While Christians are a minority in many places, they are generally acknowledged as being good citizens. The vehemence with which they are attacked by godless authorities is a symptom of the spiritual battle we all face.
Religious persecution in Vietnam
According to Operation World 2010, Christians comprise nearly 10% of the population in Vietnam. They are described as being overwhelmingly good and peaceful citizens.
Catholics, including many priests, are active in the fields of social justice and journalism. Protestants, including many pastors, are especially active in the fields of pro-democracy and human rights education and advocacy.
The regime justifies its repression and persecution by falsely accusing them of abusing religion for political subversion.For example, a couple attending a meeting of the Revival Ekklesia Mission (REM) in Ho Chi Minh City, tested positive for COVID-19. While the church had been meticulous in its adherence to health orders, the government seized the opportunity to attack Protestant Christianity.
Church leaders were publicly blamed and shamed on state-run media and social media,triggering a wave of social anger and hate against the city’s Protestants.
The Vietnam Human Rights Network’s 2020-2021 report lists 288 prisoners of conscience, 39 of whom are ethnic minority Protestants. Meanwhile, the Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam lists 79 “Montagnard Prisoners of Conscience Serving Prison Sentences and House Arrest Amounting to Eight or More Years.” This shocking list illustrates the brutality of persecution in Vietnam and the way in which injustice is meted out with impunity.
Carlos Aguilera – Christian Faith and Freedom Director of Communication & Advocacy - has been invited to attend the follow-up Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue Roundtable on 11 February 2022, as a result of CFF's submission to the 17th Annual Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Roundtable in November 2021.
Please praythat the closed trials of peaceful religious liberty advocates and journalists, arouse effective international protest to promote justice, and freedom from Communist oppression.
Pray also that the love of Christ burns brightly in the hearts of Vietnam’s Christians, radiating His Light to dispel darkness, drawing others into a life-transforming relationship with Him.
Hindu nationalism in India
In August 2019 India's Hindu nationalist BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) -led federal government revoked Jammu and Kashmir's autonomy. Since then, the BJP has been enacting its plan to 're-organise' and gerrymander Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to empower minority Hindus at the expense of majority Muslims (many of whom have been radicalised).
While intolerant Hindu nationalism is rising, so too is persecution.A 26 January report by Morning Star News (MSN) details two very worrying cases of persecution with impunity in Jammu Division's southern-most Kathua District which borders India's Punjab State.
On Christmas Day last year, Pastor ChunglenlalSingsit (40) was attacked by a mob of Hindu nationalists. Theydemanded he chant 'Jai Shri Ram'(Hail Lord Ram).
They accused him of paying people to convert to Christianity and rebuked him for being in the majority-Hindu Jammu Division. Pastor Singsit was held in police detention for over 24 hours before being released without charge, but with an order to leave J&K within five days.
On Sunday 5 January youths from the Bajrang Dal (a Hindu nationalist youth militia) invited local news reporters to record them attacking a house-church worship service in Kathua District's Ward No. 4 colony. When the police arrived, they too harassed and humiliated the Christians.
The believers were held in police custody until 7pm, when they were released without charge. The media then ran a highly provocative and entirely false story claiming the Christians were engaged in 'forced conversions'.
On Thursday 20 January Kathua District pastors held a press conference. Led by Pastor Shoukat Peter, president of the J&K Joint Churches Fellowship, the pastors explained that Christians are law-abiding citizens and have only been exercising their constitutional right to freely 'profess, practise and propagate' their faith (from Article 25 of the Indian Constitution).
Pastor Shoukat Peter acknowledged that most Indians appreciate the good works being done by churches; works of justice and mercy that are foreign to the Hindu nationalists who attack them. Ignoring the constitution, police in Kathua District are now insisting that Christians obtain permission before gathering for prayer or worship.
Please pray that the Lord would bless, comfort and encourage Pastor Singsit as he and his family settle back into Manipur from whence they came; may the believers left behind in Kathua District know the Lord's love and presence; may the Lord provide their every needs.
May God grant all the pastors and believers of Kathua District great wisdom and grace as they navigate through these increasingly difficult days of escalating Hindu nationalism, as two intolerant worldviews - fundamentalist Islam and Hindu nationalism - compete for dominance.
May the Holy Spirit move powerfully in J&K, to awaken Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus to the dangers of sectarian hatred; may many hearts be softened and opened to the Gospel of Peace.
Christians in Pakistan gravely imperiled
On Sunday 30 January, Reverend William Siraj (75) was driving home after leading worship at Shaheedan-e-All Saints' Church in Peshawar, north-west Pakistan, when two men on a motorbike ambushed his vehicle. Shot multiple times in the head, the much-loved pastor died instantly.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the targeted assassination, an enlarged and emboldened Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, the Pakistani Taliban) and a determined Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) are both active in the area.
The departure of Western counter-terrorism forces from Afghanistan has opened the space for terrorist groups to compete, recruit and operate. Of all the cities in Pakistan, none is more vulnerable than Peshawar. Peshawar's Christian clerics, churches and communities may be more at risk now than at any time in Pakistan's history.
While Afghanistan's imperiled remnant secret Christians exist deep 'underground', Pakistan's imperiled Christians have long been known, open, and 'above ground'. They mostly live together in Christian communities, with churches and cathedrals that are well established.
As individuals, Pakistani Christians have long lived with systematic discrimination, violent persecution, and gross insecurity. Today, Peshawar's Christians are imperiled as individuals and as a group in the face of an enlarged and emboldened TTP and a determined ISKP, Peshawar's churches and Christian communities may be more at risk now than at any time in Pakistan's history.
Please pray that God will sustain, comfort and provide security for the Christian community in Peshawar. May the Lord of hosts deploy his angelic forces to watch over his imperiled precious children in these days of terror and insecurity.
May God awaken many Pakistani Muslims to the threat posed by intolerant fundamentalist Islam; may the Holy Spirit move in power and grace, to open eyes, enlighten minds, and soften hearts; may a harvest be reaped among Pakistani Muslims made receptive to the Gospel.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html