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VOM News and Prayer Update: September 19

September 19, 2006

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.”(Matthew 19:29)

(Compass Direct)
Newly compiled statistics smuggled out of Eritrea indicate that at least 1,918 Eritrean citizens are imprisoned and subjected to torture and forced labor because of their religious beliefs; 95 percent of these known religious prisoners of conscience are Christians. Of the total in prison, 35 are pastors, priests and church elders under arrest in Asmara’s Wongel Mermera investigation center. In 14 other cities and towns, an additional 1,758 Christians of both evangelical Protestant and Orthodox confessions are jailed. None of those imprisoned for their religious beliefs, in the government crackdown which began more than four years ago, have been brought before a court of law to be charged or tried.

Pray these innocent believers will continue to hope in God as they await their release from this terrible suffering. Pray they will have opportunities to share their faith with those who would otherwise never hear of Jesus. Pray international pressure will force the Eritrean government to let God’s people go.

(VOM sources)
September 24th through October 23rd is the Muslim celebration of Ramadan. Militant Islamists grab the world’s headlines day after day as terrorist attacks increase. However, the stories that don’t make the headlines are the testimonies of countless Muslims around the world, who encounter the risen Christ because Christians pray. Ramadan is a time when Muslims are especially open to spiritual things and want to hear from God. Because Christians pray, many Muslims receive dreams, visions and revelations of Jesus—and their lives are changed for all eternity.

Please join us in prayer for the Muslim World during Ramadan. Jeremiah 29:13 says: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Pray many will call on the Lord and hear him say, “Here I am.”

(Compass Direct)
Hindu extremists investigating the activities of Varghese Thomas, an evangelist in Karnataka state, laid a trap for him on Sunday, September 3rd, before beating him and his wife. Thomas is 60 years old and his wife, Leelama, is 57 years old. Thomas has established a small congregation in his home village of Guttigar that meets in a believer’s house. On his way to a meeting Sunday evening, Thomas and his wife saw the apparent victim of a motorcycle accident lying in the middle of the road, and he left his car to assist the victim. As soon as Thomas bent over the victim, the man threw red chili powder into his eyes, temporarily blinding him. A group of about 15 Hindu extremists hiding in the bushes nearby then jumped out and assaulted Thomas, accusing him of tricking people into coming to prayer meetings. His wife said, “One of them came up to the car and told me that both of us would face a cruel death if we continued to preach in the village.”

Pray God will protect Thomas and his wife and give them a spirit of courage and loving boldness. Pray the members of the congregation will also know the love and power of Him whom they serve. Pray God will open the eyes of the Hindus who used Thomas’ compassion to trap him, will come to know the love of Jesus and seek His forgiveness

(Compass Direct)
Attacks against Christians in Madhya Pradesh continued this week, with Hindu extremists attacking at least three Christian gatherings. A total of eight Christians were accused of attempted forced conversion or hurting Hindu religious sentiments. One was released without charges and four were released on bail, while another three remain in police custody. In the most recent case, on Tuesday (September 12th), police in Jabalpur district, Madhya Pradesh, detained the Assemblies of God pastor, Venkatesh Kumar Sadhu, after extremists accused him of attempted forced conversion. A family in Ghama Thana village had asked Sadhu to visit their home and pray for a sick family member. While he was praying, members of the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal arrived, attacking the pastor and damaging his scooter. The Bajrang Dal then filed a complaint against Sadhu, and the pastor was taken to the local police station for questioning. The police later admitted that Hindu extremists were pressuring them to prosecute Christians such as Sadhu.

Pray the Christians will be filled with the peace that comes from knowing they are in the center of God’s will. Praise God that He alone is the force that brings new converts into His Kingdom. Pray many Hindus will realize God is with the Christians and they can do nothing to change that.

(Compass Direct)
Tehran prison authorities released Iranian Christian Hamid Pourmand in late July; informing him he would not be required to serve the remaining 14 months of his three-year prison sentence. No explanation was given for the surprise release of Pourmand, now 49, although prison officials had granted him occasional home visits of three days or more with his family during the past year. After his July 20th release, Pourmand reportedly was warned that attending church services could cause his release orders to be revoked, sending him back to finish his prison term. In February 2005, a military tribunal in Tehran found Pourmand guilty of deceiving the Iranian army by concealing his conversion from Islam to Christianity, despite evidence presented to the contrary.

Thank God for this encouraging answer to many prayers. Praise God that Pourmand is continually in the palm of His hand. Pray the prisoners who heard Pourmand speak of his Savior will seek to know the One who gave him so much peace.

(VOM Sources)
During the past month, The Voice of the Martyrs has stepped in to help Christians in Uzbekistan who have suffered arrests, imprisonment, torture and deportation at the hands of police. VOM recently received information from inside Uzbekistan that two leaders from Bethany Church were deported. On September 5th, Pastor Sergey Khripunov and his family were taken under police escort to the airport in Tashkent, where they will be flown to Moscow, Russia, to live. They were stripped of their Uzbek citizenship and deported for practicing their Christian faith. Ivan Bychkov, another pastor of Bethany Church, and his family were expelled for the same reason on August 11th. They are now living under very poor conditions in Moscow. VOM contacts also report that 27 Christians were arrested on August 28th, in the city of Termez in Southern Uzbekistan, for their involvement in illegal religious activities. Six of the believers were severely beaten by police and then held up to six days in jail until the marks left from the torture disappeared from their bodies. At the time of his release, the eye of Khusan Pirimov was still red from the beatings. The names of the other five who suffered harsh abuse are, Azamat Radjapov, Abdusattor Kurbanov, Laziz Umarov, Yesimdjohn Mamadjanov and Yurij Stefanko (a Ukrainian citizen from Kiev).

Pray the Lord will quickly heal the bodies, minds and spirits of those who were beaten so severely. Pray the refugees will be encouraged and strengthened by the help they receive from their brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray God will move in power to protect Christians in Uzbekistan from any more abuse from the authorities.

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