In this issue of the newsletter
New: Legislative work continues in Washington, DC – Persecution in Vietnam
New: Christians suppressed in Vietnam / Iraq refusing recognition of evangelicals
Update: Female genital mutilation in Sudan (Maybe) Can it be stopped elsewhere?
Update: Destruction at only Christian bookstore in Amman, Jordan
About those shoes you bought that were made in Vietnam…
Moving factories from China to a worse place: The establishment (Deep State) is threatened by the growing economic and military strength of China. Not only the Deep State, but all Americans should be concerned about the strategic interests of our nation.
But does that warrant moving factories from one nation that persecutes Christians to another nation that persecutes them even more?
Churches that register in China are for the most part left alone by the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party, but those churches that operate only by the authority of the Lord suffer. Pastors are arrested and jailed for years and buildings are destroyed. Members are blacklisted making employment difficult.
The treatment of Christians in Vietnam is even worse. While not as bad as Bangladesh, the persecution is more severe than in China for Christians.
Do Christians in prison in China make some of the goods imported into the United States? Yes. And the same is true of goods from Vietnam, which is also a communist nation.
Our State Department, in the strategic interests of our nation, points to the persecution of religious minorities in China, but often turns a blind eye for the most part toward Vietnam.
Conflicting statements are not unusual. On May 30th Secretary of State Pompeo sent out a Tweet noting that Iran sentenced gays to death. There was no mention of Saudi Arabia where gays are also sentenced to death. We sell billions of dollars of weapons to the Saudi regime.
In May the Religious Freedom Coalition participated in a conference with many other organizations to call attention to the persecution of Christians in Vietnam, particularly the Hmong and Montagnard Christians in rural areas who have refused to join the official denomination set up by the Communist Party of Vietnam.
A group of organizations including the Religious Freedom Coalition wrote a letter to President Trump in which we pointed out to him that:
“Police interrogators frequently use threats of long-term imprisonment and even death to coerce victims to sign pledges to leave their denomination and stop reporting violations to human rights organizations, foreign governments, and international bodies such as the United Nations. The interrogators frequently threaten victims with prosecution and imprisonment for “unauthorized religious activities.” The government has sentenced some 60 Montagnard Christians to long-term imprisonment primarily because of their faith while justifying their sentences under the pretext of “national security” or “national unity.”
In the letter we gave many specific examples of pastors sentenced to years in prison. Also included were details of entire villages being refused what are referred to as “household registration” because of the church affiliation. We pointed out in the letter to President Trump:
“Without registration documents, these Christians cannot get a citizenship ID card, own property, obtain legal employment, apply for a business license, open a bank account, receive public services, or even use the public library. Married couples may not obtain a marriage certificate, and their children may be denied a birth certificate. They are functionally stateless in their own country.”
By the time it was delivered to President Trump in May some 31 major organizations supporting religious freedom had endorsed the letter. I signed as president of the Religious Freedom Coalition.
Sudan outlaws FGM!
For decades I and others have advocated on Capitol Hill for sanctions and other actions to stop Female Genital Mutilation on girls as they come into puberty in Muslim dominated nations. Because of the lobbying power of Sunni Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia no effective measures have been taken by our government.
In April 2019, after months of street demonstrations, the Sudanese army deposed Islamic extremist and mass murderer Omar al-Bashir. Several months later a semi-secular government as installed and this April, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was outlawed. It is estimated that over 90% of women in the Sudan had this brutal procedure.
In 2006 I was part of a fact-finding team to the Sudan and met with Omar al-Bashir and many of his henchmen. He was the most pleasant and jovial mass murderer I have ever met, but his smiles could not cover the evil in his eyes and heart. The very day he told our fact finding team that stories of his military oppression against Christians in the south were false, his aircrafts were bombing civilians in the Nuba Mountains region of Southern Kordofan.
With Bashir in prison many of the organizations involved with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, including the Religious Freedom Coalition, had contacted sources inside the new Sudan government asking for moderation. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, had also addressed this issue.
Will the threat of three years in jail stop Sunni Muslim zealots from mutilating the genitalia of their daughters? Will the new law be enforced or is it for show to obtain European and American backing?
UN and American agencies proclaim that FGM is cultural and not tied to any religion; however, there are no non-Muslim nations listed as this being a major problem, other than India where it is practiced among Muslims. The practice has subsided somewhat because of Western cultural pressure. FGM is not against the law in Saudi Arabia and about 20% of women have suffered from it. In what is viewed as far more secular Egypt, 97% of women have suffered this fate. Washington can do more to encourage this outrage to stop worldwide.
Equal treatment of Evangelical Churches in Iraq
Evangelical churches refused recognition: A major portion of The Religious Freedom Coalition’s missions programs are centered around Iraq’s Nineveh Plain. Most of the families we help with the Diapers for Refugees program are located in this area of Iraq. The Diapers are distributed to Christian refugees from all denominations including Catholic and Orthodox. Our main working partner in the distribution is Evangelical.
Although many Christians in Iraq are Evangelical, seven of their denominations have been refused recognition. Those are the Alliance Evangelical Church, New Life Church (Assembly of God), New Testament Baptist Church, Pentecostal Church, National Evangelical Baptist Church, Armenian Evangelical Church, and Nazarene Evangelical Church.
The Religious Freedom Coalition has joined with the National Association of Evangelicals and other organizations in sending a letter to Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen pointing out that without that recognition the churches cannot conduct normal business.
“The constitution and laws of the Republic of Iraq promise religious freedom to most of its citizens. Under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s office, the Endowment of the Christians, Yazedis and Sabaean-Mandaean Religions has the responsibility for the recognition of the religious bodies of those faiths. However, at least seven denominations representing evangelical Christian churches, affiliated with the General Society for Iraqi National Evangelical Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance have been denied recognition by the Endowment.
“Without recognition churches are unable to own property, enter into legally binding contracts, sponsor charitable organizations and schools, or receive the tax and customs exemptions accorded to other religious bodies.”
The letter goes on to state actions by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and to request “dialog” to correct the problem.
Nigeria Orphanage Farm planting begins: Not all of the planting at our farm for the orphanage in Nigeria can be done at one time. Irish potatoes have to go in the ground first, followed by the maize. Beans and other greens are planted later.
The Irish potatoes were planted at the beginning of May and their green sprouts were above ground by the end of the month. The maize (corn) was planted toward the end of May.
The main crops this year will be maize, soybeans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and groundnuts.( In the United States we know groundnuts as peanuts). Fresh vegetables will grow at the end of the season.
If 2019 is an indication of things to come, the second year of our farm project will produce much needed fresh food for the children. This will allow for the funds sent by the Religious Freedom Coalition each month to be used for the more expensive proteins.
Almost all the protein we buy for meals is currently either chicken or fish. Beef is extremely expensive.
Please pray for the success of the farm and the protection of the children from the coronavirus as well as from attacks by Muslim fanatics.
Jordan, The Good Book Shop: There are aspects of our missions programs that just get done but that I normally don’t report on for one reason or the other. Sometimes there are emergency expenditures to help our mission partners and other times a project is so small that it does not seem to warrant a great deal of space in the newsletter.
One good example is the Good Book Shop in Amman, Jordan. It is the only Christian bookstore in Jordan. I have been associated with this store and my Christian friend who founded it for nearly two decades.
Disaster struck the bookstore during the coronavirus lockdown which began on March 17th and ended on May 3rd. During this time when the store was closed and could not be inspected, an upstairs pipe in the building broke. For weeks it continually flooded the ground floor where the bookstore is located. The flooring was destroyed and the bottoms of shelves so damaged that the entire units must be replaced. Walls were damaged as well. Hundreds of Bibles and Christian books were lost.
The repair costs were estimated at $5,000 just to make the store serviceable again, with no real enhancements. In May I wired the funds needed for repairs.
It is remarkable that a Christian bookstore even exists in a nation that is 95% Muslim. About 4% of the population are officially Christian — although there are many secret converts.
The Summer Camp: Also in Jordan, preparations are being made for the Christian youth summer camp we have supported for many years. Many volunteer counselors have already signed up. Every one of these adult volunteers were once young campers here themselves in the past. The camp has served the Christian community for decades.
In the past I have directed funds to completely replace the water and sanitation systems. This ministry also remodeled the kitchen, repaired the security fence, installed security cameras and replaced all the mattresses as well with the help of Religious Freedom Coalition supporters.
Iraq, another lockdown: The situation there looked to be improving. Our ministry partners had been notified by the Kurdish Administration in Erbil that they could once again travel. That ended just two days later when an even harsher lockdown took effect.
Bethlehem, back to ministry: The lockdown in the West Bank has for now been lifted and we can once again deliver diapers to the elderly. There is a caveat. Israel’s parliament is about to announce the annexation into Israel of parts of the West Bank. Violence is threatened.
Please pray for peace in the place of the birth of our Lord Jesus, and please pray for the Christians who abide where He walked.
William J. Murray, President