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Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world

December 142018 (Morning Star News) – Police in Laos arrested a grandmother and three other Christians while they were worshipping last month, according to an advocacy group.

Raiding a church service in Keovilai village, Vilabouly District in Savannakhet Province, local police on Nov. 18 arrested the 78-year-old woman identified as Grandma Bounlam and three men identified by the surnames Duangtha, Khampan and Ponsawan, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

The four Christians have since been released, an HRWLRF source told Morning Star News. The three men had been held in handcuffs and feet stocks. Bounlam was released for medical treatment for a heart condition.

Police also evicted them from their homes and property, according to an HRWLRF press statement.

Villagers said the worshippers were arrested for believing in Jesus Christ, according to the rights group, and they face the threat of unspecified criminal charges. Area Christians said police have threatened more severe punishment if the Lao Christians do not renounce Christianity, which is considered an enemy of the single-party, Marxist-Leninist country, according to the HRWLRF.

The three officers who made the arrests were identified by their surnames as Don, a police major stationed at Vilabouly District, and two police officers stationed in Vang District, Pim and No.

HRWLRF urged the Lao government to punish the three police officers who acted illegally in arresting the four Christians, according to the press statement, and called for their homes to be restored to them.

The group urged the Lao government to respect the religious rights of the Lao people and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009. It upholds the individual’s right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18), the HRWLRF stated.

“Any form of coercion impairing the freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the Covenant,” it stated.

The Lao government officially recognizes the religious umbrella groups for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and the Baha’i, but the only officially recognized Christian denominations are the Catholic Church, the Laos Evangelical Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, according to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2017. Government restrictions on registered and unregistered minority religious groups, particularly Protestants, remained “disproportionately limiting in certain remote regions,” according to the report.

“Reports continued of authorities, especially in isolated villages, arresting, detaining, and exiling followers of minority religions, particularly Christians,” it states. “There were reports authorities subjected some religious minority members to attempted forced renunciations, imprisonment, arrest, detention, and fines.”

Only 1.7 percent of the Lao population is Christian, according to the 2015 national census, while 64.7 percent is Buddhist, 31.4 percent has no religion and 2.1 percent identify as “other” or having a non-listed religion.

A 2016 decree on religion states that nearly all aspects of religious practice – holding religious services, building houses of worship, modifying existing structures, and establishing new congregations in villages where none existed – require permission from a local Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) branch office, regardless of whether a group is recognized or registered nationally, according to the report.

“The decree empowers MOHA to order the cessation of any religious activities or beliefs not in agreement with policies, traditional customs, laws, or regulations within its jurisdiction,” the report states.

Laos ranked 20th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.


If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.  
 
If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/donate/

Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Remi Yuan/Unsplash

 

 

 

December 13, 2018 (Morning Star News) – Authorities in China have detained the pastor and more than 100 members of a prominent, unofficial church since Sunday (Dec. 9), according to media and advocacy agencies.

Security authorities raided the 800-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province at about 6 p.m. on Sunday (Dec. 9) and also took some church leaders and members from their homes or off the streets, according to the South China Morning Post. Pastor Wang Yi was reportedly detained on Sunday night for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power,” and officials also seized his wife, Jiang Rong, from her mother-in-law’s home; her whereabouts were unknown at this writing.

Chen Yaxue, Wang’s 73-year-old mother, told the SCMP that the couple’s 11-year-old son remains with her while security personnel maintain 24-hour surveillance outside her home.

The charge against Pastor Wang calls for a sentence of up to five years, or 15 years in extreme cases. Wang has reportedly yet to be allowed to meet with lawyers or family members.

Advocacy group China Aid said in a statement that Chinese Christians are often charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”

"The Communist Party views religion as a threat to their ideological control and, as such, their rule,” the group noted. “However, China’s Christians practice their religion peacefully and never intend to threaten government power.”

Church members released an open letter Pastor Wang wrote in September in which he said he would use non-violent methods to stand in faith and oppose laws that contradicted the Bible and God, according to the SCMP. The pastor had given instructions that the letter be publicized if he went missing for more than 48 hours, the newspaper reported.

“My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws,” Pastor Wang wrote, according to SCMP.

He had been a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar before becoming a pastor, SCMP reported. In 2006, he met with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.

“The round-up in Chengdu is part of a broader crack-down on unofficial or underground churches that Beijing has escalated this year,” SCMP reported. “The moves were bolstered by amendments to the Religious Affairs Regulation that gave grass-roots officials more power to act against churches and impose tougher penalties for ‘unauthorized religious gatherings.’”

Church members have practiced their faith openly, posting sermons online and evangelizing on the streets, RCMP reported. Weekly gatherings across more than a dozen meetings in Chengdu draw more than 800 regulars, the newspaper reported, adding that the church also has about 100 seminary students and an elementary school with about 40 children.

The crack-down on the Early Rain church came as the U.S. State Department announced on Monday (Dec. 10) that it had included China among 10 countries designated as Countries of Particular Concern for severe religious rights violations.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Wednesday (Dec. 12) released a statement condemning the arrest of Pastor Wang and the other church members.

“These actions, in addition to the continued systematic repression of Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners, continue a pattern of escalating violations of religious freedom and other human rights under President Xi Jinping,” USCIRF stated. “USCIRF strongly condemns these actions by Chinese authorities and calls for the immediate release of Pastor Wang and all of his fellow church members.  

China ranked 43rd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. 

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved. 

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at https://morningstarnews.org/

Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: Chuttersnap/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tennessee youth leader was arrested last week after a 16-year-old boy told police that they had had sex at least 10 times. The youth leader is being charged with of aggravated statutory rape and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to the Christian Post, Courtney Bingham, 35, served as a youth leader at Bethany Baptist Church in Loudon, TN where she met the boy and was later arrested. 

According to local news station WVLT, the local police were informed on the illegal relationship on December 3 and made the arrest the following day. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the boy’s father reported the relationship to the sheriff’s office.

Reportedly, Bingham had had sex with the teen in her home and sent him several “pornographic” photos of herself. 

WVLT reports that Bingham did admit to police to having the sexual relationship with the boy but recalled that they had sex no more than four times. 

In a statement released by the sheriff’s department, Sgt. Jason Smith urged the seriousness of the case saying, “It’s very serious. You’re dealing with somebody that’s 35 years old and has sent pornographic images of herself with inappropriate comments to a juvenile. Not only that, was also having sexual intercourse with him as a member of a self-described youth leader of the church.”

He continued, “So being in a position of an authority figure, being in a position of a caretaker at times at the residence, [it’s a] very serious matter as far as the crime that she’s committed."

Bethany Baptist Church’s pastor Rick Harrell commented on the incident noting that the church is taking extra precautions to make sure this does not happen again. He said, “We’re certainly looking at every avenue to prevent something like this. Meeting with our youth leaders, directors, to be more cautious about what we see and what’s going on. When people are friendly and befriending people, you never know if something of the irresponsible nature’s going on. It’s just impossible to tell unless you have some sort of clear evidence.”

Harrell described Bingham as “bubbly” and “friendly.” The pastor also noted that he never would have expected this to be happening at his church. 

“You just don’t think about this kind of thing going on in your Christian church family and certainly we loved her and considered her a special part of what we did here,” Harrell said.

Bingham is currently being held at the Loudon County jail with bond set at $57,500. She is set to appear in court in April 2019.

Photo courtesy: Pixabay

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