This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.
According to International Christian Concern, According to the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN), a radical Hindu nationalist leader has demanded a district government in India’s Madhya Pradesh state close down all churches built in tribal areas. The radical leader went on to give the government 30 days before he threatened to initiate violence to stop church activities in tribal areas. On January 11, Azad Prem Singh, a local leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), led a group of supporters through the city of Jhabua and handed over a memorandum demanding the District Collector shut down all churches operating in tribal areas. Singh based his demand on the false narrative that Christians are fraudulently converting people to Christianity in mass. “In the past 70 years Christian missionaries have converted gullible indigenous people to Christianity and built churches specifically on protected tribal land,” Singh claimed. “All the illegally built churches should be shut down immediately and action should be taken against all priests and pastors involved in the process.” Singh went on to issue a 30-day ultimatum to the government threatening to initiate violence to stop church activities.
According to the Christian Post, Experts on the persecution of Egyptian Christians report that although life under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is better for Christians than past presidents, such as Mohamed Morsi or Hosni Mubarak, believers continue to face persecution and violence at the hands of radical Muslims who evade arrest and prosecution. When mobs of radical Muslims attack Christians, none of them get arrested, said Coptic Christian leader Samuel Tadros. Instead, the victims of violence are arrested by police. “Not a single person has been convicted or spent time in jail for attacking Christians,” said Tadros, who was among the experts who spoke at a Zoom conference on Friday hosted by In Defense of Christians, an advocacy group for Middle Eastern Christians.
According to the Christian Post, A large group of police officers and other government officials raided a house where children from a heavily persecuted megachurch were being homeschooled in Chengdu, China, the church said on social media, pleading for Christians worldwide to pray for them. Police officers, education bureau officials, national security officers and urban management officers on Thursday morning raided a home where homeschooled children of Early Rain Covenant Church were playing together, the 5,000-member church said in a Facebook post. “The police are now raiding the home. There are a large number of police officers outside and inside of brother Liang Huali and Sister Shu Qiong’s home, and they are currently removing brother Liang’s personal belongings. Please pray!” the church wrote.
According to CBN, The Jewish Agency for Israel, a world-renowned organization responsible for helping millions of Jews immigrate to Israel, says it is cutting ties with a Christian ministry over allegations of missionary activity. For years, the Jewish Agency has partnered with Return Ministries, a Canadian organization dedicated to assisting Jews make “Aliyah” (immigrate to Israel) and building bridges between Christian Zionists and the State of Israel. Return Ministries runs the Aliyah Return Center, which operates at The Jewish Agency’s Bikat Kinarot educational facility south of the Sea of Galilee. There, the agency helps new immigrants (olim), lone soldiers, and Israelis in need through a variety of programs. The Aliyah Return Center partners with the agency by renovating and developing the campus and often brings Christian pilgrims and volunteers to the site. The Jewish Agency said in a statement Monday that their partnership is now over because, “while it has found no evidence of any direct missionary activity” the videos posted online by the Aliyah Return Center “create a perception that is in direct opposition to the mission and values of The Jewish Agency for Israel and has unfairly entangled the organization’s work and reputation.” “Let me be clear: The Jewish Agency for Israel will not allow any proselytizing attempts, under any circumstances, in any form, of the Jewish people or any people in our care,” the agency’s Director-General and CEO Amira Ahronoviz said in the statement.
According to the New York Times, The leader of a secretive religious sect that was at the center of a coronavirus outbreak in South Korea last year received a three-year prison term on Wednesday on charges including embezzling church money. But Lee Man-hee, 89, the founder of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was acquitted on a charge of conspiring to impede the health authorities’ efforts to fight the virus. Mr. Lee’s prison term was suspended for four years, which means that he will remain free unless he commits a crime within that time. The rapid spread of the virus among the church’s worshipers in Daegu, a city in the southeast, in February and early March last year had briefly made South Korea home to the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak outside China. A total of 5,213 of the country’s more than 68,000 cases have been found among church members and their contacts, according to government data. Prosecutors arrested Mr. Lee in August on charges that he and other church officials had obstructed the government’s efforts to fight the epidemic by not fully disclosing the number of worshipers and their gathering places. Mr. Lee was also accused of embezzling 5.6 billion won, or $5.1 million, from church funds to build a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul, the capital, and of holding unauthorized religious events at public facilities. Prosecutors had sought a five-year prison term.
According to the Christian Post, The Turkish government has made no progress in finding the kidnappers and killers of a Christian man and his wife after a full year, International Christian Concern reported. On January 11, 2020, likely Kurdish militants kidnapped elderly Turkish Christians Hurmüz Diril and Şimuni Diril from the village of Mehr. On March 20, Şimuni’s son found her dead and dismembered in a river. Hurmüz’s fate remains unknown, and the government has not found the killers. The pair’s son, Father Adday Ramzi Diril serves as a Catholic priest. He ministers to thousands of Iraqi refugees who live in Turkey.
According to Evangelical Focus, The coronavirus pandemic has intensified hostilities against Christians throughout the world, as reflected in the latest edition of the World Watch List (2021) published by Open Doors. According to the report, the epidemic has “highlighted and exacerbated underlying discrimination experienced by Christian minorities, and legitimised increased surveillance and restrictions”. The report quantifies that, during 2020, around 340 million Christians worldwide have suffered “discrimination, unequal treatment and violent persecution”. Last year, 4,761 people were killed because of their Christian faith in Jesus, the organization says. In total, 60% more than the previous year. Furthermore, 4,277 Christians were arrested without legal proceedings or sentenced while already in prison, and 4,488 Christian places of worship were attacked. “We are experiencing a serious increase in persecution”, Ted Blake, director of Open Doors Spain, told Spanish news website Protestante Digital. While in the last editions of the list, there were countries with more varied levels of persecution, between extreme, very high and high, “this year, for the first time ever, all top 50 countries score levels of at least very high persecution; the top 12 scoring extreme levels of persecution, up from 11 the year before”, Open Doors says.
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!