China ‘liquidates’ church as crackdown continues
Authorities in China have officially ‘liquidated’ an historic house church in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, as part of their crackdown on congregations that refuse to join the state-controlled Three-Self Church, rights advocates said.
The Church of Abundance, which began about 30 years ago, had been targeted as a ‘cult’ that allegedly collected illegal donations, but officials closed it as an ‘illegal social organisation’ – that is, one that refused to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-controlled Three-Self Church, according to Italy-based religious rights organisation Bitter Winter.
The closure appeared to be part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call in December 2021 for action against ‘non-Sinicized’ and ‘illegal’ religious groups, Bitter Winter reported.
‘Xi Jinping’s plan of compelling all Protestant Christians to join the government-controlled Three-Self Church or face arrest and “liquidation” of their churches as “illegal” religious groups is being ruthlessly implemented,’ it said.
The Church of Abundance was ordered to cease activities or its members and pastors would be subject to arrest and detention. Church pastor Lian Changnian and his son, Pastor Lian Xuliang, were reported to have been placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’.
The ban is also understood to have targeted the China Gospel Association, part of the same house church network.
Release International partner ChinaAid reported that the Civil Affairs Bureau and the Religious Affairs Bureau announced the charges against the church personnel as illegal gathering, illegal fundraising and illegal venue registration.
According to ChinaAid, the wife of one of the arrested pastors stated that Pastor Xuliang had a large bruise from a beating on his forehead. ‘His eyes were bloodshot, and there was dried blood in the corner of his eyes,’ she stated. ‘His facemask also had blood streaks. His arms and hands were bruised and swollen. There was undoubtedly physical abuse by these so-called law enforcement officers during their “law enforcement”.’
The pastors, their wives and other workers were arrested on August 17, according to ChinaAid. Most were released, but not preacher Fu Juan whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Iranian believers summoned to prison
Please pray for four Iranian Christians who have been ordered to present themselves at Evin Prison for their sentences to be carried out.
In June 2020 a gathering of around 30 Christians in a private home in Tehran was raided by security agents. Among those arrested were Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian and converts Mina Khajavi, Malihe Nazari, Somayeh (Sonya) Sadegh and Sonya’s mother, Masoumeh Ghasemi.
In June this year they were convicted of ‘forming and operating illegal organisations with the aim of disrupting the security of the country’. Joseph, aged 58, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Mina (59) and Malihe (48) to six years each. Sonya and Masoumeh were sentenced to between one and four years in prison for membership of house churches but were permitted to pay fines instead. Joseph was also sentenced two years’ internal exile as well as receiving a two-year ban on travelling abroad or membership of any social or political group.
This month the Appeal Court in Tehran upheld the sentences, saying the defence had failed to meet the necessary criteria for the appeal to be considered.
Joseph, Mina, Sonya and Masoumeh were summoned to appear at the prosecutor’s office in Evin yesterday to start serving their sentences. While Joseph and Mina have custodial sentences, Sonya has to pay a fine of about £1,150 and Masoumeh £690. It is not yet confirmed if Malihe has also been summoned.
Blasphemy accused bailed
Thank God that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has granted bail to a Christian accused of blasphemy while also, it is understood, expressing concern over the misuse of the law.
A two-member bench of the court last week granted bail to Salamat Mansha Masih, a 27-year-old sanitation worker who was arrested in February last year after being overheard reading the Bible with another Christian in a park in Lahore.
Salamat’s attorney Rana Abdul Hameed said this was the first time a blasphemy suspect charged under all three sections of the statutes – 295-A, 295-B and 295-C – had been given bail during trial. He added that one of the justices had expressed concern over the blatant misuse of the law.
It was only the second time the Supreme Court has granted bail in a blasphemy case. In January it granted bail to Nadeem Samson, a Christian accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook in 2017. Samson’s trial had continued beyond two years, entitling him to bail, whereas in Masih’s case the bail was granted on merits of the argument.
The Supreme Court justices ordered that their ruling be shared with all trial and high courts so that the innocent were not wrongfully charged under such serious offences, Hameed said.
Church cleaner murdered
A Christian woman who was cleaning her church building on Saturday was shot and killed by suspected Fulani militants in Plateau state, Nigeria, sources said.
Lyop Dalyop was sweeping and cleaning the Church of Christ in Nations building in Bangai village, Riyom County, when she was ambushed by ‘armed men suspected to be Fulani militias’, said an attorney who serves as the director of Emancipation Centre for Crisis Victims in Nigeria.
That members of the Church of Abundance would know God’s peace and guidance and that the whereabouts of preacher Fu Juan would be known.
For God’s protection over Joseph, Mina, Malihe, Somayeh and Masoumeh.
Thank God for the developments in Salamat’s case. Pray that the Supreme Court’s ruling would be implemented in all blasphemy cases, and that Salamat and others wrongfully accused would be freed.
For all those affected by the murder of Lyop Dalyop.
(Sources: Middle East Concern, Morning Star news.