PROPHESIED END TIMES PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

Persecution of Christians is on the rise in at least 18 countries, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, due to growing jihadism and nationalism, according to a report released by a Catholic group (Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that examined human rights violations against Christians in 24 countries where it is particularly difficult to be a Christian.

Thank goodness God warned us that this would happen and the good news is that it indicates Jesus’ return to put things right is not too far in the future.

Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:28

Hopefully, this information will help you pray for the persecuted church. These countries include Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar, Russia, North Korea, China, Vietnam, India and Qatar, according to the report titled “Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2020-22.”

Around the world, more than 360 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution just for following Jesus — that’s one in seven believers worldwide, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution for their faith.

ACN said its report was presented in the Houses of Parliament in the U.K. this week with a keynote address by Nigeria’s Bishop Jude Arogundade, whose Diocese of Ondo was targeted by gunmen who killed more than 40 people at a packed Sunday service on Pentecost Sunday this year.

Bishop Arogundade said, “no one seems to pay attention to the genocide” taking place in swathes of Nigeria’s Middle Belt. “The world is silent as attacks on churches, their personnel, and institutions have become routine. How many corpses are required to get the world’s attention?” he was quoted as saying.

African countries saw a sharp rise in terrorist violence from non-state militants, with more than 7,600 Nigerian Christians reportedly murdered between January 2021 and June of this year, the Catholic group said in the report, adding that in May, a video was released showing 20 Nigerian Christians being executed by Islamist terror group Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa Province.

In Asia, “state-authoritarianism” was behind the worsening oppression, especially in North Korea, where religious beliefs and practices are routinely and systematically repressed, it said.

The report also noted that religious nationalism has triggered increasing violence against Christians in the region, with Hindu nationalist and Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist groups active in India and Sri Lanka, respectively.

The report noted that India witnessed 710 incidents of anti-Christian violence between January 2021 and the start of June, “driven in part by political extremism.” It cited an example of a mass rally in Chhattisgarh state last October, where members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party applauded as right-wing Hindu religious leader Swami Parmatmanand called for Christians to be killed.

In the Middle East, the report said, a migration crisis threatened the survival of some of the world’s oldest Christian communities.

In Syria, the Christian population declined from 10% to less than 2%, falling from 1.5 million just before the war began to around 300,000 today, ACN said, adding that while the rate of exodus is slower in Iraq, a community that numbered around 300,000 before the 2014 invasion by ISIS had halved to 150,000 by the spring of this year.

At this month’s G20 event centered on religions’ role in helping solve global problems, the Most Rev. Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, warned that Christianity in Iraq was “on the very edge of extinction.”

During his remarks at the G20 Religion Forum in Bali, Indonesia, the archbishop stressed that “sectarian violence” was a significant problem in Iraq. This country suffered the rise of an Islamic State stronghold during the last decade in which thousands of Iraqi religious minorities were killed, enslaved, or forced to flee their homelands.

“Without an end to this sectarian violence, there is no future for religious pluralism in Iraq, or anywhere else in the Mideast for that matter,” he said. “The brutal logic of this is that there does eventually reach an end point where there are no minorities left to kill, and no minorities left to persecute.”

Warda added, “As I share with you this experience, I pray that you will find in our story a clear warning to you all.” He noted that after around 1,900 years of existing in the region, “we Christians of Iraq now find ourselves on the very edge of extinction.”

There is “a fundamental crisis of violence within Islam” that “can no longer be ignored,” he said, adding that it “continues to affect the entire Middle East, Africa, Asia and beyond.”

The report includes information from ACN and other local sources, provides firsthand testimony, compilations of incidents, case studies, and country analysis on the extent to which Christians are targeted around the world.

Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List, which looked at incidents reported between Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, found at least 5,898 Christians were killed, 5,110 churches were attacked or closed, 6,175 Christians were arrested without trial, and 3,829 Christians were kidnapped. 2021 saw a 24% increase in Christians killed for their faith.

PROPHESIED “END TIMES” PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS ESCALATES

In Australia, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews said biblical views on abortion and sexuality are, “appalling, intolerant, hatred, bigotry, and just wrong.”

Daniel Andrews, the Roman Catholic Premier of Victoria, has not only defied the God of the Bible, turned a deaf ear to the wider Christian population, but has specifically rejected the teachings of his own Church.

How quickly what we saw as foundational human rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and association are clearly eroding under the Andrews government, and other governments nationwide.

We should not be surprised as Jesus warned us that persecution/tribulation will escalate in the last days and that we will be hated by all nations for standing up for Jesus and His values.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Matthew 24:9-14

While this life is fraught with many trials and tribulations, the sufferings we experience are to be counted as incomparable with the glories to come. This anticipation for glory sustains us and brings forth one major reason why we persevere: we hope in the age to come rather than in this broken and fallen age.

Paul says, that in the same way, this hope for glorification sustains us, the Spirit sustains us, for He knows precisely how to intercede on our behalf before the Father.

Where words and utterances fail us in our prayers, the Spirit transforms them into prayers that match the will of God. The Spirit’s work of intercession on our behalf is part and parcel of our endurance; we endure not only for the hope of the age to come but specifically because part of the Spirit’s work is to bring about endurance in us.

Human suffering has a purpose that culminates in glory. To make that even clearer: the purpose of our trials and sufferings is to bring us to the final redemption, where we see God face to face, free from the pain, devastation, and destruction caused by the curse of sin, our adversary Satan, and death itself.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

10 YEARS IN PRISON FOR HOSTING A HOUSE CHURCH IN IRAN

The Revolutionary Court of Tehran has sentenced an Iranian-Armenian Christian man to 10 years in prison for establishing a house church, which the judge called “propaganda contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam,” according to reports.

Saba Kord Afshari is just 22 years old. In August 2019, the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced her to 24 years in prison for opposing the compulsory hijab.

Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, headed by Judge Afshari, sentenced Anooshavan Avedian, 60, to 10 years of imprisonment, alongside two others who are members of his house church — Abbas Soori, 45, and Maryam Mohammadi, 46 — both of whom are converts to Christianity, Human Rights Activists News Agency reported.

Article 18, a U.K.-based organization that promotes religious freedom in Iran, reported that Soori and Mohammadi received a range of non-custodial punishments, including a fine of about $2,000 (500 million rials) and a 10-year ban from membership in social and political groups as well as a two-year exile outside Tehran. In addition, they must regularly report to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence.

The three were convicted on the charge of “organizing and running an Evangelical ‘Zionist’ home church with the intention to act against national security” and “maintaining satellite dish and receivers.”

They were first arrested in August 2020 when about 30 intelligence agents raided a private gathering at Avedian’s home in Narmak are in northeastern Tehran, but their case came to light only recently.

The agents confiscated all the Bibles and communication devices with passwords.

In Tehran’s Evin Prison, the three were subjected to psychological torture during several intense interrogation sessions.

Judge Afshari pronounced Avedian guilty of “establishing and leading an illegal group with the aim of disrupting the security of the country through education and propaganda activities contrary to and disturbing to the holy religion of Islam, through the dissemination of false claims … as well as contact with foreign countries, or organisational guidance from abroad.”

The Christians’ defense was met with “disrespectful remarks toward their character, and insults to their faith,” according to Article 18, which also said that over the past decade, authorities in Iran have closed down nearly all churches that offered services in Persian, the national language, or insisted they teach only in the ethnic minority languages.

The Islamic Republic is ranked as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. 

“Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government and to a lesser extent by society and their own families,” it says.

“The government sees the growth of the church in Iran as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran. House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds are often raided, and both their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted, and given long prison sentences for “crimes against national security.”

The Muslim religion is an antichrist religion and Biblical prophecy reveals the Antichrist (Little Horn) arises out of one of four Muslim nations when the revived Ottoman Empire is broken up (perhaps by the U.N. or Russia) into four nations.

Then the goat (revived Ottoman Empire) became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
Out of one of them came a little horn (Antichrist), which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host
Daniel 8:8-11

CHRISTIANS CANNOT COUNSEL TRANSGENDER YOUTH

The recent U.S. Executive Order on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals calls on the administration to “safeguard LGBTQI+ youth from dangerous practices like so-called ‘conversion therapy’—efforts to suppress or change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” It contends that conversion therapy is a “discredited practice that research indicates can cause significant harm, including higher rates of suicide-related thoughts and behaviors by LGBTQI+ youth.” Biden also directed the Federal Trade Commission to determine “whether so-called conversion therapy constitutes an unfair or deceptive act or practice, and to issue such consumer warnings or notices as may be appropriate.”

In my recent post on SELLING THE TRANSGENDER STORY, I showed a very appealing video that attempts to sell the transgender agenda as a positive step forward whereby we are told that tens of thousands of children out there identify as transgender. We are also told that Ryland and the Whittington family is a typical ‘American family’. As well, we are told that gender and sexuality are different. All three claims are false. If you have not viewed this video can I suggest you do. It was posted five days ago.

God and his commandments have been rejected by the majority of people as they were by the people of Noah’s Day bringing God’s judgement upon them. Jesus warned us that the world would reject God and His values prior to His return. Persecution of active Christians (living out their faith) will be considered just.

Is the church preparing Christians for this escalating persecution?

This is another appealing video selling Ryland’s transgender conversion beginning at age 3.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS ESCALATES IN NIGERIA

The blood is still there. It’s still spread all over the floor.”

Joel Veldkamp, head of international communications at persecution watchdog Christian Solidarity International (CSI), shared these chilling words while discussing the vile attack on a Nigerian church Sunday that left at least 50 dead.

A police officer stands guard inside the St. Francis Catholic Church, a day after an attack that targeted worshipers in Owo, Nigeria, Monday, June 6, 2022. The gunmen who killed 50 people at a Catholic church in southwestern Nigeria opened fire on worshippers both inside and outside the building in a coordinated attack before escaping the scene

“It was Pentecost Sunday in Nigeria, so the church was full of people,” Veldkamp said. “According to one report, the gunmen snuck in disguised as worshippers. And then other gunmen arrived on motorcycles from the outside and started shooting from the outside, and then the ones who were already inside the congregation started shooting as well.”

The assailants then reportedly placed bombs on the altar and around the church before detonating them.

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, though some reports ponder whether radical Islamic terror groups could be culpable. The location of the attack — in a southwest region of Nigeria — is one of the factors that adds to the “distressing and disturbing” details, as that area is typically peaceful and unaffected by the terror that has gripped portions of northern Nigeria.

“There are a lot of fears that this is going to open up a new chapter in anti-Christian terrorism in Nigeria,” Veldkamp said.

Renewed critique emerged last month after a Muslim mob reportedly fatally stoned Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a 25-year-old Christian college student of Shehu Shagari College of Education was beaten and burned to death in Sokoto Nigeria, Friday, May 13, 2022, by fellow Muslim students after she was accused of making a blasphemous social media post.

ENDURING THROUGH SUFFERING

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Philippians 4:13

You cannot view this verse in isolation you need to consider the previous verse first.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.Philippians 4: 11

Philippians 4:13 is not about how one can literally do anything we put our minds to simply because we are in Christ. Paul has a specific context in mind here—and it is not about attaining your personal goals and aspirations, developing a healthy conception of self-worth, nor is it designed to be a coping mechanism to deal with the grit and grime of life. Truthfully, the passage isn’t even about finding the secret of contentment in all things, despite insistence from many that this is the focal point of this passage. This interpretation does have more validity to it due to the following passage.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.Philippians 4:11-12

Paul undoubtedly affirms learning contentment in all circumstances. However, the overarching point of Paul to the Philippians in this passage is not contentment, but one of enduring through suffering, particularly, suffering brought on through no fault of our own.

Job a model of faithfulness in suffering

The Letter to the Philippians is one of Paul’s epistles written from prison, which means that as he pens this letter, he is chained to a Roman guard waiting for his trial before Caesar. In the midst of Paul’s expression of gratitude for their financial support, he takes the opportunity to encourage his people that Christ Himself is the source of all comfort, hope, and faith. The simple reason why Paul encourages them in this manner is they have been appointed, not only to eternal life but to suffer for the sake of Christ, which in particular for them means they will experience the same things Paul has (Philippians 1:29-30). Paul is not only referring to being jailed for Christ’s sake, but to enduring physical persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

It is in light of this that Paul then ministers to those in Philippi by highlighting the hope of the gospel, the resurrection, and the object of their faith: Jesus Christ. He is all-sufficient and provides for our every need by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches us how to embrace suffering for the glory of Christ because it is the means by which we enter His Kingdom.

Adapted from articles by Grayson Gilbert on Suffering. Click on embrace suffering and you will connect to another great article by Grayson Gilbert.

FINNISH CHRISTIAN LEADERS NOT GUILTY OF HATE CRIME

Dr. Päivi Räsänen, a medical doctor and member of parliament, and Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland who were put on trial for teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality were cleared of all charges. I have posted previously about this case and am delighted to be able to report a positive outcome. This is a big win for religious freedom.

The district court in Helsinki has announced its verdict in the trial.  All charges were dismissed. The unanimous, 28-page decision, stated that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts.”  Furthermore, the defendants had sought to “defend the concept of family and marriage between a man and a woman.” Though some people might find that offensive,  “there must be an overriding social reason for interfering with and restricting freedom of expression.

“I am so grateful the court recognized the threat to free speech and ruled in our favour. I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after being acquitted. Although I am grateful for having had this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, I hope that this ruling will help prevent others from having to go through the same ordeal,” said Päivi Räsänen after her victory.

SEISMIC SHIFT IN CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

Afghanistan is now the worst nation in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA, an organization that tracks global religious maltreatment. The shocking development is undoubtedly the “biggest seismic shift” in decades, as North Korea, the reclusive and oppressive East Asian country, was bumped from the top spot it had occupied for 20 years. “This year’s 2022 World Watch List, is the biggest seismic shift in over 20 years because Afghanistan is now the No. 1 country on the World Watch List, supplanting North Korea,” Open Doors USA CEO David Curry said. Afghanistan has long been embroiled in chaos, but the situation devolved further when the U.S. undertook a chaotic withdrawal last August, a retreat that carried with it serious consequences.

The education of young girls has changed dramatically

“Many people are aware of what’s happened since August in Afghanistan,” Curry said, citing the chaos and uncertainty. “It has emboldened Islamic extremists in other parts of the world. We believe it’s going to have a ripple effect.”  Christians in Afghanistan face intensifying persecution at the hands of the resurgent Taliban, with militants purportedly arresting and possibly seeking to kill believers. Christian women, in particular, are especially vulnerable and are seen as ideological enemies.

Looking at the diverse forms of persecution that exist, Curry noted that there is a “two-front war” against Christianity that can be observed on the “World Watch List.” On one side, there are the tribal-led government forces like the Taliban and on the other are centralized and tech-savvy governments like what is seen in China.

Curry explained why the Chinese government’s actions should be deeply concerning. “Their system and their technology is the greatest threat right now overall in the future of religious expression,” he said, likening the methodical restrictions to a “high tech noose around the neck of expression of faith.”

Curry said the Chinese government has hampered the efforts of almost every church, forcing houses of worship to break into groups and to shut down. Christians are at risk of losing jobs, having travel restricted, and “even worse.” “They have artificial intelligence. They monitor all the video, they monitor the online presence,” he said.

Fortunately, we know how the underground church at the time of Mao grew strong under intense persecution. Believers were totally dependent upon God and miracles abounded as testified by Chinese believers like Brother You in his book The Heavenly Man. As prophesied, persecution increases in these last days before Jesus returns, and those totally committed to God will walk in the power of the Holy Spirit with all the gifts of the Spirit being manifested in their ministry to others.

PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS INTENSIFIES

March 6th, 2022 China (International Christian Concern) – A Christian woman in China, named Zhou Jinxia was detained for her repeated attempt to share the good news of Jesus Christ with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.

Using placards filled with Gospel messages, Zhou regularly stands outside a gated area in Beijing where top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials reside. Last month, she did so to greet President Xi when he returned from the Winter Olympics, leading to her arrest for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Authorities ordered Zhou to return to her hometown of Dalian, where her beef with the government began.

In 2009, local authorities seized and demolished Zhou’s house in Dalian without her consent, later turning it into a city square. According to the group China Aid, Zhou and her family members have spent years seeking justice, only to be detained and lose their jobs.

Religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter explains that Zhou “took seriously [President] Xi’s statements he would fight corruption.” So after his 2013 inauguration, she repeatedly wrote to him about her unjust eviction. Because Xi never replied, Zhou “concluded that no solution to China’s problem would be possible unless [the president and his wife] would receive Jesus in their hearts.”

The Dalian native was sent back to Liaoning province by the police after her action in Beijing. She was subsequently detained. On Feb. 20, Zhou went to Zhongnanhai in Beijing, the central headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the State Council of China, holding up a sign asking Xi Jinping to believe in Jesus.

The police in charge arrested her before Dalian police brought her back to Dalian. She was criminally detained and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on February 21. Her family received the notice of her criminal detention from Dalian’s Public Security Bureau’s Xigang Branch on March 1.

According to China Aid, in recent years, Zhou has attempted to share the good news with her Chinese leader more than 50 times. As early as March 2015, Zhou was detained for ten days for her evangelism activities. In March 2016 and March 2018, she was detained again for the same charge.

Beginning October 2020, Zhou has resided in Fengtai district’s Xiaobailou village in Beijing. She actively shares the gospel and is involved in her church. On June 27, 2021, she was driven away by local leaders and police, while her amenities of daily life were confiscated. As someone whose house was forcibly demolished by the government, Zhou is not unfamiliar with the injustice in China.

We need to pray for Zhou Jinxia and the many like her in China and other countries where Christians are persecuted. Moreover, we should ask God to give us the courage to be like her in the face of intense persecution that we will see intensify across the globe in these prophesied “last days” before Jesus returns.

STORY OF MUSLIM CONVERT

(Morning Star News) – Muslim relatives of a Christian evangelist, Malingumu Bruhan on Feb. 6th beat and tied him up to be burned to death after he returned home for a funeral in eastern Uganda, he said.

Despite the fact Uganda is a majority Christian country that affords its citizens religious freedom, there have been some cases in recent years that mirror Bruhan’s ordeal. Despite being 84% Christian, certain pockets of Uganda — particularly the eastern region — are Muslim-dominated.

Malingumu Bruhan, 34, returned to Kaliro District for his grandfather’s funeral in Muhira village, Nawaikoke, and then accepted his uncles’ request to stay and visit, as they said they had not seen him for a long time.

“Subsequently, my uncle accused me of embarrassing the family by holding Christian evangelistic, open-air meetings and debates with Muslims,” Bruhan told Morning Star News. “He accused me of being an infidel by converting to Christianity, and that Allah will reward them in Jannah [garden paradise] if they kill me.”

“He told me that now is the right time for me to receive punishment from Allah, whereby I was going to be burned alive and the birds of the air will enjoy me as their meat,” Bruhan said. “Some men beat me as others gathered firewood, while another was sent for petrol because they wanted to use it to burn me alive.”

”As his uncle was waiting for the fuel, another convert from Islam who had accompanied Bruhan to the funeral came looking for him but was told he was nowhere in the vicinity”, he said. The friend saw Bruhan’s shoe, which had come off as his uncle and others dragged him off.

Malingumu Bruhan was attacked near Nawaikoke, Kaliro District, Uganda on Feb. 6, 2022

“My friend made several phone calls to friends after finding my shoe, they arrived and started searching for me,” he said. “They found me behind the house, tied and with firewood around me. They called the police, which scared the attackers, and they fled.”

Having sustained head injuries, Bruhan was taken to a clinic at Bulumba town, then later transferred to another area undisclosed for security reasons.

An evangelist well-known in Mbale, Iganga, Jinja and Kampala for his public debates with Muslims about Christianity and Islam, Bruhan has survived 11 murder attempts. “By God’s grace I overcame the Muslims’ planned attacks,” Bruhan said.

His Muslim relatives ostracized him in 2017 following his conversion, saying that as an apostate he had brought shame to the family.

“When I was chased, I went on foot, slept in the bush, and survived on wild fruits for two months,” Bruhan said. “I still trust God to heal me and for divine protection for my life. The church has been a comfort to me. Pray for me so that I recover from the head injuries and will be able to continue with the work of sharing Christ with the lost.”

The assault was the latest of many instances of persecution of Christians in Uganda that Morning Star News has documented.

We need to pray for our ex-Muslim brothers and sisters that come under intense persecution, particularly evangelists like Bruhan. You can keep up to date by connecting to Morning Star News and Voice of the Martyrs.