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Threats of anti-Christian attacks over Christmas amid arrests, violence and murder

Country/Region: India, South and East Asia, Pakistan, Lao, People's Democratic Republic, China, Iran, Middle East and North Africa

 Christian children in India may be in danger this Christmas
Christian children in India may be in danger this Christmas

A sequence of threats, arrests and violence in India, Pakistan, Laos, China and Iran signal grave danger for Christians throughout the world over the Christmas period.

The festive season of Christmas and the Western New Year is a time when Christian minorities often face increased persecution and violence as they attempt to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and this year looks set to be no exception.

Murder in India to "create climate of fear among Christians"

The murder of Christian activist Rabindra Parichha in Kandhamal District, Orissa State, India, has been interpreted as "a strategic move by extremists to create a climate of fear among Christians" in the run-up to Christmas. This was the verdict of Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

Rabindra was found dead on 16 December; the circumstances of his murder are as yet unknown.

Meanwhile in Kandhamal, extremists have called for a bundh – strikes and protests – to coincide with the Christmas period, 24-27 December. The same group had called for a similar strike in December 2007, which precipitated anti-Christian attacks in which five Christians were killed and hundreds of houses torched. The violence resumed in August 2008 and continued for two-and-a-half months. More than 90 people died and thousands were injured. Around 6,000 homes were burnt down, and over 56,000 people were displaced; many are yet to return home.

Christians in Kandhamal have not celebrated Christmas openly since then but were planning to do so this year. Amid the latest security concerns, however, a senior church leader in Kandhamal said that the celebrations had been cancelled, and church-run schools, hostels and orphanages closed down.

Barnabas Fund's Co-ordinator for India said that the Christmas season has been used to target Christians in Orissa for the last three years. He added, "With the killing of Christian activist Rabindra Parichha we could assume an escalation of violence against Christians during this Christmas season."

Terrorist threats in Pakistan

Intelligence reports have warned that terrorists are planning to target Christian gatherings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Lahore, Pakistan. The report described security at all 433 churches in the city as "inadequate" and named 20 churches as "sensitive".

Police have met with Christian leaders to discuss security measures; 2,000 police officers will be deployed to protect churches in the city, with snipers on the rooftops of those most vulnerable to attack. Police officers and Christian volunteers will perform searches with metal detectors at the entrance, and there will be extra security and patrols during services.

Arrests in Laos

Eight church leaders were arrested on 16 December for holding a Christmas service in Boukham village, Laos. Four were placed in handcuffs and wooden stocks. After two attempts by a senior church leader to obtain their release, one of the detainees was set free upon the payment of a fine. The other seven were asked to admit to being guilty of flouting the village's law by conducting a Christmas worship service; the local authorities said it violated the hiit, the traditional spirit cult of the village. The Christians declared their innocence, citing the Lao constitution that guarantees freedom of religion. They were held in detention, and all seven were placed in wooden stocks.

Christmas crackdown in China

In China, the authorities broke up a public Christmas celebration staged by an unregistered church ("house church") and allegedly beat Christians in attendance at the event.

The Xintan Village Church set up for the Christmas gala on a stage in the village square on the evening of 13 December. They were playing Christmas music, which was abruptly silenced when uniformed police cut the electricity. A scuffle ensued in which worshippers were allegedly pushed and punched, leaving five injured. Sound and music equipment was damaged.

The church said the local government had authorised the event, but an official said that the Christians were asked to cancel because regulations forbid outdoor worship, and Buddhists in the community had complained.

History repeating in Iran?

Last Christmas, the Iranian authorities launched a crackdown on Iran's house church movement in which more than 70 Christians were arrested. There are indications of a repeat this year; Christians in seven cities have been interrogated by the authorities, while police have been gathering information about Christian-owned businesses across the country.

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  • Cry out to the Lord for 33 Christians who have been sentenced to death in North Korea. The believers are thought to have been working alongside Kim Jeong-Wook, a South Korean missionary who was arrested in October 2013. Jeong-Wook has admitted trying to “create a network of house churches in North Korea” and was also said to be carrying Bibles and other Christian literature. His alleged associates are accused of trying to overthrow the government and of receiving a large sum of money for the construction of 500 house churches. Pray that these executions will not be carried out and that international pressure will be brought to bear on North Korea to release Kim Jeong-Wook and to cease its intense anti-Christian persecution. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 8 hours ago

  • Praise God for the release of John Short, an Australian missionary who was detained in North Korea for distributing Christian leaflets. John, who is 75 and based in Hong Kong, was reported to security officials in Pyongyang after he was spotted leaving a Christian leaflet at a Buddhist temple, an act that is illegal in North Korea. Further Korean-language Christian pamphlets were subsequently found in his hotel room. John, who was released on 3 March after two weeks in custody, was required to sign a confession probably scripted by the authorities. Other foreign missionaries arrested in North Korea have been given long prison sentences. Give thanks to God that John has escaped further punishment, and pray for him as he recovers from his traumatic ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for Barnabas Fund partners in South Sudan who have been supporting Christians forced from their homes by violence. Conflict between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his sacked deputy Riek Machar in December and January displaced around 860,000 people. Churches were burned down and a number of pastors killed, while many people lost their belongings and were left destitute. Give thanks that churches in and around the capital, Juba, were able to provide food and other essentials to many families with help from Barnabas. Pray that they may continue to be salt and light in their country at this unstable time (Matthew 5:13-16), and that it will soon be safe for displaced Christians to return home. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

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