PODCAST: Chinese Authorities Raid Church Camp (International Christian Herald 9.5.20)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to the Christian Post, Communist authorities in China’s Henan province raided an elementary school summer camp hosted by a house church and arrested the pastor’s wife after accusing the Christians there of “conducting illegal religious activities.” According to persecution watchdog China Aid, some 30 authorities with Xinyang City Gushi County Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau, Public Security Bureau, and the Joint Chengguan (urban management force) Task Force raided a house church near Gushi Third Middle School North Campus on Aug. 23. The leader of the church, Wang Guangming, told China Aid that the church was hosting summer camp on the day of the raid. Though students were learning piano, guitar, and music theory, authorities accused leaders of “conducting religious activities” and arrested the pastor’s wife. “I was not present at the church that day,” Wang told China Aid. “They came and said that we were gathering illegally, and confiscated my personal property, including projector, desks, chairs, fans, and speaker. They have not brought them back as of today.”

According to the Greek Reporter, Turkish authorities razed to the ground the historic St. Georgios Christian church late Wednesday, an iconic structure known as the “Hagia Sophia of Bursa.” The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Georgios had been restored and transformed into a cultural center by the Nilüfer Municipality in Bursa. The municipality took over the church in 2006 and invested some 2 million Turkish lira in restorations, reopening it as the Özlüce Cultural House. Seven years ago, however, an Islamic organization called the regional Directorate General of Pious Foundations filed a lawsuit to gain ownership rights over the church and in 2013 proprietorship was assigned to the İnesiye Village Mosque Foundation. After the transfer, the building received no regular maintenance and was allowed to go to ruin. In the past, the 19th-century structure had been used as both a Christian church and a mosque, leading to its designation as the Hagia Sophia of Bursa.

According to Christianity Today, Christian denominations in Belarus are not engaged in many joint projects and generally steer clear of politics. But the controversial reelection of “Europe’s last dictator” has united them in prayer—and in their public stance on politics. Belarus has been embroiled in mass protests since its August 9 presidential election. For the past 26 years, the Eastern European country the size of Kansas has been led by President Alexander Lukashenko, who in 1994 won the first election since the former Soviet republic became independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union three years earlier. Following his election, Lukashenko changed the constitution to eliminate term limits. No election since has been recognized as free and fair by international observers. This year, the opposition rallied around Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran in place of her husband after he was disqualified and jailed. She promised a return to the 1994 constitution with a subsequent clean presidential poll early next year. The official results of the August 9 vote showed Lukashenko winning with 80 percent of the vote. The opposition claimed the tally was fraudulent. Mass protests swept the country of 10 million people. Protesters were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and stun grenades. Thousands were detained. Multiple reports of torture in detention centers hit social media. In response, Christians are uniting in prayer at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day. A joint statement entitled “Prayer and Hope” was issued by evangelical leaders: Leonid Mikhovich, leader of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Belarus; Sergey Tsvor, leader of the United Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Belarus; and Leonid Voronenko, leader of the charismatic Religious Association of Full Gospel Communities in Belarus.

According to Breitbart, Pope Francis announced a “jubilee for the earth” Tuesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, calling on all to combat the “climate emergency.” In his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the pontiff has called for repentance, insisting we have “broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation.” “Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world,” the pope laments. “Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify.” “Creation is groaning!” he concludes. The solution to these problems is learning to “listen to the land,” he states, and to occupy our correct place in the “web of life.” The pope urges all to adopt a simpler, more austere lifestyle.

According to Baptist Press, Southern Baptists have a long history in medical missions and have continued to bring hope and healing during the COVID-19 crisis. Field workers around the world use hospitals and clinics as ministry centers to serve communities and offer physical and spiritual healthcare. In 1957, three Southern Baptist workers – nurses Ruth Ford and Everly Hayes and Dr. Kathleen Jones – founded Kediri Baptist Hospital in the city of Kediri on the island of Java in Indonesia. In 1972, Southern Baptist doctors opened Imanuel Baptist Hospital on the island of Sumatra. Since then, Baptists have opened two more hospitals and two clinics in other Indonesian cities. Throughout the decades, Indonesian staff, nurses and doctors have served alongside Southern Baptists as they increased their own responsibility. Since the late 2000s, the hospitals and clinics have been under the leadership and direction of the Indonesian Baptist Convention, and convention leaders have carried on the legacy of ministry through medical care. The first Indonesian director of Kediri Baptist Hospital was Dr. Sukoyo Suwandani in 1989. Southern Baptists have made a renewed commitment to partner with Indonesian Baptists, both during the COVID-19 crisis and in community outreach. This January, with funding from Southern Baptists, the Eternal Peace Primary Care Clinic opened in a village near Kediri.

According to Christianity Today, Leslyn Lewis stands out from her competitors for leadership of Canada’s Conservative Party. She’s the only woman. The only person of color. The only immigrant. She’s also the one who speaks most publicly about the importance of her faith. Lewis is a long shot for party leadership, behind political heavy weights Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole. But the fact that she’s even being considered as a credible contender has come as a surprise to many political observers. In a country where religious faith is generally kept private and elected officials have struggled even trying to explain how deeply held Christian values could influence political decisions, Lewis has won fans across the country for her ability to speak about her evangelical beliefs in the public sphere. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, she’s able to speak about her faith in a way that inspires socially conservative Christians, while not alienating everyone else in Canada. Lewis’s greatest accomplishment may be showing that it is possible for a Christians to speak publicly about their faith in Canadian politics.

According to the Christian Post, One person was killed and several others were abducted when suspected Fulani radicals were said to have attacked a secondary school and burned a church in a predominantly Christian village in Nigeria. According to the London-based human rights watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the attack occurred at Prince Academy in the Damba-Kasaya Community in Chikun local government area last Monday. Residents of the area accused Fulani militia of arriving in large numbers around 7:45 a.m. when they are said to have invaded the school, abducted a teacher and four of his students. The militants also reportedly broke into the Aminchi Baptist Church, destroyed musical instruments and the church’s public address system before setting objects inside the church on fire. According to witness testimony, 35-year-old Benjamin Auta was killed during the attack and leaves behind a wife and baby.

According to Yonhap News, South Korea’s national health insurance operator said Monday it will push to force a Seoul church and its members, blamed for a recent spike in coronavirus cases, to cover costs of treatment of patients linked to it. A total of 1,056 cases traced to Sarang Jeil Church in northern Seoul were confirmed as of Monday at 25 locations across the country. The state-run National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) said it will exercise its right to indemnity against organizations and people who hampered the authorities’ efforts to stem COVID-19 spread over the cost it spent to treat them. The agency estimated the treatment cost for 1,035 church-related patients confirmed as of Sunday to be some 6.5 billion won (US$5.48 million).

According to Christianity Today, A French-American pastor and church planter whose life passion was reaching secular Parisians with the gospel and discipling Christian leaders in his mother’s homeland has died at age 45. Édouard Nelson founded l’Église des Ternes, a church plant in Paris, which he pastored until his death. He also served in a number of other ministries where he trained and equipped the next generation. Nelson died on August 14 after sustaining injuries from a hiking accident. “Édouard’s passion was three-fold: preaching, church-planting and mentoring. And he did all three with excellence,” said his friend, Raphaël Anzenberger, the president of France Evangélisation. Nelson’s love for l’Église des Ternes was evidenced in his morning routines. The congregation is located in the affluent Batignolles-Monceau, Paris’s 17th arrondissement, an area directly north of the Arc de Triomphe. Each morning, Nelson would walk laps in the local park, praying for church members and neighbors by name, his wife said. Nelson was born a dual-citizen in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1975 to an American father and French mother. He spent a year of college at Oxford, where he was mentored by Vaughan Roberts, an evangelical Anglican priest with a passion for expository preaching. After graduating, Nelson returned to Oxford to do theological studies at Wycliffe Hall and then spent two years as an apprentice at St Ebbe’s, where he met his wife, Laura. Throughout this time in Europe, Nelson felt a pull from across the Channel. He engaged in consistent prayer for the French people. “Edward’s conviction that he should devote his life to gospel ministry grew during his time in Oxford,” said Roberts, who was rector at St. Ebbe’s by the time Nelson started his program. “He grew up bilingual, spent every summer in France, and had a deep love for the country. Conscious of how much smaller the evangelical church was in France than in America, he determined to serve his Lord there.”
In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!