CHINA: Pastor Zhang Shaojie Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison
Pastor Zhang Shaojie of Nanle Country Christian Church, Henan Province, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order”; he has also been fined 100,000 RMB (approximately AU$17,000).
Over 20 members of Nanle County Christian Church, Henan, which belongs to the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement, were detained without formal documentation in November 2013. Church members, lawyers and Christians visiting the family of detained Protestant Pastor Zhang Shaojie were beaten, harassed and detained by ‘hired thugs’, police and government agencies in December 2013. Six church members arrested in November and December 2013 remain in detention.
The date for Pastor Zhang’s trial was changed several times and the trial itself was suspended amid concerns about the authenticity of the witnesses’ testimonies. Pastor Zhang was also left with no option but to dismiss his original lawyers when it appeared they were at risk of losing their licences.
The sentence comes just months after a spate of forced demolitions and the removal of religious symbols from churches in Zhejiang Province prompted fears among some Chinese Christians of increasing restrictions on both state-sanctioned and unregistered congregations by the government.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Pray for Pastor Zhang, that he will not lose heart but continue to trust in the Lord; pray he will abandon all glory in order to come into a deeper relationship with Christ. (Philippians 3:7-10).
- Pray the Christians will not be fearful of the authorities and will not give up meeting together.
- Pray those in authority may know of Christ’s love and forgiveness by the witness of Pastor Zhang and his church family.
LAOS: Christians Arrested; Falsely Accused of Murder
Five Christians in Laos have been charged with murder after a sick woman, who sought prayer from a local church, converted to Christianity and later died of an unknown illness.
According to reports, Mrs Chan was sick with an unknown illness for two years and had approached the local church for prayer. After her health improved for a short while, she and her eight grown-up children became Christians. Her health later declined and she passed away on 22 June.
Since Christians are denied burial rights in the local cemetery, the children gained permission from the village chief for a Christian burial ceremony to be performed for their mother on their own property. However, the permission was later retracted and the children were informed that a burial ceremony could only take place if they signed an affidavit recanting their Christian faith. The children refused to do this.
On 23 June, a local church leader made an appeal to the district chief regarding the incident. The day following the appeal, the complainant, three other church leaders and a lay person were arrested and charged with the murder of the Christian woman.
Sources: World Evangelical Alliance, Barnabas Fund, Agenzia Fides
- Pray for those arrested, that the Lord would grant them His protection while they are in custody; pray they will be cleared of all charges and released.
- Pray the Christians would not fear, but trust God during this time of trial.
- Ask the Lord to use this case as a demonstration of faithful Christian witness to be used by Him to further extend His kingdom in Laos.
TANZANIA: Pray for Pastors Charged with Blasphemy
A group of 43 Tanzanian pastors, most former Muslims, have been charged with blasphemy for teaching biblical foundations to their church members.
In addition, they have been fined the equivalent of nearly AU$3,000, which they are paying in order to continue their ministry work and to avoid multiple court hearings.
If convicted of blasphemy, they could face up to 14 years in prison. Many of the pastors have been persecuted by their families and continue to face pressure in the largely Muslim areas where they work.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Pray the Lord will grant these pastors courage, strength and peace during this time of great suffering and uncertainly.
- Pray against the convictions; pray they will be released to continue in their important work.
- Pray for the authorities and the families of the pastors; pray the Lord will work in their hearts to bring them to repentance.