In this issue:

  • NIGERIA: Bible translator kidnapped
  • NORTH KOREA: Border guards kill five defectors
  • LAOS: Officials destroy rice paddies, expel more Christians
  • LAOS: Officials arrest 11 Christians at gunpoint
  • INDONESIA: Police and Islamists put up obstacles to worship
  • PAKISTAN: Muslim villager allegedly rapes sixth Christian girl
  • TURKMENISTAN: Harshest laws of religion
  • IRAN: Seventy Christians arrested
  • SOMALIA: Mother of four slaughtered for her faith
  • ERITREA: Mass arrests of Christians

NIGERIA: BIBLE TRANSLATOR KIDNAPPED

Wycliffe Bible Translators reports that the coordinator of the Tarok Old Testament translation project has been kidnapped. He disappeared from Jos, Nigeria on December 16. It’s a crushing blow for the team.

As a result of this incident, the team was forced to cancel a translation-checking session scheduled for this month.

Please pray for his safe release. And ask God to minister to him during his captivity.

Pray, too, for his family and for the Tarok translation team.

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NORTH KOREA: BORDER GUARDS KILL FIVE DEFECTORS

Five North Koreans were shot dead and two others wounded by North Korean border guards on the Chinese side of the border when they tried to flee North Korea, a source said January 9. The high-level source in Changbai in the Chinese province of Jilin said the seven individuals left Hyesan, Yanggang Province, and walked across the frozen Apnok (or Yalu) River and reached the Chinese side on December 14. Five of them died instantly under intense gunfire by North Korean border guards who ran after them. The two others were wounded and taken to the North.

North Korean border guards have never before shot at defectors once they reached the Chinese side. Observers say guards must have new instructions for dealing with defectors. Leader Kim Jong Il’s son and heir, Kim Jong Un, has apparently ordered border guards to shoot anyone who crosses the border rivers without permission. He also reportedly said he would not tolerate defectors crossing the border. Reportedly, North Korean border guards are now armed with an AK-47 rifles with 40 reserve shells and hand grenades.

While there is no reason to suspect that those who were killed were Christian, certainly everyone who crosses the border illegally will be impacted by this shocking change in security measures. In the upcoming February 2011 VOM newsletter, you will meet Sister Yang, a North Korean defector, and hear of her life of hardship and her encounter with Jesus Christ. You’ll also learn how VOM is involved in helping fellow believers in the “Hermit Kingdom.”

Please pray that those living in hopelessness in this restrictive nation will find hope in Christ.

Pray for believers in North Korea who follow Jesus at great risk.

Pray for all those in authority in this nation; ask the Lord to open their eyes to the wisdom, compassion and the light of the gospel.

Pray Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un will repent of their evil deeds and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.

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LAOS: OFFICIALS DESTROY RICE PADDIES, EXPEL MORE CHRISTIANS

Officials and residents of Katin village in Ta Oih district, Saravan Province, on Dec. 26 destroyed rice paddies farmed by 11 Christian families previously living in the village. The destruction followed the expulsion of another seven families, Dec. 23.

Residents drained water from the rice paddies, burned fencing that protected the crop from animals and stamped on new seedlings to ensure the rice would not grow, advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reported. The fields were destroyed just a few days after the Katin village chief and other village authorities armed with guns entered the homes of another seven Christian families, totaling 15 people, and ordered them to give up their faith. When they refused, officials marched them out of the village and warned them not to return.

Two of these families professed faith after officials expelled 11 Christian families last January, and another four families joined them after officials in July threatened to shoot any of the expelled Christians who attempted to return to Katin. Yet another family professed allegiance to Jesus Christ after officials in late October warned that the six Christian families would be evicted in January 2011 if they held to their beliefs.

The newly-expelled Christians then sought shelter with the 11 families who were still living at the edge of the jungle despite assurances from provincial and district officials that they had every right to remain in Katin village. HRWLRF believes district-level officials may have secretly approved the expulsions. “Village officials don’t usually do anything without informally consulting the district head,” a spokesman said.

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LAOS: OFFICIALS ARREST 11 CHRISTIANS AT GUNPOINT

Following the arrest of 11 Christians at gunpoint on Tuesday (Jan. 4), three house church leaders remain behind bars for “holding a secret meeting,” according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF). Lao authorities released six of the house church Christians, including two children ages 4 and 8, from Khammouan Provincial Prison, central Laos. Two other men were released earlier.

The charge against the three church leaders is a political offense punishable by law, HRWLRF said. It identified them only by their given names as Pastor Wanna from Nakoon village church, Chanlai from Tonglar village church and Kan from nearby Nahin village church, all in Hinboun district, Khammouan province. The other eight Christians initially arrested were identified as Sompon, his wife and two children, along with a man identified only as Wantorn, all from the capital, Vientiane; Bounma and Kay from Nakoon village church, and Pastor Sipan from Dongthai church in Takkek district, Khammouan province.

In December, Wanna informed authorities that church members would gather at his home on Wednesday (Jan. 5) to celebrate Christmas, in line with official celebrations by the government-approved Lao Evangelical Church scheduled between Dec. 5 and Jan. 15. A truckload of district police officers with guns cocked and ready to shoot burst into Wanna’s house after dark on Tuesday (Jan. 4) shouting, “Stop! Nobody move!” They then forcibly detained the 11 who were quietly sharing an evening meal and charged them with conducting a “secret meeting” without approval.

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INDONESIA: POLICE AND ISLAMISTS PUT UP OBSTACLES TO WORSHIP

During the Christmas season, government officials in West Java province, Indonesia, blocked church members from worshipping in one church, and Islamic groups pressured authorities to seize the property of another.

The Bogor Regency Administrative Leadership Council was unsuccessful in keeping Gereja Kristen Indonesia (Indonesian Christian Church, or GKI) in Bogor’s Taman Yasmin area from holding a December 25 service, but authorities did prevent its regular Sunday service on December 26.

GKI spokesperson Bona Sigalingging said police telephoned church leaders to forbid Christmas services that were to begin at 7 p.m. on December 25. The church worshipped anyway, with nearby demonstrators screaming, “Allahu akbar !” and “Break it up!” However, authorities blocked church members from worshipping the next morning.

Islamic demonstrators in Rancaekek, Bandung, got police to remove items such as pews from a Huria Kristan Batak Protestant church building on December 19. That church had already been sealed.

Thank the Lord for the faithfulness of Indonesian Christians who continue to meet together in spite of severe opposition. Pray they will be greatly encouraged by seeing the Lord’s hand at work in continuing to strengthen the church and add to its numbers.

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PAKISTAN: MUSLIM VILLAGER ALLEGEDLY RAPES SIXTH CHRISTIAN GIRL

A Muslim who allegedly confessed to sexually assaulting five Christian girls raped a 10-year-old Catholic girl in Punjab Province last month, according to her family. Tarkhani police have charged 25-year-old Muhammad Aftab, also known as Chandu, with raping a minor (section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code) in a sugar cane field in Village 226-GB, according to First Information Report (FIR) No. 429 at the Tarkhani Police Station.

Aftab has been arrested and remanded to Central Jail Faisalabad. Aftab allegedly raped the girl on Dec. 10, Abid Masih, a 31-year-old relative of the girl, reported in village 226-GB, Tarkhani near Gojra. He said the girl, whose name is withheld, immediately identified Aftab as the rapist. Family members said that doctors at Samundri THQ Hospital confirmed that the girl was raped, and the FIR also notes that the medical report by doctors at the hospital states that she was raped.

“SHO [the Station House Officer] pleas to the honorable Court of Law to penalize the rapist/pedophile, who has confessed during interrogation to raping at least five other little Christian girls before this sad incident,” the FIR states. Masih said the family has filed the rape charges at the risk of inflaming tensions with Muslims.

“He has raped at least five little Christian girls before this, but those families under pressure kept their mouths shut,” Masih said. “Christians also tried to force us to keep quiet and refrain from filing a police case, as they were fearful that it might worsen the relations between Christian and Muslim villagers.”

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TURKMENISTAN: HARSHEST LAWS OF RELIGION

Three years ago, Turkmenistan declared its Religion Law to be a reform priority. The changes it made alarmed the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which did a legal review. Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association says they concluded that it violated international human rights standards.

“They want an end to the ban on unregistered religious activity, and they also want the government to stop banning on the private teaching of religion.”

Turkmenistan’s law is a pre-emptive measure. They are afraid of radicalism of any kind. Because there is such an increase in radical Islam right now, it’s almost like there’s a feeling like “if we crack down on one, we’ve got to crack down on all of them.”

But don’t discount prayer. Griffith says, “They’ve had government officials actually come to saving faith, quietly and discretely. Behind the scenes, they’re able to have some impact. You can never underestimate the power of the Gospel and what it can do, even in a place where it seems very dark.”

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IRAN: SEVENTY CHRISTIANS ARRESTED

Iranians are taking action against Muslim-background Christians. More than 70 Christians have been arrested since Christmas. House churches have been raided to quash what’s being called a “cultural invasion” in the country.

President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says Iranians are coming to Christ in large numbers as an underground revival is taking place. “The government is deeply concerned that this is a movement that’s reaching significant numbers of Iranians. It’s more evidence of the fact that this revival is taking place.”

So what does this mean for the future? Moeller says, “As it’s growing, it’s causing more and more opposition and persecution by the extremists who would seek to stamp out Christianity in that country. This is a movement by the Holy Spirit that they cannot defeat.”

Moeller is asking people to Pray for those arrested who face torture and death for their faith.

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SOMALIA: MOTHER OF FOUR SLAUGHTERED FOR HER FAITH

A mother of four was killed for her Christian faith on Jan. 7 on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia by Islamic extremists from al Shabaab militia, a relative said. The relative, who requested anonymity, said Asha Mberwa, 36, was killed in Warbhigly village when the Islamic extremists cut her throat in front of villagers who came out of their homes as witnesses. She is survived by her children – ages 12, 8, 6 and 4 – and her husband, who was not home at the time she was apprehended.

Her husband, Abdinazir Mohammed Hassan, has fled to an unknown location. The relative who spoke to Compass said he had phoned her on Jan. 5 to try to make arrangements for moving her family out of the area. Al Shabaab extremists, who control large parts of Mogadishu, were able to monitor the conversation and confirm that she had become a Christian, he said.

“Asha had been receiving threatening messages” after al Shabaab monitored her previous communications with him, he said. Mberwa’s relative, whose location is also withheld for security reasons, said a “good Samaritan” in Mogadishu was caring for her four children, and that they continue to weep and cry out for their mother.

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ERITREA: MASS ARRESTS OF CHRISTIANS

On January 2, Eritrean officials arrested 30 Christians for praying at a private house in Asmara, the capital city. Some of the Christians were only recently released after being detained for their faith.

Security officials arrested the Christians and took them to police station one in Asmara. Security officials also detained another Christian on January 4.

The detained Christians are members of the Philadelphia Church, an evangelical church outlawed in Eritrea. Several churches have been forced to go underground in Eritrea since 2002 when officials required all religious groups to register. The officials only registered four religious groups: Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea.

In Eritrea, more than 3000 Christians have been detained for their faith in Christ. Most of them are kept in underground dungeons, metal shipping containers, and military barracks. Several Christians have died while imprisoned due to torture and lack of medical attention.
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Cuts from the Wycliffe Prayer Focus Bulletin

Nairobi, Kenya: Working towards peace follow-up
In November 2010, many prayed for meetings, organized by the American Bible Society (ABS), of people from eight African nations* to talk about trauma healing. Participants identified where they would like to start addressing trauma.

They decided to send people from each nation to a central training seminar in Nairobi in February. Also The Seed Company and ABS will pilot an oral variety of trauma healing designed for traumatized people without Scripture in their language and who do not read.

Please keep praying for many traumatized people to be reached and healed by God and His comforting Word. Pray this will all happen.

*Burundi, Central African Republic Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Improvement of language worker’s hands follow-up
Thank you for praying for the worker who returned to his place of assignment only to discover that his wrists hurt and he could not work with his hands. Since many have prayed, he was able to see a specialist who gave him a helpful diagnosis and some exercises to do. God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Pray for this man and his family to know divine encouragement.

Pray God will continue to let him be effective and fruitful in every way as he serves.

United Republic of Tanzania: “They needed coffee?”
DOOR International works with Deaf people to check* every Bible story translated into sign language. After watching a segment on Jesus before Pilate in signing, the translation consultant asked the Deaf, “The people were shouting something back to Pilate. What was it?” They answered, “We’re not sure, but it looks like they need coffee.”

In Tanzanian Sign Language, the sign for ‘coffee’ and the sign for ‘crucify’ are similar. If people don’t know anything about the Bible, they probably won’t know the sign for ‘crucify’ and will just think they meant ‘coffee’. Therefore, the Deaf Tanzania translation team will be making this clearer in their revisions.

Praise God for skilled consultants.

*People are asked a series of questions to make sure the signing was clear, accurate, natural and acceptable.

Papua New Guinea: The goodness of God’s people
Brian, a man involved in technical support for Bible translation, needed to take birthday presents to a seven-year old child who was named after him. On the way, he ran out of gas. He began to walk the rest of the way to the remote village. Another vehicle sped past him. Soon, the vehicle returned. The driver said, “The Lord told me to turn around and go help that brother!” He took Brian back to town and purchased fuel for his vehicle. Brian did not miss the party: a real mu-mu with a whole pig cooked in the ground.

Praise God for this kind ‘good Samaritan.’

St. Petersburg, Russia: New candidates in Wycliffe Russia
There are currently 11 candidates from all over Russia who are applying for membership with Wycliffe Russia. They are at different stages in the process. For example, some are learning English. They need English 1) for training courses; and 2) because it is unlikely they will be assigned to a location that has other Russian speakers*. The staff of Wycliffe Russia is excited to see so many young Russians who have a vision for Bible translation.

Please pray for these 11 young men and women as they move through the application process and prepare for linguistic training in the spring of 2011.

*without English members can become isolated and have significant difficulties with communicating.

Papua New Guinea: Translators return to encourage neighbors
Pray for members of the Bible Translation Association who will spend December and January in their communities to encourage their people in the Word of God. Some will be speaking at camps or church programs; others will be helping people prepare Scriptures for printing.

Papua New Guinea: Translator recovers and continues work
Praise the Lord for helping Stanley Oyabua Miniafia recover from sickness soon after the Miniafia New Testament dedication in February 2010. He has completed the Beginning Translation Workshop as part of his training toward being a translation consultant.

Pray for Stanley and his team as they translate the Scripture Application and Leadership Training (SALT) material in preparation for SALT training planned for April 2011 in Miniafia.