UZBEKISTAN – Pastor asks for prayers after house church raid
“Last Sunday (30 July) we were raided. There were 27 of us, over 30 policemen. From my house we were all put on a bus and taken to police office. We were threatened and demanded to write explanations. The sisters [women] were [strip] searched all to their underwear. They took away three cell phones. For four-and-a-half hours we were kept there on the floor. My wife and I now face charges for possessing one children's Bible, 32 sheets of the worship songs in Russian and Uzbek and one notepad with entries. Please pray for us and please pass on to friends.” – a letter from the pastor of a house church sent to Barnabas Aid on 2 August.
Believers in Uzbekistan – officially a secular state – can face heavy fines if they are gathered for worship in a private home and/or are found to have Christian literature. Government restrictions require churches to register but make it practically impossible for them do so, particularly Uzbek-language (i.e. ethnic Uzbek) congregations, which comprise converts from Islam and their children. Even in registered churches it is forbidden to have worship and teaching in the Uzbek language.
From Barnabas Aid Project Partners
INDIA – New state “freedom of religion” law to require converts to obtain magistrates’ permission
The regional government in the Indian state of Jharkhand has put forward a draft “freedom of religion bill,” which will require anyone changing religion to obtain prior permission to do so from a magistrate, while also potentially leaving Christians vulnerable to prosecution for sharing their faith. The proposed legislation – ostensibly aimed at preventing coerced or insincere conversions – will make it a criminal offence to use force, allurement, or fraudulent means to make someone change religion. Anti-conversion laws are already in force in five other Indian states (Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) and Christians, often undertaking genuine evangelism, are frequently attacked and arrested as a result of spurious claims that they are trying to coerce or bribe Hindus to convert.
Instead of preserving every individual’s right to choose their religion – the stated aim of the law – the Jharkhand Government’s new bill will make it more difficult for genuine converts, particularly those from the Hindu majority. The bill follows a pattern of similar laws introduced in other states and is likely to mean Christians face false accusations of coercion and violence for openly articulating their faith.
From Evangelical Fellowship of India
IRAN – Christian convert released after four years behind bars
Maryam Naghash Zargaran, an Iranian convert from Islam to Christianity, has finally been released from prison, four years after she was jailed for “propagating against the Islamic regime, and colluding to undermine national security.” Maryam suffers from a heart condition, which was so seriously exacerbated during her time behind bars that she required hospital treatment. The authorities were reluctant to allow her to be hospitalised and when she was forced to return to prison they postponed her release date due to her “absenteeism.” The years of being incarcerated have also affected Maryam’s mental health.
Last month (July), another convert, Naser Navard Goltapeh, was sentenced to ten years for “threatening the security of the country.” He joins perhaps as many as 100 other Christians in prison in Iran on various charges but in reality because of their faith.
From Middle East Concern here
NIGERIA – As many as 35 massacred in church shooting
"I saw my fellow church members dead in a pool of their own blood and many others were screaming in pain," said one of the congregation at a church in Ozubulu, south-east Nigeria.
At around 6 a.m. on Sunday 6 August, at least one masked gunman stormed into the early morning service at St Philip’s church and opened fire. Initial reports stated that eleven worshippers had been killed, but Nigerian press now suggest as many as 35 Christians may have been shot dead. Police have made arrests but have not yet confirmed the motivation behind the attack. Once again, Nigeria’s Christians are mourning the murder of loved ones.
From Al Jazeera here