Tuesday, December 31, 2019

China: Christian Pastor Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). My comments follow immediately below the press release. Please check out the ICC website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world. 

Pastor Wang Yi Sentenced Following Secret Trial

12/30/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Pastor Wang Yi from Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Sichuan was sentenced to nine years in prison for “subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations.”

Based on the statement posted on the website of the Chengdu court in Sichuan, Pastor Wang has also been deprived of his political rights for three years and 50,000 yuan ($7,160 USD) of his personal property was confiscated.

According to China Aid, Pastor Wang was secretly tried on December 26, his wife Jiang Rong’s birthday, at the Chengdu Intermediate Court.

“A large amount of plainclothes officials were stationed near the court, according to one witness who was detained and later released. Only government appointed lawyers were at the trial,” the persecution watchdog stated. “No members of Pastor Wang’s family or members of Early Rain Covenant Church were invited to the proceedings.”

Wang’s wife has been placed under house arrest along with her 12-year-old son, with no access to the outside world. She was also detained for several months until she was released on bail last June.
Wang’s lawyer, Zhang Peihong, who has been prevented from representing him, commented on Facebook today, “Woe to you, for you see evil as kindness and see kindness as evil. You are not sending a criminal to prison, [instead], you are crowning a righteous man.”

A church leader who is a friend of Pastor Wang told ICC, “The reason why the authorities picked nine years for his imprisonment is so that when he comes out, he will lose influence. The government wants to use him as a scapegoat to warn other house church pastors not to do the same like him.”
Pastor Wang is the last person from ERCC who was sentenced, after elder Qin Derfu was sentenced to four years in prison for “illegal business” on November 29. Given the lack of rule of law in China, it is unlikely that Pastor Wang’s sentence will be overturned.

He was detained last December along with his wife and more than 100 other ERCC members, many of whom have since been released on bail, but still placed under surveillance.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The sentence of Pastor Wang Yi further proves that the Chinese government disregards religious freedom and is paranoid about Christians from house churches. The unfounded accusations against Pastor Wang Yi and the inhumane treatment of his wife and son are pure evil. The international community must rally behind Pastor Wang and condemn China for its ongoing persecution against Christians.”
 
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Timothy's Comments: China, which remains under strict communist control despite opening up to capitalism in recent decades,  has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The Communist Party in China, which is officially atheist, has approximately 70 million members. However, the strong growth of Christianity in China has resulted in slightly over 100 million Chinese Christians - approximately 75 million Evangelicals and 27 million Catholics. Also, the Chinese Orthodox Church, an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church, has about 15,000 members.  

This situation of Christians outnumbering official Communist Party members is at least partially behind government crackdowns on Christianity over the last few years as they seek to exercise control over Christianity in China. Communist governments, and all other collectivist regimes, demand that the citizen's top loyalty be to the State, not to God, the Church, or even the family. The State essentially sets itself up as God, and hates competition for that slot. 
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Monday, December 23, 2019

36 Christian Refugees Arrested in Thailand - Face Deportation Back to Pakistan

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). Please check out the ICC website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.
 
Dozens of Pakistani Christian Refugees Arrested in Bangkok

12/23/2019 Thailand (International Christian Concern) – Dozens of Pakistani Christian refugees in Bangkok, Thailand were arrested by immigration authorities on December 19 in an early morning raid. According to UCA News, an estimated 36 people, including children, were arrested in the raid.

The immigration officers “came knocking on doors and when the people inside didn’t open up, the officers broke the doors down,” Joseph, a Pakistan Christian refugee, told the media. “The authorities took them all, even the kids and women.

They are being held at a police station,” Joseph continued. “We done know what will happen to them.

Due to widespread discrimination and religious intolerance, many Pakistani Christians flee to Thailand seeking asylum. Unfortunately, immigration authorities in Thailand take a dim view of these asylum seekers and often treat them as illegal immigrants.

While many of these refugees file asylum cases with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), it can take years before an individual case is heard. During this prolonged waiting period, many Pakistani Christian refugees are forced to hid out in Bangkok to avoid arrest and deportation by Thai authorities.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

At Least Nine Christians Murdered in Kenya Attack...

...for failing to recite the Islamic Shahada

The following is from a press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). My commentary follows the press release. Please check out the ICC website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

At Least Nine Christians Murdered in Kenya Attack

12/09/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)International Christian Concern has learned that on December 6, 2019, 11 non-local Christian passengers were attacked while travelling to Mandera from Nairobi and killed at Kotulo in northeastern Kenya. They were reportedly separated from their Muslim counterparts and killed for failing to recite the Islamic Shahada. 

Confirming the incident, a Kenyan police officer told ICC, “A passenger bus belonging to Medina Bus Company, traveling between Wajir and Mandera was attacked by a criminal gang at around 1730 hours this evening. The attack happened at Maadathe area, five kilometers to Kotulo. Lives are believed to have been lost.”

According to a reliable source, the militants separated passengers into groups, targeting the non-locals. Nine of the passengers on the Mandera-bound bus who could not recite the Shahada were paraded out of the bus and shot dead at close range by those believed to be al-Shabaab militants. There are two passengers still missing who are believed to also be dead. The names of those confirmed as killed are Athanus Kiti, Enos Odhiambo, Kelvin Mandela, Wisely Meli, Tikane Kasale, Leonard Mukanda, Francis Mbuvi, Rodgers Machuka, and Anchari Okerosi. The two still missing are Emmanuel Barasa and Nathan Bett.

Commenting on the terror attack, the governor of Mandera said, “I am deeply saddened to learn of the heinous bus attack near Kotulo, Wajir today around 5:00 p.m. where 10 passengers were killed [or are missing]. I am informed that the suspected al-Shabaab fighters cowardly segregated non-locals heading to Mandera from Nairobi. It is extremely sad and humanly disturbing to learn that, yet again, they segregated locals from non-locals before killing those they believed to be non-locals.

The attack comes only a month after eight construction workers in Mandera escaped unharmed when the Somali-based militant group al-Shabaab ambushed the workers’ van along the Elwak-Kotulo road. It is common in northeastern Kenya for terrorists to target buses, separate passengers by religious identity, and kill the Christians.

In 2018, Fredrick Ngui Ngonde and Joshua Ooko Obila were killed in a similar manner for declining to recite the Islamic creed along the Garissa Masalani road.

In 2015, 148 students at Garissa University were killed by gunmen after the Muslim students were freed. In the same year, a Muslim teacher, Salah Farah, was shot for defending Christian passengers who were being separated for execution by al-Shabaab.

In 2014, 28 teachers traveling to Nairobi for the Christmas holiday were killed after being forced to recite the Islamic statement of faith.

Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, commented, “We pray for the families of the deceased and for peace to come to a region that has seen increased violence toward Christians who are just trying to survive. We hope that the government will take effective action to stop the senseless killing of so many Christians in Kenya at the hands of Islamic extremists like al-Shabaab. We praise God as the refuge and strong tower that He is for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to endure so much.”
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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Chinese Church Leader Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

The following is from a press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). My commentary follows the press release. Please check out the ICC website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Chinese Church Leader Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

   Sentence Defies Previous Legal Promises by the Police

International Christian Concern (ICC) is reporting that Qin Derfu, an elder from Sichuan’s Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) who has been detained since last December, was sentenced to four years in prison for “illegal business” on November 29. The sentencing took place four days after his trial at the Qingyang People’s Court.

The police promised Qin’s family that if they allowed the government to employ two assigned lawyers to replace Qin’s own assigned lawyer, Qin “would only need to appear at the court before he can be released.” However, the judge then slapped him with the four-year sentence for illegally printing and publishing publications without authorization from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

According to Radio Free Asia, Qin’s wife received two passes to attend the trial. Qin’s own assigned lawyer was, however, unable to sit in, and Qin was left to be defended by the two state assigned lawyers. The court asked Qin to plead guilty to the aforementioned accusations, to which he refused.

The judge stated that “Qin’s criminal act was especially grave,” for he printed tens of thousands of Gospel pamphlets. An ERCC member told RFA that during the trial, the prosecutor never mentioned Qin’s church, or that he is a Christian and an elder, in a clear attempt to mark this case as non-religious and purely about running an illegal business.

After Qin was sentenced, he asked the police to tell his wife, Xiao Hongliu, that he cannot plead guilty simply to meet the police’s needs, because his consciousness does not allow him to do so. In his last statement, he said, “I am a Christian, and I serve at my church, according to my congregation’s needs. With the understanding of an ordinary citizen, I have done nothing illegal or contrary to law, I believe having [Christian] faith is not a crime.”

Zhang Peihong, the assigned lawyer of imprisoned pastor Wang Yi, commented on Facebook, “According to Pastor Wang Yi’s testimony, he actively took the main responsibilities for printing these evangelism materials. So based on this (Qin’s sentence), I sense that Wang will receive at least 10 years of imprisonment.”

While most of the victims of last year’s 1209 ERCC crackdown have been released, Pastor Wang Yi and elder Qin Derfu are the last two who remain behind bars.

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “We strongly condemn the Chinese government for the injustice that has been applied to a devout Christian, who has done nothing illegal and was solely punished for his faith and ministry. We also ask for prayers for the Early Rain Covenant Church, as they continue to face persecution from the government, exploited of their right to freely worship in China.”

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Tim's Commentary: Why does this matter to Americans? Besides the compassion we should feel for Qin Derfu, this situation holds an important lesson:  With collectivist / communist / socialist governments, the State has to be God, and the State doesn't like competition, whether from religion, the family, or anything else.. If the USA really does down the path the Progressives want to take us down, we will lose our freedoms, including Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.  
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Korean Christian Evangelist Murdered in Southeast Turkey

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Korean Evangelist Stabbed by Assailant on Diyarbakir Street

11/20/19 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 19, 2019, Korean evangelist Jinwook Kim was stabbed on the streets in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. He later died in the hospital from his injuries; he was 41 years old. The Public Security Branch Directorate of Murder Bureau has arrested a 16-year-old suspect and an investigation is ongoing.

Kim had arrived in Diyarbakir with his family earlier this year and was pastoring a small community of Christians. The assailant stabbed Kim three times: twice in the heart, once in the back. 

Officials, however, claim that the incident occurred in an effort to steal Kim’s phone. Local believers urge the authorities to investigate the incident as an assassination, rather than an attempt at extortion. Kim was married and had one child, although his second is expected to be born in the coming days. A funeral service will be held tomorrow. He had lived in Turkey for five years.

Kim is the first Christian murdered in Turkey since the 2007 Zirve Publishing House murders, which left three Christians martyred in Malatya. Christians living in Turkey have reported an increase in harassment, threats, and other non-violent incidents over the past three years. Turkey is considered a Tier 2 Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“This is the first martyrdom since Malatya. The Turkish government has started a massive deportation of Protestant leaders who served in Turkey for many years,” said one church leader. “But deportation isn’t enough for evangelists. This kind of attack would scare [them]. I think this is the last level of a plan, being like China.” 

“This wasn’t just a robbery; they came to kill him,” added a Turkish evangelist, who received a death threat the day after this incident. “We always get threats. A brother prophesied a few days ago that they (the government) are going to kick out these foreigners, and probably kill a few Turkish brothers. They are going to cause chaos. They know that I am trying to spread the Gospel, so they may target me too. This may be a sign.” 

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The grief among Turkey’s Christian community is strongly felt, along with great shock and fear. Martyrdom is not normal in Turkey, and this incident sadly shows just how much the country has changed. Just this year, we have seen a significant increase in incidents proving how the environment has grown more hostile toward Christianity. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family and pray for God’s peace for them through this difficult time. We also urge the authorities to set public examples of religious tolerance, and to investigate this incident with honesty and due process of law.” 
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Syria: ISIS Attack on Armenian Christians Leaves Two Priests Dead

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

ISIS Takes Credit for Violent Attack Against Armenian Church Leaders
 
11/11/19 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 11, 2019, gunmen affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS) attacked a car known to be carrying Armenian Christian leaders who were traveling from the Syrian city of Qamishli to Deir ez-Zor. The attack left two priests murdered, and wounded a deacon. ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the incident.

The attack on the vehicle took place as three nearly simultaneous car bombings occurred in the city of Qamishli, which is well known for its religious and ethnic diversity. One of the explosions occurred near a Chaldean church.

The Armenian church leaders were traveling to Deir ez-Zor to inspect an Armenian Catholic Church which has suffered damage because of the Syrian conflict. Father Hanna Bidu, also known as Father Abrahim Petoyan, was killed instantly during the attack. His son, known as Father Hovsep Petoyan, reportedly succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. The deacon, Fati Sano from the Armenian al-Hassakeh Church, was wounded.

“(An) armed group at the entrance of the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor was targeting a car that was carrying the father,” reported the Assyrian Monitor for Human Rights. “This armed group targeted and killed the priest and his father, while the third person was injured. Father and his companions were headed to Deir ez-Zor city this Monday morning on a mission to follow the status of waqf of the Armenian Catholic Church.” 

The incident was confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Video footage obtained by Hawar News shows that the car used by the priests had a special tag in its front window which acknowledged that it was traveling for business with the Armenian Catholic Church. The video shows significant frontal damage to the vehicle, placing the two front seat occupants within a direct line of fire.

“Pastor of the Armenian Catholic Community of Qamishli, Priest Hovsep Petoyan, and his father, Priest Abraham Petoyan, were traveling in a vehicle en route to Deir ez-Zor when terrorists opened gunfire on their car and killed them,” stated the Armenian Press. “The Armenian Catholic priests were heading to inspect the condition of the Catholic Church.” 

ISIS’s official Amaq media outlet claimed responsibility, saying, “Two Christian priests were killed today, ISIS shot them down.”

ISIS was officially declared militarily defeated in Syria this past March. However, reprisal attacks following the October death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi in Syria were expected. Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria also prompted fears that it would allow opportunities for ISIS militants to take advantage of the resulting chaos. This is the first deadly incident since its military defeat in which ISIS has successfully targeted church leaders in the Levant.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Today’s violence in northern Syria and the targeting of Armenian leadership is a tragedy that deeply wounds the region’s entire Christian community. Christians have long warned that ISIS will seek every opportunity to continue its genocide against religious minorities. Meanwhile, Turkey’s actions in the area have generated an environment of instability. Armenian Christians, whose ancestors were killed by Turkey’s genocide, find themselves caught between violent actors across all of Syria. We must keep the Christian community of Syria in our prayers, and urge for an end to this senseless conflict.” 
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Monday, November 4, 2019

Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children younger than 15 years old (the leading cause is accidents). The good news is that, detected early, the overall survival rate for childhood cancers now exceeds 80%. The problem is in early detection. How do you distinguish the normal bumps, bruises, and illnesses of childhood from more serious illnesses such as cancer? This is made especially difficult in young children, who may not be able to properly identify and explain their symptoms to adults. 

Regular medical checkups for children are especially important for that reason. Although no one, young or old, enjoys going to the doctor, and it can be both costly and time-consuming, delaying or even skipping checkups can be dangerous. 

In addition to regular checkups, parents and guardians should be aware of the warning signs of childhood cancer. Although these symptoms can occur for reasons other than cancer, seek medical advice if any of the following are persistent and/or otherwise unexplainable. (This list comes from materials provided by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital,)
  • Persistent/unexplainable fever
  • Fatigue and paleness
  • Swelling or lumps anywhere on the body, especially in the neck, armpit, or groin
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Change of disposition, e.g. whining or crying spells, unusual irritability
  • Regression of toilet habits
  • Stumbling or falling
  • Double vision or other eye problems
  • Easy and frequent bruising
  • Nosebleeds or bleeding from any part of the body
Other possible symptoms include (additional symptoms from information provided by the American Cancer Society):
  • Persistent/unexplainable weight loss
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Frequent headaches or dizziness
  • Ongoing pain in a specific area
  • Limping or difficulty walking
Again, these symptoms may occur for reasons other than cancer. What you are looking for are symptoms that are persistent and/or otherwise unexplainable.

If your child frequently exhibits any of these symptoms, seemingly without cause, seek medical advice as soon as possible. Early detection is absolutely key to the successful treatment for childhood cancers. 

The American Cancer Society provides the following information about seeing the doctor (links are to pages on their website):

"The doctor will ask about the child's medical history and symptoms, and will then examine your child. If cancer might be causing the symptoms, the doctor might order imaging tests (such as x-rays) or other tests. Sometimes if an abnormal lump or tumor is found, the doctor might need to remove some or all of it so that it can be looked at under a microscope for cancer cells. This is known as a biopsy.

If your child is found to have cancer, you can learn about coping and moving forward after the diagnosis is made in If Your Child Is Diagnosed With Cancer."

Sources: Information in this article comes from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the American Cancer Society. Please visit their websites for more information.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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India: American Pastor from Tennessee Arrested and Detained

Hindu extremism has been on the rise in India since 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power. The BJP embraces an anti-Westernization idea logy which sees Christianity as a political and cultural threat. 

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding the latest incident. Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.


Pastor Targeted After Telling Customs Officials He Is a Christian

10/29/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) learned that Pastor Bryan Nerren, a Christian pastor from Tennessee, has been arrested and detained in India after being accused of violating the country’s Foreign Exchange Management Act. 

According to the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Pastor Nerren and two other pastors from Tennessee arrived in India on October 5 to attend two conferences in India and Nepal. The ACLJ reported that Pastor Nerren was then targeted and arrested by Indian customs agents after he told them he was a Christian.

After the three pastors arrived in New Delhi, Pastor Nerren was detained by customs agents while proceeding through the domestic security check for a flight to Bagdogra. According to the ACLJ, the pastor was carrying funds to cover the expenses for the two conferences as well as the two-week trip for himself and the other pastors. Customs agents questioned Pastor Nerren about the funds and their usage for about an hour. According to reports, Pastor Nerren has been traveling to India and Nepal for the past 17 years to train people to become Sunday school teachers.

According to the ACLJ, customs agents specifically asked Pastor Nerren if he was a Christian and if the funds would be used to support Christian causes. After fully explaining what the funds were to be used for, the customs agents told Pastor Nerren he was free to go. However, when Pastor Nerren arrived in Bagdogra, he was arrested and transported to Siliguri where he was incarcerated for six days and denied any visitors, including those from the US Consulate.

Pastor Nerren was able to secure bail after six days in jail. However, the judge has retained Pastor Nerren’s passport and ordered a travel ban. A hearing regarding Pastor Nerren’s case was scheduled for October 22, but it did not take place. Another court date has been set for Pastor Nerren’s case on December 12. According to the ACLJ, Pastor Nerren is effectively trapped in Siliguri.

Religious intolerance and instances of persecution have steadily escalated in India since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political party founded on Hindu nationalist ideology, took power in 2014. 

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), 147 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians were documented in 2014. In 2018, after four years of BJP rule, EFI documented 325 instances of religiously motivated violence against Christians.

William Stark, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are deeply concerned by the arrest and detention of Pastor Nerren. We are most concerned by reports that Pastor Nerren was targeted by Indian customs officials after he told them he is a Christian. 

Article 25 of India’s own constitution protects religious freedom for all of the country’s citizens. In addition, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also protects religious freedom. However, it seems these protections are being denied to Pastor Nerren due to his identity as a Christian.
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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Imprisoned Chinese House Church Member Released After Seven Months

Finally, a bit of good news for Christians in China, via the following unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.

Imprisoned Chinese House Church Member Released

Gou Zhongcan Returns Home After Seven Months in Prison 

10/24/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 22, Gou Zhongcan from Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) in Sichuan was released and returned home to Bazhou city. Gou was detained in March and spent the last seven months in prison.

Gou is currently recovering since his vision deteriorated in prison. Otherwise, he is generally in good health, according to another ERCC member, Jia Xuewei.

Gou went missing on March 15, while he was visiting a friend in Zhejiang. His cellphone and computer were taken away from him. Three days later, he was spotted at the Hangzhou East Train Station being escorted by multiple plainclothes police officers. His head was shaved and he was handcuffed.

Since then, Gou’s lawyer has been unable to locate him despite multiple attempts. China Aid reported in July that Gou was detained and held in the basement of a public security bureau office for refusing to reveal the passwords to his computer and cell phone. When Gou’s elderly father was finally allowed to meet with him, he shared that his son did not look well, but that he had been singing hymns and worship songs while being detained.

This was not the first time that Gou has been jailed. At 23 years old, he was a reporter and was imprisoned for more than 10 years for reporting on the inhumane treatment of prisoners in China to human rights organizations abroad. While in prison, he was greatly tormented.

Gou came to Christ in 2016 after he was released, and began attending ERCC.

A Chinese Christian familiar with the case shared on Twitter yesterday, “Brother Gou Zhongcan from ERCC in Chengdu, who was arrested in March earlier this year has returned home yesterday. Thanks be to God that the captive has been delivered!”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “What great news to know that Gou is finally free. But the Chinese government has not relented on the persecution of Christians. ERCC pastor Wang Yi and elder Qin Derfu are still criminally detained on trumped up charges and their lawyers and family have not been able to see them, even after 10 months. We should continue to put pressure on Beijing so that they will be set free. None of them deserved imprisonment in the first place.”
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Algerian Authorities Close Two of the Country’s Largest Churches

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC). Please check out their website at www.persecution.org for more on the persecution and genocide of Christians around the world.  

Algerian Authorities Close Two of the Country’s Largest Churches

10/15/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that authorities in Algeria have ordered the closure of two of the largest churches in the nation. Both churches are linked to l’Eglise Protestante d’Algerie (EPA), an organization formed in 1974 to collectively represent Algerian Christians before the government.

According to a report by Morning Star News, a 500-member Protestant church in Makouda was officially closed by the authorities today, October 15. This comes only one day after the congregation received an order from the government, notifying them that the church would be closed.  In response, congregants of the Makouda church filled the place of worship in protest of the closure.

The second church, the Protestant Church of the Full Gospel of Tizi-Ouzou (EPPETO), was notified that its building would be closed on October 16. However, despite the closure order being effective for October 16, authorities also closed EPPETO today. EPPETO represents the largest church west of the Nile River, with 1,000 members in the congregation. The church’s head pastor, Pastor Salah Chalah, is also the head of the EPA.

Today, two of the largest churches in Algeria have been closed,” an EPA spokesperson, speaking with ICC on the condition of anonymity, said. “We do not understand the relentless injustice of the Algerian government towards us. They refuse to hear us or listen to us.

Last week, the EPA organized peaceful protests against church closures. The orders for the two most recent churches to be closed come just days after the completion of the protests. Pastor Salah attempted to meet with governing authorities multiple times over this issue, without success.

Algerian Christians have now found themselves with thousands of Christians without a place of worship,” the EPA spokesperson told ICC. “But we remain confident in the Lord. We need the prayers of our brothers and sisters from across the world.”

The two churches have been closed under a 2006 law that mandates any non-Muslim worship be conducted in specific, designated buildings. However, no church has received official permission since the passage of the law. With these closures, seven of Algeria’s 60 EPA-affiliated churches have been closed in the past six weeks.

ICC’s Advocacy Director, Matias Perttula, commented, “Reports of rising levels of religious intolerance in Algeria are once again causing a great level of concern for ICC and our partners. These church closures are completely baseless and clear indicators of persecution and harassment of Algeria’s Christians, who represent a significant religious minority. ICC plans to raise this issue with our partners as well as members of Congress on Capitol Hill to make them aware of these human rights violations.
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Thursday, August 29, 2019

PSA - Suicide Prevention

Last week a neighbor committed suicide. He left behind a wife, grown children, and young grandchildren.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of talking to a veteran who serves on the honor guard at military funerals. He told me about the number of funerals he has served at this year and how many of those were suicides. It was a shocking number.

There is definitely a suicide epidemic happening now.  So, I would like to take a moment to address the issue. If you are having suicidal thoughts, please ask for and get help. If you know someone who may be having suicidal thoughts, or who may be suffering from depression, PTSD, or other mental illness, please say something to encourage them to seek help. There are no easy answers, but silence is always the wrong answer.

Where to Get Help*
   
❗ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

❗ Veteran's Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255
Website: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ 


❗ Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website: https://adaa.org/

❗ SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1-877-726-4727  (Get general information on mental health and locate mental health & treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.)

❗ Refer to the article Finding Help: When to Get It and Where to Go on the Mental Health America website. 

❗ Local clergy (pastors, priests, rabbis) often will be able to refer you to local programs, support groups, and counselors that can help.

* Having relationship with God is a very important part of getting help. I encourage everyone to pray and read the Bible daily, and to attend Church regularly.
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Friday, August 23, 2019

The Thucydides Trap and the War With China

by Tim Gamble

The current trade war with China is only a prelude to what is coming. China is preparing for what it considers an inevitable "hot" war with America within the next 10 years. China is convinced this war must happen because of a concept known as the Thucydides Trap. 

The Thucydides Trap isn't some conspiracy theory twaddle, but is a well-studied historical concept heavily discussed in academic and diplomatic circles. Very simply, the Thucydides Trap states that when a rising great power (China, in this instance) threatens to displace an existing great power (in this case, America), a war that will almost certainly lead to the destruction of one of the great powers is almost always inevitable.
 
The Chinese are very aware of this concept, and are actively making policy based on it. Again, this is known and discussed within diplomatic circles (i.e. cannot be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, but rather is known fact). It is the basis of their ongoing massive military build-up, as well as their interference in North Korea (the Chinese have always assisted North Korea with their nuclear and missile programs, and are pushing Kim Jong-un to stall in regards to denuclearization). It is also part of the reasoning behind their aggressiveness in the South China Sea (control over vital trade routes), including their building of artificial islands & military bases, as well as their economic & diplomatic push into South America and Africa (the later which includes a growing military presence), to obtain various resources. 

Take a look at a few recent headlines during the past week alone:


When Will This War Happen? 

An honest answer: I don't know. What I do know is that China is preparing for a hot war with the United States. I assume they are waiting for the right moment to strike, a moment when they feel ready and believe the US is at its weakest. I suspect they will wait to see what happens in the 2020 election (notice the last headline posted above is about China already meddling in support of the Democrats in the 2020 elections). 

I also know that we need to start preparing, as a nation and as individuals, for the coming war with China. History says it is almost certainly inevitable. The clock is ticking.
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Thursday, August 8, 2019

More Fulani (Muslim) Violence Against Christians in Nigeria

The genocide against Christians in Nigeria by Muslim militants continues. Over the last 18 years, an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians have been murdered by Muslim groups, while another 2 million people have been displaced." Countless others have been injured. And the genocide is only increasing. The following unedited press release by International Christian Concern details the most recent violence. 


Three Young Men Wounded During Fulani Militant Ambush

08/07/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on Thursday evening, August 1, 2019, Fulani militants ambushed and shot three young men, all members of the Baptist church in Ancha village of Miango District in Nigeria’s Plateau State. The three men were serving as part of the community volunteer watch. Thankfully, all three survived; however, they all suffered gunshot wounds and had to be admitted to the local hospital.

The three survivors, Akore Joseph (19), Nuhu Ishaya (21), and Achi Danjuma (22) shared their story with ICC. Akore began, “We had gone on patrol earlier [that day], and had left my mobile phone battery to be recharged in the next village. So I asked my friends to come with me to go and get it.  On our way back from picking it up, we were walking and talking [when]… all of a sudden, sporadic gunshots erupted from the corn farms. I turned to flee. It was as I fled that a bullet hit me.” Akore was shot in his right shoulder. After fleeing, the three men hid from their attackers until they felt it was safe.

Corroborating the incident, Nuhu Ishaya said, “We tried to hide as secure as we could.  They searched for a while, but didn’t locate us so they went away. We were bleeding. We eventually ran to the nearest village and told the villagers what happened to us.” Nuhu was shot twice, once on the left wrist and also on his upper thigh.

Achi Danjuma, the third survivor, recalled that they had been talking about a previous attack that took place in the village of Hukke, which they were returning from. As they discussed it, they were then attacked themselves. He explained, “The militants recently killed some boys at Hukke village.  It was the memory of that attack that came upon us and we became uneasy and talked about it along the way.” A bullet struck Achi on his right arm.

Pastor of the local Baptist church, Rev. Nanchwat Laven, lamented about the toll that the attacks have taken on his congregation. Yet, he continues to look up to God to intervene and bring them relief and peace. He said that after he learned about the attack, he called Nuhu Ishaya’s cellphone. Someone else answered and eventually told the pastor that he was Fulani, and that they were attacking the Irigwe (the major tribe in Miango), because they are proving “stubborn” by not letting the Fulanis’ cattle graze freely.

Nathan Johnson, ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, said, “This attack is deeply concerning. Ancha village is a small community that has suffered on numerous occasions. They lost 20 lives during an attack in 2017 and have suffered several other smaller attacks since. I have personally prayed over the mass graves in Ancha that these attacks have created. The Nigerian government must intervene, protect their citizens, and prosecute those who are killing wantonly.”
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Friday, July 26, 2019

Chinese Court Upholds Pastor John Cao’s Prison Sentence

Here's an update from International Christian Concern (ICC) regarding Pastor John Cao being held without normal due process by Chinese authorities, which I reported on earlier this month (see my article China Continues to Hold North Carolina Pastor John Cao).  For more details regarding Cao's mistreatment by the Chinese government, please see my earlier article. --Tim Gamble


Chinese Court Upholds Pastor John Cao’s Prison Sentence

Sentence Upheld After Repeated Delays on Appeal Hearing 

07/25/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 25, a court in China’s Yunnan province announced its decision to uphold Pastor John Cao’s seven-year prison sentence, despite his appeal. 

Pastor Cao filed an appeal for being wrongfully convicted for “organizing illegal border crossings” in 2018. However, the Chinese government has postponed his appeal hearing seven times. Many believe that he was unjustly targeted due to his Christian faith.

In photos shared by China Aid, the court can be seen heavily guarded by the police today. Only Cao’s 83-year-old mother and his sister, along with their lawyer, were allowed to hear the verdict.

The court’s latest verdict came after Pastor Cao’s lawyers received a notice on July 12, stating that Cao’s appeal would be handled via a “trial session on paper only,” instead of an actual hearing.

Pastor Cao dedicated himself to serving the impoverished people of Myanmar’s self-governed Wa State, providing much needed education and humanitarian aid to them before his 2017 arrest.

Father Francis Liu from Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness said on Twitter, “Although we have been praying for Pastor Cao, I also know that the CCP will not let him go, as was predetermined by their anti-Christ nature. It’s not possible for us to place our hope in CCP to uphold justice.”

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The unjust trial and trumped up charges against Pastor John Cao once again demonstrate the disregard for rule of law and religious freedom in China. Beijing’s crackdown against Christianity should not be tolerated or ignored. The international community must continue speaking out for oppressed churches and Christians in order to stop their suffering.” 


Source: Press release from International Christian Concern dated July 25, 2019.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Random Ideas to Enhance Everyday Survival

This article isn't about wilderness survival, homesteading, or surviving some dread apocalypse. Instead, I share some random ideas that may enhance everyday survival.

Live as near to where you work as possible. Let's face it, most of us aren't independently wealthy, so we have to work for a living. Long commutes between home and work are common these days, but are a mistake from an everyday survival point-of-view. There are many advantages to living near your workplace - you can save time, gas money, and wear & tear on your car. In an emergency, you can get home quicker and more safely. You might even get a discount on your auto insurance, saving money you can spend on your preps, paying off debt, or building an emergency fund. Walking distance from work is ideal. Or only minutes away via car or public transport.


Know your way around your location, particularly the areas in which you live, work, shop, worship, and go to school. Also, know where the bad neighborhoods and high crime areas near you are, and how to avoid them. Know several escape routes from where you live should bugging-out ever become necessary or even mandatory. Have paper copies of directions and maps, in case GPS & Google Maps are down when you need them.

Always maintain at least one vehicle in excellent condition. Keep up with routine maintenance, get needed repairs done as quickly as possible, and make sure your tires are in good condition. Doing these things will mean less break downs and will save you money in the long run. Also, keep the gas tank topped off II never let my tanks dip down below the halfway mark. If possible to safely do so, keep at least one 5-gallon can of gas on hand for emergencies (rotate it on a regular basis). Even if you can't store the gas safely, keep an empty can on hand just-in-case. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your vehicle, including items such as some food and water, first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, extra oil, and jumper cables or battery starter. For winter, include extra gloves and head/neck coverings. A warm blanket is also a good idea, as is a power bar for your phone.

Take commonsense precautions to secure your home and vehicle. Find ways to make it more difficult for bad guys to break in. Keep doors
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and windows locked. Make use of steering wheel bars and door alarms. Have working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers to protect your family and home from fire. Install a steel security door. Consider a security system or a doorbell with camera and monitor. Consider owning a handgun or home defense shotgun (legally and safely, of course, and get well-trained!). The Shooter's Bible Guide to Home Defense may provide more information.     


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5) Store some water, and have a way to filter/treat water.  Water takes up a lot of space, but try to keep at least one week's worth on hand at all times. Two weeks is even better. Tap water may be available, but not safe to drink (just as the folks in Flint, Michigan). You may need to filter/treat your tap water.

Be smart when out in public. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be wary of people who look out-of-place, are loitering, seem to be paying close attention to you, or who act nervous. Shop in groups. Let people know where you are going and when to expect you back. Keep your phone fully charged. Use well-light and highly visible parking spaces. Before getting out of a car or walking out of a building, look out a window first to identify possible dangers. Don't get so involved with your smart phone that you ignore your surroundings. Always be alert.


Also, know how to not look like a victim. This is somewhat similar to being the gray man, but not exactly. Don't make yourself a target by wearing expensive, flashy clothes & accessories, or driving an expensive car.  Don't make yourself a target by appearing easy prey - always wear practical clothes and shoes, pay attention to your surroundings, and walk confidently, head up. Practice situational awareness, which is more than just paying attention, although that is the starting point.


Own some tools. Tools are wonderful inventions that allow us to do more than we could with just our hands. Everyone needs tools. Here are some recommendations: 
  • A good pocket knife is something most folks should carry (mine is a Swiss Army Knife, but pick whatever best suits your life and needs.). 
  • A multitool is a great addition to anyone's EDC and I highly recommend getting one (I always carry my Leatherman on my belt). 
  • A multi-bit screwdriver is also quite handy, so carry one in your bag, briefcase, or EDC kit. 
  • I've also found that a good pair of scissors is very useful to have on hand. Carry one in your briefcase or bag. 
Of course, you should a good tool kit at home, even if you live in a small apartment. For what to include, please see my article Basic Starter Tool Kit.

Practical, useful shoes are an everyday must. Not just shoes, but useful shoes. Shoes you can walk in, run in, climb in, and will protect your feet. So, not high heels, sandals, clogs, or flip flops. Not even wingtips. Sure, you may need these type shoes for work, but you should always have a pair of more practical shoes with you for when you need them. Perhaps keep them in your car? Or a spare pair at work? I'm lucky enough to not have to dress up for work, so my everyday shoes are hiking shoes, which are a great compromise between athletic shoes and work boots. Of course, I also have work boots at home for when I need them.

Self-defense is a skill everyone should master. It can be just as useful during good times as it will be during the zombie apocalypse. I recommend everyone take a good non-lethal self-defense course. A good self-defense course won't just cover self-defense, but also give info on avoiding dangerous situations. Finally, if you can carry a gun legally, do so. Know and obey the laws, get all the proper licenses and permits, get well-trained, and practice gun safety, of course. But carry if you can. 

Finally, never underestimate to usefulness of money! Seriously, everyone should have a small stash of cash hidden at home for emergencies, as well a an emergency fund stashed at your local bank or credit union. The amounts will depend on your particular circumstances and concerns, of course, but I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars cash at home, and at least six months of living expenses in a savings account.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Syria: Christian Woman, Aged 60, Gang-Raped for Hours Then Stoned to Death by Muslim Militants

The following is an unedited press release from International Christian Concern (ICC), a Christin human rights organization. Check out their website, https://www.persecution.org, for more news and information on Christian persecution and genocide around the world.   


Christian Woman Stoned to Death in Syria 

Autopsy Reveals Gang Rape Prior to Death, Islamic Terrorists Blamed

07/17/19 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on July 8, 2019, an Armenian Christian woman living in the Syrian Governorate of Idlib went missing. Suzan Der Kirkour was 6o years old and her body was found the next day just outside of her village, al-Yaqoubiyeh. An autopsy revealed that Suzan was tortured and repeatedly raped over an estimated period of nine hours. She was then stoned to death.

The incident was confirmed by SOS Chr├ętien’s d’Orient, which wrote in a statement that “cruel was her ordeal. The reality is just as much… (a) virgin at sixty, she died under the repeated assaults of the jihadists of al-Nusra.”

“The autopsy reveals that Suzan had been subjected to repeated rape since the afternoon of Monday (the 8th) until early Tuesday morning, only hours before her discovery. As a martyr, she is joined in heaven by thousands of Christian brothers, who died in the arena of barbarism,” continued the statement.

Suzan was a gardener and Arabic teacher. Although retired, she often volunteered at the Kneye Village Church where she helped youth achieve their baccalaureate. The church was concerned by Suzan’s absence, and it was parishioners who found Suzan’s body.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also verified the incident. “Her body was found with marks of torture on it. And according to forensic medicine, the woman had been tortured for about 9 hours before she was stoned to death by unidentified persons,” read the report.

It is widely reported among locals that Suzan’s attackers were members of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, which maintains a strong presence in Idlib Governorate. Al-Yaqoubiyeh is a Christian village, but most of the women have left because of violent aggression from the terrorists. Some estimate that only 18 women, including Suzan, were living in the village.

The Syrian Civil War has raged for eight years, opening the door for Islamic extremism to take a strong foothold. Jabhat al-Nusra is the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda. They and many other terrorist groups are active in Idlib Governorate, which was supposed to provide a safe haven for internally displaced persons.

Instead, the governorate has become center stage for the Syrian conflict. Most Christians have fled the country, although they made up approximately 10% of the population prior to the war.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Suzan was a pillar in her community. Her untimely death and the manner of her murder is horrifying. It further deepens the shadow which has fallen upon any Christians who have remained in Syria throughout nearly a decade of violent conflict. Rule of law, justice, and accountability must be restored in Syria. Otherwise, we are witness to the slow, but fierce, extermination of Christianity from a country where it has existed for over 2,000 years.”
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Monday, July 15, 2019

China Continues to Hold North Carolina Pastor John Cao

By Tim Gamble
July 15, 2019

In March of 2017, Chinese authorities arrested Christian pastor and missionary John Cao, a permanent US resident living in North Carolina with his American wife, on charges of "illegal border crossings" between Myanmar and China. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in 2018 after a perfunctory court hearing, despite the fact that Cao had been routinely making the border crossings for three years with the full knowledge of the Chinese government. Since his conviction, Cao's legal appeals have been delayed seven times. In the most recent development, Chinese authorities are refusing to allow Cao to appear in person before the court, stating that any appeals would be "paper only." 

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that Cao's "health is deteriorating, and he’s lost over 50 pounds. He’s forced to share a cell with a dozen inmates and only 1 bed."

Observers believe that Cao's arrest, conviction, and denials of an an appeals process, are part of the ongoing crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. The crackdown consists of the harassment and shutting down of many Christian churches and schools, including the bulldozing of some church buildings, the removal of crosses from public display, the arrest on spurious charges of many Chinese pastors and other Christian leaders, among other measures.

John Cao converted to Christianity in his 20s, attended seminary in the US, married an American citizen, and settled in North Carolina as a legal permanent resident. He and his wife have two sons. He has been doing missionary work in Myanmar and China for decades, traveling between North Carolina and Asia. He founded sixteen schools for improvised children and set up various anti-poverty programs during that time.

China, which remains under strict communist control despite opening up to capitalism in recent decades,  has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people. The Communist Party in China, which is officially atheist, has approximately 70 million members. However, the strong growth of evangelical Christianity in China has resulted in slightly over 100 million Chinese Christians (approximately 75 million Evangelicals and 27 million Catholics. Also, the Chinese Orthodox Church, an autonomous Eastern Orthodox church, has about 15,000 members).

This situation of Christians outnumbering official Communist Party members is at least partially behind government crackdowns on Christianity over the last few years, as they seek to exercise control over Christianity in China. Communist governments, and all other collectivist regimes for that matter, demand that the citizen's top loyalty be to the State, not to God, the Church, or even the family. The State essentially sets itself up as God, and hates competition for that slot. 

The ACLJ, which is representing John Cao's family, has an online petition calling for John Cao's release.  

Sources:  1) Information provided by ChinaAid, 2) Information provided by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), 3) Information provided by Voice of the Martyrs.

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