Persecution Fridays: Vietnam

April 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com

Vietnam: Evangelism Thriving

Evangelist Luis Palau made history on April 9 when he preached at the Protestant centennial celebration in Vietnam, becoming the first U.S.-based evangelist to preach at a major event there since the 1975 communist takeover. The 76-year-old evangelist preached on two consecutive nights at the Thanh Long Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, which was not the venue the event organizers had originally sought. Event organizers had planned to hold the event in an open field, but government officials allowed the event only on the condition that it be held in the soccer stadium.

Organizers requested permission to hold the event months in advance, but the government granted approval just three hours before it was to begin. These delay tactics seem to have become standard procedure for the Vietnamese government. For the past two years, the central government’s Bureau of Religious Affairs has waited until the last minute to approve Christmas events held by house church groups.

It was an “absolute miracle” that the event was held, said the leader of Vietnam’s Evangelical Fellowship of house churches. Hundreds of volunteers and technicians worked heroically to move equipment from an open field in one part of the city to the soccer stadium in another part of the city. Organizers had to notify thousands of people of the venue change. They used word of mouth, website announcements, Twitter, Facebook and text-messaging to get the word out. The evening began at 9 p.m., just two hours late.

Luis Palau began his message at 11 p.m., delivering a clear evangelistic sermon. When the service ended, after midnight, about 800 people came forward to receive Christ. On the following day, Sunday, April 10, more than 12,000 people filled the stadium, and more than 1,000 came forward at the call to follow Christ.

Dr. Nguyen Xuan Duc, president of the Vietnam World Christian Fellowship, told Compass Direct News that he was very encouraged about the future of the church in Vietnam. “These are watershed days for Protestantism in Vietnam,” he said. “There is no fear, but rather wonderful spontaneity and irrepressible joy. Events like this happen in spite of the government and without the blessing of some overly conservative church leaders. What we see is young, vibrant, lay-led, internationally connected and very media-savvy.”

The Palau team traveled north to Hanoi, where they planned to host a similar event the weekend of April 16–17. At the time of this writing, government officials had not approved the event.

“Again they said today, ‘Of course you have the permission, but not in a large open field,’ said Palau in a statement to BosNewsLife. “It will be held in a covered coliseum, which means smaller crowds, and less visible,” he added.

Persecution Fridays: Cuba

March 4, 2011 at 10:17 am | Posted in VOM Fridays | Leave a comment
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For more news on what’s really happening to Christians around the world go to the Voice of the Martyrs website: www.persecution.com 

Cuba: Persecution Increases

Pastors and Christian leaders in Cuba are reporting a shift in how the government treats Christians. The government appears to have moved away from higher profile forms of oppression, such as threatening to shut down or destroy churches, and is now focusing pressure on church leaders, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Church leaders both within and outside of the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) report receiving frequent visits from state security agents and Cuban Communist Party (CCP) officials. The CCC is an umbrella organization representing Protestant churches. These visits and meetings seem to have the intent of intimidating church leaders and making them aware they are under close surveillance.

In October 2010, Pastor Homero Carbonell decided to resign as leader of La Trinidad First Baptist Church in Santa Clara after prolonged government pressure and threats, according to CSW. He hoped giving up his leadership position would alleviate some of the demands on the congregation, but nothing has changed.

Pastor Carbonell, a respected high-level denominational leader, denounced the government persecution in an open letter, according to CSW. He wrote that spurious accusations against him, including allegations that he is associated with the counterrevolution, brought a series of penalties to his church. The pastor also described how the Religious Affairs Office has treated the church over the past three years. In one meeting with the Religious Affairs Office, officials told Pastor Carbonell to “behave himself.”

CSW reports that the government’s attention on Pastor Carbonell and his church may have been prompted by the church’s refusal to expel family members of political prisoners and members of human rights or pro-democracy groups.

Religious groups in Cuba are under the authority of the Religious Affairs Office of the CCP’s Central Committee, rather than a government body. Church leaders have complained for years about difficulties dealing with the Religious Affairs Office, especially with regard to permission for church repair or construction. Many of VOM’s partners in Cuba have faced conflict with authorities while building or repairing churches. Some get around requirements by constructing structures with roofs but no walls.

Bibles and Christian literature may be imported into the country only through the Cuban Council of Churches, which, according to CSW, represents a minority of churches. This limitation has led to a severe shortage of religious materials in Cuba. VOM friends help bring Bibles and other materials into the country through other channels and also sponsor a clandestine printing press for Christian literature.

Newslinks 06/20/10

June 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Newslinks | Leave a comment
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