VIETNAM: CHRISTIANS DENIED PUBLIC SERVICES, TOLD “LET YOUR GOD SAVE YOU!”

81-year old Sister ‘D’ (name withheld for security purposes) lives alone in a tiny hut on a remote mountain field in Tuyen Quang province in northern Vietnam. She previously lived with her family in a nearby village. But last summer when she became a Christian, she was rejected by her family, forced out of their home, and driven out of the village. Now, she has to rely on fellow Christians to remember her. Some travel to her hut to give her rice, vegetables, and firewood. She uses the provisions to prepare congee.

Sister ‘D’ is one of 45 Christian individuals or families living in four different areas in Vietnam who Voice of the Martyrs Korea and Voice of the Martyrs Australia have pledged to help with emergency aid due to ongoing persecution resulting from their faith.

Persecution for Vietnamese Christians now takes the form of expulsion from their homes and villages and being cut off from government-provided goods and services. They are told, “Let your god save you!” 

When people in our country hear the word “persecution”, they think of Christians being tortured or sent to prison. But one of the harshest and most common forms of persecution faced by Christians is being denied basic services, by the government, by neighbors, and even by families. In a Communist country like Vietnam, certain goods and services are available only through the government. Several Christians report that as they are denied these things, officials and villagers have taunted them by saying, “Let your god save you!” or “Ask your pastor for help”.

Consider the case of Brother ‘C’, who became a Christian in 2019. He currently serves as an evangelist in an ethnic minority community in the Vietnamese highlands. In February, he was leading a gathering at which three new Christian families were present. Local police officers and community leaders tried to force the three families to renounce their faith. Brother ‘C’ and two sisters in the church stood up to protect the new families but were physically beaten. Ultimately the community leaders demanded that the Christians be responsible for any death or loss anywhere in the community, claiming that the new faith would badly impact the whole community. Brother ‘C’ was forced out of his home and has had to move in with a nearby pastor until the situation improves. Presently, Brother ‘C’’s church is unable to meet.

Even when Christians try to provide for themselves independently of the Communist government, they face obstacles. In one recent case, Brother ‘D’ had been working hard in the cultivation of cassava; he finally harvested his crop and was on the way to the local market to sell it. Before he arrived, his truck was stopped by the authorities who told him that he would only be allowed to proceed if he signed a written document renouncing his faith. He refused. As a result, his truck was confiscated and was not released back to him until the cassava had spoiled. Nothing was salvageable.

In another case, authorities seized a motorbike belonging to Brother ‘H’. “They took away his driver’s license, insurance, and ownership papers and warned him and his wife that their belongings would not be returned to them unless they renounced their faith. Brother H and his wife refused, so the authorities forced Brother H’s non-Christian mother-in-law to expel them from her home.

Vietnamese Christians typically become family to each other when they are shut out of their own birth families, villages, and government distributions. In the case of Brother ‘H’ and his wife, they and their two children had to leave their home empty-handed. But a fellow believer, Brother ‘D’ allowed Brother ‘H’’s family to stay with him. Brother ‘D’ is no stranger to persecution. He himself was recently discharged from the hospital after being beaten by the authorities.

Brother ‘D’ has a small piece of land next to his house. He is giving it to Brother ‘H’ to build a house on. Voice of the Martyrs is planning to provide the funds for building materials, as the Lord permits. Voice of the Martyrs’ goal is to assist all 45 Christians who have been verified by the ministry as recently experiencing persecution.

Brother H had his motorbike confiscated by local authorities in Vietnam because he would not renounce his faith. Voice of the Martyrs has pledged emergency aid to 45 individuals or families in 4 areas in Vietnam who have recently experienced persecution. 
 

The Vietnamese authorities taunt the Christians, “Let your god save you”. We believe that God is indeed saving these Vietnamese brothers and sisters who refuse to renounce his name. God is moving the heart of Vietnamese Christians to care for each other. And as members of one body in Christ, Christians in our country should join in this care by providing emergency aid for the persecuted brothers and sisters in Vietnam.  

Donations given to Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s “Communism is Not Dead” (CIND) fund in April will be designated for emergency persecution relief in Vietnam. Interested individuals can give at www.vomkorea.com/donate or via electronic transfer to

국민은행 463501-01-243303

예금주: (사)순교자의소리

Please include the name “CIND” on the donation.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea classifies Vietnam as one of five remaining Communist nations in the world, including also China, North Korea, Laos, and Cuba. Each of these nations, including Vietnam, maintains strict laws against religion. Christian persecution is not a thing of the past in the Communist world.

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Sri Lanka: Easter terrorist attack leads to new wave of…church planting?

This Easter marks the second anniversary of the deadly 2019 suicide bombing of Zion Church in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. In that bombing, local Islamic jihadists used a so-called “Mother of Satan” bomb similar to the one used in IS-related attacks on churches in Indonesia in 2018. 31 were killed in the Zion Church attack, and Zion Church’s building was destroyed.

But the Easter 2019 attack has not driven Sri Lankan Christians into hiding. In fact, the bombing has resulted in a new wave of evangelism and church planting by Christians in the Muslim and Hindu majority areas of Sri Lanka.

In the case of one Sri Lankan pastor (name and location withheld for security reasons), he has planted a church in a fundamentalist Muslim village on Sri Lanka’s eastern coast. The village where the pastor was sent as a church planter is less than an hour away from the home mosque of the mastermind behind the 2019 Zion Church bombing. His church has grown to about 100 people, although he and his church members receive constant death threats. They have to be careful because of the villagers’ deep animosity toward those who leave Islam. Christian converts routinely suffer family rejection and attacks.

Christians in Sri Lanka are most commonly persecuted by Buddhist militants. Some Buddhist leaders view Christians as a threat to their political dominance. They resent the Christians’ nonconformity with community and cultural norms. Sri Lankan nationalists seek to create a purely Buddhist Sinhalese nation, pushing out minority Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

But the 2019 Easter bombing of Zion Church raised awareness among the Christian community of Sri Lanka about persecution from another source: Muslim radicals connected to IS.

Muslims make up 9.7% of the population in Sri Lanka, but very little Christian outreach was taking place amongst the growing Muslim communities prior to the Easter bombing. Many Christians either didn’t understand their Muslim neighbors, or they were afraid of them. The bombing caused Sri Lankan church leaders to realize the need to train their church members how to evangelize people from Muslim backgrounds and how to best disciple Muslim background believers who accept Christ.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has agreed to help fund a comprehensive ongoing training program in Muslim evangelism led by Sri Lanka church leaders. The training consists of twice annual trainings for Sri Lanka’s 44 pastors’ fellowships, in addition to regional training events throughout the year and specialized in-depth training for pastors chosen for church planting in Muslim majority areas.

Pastors in Sri Lanka like these expect constant opposition from Buddhist nationals.

As for Zion Church on the second anniversary of the bombing, the church has continued to meet every Sunday at 9AM in a rented church building while a new sanctuary is being built. “Some former church members are afraid to return, while a few others are physically unable because of their injuries. But the church leaders there tell us that they are not aware of anyone who has left the Christian faith because of the bombing. The bombing did not drive Christians away from the church, but it is driving them out into the mission field of Hindu and Muslim majority villages to share the gospel.

If you are interested in helping Sri Lankan pastors through Voice of the Martyrs Korea, visit www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or give via electronic transfer to:

국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303

예금주 (Account holder): (사)순교자의소리

Please include the phrase “Sri Lanka” on the donation.

The rented fellowship hall where Zion Church presently meets for worship as they rebuild their church building. Sri Lankan soldiers stand guard during the worship service.

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China: Raid on elderly women’s church shows Communist anti-Christian strategy evolving

At approximately 10 am on Sunday February 28, several plainclothes police raided Chongqing Living Fountain Church, breaking up the small house church gathering and arresting two men, one of whom was preaching that day. The police confiscated a church computer and forced those attending to leave. Later, police pressured the landlord of the house hosting the church to gather the names and financial information of the church members.

Church raids seem to be such a common event in China that the Chongqing raid hardly seems newsworthy—except for when considering the church’s membership profile.

Chongqing Living Fountain Church is a church composed almost entirely of elderly women.

Since the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, the attitude toward the church has always been, “Educate the young in atheism and let the old Christians die; then the church will cease to exist”. But the Party’s actions in Chongqing and on other smaller and elderly house churches show a changing mindset: Police raids aren’t just for young, growing megachurches anymore.

International media coverage has inadvertently obscured this change of strategy by Communist Party officials. International media tend to focus on high-profile events with impactful photos and videos—events like church demolitions and cross removals. But when a small house church of grandmothers is raided, most of the time no one hears about it. The grandmothers aren’t thinking about recording the raid on their cell phones. Often, no one reports it, and no statistics are kept on it. But clearly the Communist Party is no longer leaving older Christians alone and waiting for them to die off.

Communist Party officials may be beginning to realize that older Christians are far more committed to their faith and thus far better at spreading it than Party officials previously realized. That’s the same thing we at Voice of the Martyrs Korea learned about North Korean Christians: Old women are the backbone of the church. They are tough. They’re used to getting beat up, neglected, cheated, and left out of just about everything in life. But in this way they learn never to give up. They are willing to endure just about anything for Jesus, and so he uses them powerfully to spread the gospel. Up until now, authorities have underestimated them. But the raids at Chongqing and other small, elderly house churches show that the Chinese authorities are beginning to wake up to who is the real strength of the Chinese church.

One week before the raid, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities from the district Religious Affairs Bureau, the Domestic Security Bureau, and plainclothes police officers showed up at the church during the Sunday service. They requested that the church stop meeting, stating that the church is not registered with the Religious Affairs Bureau.

Authorities were especially troubled that young children were present in the worship time. One of the church members who was present was challenged by a plainclothes police officer, “Did you know that minors are not allowed to enter religious venues?” Some of the larger unregistered churches in China have discontinued their programs for children in order to avoid trouble with the authorities, but these old women at Chongqing Church could not be frightened so easily.

The plainclothes police also cited Coronavirus risks when they shut down the church service on February 28. It’s important to remember that Chinese house church Christians are not able to worship either online or offline; any gathering, even a small home-based one, is considered a violation of the law because the church is not registered.

The Communist Party knows Chongqing Church because they have been gathering for more than 20 years. They have always refused to register with the Religious Affairs Bureau, in order to keep their faith pure, In 2018, Cheng Hairong, the church’s minister signed “A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith”. This so-called China Declaration was launched by Pastor Wang Yi from the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu. It called on Chinese authorities to stop repressing and persecuting house churches and to respect the personal faith and freedom of conscience of all Chinese citizens. Since the publication of the statement, CCP officials have targeted many of the pastors, ministers, and elders who signed.

On February 28, in response to the raid, Chongqing Living Fountain Church members circulated an urgent prayer request letter which Voice of the Martyrs Korea received through its network of China church partners. The letter asks Christians around the world to join them in prayer.

Their letter says:

The Lord has protected our church since its founding more than 20 years ago. Most of our members are elderly and women. We pray that God gives us the courage and wisdom to testify His name to the kings and rulers, as well as to soldiers of the earth. May God’s peace be with our detained brothers.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea published translations in Korean, English, and Russian, of the China Declaration at https://chinadeclaration.com. This is the document that had been originally signed by Minister Cheng and 438 other Chinese church leaders. Last year we invited church leaders around the world to sign their names to the document as a show of support for the Chinese church. We ultimately presented 28 pages of signatures from 4,400 Christian leaders to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul. Although we are no longer gathering signatures, we encourage all Christians to go to https://chinadeclaration.com and read the declaration and pray for the original 439 signers, including Minister Cheng, Pray also for the brave, elderly saints at Chongqing Living Fountain Church and across China, who now are increasingly coming to the attention of the Chinese Communist Party.”

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