Persecution & Prayer Update - September 14 (Used with permisssion of VOM Canada) SUDAN: Church Relinquishment Ordered by Government Officials Source: Morning Star News
On August 23rd, several Christian leaders in the city of Omdurman were arrested and imprisoned for a six-hour period. Rev. Ayoub Mattan, a moderator for the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), and Kuwa Shamaal (also transliterated Kwa Shamaal), head of missions at the church, were among the Christian leaders arrested. Pastor Shamaal, who had been previously arrested on December 18th, and then acquitted on January 2nd of this year, received new charges ranging from spying to inciting hatred against the government.
Police also arrested Rev. Yagoub Naway and Pastor Musa Kodi. The forementioned Christians were interrogated along with other SCOC church leaders, including finance secretary Abdulbagi Ali Abdulrahaman and deputy finance secretary El-Amin Hassam Abdulrasool, before all were released on bail. Six other members are in hiding after learning that the police are wanting to arrest and interrogate them as well.
Sudan's Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments had written a letter dated August 14th, ordering the Christian leaders to hand over the church leadership to a committee appointed by the government ministry -- a move that may have been made to sell off the church property in Sudan's bid to rid the country of Christianity. When the church leaders refused, police opened a case against them, even though it's unclear what law they were enforcing.
Since 2012, Sudan has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to the formerly residing South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting believers, authorities threatened to kill those who did not leave or cooperate in their efforts to find other Christians. Previous reports on the difficulties experienced by believers in Sudan are available here.
Due to the severity of the church situation, please intercede on behalf of these pastors who were arrested on false charges. Ask God to strengthen their resolve and position as His appointed spiritual leaders when dealing with the opposing government officials. Also pray for the members of their congregation that they too will be strengthened to withstand the attempts of the enemy to halt the Lord's work from being accomplished through the church. May all of God's people in Sudan be firmly grounded on His promises and remain at peace, for our Lord Jesus assuredly states, "...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
TURKEY: Imprisoned Pastor Facing Serious Charges Sources: Middle East Concern, American Center for Law and Justice
On August 24th, Pastor Andrew Brunson was connected via video link from the maximum-security prison where he is presently being held. The judge at the Second Criminal Court in Izmir read out allegations from the chief prosecutor's office that Pastor Brunson had obtained confidential political and military information for espionage purposes, specifically to "overthrow" the Turkish parliament and government, and thus undermine the constitutional order of the state.
Although new charges have been added, any evidence supporting such absurd claims has yet to be presented, and no indictment has been handed down. In his response to the judge, the accused pastor adamantly maintained his innocence and denied the charges, pleading with the judge that evidence be provided. Pastor Brunson also further denied any such activity and reiterated that he is "a man of religion" whose aim is to teach of Jesus Christ. The chairman of the Association of Protestant Churches, Ihsan Ozbek, labelled the accusations "absurd" and "political." Neither the pastor nor his lawyer have had access to his file or any submitted evidence.
Pastor Brunson was initially arrested with his wife Norine on October 7th of last year. The pastoring couple were told of plans for their deportation as they were considered "a threat to national security." While his wife was subsequently released, Pastor Brunson had been held in an immigration detention facility until his transfer to a prison in Izmir. Currently, he faces four consecutive life sentences based on the newly devised charges. More about his initial arrest is available here.
Despite the false claims being presented before the court, pray that Pastor Brunson's years of dedication to the Lord and his faithfulness in ministry and humanitarian service will provide compelling evidence to the contrary among his accusers and those in authority. May the light of truth be revealed to the judicial officials, so they will come to realize his sincerity and best intentions for the people and the country of Turkey as a whole. In addition, intercede for the congregation members affected by their pastor's arrest. May they experience a greater passion for the Lord and an increased fervency to serve Him so their church will continue to thrive and grow.
PRAISE REPORT - NORTH KOREA: Freed Pastor Welcomed Home with Joy! Source: World Watch Monitor
The large congregation of Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Canada, was ecstatic on Sunday, August 13th, when welcoming home their senior pastor, Hyeon Soo Lim, who was held for more than two years of a life sentence as a prisoner at a North Korean labour camp. The church was also crowded with media personnel recording his significant and almost unexpected return.
Looking happy and healthy, Pastor Lim spoke of his experiences at the labour camp. Overwhelming loneliness was the emotion he remembers most during his imprisonment. He recounted unending days of hard labour which took such a toll on him physically that he lost 23 kilograms (about 50 pounds) and was hospitalized four times. During the winter, he was also subjected to harsh conditions which resulted in severe frostbite on his fingers and toes. Yet, despite all the hardships he endured, it was the prayers of believers everywhere that sustained him. Over time, his feelings of loneliness and isolation turned into "peaceful solitude with God." Though his days were filled with labour, he "prayed without ceasing." In his message to the Canadian church, he further explained: "I did not have a day of gloom. My moments of discouragement, resentment and grumbling turned into courage, joy and thanksgiving."
In times like these, the 62-year-old pastor was able to see the Lord's mighty hand at work. Once, after almost a year behind bars, friends from his church in Canada sent him Korean and English Bibles. Remarkably, in a country ranked the hardest place in which to practise Christianity, the guards allowed him to keep them. He recounted reading through the Korean Bible four times and the English Bible once, memorizing more than 700 Bible verses. During this time, he also wrote five new hymns in Korean -- some of which were sung on Sunday by the members of his congregation...with tears streaming down their faces.
Pastor Lim was first arrested in January 2015, after being charged with "defaming" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un -- which he denies -- and sentenced to life in a labour camp. It was a charge that came across as shocking for a man who had merely shown compassion towards the suffering people of North Korea through his devotion to help them. As a result of the ministry he and his church began in 1997, millions of dollars of charitable assistance was poured into North Korea -- from orphanages to homes for senior citizens, as well as farming and educational programs.
Upon arriving at a Canadian military base in Toronto after his August 9th release, Pastor Lim was a most blessed recipient of hugs from his wife, son and one-year-old granddaughter, whom he had never before seen. In accordance with the welcome festivities, a reception was held at the church the following day. It was filled with overwhelming and contagious joy. We rejoice with Pastor Lim's loved ones and church family over the wonderful news of his safe return home, and our prayers will continue to be with him as he adjusts to life back in Canada. To view a recently televised interview with Pastor Lim, visit this page.
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