Release International: Prisoners of faith.

China

March 5 this year marked the fourth anniversary of American-Chinese PastorJohn Cao’s (pictured) imprisonment in Kunming, China. The 61-year-old pastor is serving a 7-year sentence for ‘organising illegal border crossings’ a charge relating to his charitable work helping impoverished children in northern Myanmar and undoubtedly linked to his Christian faith.


Despite having recent requests for a visit from his mother and the supply of a Bible rejected, in February Pastor Cao’s lawyer reported that he appeared in good health was not experiencing too much suffering in prison. He thanked fellow Christian brothers and sisters for their prayers and is grateful for the Bible verses both his lawyer and his mother have been able to share with him. Please pray that Pastor Cao will be given access to a Bible and that his mother will be allowed to visit him.


In January, this year long-term Christian prisoner Pastor Shaojie (pictured) was transferred to another prison facility in Henan province to serve the remaining five years of his 12-year sentence. His family are concerned about the move and believe it could be detrimental to his wellbeing. Recently they attempted to make a visit but were unable to see him. His daughter Esther said, ‘My family has a very heavy heart right now. Everyone’s heart is in prison with my Dad.’ Please pray for Pastor Shaojie and his family.


As reported in the current Voice magazine, Release partners were recently able to track down the location of female Christian prisoners Ju Dianghong and Liang Qin who were falsely convicted of cult activity and are currently serving sentences of 13 and 10 years respectively. The location of their prison was not previously disclosed but now friends and family members know where they are, and letters of support and encouragement can be sent to them. You can find details of how you can write to them here.


Please also continue to pray for Chinese Christian prisoners of faith Pastor Wang Yi, pictured, (currently serving a 9-year sentence) and Alimujiang Yimiti (currently serving a 15-year sentence.)


You can make a vital donation to our work for prisoners of faith by going to our website here.


North Korea

Korean Chinese citizen Zhang Wen Shi (pictured), also known by his Korean title and name Deacon Jang, is now almost half-way through his 15-year prison sentence in North Korean. Working alongside fellow Christian, Pastor Han, on the Chinese side of the border, Deacon Jang served North Koreans who crossed over for business providing them with warm clothes, food and other supplies for their return journey. He also shared his faith, and a number of North Koreans accepted the message and became Christians.


In November 2014 Deacon Jang was kidnapped from China and held in North Korea where he was later sentenced to 15-years imprisonment. In early 2016 his fellow worker Pastor Han was brutally murdered. Since then, a number of other prisoners have encountered Deacon Jang in prison or heard reports about him. Please pray that his faith in God and his love for the North Korean people will remain strong.


Somaliland

A husband and wife (and their baby), and others in Somaliland are accused with offences against the state religion (Islam) and inciting others to disobey laws relating to public order.


The charges stem from raids on 21 and 22 January 2021, when police arrested Mohamed and Hamdi. Hamdi was allowed to keep their baby with her in prison. Three of them – including Christians Mohamed and Hamdi – are also charged with apostasy, as well as spreading and teaching Christianity.


However, that hearing was postponed. On the evening of 3 May the lawyers were informed it would take place the next morning. The last-minute change made it impossible for international observers to attend. During the hearing, the main investigator presented his evidence for the charges. He focused on the couple’s conversion from Islam to Christianity, noting that “leaving Islam is a crime according to Sharia law that we use.” Somali Christians now fear possible penalties based on Sharia law.


Somali Christians request continued prayer:


Please pray that there will be a fair trial; that God will give strength and peace to those accused; and that the lawyer will have wisdom, strength and boldness.

  • That those still detained, including Mohamed and Hamdi, will experience God’s closeness and strength.

  • For a fair trial to be held, that ongoing advocacy efforts will bear fruit and that those detained will be released soon.

  • For strength, wisdom and boldness for the lawyer who represents them

(Source: Middle Eastern Concern)

You can make a vital donation to our work for prisoners of faith by going to our website here.


Malaysia

Many of you will remember the story of Malaysian’s Pastor Raymond Koh (pictured) who was abducted on a busy highway, just outside Kuala Lumpur on 13th February 2017. This outrageous crime was captured on CCTV.


Raymond’s wife, Susanna, continues to seek his release and continues to proactively raise the voice of the voiceless in Malaysia, and around the world. Susanna and her children (Jonathan, Esther and Elizabeth) still cling to the hope that Raymond will gain his freedom and return home to his family. In the meantime, they continue to work and study, as some sort of means by which they can gain relief from their awful ordeal. Susanna is kept busy with regular television and radio interviews. In an attempt to quell the ever-growing support for her search, opposition has risen to shame the good name of Pastor Raymond with online false allegations attempting to cloud the issue.


However, throughout this period of oppression, Susanna (pictured) remains strong in her faith and encouraged by the many sentiments of support, sent to her from several different continents. She recently told us that “it is amazing how God uses His people to encourage one another so that the Body of Christ be built up to maturity.” She also tells how her God constantly reminds her through His word, using passages like Joshua 1:8-9 and Deuteronomy 32: 4. Susanna clings to the Scriptures, as they provide her with hope and perseverance, while selling home-made jewellery to provide for her physical needs.


In addition to interviews and travel, she is still very focused on managing the call for more to be done by the authorities to gain Raymond’s freedom. This involves a push through the courts to energise enquiries regarding the abduction and increased awareness raising. All of this, during a global pandemic, restricts many avenues of advocacy.


Please continue to pray for Raymond, Susanna, Jonathan, Esther and Elizabeth. And if you haven’t signed the global petition to find Raymond, please do sign here and share with your friends.


Pakistan

You may also remember the story of Asif who has been in prison since 2013. He was accused of sending blasphemous texts by a Muslim man who tried to convert Asif to Islam. Asif had lost his sim card, which this Muslim man somehow got hold of. Blasphemous texts were sent from this sim card, incriminating Asif. In September 2020 he was given the death penalty.


Currently it’s very difficult for brother Asif. He is in a very small cell sharing with two Muslims. He told our partner that these two men are creating problems for him which makes it difficult for him to read the Bible and sleep. However, he told us, in his time in prison he has read the New Testament 9 times. Bless him, and strengthen him Lord, we pray.


Asif is really concerned about his wife and children because it seems that they have been deserted and struggling without Asif. The family have had to move and they are struggling to pay rent for the place they are staying and school fees for the children. His wife visits Asif every month and is asking God’s people to pray for her husband to be free and for their safety.


You can make a vital donation to our work for prisoners of faith by going to our website here.


Eritrea

We last reported in April that 36 prisoners had been released from prisons in Eritrea. 22 were women who were arrested at a prayer meeting in March in Asmara. One man is still being detained. There were a further 14 Christian men released, after being held for 4 years at Dahlak Island Prison on the Red Sea. There are still 12 other Christians still behind bars. They too were arrested recently for attending a prayer meeting in Assab. In the past six months 171 Christians arrested for their faith have been set free. These latest releases now leave an estimated 129 Christian prisoners in state jails in Eritrea. To read our press release in full please go to our website news pages.


Millions on the brink in Eritrea’s Tigray – report Bloomberg


Almost all civilians living in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are in need of life-saving aid and a famine may have already begun in the war-torn area, according to a memorandum by a British diplomat reports Bloomberg news (5 June, 2021). Millions of people in Tigray are “on the brink,” Nick Dyer, the U.K.’s special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs, said in the document, seen by Bloomberg. Dyer travelled to Ethiopia last month and met officials including Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s failure to end the conflict in Tigray and allow aid agencies unfettered access to people in need of food and shelter led the U.S. to impose sanctions on the country last month. The violence in the region has killed thousands of people and displaced many more. To read the Bloomberg article in full go to their website.


O Christ, door of the sheepfold,

may we enter your gates with praise

and go from your courts to serve you

in the poor, the lost and the wandering,

this day and all our days. AMEN.

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