caught, tortured and even killed. A North Korean church leader says: “We don’t know who you are and have never seen your faces, but your supports are our strength and encouragement to our believers. We don’t give up now because God has promised us a bright future and this suffering is only temporary. Having a rest without God cannot be a true rest and we know that true rest and joy is only with Jesus Christ. And we are thankful that this temporary pain will bring us goodness in our eternal faith. I will continue to devote myself to serve and glorify His name. No matter where our believers live, I will visit them myself to comfort and encourage them.” North Korea has been No. 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians for 11 years in a row.
Missing Italian Priest in Syria Reported as Still Alive – from World Watch Monitor http://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2013/10/2734555/
An Italian Jesuit priest who went missing in Syria several months ago is still alive, according to an Assyrian priest speaking at the European Parliament on Tuesday. Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church in the East said the latest reports from inside Syria were that Father Paolo Dall’Oglio is alive, although no more detail was given about his condition. Reuters reported on July 29 that Dall’Oglio had been abducted by Islamists with links to al-Qaeda in the northern Syrian city of ar-Raqqah, but the Vatican would not confirm the news. A month later, several reports claimed that the priest had been killed, although the Vatican remained tight-lipped. The UK-based pro-opposition Syrian Observatory of Human Rights recently reported that the priest was kidnapped after a visit to the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, linked to Al-Qaeda) rebel group headquarters, as did All4Syria – an agency which operated as an anti-Assad online news outlet for several years before the outbreak of war in Syria. Dall’Oglio is not the only priest in Syria whose whereabouts and well-being have created headlines in recent months. Bishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji were kidnapped in April and have yet to be released. Fr. Youkhana was a guest speaker at the presentation of a report, “Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians” to a packed room of Brussels parliamentarians, policymakers and NGOs by Open Doors International (ODI). Beyond the kidnappings of leading Christian figures inside the country, the situation for the nation’s Christian minority is precarious. Open Doors spokesperson Esther Kattenberg said Syria’s Christians are “squeezed” in between a rock and a hard place, neither feeling comfortable siding with the widely condemned current al-Assad government, nor the various factions – many of which are Islamists with links to al-Qaeda – which make up the opposition.
Bangladeshi Christians Told to Close Church, Convert to Islam – from World Watch Monitor http://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2013/10/article_2735367.html/
A local government official in central Bangladesh has halted the construction of a church, forced Christians to worship at a mosque and threatened them with eviction from their village unless they renounce their faith. The Tangail Evangelical Holiness Church in Bilbathuagani village, Tangail district, about 70 miles north of Dhaka, was started Sept. 8 by a group of about 25 Christians who had been meeting secretly for three years. However, local council chairman Rafiqul Islam Faruk joined around 200 demonstrators Sept. 13 to protest against the start of the building of the church. The following day, the Christians were summoned to his office. More than 1,000 Muslims waited outside, following an announcement at all local mosques to gather at the chairman’s office. Mokrom Ali, 32, told World Watch Monitor he was forced to accept Islam. “The chairman and the imams of the mosques interrogated me for accepting Christianity. They asked me why I had become a Christian. It is a great sin to become a Christian from Islam,” Ali said. “If I did not accept Islam, they would beat me, burn my house, and evict me from the society. Their threats chilled me to the bone. That is why I pretended to accept Islam, but faith in Christ is the wellspring of my life. Now I am no longer a Muslim; I am a Christian.”
(For more information or to set up interviews, call Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email [email protected]).