Sunday, August 17, 2014

10 Worst Current Offenders of Religious Rights in the World (and Some Stories from Malaysia)

"Two-hundred million Christians currently live under persecution. 
It’s absolutely on the rise” (Jeff King, president of Persecution.Org). 
All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution
(Apostle Paul to Timothy just before he was beheaded, 2 Timothy 3:12)

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Tertullian)

According to the organization, International Christian Concern (ICC), the ten worst current offenders of religious rights in the world are:

1) China – The communist government has intensified repression against Christians by raiding unregistered private homes and house churches, imprisoning the leaders, imposing harsh fines, confiscating property, and publicly slandering house-church leaders.

2) Sudan – The militant Arab-backed regime in Khartoum is using every method possible to repress non-Muslims. Over 25% of the population of Southern Sudan is Christian. Suffering the most are the Christians of the South and Nuba Mountains. Arab forces continue to enslave children, rape women, violently attack and bomb villages, and withhold food and medicines. There is also evidence of the use of chemical weapons. More than two million people have died in Sudan over the past ten years, mostly non-Muslim black Africans. Every attempt is made to force Christians to become Muslims.

3) Saudi Arabia – Perhaps the most oppressive of all countries when it comes to Christians practicing their faith. The practice of the Christian faith and the public display of any Christian symbol are forbidden. Christian workers from outside the country are forbidden from praying or holding Bible studies in their homes. Evangelism and conversion to Christianity is punishable by death by beheading.

4) Burma (Myanmar) – The government of Burma has been involved in a brutal campaign to eliminate Christians and other minorities. Suffering the most are the Chin and Karen people. Buddhist monks backed by the military have been entering villages and forcing Christians to recant their faith. Buddhist leaders recently declared all Christian radio programs a threat to Buddhism and published a document suggesting how to eliminate Christianity from the country. Many Christians have been killed or forced from their homes.

5) North Korea – In May 1999, the government issued an open warning to all citizens that missionaries are “tools of imperialism” and must be “ferreted out.” The number of believers in North Korea has dramatically reduced as a result of years of harsh persecution. Between 1987 to 1992, former prisoner Soon Ok Yi says she witnessed monthly executions of Christians.

6) Indonesia – Christians have come under increasing attack from Muslims. Over the past four years, at least three hundred churches have been destroyed. In East Timor, nineteen priests and seven nuns have been reported killed since September 4, 1999. Christians are victims of a carefully-planned Muslim holy war that has resulted in hundreds of deaths and destruction to scores of churches and property.

7) Vietnam – The Protestant denominations continue to face persecution and the communist government destroys places of worship. Thousands of Christians have suffered ill-treatment, aimed at forcing the minorities to give up their faith.

8) Turkmenistan – All religious groups fewer than five hundred members are required to register, limiting religious activities to only the Orthodox Church and Sunni Muslims. Evangelism and conversion is strictly forbidden. On August 4, 1999, Shagildy Atakov of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Turkmenbashi was arrested on false charges following his conversion to Christianity. He was beaten, fined $12,000, an amount impossible to pay, and sentenced to four years in a labor camp.

9) India – The rise in Hindu nationalism has resulted in over one hundred acts of violence against Christians since June 1998. This is more than all the year combined since India’s independence fifty years ago. The escalation of persecution against Christians made headlines after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were mercilessly burned alive. Catholic priest Father Arul Doss was killed by a gang armed with bows and arrows.

10) Egypt – Conversion of Christian girls to Islam is often coerced. Poor Christians are offered incentives to convert (this reminds me of my people at rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak). One Egyptian organization claims that it has documented 218 cases of abduction. Muslims, however, are forbidden to become Christians. Churches cannot be built or repaired without special permission, but the construction of new mosques continues to flourish (Egypt cases sound like in Malaysia).

Upcoming nation that may list in the Top 20 worst offenders for the next few years is Malaysia. Here are just a few examples of persecutions in my country:

In early 2009, Home Ministry of Malaysian government banned the use of “Allah” in the Catholic Church’s weekly paper Herald. Since then, Malaysia has seen the ongoing dispute and increasing tension over whether Christians could use the word “Allah”, which even led to attacks on three Christian churches in 2010.

The Islamic authority in Malaysia, Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), seized over 300 Bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and arrested several staff members in January, 2014.

In May 2014, a controversial seminar promoting the idea of "threat of Christianization" was jointly organized by the largest public university in Malaysia UiTM and the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais). However, facing questions and concerns, the public university UiTM has kept mum over why academic authorities were willing to tolerate and even promote a certain religious agenda. It was reported that the seminar was promoting a bigoted view without inviting any Christian speaker; and an Indonesian Muslim speaker said “Christians were betraying God unless they became Muslims.” Christians expressed concerns over increasingly difficult inter-faith discourse in Malaysian society.

In August 11, 2014, the dream of the Caliphate spreads to Asia, raising fears of violence in Indonesia and Malaysia. International Christian Concern (ICC) noted at least 20 Malaysian nationals are recruited by ISIS in Syria to fight the jihad. The article reports that both Malaysia and Indonesia have warned that those followers of ISIS are “ready to strike their countries of origin” and the goal is to “erase secular and pluralist constitutions in order to introduce Sharia-inspired rules.”

There are many more stories untold. Why I compiled and write all these? Because people need to know the truth! If there are people asking me to shut up, I will reply like Peter and John before the Council of religious leaders: “You yourselves judge which is right in God’s sight – to obey you or to obey God. For we cannot stop speaking of what we ourselves have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, GNB). Amen.

1. Robert J. Morgan’s Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 2007). Pg. 761-762
2. From the website:

Recommended books to read:
1. Book of Acts (or The Acts of the Apostles) in the New Testament Bible. Any translations will do.
2. (New) Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. Buy the new and updated version – more understandable modern language.  Published by Bridge Logos is awesome!
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