Belarus: Seven young Christians fined
A court in Minsk has fined seven young Christians the equivalent of two months’ average wages each. The charges were laid against the believers as punishment for talking to others about the meaning of Easter on April 15, the day before Orthodox Easter Sunday. The young people were charged for organizing “a demonstration or mass event,” even though they were merely speaking with individuals on the street. When governing officials were asked to explain the reasons for the arrests and fines, they refused to comment. The Christians were fined the maximum penalty allowable under the statute. It appears that the believers have chosen not to appeal their sentences.
Five of the seven Christians who received charges are members of the New Life Church, which has faced repeated incidents of persecution over the years and was sealed by the authorities in February 2021.
China: Multiple raids on church services
In a coordinated act, Chinese authorities raided five separate locations of the Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church during worship services on May 7. Several church elders, preachers and co-workers were detained for interrogation, though most were released later that day. The worshippers meeting in each of the locations were ordered to disperse.
Pastor Huang Xiaoning was preaching in the Yuexiu branch of the church when the police arrived. When asked to stop preaching, he informed the officers that they had leased the venue and the officials had no right to interfere. Although the officers stated that they were authorized to inspect the location, Pastor Huang referenced the Chinese constitution as it relates to personal freedoms, including the freedom of religious belief. A debate ensued between the pastor and an official from the Religious Affairs Bureau.
The Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church refused to join the government-sanctioned Three-Self Church and, as a result, was banned in July 2018. Although their building was confiscated, the church members continued meeting – changing venues each week. These believers have asked fellow Christians to pray for God’s protection, and that He would continue to use them to glorify Him and testify of the saving grace He has made available through Christ.
Pakistan: Teen girl kidnapped at gunpoint
A Christian teenager named Sehar was kidnapped from her home in Okaro, Punjab, on April 23. At last report, police were continuing to search for her, along with the three Muslim men responsible for the abduction.
The 13-year-old girl worked at a local brick kiln, along with 11 of her siblings, to help support the family, since their elderly father is ill and unable to work. According to her brother Irfan, the three men on motorcycles kidnapped Sehar from her home at gunpoint and fled. One of the captors was recognized as Allah Rakha, who also worked at the kiln.
In Pakistan, young Christian girls are frequently kidnapped and then forcibly converted and married to their attackers.
Pakistan: Church service stormed by mob
Police have increased security around The Voice of Jesus Church in Khokhar, Pakistan, after a mob of approximately 40 men disrupted an evening service on April 16. Thankfully, the injuries perpetrated by the mob were minimal. Even so, the church’s gates and windows were damaged during the incident, and three bullet holes were left in the outer wall of the building.
The conflict arose when three men on motorcycles began to harass the 19-year-old daughter of Pastor Younas Javed before the service. Her brother Sharjeel asked them to stop, but they responded by abusing him. The men then recruited others, and the violence turned against the church facility and the service being held inside.
Eritrea: Over 100 young Christians arrested
In mid-April, a group of 103 young Christians, some of whom are students from the Mai-Nefhi technical college, gathered in the Eritrean capital of Asmara. Their purpose was to sing songs of praise, which they recorded to share on YouTube. However, since these believers are not members of a government-approved church, their meeting was deemed illegal.
The authorities arrested all who were present and, according to reports, these Christians were taken to the notorious Mai Serwa prison. Since 2002, thousands of Eritreans from churches banned by the government have been sent to prison, often held inhumanely in metal shipping containers and subjected to volatile conditions and torture. Those arrested are typically held without charges against them, sometimes for many years.
Estimates vary as to the number of religious prisoners currently being detained in Eritrea. With these latest arrests, the number is estimated to be over 500. Most Christian prisoners are believed to be Pentecostal or of other evangelical denominations.