In areas of the world where Christianity is not understood and the importance of religious freedom is not appreciated, persecution and harassment are still major problems. Yet, the power and protection, comfort and wisdom of God are available to believers wherever they live. We can all help our brothers and sisters facing persecution by standing by them in much needed prayer. Here are just some instances where we can help:
Russia: Religious freedom in Russia is threatened once again with the resurrection of the Ministry of Justice Council for Conducting State Religious Expert Analysis. Anti-cult activists want to investigate various religious organizations in Russia, including their doctrines and activities, leadership decisions and forms of worship, and report their findings back to the Ministry of Justice. "Cults" do not include only those groups that sacrifice children on hilltops, but groups that would be considered mainstream in America, like Protestants.
Prominent "anti-cult" activist Alexander Dvorkin has described the faith of some Protestants as "a crude, magical-occult system with elements of psychological manipulation." Dvorkin chairs the Council for Conducting State Religious Expert Analysis, and many Christians are worried that Russia will return to the kind of oppression and outright persecution of Christians that was common during the Cold War.
The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed support for the new Council. Non-Orthodox Christians, though, are worried. There has been an outcry from believers, even those not given "cult" status. The Union of Old Believer theologians has called the developments "a direct threat to the constitutional rights of the citizens of Russia to freedom of confession…" The Baptist Union head argued that the Council would reduce religious freedom to the point where, "everything is controlled and subordinate to a single ideology and freedom itself is banned." Even in the government there is not complete support for the Council.
The Russian Bible Society has already been suggested for investigation.
Laos: In the meanwhile, Christians in the Asian country of Laos are often imprisoned without explanation. Release International recently reported on the situation in Laos where Christians are under constant surveillance.
One man "Pastor Timothy" (not his real name) told Release: "They asked me to sign a piece of paper that said that I would not be a Christian because Christians are not good or not right for the Lao people. I didn't sign it because of my faith."
"Pastor Silas" has been jailed several times for speaking about his faith.
"Abigail’s" husband was murdered for starting churches.
She said: "The reason I believe my husband was killed was because he served God. But I would tell [his killer] I love him, because God loves him too and God will forgive him."
The Laotian constitution provides for religious freedom, but Christians are seen as a threat to national unity in the Stalinist state. The majority of Laotians are Buddhist, and Buddhism is of no worry to the government. The 1.5 percent of the population that is Christian is highly supervised and regulated, though, and Christians need permission to do anything religious, like evangelizing or building churches. Local authorities freely harass Christians and threaten and jail them, and Laotian jails do not greatly concern themselves with human rights (to put it mildly).
India: A new Indian Apostolic church was closed by authorities on June 7th in Chennagiri, Davanagere District in Karnataka state, India. The newly built church was dedicated on May 29th, and on Sunday police came and forcefully locked its doors, saying the church had an "illegal license."
The church had received permission from the village administration to build the church. However, a few days later, Hindu radicals burst in and demanded to know what authority they had to build the church. The president of the village administration insisted that no churches were being permitted in the village because Christians engaged in "conversion activities." On May 31st, the church leadership received a letter saying their license had been revoked.
The pastor of the church, Pastor Pius, has asked for prayer for the church to be allowed to reopen; its members – mostly from a tribal background – have no place to worship together.
Continue to pray for the Church around the world. Even in difficult or dark areas of the globe, God has His people, and above all they need the strength and encouragement of the Holy Spirit. They also need the physical and legal assistance that many Christians in the West take for granted. We can stand beside them in their struggles by praying for them, and by writing letters of our own.
Police Shut Down Church In Karnataka, India - Persecution.org
Release Warns of Appalling Conditions in Laos Jails - Christian Today
Russia's Minority Christians Fear Return To Soviet Era Persecution - Christian Today
Strategic Trends: Global Religion - Koinonia House