Category archives: Religion & Culture

Iranian Pastor Continues to Face Death Unless He Denies Christ

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 4, 2011

In late June, FRC reported on the story of Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who has been sentenced to death because of his “apostasy” — he left Islam and has become a Christian and house church leader.

Now, according to Compass Direct news, Pastor Nadarkhani “awaits the outcome of a judicial investigation into his spiritual background to see if he will be executed or, if possible, forced to become a Muslim, according to Christian groups with ties in Iran.” Yet “even if the investigation releases him from the charge of apostasy, it is likely the charge of evangelizing Muslims will still carry a lengthy prison sentence, sources said.”

In other words, the Iranian judicial system is trying to manipulate the pastor into saying he was forced to convert to Christianity as a teenager. Here’s what the Iranian court said about his appeal to his death sentence: According to Part 2 of Article 265 of the Islamic Republic Criminal Law, this case was received by and must be returned to the state court of Gilan Section 11, and further investigated to prove that from puberty (15 years) to 19 he was not Muslim by his acquaintances, relatives, local elders, and Muslims he frequented. He must repent [of] his Christian faith if this is the case. No research has been done to prove this; if it can be proved that he was a practicing Muslim as an adult and has not repented, the execution will be carried out.

The death sentence was issued even though there “is no Iranian criminal statute requiring the execution of those who abandon Islam. In September 2008 members of the Iranian parliament began writing a law instituting the death penalty for men, and life imprisonment for women, who leave Islam.” Instead, according to Jason DeMars, president of a ministry that works with Iranian believers, “the judges who issued the ruling appear to be relying on at least one fatwa, or religious edict, written by the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and on edicts issued by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, a current religious leader in Iran. The edicts are based upon Shiite interpretations of the Quran and Hadith, a written record of the sayings and actions of Muhammad.”

Thankfully, Christians around the world are praying for Pastor Nadarkhani, his family, and for the hearts and minds of those making a decision about his fate (for example, see the Swedish Christian site World Today). We can be assured that the God Who knows the hairs of our heads is in control, even as we petition Him to strengthen this courageous brother in Christ and deliver him from his persecutors.

In addition to praying, call the Iranian Interest Section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC at (202) 965-4990. You can also contact the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the United Nations: Email — iran@un.int; Phone — (212) 687-2020.

A Model for Christian Engagement

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 3, 2011

Many of us are familiar with the heroic and historic work of William Wilberforce in abolishing the slave trade in Great Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Less well-known is the work of the Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801-1885). President of the British and Foreign Bible Society and stout advocate of the formation of a Jewish state in the Holy Land, this “peer of the realm” used his position to help the poor and mentally ill - out of his faith in Christ. As a conservative (Tory) Member of Parliament, he enacted legislation “that prohibited employment of women and children in coal mines, provided care for the insane, established a ten-hour day for factory workers, and outlawed employing young boys as chimney sweeps.” He also had a great heart for evangelism: “His commitment to spread the gospel led him to start a movement to hold religious services in theaters and music halls. Controversy ensued, forcing him to defend the movement in the House of Lords against charges that Christianity would be compromised if it were associated with scenes of frivolous entertainment.”

As Dan Graves writes, “Lord Shaftesbury was fierce in his conviction that Christ must be the center of a living faith. He spoke harshly against deistic tendencies. Yet he was a warm friend of the atheistic Prime Minister Palmerston who gently mocked his belief. The people, however, did not mock. When he preached Christ, they listened with respect. At his funeral, hundreds of thousands of poor stood hatless in a pouring rain to show their love for the man who had loved them.”

At a time when some Christians are calling for retreat from engagement in public affairs, we would do well to consider such men as Wilberforce and Shaftesbury, who grasped that the Gospel could not be preached with unashamed faces if, while doing so, those who proclaim it ignore grave social and cultural needs.

Gov. Rick Perry on upcoming prayer event

by FRC Media Office

July 14, 2011

In an interview with FRC President Tony Perkins and AFA President Tim Wildmon on Today’s Issues Washington Watch Edition, Texas Governor Rick Perry discussed the purpose of The Response prayer event on August 6th.

Here are a couple of points Gov. Perry made during the interview:

I hope literally hundreds of thousands if not millions across this country that day will go into a spiritual…fasting and praying mode. Lifting up this country and asking for Gods will to be done.

On the atheist lawsuit filed against the prayer event:

Isnt it just the type of intolerance to say that we cant gather together in public to pray to our God? That is amazing to me.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Iran Steps-Up Anti-Christian Persecution and What You Can Do To Help

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 30, 2011

According to the respected anti-persecution ministry Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an Iranian Christian pastor has been sentenced to death in Iran for, to put it simply, being a Christian.

CSW says that “the death sentence handed down in 2010 for the crime of apostasy, to evangelical house pastor Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, has reportedly been upheld by the third chamber of the Supreme Court in the Shia holy city of Qom. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani of the Church of Iran denomination was arrested in his home city of Rasht on 13 October 2009 while attempting to register his church. His arrest is believed to have been due to his questioning of the Muslim monopoly on the religious instruction of children in Iran.”

According to the Voice of Martyrs, With (Pastor Nadarkhanis) sentence now upheld and confirmed, it is possible that the authorities will ask him to recant his faith and execute him without advance notice if he refuses —- a typical pattern of action taken by authorities in such cases.

This death sentence has been issued despite Iran being a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whose Article 18 states:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

Sadly, persecution of Christians in Iran is extensive:

A major spike in the harassment and arrest of Iranian Christians in recent months is revealing just how nervous the Islamic republic is about the prodigious success of house churches, say Iranian Christian leaders. At least 202 Christians in 24 cities faced arbitrary arrest between June 2010 and January 2011, according to Elam Ministries. Elam, run by Iranian expatriates, counted 80 arrests over 2008 and 2009 combined.

You can express your concern for Pastor Nadarkhani and ask for his release by calling the Iranian Interest Section at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC at (202) 965-4990. You can also contact the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the United Nations: Email - iran@un.int; Phone - (212) 687-2020.

 

New Survey of International Evangelical Leaders Shows Conviction and Concern

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 24, 2011

A new survey produced by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provides insight into the perspectives of 2,200 Evangelical Christian leaders around the world. Although the headlines the survey is receiving have to do with the rather gloomy cultural outlook of North American and European Evangelicals (in contrast to those in the Global South, who say Evangelical influence is growing), buried within it are two findings that should make those who are hoping for a wedding of theological and cultural erosion within Evangelicalism distinctly uncomfortable.

First, the survey finds that 96 percent of those surveyed believe “abortion is usually or always wrong.” While I wish it were 100 percent, nonetheless it is clear that international Evangelical leaders of all kinds believe abortion is the taking of a life of a person, a tiny image-bearer of God. Of course, this is consistent with the facts of science and reason, but it shows, too, that Evangelical leaders remain committed to the biblical teaching that God wove us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139).

Second, the survey notes that 84 percent of Evangelical leaders believe that “society should discourage homosexuality.” Again, 100 percent would be better, but the fact remains that despite decades of aggressive homosexual activism, the large majority of Evangelical leaders understand that homosexuality is a moral wrong and is socially destructive.

Of further note is that a startling 71 percent - and remember, these are Evangelical leaders from nations as diverse as South Africa and Canada - believe “the influence of secularism” is a profound threat to Evangelical Christian faith, followed by 67 percent who cite “consumerism.” Militant Islam, government restrictions on religion and other perceived threats rank further down.

This is surprising because secularism is not a religious or political movement (such as Islamicism) nor generally recognized as the source of anti-Christian persecution. Rather, secularism is the (active or passive) rejection of theism as a force in personal, cultural and civic life. Under the secularist rubric, things are not wrong but “inappropriate.” Christian faith is diluted to the point it becomes only a vague belief in a self-reflective, undemanding, and distant deity. Consensus trumps truth, popular will crests over principle, the lowest forms of culture become accepted or at least are viewed as ethically optional.

As with society at large, believers in Jesus Christ have been adversely affected by secularism. Instead of radical allegiance to their King, they too often are susceptible to the cult of narcistic secularism. Radical autonomy and a blurred understanding of the God of the Bible lead to divorce, various forms of interpersonal or substance abuse, sexual sin, or a bland apathy toward the things of the Savior: Why study the Gospels when you can shop? And isn’t Christianity just a code of ethics with some religious language thrown-in?

When Christian faith is reduced to the “moralistic therapeutic deism” described by Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their valuable book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), the Jesus of the Bible becomes the innocuous and thus uncompelling figure the secular Left would render Him.

He is more than that, though, much more - “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Which is why, regardless of the threats imposed upon His work on earth by various religious, social and political movements , He wins in the end. The challenge for those who love Him is to remain faithful, no matter what. And He is always with them to give the strength needed to that end.

A Strong Tower in Challenging Times

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 2, 2011

As fiscal pressures mean the public sector must contract, organized religious groups are stepping into the void.” So argues Lewis M. Andrews in “Religious Alternatives to the Public Sector” in The American: The Journal of the American Enterprise Institute.

As the economic downturn continues, churches are becoming a resource for those in need. “Religious organizations not only have the advantage of being financially resilient relative to other institutions in troubled times,” writes Andrews, “but they can increasingly draw on volunteer enthusiasm to support external programs.”

It is vital that Christians engage in works of service as an expression of the love of Christ Himself. For some ideas about how you can do this, visit FRC’s Realcompassion.org Web site, which links to many ministries whose commitment to practical compassion will encourage and inspire you.

Jim Wallis, Homosexuality, and Genuine Love

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 12, 2011

Jim Walliss Sojourners magazine has decided not to publish an ad by Believe Out Loud, an organization which describes itself as follows:

We believe Jesus message compels us to welcome all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Show the world that you can be Christian AND believe in LGBT equality. Join the movement to unite a million Christians for LGBT equality in the church and beyond.

Although in past years, Sojourners has taken stridently liberal positions on all manner of hotly-contested issues, tacitly endorsing homosexuality is, apparently, too far a stretch. Sojourners constituency, board, and staff are not of one mind on all of these issues, wrote Wallis at the Sojourners blog this week.

This indubitably is true: At least one of the publications Board members, Ron Sider, is a signer of the Manhattan Declaration, as is contributing editor Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. In signing the Declaration, they joined other signatories (including this author) in affirming that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise? How, indeed.

Wallis, a man of the Left, in his blog avoids stating what he did in a 2008 Christianity Today interview:

I don’t think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, and that’s technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.

Wallis interpretation of Scripture in this statement is correct. But in his 2008 book, The Great Awakening, he argues for civil unions from the state and even spiritual blessings for gay couples (from congregations prepared to offer them). In that same book, and in repeated interviews that have echoed it, Wallis also disingenuously argues that matters related to homosexuality should not be fundamentally divisive. As he wrote in his piece this week:

… the major differences of theology and biblical interpretation in the church with regard to issues such as the nature of homosexuality, gay marriage, and ordination are not issues that should be allowed to divide the churches that local churches should lead the way here, and that an honest, open, respectful, and, hopefully, loving dialogue should characterize the church on these very controversial questions.

This makes no sense: To suggest that homosexuality, with all its implications about human dignity and sexuality, children and family, society and law, should not divide is sort of like saying a woman can be a little pregnant: Either she is or she is not.

Homosexuality is a defining issue for the church not only because of all of its social and moral implications, but most profoundly because the Bible offers no ambiguity as to its teaching that the only sexually intimate conduct sanctioned by God occurs within marriage between a man and a woman.

However, in his blog post, Wallis is not yet done playing intellectual Twister:

It is our hope that differing viewpoints are not silenced, but are lifted up in a display of Christian, and often interfaith, sisterhood and brotherhood. It is for this reason that we wish to engage first and foremost in dialogue on difficult issues within our editorial pages, and we typically do not display advertising relating to issues amongst people of faith that have unfortunately, and too often, been reduced to political wedge issues.

Really? So, someone who advocates for the Just War tradition will find a welcoming audience among SoJos editors? How about an explanation by Evangelical George W. Bush for Americas attack on Iraq, or by a believing Pentagon general engaged in Americas strategic defense? Or perhaps Wallis will soon publish articles on abortion, marriage and homosexuality by such theologians as R.C Sproul or John Piper, or on religious liberty by such scholars as Daniel Dreisbach or Mark David Hall, or by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute or the Acton Institute on the virtues of capitalism and the danger of coercive charity (which amounts to Wallis definition of justice). I await such with unbated breath.

Homosexuality is not a wedge issue, except in the sense that its advocates make it one. The teaching of the Bible and the position of its faithful followers has not changed. Those driving the wedge are the ones who would compel Evangelicals and orthodox Catholics to deny key components of their faith in order to accommodate a community of people whose insistence on theological acceptance is animated not by biblical teaching but moral desperation.

No matter what your theological perspective or biblical interpretation on the issue of homosexuality, every Christian has the obligation to defend the lives, dignity, and civil rights of gay and lesbian people, writes Wallis. Lives and dignity, yes. Civil rights insofar as they are law-abiding citizens? Sure. But civil rights based on their sexual practices? No. To affirm such is to create an unconstitutional class of rights based on a type of conduct, which opens the door for rights of a kind never imagined by our nations Founders or by simple common sense.

There is no love in affirming something that, however sincerely held, remains objectively wrong and ultimately harmful to those who practice it. To show Christian love to a homosexual means, in part, graciously, winsomely, and patiently affirming that he or she bears the image of God and is precious to the Creator. It is also, with a humble and merciful spirit, to share Gods unambiguous plan for human sexuality and the hurtful consequences of veering away from that plan.

Not to do so is less than loving, less than biblical. Less than Jesus.

Eleven Chronicles 7:14

by Robert Morrison

May 5, 2011

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. —- II Chronicles 7:14

The date was January 21, 1985. The great cloud of witnesses represented the highest levels of the American government and the foreign diplomatic corps. They were crowded into the massive Capitol Rotunda of the United States.

It was a rare event, the inauguration of a president on a Monday. Thats because January 20th had fallen on a Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. It was also unprecedented as the first inauguration held indoors. The outdoor ceremony had been cancelled because of dangerous arctic winds that hit Washington.

Sen. Joe Biden was doubtless there, but happily no one let him near a microphone. John Chancellor, that always grave, chin-stroking journalist, was there. He served as anchor of NBC News. He provided the hushed and solemn words of the voiceover for the millions of Americans listening at home and around the world. President Reagan has his hand on the open Bible, Chancellor intoned: It is open to a favorite passageEleven Chronicles 7:14.

Few of us imagined that II Chronicles would be so read by such an august figure on national television. It was hilariously funny to those who happened to know that there are only two books of the Bible titled Chronicles. Do you think maybe Mr. Chancellor thought it was inflation? He never caught himselfand no one on his network seemed to notice the gaffe.

How would they? As scholars Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter would soon demonstrate in a classic study, our media elites almost never attend worship services of any kind. What John Chancellors famous faux pas shows us is they apparently dont read the Bible, either. Thats doubtless why CNNs Bill Schneider famously said: The media doesnt get religion.

Its not just the media. Many of our secular elites dont get religion, either. Take the famous incident of Gov. Howard Dean. This gentleman, a highly educated medical doctor, was asked to cite his favorite book of the New Testament. The book of Job, he happily responded. Duh! Was that right church, wrong pew? How about out the door?

Gov. Dean flamed out in the Iowa caucuses in 2004, but was given the chairmanship of the Democratic Party as a consolation prize. He then proceeded in 2005 to knock the Republicans as pretty much a white, Christian party. And doubtless readers of the book of Job.

Howard Dean was immediately taken to task by then-Sen. Barack Obama:

As somebody who is a Christian myself, I don’t like it when people use religion to divide, whether that is Republican or Democrat,” Obama said. “I think in terms of his role as party spokesman, [Dean] probably needs to be a little more careful and I suspect that is a message he is going to be getting from a number of us,” Obama explained.

Howard Dean never got the point, but when Barack Obama won the presidency, Dr. Dean did get the boot.

With that seemingly greater sensitivity to religious sensibilities in America, Barack Obama managed to persuade millions of American Christians that he was one of them, that he shared their core beliefs.

Therefore, it had to come as a shock to these supportive Christians when President Obama went to Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt to give his major address to what is termed the Muslim world. That was in June, 2009. Al Azhar is a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood activity. That should have been troubling enough.

What he said there was more troubling still. He called the Koran holy. If it is, then it supersedes the Holy Bible. Thats what the Muslim Brotherhood believes. He said the Mideast is the region where Islam was first revealed. Thats a most revealing

statement. He didnt say where Islam began. Or call the Mideast the region from which Islam spread throughout the world. He said: was revealed. That means it was revealed by God. If that is so, then Jesus is not the Alpha and Omega, after all. How can He be?

We dont elect our presidents to be theologians-in-chief. Americanseven in the early days when more than 98% of us were Protestant Christianscould never have agreed on one established church. Thats why we have been blessed with the worlds greatest example of religious freedom. But when a president makes a point of speaking to a worldwide religious community, he ought to be most careful with his words. He ought not to deny the tenets of the religion he is so determined to tell us he practices.

We have much to ponder in our hearts on this National Day of Prayer. We can thank God for the fact that Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice, or, rather, that justice was brought to him. We can surely pray for a restoration of peace and prosperity to our land. If we turn from our wicked ways, we may yet see His face.

How Should Christians Respond to the Death of bin Laden?

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 2, 2011

Theology professor Christopher Morgan has written a thoughtful response to the death of Osama bin Laden in which he notes that Christians “can rightly grieve that Osama bin Laden opposed the true and living God and will be punished accordingly. But we also can rightly rejoice in the defeat and judgment upon people who are eviland he was clearly evil and deserving of every punishment earth can give.”

This seems to hit about the right balance: bin Laden was made in the image and likeness of God, was loved by Him, and was a sinner for whom Christ died. Personal hatred of the man is not in keeping with Jesus’ message of love. Yet that message was designed for His followers, not the secular state —- which, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4). Bin Laden was, as Morgan notes, “clearly evil,” a mass murderer who for many years pursued an agenda of indiscriminate killing. Grief at his eternal punishment and satisfaction that earthly justice has been done are rightful, and simultaneous, responses to the death of this author of so much human destruction.

Yet there are two additional dimensions to the demise of bin Laden that Christians should consider: The potential for retribution against believers in Jesus, and also the opportunity bin Laden’s death brings to share the Gospel. In a story in today’s Christian Post:

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention says it has more than 5,000 personnel members serving internationally, several of whom have been calling the Virginia headquarters today with a message for Americans. ‘They have really pled that Christians here, instead of celebrating, would fall on their knees and pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel,’ said Wendy Norvelle, IMB associate vice president and spokesperson.

Indeed. And with this prayer, let us also pray for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, perhaps most especially Pakistan. “There are fears that the death of Osama bin Laden could incite Islamic militants to carry out revenge attacks on Christians in Pakistan,” writes Brian Hutt in Christian Today-India. Hutt notes that “Christians make up only three per cent of the population in Pakistan and are regularly the victims of killings and attacks … Just last week, a church and missionary school were targeted by Muslim extremists in Gujranwala after Christians were accused of defiling the Koran. The attack has prompted hundreds of Christians to leave the city out of fear for their lives.”

Thus, prayer seems the best recourse of all: For opportunities for the Gospel, and for protection of our own country, for those who serve her so faithfully in uniform and in our clandestine services (whose bravery and tenacity in killing one of America’s greatest enemies we honor), and for those who profess Christian faith in regions where to do so is to risk one’s life.

The Flame That Will Not Be Extinguished

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 25, 2011

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” —- Article 36, Constitution of the People’s Republic of China

Nice words, but sadly only that. Just yesterday, 40 members of a large Chinese house church were detained while holding an Easter service. Another 500 were placed under house arrest. Yesterday’s actions were only the latest outrage against Chinese Christians by their government; as the Voice of America reports:

In the past five years, every year, the degree of persecution increased, from the perspective of how many church’s were persecuted, how many Christians were arrested, sentenced, abused or tortured. So it’s a national phenomenon; it’s a common phenomenon. Every year is like this,” he said. Members of the Shouwang Church say more than 500 members of the congregation were also put under house arrest. It’s unclear, however, whether any of those detained or under house arrest will face formal charges. Mark Shan says the crackdown is not limited to Beijing. “From Henan, Shandong province this month, even Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, the crackdown has never stopped and it is more serious than last year,” he said.

This news comes as no real surprise. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that, “In China, weve seen negative trends that are appearing to worsen in the first part of 2011.”

Why? Perhaps the story is in the numbers:

According to the Pew Research Center, between 50 million and 70 million Chinese worship in house churches, and more than 25 million worship in state-sanctioned Catholic and Protestant churches. The Communist Party, by comparison, has around 60 million members.

If the Chinese government believes it can quell faith in Jesus through a public crackdown, they would do well to contemplate what historian Herbert Schlossberg and journalist Marvin Olasky have called “the fragrance of oppression.” Persecution was the lot of the early church - the New Testament is full of accounts of the oppression of the early church and encouragements to both anticipate it and stand firm through it. The early believers, brutalized in every way, would not bend or break. In the words of Paul to the church at Corinth, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (II Corinthians 4:8-10).

The life of Jesus is manifest in a suffering church, just as a rose is most aromatic as it is crushed to the ground. If the Chinese leadership believes that it can crush the growing church in its midst by attacking it, it is pursuing a strategy that has never worked. To the contrary, in the economy of God’s kingdom, persecution leads to purity and beauty, which together lead to faith in the One Who sustains - to the wonder of a watching world - those who remain faithful to Him in the midst of their pain.

The Chinese pastor Yuan (Allen) Xiangchen was first imprisoned by the Communist Chinese in 1958 for preaching the Gospel. Here’s what he said about his experience:

During those years in prison my wife suffered untold hardships in bringing up the children. I was sent to near the Russian border doing farm work, growing rice. Wang Ming Dao [a fellow pastor also sentenced to the camp] and I thought we would die martyrs there … In the labour camp it was very cold … food was bad, and the work was hard, but in 22 years I never once got sick. I was thin and wore glasses, but I came back alive; many did not. I also had no Bible for the 22 years and there were no other Protestant Christians there. I met only four Catholic priests. They were in the same situation I was in; they refused to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Pastor Yuan finally was released in 1979. He immediately went back to preaching the Gospel.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, who with his peers evidently is alarmed by the growth of Christianity in his country, might consider Pastor Yuan’s example - and change his policy of oppression. It should also be our prayer that President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and longtime defenders of the persecuted like U.S. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Trent Franks (R-AZ) will take whatever public or private steps necessary to work to protect Christian believers who live so bravely behind the Bamboo Curtain.

For up-to-the-minute reports on Christian persecution in China, go to www.chinaaid.org or www.persecution.org.

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