by David Sisler

It could never happen here.

Chinese house churches are facing more persecution. A government edict requires all places of worship to register with officials. Following the release of a similar order, one year ago, several churches were closed and their pastors were arrested. In addition, authorities confiscated hundreds of Bibles and thousands of pieces of Christian literature.

The Chinese churches and pastors are charged with dividing the country and interfering with the governments authority in the areas of education and judicial affairs. A Communist official said that religious groups should be watched more closely.

Two Egyptian Christian bookstore owners face prison terms for importing and selling Christian audio and video tapes. Magdy Armenious Abdel Mesih and Victor Yunan could go to jail for seven years because they sold materials which the Egyptian censorship board had not approved.

Mesih was arrested for the sale of one video tape, a story about the life of Abraham. Shortly after Mesih was apprehended, Yunan's Christian bookstore was raided and police confiscated 79 video tapes and 350 audio tapes. Egyptian Christian leaders protested the moves saying the titles which were seized have been in circulation for over 30 years. One of the films has been shown repeatedly at local cinemas.

Church leaders also protested the increasing number of foreign tapes which contain messages advocating terrorism and ridicule Christianity. These tapes continue to be distributed without any government regulation, Christian leaders say.

Romania is placing restrictions on religious broadcasting. Material of a "confessional, spiritual" nature will be removed from the airways. In order to enforce the ban, only one radio station in Bucharest, Clug-Napoca, and Constanza will be licensed to broadcast religious programming. Only the denominations recognized by the government will have access to the station.

Evangelical television programming has already been virtually eliminated on public stations because the Romanian government considers the evangelical message distasteful.

Vietnam passed a law which guarantees freedom of religion for the country's 72 million people. Persecution of Christian leaders continues in spite of that law. Surveillance and arrest of Christians has actually increased, church leaders report. Attempts by Catholics in Ho Chi Minh City to install a new archbishop have been repeatedly rebuffed by government leaders. Dozens of church members have been arrested.

For more than 100 years, Christians in East Africa have been free to evangelize and Muslims could convert from Islam without fear of reprisal. That spirit of cooperation appears to be at an end. The media is increasingly being used to ridicule Christian beliefs. Converts to Christianity are threatened with violence.

A Columbian pastor who helped organize prayer events that mobilized thousands of Christians was gunned down on a Cali street. He had been leading all-night prayer vigils which local believers believe have been instrumental in bringing down drug lords.

Moscow's largest Pentecostal church has suffered bomb threats, disruption of worship services and economic harassment. Pastor Alexander Purshova said he receives phone calls every day warning him to leave Moscow or die.

Cuba has closed 81 house churches and arrested at least one pastor who failed to close his church.

Because a Christian crusade in a neighboring state drew more than 400,000 people, the mayor of Badapada, India, canceled a planned crusade in his city. The mayor then reversed his decision and allowed the meetings to proceed at a nearby Baptist church. When reports of miraculous healings spread, police arrested pastors and began beating the crowd with sticks. More than 100 were injured.

The government of Nepal has arrested 17 evangelical Christians in the last 18 months and charged them with proselytizing.

A Pakistani court found two Christians, a 14-year-old boy and a 44-year-old man guilty of blasphemy and sentenced them to death by hanging.

Saboteurs disabled the broadcasting towers of a multi-denominational Christian radio station in Puerto Rico.

Third World Christians trying to flee to the United States face apathy and insensitivity from the U.S. State Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service officials, some human rights activists claim. An Ethiopian pastor who was arrested and tortured 25 times failed to gain refugee status in the United States, according to Michael Horowitz, a member of the conservative Hudson Institute. Horowitz, who is Jewish, said that if Jews were being so flagrantly persecuted there would be overwhelming protest. "But it is going on among Christians and no one is raising a voice..."

It could never happen here?

The state of Washington disciplined a Christian psychologist for telling a client who was planning to have an abortion that he opposes termination of pregnancies. M. Douglas Anderson was fined $1500 and placed on probation for one year. A condition of his parole is to attend sessions on ethics. Mr. Anderson denies counseling the woman against having an abortion. He merely expressed his beliefs, he said.

A sign that reads "The World Needs God" was ordered removed from a former courthouse in Hillsboro, Illinois, because it promotes Christianity over other religious or non-religious beliefs. That is the learned decision of U.S. District Judge Richard Mills. The sign has been in place since 1942.



Published in the Augusta Chronicle 5/18/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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